A group of Master Masons talk about topics of Masonic interest--each from their own unique perspective. You'll find a wide range of subjects including history, trivia, travel, book reviews, great quotes, and hopefully a little humor as well on topics of interest for Freemasons and those interested in the subject of Freemasonry.
My Brethren, within the Masonic tradition the temple of Solomon is at the heart of its teaching the way the Mason not only perceives themselves, but the world around them. So the greater we understand the Masonic and Biblical material regarding the temple, greater we may better understand the cultural and social context of change within the human condition.
Looking at Masonic ritual and the Bible in a cultural context has helped me have greater insights into certain inconsistencies with regards to the Temple historically. Looking at the Old Testament readings I find a mystery surrounding this temple. This mystery is caused by questions I found within the text and Masonic regarding the temple and has caused me to research and delve into antiquity to solve it.
So it is clear that Solomon is first charged to build the Temple by his father David upon his deathbed. David received an order to construct a temple to the name of the Lord God but due to constant wars David never was able to construct his temple. Solomon was given the duty to construct the temple and to contemplate his new responsibility he traveled to the land of Gibeon inhabited by the Hivites. The Hivites are the decedents of Ham and lived across the mountainous regions stretching from Canaan to Lebanon within the Phoenician state. “And the King went to Gib’e-on to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnth offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.” (1 Kings 3:4)
Gibeon was a Canaanite city north of Jerusalem that established a truce with Joshua preceding the period of kings. The Gibeonites are described in both (Joshua10:12 and 2 Samuel 21:2) as not Israelites but Amorites which are referred to in Sumerian texts as early as 2400BC. The Amorites originated from the area now known as Syria and Canaan. They were a nomadic people who were known to settle in the mountainous region of Jebel Bishri before migrating south into Mesopotamia. The Amorites founded the city of Bashan south of Mt. Herbon, which was invaded and conquered when the Israelites entered the Holy Land (Deuteronomy 3:3-12). It was at this time the Amorites migrated north to Gibeon. It should be noted that the Amorites would eventually be a factor in the fall of the Sumerian empire in the third dynasty of Ur, which would found the Babylonian Stat, which eventually destroys the temple.
King of Soloman
Now the question remains why would Solomon travel to a foreign state to seek guidance from God? The Amorites were without a doubt worshipers of Canaanite deities such as Ba’al. Within the boarders of Gibeon it would not be uncommon to find altars set up to Ba’al among the various mountains and hilltops.
Now the title of Ba’al is given to many different gods and priests alike throughout the region. But I find it clear that in Gibeon there were worshipers of Ba’al Pe’or, or Ba’al of the mountain because the Amorites that once inhabited Bashan is the area inhabited by the Moabites who associated Ba’al with worship upon the peaks or high places. So it is of my opinion that Solomon sought to seek God in a foreign land on a high peak known for Ba’al worship instead of his own High Priests because he wanted to make contact with the deity of Ba’al instead of with Yahweh?
It should be noted that within the cultural context of ancient civilizations you would pay homage to the local deities whom protected the area in which you visited. Early Jewish people were not the monotheistic culture they are perceived to be in the Bible, but a polytheistic people. This is why throughout the Old Testament Yahweh must compete for the worship from the Israelites for Ba’al who again and again sends prophets to Jerusalem. In fact the Jewish people were not monotheistic until after the Babylonian exile when King Cyrus sent the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites. (Jeremiah 3-5)
After this deep religious experience Solomon receives a dream from God confirming his fate to build the Temple. So he sends word to Hiram King of Tyre to help him in his construction project. Hiram king of Tyre was a Phoenician King who ruled the city-state of Tyre in the north. Hiram agrees to aid Solomon in his project because it is said that Hiram was a friend of King David. “Thou knowest how that David my father could not build a house unto the name of the Lord his God for the wars that were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet.” (1 Kings 5: 3)
Hiram King of Tyre was first charged to gather all the timber from the cedar forests of Lebanon. Hiram calls upon the Sidonians as the labor in Lebanon, Hiram’s only condition that he supplies his men with 20,000 measures of wheat and 20 measures of oil. King Solomon then took a levy or tax among all of Israel and raised enough funding for 30,000 men to hue the supplies in Lebanon. Over these men Adoniram was appointed to oversee the work as well as the transportation of materials back to Jerusalem.
There is also mentioned 70,000 workers of the temple or barers of burden, as well as 3,300 overseers of the work. There is no reference to how funding for this was arranged by King Solomon, so I believe it is a safe theory to assume that Hiram King of Tyre compensated the majority of the costs as well as supplied all the materials for the building of the Temple.
The question I propose is why would King Solomon who was charged with building a Temple to Yahweh, allow a foreign king who worships foreign gods not only to build and construct his temple, but also to cover the majority of the cost of that temple? This is the question I propose to you to ask yourself as we move forward. There is a mystery concerning this temple, a mystery that as Masons we may preserve and not even know it… is the Temple of Solomon a temple to Yahweh?