Window into the Bible
This practice of floating logs for transportation is depicted in ancient artworks. Wall reliefs from the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1) depict the Assyrians strapping together cedar logs and floating them in rafts (image left).
Solomon’s Jerusalem: A Beautiful Temple, Palaces and Things that ought not to be there . . .
The City of David
After seven years reigning in Hebron, it was King David who set out to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites and make it his capital. The Jebusites felt very secure in their city. It was well fortified with strong, high walls and deep protective valleys on two of its three sides. They felt so secure that the Jebusites yelled “You will not get in here, even the blind and lame will ward you off” (2 Sam 5:6). The Bible tells us that it was Jerusalem’s water system that proved to be its downfall. The Jebusites had created a system of water tunnels to bring water into the city from the nearby Gihon spring. A shaft in one of these tunnels provided the Israelites an unexpected entry into the city, and the city fell (2 Samuel 5:8). It is possible that this access was made via the feature known today as ‘Warren’s shaft’ (see image left).
From that time on the old Jebusite city became known as the ‘City of David’. One of David’s early projects in Jerusalem was to build himself a palace. More correctly, he had a palace built for him. The king of Tyre, Hiram, offered to build him a palace and supplied the materials and labour to do so. King David also had the Ark of the Covenant bought to Jerusalem. These two acts set the stage for the transformation of Jerusalem into a renowned royal city and the centre for Israelite worship.
Later in his life, we read an account of David taking a census of all the fighting men of Israel (2 Samuel 24:1-25). Because he acted contrary to God’s will, God sent a plague across the land, and sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. David pleaded with God to take the plague away and not to destroy the city. At this time the angel was standing at a place that would become extremely significant for the Israelites, the ‘threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite’. God did stop the plague. He also instructed David to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor. Within a few decades, this farmland to the north would be incorporated into the city. The threshing floor itself would become the location of Israel’s first temple. Throughout the reign of King David, Jerusalem continued to grow in size and importance. By the end of his reign, it covered around 6 hectares and housed an estimated 2000 to 2500 people.
Excavations in the ‘City of David’ today are uncovering what could be the foundations of King David’s palace (image above). They have also uncovered a huge terraced retaining wall which some believe could be the Millo or supporting terraces mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:9 (image left).
Preparations for building the Temple began while David was still alive. He had stone cutters prepare stone, and had cedar logs imported from Tyre and Sidon. Later, King Solomon would ask Hiram, the king of Tyre, for more help. He requested from Hiram ‘a man skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson and blue yarn, and experienced in the art of engraving’ to work alongside the Israelite craftsmen. He also requested further cedar logs from Lebanon (2 Chronicles 2:7). Hiram actioned the request by sending Solomon Huram-Abi, a skilled craftsman. He also had cedar logs, prized for their long straight trunks (image right), roped together in rafts and floated down the Mediterranean coast to Joppa.
Jerusalem! In just two short generations, Solomon and his father David transformed the city from a fortress into a bustling royal city. Under their leadership, Jerusalem became the capital of the Israelite kingdom. On a prominent hill within the city stood Israel’s new and glorious Temple.
Work began on the Temple in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign. By all accounts it was an impressive and awe inspiring building in its day. It was about 27 metres long, 9 meters wide and 13.5 metres high with an extra 9 metre long portico (or porch) attached to the front. Two large pillars stood at the entrance, one on each side. The temple’s height would have been similar to a modern three story building. The model in this image suggests how Solomon’s Temple may have looked.
The inside of the Israelite Temple was divided into two rooms. Both rooms were overlaid with pure gold and decorated with engravings of cherubim, palm trees and chains. Solomon also had all kinds of precious stones added to the building. Separating the two inner rooms, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, was a curtain made of blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen, all rare and valuable materials.
Archaeologists working on sites in other nearby lands like Egypt and Syria, have noticed similarities between the layout of other ancient temples and the temple Solomon had built. For example, temples in Dendur, Egypt (image left) and Ain Dara, Syria both have porches with two pillars, an inner room and a holy of holies. The Ain Dara Temple also has a series of store rooms around the perimeter very similar to the Israelite temple.
It took Solomon and his work force seven years to complete the Temple. Solomon then turned his attention to his next project, building his palace. Using the same materials, and following a similar technique to the Temple, Solomon spent a further thirteen years completing its construction. It had an official wing containing a throne room, a room full of cedar columns called the ‘forest of Lebanon’ and a hall of pillars. It also had a residential wing. The Biblical account suggests that it stood adjacent to the temple, with some sort of access way to the temple courts. Again, this is similar to other royal residences in the Biblical world. It is unlikely that anyone will ever find out what the palace looked like, as any remains now lie buried beneath the ‘Temple Mount’ platform built by Herod the Great at the time of Jesus, which still covers the area today.
And then there were the features of Jerusalem that really ought not to have been there. During the latter years of his life, Solomon began to construct shrines and altars to several foreign gods. The most notable of these were built to the gods Chemosh and Molech (1 Kings 11:7). The shrines were constructed on a hill to the south-east that over-looked the city. That hill became known as the ‘hill of corruption’ (2 Kings 23:13). Solomon built these places of worship for his wives, many of whom were probably political marriages to secure alliances with foreign nations. They were from many different nationalities and would have worshipped a range of gods (1 Kings 11:1).
Several ancient writers including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus describe the shrines and altars of the ’detestable’ god Molech. Their accounts describe the sacrificing of young children to the flames of Molech, while their mothers watch on unable to shed a tear. The accounts are horrifying. It is hard to believe that the man described as the wisest of kings finished his life promoting this kind of behaviour. In hindsight one can see why God in his wisdom said the king ‘must not take many wives, or his heart would be led astray’ (Deuteronomy 17:17). By marrying foreign women, Solomon subtly opened a way for idolatry and corruption to pollute the land.
By the time of Solomon’s death, Jerusalem had changed forever. The population was now somewhere in the vicinity of 4,500—5000. The city had grown to cover around 13 hectares and was set to expand even further in the centuries ahead. Solomon had centralised the Israelite political administration in Jerusalem and had further defined it as a royal city. Most of all, Solomon had transformed Jerusalem into a centre of worship for the Israelite people.
Bibleworld Museum & Discovery Centre images: Model of Jerusalem at the time of Solomon; Solomon’s temple model
Ross and Sarah Nightingale images: Floating of Cedar logs (Louvre Museum, Paris); Temple of Dendur (Metropolitan Museum, New York)
Wikipedia Commons images: Warren’s shaft; Large Stone Structure; Stepped Stone Structure; Cedars of Lebanon; Layout of Solomon’s Temple
Article provided by Bibleworld Museum & Discovery Centre, Rotorua, New Zealand. Please do not reproduce without permission. www.bibleworld.org.nz.