The Bible refers to many temples; the tabernacle in the wilderness was called “the temple of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 1:9) The Lord’s body is called a temple, (John 2:19,21) as is the bodies of believers today. (1 Co. 3:16,17) The Church is “an holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph. 2:21) There is a temple in heaven, (Rev. 16:17) and we read also of heathen temples. (Acts 19:27)
This booklet will major on the sacred house erected on the summit of mount Moriah. (1 Kings 6:17) It was called the “House of the Lord.” (2 Kings 11:10) “Thy holy temple.” (Ps. 79:1) “The house of the God of Jacob.” (Is. 2:3) “The house of my glory.” (Is. 60:7) “House of prayer.” (Is. 56:7) “House of sacrifice.” (2 Ch. 7:12) “The house of their sanctuary.” (2 Ch. 36:17) “Our holy and our beautiful house.” (Is. 64:11) “The palace for the Lord God.” (1 Ch. 29:1) “The tabernacle of witness,” (2 Ch. 24:6) and “Zion” (Ps. 74:2; 84:7)
Jehovah’s first temple was portable. It was conspicuously and unattractively covered with animal skins, but the beautiful interior curtains and the overall framework was the forerunner of the temple which was built by Solomon 480 years later.
This dwelling-place, (Mishkan) which Moses erected according to the pattern revealed to him on the mount, (Ex. 25:9; Heb 8:5) was where God promised to meet with Israel. (Ex. 29:42) It was a rectangular enclosure, five by fourteen meters. Its two sides and its western end were made of boards of acacia wood, placed on end, resting in sockets of brass. (Ex. 26:15-30)
This framework was covered with four coverings, the first of linen, in which figures of cherubim were shaped with needlework in blue and purple and scarlet threads, and probably also with threads of gold (Ex. 26:1-6; 36:8-13)
Above this was a second covering of twelve curtains of black goats hair cloth, reaching almost to the ground (Ex. 26:7-11) A third covering was of rams skins dyed red, and the fourth was of badgers or seal skins. (Ex. 25:5; 26:14; 35:7,23; 36:19; 39:34)
Internally it was divided by a veil into two chambers, the holy place, or the first tabernacle (Heb 9:2,6) and the holy of holies, or the second tabernacle. (Heb 9:3,7) The veil separating these two rooms was a double curtain of the finest workmanship, which was never passed except by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. The holy place was the larger chamber of the tabernacle. Here were placed the table for the showbread, the golden candlestick, and the golden altar of incense. Round about the tabernacle was a court, enclosed by curtains hung upon sixty pillars. (Ex. 27:9-18) This court was twenty-six by fifty-one meters. Where were placed the altar of burnt offering, and a laver of brass. (Ex. 30:18) of which, unlike every other item, no measurements is given.
The tabernacle was completed in seven months. Its great cost of gold, silver, and brass, (Ex. 38:24-31) was according to wages earned by Israel while in Egypt. It was so constructed that it could be taken down and transported during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.
The first encampment of the Israelites after entering the Promised Land was at Gilgal, there the tabernacle remained for seven years. (Josh. 4:19) It was afterwards removed to Shiloh (Josh. 18:1) where it remained during the time of the Judges, and the days of Eli. It was then taken to Nob (1 Sam 21:1) and after the destruction of that city by Saul, (1 Sam 22:9; 1 Ch. 16:39,40) to Gibeon. It is mentioned for the last time in 1 Ch. 21:29.
A new tabernacle was erected by David at Jerusalem, (2 Sam. 6:17; 1 Ch. 16:1) and the ark was brought from Perez-uzzah and stored there until the building of the temple. (2 Sam. 6:8-17; 2 Ch. 1:4)
It is still known as the “city of God, or the “holy city.” Two other names; “possession of peace” and “foundation of peace” may refer to the two mountains on which Jerusalem was built, Zion and Moriah. It is clear that Jerusalem is a mountain city, (Ps. 68:15,16; 87:1; 125:2) it stands on the edge of one of the highest tablelands in Palestine. It is first mentioned in Scripture under the name Salem. (Ge. 14:18; Ps. 76:2) David drove out the Jebusites, and Salem later became known as the city of David. (2 Sam. 5:5-9; 1 Ch. 11:4-8) Here David built an altar to the Lord on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, (2 Sam. 24:15-25) and Jerusalem later became the capital of Israel. Solomon strengthened and adorned the city, and it became the centre of all civil and religious affairs of the nation. (De. 12:5; 12:14; 14:23; 16:11-16)
In B. C. 588, after a siege of three years, Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, its temple and palaces consumed by fire. (2 Kings 25:1; Jer 39:1) About the year B.C. 536 some streets and walls were rebuilt, in troublesome times, (Dan. 9:16,19,25) after Babylon’s captivity of seventy years. (Ezra 1:2,3,5-11) But it was to suffer destruction again in A.D. 70. In A.D. 131 the emperor Hadrian rebuilt and fortified the city. The Jews, however, revolted against the Romans and took possession of the city, having risen under the leadership of Bar-Chohaba. In A.D. 135 they were driven out with a great slaughter, and the city was again destroyed. A Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, was then built and remained until the Muslims took the city, and changed its name to “el-Khuds”, or “the holy.” In A.D. 326 Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the view of discovering the places mentioned in the Lord’s life. Constantine, animated by her example, searched for the Holy Sepulchre, and built over the supposed site a magnificent building, which was completed and dedicated in A.D. 335. He encouraged the practice of Christianity and also relaxed the laws against the Jews and permitted them to visit the city and the sacred site of their temple. In A.D. 614 the Persians, after defeating the Roman forces of Heraclius, took Jerusalem and retained it until A.D. 637 when it was then taken by the Arabians under the Khalif Omar. It remained in their possession until A.D. 960 and then fell under the dominion of the Fatimite khalifs of Egypt. In A.D. 1073 it was taken by the Turcomans, and in A.D. 1099 the crusader Godfrey of Bouillon took the city from the Moslems and was elected king of Jerusalem. He converted the Mosque of Omar into a Christian cathedral. During the next eight-eight years, many churches and convents were erected in the holy city. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt during this period, and it alone remains to this day. In A.D. 1187 the Arabs took the city from the Christians, and for many years, with few intervals, Jerusalem remained in the hands of the Moslems. No city in the world has passed through so many powers, and has had so much influence on world governments.
Modern Jerusalem lies near the summit of a broad mountain-ridge, which extends from the plain of Jezreel, to or near the Mediterranean Sea. It is now a divided city, with ancient walls and many lest ancient buildings. Excavation has settled most of the disputed limits of the temple area, and the old walls have been traced.
The name Zion (or Sion) is a synonym term for Jerusalem, but formally Zion was only the temple hill. In the later books of the Old Testament Zion is often used to mean Jerusalem in general, and also to mean God’s chosen Israel. (Ps. 87:2; 51:18; 87:5; 149:2; Isa. 33:14; Joel 2:1)
In the New Testament Sion is used to mean the church of God, (Heb. 12:22 and the heavenly city. (Rev. 14:1)
Before his death David had “with all his might” provided materials in great abundance for the building of the temple. (1 Ch. 22:14; 29:4) Solomon also, knowing the earnest desire of his father, prepared additional materials for the building. From subterranean quarries near Jerusalem huge blocks of stone for the foundations and walls of the temple were prepared by Tyrian master-builders. Solomon also entered into an agreement with Hiram II, king of Tyre, for the supply of timber from the forests of Lebanon. (1 Kings 5:1-6) As the hill on which the temple was to be built had not sufficient level space, a wall of solid masonry, in some places more than 200 feet high, was raised across the south and eastern side of the hill. Solomon also provided an abundant water supply for the temple by hewing in the rocky hill vast cisterns, into which water was channeled from pools near Bethlehem. One of these cisterns was capable of containing over 13,650 liters. The overflow was led off by a canal to the brook Kidron. Skilled Phoenician builders and workmen, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, 480 years after the Exodus began their work. (1 Kings 6:1; 2 Ch. 3:1) Thousands of laborers and skilled artisans were also employed. Great costly stones (1 Kings 5:17,18) were progressively placed on the massive walls, and closely fitted together without any mortar, till the whole structure was completed.
No sound of hammer or axe or any tool of iron was heard as the structure arose. (1 Kings 6:7) The actual temple, upon the foundation of masonry, was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The engineers of the Palestine Exploration Committee, in their explorations around the temple area, discovered the chief corner stone of the temple. It lies at the bottom of the southeastern corner, and is over one meter wide by four meters long. It rests on solid rock at a depth of about twenty-six meters. In examining the walls the engineers were amazed at the size of the blocks and the general excellence of the workmanship.
In the eleventh year of Solomon’s reign, seven and a half years after it’s beginning, the temple, in all its architectural magnificence and beauty, was completed. For thirteen years it stood on the summit of Moriah, silent and unused. The reasons for this strange delay before its consecration is unknown. At the close of these thirteen years the ark was brought into the temple, and the glory-cloud, the symbol of the divine presence, filled the house. Solomon ascended a platform, and in the sight of all the people, with his hands lifted to heaven, prayed what is maybe the most solemn prayer in Jewish memory. (1 Kings 8:1; 2 Ch. 6:1 to 7:1) The time of dedication lasted seven days, and was followed by the feast of tabernacles. It marked a new era in the history of Israel. The hearts of the people were filled with joy and gladness, and had Solomon done no other service beyond the building of the temple, he would still have influenced Israel as no other King.
The temple was to the people a perpetual reminder and visible symbol of God’s presence and protection, a strong bulwark of all the sacred traditions of the law, and still today, the temple is a motivation to worship, an impulse and inspiration to religious duty.
Like the tabernacle, the temple consisted of the holy, and the most holy place. However, the most holy place is here called the Oracle, (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6) which we will later view in more detail. Unlike the tabernacle, it was floored and walled with cedar, (1 Kings 6:16) and then overlaid with gold. (1 Kings 6:20, 21, 30, 32) Also unlike the tabernacle, there were two folding door between the most holy and the holy place, which was ornamented with palms and cherubim and also overlaid with gold. (2 Ch. 4:22) The veil of blue, purple, crimson and fine linen, (2 Ch. 3:14; Ex. 26:33) was also hung before the two-leaved door. The oracle had no windows, for the Lord said that He must dwell in thick darkness. (1 Kings 8:12)
There were windows near the ceiling of the holy place, (1 Kings 6:4) which was a room about nine by eighteen meters in size. Many priests, according to their time appointed, would minister in this room. The ten golden tables needed a change of bread every seven days, and the ten golden lamps needed trimming and oil. Priests also ministered daily at the golden altar, (Luke 1:9-11) which was placed near the oracle entrance.
Immediately outside the temple was the court of the priests, (2 Ch. 4:9) or the inner court. (1 Kings 6:36) The altar of burnt offering, the brazen sea, and the ten lavers were in this court. (1 Kings 7:38,39; 2 Ch. 4:2-5,10) At a lower level was the great court, which surrounded the whole temple. (2 Ch. 4:9) All Israel would gather here, to worship and to hear the prophets. (Jer. 19:14; 26:2)
The Queen of Sheba
History tells us that queens were known in northern Arabia during the 9th. to the 7th. centuries B.C. Sheba has been identified as one of four ancient spice kingdoms, and was situated at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. This ancient city was 6,000 feet above sea level, and was politically and culturally dominant in southern Arabia during Solomon’s reign. Other excavations revealed that Sheba was very advanced technologically. They surpassed their neighbouring Arabs in wealth and in several other ways. History writes of their elaborate houses, and of their skilful use of silver, gold, ivory and precious stones. Trade outlets for Sheba’s spice wealth were needed, and passage through Israel to trade connections to Phoenicia, Syria and other countries were necessary. Trade routes went as far as Mesopotamia and even to India, connecting overland routes to seaports. The land routes were very important, and much protected.
So the Queen of Sheba went to Jerusalem to negotiate with Solomon who controlled a large portion of these routes. History relates that a system of fortresses along trade route highways were constructed. These garrisons were built on tops of hills, so to view coming caravans, and larger fortresses were built at important crossroads. One main route was from Kadesh-barnea to Arad. Other highways were the way of mount Seir, (De. 1:1,2) the way of the mount of the Amorites (De. 1:19), and the way of the Red Sea. (Ex. 13:18; Nun. 14:25; 21:4; De. 1:40; 2:1) Archaeology also indicates that other cities were headquartering fortresses, including Beer-sheba, and Ezion-Geber. The Queen of Sheba came to “prove Solomon with hard questions”, but she brought a great train with camels, spices, gold, and precious stones. So as she “communed with him of all that was in her heart” (1 Kings 10:2) she also traded with Israel, and probably, trading activity and passage to other trading countries were the main reasons for her visit. (1 Kings 10:10,13)
It is probable that the queen toured the temple courts while in Jerusalem. Her own capital city of Marib, in Sheba, had an oval shaped temple, over 300 ft. long. One inscription found on this temple showed that the Sheba people worshipped the god of the moon. We wonder if her “communing with Solomon of all that was in her heart” included questions about her “moon god” and did Solomon tell her about the Hebrew God.
Sadly, we read that Solomon’s temple was pillaged many times during the course of its history, by Sishak, king of Egypt, (1 Kings 14:25,26) by Jehoash, king of Israel, (2 Kings 14:11-14) by Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria, (2 Kings 16:8,17,18) and by Sennacherib, king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:13) At last it was pillaged and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, (2 Kings 24:11; 2 Ch. 36:7) who burned the temple, and carried all its treasures to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:9-17; 2 Ch. 36:19; Isa. 64:11)
The Rebuilt Temple
After the return from captivity, under Zerubbabel and the high priest Jeshua, arrangements were made to reorganize the long-desolated kingdom. A small band first completed the long journey of four months, from the banks of the Euphrates to Jerusalem. Their strong desire was to restore their ancient worship by rebuilding the temple. Zerubbabel, the governor, encouraged them greatly by contributing personally 1,000 golden darics. The people with great enthusiasm (Ezra 3:3) first erected and dedicated the altar on the exact spot where it had formerly stood. They then cleared away the charred heaps of debris which occupied the site of the first temple; and in the second month of the second year (B.C. 535) amid great excitement and rejoicing, (Ps. 116, 117, 118) the foundation of the second temple was laid. A wide interest was felt in this great movement, although it was regarded with mixed feelings by the spectators. (Hag. 2:3; Zec. 4:10) The Samaritans made proposals for a co-operation in the work, Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the elders however, declined all such collaboration, Judah must build the temple without help. Evil reports were spread regarding the Jews; the Samaritans sought to “frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:5) and sent messengers to Babylon, with the result that the work was suspended. Because of the death of Cyrus, and much political instability, the rebuilding of the temple was stopped until B. C. 524. Darius Hystaspes became king in B.C. 522, and in the second year of his reign, the work under the earnest admonitions of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, was resumed and carried forward to its completion. (Ezra 5:6-17; 6:1-15) This second temple had no ark, no urim or thummim, no holy oil, sacred fire, pot of manna, or Aaron’s rod. As in the tabernacle, there was in it only one golden lamp for the holy place, one table of showbread, and the incense altar. However, many of the vessels of gold, which were stolen from Solomon’s temple, were restored by king Cyrus. (Ezra 1:7-11) Numerous trees were planted in the courts surrounding the second temple; there were none in the first temple. The second temple also had a space or court provided for proselytes who were worshippers of Jehovah. The temple was consecrated in the spring of B.C. 516, 20 years after the return from captivity. (Ezra 6:15)
The temple erected by the exiles on their return from Babylon had stood for about 500 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 favor of the Jews, proposed to rebuild it. This enormous undertaking begun in B.C. 18, and with great labor and expense, was completed in ten years. The building of the outer courts however, and the embellishment of the whole lasted through the entire period of our Lord’s life on earth. (John 2:20) The whole temple was completed only in A.D. 65, but it was not long permitted to exist. 40 years after our Lord’s crucifixion, His prediction of its overthrow was accomplished. (Luke 19:41-44)
The Roman legions entered the city, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts by General Titus to preserve the temple, his soldiers set fire to it, and it was utterly destroyed in A.D. 70, and was never rebuilt.
Several parts of Herod’s temple have by recent explorations been brought to light. It had a definite section for Israelites only, and a larger outer court for strangers of other nations. These two courts were separated by a dividing wall, at regular intervals on this wall, were placed posts bearing an inscription to the effect that no stranger was to pass from the court of the Gentiles into the court of the Jews. In 1871 a stone was discovered near the temple site, bearing the inscription in Greek capitals: “No stranger is to enter within the partition wall and enclosure around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be responsible for his own death.” There can be no doubt that the stone thus discovered was originally placed on the boundary wall, which separated the Jews from the Gentiles. When Paul speaks of the middle wall of partition, (Eph. 2:14) he probably had this dividing wall in mind. It is of importance to notice that the word “sanctuary” in the inscription was used in a specific sense of the inner court, the court of the Israelites, and is the word translated “temple” in some N. T. text. (John 2:15; Acts 21:28,29)
Different floor levels of Herald’s temple were also found. The court of the women was eight feet higher than the outer court, and ten feet higher still was the court of Israel. The court of the priests was three feet higher, and lastly the temple floor was eight feet above that. So in all, twenty-nine feet above the level of the outer court. Although Herod’s temple had these added features which were not in Solomon’s temple, our Lord still called it: “My Father’s House” (John 2:16) The summit of Mount Moriah, is now occupied by Muslims, and called the “the sacred enclosure.” This enclosure is about 1500 by 1000 feet, with a central raised platform, on which stands the Dome of the Rock, or the Mosque of Omar. It is believed that the large brazen altar, or the altar of burnt offerings of Solomon’s temple here stood, and that this was the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
The Wailing Wall
A section of the western wall of the temple is today known as the Wailing Wall. Devoted Jews assemble here every Friday afternoon to pray, to bewail their temple destruction and their sin, which turned the hand of Jehovah against them. (Ps. 79:1,4,5) The stones in this part of the wall are of great size, and believed to be placed in the same position as they were in the time of Solomon. This gathering is most solemn for Israel, remembering how their forefathers sinned and how they were thrust outside of their holy temple by men of an alien race and an alien creed. Many of the elders sit on the ground, with their backs against the wall, and with their faces turned toward heaven, read the Hebrew Scriptures: (Isa. 64:9-12)
We remember that our Lord taught in this temple court during his life on earth, he rebuked the moneychangers and was “eaten up” with zeal for His Father’s house. (John 2:14-17) He is now present in the holy city, the heavenly temple, where we will also be. At a future appointed time He will “rise up” and enter Jerusalem and the earthly temple, which will be rebuilt a few years before.
For, a 4th. temple will be built in Jerusalem: The apostle James, (Acts 15:13-17) quoted the words of the prophet Amos: “In that day will I raise up again the tabernacle of David, that is fallen.” (Amos 9:11) While it is true that James was applying this prophesy to the building of the church with gentile believers, and referring to our present Gospel dispensation, there is certainly a literal aspect of this prophesy, which is yet to be fulfilled: Dan. 9:26; Mt. 24:14; 2 Thess. 2:3, and Rev. 11:1 tell us more concerning this future temple, and these witnesses give different details worthy of our consideration. Our Lord, Paul and Daniel tell us of the prince, or antichrist, who will arise in the days of “Jacob’s trouble” or what is commonly known as the great tribulation period. Our Lord warns of this coming tribulation, and of the man of sin who will commit the “abomination of desolation”. John and Daniel write of a 42 months interval associated with the tribulation period, and John is told to measure this same temple.
Recent current events point to the very near fulfillment of this prophesy. The promise of a future temple was well-known, and faithful men expected the promise to be fulfilled in their day. The building of a new temple on mount Moriah seemed improbable during many centuries after A. D. 70, and many Jews, as in the days before the Exodus, lost hope. But many dramatic events have happened in our generation. In 1967, after 1900 years, Israel legally and officially took over the temple site in Israel. The building of the temple is not only possible in our day, but many believe that it is already in preparation.
A 5th. temple will be built by the Messiah Himself, of which Solomon, the son of David, is a type. The gentile nations will go up to Jerusalem to worship during the millennium age, (Zec. 14:16) and, according to Ezekiel, the glory of the God of Israel will come in the east gate, which will be kept shut and only used by the prince. A description of this temple, its walls, its gates, the outer and inner courts, is found in the book of Ezekiel, chapters 40 to 48.
Two Greek words together, meaning to assemble, to lead, to bring, or to come together, created the word Synagogue. This meeting place dates from the captivity in Babylon, where the Jews were under the necessity of gathering together in small groups, as they were no longer able to attend the temple. Henceforth wherever Jews scattered, synagogues were built, they would gather for worship and religious instruction, so the knowledge of the law was kept alive, and was conveyed to others. Attendance at synagogues has been maintained for over 2,400 years, and is still a potent factor in the education of children and proselytes. Our Lord was familiar with the synagogue service at Nazareth, where He began His ministry in Galilee. (Luke 4:14-30) The word Synagogue occurs over 30 times in the Gospels. (Mt. 4:23. 9:35; 12:9; 13:54; John 6:59)
A large Synagogue was built in Jerusalem in 1974. Which revealed the impatient of the Jews, who could not wait for the true temple mount to be cleared. Rabbis and prominent men have emphasized however, that the Synagogue is not the temple, only the first meeting place in many years where a united Israel can meet and worship.
Lessons from Solomon’s Temple
Made of acacia wood and gold covered within and without, the tabernacle Ark of the Covenant is typical of the two natures of our Lord. He was a man, but was Deity within and without. The content of the ark remind us that He was fruitful for God. (Aaron’s rod) He was the bread of God come from heaven, (Manna) and the tables of the law in the ark remind us of His own words: I delight to do Thy will O My God, yea, thy law is within My heart” (Ps. 40:8)
The Journeys of the Ark, (an application)
The ark was made in the wilderness, and is figurative of Christ coming into the World. The ark in the Jordan illustrates Christ in the judgement of Calvary. The ark around Jericho reminds us of Christ with Christians in first days. Mighty battles were won in the early days of the church. The ark in Shiloh is Christ with the churches in the days of Rev. 2 and 3. The Laodician church is typified by Shiloh in the days of Hannah and Eli. (1 Sam. 1) The ark in the Philistine camp can represent the period of organized Christianity. (Or so-called) Christ was “taken” by Rome and the religious world. Constantine maybe meant well, but organized religion afterwards imprisoned the Gospel message, and persecuted the true Christians. The ark in Abinadab’s house (1 Sam. 7-1) can represent the 15th and 16th century Protestant movement. Abinadab means generous or liberal, and Abinadab’s house was on an elevated place. Christ was more elevated under the Protestants, and knowledge of Him, especially through Bible translations, was more liberal. The ark in Obed-edom’s house, (2 Sam. 6:10) can illustrate the so-called brethren movement. Edom was a descendent of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, but Edomites were outcasts and irreligious. Obed was the grandfather of David, a bondservant or husbandman. These two names brought together illustrate the religious and non-religious saved men brought together in the same fellowship. Obed-edom was from Gath. So was Goliath who was slain by David. Newton, Darby, Kelly, Chapman, Groves and other men preached the truth of our heavenly David, who won the victory at Calvary. The ark was here only three months, reminding us of the briefness of time between the rediscovery of assembly truths and the coming of our Lord from heaven. The ark in David’s tent at Jerusalem typifies Christ in the millennium reign, and the ark in the temple is Christ in the eternal state.
The four rings, on each corner of the ark typify our Lord in the four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John declare Jesus in the days of His flesh. Christ is now being “carried” through our world by these four Gospel writers. His miraculous birth, His public ministry, His manifestation on the mount of transfiguration, (Mt. 17) His sin atoning death, resurrection and His miraculous appearance in the upper room, (Luke 24) are clearly recorded. The Lord Jesus Christ was revealed before his body, in “angelic form” in Ge. 19. He was the word, or the voice of God in the O. T. Adam heard that voice, as did Moses and the prophets, His voice was like thunder to John, and was a still small voice to Elijah. That Word or Voice was made flesh, and John tells us of the majesty of his words.
Military angels, messenger agents, and guardians of the holiness of God, tell us of the different residences of heaven. God promised to commune with Moses “from between the cherubim’s” (Ex. 25:22) In Ezekiel’s vision they were living creatures around the throne of God. (Ez. 1:10-25) Our Lord is now ‘in the midst’ of these heavenly creatures, where He also was before Bethlehem. Seraphim’s, (noble, fiery one, or blazing light) were seen by Isaiah, (Isa. 6: 2,3,6,7) They were above Jehovah as he sat upon his throne. (Rev 4) The same Hebrew word is used to describe the fiery serpents in the wilderness. (Nu. 21:6,8; De. 8:15; Isa. 14:29 30:6) We wonder if the Serpents were fallen cherubs, as Satan in the Garden of Eden? What is clear is that Jehovah must administer His righteous penalty of sin, and cherubim’s and seraphim’s are holy guardians always associated with His Divine justice.
(See cherubim’s, seraphim’s, angels & demons on same web site)
The Great Day of Atonement
The holy incense sprinkled on the live coals was most necessary before the priest entered into the holiest of all. The incense smoke would fill the oracle and was figurative of the holy atmosphere or presence of God. The censer and incense in the tabernacle has often been likened to the life of Christ on earth. As we will see later, incense in the temple reminds us of our prayers ascending up to God.
The priest’s first impression, when he entered into the oracle, was probably the ark, and the mercy seat upon the ark. The staves taken out of the ark would also trill his soul. He would not see the tables of the law, but the book of the law, (De. 31:26) which was placed beside the ark. (Darby translation) This book, many years later, had a profound effect on young king Josiah, (2 Kings 22:8-11) and was read at the great gathering by the water gate by Ezra. (Ne. 8:1-8) The ark was always hid, even from the Levites who carried it. It was called “the beauty of Israel,” (Lam. 2:1) and every priest would marvel to only see it. The priest would remember the ark’s history, the river Jordan, which separated, opening a pathway for all Israel to pass over. He would remember the seven days around Jericho, when the walls fell flat before it. He would fear, remembering Uzzah who was smitten when only touching it. The staves taken out of the ark and laid beside it would remind him of the travels of the ark. He would remember the ark in the tabernacle, through the wilderness, in Shiloh, and now in the temple, to be no more removed.
The priest would carefully sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, taking care that his garment would not be spotted. Blood was sprinkled forty-three times on this day, and the high priest was reminded that blood only could make atonement for sin. The mercy seat upon the ark reminded the priest of the mercy of God covering the law that was inside the ark. Another year of mercy from God had passed. The mercy seat is typical of mercy to us on the bases of the perfect justice provided by the Son of God. The blood reminds us of our Lord’s death, and the present power of His perfect sacrifice. (1 John 1:7)
Inside the temple ark there was no manna, it was no longer needed for Israel, but the hidden manna is the promise for the overcomer today. (Rev. 2:17) Proof of priesthood was well established for Israel so Aaron’s rod is not mentioned in Solomon’s temple. We have the risen Christ, seen by 500 men, and need no more proof of His resurrection and priesthood.
The Oracle, Brazen Sea, Lavers, and the Word
Steven said that Moses received the lively oracles. (Acts 7:38) Paul said that the oracles of God were given to Israel. (Ro. 3:2) The writer to the Hebrew emphasized that we need to be established in the first principles of the oracles of God, (Heb. 5:12) and Peter said: If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God. (1 Peter 4:11) So it seems that the oracle in the temple was associated with the Holy Word of God.
It is also clear that the brazen sea, and the ten lavers, which were filled with water, are typical of the Scriptures. Jesus was in the temple court when He said; “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow living water.” (John 7:38) Was our Lord thinking of the water that flowed from the brazen sea? Which, as history tells us, flowed through a pipe system inserted in the brazen oxen’s belly and out of its mouth? John adds that the Lord was referring to the Spirit, which was not yet given. So water both illustrates the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
As the priest needed the water to wash, so we need the Spirit given Word to correct and to inspire our lives. The Word of God is also needed to test all that I present to God, as suggested by the ten lavers, which were used for washing the animal parts before placing them, or offering them on the altar.
Both the brazen sea and the ten lavers were outside of the temple, the oracle was inside, and within the vail. Before we can enter the “oracle” and meditate on the Lord himself in the Scriptures, we need to spend time at the “brazen sea” and have our “offerings” tested, as typified by the ten lavers.
The brazen, or molten sea (1 Kings 7:23; 2 Ch. 4:2) contained thousands of gallons of water and is symbolic of the word of God in its immensity, the twelve oxen, under the brazen sea, suggest that the scriptures came to us via Israel, but there was a foundation base in the centre of the brazen sea, reminding us that although Israel was used of God to carry the word to the nations, the Holy Scriptures stand on its own Divine base.
Oxen also suggest that the word of God is associated with a sacrifice. Twelve is the number of government, the righteous government of God demands death because of sin.
If we do not receive the Scriptures on the bases of a necessary sacrifice, we will never benefit from God’s word. Many today read the word for multiple reasons, and many false religions are the result. The brazen sea is also figurative of the Holy Scriptures in it’s extension or expansion, illustrated by the oxen facing south, west, north and east, the four ends of the earth.
The Brazen Altar
The brazen altar was the central point of Jewish worship, and was situated, as before mentioned, where the dome of the rock is presently located. It was most holy, no defective animal could be offered on it, and its offerings were only made by Hebrew priests. Animals, blood and fire were also sacred, and it was continually burning. (Lev. 6:13) The fire, on specific sacrifices, came from the Lord. (Lev. 9:24) Our Lord said that the gift presenter, at the altar, must always be in a good state of conscience, (Mt. 5:23,24) and that the altar sanctified the gifts presented to God. (Mt. 23:18,19) Paul also spoke of the altar in connection with giving, (1 Co. 9:13) and the Hebrew writer spoke of a better altar, which we now have. (Heb. 13:10)
We note that blood, water, and ashes (Nu. 19:9-10; Heb. 9:13) were the three ceremonial cleansing methods of the old covenant order. We find the New Testament equivalent in salvation, the word of God and confession of sin. We are made clean by the “blood,” and we are kept clean by “water and ashes”.
Tables and Lamp-stands
As already mentioned, ten golden tables, ten golden lamp-stands, and the golden altar of incense were placed in a room about 60 by 30 feet. (2 Ch. 4:7,8,19) Which was the largest, or first room in the temple. Prayer, fellowship and testimony are illustrated here. The number ten is illustrative of testing, as the Ten Commandments and the ten virgins of Mt. 25. The golden tables had unleavened shewbread thereon. “Showing of the face” is the meaning of the word shewbread, or show-bread, and fellowship with God is clearly suggested here. The first believers (Acts 2:42) continued steadfastly in the fellowship. Fellowship in the breaking of bread and in the drinking of the cup expresses our fellowship in Deity; we are in the one body with Christ, and in the new covenant.
Of course, brotherly fellowship is also implied in Acts 2, so as we are in fellowship with Deity, we are in fellowship with each other.
We are present at the Lord’s Supper to express our agreement or our fellowship with all believers as to the practice of the Lord’s Supper. We express fellowship with our Lord, and we express fellowship with other assembly believers. Why are we at the prayer meeting? Again, to show our agreement in the prayer meeting service. So fellowship is expressed in the ministry meeting, in the Bible reading, in the Gospel meeting, in the reception of a new member into the assembly, in excommunication, in annual conferences, in special ministry meetings, and in special Gospel meetings.
Showbread (showing of the face) was placed on ten tables in the temple. Do I see the “face of God” in these ten assembly gatherings just mentioned? Are they of God, or only of men?
If the ten tables are a test of my fellowship, the ten golden lamp-stands are a test of my testimony towards the sinner. We have often heard that oil is a type of the Holy Spirit. The supplying of oil to the lamps is His responsibility, but every lamp needs to be trimmed, which is my responsibility. We are debtors to our neighbors, (Ro. 1:14) our light should be high, and should be bright. Our light should also be on a Lamp-stand, or in an assembly. (Rev. 1:20)
Every assembly should be an attraction to the truth, (Acts 2:47) and a deterrent from sin. Each assembly should also be a lighthouse, to warn of danger. I can be a light, or a testimony with my tongue, with my feet, and with my hands, that is, by what I do, and what I am occupied with. I am a testimony also with my ears, what I listen too while in the presence of sinners, and with my eyes, what I look at while in the presence of sinners. I am a testimony by my dress, by my hair length, (1 Co. 11: 14-15) by my talent or gift being used for God. By my backbone, to say No to sin and to things of a God-less character. I am also a testimony with my knees, that is, I can tell a sinner: “I will pray for you.” As the ten Lamps shone out in the temple, my life should shine out in these ten ways.
The Lord tested the king and Israel. Solomon failed morally and doctrinally, and lost the temple and the people. Each church is a local united testimony before a mixed divided world. Some churches have failed, are we among the remnant that will not fail?
In Matthew chapter 13 the Lord altered his teaching. His kingdom will no longer be physical but mystical or hidden in the hearts of men. So while the temple was promoted in the first part of our Lord’s ministry, and Israel given opportunity to receive their King, Jesus turned from them when they sinned against the Holy Spirit. (Mt. 12) Israel rejected their messiah, and God rejected Israel. Their house indeed was left desolate. John said: “He came unto his own, but his own received him not.”(John 1)
But the temple, as our Lord said in John 14, is figurative of heaven. The Lord spoke of paradise, the city, and the throne. He spoke of the Father’s house, (or temple) where He lived before he came to Bethlehem. Where the agents of fire (Seraphims) are covering their faces, as Isaiah witnessed in his day. The house is Eloim’s government headquarter, His throne is surrounded by twenty-four seats. (Rev 4:4) Israel and the church are represented as God administers earth government. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:17) The Father, from his throne, is upholding all things. From his governmental throne He records the falling sparrow and is interested in the little children. He also influences world government to do his will. The house is where the bride will be taken; tradition tells us that the young Jewish groom prepared a chamber in his father’s house. His future bride already had her room ready, the father knew her name and there was a gift or treasure waiting. In Heaven there is now our mansion, our name, and our treasure. (Mt. 6: 20)
Temple chambers (1 Kings 6:5,10) were needful for the many priests ministering in the temple, and at least one chamber or room was reserved for the high priest. One week before the Day of Atonement, because of the much preparation associated with that solemn day, he would occupy this special room in the temple. That fact inspired many Old Testament writer to express their desire of living in the temple. Even David, who was not of the Levite tribe, and who died before the temple was built, wrote of his desire to dwell in the house of the Lord. (Psalms 23:6; 27:4; 122:1) But the temple rooms were also for retired priests. A rest was provided for them after their service for Jehovah. The first feast of the Lord in Leviticus 23 is the Sabbath. Jehovah-Eloim rested after creation, and called man to share in His rest. The Lord’s desire in every dispensation is man resting with Him, for rest always marks the people of God. The Lord’s place of rest was and will be Jerusalem. Arise, O LORD, into thy rest, thou, and the ark of thy strength. (Ps. 132:8) There will be a future earth rest. “The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.” (Isa. 14:7) “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (Isa. 11:10) “There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.” (Heb. 4:9) Rest is found today in a Person. “Come unto me, and I will give you rest”. (Mt. 11:28) Our positional rest cannot change. As Israel found rest in the days of Solomon, we find rest in our present position in Christ. But the rest of His yoke and our “learning of Him” (Mt. 11:29) is a conditional rest.
Meditating on our inheritance and blessings (Eph. 1:3) brings rest or peace of mind to the soul.
It is unclear if Herod’s temple had the three story chambers, as did Solomon’s. The upper chambers in Solomon’s temple were wider, and more spacious. We suppose that wider stones were laid at the foundation level of the temple for more stability, making the bottom room less spacious. The third story illustrates the rest of saints who have left us to be with Christ, they rest from their labors, and they are at home in paradise. (2 Co. 5:8) Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. (Rev. 14:13)
So we have a 3-story rest: The rest of salvation, the rest of learning, and the rest of heaven. The temple and the sanctuary were covered was gold, but all furnishings of the chambers were made of silver. (1 Ch. 28:15) Our reason for heaven is redemption, as represented by the silver. Our heavenly home is held in reserve for us, because of the ransom price paid. Salvation is indeed all of grace.
Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 7:51) Shebuel the grandson of Moses was ruler of the treasures. (1 Ch. 26:24) But wicked king Ahaz; “took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria”. (2 Kings 16:8) Let us not lightly esteem our treasure in heaven. “Let no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11) The rich young ruler valued treasures on earth and lost his soul. (Mark 10:21) Our Lord found a treasure on earth and came down to purchase it. (Mt. 13:44) Treasures in the temple were not only silver and gold, but were also memorabilia’s of battles fought for God. Treasures can be dedicated things, time, talent, and even suffering.
The story is told of a captain who was in an exile prison waiting for his king to rescue him. He was often heard to say; “Oh if these chains were a little lighter, I could bear them for my king.” Many months went by and finally his king came and conquered the land. The king then called his captain before him and said to the servants: “weigh his chains and give him the amount in gold.” The captain then said: “Oh if only these chains would have been a little heavier…”
Another story to illustrate the value of treasures in heaven is told: The princess of Sweden, many years ago sold her crown diamonds to purchase land and material for a hospital, which was so necessary during her day. As she looked at her diamonds for the last time she wondered if she would ever see them again. Many months passed and one day as she visited the hospital, she saw tears of gratitude in a child’s eye, and thought: There are my diamonds. So treasure in heaven can be sacrifices for our Lord as illustrated in the story of the princess, or it can be suffering, as illustrated in the story of the captain.
We have heard it said that we cannot “lay up”, (treasure) if we do not first “lay down”. (Our own treasures) It is noteworthy that the priest shared the same rooms as the treasures. How close are we to our treasure in heaven?
The Altar of Incense, or Golden Altar
The golden altar in the tabernacle was made of acacia wood. The temple altar was made of cedar. It had no golden rings as the tabernacle altar, for the carrying of the altar was over. It was placed before the veil, or before the Lord. (Ex. 30:1-6; 40:5,26; Lev 4:7; 1 Kings 9:25) A priest burned incense every morning and evening on this altar. (Ex. 30:7,8; Luke 1:56; 2 Ch. 26:16-19) The ten Lamps gave light to the golden altar, to the tables, and revealed the condition of the priest. The light of the Word of God reveals our condition also. It reveals Christ as the bread of life and as the Light of the world.
The golden altar in the tabernacle is symbolic of our Lord while on earth. The new altar in the temple reminds us of Christ presently in heaven. Cedar wood and gold are His two natures, which He still possesses. No staves were needed in this altar; our Lord is now seated in heaven.
He who was “incense” to God on earth, is now the altar, now in heaven, He receives our prayers.
Incense was burned by the fire taken from the brazen altar. Our prayers are accepted because of the fire of the cross. The incense went up through the windows of the temple, which were narrowed before they reached the roof. Our prayers may be long and elaborate when they leave our lips, but are filtered by our High Priest before they reach the throne.
The only incense accepted for temple worship had four special ingredients. The even mixture of these four ingredients made it unique.
The Frankincense, the most common, reminds us of the birth of the Saviour.
The Galbanum was made from a shrub which grow in the highlands, and illustrates our Lord as the insignificant root that grow out of the dry ground of Israel. (Isa. 53)
The Stacte flowed spontaneously from a tree on mount Gilead. Our Lord’s life did not have to be driven; it flowed out evenly and was always in the Father’s will.
The Onycha was a shellfish from the red sea, and exemplifies the Judgement of the cross. Our prayers are sprinkled with these qualities of Christ.
If we are confessing, praising, or asking. If we are worshiping on the Lord’s Day, or if we are simply thanking God for our many blessing, it is the “incense” of His Life and the “fire” of his death, which makes our prayers, accepted of the Father.
How strange that the incense altar is also associated with future judgement. (Rev 8:3) The same “brazen altar fire” who can now save the sinner, will judge the sinner in a future day. Prayers of saints will turn into judgement on sinners after the church is removed.
God’s presence in the tabernacle was symbolized by a cloud pillar. (Ex. 33:9) Memorial pillars are used by Godly men of old, and Jacob set up a memorial pillar on Rachel’s grave. (Ge. 35:20) Absalom reared up a pillar in the king’s dale, which he called after his own name, (2 Sam. 18:18) and Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt. (Ge. 19:26) There were also covenant pillars, as between Laban and Jacob. (Ge. 31:51) “The king stood by the temple pillars, to make a covenant before God”. (2 Kings 23:3) For such was the manner of Israel. (2 Kings 11:14) Job tells us of foundation pillars: “The Lord shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.” (Job 9:6) “The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at His reproof”. (Job 26:11) And Paul writes of a truth pillar. “That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”. (1 Tim. 3:15)
Solomon writes of the pillars of wisdom: “Wisdom hath build her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Pr. 9:1) Pillars are also a symbol of stability or leadership: “James, Cephas, and John, who were esteemed to be pillars, R. V. (Gal. 2:9) Our Lord used the temple pillars to illustrate the New Jerusalem and heaven permanency of the victorious believer; “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out..” (Rev. 3:12)
Two unique Brazen Pillars
Solomon writes of pillars of smoke, pillars of silver, pillars of marble, and of temple cedars pillars. (1 Kings 7:15-22; 2 Ch. 3:15-17) The pillars in the temple porch were fifty feet high and twenty-four feet around. They were decorated with chains and nets, a reminder of the slavery of Egypt, but also lilies, pomegranates and crowns, which maybe reminded Israel that the Lord provided for them while in Egypt, and that they would become the reigning people of God.
Jachin was head of the 21st course of priest in the time of David, and Boaz was of the kingly line, the great grand-father of David. (2 Ch. 3:17) So the two pillars reminded all who would pass between them of Israel’s heritage, of their kings and priests.
The Phoenician temple, at Hazor, had two pillars, as did other eastern temples. An inscription (in Phoenician and Greek) was found and reads: “To our Lord, to Melqart, Baal of Tyre, that which thy servants, Abdosir and his brother Osirshamar, the two sons of Osirshamar, pledged because they heard his voice.” This inscription tells us that names on pillars were a common oriental custom, which, in all evidence, was copied by Solomon.
But the meanings of the names on the temple pillars have both traditional and prophetic meaning: “Yahweh will establish thy throne forever”, and “Yahweh is the king’s strength” are based on the first letters of the names Jachin and Boaz. Solomon was not only honouring past men, but was using their names to glorify Jehovah. Solomon honoured the tradition of the day, but transformed it to the Glory of God. He will establish, (Jachin) and, in him is strength, (Boaz) are also prophetic of the coming Messiah: Jesus will establish his priestly truth in all the earth, and He will rule with a rod of Iron. Boaz is a type of Christ in his birth, he was a Bethemite, the kinsman redeemer and of the David-king line. As Jachin was the head of a priest line, (1 Ch. 24:17) so our Lord is head and chief among many brethren. One of the priests who returned from the Exile was also named Jachin. (1 Ch. 9:10) Our Lord will return from His “exile” to take His rightful place as Priest and King.
Peter tells us that believers today are priests and kings; we are in His kingdom, by a new birth. We are in a holy temple, therefore priest in His assembly. So God has changed the order of worship but has not changed the original qualifications. The holiness and righteousness of Jehovah remain. He is the same yesterday, and today and forever. (Heb 13: 8)
The Church is God’s present Temple
Solomon’s temple is typical of the church in several ways, Solomon was a peacemaker as our Lord, the temple was made of choice stones, and excellent timber, and believers in Christ are lively stones and built up into a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2) The magnificence and majesty of the temple was what the church will be in a future day, when the glorious things spoken of it will be fulfilled. The temple was “the temple of the Lord”, as is called the Church. But Christ is not only the chief master builder; He is the foundation and cornerstone of the building. He is not building with stone and wood but with converted sinners.
Paul the Apostle describes this temple, calling it His church, (1 Tim. 3; 15) and His Body. (Eph. 2:16; 4:4; Col. 3:15) Christ is the Head of the body (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:l8) and all believers are members of the body. (Eph. 5:30) Paul also called it a new man, (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10) a mystery, Eph. 1:9; 3:3-9; 5:32; Col. 1:26-27, and John calls it the Bride of Christ. (John 3:29; Rev. 18:23; 21:2,9; 22:17) The New Testament meaning of the word temple is a household or family, so all who are in the temple or church today belong to the household of God. They are part of a spiritual entity consisting of all saints saved between Pentecost (Acts 2) and the rapture. (1 Thess. 4)
The Local Assembly is a Temple
The early Christians were put out of the Jewish temple, but Paul assures them that God’s temple is now a local company of believers. (1 Co. 3:16) Paul further assures the Corinthian believers that the local assembly has the presence of God, of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. Paul also writes about a building or edifice, (1 Co. 3:9) which is a Greek word for building up, or advancing growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, and holiness. So unlike the Jewish temple the local assembly is continually building, both in membership and also in spiritual growth.
Another New Testament temple is the physical body of the believer. (I Co. 6:19)
So Jehovah-Eloim dwells in three temples today, in the believer, in the church, or body of Christ, and in the local assembly where Christ specifically said: ‘‘there am I in the midst of them. ” (Mt. 18:20)
We emphasize that the local assembly is a heaven designed living organism and not only a group of believers or an organization of men. As the individual believer has divine life, making him different from the religious sinner, so the assembly has the life of God.
Sources and other recommended readings:
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary.