" And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).
God’s commandment was given to Moses and the people of Israel when they were in the wilderness and dwelling in tents.
Because they were nomadic people, their place of worship, the Tabernacle, was a lightweight and portable. The Old Testament describes it as a rectangular tent which measured 15 by 5 meters (16 by 49 feet), divided into two distinct areas.
The first area just inside the entrance was called The Holy. Here stood a seven-branched candlestick and incense was burned as a sweet smelling offering to God.
At the far end opposite the entrance and behind a curtain partition was the Holy of Holies. The ark of the covenant stood here alongside the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the vessel containing manna and Aaron’s staff. Sacrifices were carried out in the courtyard adjacent to the Tabernacle, in an area measuring 50 x 25 m (164 x 82 feet).
All the specifications for the construction and adornment of the Tabernacle were laid out carefully in the book of Exodus, including the curtains, colors and designs,
“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits. And every one of the curtains shall have the same measurements” (Exodus 26:1-2).
When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, the Tabernacle was placed in the city of Shiloh which became the spiritual center of the people for centuries.
The history of the Temple Mount begins with legendary King David’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1004 BC. According to the story in the Sacred History (parts of the Torah narrative), on this site, there was a threshing floor which belonged to a local resident named Orna.
Why was this place chosen to build the Temple for God the Creator? Maybe the answer is found in the first few pages of Holy Scripture, where the story of Abraham and his son, Isaac, is recorded,
“Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’” (Genesis 22: 2).
The names of the land of Moriah and Mount Moriah are parallels which may not be accidental. Talmudic legend associates this mountain with the sacrifices performed by Noah following the flood and Adam’s son, Abel, before he was murdered by his brother, Cain. God Himself sent instruction through His prophet to David to build an altar in Jerusalem,
"And Gad came to David that day and said: Go, set up an altar on the threshing floor of Orna the Jebusite" (II Samuel 24:18).
David did not take the place for the construction of the altar by force, but paid Orna (Aravna in Hebrew) for the land,
“Then the king said to Orna, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.’
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel” (II Samuel 24:24-25).
David dreamed of building a magnificent temple for a dwelling place for God. He felt uncomfortable living in a palace while the House of God was so humble by comparison.
“Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under tent curtains’” (I Chronicles 17:1).
In spite of this dream, the Almighty announced through the prophet Nathan that David, because he shed so much blood, would be denied this honor but it would be fulfilled through the son born of his seed,
“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men” (II Samuel 7:12-14).
The son “born through his seed” was Solomon (Shlomo in ancient Hebrew means peaceful), destined to become a great king in the Land of Israel. The Temple to one God, the Creator of the Universe was built, the first in the history of the people of Israel and probably all of mankind. It was constructed 480 years after the liberation of the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt in 957 BC, the fourth year of the reign of King Solomon.
“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord" (1 Kings 6: 1).
Solomon was far from a crude pagan who viewed the Temple as God's earthly dwelling place.
"But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (II Chronicles 6:18).
He was also an alien with a narrow nationalist view of the Temple:
“Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple;
Then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name" (II Chronicles 6: 32-33).
The First Temple, like the Tabernacle, consisted of two courts which were roughly twice the size of the Tabernacle. Another courtyard was added to the facade of the Temple, called ulam in ancient Hebrew. The building of the Temple itself was surrounded by a courtyard (azara in ancient Hebrew)
A detailed description of the construction and size of the Temple is found in 1 Kings and in the historical work of Josephus Flavius, Antiquities of the Jews, which was written much later. According to Flavius’ description, just prior to the construction of the Temple, terraces were built that flattened the top of the mountain. Today, the most obvious fragments of the foundations of the First Temple are seen at the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount.
The history of the First Temple began in 957 BC. For the inhabitants of Judea, the first Temple period ended tragically in 586 BC when it was destroyed by the Babylonian army.
To be continued