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.