Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 7th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Temptation of Our Lord
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

After the Israelites had exchanged their nomadic life for a life in permanent habitations, it was becoming that they should exchange also their movable sanctuary or tabernacle for a temple. There elapsed, however, after the conquest of Palestine, several centuries during which the sanctuary continued movable, although the nation became more and more stationary. It appears that the first who planned the erection of a stone-built sanctuary was David, who, when he was inhabiting his house of cedar, and God had given him rest from all his enemies, meditated the design of building a temple in which the ark of God might be placed, instead of being deposited 'within curtains,' or in a tent, as hitherto. This design was at first encouraged by the prophet Nathan; but he was afterwards instructed to tell David that such a work was less appropriate for him, who had been a warrior from his youth, and had shed much blood, than for his son, who should enjoy in prosperity and peace the rewards of his father's victories. Nevertheless, the design itself was highly approved as a token of proper feelings towards the Divine King (;; ). We learn, moreover, from 1 Kings 5, and 1 Chronicles 22, that David had collected materials which were afterwards employed in the erection of the temple, which was commenced four years after his death, about B.C. 1012, four hundred and eighty years after the Exodus from Egypt, and was about seven years in building. We thus learn that the Israelitish sanctuary had remained movable more than four centuries subsequent to the conquest of Canaan.

The site of the temple was on Mount Moriah, which was at first insufficient for the temple and altar, and therefore walls and buttresses were built in order to gain more ground by filling up the interval with earth. The hill was also fortified by a threefold wall, the lowest tier of which was in some places more than 300 cubits high; and the depth of the foundation was not visible, because it had been necessary in some parts to dig deep into the ground in order to obtain sufficient support. The dimensions of the stones of which the walls were composed were enormous; Josephus mentions a length of 40 cubits.

The workmen and the materials employed in the erection of the temple were chiefly procured by Solomon from Hiram, king of Tyre, who was rewarded by a liberal importation of wheat. Josephus states that the foundation was sunk to an astonishing depth, and composed of stones of singular magnitude, and very durable. Being closely mortised into the rock with great ingenuity, they formed a basis adequate to the support of the intended structure.

The temple itself and its utensils are described in 1 Kings 6, 7, and 2 Chronicles 3-4.

Divines and architects have repeatedly endeavored to represent the architectural proportions of the temple, which was 60 cubits long, 20 wide, and 30 high. The internal dimension of the 'holy' was 40 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The holy was separated from the 'holy of holies' by a partition, a large opening in which was closed by a suspended curtain. The holy of holies was on the western extremity of the entire building, and its internal dimensions formed a cube of 20 cubits. On the eastern extremity of the building was the porch, at the entrance of which stood the two columns called Jachin and Boaz, which were 23 cubits high.

The temple was also surrounded by three stories of chambers, each of which stories was five cubits high, so that there remained above, ample space for introducing the windows, which served chiefly for ventilation, as the light within the temple was obtained from the sacred candlesticks. The windows which are mentioned in , consisted probably of lattice-work.

It seems from the descriptions of the temple to be certain that the holy of holies was an adytum without windows. To this fact Solomon seems to refer when he spake, 'The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness' ().

From , we learn that the private dwellings of Solomon were built of massive stone. We hence infer, that the framework of the temple also consisted of the same material. The temple was, however, wainscoted with cedar wood, which was covered with gold. The boards within the temple were ornamented by beautiful carvings representing cherubim, palms, and flowers. The ceiling of the temple was supported by beams of cedar wood. The wall which separated the holy from the holy of holies probably consisted not of stone, but of beams of cedar. The partitions were probably in part reticulated, so that the incense could spread from the holy to the most holy.

The floor of the temple was throughout of cedar, but boarded over with planks of fir (). The doors of the oracle were composed of olive-tree; but the doors of the outer temple had posts of olive-tree and leaves of fir (, sq.). Both doors, as well that which led into the temple as that which led from the holy to the holy of holies, had folding leaves, which, however, seem to have been usually kept open, the aperture being closed by a suspended curtain.

Within the holy of holies stood only the ark of the covenant; but within the holy were ten golden candlesticks, and the altar of incense (comp. the separate articles).

The temple was surrounded by an inner court, which in Chronicles is called the Court of the Priests, and in Jeremiah the Upper Court. This again was surrounded by a wall consisting of cedar beams placed on a stone foundation (). Besides this inner court there is mentioned a Great Court (). This court was also more especially called the court of the Lord's house (; ). These courts were surrounded by spacious buildings, which, however, according to Josephus, seem to have been partly added at a period later than that of Solomon. From these descriptions we learn that the temple of Solomon was not distinguished by magnitude, but by good architectural proportions, beauty of workmanship, and costliness of materials. Many English churches have an external form not unlike that of the temple of Solomon.

There was a treasury in the temple, in which much precious metal was collected for the maintenance of public worship. The gold and silver of the temple was, however, frequently applied to political purposes, and the treasury was repeatedly plundered by foreign invaders. The sacred edifice was burned down by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 588, having stood since its commencement 417 or 418 years. Thus terminated what the later Jews called the first house.

Second Temple

In the year B.C. 536the Jews obtained permission from Cyrus to colonize their native land. Cyrus commanded also that the sacred utensils which had been pillaged from the first temple should be restored, and that for the restoration of the temple assistance should be granted (Ezra 1, 6; , sq.). The first colony, which returned under Zerubbabel and Joshua, having collected the necessary means, and having also obtained the assistance of Phoenician workmen, commenced in the second year after their return, B.C. 534, the rebuilding of the temple. The Sidonians brought rafts of cedar trees from Lebanon to Joppa. The Jews refused the cooperation of the Samaritans, who, being thereby offended, induced the King Artasashta (probably Smerdis) to prohibit the building. And it was only in the second year of Darius Hystaspis, B.C. 520, that the building was resumed. It was completed in the sixth year of this king, B.C. 516.

This second temple was erected on the site of the former, and probably after the same plan. The old men who had seen the first temple were moved to tears on beholding the second, which appeared insignificant in comparison with the first (; , sq.). It seems, however, that it was not so much in dimensions that the second temple was inferior to the first, as in splendor, and in being deprived of the Ark of the Covenant, which had been burned with the temple of Solomon.

Temple of Herod

Herod, wishing to ingratiate himself with the people, and being fond of architectural display, undertook not merely to repair the second temple, but to raise a perfectly new structure. As, however, the temple of Zerubbabel was not actually destroyed, but only removed after the preparations for the new temple were completed, there has arisen some debate whether the temple of Herod could properly be called the third temple.

The work was commenced in the eighteenth year of the reign of Herod; that is, about the year 734-735 from the building of Rome, or about twenty or twenty-one years before the Christian era. Priests and Levites finished the temple itself in one year and a half. The outbuildings and courts required eight years. However, some building operations were constantly in progress under the successors of Herod, and it is in reference to this we are informed that the temple was finished only under Albinus, the last procurator but one, not long before the commencement of the Jewish war in which the temple was again destroyed. It is in reference also to these protracted building operations that the Jews said to Jesus, 'Forty and six years was this temple in building' ().

The whole of the structures belonging to the temple were a stadium square, and consequently four stadia (or half a Roman mile) in circumference. The temple was situated on the highest point, not quite in the center, but rather to the north-western corner of this square, and was surrounded by various courts, the innermost of which was higher than the next outward, which descended in terraces. The temple, consequently, was visible from the town, notwithstanding its various high enclosures. The outer court was called the mountain of the house, and had five principal gates. Annexed to the outer wall were halls which surrounded the temple. The Levites resided in these halls, and they seem likewise to have been used by religious teachers for the purpose of addressing their hearers. Thus we find that Jesus had there various opportunities for addressing the people and refuting cavillers.

Here also the first Christians could daily assemble with one accord (). Within this outer court money-changers and cattle-dealers transacted a profitable business, especially during the time of Passover. The profaneness to which this money-changing and cattle-dealing gave rise caused the indignation of our Lord, who suddenly expelled all these traffickers from their stronghold of business (, sq.;;; ).

The holy of holies was entirely empty, but there was a stone in the place of the Ark of the Covenant, on which the high-priest placed the censer. Before the entrance of the holy of holies was suspended a curtain, which was rent by the earthquake that followed after the crucifixion.

The temple was situated upon the south-eastern corner of Mount Moriah, which is separated to the east by a precipitous ravine and the Kidron from the Mount of Olives, which is much higher than Moriah. On the south the temple was bounded by the ravine which separates Moriah from Zion, or the lower city from the upper city. Opposite to the temple, at the foot of Zion, were formerly the king's gardens, and higher up, in a south-westerly direction, the stronghold of Zion, or the city of David, on a higher level than the temple. The temple was in ancient warfare almost impregnable, from the ravines at the precipitous edge of which it stood; but it required more artificial fortifications on its western and northern sides, which were surrounded by the city of Jerusalem; for this reason there was erected at its north-western corner the tower of Antonia, which, although standing on a lower level than the temple itself, was so high as to overlook the sacred buildings, with which it was connected partly by a large staircase, partly by a subterraneous communication. This tower protected the temple from sudden incursions from the city of Jerusalem, and from dangerous commotions among the thousands who were frequently assembled within the precincts of the courts, which also were sometimes used for popular meetings. Under the sons of Herod, the temple remained apparently in good order, and Herod Agrippa, who was appointed by the Emperor Claudius its guardian, even planned the repair of the eastern part, which had probably been destroyed during one of the conflicts between the Jews and Romans of which the temple was repeatedly the scene (Antiq. xvii. 10). Many writers on the subject have adopted a style as if they possessed much information about the archives of the temple; there are a few indications from which we learn that important documents were deposited in the tabernacle and temple. Even in , we find that the book of the law was deposited in the Ark of the Covenant. , Hilkiah rediscovered the book of the law in the house of Jehovah. In , we find a bibliotheca or library mentioned, apparently consisting chiefly of the canonical books, and probably deposited in the temple. In Josephus it is mentioned that a book of the law was found in the temple. It appears that the sacred writings were kept in the temple. Copies of political documents seem to have been deposited in the treasury of the temple.

During the final struggle of the Jews against the Romans, A.D. 70, the temple was the last scene of the tug of war. The Romans rushed from the tower Antonia into the sacred precincts, the halls of which were set on fire by the Jews themselves. It was against the will of Titus that a Roman soldier threw a firebrand into the northern outbuildings of the temple, which caused the conflagration of the whole structure, although Titus himself endeavored to extinguish the fire.

The sacred utensils, the golden table of the show-bread, the book of the law, and the golden candlestick, were displayed in the triumph at Rome. Representations of them are still to be seen sculptured in relief on the triumphal arch of Titus. The place where the temple had stood seemed to be a dangerous center for the rebellious population, until, in A.D. 130, the Emperor Hadrian founded a Roman colony, under the name Ælia Capitolina, on the ruins of Jerusalem, and dedicated a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus on the ruins of the temple of Jehovah. Henceforth no Jew was permitted to approach the site of the ancient temple.

The Emperor Julian undertook, A.D. 363, to rebuild the temple; but after considerable preparations and much expense, he was compelled to desist by flames which burst forth from the foundations. A splendid mosque now stands on the site of the temple. This mosque was erected by the caliph Omar after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Saracens, A.D. 630.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Temple'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​t/temple.html.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile