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.