Building of the Temple of Jerusalem Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The temple built at Jerusalem and dedicated exclusively to Yahweh became the religious and national center for Judaism for nearly one thousand years.

Summary of Event

Scripture states that David consulted the prophet Nathan about building a temple to Yahweh, presumably as an offering in gratitude for his successes and as an adornment for his new capital at Jerusalem. Whatever the initial inspiration, Nathan encouraged David’s project, but a later vision revealed to the prophet that although David enjoyed God’s favor, the building of the temple would be reserved for a descendant of his house. David Nathan Solomon

The temple was built under Solomon, who, through a commercial alliance, employed architects from Tyre (now in south Lebanon) and imported the famous cedars of Lebanon in its construction. According to Scripture, the dedication ceremonies featured special sacrifices and an address by Solomon. The temple played a dominant role in the religious and national life of Judaism, and the religion’s followers saw it as an assurance of God’s abiding presence among his Chosen People.

xlink:href="Kings_Israel.tif"

alt-version="no"

position="float"

xlink:type="simple"/>

The site of the temple, on Mount Zion in eastern Jerusalem, was chosen by Solomon because it was a holy place, connected by tradition with the threshing floor of Araunah. The temple itself was modest in size, smaller than the palace Solomon built for himself; many consider it basically a royal chapel attached to the palace. Wrought exquisitely in traditional Phoenician architectural style, the new shrine was rectangular in shape, composed of three chambers, and faced over its entire width with a porch or vestibule. Temples of similar design have been unearthed in Syria and at Hazor in Galilee (in northern Israel). As with all ancient places of worship, the sanctuary provided no seats because there were no specified requirements for indoor worship. Although the courtyard was used for the celebration of great national festivals, the main function of the edifice was to provide a venerable place for the offering of sacrifices.

The erection of the temple may be interpreted as part of Solomon’s campaign to centralize his government and reinforce his larger program of administrative changes. He intended to establish new governmental districts cutting across old tribal boundaries, a plan designed to encourage centralization of power in the city of Jerusalem by breaking down tribal loyalties and other competing outlying vested centers of power. Solomon’s building of a central sanctuary in Jerusalem could have facilitated such a program of organization, but the temple probably was not significant in this respect before the reign of Josiah in the seventh century b.c.e. The temple’s influence became so decisive, however, that foreign conquerors always regarded the Jewish polity as a temple-state.

Significance

The Deuteronomic authors who later centered about the temple glorified Solomon for his role in constructing the shrine, although at the time of its building, it seems to have introduced no significant revolution in religious belief or practice. Syncretism was still much in evidence, and many local high places of cult worship and sacrifice, such as those at Hebron (now in Jordan) and Bethel (in Israel-occupied Jordan), continued to function during Solomon’s reign. With the reforms of Josiah, the temple at Jerusalem finally became the sole center of worship. As the edifice gradually grew in importance under the Deuteronomists, Solomon grew correspondingly famous as its designer and builder, despite the idolatrous practices that he allowed to remain in vogue during his rule.

The major cultist innovation of the Deuteronomists was the centralization of worship at Jerusalem. They believed that the unity of God must be mirrored in unity of worship, that a multiplicity of sanctuaries corrupted the worship of God by associating it with a polytheistic paganism that worshiped in many temples nestled in high places. This centralizing reform around the temple was, in turn, a direct stepping-stone to the pure ethical monotheism of the eighth century b.c.e. prophet Isaiah, who enunciated clearly that there was only one god: Yahweh. Within the framework of his single temple, his central sanctuary, Yahweh became the single god for Israel. His temple became a concrete expression of his uniqueness. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times until it was demolished along with much of Jerusalem in 70 c.e.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Backhouse, Robert. The Kregel Pictorial Guide to the Temple. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1996. A pictorial presentation of the temple and its architecture.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berman, Joshua. The Temple: Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now. Northvale, N.J.: J. Aronson, 1995. Berman looks at the history of the temple, emphasizing its significance over the years. Bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hayward, C. T. R., ed. The Jewish Temple: A Nonbiblical Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 1996. A history of the temple at Jerusalem that concentrates on nonbiblical sources, particularly the Greek historians. Bibliography and indexes.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McCormick, Clifford Mark. Palace and Temple: A Study of Architectural and Verbal Icons. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2002. A study that compares and contrasts the temple of Jerusalem and the palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh. Bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schwartz, Max. The Biblical Engineer: How the Temple in Jerusalem Was Built. Hoboken, N.J.: KTAV, 2002. Schwartz describes the construction of the temple, adding to his discussion with his own illustrations. Bibliography and index.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: Ancient World</i>

David; Solomon. Jerusalem, Temple of;building of

Categories: History Content