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.