Sacred Space – Solomon’s Temple
King David wished to build a temple to Jehovah. The Tabernacle was centuries old and was situated in Shiloh. David brought the ark of the covenant, which represented the presence of God, to Jerusalem to bring God’s presence closer to him. Still, there was no place in Jerusalem for God’s work to be done. Being a man of war throughout his life, the Lord instructed David to prepare the way, but to leave the building for his son, Solomon.
Solomon builds the Temple
The temple construction began in Solomon’s fourth year as king, and required seven years to complete. Along with the king’s own palace, these projects were completed in just a few years because Solomon used slave labor from the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
Solomon contracted to King Hyram of Tyre for the wood and many precious things to build the temple. Regarding the name Hyram, Masons have a tradition of Hiram Abiff, a widow’s son (1 Kings 7:13-14), being killed for refusing to give up the secret passwords known by Masons, related to the temple of Solomon and the original Hiram of Tyre (also a widow’s son). The last name, Abiff, while not found in the Bible, could possibly be from the Hebrew word for “father” or “abi”. In the Nauvoo period, many Latter-day Saints became Masons. Some noted that Joseph Smith was also a temple builder, and (by that time) a widow’s son, perhaps a new Hiram Abiff for the last days.
The Holy of Holies
Cherubim (angel warriors) were placed in the Holy of Holies standing 15 feet tall and with 15 foot wingspans that touched the walls and each other in the middle. Under them would sit the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. This was God’s special room and throne. It would represent his throne in heaven, which was surrounded by concourses of angels worshiping him. It would also represent the ancient Divine Council, where archangels (governing angels) including the warrior angel Michael, would stand in council with God (see Isaiah 6). Once a year, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice, seeking redemption for all of Israel. For that instance, he became part of the divine council, standing in the presence of God and cherubim and working out the salvation of man.
Boaz and Jachin – the two pillars
Two giant pillars were built to set in front of the temple. These pillars were 18 cubits (27 feet) high. Their names were Boaz (Strength) and Jachin (Jah/Yahweh/Jehovah establishes). John the Revelator made significant mention of these pillars and how they relate to the righteous:
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12).
The pillars were at the entrance to the temple, where people passed by the sentinel or door keeper, to ensure only the people of the covenant (Israel) were allowed entrance. As the Psalmist noted, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalms 84:10).
It is also possible that the pillars represented sacred trees. The Tree of Life was an ancient symbol tied to Solomon’s temple, with a tree growing inside the temple grounds. The pillars could have represented the Tree of Life, and perhaps the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which represented the trees in Eden’s garden. Remember, the temple represents the cosmos or universe, and items found in the temple and its rites symbolize our walk through the cosmos. Each of us is born with new life, gain knowledge, and seek for eternal life through Christ.
The Basin of Brass
A large brass basin was also built and set upon twelve oxen, which represent the twelve tribes of Israel. This basin was used for cleansing rituals according to the Mosaic Law. The priests would wash in the basin in order to be clean prior to entering the temple, just as they did in the Tabernacle of Moses. Cleansing was necessary prior to entering into the Temple, to ensure the initiate was pure before the Lord from any unclean thing.
This cleansing ritual would later be adapted by John the Baptist and the Essenes (of the Dead Sea Scrolls) into what we now call baptism. It would become a requirement to show one’s repentance, and to enter into the covenant of the community or church. Today, LDS also have a basin upon 12 oxen in their temples. These are used for proxy baptisms for ancestors who have died without the opportunity to receive baptism (1 Corinthians 15:29). It is in fulfillment of Christ’s mandate that one must be baptized to enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5), a humble effort to offer baptism to our deceased ancestors, who may not have had the opportunity to enter into the baptismal covenant.
Ark of the Covenant
Upon finishing the temple, the ark of the covenant was placed under the cherubim with the Mercy Seat. There was now a House for God and his symbol.
“The priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. “For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above” (1 Kings 8:6-7).
The cherubim covered the ark and mercy seat as if covering the face of God, so that a person who was not prepared to see God would not perish. For Israel, and especially for Jerusalem, the presence of God was in His Holy House. Israelites could feel the presence of Jehovah in their midst.
Destruction and Rebuilding of the Temple
The temple would unite Israelites for centuries. Israelites would travel long distances to attend the Passover, in order to sacrifice to the Lord in his temple. Even in its destruction in Jeremiah’s time (ca 600 BC), the goal of the people were to someday return and rebuild the temple. This was foreseen by Ezekiel, who saw Jehovah traveling in a mobile throne/temple to Babylon, so He could be with his people in exile. Some Jewish exiles went to Egypt, where they built a second Jewish temple in Elephantine. In returning back to Jerusalem, we see the rebuilding of the temple as the primary goal of Nehemiah and Ezra.
The temple of Herod, a larger and expanded version of the temples Solomon and Nehemiah built, was the temple in Jesus’ day. The Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. Since then, the Jews have dreamed of the day when the temple will be rebuilt again.
Latter-day Saints believe the day will come when the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. It should be similar in its sacrifices as was done anciently. Until then, the Lord has created a new style of temple for our day, also with the purpose to bring God’s presence into our midst and to teach us how to walk through the cosmos in the light of God.
By Gerald Smith