Article - King Solomon's Temple
World Stamp Exhibition – Israel 98,
King Solomon’s Temple
The First Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon on Mount Moriah, which became known as Temple Mount, was located north of the city at that time.
The site had already been sanctified by his father King David, who had built an altar there, after proclaiming Jerusalem his capital city.
The temple was one building in a cluster of palaces and official structures, the largest of which was the King’s palace. It took seven years to b8uild and was inaugurated about 958 BCE. After c. 370 years, in 587/6 BCE, it was destroyed by the Babylonians and their King Nebuchadnezzar.
During its long existence, the Temple was renovated and restored several times. All our information about its structure comes from the Bible, since there are no archaeological remains. Most of the details are found in 1 Kings (Chapters 6-7) and 2 Chronicles (Chapters 3-4) but additional details are also found in other biblical texts. The biblical description includes many minute details and some of the technical terminology is difficult to interpret. The Temple was elongated, its entrance facing east with its back to the west. It was comprised of three units, one behind the other; a porch, a hall and the Sanctuary or Holy of Holies. In front of it were two tall free- standing columns of copper with elaborate capitals. Not supporting the building, the columns were symbolic monuments, which were given human names – “Yachin” and “Boaz”.
The dimensions of the Temple were 100 x 50 cubits, circa 52 x 26 m. It was built of the finest materials such as large well cut smooth stones and various kinds of wood; cedars of Lebanon, cypress and olivewood. Cedar beams were used for the ceilings and the whole building was paneled with cedar wood. The entire interior was plated with gold, richly decorated with designs of cherubs, pomegranates, stylized palm branches or palmettes, bulbs, blossoms and flowers. The most important item of the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant inside, which were kept the Holy Tablets of the Law.
Above the Ark were two large gold plated wooden cherubs. The design of the Temple and its decorations were influenced by the art and architecture of Israel’s neighbors, mainly from Phoenicia and Syria. The Temple was the symbol of Israel’s political independence and sovereignty , the focus for the worship of the God of Israel and was recognized as the heart of the nation. The very special status of King Solomon’s Temple inspired the Second Temple, which was built by those returning to Zion after the Babylonian exile.
The right hand shows a drawing of the Temple; it is based on a computerized model designed for the special exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum – “Jerusalem – A Capital for all Times; Royal Cities of the Biblical World”.
The left hand shows a rare inscribed ivory pomegranate exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
In the background of the Souvenir Sheet is a model of the City of David from this exhibition. The pomegranate is inscribed in ancient Hebrew script with the words "Sacred donation for the Priests (in) the House of ה…” Based on the shape of the characters on the tiny pomegranate (43mm high), the inscription was engraved in the eighth century BCE. The ivory pomegranate may have been used as the head of a sceptre of a priest in King Solomon’s Temple.
The inscription as it appears on the pomegranate decorates the First Day Cover.