|God's Temple in Prophecy
Tabernacle and Temple Contrasted We have seen described in great detail the temple that Solomon built and the one commonly called "Ezekiel's" temple. "Ezekiel's" temple will be in use during the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.
What was Zerubbabel's temple like, what was Herod's temple like, and what was the tabernacle in the wilderness like?
The one that Herod built was in existence during the time of Christ. What was it like? Was it the same as Zerubbabel's, or was it the same as Solomon's?
These are questions that should be clarified now. It would require several more chapters to thoroughly study these other temples. Since the primary purpose of this work is to describe God's temple in prophecy, only a summarization of certain main points about these other temples will be given.
Tabernacle in the Wilderness Let's start first with the tabernacle in the wilderness. Some scholars believe there was no such tabernacle. In chapter four such an "authority" was quoted. The Eternal God has inspired His Word and has been able to preserve it for us today. Therefore, we believe literally the account found in Exodus concerning the construction of this remarkable portable tent. It was in use during the wilderness wanderings of the Children of Israel during the time of Moses and later.
In the 26th and 27th chapters of Exodus God instructed Moses in all the details of building this tent. Chapters 36 through 38 describe its construction. Here again God was the Architect, and not man.
"And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which hath been shown thee in the mount" (Exodus 26:30). This tabernacle had a board framework (covered with gold) around the south, west and north sides. This framework was covered with ten curtains of linen fastened together. Over this was another series of curtains of skins fastened together.
There were two hanging curtains to separate the two rooms. The first one, which made up the east wall was called a "screen," and the second which separated the holy of holies was called a "veil."
It was previously mentioned that the temple of Solomon was patterned after the tabernacle in the wilderness. The tabernacle was not the same dimension as the temple, but was exactly half the size. The Holy of Holies, called it the debir was a cube of exactly ten cubits. The Holy Place, or hekal was ten by twenty cubits.
These measurements were undoubtedly inside measurements, just as the basic measurements of the temple were inside measurements.
No Porch in the Tabernacle One major difference between the tabernacle and the temple was that there was no porch to this tabernacle in the wilderness. Surrounding this tabernacle or tent, was a wall of fine twined linen. This particular wall enclosed an area of fifty by one hundred cubits.
This tabernacle was entirely portable, and was moved by the specially appointed Levites each time the children of Israel moved.
Since you have a copy of the Biblical account, but may not have a copy of Josephus here is his brief summary of the court which surrounded the tabernacle. It is found in Antiquities of the Jews, Book III, Chapter XI.
"And when he had measured the open court, fifty cubits broad and a hundred cubits long, he set up brazen pillars, five cubits high, twenty on each of the longer sides, and ten pillars for the breadth behind; every one of the pillars also had a ring. Their chapiters were of silver, but their bases were of brass: They resembled the sharp end of spears and were of brass, fixed into the ground. Cords were also put through the rings, and were tied at their further ends to brass nails of a cubit long, which, at every pillar, were driven into the floor, and would keep the tabernacle from being shaken by the violence of winds; but a curtain of fine soft linen went round all the pillars, and hung down in a flowing and loose manner from their chapiters and enclosed the whole space, and seems not at all unlike to a wall about it." Josephus went on to show that the fourth wall, which faced the east had an opening for the entry of the priests.
Here are some of his comments concerning the tabernacle.
"As to the tabernacle itself, Moses placed it in the middle of that court, with its front to the east, that, when the sun arose, it might send its first rays upon it. Its length when it was set up was thirty cubits, and its breadth was twelve cubits. The one of its walls was on the south, and the other exposed to the north, and on the back part of it remained the west. It was necessary that its height should be equal to its breadth." Josephus apparently gives the outside instead of inside dimensions regarding the breadth (12 cubits) since the Bible account shows that the breadth was ten cubits, not twelve cubits.
Josephus continued by describing the boards of wood which were used for the framework of the tent. All of these pillars and their parts would fit together perfectly and could be easily taken apart for transportation.
Anyone wishing further details about this tabernacle can get a good summary by reading the chapters already quoted and by reading the article "Tabernacle" in most Bible Dictionaries.
Solomon's Temple During the time of David, God was still dwelling in a tent, while the people all dwelt in their own private houses. David was concerned about this and asked Nathan the prophet if he could build a temple building to replace the tabernacle. Nathan the prophet agreed; however, he was soon instructed by God that David could not build this temple to God. He had been a bloody man all his life so God did not permit David to build the temple. He did prepare for it, however, and supplied many of the materials needed for the temple.
Solomon built the temple after David's death, which lasted until the invasion and captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed this temple and carried off the gold, silver, brass and many precious things to Babylon, about 585 B.C. It had stood since about 1000 B.C.
At the end of the captivity, God again stirred up the hearts of certain of His people to rebuild His temple in Jerusalem.
Zerubbabel's Temple Under Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the High priest, the work on the construction of a new temple began. It was not completed immediately. There were many setbacks, but it was finally completed after about 21 years in 516-515 B.C..
Just what kind of a temple did Joshua, Zerubbabel and the people of Judah build?
The Bible only gives a very brief description of this temple. Here is the Bible account of King Cyrus' decree concerning the temple.
"In the first year of Cyrus the King, Cyrus the King made a decree: concerning the house of God in 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; with three rows of great stones and a row of new timber and let the expenses be given out of the King's house" (Ezra 6:3, 4). The Bible states that Solomon's temple was one hundred and twenty cubits high. At first glance Zerubbabel's temple appears to be much smaller. Most of the authorities agree that it was smaller than Solomon's temple, because of these particular measurements.
Josephus (Antiquities, Book X, Chapter I), gives exactly the same dimensions as the Bible. We also find that in the Apocrypha, I Esdras 6:25, the same dimensions are given. Since this temple, along with all the other temples have been completely destroyed, we cannot go back and measure them now. The sources of information concerning Zerubbabel's temple are extremely meagre as it mainly consists of the Bible, Esdras, and Josephus.
Since this was to be God's house, it must have been somewhat similar in size, shape, and dimension to the inspired plan of God which was given to Solomon by David.
The porch of Solomon's temple was originally one hundred and twenty cubits high. Zerubbabel's was only half that high. The tabernacle in the wilderness did not have any porch. There were only two rooms, the hekal and the debir.
Here is one possibility of what is meant by the brief statement and decree of Cyrus. The Holy of Holies was to be twenty cubits in length, and the Holy Place was to be forty cubits, or a total of sixty cubits. Cyrus could have referred to this specific dimension when he said that it was to be sixty cubits in length. If so, it would be the same size as the same two rooms for Solomon's temple. The porch could then be counted separately for the sixty cubit height. Cyrus certainly did not mean that all of the building from front to back was to be sixty cubits high, even though many commentators and authorities do believe that the whole building was that high.
In summary then, even though there are very few details available, the temple of Zerubbabel was patterned after the same general pattern as Solomon's. One major exception being that the porch was only sixty cubits high instead of one hundred and twenty.
This temple was obviously lacking in many of the refinements, and details of Solomon's. The ark had since disappeared and was no longer present.
Many of the older people who had seen Solomon's temple were greatly disappointed in this new temple.
"But many of the priests and Levites and heads of father's houses, the old men that had seen the first house standing on its foundation, wept with a loud voice when this house was before their eyes; and many shouted aloud for joy; so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people; for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off" (Ezra 3:12-13). Herod's Temple
The next temple, commonly called Herod's temple, was the one existing during the time of Christ.
In the eighteenth year of Herod's reign, Herod made it known that he wanted to rebuild the temple. It was his desire to make it larger, to bring it to better perfection, and to be a memorial of himself. He knew that the Jews might not agree with such a project, and he could not accomplish his goal without their full cooperation. He gathered the Jews together to inform them of his plans. He stated that Zerubbabel's temple had not been built according to the same measure and plan as Solomon's temple since it was Cyrus and Darius who determined the "measures" of the building. Herod also said that since it was not on the grand plan of Solomon's temple, that he himself wished to rebuild the temple, making it a much greater and magnificent building.
After his speech, many of the devout Jews were frightened about his proposal. They thought he might start to rebuild the temple and not be able to finish it. Herod reassured them that he would not pull down their temple till all preparations and material were ready for building it up entirely again. Herod did make the proper preparations, and after he was entirely ready the work started. Josephus records that the length of this temple was a hundred cubits, which was the same as Solomon's. He stated that the temple was built of stones that were white and strong.
The temple was enclosed by very large cloisters and buildings around the courts. It was these other buildings that took most of the 46 years mentioned in John 2:20. Josephus describes at some length these cloisters that surround the temple. Herod could enter into these various cloisters, but he could not enter into the inner court or into the temple itself. Into these parts only the priests were able to enter. He was forbidden, because he was not a priest.
The actual temple building was not built by Herod or his workmen but was built by priests, as Josephus states in the following quotation.
"But the temple itself was built by the priests in a year and six months" (Antiquities, Book XV, XI, VI). Obviously, as many commentators state, this was only a major renovation or remodeling and not a complete rebuilding from the foundation up.
This temple that was built by the priests under Herod's direction had the same inside pattern as the previous temples. The hekal and the debir were the same dimensions. When it came to the porch, Herod departed from the pattern laid down by God in the Old Testament, if available sources are correct. This porch is stated by Josephus to be one hundred cubits in height and breadth and only eleven cubits in depth.
Since this porch was so broad, an aerial view of the temple would appear somewhat like a T. This is described in the Mishna as "narrow behind and broad in front, resembling a lion, as it says, Ah, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped. Just as a lion is narrow behind and broad in front" (Chapter IV, Mishna VII).
The side chambers were stated by the Mishna to consist of only thirty-eight in number. Josephus says there were ninety in all. Since this has already been commented on in Chapter IV, no further details need be given here, except to state that this statement of the Mishna is obviously incorrect.
To further show the general unreliability in this description by the Mishna, it is stated "There were trap doors in the upper chambers opening into the Holy of Holies by which the workmen were let down in baskets so that they should not feed their gaze on the Holy of Holies" (Mishna V). The men who wrote and compiled these writings apparently believed that God was not able to take care of His own sanctuary. They apparently believed that it required the labor of physical humans to keep this room in order. The Bible states that only the High Priest entered this particular room and that only once each year (Heb. 9:7; Ex. 30:10). It would be sacrilege for workmen to enter such a holy place. God would have slain any workman who came into His own sacred chamber.
In time past, men have thought that God could not take care of those things that were sacred and holy to Him. On several occasions men have thought it necessary to steady or to protect the ark of God from falling. In each case, the person involved was immediately killed for violating such a sacred and holy thing (I Sam. 7:19; II Sam. 6:7).
God is able to take care of His own Holy Chamber.
Since this book concerns only the Temple of God in prophecy, we will not pursue this subject further. It is not considered to be of sufficient importance in connection with this present work to give more details.
Solomon's temple was built entirely according to the plan that God gave David. The temples of Zerubbabel and Herod were not built with the same splendor, glory, and accuracy with which Solomon's temple was built. They were God's temples though, as it was God's house. In spite of their differences they followed the basic plan for the hekal and debir.
They do not measure up to the plan that God gave David, nor the one described by the prophet Ezekiel.
Even Solomon's temple may have been deficient in the matter of the courts. It is only in the temple described by Ezekiel that God's complete plan concerning His temple comes to fruition. It is this perfect temple, for the world tomorrow, that we look forward to with great anticipation.