"As it is the hope of reward that sweetens labour, where did our ancient Brethren go to
receive their wages?"
"into the middle chamber of King Solomon's Temple."
And where was the middle chamber? To answer that question it is necessary to explain
the architecture of the Temple, and the compilers of our ritual, somewhere between 1611
and 1881, obviously took many of these things from the Authorised Version of the Bible.
However, I will do that from the Revised Standard Version, which is much more reliable,
and point out the differences between them as we go. The Authorised Version was
published in 1611; the Revised Standard Version in 1881.
The architecture of the Temple is explained in the First Book of Kings, so let us begin at
Verse 2 in chapter 6: "The house which King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits
long, twenty cubits wide and thirty cubits high." Using present day units of measurements
we can now give the size as approximately 30 metres long, 10 metres wide and 15 metres
high. Our immediate reaction is that it was not a very large structure. That is quite correct,
but we must remember that the congregation did not enter that Temple, but performed
their worship in the inner court to the East of the Temple. Actually, the Temple was a
little larger than those measurements, as you will soon see Moreover, it was not its size,
but its magnificence which so distinguished the Temple.
Verse 3: "The vestibule in front of the nave was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of
the house, and ten cubits deep in front of the house." So the vestibule, or porch, as it is
called in the Authorised Version and in our ritual, was the full width of the Temple, and
five metres out of the total length of 30 metres, leaving 25 metres still to be accounted for.
As verse 4 merely describes the windows we will omit that and proceed to the next verse.
Verse 5: "He also built a structure against the wall of the house, running round the walls
of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary, and he made side chambers all
round." We see from this verse that the outside of the building was actually greater than
30 metres by 10 metres, as these side chambers added to both the length and the width.
When the text says "all around" that, of course, would add to both sides and to the back.
Verse 6: (Here we find a description of the side chambers): "The lowest story was five
cubits broad, the middle one was six cubits, and the third was seven cubits broad; for
around the house he made offsets on the wall in order that the supporting beams should
not be inserted into the walls of the house." The important thing we have to learn from
this verse is that the side chambers were three storeys high, of which there is further
Verse 7: This verse we have already quoted in the "Journey through the First Degree",
but, as we are now reading from the Revised Version, let us repeat it: "When the house
was built, it was with stone prepared in the quarry; so that neither hammer nor axe nor
any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built."
Verse 8: "The entrance to the lowest storey was on the south side of the house, and one
went up by stairs to the middle storey, and from the middle into the third." The
Authorised Version translates "middle chamber" instead of "Lowest storey", "right side"
instead of "south side", "winding stairs" instead of "stairs", and "middle chamber" instead
of "middle storey". If the next floor above the ground floor was the middle storey, then
those side chambers were definitely three storeys high.
I will omit verse 9 as it is irrelevant, and just quote seven words in Verse 10: "each storey
was five cubits high". This means that the side chambers were three times 2.5 metres,
which is 7.5 metres or 2.5 metres lower than the main or central part of the building.
>From there we pass over five verses to Verse 16, which tells us: "He built twenty cubits
of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the rafters, and he built this
within as an inner sanctuary as the most holy place." In our ritual we refer to this "inner
sanctuary" as the "Sanctum Sanctorum", Latin words which mean "holy of holies".
Verse 17 tells us: "The house, that is the nave in front, was forty cubits long". If the
whole length is 30 metres, less the 10 metres of the inner sanctuary, then the remaining 20
metres must include the 5 metres of the vestibule, leaving 15 metres for the "holy place"
which was between the inner sanctuary and the vestibule.
Verse 20 repeats the dimensions of the inner sanctuary but mentions also the height of the
inner sanctuary as twenty cubits, which is about 10 metres, or two-thirds of the height of
So we see from all this that the winding stairs were not in the vestibule as depicted on the
vast majority of our Tracing Boards, but in the side chambers, which were reached by a
door leading from the vestibule. This door we refer to in the Second Tracing Board with
the words: "they got there by the porchway or entrance on the south side". Thus we see
that this entrance was on the south side of the vestibule, and not on the south side of the
Temple. Then to get to the "middle chamber" or second storey, one had to enter the
Temple through the only entrance, which was between the pillars on the east, turn left,
pass through the arch, and climb the stairs to that floor. The Tracing Board in No. 4
Lodge Room in our Masonic Centre in East Melbourne is the best I know, although those
in rooms 5, 6 and 7 are also good. This Tracing Board, however, depicts the stairs as
spiral, which seems very doubtful to me: winding stairs, yes, but I do not believe that
spiral stairs were built nearly three thousand years ago.
However, there are some other things in the Second Tracing Board, which really need
"The height of these pillars was seventeen cubits and a half each." Our word "cubit" is
derived from the Latin word cubitas, meaning "elbow", because the length of the forearm
from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger is the length of a cubit, which on the
average man is about 45 centimetres. That makes the pillars about 7.9 metres high.
"They were made of molten brass". These words have obviously been taken from the
Authorised Version of the Bible, because brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. The latter
was unknown in those days, whereas bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and it is known
that Phoenicians operated a tin mine in Cornwall. a mine which is still yielding tin to this
day. As Tyre was the chief city of Phoenicia, it was Phoenician craftsmen that were sent
by Hiram, King of Tyre, to Solomon for the building of the Temple. We read in the First
Book of Kings 7:15: "For he cast two pillars of brass." In the Revised Standard Version
this is changed to: "For he cast two pillars of bronze."
With the weight of 8.41 grams per cubic centimetre, it is easy enough to calculate that
their weight would be nearly 40 tonnes each. To cast them in one piece would greatly tax
the capacity of the most modern foundry. Hence we must assume that they were cast in
sections and assembled on the site.
According to the book Timna by Beno Rothenberg, (Thames and Hudson, 1972), the
copper for this bronze was mined in Mount Timna, near the Wadi Araba south of the
Dead Sea. Archaeologists have proved that these mines have been operated for over six
thousand years and they are still yielding copper today.
"They were cast in the plain of Jordan, in the clayground between Succoth and
Zeredatha". This would place their casting near the junction of the Jabbok and the Jordan
rivers, the latter of which flows into the Dead Sea.
"They were further adorned with two spherical balls". This would seem to be a flight of
someone's imagination, as there is no mention of them in the Sacred Volume. The point
has been made that in those days it was not known that the world was round. We cannot
place too much reliance on that assumption, because Eratosthenes measured the
circumference of the Earth rather exactly about 250 B.C., and according to the account of
his action, it was merely to confirm a theory that was already held. "Spherical balls" look
like a misunderstanding of the word "pommels" in the Second Book of Chronicles 4:12,
where it means chapiters -- the head of the columns.
The kings of Israel were crowned in front of the South Pillar and the priests were anointed
in front of the North Pillar.
"Here depicted by an ear of corn" Our Tracing Boards were designed by a man named
Harris, who generally speaking, has done a very good job, as it is impossible to depict
both inside and outside of the Temple, except in the ingenious manner to which I have
already referred. Not knowing the Hebrew language, Harris asked for the meaning of the
word, so that he could depict it on the Tracing Board, and when told that it was a
homonym, that is a word with two distinct meanings, he adopted the obvious course, and
depicted both meanings. I do take exception to the fall of water outside the main entrance
to King Solomon's Temple, which stood on top of Mount Moriah. That other Tracing
Board also surmounts that difficulty.
"Jephtha, the renowned Gileaditish general". Jephtha was a Gileadite in two ways. First,
he was a descendant of Gilead, who was a grandson of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob,
and who became such a famous man in Egypt; and secondly, Jephtha's own father was
named Gilead. He was his father's firstborn, but he was illegitimate, and his two
stepbrothers, born in wedlock, one day drove him from the paternal abode. He journeyed
to the land of Tob, where he eventually became famous as a soldier. Not long after he had
left home the Gileadites were defeated in battle by the Ammonites, and after eighteen
years of subjection the Gileadites sought the assistance of Jephtha to effect their liberation
At first Jephtha attempted to raise an army from his own kinsmen, the Ephraimites, but,
finding them unwilling, he raised his army without their aid. He not only defeated the
Ammonites, but he took from them the valuable treasure as spoils of war. When the
Ephraimites heard of this, they became covetous, and claimed a share of the spoil, with
the result that Jephtha had to turn round and defend himself against his own kinsmen.
"Five hold a Lodge in allusion to the five noble orders of architecture". I have already
mentioned four of these in the chapter entitled "The Three Great Pillars", but not in their
correct order. They are the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite; of these
three are Grecian in development and two Roman. It is the three of Grecian origin -- the
Doric, Ionic and Corinthian -- that are used in our Lodges.
Our Tracing Boards took the place of the old Trestle Board, which had been removed
from the floor of the Lodge to the wall, and in older rituals, was known as the Tarsel
"When our ancient Brethren were in the Middle chamber, their attention was peculiarly
drawn to certain Hebrew characters, here depicted by a letter G, denoting God, the Grand
Geometrician of the Universe." The Hebrew character that immediately comes to mind is
the letter gimmel, the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is in the form of a gallows
square, as is also the letter gamma, the third letter of the Greek alphabet used by
Pythagoras to denote "geometry".
Both gimmel and gamma have the same sound as the English letter G. Records show that
in the early days after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, when working the
Second Degree, it was the custom to place a gallows square over the Blazing Star of
Glory in the Centre, but somewhere since the gallows square has evidently been replaced
by its English equivalent. The letter G has come to be closely associated with the Blazing
Star, giving rise to the impression that the G denotes God. Actually the letter belongs
strictly to the Fellowcraft Degree, and for this reason F.C. Freemasons were once known
as "Letter G Men". In Freemasonry the letter G denotes geometry, just as it did in the
system of Pythagoras. It does denote God, of course, but only in His role as Grand
Geometrician of the Universe.
King Solomon's Temple is the theme of the whole of Craft Masonry, but more particularly
in the Fellowcraft Degree, whose working tools are the Square, the Level, and the Plumb
Rule, the instruments for squaring the stone and so perfecting it as to render it fit for the
intended structure. We are the stones in this Temple, and every living stone should strive
to become the perfect ashlar.
"The Temple made of wood and stone must crumble and decay, But there's an unseen
fabric, which shall never pass away; Age after age the Masons strive to consummate the
plan, But still the work's unfinished which our forebears began; None but immortal eyes
may view, complete in all its parts, The Temple formed of living stones -- the structure
made of hearts."