7 Interesting Facts about Solomon's Temple
- Dawn Wilson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Updated Jan 25, 2022
In 1883, a biblical scholar, Thomas Newberry, designed a three-dimensional model of Solomon’s Temple as part of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, heightening the interest of Jews and Christians alike in the first Jewish temple. The story of Solomon’s commitment to build a permanent house for God engages believers’ imagination. It was stately and beautiful from a human standpoint but also conceived in the heart of another king who dearly loved God. The desire to understand more about the background of its construction and the modern-day controversy surrounding its existence sends believers back to the Scriptures to discover where, how, and why it was constructed, and why God chose Solomon to build it.
Here are some interesting facts Christians should know about Solomon’s Temple:
Who Built Solomon's Temple?
1. Solomon Was Chosen by God to Build the Temple
King David, Solomon’s father, lived in the royal palace, but he was concerned that God’s priests still had to serve Him in the 400-year-old, portable Tabernacle from the wilderness wanderings. David wanted to build a permanent house for God, and a resting place for the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chronicles 28:2). The prophet Nathan initially gave David approval to begin construction, but God spoke to Nathan in a dream. God said David would not be the one to build His house, even though David had a heart after God’s own heart. David would, however, draw up the plans and accumulate materials for the building (1 Chronicles 22:2-4; 22:14-17; 29:2-9).
David was a great warrior king who united the Israelite tribes, captured Jerusalem, and chose Mount Moriah as the site for a future temple. But God said, “You will not build a house for my name for you are a man of battles and have shed blood” (1 Chron 28:3). The honor and responsibility of building the temple would go to his son, Solomon—whose name means “peace.”
2. The Temple Was Solomon’s Crowning Achievement
The temple was not only designed to be a place of sacrifice, but it would also motivate Israel to turn away from the idols of surrounding nations and evil practices of the Canaanites. King Solomon had the wherewithal to build. He inherited his father’s kingdom and extraordinary wealth, but he also accumulated great personal wealth. Known as an ambitious builder of public works, Solomon’s crowning achievement was the building of the Temple. Its location, Mount Moriah, was where God appeared to David, and also where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice (2 Chron. 3, Gen 22).
Construction on the temple began after David’s death. If Solomon reigned from 970-930 BC, the temple construction began in 966 BC. Accounts of the building are given in 1 Kings 5-8 and 2 Chronicles 2-4. A summary in 1 Kings 6 describes the dimensions, windows “high up in the temple walls,” side rooms, quarried stones, stairway to connect three levels, wood panels and flooring, elaborate carvings, gold overlay in the whole interior and on the altar in the inner sanctuary, cherubim made from olive wood and overlaid with gold, and olive wood and juniper doors. The temple was constructed in all its parts and according to all its specifications over a span of seven years.
How Much Money Was Spent on Solomon's Temple?
3. Solomon Spared No Expense
King Hiram of Tyre—King David’s friend—supplied the wood and high-grade stones (1 Kings 5:1-18). The wood was shipped to Joppa by sea on rafts, and subsequently transferred by land to Jerusalem (2 Chron. 2). An unbelievable fact concerning Solomon’s temple was the quietness. Quarried stones were hewn beforehand and transported to the building site. There were no hammers, axes, or iron tools heard in the temple while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7).
The foundation of the temple was—using standard cubits—sixty cubits long and twenty cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The porch at the front was 20 cubits long across the width of the building and 20 cubits high, and it projected 10 cubits from the front of the temple (2 Chron. 3, 1 Kings 6). This has been translated into feet as the following: “The Temple is 2,700 square feet. … a porch or vestibule, 15 feet deep and 30 feet wide; The Holy Place, 60 feet long and 30 feet wide; and the Holy of Holies—which was a perfect cube—30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high. The interior height of the rest of the building was 45 feet.”
Solomon spared no expense in the construction. The temple was adorned with precious stones, and with gold from Parvaim in Arabia (2 Chron. 3). According to Biblecharts.org, the cost of building the temple today has been estimated to be equal to three to six billion dollars. The debt was so huge, Solomon had to pay off King Hiram by giving him twenty towns in Galilee (1 Kings 9:11). Solomon conscripted thousands of sojourner laborers from all of Israel, plus 3,300 foremen to manage the construction (1 Kings 5:13-18).
After the Temple was built, the Tabernacle was dismantled. According to Lambert Dolphin at TempleMount.org, some rabbis and authorities in Jerusalem believe it was originally stored in a room under the Temple Mount.
4. The Beautiful Temple Was Dedicated and Celebrated
At its completion, Solomon declared a huge inauguration celebration to dedicate the building in 953 BC. The ceremonies included a sermon and a dedication offering that included 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. Then Solomon proclaimed a great, 14-day feast. (2 Chron. 6, 1 Kings 8)
His prayer of dedication was a combination of praise, an exaltation of God, and encouragement of the people. Solomon praised God’s faithfulness to His covenant people. He encouraged the people about the future, telling them God would hear them from the temple. It would be a place of refuge for them, and even a place for people from other countries to pray.
Immediately after Solomon’s prayer, fire from heaven ignited the offerings on the altars, and the glory of God filled the temple, forcing the priests to stay outside the temple, and causing the people to fall on their faces in worship and thanksgiving (2 Chronicles 7:1-6). Solomon made it clear that the temple was not dedicated to “contain” God (1 Kings 8:27). In the New Testament, the martyr Stephen confirmed this. “Solomon built God a house,” Stephen said. “However the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands….”
The people in Solomon’s temple offered praise to God alone. There were no idols in the temple, which would represent man trying to appease God. Instead, the temple included the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat, which reminded Israel of their need for salvation in God.
What Happened to Solomon's Temple?
5. Solomon’s Temple Was Destroyed and Rebuilt
Eventually, Solomon’s heart wandered from God. When he died, the nation—which was already in decline—split into two parts with two substitute places of worship in Bethel and Dan; and idolatry again became a part of Israel’s spiritual culture (1 Kings 12:25-31).
The temple declined in wealth and importance for 367 years. Jeremiah 25 warned that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people would be taken into captivity. The temple on Mount Moriah—now known as the Temple Mount—was looted and destroyed by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar II in about 587 BC. A second temple was later erected on the same site—described in the book of Ezra. Then, during the first century AD, Herod—the appointed head of Judea—enlarged and expanded that second temple and surrounding areas.
This reconstructed temple included a restored porch—described as Solomon’s Colonnade in Acts 5:12. The Jewish historian Josephus described it in Jewish Antiquities: “There was a porch without the temple, overlooking a deep valley, supported by walls of four hundred cubits, made of four square stone, very white; the length of each stone was twenty cubits, and the breadth six; the work of King Solomon, who first founded the whole temple”
Herod’s Temple would be destroyed, Jesus told His disciples (Luke 21:5-6); and indeed, the Romans under Emperor Vespasian destroyed it during the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. Only a small portion of the retaining wall remains—the so-called “Wailing Wall.” Jesus said the temple site would continue to be “trampled by the Gentiles… until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
Today, traditional and observant Jews pray three times a day for the Temple’s restoration. The Bible says a new temple will be built in Jerusalem by the Jews prior to Jesus’ Second Coming—a temple that will be desecrated by the anti-Christ.
6. There Has Been Interference with the Temple’s Archaeological History
One problem with finding evidence for Solomon’s Temple today is Muslim interference with Jewish archaeological digs on the Temple Mount. For example, in the mid-1990s, the Muslim Waqf used heavy equipment to bulldoze ancient structures and take rich archaeological materials to a dump where they were mixed with modern trash. Later, Israeli archaeologists were allowed to sift through the dumped material, and they found “a wealth of artifacts”—but not necessarily from Solomon’s Temple.
According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, in 1929, Muslim historian Aref al Aref declared that the Mount’s “identity with the site of Solomon’s temple is beyond dispute.” But in recent decades—with increasing fighting over the sovereignty of areas of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount—Palestinians are back-peddling. In 2000, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat suggested to President Bill Clinton that the Temple Mount might have been in the West Bank town of Nablus—ancient Shechem and one of the largest Palestinian cities today—instead of Jerusalem.
7. Some of the Archaeological Findings Are Controversial
Some modern scholars doubt the existence of Solomon’s temple, because, they say, it is not mentioned in extra-biblical accounts. But there are extrabiblical accounts. For instance, Josephus wrote in Jewish Antiquities: “… the temple was burnt four hundred and seventy years, six months, and ten days after it was built.” Jewish scholars and Hebrew archaeologists are adamant about the existence of Solomon’s temple. Professor Israel Finkelstein, an expert on Jerusalem archaeology, said, “There is no scholarly school of thought that doubts the existence of the First Temple.”
Discover Magazine pointed out that skeptics not only question whether Solomon’s temple was a real place, they also look for archaeological evidence for the existence of David and Solomon themselves! But in 1993, while digging at Tel Dan in northern Israel, an archeologist found a large stone with Aramaic writing—known as the Tel Dan stele. The stone records a conflict with the kings of Israel and proclaimed victory over the “house of David.” Although the stele’s creation was likely more than a century after Solomon’s death, it does provide evidence for skeptics that David was a real person.
In recent years, a number of tiny artifacts have been unearthed on the Temple Mount that Israeli archaeologists say are conclusively dated to the time of the First Temple. Radiocarbon dates of the artifacts put the discovery site in the center of Solomon’s reign. In spite of new discoveries and continuing controversies, biblical Christians continue to point to the Scriptures themselves, choosing to believe the Word of God rather than the claims of skeptics.
- JewishVirtualLibrary.org - “The Jewish Temples: The First Temple—Solomon’s Temple”
- GotQuestions.org - “Solomon’s First Temple”and “Solomon’s Porch”
- Haaretz.com - “Were There Jewish Temples on Temple Mount? Yes”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/flik47
Dawn Wilson has served in revival ministry and missions for more than 50 years. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com.
LISTEN: Three Common Obstacles to Understanding the Bible
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
WATCH: 5 Verses on Strength for When You Feel Weak
Video stock video and music probided by SoundStripe