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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

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A building hallowed by the special presence of God, and consecrated to his worship. The distinctive idea of a temple, contrasted with all other buildings, is that it is the dwelling-place of a deity; and every heathen temple had its idol, but the true and living God dwelt "between the cherubim" in the Holy of Holies at Jerusalem. Hence, figuratively applied, a temple denotes the church of Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Revelation 3:12; heaven, Psalm 11:4 Revelation 7:15; and the soul of the believer, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, 1 Corinthians 3:16,17 6:19 2 Corinthians 6:16 .

After the Lord had instructed David that Jerusalem was the place he had chosen in which to fix his dwelling, that pious prince began to realize his design of preparing a temple for the Lord that might be something appropriate to His divine majesty. But the honor was reserved for Solomon his son and successor, who was to be a peaceful prince, and like David, who had shed much blood in war. David, however, applied himself to collect great quantities of gold, silver, brass, iron, and other materials for this undertaking, 2 Samuel 1:1-25 7:1-29 1 Chronicles 22:1-19 .

The place chosen for erecting this magnificent structure was Mount Moriah, Genesis 2:2,14 2 Chronicles 3:1 , the summit of which originally was unequal, and its sides irregular; but it was a favorite object of the Jews to level and extend it. The plan and the whole model of this structure was laid by the same divine architect as that of the tabernacle, namely, God himself; and it was built much in the same form as the tabernacle, but was of much larger dimensions. The utensils for the sacred service were also the same as those used in the tabernacle, only several of them were larger, in proportion to the more spacious edifice to which they belonged. The foundations of this magnificent edifice were laid by Solomon, in the year B. C. 1011, about four hundred and eighty years after the exodus and the building of the tabernacle; and it was finished B. C. 1004, having occupied seven years and six months in the building. It was dedicated with peculiar solemnity to the worship of Jehovah, who condescended to make it the place for the special manifestation of his glory, 2 Chronicles 5:1-7:22 . The front or entrance to the temple was on the eastern side, and consequently facing the Mount of Olives, which commanded a noble prospect of the building. The temple itself, strictly so called, which comprised the Porch, the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies, formed only a small part of the sacred precincts, being surrounded by spacious courts, chambers, and other apartments, which were much more extensive than the temple itself. It should be observed that the word temple does not always denote the central edifice itself, but in many passages some of the outer courts are intended.

From the descriptions which are handed down to us of the temple of Solomon, it is utterly impossible to obtain so accurate an idea of its relative parts and their respective proportions, as to furnish such an account as may be deemed satisfactory to the reader. Hence we find no two writers agreeing in their descriptions. The following account may give a general idea of the building.

The Temple itself was seventy cubits long; the Porch being ten cubits, 1 Kings 6:3 , the Holy place forty cubits, 1 Kings 6:17 , and the Most Holy place, twenty cubits, 2 Chronicles 3:8 . The width of the Porch, Holy, and Most Holy places was thirty cubits, 1 Kings 6:2; but the height of the porch was much greater, being no less than one hundred and twenty cubits, 2 Chronicles 3:4 , or four times the height of the rest of the building. The Most Holy place was separated from the Sanctuary by an impervious veil, Luke 23:45 , and was perhaps wholly dark, 1 Kings 8:12 , but for the glory of the Lord which filled it. To the north and south sides, and the west end of the Holy and Most Holy places, or all around the edifice, from the back of the porch on one side, to the back of the porch on the other side, certain buildings were attached. These were called side chambers, and consisted of three stories, each five cubits high, 1 Kings 6:10 , and joined to the wall of the temple without. Thus the three stories of side chambers, when taken together, were fifteen cubits high, and consequently reached exactly to half the height of the side walls and end of the temple; so that there was abundance of space above these for the windows which gave light to the temple, 1 Kings 6:4 .

Solomon's temple appears to have been surrounded by two main courts: the inner court, that "of the Priests," 1 Kings 6:36 2 Chronicles 4:9; and the outer court, that "of Israel;" these were separated by a "middle wall of partition," with lodges for priests and Levites, for wood, oil, etc., 1 Chronicles 28:12 . The ensuing description is applicable to the temple courts in the time of our Lord.

The "court of the Gentiles" was so called because it might be entered by persons of all nations. The chief entrance to it was by the east or Shushan gate, which was the principal gate of the temple. It was the exterior court, and by far the largest of all the courts belonging to the temple, and is said to have covered a space of more than fourteen acres. It entirely surrounded the other courts and the temple itself; and in going up to the temple from its east or outer gate, one would cross first this court, then the court of the Women, then that of Israel, and lastly that of the Priests. This outmost court was separated from the court of the women by a wall three cubits high of lattice work, and having inscriptions on its pillars forbidding Gentiles and unclean persons to pass beyond it, on pain of death, Acts 21:28 Ephesians 2:13,14 . From this court of the Gentiles our Savior drove the persons who had established a cattle-market in it, for the purpose of supplying those with sacrifices who came from a distance, Matthew 21:12-13 . We must not overlook the beautiful pavement of variegated marble, and the "porches" or covered walks, with columns supported magnificent galleries, with which this court was surrounded. Those on the east, west, and north sides were of the same dimensions; but that on the south was much larger. The porch called Solomon's John 10:23 Acts 3:11 , was on the east side or front of this court, and was so called because it was built by this prince, upon a high wall rising from the alley of Kidron.

The "court of the Women," called in Scripture the "new court," 2 Chronicles 20:5 , and the "outer court," Ezekiel 46:21 , separated the court of the Gentiles from the court of Israel, extending along the east side only of the latter. It was called the court of the women because it was their appointed place of worship, beyond which they might not go, unless when they brought a sacrifice, in which case they went forward to the court of Israel. The gate which led into this court from that of the Gentiles, was "the Beautiful gate" of the temple, mentioned in Acts 3:2,10; so called, because the folding doors, lintel, and side-posts were all overlaid with Corinthian brass. The worshipper ascended to its level by a broad flight of steps. It was in this court of the women, called the "treasury," that our Savior delivered his striking discourse to the Jews, related in John 8:1-20 . It was into this court also that the Pharisee and the publican went to pray, Luke 18:10-13 , and hither the lame man followed Peter and John, after he was cured- the court of the women being the ordinary place of worship for those who brought no sacrifice, Acts 3:8 . From thence, after prayers, he went back with them, through the "Beautiful gate" of the temple, where he had been lying, and through the sacred fence, into the court of the Gentiles, where, under the eastern piazza, or Solomon's porch, Peter preached Christ crucified. It was in the same court of the women that the Jews laid hold of Paul, when they judged him a violator of the temple by taking Gentiles within the sacred fence, Acts 21:26-29 .

The "court of Israel" was separated from the court of the women by a wall thirty-two and a half cubits high on the outside, but on the inside only twenty-five. The reason of which difference was, that as the rock on which the temple stood became higher on advancing westward, the several courts naturally became elevated in proportion. The ascent into this court from the east was by a flight of fifteen steps, of a semicircular form, and the magnificent gate Nicanor. On these steps the Levites stood in singing the "songs of degrees." The whole length of the court from east to west was one hundred and eighty-seven cubits, and the breadth from north to south, one hundred and thirty-five cubits. In this court, and the piazza which surrounded it, the Israelites stood in solemn and reverent silence while their sacrifices were burning in the inner court, and while the services of the sanctuary were performed, Luke 1:8-11,21,22 .

Within this court, and surrounded by it, was the "court of the Priests;" one hundred and sixty-five cubits long and one hundred and nineteen cubits wide, and raised two and a half cubits above the surrounding court, from which it was separated by pillars and a railing. Within this court stood the brazen altar on which the sacrifices were consumed, the molten sea in which the priests washed, and the ten brazen lavers for washing the sacrifices; also the various utensils and instruments for sacrificing, which are enumerated in 2 Chronicles 4:1-22 . It is necessary to observe here, that although the court of the Priests was not accessible to all Israelites, as that of Israel was to all the priests, yet they might enter it for three several purposes: to lay their hands on the animals which they offered, or to kill them, or to wave some part of them.

From the court of the Priests, the ascent to the temple was by a flight of twelve steps, each half a cubit in height, which led into the sacred porch. Of the dimensions of this in Solomon's temple, as also of the Sanctuary and Holy of Holies, we have already spoken. It was within the door of the porch, and in the sight of those who stood in the courts immediately before it, that the two pillars, Jachiin and Boaz, were placed, 2 Chronicles 3:17 Ezekiel 40:49 .

The temple of Solomon retained its pristine splendor but thirtythree years, when it was plundered by Shishak king of Egypt, 1 Kings 14:25,26 2 Chronicles 12:9 . After this period it underwent sundry profanities and pillages from Hazael, Tiglath-pileser, Sennacherib, etc., 2 Kings 12:1-21 16:1-20 18:1-37; and was at length utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, B. C. 588, after having stood according to Usher, four hundred and twenty-four years, three months, and eight days.

After lying in ruins for fifty-two years, the foundations of the second temple were laid by Zerubbabel, and the Jews who had availed themselves of the privilege granted by Cyrus and returned to Jerusalem, Ezra 1:1-4 2:1 3:8-10 . After various hindrances, it was finished and dedicated twenty-one years after it was begun, B. C. 515, Ezra 6:15-16 . The dimensions of this temple in breadth and height were double those of Solomon's. The weeping of the people at the laying of the foundation, therefore, Ezra 3:12-13 , and the disparaging manner in which they spoke of it, when compared with he first one, Haggai 2:3 , were occasioned by its inferiority not in size, but in glory. It wanted the five principal things which could invest it with this: namely, the ark and mercy seat, the divine presence or visible glory, the holy fire on the altar, the urim and thummin, and the Spirit of prophecy. In the year B. C. 163, this temple was plundered and profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes, who ordered the discontinuance of the daily sacrifice, offered swine's flesh upon the altar, and completely suspended the worship of Jehovah. Thus it continued for three years, when it was repaired and purified by Judas Maccabaeus, who restored the divine worship, and dedicated it anew.

Herod, having slain all the Sanhedrim, except two, in the first year of his reign, B. C. 37, resolved to atone for it by rebuilding and beautifying the temple. This he was the more inclined to do, both from the peace which he enjoyed, and the decayed state of the edifice. After employing two years in preparing the materials for the work, the temple of Zerubbabel was pulled down, B. C. 17, and fortysix years before the first Passover of Christ's ministry. Although this temple was fit for divine service in nine years and a half, yet a great number of laborers and artificers were still employed in carrying on the outbuildings all the time of our Savior's abode on earth. His presence fulfilled the predictions in Haggai 2:9 Malachi 3:1 . The temple of Herod was considerably larger than that of Zerubbabel, as that of Zerubbabel was larger than Solomon's. For whereas the second temple was seventy cubits long, sixty broad, and sixty high, this was one hundred cubits long, seventy broad, and one hundred high. The porch was raised to the height of one hundred cubits, and was extended fifteen cubits beyond each side of the rest of the building. All the Jewish writers praise this temple exceedingly for its beauty and the costliness of its workmanship. It was built of white marble, exquisitely wrought, and with stones of large dimensions, some of them twenty-five cubits long, eight cubits high, and twelve cubits thick. To these there is no doubt a reference in Mark 13:1 Luke 21:5 : "And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings are here!" Luke says, "goodly stones." See a description of the ornaments of one of its gates under VINE .

This splendid building, which rose like a mount of gold and of snow, and was once the admiration and envy of the world, has forever passed away. According to our blessed Lord's prediction, that "there should not be left one stone upon another that should not be thrown down," Mark 13:2 , the whole structure above ground was completely demolished by the Roman soldiers, under Titus, A. D. 70. The temple area is now occupied by two Turkish mosques, into which, until recently, neither Jew nor Christian was permitted to enter. Beneath the vast area of El-Haram still exist immense arched ways and vaults of unknown date; also a large and deep well, and other indications that the temple always possessed a copious and perennial supply of water, derived perhaps in part from Gihon by Hezekiah's aqueduct, and in part from Solomon's pools, and flowing off through the fountain of the Virgin and the pool of Siloam. In the outer walls of the present area are seen at several places stones of vast size, evidently belonging to the ancient walls. Near the southwest corner certain huge stones mark the beginning of an arch, a part of the stately bridge which anciently connected the temple are with Mount Zion; and a little north of this spot is the celebrated wailing-place of the Jews. See WALL.

In the time of the kings, a regular guard of Levites was always on duty at the temple, 1 Chronicles 26:1-32 2 Chronicles 23:19 . During the supremacy of the Romans there was a Roman garrison in the strong tower of Antonia, which, with its various courts and fortifications, adjoined the temple area on the north, and was connected with it by passages both above and under ground, John 18:12 Acts 4:1 5:26 21:31-40 .

The utmost veneration and love were always cherished towards the temple by pious Jews, Psalm 84:1-12 . All the people also, from various motives, gloried in it, many with a bigoted and idolatrous regard. Hence the charge of blaspheming the temple, which was found the most effectual means of enraging the populace against Christ and his followers, Matthew 26:61 27:40 John 2:19,20 Acts 6:13 21:27-30 .

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Temple'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​ats/​t/temple.html. 1859.
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