Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Building of the Temple

Featuring Henry Hart Milman

Previously on Solomon Builds the Great Temple. And now Henry Hart Milman.

Time: 953 BC from The Temple of Solomon - (The First Temple) by Lambert Dolphin
Place: Jerusalem

Josephus carries the whole building up to the height of the porch; but this is out of all credible proportion, making the height twice the length and six times the width. Along each side, and perhaps at the back of the main building, ran an aisle, divided into three stories of small chambers: the wall of the Temple being thicker at the bottom, left a rest to support the beams of these chambers, which were not let into the wall. These aisles, the chambers of which were appropriated as vestiaries, treasuries, and for other sacred purposes, seem to have reached about half way up the main wall of what we may call the nave and choir: the windows into the latter were probably above them; these were narrow, but widened inward.

If the dimensions of the Temple appear by no means imposing, it must be remembered that but a small part of the religious ceremonies took place within the walls. The Holy of Holies was entered only once a year, and that by the High-priest alone. It was the secret and unapproachable shrine of the Divinity. The Holy Place, the body of the Temple, admitted only the officiating priests. The courts, called in popular language the Temple, or rather the inner quadrangle, were in fact the great place of divine worship. Here, under the open air, were celebrated the great public and national rites, the processions, the offerings, the sacrifices; here stood the great tank for ablution, and the high altar for burnt-offerings.

But the costliness of the materials, the richness and variety of the details, amply compensated for the moderate dimensions of the building. It was such a sacred edifice as a traveler might have expected to find in El Dorado. The walls were of hewn stone, faced within with cedar which was richly carved with knosps and flowers; the ceiling was of fir-tree. But in every part gold was lavished with the utmost profusion; within and without, the floor, the walls, the ceiling, in short, the whole house is described as overlaid with gold. The finest and purest--that of Parvaim, by some supposed to be Ceylon--was reserved for the sanctuary. Here the cherubim, which stood upon the covering of the Ark, with their wings touching each wall, were entirely covered with gold.

The sumptuous veil, of the richest materials and brightest colors, which divided the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was suspended on chains of gold. Cherubim, palm-trees, and flowers, the favorite ornaments, everywhere covered with gilding, were wrought in almost all parts. The altar within the Temple and the table of shewbread were likewise covered with the same precious metal. All the vessels, the ten candlesticks, five hundred basins, and all the rest of the sacrificial and other utensils, were of solid gold. Yet the Hebrew writers seem to dwell with the greatest astonishment and admiration on the works which were founded in brass by Huram, a man of Jewish extraction, who had learned his art at Tyre.

Besides the lofty pillars above mentioned, there was a great tank, called a sea, of molten brass, supported on twelve oxen, three turned each way; this was seventeen and one-half feet in diameter. There was also a great altar, and ten large vessels for the purpose of ablution, called lavers, standing on bases or pedestals, the rims of which were richly ornamented with a border, on which were wrought figures of lions, oxen, and cherubim. The bases below were formed of four wheels, like those of a chariot. All the works in brass were cast in a place near the Jordan, where the soil was of a stiff clay suited to the purpose.

For seven years and a half the fabric arose in silence. All the timbers, the stones, even of the most enormous size, measuring seventeen and eighteen feet, were hewn and fitted, so as to be put together without the sound of any tool whatever; as it has been expressed, with great poetical beauty: "Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric grew."

At the end of this period, the Temple and its courts being completed, the solemn dedication took place, with the greatest magnificence which the king and the nation could display. All the chieftains of the different tribes, and all of every order who could be brought together, assembled.

David had already organized the priesthood and the Levites; and assigned to the thirty-eight thousand of the latter tribe each his particular office; twenty-four thousand were appointed for the common duties, six thousand as officers, four thousand as guards and porters, four thousand as singers and musicians. On this great occasion, the Dedication of the Temple, all the tribe of Levi, without regard to their courses, the whole priestly order of every class, attended. Around the great brazen altar, which rose in the court of the priests before the door of the Temple, stood in front the sacrificers, all around the whole choir, arrayed in white linen. One hundred and twenty of these were trumpeters, the rest had cymbals, harps, and psalteries. Solomon himself took his place on an elevated scaffold, or raised throne of brass. The whole assembled nation crowded the spacious courts beyond. The ceremony began with the preparation of burnt-offerings, so numerous that they could not be counted.

At an appointed signal commenced the more important part of the scene, the removal of the Ark, the installation of the God of Israel in his new and appropriate dwelling, to the sound of all the voices and all the instruments, chanting some of those splendid odes, the 47th, 97th, 98th, and 107th psalms. The Ark advanced, borne by the Levites, to the open portals of the Temple. It can scarcely be doubted that the 24th psalm, even if composed before, was adopted and used on this occasion.

Continued on Sunday, January 2th.

More information here.

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