It was a long time ago, but I remember it well. In an English class in high school, we, with Miss Glee’s guidance, were studying William Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar. About the only thing I remember from that experience was a line in Scene II, when the Soothsayer said to Caesar, “Beware the ides of March.” Those words, referring to March 15 in the old Roman calendar, were, as they were spoken, a reminder to Caesar that his life was in serious danger, for something bad was about to happen. Since sitting in that class long ago, I have always remembered the ides of March and thought of them as an omen of something bad about to happen.
But the ides of March can mean more if we allow them to do so. The middle of the month, as the ides of March are, is here, and it has always meant something more to me. It is a good omen, a sign of something better to come. I truly believe, as a good friend of mine wrote in a beautiful song, “Something good is about to happen!” And I remember that many centuries ago one wise in the ways of nature wrote, “See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of the doves is heard in the land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.”
The world around us is rapidly changing, and what a change it is! Laying aside the drab colors of winter, it is becoming green, beautiful, and alive. The days, cold and dreary, of winter are behind us, and the days, warm and pleasant, of spring are here. And we, at least most of us, are genuinely delighted.
But there is more. Not everything in life will be pleasant, but we can be positive. We can live and believe that “Something good is about to happen!” And it will!
THE TEMPLE OF KING SOLOMON
Howard Coop, Chaplain
Lancaster Lodge No. 104 F. & A. M.
In their Masonic journey in search of more light, Masons are made aware of King Solomon and the magnificent temple he constructed in Jerusalem. Many of the more valuable lessons they were taught during that journey involve that temple and its construction. The installation service for new officers poignantly points out the symbolic relationship between King Solomon’s temple and the Lodge and the symbolic relationship between King Solomon and the Worshipful Master and his station in the East.
The temple King Solomon constructed was not symbolic; it was real. It was not built by speculative Masons; it was built by operative masons. If a Mason goes to Jerusalem as part of a Masonic Pilgrimage, he will be shown a cavern deep in the bowels of Jerusalem where such persons as Jubilo, Jubila, and Jubilum worked. In that cavern, a Lodge of Master Masons may be opened in due form. Then, that Mason will be taken to the southwest corner of what is now the Esplanade of the Temple where he will be shown that which archaeologists have found of the actual remains of King Solomon’s Temple.
David, one of the great kings of Israel, died in 962 B.C. Solomon, his son, being heir to the throne, was anointed King of Israel. The first act of Solomon was to pray for wisdom as all Masons are taught to pray before any undertaking. Then, Solomon “proposed to build a temple for the name of the Lord” (II Chronicles 2;1). The temple of King Solomon was built at the summit of Mount Moriah, the mountain to which Abraham went to offer Isaac, his son, as a sacrifice (II Chronicles 3:1).
When the Israelites entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, they were unable to take the Jebusite city on Mount Moriah. It remained a Jebusite city until about 1,000 B.C. When David captured it. When he was King of Israel, David purchased a threshing floor on that mountain from a Jebusite named Araunah or Ornan (I Chronicles 21:18-25). David purchased the site as a place to build an altar to avert a plague. The purchase price for the site and for oxen to offer as a sacrifice on that altar was 600 shekels of gold (II Chronicles 21:25). A shekel was an Israelite weight equal to .403 of an ounce. Therefore, the purchase price was about one and a fourth pounds of silver. Stated in current dollars, the land and the oxen cost $466,215.00 (based on 11-12-10 market)
Known now as the Esplanade of the Temple, the plot of land that David bought is 1,640 feet long and 984 feet wide; therefore it contains about thirty-seven and a half acres. Solomon chose that parcel of land as the site for the temple. When the temple was finished, the most holy place, or the holy of holies, was over the threshing floor, a huge stone where, tradition says, Abraham prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
Since the Israelites, recently a nomadic people, had little architectural experience, Solomon sought help from a neighbor to the north. He contracted with Hiram, King of Tyre, to furnish skilled craftsmen, one of whom was Huram-Abi (II Chronicles 2:13) and materials. Huram-Abi is known to Masons as Hiram Abif. The materials---cedar and cypress timber from Lebanon---were rafted down the Mediterranean Coast to Joppa and taken inland to Jerusalem.
To pay the King of Tyre, Solomon made annual payments of twenty thousand cors of wheat and twenty thousand cors of beaten oil that is assumed to be pure olive oil. In dry measure, a cor equals 5.16 bushels, and in liquid measure, it equals 55 gallons. Therefore, for his help, Solomon sent Hiram a little over 100,000 bushels of wheat and 1,100,000 gallons of olive oil annually.
Solomon conscripted 153,600 aliens (II Chronicles 2:17) from the population of Israel to assist with the work. Seventy thousand of these were assigned to bear burdens, eighty thousand were assigned to the stone quarry, and 3,600 were made overseers to see that work proceeded (II Chronicles 2:17-18).
The temple was begun in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign (II Chronicles 3:2), and Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that it was “the eleventh year of the reign of Hiram.” So, 958 B. C. is accepted as the date for the beginning of the temple. That was 480 years “after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt” (I Kings 6:1).
Construction began in the spring in the month of Ziv after the winter rains had passed (I Kings 6:1). Ziv corresponds to the last 15 days of April and the first 15 days of May.
Seven years later in the month of Bul, the fall of 951 B. C., the temple was completed (I Kings 6:38). Bul, the eighth month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponds to the last 16 days of October and the firs 15 days of November.
Solomon’s temple is often described as magnificent. Solomon said, “The house I am to build will be great and wonderful” (II Chronicles 2:9, RSV). A passage in II Chronicles (3:3-9) describes, in some detail, the opulence of the temple:
These are Solomon’s measurements for building the
House of God: the length in cubits of the old standard,
was sixty cubits. The vestibule in front of the nave of
house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the
house; and its height was a hundred and twenty cubits.
He overlaid it on the inside with pure gold. The nave
he lined with cypress, and covered it with fine gold,
and made palms and chains on it. He adorned the house
with settings of precious stones. The gold was gold of
Parviam. So he lined the house with gold---its beams,
its thresholds, its walls, and its doors; and he carved
cherubim on the walls. And he made the most holy
place; its length, corresponding to the breadth was
twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits; he
overlaid it with six hundred talents of fine gold. The
weight of the nails was one shekel to fifty shekels of
gold. And he overlaid the upper chamber with gold.
Solomon, “the king (who) made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones,” used an abundance of those precious metals in the temple. Henry M. Halley, in POCKET BIBLE HANDBOOK (1951 edition), said, “The gold and silver and other materials, used in building the temple, is variously estimated to equal, in our money, from 2 to 5 billions of dollars.” He goes on to describe the temple as “the most costly and resplendent building on earth at the time” (p 202).
The temple faced the east and was above the Golden Gate. Solomon placed two large pillars (II Chronicles 3:15) of cast bronze in front of the temple. He called the one on the south side Jachin and the one on the north side Boaz. These pillars were 35 cubits high. A cubit is an ancient measure equal to the length of the arm from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow but standardized at 22 inches. Therefore, Jachin and Boaz were 64.5 feet tall, and each of them had a capital that was 5 cubits or nine feet tall.
The names of the pillars are significant. Jachin means “he that strengthens” or “will establish,” and Boaz means “in strength.” Together they mean “in strength shall this house be established.” In a Lodge, Jachin and Boaz, usually arranged at the entrance, have a dual meaning. They are symbols of strength and stability, and they are symbolic of dependence on the superintending guidance of the Supreme Architect of the Universe (Henry Pirtle, KENTUCKY MONITER).
King Solomon reigned for forty years (II Chronicles 9:30) until his death in 922. At his death, he was succeeded by Rehoboam, his son (II Chronicles 9:31).
In 917 B.C., in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam (II Chronicles 12:2) and at the height of his power, Shishak, King of Egypt, attacked Jerusalem. Shishak conquered the city, plundered the temple, and “took away everything” (II Chronicles 12:9).
The temple built by Solomon stood until 586 B.C. when it was destroyed by the Babylonians, also known as the Chaldeans, when they conquered Jerusalem and burned the temple (II Chronicles 36:19). The temple built by Solomon, magnificent and expensive, stood for 365 years after it was finished. The temple of wisdom of which it is symbolic, is still under construction. Those who are speculative Masons expend their labor on it each day.