General Ahiman Rezon, by Daniel Sickels, , at sacred-texts.com
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THIS section illustrates certain hieroglyphical emblems, and inculcates many useful and impressive moral lessons. It also details many particulars relative to the building of the Temple at Jerusalem.
This magnificent structure was founded in the fourth year of the reign of SOLOMON, on the second day of the month Zif, being the second month of the sacred year. It was located on Mount Moriah, near the place where ABRAHAM was about to offer up his son ISAAC, and where DAVID met and appeased the destroying angel. JOSEPHUS informs us that, although more than seven years were occupied in building it, yet, during the whole term, it did not rain in the day-time, that the workmen might not be obstructed in their labor. From sacred history we also learn, that there was not the sound of ax, hammer, or any tool of iron, heard in the house while it was
building. It is said to have been supported by fourteen hundred and fifty-three columns, and two thousand nine hundred and six pilasters, all hewn from the finest Parian marble.
It was symbolically supported, also, by three columns—WISDOM, STRENGTH, and BEAUTY.
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In the British and other mysteries, these three pillars represented the great emblematical Triad of Deity, as with us they refer to the three principal officers of the Lodge. It is a fact that, in Britain, the Adytum or Lodge was actually supported by three stones or pillars, which were supposed to convey a regenerating purity to the aspirant, after having endured the ceremony of initiation in all its accustomed formalities. The delivery from between them was termed a new birth. The corresponding pillars of the Hindoo mythology were also known by the names of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, and placed in the East, West, and South, crowned with three human heads. They jointly referred to the Creator, who was said to have planned the Great Work by his infinite Wisdom, executed it by his Strength, and to have adorned it with all its Beauty and usefulness for the benefit of man. These united powers were not overlooked in the mysteries; for we find them represented in the solemn ceremony of initiation by the three presiding Brahmins or Hierophants. The chief Brahmin sat in the East, high exalted on a brilliant throne, clad in a flowing robe of azure, thickly sparkled with golden stars, and bearing in his hand a magical rod; thus symbolizing BRAHMA, the creator of the world. His two compeers, clad in robes of equal magnificence, occupied corresponding situations of distinction. The representative of VISHNU (the setting sun) was placed on an exalted throne in the West; and he who personated SIVA, the meridian sun, occupied a splendid throne in the South.
There were employed in its building three Grand Masters; three thousand and three hundred
[paragraph continues] Masters or Overseers of the work; eighty thousand Fellow-Crafts; and seventy thousand Entered Apprentices, or bearers of burdens. All these were classed and arranged in such manner, by the wisdom of SOLOMON, that neither envy, discord, nor confusion, were suffered to interrupt or disturb the peace and good-fellowship which prevailed among the workmen.
In front of the magnificent porch were placed the two celebrated pillars—one on the left hand and one on the right hand. They are supposed to have been placed there as a memorial to the children of Israel of the happy deliverance of their forefathers from Egyptian bondage, and in commemoration of the miraculous pillars of fire and cloud. The pillar of fire gave light to the Israelites, and facilitated their march; and the cloud proved darkness to PHARAOH and his host, and retarded their pursuit. King SOLOMON, therefore, ordered these pillars to be placed at the entrance of the Temple, as the most conspicuous part, that the children of Israel might have that happy event continually before their eyes, in going to and returning from divine worship.
THE place chosen for the erection of this magnificent structure was Mount Moriah, a lofty hill, situated in the north-easterly part of the city of Jerusalem, having Mount Zion on the south-west, Mount Acra on the west, and Mount Olives on the east. The summit of this mountain was unequal, and its aides irregular; but it was a favorite object of the Jews to level and extend it. The plan and model of the Temple was in the same form as the Tabernacle of Moses, but was of much larger dimensions.
King SOLOMON commenced the erection of the Temple in the year B.C. 1011, about 480 years after the Exodus and the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness; and it was finished B.C. 1004, having occupied seven years and six months in the building.
The foundations were laid at a profound depth, and consisted of stones of immense size and great durability. They were closely mortised into the rock, so as to form a secure basis for the substantial erection of the sacred edifice.
The building does not appear to have been so remarkable for its magnitude, as for the magnificence of its ornaments and the value of its materials. The porch was 120 cubits, or 210 feet high, and the rest of the building was in height but 30 cubits, or 52½ feet; so that the form of the whole house was thus:—It was situated due east and west, the holy of holies being to the westward, and the porch or entrance toward the east. The whole length, from east to west, was 70 cubits, or 122½ feet. The breadth, exclusive of the side chambers, was 20 cubits, or 35 feet; the height of the holy place and the holy of holies was 30 cubits, or 52½ feet, and the porch stood at the eastern end, like a lofty steeple, 120 cubits, or 210 feet high. In fact, as LIGHTFOOT remarks, the Temple much resembled a modern church, with this difference, that the steeple, which was placed over the porch, was situated at the east end.
Around the north and south sides and the west end were built chambers of three stories, each story being 5 cubits in height, or 15 cubits, 26 feet 9 inches in all—and these were united to the outside wall of the house.
The windows, which were used for ventillation rather than for light, which was derived from the sacred candlesticks, were placed in the wall of the Temple that was above the roof of the side chambers. But that part which included the holy of holies was without
any aperture whatever, to which SOLOMON alludes in the passage, "The LORD said that HE would dwell in the thick darkness."
The Temple was divided, internally, into three parts—the porch, the sanctuary, and the holy of holies; the breadth of all these wag of course the same, namely, 20 cubits, or 35 feet, but they differed in length. The porch was 17 feet 6 inches in length, the sanctuary 70 feet, and the holy of holies 35, or, in the Hebrew measure, 10, 40, and 20 cubits. The entrance from the porch into the sanctuary was through a wide door of olive posts and leaves of fir; but the door between the sanctuary and the holy of holies was composed entirely of olive-wood. These doors were always open, and the aperture closed by a suspended curtain. The partition between the sanctuary and the holy of holies partly consisted of an open network, so that the incense daily offered in the former place might be diffused through the interstices into the latter.
In the sanctuary were placed the golden candlestick, the table of shew-bread, and the altar of incense. The holy of holies contained nothing but the ark of the covenant, which included the tables of the law.
The frame-work of the Temple consisted of massive stone, but it was wainscoted with cedar, which was covered with gold. The boards within the Temple were ornamented with carved work, skillfully representing cherubim, palm-leaves, and flowers. The ceiling was supported by beams of cedar-wood, which, with that used in the wainscoting, was supplied by the workmen of HIRAM, King of Tyre, from the forest of Lebanon. The floor was throughout made of cedar, but boarded over with planks of fir.
The Temple, thus constructed, was surrounded by various courts and high walls, and thus occupied the entire summit of Mount Moriah. The first of the courts was the Court of the Gentiles, beyond which Gentiles were prohibited from passing. Within this, and separated from it by a low wall, was the Court of the Children of Israel, and inside of that, separated from it by another wall, was the Court of the Priests, in which was placed the altar of burnt offerings. From this court there was an ascent of twelve steps to the porch of the Temple, before which stood the two pillars of JACHIN and BOAZ.
For the erection of this magnificent structure, besides the sums annually appropriated by SOLOMON, his father, DAVID, had left one hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver, equal to nearly four thousand millions of dollars.
The year after the Temple was finished, it was dedicated with those solemn ceremonies which are alluded to in this degree. The dedicatory ceremonies commenced on Friday, the 30th of October, and lasted for fourteen days, terminating on Thursday, the 12th of November, although the people were not dismissed until the following Saturday. Seven days of this festival were devoted to the dedication exclusively, and the remaining seven to the Feast of Tabernacles, which followed.