In being associated with the construction industry and in having our
lodges as a representation King Solomon's Temple, there is in myself and
perhaps many others, a wonderment of the origin, the design, and the
building, of this magnificent structure. Many individuals care not how their
home is erected, only that the paint, the woodwork, and the carpets are
pleasing and appealing to the eye. But for many others, there is the
challenge of how it was fashioned, if the design and craftsmanship were of
the finest available. If it was built strong enough to withstand the test of
time and the physical demands which are to be placed upon it.
To perform an in-depth study of King Solomon's Temple would consume many
pages and consummate a book in itself. Let us instead narrow our scope of
view and pursue one of the most outstanding and manifest features of King
Solomon's Temple, the two stalwart pillars of Boaz and Jachin, which guarded
the Temples entrance, and that which we would view, if we were approaching on
foot from a westerly direction.
The first complete architectural reference of the two pillars in our
Fellow craft lecture deals very extensively with the design, height, weight,
how they were cast, the location of their casting, the symbolic meaning of
their adornments, where they were positioned, and the decorous names which
are associated with them.
These twin pillars are now, and as they have been, very prosaic features
in all of our Masonic Lodge rooms. But their placement is not uniform, or
standardized, through out the balance of the Masonic world. As an
illustration, in England and many other countries abroad, the two pillars are
usually displayed in front of the Master's chair.
In the United States, the earliest description, from the 1700's, show
both Wardens seated in the west, facing the Master. The two pillars were
generally near them, forming a kind of portal, so candidates passed between
them during their admission, to gaining access, to the Middle Chamber of King
Solomon's Temple, a custom we have modified, and which inherently, we carry
out today. In George Washington Lodge Number 22 A.F.& A.M. in Alexandria
Virginia, the two pillars are found on one side of the Junior Warden's
station in the south, perhaps to add strength to our Masonic thoughts that it
was our first Junior Warden who originally fashioned them.
The application and employment of the two pillars, is common throughout
the United States, where they are customarily placed at the northwest corner,
near the entrance to the candidate's preparation room, preparatory to the
Fellow craft lecture. But in this present time, and as every lodge seems to
do something different, some have the pillars on either side of the Master's
chair, at the entrance to the lodge room, or even on the right and left side
of the Senior Wardens chair. There are some lodges and jurisdictions, where
the two pillars are on the south of the Masters chair, or even positioned in
the south with the Junior Warden, and in some portions of the world, they are
not represented at all. The pillars of Boaz and Jachin seem to be physically
represented by two ornately decorous columns which are always standing in
their place, at the Senior Warden's and the Junior Warden`s stations. The
Senior Warden's and the Junior Warden's columns are typically about twenty
five inches long, and symbolically, but perhaps mistakenly, are taken to be
supports for the porch of King Solomon's Temple. The Senior Warden's column
is called Jachin and signifies "To establish in the Lord", whereas the Junior Warden`s column
is called Boaz and signifies "Strength".
In the United States, and undoubtedly elsewhere as well, these two small
columns now standing on the Senior Warden's and the Junior Warden's pedestals
are merely symbols of their relationship with the pillars Jachin and Boaz,
and their original attachment with antiquity is completely forgotten. These
pillars are theorized by a few to have been structural members supporting the
roof of the porch, leading into the Temple. There was in King Solomon's day,
supported between these two pillars, a large traverse screen, or drape, to
ward off the wind and retain the late afternoon sun from shining into the
Temple itself. One question in our minds might be: Were they an
architectural feature or an ornamental feature used to garnish the beauty of
There is a majority of Masonic scholars who hold to the fact that the two
pillars were free standing columns, conceptually ornamental and of emblematic
disposition, just as they are depicted in our Fellow craft lecture. There are
satisfactory reason, given elsewhere (in other Masonic papers), for the
general belief that they were free standing and symbolic in character, being
symbols of Deity.
The pillars of King Solomon's Temple may have been set up more
specifically as an imitation of the obelisks that have been found at the
entrance to many Egyptian Temples; additionally they may have been copied
from Tyre, the home of Hiram Abif, where it is reported two pillars, which
were fashioned of gold and emerald stood guard at the entrance to the Temple
of Hercules. Also in Syria, recent excavations have uncovered a small chapel
with two pillars, standing freely near the entrance, which appeared to be
purely ornamental or symbolic in design, rather then architecturally
supporting any part of the building.
Similarly it is interesting to note that there are some discrepancies
between Masonic tradition and the Holy Scriptures, and even some
inconsistency between several books of the Bible itself, and also, in the
various versions of the Bible. The Biblical description of King Solomon's
pillars, in the King James version, and according to the books of II
Chronicles, I Kings, and II Kings, is written as follows:
II Chronicles 3:15-17
Also he made before the House two pillars of thirty and five cubits in
heights and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was made five
cubits. And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of
the pillars, and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains.
And he reared up the pillars before the Temple, one on the right hand,
and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand
"Jachin", and the name of that on the left he called "Boaz".
II Chronicles 13 & 17
And four hundred pomegranates on two wreaths; two rows of pomegranates on
each wreath, to cover the two pommels of the chapiter's which were upon the
pillars. In the plain of Jordan did the King cast them, in the clay ground
between Succoth and Zeredathah.
I Kings 15-17
For he cast two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high apiece: and a
line of twelve cubits did compass either of them about. And he made two
chapiter's of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars: the height
of one of the chapiter's was five cubits, and the height of the other
chapiter was five cubits.
I Kings 15-17 (cont.)
And the nets of checker work, and wreaths of chain work, for the chapiter
which were upon the top of the pillars; seven for one chapiter, and seven for
the other chapiter.
II Kings 25:17
The height of one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter upon it
was brass: and the height of the other chapiter was three cubits; and the
wreathing work, and the pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of
brass and like unto these had the second pillar that of wreath work.
Several sets of discrepancies, with consideration to the pillars, are to
be observed in these Biblical accounts. The first of these is in regard to
their height, which is given as thirty five cubits in II Chronicles, and as
eighteen cubits in the books of I Kings and II Kings. The length of a cubit
is normally taken to be a foot and one half, and the royal cubit, which was
used in the building of King Solomon's Temple, was the equivalent to about
twenty one inches. The Genoa Bible, printed in 1560, has this to say:,"Every
one was eighteen cubits long, but one half of a cubic could not be seen, for
it was hidden in the roundness of the chapiter and therefore he giveth it as
seventeen and one half cubits in height."
The question of the actual height has been commonly scrutinized to be of
minor interest only. But as an interesting aspect, in 1903, the Grand Lodge
of Iowa took a poll of all other American jurisdictions (and one Canadian)
with respect to the question of Masonic usage of the pillars in their area.
Four jurisdiction did not reply, but of the forty four who did, fourteen
attested to the fact, that they used the eighteen cubits figure, while twenty
seven utilized thirty five cubits as the total height, and one curiously
enough used thirty. Four jurisdictions indicated that the height was either
not given or not regarded in their lectures, while one declined giving any
information on the grounds that it alleged it to be an improper request.
It is universally conceived that the two pillars were cast in one piece,
and this common belief is expressed and emphasized in the Fellow craft
lecture, which informs us that the pillars were cast of a hollow nature and
to function as repositories. This explanation is only partially correct.
For from a foundry man's viewpoint they may have been cast a handbreadth, or
four inches in thickness, not only to reduce the weight, but also to simplify
As a result the central core of sand or clay was, most surely and
laboriously, scooped out to aid the workers to trans-port and erect these
mammoth pillars. The brass castings in themselves would have weighed about
twenty seven tons, and being confronted with the task of moving so massive of
a casting the twenty five miles or so from their origin, in the clay ground
between Succoth and Zeredathah to their destination of King Solomon's Temple,
would have necessitated that they were cast in a hollow fashion. We should
though, bear in mind, that a pair of obelisks in front of the Temple of
Karnak, which was erected some four centuries before King Solomon's Pillars,
were said to have been almost ninety eight feet in height, and to have
weighed approximately three hundred and fifty tons each. Such pillars in
the Babylonian era were made hollow and contained the rules of deportment and
behavior, as well as the etiquette governing the rites of the religious
ceremonies, also to carefully preserve the properties, and the precious
Furthermore, there has been a good deal of speculation among Masonic
scholars as to whether the designation of the pillars as "right" and "left"
is from a viewpoint of a person entering or leaving the Temple. On one
basis, the two pillars must be assumed as they would be first viewed when
entering the temple from the outside. A worshiper leaving the Temple, and
his view as to their placement of Boaz and Jachin would be unrealistic, for
before he could leave, he must have first entered. Many writers, of Masonic
papers, have contested this question, but Josephus clarifies the situation
sufficiently well when he writes, "The one of these pillars he set up at the
entrance of the porch on the left hand and called it Boaz." The word
entrance, should leave no question in speculating which way these pillars
were to be viewed. A person can only enter the Temple from the outside, when
leaving he would be departing or exiting to the outside.
Another interesting facet which comes to the speculative Mason's mind
deals with the meaning of the two names given in the Bible to these two
pillars. It appears to have been the custom among the ancient mid-eastern
people to give names to their sacred and religious objects. It is stated (in
Exodus 17:15), "And Moses built an alter, and called the name of it
Jehovahnissi". This name which Moses endowed upon the alter, when translated
from the ancient Hebrew effectively states "God's Sacred and Holy Vestments".
Thus we can establish the fact that the two pillars were not merely articles
of architectural design and function, but also must have been objects of
blessed sacraments, in relation to the names which were used to adore them.
These two pillars also served as memorials of Gods repeated commitment of
support to His people of Israel and of a vision, which came to David, the
father of King Solomon, where the voice of God proclaimed, (I Kings 9:5)
"Then I will establish the Throne of thy Kingdom upon Israel forever, as I
have promised to David thy father".
But why two pillars, if but one Deity is represented? This question
could contain an entire topic in itself. Let us suffice to say that in the
times of primitive people, that the gods went in pairs, male and female.
Quite possibly this ancient custom was to retain their identity with the
past, and therefore stood for male and female, who were the active and
passive principles in nature.
Still some other points for the contemplative Mason to view and reflect
upon would be the adornment and number of pomegranates, as well as the number
of rows which were round about the chapiter.
The King James Version, II Chronicles, informs us of two wreaths on each
chapiter and two rows of pomegranates in each row, or four hundred on each of
the pillars. Additional the same book of the Bible speaks in an earlier
chapter of chains with an hundred pomegranates on each row. Perhaps this
discrepancy is the predominant reason why, in the United States, and
generally throughout the rest of the world, we in our Masonic degrees
disregard the number of rows as well as the number of pomegranates, thereby
eliminating any deception.
To summarize this topic of the two twin pillars, we must learn to open
our minds and hearts to all of mankind, to remember that each and every
person on this earth of ours needs championship, understanding, inspiration,
and above all, the love and guidance of our Supreme Architect.
To attempt to understand what the original intentions of these two
pillars were designed to symbolize is lost somewhere in the chronicles of
unwritten history dating to the emanation from the prehistoric era. And as
the pillars of Boaz and Jachin do inhabit one designated position or another
in our Lodge rooms, the inspirations which are represented by the "Pillar of
fire" and the "Pillar of cloud", should teach us, as it did Moses, that
although we may seem to be retracing our old footsteps, that it may appear we
are only going in endless circles no matter what we do, even though our
impression may be that the world is; "coming apart at the seams". And as how
the Children of Israel were led through the Red Sea by a miraculous east
wind, so should we ever remember that God promises to watch over us with
grace and love and how He will redeem us into His own house at the end of our
In relation to these two pillars as representing parallels of mankind,
we should study the illustration of their ornamental adornments.
The lily, and the retired situation in which it flourishes, teaches us
that we must learn to open our minds and hearts to all of mankind, to retain
the fact, in our compassion, that as one pillar only serves to support the
other, we are also obligated, and should offer our support, not only to the
brother who may have stumbled and fell by the by the wayside of life but to
the aggregate of all mankind; to offer help, aid and assistance to those who
may be in dire need; to make that total concentrated effort to add to, and
not subtract from, the whole of human existence.
From the intricate connection of the network, we can also perceive that
all of mankind must learn to live in peace and harmony with his brothers and
sisters and with nature; to appreciate the beauties which God has given us to
enjoy, not to dominate, or exploit and manipulate it; and finally from the
network, we should also be taught to discern the sounds of brotherly love
which ring loud and true to all those who will only take the time to listen.
The pomegranates and their exuberance of seeds proclaim to many, in their
minds, seeds of skepticism. To the avaricious person, that vast number of
seeds represents greed --- greed, and its collaborator, the selfishness of
despotism, because the word charity and the symbolic intention of this fruit,
is alien and anonymous. To the educated and true man, who practices the
application of his Masonic teachings, these pomegranates manifest the plenty
which our Great Creator has provided for all. It is individuals of this
caliber who have come to understand the true meaning of the pillars
adornments; men whom unquestionably enjoy sharing the bounties of life. The
pomegranates do address the revealing fact that the abundances of our earth
were placed here to be apportioned equally.
There is no alternate misunderstanding of the two pommels or globes which
adorn the top most portion of Boaz and Jachin. Their symbolic acknowledgment
announces to the whole of humanity that Masonry is as unending, and as
universal as the blue arch of heaven.
Summarily the most inspiring feature of our two friends, Boaz and Jachin,
is the fact that God created us to be of equal status; we certainly were
given by Him the power to be our brother's keeper, to console with our
brother in time of need, and to share with him in times when the joys of life
abound. God gave to us the Holy Bible which is the most beautiful love story
ever told, and we, each and every one of us, should endeavor to learn and
practice from its teaching every day of our life.
Never forget, my brother, the lessons of these two pillars, which are on
guard at the entrance to our Lodge rooms. Stop and ponder a while the next
time that you are in their presence. Let your mind become subjective and
captive to all they represent silently and express tranquility. For as they
are on guard at our Lodge's doorways so should we ever strive to attain them
as symbols of charity, relief and brotherly love. These symbolic structures
should become a pathway for all men to tread throughout there earthly