Wednesday, December 8, 2010

HCSBSB: Solomon's Temple, Exterior View

Well, this next one was a pretty big deal. This exterior view of Solomon’s Temple was to appear along with an interior view and a small schematic of the same for a combined full-page illustration in the HCSB Study Bible.

Back when I began working on the Mosaic Taberncale, I started some schematics on graph paper to help me keep track of the relative sizes of all of the various features and items, and I added to it as the project progressed up through Solomon’s Temple and finally to Herod’s Temple.

Here also, is one example of several early rough sketches I produced in trying to work out the best possible vantage point:

As mentioned in these posts before, recreating many of these structures accurately from the measurements and descriptions given in the texts (biblical as well as extra-biblical) is extremely difficult, if not impossible. There are just enough gaps and just enough ambiguity in the descriptions to leave a good deal open to interpretation. Most significantly, the height of Solomon’s Temple is a matter of considerable debate. (There is perhaps a textual variance between the measurements given in Kings and those recorded in Chronicles, but it is also suggested that the temple proper and its vestibule were of differing heights and that this somehow accounts for the differing figures in a way that isn’t clear.) Most scholars stick with the more conservative figure of 60 cubits (90') for the maximum overall height and dismiss the references to a height of twice that amount as either a manuscript error or an exaggeration, symbolically motivated or otherwise. The illustrations I produced here are in keeping with this lower estimation, but I’m not at all convinced that 120 cubits (180'), as depicted here, for example, is out of the question. Indeed, I find the idea appealing on a number of levels. (Josephus, at any rate, writing in the 1st century A.D., also apparently takes the height of Solomon’s original temple to have been 120 cubits. Perhaps more on that when we get to Herod’s Temple.)

The two bronze pillars (Jachin and Boaz—they actually had names), the massive bronze “sea” on the twelve oxens’ backs and the ten “water chariots” are all point of interest and appeal. I had a lot of fun imagining them. Below is a composite of several exploratory sketches for Jachin and Boaz. There is an incredibly rich amount of symbolism bound up in each of these items, and in the temple as a whole. I would highly recommend the writings of James Jordan and Peter Leithart in this regard, and I tried to incorporate many of the insights I’ve gained from them into these illustrations. (For just one tantalizing example, check out these brief comments from Leithart on the “water chariots” and the lampstands (“burning golden trees” as he poetically refers to them).


  1. Lovely, I adore pencil sketches above about anything! We just started a study of I & II Kings. This will be great to look at as we read.

  2. WOW. Even the graph paper sketches are frameworthy!