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Temple of Solomon

The first Temple of the Jews was called hecal Jehovah or beth Jehovah, the Palace or the House of Jehovah, to indicate its splendor and magnificence, and that it was intended to be the perpetual dwelling-place of the Lord. It was King David who first proposed to substitute for the Nomadic Tabernacle a permanent place of worship for his people; but although he had made the necessary arrangements, and even collected many of the materials, he was not permitted to commence the undertaking, and the execution of the task was left to his son and successor, Solomon.

Accordingly, that monarch laid the foundations of the edifice in the fourth year of his reign, 1012 B.C., and, with the assistance of his friend and ally, Hiram, King of Tyre, completed it in about seven years and a half, dedicating it to the service of the Most High in 1004 B.C. This was the year of the world 3000, according to the Hebrew chronology; and although there has been much difference among chronologists in relation to the precise date, this is the one that has been generally accepted, and it is therefore adopted by Freemasons in their calculations of different epochs.

The Temple stood on Mount Moriah, one of the eminences of the ridge which was known as Mount Zion, and which was originally the property of Ornan the Jebusite, who used it as a threshing-floor, and from whom it was purchased by David for the purpose of erecting an altar on it. The Temple retained its original splendor for only thirty-three years. In the year of the world 3033, Shishak, King of Egypt, having made war upon Rehoboam, King of Judah, took Jerusalem, and carried away the choicest treasures.

From that time to the period of its final destruction the history of the Temple is but a history of alternate spoliations and repairs, of profanations to idolatry and subsequent restorations to the purity of worship. One hundred and thirteen years after the conquest of Shishak, Joash, King of Judah, collected silver for the repairs of the Temple, and restored it to its former condition in the year of the world 3148. In the year 3264, Ahaz, King of Judah, robbed the Temple of its riches, and gave them to Tiglath-Pileser, King of Assyria, who had united with him in a war against the Kings of Israel and Damascus. Ahaz also profaned the Temple by the worship of idols. In 3276, Hezekiah, the son and successor of Ahaz, repaired the portions of the Temple which his father had destroyed, and restored the pure worship. But fifteen years after he was compelled to give the treasures of the Temple as a ransom to Sennacherib, King of Assyria, who had invaded the land of Judah. But Hezekiah is supposed, after his enemy had retired, to have restored the Temple.

Manasseh, the son and successor of Hezekiah, fell away to the worship of Sahianism, and desecrated the Temple in 3306 by setting up altars to the host of heaven. Manasseh was then conquered by the King of Babylon, who in 3328 carried him beyond the Euphrates. But subsequently repenting of his sins he was released from captivity, and having returned to Jerusalem he destroyed the idols, and restored the Altar of Burnt-Offerings. In 3380, Josiah, who was then King of Judah, devoted his efforts to the repairs of the Temple, portions of which had been demolished or neglected by his predecessors, and replaced the Ark in the Sanctuary. In 3398, in the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, then King of Chaldea, carried a part of the sacred vessels to Babylon. Seven years afterward, during the reign of Jeehoniah, he took away another lot; and finally, in 3416, in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, he took the city of Jerusalem, and entirely destroyed the Temple, and carried many of the inhabitants captives to Babylon.

The Temple was originally built on a very hard rock, encompassed with frightful precipices. The foundations were laid very deep, with immense labor and expense. It was surrounded with a wall of great height, exceeding in the lowest part four hundred and fifty feet, constructed entirely of white marble.

The body of the Temple was in size much less than many a modern parish church, for its length was but ninety feet, or, including the porch, one hundred and five, and its width but thirty. It was its outer court, its numerous terraces, and the magnificence of its external and internal decorations, together with its elevated position above the surrounding dwellings which produced that splendor of appearance that attracted the admiration of all who beheld it, and gives a color of probability to the legend that tells us how the Queen of Sheba, when it first broke upon her view, exclaimed in admiration, "A most excellent Master must have done this!" The Temple itself which consisted of the porch, the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies, was but a small part of the edifice on Count Moriah. It was surrounded with spacious courts, and the whole Structure occupied at least half a mile circumference. Upon passing through the outer wall, you came to the first Court, called the Court of the Gentiles, because the Gentiles were admitted into it, but were prohibited from passing farther. It was surrounded by a range of porticoes or cloisters, above which were galleries or apartments, supported by pillars of white marble. Passing through the Court of the Gentiles, you entered the Court of the Children of Israel, which was separated by a low stone wall, and an ascent of fifteen steps, into two divisions, the outer one being occupied by the women, and the inner by the men Here the Jews were in the habit of resorting daily for the purposes of prayer.

Within the Court of the Israelites, and separated from it by a wall one cubit in height, was the Court of the Priests. In the-center of this Court was the Altar of Burnt-Offerings, to which the people brought their oblations and sacrifices, but none but the Priests were permitted to enter it. From this court, twelve steps ascended to the Temple, Strictly so called, which as we have already said, was divided into three parts, the Porch, the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies. The Porch of the Temple was twenty cubits in length, and the same in breadth. At its entrance was a gate made entirely of Corinthian brass, the most precious metal known to the ancients. Besides this gate there were the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, which had been constructed by Hiram Abif. the architect whom the King of Tyre had sent to Solomon.

From the porch you entered the Sanctuary by a portal, which, instead of folding doors, was furnished with a magnificent veil of many colors, which mystically represented the universe. The breadth of the sanctuary was twenty cubits, and its length forty, or just twice that of the porch and Holy of Holies. It occupied, therefore, one-half of the body of the Temple. In the Sanctuary were placed the various utensils necessary for the daily worship of the Temple, such as the Altar of Incense, on which incense was daily burnt by the officiating Priest; the ten Golden Candlesticks; and the ten Tables on which the offerings were laid previous to the sacrifice. The Holy of Holies, or innermost chamber, was separated from the Sanctuary by doors of olive, richly sculptured and inlaid with gold, and covered with veils of blue, purple, scarlet, and the finest linen. The size of the Holy of Holies was the same as that of the porch, namely, twenty cubits square. It contained the Ark of the Covenant, which had been transferred into it from the Tabernacle, with its overshadowing Cherubim and its Mercy-Seat. Into the most sacred place, the High Priest alone could enter, and that only once a year, on the Day of Atonement.

The Temple, thus constructed, must have been one of the most magnificent Structures of the ancient world. For its erection, David had collected more than four thousand millions of dollars, by Doctor Mackey's computation, and one hundred and eighty-four thousand, six hundred men were engaged on the building for more than seven years; and on its completion it was dedicated by Solomon with solemn prayer and seven days of feasting; during which a peace-offering of twenty thousand oxen and six times that number of sheep was made, to consume which the holy fire came down from heaven.

In Freemasonry, the Temple of Solomon has played a most important part. Time was when every Masonic writer subscribed with unhesitating faith to the theory that freemasonry was there first organized; that there Solomon, Hiram of Tyre, and Hiram Abif presided as Grand Masters over the Lodges which they had established; that there the Symbolic Degrees were instituted and systems of initiation were invented; and that from that period to the present Freemasonry has passed down the stream of Time in unbroken succession and unaltered form. But the modern method of reading Masonic history has swept away this edifice of imagination with as unsparing a hand, and as effectual a power, as those with which the Babylonian King demolished the structure upon which they are founded. No writer who values his reputation as a critical historian would now attempt to defend this theory. Yet it has done its work.

During the long period in which the hypothesis was accepted as a fact, its influence was being exerted in molding the Masonic organizations into a form closely connected with all the events and characteristics of the Solomonic Temple. So that now almost all the Symbolism of Freemasonry rests upon or is derived from the House of the Lord at Jerusalem. So closely are the two connected, that to attempt to separate the one from the other would be fatal to the further existence of Freemasonry. Each Lodge is and must be a symbol of the Jewish Temple, each Master in the chair representing the Jewish King, and every Freemason a personation of the Jewish Workman.

Thus must it ever be while Freemasonry endures. We must receive the myths and legends that Connect it with the Temple, not indeed as historic facts, but as allegories; not as events that have really transpired, but as symbols; and must accept these allegories and these symbols for what their inventors really meant that they should be--the foundation of a Science of morality. The Subject of King Solomon's Temple and particularly the foundation chamber of this Structure is discussed by Brother W. J Chetsvode Crawley (pages 244, voluble xxiv, 1911, Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge) from which we have made the following extracts:

The version and legend of the Royal Arch authorized by the Supreme Grand Chapter of England today differs widely from the corresponding version authorized by the Supreme Grand Chapter of Ireland. The two versions are identical in purport and dogma, and to a certain extent similar in method. But there the resemblance ceases. It would be impossible for an English Royal Arch Mason to work his way into an Irish Chapter, or conversely, without other unmistakable credentials The episodes, on which the legends are severally founded, are quite distinct, each from the other. The English version refers to the building of the second temple by Zerubbabel: the Irish version to the repairing of the Temple of Solomon by King Josiah. The nomenclature of dramatis personae of the two versions are dissimilar. So far as the present writer is aware, the names of the three presiding officers of the English version were never heard in an Irish Royal Arch Chapter, save during the ill-devised and conspicuously unsuccessful attempt to introduce the English version into Dublin Chapters, which lasted intermittently from 1829 to 1859. If indeed the Irish version were held to be a survival of the original idea of Doctor Anderson's " well built Arch," and the English legend admitted to be a competing legend of later construction, many historical difficulties would disappear. Our American Royal Arch Masons, who derive their origin from the Strand Lodge of the Ancient, would find the hypothesis especially helpful in regard to the introduction and development of the Cryptic Degrees, which would in their turn await an easy birth in the preliminary stages of the Irish ritual.

In the Irish legend the carefully Selected articles that bear the burden of the tale require an adequate reason for their deposition, no less than for their discovers. In this respect, enlightenment has come from an unexpected quarter.

In the 1910 volume of the Memoires of the Academie des Inscriptions appears a noteworthily paper by Dr. Edouard Naville, summarized in the Midsummer number of the Athenaeum for 1910, on La Dcourerte de la Loi sous le Roi Josias, meaning the discovery of the law under King .Josiah, in which the illustrious writer sets up a comparatively new theory respecting the deposit discovered in the temple at Jerusalem by "Hilkiah the High Priest," which has been generally assumed to have been the book of Deuterononly M. Naville contends that this was really a foundation deposit, and he quotes many instances--both from the rubries of the Book of the Dead and from excavations like those of M. de Morgan at Dahchur--of similar deposits, made either in a Specially prepared loculus in or under the walls of a building, or at the base of the statue of a god. He goes on to discuss the probable nature of the document itself, and comes to the conclusion that it Was a summary of the Mosaic law by analogy with the similar So-called chapters of the Book of the Dead, and that it was contemporaneous with the foundation of the Temple of Solomon.

This would make it a good deal earlier than the dates assigned to it by modern critics, among whom Doctor Driver puts its composition in the reign of Manasseh: and Professor Westphal the reign earlier under Hezekiah, while Professors Wellhausen and Kuenen will have it to be a forgery made ad hoc by some one in Josiah's confidence. Doctor Naville is also of the opinion that the document must have been written in cruciform characters, and thinks that the same might be said for the other Mosaic books, Moses, as an educated Egyptian, being according to him quite competent to use the cuneiform script which under the Eighteenth Dynasty was current throughout western Asia. He thinks, however, that the language used was even then Hebrew, and he mentions incidentally that the name Moses or Moshah may be the Egyptian word Mesu, signifying infant, as the biblical Succoth is certainly the Egyptian Thuket or Thukot. She kind of polyglot pawn whereby the Hebrew scribes made the first of these names into a word meaning drawn out and the second into tents, accords very well with other national characteristics as noted by Plutarch and others.

Doctor Naville's essay almost brings the Irish version of the Royal Arch legend within the possibilities of history. If--much virtue in an if--the principle of the Arch were known to the master builders of King Solomon's temple, what more natural than that they should use Doctor Anderson s well built Arch for the preservation of the sacred deposit? The case for the Irish legend is so simple, the inference so obvious, that the enthusiastic student who relies on tradition may be tempted to belittle the initiate historical difficulty of showing that the principle of the Arch was known to our master builders, or indeed to any builders of that date. Be that as it may the alternative version has no such incident as that recorded in Chronicles to fall back upon, nor does it gain any fresh support from Doctor Edouard Naville's learned labors.

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