Because of the religious sensitivities involved, and the politically volatile situation in Jerusalem, only limited archaeological surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted. No excavations have been allowed on the Temple Mount during modern times. An Ivory pomegranate mentions priests in the house of YHWH, and an inscription recording the Temple's restoration under Jehoash have appeared on the antiquities market, but the authenticity of both has been challenged and they remain the subject of controversy. No conclusive archeological evidence for the existence of Solomon's Temple has been found.
The Mishkan (dwelling place) of the god of Israel was originally the portable shrine called the Ark of the Covenant, which was placed in the Tabernacle tent. King David, having unified all Israel, brought the Ark to his new capital, Jerusalem, intending to build there a temple in order to house the Ark in a permanent place. David purchased a threshing-floor for the site of the Temple (1 Chronicles 21–22), but then Yahweh told him that he would not be permitted to build a temple. The task of building therefore passed to David's son and successor Solomon. 1 Kings 6:1–38, 1 Kings Chapter 7, and Chapter 8 describe the construction and dedication of the Temple under Solomon.
King Solomon requested the aid of King Hiram of Tyre to provide both the quality materials and skilled craftsmen. During the construction, a special inner room, named in Hebrew Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies), was prepared to receive and house the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kings 6:19); and when the Temple was dedicated, the Ark—containing the Tablets of Stone—was placed therein (1 Kings 8:6–9).
The exact location of the First Temple is unknown: it is believed to have been situated upon the hill which forms the site of the 1st century Second Temple and present-day Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock is situated. However, two other, slightly different sites have been proposed on this same hill: one places the stone altar at the location of the rock which is now beneath the gilded dome, with the rest of the temple to the west. The Well of Souls was, according to this theory, a pit for the remnants of the blood services of the korbanot. The other theory places the Holy of Holies atop this rock. Still another location has recently been proposed between the Dome of the Rock and the gilded dome, based on orientation to the eastern wall, drainage channels, orientation of the platform stones, and the location of a possible Boaz pillar base.
2 Chronicles 12:9, and 1 Kings 14:26 describe the Sack of Jerusalem by the Pharaoh Shishaq, who "took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house."
2 Kings 12:4–16 describes arrangements for the refurbishment of the Temple in the time of king Jehoash of Judah in the 9th century BCE. According to 2 Kings 14:14 the Temple was looted by Jehoash of Israel in the early 8th century and again by King Ahaz in the late 8th century (2 Kings 16:8). Ahaz also installed some cultic innovations in the Temple which were abhorrent to the author of 1–2 Kings (2 Kings 16:10–18).
The Temple also figures in the account of King Hezekiah, who turned Judah away from idols; when later in the same century Hezekiah is confronted with a siege by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:23, 19:1 and the Taylor prism), Hezekiah "instead of plundering the temple treasuries... now uses the temple the way it is designed to be used — as a house of prayer (2 Kings 19:1–14).
Hezekiah's son Manasseh, however, was much different from his father; during his reign of the early and middle seventh century (2 Kings 21:4–9), Manasseh made innovations to the Temple cult. He has been described as a Solomon who also fell into idolatry, and Manasseh is described as a king who "makes" (2 Kings 21:3–7) or "builds" (2 Kings 21:3) high places (cf. 1 Kings 11:7) (see Deuteronomy 12 for the prohibition against high place worship), yet while Solomon's idolatry was punished by a divided kingdom, Manasseh's idolatry was punished by exile.
King Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh, refurbished and made changes to the Temple by removing idolatrous vessels and destroying the idolatrous priesthood c. 621 BCE (2 Kings 22:3–9; 23:11–12). He also suppressed worship at altars other than the Temple's.
The Temple was plundered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem during the brief reign of Jehoiachin c. 598 (2 Kings 24:13), Josiah's grandson. A decade later, Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem and after 30 months finally breached the city walls in 587 BCE, subsequently burning the Temple, along with most of the city (2 Kings 25). According to Jewish tradition, the Temple was destroyed on Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of Av (Hebrew calendar).
Architectural description in the Bible
A sketch of Solomon's Temple based on descriptions in the Tanakh
Several temples in Mesopotamia, many in Egypt, and some of the Phoenicians are now known. The description given of Solomon's Temple in the Bible is not a copy of any of these, but embodied features recognisable in all of them. Its general form is reminiscent of Egyptian sanctuaries and closely matches that of other ancient temples in the region, however the complexity of inner chambers and unique functions does distinguish the temple strongly.
The detailed descriptions provided in the Tanakh and educated guesses[who?] based on the remains of other temples in the region are the sources for reconstructions of its appearance. Technical details are lacking, since the scribes who wrote the books were not architects or engineers. Nevertheless, the recorded plans and measurements have inspired Replicas of the Jewish Temple and influenced later structures around the world.
The Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holies, (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6), also called the "Inner House" (6:27), (Heb. 9:3) was 20 cubits in length, breadth, and height. The usual explanation for the discrepancy between its height and the 30-cubit height of the temple is that its floor was elevated, like the cella of other ancient temples. It was floored and wainscotted with cedar of Lebanon (1 Kings 6:16), and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold (6:20, 21, 30). It contained two cherubim of olive-wood, each 10 cubits high (1 Kings 6:16, 20, 21, 23–28) and each having outspread wings of 10 cubits span, so that, since they stood side by side, the wings touched the wall on either side and met in the center of the room. There was a two-leaved door between it and the Holy Place overlaid with gold (2 Chr. 4:22); also a veil of tekhelet (blue), purple, and crimson and fine linen (2 Chr. 3:14; compare Exodus 26:33). It had no windows (1 Kings 8:12) and was considered the dwelling-place of the "name" of God.
The color scheme of the veil was symbolic. Blue represented the heavens, while red or crimson represented the earth. Purple, a combination of the two colors, represents a meeting of the heavens and the earth.
View of the House with ceiling removed. This image is a rendering of a 3-D computer model.
The Hekhal, or Holy Place, (1 Kings 8:8–10), is also called the "greater house" (2 Chr. 3:5) and the "temple" (1 Kings 6:17); the word also means "palace", was of the same width and height as the Holy of Holies, but 40 cubits in length. Its walls were lined with cedar, on which were carved figures of cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers, which were overlaid with gold. Chains of gold further marked it off from the Holy of Holies. The floor of the Temple was of fir-wood overlaid with gold. The door-posts, of olive-wood, supported folding-doors of fir. The doors of the Holy of Holies were of olive-wood. On both sets of doors were carved cherubim, palm-trees, and flowers, all being overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:15 et seq.)
The Hebrew noun hekhal (Hebrew היכל) in Classical Hebrew means "a large building". This can be either the main building of the Temple in Jerusalem (that is the nave, or sanctuary, of the Temple), or a palace such as the "palace" of Ahab, king of Samaria, or the "palace" of the King of Babylon.
Hekhal is used 80 times in the Massoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. Of these, 70 refer to the House of the LORD (in Hebrew Bible בֵּית יְהוָה beit Yahweh), the other 10 are references to palaces. There is no reference to any part of the tabernacle using this term in the Hebrew Bible.
"In the year that king Uzziah died. I saw the LORD sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the hekhal (sanctuary)." Isaiah6:1.
Use in architecture
The Jerusalem Temple
In older English versions of the Bible, including the King James, the term "temple" is used to translate hekhal. In modern versions more reflective of archeological research, the distinction is made of different sections of the whole Temple. Scholars and archeologists generally agree on the structure of Solomon's Temple as described in 1 Kings 6:3-5, with the main building, the hekhal, in English now sometimes called "the sanctuary," the devir, the inner sanctuary, and finally the Holy of Holies. This main building of the Temple is depicted on coins from the Bar Kokhba revolt.
The same architectural layout of the temple was adopted in synagogues leading to the hekhal being applied in Sephardi usage to the Ashkenazi Torah ark, the equivalent of the nave.
The Ulam, or porch, acted as an entrance before the Temple on the east (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chr. 3:4; 9:7). This was 20 cubits long (corresponding to the width of the Temple) and 10 cubits deep (1 Kings 6:3). (ESV 2 Chr. 3:4) notes that this porch was 120 cubits high. The description does not specify whether a wall separated it from the next chamber. In the porch stood the two pillars Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3), which were 18 cubits in height.
Chambers were built about the Temple on the southern, western and northern sides (1 Kings 6:5–10). These formed a part of the building and were used for storage. They were probably one story high at first; two more may have been added later.
Exterior view of the entire Temple complex as depicted in a 3-D computer model
Closer view of the Inner Court and House as depicted in a 3-D computer model
According to the Bible, two courts surrounded the Temple. The Inner Court (1 Kings 6:36), or Court of the Priests (2 Chr. 4:9), was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams (1 Kings 6:36). It contained the Altar of burnt-offering (2 Chr. 15:8), the Brazen Sea laver (4:2–5, 10) and ten other lavers (1 Kings 7:38, 39). A brazen altar stood before the Temple (2 Kings 16:14), its dimensions 20 cubits square and 10 cubits high (2 Chr. 4:1). The Great Court surrounded the whole Temple (2 Chr. 4:9). It was here that people assembled to worship. (Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2).
The large basin known as the "Brazen Sea" measured 10 cubits wide brim to brim, 5 cubits deep and with a circumference of 30 cubits around the brim, rested on the backs of twelve oxen (1 Kings 7:23–26). The Book of Kings gives its capacity as "2,000 baths" (90 cubic meters), but Chronicles (2 Chr. 4:5–6) inflates this to three thousand baths (136 cubic meters) and states that its purpose was to afford opportunity for the purification by immersion of the body of the priests.
The lavers, each of which held "forty baths" (1 Kings 7:38), rested on portable holders made of bronze, provided with wheels, and ornamented with figures of lions, cherubim, and palm-trees. The author of the books of the Kings describes their minute details with great interest (1 Kings 7:27–37). Josephus reported that the vessels in the Temple were composed of Orichalcum in Antiquities of the Jews. According to 1 Kings 7:48 there stood before the Holy of Holies a golden altar of incense and a table for showbread. This table was of gold, as were also the five candlesticks on each side of it. The implements for the care of the candles—tongs, basins, snuffers, and fire-pans—were of gold; and so were the hinges of the doors.
Because of the religious and political sensitivities involved, no archaeological excavations and only limited surface surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted since Warren's expedition of 1867–70. There is no direct archaeological evidence for the existence of Solomon's Temple. This building is not mentioned in surviving extra-biblical accounts.
In 1940 American archaeologist Nelson Glueck "proclaimed–that he had discovered the Edomite mines controlled by King Solomon", used to construct the Temple's furnishings. Later in 1997, investigating the role of "metallurgy in [the] social evolution" of Southern Jordan, University of California anthropologist Tom Levy "started probing the site known as Khirbat en Nahas (Arabic for 'ruins of copper')". The samples Levy sent off to "Oxford for radiocarbon dating confirmed that Glueck had been on the right track: This was a tenth-century copper production site – and Levy adds ... 'the closest copper source to Jerusalem.'" In response to these findings archaeologist Amihai Mazar has stated, "I believe that if, one day, we should find the copper objects from the temple in Jerusalem, it will prove to come from this area".
An ostracon (excavated prior to 1981), sometimes referred to as the House of Yahweh ostracon, was discovered at Tel Arad, dated to 6th century BCE which mentions a temple which is probably the Temple in Jerusalem.
A thumb-sized ivory pomegranate (which came to light in 1979) measuring 44 millimetres (1.7 in) in height, and bearing an ancient Hebrew inscription "Sacred donation for the priests in the House of YHVH", was believed to have adorned a sceptre used by the high priest in Solomon's Temple. It was considered the most important item of biblical antiquities in the Israel Museum's collection. However, in 2004, the Israel Antiquities Authority reported the inscription to be a forgery, though the ivory pomegranate itself was dated to the 14th or 13th century BCE. This was based on the report's claim that yjtrr incised letters in the inscription stopped short of an ancient break, as they would have if carved after the ancient break was made. Since then, it has been proven that one of the letters was indeed carved prior to the ancient break, and the status of the other two letters is now in question. Some paleographers and others have continued to insist that the inscription is ancient and the authenticity of this artifact is still the object of discussion.
Another artifact, the Jehoash Inscription, which first came to notice in 2003, contains a 15-line description of King Jehoash's ninth-century BCE restoration of the Temple. Its authenticity was called into question by a report by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which said that the surface patina contained microfossils of foraminifera. As these fossils do not dissolve in water, they cannot occur in a calcium carbonate patina, leading initial investigators to conclude that the patina must be an artificial chemical mix applied to the stone by forgers. As of late 2012, the academic community is split on whether the table is authentic or not. Commenting on a 2012 report by geologists arguing for the authenticity of the inscription, in October 2012, Hershel Shanks (who believes the inscription is genuine) wrote the current situation was that most Hebrew language scholars believe that the inscription is a forgery and geologists that it is genuine, and thus "Because we rely on experts, and because there is an apparently irresolvable conflict of experts in this case, BAR has taken no position with respect to the authenticity of the Jehoash Inscription."
By 2006, the Temple Mount Sifting Project had recovered numerous artifacts dating from the 8th to 7th centuries BCE from soil removed in 1999 by the Islamic Religious Trust (Waqf) from the Solomon's Stables area of the Temple Mount. These include stone weights for weighing silver and a First Temple period bulla, or seal impression, containing ancient Hebrew writing which includes the name Netanyahu ben Yaush. Netanyahu is a name mentioned several times in the Book of Jeremiah while the name Yaush appears in the Lachish letters. However, the combination of names was unknown to scholars.
In 2007, artifacts dating to the 8th to 6th centuries BCE were described as being possibly the first physical evidence of human activity at the Temple Mount during the First Temple period. The findings included animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases, and body sherds; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), the noted English scientist, mathematician and theologian, studied and wrote extensively upon the Temple of Solomon. He dedicated an entire chapter of The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms to his observations regarding the temple. Newton was intrigued by the temple's sacred geometry and believed that it was designed by King Solomon with privileged eyes and divine guidance.
Freemasonry is a fraternal order whose origins are in the European guilds of stonemasons who built the cathedrals and castles of Europe. Rituals in Freemasonry refer to King Solomon and the building of his Temple. Masonic buildings, where Lodge members meet, are sometimes called 'temples'; an allegoric reference to King Solomon's Temple.
^According to Finkelstein in The Bible Unearthed, the description of the temple is remarkably similar to that of surviving remains of Phoenician temples of the time, and it is certainly plausible, from the point of view of archaeology, that the temple was constructed to the design of Phoenicians.
^Peter SchäferThe Origins of Jewish Mysticism; 2011; Page 59: "Scholars have long observed that this three-part structure resembles the structure of Solomon's Temple as described in 1 Kings 6:3, 5: the hekhal (sanctuary), the devir (inner sanctuary) or qodesh ha-qodashim (Holy of Holies)..."
^The Biblical archaeologist: Volume 47; George Ernest Wright, Frank Moore Cross, Edward Fay Campbell; 1984. "This is especially true with regard to the portrayal of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. There appears to be little doubt that the facade of the hekhal of the Second Temple is depicted on the silver coins of Bar Kokhba."
^Meir Ben-Dov The Golden Age: Synagogues of Spain in History and Architecture 2009 "Among Ashkenazic Jewry, even though these two were the main foci of the synagogue, the terms used for them were different. The hekhal (literally, "the Temple") was known as the aron ha-kodesh (literally, ..."
^Finkelstein, Israel, and Silberman, Neil Asher (2002). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Simon & Schuster. pp. 128–129. ISBN0-684-86912-8.
^Eric Cline, Thomas Levy, Israel Finkelstein, Erez Ben-Yosef, John Grattan, Mohammad Najjar, Marc Beherec, Thomas Higham, Yossi Garfinkel, Oded Yair, Greg Bearman, William Schniedewind, Haagai Misgav, Bill Schniedewind (November 23, 2010). Quest for Solomon's Mines (Television production / DVD) (in English). Wadi Faynan: PBS/NOVA & National Geographic. Event occurs at 22:33. Retrieved 2011-06-25. "Narrator: The size of the slag heaps indicates that over its lifetime the site produced 5000 tons of copper. Enough to supply copper to the entire region. Isotope analysis of copper objects from sites all over ancient israel has proved that they came from the Wadi Faynan area. Amihai Mazar: Right now in Israel metallurgical study of copper objects that were found in contexts of ... late 11th century BC were proven to originate from Faynan. Narrator: Perhaps this copper even reached Jerusalem. Where Solomon built his temple. Thomas Levy: The bible tells us that the temple would require precious metals including tons of copper. And the closest source of copper for Jerusalem, it's about a three day ride from here, is this area of Faynan." (later @51:06) Amihai Mazar: I believe that if, one day, we should find the copper objects from the temple in Jerusalem, it will prove to come from this area."
^T. C. Mitchell (1992). "Judah Until the Fall of Jerusalem". In John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, E. Sollberger, N. G. L. Hammond. The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 2: The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries BC. Cambridge University Press. p. 397. ISBN978-0521227179.
Finkelstein, Israel; Neil Asher Silberman (2006). David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition. Free Press. ISBN0-7432-4362-5.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)
Finkelstein, Israel; Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)
Glueck, Nelson (Feb 1944). "On the Trail of King Solomon's Mines". National Geographic85 (2): 233–256. ISSN0027-9358.
Goldman, Bernard (1966). The Sacred Portal: a primary symbol in ancient Judaic art. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. "It has a detailed account and treatment of Solomon's Temple and its significance."