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Artist's reconstruction of the interior of the Temple of Solomon, showing cedar pillars, gold overlay on walls, and entrance into the Holy of Holies

An artist's reconstruction of the interior of the Temple of Solomon

Solomon showed himself to be an outstanding builder. In this he was helped by King Hiram I of Tyre, with whom he had a close commercial relationship.

Solomon spent thirteen years building the great complex of temples and palaces on the northern side of Jerusalem - the Temple took seven and a half years, and the palace twice as long.

The Temple was modelled on Canaanite and Syrian buildings. This was natural, since it was designed and built by craftsmen from Tyre.

Despite its magnificence, few people saw its full glory. Ordinary worshippers could not enter the Temple buildings, and sacrifices were performed in the courtyard outside.

Artist's reconstruction of the Holy of Holies, with Ark of the Covenant and cherubim

Artist's reconstruction of the 'Devir' or Holy of Holies

Throne of Astarte showing winged sphinx, Eshmun Temple, 7th century BC

Side view of the Throne of Astarte, Eshmun Temple, 7th century BC

The sanctuary was quite small. It had three parts:

  • the Vestibule (Ulam) at the eastern end
  • the cult hall (Hekhal)
  • the Holy of Holies (Devir) which held the Ark and was hidden by a curtain of blue, crimson and purple linen. The Ark was a pivotal link between heaven and earth.

There were two large golden candlesticks in the Hekhal, reflecting the dualism in the Creation Story - man/woman, good/evil, and the two trees in Eden.

These candelsticks were the Menorah, and they came to be symbols of Judaism and the Jewish people - though nowadays they have been supplanted by the Star of David.

It is no accident that Roman soldiers carry the Temple menorah in the triumphal procession shown on the Arch of Titus (below). They are parading not just a trophy of war, but a symbol of the Jewish people.


Image of the looted Menorah from the Roman Arch of Titus

The Temple also contained a golden table for shewbread (unleavened bread offered to God).

There was an incense altar of gold-plated cedarwood, and a bronze serpent which may or may not have been the one used by Moses to cure the Israelites of plague - there are disputes about this.

At the entrance of the Ulam, the entrance vestibule, were two bronze pillars called Yakhin and Boaz. They may have been related to Canaanite standing stones. Double pillars at the doorway of a temple seems to have been a common feature all over the Middle Eastern area. 


B/W floor plan of the First Temple, built by King Solomon

Basic floor plan of Solomon's Temple


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