Jerusalem Temple

Historical background

Sacred places of mankind.

Evidences of the religious outlook of mankind are found wherever man has been able to establish some continuity of habitation. The Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia-Egypt furnishes examples of some of the oldest sacred sites and temples, with Jericho providing one of the oldest, dating from Mesolithic times (c. 6800 b.c.; Kenyon, Archaeology of the Holy Land, 420). A characteristic feature is the presence of an enclosing wall, setting the area off from its surroundings, thus emphasizing the implied superiority and sanctity of the place and its deity.

In Egypt, the earliest discernible temple form was a small house similar to that of the worshiper. In front of it was placed the symbol of the god, the whole enclosed by a fence or low wall (BA, VII, 44). In later times, this house was replaced by a large and complex series of courts and halls (viz., Karnak and Luxor temples of the 15th cent. b.c.) inside an enclosing wall, within which were not only the principal deity but also other related and subsidiary deities.

Ceremonially, there developed a need to express theological concepts, demonstrated by the “pilgrimages” of Amon in Karnak through various “stations” in the temple complex (op. cit., 45).

Mesopotamian examples.

Southern Mesopotamia (Sumer) in the earlier periods erected simple temple structures built mostly of reeds. Expansion came with the advent of building with sun-dried brick. Plan variations occurred until toward the end of the third millennium when temples were formalized in a large hall with the idol placed at the narrow end, usually in a shallow room opposite a doorway. The worshiper assembled in an outer court and looked into the main hall where, at the far end, he saw the gorgeously arrayed god framed by a monumental portal. The design was to impress the worshiper and inspire him with fear and awe. This was not, however, the purpose of the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem (see below).

In Assyrian times in the northern Mesopotamian area (Assyria), the outer court familiar from Babylonian temples was lacking; the worshiper entered by a door in the side wall into the sanctuary where the idol was present and then turned to face the image. Pilasters or short walls on the side walls at that end framed the deity, which stood on a low dais. In Babylonian times, the entrance was frequently given flanking towers.

The southern Mesopotamian temples show derivation from houses, whereas the Assyrian temple stressed the more private relationship of deity and worshiper. This temple was usually found at the base of the ziggurat, on which the deity alighted when he descended to earth. It is recorded that small shrines were erected on the top for the convenience of the deity at his arrival, but no example has survived.

Worship and theology.

The proof of the presence of the divinity in both Egypt and Mesopotamia was the presence of the image, thus explaining how it could be said that the people went into captivity when the images were carried off by a conqueror. Both in Egypt and southern Mesopotamia, the gods were taken out in procession among the people. In Assyria, however, at least down to Assurnasirpal II (883-859 b.c.), they remained in their sanctuaries. In such processions they were objects of rejoicing and singing of the common people, but in no case in the Early or Middle Kingdom periods in Egypt did they have entry to worship the deity. Other than the royal family and priests, only the nobility and upper class achieved this status in later times.

In Egypt the complexity of later forms provided an easy vehicle or stimulus to the concept that it was a microcosm of the world: the god was in the sanctuary, and the temple complex represented the universe around him. This concept was absent in both the Mesopotamian and Canaanite forms. The Assyrians adopted the ziggurat at a later time, indicating Babylonian influence. The Palestinian, or Canaanite temples, witness to a simpler outlook.

Subsidiary quarters.

The Mesopotamian temple had additional quarters for the priests, and storehouses for offerings and receipts from temple lands, to which frequent references are made in the clay cuneiform business documents. There were also school buildings for training scribes in writing the cuneiform to provide recorders for the temple receipts and the administration of its holdings. For the Temple in Jerusalem there were the chambers built around the sides and rear, and in the Herodian structure a small section provided for the use of the priests immediately attending the Temple, but not on the grand scale of the Babylonian temples. The need for such quarters to that extent did not exist in Jerusalem.

Canaanite prototypes.

One of the earlier forms of Canaanite temples is found at Megiddo (c. 3000 b.c.), which consists of a simple, rectangular large room containing the idol. Three others at Megiddo date from c. 1900 b.c. having the same plan; all place the door on the long side. A particularly notable example of this type occurs at Ai (c. 2500 b.c.). About 1500 b.c., the plan is square, with an added porch. A further refinement occurs at Bethshan in the addition of a small room or cubicle at the rear raised above the room floor, containing the idol; this constitutes one of the earliest examples of a holy of holies (Heb. דְּבִיר, H1808, debîr), as in Solomon’s Temple.

A strictly Phoen. style temple for the period post-1000 b.c. was found in the Tel Tainat (ancient Hattina) in Syria. This consists of a porch, a holy place, and a holy of holies, remarkably like the description in 1 Kings 6ff. (BA, IV, 2; fig. 3; Oriental Institute Bulletin, I [1937], 13.) The same plan form is seen in the Gr. temples without surrounding colonnades, indicating Syrian influence.

Significance of Solomonic Temple

Distinctive purpose.

The outstanding feature of the Solomonic Temple is that there was no idol in it, having only the mercy seat over the Ark and the Cherubim (֝כְּרוּבִ֗ים) overshadowing the former, declaring to the world that idols are unnecessary to define the presence of God or His sanctity. Because the lightless room could only be reached through a specific ritual at a specified annual time for the purpose of making reconciliation for the people, the “house of Yahweh” in Jerusalem was not considered a cosmic house of God, but emphasized the way of salvation to the penitent and assured to him the grace of God for his joy and blessing (1 Kings 8:27-30). God was not localized in any sense conveyed by an image, either Egyptian, Babylonian, or Canaanite, nor bound to any other form such as the Ark (see also Mercy Seat). The Temple, therefore, was not necessary because of God’s nature; He had no need of it (Acts 7:48, 49). It was an accomodation to the limitations and needs of His people (1 Kings 8:27ff.).

Cause of existence.

That contemporary peoples had temples is not sufficient grounds to justify the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Though David saw this lack as invidious (2 Sam 7:2), it was not the cause by which David sought to build God’s house. A sufficient cause, among others, is that found in Deuteronomy 12, where the Temple was to be a protective memorial for believing Israel, designed to turn their hearts away from the idols of their Palestinian contemporaries and provide them with an incentive (thus protective) not to practice the iniquities of the Canaanites (M. Kline, Treaty of the Great King, 80), and with a memorial to the person of their God who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Canaan.

In addition to the practical good of centralized worship, a central cultic house was important to the Covenant structure of Yahweh with Israel. The loyalty of Israel to Yahweh her God was expressed in the sacrifices and offerings that were presented at the Temple. The high places of the various tribes divided the people and were disruptive of their loyalty to God; they diverted from Him His rightful due as their Creator and Lord, and in this sense the high places were roundly condemned. The Temple thus became an affirmation by Israel of the Covenant. This view makes it unnecessary to hold that the law of the central sanctuary was a late development; it was delayed until Israel should be a stable people, dwelling in peace in her land, when Yahweh would take up His abode in her midst in a more obvious manner (cf. Kline, op. cit., 80ff.; Deut 12:10). The establishment of the altar in one place is the distinctive element in Deuteronomy, in contrast to the removal of the Shekinah glory from one place to another in times from Moses to David (although not the thought that such centralization never existed). The Temple was needed to express clearly Israel’s attachment to the Covenant. That David was not allowed to build the Temple, does not mean that Yahweh would not dwell in one, but rather that the time was not propitious (cf. 2 Sam 7:5-7, 11 with Deut 12:11).

A unifying force.

The Temple was for Israel to be the place where, in three annual festivals particularly, they were to rejoice before their God and remember His great blessings to them (Deut 12:12). David was the recipient of the centuries of this outlook in a particular way and came to realize the need for this central sanctuary for unity among the people. Thus Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem was from the first to differ from those of their contemporaries. That there was cause for division because of the attraction of adverse temples set up elsewhere (cf. Josh 22:11-31) is evident in the conduct of Sanballat in the days of Alexander (Jos. Antiq. XI. viii. 1-4) who sought to tie to himself the priest Manasseh and his cohorts by the promise of a temple, and in the policies of Jereboam I in erecting the idols at Dan and Bethel to tie the ten tribes to himself (cf. 1 Kings 12:25-33). Neither in Samaria nor in Dan or Bethel, was to be the site of the house of Yahweh; only the place that He would choose was to be the center of their worship, where God’s judgments were to be sought, and where they were to remember particularly their deliverances (Deut 26:1-3).

Designation of the site.

The selection of the place of the dwelling for the name of Yahweh came in the peculiar happenings of David’s numbering the people (2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chron 21, 22). In the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, David was commanded to set up an altar of propitiation to God to stay the plague. This was declared to be the house, i.e., the Temple, of God and the place of the altar, i.e. the sole altar, of the people Israel (1 Chron 22:1). It became the place of obedience and propitiation for Israel.

Temporary character.

This place symbolized the hearing ear of God (1 Kings 8:27-29), the resort of the stranger (vv. 41-43) and the house of prayer for all people (Isa 56:7), to the end that all nations of the earth should fear God (1 Kings 8:43). In the NT, it symbolized the body of Christ (John 2:18-21) as the obedient servant of God for propitiating God’s wrath on the sinner. Further, the Temple as God’s dwelling place symbolizes the Christian as the dwelling place of God (1 Cor 3:16).

In the early days of the Church, Stephen, slain for his faith, was evidently going to declare that the people were putting the Temple above God, forgetting that He did not really need a temple building in the sense of rooms of stone and wood (Acts 7:44ff.; cf. Acts 17:24, 25) but that he desired the believing heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26, 27) on which He could impress His law, i.e., His nature, which would result in obedience and holiness of life.

There is a prior step to the achievement of this result. The millennium will see a Temple raised to God, the refuge of all nations; but it will be primarily memorial. When the millennium runs its course and the new age of perfection is established, there will be no Temple, for the Lamb will be there in the midst of His people (Rev 21:22). Thus the Temple is mediatorial in all ages, justifying Stephen’s position.


Araunah’s threshing floor.

The location of Solomon’s Temple is identified with the threshing floor of Araunah (alternately Ornan, 2 Chron 3:1), known as Mt. Moriah, the locale of the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22:2), where David founded the altar of the Temple (2 Sam 24:24, 25; 1 Chron 22:1; cf. 1 Chron 21:18-26). The location of the altar was to be determined as follows: Araunah and his sons hid themselves at the presence of the angel (1 Chron 21:20); the concealment was the area of the threshing floor (v. 21), for Araunah went out of it to meet David. The place of concealment was the cave where doubtless they stored their grain after it was separated from the chaff. Since the rock under the Dome of the Qubbet es-Sakhra, where the cave is, shows the effects of quarrying above the level of the cave, it is logical to hold that this rock stood higher originally and that the threshing floor surrounded the rock and the cave.

The altar, therefore, would not be placed on top of the rise forming the cave. David demanded the threshing floor at a price to erect there the altar of God. It would appear that David referred to the flatter area around this rise, for it was there that the actual threshing was done. Hence, one must consider that the altar was located to the E of the rise, or even to the NE or SE where there was in any of these areas ample space for the location of the altar and its ritual. Moreover, more room was required for the altar ritual, for the laver was to be in the immediate neighborhood of the altar, and there was insufficient room on the rock over the cave. Let it also be recalled that there was a foundation of great stones for the Temple (1 Kings 5:17), forming the great platform on which the Temple and adjacent store rooms were built (cf. BA, XIV I, 6; 2, 3). Such a platform of the approximate height of four to five cubits would raise the interior Temple floor level above the top, or nearly to the top, of the present rock in the Qubbet es-Sakhra, the present domed structure covering the rise at the cave in Araunah’s threshing floor. Any further elevation of the rock above this floor would be covered by the higher floor of the Holy of Holies. (Cf. Simons, Jerusalem in OT, 381ff.)

On the site of the threshing floor David made it a practice to sacrifice to Yahweh (cf. 1 Chron 1:28) and determined the location of the altar of Israel (22:1).

Character of the site.

The researches and excavations of Warren, Wilson, Conder, Schick, and others in Jerusalem have established the topography of the city quite conclusively (cf. Wilson and Warren, The Recovery of Jerusalem, 50ff.). The area of the city divides principally into an eastern and western ridge, separated by a wide valley known by the name Tyropoean. The eastern ridge is bounded on the E side by the deep, narrow valley of the Kidron. At the S end of the western hill is the Valley of Hinnom into which ran the Tyropoean (now mostly filled), and then the Hinnom continues eastward past the S end of the E ridge to the Kidron. (See topographic sketch.)

The E ridge was further divided toward the N by a small offshoot of the Kidron to the W and then quickly turned generally northward, known as St. Anne’s Valley. The valley is now covered by the northern end of the Haram. The S end of the E ridge was the site of both the cities of David and Nehemiah, with Ophel about midway toward St. Anne’s Valley. The ridge continued to rise toward the N quite rapidly to a high elevation at the threshing floor of Araunah and an even higher peak at the location of Antonia; the site was more level to the E of the Sakhra before dropping off sharply away to the Kidron, and on the W side dropping sooner to the Tyropoean, thus limiting the extent of the original Solomonic construction more considerably on the W side than on the E. The Tyropoean Valley is now mostly filled in with debris from over the centuries.

The location of the Temple was influenced by the location of David’s city and by the attraction of the upper rocky platform. It was near the city but outside it, free from interferences offered by existing city structures, and on an eminence appropriate to its character, not even today overpowered by the city on the western ridge.

Solomon’s Temple

David’s preparations

The inspiration for the Temple.

The inspiration for the Temple plan and structure came to David from Yahweh when He had given him rest from all his enemies (2 Sam 7:1-3; cf. Deut 12:10ff.), when in peace he had been able to build his own house. David assembled all the officials of Israel (1 Chron 28:1) and commissioned them and his son Solomon to build the Temple. After giving this charge, he delivered to Solomon the “pattern” (28:11) that he had received by God’s Spirit (v. 12) and in writing (v. 19). God thus determined the pattern of the approach of the worshiper as well as the elements of his worship, so that the right way to Him was known. God determined the character of the Temple as He did for the Tabernacle. The provision for entry to the high priest once a year with blood was sufficient to provide the atonement necessary for the people to maintain their sanctity for fellowship with God. The outer chamber was sufficient for the daily intercession and communion with their God made necessary by His nature. Beyond these rooms was no need for an elaborate system of courts as in the Egyp. temples. The pattern of the sanctuary of Tel Tainat, dated shortly after the time of Solomon (see above I, E), was therefore not a source of the plan, but the similar pattern means that the Canaanites adopted it as a convenient way to express the manner of their worship and that there was not in Jerusalem an introduction of pagan forms in any syncretistic expression of religion.

The collection of materials.

The amassing of materials was begun early by David when Solomon was young (1 Chron 29:1ff.). The materials included 100,000 talents of gold, 1,000,000 talents of silver (22:14) and from his own private fortune David had set aside for gilding and plating ornamentation 3,000 talents of the gold of Ophir—a most prized gold, and 7,000 talents of high grade (refined) silver (29:3-5). The officers of the people gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics (see Daric) of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, “brass” (a crude alloy of copper) amounting to 18,000 talents, and of iron 100,000 talents. Others gave precious jewels of which there was no reckoning. In addition, weights were specified and established for many articles of furniture (28:13-19) by David (cf. above no. 1), indicating that size and pattern of the articles had been fixed by this time by Yahweh.

David also prepared stones in the quarry, iron nails without number, cedar for framing and paneling (22:1-4), to which Solomon was free to add (v. 14). Craftsmen also were readied by David to contribute their skills to building the House of Yahweh (v. 15).

The people obligated to build.

The people from the highest prince under David down to the lowliest were put under obligation to Solomon (28:21), and to Yahweh, that they should walk with Him, that they should build the Temple in affirmation of their allegiance to the covenant and therefore to Yahweh (vv. 10-21). Their willingness to build the Temple was at once their affirmation of the Covenant given by Yahweh and their precondition of continued occupation of the land (cf. Kline, Treaty of the Great King, 76ff.).

The Temple service given by God.

The Temple service was also set out by David by the command of God’s Spirit (28:13), the priests to officiate at the altar and the Levites to care for the subsidiary functions (cf. 24:1, 3 with v. 19).

Thus the pattern of the Temple, the size of furniture, and the worship were ordained by Yahweh. It is to be understood that no thing of worship, implements, ritual or buildings was left to human invention lest by the inclusion of a single element formed solely according to human thinking or ingenuity be present to cast suspicion on the entire worship center, and justify in any way the idea of human cooperation in establishing the way of reconciliation with God.


The principal sources of information relating to Solomon’s Temple are OT references (1 Kings 5-8; 1 Chron 17; 21; 22; 28; 29 and 2 Chron 2-7), though there are other references scattered through the rest of the Scriptures. Any reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple is limited primarily to these, though other architectural and archeological data shed light on some features, such as plan and furniture.

Date of beginning.

1 Kings 6:1 and 2 Chronicles 3:2 establish the start of construction of the Temple in Solomon’s fourth year. His reign ended 931/30 b.c. (Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 2nd ed., 53), which would require 971/970 b.c. for the first year of his forty year reign (1 Kings 11:42), placing the beginning of the Temple in 967/966 b.c. (see Chronology of the Old Testament).


The foundryman was a Phoen., Hiram of Tyre (1 Kings 7:13). Other workmen were Sidonians of another Hiram, king of Tyre (5:6), whose workmen felled the Lebanese cedars for the Temple. They were called into service because there were no Israelites proficient in this work. In addition, Solomon conscripted 30,000 Israelites (5:13) to labor in courses in Lebanon with the lumbering operation (v. 14). In addition there were 153,600 “strangers” (RSV “aliens”) in Israel (2 Chron 2:17) over whom were 3,600 overseers to direct their labors (v. 18). These laborers were divided into 70,000 bearers of burdens and 80,000 hewers. On the basis that fifty men form a company with a captain over them (2 Kings 1:9), the 30,000 and 150,000 make 180,000 for which 3,600 overseers would be required.


The rest of v. 10 mentions the chambers but is so abrupt that one suspects accidental omission in the copying process of part of the original, which should be read: “And he built...(here follows the Heb. sign of the accusative: ’eth, the accusative immediately next) the platform against the whole house, five cubits was its height; and he made (plus, the sign of the accusative: ’eth) the side chambers....The part dropped out was that between the two “signs of accusative,” thus giving the tr. of the KJV and causing a seeming change in the meaning of יָצוּעַ, H3661.

The construction of the side chambers is given as a series of rooms one above another (6:6; Ezek 41:6), with each successive upper story one cubit wider than the next lower. This increase was obtained by the fact that the upper portions of the wall on the Holy Place side were set back by one cubit (i.e., the wall became one cubit thinner in each of the second and third story). The lowest chamber was five cubits wide, the middle six, and the upper seven, with story height being five cubits (although when the thickness of beams and flooring is deducted the clear height would be rather low); these dimensions may then be clear heights as in the Holy Place. The inner wall, i.e., Temple wall, was six cubits (Ezek 41:5) and the outside chamber wall five cubits (v. 9) with the width of the open space between walls as noted above. Floors consisted of wood on beams and planks with the inner ends of the beams resting on the setbacks of the Temple walls. It is probable also that at the roof level the wall of the Holy Place set back another cubit so that the roof beams would not be built into the wall of the House (1 Kings 6:6).

Access to the upper stories of the side chambers was by stairways (6:8) built against the walls of the Holy Place, accessible from that room. Ezekiel (41:7 RSV) describes some sort of access to the chambers, and it is possible to construe the text to locate stairs on the S side and the N side of Solomon’s Temple.

Windows (חַלּוֹן, H2707) are referred to (1 Kings 6:4) as having a framework (שָׁקוּף, actually meaning “covered”) the windows were covered, i.e., covered with lattice work (Ezek 41:16). The framework (שָׁקוּף) consisted of successive rebates around the opening.

The Temple porch (אֵילָם, H395) was reached by a series of steps at the front from the level of the court (cf. Ezek 40:6), prob. not less than ten.

Interior walls and ceilings were finished with cedar (1 Kings 6:9, 15) and the floor was finished with fir (v. 15) over cedar planks. “Walls of the ceiling” (v. 15) may have been introduced through a mispronunciation of the word actually meaning “beams,” indicating that finished woodwork was laid over the rougher beams, perhaps achieving something in the nature of coffers.

The Holy of Holies was a cube (6:20) and also lined with paneling (v. 16), separated from the Holy Place by a partition of cedar paneling with double doors of olivewood. The lintel and jamb posts were also made of olivewood. The expression “fifth part” of v. 31, which may be tr. “fivefold,” offers a problem. If, however, one considers that the wall between the posts and the side walls of the room was nearly equal in thickness to the posts, that the corners of the posts on the door side were chamfered, then the jamb face at the door (one), the chamfered faces (two) and the face of the posts by the walls (three) provide the “fivefold,” or “five-sided,” appearance of the posts. A wood lintel lay over them to provide the top pivot for the door leaves.

Against this partition on the ark side, a veil was hung (2 Chron 3:14), woven or sewn in colored patterns with blue, purple, and crimson thread, and onto the whole were applied patterns of cherubim (֝כְּרוּבִ֗ים).

A door was provided for the Holy Place (1 Kings 6:33, temple), from the porch with square-cut posts of olivewood, against the ends of the stone walls (jambs) forming the rear wall of the porch, with bifolding door leaves to fold against each other and then to swing open against the jamb. Usual construction had a wood pintle as the pivot at the edge of the leaves that were attached with metal straps, and the pintles let into sockets at the lintel and set into stone base sockets or into pockets in the stone sills. Bars within held the doors closed, passing through cleats on the inside of the doors. A stone threshold completed the opening at the floor line. The Temple doors were made of fir because of the greater strength of this wood.

Around the Temple building a court was formed by the erection of a stone wall three courses high with a row of three timbers holding it together (6:36). The area thus enclosed was called the priest’s court (2 Chron 4:9) and had doors in the wall covered with brass plates.


Much of the wall surfaces in the Holy Place and Holy of Holies were carved (1 Kings 6:18) with scroll-like flower patterns and cherubim (v. 29). The doors to these rooms were also carved with palm trees and cherubim on both sides, and the carvings in turn were overlaid with gold. The woodwork elsewhere (vv. 18-20) was plated or gilded or inlaid, presenting a brilliant sight to the viewer. The combination of palm leaves (signifying victory) and cherubim (signifying the holiness of God) declared that man’s spiritual triumph came only by and through the holy God.

Temple furniture.

The Ark with its mercy seat from the Tabernacle was placed at the back of the Holy of Holies under the cherubim, which were made of olivewood (6:23ff.) and were gold plated. These were ten cubits high and their wings extended to ten cubits, half the width of the room. They functioned symbolically as guardians of the way to God, solemnizing the heart of the worshiper in his approach to God. Their faces were turned toward the dividing partition. They were composite figures well enough known to the people of that day, requiring no description of their form. They may have been similar to the four-faced cherubim of Ezekiel and were usually represented with hands and feet, therefore having basically a human-like body.

In the Holy Place before the door to the Holy of Holies was placed the altar of incense (6:20; 7:48; cf. Exod 30:1-10) prob. new and made of cedar, since it was overlaid with gold. Presumably (cf. Exod 40:22) the table for the showbread was also new, overlaid with gold and placed on the right side of the room as in the Tabernacle. In this room were the ten candlesticks (better: lampstands RSV), five on the right side and five on the left, all of gold, with their oil cups and ornamentation, to give light in the Holy Place (1 Kings 7:49).

Before the Temple on the platform surrounding the Temple stood the two brass pillars, Jachin (יָכִ֔ין) and Boaz (בֹּֽעַז). The form of the first term is an old participle causative from כון, meaning “sustainer” (JBL, LXVIII, 317ff.), stressing the positive side of God’s character. Boaz is the participle form of the simple stem from the Arab bâgiz meaning “smiter,” giving the negative aspect of the character of Yahweh as Keeper of Israel (ibid.).

It is questionable that these pillars were for incense burning, since their height would make it difficult to reach their tops to replenish the incense. They were approximately four cubits in diameter and eighteen cubits high (7:15) for the shaft with chapiters (capitals, RSV) five cubits high on each. The chronicler (2 Chron 3:15) gives the total height of both pillars as thirty-five cubits, apparently just the shaft length. The additional cubit of length most likely was a separate cast base similar to some that have been found. The capitals are described as “of lily work” (1 Kings 7:19) and having a bowl-shaped member (v. 41; cf. v. 20, belly); lily petals were below, four cubits broad (v. 19), prob. set downward as examples from this period show. 2 Kings 25:17 states them to be three cubits high, but this refers to the chain network; it would appear that this measurement would refer to the upper portion of the capital, leaving two cubits for the height of the lily work.

The bowls (1 Kings 7:41) had a network (checker work, v. 17, q.v.) of chains supporting two rows of pomegranates. The chains were seven in number (v. 17), which were divided, i.e., four chains draped down from the center point at the top with three strands set around the bowl with the pomegranates attached to the bottom strand, fastened one below the other.

Court furniture.

The prominent feature of the court was the molten sea (v. 23), ten cubits in diameter, thirty cubits in circumference, and five cubits high—thus bowl-shaped, about as thick as the hand and containing 2,000 “baths” (vv. 24-26; 2 Chron 4:5 gives the number as 3,000 “baths”). The figures are possible of reasonable interpretation if one assumes (from Ezek 41:8) the use of the great cubit (royal cubit). On this basis the capacity would have been about 10,000 gallons using the usual formula for spherical volume. In Chronicles, another method of computation seems to have been used, the volume of a cylinder, which in this case turns out to be 3,000 baths. Thus the problem is one of method by which the writers viewed the shape of the sea, not an essential contradiction in the text (cf. BA, XII, 86-90). The sea was located in the altar court to the SE (2 Chron 4:10).

The rim was finished off with the petal (lily) work familiar from the pillar capitals. It also had knops (1 Kings 7:24) under the brim in two rows of ten per cubit, referring to some distinctive type of decoration.

The sea stood on a base composed of twelve oxen in sets of three, one set toward each of the compass points (v. 25). These corresponded to the twelve tribes of Israel, bearing the sanctifying witness of God.

The wheeled stands for movable lavers (7:27ff. RSV) were ten in number, formed of boxes four cubits square and three cubits high, the sides made up of divided panels and having ornamental work (see Beveled Work). The boxes were worked onto short columns (undersetters, v. 30 KJV) to which axles were attached for wheels one and a half cubits in diameter. The wheels were like chariot wheels, six-spoked as archeological remains show. As indicated in v. 34, the undersetters extended upward to form the corners of the boxes. The plates of v. 30 were parts of the sides of the box.

Into the stands at the top were fitted the lavers containing the water for washing the sacrificial animals (2 Chron 4:6) for the great laver (sea) was for the ablutions of the priests (v. 6). These lavers held about forty baths, or two hundred gallons of water. They could be moved about as the washings required. Normally they were distributed five on the N side and five on the S side of the court before the Temple. In addition there were ten tables (4:8) for the flaying of the sacrifices brought by the people. These were placed in the same court as the lavers, prob. five on each side.

The focal point in the court was the great brass altar (4:1). It was twenty cubits square and ten cubits high. Its transportation from the Jordan required its sides to be of panel construction with corner pieces and a grate through which the ashes could fall; some method for removing these also was provided, either by the removal of the grating or through the side panels. The description of Ezekiel (43:13ff.) does not shed much light on the Solomonic altar because too many events came between (see below: Temple).

Other implements are listed (1 Kings 7:38ff., and 2 Chron 4:6, 19ff.). There were basins for water and to catch the blood of the sacrifices, tongs, picks, snuffers (to quench candle lights?), spoons of one sort or another with which to ladle and handle the meat offerings, as well as flat implements such as cake turners for cooking the cake offerings. Likewise the incense containers for the priests are listed.

The courts.

Little is said in Kings or Chronicles concerning the courts surrounding the Temple building. 1 Kings 6:36 lists an inner court which, due to the slope of the site, was the upper court (Jer 36:10 RSV). The latter was formed by an enclosing wall of three courses of cut stone and a row of cedar beams to tie it together (cf. 2 Chron 4:9, court of the priests). With the Temple on a base of six cubits, the whole presented a terraced scene exposing the Temple building for an easy view of its imposing character. The great court, or outer court (1 Kings 7:9, 12), enclosed both the Temple and the palace works of Solomon.

Access to the outer court was through gates; though they are not specifically listed, the door leaves for them are enumerated (2 Chron 4:9; see below). From the outer court, access to the inner court was also by gates, to which the ordinary person (laity) had access (Jer 36:10). Ezekiel 44:1 mentions the gate, and because of the departure and return of the Shekinah of God from this gate, it was the principal gate to the outer court of the Temple, prob. the gate of 2 Chronicles 4:9. Between the Temple court (inner) and Solomon’s palace, there was access from the palace court to the inner court by a gate, presumably in the S wall of the inner court, the gate of the guard (2 Kings 11:19). A N gate also existed, known as Sur (11:6; cf. Vet Test, XIV, 335-337).


The work of building the Temple occupied seven years and six months (1 Kings 6:1, 38; 2 Chron 3:1). The seven years (1 Kings 6:38) were years based on a Tishri-to-Tishri (fall-to-fall) civil calendar (cf. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers [1951], 31).

The dedication occurred in the month Ethanim, the seventh month, in later times called Tishri. The intervening months between Bul (1 Kings 6:38), the eighth month, and Ethanim (8:2) of the following year (to Tishri) would be occupied with bringing up the furniture, the most difficult of which would have been the transportation of the bronze sea and its pedestals from the Jordan to Jerusalem. On the first day of the month occurred the feast of Trumpets, when the Ark was brought into the Holy of Holies from its tent in Jerusalem (8:6) and was placed under the wings of the cherubim. When the carrying staves were drawn out, it symbolized that the journey of Israel to her land was complete. When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the Shekinah of God filled the Temple, thus signifying Yahweh’s approval and acceptance of the Temple. Henceforth the house was to be representative of His presence (v. 29), the place to which the heart in repentance may turn to find God’s mercy (vv. 30ff.).

Supplementary data.

1 Kings 7:1ff. indicates the palace of Solomon was built near the Temple, and from this it is believed that the Temple amounted to no more than a royal chapel. Psalms 96:8; 116:19, however, speak of worship in the courts of Yahweh’s house in Jerusalem, in whose Temple are the people of God (Ps 116:18), thus invalidating the above assumption.

At a later period after the completion of the Temple, among the inventory of goods carried in Solomon’s ships was algum (or almug; Ugar. algm) wood, possibly the red sandalwood of India and Ceylon, prob. the latter because the ships went for gold nearer to Ophir. The wood was finished and formed part of the woodwork of the walls of the Holy Place (10:11, 12).

Concerning the monies of the Temple, a treasury was recorded (Josh 6:19, 24) as an institution well-known by that time pertaining to Yahweh, the repository of the booty of various battles of Israel against her adversaries. In it was deposited the spoil of Jericho (v. 24). Officers were appointed over the house of the treasures of Yahweh (1 Chron 26:20ff.). From his victories over surrounding peoples, David dedicated (26:26) numerous objects to Yahweh. These were used to maintain Yahweh’s house (1 Chron 26:27). Samuel (v. 28) and Saul also had dedicated spoils to Yahweh. Solomon brought out the things dedicated by his father and put them among the treasures of Yahweh’s house (1 Kings 7:15), prob. including all the other treasures, for the references above indicated they had been delivered to the Levites, the keepers of the Temple.

It is likely that the treasury rooms were the three-storied rooms around the Temple, for 1 Chronicles 28:11 includes the treasuries with the rest of the rooms of the Temple. As such they were accessible only from the Holy Place.

History of Solomon’s Temple.

When Rehoboam, Solomon’s son became king, his repressive policy became the immediate cause of the division of the kingdom. Shrines were set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel, thus splitting the allegiance of Israel to God (1 Kings 12:25-33). In Judah, a widespread apostasy of the people quickly grew by Rehoboam’s fifth year (14:23, 24; 926/25 b.c.), characterized by the erection of high places and idol pillars on every “high hill.” Then, in divine judgment, Shishak (Sheshonk), king of Egypt, came up against them (2 Chron 12:2, 5) and took the treasures both of the Temple and the king, including the 300 gold shields Solomon had made.

Asa placed in the Temple the spoils of his father (1 Kings 15:15). When Baasha, king of Israel, made war against Judah, quite obviously by fortifying Ramah (v. 17), Asa collected all the treasures in the Temple and in his treasury and sent them to Ben-hadad of Damascus to seal an alliance with him against Israel (v. 18ff.). In his earlier years (2 Chron 15:10), Asa turned to the ways of Yahweh and renewed the altar in the inner court (before the porch, v. 8), prob. replacing some of its parts now evidently badly decomposed because of the heat of the fires. However, his consecration and trust of Yahweh was lacking when in his thirty-sixth year he made the alliance with Ben-hadad (2 Chron 15:18-16:4). In the days of Jehoshaphat, a new court of the house of God is noted (2 Chron 20:5). He may have reconstructed the gate.

In the reign of Amaziah, son of Joash, Jehoash of Israel invaded Judah, broke into the city (14:13) and carried off the treasures of the Temple and palace because Amaziah had exalted himself in pride against Israel because of his victories over the Edomites (v. 7, 8; cf. 2 Chron 25:23ff.).

Uzziah, an energetic, able king, rebuilt the city of Jerusalem, but he fell into the error of pride and sought to usurp priestly functions in the Temple (26:16ff.).

Jotham succeeded his father Uzziah and built the “upper gate” (2 Kings 15:35 RSV).

Hezekiah reversed the policies of Ahaz. He opened the closed doors of the Temple and demanded that the Levites restore it to its former sanctity (2 Chron 29:5); this they did in eight days (v. 17) and restored the vessels, such as were whole, which Ahaz had cast away (v. 19). He restored the Levites to their places in the Temple and commanded the people to present offerings (31:4ff.). When they brought munificently, he built storehouses on the Temple grounds to preserve the offerings (v. 11). Hezekiah, however, became proud and made alliances with foreign nations; he forgot the power of God, and for this was struck with illness. His example assured the future downfall of Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chron 32:24ff., 3; 2 Kings 20:14ff.).

Manasseh reversed the good deeds of his father Hezekiah, raised up idolatrous altars in the Temple courts and placed a graven image in the Temple (21:3ff.; 2 Chron 33:3ff.). For his sins he was taken captive to Babylon (33:11). Manasseh repented, and God allowed him to return to Jerusalem. In confirmation of his repentance, he destroyed what he had done (v. 15) and repaired the altar of burnt sacrifice. His idolatrous example to his son and others after him, however, brought closer the ultimate destruction of the Temple (2 Kings 21:11ff.).

Amon worshiped the image of his father Manasseh, and after a reign of two years his servants assassinated him (21:19ff.). The “people of the land” slew the conspirators and made Josiah king.

Josiah directed the repair of the Temple in his days (22:3ff.; 2 Chron 34:8ff.). The stone work was repaired and certain timbers replaced (34:11). He removed the Asherah from the Temple (2 Kings 23:4 RSV), the horses in honor of the sun (v. 11) placed by kings before him, the altars on top of the rooms Ahaz had added, and the altars Manasseh had made, which Amon had restored in the two courts of the Temple. In spite of all this, the people did not truly turn to Yahweh, and sins tracing back to Manasseh continued (cf. 2 Kings 23:26, 27). Destruction was not far away.

In the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar took all the “west land” and Jehoiakim became his tributary, but he rebelled after three years and the city was besieged. The vessels of the Temple (2 Chron 36:7) were taken to Babylon, as well as Jehoiakim (v. 6), both for his sins and the fruit of the sins of Manasseh (2 Kings 24:3, 4).

Jehoiachin followed as king, but at the end of three months was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar who took him captive to Babylon along with the palace treasures, additional vessels of the Temple made by Solomon (v. 13) which he cut in pieces to take to Babylon, and other treasures from the Temple.

In the reign of Zedekiah, the end of Solomon’s Temple came. Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar; the city fell in 586 b.c. Zedekiah tried to flee by night but was captured by the Chaldean troops. The city and Temple were burned to the ground. The remaining vessels of bronze and gold were assembled to be taken to Babylon. The pillars before the Temple, their bases, and the brazen sea were broken up and carried away to Babylon. The Ark and the cherubim, prob. now only wooden forms, perished in the flames. The 380 years of the Temple were ended, fulfilling Jeremiah’s words of the destruction of the city, Temple, and people for their sins (Jer 25:3ff.).


Certain problematical aspects of the structure of the Temple were not discussed above, to avoid disruption of the general description.

The height of the Holy of Holies.

Was its floor on the level of that of the Holy Place, or was it raised? Examples of raised altar rooms occur in the Middle E (see Temples of Dagon). A lower ceiling height than in the Holy Place would require a stone clerestory wall dividing the two, but evidence is lacking in documenting a supporting beam. Other evidence shows the two to be on the same level. In the Herodian Temple, a double curtain separated the two, eliminating the necessity of steps (see below VII. C, 1). Second, coins of the 1st cent. a.d., depicting the Temple on the day of the sacrifice of the red heifer (A Muehsam, Coin and Temple, 26f.; plates, Vff.), show the Ark within the Temple but no steps leading up to its level, indicating the Holy of Holies to be on the same level as the Holy Place. It may be assumed that this arrangement goes back at least to the Temple of Zerubbabel. It is also possible that Zerubbabel followed the earlier form of Solomon’s Temple. It is very possible that the floor levels of the two rooms were always on the same level and that an attic existed over the Holy of Holies (see below VII, C, 1).

The height of the porch.

This is given as 120 cubits (2 Chron 3:3, 4). On the other hand, the porch is not given a height in 1 Kings (6:3), implying that it was the same as the house (v. 2). If, for the moment, one can relate the date of the composition of both Kings and Chronicles to either of these records, it will be recalled that Kings ends with the release of Jehoiachin from prison (2 Kings 25:27ff.) and Chronicles with the decree of restoration of Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22, 23), thus bringing the author of either book past the date of the destruction of the Temple and having knowledge of the exact condition and shape of the Temple at its terminus. In this case, if Chronicles be right in 120 cubits, the fact that Kings did not record the height is of little consequence; it was not important to that writer.

Is such a tower of 120 cubits feasible? Foundations for it would be most important. However, indications of structural formations to support such massive tower works are found in temples from Megiddo (Strat V, age of Rameses III; Strata VIII-VII A), Shechem and possibly at Beth-shan (Stratum V).

In connection with this great height, Josephus wrote that Jotham added porticos and gateways in the Temple area (Jos. Antiq. IX. xi. 2). The Temple building was erected to a height of sixty cubits (Ezra 6:3), whereas the breadth given (60 cubits) is quite similar to that of the former structure, including the side chambers. These facts would justify believing that upper additions to the Temple were made at a later time and that Jotham made some of them. Both Zerubbabel’s Temple and Herod’s reconstruction of this second temple were quite like these for size. The justification of the increase and embellishment of the Temple resulted from Jotham’s victory over the Ammonites (2 Chron 27:5), with the booty and tribute used for the celebration of the triumph; upper rooms were added over the Holy Place and Holy of Holies and the porch was altered and heightened with a larger portal constructed in it, the “high gate of the house of the Lord.”

The enclosing walls of the Temple

are not described in Kings or Chronicles in enough detail to discern their location or height. None of the original structure of King Solomon’s Temple has survived to give the wall height of the three courses (1 Kings 6:36). If further information were available, one might define more precisely the area enclosed; yet certain considerations serve to locate the Holy of Holies more accurately, and then help to suggest possible locations of court walls. Watson (PEQ [1896], 56) stated the problem well—that if the altar of sacrifice was on the Rock (sakhra; the exposed rock under the dome of the Dome of the Rock), this forced the W wall of the Temple so far to the W that there instantly occurred a high foundation of nearly fifty feet. In addition, to place the altar on the Rock prevented the step-down arrangement from the priest’s court (inner court) down to the outer court of Herod’s Temple, as described by Josephus and the Mishna (PEQ, [1896], 55), since Herod obviously built on the old foundations of the second temple which, in turn, was erected on those of the first. The rock surfaces defined by the explorations of Wilson, Warren, Schick, et al., are, when the Holy of Holies was placed over the Rock, still high enough W of the rear wall of the Temple to allow for building the inner court wall up to ten cubits away, with the outer wall up to another 20 cubits without having to build high retaining walls to provide for earthfill back of them to level up the courts within. It was not until Herod appeared that the incentive and funds became available to push the outer western wall further W and raise it to something of its present height. In Solomon’s time, the outer wall was obviously an extension of the city wall, but it would not have been built too far down the western slope from the crown of the hill (i.e., not on the slope), to provide the maximum defense. To place the Temple farther W would have violated this practice observable elsewhere. These considerations would indicate that the area enclosed by the outer wall was rather the crown of the hill for defensive purposes, and that the area tended to be narrower E to W and longer N to S. The ancient foundations of the enclosing walls of Solomon’s Temple might be discovered, if any part of them exist, within the limits of the existing Haram. In some places the location would be indicated by large beds cut into the bed rock, stepped up and down as slope and coursing of stone required. The same practice of cutting out stepped beds was employed in Herod’s time, as the excavations of Warren have shown. It will be shown below that the existing E wall of the Haram was a former city wall used by Herod as his eastern wall. Solomon’s E wall occured W of this wall.

A further problem relates to the columns Jachin and Boaz (see above, IV, B, 5). Were they structural columns within the porch, and did they support the roof structure above? Or were they free standing? A first consideration of the plan of the small temple of Tel Tainat, where the columns are located within the roof line, might indicate that the columns of Solomon’s Temple would also have been placed in the same situation. However, would they have been given memorial names of such diverse meaning (as shown above) if they were merely structural? Likewise, the arrangements of the networks of chains and pomegranates on top of the capitals suggest quite strongly the freestanding character of these columns. The place where they stood is stated as—“before the Temple” in 2 Chronicles 3:15-17. However, there is additional evidence from archeology for the relationship of the pillars to the Temple. There is in the Louvre a small model of a small cultic shrine, with unattached freestanding columns, with four-petaled flower bud capitals, forming no structural function but obviously having something to do with the religious character of the shrine. Though this is a Canaanite form, it was not employed because of any synergistic religious fervor, but because Yahweh ordered it so, and because the form is approximate to the meaning given.

Solomon’s pillars differed further from the Canaanite examples by the chain network draped over them, and performed a different function than the Canaanite, i.e. of memorializing God’s character; the pomegranates symbolized the totality of God’s word through separate commandments, symbolized by the seeds.

Ezekiel’s Temple

In the fourteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem (572 b.c.), Ezekiel was taken back to Jerusalem in a vision, and an angel in his presence measured the Temple.

Meaning of the Temple.

What is the significance of Ezekiel’s Temple? This is expressed in “the law of the house” (Ezek 43:12) that the “top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.” It was an expression of the holiness of Yahweh through the complex that is revealed in the measuring process, and from it the people are to “measure the pattern” (cf. the way of holiness) that they may be “ashamed of their iniquities” (43:10; BS, 106:58).

Since this vision occurs at the end of the prophecy of Ezekiel, one must look at it as the culmination of the work of the prophet. God’s holiness was the focal point of his ministry. God’s holiness had been outraged by the persistent iniquity of Israel. There was to be the process of exposure, arraignment, and judgment of Israel (chs. 1-26), the judgment of surrounding nations so Yahweh’s name might be vindicated in all the earth (chs. 25-32), followed next by the rebirth and restoration of the prodigal people (chs. 33-39), which would include the last great attack on His people, concluding with the revelation of God dwelling among the people (chs. 40-48. BS, 106:57). The Temple (cf. Mal 3:1) is to become the dwelling place of the divine glory (cf. Ezek 43:1-6): This is “the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever” (43:7).

Identity of the Temple.

What Temple is this? Is it completely separated from the previous Temple in Jerusalem? Is it a completely new complex of buildings? A study of the sequence of events helps to answer this question. Israel had, in all her tribes, gone into captivity; the destruction of her Temple symbolized God’s judgment upon her for her sin. She had been promised restoration upon repentance (Deut 30:1ff.). The departure of the Shekinah (“glory,” Ezek 11:22, 23) signified the fall of Jerusalem. The return of this glory (43:1ff.) signified the restoration of Israel to God’s favor and blessing. But if a Temple vastly differed from the Temple that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed, how could it carry any assurance to the people? Since the Holy Place and Holy of Holies are the same size as in Solomon’s Temple, and in the light of other similarities, the conclusion is that Ezekiel’s Temple is basically Solomon’s Temple, but with modifications in the court structure and arrangement. It is not merely an “ideal” temple, for when describing the use of the altar, Yahweh (43:18ff.) describes its sanctification (vv. 18-27), and the offerings made by the priests (44:15-31) concerning what should be done by a people restored to their God.

The above, however, does not answer the question—is Ezekiel’s Temple actually to be created? The emphasis on ritual and the elimination of ritual in the NT indicates that his temple serves another purpose.

Therefore, Ezekiel’s Temple was a “visual aid” to faith. Since the returning exiles adhered to the form of the previous Temple and not that of Ezekiel’s Temple, it would appear that his Temple should be understood symbolically. The true restoration of Israel is yet to come, when God a second time (Isa 11:11) will recover Israel from captivity, when they would be given a new heart (Ezek 36:26) and their nation would be born in a day (Isa 66:8-10). This refers to the millennium and the rebirth of Israel, for all the Gentiles must wait so that they also may be renewed and share in the blessings of God’s house (Isa 56:7).

The construction

The outer court.

Over the E end is a roof (40:13) and the total measurement is twenty-five cubits side to side outside; ten for the passageway, six for each chamber, thus leaving one and one-half cubits for wall thickness at the rear or outside walls of each chamber.

At the inner end of the complex is the porch and inside is a threshold or paving six cubits wide, the width of a post between the guard rooms but one cubit wider, and prob. also roofed.

The porch at the inner end is said to be “inward,” that is its space opens into the gateway passage (v. 9), thus indicating an enclosed area. What are the dimensions of this porch? If one assumes that the eight cubits (v. 8) is an overall dimension in line of travel, and the total length of fifty cubits is measured from the outside face of the encircling wall (v. 25) to the outside face of the inner porch, and also that the first guard chamber is next to the outside wall, a total length thus indicated is not fifty cubits (v. 15), but forty-eight. The sixty cubit-high posts (v. 14) are not included in the total, according to the terms of v. 15, and one therefore should revise the consideration of the dimensions of the porch.

The above dimension of forty-eight cubits assumes that between the third guard chamber and the porch area is a pier six cubits long, the same dimension as the threshold (v. 7). It has been customary for some interpreters to consider the posts of the inner porch (v. 9) to be the posts of v. 14. This is not necessary, for, comparing v. 8 with Ezekiel 41:1, the reference to eight cubits of width (40:8) can be construed as the clear width inside wall faces with the two cubits of posts being the thickness of the end walls. This gives a total of fifty cubits, face to face, and the posts of v. 14 are outside this dimension, but against the wall face. The six cubits (v. 8) are then the length of the end walls of the inner porch beyond the ten cubits of doorway opening, making a total of twenty-two cubits, leaving one and a half cubits for wall thickness on the N and S sides, the same as the rear walls of the guard chambers (see above).

Verse 10 is a summary of the uniformity of dimensions of guard rooms, and the posts were also of uniform dimension (v. 9). The same word (in the sing.) is used in v. 48 (“jambs,” RSV), where the walls on either side of the opening are denoted, thus justifying the interpretation of v. 9 above. The columns of v. 14 are not yet observed nor mentioned at v. 9, for they play no structural part in the gateway.

The portal through the outer wall and the first guard chamber plus one cubit more make a total of thirteen cubits (v. 11). Nowhere is it possible to obtain this number by just adding wall lengths and guard room dimensions, particularly at the portal ends. The gate (v. 11) must be more than floor space; the extra cubit would derive from a structural member set across above the passageway at the W side of the first guard room as a roof member, so covering over this portion, making a roofed gateway thirteen cubits long, where one could find shelter in inclement weather while securing permission from the guard to pass on into the court beyond.

Before each side chamber is a space a cubit wide by a reed long (six cubits; v. 12), prob. a space separated by a low stone wall to form a precinct line, the wall perhaps being rather thin stone and set on edge. Doors at the side chambers are mentioned as “door against door” (v. 13); logically these would be in the back or side walls of the gate structure, allowing the guards to come and go freely from the court surrounding the gateway building.

The heights of the posts at the walls of the inner porch are given as sixty cubits and the use of the verb “made” indicates a quotation from annals recording the construction, since it is manifestly impossible to measure them within the limits of human capability, which again presupposes their previous existence. Though they have a small plan area relative to height, when attached to the wall behind there would be no problem of vertical stability.

The gateway building intrudes forty-four cubits into the court (v. 6) enclosed by the outer wall and is accessible from both sides (vv. 14, 15). Windows are placed in the guard rooms in the walls beside the doors (v. 13) and in the piers (v. 16) between the guard rooms. There was an indentation in the outer wall face at these piers, allowing for windows in the side walls of the guard rooms adjacent to these piers. The thickness of the piers between the passageway and the side wall face of the structure is determinable from v. 30, which gives a summary of rooms and dimensions; the twenty-five cubits being the total over-all, side-to-side dimension, and the five cubits, the fractional dimension of the thickness of the piers.

Windows occur also in the side walls of the inside porch (v. 16). The windows are said to be closed, i.e., “latticed” (not “narrow”) and to be “round about inward,” i.e., the outer face of the wall at the window is formed in a series of concentric rebates with each ring recessed farther than the outer one. The piers between guard rooms have representations of palm trees carved on them (v. 16).

Emerging from the gateway, Ezekiel was led into the outer court (v. 17, F, H, J) surrounding the wall enclosing the Temple building. This outer court is for the people, the inner court, for the priests. A pavement (O) runs along the outer wall and extends from it to the end of the gateway buildings, thus rimming the outer court. On the pavement are built thirty chambers (v. 17). The use of these chambers is not mentioned; they may be for the use of the people, serving as storehouses or living quarters for the priests while they are on duty in their course of Temple service. Chambers are mentioned (Jer 35:4; 1 Chron 9:26; Neh 10:38-39) as stores or living quarters.

The court size is determined by the space between walls that faces the gateways. The space between the W face of the E gate and the E face of the gate opposite to the inner court (L) is recorded as 100 cubits (F); the same (H, J) is true for the gates to the N (G) and S (I) sides of the outer court (cf. Ezek 40:19, 23, 27). Since the N and S gates are identical and are the corresponding gates to the inner court, but of reversed plan, the total outside N to S dimension is 500 cubits; the same is found to be the E to W dimension.

Ezekiel was then led (v. 20) to the N gate (G) which is measured (vv. 20-23) and the south gate (I) in the S wall (vv. 24-27), which are found to be identical. An additional specification is given regarding access steps to the N and S gates, seven in number. Presumably the same number occurs at the E gate. The conditions of holiness for entrance are the same in every case. God has only one way into His presence.

The inner court.

Ezekiel was then brought into the inner court (v. 28) by way of the S gate (K) and observed the measurements taken. The gateway is the same in plan and construction as the gateways of the outer wall, yet reversed, the porch fronting on the outer court (J). Before each of these gateways are eight steps.

The E gate (vv. 32-34) and the N gate (vv. 35-37 M) to the inner court are exactly the same as the S gate, except at the N gate in the inner court are additional facilities for washing the sacrificial offerings (v. 38). In the sides of the porch are four tables (a), two on each side, for slaying the offerings (v. 39) and two on each side in front of the porch (a), also for slaying the sacrifices (v. 41), making eight in all. In addition there are four other tables of stone (v. 42) whereon are laid the implements used for slaughtering the offerings. In the porch itself are arranged hooks for receiving the sacrifices until they are offered.

Immediately outside the N gate in the inner court (v. 44) are rooms (W) for the singers, opening toward the S, and one at the E side of the gate for priests on duty (v. 46).

The porch of the Temple.

The inner court is measured as 100 cubits N to S and the same from the E wall to the W wall of the Temple (Ezek 40:47). The porch is then measured, twenty cubits long and eleven cubits wide (40:49).

If as in v. 49, the width of the porch signifies a N to S direction of eleven cubits, then the length, E to W is twenty cubits. If the entry door is six cubits wide and flanking walls five cubits wide on each side of the door for a total of sixteen cubits, this leaves a total of four cubits, less than the twenty cubits of inside length, which is too great a difference.

However, if one considers that the twenty cubit dimension be taken N to S, and as an inside dimension, and the five cubits dimension of v. 48 as the width of flanking walls at the entrance, then the inside faces of the side walls of the porch line up with the faces of the side walls of the Holy Place. This arrangement results in a width E to W of eleven cubits inside (v. 49), and the three cubits (v. 48) is the thickness of the flanking walls. When a summation of the E to W dimensions of the house is made and a five cubit platform for the pillars is included (v. 49; cf. 42:11), a total length to the rear wall of the house of 100 cubits is obtained (41:13).

Surrounding the house is a platform (U, 41:8), six cubits high, that projected five cubits beyond the chamber walls (v. 11; see below). Around this platform is a clear area of twenty cubits (v. 10). At the W end, and set twenty cubits away, is another building (v. 13) forming the western boundary of this area (see below). Verse 14 summarizes the dimensions of the house. An analysis of the measurements leads to a conflict that can only be resolved on the considerations noted below. The “house” is 100 cubits long E to W of building, platform on the W side, clear space on the W (v. 13). A tabulation of the separate E-W dimensions of the house does not yield 100 cubits’ length, but only ninety-five cubits with the short dimension of the porch E to W, and 104 cubits if its E to W dimension is twenty cubits. Therefore, another system of measurements must be sought. Since the E to W dimension (v. 13) includes the clear space of twenty cubits, this dimension, when begun at the face of the building west of the house yields a dimension of one hundred cubits to the inner E wall face of the Holy Place, thus arriving at the W face of the W wall of the porch, which is also the E wall of the Holy Place (Q). But this arrangement requires that the E wall of the Holy Place be considered part of the porch, and not of the former. What could be the cause of this consideration? Let it be recalled that the side walls of the Holy Place step back one cubit for each of the stories of the side chambers. Where it emerges above the roof, it recedes two cubits inside the side walls of the porch, thus providing the appearance of the Holy Place attached to the back of the porch wall. It may be that the side walls of the porch are more than six cubits thick, projecting even more than the two cubits. Thus it appears that there is a tower on Ezekiel’s Temple, patterned after Jo siah’s high tower. This is another of the characteristics of the Temple that leads one to consider that it is not greatly different from the one Nebuchadnezzar destroyed.

The house.

The door to the Holy Place (Q) from the porch is ten cubits wide (41:2), leaving five cubits of side wall on each side, since the Holy Place is twenty cubits wide. The six cubits of v. 1 refers to the thickness of the wall as jamb width in terms of posts, their common name. The Holy Place is twenty cubits wide and forty cubits long, as in Solomon’s Temple.

The angel went into the Holy of Holies alone (v. 3). The door is measured to be six cubits, the jamb posts to be two cubits, and the door breadth to be seven cubits.

Although an apparent contradiction occurs, it is clear that the opening into the Holy of Holies is seven cubits wide (last part, v. 3). Since the other dimension refers to the door also, it is prob. the height. The doorway possibly has two leaves, each three and a half cubits wide, hung from pintle posts at the jambs. The two cubits of jambs refer to the width in the plane of the wall of the jamb posts at each side of the opening.

The Holy of Holies is then measured at twenty cubits each way, presumably the same in height and the same in all directions to Solomon’s Temple, continuing the basic agreement with it.

The wall surrounding the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was measured as one reed (v. 5). The higher the stories forming the side chambers (T) the broader they are (v. 7 RSV) resulting from the stepping back of the “house” walls on the chamber side where the story beams meet, yet do not enter (v. 6) the walls, i.e., resting on these setbacks. There are thirty rooms (v. 6) in each of three stories, making ninety chambers in all. The chambers are four cubits wide between the outer and inner walls on the lower floor, this being less than the width of the chambers of Solomon’s Temple. It is probable that in the increase of height of the walls of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, it is necessary to increase the wall thickness by one cubit, to render it stable, and this is the reason that the chambers are four cubits wide. The wall thicknesses are not given for Solomon’s Temple, being inferred from Ezekiel’s Temple, because of the sameness of size of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. The outer wall is five cubits thick (v. 9). Access to the chambers is by stairways opening on to the surrounding platform (v. 11).

The west building.

The “separate place” (v. 12) at the W end of the house fronts on another building (v. 12) which measures eighty cubits broad and one hundred cubits long. Its breadth is explicitly stated to be an E (or W) side (lit., the side of the way of the sea) and is seventy cubits inside, plus five cubits for walls making the total eighty cubits, leaving ten cubits between its N and S walls and the N and S walls of the inner court. Its length E to W is ninety cubits inside plus five cubits for walls, giving a total of one hundred cubits. These are the overall measurements of the house (v. 13), whose overall N to S dimension is the same as the westerly building between inner court walls (v. 14).


Verse 15 lists additional features of this westerly house having something like galleries at the N and S sides in three stories (cf. 42:3, 4). The measurement of one hundred cubits (v. 8) refers to the length of these galleries. (See below for construction and meaning of the term “galleries.”) The specifications of this building (the length of the galleries is parenthetical, given to designate the particular side of the building on which they are located), the Temple and the porches of the court are listed without measurements, which indicates that this is a mere résumé, not a separate new set of measurements.

The recapitulation continues through Ezekiel 41:16a, with an enumeration of the thresholds, and latticed (covered) windows found here and there among the three buildings (“round about on their three stories”). Before the recapitulation is finished, a feature suggested by the word threshold (16b) is introduced: “over against” points to the lintel of Herod’s Temple as formed with five oak beams that alternated with a course of stone. Wright (Biblical Archaeology [1956], 140) supports the definite possibility that this was the method in Herod’s Temple; it was used in older periods, as he observes and is most likely the procedure employed in Ezekiel’s Temple.

At the jambs also are post formations set under the lintels. The measurements as a résumé continue in v. 17 for the interior and exterior wall areas, the measurement of each particular area having been carefully determined.

The decoration of the house walls is described as alternating representations of palm trees and double-faced cherubim (vv. 18-20; cf. 1 Kings 6:29; 7:36), only two faces shown because on a plane surface in straight bas relief it is impossible to show more than two faces. They prob. should be considered as having four faces as in the vision (ch. 1). The posts of the door to the Holy Place were square in section (v. 21); the “face” (i.e., of the doorposts of the Holy of Holies) was similar to the door posts of the Holy Place.

Additional features.

The altar of incense is described (Ezek 41:22) as made of wood and lacking the gold covering of the altar of Solomon’s Temple. It is three cubits high and prob. square (as in the Tabernacle and presumably in Solomon’s Temple), since only one dimension is given. It has horns (corner pieces), for corner pieces apart from horns have no meaning. The term “length” should be rendered “base” (RSV), for this is the nearest equivalent in spelling and form of letters that could be miswritten for “length.”

The doors themselves are formed in pairs of leaves folding back on themselves so that when opened against the jambs, they occupy smaller areas of the floor (vv. 23, 24). The same cherubs and palm trees are also carved upon the doors and the walls (v. 25).

A further note (v. 25b) is added describing the façade of the porch; it has thick planks, a retrospective note on the construction of the lintel above the doorway. Light is admitted into the porch by the same latticed windows noted elsewhere, in the N and S walls. They also are located in the side chamber walls (v. 26). The thick beams (v. 25) may be the large beams supporting the plank floors of the side chambers.

The walls of the porch, the side chambers, and their floor beams are decorated only with carvings of palm trees, denoting the lesser sanctity of these areas.

Supporting buildings.

Ezekiel’s attention was next directed to another set of buildings in the outer court (Y, 42:1). He was led out of the inner court through the N gate to a building that backed up to the wall forming the enclosure of the “separate place.” The reference (42:1) to a building on the N requires two separate structures arranged somewhat as shown on the plan, the number of chambers are approximately the same, with an access passage between of ten cubits width. The S building is one hundred cubits long E to W and twenty cubits wide N to S (v. 2); the N building is fifty cubits long and twenty cubits N to S likewise. At the W end of these buildings is a clear area (b; 46:20) for cooking the offerings. The doors of the S building are on the N side (42:2), i.e., they open off the common passage between them. They likewise open to the “separate place,” for the priests are to lay their garments in the cells to avoid defiling them by contact with the common people (42:14); to avoid this, they cannot go out into the outer court, but they are able to enter the cells directly from the inner court.

The cell building is three-storied, as seen in the term שְׁלִשִֽׁים, which means third, not three (cf. Gen 6:16), for only the third story has galleries (אַתִּיקִ֜ים). Three stories are mentioned. The tr. of vv. 1-3 should now be understood as follows:

Then he brought me out into the outer court by the direction of the N way and brought me to the cell-building that was opposite the separate place, and that was opposite the building on the N, along the front by length one hundred cubits, with a door in the N, and by width fifty cubits (42:8), opposite the twenty cubits of the inner court and opposite the paving that was in the outer court; having gallery facing gallery in the third story (free translation).

The last phrase may be understood as referring to galleries that face one another across the passage between the buildings. This passage provides access to the chambers (v. 4) and is ten cubits wide. The length of the passage is not stated, but a way of one cubit is expressed (v. 4) that bears no logical relation to the building or passage. If this is considered to be a cubit-wide platform running along the face of the building there is no grammatical connection expressing the relationship. Hence, it is best to understand that it refers to a wall of one cubit width to serve as a screen wall extending eastward from the outer building (see plan; also below, v. 7).

In verses 5, 6, the construction of chambers and third story galleries is described. Since pillars are not employed to support the outer wall of the gallery (6a), the method of a supporting wall is used at the outer gallery wall and in the first and second stories at the line of the wall common to the gallery and chambers in the third floor. The idea of the columns (which do not occur; contrast is indicated) is suggested by the columns in the outer court, possibly between or along the chambers against its outer wall (6a).

There is a wall opposite the chambers, fifty cubits long (v. 7), erected parallel to the chamber building and extending in the direction of the gates (see plan). If this is a proper interpretation, there must be another interpretation of the one cubit dimension of v. 4 but it is not possible to determine the meaning with the limited architectural terminology available. The phrase, “before the hundred cubits” (v. 8), describes again the length of the chamber building, indicating to which building the wall was related.

This chamber building is repeated on the S side of the inner court. The word “east” results from a copyist’s error where קָדִ֛ים has been mistransmitted for דָּרֹ֔ום, “south.” This change of text is supported by v. 12, and the change makes sense in the total context. Thus there are only two sets of chamber buildings, not three, as suggested by some commentators. Verses 10 and 11 should read,

In the width of the court wall to the S, before the separate place and before the building, there were cells with a way before them, like the cells that stood toward the N...” (free translation).

Verses 13 and 14 give the function of these buildings. Since they are referred to as being N and S chambers fronting the separate place there can be only these two buildings, one N and one S. Here in quiet seclusion and contemplation, the priests can eat their sacramental portions of the offerings. The offerings are stored in this place until cooked or baked (meat of the sacrifices was boiled; meal was baked). The chambers provide privacy that there may not be anything casual in the eating or disrobing, for the eating shared in the holy character of the service. The purpose of sacrifice was communion with Yahweh and it had to be carried out by those who were ritually pure.

The Temple precincts.

The Temple is surrounded by a sacred area and the angel proceeds to measure it: 500 reeds (3,000 cubits) on each side. The measuring process was done to emphasize its sacred character (v. 20)—that it is holy, in contrast to all other areas that are called profane. The “it” measured in v. 15 is this area, not the E wall or gate. The relation of the Temple complex within this area is that of a city within a wall, the whole set upon a mountain that rose up to provide the high eminence on which to erect the Temple (40:1, 2).

It is at this point that one must look to the future for this Temple. The terrain of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s time could not accommodate this development. After the events of Zechariah 14:1-4, 10, this Temple could be set in the place of the height of the present Haram. The peace of the millennium will offer opportunity for construction, and if this Temple proclaims holiness, it most certainly agrees with the theme “Holiness unto the Lord” (Zech 14:20). The similarity of the house to Solomon’s Temple assures the people that this is indeed their house, and God’s presence in it gives assurance of His favor. The other structures are “teaching” elements, to teach them the “way of holiness.”

Zerubbabel’s Temple

The repatriation.

Very little data is provided concerning Zerubbabel’s Temple from which a description may be formulated. The treatment of the Temple is done in a context of its significance for the future. Haggai gave Messianic significance to the Temple as did Zechariah. This was necessary in an age that was approaching the advent of the Son of God. In this era the importance of a visible shrine was reduced, but emphasis was laid upon its significance. This, of course, became the emphasis of Stephen in the justification of his message among the people (Acts 7:8, 9ff.), and to which, through misconception, violent opposition occurred. It was this attitude that was the driving force that brought down the walls of the Temple of Herod. But the message had a beginning in the days of Zerubbabel.

Under the Pers. kings, Judah was organized in the satrapy of Trans-Eupharatia (Across-the-Euphrates; cf. Ezra 4:11 RSV), and in the days of Darius I (cf. 6:6ff.) was under the control of a governor at Samaria. When the Jews appealed to Darius because of the repressive measures of the governor, the control of Jerusalem was diverted from Samaria (v. 7) and another governor was appointed.



Included in the decree of Cyrus was authorization to secure building materials at the expense of the Pers. royal treasury (Ezra 6:4). The method of construction followed the previous system. The reference in v. 4 to three rows of stones and a row of timber beams quite possibly refers to the construction of the wall surrounding the inner court of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:36). There was at once an obvious difference discernible between this Temple and the Temple of Solomon. Many elderly people (Ezra 3:12) had seen Solomon’s Temple, and when they saw the results of the foundation work they wept, for it seemed inferior by comparison. This was no doubt because of size, the working of stone, and the quality and size of the finished foundation.

Shortly after rebuilding began, obstructionist attempts to frustrate it arose from people of Samaria because their offer to help was rejected since they were not of the Jewish folk (Ezra 4:1ff.). Their opposition persisted to force of arms (v. 23), and they shut down the work until the second year of Darius the Great (520 b.c.), when appeal was made to him on the grounds that the restoration had been ordered by Cyrus (cf. 5:17 with 6:3-7).

The original adversaries were the Samaritans, who were descended from those whom the Assyrian king brought in to replace the deported northern Israelites. In the days of Haggai and Zechariah the chief adversaries were named: Tattenai the governor and Shethar-boznai and his cohorts (5:3).

In their report to Darius in an attempt to curtail rebuilding they demanded a search to see if Cyrus did indeed make a decree, which finally was found in Hamadan (Ach-Metha-Ecbatana) in confirming all the claims of the Jews (Ezra 6:2 RSV).

It would appear that the early delay in building progress prevented the raising of the walls of the Temple. When, therefore, a foundation is said to have been laid on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of the second year of Darius, a question arises as to just what the laying of the foundation was (Hag 2:18). The year was 520 b.c.—sixteen years after the original laying, a time when little was done (Ezra 5:16). When Haggai and Zechariah stirred up Zerubbabel by their preaching, work began again with the ceremony of laying the foundation, i.e., with a ceremony but preparing the foundation to receive the wall above.

Significance of the Temple.

Materials for the Temple.

Materials for the Temple adornment came from the people through freewill offerings (Ezra 2:68, 69). Included in the decree of Cyrus was the ordinance that the Jews who remained in Babylon were to make their freewill offerings for the Temple as part of their obligations to their brethren who returned.

History of the Temple

In the era of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Ezra’s ministry in Jerusalem involved the separation of the Israelites from “defilement” because of intermarriage with the surrounding peoples (chs. 9; 10). Ezra prayed and carried out the necessary judicial activities. This was done to prevent the collapse of the Jewish state through absorption into other peoples.

When Nehemiah left to return to King Artaxerxes in Babylon, ecclesiastical affairs fell into disarray. Eliashib, the high priest, set apart a chamber in the court of the Temple for Tobiah (13:7) who was an Ammonite (2:10) and a former adversary of the work of restoring the city. This was the result of the spiritual indifference that set in soon after Nehemiah left and quickly brought about what could not have been done by direct frontal attack (cf. 13:10-12). Nehemiah, on his return, saw it as contamination of the Lord’s house, drove Tobiah out, and had the Temple areas sanctified (vv. 8, 9).

From Nehemiah to the Maccabees.

There are a few references to this period in the Apocrypha. First Esdras is primarily a parallel compilation of 2 Chronicles 35; 36, Ezra and Nehemiah 7:13-8:13. No constructional information is provided. The completion date of Zerubbabel’s Temple is given in the Gr. as the twenty-third day (1 Esdras 7:5) instead of the third day (cf. Ezra 6:15). It may be that the part tr. “twenty” fell out in transmission. Josephus (Jos. Apion I. 22) quoted Hecataeus of Abdera on the general arrangement of the Temple complex in the era of Alexander. The enclosing stone wall is described as 500 ft. long and 100 cubits the other direction with double cloisters within. The altar was erected of unfinished white stones to twenty cubits each way and ten cubits high. The house contained the altar (of incense) made of gold and the lampstand (also of gold) having a flame that was never allowed to go out. Hecataeus distinguished this Temple in its character from other temples by the fact that there were no idols or gifts of such things by eminent personages, where also no growing things were planted, as was done in pagan temples of other peoples. In Ecclesiasticus, the high priest Simon II, son of Onias (Heb. Johanan) c. 220-180 b.c., is described as repairing the Temple (Ecclus 50:1-3) for which he built great fortifying walls with turrets to protect it. Simon also provided a cistern for water storage, the size indicated by a hyperbolic reference to Solomon’s Sea. Then followed a panegyric description of Simon, his person and the conduct of his service in the Temple. This is the only description of the Temple service of this period.

Antiochus III rewarded the Jews for their support in his early campaign against Egypt (Jos. Antiq. XII. iii. 3) to the extent of providing sacrifices and ordered repairs, including the completion of the erection of cloisters, as well as other repairs that in the estimation of local authorities must be done. Necessary materials were to be provided from the forests of Judea and other countries, free of taxation. Taxes on the Jews for three years were remitted to facilitate this work. In addition Antiochus decreed that no unpurified person be allowed in the Temple precincts. Included in the general ban of the impure were unclean animals.

Next in order of time are the records of the Maccabees. The account of the plundering of the Temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 170 b.c. is preserved (1 Macc 1:20ff.). There was in the Temple the altar of incense, of gold; the table of shewbread; the lightstand and its attendant equipment; many implements of cups and bowls and incense holders; the crowns; the veil and gold plating at the wall where formerly had been the cherubim. In addition, he rifled the treasuries and departed with gold, silver, and other precious vessels as well as many other items. Some of these were the vessels Sheshbazzar had brought back from Babylon. One learns at this time that this furniture was in the second Temple and also that new veil had been hung. Shortly thereafter, it was decreed by Antiochus that the sacrifices should cease (1:45). In December of 168 b.c. (the twenty-fifth of Kislev, Dec.-Jan.), Antiochus invaded Jerusalem, penetrated into the Temple precincts and by sacrificing a sow he desecrated the altar of God. Mattathias, a priest, and his sons raised the standard of revolt at the village of Modin where began the Maccbean revolt. Three years later in Kislev, 165 b.c., Judas Maccabeus came to Jerusalem after defeating the forces of Antiochus, and when the people saw the courts overgrown and in disrepair, they broke into weeping. Promptly they raised a new altar of unhewn stones (4:47) after dismantling the polluted one, proceeded to repair the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, and then hallowed the courts for use. Vessels newly made were brought in, including the lampstand, the altar of incense and the table of showbread. Incense was then lighted as was the lampstand, new bread was placed on the table and a new veil was hung (vv. 49-51). On the next day, the twenty-fifth, the altar was sanctified and sacrifices were resumed amid great rejoicing. In addition, the doors of the gates that had been torn off were replaced and the gates were rededicated. The celebration of the altar became the basis for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. It signified particularly the relighting of the lampstand in the Holy Place. While Antigonus was away campaigning in Persia to replenish his coffers, walls earlier destroyed in his attack on Jerusalem were rebuilt, prob. the walls of Simon II.

In the year 161-160 b.c., Alcimus, friend of Demetrius I, king of Syria, tore down the wall forming the inner court of the Temple (9:54), intending to allow Gentiles free access into the inner precincts. In the year 154-153 b.c., the warlike motions of Demetrius evoked alarm in Judea, causing Jonathan, the new leader, to strengthen the outer walls of the Temple (10:11) with stone walls four feet thick. Forces of conflict thus required the Jews to transform their Temple into a fortress for protection. Simon, Jonathan’s brother, became priest after the death of the former and he further strengthened the Temple defenses (13:52).

Aristeas in the account of the origin of the LXX related in glowing language the presentation of furniture to the Temple by Ptolemy Philadelphus (283-245 b.c.), king of Egypt. This furniture consisted of an outsize solid gold table of showbread handsomely decorated with wreathed work, fruits, and precious stones held in settings. Mixing bowls, a meander of scale-like appearance, gold vials with wreathed work decoration were also included. Aristeas accompanied the embassy bearing the gifts to Jerusalem. There he was impressed by the fortress walls of the Temple standing more than seventy cubits (Letter of Aristeas, v. 84). The portal was covered with a costly curtain waving in the breeze. The stone-paved court floor was necessary because of the frequent washings to remove the blood of the sacrifices (v. 88). Cisterns underground provided ample water supplies. Aristeas continued (v. 92) with an over-stressed description of the labor of the priests in the sacrifices, and then was taken to the fortress adjacent to the Temple that had walls higher than those of the Temple (v. 100ff.). Aristeas described the presence of an inexhaustible spring within the Temple precincts. No trace, however, of a spring has ever been found in the area and for the tradition no reasonable ground can be adduced (however, cf. Ezekiel 47). Since nothing is written in 1 Maccabees relating to these gifts of Ptolemy, it might appear that this record in Aristeas is imaginary, used as supporting material for his story of the creation of the LXX. He agreed, however, that the Temple was oriented to the E on its height in the city.

From the Maccabees to Herod.

Josephus is the source of much of the information regarding the Temple in this period. The usefulness of Josephus as an objective historian has been questioned because of apparent contradictions of certain dates in his writings. However, the judgment of his status as an uncreditable (so-called) historian of events of the period 200 b.c.-a.d. 100 must now be revised, as indicated by Farmer (Maccabees, Zealots and Josephus [1956]). Josephus functioned both as a justifier of Rom. actions against the Jews and a strong apologist for his own people. He represented the defeat of the Jews by the Romans as divine approval of Rom. rule and also their defeat as the judgment of God (Jos. War V. iv. 3, 4). The onus of being an inaccurate historian thus rests not on Josephus, but on a misconception of his dual role in a difficult situation. Rather, one may proceed in a factual usage of his data.

Alexander Jannaeus (104-78 b.c.) was involved in an incident in the Temple (Jos. Antiq. XIII. xiii. 5) from which light is shed on the arrangement of the Temple courts. The Jews resented his officiating as high priest and pelted him with citrons. There was easy access to the high priest at the altar (cf. 1 Macc 4:38-48), for the wall of the court marking off the area of the altar was not so high as to prevent it. Alexander had a wooden palisade erected about the priests’ court to prevent future repetitions of their displeasure.

Aristobulus II (69-63 b.c.) fled to the Temple and used it as a fortress when Aretas III of Nabatea moved against him on behalf of his brother Hyrcanus II, the rightful high priest and king. When both Hyrcanus and Aristobulus appealed to Pompey for adjudication, he took so long to make up his mind that Aristobulus took precipitate action and was taken into custody and detained. His cohorts, however, seized the Temple and withstood a siege by Pompey for three months. He finally breached the walls by battering rams, slaughtered the officiating priests and 12,000 other Jews. During the siege, defending Jews cut the bridge across the Tyropoean by which access was made to the city on the western ridge (Jos. War I. vii. 2). Pompey profaned the Holy of Holies by entering it to satisfy his curiosity but took no plunder. Afterward he ordered it rehallowed (Jos. Antiq. XIV, iii. 1-4; cf. War I. vii. 6). Later Crassus took a side trip from his campaign against the Parthians to Jerusalem and carried off the treasure Pompey had refused to take (Jos. Antiq. XIV. iv. 2). In skirmishes with Herod, the Jews frequently fled to the Temple because of its defensive character (XIV. xiii. 4). When Herod had been declared king of the Jews by the Rom. Senate, he proceeded to move against Antigonus, last of the Hasmoneans. In the attack on the city and Temple, certain of the cloisters were destroyed by fire (XIV. xvi. 3), but when the city was taken, he prevented the soldiery and foreigners from entering the Temple and desecrating it, taking thought for his future domains (XIV. xvi. 3). To deliver the city and Temple from further plundering, Herod bought off the soldiers and their officers. Not until the eighteenth year of Herod’s reign did further development of the Temple take place.

Herod’s Temple


Zerubbabel’s Temple had assumed the proportions of a fortress. Though the building was highly regarded by the Jews, yet this fortress character rendered it subject to criticism in Herod’s opinion and therefore rebuilding was necessary. His principal and ostensible reason was presented in a speech to the people, saying that the Temple did not measure up to its former glory, specifically noting that it lacked some sixty cubits of height from that of pre-exilic times (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 1); this obviously referred to the height of the porch (2 Chron 3:4) as 120 cubits (see above IV, G, 1), and Zerubbabel’s Temple was only 60 cubits high by order of Darius (Ezra 6:3). The actual reason, given before Josephus recorded Herod’s speech, is that the rebuilding was to provide among the Jews an eternal remembrance of his name. Yet the Jews were fearful that, once started, it would be uncompleted through lack of adequate funds. To allay their fears, Herod assured the people that all materials required for completion would be made ready beforehand. By way of further assurance that no unacceptable persons would enter upon the premises, for the building would be in use meantime, he trained some priests as masons, others as carpenters, and the work commenced (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 2).


Sources for the description of Herod’s Temple are not many. Josephus in his Antiquities (XV, xi), Wars of the Jews (V, v), the Mishna tractate Middoth and the few references in the NT comprise the principal source material. A few references are found in parts of the Talmud. Since Josephus wrote nearer to the time of the Temple than when Middoth was composed, his record is preferable in some cases, yet Middoth does indeed provide dimensions where Josephus does not. Actually only a small portion of the NT references to the Temple bear on its structure, for most refer to attitudes of the Jews toward it. That the Temple was an imposing structure is evident from them.


The Temple proper.

The work of rebuilding the sanctuary (Holy Place and Holy of Holies) was begun in the eighteenth year of Herod’s reign, 20-19 b.c. (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 6). The stone used was the white mezzeh stone native to the area, finely cut and polished. The dimensions given by Josephus of twenty-five cubits length, eight in height and twelve in width, is obvious hyperbole, since the stones in the enclosure walls of the present Haram are not that large. The former structure was removed down to bedrock and new foundation stones were laid, 100 cubits long (ibid.) but 100 cubits wide at the porch, and sixty back of the porch for the Holy Place (Jos. War, V. v. 4). There were side chambers at the sides and rear sixty cubits high, and above this was a narrower structure extending an additional forty cubits upward, making a total of 100 cubits (ibid., V. v. 5). The façade, or porch (25), was 100 cubits high and 100 cubits wide, producing an extension of twenty cubits beyond the Holy Place (26) walls. The portal in the E face of the porch was seventy cubits high by twenty-five broad, without doors, exposing to view the Holy Place entrance wall within. Interior measurements of the porch are given as ninety cubits to the ceiling, fifty cubits N to S (length) and twenty broad. Middoth (IV, 7) gives the thickness of the front wall of the porch as five cubits, the E-to-W width as eleven cubits (inside) and the Holy Place wall as six cubits, a total of twenty-two, near enough to the twenty of Josephus (cf. above on the dimensions of the porch of Ezekiel’s Temple for the same dimensions). The front wall of the porch was stabilized against outward bulging by the insertion of cedar beams from the Holy Place wall (Middoth, III, 8). The portal opening was framed by a lintel formed of five oak beams, each separated from the one below by a course of stones, the first beam being one cubit longer on each end than the opening below, and each upper beam one cubit longer on each end than the beam below. Draped on the face of the porch wall were vines of gold-work with gold grape clusters as tall as a man (Jos. War V. v. 4). Josephus next described doors to the Holy Place of fifty-five cubits height and sixteen in breadth. Hollis (op. cit., 202) rejects this door size as too large for the practical reason that it would be impossible to operate them. Middoth (IV, 1) gives the dimensions as twenty cubits high and ten wide, more in order of operability. Again this is an instance of hyperbole on the part of Josephus, or he was referring to some feature now lost. These doors were doubled, a set on the E side and one on the W side of the doorway. They were formed on a pivot member of half a cubit, an attached leaf member two and a half cubits wide, with a folding member two cubits wide, for a total of five cubits, half the opening width. This arrangement provided that the doors cover only half of the wall thickness, three cubits, as they laid back against the jambs when open, the fold point abutting. Josephus adds that a great veil was hung over this door, excluding from view the inside of the Holy Place. This is not enumerated in Middoth; instead at the ceremony of the red heifer, the priest on the Mt. of Olives was to look directly into the Holy Place at the propitious moment (Middoth, II, 4). The curtain of which Josephus wrote may have been added at a later time when fears of defilement of the Temple by even a look by a foreigner were felt.

The area left at the ends of the porch area was occupied by rooms for sacrificial equipment used at the altar (Middoth, IV, 7).

The Holy Place itself was forty cubits long by twenty wide and sixty high (Jos. War V. v. 5) and contained a lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. The Holy of Holies (27) was separated from the Holy Place by a veil and measured twenty cubits by twenty cubits in plan and sixty cubits high. No furniture was placed in it, but it was considered unapproachable and inviolable, and was designated “the Holy of Holies” (ibid). According to the Mishna tractate Yoma (V, 1), the partition was two veils, hung one cubit apart, one attached at its N side, the second at its S side, requiring the high priest to pass between the two from S to N to enter the Holy of Holies. It was this curtain that was rent in two when Christ died (Matt 27:51), showing that the way into the presence of God was open (Heb 6:19, etc.).

Chambers in three stories were built against the side and rear walls of the Holy of Holies, approached from small doors in either side of the porch (Jos. War V. v, 5), five on each story on the N and S sides, three in the first and second story and two on the third story on the W side (Middoth, IV, 3). The width of the first-story rooms was five cubits, the second six and the third seven (cf. 1 Kings 6:6). The difference was effected by cutting back the Holy Place—Holy of Holies wall in each upper story by one cubit and resting the floor beams on the shelf thus formed. The side walls of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies were six cubits, the outside walls of the chambers were five cubits thick, then occurred a space of three cubits for water drainage for the suspended ceiling, and an outside wall of five cubits, the drainage space occurring only on the N and S sides (Middoth IV, 7). The whole was roofed over all around which formed the wide area for the last stand of the priests who resisted Titus (Jos. War 278-279 [Marcus]).

Access to the roof was made by progressing through the upper story from the NE corner westward, then southward and eastward to a pole ladder at the SE corner. On the roof surface was a line of stones set flush, which marked the division between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Above the Holy of Holies below the upper roof was a chamber with access openings to enter the Holy of Holies to make repairs. Around the roof was a parapet to guard against persons falling off.

The porch face of the Holy Place wall was decorated with gold (leaf?) and the E face of the porch was covered with gold plates, presenting a most brilliant spectacle from the Mt. of Olives (Luke 19:37-44; cf. Matt 24:1, 2).

Inner courts.

From the porch a descent of twelve steps led to the priests’ court (28). These steps were divided into flights of three treads each, of one cubit width and one-half cubit height with a landing of three cubits between. Against a top landing of four cubits (Middoth III, 6) a more logical tradition is the five cubits of area in the thickness of the front wall of the porch at the portal; the edge of this area would form the top riser of the uppermost flight of steps. The total of fifteen cubits in the plan of the steps provide seven cubits from the bottom riser to the altar. Other calculations bring the bottom riser too near the altar to provide proper area for circulation around it. The total distance from porch wall to altar (23) was twenty-two cubits (Middoth III, 6). The height of the steps was six cubits, agreeing with the height of Ezekiel’s platform (Ezek 41:8). The Temple appears to have been set on a platform the same height as the Temples of Solomon and Ezekiel.

The altar (Middoth III, 1) was thirty-two cubits square at the ground, formed with a great plinth course, or foundation, one cubit high, with the next upper face set back one cubit. By the Gemara tractate Zebāchîm, this was a solid single-length timber. The surrounding was filled solid and then timber was laid across the foundation for a height of five cubits, the outside face being thirty cubits in length. This framework was filled in solid and was designated the sôbēb, or surrounding (Zeb V, 54). A structure was placed on top of the surrounding and its face was set back one cubit, thus being twenty-eight cubits square. This second structure was three cubits high and there was again a setback of one cubit at the top to a structure designated the ma’arākhāh. At the corners of the surrounding were stone formations, designated horns, three cubits high by a cubit square. By the one cubit setback the ma’arākhāh became twenty-six cubits square. On top of this was a final level, set back one cubit and one cubit high and giving a square twenty-four cubits on a side. The total height of the altar reached ten cubits. The priests walked on the upper space of one cubit and on the next lower one-cubit space. On the top level the sacrificial fires were laid. The fifty cubits square of the base of the altar as given by Josephus (Jos. War V. v. 6) appears to be much too large for the area available. In relation to previous altars, a rabbinic tradition indicates that the altar of the Herodian Temple was more like the postexilic altar, which was enlarged over the preexilic altar (Middoth III, 1b).

The Middoth presents the tradition of a drainage channel to drain off to the Kidron the blood sprinkled on the base of the altar. There has been found no physical evidence of such a drain channel from the cave under the Sakhra, so this cannot be used as a main point for locating the altar on the Rock. Moreover, the drain channel was said to start at the SE corner of an altar, whether on the Rock or elsewhere. Access to the altar was by an incline on the S side of thirty-two cubits long by sixteen wide. The stones for the altar and ascent were secured at Beth-haccerem (Jer 6:1; Neh 3:14).

The sacrifices were slaughtered N of the altar (24), then hung up on a skinning rack near the slaughterer’s shed and skinned before being placed on the wood on the altar (Middoth III, 5). The laver was placed S of the altar but aligned between the altar and porch (ibid. III, 6).

The priests’ court, the area within the inner court immediately surrounding the Temple was 187 cubits long by 135 wide, N to S. An area 11 cubits wide by 135 cubits N to S at the E end was called the priests’ court (Middoth V, 1). Surrounding the inner priests’ court was the court of Israel (29), i.e., the court of the men of Israel, also 135 cubits N to S and 11 cubits E to W. The length of 135 cubits gives the length of the line separating the priests’ court from the court of Israel at the E of the altar; from the N and S ends of this line, boundaries marked the separation of the two westward to the W limit of the priests’ court. The Tosephta (Zeb, XXX 6, 1) states that the Court of Israel surrounded the priests’ court. The Court of Israel was at least 11 cubits wide beyond the priests’ court on all sides, giving a length of 198 cubits E to W and 157 cubits N to S, and was surrounded by a colonnade. Josephus (War, V. vi.) described a separator between the Priests’ Court and the Court of Israel “about a cubit in height.” Middoth (II, 7) indicates that the division was a marker set flush on the court surface.

In the inner court were two other buildings, the building on the N containing the chamber Parva, and that on the S containing the room of the draw well. Each building had three rooms, which were possibly located partly within the priests’ court and partly within the court of Israel.

The colonnade (30) around the Court of Israel (Jos. War V. v. 2-3) is described as single but otherwise not inferior in any way to the colonnades of the outer court; since the latter were doubled and thirty cubits wide, these were fifteen cubits wide on at least three sides and possiby on the W side, although Josephus (Jos. War V. v. 2) seems to indicate otherwise. The outer side of the colonnade was a wall twenty-five cubits high (ibid.). In this wall and projecting outward at least thirty cubits (Jos. War V., v., 3) were gates, three in the N wall (20), one in the E wall called the Great Gate (Muehsa m, Coin and Temple, 26), and three in the S wall (19) (Middoth I, 4). On either side of the Great Gate was a chamber; the S chamber was called Phineas where vestments were stored, and the N chamber was that of the maker of the flat cakes (pancakes) of the daily baked offering.

Women’s court

(17). Eastward through the Great Gate at the E side of the Court of Israel (War V, v, 3), which was fashioned of brass, led to a stairway down from the level of the Court of Israel to the level of the Court of Women, a stair of fifteen steps. These steps were curved (Middoth II, 6) and located at the middle of the W side and on line with the portal of the porch. Josephus (Jos. War V. v., 2) described a terrace against the enclosing wall of the colonnade at the S side of the inner court, being ten cubits wide, called the Chel (16; Middoth II, 3). One reached this terrace by a flight of five steps, each five cubits wide (16; Jos. War V. v. 2) down from the gates in the S wall. Beyond the terrace were fourteen steps (Jos. War V. v. 2) but twelve in Middoth (II, 3). Since the terrain slopes up from E to W, the steps would have to be more in number on the E than the W, two being sliced off by the rising ground. These steps did not continue around on the W because the ground rose rapidly. Since fifteen steps led up from the women’s court to the Court of Israel, the former must have been only slightly higher than the level outside at the foot of the fourteen steps up to the Chel. The women’s court was 135 cubits square between bounding lines (Middoth II, 5). Outside this area at the four corners were courts forty cubits square. The SE court was named Nazirite; the NE, Woodshed; the NW, Leper’s Chamber; and the SW, Shemanyah, possible meaning “oil of Yah” (Hollis, op. cit., 287). At a time later than the construction of the women’s court with the courts at its corners, balconies were added for use by the women so they could see the ceremonies inside the inner court (cf. Middoth II, 6).

At the W side of the court of women approximately on the same level and under the court of Israel were a series of chambers where musical instruments were stored (Middoth II, 7).

The Sōregh

(12). Below the Chel, beyond the steps down from it, was an area bounded by a low wall called the Sōregh (Middoth II, 3), three handbreadths high (c. thirty inches high), but three cubits high according to Josephus (Jos. War V. v. 2) and a finely wrought trellis work with ornamental columns on top. Middoth prob. described the wall in its earlier form, whereas Josephus described it at a time after it had been embellished. On this wall on the outward side were placed warnings to Gentiles not to go beyond the wall, reading,

No Gentile may enter within the railing around the sanctuary and within the enclosure. Whosoever should be caught will render himself liable to the death penalty which will inevitably follow.

This prob. was located north of the stairs up from the Huldah gate.

The outer walls.

The present area of the Haram es-Sherif (Noble Sanctuary), where the Kubbet es-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) is located, is considerably larger than the area of the court of Herod’s Temple. The present court is trapezoidal in shape, 929 ft. on the S side, 1,596 ft. on the W, 1,041 ft. on the N and 1,556 ft. on the E. Only the SW corner and the NE corner are right angles. The E and W walls coincide so markedly in appearance and location with the description of Herod’s works (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 3; War V. v. 1), that these in general must be considered Herod’s works (cf. Simons, op. cit., 391f.). That the W wall and the southernmost part of the E wall are of the same age as the S wall is seen in the sameness of the older (lower) stonework in these walls. Neither the E nor W walls of Herod’s work extended as far N as the present northern limits of the Haram, for the fortress Antonia was connected to the outer court by cloisters (Jos. War II. xv. 6) and there was a moat (Antiq. XIV. iv. 2) between the N wall of Herod’s enclosure and Antonia (C, Warren, Plans, Elevations, etc., Showing the Results of Excavations At Jerusalem [1884]). An indication of the N end of the E wall in Herod’s time was found in the slight outward bulge in it just N of the “Golden Gate” (Gate to Mt. Olive) at a place called “Solomon’s Throne.” This point was about 1,158 ft. N of the SE corner. In the southerly end of this E wall was another slight bend in the wall, about 240 ft. N of the corner. At about 105 ft. N of the corner was a construction joint the full height of the wall, indicative of later construction. For the significance of this joint, see below, “royal portico.” From this joint northward to the “Throne of Solomon” the masonry originally below ground has marginal drafts but projecting fields, whereas the stones S of the joint have smooth faces full height. Josephus (Jos. Antiq. XX. ix. 7) related that in the general repairing of the Temple complex, Herod Agrippa was petitioned to rebuild the porticoes atop this E wall. It would seem that this colonnade was not built by Herod the Great since the repairing would have come too soon after its completion. It would appear, then, that this wall was pre-Herodian and that the wall S of the joint and the S wall was built by Herod the Great. Simons (op. cit., 422) shows that the E wall was actually a former city wall that Herod incorporated into his enlarged temple enclosure, thus providing more space E of the Sakhra for the Temple area, later occupied in part by the women’s court.

The W wall above and below ground presents a single homogenous character in its entire length. South of Barclay’s Gate (6; gate at the Valley Stairs) the lower courses down to bedrock have drafted edges but rough fields, indicative that they were below original finished grades. Stones above these and to the N have drafted edges and smoothed fields, pointing out that they were above the original finished grade, thus showing the general lay of the terrain at the time the wall was built. The present ground surface, however, is above the top of the stones with rough fields, showing the extent of fill to modern times.

The S wall is made up of two types of stones. To the E of the Double Gate to the SE corner the stones from bedrock to the later renovations are smoothed face with drafted edges, whereas to the W of Double Gate (1) below original grade they are rough face fields with drafted edges, the same as the southern end of the W wall. See below “royal portico” for the significance of this difference.

The area thus enclosed by these walls is said to have been double the area of the previous sanctuary (Jos. War I. xxi. 1). It would appear that a large part of this occurred at the S end, partly on the E side and the rest on the W side.

The gates.

In the S wall are indications of three gates. A single gate occurred 105 ft. from the SE corner, the triple gate at 295 ft. and the double gate at about 558 ft. from the corner. Their sills occurred presumably at or near the original ground level. The double and triple gates (2) opened into tunnels leading northward and terminating in a staircase leading up to the outer court. The Sōregh would have been situated N of this because foreigners would have used this approach from the lower city. Their floors were approximately at bedrock and provided access from the city to the S. The gates are walled up, and the double gate is partially hidden by a disfiguring mass of broken buildings covering the western half.

Josephus recorded (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 5) four gates in the W wall. Since at “Robinson’s Arch” (5) the excavations reveal no bridge piers across the Tyropoean Valley at this location, the omission indicated that there was no gate, but rather a balcony overlooking the valley (Simons, op. cit., 424). Josephus (Antiq. XIV. 61 [Marcus]) indicates a bridge connection between the Temple and city that was near the first wall (Jos. War II. xvi. 3; northern reach), and this bridge served the main gate, or first gate (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 5). This was the location of Wilson’s Arch (7; causeway gate) which is also the area of the Gate of the Chain (Bab es-Silsileh). At Barclay’s Gate (6; gate at the Valley Stairs), a stepped way led down into the Tyropoean Valley and up on the other side to the SW hill. The other two gates were situated to the N of the Gate of the Chain and led to the suburbs, i.e., that part of the city N of the first wall (8, 9; Jos. Antiq. XV, xi, 5).

In the N wall was one gate called Todi (21; Middoth I, 3). According to Josephus (War II. xix. 5), to attack this gate without throwing up a bank, places it below the level of the outer court, thus in the deep ditch at the N. There was only one gate in the E wall (11; Middoth I, 4), replaced by the present “Golden Gate” of Byzantine construction (Simons, op. cit., 428), and built over an earlier gate.

The area within the enclosing walls was filled in to provide the necessary required court space. At the southeastern corner are Solomon’s Stables, formed of stone paving over arches supported by columns down to bedrock. This structure appears to be of later date than the Herodian work, and was used by the Crusaders. The tops of the present outer walls date from even later times. The level of the royal portico may have been somewhat lower than the level of the Haram at its S end.

The colonnades.

Josephus (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 3) recorded that Herod enclosed the outer court with “very large cloisters...and he laid out larger sums of money on them than had been done before him,” so that by comparison his were the most imposing. It has also been pointed out that on the E side the colonnade known as Solomon’s Porch (13; Gr. Stoa; Acts 3:11) existed previous to the work of Herod (cf. A. Muehsam, Coin and Temple [1966], 33, 34, and above, E wall). Muehsam also stated in this revealing study of Jewish coins that the Ark was framed inside the gate pictured on the coin of year two (ibid., 35) and that a colonnade was shown in the foreground, i.e., lower down, for at the ceremony of the red heifer the colonnade of Solomon’s Porch would have been quite below the line of sight of the priest from the Mt. of Olives into the sanctuary, i.e., the doorway into the Holy Place from the porch. The evidence of the colonnade depicted on the coin indicates that the colonnade called Solomon’s Porch was open on the E face, not closed by a stone wall.

Herod built a new double-aisle colonnade on the W side (14) and prob. rebuilt a colonnade on the N (14; cf. for existence of colonnades Jos. Antiq. XIV. xvi. 2, where colonnades were destroyed in Herod’s attack on Jerusalem). These were built of white marble carved from single stones, twenty-five cubits high and spaced at thirty cubits between rows (Jos. War V. v. 2). At the S wall he erected a three-aisled colonnade (4) with the center aisle higher than the side aisle (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 5). This was called the “Royal Portico,” so designated perhaps in remembrance of the location of Solomon’s royal quarters that once occupied this area (cf. Simon, ibid., 401, n. 1). At the S side of the portico was a wall to which the S row of columns were attached, but in which presumably windows were made. The rows of columns were spaced thirty ft. apart at the side aisles and forty-five ft. at the center aisle, which was twice as high as the side aisles Columns were said to be twenty-seven ft. high, with bases of doubled tori and capitals in the Corinthian order. The diameter of the columns was such that three men were necessary to surround a column by joining arms, about four and a half ft. in diameter. The overall height to the top of the façade of the side aisles was fifty ft.; with the center aisle rising above the side aisles, a clerestory resulted. The “front” face of which Josephus wrote (Jos. Antiq. [Marcus] 411) can be construed as the S face above the high S wall: “the fourth front of this court facing south....” The colonnade was formed of fine polished stonework, having rectangular pillars to which the columns were attached, thus providing windows through which the country to the S could be observed. The roof beams were carefully framed onto (text: interwoven) the stonework. The ceilings of the cloisters were decorated with carved cedar paneling. Since the roof was construct ed of wood, the high center clerestory prob. was also constructed of wood walls of posts and wood paneling, with the roof framed of wood beams as were the lower roofs. Windows would have been necessary in the clerestory walls to let light in to permit observation of the carved ceilings. The clerestory structure would have towered 100 ft. or more into the air.

In this “Royal Portico” were 162 columns (Jos. Antiq. ibid.), and their length was a stadion, or 630 ft. (Olympic measure). If there were four rows of columns, each row would have had forty or forty-one columns, depending on how this portico was joined to adjacent structures. The maximum spaces would be forty, which works out to 15.75 ft. for column spacing. Not knowing the aisle spacing of Solomon’s Porch, it would be impossible to conclude whether the Royal Portico connected or not. Hollis (op. cit., 106, 107) considers the portico to extend the full length of the S wall, but this was longer than the stadion of Josephus for the length of the Portico (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 5) and Simons (op. cit., 410ff.). The approximate width of the portico was 105 ft., agreeing remarkably with the vertical joint in the E wall, located about 105 ft. N of the SE corner. It appears that this portion of the Haram was specifically added by Herod to provide the needed space for the Royal Portico (cf. Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 3). Josephus seems to indicate that the portico did not extend the full length of the S wall. His words (Jos. Antiq. XV, 411 [Marcus]) may be tr.: It extended from the eastern valley Kidron in the direction of [not: to the western valley”; italics author’s]. Josephus then added, “because it could not be continued farther.” If the portico had extended the full length of the wall, everybody would have known it, and there would have been no need to add the last qualifying statement. Something occurred that caused the Portico to be terminated (cf. Simon, op. cit., 410, n. 1.). It is possible that approximately where the stadion of length of the portico would end (near the location of the double gate) there was a change in masonry from smoothed field stones to rough faces for the full height (see above, S wall), which would represent a later stage in Herod’s expansion of the Temple platform. The presence of a balcony at the W wall overlooking the Tyropoean Valley and the Xistus suggests a building of some size at the SE corner, near which the Portico terminated, and which therefore prevented its extension to the W end of the S wall.

The outer court.

This was the open area extending from the inner side of the porticoes (4, 13, 14) to the Sōregh (2). It was here that both Jews and Gentiles were free to mingle, but beyond the Sōregh only Jews were permitted to go. This outer court was paved with variegated stones (Jos. War V. v. 2).

The cisterns.

There are some thirty-two caves, pits, and cisterns for water storage within the present Haram; all but six are within the area of Herod’s enclosure. Not all came from the same period; some were ancient passages closed up to form cisterns; others were completely in natural stone and others had built roofs. Exploration of these cisterns and caves has furnished some accurate information concerning the contours of the bedrock beneath the present enclosure. In all, Warren (Simons, op. cit., 350) estimated that their storage capacity exceeded ten million gallons. They were supplied not only by collecting the rainwater falling in the enclosure, but also by a conduit from the vicinity of Bethlehem; the Turkish conduit built in 1902 still functions as also does the medieval Arab conduit, their water being distributed through three main branches under the court surfaces to the different reservoirs.

The Tower of Antonia.

This structure was built by the Hasmoneans (Jos. Antiq. XV. xi. 4). Herod strengthened it as a fort (ibid.). It was located N of the N wall of the Temple enclosure, approximately on the line of the W wall (Jos. War V. v. 8) on a rocky eminence near what is now known as the Convent of Notre Dame de Sion. The base of the fort was a glacis of flagstone topped by a wall three cubits high, surrounding the tower that rose behind the wall to a height of forty cubits. The interior rooms were fitted out like a palace—having cloisters, apartments, baths, and courtyards. Its more exact arrangement was a foursided structure with a tower at each of the four corners, filled with rooms enclosing a central courtyard. It was on the pavement of this courtyard that Christ was arraigned by the Jews before Pilate. The SE tower was seventy cubits high, to command an adequate view of the Temple complex, whereas the other three were fifty cubits high.

From Antonia, stairs led down to the Temple area (cf. Acts 21:34, 35, 40)—one at the E side leading to the N cloister and one at the W leading to the N end of the W cloister. There was a wide ditch, or moat, between the north colonnade and the fortress. At some later time it was filled in, and part of the rocky eminence on which Antonia once stood has since been cut away, although parts of it may still be seen (cf. Simons, op. cit. 374ff., 416ff.).

History of Herod’s Temple

In the first year of His ministry Christ cleared out the clamorous trade in sacrificial animals at the outer court (John 2:14, 15), because this interfered with access to worship in the Temple. This action of Christ was repeated in His last year (Matt 21:12; Luke 19:45; Mark 11:15-18). Because the traffic crowded out the Gentiles as well as His own people, Christ strongly objected (Matt 21:13).

The Temple was under the control of the Rom. guard quartered in Antonia (21:31ff.); the captain was close enough to dash down the stairs to rescue Paul from the enraged Jews (21:32, 34, 35). Paul in his own defense addressed the Jews from the stairs (v. 40).

Contrary to popular expectations about the endurance of the Temple, Christ in a.d. 30 predicted its destruction (Matt 24:1ff.).

The history from A.D. 30 to A.D. 70.

Josephus indicates that G. Florus (a.d. 64-66), by his greed for gain and his rapacity in taking it, incited the Jews to the rebellion against Rom. occupation that precipitated the destruction of the Temple. He deliberately provoked the Jews, turned his soldiers loose on them Jos. War II. xiv), and though Agrippa (II) quieted them, yet they rebelled against his suggestion of submission to Florus until a successor should arrive. In the turmoil that followed, the Zealots persuaded the priests to discontinue the daily offerings for the emperor and empire, which amounted to a subtle declaration of war. Vespasian, who began the campaign to subdue the revolt, was later summoned to Rome to assume the throne, and he commissioned his son Titus to reduce the Jews to obedience. This eventuated in an attack on Jerusalem and the Temple in particular. In the spring of a.d. 70, Titus mounted the final siege. When initial efforts to persuade the Jews to surrender and thus preserve the city failed, Titus erected his encircling wall about the city to prevent help from reaching them, and began the final attack on Antonia. The outer cloisters were burned, and finally the inner court of the Temple was encircled, Aug. 29, a.d. 70. Against the desire of Titus, in the attack in the inner court the next day, a soldier tossed a firebrand through a window into one of the side chambers. Though Titus rushed up shouting commands to extinguish the flames, he was unable to effect his will. Instead another soldier tossed a burning brand into the Holy Place that set ablaze the sanctuary itself (Jos. War VI. iv. 5). On the roof of the side chambers the priests in defense of the Temple pulled up the bird-preventer spikes and hurled them unavailingly at the Rom. soldiers (Jos. War VI. v. 2). The rest of the Temple complex was in flames, last of all the Royal Portico, and about 6,000 persons seeking refuge in it perished.


Solomon’s Temple.

One of the earliest attempts at reconstruction of this Temple was by the Jesuits Pradus and Villalpandus (1596-1604), but in a grandiose Greco-Roman style that largely nullified its value. Others followed, but contributed relatively little. More famous was Schick’s also grandiose but inaccurate attempt, in 1796. Paine in 1861 produced a restoration that is suggestive, but is highly inaccurate. Elements in it suggest that the Temple of Ezekiel’s vision was quite influential. The efforts of Perrot and Chipiez (1887-1889) are noted more for artistry than accuracy. Ferguson’s attempt (Temples of the Jews, 1887) suffers from lack of correspondence to the Biblical text, as well as in architectural style, for it is more classical than Canaanite.

The most recent efforts at construction are those of the Howland model (BA, XIV [1951], 2-4) and the Stevens drawing sponsored by Albright and G. E. Wright (BA, XVIII [1955], 41-44). These are quite similar, differing only on less essential points; both illustrate basic elements. The Stevens drawing suffers from its peculiar saw-toothed coping, whereas the Howland model completed the wall top with a coved cornice similar to Egyp. temples. This would have been a distinct innovation, but not well enough attested in Canaan to justify. The more usual coping is a straight, clean parapet wall. The altar must remain for either proposal a conjectural example, for little is known of its actual construction. An immense amount of time and money was spent on the Howland model and, apart from this, it represents the more faithful proposal of any presented to date.

A further defect concerns the tops of the pillars Jachin and Boaz, for both restorations picture them as having at their heads bowls for burning incense. The Biblical text does not present this view of their function (see above IV, G, 4), nor do the meanings of their names require that incense be burned.

The attempts of Corswant (Dictionnaire d’ Archaeologie Belgique [1956]) present a line drawing of a proposed reconstruction that in many respects is quite like the Howland model, but differs from it, for the entrance to the side chambers is from the outside, not from inside, the Holy Place.

Père L. H. Vincent through the drawings of Père A. M. Steve has presented a well researched restoration, not markedly different in plan from the Howland model, but differing in significant details. The Holy of Holies is not elevated and its roof is lower than the Holy Place roof, causing the erection of a heavy stone wall between the two. The roof of the side chambers is dropped below the level of the roof of the Holy of Holies. In addition, access to the side chambers is from side rooms on the porch, which cannot be justified from the Biblical text. As to character of architecture, a crenellated cornice is applied that has little justification in the text or in Palestinian architecture. Each chamber is provided with a window, which is also not based on the Biblical text. The appearance of the whole is rather on the side of modern contemporary architecture.

Ezekiel’s Temple.

Paine’s attempts at reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple appear to be influenced more by Ezekiel’s Temple than any other, and is here mentioned for what help it can give in illustrating the latter. Benzinger (Heb. Archäologie) has presented a convincing plan of the Temple complex though it suffers from incompleteness. The plan of Keil (Biblical Commentary on the Prophecy of Ezekiel [1876]) is a more faithful reproduction. It is significant that this plan bears more relation to Herod’s complex than to Solomon’s structures. The primary feature of Ezekiel’s structure is its symmetry, which is intended to add to the emphasis of sanctity. Not many attempts have been made to produce models or illustrative sketches, partly because it has been considered an “ideal” expression of what the ritual ought to be.

Zerubbabel’s Temple.

Since this has been swallowed up by Herod’s rebuilding, and since it has had a continuous history to the latter Temple, a reconstruction of Herod’s Temple would serve better the purpose of reproducing the main features of the sacred structure.

Herod’s Temple.

Many and varied are the proposed reconstructions advanced for it. Warren in his researches (Plans, Elevations, Etc.) has given a restoration that conforms to the terrain. Yet faint indications from Josephus indicate that it underwent significant enlargement, viz., the addition of the women’s court on the E side. Schick’s plan and model (1896) is too grandiose to be accepted, and its architecture is entirely foreign to Jewish style and the records of Josephus and of the Middoth. The Vincent-Steve restoration suffers from the fact that it embraces too much of the present Haram, also contrary to the sources. It does not conform to certain internal arrangements as given in the sources. Watzinger’s proposal (1935) suffers from presentation in terms of classic European architectural styles not used in the Temple according to the sources. The plan in HDB rev., 712, 713, shows a significant departure from the text of Josephus and of the Middoth. However, the general relationship of the inner and outer courts is presumed to be correct, and from this standpoint it is illustrative.


M. de Vogue, Le Temple de Jerusalem (1864); E. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, 3rd ed. (1867); C. Wilson and C. Warren, The Recovery of Jerusalem (1871); C. Warren, Underground Jerusalem (1876); J. Fergusson, The Temples of the Jews and Other Buildings in the Haram Area at Jerusalem (1878); C. Wilson, “The Masonry of the Haram Wall,” PEQ (1880), 9-65; C. R. Conder, Survey of Western Palestine (1881); C. Warren, Plans, Elevations, Etc., Showing the Results of the Excavations at Jerusalem (1884); B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (1887-1888), 311-343; I. Benzinger, Hebraische Archaeologie, 1st ed. (1894); C. Schick, Die Stiftshütte, der Temple in Jerusalem und der Templeplatz der Jetztzeit (1896); C. Watson, “The Site of the Temple,” PEQ (1896), 47-60, 226-228; H. Vincent, “La Description du Temple de Salomon,” RB (1907), 515-542; H. Gressmann, “Der Felsendom in Jerusalem,” Palastinjahrbuch, IV (1908), 54-57.

R. Kittel, “Die Kesselwagen des Salomonischen Temple,” BWANT (1908); G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, The Topography, Economics and History from the Earliest Times to a.d. 70 (1908); C. R. Conder, City of Jerusalem (1909); M. Dieulafoy, Le Rhythme Modulaire du Temple de Salomon (1913), 332-347; C. Bruston, “L’Inscription des deux Colonnes du Temple de Salomon,” ZATW (1924), 153, 154; E. I. Richmond, The Dome of the Rock (1924); G. A. Cooke, “Some Considerations on the Text and Teaching of Ezekiel 40-48,” ZATW (1924), 105-115; G. B. Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament (1925); H. Gressmann, ed., Altorientalische Texte und Bilderzum Alten Testamentum (1926), plates 103, 204; F. J. Hollis, The Archaeology of Herod’s Temple (1934); C. W. McEwen, “The Syrian Expedition of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago,” AJA, XLI (1937), 8-16; C. A. Thompson, “Certain Bible Difficulties: Date of the Founding of the Temple,” BS, XCVI (Oct. 1939), 459-478; R. B. Y. Scott, “The Pillars Jachin and Boaz,” JBL, LVIII (1939), 143-149; E. Burrows, “Note on Moreh, Genesis 12:6,” JTS (1940), 161; G. E. Wright, “Solomon’s Temple Resurrected,” BA, III (1941), 17-31; W. F. Albright, “Two Cressets from Marissa and the Pillars Jachin and Boaz,” BASOR, LXXXV (1942), 18-27; L. Waterman, “The ‘Damaged’ Blueprints of the Temple of Solomon,” JNES, II (1943), 284-294.

J. H. Iliffe, “A Model Shrine of Phoenician Style,” QDAP, XI (1945), 91, 92; H. K. Eversull, The Temple in Jerusalem (1946); L. Waterman, “The Treasuries of Solomon’s Chapel,” JNES, VI (1947), 161-163; L. Gry, “La Ruine du Temple par Titus,” RB, LV (1948), 215-226; L. Waterman, “A Rebuttal,” JNES, VII (1948), 54, 55; G. E. Wright, “Dr. Waterman’s View Concerning the Solomonic Temple,” JNES, VII (1948), 53; C. C. Wylie, “On King Solomon’s Molten Sea,” BA, XII (1949), 86ff.; C. G. Howie, “The East Gate of Ezekiel’s Temple Enclosure and the Solomonic Gateway of Megiddo,” BASOR, CXVII (1950), 13-19; M. B. Rowton, “The Date of the Founding of Solomon’s Temple,” BASOR, CXVIX (1950), 20-22; P. L. Garber, “Reconstructing Solomon’s Temple,” BA, XIV (1951), 2-24; S. Corbett, “Some Observations on the Gateways to the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem,” PEQ (1952), 7-14; J. Simons, Jerusalem in the Old Testament (1952); A. Parrot, Le Temple de Jérusalem (1954); D. W. Gooding, “An Impossible Shrine,” Vet Test, XV (1955), 405-420; G. E. Wright, “The Steven’s Reconstruction of the Solomonic Temple,” BA, XVIII (1955), 43ff.; H. Vincent, Le Caractèr du Temple Salomonien (1957); P. L. Garber, “Reconsidering the Reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple,” JBL, LXXVII (1958), 123-127; R. B. Y. Scott, “The Hebrew Cubit,” JBL, LXXVII (1958), 205-214; G. E. Wright and W. F. Albright, “Comments on Professor Garber’s Article [in JBL, LXXVII], JBL, LXXVII (1958), 129-132; H. C. Thomson, “A Row of Cedar Beams,” PEQ, XCII (1960), 57-63; H. Schult, “Der Debir im Solomonischen Temple,” ZDPV, LXXX (1964), 46-54; S. Yeivin, “Was There a High Portal in the First Temple,” Vet Test XIV (1964), 331-343; A. Gelston, “The Foundation of the Second Temple,” Vet Test, XVI (1966), 232-235; W. F. Steinspring, “Wilson’s Arch Revisited,” BA, XXIX (1966), 27-36.