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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Temple

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the house of God; properly the temple of Solomon. David first conceived the design of building a house somewhat worthy of the divine majesty, and opened his mind to the Prophet Nathan, 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17; 1 Chronicles 22:8 , &c. God accepted of his good intentions, but refused him the honour. Solomon laid the foundation of the temple, A.M. 2992, completed it in 3000, and dedicated it in 3001, 1 Kings 8:2 ; 2 Chronicles 5; 2 Chronicles 6:7 . According to the opinion of some writers, there were three temples, namely, the first, erected by Solomon; the second, by Zerubbabel, and Joshua the high priest; and the third, by Herod, a few years before the birth of Christ. But this opinion is, very properly, rejected by the Jews; who do not allow the third to be a new temple, but only the second temple repaired and beautified: and this opinion corresponds with the prophecy of Haggai 2:9 , "that the glory of this latter house," the temple built by Zerubbabel, "should be greater than that of the former;" which prediction was tittered with reference to the Messiah's honouring it with his presence and ministry. The first temple is that which usually bears the name of Solomon; the materials for which were provided by David before his death, though the edifice was raised by his son. It stood on Mount Moriah, an eminence of the mountainous ridge in the Scriptures termed Mount Zion, Psalms 132:13-14 , which had been purchased by Araunah, or Ornan, the Jebusite, 2 Samuel 24:23-24 ; 1 Chronicles 21:25 . The plan, and the whole model of this superb structure, were formed after that of the tabernacle, but of much larger dimensions. It was surrounded, except at the front or east end, by three stories of chambers, each five cubits square, which reached to half the height of the temple; and the front was ornamented with a magnificent portico, which rose to the height of one hundred and twenty cubits: so that the form of the whole edifice was not unlike that of some ancient churches, which have a lofty tower in the front, and a low aisle running along each side of the building. The utensils for the sacred service were the same; excepting that several of them, as the altar, candlestick, &c, were larger, in proportion to the more spacious edifice to which they belonged. Seven years and six months were occupied in the erection of the superb and magnificent temple of Solomon, by whom it was dedicated, A.M. 3001, B.C. 999, with peculiar solemnity, to the worship of the Most High; who on this occasion vouchsafed to honour it with the Shechinah, or visible manifestation of his presence. Various attempts have been made to describe the proportions and several parts of this structure; but as scarcely any two writers agree on this subject, a minute description of it is designedly omitted. It retained its pristine splendour only thirty-three or thirty-four years, when Shishak, king of Egypt, took Jerusalem, and carried away the treasures of the temple; and after undergoing subsequent profanations and pillages, this stupendous building was finally plundered and burnt by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar, A.M. 3416, or B.C. 584, 2 Kings 25:13-15 ; 2 Chronicles 36:17-20 .

After the captivity, the temple emerged from its ruins, being rebuilt by Zerubbabel, but with vastly inferior and diminished glory; as appears from the tears of the aged men who had beheld the former structure in all its grandeur, Ezra 3:12 . The second temple was profaned by order of Antiochus Epiphanes, A.M. 3837, B.C. 163, who caused the daily sacrifices to be discontinued, and erected the image of Jupiter Olympus on the altar of burnt-offering. In this condition it continued three years, l Mac. 4. 42, when Judas Maccabaeus purified and repaired it, and restored the sacrifices and true worship of Jehovah. Some years before the birth of our Saviour, the repairing and beautifying of this second temple, which had become decayed in the lapse of five centuries, was undertaken by Herod the Great, who for nine years employed eighty thousand workmen upon it, and spared no expense to render it equal, if not superior, in magnitude, splendour, and beauty, to any thing among mankind. Josephus calls it a work the most admirable of any that had ever been seen or heard of, both for its curious structure and its magnitude, and also for the vast wealth expended upon it, as well as for the universal reputation of its sanctity. But though Herod accomplished his original design in the time above specified, yet the Jews continued to ornament and enlarge it, expending the sacred treasure in annexing additional buildings to it; so that they might with great propriety assert, that their temple had been forty and six years in building, John 2:20 .

Before we proceed to describe this venerable edifice, it may be proper to remark, that by the temple is to be understood not only the fabric or house itself, which by way of eminence is called the temple, namely, the holy of holies, the sanctuary, and the several courts both of the priests and Israelites, but also all the numerous chambers and rooms which this prodigious edifice comprehended; and each of which had its respective degree of holiness, increasing in proportion to its contiguity to the holy of holies. This remark it will be necessary to bear in mind, lest the reader of Scripture should be led to suppose, that whatever is there said to be transacted in the temple was actually done in the interior of that sacred edifice. To this infinite number of apartments, into which the temple was disposed, our Lord refers, John 14:2 ; and by a very striking and magnificent simile, borrowed from them, he represents those numerous seats and mansions of heavenly bliss which his Father's house contained, and which were prepared for the everlasting abode of the righteous. The imagery is singularly beautiful and happy, when considered as an allusion to the temple, which our Lord not unfrequently called his Father's house.

The second temple, originally built by Zerubbabel after the captivity, and repaired by Herod, differed in several respects from that erected by Solomon, although they agreed in others.

The temple erected by Solomon was more splendid and magnificent than the second temple, which was deficient in five remarkable things that constituted the chief glory of the first: these were, the ark and the mercy seat: the shechinah, or manifestation of the divine presence, in the holy of holies; the sacred fire on the altar, which had been first kindled from heaven; the urim and thummim; and the spirit of prophecy. But the second temple surpassed the first in glory; being honoured by the frequent presence of our divine Saviour, agreeably to the prediction of Haggai 2:9 . Both, however, were erected upon the same site, a very hard rock, encompassed by a very frightful precipice; and the foundation was laid with incredible expense and labour. The superstructure was not inferior to this great work: the height of the temple wall, especially on the south side, was stupendous. In the lowest places it was three hundred cubits, or four hundred and fifty feet, and in some places even greater. This most magnificent pile was constructed with hard white stones of prodigious magnitude. The temple itself, strictly so called, which comprised the portico, the sanctuary, and the holy of holies formed only a small part of the sacred edifice on Mount Moriah, being surrounded by spacious courts, making a square of half a mile in circumference. It was entered through nine gates, which were on every side thickly coated with gold and silver; but there was one gate without the holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, the most precious metal in ancient times, and which far surpassed the others in beauty. For while these were of equal magnitude, the gate composed of Corinthian brass was much larger; its height being fifty cubits, and its doors forty cubits, and its ornaments both of gold and silver being far more costly and massive. This is supposed to have been the "gate called Beautiful" in Acts 3:2 , where Peter and John, in the name of Christ, healed a man who had been lame from his birth. The first or outer court, which encompassed the holy house and the other courts, was named the court of the Gentiles; because the latter were allowed to enter into it, but were prohibited from advancing farther. It was surrounded by a range of porticoes, or cloisters, above which were galleries, or apartments, supported by pillars of white marble, each consisting of a single piece, and twenty-five cubits in height. One of these was called Solomon's porch, or piazza, because it stood on a vast terrace, which he had originally raised from a valley beneath, four hundred cubits high, in order to enlarge the area on the top of the mountain, and make it equal to the plan of his intended building; and as this terrace was the only work of Solomon that remained in the second temple, the piazza which stood upon it retained the name of that prince. Here it was that our Lord was walking at the feast of dedication, John 10:23 ; and that the lame man, when healed by Peter and John, glorified God before all the people, Acts 3:11 . This superb portico is termed the royal portico by Josephus, who represents it as the noblest work beneath the sun, being elevated to such a prodigious height, that no one could look down from its flat roof to the valley below, without being seized with dizziness; the sight not reaching to such an immeasurable depth. The south-east corner of the roof of this portico, where the height was the greatest, is supposed to have been the πτερυγιον , pinnacle, or extreme angle, whence Satan tempted our Saviour to precipitate himself, Matthew 4:5 ; Luke 4:9 . This also was the spot where it was predicted that the abomination of desolation, or the Roman ensigns, should stand, Daniel 9:27 ; Matthew 24:15 . Solomon's portico was situated in the eastern front of the temple, opposite to the mount of Olives, where our Saviour is said to have sat when his disciples came to show him the grandeur of its various buildings, of which, grand as they were, he said, the time was approaching when one stone should not be left upon another, Matthew 24:1-3 . This outer court being assigned to the Gentile proselytes, the Jews, who did not worship in it themselves, conceived that it might lawfully be put to profane uses: for here we find that the buyers and sellers of animals for sacrifices, and also the money-changers, had stationed themselves; until Jesus Christ, awing them into submission by the grandeur and dignity of his person and behaviour, expelled them; telling them that it was the house of prayer for all nations, and was not to be profaned, Matthew 21:12-13 ; Mark 11:15-17 . Within the court of the Gentiles stood the court of the Israelites, divided into two parts, or courts; the outer one being appropriated to the women, and the inner one to the men. The court of the women was separated from that of the Gentiles by a low stone wall, or partition, of elegant construction, on which stood pillars at equal distances, with inscriptions in Greek and Latin, importing that no alien should enter into the holy place. To this wall St.

Paul most evidently alludes in Ephesians 2:13-14 : "But now in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ: for he is our peace, who hath made both one, (united both Jews and Gentiles into one church,) and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;" having abolished the law of ordinances, by which, as by the wall of separation, both Jews and Gentiles were not only kept asunder, but also at variance. In this court was the treasury, over against which Christ sat, and beheld how the people threw their voluntary offerings into it, for furnishing the victims and other things necessary for the sacrifices, Mark 12:41 ; John 8:20 . From the court of the women, which was on higher ground than that of the Gentiles, there was an ascent of fifteen steps into the inner or men's court: and so called because it was appropriated to the worship of the male Israelites. In these two courts, collectively termed the court of the Israelites, were the people praying, each apart by himself, for the pardon of his sins, while Zacharias was offering incense within the sanctuary, Luke 1:10 . Within the court of the Israelites was that of the priests, which was separated from it by a low wall, one cubit in height. This enclosure surrounded the altar of burnt- offerings, and to it the people brought their oblations and sacrifices; but the priests alone were permitted to enter it. From this court twelve steps ascended to the temple, strictly so called; which was divided into three parts, the portico, the outer sanctuary, and the holy place. In the portico was suspended the splendid votive offerings made by the piety of various individuals. Among other treasures, there was a golden table given by Pompey, and several golden vines of exquisite workmanship, as well as of immense size; for Josephus relates, that there were clusters as tall as a man. And he adds, that all around were fixed up and displayed the spoils and trophies taken by Herod from the barbarians and Arabians. These votive offerings, it should seem, were visible at a distance; for when Jesus Christ was sitting on the mount of Olives, and his disciples called his attention to the temple, they pointed out to him the gifts with which it was adorned, Luke 21:5 . This porch had a very large portal or gate, which, instead of folding doors, was furnished with a costly Babylonian veil, of many colours, that mystically denoted the universe. From this the sanctuary, or holy place, was separated from the holy of holies by a double veil, which is supposed to have been the veil that was rent in twain at our Saviour's crucifixion; thus emblematically pointing out that the separation between Jews and Gentiles was abolished; and that the privilege of the high priest was communicated to all mankind, who might henceforth have access to the throne of grace through the one great Mediator, Jesus Christ, Hebrews 10:19-22 . The holy of holies was twenty cubits square: into it no person was admitted but the high priest, who entered it once a year on the great day of atonement, Exodus 30:10 ; Leviticus 16:2 ; Leviticus 16:15 ; Leviticus 16:34 ; Hebrews 9:2-7 .

Magnificent as the rest of the sacred edifice was, it was infinitely surpassed in splendour by the inner temple, or sanctuary. Its appearance, according to Josephus, had every thing that could strike the mind, or astonish the sight: for it was covered on every side with plates of gold; so that when the sun rose upon it, it reflected so strong and dazzling an effulgence, that the eye of the spectator was obliged to turn away, being no more able to sustain its radiance than the splendour of the sun. To strangers who were approaching: it appeared at a distance like a mountain covered with snow; for where it was not decorated with plates of gold, it was extremely white and glistening. On the top it had sharp-pointed spikes of gold, to prevent any bird from resting upon it and polluting it. There were, continues the Jewish historian, in that building, several stones which were forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth. "When all these things are considered," says Harwood, "how natural is the exclamation of the disciples, when viewing this immense building at a distance: ‘Master, see what manner of stones' (ποταποι λιθοι , ‘what very large ones') ‘and what buildings are here!' Mark 13:1 : and how wonderful is the declaration of our Lord upon this, how unlikely to be accomplished before the race of men who were then living should cease to exist! ‘Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.' Improbable as this prediction must have appeared to the disciples at that time, in the short space of about thirty years after it was exactly accomplished; and this most magnificent temple, which the Jews had literally turned into a den of thieves, through the righteous judgment of God upon that wicked and abandoned nation, was utterly destroyed by the Romans A.D. 70, or 73 of the vulgar era, on the same month, and on the same day of the month, when Solomon's temple had been razed to the ground by the Babylonians!"

Both the first and second temples were contemplated by the Jews with the highest reverence. Of their affectionate regard for the first temple, and for Jerusalem, within whose walls it was built, we have several instances in those Psalms which were composed during the Babylonish captivity; and of their profound veneration for the second temple we have repeated examples in the New Testament. They could not bear any disrespectful or dishonourable thing to be said of it. The least injurious slight of it, real or apprehended, instantly awakened all the choler of a Jew, and was an affront never to be forgiven. Our Saviour, in the course of his public instructions, having said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again,"

John 2:19 , it was construed into a contemptuous disrespect, designedly thrown out against the temple; his words instantly descended into the heart of the Jews, and kept rankling there for some years; for, upon his trial, this declaration, which it was impossible for a Jew ever to forget or to forgive, was immediately alleged against him, as big with the most atrocious guilt and impiety; they told the court they had heard him publicly assert, "I am able to destroy this temple," Matthew 26:61 . The rancour and virulence they had conceived against him for this speech, was not softened by all the affecting circumstances of that wretched death they saw him die; even as he hung upon the cross, with triumph, scorn, and exultation, they upbraided him with it, contemptuously shaking their heads, and saying, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!" Matthew 27:40 . It only remains to add, that it appears, from several passages of Scripture, that the Jews had a body of soldiers who guarded the temple, to prevent any disturbances during the ministration of such an immense number of priests and Levites. To this guard Pilate referred, when he said to the chief priests and Pharisees who waited upon him to desire he would make the sepulchre secure, "Ye have a watch, go your way, and make it as secure as ye can," Matthew 27:65 . Over these guards one person had the supreme command, who in several places is called the captain of the temple, or officer of the temple guard. "And as they spake unto the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them," Acts 4:1 ; Acts 5:25-26 ; John 18:12 . Josephus mentions such an officer.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Temple'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/t/temple.html. 1831-2.


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