In Part 1 I outlined the earliest traditions regarding Temple Mount. I concluded that King David purchased the site on Mount Moriah to build there a “Temple to the Lord”, however this was left to his son Solomon.
King Solomon was the third king of Israel, having ruled from 970 to 931 BCE or thereabouts. Solomon is renowned in the Bible as being both wise and wealthy – not a bad combination! King Solomon was also known for his great building projects. His father, King David, had already collected many building materials for building the Temple on Mount Moriah. Solomon commenced construction with the help of King Hiram of Tyre (in today’s Lebanon – my how things have changed!).
The Bible tells us in 1 Kings 6:1 “In the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord.”
It is said that it took 150,000 workers and 3,300 overseers seven years to complete the Temple. The Temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, given by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Once the Temple was built, it redefined and structured the Jewish religion at the time: there was now a single, centralized area for animal sacrifices and a requirement to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year on the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Succot. We still celebrate these holidays today, albeit in a different manner.
According to Josephus, the historian who lived in the 1st Century CE, the Temple stood for 470 years before it was destroyed. In the year 586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian monarch, captured Jerusalem and all the Kingdom of Judea. He razed Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple on Mount Moriah and exiled the population, thus ending the First Temple Period.
However, as we know, that’s not the end of the story of Temple Mount. Babylon was later conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia who let the exiles return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. This ushered in the Second Temple Period. For that story keep a lookout for Part 3.