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THE STORY OF THE TEMPLES - April 05, 1977
PRESENTED TO SHUNIAH LODGE A.F. & A.M. No. 287 BY PORT ARTHUR LODGE A.F. & A.M. No. 499
THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO
A thorough understanding of the details of the primitive tabernacle of Israel which was erected while the Israelites were encamped at the base of Mount Sinai is essential to grasp the fundamental principles involved in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple.
An intimate knowledge of the Tabernacle’s contents and their relation to one another is necessary to comprehend the ritualistic system developed by King Solomon and his priests. A study of the ceremonies, the sacrificial offerings, and the priestly ministrations of the Tabernacle will reveal the great spiritual mystery of God as made manifest by Moses during, the sojourn in the wilderness.
Moses, during his prolonged stay of 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai, appears to have visualized the form which the Tabernacle should take. The subsequent building of the Tabernacle, the system of worship adopted and the structure of government developed by Moses under divine guidance have inspired his race, and impressed the whole of mankind.
Moses chose as his chief architect, Bezaleel, a direct descendant of Terah, one of the master builders of Ur of the Chaldeans, and as chief assistant, Aholiab, also a direct descendant of Terah and by marriage, of the line of Tubal Cain., traditionally the first instructor of artificers in brass and iron. Bezaleel was unusually endowed with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, understanding and knowledge.
These three outstanding geniuses gave the world the most beautiful and magnificent portable religious structure ever conceived for a nomadic people.
A very conservative value of the gold and silver used in the building could be set at $l, 500,000.00. To this must be added the value of brass, precious stones, wood, linen, and other textile fabrics, skins of animals, etc, also oils, spices and incense which were supplied for the service.
To get the materials and personal services needed for the Tabernacle, Moses requested an offering from every man of every tribe, and the result was so overwhelming that it was not long before he had tell them that he had sufficient materials, and to stop making further donations. Many also offered to assist in the construction, and so the Tabernacle and its furniture were completed. (A full description, of the Tabernacle and its components can be found in Exodus—chapter 24. to chapter 40.)
The Tabernacle was made portable and could be dismantled and moved to the next resting place of the Israelites in their journey to Canaan. As a matter of interest, the Tabernacle also indicated when the Israelites were to pack up and continue on their journey, and when they were to remain in camp. As long as the cloud hovered over the edifice the Children of Israel were to rest in camp and when it disappeared, they were to travel to new grounds.
The comprehensiveness of the Tabernacle, its hidden grandeur arid its mysterious splendour appealed to King David to such an extent that he longed to build, with the Tabernacle as a model, a permanent Temple dedicated to the worship of the true God.
David had the Tabernacle, in. mind when he prepared plans and. patterns for the permanent Temple to be erected upon Mount Moriah, the most sacred spot on earth.
Mount Moriah, was one of the hills in the vicinity of Salem, and was chosen by Abraham upon which to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering unto the Lord. In later years it came under the control of the Amorites whose principle city, Jebus, occupied a hill west from Moriah. In the days of King David, who subdued the Jebusites, it became a part of the city of Jerusalem. Mount Moriah is situated l4 miles from the river Jordan, 15 miles from the Salt (Dead) Sea, and 41 miles from the Mediterranean. This location was not the most desirable one upon which to build a temple, but was chosen by King Solomon because of its sacred associations. It is fitting; that the great Temple to be dedicated to the God of his father’s should be erected upon the very spot where Abraham made manifest that faith in God, which was accepted ever after by the Children of Israel and the world. On this spot also where Abraham offered Isaac, King David made an acceptable offering to the Lord and by his faith, saved Jerusalem from destruction at that time. David, no doubt, realized the significance of the name given to the Mount by Abraham (Jehovah sees) and ever after the children of Abraham found consolation in the thought—“In the Mount of Jehovah He will be seen”. Solomon, in deciding to erect the Temple upon this sacred spot, fulfilled the wishes of his father, King David and all in whose breasts these sentiments were cherished, “Beautiful for the situation, the joy of the whole earth”.
The Tabernacle was the pattern which guided the master builders in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple as well as its priests and ritua1istic services.
To illustrate how King Solomon’s plans were affected by ritualism of the priests of the Tabernacle, let me describe in some detail, the robe that Aaron (Moses brother) wore when he assumed office as the High Priest and conducted the services in the tabernacle. The robe of office consisted of six main parts -- an ephod or vest, a robe, a breastplate, a girdle, a mitre and an embroidered cloak.
The ephod was a very fancy vest of gold, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen, with shoulder pieces decorated with an onyx stone on each shoulder, on which was engraved the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, six on each side. Suspended from each shoulder piece were two chains of gold. The robe was made of blue fabric and reached nearly to the ground; the bottom edge was decorated with golden bells and pomegranates placed alternately around the hem, so that when Aaron arrived in the Tabernacle, everyone would hear the bells and know that he had entered for worship.
The breastplate was a shorter coat that was worn, over the ephod, and robe and was made of many coloured fabrics and decorated very extensively with precious stones, gold braid and gold chains.
The girdle was an embroidered belt which was worn around the middle.
The mitre or headdress consisted of blue lace and fine twined linen with a head band made of pure gold and engraved on this headband were the words – ‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD’’. The mitre or headdress was always to be worn by Aaron when performing his religious duties because the words - Holiness to the Lord – were to remind him of his responsibility for the proper administration of the holy rites in the Tabernacle.
A cloak was worn over this complete outfit, of fine twined linen as a protective covering. This office of the High Priest and the insignia “Holiness to the Lord” so impressed King David that he passed on the suggestion to King Solomon to use the sign as a stamp or trademark on the material in the proposed temple. So King Solomon had “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” engraved on all the pots, pans and all other utensils in the Temple. -- (See Exodus chapter 28 for the complete description of Aaron’s robe of office and Zechariah chapter 14 for reference to “Holiness to the Lord” insignia on the utensils in King Solomon’s Temple)
David bequeathed the plans to Solomon, who with the Tabernacle as a guide erected a temple, the grandeur of which so impressed the world, that men never tiring in its praise, have placed it foremost in legend, romance, history and religion.
The master builders of the Temple were Solomon, King of Israel, who with his own knowledge and the assistance of the plans laid down by his father David, supplied the Wisdom, -- Hiram, King of Tyre, for his wealth of building supplies and workmen supplied the Strength, -- and Hiram of Tyre, the principle, architect and engineer, who was a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali supplied the architectural Beauty of the Temple. I will not burden you with the details of the construction of the Temple or the materials used. Suffice it to say, that a vast amount of supplies were used and a vast organization of labourers and overseers were required to efficiently carry on the work.
The number of workmen as recorded in 2nd Chronicles Chapter 2 verses 17-18 was listed as 153,600, of which 70,000 were bearers of burden, 80,000 were hewers in the mountains. In addition to this number, Solomon conscripted 30,000 more men out of all Israel which he sent to Lebanon, possibly to work in the forests there. This is the first record of labour shift work, as Solomon sent 10,000 to Lebanon to work for a month and these would then return home for two months, and another group of 10,000 would replace them. Over this great army of workers, in order to obtain greatest efficiency and results, he set 3,600 overseers, besides the chief of his officers which were over all the work. (Refer to 1st Kings Chapter 5-7 where the overseers are shown as 3,300) but a very complete description of the Temple and of its contents may also be found in those same chapters.
In addition to the number of workmen shown above, many builders and artisans, skilled in wood, metal and stonework were sent from distant countries and neighbouring nations at the request of King Solomon.
The Temple was completed and dedicated about 1004 B.C. which was 400 years after the Children of Israel had left Egypt.
However, it was not many years before the Israelites fell into evil ways and 48 years after the completion of the Temple (956 B.C.), King Shishak of Egypt captured Jerusalem and carried away a great many of the treasures and fixtures of the Temple and although the Temple was not destroyed, it was thoroughly ransacked. (2nd Chronicles Chapter 12, verse 9-11).
In the year 850 B.C. Joash, King of Israel decided to repair the Temple so he collected sufficient money from the various parts of the kingdom to pay for the very extensive repairs necessary to properly renovate the temple.
In the year 605 B.C. however, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, with his army completely overran Jerusalem, carried off the treasures and destroyed and burned the Temple, along with the pillars of Boaz and Jachin (2nd Kings Chapter 24 verses 10-16). He also took all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (about. 50,000) as captives, to Babylon.
In 53 B.C. Babylon was captured by Cyrus, King of Persia and in the first year of his reign, Cyrus freed all the Israelites who had been captured by Nebuchadnezzar and ordered them to return to Jerusalem with their families and to take with them all their cattle and other property belonging to them, because he believed that God had instructed him to do this so the Children of Israel could begin building a new Temple at Jerusalem. He also returned all the treasures of gold and silver and. other valuables that had plundered from the first Temple. Among those people that returned, to Jerusalem were Jeshua or Joshua, the son of Jozadak (not to be confused with Joshua, son of Nun) and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, also Nehemiah, Serich, Reilaih, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mizpar, Bignai, Rehum and Baanah. Haggai and Zechariah, who were prophets or religious leaders consulted with Zerubbabel and Joshua with a view to beginning the construction of the second Temple, and in 532 B.C., the foundation was laid. Some of the people outside the Jewish faith offered to assist in the rebuilding of the Temple but Zerubbabel and the principle men in Judah refused them this honour on the grounds that King Cyrus had requested that the building be done by Jews only. King Cyrus had given a grant of money to assist in the rebuilding of the Temple and money was also donated by the Children of Israel so that in the second year of their return from captivity, the clearing of the rubble of the old Temple, and the foundation of the second Temple was completed.
After the foundation was laid there was a great celebration. The priests, in their colourful robes blew trumpets, the Levites played cymbals, and everyone joined in songs of praise. Some of the very old people, who seen the first Temp1e wept for joy at the sight of the beginning of the second.
Then Shimshai, the scribe and Rehum the chancellor got a group of troublemakers together to try and stop further construction of the Temple. They wrote a let to king Artaxerxes requesting that he put a stop to the work charging that the people in involved in the building of the Temple were rebels and also seditious. King Artaxerxes did order the construction stopped until he could obtain further information (Something like a Royal Commission). King Darius of Persia came to power two years afterward and he authorized the continuance of the re-building program.
However more delays were caused by Tatnai, a governor of one of the provinces, who wrote to King, Darius for a further stay of construction. But Darius looked back of the records and found the decree of Cyrus which authorized the Children of Israel to construct the Temple, so he told Tatnai, and I quote –“Be ye far from here, let the work of this House of God alone, let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build the house of God in his place.” To use our colloquial term “get lost”, and so construction from this point, went on without further delays.
These petty intrigues, however delayed the work for 17, years, but finally, by the aid and power of King Darius, the Temple was completed in 515 B.C. (There is some discrepancy in the dates and completion of the building of the 2nd Temple. Some historians set the dates as 537 B.C. to 520 B.C.)
Thus the 2nd Temple was finally built, or as some call it the re-building of the first Temple -- call it what you will -- The Temple was completed and dedicated in 515 B.C. by a great gathering of the priests, the Levites and the rest of the Children of Israel. The offering at the dedication consisted of 100 bullocks, 200 rams, and 400 lambs and for an extra sin offering 12 he-goats according to the number of the tribes of Israel, and, to quote Ezra chapter 6 verse 2l) “And all the Children of Israel which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated unto them from the filthiness, of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat. So you see the building of the 2nd Temple had a happy conc1usion. (Although history does that relate that the 2nd Temple also was plundered, desecrated and finally destroyed in the years to follow).
The foregoing has been a very sketchy description of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon and the Temple of Zerubbabel. The intent of all this is not to show details of construction, but to portray the Temples as symbols.
To the master mason, the Temple of Solomon is truly a symbol of human life: for like life, it was to have its end. Masonic teachings are not intended to convey an historic fact concerning the erection of a building but ever to keep in mind the beauty of that Temple as a symbol of the life in which he should live as a Man and as a Mason.
Presented by Bro. Cecil Gibson