High Point in the High Chronology

In Numbers 4, God tells Moses to get an accounting of the various branches of the Levite family branches, the Kohathites, the Gershonites and the Merarites. This accounting makes for an opportune moment to review the accounting of the archaeological periods in the southern Levant.

One factor which separates humans from most other creatures in the animal kingdom is their ability to use tools. Historical human development is in part measured by the prevalent technologies humans used to make tools. The Stone Age was followed by the Copper Age. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, so advances in smelting led to the end of the Copper Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age.

The Bronze Age is divided into Early, Middle and Late stages. The Middle Bronze Age in the Levant lasted from roughly 2100 BCE to 1600 BCE, and the Late Bronze Age from 1600 BCE through 1200 BCE.

Destruction layers in the archaeological record can be an important method for marking breaks between periods. In archaeological tells, or mounds, a destruction layer might have been caused by war, earthquake or fire. The signs of a destruction layer can include collapsed walls, possibly with skeletons beneath them, burnt walls, or the presence of arrowheads, indicating violence. 

The Iron Age periods in the Levant are typically broken down into the Iron I period, and the Iron II period, which is subdivided into Iron IIA, IIB and IIC. The archaeological record in Israel contains upper and lower anchors for the 12th century BCE and the late 8th century BCE. These anchors firmly establish certain events and their timing in the Iron I and Iron IIB periods.

On the upper end, there are clear mid-12th century BCE correlations between the Egyptian 20th Dynasty and artifacts found at Beth She’an, Megiddo and Lachish. Destruction layers at Egyptian settlements during the reign of Rameses VI or Rameses VIII were followed a non-Egyptian settlement, marking a defined changed in the settlement pattern.  

On the lower end, in 732/721 BCE the Assyrians destroyed large swathes of the northern Kingdom of Israel, and in 701 BCE the Assyrian king Sennacherib ravaged much of the southern Kingdom of Judah.

What happened between these two anchors, between the years of the mid-12th century through the end of the 8th century BCE is a matter of debate. There are other destruction layers between these two anchoring destruction layers, and who caused these destruction layers is unclear. Possible explanations for the destruction layers sandwiched between the 12th and 8th century BCE anchors are the kingdom of Aram-Damascus, the Egyptian king Shoshenq I or possibly King David.

This periodization described above is referred to as the High Chronology.

The High Chronology represents what has been the traditional archaeological view of the period. In the High Chronology, the Late Bronze Age ended in roughly 1200 BCE. This coincided with the arrival of the Philistines on the southwestern coast of the southern Levant, shortly after the appearance of the early Israelites in the central hill country, with their small villages and egalitarian lifestyles. In the High Chronology, the Iron I period lasted from 1200 BCE through 1000 BCE. In this scheme, the Iron IIA period begins in roughly 1000 BCE. In the central hill country, it is marked by urbanization, gradual fortifications and royal architecture. From a timing perspective, this period appears to correlate with the biblical account of the beginnings of King David’s monarchy, a high point in biblical Israel’s history.

The image above is of a lintel, from above the doorpost, of an Egyptian residence in Beth She’an, in the 12th century, before the transition to a Canaanite material culture. It is on display at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. 

Whose Jerusalem?

Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Jerusalem

In Numbers 1, the Bible records the findings of a census taken to count the members of each tribe. “All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Judah was 74,600…The number from the tribe of Benjamin was 35,400.”

In Numbers 2, the tribes were given a designated space in the Israelite encampment. “On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard…On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard…The tribe of Manasseh will be next to them…The tribe of Benjamin will be next.”

In Numbers, the census figures and the tribal order are exact. But in the division of the land, especially as it related to Jerusalem, the Bible is less clear.

In Joshua 15, “The allotment for the tribe of Judah, according to its clans, extended down to the territory of Edom, to the Desert of Zin in the extreme south…The eastern boundary is the Dead Sea as far as the mouth of the Jordan…The western boundary is the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.” The northern cut off in the center “ran up the Valley of Ben Hinnom along the southern slope of the Jebusite city, that is, Jerusalem. From there it climbed to the top of the hill west of the Hinnom Valley at the northern end of the Valley of Rephaim.” According to the author of Joshua, “Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah.”

In Joshua 18 it lists the cities that were allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. These included “Zelah, Haeleph, the Jebusite city, that is, Jerusalem, Gibeah and Kiriath.”

In Judges 1, the tribe of Judah succeeded in capturing the hill country. But of the tribe of Benjamin, “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.”

The Sennacherib Prism records the events of the late 8th century, and associates Jerusalem with Judah. The Assyrian king Sennacherib trapped Hezekiah the Ia-u-da-ai, meaning the Judahite, in Ur-sa-li-im-mu, in Jerusalem. But the situation in the Iron I period from roughly 1200 BCE-1000 BCE is not well attested in the archaeological record. Thus we cannot say with any certainty who exactly dwelled in Jerusalem at this earlier stage: Judahites, Benjaminites, Jebusites, or some other group.

On the subject of the disputed city of Jerusalem, Psalm 125 begins, “A song of ascents. Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

The photo shown above can be a visual guide to the topography of Jerusalem and the mountains surrounding Jerusalem.

The photo is taken east of Jerusalem, looking to the west. In the foreground, from right to left, are Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives, which rise above the Temple Mount. Moving west, the topography descends into the Kidron Valley, before rising to the Temple Mount.

The area to the south of the Temple Mount, to the left of it in the photo, outside of today’s Old City walls, is the City of David, likely the site of the original city. This hill descends to the point where the Kidron Valley meets the Valley of Hinnom from the west.

What is not immediately obvious in the photo, due to the ancient construction, is that the area of the Western Wall of Herod’s Temple sits in another valley, the Tyropoeon Valley. The Tyropoeon Valley lies between the Temple Mount and the Western Hill. Those who have visited the Old City of Jerusalem by entering through Jaffa Gate, will note that the path to the Western Wall through the Arab Market or the Jewish Quarter descends to the Western Wall. The area around the Jaffa Gate is the top of the Western Hill.

In honor of the topic, the inspiration for a well known song about Jerusalem:


Sift and Ye Shall Find

Leviticus 25 instructs against working the land during the sabbatical and Jubilee years. “But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.” Similarly, in the Jubilee year, the land is to be left fallow. “The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.”

Unlike single period sites and abandoned sites, Jerusalem has maintained a continuous occupation since before the Iron Age. This complicates archaeological work, as parts of the ancient city are beneath modern structures, and ancient dwellers would have been more likely to remove artifacts. This is further complicated today by the status of the Temple Mount, whose dirt is required to be left fallow.

After Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, it left the Temple Mount in the hands of its traditional caretakers. The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, funded by the King of Jordan, maintained control of the site, restricting archaeological work. 

Solomon’s Temple as described in the Bible involved an array of resources, and if destroyed, might have left remnants in the dirt. The site was likely overturned during Herod’s temple construction, but if this prevented the establishment of the fixed layers typical of an archaeological mound built over time, Iron Age artifacts should have remained in the fill dirt.

In 1 Kings 6 and 7, Solomon built his temple and palace and with a variety of woods, dressed stone and gold and bronze. The location of the construction would most likely have been in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. While the wood likely would deteriorate over time, and metals likely to have been collected for re-use, temple visitors and staff would have been likely to deposit objects over time.

In addition to the Waqf’s restrictions on archaeological work, the State of Israel requires salvage excavation to take place at archaeological sites before construction work can begin. In the late 1990s, illegal construction work was done on the Temple Mount. In the process, 9,000 tons of dirt were removed and dumped in the Kidron Valley. Archaeologists Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira collected the dirt and initiated the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

The project has discovered finds from nearly four millennia, stretching back to the 2nd millennium BCE. Included in the finds are artifacts from the Iron IIA  and broader Iron II period. There have been a number of notable finds. A cylindrical gold bead, similar in design to similar beads in cultic use elsewhere was found. Shards of Red Burnished Slip pottery from the Iron IIA period were found. A bronze arrowhead from Iron II indicates a military presence or activity. A seal showing two animals was found, as were weights for use in trade.

While the artifacts do not on their own prove the existence of the First Temple, it does indicate the site was active in the Iron IIA period, the time period equated with Solomon’s temple.

Standard Pillars, Unique Names

Leviticus 24 provides instructions for tending to the menorahs in the Tabernacle: The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. Outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually.

The entranceway into the Tabernacle required passing through curtains to enter the structure. Solomon’s temple was more ornate, with a portico with pillars in front of the enclosed portion of the building. “The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple.”

1 Kings 7 explains how the portico was designed and built: “King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram, whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was from Tyre and a skilled craftsman in bronze. Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.”

Solomon had Huram design two pillars, which were called Jakhin and Boaz. “He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high. A network of interwoven chains adorned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits high. On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakhin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.”

The Late Bronze Age and Iron Age temple at Ain Dara in Syria contained a similar design feature. In the entrance to the portico of the Ain Dara temple stood two columns on either side of the entranceway. All that remains today are the bases of the pillars, but they still provide information. The pillars had diameters of approximately three feet. Based on their position, they appear to have been load bearing, supporting a roof.

The exact location and purpose of the Jakhin and Boaz pillars in Solomon’s temple is debated. It is not clear if they were load bearing pillars. If the comparisons to Ain Dara extend to the pillars, it suggests that they might have supported a roof.

The Ain Dara temple had many design features that compare to Solomon’s temple. The buildings had similar layout of rooms in a row, with a portico in the front adorned by pillars. The buildings were both rectangular in shape. Each featured a shrine area in the rear of the building, and a storage area around the sanctuary building. Water basins were positioned in the courtyard in front of the building.

These similarities do not prove the existence of Solomon’s temple as described in the Bible. But they do demonstrate that Solomon’s temple as described in the Bible fits the architectural style of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age in the Levant. This makes it unlikely to have been an invention by a much later writer, who would not have been able to recreate that level of detail.

For a visual of Solomon’s temple, representing one opinion of the design of the pillars, the following video:

The Temples’ Purifying Seas

In Leviticus 16, the High Priest is restricted from entering the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle all days save the Day of Atonement. In order to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest had to perform a series of rituals and offerings before entering. This process began with the High Priest bathing in water. This process also ended with ritual purification. “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments.”

1 Kings 7 describes the elements of Solomon’s temple, which included installations for water, which would be used in purification rituals and in offerings. “He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. Below the rim, gourds encircled it, ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea. The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths.” Two thousands baths here translates to roughly 12,000 gallons.

Another source for water for ritual was a series of basins. “He then made ten bronze basins, each holding forty baths and measuring four cubits across, one basin to go on each of the ten stands.” Forty baths, each basin holding roughly 240 gallons of water.”

The Ain Dara Temple in northwestern Syria that was built in the Late Bronze Age, and expanded in the Iron Age II, contains many features similar to Solomon’s Temple as described in the Bible. Storage for water can likely be added to the list.

In Solomon’s temple, the large ‘Sea of cast metal’ is placed in the front courtyard close the altar used for sacrifices. In the Ain Dara temple, a large chalkstone basic was placed in the paved courtyard. The logical explanation is that this basin held water used in temple rituals.

Cherubs and Lions in Temple Design

Source =http://www.flickr.com/photos/isawnyu/5446033390/ |Author =Institute for the Study of the Ancient World Contact, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain_Dara_(archaeological_site)

Following Leviticus’ description of ritually defiling skin afflictions, Leviticus 14 delineates the purification process. Once deemed clear of the condition, the afflicted person brought two birds, one of which would be killed and the other released. This would be followed by washing of the person’s clothes, followed by shaving the person’s hair and then bathing in water. On the 8thday, the now cleansed person would bring offerings to the Tabernacle.

If the purification process was the same during the first temple period, then the temple the afflicted person would be visiting would be more ornate than the Tabernacle building. 1 Kings 6 gives the following description. “The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits long. The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers.” On the exterior of the building, “On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers.”

The entrances featured designs. “For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors out of olive wood that were one fifth of the width of the sanctuary. And on the two olive-wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold. In the same way, for the entrance to the main hall he made doorframes out of olive wood that were one fourth of the width of the hall. He also made two doors out of juniper wood, each having two leaves that turned in sockets. He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings.”

The Ain Dara Temple in northwestern Syria, which was active between the 14th and 8th centuries BCE, provides an example of a temple that was contemporary with Solomon’s temple as described in the Bible. In addition to similarities in size, layout and a shrine room, it also was lined with carved designs both inside and outside.

The carved reliefs included images of lions, winged cherubs, sphinxes and a clawed figure, of which only the claws remained. It also contained images of palmettes, the fan shaped leaves of the palm tree, and floral patterns.

The similarity in the specific design elements between the Ain Dara temple and the Solomon’s temple in the Bible is yet another sign that Solomon’s temple fit the time period in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE.

The image above is of the Ain Dara temple, with a winged figure in the lower left corner.

An Elevated Holy of Holies

In Leviticus 10, God killed Aaron’s sons for violating the sanctity of the Tabernacle. “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” Aaron remained silent. Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary. So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.”

The sanctity of the Tabernacle was built into its design. The area in front of the Tabernacle held wash basins for ritual purity. Entry inside was restricted to priests. In Leviticus 16, the Holy of Holies was limited to only the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

In 1 Kings 6, Solomon built his temple along the same design plan, only larger and with a portico added in front. “The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high…He partitioned off twenty cubits at the rear of the temple with cedar boards from floor to ceiling to form within the temple an inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits long…He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high.”

The Ain Dara Temple in Syria demonstrates that Solomon’s temple was built along the lines of other contemporary temples of the time. It had a rectangular layout, with similar dimensions. The two buildings were similar in the placement of a shrine area at the end of the building. And they had another similarity.

At Ain Dara, at the end of chain of rooms, the main hall led to an elevated shrine area. A ramp led up to the podium. This elevated area featured a niche where an image of a god would have been placed. It is thought that this main hall would have been separated from the shrine area by some form of barrier, creating two rooms from this one large area.

In Solomon’s temple, the building was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. But the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary area was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. If the building was thirty cubits high and the inner sanctuary was only twenty cubits high, it would mean that either the inner sanctuary had a roof at twenty cubits or the inner sanctuary was elevated to ten cubits high, which would have required either steps or ramp to enter. The ark, with its cherubs above, could have sat on an elevated platform, just as there was an elevated platform at Ain Dara.

The photo in the link below shows the elevated portion of the holy of holies at the rear of the Ain Dara temple:


Where Temples Kept Their Stuff

Credit: Robert D. Bates, http://www.asor.org/resources/photo-collection/pid000564/

Leviticus 6 gives instructions for a series of offerings in the Tabernacle. For the burnt offering, “Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” For the grain offering, “The priest is to take a handful of the finest flour and some olive oil, together with all the incense on the grain offering, and burn the memorial a portion on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”

The wood and grain for these offerings would have needed to be kept in storage close to the altar for easy access. In the Bible, King Solomon appears to have added a storage area for his temple, something which was not done for the Tabernacle. In 1 Kings 6, “Against the walls of the main hall and inner sanctuary he built a structure around the building, in which there were side rooms. The lowest floor was five cubits wide, the middle floor six cubits and the third floor seven. He made offset ledges around the outside of the temple so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls…The entrance to the lowest floor was on the south side of the temple; a stairway led up to the middle level and from there to the third. So he built the temple and completed it, roofing it with beams and cedar planks. And he built the side rooms all along the temple. The height of each was five cubits, and they were attached to the temple by beams of cedar.

The Ain Dara temple in northwestern Syria dates to the early 13th century BCE and continued in operation until 740 BCE. It contains many features that are comparable to Solomon’s Temple in the Bible, most notably the long room structure, a rectangular building with a series of rooms that led to a shrine, along with a portico.

The Ain Dara temple was developed over time, with new features added at later dates. One such feature is hallways that surrounded the temple building. These hallways were added in the 9th century BCE. The hallway may have included a stairway, which would indicate that the hallway contained an upper level. The logical explanation for this area would be to serve as storage for the temple. This is yet another way in which Solomon’s Temple building in the Bible reflected a contemporary style.

The image above is of the Roman-era Temple of Baal in Palmyra, Syria, which featured an area surrounding the central sanctuary. Just like Solomon’s Temple, this temple was largely destroyed, only more recently by ISIS.

Similar Temples, Similar Results

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/isawnyu/5446033390/, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World Contact

In Leviticus 1, God begins to give Moses instructions for bringing offerings in the Tabernacle. “The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.”

Solomon’s Temple was designed along the same lines as the Tabernacle, though as a larger, permanent structure. In 1 Kings 6 it describes Solomon’s construction project. “In the four hundred and eightieth a year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord. The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple.”

The tabernacle floor plan was 10 cubits wide by 30 cubits long. Solomon’s Temple was double the size at 20 cubits wide by 60 cubits long. In addition, it had a portico that extended an additional 10 cubits in the front of the building, for total dimensions of 20 cubits by 70 cubits.

The portico featured two pillars. “He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.”

A temple discovered at Ain Dara in Syria provides an example of a temple contemporaneous with and comparable to Solomon’s Temple that is described in the Bible.

Ain Dara is located in northern Syria, northwest of Aleppo. Its ancient temple was located on the highest point of the site. It was initially built in approximately 1300 BCE, and underwent a series of modifications over the centuries. Solomon’s Temple in the Bible is built in the 10th century BCE.

Both Solomon’s Temple and the Ain Dara temple are rectangular in shape, with rooms in a row. In Solomon’s Temple, the portico opens into a main room, followed by the Holy of Holies that was the shrine area. The Ain Dara temple had a portico that led into an antechamber, which then led into a main hall with an elevated shrine area in the rear.

The ‘Ain Dara temple area was 98 feet long by 65 feet wide. Solomon’s temple was 60 cubits long by 20 cubits wide, with an additional 10 cubits for the portico. Assuming a cubit measurement of 18 inches, This would give Solomon’s Temple a building size of 90 feet by 30 feet, or 105’x30’ with the portico. A larger estimated cubit size would expand these dimensions.

The Ain Dara temple has a unique feature in the portico, two large footprints over 1 meter each, followed by a left footprint in front of the pair. A right footprint is carved into the area between the antechamber and the main hall. It is believed to represent the deity stepping into the temple.

In addition to the footprints, the Ain Dara Temple portico was discovered to have two column bases, which would have supported columns in the portico, similar to the description of the portico in Solomon’s Temple.

Alas this temple appears to have another similarity with Solomon’s Temple. In the Bible, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed during the Babylonian conquest. No remains of this temple have been found. In 2018, during the war in Syria, the Turkish Air Force bombed the temple site, completely destroying it, and the bombed area was further looted in 2019, removing important remnants.

The image above is of the Ain Dara Temple, prior to the bombing 2018.

Solomon’s Borrowed Temple Floor Plan

Photo Credit: Stephen Batiuk, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Iron_Age_Temple_%28photo_credit_Stephen_Batiuk%29.jpg

In Exodus 36, construction began on the Tabernacle: They made upright frames of acacia wood for the tabernacle. Each frame was ten cubits long and a cubit and a half wide, with two projections set parallel to each other. They made all the frames of the tabernacle in this way. They made twenty frames for the south side of the tabernacle and made forty silver bases to go under them, two bases for each frame, one under each projection. For the other side, the north side of the tabernacle, they made twenty frames and forty silver bases, two under each frame. They made six frames for the far end, that is, the west end of the tabernacle, and two frames were made for the corners of the tabernacle at the far end. At these two corners the frames were double from the bottom all the way to the top and fitted into a single ring; both were made alike. So there were eight frames and sixteen silver bases, two under each frame.

The Tabernacle was rectangular in shape, built with 20 boards on each side running lengthwise and 8 boards in the rear along the width. The interior was divided into two rooms, a main room and the holy of holies, separated by a curtain.

In 1 Kings 6, King Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem with a similar floor plan, but added a portico, a front porch with columns in the entranceway. “The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple. He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high.”

In 1 Kings 7, Solomon added the pillars. “He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.”

To date, no evidence of Solomon’s Temple has been unearthed. This is unsurprising. The temple site was overturned, expanded and built over during Herod’s reign. The Temple Mount complex is managed by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, and cannot currently be excavated.

In lieu of evidence for Solomon’s temple, other temples within the Levant can at least demonstrate that the building described in 1 Kings matches the structural design of other temples of the time.

Bronze Age temples at Ebla, Emar, Tell Musa and Megiddo feature a rectangular shaped long room temple. A Bronze Age Canaanite temple at Hazor was built with three rooms in a row, comparable to Solomon’s building having two rooms and the portico in a row. An Iron Age temple at Tell Tayinat in Southern Turkey, near the Mediterranean Sea and the Syrian border, is built in a rectangular shape with three distinct areas, including a portico supported by columns. One particularly close comparable is the Late Bronze Age era Ain Dara Temple located in Ain Dara, northeast of Aleppo, close to the Turkish border.

These temples do not prove that Solomon’s Temple existed, but can at least demonstrate that the description fits the time period in which it was said to have been constructed.

The image above is of the floor plan at the Tell Tayinat temple.