The temple itself was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. The orientation of the building lay east to west and may have sat upon a platform which would have raised it fifteen feet off the ground. It was surrounded by courtyards.
The entrance, into the temple, which was on the east side, was a porch or vestibule measuring thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep; a flight of steps led up from the innercourt. At the top of its walls there were narrow latticed windows. These would let light into the building but also allow smoke to escape.
On three sides of the main building Solomon had built annex rooms. These rooms covered the entire north, south and west walls. Each room was three stories high, the ground floor was seven and a half feet wide, the second floor was nine feet wide, and the third floor was ten and a half feet wide. Each floor was seven and a half feet high. A narrow winding staircase connected each floor on the south side to the temple. These rooms were used by the priests to store temple treasures and vestments. These annexes were not attached to the main building itself but sat upon joists which rested upon blocks of stone protruding from the walls.
All the pillars and wooden beams that were used to construct the annex were covered with cedar panels. These cedar panels also covered all the stonework of the temple, so viewed from outside it would appear that the temple with its annexes were in fact a single construction. The entire outside walls were then covered in finest gold and inlayed with precious stones.
The inside of the temple was divided into two sections, the Holy of Holies, and The Holy Place. Every internal wall was covered in cedar panelling but the floor was made from cypress boards. At the far end of the building (west end) was the Holy of Holies. This room measured thirty feet by thirty feet by thirty feet, that meant it was a perfect cube. The panelling was exactly the same as for the larger room. Though the building was constructed from limestone that was carved with the greatest of skill and laid with perfection, not one piece of it was seen anywhere. Throughout the temple the cedar walls had a design of gourds (rosebuds), open flowers, angels and palm trees carved into them. The Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, and the temple area was completely overlaid with the purest of gold both on walls, ceilings, and floors. The wooden altar that was in the temple was also overlaid with gold. A golden chain protected the entrance into the Holy of Holies. The entrance itself was two olive wood doors which had carved angels, trees and flowers on them were also overlaid with gold. A veil then covered this whole area from view.
There was no door on the porch of the temple, but there was one into the Holy Place itself The doors were made from cedar wood and were of a folding nature, probably two folding doors. These too had carved angels, trees and flowers, and were covered in gold. The posts of the doors were made from olive wood and covered in gold.
In front of the temple entrance Solomon placed two free standing bronze pillars. Each one measured fifty-two and a half feet high, and had a capital of seven and a half feet. The pillar on the right of the entrance was named Jachin, while that on the left was called Boaz. Chains and pomegranates were carved into the pillars.
Significance of the Temple
There is much emphasis laid upon the temple in the Old Testament. It symbolised many things to the people of Israel. Without a temple, or if the temple were destroyed, they would consider themselves forsaken of God and incomplete as a nation. Jerusalem and its temple was at the very heart of religious, civil, and social life in Israel. “Trust not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD are these.” (Jeremiah 7:4)
1… The Temple symbolised religious authority. There could only be one central place for worship in Israel. This was to protected Jewish faith from corruption and compromise. When other religious places were established a spiritual rot set in. By centralising their religion at the temple it would ensure that future generations would know what was the truth about God. At no time did Israel have a alternative temple dedicated to Jehovah.
2.. The Temple symbolised God’s Holiness. With all the splendour, especially with regards to the gold glistening in the sunshine, and the silence inside as the light from the seven branched candlestick sparkled on the golden walls, must have inspired a sense of awe. Those who were allowed into the temple were aware that they were standing in the presence of a pure and holy God.
3. ..The Temple symbolised God’s Covenant with Israel. The gold not only represented His holiness but also His glory. The law (the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone) was kept in the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy of Holies. God is seen as protecting the Covenant and the promises that He had made with His people. This also spoke of His actual presence and protection He gave them. The temple itself did not guarantee God’s presence. It symbolised His presence only insofar that the people reject all false gods, and worship the Lord God alone. Some believed that nothing could happen to them while they had the temple (Micah 3:9-11).
4… The Temple symbolised Forgiveness. Each element of the temple (its design, equipment, and priestly service) was created to teach Israel about sin and forgiveness. No one was allowed to appear before the Lord without a blood sacrifice. From the moment one entered the outercourt there were objects that reminded the sinner of his need of forgiveness. Two important function took place there; the daily sacrifices for sin, and the once a year Day of Atonement. Each one expressing the idea of either individual or national sins that need God’s mercy and forgiveness.
5…The Temple was a House of Prayer. In this place more than any other, prayer seemed to surround everything. Prayer was made over the sacrifices, offerings, and as the priest sprinkled the blood. Incense symbolised prayer. To those in both Testaments the temple was known as The House of Prayer. Even when the Jew was away from Jerusalem he would pray facing the direction of the temple. They knew that God would hear their prayers, “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears” (Psalm 18:6).
6…It prepared the people for the coming of their Messiah. Almost everything that was found or that was done inside the temple symbolised Christ and His ministry. They would not have been aware of this at that time, but the day will come when they shall clearly see why the temple, its furnishing, and its service had to be fashioned in such a precise way.