Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
II CHRONICLES CHAPTER 2
The cooperation given by Hiram king of Tyre to King Solomon in building the Temple in Jerusalem is a shining example of how the rectified Middle East should be. In striking contrast to the ceaseless hatred and hostility shown to Israel by the peoples of the neighboring countries in our era, Hiram, a man of outstanding vision as well as immense practical achievement, showed genuine love for the tender, wise young son of his old friend King David, helping to provide Solomon with the physical means to actualize the Temple dream in this material world.
During Hiram's reign Tyre had grown from being a satellite of Sidon into the most important of the Phoenician cities and the center of a large Mediterranean trading empire. Through his alliance with Solomon, Hiram assured himself access to the major trade routes to Egypt , Arabia and Mesopotamia , and with this trade both kings became very wealthy.
As recounted in our present chapter, Hiram sent Solomon not only the immense cedar timbers and other precious woods etc. required for the Temple building project, but also the master craftsman who executed the work. This craftsman, who was also called Hiram, has become a legendary figure particularly in the lore of Freemasonry, where he is revered as the builder of Solomon's Temple . To distinguish him from Hiram king of Tyre who sent him, Hiram the craftsman is sometimes called Hiram Avi or Hiram Abif (based on possible interpretations of II Chron. 2:12, see Metzudas David ad loc. and of II Chron. 4:16, see Metzudas David & RaDaK ad loc.).
Although Hiram's father, who had himself been a master craftsman, is described as a Tyrian man (v 13) this is not to say that he was not an Israelite but only that he resided in Tyre . According to Rashi (on v 13) Hiram's father had been from the tribe of Naphtali (cf. I Kings 7:14) while his widowed mother was from that of Dan. As discussed in KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentary on I Kings ch 7, it is significant that Dan and Naphtali were both sons of Bilhah, the handmaiden of Rachel. Just as Moses' Sanctuary in the Wilderness had been built by Bezalel (from the tribe of Judah son of Leah) with the help of Oholiab (from the tribe of Dan, foster son of Rachel), so the Temple of Solomon, who came from the tribe of Judah/Leah, could only be built with the help of Hiram the Naphtalite, who was from the children of Rachel. Like the Sanctuary, the Temple had to be built through cooperation between the descendants of the two Matriarchs, Rachel and Leah, who are the embodiment of the two fundamental modes of government through which God runs the world - the kabbalistic Partzufim of Rachel and Leah.
"And Solomon numbered all the strangers (GERIM) who were in the land of Israel " (verse 16). As recounted in I Chron. 22:2 King David had already appointed these GERIM in the role of hewers and carriers of the immense stones that would be used in the building of the Temple . According to Rashi (on I Chron. 22:2) these GERIM were converts. However, RaDaK on verse 16 in our present chapter suggests that they may have been the residue of the Emorite, Hivvite, Perrizite and Jebusite Canaanites whom Solomon requisitioned for these tasks and who are called GERIM because they had ceased practicing idolatry, which was stamped out at the height of Israelite power during the reigns of David and Solomon.
"And Solomon began to build the House of HaShem in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah ." (v 1). The text emphasizes that the Temple was built on the exact spot that had been divinely revealed to King David. This was the place where Abraham had bound Isaac and where Jacob had dreamed of the ladder reaching up to heaven.
In our present chapter and the next (chs 3-4) we are given an account of the details of the Temple building and its vessels which is less than half the length of the parallel account in I Kings chs 6-7 but which supplements it in various ways.
All of the dimensions of the Temple buildings and the design and number of its vessels had been received prophetically by Samuel and given to David, who entrusted them to Solomon. They all involve the deepest secrets of sacred geometry and art, through which combinations of divine names and attributes become embodied, expressed and revealed through the stone walls of physical halls and chambers and through the gold, silver and bronze etc. of the vessels. The kabbalistic meaning of the physical Temple buildings and vessels is the subject of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto's "Secrets of the Future Temple", which mainly focuses on the vision of the coming Third Temple as seen by the prophet Ezekiel (chs 40ff) but which also clarifies the principles through which the design of King Solomon's Temple can be understood. The author of this commentary is not familiar with any kabbalistic text that specifically discusses the meaning of the First Temple in detail. "Secrets of the Future Temple " can be read in its entirety online at http://www.azamra.org/secrets.shtml .
Vv 4-7: The best stone, wood, gold, silver and precious gems were used in the Temple for the sole purpose of glorifying God and providing a fitting "House" for the dwelling of His presence in this world. Wealth is rectified when it is devoted to the service of God.
Vv 8-13 give the dimensions of the innermost sanctum of the Temple , the Holy of Holies, which was to house the Ark of the Covenant. The gold-coated Ark , which had been made by Bezalel in the time of Moses, had a golden cover (KAPORES) on which stood two golden cherubs with outstretched wings. These are NOT the same as the cherubs described in our present text vv 10-13, which were made for Solomon according to the specifications given to him by King David and which stood with their wings stretched over the Ark of the Covenant and the two cherubs of the KAPORES (see Rashi on v 13). The Hebrew word for "cherub", K'ROOV, is explained by the rabbis as having the connotation of "like a child" (K is the comparative "like", ROOV from RAVIA, the Aramaic for a child or lad; Chagigah 13b, Rashi and Metzudas David on v 10). One cherub was male and the other female, alluding respectively to KUDSHA B'RICH HU, "the Holy One blessed be He", and His SHECHINAH, "Indwelling Presence". They were face to face, signifying the perfect alignment of the Supreme God and His immanent Presence.
According to our text, the span of the four wings of Solomon's cherubs was equivalent to the entire floor space of the Holy of Holies, apparently leaving no space for the bodies of the cherubs. Accordingly our sages stated that "the cherubs stood through a miracle" (Bava Basra 99a), although Rashi (on verse 11) suggests that in simple terms the cherubs' wings can be envisaged like the outstretched wings of a bird whose body protrudes underneath. Only here in the Temple was it permitted to make golden statues of the cherubs (see Rashi on Exodus 20:20). All other statues in the human form are prohibited by the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4f).
"And before the house he made two pillars." These two pillars flanked the entrance to the OOLAM, the Vestibule of the main Temple building. The names given to these pillars - YACHIN and BO'AZ - signify respectively the moon and the sun, because the royal house of David is compared to the moon, which receives all its light from the sun (see Rashi on v 17 where proof texts are provided establishing the relationship between the two names and what they signify). According to another interpretation (Rashi ibid.), Hiram called one pillar YACHIN as an allusion to the heroic judge Samson, who came from his mother's tribe of Dan, while Solomon called the other BO'AZ to allude to his own illustrious ancestor from the tribe of Judah. Kabbalistically, the two pillars allude to the two "legs" of the Sefiros, i.e. the Sefiros of Netzach and Hod.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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