This line from 18" Ritual alludes to an occurrence referred to in each of the synoptic gospels.


The temple built at Jerusalem by Solomon is central to the Ritual of Craft Masonry. The second Temple the restoration carried out by Zerubbabel is in the Royal Arch system and is dealt with in the 15° and 16° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. The third Temple, the most imposing and magnificent of the three was erected by Herod: it was also to have the shortest life being razed by the Romans under Titus in A.D.70.
 It was in Herod's Temple that the veil was rent in twain.


Why did the Temple erected by Solomon take the form that it did, who chose the site and why was Jerusalem, a city now sacred to three of the great religions of the world, Jew, Christian and Muslim selected as the place in which it should be built.


Prior to the erection of Solomon's Temple Shiloh was the central sanctuary of the Jews. The young Samuel grew up there under the tutelage of Eli the High Priest. There the Ark of the Covenant was located in a Tabernacle. In Exodus we find a description of the Tabernacle, a tent made from the skins of rams and goats. The Tabernacle and its outer court consisted of a frame constructed with acacia wood covered with curtains of richly decorated linen. In the nomadic days of the Jews it would doubtless have been capable of being dismantled and moved from place to place. A veil of fine linen separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle and in this sanctum sanctorum the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Solomon's Temple was erected about three (3) centuries after the Exodus. There are two schools of thought concerning the design of the Temple: one is that the Tabernacle was the prototype for the Temple, the other that the description in the Book of Exodus is based on the recollections of old men of the destroyed Temple after the return from Babylon.


For a brief time under David and then under Solomon the kingdom of Israel was united. Initially David's capital was in Hebron but when in the eighth year of his reign his army commander Joab captured the Jebusite city of Jerusalem he decided because of its strategic importance to move his political capital from Hebron to Jerusalem. He decided also to make Jerusalem the religious centre of the kingdom by moving to it the Ark of the Covenant which had been recovered from the Philistines (The first book of Samuel records how glad the Philistines were to be rid of it).


On the advice of the prophet GAD, David bought the site for the Temple, a threshing floor from the farmer Aranauh for fifty skehels of silver (the skehel was originally a unit of weight equivalent to eleven ounces of silver). David's reason for not building the Temple himself are given in Chronicles 28:2-3.

"Hear me, my brethren and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God; and I made preparations for the building. But God said to me "Thou shalt not build an house for my name, thou hast been a man of war and has shed blood".

The remainder of 1 Chronicles 2 lists ornaments and furniture passed on by David to Solomon for the decoration of the Temple. He also gave him the plan (pattern) of the various component parts of the building.


Solomon reigned from 970 B.C. to 931 B.C. Although the Temple was not large, fifty (50) metres long, twenty five metres wide and fifty (50) metres high it took seven (7) years to build. It was not built as a place of assembly, it was primarily God's house. The walls were of block stone, richly decorated externally and paneled internally with finely carved cedar overlaid with gold. The floor was of cypress timber.


Visitors to the building could not have failed to be impressed by the exterior bronze works which were doubtless the work of Phoenician craftsmen made available by Hiram, King of Tyre.


The most conspicuous were the two huge hollow bronze columns, Boaz and Jachin, which stood at the entrance to the Temple and which with their decorated capitals were nearly forty feet high and six feet in diameter (in the British Museum there is a colonette found at Biblos which may well have been the model for Boaz and Jachin; it dates from the twelfth century B.C.).


The molten sea was a great bronze bowl over sixteen (16) feet in diameter estimated to have held about 16,000 gallons of water. It stood on the backs of twelve (12) bronze oxen in four groups of three facing the cardinal points of the compass. Its estimated weight was thirty tons. Near it were ten (10) lavers each on an elaborate stand on wheels for the ceremonial ablutions of the priests.

The main sacrificial altar stood in the courtyard facing the entrance. It was constructed of four tiers and lowest being thirty three (33) feet square and was plated with bronze. The top tier had horns at its four corners. The practice of a fugitive from justice being able to claim sanctuary in a church possibly dated from this time as a fugitive from justice could claim sanctuary by grasping the horns.

In the Tabernacle there had been a golden lamp, a seven flame menorah with a table of shrewbread nearby. These were placed in the sanctuary. Also in the sanctuary near the approach to the Holy of Holies was a small incense altar of gold and cedar wood.

In 587 B.C. the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. The bronze works were broken up and carted off. The ornaments, furniture and jewels were taken off as booty. Jerusalem was mostly reduced to rubble. In accordance with the policy and practice of the Babylonians in removing conquered peoples from their homelands and placing them elsewhere the bulk of the population was taken into exile.

Cyrus the Persian revolted against Babylon and in 539 B.C. took Babylon which collapsed like a pack of cards. Persian policy was the antithesis of Assyrian and Babylonian practice. Cyrus fostered a policy of national identities and religious cults within the Persian Empire. In 538 B.C. he issued a decree authorising the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the re-erection of the Temple.

Flavius Josephus suggests that Cyrus might have been influenced to approve of the return of the Jews by reading Second Isiah. A more pragmatic suggestion is that his soldierly eye perceived the strategic importance of Israel. Six (6) centuries later Imperial Rome was to follow his precedent, as was Imperial Britain twenty (20) centuries later.

Cyrus died in 529 B.C.; he was eventually succeeded by Darius in 520 B.C. Darius confirmed the edict of Cyrus and the work on the building proceeded. The second Temple was completed in 515 B.C.

We must now skip five (5) centuries and come to one of the most interesting characters in Jewish history, Herod the Great who was arguably the best king the Jews had after Solomon, Jewish opinion to the contrary. We must also skip a discussion on the period when Roman and Jewish history were intertwined and hope that at some future time some member of the Order might be persuaded to deliver a paper dealing with such names as Antipater, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Brutus, Herod the Great, Cassius, Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra et al.

For the purpose of this talk it is sufficient to note the novel way in which Herod the Great became king of Israel. He simply went to Rome, petitioned the Senate and was appointed King of Israel. Not a very popular appointment so far as the Jews were concerned.

In order to overcome his lack of popularity with the Jews Herod embarked upon the building program, which was to earn him the title of "The Great". The concept of a new and much more grandiose Temple than that which had been erected by Zerubbel was not part of his early building programme. The second Temple though similar in size to Solomon's Temple had none of the adornment of the original and was simpler and more austere. It's importance was as a focus of faith and identity for the Jews of the Diaspora. Herod set about persuading the Sanhedrin to allow him to demolish the second Temple and to replace it with a much more lavish building. Approval to demolish was finally given subject to the completion of the new building.

Herod commenced building the third Temple in 20 B.C. The
Temple itself was completed in eighteen months although ancillary
works were still under construction when Herod died in 4 B.C.

Time does not permit a detailed discussion of the third Temple nor of the short period from its construction to its destruction by the Romans under Titus in A.D. 70
For the present it is sufficient to note that in A.D. 64 the Jews revolted against Rome. A.D. 64 to A.D. 70 was one of the few brief periods until 1948 when Israel was free.

A band of Zealots under the leadership of Menachem first captured Masada by overwhelming the small Roman garrison by surprise. Subsequently they entered Jerusalem, where they bottled up the remaining Roman soldiers in the citadel. The Romans surrendered on condition that they would be allowed to leave but were murdered immediately they laid down their arms.

Naturally Rome did not take kindly to this and subsequent action. In A.D. 66 Nero placed one of his top generals Vespasian in command of a force to regain control. When Nero was assassinated in A.D. 68 Vespasian returned to Rome to become Emperor leaving the task of subduing the Jews to his son Titus whose army numbered 80,000 men compared with the Jewish fighters who numbered 25,000. The tenth legion marched up from Jericho in the east, the twelfth legion approached from the west and the fifth and fifteenth from the north. The Roman strategy was simple, Jerusalem was isolated. Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus both record that Titus had no desire to destroy the Temple but the Jews having fortified it and defended it so fanatically the Romans finally had little choice. It was destroyed by fire and the remnants of the Jewish garrison with it.


Since the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel, in breach of all International Law and all United Nations Resolutions, captured Temple Mount of the there have been extensive archaeological excavations under the direction of Professor Binjamin Mazar. There is no doubt that modern day Israelis believe that Shechinah, the spirit of the Lord still resides there (see Psalm 132:13-14).




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