These preparations, in addition to those of King David, being completed, the work began.
Solomon Builds the Great Temple, featuring a series of excerpts selected from History of the Jews by Henry Hart Milman published in 1829.
Previously in Solomon Builds the Great Temple. Now we continue.
Time: 953 BC
Solomon entered into a regular treaty, by which he bound himself to supply the Tyrians with large quantities of corn; receiving in return their timber, which was floated down to Joppa, and a large body of artificers. The timber was cut by his own subjects, of whom he raised a body of thirty thousand; ten thousand employed at a time, and relieving each other every month; so that to one month of labor they had two of rest. He raised two other corps, one of seventy thousand porters of burdens, the other of eighty thousand hewers of stone, who were employed in the quarries among the mountains. All these labors were thrown, not on the Israelites, but on the strangers who, chiefly of Canaanitish descent, had been permitted to inhabit the country.
These preparations, in addition to those of King David, being completed, the work began. The eminence of Moriah, the Mount of Vision, i.e., the height seen afar from the adjacent country, which tradition pointed out as the spot where Abraham had offered his son (where recently the plague had been stayed, by the altar built in the threshing-floor of Ornan or Araunah, the Jebusite), rose on the east side of the city. Its rugged top was leveled with immense labor; its sides, which to the east and south were precipitous, were faced with a wall of stone, built up perpendicular from the bottom of the valley, so as to appear to those who looked down of most terrific height; a work of prodigious skill and labor, as the immense stones were strongly mortised together and wedged into the rock. Around the whole area or esplanade, an irregular quadrangle, was a solid wall of considerable height and strength: within this was an open court, into which the Gentiles were either from the first, or subsequently, admitted. A second wall encompassed another quadrangle, called the court of the Israelites. Along this wall, on the inside, ran a portico or cloister, over which were chambers for different sacred purposes. Within this again another, probably a lower, wall separated the court of the priests from that of the Israelites. To each court the ascent was by steps, so that the platform of the inner court was on a higher level than that of the outer.
The Temple itself was rather a monument of the wealth than the architectural skill and science of the people. It was a wonder of the world from the splendor of its materials, more than the grace, boldness, or majesty of its height and dimensions. It had neither the colossal magnitude of the Egyptian, the simple dignity and perfect proportional harmony of the Grecian, nor perhaps the fantastic grace and lightness of later Oriental architecture. Some writers, calling to their assistance the visionary temple of Ezekiel, have erected a most superb edifice; to which there is this fatal objection, that if the dimensions of the prophet are taken as they stand in the text, the area of the Temple and its courts would not only have covered the whole of Mount Moriah, but almost all Jerusalem. In fact our accounts of the Temple of Solomon are altogether unsatisfactory. The details, as they now stand in the books of Kings and Chronicles, the only safe authorities, are unscientific, and, what is worse, contradictory.
Josephus has evidently blended together the three temples, and attributed to the earlier all the subsequent additions and alterations. The Temple, on the whole, was an enlargement of the tabernacle, built of more costly and durable materials. Like its model, it retained the ground-plan and disposition of the Egyptian, or rather of almost all the sacred edifices of antiquity: even its measurements are singularly in unison with some of the most ancient temples in Upper Egypt. It consisted of a propylæon, a temple, and a sanctuary; called respectively the Porch, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. Yet in some respects, if the measurements are correct, the Temple must rather have resembled the form of a simple Gothic church.
In the front to the east stood the porch, a tall tower, rising to the height of 210 feet. Either within, or, like the Egyptian obelisks, before the porch, stood two pillars of brass; by one account 27, by another above 60 feet high, the latter statement probably including their capitals and bases. These were called Jachin and Boaz (Durability and Strength). The capitals of these were of the richest workmanship, with net-work, chain-work, and pomegranates. The porch was the same width with the Temple, 35 feet; its depth 17-1/2. The length of the main building, including the Holy Place, 70 feet, and the Holy of Holies, 35, was in the whole 105 feet; the height 52-1/2 feet.
Footnote 4: Ewald, following, he says, the Septuagint, makes these pillars not standing alone like obelisks before the porch, but as forming the front of the porch, with the capitals connected together, and supporting a kind of balcony, with ornamental work above it. The pillars measured 12 cubits (22 feet) round.
Footnote 5: Mr. Fergusson, estimating the cubit rather lower than in the text, makes the porch 30 by 15; the pronaos, or Holy Place, 60 by 30; the Holy of Holies, 30; the height 45 feet. Mr. Fergusson, following Josephus, supposes that the whole Temple had an upper story of wood, a talar, as appears in other Eastern edifices. I doubt the authority of Josephus as to the older Temple, though, as Mr. Fergusson observes, the discrepancies between the measurements in Kings and in Chronicles may be partially reconciled on this supposition. Mr. Fergusson makes the height of the eastern tower only 90 feet. The text followed 2 Chron., iii., 4, reckoning the cubit at 1 foot 9 inches.