A divine habitation, sacred place or sanctuary, either physical or spiritual, that is employed for worship. The Hebrew word heh·khalʹ, translated “temple,” also means “palace.” The Greek hi·e·ronʹ and na·osʹ are both rendered “temple” and may refer to the entire temple complex or to its central edifice; na·osʹ, meaning “sanctuary” or “divine habitation (dwelling),” at times refers specifically to the sacred inner rooms of the temple.—See HOLY PLACE.
Solomon’s Temple. King David entertained a strong desire to build a house for Jehovah, to contain the ark of the covenant, which was “dwelling in the middle of tent cloths.” Jehovah was pleased with David’s proposal but told him that, because he had shed much blood in warfare, his son (Solomon) would be privileged to do the building. This was not to say that God did not approve David’s wars fought in behalf of Jehovah’s name and His people. But the temple was to be built in peace by a man of peace.—2Sa 7:1-16; 1Ki 5:3-5; 8:17; 1Ch 17:1-14; 22:6-10.
Cost. Later David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan (Araunah) the Jebusite on Mount Moriah as the temple site. (2Sa 24:24, 25; 1Ch 21:24, 25) He amassed 100,000 talents of gold, 1,000,000 talents of silver, and copper and iron in great abundance, besides contributing from his personal fortune 3,000 talents of gold and 7,000 talents of silver. He also received as contributions from the princes, gold worth 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics and silver worth 10,000 talents, as well as much iron and copper. (1Ch 22:14; 29:3-7) This total, amounting to 108,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold and 1,017,000 talents of silver, would be worth $48,337,047,000 at current values. His son Solomon did not spend the entire amount in building the temple; the remainder he put in the temple treasury.—1Ki 7:51; 2Ch 5:1.
Workmen. King Solomon began building the temple for Jehovah in the fourth year of his reign (1034 B.C.E.), in the second month, Ziv, following the architectural plan that David had received by inspiration. (1Ki 6:1; 1Ch 28:11-19) The work continued over a seven-year period. (1Ki 6:37, 38) In exchange for wheat, barley, oil, and wine, Hiram king of Tyre supplied timbers from Lebanon along with skilled workers in wood and stone, and one special expert, also named Hiram, whose father was a Tyrian and his mother an Israelitess of the tribe of Naphtali. This man was a fine workman in gold, silver, copper, iron, wood, stones, and fabrics.—1Ki 5:8-11, 18; 7:13, 14, 40, 45; 2Ch 2:13-16.
In organizing the work, Solomon conscripted 30,000 men out of Israel, sending them to Lebanon in shifts of 10,000 for a month, with a two-month stay at home between shifts. (1Ki 5:13, 14) As burden bearers, he conscripted 70,000 from among the “alien residents” in the land, and as cutters, 80,000. (1Ki 5:15; 9:20, 21; 2Ch 2:2) As foremen over the work, Solomon appointed 550 men and apparently 3,300 as assistants. (1Ki 5:16; 9:22, 23) It appears that, of these, 250 were Israelites and 3,600 were “alien residents” in Israel.—2Ch 2:17, 18.
Length of “cubit” used. In the following discussion of the measurements of the three temples—built by Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod—we shall calculate them on the basis of the cubit of 44.5 cm (17.5 in.). However, it is possible that they used the longer cubit of about 51.8 cm (20.4 in.).—Compare 2Ch 3:3 (which mentions a “length in cubits by the former measurement,” this perhaps being a longer measure than the cubit that came to be commonly in use) and Eze 40:5; see CUBIT.
Plan and materials. The temple, a most magnificent structure, followed the general plan of the tabernacle. However, the inside dimensions of the Holy and Most Holy were greater than those of the tabernacle. The Holy was 40 cubits (17.8 m; 58.3 ft) long, 20 cubits (8.9 m; 29.2 ft) wide, and evidently 30 cubits (13.4 m; 43.7 ft) high. (1Ki 6:2, 17) The Most Holy was a cube 20 cubits on a side. (1Ki 6:20; 2Ch 3:8) Additionally, there were roof chambers over the Most Holy that were approximately 10 cubits (4.5 m; 14.6 ft) high. (1Ch 28:11) There was also a side structure around the temple on three sides, containing storage chambers, and so forth.—1Ki 6:4-6, 10.
Materials used were primarily stone and wood. The floors of these rooms were overlaid with juniper wood; the inside walls were of cedar engraved with carvings of cherubs, palm trees, and blossoms; the walls and ceiling were entirely overlaid with gold. (1Ki 6:15, 18, 21, 22, 29) The doors of the Holy (at the temple entrance) were made of juniper—carved and overlaid with gold foil. (1Ki 6:34, 35) Doors of oil-tree wood, likewise carved and overlaid with gold, provided entrance between the Holy and Most Holy. Whatever their exact position, these doors did not fully replace the curtain arrangement that had been in effect in the tabernacle. (Compare 2Ch 3:14.) Two gigantic cherubs of oil-tree wood, gold overlaid, occupied the Most Holy. Under these the ark of the covenant was placed.—1Ki 6:23-28, 31-33; 8:6; see CHERUB No. 1.
All the utensils of the Holy were of gold: the altar of incense, the ten tables of showbread, and the ten lampstands, together with their appurtenances. Beside the entrance to the Holy (the first compartment) stood two copper pillars, called “Jachin” and “Boaz.” (1Ki 7:15-22, 48-50; 1Ch 28:16; 2Ch 4:8; see BOAZ, II.) The inner courtyard was constructed of fine stone and cedarwood. (1Ki 6:36) The courtyard furnishings, the altar of sacrifice, the great “molten sea,” ten carriages for water basins, and other utensils were of copper. (1Ki 7:23-47) Dining rooms were provided around the perimeter of the courtyards.—1Ch 28:12.
An outstanding feature of the construction of this temple was the fact that all the stone was cut at the quarry, so that it fit perfectly at the temple site. “As for hammers and axes or any tools of iron, they were not heard in the house while it was being built.” (1Ki 6:7) The work was completed in seven and a half years (from spring 1034 B.C.E. to fall [Bul, the eighth month] 1027 B.C.E.).—1Ki 6:1, 38.
Inauguration. In the seventh month, Ethanim, apparently in the 12th year of Solomon’s reign (1026 B.C.E.), Solomon congregated the men of Israel to Jerusalem for the temple inauguration and the Festival of Booths. The tabernacle with its holy furniture was brought up, and the ark of the covenant was placed in the Most Holy. (See MOST HOLY.) At this Jehovah’s cloud filled the temple. Solomon then blessed Jehovah and the congregation of Israel and, standing on a special platform before the copper altar of sacrifice (see ALTAR), offered a long prayer praising Jehovah and asking for his loving-kindness and mercy in behalf of those who turned toward Him to fear and to serve Him, both the Israelite and the foreigner. A grand sacrifice of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep was offered. The inauguration occupied 7 days, and the Festival of Booths 7 days, after which, on the 23rd day of the month, Solomon sent the people home joyful and thankful for Jehovah’s goodness and bountifulness.—1Ki 8; 2Ch 5:1–7:10; see SOLOMON (Inauguration of the temple).
History. This temple existed until 607 B.C.E., when it was destroyed by the Babylonian army under King Nebuchadnezzar. (2Ki 25:9; 2Ch 36:19; Jer 52:13) Because of the falling away of Israel to false religion, God permitted the nations to harass Judah and Jerusalem, at times stripping the temple of its treasures. The temple also suffered periods of neglect. King Shishak of Egypt robbed it of its treasures (993 B.C.E.) in the days of Rehoboam the son of Solomon, only about 33 years after its inauguration. (1Ki 14:25, 26; 2Ch 12:9) King Asa (977-937 B.C.E.) had respect for Jehovah’s house, but to protect Jerusalem he foolishly bribed King Ben-hadad I of Syria, with silver and gold from the treasures of the temple, to break his covenant with Baasha king of Israel.—1Ki 15:18, 19; 2Ch 15:17, 18; 16:2, 3.
After a period of turbulence and neglect of the temple, King Jehoash of Judah (898-859 B.C.E.) oversaw its repair. (2Ki 12:4-12; 2Ch 24:4-14) In the days of his son Amaziah, Jehoash king of Israel robbed it. (2Ki 14:13, 14) King Jotham (777-762 B.C.E.) did some construction work on the temple area, building “the upper gate.” (2Ki 15:32, 35; 2Ch 27:1, 3) King Ahaz of Judah (761-746 B.C.E.) not only sent the treasures of the temple to Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria, as a bribe but he also polluted the temple by building an altar patterned after one in Damascus and by replacing the copper altar of the temple with it. (2Ki 16:5-16) Finally he closed the doors of Jehovah’s house.—2Ch 28:24.
Ahaz’ son Hezekiah (745-717 B.C.E.) did what he could to undo the bad works of his father. At the very beginning of his reign, he reopened the temple and had it cleaned up. (2Ch 29:3, 15, 16) However, later on, for fear of Sennacherib king of Assyria, he cut off the doors and the doorposts of the temple that he himself had caused to be overlaid with gold and sent them to Sennacherib.—2Ki 18:15, 16.
But when Hezekiah died, the temple entered a half century of desecration and disrepair. His son Manasseh (716-662 B.C.E.) went beyond any of Judah’s previous kings in wickedness, setting up altars “to all the army of the heavens in two courtyards of the house of Jehovah.” (2Ki 21:1-5; 2Ch 33:1-4) By the time of Manasseh’s grandson Josiah (659-629 B.C.E.), the formerly magnificent edifice was in a state of disrepair. Evidently it was in a disorganized or cluttered condition, for High Priest Hilkiah’s finding the book of the Law (likely an original scroll written by Moses) was an exciting discovery. (2Ki 22:3-13; 2Ch 34:8-21) After the temple’s repair and cleansing, the greatest Passover since the days of Samuel the prophet was celebrated. (2Ki 23:21-23; 2Ch 35:17-19) This was during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. (Jer 1:1-3) From this time until the temple’s destruction, it remained open and in use by the priesthood, though many of the priests were corrupt.
The Temple Built by Zerubbabel. As foretold by Jehovah’s prophet Isaiah, God raised up Cyrus king of Persia as a liberator of Israel from the power of Babylon. (Isa 45:1) Jehovah also stirred up his own people under the leadership of Zerubbabel of the tribe of Judah to return to Jerusalem. This they did in 537 B.C.E., after 70 years of desolation, as Jeremiah had foretold, for the purpose of rebuilding the temple. (Ezr 1:1-6; 2:1, 2; Jer 29:10) This structure, though not nearly so glorious as Solomon’s temple, endured longer, standing for nearly 500 years, from 515 B.C.E. to very late in the first century B.C.E. (The temple built by Solomon had served about 420 years, from 1027 to 607 B.C.E.)
In Cyrus’ decree he ordered: “As for anyone that is left from all the places where he is residing as an alien, let the men of his place assist him with silver and with gold and with goods and with domestic animals along with the voluntary offering for the house of the true God, which was in Jerusalem.” (Ezr 1:1-4) Cyrus also returned 5,400 vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Solomon’s temple.—Ezr 1:7-11.
In the seventh month (Ethanim, or Tishri) of the year 537 B.C.E., the altar was set up; and in the following year, the foundation of the new temple was laid. As Solomon had done, the builders hired Sidonians and Tyrians to bring cedar timbers from Lebanon. (Ezr 3:7) Opposition, particularly from the Samaritans, disheartened the builders, and after about 15 years those opposers even incited the king of Persia to ban the work.—Ezr 4.
The Jews had stopped their temple building work and had turned to other pursuits, so Jehovah sent his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir them to renew their efforts in the second year of Darius I (520 B.C.E.), and thereafter a decree was made upholding Cyrus’ original order and commanding that moneys be provided from the royal treasury, to supply what the builders and priests needed. (Ezr 5:1, 2; 6:1-12) The building work was carried on, and the house of Jehovah was completed on the third day of Adar in the sixth year of Darius (probably March 6 of 515 B.C.E.), after which the Jews inaugurated the rebuilt temple and held the Passover.—Ezr 6:13-22.
Little is known about the details of the architectural plan of this second temple. Cyrus’ decree authorized the building of a structure “its height being sixty cubits [c. 27 m; 88 ft], its width sixty cubits, with three layers of stones rolled into place and one layer of timbers.” The length is not stated. (Ezr 6:3, 4) It had dining rooms and storerooms (Ne 13:4, 5), and undoubtedly it had roof chambers, and possibly other buildings were associated with it, along the same lines as Solomon’s temple.
This second temple did not contain the ark of the covenant, which seems to have disappeared before Nebuchadnezzar captured and looted Solomon’s temple in 607 B.C.E. According to the account in the Apocryphal book of First Maccabees (1:21-24, 57; 4:38, 44-51), there was one lampstand instead of the ten that were in Solomon’s; the golden altar, the table of showbread, and the vessels are mentioned, as is the altar of burnt offering, which, instead of being of copper as was the altar in Solomon’s temple, is there described as being of stone. This altar, after being defiled by King Antiochus Epiphanes (in 168 B.C.E.), was rebuilt with new stones under the direction of Judas Maccabaeus.
The Temple Rebuilt by Herod. This temple is not described in any detail in the Scriptures. The primary source is Josephus, who personally saw the structure and who reports on its construction in The Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities. The Jewish Mishnah supplies some information, and a little is gained from archaeology. Therefore the description set forth here is from these sources, which in some instances may be open to question.—PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 543.
In The Jewish War (I, 401 [xxi, 1]), Josephus says that Herod rebuilt the temple in the 15th year of his reign, but in Jewish Antiquities (XV, 380 [xi, 1]), he says it was in the 18th year. This latter date is generally accepted by scholars, although the beginning of Herod’s reign, or how Josephus calculated it, is not established with certainty. The sanctuary itself took 18 months to build, but the courtyards, and so forth, were under construction for eight years. When certain Jews approached Jesus Christ in 30 C.E., saying, “This temple was built in forty-six years” (Joh 2:20), these Jews were apparently talking about the work that continued on the complex of courts and buildings up until then. The work was not finished until about six years before the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.
Because of hatred and distrust of Herod, the Jews would not permit him to rebuild the temple, as he proposed, until he had everything prepared for the new building. For the same reason they did not consider this temple as a third one, but only as a rebuilt one, speaking only of the first and second temples (Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s).
As to Josephus’ measurements, Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (1889, Vol. IV, p. 3203) says: “His horizontal dimensions are so minutely accurate that we almost suspect he had before his eyes, when writing, some ground-plan of the building prepared in the quartermaster-general’s department of Titus’s army. They form a strange contrast with his dimensions in height, which, with scarcely an exception, can be shown to be exaggerated, generally doubled. As the buildings were all thrown down during the siege, it was impossible to convict him of error in respect to elevations.”
Colonnades and gates. Josephus writes that Herod doubled the size of the temple area, building up the sides of Mount Moriah with great stone walls and leveling off an area on the top of the mountain. (The Jewish War, I, 401 [xxi, 1]; Jewish Antiquities, XV, 391-402 [xi, 3]) The Mishnah (Middot 2:1) says the Temple Mount measured 500 cubits (223 m; 729 ft) square. On the outer edge of the area were colonnades. The temple faced the E, as did the previous ones. Along this side was the colonnade of Solomon, consisting of three columns of marble pillars. On one occasion, in the wintertime, Jesus was approached here by certain Jews asking if he was the Christ. (Joh 10:22-24) In the N and W were also colonnades, dwarfed by the Royal Colonnade on the S, consisting of four rows of Corinthian pillars, 162 in all, with three aisles. The pillars’ circumferences were so great that it took three men with outstretched arms to reach around one of them, and they stood much higher than those of the other colonnades.
There were evidently eight gates leading into the temple area: four on the W side, two on the S, and one each on the E and N. (See GATE, GATEWAY [Temple Gates].) Because of these gates, the first court, the Court of the Gentiles, also served as a thoroughfare, travelers preferring to go through it instead of outside around the temple area.
Court of the Gentiles. The colonnades surrounded the large area named the Court of the Gentiles, so called because Gentiles were permitted to enter it. It was from it that Jesus, on two occasions, once near the beginning and once at the close of his earthly ministry, expelled those who had made the house of his Father a house of merchandise.—Joh 2:13-17; Mt 21:12, 13; Mr 11:15-18.
There were several courts through which a person passed as he proceeded to the central building, the sanctuary itself. Each succeeding court was of a higher degree of sanctity. Passing through the Court of the Gentiles, one encountered a wall three cubits (1.3 m; 4.4 ft) high, with openings through which to pass. On its top were large stones bearing a warning in Greek and Latin. The Greek inscription read (according to one translation): “Let no foreigner enter inside of the barrier and the fence around the sanctuary. Whosoever is caught will be responsible for his death which will ensue.” (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, edited by H. Gehman, 1970, p. 932) On the occasion when the apostle Paul was mobbed in the temple, it was because the Jews rumored that he had brought a Gentile within the forbidden area. We are reminded of this wall, though Paul was using the term “wall” symbolically, when we read that Christ “destroyed the wall” that fenced off Jew from Gentile.—Eph 2:14, ftn; Ac 21:20-32.
Court of Women. The Court of Women was 14 steps higher. Here women could enter for worship. Among other things, the Court of Women contained treasure chests, near one of which Jesus stood when he commended the widow for giving her all. (Lu 21:1-4) In this court were also several buildings.
Court of Israel and Court of Priests. Fifteen large semicircular steps led up to the Court of Israel, which could be entered by men who were ceremonially clean. Against the outside wall of this court were storage chambers.
Then came the Court of Priests, which corresponded to the courtyard of the tabernacle. In it was the altar, built of unhewn stones. According to the Mishnah, it was 32 cubits (14.2 m; 46.7 ft) square at the base. (Middot 3:1) Josephus gives a higher figure. (The Jewish War, V, 225 [v, 6]; see ALTAR [Postexilic Altars].) The priests reached the altar by an inclined plane. A “laver” was also in use, according to the Mishnah. (Middot 3:6) Around this court also were various buildings.
The temple building. As previously, the temple proper consisted primarily of two compartments, the Holy and the Most Holy. The floor of this building was 12 steps above the Court of Priests. Even as with Solomon’s temple, chambers were built on the sides of this building and there was an upper chamber. The entrance was closed by golden doors, each 55 cubits (24.5 m; 80.2 ft) high and 16 cubits (7.1 m; 23.3 ft) broad. The front of the building was wider than the back, having wings or “shoulders” that extended out 20 cubits (8.9 m; 29.2 ft) on each side. The inside of the Holy was 40 cubits (17.8 m; 58.3 ft) long and 20 cubits wide. In the Holy were the lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense—all of gold.
The entrance to the Most Holy was a beautifully ornamented thick curtain, or veil. At the time of Jesus’ death, this curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, exposing the Most Holy as containing no ark of the covenant. In place of the Ark was a stone slab upon which the high priest sprinkled the blood on the Day of Atonement. (Mt 27:51; Heb 6:19; 10:20) This room was 20 cubits long and 20 cubits wide.
The Jews used the temple area as a citadel, or fortress, during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. They themselves set fire to the colonnades, but a Roman soldier, contrary to the wishes of the Roman commander Titus, fired the temple itself, thereby fulfilling Jesus’ words regarding the temple buildings: “By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.”—Mt 24:2; The Jewish War, VI, 252-266 (iv, 5-7); VII, 3, 4 (i, 1).
Jehovah’s Great Spiritual Temple. The tabernacle constructed by Moses and the temples built by Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod were only typical, or pictorial. This was shown by the apostle Paul when he wrote that the tabernacle, the basic features of which were included in the later temples, was “a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things.” (Heb 8:1-5; see also 1Ki 8:27; Isa 66:1; Ac 7:48; 17:24.) The Christian Greek Scriptures disclose the reality represented by the type. These Scriptures show that the tabernacle and the temples built by Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod, along with their features, represented a greater, spiritual temple of Jehovah, “the true tent, which Jehovah put up, and not man.” (Heb 8:2) As revealed by its various features, that spiritual temple is the arrangement for approaching Jehovah in worship on the basis of the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—Heb 9:2-10, 23.
The inspired letter to the Hebrews states that in this spiritual temple the Most Holy is “heaven itself,” the area where the person of God is. (Heb 9:24) Since only the Most Holy is “heaven itself,” then the Holy and the priestly courtyard, as well as their features, must pertain to things on earth, those things having to do with Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth and his followers who are “partakers of the heavenly calling.”—Heb 3:1.
The curtain was a barrier separating the Holy from the Most Holy; in Jesus’ case it represented “his flesh,” which he had to lay down in sacrifice, giving it up forever, to be able to enter heaven, the antitypical Most Holy. (Heb 10:20) Anointed Christians must also pass the fleshly barrier that separates them from access to God’s presence in heaven. Consistently, the Holy represents their condition as spirit-begotten sons of God, with heavenly life in view, and they will attain to that heavenly reward when their fleshly bodies are laid aside in death.—1Co 15:50; Heb 2:10.
While still in the antitypical Holy, these who have been anointed with holy spirit and who serve as underpriests with Christ are able to enjoy spiritual enlightenment, as from the lampstand; to eat spiritual food, as from the table of showbread; and to offer up prayer, praise, and service to God, as if presenting sweet-smelling incense at the golden altar of incense. The Holy of the typical temple was screened off from the view of outsiders, and similarly, how a person knows that he is a spirit-begotten son of God and what he experiences as such cannot be fully appreciated by those who are not.—Re 14:3.
In the ancient temple courtyard was the altar for offering sacrifices. This foreshadowed God’s provision, according to his will, for a perfect human sacrifice to ransom the offspring of Adam. (Heb 10:1-10; 13:10-12; Ps 40:6-8) In the spiritual temple the courtyard itself must pertain to a condition related to that sacrifice. In the case of Jesus, it was his being a perfect human that made the sacrifice of his life acceptable. In the case of his anointed followers, all of these are declared righteous on the basis of their faith in Christ’s sacrifice, and thus they are viewed by God as sinless while in the flesh.—Ro 3:24-26; 5:1, 9; 8:1.
The features of “the true tent,” God’s great spiritual temple, already existed in the first century C.E. This is indicated by the fact that, with reference to the tabernacle constructed by Moses, Paul wrote that it was “an illustration for the appointed time that is now here,” that is, for something that existed when Paul was writing. (Heb 9:9) That temple certainly existed when Jesus presented the value of his sacrifice in its Most Holy, in heaven itself. It must actually have come into existence in 29 C.E., when Jesus was anointed with holy spirit to serve as Jehovah’s great High Priest.—Heb 4:14; 9:11, 12.
Jesus Christ promises the spirit-begotten Christians that the one who conquers, who endures faithfully to the end, will be made “a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out from it anymore.” (Re 3:12) So, such a one is granted a permanent place in “heaven itself,” the antitypical Most Holy.
Revelation 7:9-15 reveals “a great crowd” of other worshipers of Jehovah sharing in pure worship at the spiritual temple. Those making up this “great crowd” are not described in terms that identify them as underpriests. The ones who make up this “great crowd” are said to have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Because of their faith in the sacrifice of Christ, they are credited with a righteous standing that makes possible their preservation through “the great tribulation,” so they are said to “come out of” it as survivors.
At Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-4, reference is made to a ‘lifting up’ of “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” in “the final part of the days,” and it is foretold that there would be a gathering of people of “all the nations” to that “house of Jehovah.” Since there has been no physical temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem since 70 C.E., this must refer, not to some physical structure, but to an elevating of true worship in the lives of Jehovah’s people during “the final part of the days” and a great gathering of people of all nations to share in worship at Jehovah’s great spiritual temple.
Detailed description of a temple of Jehovah is also found at Ezekiel chapters 40-47, but it is not a temple that was ever built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, nor would it fit there. So, it must be another illustration of God’s great spiritual temple. Special consideration is given in the account to the provisions that emanate from the temple and to the fact that precautions are taken to keep out all who are unworthy to be among the worshipers in its courtyards.
Ezekiel’s temple vision. In 593 B.C.E., in the 14th year after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple therein, the priest-prophet Ezekiel, transported in vision to a high mountaintop, beheld a great temple of Jehovah. (Eze 40:1, 2) To humiliate and bring about repentance of the exiled Jews, also doubtless to comfort faithful ones, Ezekiel was instructed to relate everything he saw to “the house of Israel.” (Eze 40:4; 43:10, 11) The vision gave careful attention to the details of measurement. The units of measure used were the “reed” (the long reed, 3.11 m; 10.2 ft) and the “cubit” (the long cubit, 51.8 cm; 20.4 in.). (Eze 40:5, ftn) This attention to measurement has led some to believe that this visionary temple was to serve as a model for the temple later constructed by Zerubbabel in the postexilic period. There is, however, no conclusive substantiation of this assumption.
The entire temple area was evidently a square 500 cubits to a side. It contained an outer courtyard, an elevated inner courtyard, the temple with its altar, various dining rooms, and a building to the W, or rear, of the temple. Providing access to the temple’s outer and inner courtyards were six huge gateways, three for the outer courtyard and three for the inner courtyard. These faced N, E, and S, each inner gate being directly behind (in line with) its corresponding outer gate. (Eze 40:6, 20, 23, 24, 27) Inside the outer wall was the lower pavement. It was 50 cubits (25.9 m; 85 ft) wide, the same as the length of the gateways. (Eze 40:18, 21) Thirty dining rooms, likely places for the people to eat their communion sacrifices, were located there. (Eze 40:17) At each of the four corners of this outer courtyard were locations where the people’s portions of their sacrifices were cooked by the priests, according to the Law’s requirement; then they were apparently consumed in the provided dining rooms. (Eze 46:21-24) The remainder of the outer courtyard between the lower pavement and the gates to the inner courtyard was apparently 100 cubits in width.—Eze 40:19, 23, 27.
The priests’ dining rooms were separated from the people’s, being placed closer to the temple. Two of these, along with two dining rooms for the temple singers, were in the inner courtyard beside the massive inner gateways. (Eze 40:38, 44-46) The priests also had dining-room blocks, to the N and S of the sanctuary itself. (Eze 42:1-12) These dining rooms, in addition to their most evident purpose, were places for the priests to change the linen garments used in temple service prior to their entering the outer courtyard. (Eze 42:13, 14; 44:19) Also in that area, to the rear of the dining-room blocks, were the boiling and baking places of the priests, intended for the same basic purpose as those in the outer courtyard, but these for only the priests.—Eze 46:19, 20.
Progressing across the outer courtyard and through the inner gateway, one entered the inner courtyard. The edge of the inner courtyard was 150 cubits (77.7 m; 255 ft) from the edge of the outer courtyard on the E, N, and S. The inner courtyard was 200 cubits (103.6 m; 340 ft) wide. (Ezekiel 40:47 says the inner courtyard was 100 cubits square. This evidently refers to just the area in front of the temple and into which the inner gateways led.) Prominent in the inner courtyard was the altar.—Eze 43:13-17; see ALTAR (Altar of Ezekiel’s Temple).
The sanctuary’s first room, 40 cubits (20.7 m; 68 ft) long and 20 cubits (10.4 m; 34 ft) wide, was entered by a doorway having two 2-leaved doors. (Eze 41:23, 24) Therein was “the table that is before Jehovah,” a wooden altar.—Eze 41:21, 22.
The outer walls of the sanctuary had side chambers four cubits (2 m; 6.8 ft) wide incorporated into and against them. Rising three stories, they covered the western, northern, and southern walls, 30 chambers to a story. (Eze 41:5, 6) To ascend the three stories, winding passages, seemingly circular staircases, were provided on the N and S. (Eze 41:7) To the rear, or W, of the temple, lying apparently lengthwise N to S, was a structure called bin·yanʹ, a ‘building to the west.’ (Eze 41:12) Although some scholars have attempted to identify this building with the temple or sanctuary itself, there appears no basis for such an identification in the book of Ezekiel; the ‘building to the west,’ for one thing, was of different shape and dimensions from those of the sanctuary. This structure doubtless served some function in connection with the services carried on at the sanctuary. There may have been a similar building or buildings W of Solomon’s temple.—Compare 2Ki 23:11 and 1Ch 26:18.
The Most Holy was of the same shape as that of Solomon’s temple, being 20 cubits square. In the vision, Ezekiel saw Jehovah’s glory come from the E, filling the temple. Jehovah described this temple as “the place of my throne.”—Eze 43:1-7.
Ezekiel describes a wall 500 reeds (1,555 m; 5,100 ft) on each side, around the temple. This has been understood by some scholars to be a wall at a distance of about 600 m (2,000 ft) from the courtyard, a space surrounded by the wall “to make a division between what is holy and what is profane.”—Eze 42:16-20.
Ezekiel also beheld a stream of water flowing “from under the threshold of the House eastward” and south of the altar, growing into a deep and mighty torrent as it flowed down through the Arabah into the north end of the Salt Sea. Here it healed the salt waters so that they became filled with fish.—Eze 47:1-12.
Anointed Christians—A Spiritual Temple. Anointed Christians on earth are likened to a number of things, including a temple. This comparison is fitting because God’s spirit dwells within the congregation of anointed ones. Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus “in union with Christ Jesus,” those who are “sealed with the promised holy spirit,” saying: “You have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” (Eph 1:1, 13; 2:20-22) These “sealed” ones, laid upon Christ as Foundation, are shown to number 144,000. (Re 7:4; 14:1) The apostle Peter speaks of these as “living stones” being “built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood.”—1Pe 2:5.
Since these underpriests are “God’s building,” he will not let this spiritual temple suffer defilement. Paul emphasizes the holiness of this spiritual temple, and the danger to one who attempts to defile it, when he writes: “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are.”—1Co 3:9, 16, 17; see also 2Co 6:16.
Jehovah God and the Lamb ‘Are Its Temple.’ When John sees New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, he remarks: “And I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb is.” (Re 21:2, 22) Since the members of New Jerusalem will have direct access to the face of Jehovah himself, they will not need a temple through which to approach God. (1Jo 3:2; Re 22:3, 4) Those who make up New Jerusalem will render sacred service to God directly under the high priesthood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. For this reason the Lamb shares with Jehovah in being, in effect, the temple of the New Jerusalem.
An Impostor. The apostle Paul, in warning of the apostasy to come, spoke of “the man of lawlessness” as setting himself up “so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god.” (2Th 2:3, 4) This “man of lawlessness” is an apostate, a false teacher, so he actually seats himself only in what he falsely claims to be that temple.—See MAN OF LAWLESSNESS.
An Illustrative Use. On one occasion, when the Jews demanded a sign from Jesus, he replied: “Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews thought he was speaking of the temple building, but the apostle John explains: “He was talking about the temple of his body.” When he was resurrected by his Father Jehovah on the third day of his death, the disciples recalled and understood this saying and believed it. (Joh 2:18-22; Mt 27:40) He was resurrected, but not in his fleshly body, which was given as a ransom sacrifice; yet that fleshly body did not go into corruption, but was disposed of by God, just as a sacrifice was consumed on the altar. Jesus, when resurrected, was the same person, the same personality, in a new body made for his new dwelling place, the spiritual heavens.—Lu 24:1-7; 1Pe 3:18; Mt 20:28; Ac 2:31; Heb 13:8.
[Picture on page 1080]
A notice from Jerusalem’s temple courtyard warning Gentiles not to approach closer