Amid all the horrible news of death and destruction in Syria today comes updated word of a most curious ancient temple archeologists have been excavating and studying. The ’Ain Dara temple in northern Syria is, according to the Biblical Archaeology Society, practically a twin of the ancient center of Israelite life: Solomon’s Temple.
I don’t think I’ve ever reproduced anyone else’s entire article before on The Magpie, but this is worthwhile. ©Biblical Archaeology Society, 2013. (In the past I have recommended subscribing to its magazine, and do so again. Click here.)
For centuries, scholars have searched in vain for any remnant of Solomon’s Temple. The fabled Jerusalem sanctuary, described in such exacting detail in 1 Kings 6, was no doubt one the most stunning achievements of King Solomon in the Bible, yet nothing of the building itself has been found because excavation on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, site of the Temple of King Solomon, is impossible.
Fortunately, several Iron Age temples discovered throughout the Levant bear a striking resemblance to the Temple of King Solomon in the Bible. Through these remains, we gain extraordinary insight into the architectural grandeur of the building that stood atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount nearly 3,000 years ago.
|The black basalt ruins of the Iron Age temple discovered at ’Ain Dara in northern Syria offer the closest known parallel to the Temple of King Solomon in the Bible. Photo: Ben Churcher|
|The ’Ain Dara temple and the Biblical Temple of King Solomon share very similar plans. Images: Ben Churcher|
The similarities between the ’Ain Dara temple and the temple described in the Bible are indeed striking. Both buildings were erected on huge artificial platforms built on the highest point in their respective cities. The buildings likewise have similar tripartite plans: an entry porch supported by two columns, a main sanctuary hall (the hall of the ’Ain Dara temple is divided between an antechamber and a main chamber) and then, behind a partition, an elevated shrine, or Holy of Holies. They were also both flanked on three of their sides by a series of multistoried rooms and chambers that served various functions.
Even the decorative schemes of ’Ain Dara temple and the temple described in the Bible are similar: Nearly every surface, both interior and exterior, of the ’Ain Dara temple was carved with lions, mythical animals (cherubim and sphinxes), and floral and geometric patterns, the same imagery that, according to 1 Kings 6:29, adorned the Temple of King Solomon in the Bible.
It is the date of the ’Ain Dara temple, however, that offers the most compelling evidence for the authenticity of the Biblical Temple of King Solomon. The ’Ain Dara temple was originally built around 1300 B.C. and remained in use for more than 550 years, until 740 B.C. The plan and decoration of such majestic temples no doubt inspired the Phoenician engineers and craftsmen who built Solomon’s grand edifice in the tenth century B.C. As noted by Lawrence Stager of Harvard University, the existence of the ’Ain Dara temple proves that the Biblical description of Solomon’s Temple was “neither an anachronistic account based on later temple archetypes nor a literary creation. The plan, size, date and architectural details fit squarely into the tradition of sacred architecture from north Syria (and probably Phoenicia) from the tenth to eighth centuries B.C.”
|Gigantic footprints belonging|
to the resident deity were carved
at the temple’s entrance.
Photo: A.M. Appa