There is perhaps no building of the ancient world which has excited so much attention since the time of its destruction as the temple built by Herod, and the one built by Solomon.
The spoils of the temple built by Herod were considered worthy of forming the principal illustration of one of the most beautiful of Roman triumphal arches, and Justinian’s highest architectural ambition was that he might surpass it.
Throughout the middle ages it influenced to a considerable degree the forms of Christian churches, and its peculiarities were the watchwords and rallying-points of all associations of builders.
When the French expedition to Egypt, in the first years of 1900, had made the world familiar with the wonderful architectural remains of that country, every one jumped to the conclusion that Solomon`s temple must have been designed after an Egyptian model.
The discoveries in Assyria by Botta and Layard have within the last twenty years given an entirely new direction to the researches of the restorers.
Unfortunately, however, no Assyrian temple has yet been exhumed of a nature to throw much light on this subject, and we are still forced to have recourse to the later buildings at Persepolis, or to general deductions from the style of the nearly contemporary secular buildings at Nineveh and elsewhere, for such illustrations as are available.
The temple of Solomon.
It was David who first proposed to replace the tabernacle by a more permanent building, but was forbidden for the reasons assigned by the prophet Nathan, (2 Samuel 7:5 etc.); and though he collected materials and made arrangements, the execution of the task was left for his son Solomon.
The gold and silver alone accumulated by David are at the lowest reckoned to have amounted to between two and three billion dollars, a sum which can be paralleled from secular history. — Lange.
Solomon, with the assistance of Hiram king of Tyre, commenced this great undertaking in the fourth year of his reign, B.C. 1012, and completed it in seven years, B.C. 1005.
There were 183,000 Jews and strangers employed on it.
▪︎ 30,000 Jews by rotation 10,000 a month;
▪︎ 153,600 Canaanites, of whom 70,000 were bearers of burdens, 80,000 hewers of wood and stone, and 3,600 overseers.
The parts were all prepared at a distance from the site of the building, and when they were brought together the whole immense structure was erected without the sound of hammer, axe or any tool of iron. (1 Kings 6:7) — Schaff.)
The building occupied the site prepared for it by David, which had formerly been the threshing-floor of the Jebusite Ornan or Araunah, on Mount Moriah.
The whole area enclosed by the outer walls formed a square of about 600 feet; but the sanctuary itself was comparatively small, inasmuch as it was intended only for the ministrations of the priests, the congregation of the people assembling in the courts.
In this and all other essential points the temple followed the model of the tabernacle, from which it differed chiefly by having chambers built about the sanctuary for the abode of the priests and attendants and the keeping of treasures and stores.
In all its dimensions, length, breadth and height, the sanctuary itself was exactly double the size of the tabernacle, the ground plan measuring 80 cubits by 40, while that of the tabernacle was 40 by 20, and the height of the temple being 30 cubits, while that of the tabernacle was 15.
As in the tabernacle, the temple consisted of three parts, the porch, the holy place, and the holy of holies.
The front of the porch was supported, after the manner of some Egyptian temples, by the two great brazen pillars, Jachin and Boaz, 18 cubits high, with capitals of 5 cubits more, adorned with lily-work and pomegranates. (1 Kings 7:15-22)
The places of the two “veils” of the tabernacle were occupied by partitions, in which were folding-doors.
The whole interior was lined with woodwork richly carved and overlaid with gold.
Indeed, both within and without the building was conspicuously chiefly by the lavish use of the gold of Ophir and Parvaim. It glittered in the morning sun (it has been well said) like the sanctuary of an El Dorado.
Above the sacred ark, which was placed, as of old, in the most holy place, were made new cherubim, one pair of whose wings met above the ark, and another pair reached to the walls behind them.
In the holy place, besides the altar of incense, which was made of cedar overlaid with gold there were seven golden candlesticks in stead of one, and the table of shew-bread was replaced by ten golden tables, bearing, besides the shew bread, the innumerable golden vessels for the service of the sanctuary.
The outer court was no doubt double the size of that of the tabernacle; and we may therefore safely assume that if was 10 cubits in height, 100 cubits north and south, and 200 east and west. It contained an inner court, called the “court of the priests;” but the arrangement of the courts and of the porticos and gateways of the enclosure, though described by Josephus, belongs apparently to the temple of Herod.
In the outer court was a new altar of burnt offering, much larger than the old one.
Instead of the brazen laver there was “a molten sea” of brass, a masterpiece of Hiram’s skill for the ablution of the priests. It was called a “sea” from its great size.
The chambers for the priests were arranged in successive stories against the sides of the sanctuary; not, however, reaching to the top, so as to leave space for the windows to light the holy and the most holy place.
We are told by Josephus and the Talmud that there was a superstructure on the temple equal in height to the lower part; and this is confirmed by the statement in the books of Chronicles that Solomon “overlaid the upper chambers with gold.” (2 Chronicles 3:9).
Moreover, “the altars on the top of the upper chamber,” mentioned in the books of the Kings, (2 Kings 23:12) were apparently upon the temple.
The dedication of the temple was the grandest ceremony ever performed under the Mosaic dispensation.
The temple was destroyed on the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 586.
The temple of Zerubbabel.
We have very few particulars regarding the temple which the Jews erected after their return from the captivity (about B.C. 520), and no description that would enable us to realize its appearance.
But there are some dimensions given in the Bible and elsewhere which are extremely interesting, as affording points of comparison between it and the temple which preceded it and the one erected after it.
The first and most authentic are those given in the book of Ezra, (Ezra 6:3) when quoting the decree of Cyrus, wherein it is said, “Let the house be build, the place where they offered sacrifices and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof three-score cubits. and the breadth thereof three-score cubits, with three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber.”
Josephus quotes this passage almost literally, but in doing so enables us to translate with certainty the word here called row as “story” — as indeed the sense would lead us to infer.
We see by the description in Ezra that this temple was about one third larger than Solomon’s.
From these dimensions we gather that if the priests and Levites and elders of families were disconsolate at seeing how much more sumptuous the old temple was than the one which on account of their poverty they had hardly been able to erect, (Ezra 3:12) it certainly was not because it was smaller; but it may have been that the carving and the gold and the other ornaments of Solomon’s temple far surpassed this, and the pillars of the portico and the veils may all have been far more splendid; so also probably were the vessels and all this is what a Jew would mourn over far more than mere architectural splendor.
In speaking of these temples we must always bear in mind that their dimensions were practically very far inferior to those of the heathen. Even that of Ezra is not larger than an average parish church of the last century; Solomon`s was smaller.
It was the lavish display of the precious metals, the elaboration of carved ornament, and the beauty of the textile fabrics, which made up their splendor and rendered them so precious in the eyes of the people.
The temple of Ezekiel.
The vision of a temple which the prophet Ezekiel saw while residing on the banks of the Chebar in Babylonia, in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity, does not add much to our knowledge of the subject.
It is not a description of a temple that ever was built or ever could be erected at Jerusalem, and can consequently only be considered as the beau ideal of what a Shemitic temple ought to be.
The temple of Herod.
Herod the Great announced to the people assembled at the Passover, B.C. 20 or 19, his intention of restoring the temple; (probably a stroke of policy on the part of Herod to gain the favor of the Jews and to make his name great.)
If we may believe Josephus, he pulled down the whole edifice to its foundations, and laid them anew on an enlarged scale; but the ruins still exhibit, in some parts, what seem to be the foundations laid by Zerubbable, and beneath them the more massive substructions of Solomon.
The new edifice was a stately pile of Graeco-Roman architecture, built in white marble gilded acroteria.
It is minutely described by Josephus, and the New Testament has made us familiar with the pride of the Jews in its magnificence.
A different feeling, however, marked the commencement of the work, which met with some opposition from the fear that what Herod had begun he would not be able to finish.
He overcame all jealousy by engaging not to pull down any part of the existing buildings till all the materials for the new edifice were collected on its site.
Two years appear to have been occupied in preparations — among which Josephus mentions the teaching of some of the priests and Levites to work as masons and carpenters — and then the work began.
The holy “house,” including the porch, sanctuary and holy of holies, was finished in a year and a half, B.C. 16. Its completion, on the anniversary of Herod`s inauguration, was celebrated by lavish sacrifices and a great feast.
About B.C. 9 — eight years from the commencement — the court and cloisters of the temple were finished, and the bridge between the south cloister and the upper city (demolished by Pompey) was doubtless now rebuilt with that massive masonry of which some remains still survive. (The work, however, was not entirely ended till A.D. 64, under Herod Agrippa II.
So the statement in (John 2:20) is correct.–Schaff.) The temple or holy “house” itself was in dimensions and arrangement very similar to that of Solomon, or rather that of Zerubbabel — more like the latter; but this was surrounded by an inner enclosure of great strength and magnificence, measuring as nearly as can be made out 180 cubits by 240, and adorned by porches and ten gateways of great magnificence; and beyond this again was an outer enclosure measuring externally 400 cubits each way, which was adorned with porticos of greater splendor than any we know of as attached to any temple of the ancient world.
The temple was certainly situated in the southwest angle of the area now known as the Haram area at Jerusalem, and its dimensions were what Josephus states them to be — 400 cubits, or one stadium, each way.
At the time when Herod rebuilt it, he enclosed a space “twice as large” as that before occupied by the temple and its courts — an expression that probably must not be taken too literally, at least if we are to depend on the measurements of Hecataeus.
According to them, the whole area of Herod`s temple was between four and five times greater than that which preceded it.
What Herod did apparently, was to take in the whole space between the temple and the city wall on its east side, and to add a considerable space on the north and south to support the porticos which he added there.
As the temple terrace thus became the principal defence of the city on the east side, there were no gates or openings in that direction, and being situated on a sort of rocky brow — as evidenced from its appearance in the vaults that bounded it on this side — if was at all later times considered unattackable from the eastward.
The north side, too, where not covered by the fortress Antonia, became part of the defenses of the city, and was likewise without external gates.
On the south side, which was enclosed by the wall of Ophel, there were notable gates nearly in the centre.
These gates still exist at a distance of about 365 feet from the southwestern angle, and are perhaps the only architectural features of the temple of Herod which remain.
This entrance consists of a double archway of Cyclopean architecture on the level of the ground, opening into a square vestibule measuring 40 feet each way. From this a double funnel nearly 200 feet in length, leads to a flight of steps which rise to the surface in the court of the temple, exactly at that gateway of the inner temple which led to the altar, and is one of the four gateways on this side by which any one arriving from Ophel would naturally wish to enter the inner enclosure.
We learn from the Talmud that the gate of the inner temple to which this passage led was called the “water gate;” and it is interesting to be able to identify a spot so prominent in the description of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:37).
Toward the west there were four gateways to the external enclosure of the temple. The most magnificent part of the temple, in an architectural point of view, seems certainly to have been the cloisters which were added to the outer court when it was enlarged by Herod.
The cloisters in the west, north and east sides were composed of double rows of Corinthian columns, 25 cubits or 37 feet 6 inches in height, with flat roof, and resting against the outer wall of the temple. These, however, were immeasurably surpassed in magnificence by the royal porch or Stoa Basilica, which overhung the southern wall.
It consisted of a nave and two aisles, that toward the temple being open, that toward the country closed by a wall. The breadth of the centre aisle was 95 feet of the side aisles, 30 from centre to centre of the pillars; their height 50 feet, and that of the centre aisle 100 feet.
Its section was thus something in excess of that of York Cathedral, while its total length was one stadium or 600 Greek feet, or 100 feet in excess of York or our largest Gothic cathedrals.
This magnificent structure was supported by 162 Corinthian columns.
The porch on the east was called “Solomon`s Porch.”
The court of the temple was very nearly a square. It may have been exactly so, for we have not the details to enable us to feel quite certain about it.
To the eastward of this was the court of the women.
The great ornament of these inner courts seems to have been their gateways, the three especially on the north end south leading to the temple court.
These according to Josephus, were of great height, strongly fortified and ornamented with great elaboration.
But the wonder of all was the great eastern gate leading from the court of the women to the upper court. It was in all probability the one called the “beautiful gate” in the New Testament. immediately within this gateway stood the altar of burnt offerings.
Both the altar and the temple were enclosed by a low parapet, one cubit in height, placed so as to keep the people separate from the priests while the latter were performing their functions.
Within this last enclosure, toward the westward, stood the temple itself.
As before mentioned, its internal dimensions were the same as those of the temple of Solomon. Although these remained the same, however, there seems no reason to doubt that the whole plan was augmented by the pteromata, or surrounding parts being increased from 10 to 20 cubits, so that the third temple, like the second, measured 60 cubits across and 100 cubits east and west.
The width of the facade was also augmented by wings or shoulders projecting 20 cubits each way, making the whole breadth 100 cubits, or equal to the length.
There is no reason for doubting that the sanctuary always stood on identically the same spot in which it had been placed by Solomon a thousand years before it was rebuilt by Herod.
The temple of Herod was destroyed by the Romans under Titus, Friday, August 9, A.D. 70.
A Islamic mosque now stands on its site.
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