The Holy Temple



The Illustrated Tour of the Holy Temple will guide you through a complete tour of the Holy Temple and the courtyards, chambers, offices, gates and walls that made up the the Holy Temple complex during the latter half of the Second Temple period. As we proceed, we will be moving slowly from the perimeter of the Temple Mount, closer and closer to the Holy Temple itself. We will enter the Temple Sanctuary where only the kohanim were permitted in Temple times. And finally, we will enter into the Holy of Holies, where only the Kohen Gadol was ever allowed to set foot!

In the picture, the Holy Temple is flanked by a depiction of Adam and Eve making an offering to G-d (top left), Avraham and Yitzchak, at the binding of Yitzchak on Mount Moriah, experiencing a vision of the Holy Temple, (top right), Yitzchak praying in a field and experiencing a vision of the Holy Temple, while his new bride Rivka approaches from afar, (bottom right), and Yaakov dreaming of a House of G-d while resting at Beit El, (bottom left).


King David Builds an Altar

Hundreds of years following the binding of Yizchak on Mount Moriah, King David and the prophet Samuel revealed Mount Moriah to be the place chosen by G-d for the Holy Temple.

Following a plague which struck Israel, King David built an altar atop Mt. Moriah, precisely where Avraham had bound Yitzchak, and declared, “This is the altar for offerings for Israel!” (Chronicles I 22:1) – designating it as the permanent location for Israel’s offerings to God, from that time and forever.


The First Holy Temple: The Temple of Solomon

David's son, King Solomon built the first Holy Temple on Mount Moriah, where David had built his altar. The first Holy Temple stood four hundred and ten years, before it was destroyed by the Babylonians.

The picture depicts the First Temple’s Sanctuary (Heikhal) and Courtyard (Azara). The structure built by King Solomon differed in several aspects from that built later by Herod. In brief, the main differences are these:

The Entrance Hall (Ulam). HaUlam, seen at the front of the building reached a height of 120 cubits (approx. 60 meters), as stated in Chronicles II 3:4, while the Second Temple was 100 cubits high. The hall in Solomon’s Temple was actually the entrance to the Sanctuary, with two openings, one within the other. The outer opening – seen here – was broad, and the inner one was narrower: ten cubits wide.

The Sanctuary seen at the back had three floors of ‘cells’ or small rooms encompassing it (Kings I 6:5); three floors of windows can be seen in the painting. The top level featured two ‘attics’ as is written: “ ...and its storage rooms and upper chambers... ” (Chronicles I 28:11), for a total height of 90 cubits, compared to the total height of the Second Temple of 100 cubits.

The Altar (seen at the left) in Solomon’s Temple was 20 cubits square (Chronicles II 4:1), whereas in the Second Temple the altar was 32 cubits square.

Solomon’s Sea (seen at the right) was used as a reservoir to provide water for the service of the kohanim. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, it was also used for immersion for the kohanim. In the Second Temple, however, there was no such ‘sea’; it was replaced by the ‘Chamber of the Wheel’ in the north, from which the water was supplied.

The Basins: In Solomon’s Temple, there were ten basins atop small wheeled carts (in the center of picture), in addition to the basin from the times of Moshe. We also see a kohen filling a basin with water from the “Sea of Solomon.” By contrast, the Second Temple had only one basin.

Jachin’ and ‘Boaz’ – Two pillars of copper stood at the forefront of Solomon’s Temple, respectively named Jachin and Boaz. The two were adorned on top with crowns surrounded by pomegranates. These two pillars did not exist in the Second Temple.

Windows: There were windows in Solomon’s Temple: "narrowing windows" (Kings I 6:4), referring to windows that were narrow inside, and widened as they neared the outer walls. Similar windows were likely present in the Second Temple as well.


The Second Holy Temple: Reconstructing the Altar

Following the declaration of Cyrus calling upon Israel to return and rebuild the House of G-d in Jerusalem, Jews immediately began returning from Babylon to the Holy Land – though in relatively low numbers. Just over 42,000 Jews came, headed by Zerubbavel and the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) Yehoshua ben Yehotzadak, together with three Prophets: Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Even before they finished rebuilding their own homes and towns some of them made their way to Jerusalem and began reconstructing the Holy Temple from its ruins – as depicted here.

The first thing they did was build the stone altar, so that they could begin making offering as quickly as possible. In the center is seen the work on the ramp of the altar, while on the right we see workers preparing the clay mortar. The returnees also ordered cedar wood from Lebanon. The wood was in fact delivered by men from Tyre, who received wheat, oil and wine in return (Ezra 3:7), as can be seen on the left. The new altar was built 52 years after the destruction of the First Temple.