The First Temple is one of the most famous buildings of the ancient world and also one of the most mysterious. The temple’s fame stems from the prominence it is accorded within a large number of biblical texts. These passages describe the temple as the sanctuary of Yahweh, the God of Israel, who is said to dwell within it (e.g.,
Did you know…?
- According to the Bible, the area of the First Temple was roughly 165 feet long by 85 feet wide
(or a little less than half the size of an American football field).
- The Bible states that to the right of the entrance of the temple there stood a large bronze “Sea,”
or a giant vat that could hold up to 12,000 gallons of liquid. The vat rested on twelve bronze
bulls positioned by threes according to the directions of the compass.
2Chr 3, the First Temple is said to be located on Mount Moriah where, according to Gen 22:2, Abraham brought Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice.
- Only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and only on one day of the year (Yom
Kippur, or the Day of Atonement).
- One of the closest parallels to the First Temple is a sanctuary unearthed at ‘Ain Dara in
northern Syria, where giant footsteps, carved into the ground, are found leading into the building,
suggesting that the god (who was about 65 feet tall) physically walked through its doors before
being enthroned in the sanctuary.
Isa 6, the prophet has a vision in which God sits enthroned “high and lofty” in the temple,
with the hem of God’s robe filling the sanctuary (Isa 6:1).
- The Babylonians make no mention of the fate of the temple’s contents when brought to
Babylon, including the ark of the covenant that is said to have been located in the Holy of Holies.
Who built the First Temple and what did it look like?
According to the Bible (
What’s also interesting about the First Temple is that it appears to be patterned on an architectural style found among peoples (the Phoenicians) that resided along the coastal areas in what is today Lebanon and Syria. The Bible states that Solomon contracted craftsmen from the Phoenician city of Tyre to build the temple and imported raw materials, such as cedar and cypress, from this same region (
What happened to the First Temple and where are its contents now?
The First Temple would have stood alongside the royal palace in Jerusalem for nearly four hundred years. In 586 BCE, the Babylonian army burned the temple down after conquering Jerusalem (
The fate of those items that were in the temple at the time of its ruin are unknown and has provoked speculation across the ages. The Bible states that the Babylonian army seized any objects of value from the sanctuary and broke them down for easier transport, including the great bronze pillars that had marked the entrance to the temple (