Temple in Jerusalem

The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple refers to a series of structures located on the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit) in the old city of Jerusalem. Historically, two temples were built at this location, and a future Temple features in Jewish eschatology. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple (or the Temple Mount) acts as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence (Heb. "shechina") in the physical world.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon in seven years during the 10th century BCE in 957 BCE. It was the center of ancient Judaism. The Temple replaced the Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacles at Shiloh, Nov, and Givon as the central focus of Jewish faith. This First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. Construction of a new temple was begun in 537 BCE; after a hiatus, work resumed 520 BCE, with completion occurring in 516 BCE and dedication in 515. As described in the Book of Ezra, rebuilding of the Temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. Five centuries later, this Second Temple was renovated by Herod the Great in about 20 BCE. It was subsequently destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE (see The Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE). All of the outer walls still stand, although the Temple itself has long since been destroyed, and for many years it was believed that the western wall of the complex was the only wall standing.

An Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, has stood on the site of the Temple since the late 7th Century CE, and the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands on the Temple courtyard.

Jewish eschatology envisions the construction of The Third Temple in Jerusalem associated with the coming of The Messiah, and thus, adherents of Orthodox and Conservative Judaism anticipate a Third Temple.

On August 30, 2007, what appears to be the remains of the Second Temple were discovered during the installation of pipes in the compound. Then, in October 2007, archaeologists confirmed the discovery of First Temple artifacts.


The Hebrew name given in Scripture for the building is Beit HaMikdash or "The Holy House", and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name. The temple is also called by a variety of other names in the Hebrew Bible, such as Beit Adonai (House of God) or simply Beiti (My house) or Beitechah (Your House).

The Temple of Solomon was constructed based on specific plans given to King David, by God. David had hoped to build it, but was told by God that his son would be the one to assemble the first temple. During his reign, David began to collect most of the raw materials used in the construction, from the wood, to the huge foundation stones, to the gold, silver, bronze and other metals used. The Temple was designed to house the Ark of the Covenant, and to serve all nations, particularly the Hebrew nation of Israel, as a place where any man could worship the God of Israel.

The First Temple, referred to as the Temple of Solomon, was likely constructed by members of all 12 tribes of Israel, since all the tribes were united under David and then Solomon. Following Solomon's reign, his son Rehoboam, due to his arrogance, caused 10 of the tribes of Israel split off to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel, while the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and much of Levi, remained in what was known as the Kingdom of Judah. The second temple was subsequently built by the remnant of Judah only who were taken in exile by Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BCE The other 10 tribes had already been dispersed a few centuries earlier, when their kingdom was torn apart by the Kingdom of Assyria.

First and Second Temples

Two distinct Temples stood in succession on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:

Solomon's Temple was built in the 10th century BCE and has been dated astronomically to 957 BCE to replace the Tabernacle. It was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, and thus stood for about 375 years; Talmudic tradition gives the number as 410 years. The building of the Temple of Solomon plays a prominent role in Masonic tradition, as well.

The Second Temple was built after Cyrus allowed the Jews to return from the Babylonian captivity. The return took place around 537 BCE, and, after a number of delays, the Temple was completed in 516 BCE. The dimensions of the Temple Mount were then 150 metres x 50 metres.

The Second Temple was destroyed by Roman Empire troops under general Titus in 70 CE. This second Temple had been desecrated by Pompey, when he entered it after taking Jerusalem in 63 BCE. According to Josephus (living at the Court of the Roman Emperor), Pompey did not remove anything from the Temple or its treasury. He did, however, massacre the Priests who attempted to block his entry to the sanctuary.

Pompey subsequently lost all his power and died as a hunted fugitive. This is seen by many Jewish people as Divine punishment. (See article on Pompey in the Encyclopaedia Judaica). Around 19 BCE, King Herod began a renovation of the Temple Complex in order to conceive a larger and grander version. Scarcely had the Temple's renovations been completed, however, when it was completely destroyed -- down to the foundations -- by the Roman Empire.

During the last revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 132-135, Simon bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiva wanted to rebuild the Temple, but bar Kokhba's revolt failed and the Jews were banned from Jerusalem by the Roman Empire.

A further effort at rebuilding the Temple took place in 363 CE when Julian the Apostate ordered the restoration of the Jewish sanctuary in Jerusalem, but this project failed.

Building a Third Temple

Ever since the Second Temple's destruction, a prayer for the construction of a new Third Temple has been a formal part of the thrice-daily Jewish prayer services. However, the question of whether and when to construct the Third Temple is disputed both within the Jewish community and without; groups within Judaism argue both for and against construction of a new Temple, while the expansion of Abrahamic religion since the 1st century CE has made the issue contentious within Christian and Islamic thought as well. Furthermore, the complicated political status of Jerusalem makes initiation of reconstruction presently difficult, while the traditional physical location of the historic Temple is presently occupied by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Physical layout

According to the Talmud, the Temple had an Ezrat Nashim (Women's Court) to the east and main area to the west. The main area contained the butchering area for the sacrifices and the Mizbaeach (Outer Altar) on which portions of most offerings were burned and blood was poured or dashed. An edifice contained the Ulam (antechamber), the Heichal, and the Kodesh Kodashim (Holy of Holies). The Heichal and the Kodesh Kodashim were separated by a wall in the First Temple and by two curtains in the Second Temple. The Heichal contained the Menorah, the table of Showbread and the Incense Altar.

The main courtyard had thirteen gates. On the south side, beginning with the southwest corner, there were four gates:

  • Shaar Ha'Elyon (the Upper Gate)
  • Shaar HaDelek (the Kindling Gate), where wood was brought in
  • Shaar HaBechorot (the Gate of Firstborn), where people with first-born animal offerings entered and fathers and children entered for the Pidyon HaBen ceremony
  • Shaar HaMayim (the Water Gate), where the Water Libation entered on Sukkot.

On the north side, beginning with the northwest corner, there were four gates:

  • Shaar Yechonyah (The Gate of Yechonyah), where kings of the Davidic line enter and Yechonyah/Yehoyachin left for the last time to captivity
  • Shaar HaKorban (The gate of the Offering), where priests entered with kodshei kodashim offerings
  • Shaar HaNashim (The Women's Gate), where women entered into the Azara or main courtyard to perform offerings
  • Shaar Hashir (The Gate of Song), where the Levites entered with their musical instruments

On the east side was Shaar Nikanor, between the Women's Courtyard and the main Temple Courtyard, which had two minor doorways, one on its right and one on its left. On the western wall, which was relatively unimportant, there were two gates that did not have any name.

The Temple in the writings of the Prophets

The Biblical prophets describe visions of a mysterious presence of God occupying the Temple.

Isaiah wrote "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple." (Isaiah 6:1). Jeremiah implored "Do not dishonor the throne of your glory" (Jeremiah 14:21) and referred to "Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary" (Jeremiah 17:12). Ezekiel spoke of "the glory of the God of Israel was there [in the Sanctuary], according to the vision that I saw in the plain."

Isaiah spoke of the importance of prayer as well as sacrifice in Temple, and of a universal purpose:

Even them will I bring to my My holy mountain, and make joyful in My house of prayer,
Their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar
For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7, JPS translation).
"My House shall be a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56:7)

Temple services

The Temple was the place where offerings described in the course of the Hebrew Bible were carried out, including daily morning and afternoon offerings and special offerings on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Levites recited Psalms at appropriate moments during the offerings, including the Psalm of the Day, special psalms for the new month, and other occasions, the Hallel during major Jewish holidays, and psalms for special sacrifices such as the "Psalm for the Thanksgiving Offering" (Psalm 100).

As part of the daily offering, a prayer service was performed in the Temple which was used as the basis of the traditional Jewish (morning) service recited to this day, including well-known prayers such as the Barchu, the Shema, and the Priestly Blessing. The Mishna describes it as follows:

The superintendent said to them, recite the Barchu, and they read the Ten Commandments, and the Shema, "And it shall come to pass if you will hearken", and "And [God] spoke...". They pronounced three benedictions with the people present: "True and firm", and the "Avodah" {"Accept, Lord our God, the service of your people Israel, and the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer receive with favor. Blessed is He who receives the service of His people Israel with favor" (similar to what is today the 17th blessing of the Amidah), and the Priestly Blessing, and on the Sabbath they recited one blessing; "May He who causes His name to dwell in this House, cause to dwell among you love and brotherliness, peace and friendship" on behalf of the weekly Priestly Guard that departed.|||Mishna Tamid 5:1

The Temple as the Garden of Eden

The Temple courtyards were full of trees, flowers, and fountains, because the Temple was meant to be a model and re-creation of the Garden of Eden. (See "Jerusalem as Eden," by Lawrence Stager, Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2000).

Role in Jewish services

As noted above, the heart of the traditional Jewish morning service, the part surrounding the Shema prayer, is essentially unchanged from the daily worship service performed in the Temple. In addition, recitation of the Amidah prayer, which traditionally replaces the Temple's daily tamid and special-occasion Mussaf (additional) offerings, must be recited today during the times that the offerings they substitute for were performed in the days of the Temple, in both Orthodox and Conservative Judaism.

The Temple is mentioned extensively in Orthodox services, and, to a lesser degree, in Conservative ones as well.

Orthodox Judaism

Mentions in Orthodox Jewish services include:

  • A daily recital of Biblical and Talmudic passages related to the korbanot (sacrifices) performed in the Temple. (See korbanot in siddur).
  • References to the restoration of the Temple and sacrificial worships in the daily Amidah prayer, the central prayer in Judaism.
  • A traditional personal plea for the restoration of the Temple at the end of private recitation of the Amidah.
  • A prayer for the restoration of the "house of our lives" and the shekhinah (divine presence) "to dwell among us" is recited during the Amidah prayer.
  • Recitation of the Psalm of the day; the psalm sung by the Levites in the Temple for that day) during the daily morning service.
  • Numerous psalms sung as part of the ordinary service make extensive references to the Temple and Temple worship.
  • Recitation of the special Jewish holiday sacrifices, and prayers for the restoration of the Temple and their offering, during the Mussaf services on Jewish holidays.
  • An extensive recitation of the special Temple service for Yom Kippur during the service for that holiday.
  • Special services for Sukkot (Hakafot) contain extensive (but generally obscure) references to the special Temple service performed on that day.

The destruction of the Temple is mourned on the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av. Three other minor fasts (Tenth of Tevet, 17th of Tammuz, and Third of Tishrei), also mourn events leading to or following the destruction of the Temple.

Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism retains mentions of the Temple but removes references to the restoration of sacrifices. The study session of Temple sacrifices is removed or replaced, the passages in the daily Amidah, the weekday Torah service, and elsewhere referring to restoration of the Temple are retained but references to sacrifices are removed. References to sacrifices on holidays are retained, but made in the past tense, and petitions for their restoration are removed. Special holiday services, such as special prayers at Yom kippur and Sukkot, are retained in Conservative prayer books, but are often abbreviated or omitted by Conservative congregations. Some Conservative Congregations omit all references to sacrifices, and the Conservative Sim Shalom prayer book has alternate versions of the Amidah prayer, a version mentioning sacrifices in the past tense and one without reference to sacrifices at all.

Conservative Judaism has retained the four fasts relating to the destruction of the Temple, although only Tisha B'Av is widely observed.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have removed all direct references to the Temple, although some indirect or ambiguous references (e.g. "Happy are those who dwell in your House", Psalm 84:5) are retained.

The Reform movement in the United States has taken to calling its places of worship not synagogues or shuls but temples. This is due to their belief that prayer replaced sacrifice as the main mode of Jewish worship, and that in a world where that is the case, there is no need for The Temple, only temples.

Archaeological evidence

Archaeological excavations have found one hundred mikvaot (ritual immersion pools) surrounding the Temple Mount or Har HaBayit. This is strong evidence that this area was considered of the utmost holiness in ancient times and could not possibly have been a secular area. However, it does not establish where exactly within the area was the Temple located. There are basically three theories:

  • The Temple was where the Dome of the Rock is now located.
  • The Temple was located a little to the north of the Dome of the Rock (Professor Asher Kaufman).
  • The Temple was located a little to the east of the Dome of the Rock (Professor Joseph Patrich of the Hebrew University. See article in the World Jewish Digest, April 2007).

Other theories have the Temple either to the north or to the south of the Temple Mount. Scholars generally reject more outlandish theories that claim the Temple was located somewhere else than Jerusalem or even outside the Land of Israel.

2004 artifact controversy

On December 27, 2004, it was reported in the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem concluded that the ivory pomegranate that everyone believed had once adorned a scepter used by the high priest in Solomon's Temple was a fake. This artifact was the most important item of biblical antiquities in its collection. It had been part of a traveling exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2003. Experts fear that this discovery is part of an international fraud in antiquities. The thumb-sized pomegranate, which is a mere 44 mm in height, bears an inscription incised around the shoulder of the pomegranate in small paleo-Hebrew script. Only 9 characters remained complete, and were incomplete – if any sense were to be made of the inscription, it seemed likely that several more were missing. The surviving part of the inscription was transcribed לבי...ה קדש כהנם (Only the lower horizontal stroke of the yod and the upper horizontal stroke of the ה he remain.)

The following restoration of missing letters was proposed: לבית יהוה קדש כהנם

This reconstruction resulted in the following transliteration, now accepted by the vast majority of scholars: lby[t yhw]h qdš khnm, which led to the translation: "Belonging to the Temp[le of Yahw]eh, holy to the priests."

The notion that the artifact is fake derives from the conclusion that it belongs to the Bronze Age rather than the Iron Age. Also, strokes of the inscribed letters do not continue directly into a broken-off section of the piece, suggesting that the inscription was added after the piece was broken. However, there are theories that the Temple of Solomon was built in the Bronze Age. If this is correct, there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the ivory pomegranate.

The Temple in Islam

The Last Prophet of Islam, Muhammad originally ordered Muslims to pray and prostrate toward the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (and it is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblahs). It is also mentioned in the Qur'an] as 'Bayt Al-Maqdes' which is an Arabic version of the Hebrew word 'Beit HaMikdash' (meaning 'The Holy House').

Since at least Mishnaic times (200 CE), Jews face the temple mount in Jerusalem while praying. The Mishnah speaks about this in Berakhot (Talmud) chapter 4, Mishnahs 5 and 6 and this practice is even found as early as I Kings 8:35-36. In Islam, this only lasted for seventeen months after Muhammad's arrival in Medina, after which the Qiblah became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to historical accounts from the prophet Muhammad's companions contained in the Hadith, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer in a mosque in Medina. Muhammad was leading the prayer when he received a revelation from Allah instructing him to take the Kaaba as the Qiblah as in the Qur'anic verse 2:144 which reads, "We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens: now Shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please thee. Turn then Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque: Wherever ye are, turn your faces in that direction. The people of the Book know well that that is the truth from their Lord. Nor is God unmindful of what they do.". According to the accounts, Muhammad, who had been facing Jerusalem during the prayer, upon receiving this revelation, immediately turned around to face Mecca, and those praying behind him also did so. After this, the mosque in which this incident occurred came to be known as Masjid al-Qiblatain (i.e. 'Mosque of the Two Qiblahs').

For some hundreds of years after the Muslim conquest, Jerusalem was still known to the Arabic speakers as 'Illya' which is the Arabic version of its Roman name 'Aelia Capitolina'. Bayt Al-Maqdes later became synonymous with Jerusalem and was eventually shortened to simply 'al Quds' ('The Holy'). When Khalif Omar ibn al-Khattāb (Umar) came to Jerusalem he asked the Patriach of Jerusalem to lead him to the site of the Temple. The area was filled with debris because it was considered the quarry and the dump site of the city during Christian times.

A Jewish rabbi turned Muslim was with Umar: "Ka'ab al-Ahbar". He, armed with his religious knowledge, led Umar first to the site of the Temple (The area where Israelites used to pray) where indeed Umar discovered the foundations' ruins, where Umar built a mosque made of reed on the example of The Mosque of the Prophet in Medina (roof was also made of reed). Umar prayed with 10,000 people for the first time since the fall of the temple in 70 CE. Umar prohibited offering sacrifices in the temple.

Then while Umar was searching for "the Rock" that Muhammad ascended atop of, with Angel Gabriel, to Heaven in his night journey to Heaven "Isra and Mi'raj" just less than 20 years ago (as the prophet related), Ka'ab was also searching for the site of the Holy of Holies. While removing the debris from the expected site of the Holy of Holies, to everybody's amazement, a large rock was revealed, then more of it was exposed by more cleaning.

Umar built a fence around the rock because he saw Ka'ab walking on it barefoot ("to see how it felt," as Kaab related later). A later Khalif built The Dome of the Rock over the Rock. The Dome was a monumental engineering project that lasted decades in construction, hiring the best architects and master masons in the world (from Byzantium) because the Umayyad Khalif and Muslims in his territories were unable to go to Mecca for pilgrimage because another anti-Umayyad Khalif declared himself in Mecca for decades "Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr", and they needed an alternative pilgrimage destination so his subjects wouldn't riot if he did not allow them to go to Mecca where his rival Khalif resided.

See also


External links

Further reading

  • Biblical Archaeology Review, issues: July/August 1983, November/December 1989, March/April 1992, July/August 1999, September/October 1999, March/April 2000, September/October 2005
  • Ritmeyer, Leen. The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Carta, 2006. ISBN 965-220-628-8
  • Hamblin, William and David Seely, Solomon's Temple: Myth and History (Thames and Hudson, 2007) ISBN 0500251339
  • Yaron Eliav, God's Mountain: The Temple Mount in Time, Place and Memory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005)

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