The Temple - Smith's Bible Dictionary
There is perhaps no building of the ancient world which has excited so much
attention since the time of its destruction as the temple which Solomon built by
Herod. Its spoils were considered worthy of forming the principal illustration
of one of the most beautiful of Roman triumphal arches, and Justinianís 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, int he first years of this century, had made the world familiar with the
wonderful architectural remains of that country, every one jumped to the
conclusion that Solomonís 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 int he 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
--of Jews 30,000, by rotation 10,000 a month; of Canaanites 153,600, of whom
70,000 were bearers of burdens, 80,000 hewers of wood and stone, and 3600
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
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.
[The readers would compare the following account with the article TABERNACLE]
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
lines 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. If
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.
The outer court there was a new altar of burnt offering, much larger than the
old one. [ALTAR] Instead of the brazen laver there was "a molten sea" of brass,
a masterpiece of Hiramís skill for the ablution of the priests. It was called a
"sea" from its great size. [SEA, MOLTEN] 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.
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 builded,
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 Solomonís. 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
Solomonís 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;
Solomonís 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.
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.
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
Herodís 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 Herodís 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 in situ . 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
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 aisled, 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 "Solomonís 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 Mohammedan mosque now stands on its site.
These files are public domain.
Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Temple'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". 1901.
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