Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
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 BC, and, with the assistance of his friend and ally, Hiram king of Tyre, completed it in about seven and a half years, dedicating it to the service of the Most High in the year 1004 BC This was the year of the world 3000, according to the Hebrew chronology; and although there has been much difference among chronologist 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 eminence of the ridge which was known as mount Zion, and which was originally the property of Ornan the Jubusite, 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 splendour 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 profanation’s to idolatry and subsequent restorations to the purity of worship. One hundred and thirteen years after the conquest of Shishak, Joash, kin 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 years that followed it was desecrated and restored until the year of 3398.

In 3398, in the year of the reign of Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Chaldea, carried a part of the sacred vessels to Babylon. seven years afterwards, in the reign of Jechoniah 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 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 the splendour of appearances that attracted the admiration of all who beheld it, and gives color to the legend that tells us how the Queen of Shcba, 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 Moraffi. It was surrounded with spacious courts, and the whole structure occupied at least half a mile in 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 father. 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 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 purpose 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 centre of this court was the altar of burnt‑offerings, to which the people brought their oblations and sacrifices, none but the priests were permitted to enter it.

From this court, twelve steps ascended to the Temple, strictly so called, which as I 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. Beside this gate there were the two pillars Jachin an 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 the universe. The breath 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 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 hundred thousand millions of dollars, and one hundred and eighty‑four thousand and six hundred men were engaged in building it for more than seven years.

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 masonry was here first organized; and there Solomon, Hiram of tyre, and Hiram Abif presided as grand Masters over Lodges which they had established; that here were symbolic degrees instituted and systems of initiation were invented; and that from that period to the present Masonry has passed in unbroken succession and unaltered form. But the modern method of reading Masonic history has swept away this edifice of imagination with as unsparing 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 moulding 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 Masonry. Each Lodge is and must be a symbol of the Jewish Temple; each Master in the chair a representative of the Jewish king; and every Mason a personating 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 transpired, but as symbols; and must accept these allegories and these symbols for what the inventors really meant that they should be ‑

The foundations of morality.

Information taken from the Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry

By ALBERT G. MACKEY, M.D.