According to Biblical narratives, King Solomon of Israel built a magnificent temple in ancient Jerusalem. This temple was meant to house the Ark of the Covenant. According to Judaic sources, the temple’s construction took place sometime around 832 B.C.
The temple has a number of legends associated with it and throughout history down to the modern era, it has evoked the possibility of hidden knowledge and wisdom among seekers of esoteric truths, adherents of Kabbalistic studies and secret societies such as the Freemasons.
Solomon and the Temple History
King Solomon was the son of King David and ruled over the Kingdom of Israel and Judah according to the Old Testament. His father, King David, wanted to construct a temple for the God’s name, but he was forbidden because he had waged wars. So later, King Solomon undertook the task for the construction of the temple.
There is no factual historical or archaeological evidence of the era, so researchers can’t ascertain whether the temple existed or during what period it was constructed. Consequently, Old Testament and rabbinic writings remain the oldest sources of the details on the temple. And according to these sources, the temple was erected in 832 B.C. and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 422 B.C.
Location of the Temple
Although no historical evidence exists, interpretations of the Biblical sources have led to the view that the temple was located where modern-day Temple Mount stands, exactly at the place of the Dome of the Rock. Others interpretations have debated this view, proposing other locations, all on the Temple Mount, as the original site of the Temple.
Structure of the temple
The structure of the temple has long been a point of discussion, especially because the Bible provides an extensive description related to it. The temple’s structure is generally divided into two portions. One was the greater house of the temple, called the Holy Place.
The other was a smaller, inner portion of the temple called Holy of Holies. The Holy Place measured 40 cubits in length, 20 cubits in breadth and 20 cubits in height. The Holy of the Holies, situated inside the Holy Place, measured 20 cubits in length, width and height. This portion was reserved for storing the Ark of the Covenant and the name of the God.
Interior of the temple
Extravagant accounts regarding the interior of the temple exist in bible and other early sources. According to these sources, King Solomon commissioned very large amounts of cedar of Lebanon to be brought to the site of the temple. The walls and floor of the temple’s interior were inlaid with gold and exquisite statues made from olive wood. The Holy of the Holies had no windows in its construction and was considered the most holy place by the Jews.
The temple was surrounded by two large courts. One of these was reserved for the priests while in the other, people gathered for worship. A large basin called “Brazen Sea” was constructed in the temple. This basin was remarkable for its size, being 30 cubits in circumference and containing a volume ranging from 90 to 136 cubic metres.
Significance in Jewish Kabbalah
Solomon’s temple has come to be directly identified with mystical and spiritual secrets and powers. The temple figures significantly in the Kabbalistic tradition and its structure are considered a symbol for the metaphysical world. The Kabbalah literatures considers the external pillars of the temple as elements from one of the four worlds of Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Kabbalistic literature similarly interprets different other parts and aspects of the temple as manifestations of corresponding ideas in the metaphysical world.
Knights Templar and Solomon’s Temple
Knights Templar first had its headquarters at Temple Mount, at precisely the site where Solomon’s Temple had previously stood according to the Biblical accounts. Legends surrounding the Knights Templar later claimed that the first Grand Master of the Order had found secret wisdom and knowledge at the site of the Temple and this eventually led to the exceptional prosperity and success of the Order. It had also been claimed that when King Philip pushed for a ban on the Order, he demanded to be initiated into these secrets of the Order but was refused.
Freemasonry and Solomon’s Temple
Solomon’s Temple carried a major symbolic significance in Freemasonry. Since Freemasonry itself arose out of stonemason guilds, its adherents have historically identified with the Temple of the Solomon. Aspects of the temple have been used as symbolic motifs in Freemason vocabulary and rituals.
There is little archaeological evidence that directly confirms the historical existence of the temple. However, a number of artefacts dating back to a period between 6th to 8th centuries have been recovered from Temple Mount. These include a 6th century B.C. ostracon which probably makes a reference to King Solomon’s temple.
Remains of ceramics, juglets, storage jars and other items have also been recovered from the site, dating back to a period between the 6th and 8th centuries. Stone weights for the purpose of weighing silver have also been dated back to the same period, carrying Hebrew seals. Although the search for the archaeological evidence of the temple is ongoing, so far there has been little evidence in the way of a solid proof for it.
Solomon and the Temple summary
According to the Old Testament, King Solomon constructed a grand temple in Jerusalem. This temple, called the First Temple in Biblical sources, took a long time to build and was used by King Solomon to keep the Ark of the Covenant and the Name of God. Solomon constructed a Holy of Holies room inside the temple, which had no windows and contained no furniture. It was here that he stored the name of the God.
All early mentions of the temple come from the Bible and rabbinic sources, which further state that the temple was created in 9th century B.C. and destroyed in the 5th century B.C. The temple has been a recurring embodiment of mystical and spiritual knowledge of the universe, as believed in the Kabbalah tradition as well as in the fraternity of Freemasons