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The temple of Solomon was built in a sort of strange way. Since Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived (according to scripture), there must have been some element of divine wisdom in his decision.

1-Kings 6:7 (NKJV)

And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built.

1) Why was this relative silence on the site important to Solomon?

2) How does this reduction in normal construction noise improve the sanctified state of the temple?

3) In Exodus 20:25, human tools were said to be a defiling influence in the construction of God's Altars. Does this have any bearing on the way the temple was constructed?

  • This is a tangent but as I am fascinated by ancient stone work it is interesting to me that the tools with which they did the quarrying are listed as "hammer, chisel or any iron tool". I have personally tried to chisel through granite with such and found it impossible to even chip it. Try it sometime and your respect for ancient masons will explode. – Ruminator Dec 9 '17 at 2:55
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    @Ruminator The silence seems to contribute to the sanctification associated with the temple. I wonder why that. Was it an OT symbol for the NT "building made without hands"? – user20490 Dec 9 '17 at 3:00
  • I think your suggestion is very useful. I always thought of the building being made "ex nihilo" but really, as your "type" suggests it is more about it being assembled by the unseen hand, so to speak, which makes sense with the association with the assembly of the bride of Christ. It enriches the imagery for me. Thanks for pointing it out! – Ruminator Dec 9 '17 at 18:17
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    1 Peter 2:4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual housea to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” – Ruminator Dec 9 '17 at 18:20
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    It is invalid to suggest that it was silent during the construction of the temple. Just because there were no iron tools heard inside doesn't mean it was silent. I am sure there were actual people - probably talking, and giving instructions, etc. It is not valid to assume that it was silent when the temple was being constructed, stones moved around - let alone no noise at all. – elika kohen Dec 9 '17 at 18:59
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This is because the stone was already honed from the quarry from which it was taken so it did not require to be chizzeled or hammered at the building sight. It only required to be put in position. According to the blueprint each stone had its place and position relative to the other stones.Each stone had its own peculiarity and position In which it fits exactly In the building and therefore did not need any polishing or honing at the building site: In type:

1 Peter 2:4,5

4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:16

16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

1 Corinthians 3:9

9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. Solomon was selected to build the first temple and had a messianic inspiration of what the messiah would do in fullness at his coming. Whatever Solomon did laid precedence for the future perfect temple that the messiah would build. When God selects one to do his tasks, he also annoints him to do according to His will and pattern. Solomon was selected by God to do that work, as we read from the words of the prophet Nathan.

2 Samuel 7:4,5,12,13

4 And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying, 5 Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? 12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever

Yet the work of building the true temple belonged to the messiah:

Zechariah 6:12,13

12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: 13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

Yet the temple that Solomon built foreshadowed the true temple and laid a true precedence because what God does is the canon:

Ecclesiastes 3:14,15

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. 15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

It was therefore necessary for Solomon to do what he was ordained to do as a mark and precedence for the future work to be accomplished in the Messiah.

The work of constuction had to be done according to the blueprint given him.Any other pattern of doing it would be unacceptable. The requirement was that no chizzelling or cutting was to be done at the building site. That had symbolic significance and a mystery that was hid, sealed but to be revealed in the last days:

Daniel 12:9

9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

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    Samuel I had three questions above. You didn't answer any. Ordinarily I'm supposed to down vote your answer. It has no citations outside the NT. Solomon didn't have the NT, so he did this under the inspiration of the law. That's what I'm really seeking for. An answer that explains how the texts of the old testament would have influenced the silent construction that took place at the temple site. – user20490 Dec 9 '17 at 16:44
  • I tried the question on the tag. All the same for your interest sake. On voting up or down, its a privilege given to you. – Samuel Dec 9 '17 at 16:55
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    "therefore did not need any polishing or honing at the building site: In type:" What is the Biblical basis for this claim? Polishing, etc. doesn't necessarily require iron tools. – elika kohen Dec 9 '17 at 19:02
  • What I mean cutting is by polishing here is smoothening with the cutting tools because the stone is honed by the time it reaches the building site. – Samuel Dec 9 '17 at 19:08
  • Texts that speak about a temple not made with men's hands would be very helpful in this area. +1. The gentleness and mastery of creating without that kind of forcefulness speaks lot about the craftsman. – elika kohen Dec 11 '17 at 8:35
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Now I think there are 2 separate things, both very important. And there is a very strong link between these 2:

1.it is about the sound/silence thing.

2.it is about the use of iron tools.

1. Silence

In fact there is a point in asking about silence and user20490 is not the first one to do so. In Jewish exegesis there is quite an important discussion around this. Some would go as far as to say that the stones were carved somewhere else:

Mishneh Torah, The Chosen Temple 1:8: The Temple is to be built with large stones or bricks if large stones are not available. The stones are not carved on site, rather they are carved and dressed away from the Temple Mount and brought in afterwards, as it says "Large, expensive stones for the foundation of the House, hewn stones" and it [also] says "the sound of the axe, nor any other metal tool was heard in the Temple while it was being built."

This idea is used quite often in various Christian commentaries too. See one example from many others:

The stones for the temple were prepared at some distance from the construction site. This may be for practical rather than religious reasons, as seen in Assyrian reliefs depicting completed stones and statues being removed from a quarry. The erection of the temple went much faster by utilizing pre-cut and pre-fitted materials moved on rollers to the temple site. [J. H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament) Volume 3: 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, p. 30]

However, the stress of these is, I would say, on the fact that all of the fuss was necessary in order to make sure that no sound of any metal was heard in the Temple. No sound in the Temple seems to be a very important matter. Why is that no sound? I found another old comment on this:

Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 20:22:2 (I Kings 6:7) "And hammers, chisels, or any iron tools were not heard in the Temple when it was being built"? In the Temple they were not heard, but outside (where they were hewn) they were heard. (Exodus, Ibid.) "For if you lift your sword upon it": R. Shimon b. Elazar was wont to say (Devarim 27:6) "Of whole (shleimoth) stones shall you build the altar of the L rd" — stones which repose peace ("shalom"). Now does this not follow a fortiori, viz.: If the stones of the altar, which do not see or hear or speak — because they repose peace between Israel and their Father in heaven, the Holy One Blessed be He says: Do not lift iron upon them, then one who reposes peace between a man and his wife, between one city and another, between one nation and another, between one government and another, between one family and another — how much more so will he not meet with adversity!

It does make sense, isn't it? After all, in 1-2 Kings God is more like "a soft whisper":

1 Kings 19:11-12 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by.”A very powerful wind went before the Lord, digging into the mountain and causing landslides, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the windstorm there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper [קֹול דְּמָמָה דַקָּה׃]. (NET)

Silence is a sign of the (future)presence of the Lord.

2. The use of iron tools

First of all, it seems that this was a more general ANE taboo on this respect. See this:

An early Sumerian account of Gudea’s building a temple for his god insisted that there be no noise around the area of the temple during the building project. Masons used large picks (weighing thirty or thirty-five pounds) for quarrying and smaller picks (weighing twelve or fifteen pounds) for the shaping of the stone. Those found in excavations have iron heads of various shapes with wooden handles. Iron-headed sledge hammers and long double-handled saws were also portrayed on Assyrian reliefs. [V. H.Matthews, M. W. Chavalas & J. H. Walton, The IVP Bible background commentary : Old Testament (electronic ed.) (1 Ki 6:7-35). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press., 2000]

Last but not least, I think the full answer should be found in Genesis 4.

After killing Abel, Cain is going in the land of Nod, east of Eden, where he has a son, Enoch. Then, Cain is building a city right there, east of Eden. Now, from Genesis 2:8 we know that it is in the same place, east of Eden, that God planted an orchard and there he placed the man he had formed. There is a paralel here, I think: on one hand there is the orchard made by God and on the other there is Cain's city. Let's return to Genesis 4: one of Cain's descendants is Lamech, who took 2 wifes. The second of Lamech's wifes, gave birth to someone called Tubal-Cain:

Genesis 4:22 Now Zillah also gave birth to Tubal-Cain, who heated metal and shaped all kinds of tools made of bronze and iron. (NET)

Therefore, from a Biblical chronology, it is only with Tubal-Cain that we have metal, bronze, iron. And as the narrative goes on, we learn that this Lamech, father of Tubal-Cain, was not really a gentle kind of person. (see Genesis 4:23-24). He was not peaceful at all.

Then, in Genesis 4:25-26, there is what I would call an antithesis of all that we have seen before:

Genesis 4:25-26: (25) And Adam had marital relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son. She named him Seth, saying, “God has given me another child in place of Abel because Cain killed him.” (26) And a son was also born to Seth, whom he named Enosh. At that time people began to worship the Lord. (NET)

That was so brief. Adam > Seth > Enosh > worship the Lord. No buildings, no tools, no metal, no bronze, no iron, no killings, no revenge, no fear, no fury. Just simply, plainly: worship the Lord.

A possible conclusion + answer: David did not manage to build up the Temple, because he was a man of war. Solomon is a man of peace. If you look at Genesis 4:1-14, there is some of "David's style". Whereas if you look at Genesis 4:25-26, there is some of "Solomon's style". I do think there is a paralel between the building of the Temple and these.

And to conclude:

  1. silence is a sign of the (future) presence of God

  2. no iron tools is about: underlining the link with Enosh and highlighting the distinction from the lineage of Cain. This should be available for Exodus 20:25 (see also Deut 27:5, Joshua 8:31) too. Remember, Cain is the one who built a fortress east of Eden and started to use iron tools, instead of seeking peace with the Lord, in the orchard east of Eden, where no iron tool was necessary. The Garden of Eden and the Temple are linked in the Bible by many shared motifs and by shared imagery. Do find a helpful source for this at the end of this link, please.

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Does such a verse have to be something spiritual? What if this verse is about something else? Has anyone considered this? The Holy of Holies was a cube. A cube made of stone would have been a room where you could not hear clearly enough to communicate verbally. As the walls were getting higher, even at 2 feet apart, hear speech in such a room would be next to impossible. Until the walls were covered in wood, the carvings of Cherubs, Palm Trees and Open Flowers were completed and then covered in Gold, it would have been impossible to hear clear speech. Using iron tools would have been deafening inside such a structure. The only form of communication that would have worked while building the temple would have been with hand gestures. The same would be true for the Holy Place. It could have been simply a safety issue to have no iron tools in the assembly of the temple.

As an expert in Church Acoustics, I have been to many churches during construction. Once the walls are up, the building is closed in and the interior walls are completed, for a few weeks or months, the worship space sounds like an echo chamber and hearing is extremely difficult. When the furnishings, artwork, seating, and other details are added, then the room calms down, so normal hearing becomes possible. The two items that calms down a church the most is carpet on the floor and padded seating. In Solomon's Temple, in the Holy Place or main Sanctuary, there was a curtain or vail over the entrance to the Holy of Holies. It was believed that the curtain was very thick. Thick enough for the Holy Place to have good acoustical conditions for hearing speech, music and for singing.

It is possible that the command for no tools of iron was there for safety? In the past, when large buildings were built, often people died on the job by accident. There would be spilled blood on the site and blood never really washes away. Keeping the place quiet from iron tools would have made the place safer and would have had a greater chance to have avoided the sheeding of blood of any of the workers while the temple was built. They would have used wooden tools to guide and tap items into place. Wooden tools would have been much quieter in such a space as described for Solomon’s Temple. Also, the wooden tools would have left no marks on the stone whereas iron tools would scuff up surfaces of the interior walls of the temple. Wooden tools would have ensured no blemishes or marks on the walls of Solomon's temple, like the sacrfice of the lamb, to have no blemishes or marks. And like the Altar, which was to be perfect, Solomon's Temple was to be the perfect place. A place good enough for God to be in when He communicated with His people.

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