Abraham had been a truly international figure, having traveled throughout the "Fertile Crescent" from Babylon to Aram Naharayim, throughout the Land of Israel and down into Egypt . Jacob too traveled to Aram and to Egypt . However, since the time of the entry of the Israelites into their Land, their main preoccupation had been to battle against their immediate neighbors - the Canaanites, Philistines, Moabites and Ammonites - in order to maintain their hold over the Promised Land.

It was through the victories of David over all Israel's enemies that an entirely new international vista opened up in the time of Solomon, whose "empire" or "sphere of influence" extended over the entire swathe of territory promised to Abraham "from the river of Egypt to the Great river, the Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18; cf. I Kings 5:1 & 3).

Our text evokes Solomon's opulent royal lifestyle (vv 2-3) including his ownership of multiple thousands of horses (v 6), which despite being prohibited to the king by the Torah (Deut. 17:16) remain a mark of royalty until today. While the various nations that comprised Solomon's empire paid taxes and gifts, this was not an exploitative colonial empire or one that kept its grip through military force alone. For "he had PEACE on all sides around" (v 4) - a situation that modern Israel can only envy, having experienced no peace for a single moment since the inception of the state and for years and years before it.

Our text testifies that the very key to Solomon's influence over this great area of territory as well as over the neighboring foreign powers lay in his unique, God-given WISDOM, which "exceeded the wisdom of all the children of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt . And he was wiser than every man (ADAM), than Eitan the Ezrahi and Heyman and Khulkol and Darda the sons of Mahol." While the simple explanation is that these last names are those of the leading Levite Temple singers of the time, the Midrash identifies "every man" with ADAM, Eitan with Abraham, Heyman with Moses, Khulkol with Joseph and Darda with the Generation of the Wilderness (DOR DE'AH, "generation of KNOWLEDGE), who were "children of forgiveness" (MEHILA).

Most of the narrative in the book of Kings portrays Solomon and his achievements from the outside, but his true wisdom shines forth in his surviving literary creations alluded to in verse 12: Proverbs, Song of Songs and Koheles (=Ecclesiastes). Most translations render ALAPHIM and ELEPH in this verse as "thousand(s)", but Rashi relates them to the same root as in ULPAN meaning "education": the verse thus speaks of three EDUCATIONAL ORDERS of Proverbs (the expression MISHLEY SHLOMO appears three times in the book of Proverbs); these, together with Song of Songs and Koheles constitute the FIVE orders of Solomon's "song". According to the simple meaning of ELEPH as 1,000, Rashi brings the Midrash that Solomon taught three thousand parables on every single verse of the Torah and gave 1,005 explanations of each parable (see Rashi on vv 11-12). "He spoke about the trees from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that comes out of the wall" (before God, the highest and the lowest are equal, Bamidbar Rabba 13). According to Rashi this verse means that not only did Solomon understand the healing properties of all the different trees and plants and exactly how to cultivate them, but that he also explained why the purification of the leper involves the cedar and the hyssop (Lev. 14:4). "He spoke about the animals and birds and creeping creatures and fish." (v 13): not only did he understand all their different qualities, but also why the SHECHITAH of animals requires the cutting of both the windpipe and the gullet, while that of birds requires the cutting of only one, and why locusts and fish do not require SHECHITAH at all. (Rashi on v 14).


The tragic history of modern Lebanon has overshadowed the one-time greatness of this very beautiful country with its once very extensive forests. While Sidon was established by the firstborn son of Canaan (Gen. 10:15), the city of Tyre to its south was an immensely powerful city state built up by the Phoenicians, whose prosperity was founded on the magnificent tall trees out of which they built the ships they used to develop a trade empire throughout the Mediterranean area and beyond.

While Hiram king of Tyre is a legendary figure (particularly in the lore of freemasonry, where he is seen as the "father" of the Temple ), Ibn Ezra (on Genesis 41:10) views Hiram as the generic name of all the kings of Tyre just as Pharaoh was the generic name of all the kings of Egypt . In later Biblical times Tyre saw Jerusalem as a dangerous rival and hoped to benefit from its destruction (cf. Ezekiel 26:2, "I shall be filled from her destruction"), but the Hiram who befriended King David and King Solomon was - from the testimony of our text - a believer in the One God who (unlike the nations of today) REJOICED when he heard that Solomon wanted to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem (v 20).

Hiram struck a Covenant with Solomon (v 26) inaugurating the first ever venture in international cooperation to build God's Temple . Hiram provided the timber and stone that were the building materials for the Temple in return for very ample supplies of choice wheat and olive oil that were the specialty of Israel . The lumber was tied up to form rafts that were floated down the Mediterranean from the coast of Lebanon to the point nearest to Jerusalem on the Israeli coast. From there it was transported by land to the site of the Temple . The 70,000 "porters" and 80,000 "excavators" who extracted and transported the massive stones for the Temple were GERIM GERURIM - would-be converts who were not admitted into the Assembly of Israel (as no full converts were accepted in the time of Solomon, see commentary on I Kings ch 3) but were nevertheless allowed to participate in the enterprise of building of God's House of Prayer for all the Nations.


The building of the Temple commenced in the fourth year of Solomon's reign, 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt and 440 years after the people's entry into the Land. The actualization of this project to join Heaven and Earth took a total of seven years (vv 37-8).

In his work on the "Secrets of the Future Temple " (Mishkeney Elyon) the outstanding 18 th century Kabbalistic sage R. Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto explains that creation has two roots: the "revealed root" of HOKHMAH ("wisdom") and the "concealed" root of KETER ("the crown"). The two roots are alluded to in the first letter of the first word of the Torah, the Beis (=2) of Bereishis, "In the beginning".

"Know too that the sin of Adam spoiled everything and caused all perfection to become concealed, with the result that the world was not even able to return to its previous state [i.e. the level of Wisdom] except in the days of Solomon, when the Temple was first built. Thus it is written: 'And God gave wisdom to Solomon' (I Kings 5:26). For then Wisdom was revealed in all its beauty and radiant glory, enabling all the lights to shine with great strength and joy. In those days, on every level in all the worlds there was only holy power and delight the like of which had never been seen. Even so, because everything was based only on Wisdom and did not reach the ultimate goal [of Keter], this peace and tranquility came to an end and the Temple was destroyed. But in time to come, when the hidden beginning I mentioned [Keter] is revealed, the happiness will be far, far greater, and it will never cease" (Ramchal, Secrets of the Future Temple).

Although Ramchal's work - which explains in detail the "sacred geometry" that underlies the design of the Temple - is primarily concerned with the FUTURE Temple as depicted by Ezekiel (chs 40ff), the principles on which it is based apply also to the Temple of Solomon, all of whose chambers, walls, gates and courtyards in all their various dimensions allude to and EMBODY IN STONE the various divine attributes as they relate to one another.

Besides the information about Solomon's Temple contained in our text, we have detailed supplementary information in Maseches MIDDOS, the Mishnaic Tractate of "Measurements", which deals with the design of the Second Temple , which was mostly modeled on the first. The rabbinic commentators wrote entire treatises about the structure of the Temple .

The Temple had very distinctive features, such as its windows, which were "wide open from the outside but closed and narrow on the inside" (v 4). This was because the Temple had no need for the light from the outside, since it was lit from within (both by the Candelabra and by the spiritual light that shined in it): on the contrary, light emanated FROM the Temple windows OUTWARDS.

Another distinctive feature was that as the very center of world peace, the Temple was a place where it was not fitting for the sound of metal hammers and axes to be heard (v 7) since metal is the material of weapons of war. All the stones were cut and dressed outside the Temple , and Solomon also miraculously found the Shamir worm, which would silently eat its way across a stone so as to split it just as it had cut the stones of the gems in the High Priest's breastplate in the days of Moses. (This is not a worm that is easy to find; Sotah 48b, Gittin 68a).

Most distinctive of all was that the survival of the Temple was entirely conditional upon Israel 's keeping the Torah, as God promised to Solomon (vv 11-13): "If you go in My statutes and carry out My laws. I shall dwell amongst the Children of Israel and I will not abandon My people Israel ."

The main Temple building, a structure of 60 x 20 cubits (on the inside) was divided into two unequal parts: the HEIKHAL (40 x 20) containing the Menorahs (Candelabra) Show-bread Tables and Incense Altar, and within, the Holy of Holies (20 x 20) containing the Ark of the Covenant with the wooden figures of two Cherubs overlaid with gold standing with their wings outstretched over it and filling the entire inner chamber. Across the entire front of the HEIKHAL stood the OULAM ("Vestibule").

Around the walls surrounding the Heikhal and Holy of Holies on three sides were a series of cells banked up in three stories one on top of the other. These cells may have been used to store the Temple treasures. Esoterically, they allowed the SHEFA (divine influence) emanating from within the Temple to be concentrated intensely prior to its flowing outwards to nourish the outside world.

The ceiling and roof of the Temple were made of wood, and its stone walls were entirely paneled with wood from top to bottom. The wood (which alludes to the TREE of life) was carved with the forms of cherubs, palms, garlands and flowers. All the walls and all the carvings were overlaid with gold, as was the ceiling and the floor, the effect of which must have been absolutely stunning.

Through God's providence, we have reached the description of the building of Solomon's Temple just as we are celebrating the festival of Chanukah in commemoration of God's miracles for Israel in the Second Temple . In the merit of our studies, may He quickly bring peace to our troubled world and speedily build the Temple we are now awaiting, from which the love and fear of God will spread forth to all the world.

* * * The passage in I Kings 5:26-32 and 6:1-13 is read as Haftara of Parshas Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19 * * *



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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