Sunday, 1 January 2012

Solomon Temple

David's first action as king of Israel was to conquer Jerusalem and declare it the capital of his kingdom. David conquered Jerusalem in approximately 1004 BCE and made it a center of his government. He brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city and asked the prophet Natan for permission to build a Temple to house it. Natan was told by God that David would not be able to build a Temple, because he was a warrior and had blood on his hands, but that his son, Solomon, would be able to build a Temple after David's death.

According to Jewish tradition, Mount Moriah in Jerusalem is an important place where Abraham offered Isaac and thus the Temple was to be built there.

The temple of Solomon was constructed based on specific plans given to King David, by God. Before his death King David had provided materials and financing (gold 100,000 talents), silver (1,000,000 talents) in great abundance for the building of the temple on the summit of Mount Moriah (1 Chr. 22:14; 29:4; 2 Chr. 3:1), where he had purchased a threshing floor (barn) from Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam. 24:21), on which he offered sacrifice. The Bible states that in the beginning of his reign, King Solomon of the united Kingdom of Israel, set about giving effect to the ideas of his father, and prepared additional materials for the building. From subterranean quarries at Jerusalem he obtained huge blocks of stone for the foundations and walls of the temple. These stones were prepared for their places in the building under the eye of Tyrian master-builders. According to this account, Solomon also entered into a pact with Hiram I, king of Tyre, for the supply of whatever else was needed for the work, particularly timber from the forests of Lebanon, which was brought in great rafts by the sea to Joppa, whence it was dragged to Jerusalem (1 Kings 5).

Solomon also provided for a sufficient water supply for the temple by hewing in the rocky hill vast cisterns, into which water was conveyed by channels from the "Solomon Pools" near Bethlehem. One of these cisterns, the "great sea," was capable of containing three million gallons.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon in seven years in the 10th century BCE, completed in 957 BCE. It was the center of ancient Judaism and has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Moreover, the concentration of religious ritual at the Temple made Jerusalem a place of pilgrimage and an important commercial center. The temple was designed to house the Ark of the Covenant and to replaced the Tabernacle of Moses at Shiloh, Nov, and Givon, and to serve the Hebrew nation of Israel as a place where any man could worship their God and to serve as the central focus of Jewish faith.

During the First Temple Era, It was in Jerusalem where most of the great prophets were writing, articulating spiritual and ethical principles that would transcend the city's narrow confines to become pillars of the Jewish spirit. Jerusalem became the political and spiritual nexus of the Jewish people.

The construction of the Temple by Solomon is described in the Book of Kings: The preparatory undertakings for the construction took about three years. The process of the erection of the great building began, under the direction of architects, Levites, and skilled Phoenician builders and workmen, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign. Many, especially woodden materials came from the king of Zor, Chiram, who hailed the Jewish god. One of the most important architects was Chiram, a Jew from Zor (Kings 1, 7, 13-14). The building followed the model of Moses' Tabernacle. Traditional Judaism regards the dimensions and proportions of both the Tabernacle and Temple, prescribed by the Bible, as matters of Halakha, religious Law.

Many thousands of labourers and skilled artisans were employed in the work. Some of them were non-Israelite slaves—survivors of the wars of conquest in Canaan (I Kings 9:15-22).

At length, in the Autumn of the eleventh year of Solomon's reign, seven and a half years after it had been begun, the temple was completed.

According to biblical tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was solemnly brought from the tent in which David had deposited it to the place prepared for it in the temple. Then Solomon ascended a platform which had been erected for him, in the sight of all the people, and lifting up his hands to heaven poured out his heart to God in prayer (1 Kings 8; 2 Chr. 6, 7). The feast of dedication, which lasted seven days, followed by the feast of tabernacles, marked a new era in the history of Israel. On the eighth day of the feast of tabernacles, Solomon dismissed the vast assemblage of the people. The Ark of the Covenant was kept in a room called the sanctuary where could only be seen by the high priest once a year.

No remains of the First Temple have been found. The only remains from the relevant period known are the recently discovered remains taken from refuse from an extensive construction project performed on the Temple Mount by the Islamic Wakf in November of 1999. It is not, however, clear whether these remains contain evidence of a Temple structure from this period.[1][2] The detailed descriptions provided in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible / Old Testament) and educated guesses 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.[3]

The biblical descriptions of the temple are are mainly scattered throughout 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

This First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and was rebuilt seventy years later, c. 516 BCE (Second Temple). Centuries later, it was renovated by Herod in about 20 BCE, and this Second Temple was subsequently destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. All of the outer walls still stand, although the Temple itself has long since been destroyed, and for many years it was believed that the western wall of the complex was the only wall standing.

An Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, has stood on the site of the Temple since the late 7th Century CE, and the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands on the Temple courtyard.

Jewish eschatology envisions the construction of The Third Temple in Jerusalem prior to the coming of The Messiah, and thus, adherents of Orthodox and Conservative Judaism anticipate a Third Temple.

Ancient Influences
The Temple has recognizable similarities to other temples of its time and region. Syro-Phoenician, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian influences are visible. A plaza or courtyard surrounding the sacred residence of the god, marked with stones, is a feature common throughout ancient Semitic religions. Earlier evidence of this practice among the Hebrews survives in the twelve stones that Joshua placed at Gilgal (Joshua 4:20) and the marking of Mount Sinai by Moses (Ex. 19:12), and in the forbidden zone surrounding the tent which was the predecessor of the Temple.

The Biblical text makes it clear that Solomon received aid from Hiram, the King of Tyre, in the construction of his buildings. This aid involved not only material (cedar-wood, etc.), but architectural direction and skilled craftsmen. Amongst them was the coppersmith Hiram (the son of a Tyrian father and Israelite mother, not to be confused with the king). The temple's tripartite division (vestibule - Greater House - Holy of Holies, see image) is similar to that found in 13th century BCE temples at Alalakh in Syria and Hazor in the upper Galilee; a 9th century BCE temple at Tell Tayinat also follows this plan.[3] Phoenician temples varied somewhat in form, but were similarly surrounded by courts.

Among the details which were probably copied from Tyre were the two pillars Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3). Herodotus (ii. 44) says that the temple at Tyre contained two such, one of emerald and the other of fine gold. In the same way the ornamentation of palm trees and cherubim (on the Ark were two cherubim (Lev. 16:2; Num. 7:89) - angels) were probably derived from Tyre, for Ezekiel (28:13, 14) represents the King of Tyre, who was high priest also, as being in the "garden of God." Probably both at Tyre and at Jerusalem the cherubim and palm-tree ornaments were survivals of an earlier conception—that the abode of God was a "garden of Eden." The Tyrians, therefore, in their temple imitated to some extent the primitive garden, and Solomon borrowed these features.

Several temples in Mesopotamia, many in Egypt, and some of the Phoenicians are now known. In Babylonia the characteristic feature was a ziggurat, or terraced tower, evidently intended to imitate the mountains on which the gods resided. The chamber for the divine dwelling was at its top. The early Egyptian temples consisted of buildings containing two or three rooms, the innermost of which was the abode of the deity. A good example is the granite temple near the sphinx at Giza. The Middle Kingdom (12th dynasty) added obelisks and pylons, and the New Kingdom (18th dynasty) hypostyle halls (a flat ceiling which is supported by columns). Solomon's Temple was not a copy of any of these, nor of the Phoenician buildings, but embodied features derived from all of them. It was on the summit of a hill, like the altar of Ba'al on Mount Carmel and the sanctuaries of Mount Hermon, and like the Babylonian idea of the divine abode. It was surrounded by courts, like the Phoenician temples and the splendid temple of Der al-Bakri at Thebes. Its general form reminds one of Egyptian sanctuaries and closely matches that of other temples in the region, as described above.

The two pillars Jachin and Boaz had their parallel not only at Tyre but at Byblos, Paphos, and Telloh. In Egypt the obelisks expressed the same idea.

The chambers which surrounded the Holy Place in Solomon's Temple are said in 1 Chr. 28:12 to have been storehouses for the sacred treasure. These are paralleled in Babylonian and Egyptian temples by similar chambers, which surrounded the naos, or hypostyle hall, and were used for similar purposes.

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