Solomon Dedicates the Temple

King Solomon dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem. Painting by James Tissot or follower, c. 1896–1902

What Can Archaeology Tell Us About Solomon’s Temple?

Solomon’s Temple presents a double puzzle, one old and the other more recent. The first relates to the fact that the Biblical description of the building is not entirely clear and can be interpreted in several ways. The second puzzle relates to the origin of the architecture- What is the architectural source of the building?

It may seem strange that the Bible’s description of Solomon’s Temple is so inexact, especially because the Temple furniture and utensils are described so minutely. For example, the bronze laver stands are described in minute detail (1 Kings 7-27–9); the building description itself lacks all detail except for a brief notice concerning the windows (1 Kings 6-2–4). No one has ever really explained why the Temple furniture and utensils are so fully described compared to the brief and ambiguous description of the Temple itself.

Certain other aspects of the structure are also given in detail. We are told, for example, that the doors to the Inner Sanctuary (debir) were made of olive wood carved in relief with cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, all overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6-31–32). The side chambers are also described rather extensively (1 Kings 6-5–10), but this description is probably a later addition and can therefore be ignored for purposes of reconstructing the original plan of that temple.

Read the rest of Temple Architecture in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.