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: