Review of Albright, William F. “The Place of the Temple of Solomon in the History of Israelite Religion.”

Albright, William F.  “The Place of the Temple of Solomon in the History of Israelite Religion.”   In Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, 138-50.  5th ed.  Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1969. [Israel/Solomon/Furnishings]

This work was originally published in 1942, so it is dated, but nonetheless important because Albright was one of the brightest lights of archaeology during the 20th Century. In this brief treatment he brings to bear insights about Solomon’s temple from contemporary archaeology.  At the time most scholars found parallels to Israelite temples primarily in Greece, but he points out that discoveries in 1937 have shown that the structure and form were in Syria too. Other discoveries also threw great light on the interior decoration of the temple.  He spends considerable space (pp. 140-144) on the pillars Jachin and Boaz that were on the porch in front of the temple.  Various theories about their purpose and symbolism are reviewed then Albright argues at length  that they served as large cressets or fire-altars (p. 140).  Along with the large brazen or copper sea and the sacrificial altar the pillars had “cosmic significance” to the ancients.  The copper sea was a symbol of fecundity (p. 148), and the altar was the mountain of God or the gods.  In 2 Chron. 6:12-13 the account of the priest praying on a box-like structure has been confirmed in ancient Near East texts.  It symbolically covered the entrance to the underworld.  Many elements had “cosmic significance” for the ancients but were lost, and therefore were hitherto unrecognized and misunderstood. (p. 149)  But it was God’s house and he was the sole ruler of the cosmos.  The temple symbolized the permanence of the Davidic dynasty.

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