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Temple Trials - March 2012

by Joy A. Schroeder

What do we know about the temple and why was it so significant?

King Solomon built a magnificent “house for the name of the Lord” (1 Kings 5:5) on a plateau 2,400 feet above sea level. Lacking sufficient technology and materials for his ambitious project, Solomon looked north to the Phoenicians for timber and architectural help. He purchased expensive cedar wood from Lebanon, harvested by Phoenicians working alongside Israelites forced into labor (1 Kings 5:13–14). And he went into debt to the Phoenician king. Solomon hired Hiram of Tyre, a Phoenician whose mother was Israelite, as an engineer.

The Temple, completed in seven years, was dedicated around 952 B.C. Constructed of quarried stones, the Temple stood 50 feet high, 33 feet wide, and 100 feet long. Not a building for large indoor gatherings, it was a house for God. People assembled in the courtyard. Only priests and their assistants entered the Temple.

The building had a porch, a nave (rectangular main hall), and the Holy of Holies, an inner sanctuary that the high priest entered once each year. The porch featured two freestanding bronze pillars, ornately decorated. Ten golden lamps, burning continuously, illuminated the nave. There the Showbread (Bread of the Presence), the 12 cakes that were replaced each Sabbath, rested on a gold table. Priests burned incense on the nave’s golden altar. Interior cedar-covered walls featured carved palms, flowers, and cherubim (creatures with eagles’ wings, lion’s paws, hind legs of a bull, and a human face).

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The Rev. Dr. Joy A. Schroeder, an ELCA pastor, teaches church history at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Capital University in Chicago.