First used of the tabernacle, which is called "the temple of the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:9). In the New Testament the word is used figuratively of Christ's human body (John 2:19, 21). Believers are called "the temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17). The Church is designated "an holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:21). Heaven is also called a temple (Revelation 7:5). We read also of the heathen "temple of the great goddess Diana" (Acts 19:27).
This word is generally used in Scripture of the sacred house erected on the summit of Mount Moriah for the worship of God. It is called "the temple" (1 Kings 6:17); "the temple [R.V., 'house'] of the Lord" (2 Kings 11:10); "thy holy temple" (Psalm 79:1); "the house of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 23:5, 12); "the house of the God of Jacob" (Isaiah 2:3); "the house of my glory" (60:7); an "house of prayer" (56:7; Matthew 21:13); "an house of sacrifice" (2 Chronicles 7:12); "the house of their sanctuary" (2 Chronicles 36:17); "the mountain of the Lord's house" (Isaiah 2:2); "our holy and our beautiful house" (64:11); "the holy mount" (27:13); "the palace for the Lord God" (1 Chronicles 29:1); "the tabernacle of witness" (2 Chronicles 24:6); "Zion" (Psalm 74:2; 84:7). Christ calls it "my Father's house" (John 2:16).
The temple erected by the exiles on their return from Babylon had stood for about five hundred years, when Herod the Great became king of Judea. The building had suffered considerably from natural decay as well as from the assaults of hostile armies, and Herod, desirous of gaining the favour of the Jews, proposed to rebuild it. This offer was accepted, and the work was begun (B.C. 18), and carried out at great labour and expense, and on a scale of surpassing splendour. The main part of the building was completed in ten years, but the erection of the outer courts and the embellishment of the whole were carried on during the entire period of our Lord's life on earth (John 2:16, 19-21), and the temple was completed only A.D. 65. But it was not long permitted to exist. Within forty years after our Lord's crucifixion, his prediction of its overthrow was accomplished (Luke 19: 41-44). The Roman legions took the city of Jerusalem by storm, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts Titus made to preserve the temple, his soldiers set fire to it in several places, and it was utterly destroyed (A.D. 70), and was never rebuilt.
Several remains of Herod's stately temple have by recent explorations been brought to light. It had two courts, one intended for the Israelites only, and the other, a large outer court, called "the court of the Gentiles," intended for the use of strangers of all nations. These two courts were separated by a low wall, as Josephus states, some 4 1/2 feet high, with thirteen openings. Along the top of this dividing wall, at regular intervals, were placed pillars bearing in Greek an inscription to the effect that no stranger was, on the pain of death, to pass from the court of the Gentiles into that of the Jews. At the entrance to a graveyard at the north-western angle of the Haram wall, a stone was discovered by M. Ganneau in 1871, built into the wall, bearing the following inscription in Greek capitals: "No stranger is to enter within the partition wall and enclosure around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be responsible to himself for his death, which will ensue."
There can be no doubt that the stone thus discovered was one of those originally placed on the boundary wall which separated the Jews from the Gentiles, of which Josephus speaks.
It is of importance to notice that the word rendered "sanctuary" in the inscription was used in a specific sense of the inner court, the court of the Israelites, and is the word rendered "temple" in John 2:15 andActs 21:28, 29. When Paul speaks of the middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14), he probably makes allusion to this dividing wall. Within this partition wall stood the temple proper, consisting of, (1) the court of the women, 8 feet higher than the outer court; (2) 10 feet higher than this court was the court of Israel; (3) the court of the priests, again 3 feet higher; and lastly (4) the temple floor, 8 feet above that; thus in all 29 feet above the level of the outer court.
The summit of Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood, is now occupied by the Haram esh-Sherif, i.e., "the sacred enclosure." This enclosure is about 1,500 feet from north to south, with a breadth of about 1,000 feet, covering in all a space of about 35 acres. About the centre of the enclosure is a raised platform, 16 feet above the surrounding space, and paved with large stone slabs, on which stands the Mohammedan mosque called Kubbet es-Sahkra i.e., the "Dome of the Rock," or the Mosque of Omar. This mosque covers the site of Solomon's temple. In the centre of the dome there is a bare, projecting rock, the highest part of Moriah (q.v.), measuring 60 feet by 40, standing 6 feet above the floor of the mosque, called the sahkra, i.e., "rock." Over this rock the altar of burnt-offerings stood. It was the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. The exact position on this "sacred enclosure" which the temple occupied has not been yet definitely ascertained. Some affirm that Herod's temple covered the site of Solomon's temple and palace, and in addition enclosed a square of 300 feet at the south-western angle. The temple courts thus are supposed to have occupied the southern portion of the "enclosure," forming in all a square of more than 900 feet. It is argued by others that Herod's temple occupied a square of 600 feet at the south-west of the "enclosure."
Before his death David had "with all his might" provided materials in great abundance for the building of the temple on the summit of Mount Moriah (1 Chronicles 22:14; 29:4; 2 Chronicles 3:1), on the east of the city, on the spot where Abraham had offered up Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14). In the beginning of his reign Solomon set about giving effect to the desire that had been so earnestly cherished by his father, and prepared additional materials for the building. From subterranean quarries at Jerusalem he obtained huge blocks of stone for the foundations and walls of the temple. These stones were prepared for their places in the building under the eye of Tyrian master-builders. He also entered into a compact with Hiram II., king of Tyre, for the supply of whatever else was needed for the work, particularly timber from the forests of Lebanon, which was brought in great rafts by the sea to Joppa, whence it was dragged to Jerusalem (1 Kings 5). As the hill on which the temple was to be built did not afford sufficient level space, a huge wall of solid masonry of great height, in some places more than 200 feet high, was raised across the south of the hill, and a similar wall on the eastern side, and in the spaces between were erected many arches and pillars, thus raising up the general surface to the required level. Solomon also provided for a sufficient water supply for the temple by hewing in the rocky hill vast cisterns, into which water was conveyed by channels from the "pools" near Bethlehem. One of these cisterns, the "great sea," was capable of containing three millions of gallons. The overflow was led off by a conduit to the Kidron.
In all these preparatory undertakings a space of about three years was occupied; and now the process of the erection of the great building began, under the direction of skilled Phoenician builders and workmen, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign, 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 3). Many thousands of labourers and skilled artisans were employed in the work. Stones prepared in the quarries underneath the city (1 Kings 5:17, 18) of huge dimension (see QUARRIES) were gradually placed on the massive walls, and closely fitted together without any mortar between, till the whole structure was completed. No sound of hammer or axe or any tool of iron was heard as the structure arose (6:7). "Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprang." The building was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The engineers of the Palestine Exploration Fund, in their explorations around the temple area, discovered what is believed to have been the "chief corner stone" of the temple, "the most interesting stone in the world." It lies at the bottom of the south-eastern angle, and is 3 feet 8 inches high by 14 feet long. It rests on the solid rock at a depth of 79 feet 3 inches below the present surface. (see PINNACLE.) In examining the walls the engineers were "struck with admiration at the vastness of the blocks and the general excellence of the workmanship."
At length, in the autumn of the eleventh year of his reign, seven and a half years after it had been begun, the temple was completed in all its architectural magnificence and beauty. For thirteen years there it stood, on the summit of Moriah, silent and unused. The reasons for this strange delay in its consecration are unknown. At the close of these thirteen years preparations for the dedication of the temple were made on a scale of the greatest magnificence. The ark was solemnly brought from the tent in which David had deposited it to the place prepared for it in the temple, and the glory-cloud, the symbol of the divine presence, filled the house. Then Solomon ascended a platform which had been erected for him, in the sight of all the people, and lifting up his hands to heaven poured out his heart to God in prayer (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6, 7). The feast of dedication, which lasted seven days, followed by the feast of tabernacles, Marked a new era in the history of Israel. On the eighth day of the feast of tabernacles, Solomon dismissed the vast assemblage of the people, who returned to their homes filled with joy and gladness, "Had Solomon done no other service beyond the building of the temple, he would still have influenced the religious life of his people down to the latest days. It was to them a perpetual reminder and visible symbol of God's presence and protection, a strong bulwark of all the sacred traditions of the law, a witness to duty, an impulse to historic study, an inspiration of sacred song."
The temple consisted of,
(1.) The oracle or most holy place (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6), called also the "inner house" (6:27), and the "holiest of all" (Hebrews 9:3). It was 20 cubits in length, breadth, and height. It was floored and wainscotted with cedar (1 Kings 6:16), and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold (6:20, 21, 30). There was a two-leaved door between it and the holy place overlaid with gold (2 Chronicles 4:22); also a veil of blue purple and crimson and fine linen (2 Chronicles 3:14; Comp. Exodus 26:33). It had no windows (1 Kings 8:12). It was indeed the dwelling-place of God.
(2.) The holy place (q.v.), 1 Kings 8:8-10, called also the "greater house" (2 Chronicles 3:5) and the "temple" (1 Kings 6:17).
(3.) The porch or entrance before the temple on the east (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chronicles 3:4; 29:7). In the porch stood the two pillars Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3).
(4.) The chambers, which were built about the temple on the southern, western, and northern sides (1 Kings 6:5-10). These formed a part of the building.
Round about the building were,
(1.) The court of the priests (2 Chronicles 4:9), called the "inner court" (1 Kings 6:36). It contained the altar of burnt-offering (2 Chronicles 15:8), the brazen sea (4:2-5, 10), and ten lavers (1 Kings 7:38, 39).
(2.) The great court, which surrounded the whole temple (2 Chronicles 4:9). Here the people assembled to worship God (Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2).
This temple erected by Solomon was many times pillaged during the course of its history, (1) 1 Kings 14:25, 26; (2) 2 Kings 14:14; (3) 2 Kings 16:8, 17, 18; (4) 2 Kings 18:15, 16. At last it was pillaged and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chronicles 36:7). He burned the temple, and carried all its treasures with him to Babylon (2 Kings 25:9-17; 2 Chronicles 36:19; Isaiah 64:11). These sacred vessels were at length, at the close of the Captivity, restored to the Jews by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7-11).
Temple, the Second
After the return from captivity, under Zerubbabel (q.v.) and the high priest Jeshua, arrangements were almost immediately made to reorganize the long-desolated kingdom. The body of pilgrims, forming a band of 42,360, including children, having completed the long and dreary journey of some four months, from the banks of the Euphrates to Jerusalem, were animated in all their proceeding by a strong religious impulse, and therefore one of their first cares was to restore their ancient worship by rebuilding the temple. On the invitation of Zerubbabel, the governor, who showed them a remarkable example of liberality by contributing personally 1,000 golden darics (probably about 6,000 dollars), besides other gifts, the people with great enthusiasm poured their gifts into the sacred treasury (Ezra 2). First they erected and dedicated the altar of Jehovah on the exact spot where it had formerly stood, and they then cleared away the charred heaps of debris which occupied the site of the old temple; and in the second month of the second year (B.C. 535), amid great public excitement and rejoicing (Psalm 116; 117; 118), the foundations of the second temple were laid. A wide interest was felt in this great movement, although it was regarded with mingled feelings by the spectators (Haggai 2:3; Zechariah 4:10). The Samaritans made proposals for a co-operation in the work. Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the elders, however, declined all such cooperation: Judah must build the temple without help. Immediately evil reports were spread regarding the Jews. The Samaritans sought to "frustrate their purpose" (Ezra 4:5), and sent messengers to Ecbatana and Susa, with the result that the work was suspended. Seven years after this Cyrus died ingloriously, having killed himself in Syria when on his way back from Egypt to the east, and was succeeded by his son Cambyses (B.C. 529-522), on whose death the "false Smerdis," an imposter, occupied the throne for some seven or eight months, and then Darius Hystaspes became king (B.C. 522). In the second year of this monarch the work of rebuilding the temple was resumed and carried forward to its completion (Ezra 5: 6-17; 6:1-15), under the stimulus of the earnest counsels and admonitions of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. It was ready for consecration in the spring of B.C. 516, twenty years after the return from captivity.
This second temple had not the ark, the Urim and Thummim, the holy oil, the sacred fire, the tables of stone, the pot of manna, and Aaron's rod. As in the tabernacle, there was in it only one golden lamp for the holy place, one table of shewbread, and the incense altar, with golden censers, and many of the vessels of gold that had belonged to Solomon's temple that had been carried to Babylon but restored by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7-11).
This second temple also differed from the first in that, while in the latter there were numerous "trees planted in the courts of the Lord," there were none in the former. The second temple also had for the first time a space, being a part of the outer court, provided for proselytes who were worshippers of Jehovah, although not subject to the laws of Judaism.
The temple, when completed, was consecrated amid great rejoicings on the part of all the people (Ezra 6:16), although there were not wanting outward evidences that the Jews were no longer an independent people, but were subject to a foreign power.
Haggai 2:9 is rightly rendered in the Revised Version, "The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former," instead of, "The glory of this latter house," etc., in the Authorized Version. The temple, during the different periods of its existence, is regarded as but one house, the one only house of God (Comp. 2:3). The glory here predicted is spiritual glory and not material splendour. "Christ himself, present bodily in the temple on Mount Zion during his life on earth, present spiritually in the Church now, present in the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, of which he is the temple, calling forth spiritual worship and devotion is the glory here predicted" (Perowne).