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.
The question I proposed and have sought an answer for is what is the purpose of the Temple of Solomon? Phoenician architects and builders built it in a Phoenician design, to a God that commended his people not to build any graven images to him. This is why the Tabernacle in the wilderness was to be erected.It is clear Yahweh was first associated as a tribal war God that descended through the nomadic peoples of the Shasu, to the Midianites, and to the Israelites. But Solomon erected monuments to many Gods from foreign countries so why build a temple to Yahweh?
Finally the mystery becomes clear if we look at Solomon’s motive from a political and economic standpoint. The Israelite people were in a period of transition from a nomadic people to establishing a Kingdom. From the wanderings of Moses, through the constant battles of the period of Judges, through the Conquests of Joshua and David, the Israelites now having established themselves as the Kingdom seek to evolve their culture, by doing so Solomon redefined the relationship between the people and God.
It is my belief that the reason a Phoenician temple was built in Jerusalem was because Solomon was trying to incorporate Phoenician culture into Israelite culture. This is more because of economic and political reasons more then religious ones. Once the temple was complete it became the center of sacrifice for all of Judea.
Under Moses, tradition tells us the culture was focused around the Torah, under Solomon the focus of culture was the Temple. This center of sacrifice was also the center for taxation of the people. The temple served to propagate the wealth of the state, not the wealth of the people. This was the standard system of taxation through out ancient civilizations. The people pay the priests to sacrifice their offerings in a ritualistic manner and to offer up prayers for their redemption.
To achieve this integration of political structure it was necessary for Israel to culturally reinvent the God Yahweh from a nomadic tribal war God into a God that propagates a Kingdom cultural structure. So Solomon mimicked the success of Tyre as well as Egypt, which were known for their wealth. Solomon had them build a temple to create a system of taxation to support a kingdom.
Mackey Writes in the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry “hence we see there is an evident antagonism in the orthodox Hebrew mind between Jehovah and Baal… The latter was, however, worshipped by the Jews…and by all the Oriental and Shemitic people as Supreme Deity, representing the sun in some of his modifications as the ruler of the day. In Tyre, Baal was the sun, and Ashteroth the moon.” (P. 88)
So it is reasonable to see the purpose of this temple being for Solomon to merge the mythology of the characters of Ba’al and Yahweh, to create a new God character, which supports the nationalism and structure of the Kingdom. So Yahweh not Ba’al is now recognized as the sun, and Ashteroth, the moon. This creates a new type of ritualistic ceremony for sacrifice, known as the Korban, a sacrifice is now given in place of a sin, rather then for victory in tribal war fare. Yahweh is then associated with the son, which is culturally necessary for a Kingdom, which is traditionally agriculturally based economically. This is because Judea needed a more regionally recognizable God to Ba’al so foreign traders could pay their sacrifice to the state or purposes of taxation.
Canaanite God El
Even though rituals were seemingly based around Ba’al customs, the character of Yahweh changed drastically to resemble more the Canaanite god El, the Father of Ba’al. El was seen as the Father God the creator of mankind and existence itself. It is the first depiction we see of the image of God as an older man and Fatherly figure. Mackey continues “El, one of the Hebrew names of God, signifying the Mighty One. It is the root of many different names of Deity…” (P.235)
Masonic tradition informs us that the True name of God YHVH was kept secret and was never to be uttered. So it became necessary to keep this true Identity of God a secret from the people because of its immense power. Thus Solomon sought to create a new image or aspect of God as a creative force similar to El, and established the deity of the temple, Elohim. Mackey writes Elohim “is an expression used throughout the first chapter of Genesis, as applied to God in the exercise of His creative power, and signifies the “Divine Omnipotence, the Source of all power, the power of powers,” which was in activity in the creation. After which the expression used for Deity was Jehovah, which implies the Providence of God, and which could not have been active until the world had been created by Elohim.” (P. 239)
El also has a direct link to the creation of the Hebrew people. Shortly after Abram receives God’s calling to travel to the promised land and create the foundation to his people he is met a Priest King of El Elyon, or El most High, by the name of Melchizedek, who’s name translates to “my King is Righteousness”. He comes to bless Abram in the name of El and to establish his calling by the means of the first Eucharist. It is following this ritual event that God makes the covenant with Abram, after this event would take the new name Abraham, to deliver the Promised Land unto the children of God.
“And Melchizadek King of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most High God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.” (Genesis 14: 18)
So it is clear that is was El, not Yahweh, which made this covenant with Abraham. I find it interesting that Elohim is the plural version of El, this is why the Elyon is added to show the distinction of Most high, as opposed to Elohim which is a title for plural Gods. This is mostly a cultural difference I believe, but it would only be natural if you were building a temple to the Most High God to have worshipers of El to construct it.
It is El who created Ba’al the central figure to extract taxes through ritual sacrifice, and just as Elohim who acted to create Yahweh who now became a central figure to extract taxes through ritual sacrifice. Before our very eyes we see the cultural and spiritual evolution of a Deity. Culturally, Yahweh was no longer seen in a tribal perception. It was Yahweh that delivered the Israelites unto the Promised Land, so he still remained a God of national strength for Judea. But it is clear that Yahweh took on new aspects Canaanite deities to become a multi-dimensional Deity who could embody both the aspects of a Father figure, El, to amend sins to, as well as a Sun God, Ba’al, to support the transition to a agricultural society, as well as a national God to direct all worship to for taxation purposes.
So by now I hope you have come to the conclusion that cultural transitions is essential to how an individual can perceive Deity. This is because the individual will perceive abstract concepts from a cultural perspective. But these merging cultures of the region changed the way a culture perceived deity and changed their relation to divinity as a people.
James E Frey, 32°is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children.