Provided by the Oklahoma Chapter and Council Education E-Newsletter (https://okyorkrite.com/)
Extracted from the According to Mackey Column in the June 2021 Issue
The following entry appears on pp. 767-769 of the 1912 edition of “An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” by Albert G. Mackey.
The first Temple of the Jews was called hecal Jehovah or beth Jehovah, the palace or the house of Jehovah, to indicate its splendor and magnificence, and that it was intended to be the perpetual dwelling-place of the Lord. It was King David who first proposed to substitute for the nomadic tabernacle a permanent place of worship for his people; but although he had made the necessary arrangements, and even collected many of the materials, he was not permitted to commence the undertaking, and the execution of the task was left to his son and successor, Solomon.
Accordingly, that monarch laid the foundations of the edifice in the fourth year of his reign, 1012 B.C., and, with the assistance of his friend and ally, Hiram, King of Tyre, completed it in about seven years and a half, dedicating it to the service of the Most High in 1004 B.C. This was the year of the world 3000, according to the Hebrew chronology; and although there has been much difference among chronologists in relation to the precise date, this is the one that has been generally accepted, and it is therefore adopted by Masons in their calculations of different epochs.
The Temple stood on Mount Moriah, one of the eminences of the ridge which was known as Mount Zion, and which was originally the property of Ornan the Jebusite, who used it as a threshing-floor, and from whom it was purchased by David for the purpose of erecting an altar on it.
The Temple retained its original splendor for only thirty-three years. In the year of the world 3033, Shishak, King of Egypt, having made war upon Rehoboam, King of Judah, took Jerusalem, and carried away the choicest treasures. From that time to the period of its final destruction the history of the Temple is but a history of alternate spoliations and repairs, of profanations to idolatry and subsequent restorations to the purity of worship. One hundred and thirteen years after the conquest of Shishak, Joash, King of Judah, collected silver for the repairs of the Temple, and restored it to its former condition in the year of the world 3148. In the year 3264, Ahaz, King of Judah, robbed the Temple of its riches, and gave them to Tiglath-Pileser, King of Assyria, who had united with him in a war against the Kings of Israel and Damascus. Ahaz also profaned the Temple by the worship of idols. In 3276, Hezekiah, the son and successor of Ahaz, repaired the portions of the Temple which his father had destroyed, and restored the pure worship. But fifteen years after he was compelled to give the treasures of the Temple as a ransom to Sennacherib, King of Assyria, who had invaded the land of Judah. But Hezekiah is supposed, after his enemy had retired, to have restored the Temple.
Manasseh, the son and successor of Hezekiah, fell away to the worship of Sahianism, and desecrated the Temple in 3306 by setting up altars to the host of heaven. Manasseh was then conquered by the King of Babylon, who in 3328 carried him beyond the Euphrates. But subsequently repenting of his sins he was released from captivity, and having returned to Jerusalem he destroyed the idols, and restored the altar of burnt-offerings. In 3380, Josiah, who was then King of Judah, devoted his efforts to the repairs of the Temple, portions of which had been demolished or neglected by his predecessors, and replaced the Ark in the Sanctuary. In 3398, in the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, then King of Chaldea, carried a part of the sacred vessels to Babylon. Seven years afterward, during the reign of Jeehoniah, he took away another portion; and finally, in 3416, in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, he took the city of Jerusalem, and entirely destroyed the Temple, and carried many of the inhabitants captives to Babylon.
The Temple was originally built on a very hard rock, encompassed with frightful precipices. The foundations were laid very deep, with immense labor and expense. It was surrounded with a wall of great height, exceeding in the lowest part four hundred and fifty feet, constructed entirely of white marble.
The body of the Temple was in size much less than many a modern parish church, for its length was but ninety feet, or, including the porch, one hundred and five, and its width but thirty. It was its outer court, its numerous terraces, and the magnificence of its external and internal decorations, together with its elevated position above the surrounding dwellings which produced that splendor of appearance that attracted the admiration of all who beheld it, and gives a color of probability to the legend that tells us how the Queen of Sheba, when it first broke upon her view, exclaimed in admiration, “A most excellent master must have done this!”
The Temple itself which consisted of the porch, the sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies, was but a small part of the edifice on Mount Moriah. It was surrounded with spacious courts, and the whole Structure occupied at least half a mile circumference. Upon passing through the outer wall, you came to the first court, called the court of the Gentiles, because the Gentiles were admitted into it, but were prohibited from passing farther. It was surrounded by a range of porticoes or cloisters, above which were galleries or apartments, supported by pillars of white marble.
Passing through the court of the Gentiles, you entered the court of the children of Israel, which was separated by a low stone wall, and an ascent of fifteen steps, into two divisions, the outer one being occupied by the women, and the inner by the men Here the Jews were in the habit of resorting daily for the purposes of prayer.
Within the court of the Israelites, and separated from it by a wall one cubit in height, was the court of the priests. In the-center of this court was the altar of burnt-offerings, to which the people brought their oblations and sacrifices, but none but the priests were permitted to enter it.
From this court, twelve steps ascended to the Temple, strictly so called, which as we have already said, was divided into three parts, the porch, the sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies.
The Porch of the Temple was twenty cubits in length, and the same in breadth. At its entrance was a gate made entirely of Corinthian brass, the most precious metal known to the ancients. Besides this gate there were the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, which had been constructed by Hiram Abif. the architect whom the King of Tyre had sent to Solomon.
From the porch you entered the Sanctuary by a portal, which, instead of folding doors, was furnished with a magnificent veil of many colors, which mystically represented the universe. The breadth of the sanctuary was twenty cubits, and its length forty, or just twice that of the porch and Holy of Holies. It occupied, therefore, one-half of the body of the Temple. In the sanctuary were placed the various utensils necessary for the daily worship of the Temple, such as the altar of incense, on which incense was daily burnt by the officiating priest; the ten golden candlesticks; and the ten tables on which the offerings were laid previous to the sacrifice.
The Holy of Holies, or innermost chamber, was separated from the sanctuary by doors of olive, richly sculptured and inlaid with gold, and covered with veils of blue, purple, scarlet, and the finest linen. The size of the Holy of Holies was the same as that of the porch, namely, twenty cubits square. It contained the Ark of the Covenant, which had been transferred into it from the tabernacle, with its overshadowing Cherubim and its mercy-seat. Into the most sacred place, the high priest alone could enter, and that only once a year, on the day of atonement.
The Temple, thus constructed, must have been one of the most magnificent structures of the ancient world. For its erection, David had collected more than four thousand millions of dollars, and one hundred and eighty-four thousand, six hundred men were engaged on the building for more than seven years; and on its completion it was dedicated by Solomon with solemn prayer and seven days of feasting; during which a peace-offering of twenty thousand oxen and six times that number of sheep was made, to consume which the holy fire came down from heaven.
In Masonry, the Temple of Solomon has played a most important part. Time was when every Masonic writer subscribed with unhesitating faith to the theory that freemasonry was there first organized; that there Solomon, Hiram of Tyre, and Hiram Abif presided as Grand Masters over the Lodges which they had established; that there the Symbolic Degrees were instituted and systems of initiation were invented; and that from that period to the present Freemasonry has passed down the stream of Time in unbroken succession and unaltered form. But the modern method of reading Masonic history has swept away this edifice of imagination with as unsparing a hand, and as effectual a power, as those with which the Babylonian King demolished the structure upon which they are founded. No writer who values his reputation as a critical historian would now attempt to defend this theory. Yet it has done its work. During the long period in which the hypothesis was accepted as a fact, its influence was being exerted in molding the Masonic organizations into a form closely connected with all the events and characteristics of the Solomonic Temple. So that now almost all the Symbolism of Freemasonry rests upon or is derived from the House of the Lord at Jerusalem. So closely are the two connected, that to attempt to separate the one from the other would be fatal to the further existence of Freemasonry. Each Lodge is and must be a symbol of the Jewish Temple, each Master in the chair representing the Jewish King, and every Mason a personation of the Jewish Workman.
Thus must it ever be while Masonry endures. We must receive the myths and legends that connect it with the Temple, not indeed as historic facts, but as allegories; not as events that have really transpired, but as symbols; and must accept these allegories and these symbols for what their inventors really meant that they should be—the foundation of a science of morality.
The full text of the 1912 edition of Mackey’s “An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” may be found at:
Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry: Volume I