Where was the temple of King Solomon

The temple

Solomonic Temple

According to the biblical account, the Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem was built around 950 BC. built together with the palace complexes of the king; it was considered a royal sanctuary (cf. 2 Sam 24:24: David buys the threshing floor of the Jebusite Arauna). The temple stood on the northern part of the hill called Ofel or Zion, with the entrance facing east. It is disputed whether the Holy of Holies was located where the holy rock is shown today under the dome of the Muslim dome of the rock, from where Mohammed is said to have ascended into heaven. It is possible that this place was also the location of the burnt offering altar in the forecourt of the temple. With both solutions, however, there are still uncertainties regarding the traditional dimensions and the terrain.


Since archaeological excavations are not possible in this holy place of the Muslims, one has to rely on the information in 1 Kings 6 + 7 when reconstructing the Temple of Solomon. After that, the temple was based on the model of Syrian temples from the Late Bronze Age articulated longhouse temple; also the connection with the king Hiram of Tire 1 Kings 5,15ff. confirms the "import" of the architecture.

The temple consisted of three rooms arranged one after the other, a vestibule, אוּלָם (’Ûlam), 5x10x15m, a main room, הֵיכָל (hêkal), 20x10x15m and the most holy place, דְּבִיר (debîr), 10x10x10m. The holy and holy of holies were separated by a wooden partition, and there were doors between the vestibule and the main room.

Adjoining rooms, which may have been added later, have surrounded this actual temple building on three floors. (One cubit was calculated at 0.50 m, the temple was therefore approx. 35 m long, which is 5 m shorter than today's handball field.)


The Holy of Holies was probably a box-like installation (its height is indicated by 5 m lower than the other rooms), although it is unclear whether it was on a pedestal or at ground level. In the Holy of Holies stood the ark under the wings of two large kerubim. In the main room were the incense altar, the showbread table and 2x5 candlesticks. The interior walls were clad with cedar wood and decorated with gold-plated carvings. In front of the anteroom stood two iron pillars, called Jachin and Boaz. In the inner courtyard were the altar, the iron sea (a large water basin) and the tank wagons necessary for cleaning.

In recent years there has been a controversial discussion as to whether there was a cult image of the god YHWH in the Jerusalem temple (or also in Samaria), or whether the cult was aniconical, i.e. without an image. So it was assumed that Ps. 68: 25f. alluding to a procession of gods. Because of the increasingly clear parallels between Israel and the religions of its neighbors, one must assume that there were corresponding statues in Jerusalem and Samaria as well. However, there is a lack of clear evidence, so that the majority of researchers continue to accept the figureless cult.

The Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the New Babylonians in 587/6; its reconstruction only began after the exiles returned in 520 BC. This construction was completed in 5 years. There are probably no remains from the first temple.

Post-exilic temple

The post-exilic temple no longer had an ark in the Holy of Holies, the room remained empty and was separated from the main hall by a curtain. Instead of the 5 candlesticks on each side of the main room, there was only one seven-armed candlestick, the menorah. The two pillars were also missing now. In the course of the conflict with the Seleucids in the Maccabees, the temple was opened in 167 BC. desecrated (probably by an attachment on the altar of burnt offering). In 164 BC. the new initiation happened after the victory of the Maccabees. The Jewish Hanukkah festival is a reminder of this.

Herodian temple

Herod the Great then began in 20/19 BC. with the renovation of the temple, which was tantamount to a new building. In its splendor, it looked like one of the wonders of the world to contemporary viewers. The platform of the Temple Mount was heaped up and thus artificially enlarged. The footprints of the holy and holy of holies were retained, but the building was built significantly higher (25m) and more splendid, and the façade was considerably enlarged to 50x50m.

In front of the temple was the priests' court with the altar, in front of it the court for the Israelites, in front of that the court for the women. Non-Jews were only allowed to enter the area of ​​an outer forecourt. Prohibition signs, some of which have been preserved, threatened the death penalty for violating them.

This temple was built in AD 70. Accidentally destroyed by the Romans under Titus, as stated in the account of the Jewish historian Josephus. The triumphal procession after the victory over Jerusalem, during which the menorah was shown, is depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The Emperor Julian Apostata allowed the temple to be rebuilt around 362, but the project was discontinued for reasons that were not entirely clear.

Zion Theology

In addition to the historical and architectural features, the temple is of particular theological interest. This is the place where YHWH lets his name dwell (Deut 12: 5), here, on Zion, he has his throne (Ps 9:12). Zion has its own traditional context that proves the special dignity of this place. Zion is not simply the place of dwelling of YHWH, it is also the place of his salutary action for Israel. Here God resides as King (Isa 24:23), rules over his enemies (Ps 110: 2). Zion is considered to have been chosen by God (Ps 132:13), founded by him (Isa 14:32). According to Isa 28:16, the cornerstone of creation lies in Zion. On this mountain YHWH is worshiped by Israel (Ps 132: 7); Zion itself will become the center of the all-embracing kingdom of peace (Isa 2: 2-4).

This traditional context can only be found in a few writings in the Old Testament. In the Psalms (46; 48; 110, 84; 87; 122) the glorification of Zion is expressed, in the Lamentations the mourning over his loss after the destruction of the temple. According to Isaiah, YHWH assures Zion his protection - as far as in accordance with the classical expectation - but this only applies if the residents practice justice and law (1.27), otherwise Zion becomes the place of judgment over them. Micha has a clearly negative idea: Zion is built with blood and will be depopulated (3.10ff.). The same applies to Jeremiah, who also sees Zion as the place of judgment. Here the peoples will punish Israel for sins on behalf of YHWH (4,5ff.); all that remains for the prophet is sadness that YHWH has rejected Zion (14:19).

The old promises of salvation to Zion are then taken up again in Deutero-Isaiah: YHWH creates new rights for his people here (46:13), the exiles will gather at Zion after their return home (51:11). This expectation is taken up in the post-exilic literature and unfolded as an expectation for the future: YHWH will finally take up his kingship on Zion (Zech 9,9ff.) And prevail against all enemies of God's people. Linked to the expectation of the Messiah, the Zion tradition continues into Christian Advent carols (EG 13: "Daughter Zion, rejoice").


T.A. Busink, The Temple of Jerusalem from Solomon to Herod, I + II, 1970 + 1980.
H.D. Preuss, Theologie des Alten Testament, Vol. 2, 1992, § 8.
W. Zwickel, The Temple of Solomon, 1999
O. Keel, E.A. Knauf, Th. Staubli, Solomons Tempel, 2004.
M. Küchler, Jerusalem, 2007, 125-277.

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Electronic Bible Studies

The texts on this page are taken from:

Old testament

Rösel, Martin: Biblical studies of the Old Testament. The canonical and apocryphal scriptures. With learning overviews by Dirk Schwiderski, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 10., veränd. Edition 2018.