|God's Temple in Prophecy
The Pillars Jachin and Boaz One of the least understood aspects of the temple is that of the two brazen pillars which were directly in front of the temple.
Much speculation has resulted from the Biblical description of these pillars. In fact, a major secret fraternal society has adapted as a part of its ceremony two pillars which are supposed to represent the pillars that Solomon had built for the temple. They have placed round balls on top of these pillars.
Is this a correct representation of the pillars that Solomon had? Just what were these pillars for? It seems that no one really knows. Were they for decoration, or did they support a part of the porch?
These are questions that must now be solved and understood clearly as this is an important part of our subject. We must not start with any preconceived ideas such as the round balls used by some, because they will not fit the Bible description. Whatever conclusions are reached must fit all aspects of the Bible description.
In order to understand this subject we must take the account literally, checking point against point, and slowly proceeding until we fully understand each aspect.
This is not an easy problem to solve, in fact it is one of the most difficult problems relating to the temple. This is brought out by the following quotation.
"There are no features connected with the temple of Solomon which have given rise to so much controversy, or been so difficult to explain, as the form of the two pillars of brass which were set up in the porch of the house" (Smith Dictionary of the Bible, article Temple, page 3199). Some have even come to the conclusion that these pillars were two torches, copied from pagan temples which had such torches before them.
A quick reading of the Biblical account will quickly demonstrate some of the problems relating to this subject. It just does not make sense at first glance. In fact, without considerable study and comparison it is difficult to get any sense out of the text.
There are various problems of apparent contradiction which must be noted and understood before a clear understanding can be obtained.
Lest anyone think that this is an unimportant part of our subject, it should be mentioned that the description of these pillars and their capitals (this expression will be explained later) are mentioned in no less than four separate parts of the Bible!
They are also an important integral part of God's temple in prophecy as Ezekiel describes it. He does not give the details as other texts do, but merely mentions that they are there.
"And there were pillars by the posts, (the posts of the porch of the temple), one on this side, and another on that side" (Ezekiel 40:49). They are described in I Kings, II Kings, II Chronicles and Jeremiah. God considered this subject important enough to mention in all of these separate places. And indeed it is necessary to study all of these places to put together the parts that will unlock the details of these pillars.
The Pillars But now, let us begin to let the Bible reveal to us the details of these remarkable pillars and their capitals. They were very difficult to make, so Solomon had a man who was highly skilled in the art of casting brass to construct them.
"And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work" (I Kings 7:13-14). The description of the pillars starts with the following account:
"Thus he fashioned the two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high each; and a line of twelve cubits did compass it about; (and so) the other pillar" ( I Kings 7:15). This seems simple enough. They are simply cylindrical pillars almost 4 cubits in diameter and eighteen cubits high.
Two other accounts seem to agree with this description.
"The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits" (II Kings 25:17).
"And as for the pillars, the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a line of twelve cubits did compass it" (Jeremiah 52:21). Chronicles apparently does not agree with these texts.
"Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high" (II Chron. 3:15). How can this be? Three texts said that they were 18 cubits high and now one says that they were 35 cubits. Is this a contradiction? Has God permitted an error to creep into the text?
A careful check into the words used in the Hebrew language at this point will solve our problem. In the account of Chronicles the word for "high" is "orek" and is not the same word used in the other texts. This particular word means "long" and not high. The account in Chronicles then merely states that the two pillars are 35 cubits long. In other words, laid end to end they were 35 cubits long together. Each pillar was 17 1/2 cubits high. But that is a half cubit short of the 18 cubits as stated in the other texts. No details are mentioned about the bases for the pillars; therefore it becomes plain that the bases for the pillars are a half cubit high, making the pillars 18 cubits high in altitude when they are on their bases and in place.
"The united height of the pillars is here given; and though the exact dimensions would be 36 cubits, each column was only 17 1/2 cubits, a half cubit being taken up by the.. .base. They are probably described as they were lying together in the mould before they were set up" (Critical and Experimental Commentary, Jamieson, volume II, page 516). Were these pillars solid brass, or were they hollow? If they are hollow, just how thick is the brass in the shell? We would have no way of knowing except for the fact that Jeremiah described these pillars.
"...and the thickness (of the pillars) thereof was four fingers; it was hollow" (Jeremiah 52:21). We should complete the description of the pillars by comparing the size in everyday units of measurement. These pillars were not small by any means. They were almost 8 feet in diameter and over 36 feet high. About the height of a modern telephone pole. It took a considerable amount of brass to make these pillars; however, we will see more about that later.
The Capitals Our subject so far has been relatively simple, especially in view of the quotation about the problems of these pillars from the Smith Bible Dictionary, but now the problems begin.
Most of the description relating to these pillars concerns the capitals. This architectural term is a word foreign to the common vocabulary; therefore we need a definition of terms. This word is translated chapiters in the King James Version; therefore, one description should suffice for both words. To make matters simple, we will refer to them as capitals and not chapiters from now on.
"Capital, Archit, the head, or uppermost part, of a column, pillar, etc." (The American College Dictionary). A check in a good dictionary will usually produce several examples of capitals. An encyclopedia may have several pages devoted to many different types of capitals, depending on period and location. These capitals are usually very ornate as will be noted in such sources. The capitals for the pillars at the temple are no exception. It is the one thing on the outside of the temple which is ornate.
The first thing we must understand about these capitals is their size.
"And he made two capitals of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars; the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits" (I Kings 7:16). This account is also confirmed by Jeremiah (Jer. 52:22) and Chronicles (II Chron. 3:15). But, II Kings apparently does not agree.
"And a capital of brass was upon it; and the height of the capital was three cubits" (II Kings 25:17). Just what is the answer to this problem? To reconcile these texts there are only about two possibilities. (1) There are two capitals on each pillar. (2) There are two parts to the capital. These two parts are referred to as one in the first texts, and separate in this last text.
This problem is partially solved in I Kings. But in order to make it plain it is necessary to skip over the description of the ornateness of the capitals. We will discuss those details later; now we are concerned about the overall plan of the capitals.
In I Kings 7:17-19 we have the description of the capital followed by the following statement.
"And there were capitals above also upon the two pillars" (verse 20). Since a description of the capitals had just been made at this place it would indeed be redundant. This is not redundant as it merely describes two capitals for each pillar and not two parts to a single capital. As we go further along it will become increasingly plain that this is the only solution to this puzzle. Even some of the authorities recognize this point.
"There is however a good deal of confusion as to the ornamentation of the chapiters (capitals)...The apparent discrepancy as to its height is owing to the fact that the ornament emiting the shaft to the chapiter is sometimes included in the reckoning and sometimes not." (Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hastings, volume I, page 308, article "Boaz.") Now the question is just which capital is on top, the three cubit capital or the five cubit capital? Logic should answer the question. A capital is used to increase the area of support above a pillar to support a roof or beam. Therefore, it would seem logical that the shorter capital would be the one underneath, giving more supporting area for the upper capital to rest upon.
The Two Bowls We need to explore this subject a little further and see if the scripture bears this out. Notice the following text which is a repetition of the last scripture plus an additional factor.
"And there were capitals above also upon the two pillars, close by the belly" (I Kings 7:20). The lower capital, was close by a "belly." This seems to have no sense until we read more about this subject in a later part of the same chapter.
"So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for King Solomon in the house of the Lord: the two pillars, and the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars" (I Kings 7:41). This is also mentioned in the account in Chronicles, however, we will quote that later.
Now we know that there were two bowls on top of the pillars. Obviously they could not be a part of the lower capital. They must be all or part of the upper capital. In order to get an overall picture of what must be intended here we need to turn to one of the prophecies where the same Hebrew word quelah (bowl) is used. This particular prophecy is full of symbolism and spiritual meaning; however, it is not the intent of this work to expound the spiritual significance of these matters.
"And the angel that spoke with me returned and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And he said unto me: 'What seest thou?' And I said; 'I have seen, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it" (Zech. 4:1-2). Isn't this exactly what has been described so far in regard to the pillars Jachin and Boaz? There is a tall brass cylinder with a capital upon it supporting a bowl! A very enlarged version of what Zechariah saw. In Zechariah it was small and of gold. In the case of the pillars they are of brass which appear when polished quite similar to gold. Now you can begin to get the picture of what these pillars really are. How different from the ideas of men who in their carnal reasoning, have tried to borrow the idea of these pillars and pervert them in their own way which is exactly contrary to God's perfect way.
We need to go back a little now to the scripture which stated that the lower capitals were "close by the belly." The lower or wider part of the bowl would be termed the "belly."
The dictionary defines "belly" as "a protuberant or bulging surface." Certainly the widened part of a bowl can be termed the belly. The lower capital is close to this bulge, apparently where the two joined together. In the attached drawing this point will be more apparent.
The Lily Work It was previously stated that these capitals were very ornate. Here is the first comment about that particular point.
"And the capitals that were upon the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily-work, four cubits" (I Kings 7:19). It says plainly that this "lily work" was on the capitals, not a part of the pillars. This particular section quoted is from the part which refers to the upper capitals or bowls. Since the upper capital or bowl is 5 cubits, then four cubits consists of intricately engraved or moulded lily work. The remaining cubit would probably be a part of the base of the bowl, and the lip, which would have no lily work.
The Nets of Checker-Work The capitals involve even more than we have already seen. There is a network consisting of a sort of netting or lattice work which covers the bowls. Instead of a net of small strands, the strands are wide like a lattice. The space between the lattice material is the same size, giving an appearance of checkers. Imagine if you can a checker-board. All the red squares consist of the material and the black squares are the open spaces between.
With this in mind it will be easy to understand why it is referred to as a "network," also as "nets," as "checker work," and in other places "lattice."
To prove some of these points we must refer to the word which refers to this netting. The word nets is translated from the Hebrew word sabak. It is defined by Young as a net, or network. Another word closely related to it is sebakah. This word is sometimes translated lattice. In addition to being used several times in connection with the net covering the bowl, it also is used in II Kings 1:2, where it is stated that Ahaziah fell down through the lattice in his upper chamber. Since it is a lattice, it is easy to understand why it is sometimes referred to as checker work.
In this particular place we have discussed what is meant by the Bible account, before the account was given. The reason for this is so the reader will understand more clearly just what is meant. When you compare the scriptures on this point they should now be plain.
"So Hiram made...the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars" (I Kings 7:40-41). This is stated in a slightly different way in another place.
"He also made nets of checker-work" (I Kings 7:17). This netting covered not only the top of the bowls but it also draped over the side to cover the side of the bowl, down to the "belly." We need to quote again another section and add this point.
"And there were capitals above also upon the two pillars, close by the belly which was beside the network" (I Kings 7:20). The Pomegranates
There were further embellishments for the capital and the network which must be considered next. They are explained most clearly in the following text:
"So Hiram made...the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were upon the tops of the pillars" (I Kings 7:40-42). There were four hundred pomegranates in all, or a total of two hundred for each network. But there are two rows for each network, of one hundred in each row. We still are faced with one other problem relating to these pomegranates. Only Jeremiah will give the details of this important point.
"And a capital of brass was upon it; and the height of the one capital was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the capital round about, all of brass; and the second pillar also had like unto these, and pomegranates. And there were ninety and six pomegranates on the outside; all the pomegranates were a hundred upon the network round about" (Jeremiah 52:22-23). This text proves that there were 96 on the exterior side of the network for each row and 4 on the inside.
The Chain Work Just how were these pomegranates fastened to the network? There would be no way for knowing for sure except for the account in Chronicles.
"And he made chains...and put them on the tops (capitals) of the pillars; and he made a hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains" (II Chronicles 3:16). Now we know that the pomegranates were affixed to the chains. We need to know a little more about these chains and what their relationship is to the network.
"He also made...wreaths of chainwork, for the capitals which were upon the top of the pillars: seven for the one capital and seven for the other capital. And...there were two rows round about upon the one network to cover the capitals that were upon the top of the pomegranates; and so did he for the other capital" (I Kings 7:17-18). It should be plain now that the pomegranates were affixed to the wreaths of chains and they in turn were fastened to the network in a fashion so they appeared to be in two rows around the lower edge of the network. The word used in the Hebrew for these chains is sharsherah, which is literally stated by Young as a "little chain or bracelet," and is the same word used to describe the chain on the ephod worn by the High Priest (Exodus 28:14).
This covers the main points relating to these two pillars and their capitals. For a sort of review and summation, here is a summary from Chronicles.
"And Huram made the pots, and the shovels, and the basins. So Huram made an end of doing the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of God: the two pillars, and the bowls, and the two capitals which were on the top of the pillars; and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars; and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks: two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were upon the top of the pillars" (II Chron. 4:11-13). Just exactly where are these pillars located? Some have placed them inside the doorway, others on the outside in front. In order to understand for sure we must check all of the scriptures relating to the subject.
Jeremiah says that they were "in the house of the Lord" (Jer. 52:17). But, they are said to be set at the porch in Kings (I Kings 7:21). There is no contradiction here since the temple and the courts are sometimes referred to collectively as the house of the Lord.
Chronicles resolves the question, with an answer that is compatible with the other texts. "And he made (put) before the house two pillars" (II Chron. 3:15). It is plain from this that they are placed in front of the temple, by the entrance, at the porch.
Before we leave this subject it would be good to picture the immensity of these pillars and their capitals. The pillars alone were about 36 feet high, with capitals of 3 and 5 cubits. In all a total of over 52 feet high. Since the bowl is over 10 feet high, it must at least be 10 feet wide. In other words, the bowl alone is as large as a room!
The sketches relating to the pillars and their capitals may not be an exact representation. The Bible does not give the exact shape of these parts.
Based on the correct size of the cubit there would be about 500 cubic feet of brass in each pillar, with its capitals. That much brass would weigh about 133 tons. The two pillars were a total of about 266 tons. No wonder Nebuchadnezzar broke them up and carried the brass to Babylon (Jer. 52:17).
It is no wonder that Hiram, who made these things is termed a "master craftsman." He would have to be in order to make such huge pillars and capitals.
Any thorough student of the Bible must realize that there is very important spiritual significance to these pillars and their capitals, especially in the light of Zechariah's prophecy which has already been quoted.
They are a very important part to the unusual beauty and design of God's Temple.