To help build his Temple, Solomon called upon the services of two special people, both of whom were named Hiram. The story of this triad of Temple Builders would later provide a basis for the Freemason tradition.
First, there was King Hiram of Tyre, who “had always been a friend of David.” Solomon knew that no one among the Israelites knew how to cut timber the way Hiram’s people did, so he entered into a contract whereby Hiram would supply cedar trees from Lebanon for the Temple and Solomon would provide food and supplies for the workers. In addition to the wood, Solomon “ordered huge blocks of choice stone to be quarried, so that the foundations of the house might be laid with hewn stones. Solomon’s masons, Hiram’s masons, and the men of Gebal [a word which refers to cutting ‘boundaries’ or ‘limits’] shaped them. Thus the timber and the stones for the building were made ready.”
To make the furnishings that would be placed within Temple, Solomon sent for the other Hiram. “He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a Tyrian, a coppersmith.” Solomon himself would make all the furnishings that were to be placed within the inner sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, but Hiram made everything else. “He was endowed with skill, ability, and talent for executing all work in bronze.”
And Solomon made all the furnishings that were in the House of the Lord: the altar, of gold; the table for the bread of display, of gold; the lampstands—five on the right side, and five on the left – of gold….
Where did all this gold come from? The Scriptures do not say, but stories and legends abound about ‘Solomon the Magician’ and ‘Solomon the Alchemist’, who knew the secret of turning base metal into gold and who could therefore supply God’s Temple with all the gold imaginable. In their inner symbolic meaning, these mythological stories are perfectly true. The alchemical transmutation of base matter into ‘gold’ is an allegory for the initiate’s inner transmutation of base Levels of Being into sacred Levels of Being – that is, spiritual ‘gold’ — and this inner work was accomplished by Solomon. (It is really rather humorous to picture modern chemists in their laboratories trying literally to follow the symbolic instructions written down by medieval alchemists, failing to produce any gold in their test tubes, and then solemnly declaring that alchemy doesn’t work and they have ‘proven’ it!)
It is also easy to see how these stories of Temple craftsmen, overseen by the high triad of Wisdom, Cosmic Resources, and Demiurgic Action, could lead to the metaphorical association of Masonry with inner spiritual work, and a close relationship of Craftsmen with the Priesthood. Like Alchemy, the ‘building of the Temple’ represents an inner spiritual achievement. The literal building of a structure of wood and stone is its symbol.
Some, of course, were dissatisfied, believing themselves worthy of a more exalted position. One night, three such malcontents lay in wait, attacked CHiram, and when he still refused to reveal the ‘Master’s Word’ (which only he, the Master, knew) they killed him with their tools. They buried his body on Mount Moriah (the symbolic gateway between matter and spirit) and fled. But they were soon captured and executed by King Solomon.
The terrifying risk here is that real Truth and real Hope might then be lost for a very long time or even forever, unless it is preserved and protected by a ‘Secret Society’ (inner or outer), pending a safer and more favorable moment in time.
Despite the murder, the Temple was completed. Solomon then “convoked all the elders of Israel – all the heads of the tribes and the ancestral chieftains of the Israelites”, and the Temple was formally dedicated. The priests carried the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Tablets with the Ten Commandments, into the Holy of Holies: (the wings of the Cherubim – the ‘Mercy Seat’ – spread over the Ark and protected it from view.)
The 1200 years from the death of Joshua to the birth of Jesus was a fascinating tome in the Holy Land. If you liked this article, you will enjoy FROM JOSHUA TO JESUS: A Brief Chronicle of the Kings, Empires, Legends and Ideas that Paved the Way to Bethlehem