The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple refers to one of a series of structures located on the Temple Mount in the old city of Jerusalem. Historically, two temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of ancient Jewish worship. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future. The Temple is also central to the ceremonies surrounding craft masonry.
A model of the 1st Temple
According to the Hebrew Bible, the First Temple was built in 957 BC by King Solomon (reigned c.970-c.930 BC). It is this temple which is so dominant in the lore of Freemasonry. As the sole place of Jewish sacrifice, the Temple replaced the portable sanctuary constructed in the Sinai Desert under the auspices of Moses, as well as local sanctuaries, and altars in the hills. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC when they sacked the city.
Construction of the Second Temple began in 538 BC, and it was dedicated 23 years later, in 515. The Second Temple suffered desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC but was rededicated under Judas Maccabaeus in 164 BC. Centuries later in around 20 BC, the building was renovated by Herod the Great, and became known as Herod's Temple. During the Roman occupation of Judah, the Temple remained under control of the Jewish High Priest. It was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. during the Siege of Jerusalem. It is believed that only part of the Western Wall of the complex remains standing. During the last revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 132-135 A.D., Simon bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva wanted to rebuild the Temple, but bar Kokhba's revolt failed and the Jews were banned from Jerusalem by the Roman Empire.
Islamic tradition says that a Temple was first built on the Temple Mount by Jacob and later renovated by Solomon, son of David.
Notes on the history
According to secular historians, the Temple would have been completed in around 960 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BCE. Traditional rabbinic sources state that the First Temple stood for 410 years and based on the 2nd-century work Seder Olam Rabbah, place construction in 832 BCE and destruction in 422 BCE, 165 years later than secular estimates. The Second Temple was subsequently built and destroyed on the same site and Jewish eschatology includes the belief that a Third Temple will also be built there.
Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, few archaeological excavations have been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. To date, no archaeological evidence for Solomon's Temple has been found and the only references to the First Temple in Jerusalem that might be contemporary with its supposed existence is contained in the Hebrew Bible.
A sketch of Solomon's Temple based on descriptions in the Tanakh.
Several temples in Mesopotamia, many in Egypt, and some of the Phoenicians are now known. The description given of Solomon's Temple is not a copy of any of these, but embodied features recognisable in all of them. Its general form is reminiscent of Egyptian sanctuaries and closely matches that of other ancient temples in the region.
The detailed descriptions provided in the Tanakh and educated guesses based on the remains of other temples in the region are the sources for reconstructions of its appearance. Technical details are lacking, since the scribes who wrote the books were not architects or engineers. Nevertheless, the recorded plans and measurements have inspired Replicas of the Jewish Temple and influenced later structures around the world.
Most Holy Place
The Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holies, (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6), also called the "Inner House" (6:27), (Heb. 9:3) was 20 cubits in length, breadth, and height. The usual explanation for the discrepancy between its height and the 30-cubit height of the temple is that its floor was elevated, like the cella of other ancient temples. It was floored and wainscotted with cedar of Lebanon (1 Kings 6:16), and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold (6:20, 21, 30). It contained two cherubim of olive-wood, each 10 cubits high (1 Kings 6:16, 20, 21, 23-28) and each having outspread wings 10 cubits from tip to tip, so that, since they stood side by side, the wings touched the wall on either side and met in the center of the room. There was a two-leaved door between it and the Holy Place overlaid with gold (2 Chr. 4:22); also a veil of tekhelet (blue), purple, and crimson and fine linen (2 Chr. 3:14; compare Exodus 26:33). It had no windows (1 Kings 8:12) and was considered the dwelling-place of the "name" of God.
The colour scheme of the veil was symbolic. Blue represented the heavens, while red or crimson represented the earth. Purple, a combination of the two colours, represents a meeting of the heavens and the earth.
View of the House with ceiling removed as depicted in a 3-D computer model.
The Hekhal, or Holy Place, (1 Kings 8:8-10), called also the "greater house" (2 Chr. 3:5) and the "temple" (1 Kings 6:17); the word also means "palace", was of the same width and height as the Holy of Holies, but 40 cubits in length. Its walls were lined with cedar, on which were carved figures of cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers, which were overlaid with gold. Chains of gold further marked it off from the Holy of Holies. The floor of the Temple was of fir-wood overlaid with gold. The door-posts, of olive-wood, supported folding-doors of fir. The doors of the Holy of Holies were of olive-wood. On both sets of doors were carved cherubim, palm-trees, and flowers, all being overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:15 et seq.)
The Ulam, or porch, acted as an entrance before the Temple on the east (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chr. 3:4; 9:7). This was 20 cubits long (corresponding to the width of the Temple) and 10 cubits deep (1 Kings 6:3). 2 Chr. 3:4 adds the curious statement (probably corrupted from the statement of the depth of the porch) that this porch was 120 cubits high, which would make it a regular tower. The description does not specify whether a wall separated it from the next chamber. In the porch stood the two pillars Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3), which were 18 cubits in height.
Boaz and Jachin
Two brass pillars named Boaz and Jachin stood in the porch of the Temple. (1 Kings 7:15; 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3). Boaz stood on the left (the north) and Jachin on the right (the south). The Bible records their measurements as 27 feet (8.2 m) high and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide (18 by 12 cubits) with a hollow of 4 fingers thick. (Jeremiah 52:21-22). Their 8-foot (2.4 m) high brass capitals were each decorated with rows of 200 carved brass pomegranates wreathed with seven chains and topped with lilies. (1 Kings 7:13-22, 41-42; 2 Chronicles 4:13) According to most translations of 1 Kings 7:13-22, these two pillars were cast of brass, though some believe the original Hebrew word used to describe their material, "nehosheth", is actually either bronze or copper, because the Hebrews were unfamiliar with zinc, which along with copper, is required to create brass. The description provided here with North on the left and South to the right, suggests that we are looking from the East. Since we are looking at the entrance, this must be on the East. A freemason’s lodge is entered from the West in most cases and its depiction as a representation of Solomon’s Temple would therefore be incorrect.
Chambers were built about the Temple on the southern, western and northern sides (1 Kings 6:5-10). These formed a part of the building and were used for storage. They were probably one story high at first; two more may have been added later.
Exterior view of the entire Temple complex as depicted in a 3-D computer model.
Closer view of the Inner Court and House as depicted in a 3-D computer model. According to the Bible, two courts surrounded the Temple.
The Inner Court (1 Kings 6:36), or Court of the Priests (2 Chr. 4:9), was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams (1 Kings 6:36). It contained the Altar of burnt-offering (2 Chr. 15:8), the Brazen Sea laver (4:2-5, 10) and ten other lavers (1 Kings 7:38, 39). A brazen altar stood before the Temple (2 Kings 16:14), its dimensions 20 cubits square and 10 cubits high (2 Chr. 4:1). The Great Court surrounded the whole Temple (2 Chr. 4:9). It was here that people assembled to worship. (Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2).
Parallels with a modern lodge room
The most obvious here is the columns at the right and left of the entrance. These are depicted in a lodge and are referred to on a number of levels.
We see the steps leading from the priest place to the most holy place. The symbolical east of the lodge is raised. This is where the master presides over his lodge. The place of the priests can be likened to the lodge room floor or the central area where the ritual work of the lodge is carried out. It would follow then, that the lodge officers are like the priests of the temple.
The tracing board in a lodge room depicts the inner steps to the central chamber.
The lodge is aligned East/West, at least symbolically.
A craft lodge makes heavy use of the colour blue.
These may well be the steps to the temple.
Most of the information in this article is taken from Wikipedia with observations by the author.