Albert G. Mackey on the Wages of the Workman at the Temple
Provided by the Oklahoma Chapter and Council Education E-Newsletter (https://okyorkrite.com/)
Extracted from the According to Mackey Column in the June 2022 Issue
The following entry appears on p. 834 and p. 552 of the 1912 edition of “An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” by Albert G. Mackey
Neither the Scriptures, nor Josephus, give us any definite statement of the amount of wages paid, nor the manner in which they were paid, to the workmen who were engaged in the erection of King Solomon’s Temple. The cost of its construction, however, must have been immense, since it has been estimated that the edifice alone consumed more gold and silver than at present exists upon the whole earth; so that Josephus very justly says that “Solomon made all these things for the honor of God, with great variety and magnificence, sparing no cost, but using all possible liberality in adorning the Temple.”
We learn, as one instance of this liberality, from the Second Book of Chronicles, that Solomon paid annually to the Tyrian Freemasons, the servants of Hiram, “twenty thousand measures of beaten wheat, and twenty thousand measures of barley, and twenty thousand baths of wine, and twenty thousand baths of oil.” The bath was a measure equal to seven and a half gallons wine measure; and the cor or chomer, which we translate by the indefinite word measure, contained ten baths; so that the corn, wine, and oil furnished by King Solomon, as wages to the servants of Hiram of Tyre, amounted to one hundred and ninety thousand bushels of the first and one hundred and fifty thousand gallons each of the second and third. The sacred records do not inform us what further wages they received, but we elsewhere learn that King Solomon gave them as a free gift a sum equal to more than thirty-two millions of dollars. The whole amount of wages paid to the Craft is stated to have been about six hundred and seventy-two millions of dollars; but we have no means of knowing how that amount was distributed; though it is natural to suppose that those of the most skill and experience received the highest wages. The Harodim, or chiefs of the workmen, must have been better paid than the Ish Cabal, or mere laborers.
The legend-makers of Freemasonry have not been idle in their invention of facts and circumstances in relation to this subject, the whole of which have little more for a foundation than the imaginations of the inventors. They form, however, a part of the legendary history of Freemasonry, and are interesting for their ingenuity, and sometimes even for their absurdity.
In the parable read in the Mark Degree a penny is the amount given to each of the laborers in the vineyard for his day’s labor. Hence, in the Masonic instructions, a penny a day is said to be the if wages of a Mark Master. In several passages of the authorized version of the New Testament, penny occurs as a translation of the Greek, δηνάριον, which was intended as the equivalent of the Roman denarius. This was the chief silver coin of the Romans from the beginning of the coinage of the city to the early part of the third century. Indeed, the name continued to be employed in the coinage of the Continental States, which imitated that of the Byzantine Empire, and was adopted by the Anglo Saxons. The specific value of each of so many coins going under the same name, cannot be ascertained with any precision. In its Masonic use, the penny is simply a symbol of the reward of faithful labor. The smallness of the sum, whatever may have been its exact value, to our modern impressions is apt to give a false idea of the liberality of the owner. Dr. Lightfoot, in his essay on a Fresh Revision of the New Testament, remarks: “It is unnecessary to ask what impression the mention of this sum will leave on the minds of an uneducated peasant or shopkeeper of the present day. Even at the time when our version was made, and when wages were lower, it must have seemed wholly inadequate.” However improper the translation is, it can have no importance in the Masonic application of the parable, where the “penny” is, as has already been said, only a symbol, meaning any reward or compensation.
The full text of the 1912 edition of Mackey’s “An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” may be found at: