|God's Temple in Prophecy
Here is the Temple The Holy Temple which the Creator God has designed and planned for the millennium to come, is one of splendor and magnificence. It is almost impossible for us to visualize the beauty and grandeur that God has planned in this building and its courts and other structures. To view this properly we must now piece together many parts of this "jigsaw puzzle." We cannot at first view the complete picture. Since there is no photograph or drawing to go by we must go to the written description as inspired by God. He has caused the important details to be written down and preserved for us. It is somewhat like understanding the plan of salvation God has for mankind. Only after painstaking study, research, and thought can we view the overall plan. At first the inquiring student can only see the "twigs" on the tree. Later as each "piece" or "twig" is put in proper place, the tree in its entirety begins to appear. In order to see God's Temple we must inspect carefully each "twig," each "limb" and then the "trunk." Only then can we view this most magnificent building in all its future beauty and glory.
God is the Architect Keep in mind that David, Solomon, or Ezekiel, were not the architects or designers of God's Temple. God, the Creator of heaven and earth designed it. Theologians and scholars refer to Solomon as the designer, and believe that he "copied" the architectural style after the pagan architecture of his day. They believe that he derived ideas for certain sections of the temple after the Egyptians, and other parts from the Assyrians or other near eastern races of people and their architecture. That is exactly contrary to the inspired word of God.
"Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch (of the temple), and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper rooms thereof, and of the inner chambers thereof, and of the place of the ark-cover; and the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, for the courts of the house of the Lord, and for all the chambers round about, for the treasuries of the house of God, and for the treasuries of the hallowed things" (I Chronicles 28:11-12, Jewish translation). Here is plain scripture that proves God to be the Author and Architect. He showed David "by the spirit" the "pattern" of all these things. No wonder the students of the temple have come up with such wrong conclusions. They are looking to the architecture of ancient men for the details instead of to the Word of God.
The Five Basic Sections There are five basic sections to the Temple building proper. The Holy of Holies, the Holy Place, the porch, the side chambers, and the upper chambers. The main entrance to the temple is on the east. Upon entering the Temple, the porch is first traversed, then the Holy Place, then the Holy of Holies. Only appointed priests were allowed in any of these rooms, or for that matter in the immediate court that surrounded the temple. Only the High Priest was permitted in the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The side chambers are not technically a part of the Temple, and the entrances to them are on the north and south sides of the building. We might also say that even the porch is not technically a part of the "house," since it was placed "before the house" or in front of it.
The Ulam - or Porch To start our description it is only logical to start with that portion which is first entered, the porch. As you will see very soon, the porch is not at all what we today call a porch, but is rather a slender and graceful tower on the front of the temple. It is here that the Biblical account as given in Kings commences. The translation of the Holy Scriptures by the Jewish Publication Society of America will be used unless otherwise stated.
"And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house" (I Kings 6:3). Notice that only the basic floor dimensions of the Porch are given in this place. The height is not given — there is no description of the walls — no details of the ceiling, windows, or exterior. That will be found in other places. Here is one of the first examples to show that no scripture can be understood by itself. We must look in all the other places where the temple is described to get the details. The text does state that it is the same width (twenty cubits) as the breadth of the "house," and is ten cubits in depth. It must be understood now that these dimensions are inside room dimensions. Outside dimensions are given elsewhere. So far we have a rectangle described of about twenty by thirty feet. But how high is this Porch? The preceding verse states that the house, not the Porch, is thirty cubits. Such a proportion if continued out over the porch would certainly be symmetrical. But such a conclusion is the one usually accepted but it is wrong. The height for this porch is the first major mistake almost all the "scholars" have made. The Bible is clear and plain.
"And the porch that was before (the house), the length of it, according to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and the height a hundred and twenty; and he overlaid it within with pure gold" (II Chronicles 3:4). This has been universally rejected this as being a "corruption" of the text, as the proportions would be completely wrong. Man's reasoning decrees that this is architecturally unsound, or that it is out of proportion, or that it would impossible to build. Here is one such example.
"The proportions, 20, 10, 120 are impossible on both aesthetic and statical grounds. There is certainly a corruption of the text, or we have another example — a gross one here — of the love of exaggeration to which the Chronicler is prone when describing the sanctuary and its worship" (Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings, editor, article "Temple"). Men have decided that this is unreasonable. They have decided such a structure would be a "chimney," rather than a porch — that it would be structurally unreasonable. Has God been proved to be a faulty architect not knowing what is proper from aesthetical and statical grounds? Has He been unable to preserve His word on such vital points regarding His own House? The authorities do not really find the text corrupted at this point, as it is not. They only show that they themselves are "corrupted" in their thinking, and unwilling to accept what they think to be unreasonable. What then becomes the basis of deciding the height of this porch? Human reason! The problem is that every man's reasoning is different. Chaos is the result. They cannot decide for sure the height of the Porch, so each has his own idea. If you have never seen a rabbit and have only a limited description of it, you may differ with others on what it really looks like. But that does not change the appearance of the rabbit. In like manner men may guess about God's Temple, but they do not change the facts. In order to dispel any questions about this simple and very important dimension, let us turn to Josephus on this point. He is the famous Jewish historian who wrote in the first century. Some like to use his description of the temple ahead of the Bible except on this one point.
"The entire altitude of the temple was a hundred and twenty cubits" (Ant. VIII, III, 2). Notice that he refers to this as the extreme or "entire" altitude of the temple. He gives another height for the other sections of the temple. That makes two places where this same height is given. The Bible and Josephus. But to go further, there are still other places where this dimension is also stated clearly. When Herod desired to rebuild the temple, he was compelled by circumstances to obtain the confidence of the Jews. In order to do this, and have their help and approbation, it was necessary for him to describe his plans before they would permit his starting. Here, from Josephus is a portion of his speech.
"Our fathers, indeed, when they were returned from Babylon, built this temple (Zerubbabel's) to God Almighty, yet does it want sixty cubits of its largeness and altitude; for so much did that first temple which Solomon built exceed this temple" (Ant. XV, XI, I). Zerubbabel's temple was "threescore cubits" (sixty) high (Ezra 6:3).
"In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king made a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be builded, the place where they offer sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits and the breadth thereof threescore cubits." Herod stated that it was sixty cubits lower than Solomon's one hundred and twenty cubits. Josephus continues in the same place. "Cyrus and Darius...determined the measures for its rebuilding." And also, "They had not the opportunity to follow the original model of this pious edifice nor could raise it to its ancient altitude." Anyone who still refuses to accept the plain Bible statement must also now reject Josephus and Herod as authorities on the subject. This measurement is not unreasonable when you understand the overall plan that God had in mind designing this temple. God does not use human carnal reasoning in the things that he does. His ways are as high above the ways of man as the heavens are high above the earth (Isaiah 55:8, 9). His temple is in like manner physically "higher" than what men would like to make it! As already mentioned, some of the dimensions are inside measurements. In this particular place a different Hebrew word is used in reference to the height than is usually used. This particular word is literally defined "loftiness" by Young, and refers to the exterior height, not the interior dimension. Now we have the basic picture of the porch. It is exceedingly tall, being 252 feet in height. It is narrow from the front view and slender or graceful from the side view. There are several other aspects of the porch which will be discussed in later sections. These will include the floors, the upper chambers, and the front decorations.
The Hekal - or Holy Place The next portion of the building is the hekal. Here is a strange word since it is not usually used except in regard to this important part of the Temple. The hekal is the Hebrew word meaning "Holy Place." Instead of using the English terminology of Holy Place, we will usually refer to it as the hekal. Most of the authorities or reference works that you may read on the subject will probably use this same word. This hekal is the largest room in the temple. It is located immediately behind the Porch, to the west.
"And the house, that is the temple (hekal) before (the Sanctuary) was forty cubits long" (I Kings 6:17). We have seen how the porch and the temple (house) was twenty cubits broad. Therefore, we have now described a room twenty cubits broad by forty cubits long. Such a room is about forty feet wide by eighty feet long. The walls of this room were lined with boards of cedar while the floor was of cypress (I Kings 6:15).
"And he built the walls of the house within with boards of cedar; from the floor of the house unto the joists of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress." These wallboards were engraved or carved with knops (knops are gourds) and open flowers, palm trees and cherubim. "And the cedar on the house within was carved with knops and open flowers; all was cedar; there was no stone seen" (I Kings 6:18). Further description is also given in this same chapter regarding this intricate and detailed work.
"And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers, within and without" (I Kings 6:29). To further add to this splendor these walls were overlaid with pure gold!
"And the floor of the house he overlaid with gold, within and without" (I Kings 6:30). The expression "within and without" refers to the floors within the hekal, and without, in the porch. Both were covered with gold and had carvings or engravings on the walls. There were windows near the ceiling in the hekal. They would have to be over twenty cubits above the floor level as the exterior wall was surrounded to approximately that height on the outside by the side chambers. These particular windows were unusual in their design. They were set in very thick walls of six cubits thickness. They were broad on the inside and narrow on the outside. On the outside they appeared rectangular in shape with the longest dimension being vertical.
"And for the house he made windows broad within, and narrow without" (I Kings 6:4).
The Debir - or Holy of Holies The debir is better known as the Holy of Holies. It consists of a smaller room of exactly twenty cubits in all dimensions.
"And he prepared the Sanctuary in the midst of the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the Lord. And before the Sanctuary which was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof..." (I Kings 6:19-20). Originally this room contained the ark of the covenant and the two cherubim of olive wood. Into this inner sanctuary the high priest was alone permitted to enter, and then only once a year on the day of atonement.
"And he built twenty cubits on the hinder part of the house with boards of cedar from the floor unto the joists; he even built them for himself within, for a Sanctuary (debir) even for the most holy place" (I Kings 6:16). This debir was covered with gold, just as the hekal. In fact the entire interior of the temple was overlaid with gold. Some have confused this fact and thought that the exterior was also overlaid with gold, however, there is no basis for this.
"So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold; and he drew chains of gold across the wall before the sanctuary; and he overlaid it with gold. And the whole house he overlaid with gold until all the house was finished..." (I Kings 6:21-22). The debir had no windows. None are mentioned and there could be none because the exterior side chambers would cover them up. Solomon said at the dedication of the temple that the Lord would dwell in "thick darkness" (I Kings 8:12). He apparently was referring in part to the fact that there was no light from physical sources in the debir or Holy of Holies where the Lord dwelt. In the debir of the new temple, yet to be built, the coming Lord of the whole universe will take up residence and will rule the world. He will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ the Messiah. At that time His glory will shine forth so brightly that there will be no need of artificial light in the Holy of Holies. Some have thought that the debir was elevated above the floor of the hekal since it is ten cubits less in vertical dimension. There is no mention in scripture, in Josephus, or in the Mishna of such a possibility. No steps are mentioned as being inside the temple building. There are steps mentioned at the gates to the inner and outer court and on the outside of the porch (Ezek. 40:22, 49). If there were steps into the debir, it would be mentioned. So far we have had described three different sections to the temple. For the time being, imagine them as three wooden blocks, all of the same width but with varying heights and depths. The porch twenty by ten, by one hundred and twenty. The hekal twenty by forty by thirty. The debir, twenty by twenty by twenty. That should give you a rough idea of the proportions of the principal parts of the temple. Later we will discuss the matter of walls, which will slightly change these proportions.
The Side Chambers Most authorities come to about the same conclusions when it comes to the floor plan of the main part of the temple. But when it comes to the height of the porch they are almost all in error. Now we must examine the side chambers, and here again most of the researchers have departed from the Biblical description. As previously mentioned, these side chambers are arranged around the outside of the main part of the temple building on three sides, the North, West and South. Most authorities have decided that there were thirty such rooms to each floor and use as their basis the comment of Josephus which states that there were thirty for each story. This seems a logical amount since it is a "round" number and easily divided. As previously quoted, the Mishna stated that there were thirty-eight in all for Herod's temple. Remember that we are now dealing with Solomon's temple. Josephus had seen Herod's temple. He may have based his account on what he remembered from Herod's temple, prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. Here is an example of how the scholars have rejected the plain statement as given in the original Hebrew text and instead used their own reasoning.
"On every side of the house except the east, Ezekiel's temple, like Solomon's had side chambers. The MT (Masoretic Text, or original Hebrew) gives the number of them as 33, and Smend displays much ingenuity in justifying the text which in this connexion is by universal confession very corrupt" (Dictionary of the Bible, Edited by James Hastings, article "Temple," emphasis ours). The "universal confession" here should be that the scholars just do not believe the scripture account. They have almost universally accepted the statement of Josephus and the corrupt Septuagint Greek version. The text plainly shows that there were stories of chambers "one over another," or three floors (compare I Kings 6:5-6). It also shows that the chambers were "thirty three times" for each floor.
"And the side-chambers were one over another, three and thirty times..." (Ezekiel 41:6). The King James version along with most of the others have interpreted and not translated this particular point. The translation by the Jewish Publication Society has faithfully transliterated the original Hebrew Scriptures at this point. It is literally as stated, "three and thirty times," or thirty-three. Even though most of the translators have followed the idea of thirty chambers and have "interpreted" rather than translated this passage, there is at least one other which is correct.
"And the side rooms were one over another thirty-three in order..." (The Holy Bible, translated by George Lamsa). These side chambers are mentioned in Kings and Ezekiel, but not in Chronicles. This is another example of how the Bible does not have all of the details in one place, but "here a little and there a little." There is a very unusual arrangement for these rooms. They are arranged in three stories as we will soon see. However, their arrangement is not at all according to the common concept of architecture. Usually the second and third story of a building are either the same width or smaller. Many of the buildings have succeeding floors or groups of floors smaller than those below. In the temple, each succeeding story is larger than the one beneath. God was the Designer of this temple and He does not use the same standards that man uses. Here is the Bible description and measurements of these chambers.
"And against the wall of the house he built a side-structure round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the sanctuary; and he made side-chambers round about; the nethermost story of the side-structure was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad, for on the outside he made rebatements in the wall of the house round about, that the beams should not have hold in the walls of the house" (I Kings 6:5-6). Notice that the first floor had chambers of five cubits broad, the second floor had chambers of six cubits broad, and the third floor had chambers of seven cubits. Another unusual factor in the placement of these rooms concerns the outer wall of the main part of the temple. The temple wall which surrounds the hekal and debir was not permitted to be cut into. This wall, which encloses the inner rooms, apparently cannot be cut into because of its sacredness. The two main rooms of the temple contained important items such as the ark and mercy seat, and were used for temple ceremonies. In the future it will be the personal dwelling place of Christ. The side chambers were rooms for various offices of the priesthood. In the future there may be other uses as the following scripture implies.
"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2, R.S.V.). Notice that there were "rebatements," "projections" (Moffatt) or "narrow ledges" (Young) in the temple wall to support the beams which hold up the successive floors and roof of the side chambers. This word is given as "cornice" in Ezekiel 41:6. These ledges or cornices are provided so that the beams will not project into the walls of the house, "Allowing space all around the outside wall so that the ends of the planks upholding the rows need not pierce the walls of the temple" (I Kings 6:6, Moffatt).
Further details are given at this point in Ezekiel. Notice his description.
"...there were cornices in the wall which belonged to the house for the side-chambers round about, that they might have hold therein, and not have hold in the wall of the house. And the side-chambers were broader as they wound about higher and higher; for the winding about of the house went higher and higher round about the house; therefore the breadth of the house continued upward..." (Ezekiel 41:6-7). Since there could be no cutting into the wall of the house, the increasing width of each story would of necessity cut into the outside wall of the chambers. In order to explain this more clearly, it is necessary at this point to refer to the previous illustration. The statement "the breadth of the house continued upward" (verse 7), simply means that the width of the "house" is the same at the top as it is at the bottom. This completely discounts the possibility of there being ledges or steps in the wall of the house to hold up the floor joists. In the drawing you will notice that the inside or temple wall is straight, having no indentations. There are projections below each floor to support the beams. Nearly all who have made drawings of the temple show projections into the temple wall and into the outside chamber wall. A few have made the projection into the inside temple wall and made the outside wall straight. Almost none have followed the plain Bible statement. So far we have only seen one measurement of the side chambers, that of the breadth, from the temple wall outward. We still do not have the height of these rooms.
"And he built the stories of the side-structure against all the house, each five cubits high; and they rested on the house with timber of cedar" (I Kings 6:10). There is still a third dimension lacking. Kings and Chronicles are silent on this important point. We know two dimensions, and we know how many chambers there are. An approximate dimension could be arrived at, but we must have an exact figure. Again, we must look to Ezekiel for the answer.
"...and the breadth of every side-chamber, four cubits, round about the house on every side" (Ezekiel 41:5). In this place the measurement is given as the "breadth." Depending on which way you look at it, either measurement of the floor dimension could be considered the "breadth." Putting all these scriptures together it is plain that we now have all three dimensions of these side chambers. As we will see later this dimension will fit with the number of chambers on each floor, in the space allotted for the chambers.
Entrance to the Side-Chambers Where are the entrances to these chambers? This is the next logical question to ask. Nearly all of the scholars have placed an entrance in the center of the southern side of the temple for Solomon's temple. In drawing Ezekiel's temple they have added a second one in the center of the northern side. Is that what the Bible states? It is not!
"The door for the lowest row of chambers was in the right side of the house and they went up by winding stairs into the middle row, and out of the middle into the third" (I Kings 6:8). Notice these points from the preceding verse. (1) The door gave entrance to the first floor. (2) Entry to the second and third story was by a "winding stair." (3) The entrance was on the right side of the house. It is universally accepted that the "right" side is referring to the south side, which is correct. The right side is determined or viewed from the inside of the house facing toward the entrance which is to the east. So far we do not know exactly where, along the south side of the house, the entrance is to be located. The answer is again found in Ezekiel.
"And the doors of the side-chambers were toward the place that was left, one door toward the north, and another door toward the south; and the breadth of the place that was left was five cubits round about" (Ezekiel 41:11). In this account it is stated that there are two entrances, one to the north and one to the south. This does not contradict Kings, since Ezekiel mentions doors on both south and north, while Kings only mentions one on the south. We have to put the various parts of the Bible together to get all the truth on a given subject. Solomon's temple surely had two entrances also, one on the north and one on the south; however, the writer of Kings only mentions one of them. We now have two entrances described, but where are they on the north and south side? The answer was given in verse eleven. Did you catch it? Both of the entrances were located in the "place that was left." That probably does not make sense yet. So a little explaining is necessary. This "place that was left" is said to be five cubits round about or in both directions. This is the place left for the "winding stair." Since all of the chambers are four cubits in breadth, they each take only four cubits of wall space on the outside of the inner temple wall. One could not fit properly in the corner since one chamber of four cubits breadth would have to match the other chambers length dimension of five cubits. The side chambers must fit against the main wall, and not in the northwest and southwest corner. The corner is the "place that was left." No other logical conclusion can come from the scripture account. A five cubit square arbitrarily set somewhere along the north or south wall is not logically the "place that was left," and yet that is the wrong conclusion that most of the scholars have come to. When this is drawn out to scale you will be able to see more plainly just how this is the only logical conclusion that can be reached. This five cubit space that was left can only be for one purpose — for the "winding stairs." But the learned scholars have the conception that man has been "evolving" to higher and higher ability and knowledge of building construction. They are not aware that God designed this building, not man. They refuse to accept the idea that there were winding stairs in the temple. There were only trap doors and ladders they say!
"From the lowest story one ascended to the others by the means of a ladder and trap-door, and not, as used to be thought by means of a winding stair: of such winding stairs the ancient East was quite ignorant" (Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hasting, Article "Temple". Using the available wall space, each chamber can be exactly four cubits in breadth, with one-cubit inner walls between each side-chamber. The exception to this is the west wall where the inner walls must be only 1/2 cubit (1 foot) in order to fit. Further details are shown in the drawings of the side chambers. By using the space available it will be found that thirteen side-chambers fit on the south side, thirteen on the north, and seven on the west. The two winding stairs are located in the corners. God has used the number seven from ancient times. To a lesser degree He has used the number thirteen, but it is still used many times. There were thirteen tribes (counting Levi). There were thirteen "original" apostles (including Matthias). The next question is how entrance can be made to all of these many chambers from the main north and south entrance. The Bible is completely silent on this matter. No passageway, hallway or doors are described. No space is left in the description for such a passageway or hall. Where can we find the answer to this puzzling question? We must look elsewhere for the answer. Remember our original basis for deciding such problems? Where the scripture is silent and gives no basis, the only sources left are the records of the Priest Josephus or, at times, the Mishna. On this particular point, as well as nearly all others the Mishna is either absurd, unreasonable, or exactly contrary to the scriptural account. Of course it refers to Herod's temple instead of Solomon's. But Herod's was supposedly copied in the principal details after Solomon's. It rejects the idea of a winding stair as plainly stated in scripture, and states there were trap doors between each upper and lower chambers. Josephus gives an answer which does agree completely with the scriptural account. He may on occasion be wrong on certain other points, but in this case he has the answer that is needed.
"He also built round about the temple, thirty small rooms which might include the whole temple, by their closeness one to another, and by their number and outward position round it. He also made passages through them that they might come into one through another" (Ant. VIII, III, 2). From this it becomes plain, completely in accord with the scriptural account, that there was a passageway that went the entire length of the rooms to connect them together. It was of necessity a part of the space allotted to each chamber. By referring to the accompanying drawings it will be plain how this common passageway is arranged. Since there are no windows mentioned for the chambers, none are shown on the enclosed drawings.
The Upper Chambers When it comes to the details of upper chambers we are almost faced with an insurmountable problem. It is not quickly apparent as to where they are located or how large they are. But this problem can be solved! No easy answer is found to this part of our "jigsaw puzzle." First, let us understand that so far, when speaking of the side-chambers, the Hebrew word was tsela. This word comes from a root signifying "ribs." These side chambers are arranged somewhat like ribs around the temple. Now we are ready to investigate a new and entirely different type of chamber.
"...and he overlaid the upper chambers with gold" (II Chron. 3:9). Clarke supposes this word to mean ceiling. This is absurd since the scripture says that the complete interior of the hekal and debir are covered with gold including the ceiling. This word has no reference to ceiling. The Hebrew word here is aliyyah, which has no connection with the side chambers (tsela). It is the same word used in II Kings 1:2 where it states that Ahaziah fell from his upper chamber. This could in no way have referred to the word "ceiling." The side chambers could not in any way be referred to as upper chambers since one-third of them were "lower" or on the ground floor. We have already seen at the beginning of the description of the temple how God had given the details to David of the temple including the upper chambers, or upper rooms as translated in the King James Version. The Bible nowhere specifically describes these rooms or tells where they are located! Many of the scholars, even Josephus, think that they were located above the hekal and the debir. But if so, what was their use, where was the entrance? Josephus only had faulty tradition to guide him. Can you picture the most holy parts of the temple having chambers above them for storage or offices? Can you picture Jesus Christ the King of the earth seated on His throne during the millennium with men working above Him in the upper chambers? Remember the inner or main part of the house is so sacred that even the planks to hold up the floors of the side chambers could not penetrate into it. No — that is entirely unreasonable from God's point of view! Young (Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible) gives the literal definition for this word as a loft, or upper chamber. Apparently referring to something high or lifted up. This same word is used to refer to the upper chamber of Uzziah (II Kings 1:2) and of the Kings (II Kings 23:12). Just where can these chambers be? There is only one logical place left! In the porch. We skipped over the porch rather rapidly at first, but we must come back to it now. We left it in the description as a tall slender room of ten by twenty by one hundred and twenty cubits. Did you suppose that this was a hollow shell? If so, of what purpose was it made so high? Just for outside appearance, or for a practical purpose also? We have already seen that the porch was overlaid in its interior with gold (II Chronicles 3:4), and yet the side chambers were not overlaid with gold. The upper chambers, since they are a part of the porch, are also naturally overlaid with gold (II Chronicles 3:9). How many of these chambers are there? How large are they, how are they entered, and what is their purpose? Since the Bible does not say, we need to go to Josephus. Remember his source is mainly unwritten tradition handed down over the period of six centuries. It involves a period of national captivity and many wars, spiritual rebellion and disobedience. But some of his statements, while not always completely correct, are based on fact that may have been slightly misunderstood. Let's find out where the entrance to these rooms were, first of all.
"The king also had a fine contrivance for an ascent to the upper room over the temple, and that was by steps in the thickness of its wall; for it had no large door on the east end, as the lower house had, but the entrances were by the sides, through very small doors" (Ant. VIII, III, 2). These rooms must have been "over the temple" in the porch, and not as Josephus supposed above the hekal and debir. But their entrance was through the small doors on the inside of the porch, through the walls of the porch, not of the main walls of the hekal. That solves the problem regarding the entrances, but what about the number of rooms or stories in the porch? Again, please remember that the Bible does not tell us. God has seen fit to preserve the key for us, this time also in Josephus. In the same section from which the preceding passage was taken he mentions that each of the side chambers were twenty cubits high.
"Every one of these rooms had five cubits in breadth, and the same in length, but in height twenty." (Ant. VII, III, 2). This could not possibly be referring to the side chambers, as the Bible plainly and specifically states they were five cubits high just as we have seen already. He further states that they were one over another, or in successive stories. It seems obvious that he confused two different kinds of rooms, and combined details of both into one description. We have our key now! The chambers were twenty cubits high, one over another. In one hundred and twenty cubits there would be six separate chambers on separate floors. The inner rooms, the hekal and debir, seem to be for the service of God only. The side-chambers, the porch and the upper chambers are for other purposes, in other words, for man! The number of a man has always been considered as six, the same number of the floors that this porch would have if divided into twenty cubit floors. The number six is used frequently in the design of the temple. The walls of the temple are six cubits thick. The reed of Ezekiel was six cubits long, a measurement used many times in the temple and its courts. There are six gates to the temple. Since the Bible does not say specifically, this seems to be the only logical solution to our problem. There were other chambers in addition to the side chambers and the upper chambers, but they are located in other buildings in the inner or outer court. These other buildings and chambers were also considered to be "in the house of the Lord." However, details of that must come later. The exact use of these upper chambers is not stated. There were treasuries in the house of God, and possibly that is what they were for, however, that is only conjecture. Some have envisioned a "royal oratory" within the upper floors of the porch, with large window openings on the front. This was supposedly the place where the Kings could come and pray to God. It is mentioned in scriptures that they on occasion did come and appear before God in the temple. They could have done this at any of a number of different places or rooms within the inner or outer court. The description of Ezekiel eliminates the possibility of any such windows on the front or "face" of the porch.
The Walls If we did not have Ezekiel's account of the temple, there would be no information regarding the thickness of the walls. The walls have a very important part in the overall design of the temple, since they are very thick in comparison with most architectural designs. The book of Kings gives the dimensions of the various rooms, the doors, and the materials used. Chronicles gives the porch height, various details of the embellishments, the pillars of brass, plus the altar, the molten sea and the sacrificial implements. Ezekiel gives details of the ground floor plan, including the walls, the entrances, further details of the side-chambers, and the foundations. He also gives details of the exterior appearance of the porch. He alone describes the gates and the courts, and the additional buildings. You should be able to see better now, why it is impossible to understand this subject without all three sources. Since it is Ezekiel who gives the details of the walls, we must go there next for that information. In order to follow the scripture on this point it is almost necessary to have the plan drawn out first. Then by comparing the text to the plan it is clear and simple.
"Then he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured each post of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that side; and the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side. The length of the porch was twenty cubits, and the breadth eleven cubits..." (Ezek. 40:48-49). That gives us the porch measurements, plus the five cubits for the front or eastern wall. Did you notice that the last measurement was eleven cubits instead of ten cubits? The account of Solomon's temple listed this measurement as ten cubits. Here is just about the only stated difference between Solomon's temple and Ezekiel's temple. The reason for this difference is not readily apparent however, it might well have spiritual and prophetic significance. Even though there are ideas about this matter, the present work is not intended for the purpose of dealing with spiritual types, or with the service and purpose of the temple. Now to enter the main part of the temple, the hekal is summarized.
"And he brought me to the temple, and measured the posts, six cubits broad on the one side, and six cubits broad on the other side, which was the breadth of the tent. And the breadth of the entrance was ten cubits; and the sides of the entrance were five cubits on the one side, and five cubits on the other side; and he measured the length thereof, forty cubits, and the breadth, twenty cubits" (Ezek. 41:1-2). Next is the entrance to the debir.
"Then went he inward, and measured each post of the entrance, two cubits; and the entrance, six cubits; and the breadth of the entrance, seven cubits. And he measured the length thereof, twenty cubits, and the breadth, twenty cubits, before the temple; and he said unto me: 'This is the most holy place'" (Ezek. 41:3-4). And now for the thickness of the wall of the house, which just includes the walls around the hekal and debir.
"Then he measured the wall of the house, six cubits" (Ezek. 41:5). There was still another outer wall which encompassed the side chambers.
"The breadth of the outer wall which belonged to the side-chambers was five cubits; and so that which was left by the structure of the side-chambers that belonged to the house" (Ezek. 41:9). With all of this information we can almost make a floor plan of the whole building, but there is one thing lacking. We do not have the overall dimension of the house. It is given also by Ezekiel, so that there is no question in regard to the measurements.
"And he measured the house a hundred cubits long" (Ezekiel 41:13). A Brief Summary
Here is a summary of the various dimensions from east to west.
1. Porch wall 5 cubits
2. Depth of porch 11 "
3. House wall 6 "
4. Hekal length 40 "
5. Inner wall 2 "
6. Debir length 20 "
7. House wall 6 "
8. Side-chambers 5 "
9. Outside wall 5 "
Total 100 cubits Compare this now with the drawing on page 28. The figures are not given there however the drawing uses these dimensions.
Now for a summary from north to south.
1. Outside wall 5 cubits
2. Side-chambers 5 "
3. House wall 6 "
4. Interior width 20 "
5. House wall 6 "
6. Side-chamber 5 "
7. Outside wall 5 "
Total 52 cubits Notice that this measurement is 52 cubits, an irregular figure. It might appear at first that something is wrong, and that this figure must be incorrect. A careful check will reveal that there is no mistake. Each one of the dimensions are given and cannot be changed. Before we find out why this dimension is unusual there are other aspects which must now be mentioned.
"...and between the chambers was a breadth of twenty cubits round about the house on every side" (Ezekiel 41:10). Just what does this mean? What relation does it have to our last problem? It may not make good sense easily, as it may be confused with the section concerning the side chambers. We know from the size of the inner rooms and walls that they are separated by 32 cubits and not 20. Part of the problem will be solved when we understand that there are different Hebrew words which are translated into the word "chambers" in our English versions. In this particular place the word for chambers is lishkah. It refers to different chambers which are to the north, west, and south of the temple and are not a part of the main Temple building. They are 20 cubits distance from the temple building. By adding these two figures to our previous 52 cubits we find that we have 92 cubits. We are 8 cubits short of the 100 cubits needed for the inner court width.
The Basement There is still one factor missing. The basement. Nothing has been said about it so far.
"And I saw also that the house had a raised basement round about; the foundations of the side-chambers were a full reed of six cubits to the joining" (Ezekiel 41:8). This basement, or foundation, is about 12 feet high from the inner court level to the floor level of the temple building and side chambers. The place of "joining" is where the basement ends and the house starts. Now that we know there is a raised basement round about, we need one other dimension. We do not know how wide it is. Is it just as wide as the house? If so, how can a person enter the side door which gives entry to the side-chambers? There is no mention of any steps leading up to them, but there is mention of steps leading to the entrance of the temple (Ezekiel 40:49). The steps leading to the temple must be to climb above this "basement." We are lacking only 8 cubits for the overall north-south dimension. Here is the only place that such a dimension could fit. All of the other dimensions are given so it must be this place where the lacking dimension belongs. Therefore, it is only logical to conclude that the raised basement is 4 cubits on either side of the house. This provides a walkway from the entrance steps to the side chamber entrance. It cannot continue clear around to the rear of the house as there is no room for it to the rear. This will be plain when we discuss the two courts in a later chapter.
The Doors There is no door at the entrance of the porch but just a large opening. We have seen the dimensions of the opening, however, there is no mention anywhere of doors for it. The entrance to the hekal does have doors. We say this in the plural, as there are two doors, of two leaves each.
"So also made he for the entrance of the temple door-posts of olive-wood, within a frame four-square; and two doors of cypress-wood; the two leaves of the other door were folding" (I Kings 6:33-34). Notice that this door is square. From earlier dimensions given, it was found that the door opening is 10 cubits, since there are five cubits on each side of the door since the hekal is 20 cubits wide. The door is square so it is also 10 cubits high. These doors are made of cypress wood, and the door frame is of olive wood as the previous text states. These doors are very unusual doors since they have two leaves each. You probably have seen similar folding doors. Occasionally an auditorium will be divided into two or more sections by movable folding type doors. They can be folded up somewhat like an accordion and pushed aside, or they can be straightened out to make a wall. These doors are somewhat like that. Two leaves fold to the one side, and the other two leaves fold to the other side. Since there are four leaves, and the distance is 10 cubits, each leaf is about 5 feet wide by 20 feet high. When open they will easily fold against the jambs of the door opening. Further details are given on these doors in Ezekiel.
"And the temple and the sanctuary had two doors. And the doors had two leaves (apiece), two turning leaves; two leaves for the one door, and two leaves for the other. And there were made on them, on the doors of the temple, cherubim and palm-trees, like as were made upon the walls..." (Ezekiel 41:23-25). The entrance to the debir also has doors. They also have four leaves, but are different in shape.
"And for the entrance of the sanctuary he made doors of olive-wood, the doorposts within the frame having five angles (I Kings 6:31). This entrance has two doors, but the frame to the door has five angles. Instead of having a door opening with a straight and level top, this one has two angular frames projecting to the center point. When the doors are opened, they must be swung to the side, in order to accommodate the high center of the door As seen from above all of these door jambs are squared, therefore, we cannot interpret the preceding text to mean that the jambs, as seen from above, appeared to have five angles.
"As for the temple, the jambs were squared" (Ezek. 41:21). In this door, the frames and the door are of olive-wood. In the case of both the door to the hekal and the debir, they are engraved with cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. Over this was an overlay of gold. In addition to the text quoted also note verse 35.
"And as for the two doors of olive-wood, he carved upon them carvings of cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread the gold upon the cherubim, and upon the palm-trees" (I Kings 6:32).
The Engravings and Overlays
It has already been mentioned that the house was overlaid with gold which covered the engravings of cherubim, palm trees and flowers. Here is further information about these gold overlays.
"And the greater house he covered with cypress wood, which he overlaid with fine gold, and wrought thereon palm-trees and chains. And he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty; and the gold was gold of Parvaim. He overlaid also the house, the beams, the thresholds, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold; and graved cherubim on the walls" (II Chron. 3:5-7).
The Porch "Face"
The front face of the porch is the most prominent part of the temple since it is the main part seen from in front. The description in the Bible is very brief, and presents certain difficulties.
"And there were thick beams of wood upon the face of the porch without...there were also the brackets of the house, and the thick beams" (Ezek. 41:25-26). None of the source material available on the temple is of any help at this point. No one knows for sure just what is meant by this statement concerning the "thick beams of wood." As a consequence nothing is done about it in most drawings of the temple. The Lexicons are of little help except to state that this is an architectural term which is not understood for certain. The Hebrew words for "thick beams of wood" are ab ets, and for "thick beams" the word ob. The ob and ab apparently are from the same root and indicate something thick or massive. The word ets just means wood. Just what would be the purpose of thick beams on the front face of the porch? Certainly not for structural strength, as the building is made of stone. It must be for beauty or adornment. Josephus says nothing about these thick beams but the Mishna, of the Babylonian Talmud does. Keep in mind that this quotation is in regard to Herod's temple, and not Solomon's. The dimensions of the porch were altered greatly by Herod from what they were in Solomon's temple.
"Mishna 7. The doorway of the porch was forty cubits high and its breadth was twenty cubits. Over it were five main beams of cedar. The lowest projected a cubit on each side beyond the doorway. The one above projected beyond this one a cubit on each side. Thus the topmost one was thirty cubits long. There was a layer of stones between each one and the next" (Mishna, Tract Middoth). Herod's plan was to "improve" the former temple and make it more grand and glorious. He added to each side of the porch, making an overall view from above to appear as that of a lion, according to the Mishna. This is quite different from the porch that God designed. Since he wanted to make this temple so much grander, he had to make the entrance much larger than was prescribed in the Bible as is evident in the previous quotation. The original plan called for an opening of 14 cubits, however, Herod's was 20 cubits. With this in mind, notice that there were five separate beams above the entrance. This is the only description of any beams which might be similar to those of Ezekiel 41:26. They were obviously for decorative, rather than for structural reasons. There is no other information available on this point, therefore we are left with no other choice than to accept this as an indication of what is meant. The Bible does not say how many beams there were. Herod had five, but he wanted to "improve" and expand on God's plan. In this case, instead of Herod's five beams three such beams have been drawn on the face of the porch, just over the entrance. This will then fit the Bible description as given in Ezekiel. There is one more problem relating to Ezekiel 41:25-26. It is mentioned that there were also "brackets" to the house. This is better translated "side-chambers" from the Hebrew word tsela, which is elsewhere translated side chambers. With this information, there is no problem in the text. There are further details about the exterior appearance of the porch which were skipped previously.
"And there were narrow windows and palm-trees on the one side and on the other side, on the sides of the porch" (Ezekiel 41:26). These must be on the exterior, since the text in question is referring to the things "without." On the north side and the south side of the porch are these windows and palm trees. As mentioned earlier, there were also narrow windows in the hekal. They were by necessity very high, above the roof line of the side chambers which were around the building. Ezekiel states that these narrow windows are covered (Ezekiel 41:16) most probably with lattice work or screening. The veneering on the walls projected upward from the floor to these windows. Nothing is said in the Bible about the roof of the temple, even though some commentators have imagined that certain texts refer to a roof. The design and style of the roof is something that men skilled in building can design without difficulty. The roof would undoubtedly be nearly flat since that is the common type roof in this area. The top should be of endurable material, probably stone, to last without necessary repairs or additions. In the drawings enclosed, five cubits have been left for the ceiling, trusses and roofing. This should be ample for strong bridge-like trusses and the roofing materials. The edges of the walls should extend above the roof line to cover it and also to comply with the scripture requirement regarding roofs (Deut. 22:8). Since a roof is needed and no dimension is given, the number five cubits was chosen. This is a common number in the temple, especially for walls. In addition all the vertical dimensions given in the Bible for the temple are divisible by this number.
Construction Materials When Solomon built the temple he constructed it of stone quarried nearby in the northern quarter of the old city. The quarries are still there today as huge caverns under the city. This stone was limestone and when exposed to the light it appeared almost like white marble. Thus, the exterior of the temple had a brilliant white appearance, almost like snow, as Josephus described it. Before we leave this chapter it would be good to summarize the materials for the temple. The exterior was of stone. (I Kings 6:7). The walls of the hekal were covered with cypress (II Chronicles 3:5), and also the floor but the debir had walls of cedar (I Kings 6:15). The beams or joists for the support of the side chambers were of cedar (verse 10). The door of the debir and the door posts of the hekal were of olive wood, however, the doors of the hekal were of cypress. Covering all of these walls was precious stones and gold. We have now seen a very brief description of the main temple building, and the main important points of construction. This is not intended to be an architect's plan. There are other important aspects of the temple and its courts which must be considered in the remaining chapters.