What happened to Solomon’s Palace in Jerusalem?

Certain images in the Image Library have been particularly popular with both teachers and publishers. Among these is the drawing of the development of the Temple Mount throughout the ages:

King Solomon built the First Temple on the top of Mount Moriah which is visible in the centre of this cut-away drawing. This mountain top can be seen today, inside the Islamic Dome of the Rock. King Hezekiah built a square Temple Mount (yellow walls) around the site of the Temple, which he also renewed. In the Hasmonean period, the square Temple Mount was enlarged to the south (red walls). Finally, King Herod the Great enlarged the mount to double its size (grey walls) by building 15 feet (5 m) thick retaining walls, which are still standing today. The many cisterns cut into the mountain are also shown.

Often downloaded together with this is an image which shows a series of reconstruction drawings of the Temple Mount in the different historical periods:

These five drawings show the five stages in the development of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. From top to bottom: 1. The square Temple Mount built by King Hezekiah. 2. The Akra Fortress (red) was built by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 BC to control the local Jewish population. The fortress was destroyed by the Maccabees in 141 BC. 3. After the destruction of the Akra, the Hasmoneans extended the Temple Mount to the south (blue). 4. Herod the Great renewed the Temple Mount by enlarging the square Temple Mount to double its size and building a new Temple. 5. During the Umayyad period, the Dome of the Rock was built on the site of the Temple and the El Aqsa mosque on that of the Royal Stoa. Large public buildings were erected to the south and west of the Temple Mount

I recently had the opportunity of devoting myself to a study of the development of the mount in the time of Hezekiah and in the process discovered evidence of some dramatic political upheavals in the time of the later kings of Judah. This new drawing shows that virtually all four corners of the square Temple Mount have been preserved:

Isometric drawing showing the archaeological remains of the outer walls of the 500 cubit square Temple Mount. The dark-tinted areas are the actual or projected remains, connected with reconstructed masonry courses.

Space and time does not allow me to describe these remains here (see The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for photographs and a detailed analysis). According to 1 Kings 6, King Solomon built a new Temple on Mount Moriah and the following chapter tells us that he also built a house (palace) for himself with a Hall of Pillars and a Hall of Judgment adjacent to it. It was presumably in the latter building that Solomon demonstrated his wisdom in dealing with the two women both claiming to be the mother of the same child. Next to this royal complex he built the House of the Forest of Lebanon, where he kept military equipment, such as the shields of beaten gold, that were later taken away by Shishak, king of Egypt.

According to 1 Kings 6 and 7, Solomon built a new Temple and Palace Complex on Mount Moriah. This schematic drawing shows an arrangement of the different buildings, based on parallels with similar complexes excavated elsewhere in the Middle East. 
The main entrance was through the Hall of Pillars (1 Kings 7.6), which was flanked by the Throne Hall (1 Kings 7.7) on the right, where Solomon judged, and the armoury, called the House of the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7.2-5) on the left. In the centre of this complex is the palace, called Solomon’s House (1 Kings 7.8a), which had a separate wing for his wife, Pharaoh’s Daughter (1 Kings 7.8b). From a large courtyard in front of Solomon’s House, a special Royal Ascent (1 Kings 10.5 KJV) led up to the Temple (1 Kings 6), which lay on higher ground.

There were two stages in the destruction of Jerusalem of the First Temple period. During the first stage, in the fourth month of 586 BCE, the city wall on the Western Hill, together with the Middle Gate, was destroyed, as well as the king’s palace and the ‘House of the People’ (Jer. 39.8). These two complexes consisted of Hezekiah’s newly built royal palace on the Western Hill of Jerusalem and the adjacent House of the Assembly, where the nobles of Judah held council.

The second stage of the conquest of Jerusalem took place in the fifth month when Nebuzaradan burnt the Temple and the king’s palace in the City of David (2 Kings 25.9-10).

So, what happened to Solomon’s original palace?

I had already suggested in The Quest that King Hezekiah was the original builder of the square mount. He was also a great reformer and is credited with reinstituting the Temple services. The first action he took was the opening of the doors of the Temple and the cleansing of its interior from desecration (2 Chron. 29.3-36). He encouraged the priests and Levites to rededicate themselves and to reinstate the Mosaic sacrifices. This was followed by the keeping of the Passover, which had not been kept for many years (2 Chron. 30.5).

I had also noted that the Solomonic complex must have been completely dismantled by Hezekiah and the area it previously occupied incorporated within the extended square Temple Mount. His actions in removing the royal complex and thus separating it from the sacred area may have been motivated by the description of God’s anger in the prophecy of Ezekiel 43:8. Here the prophet describes the reason for God’s displeasure as: “their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.”

Plan of the present-day Temple Mount with the location of the 500 cubit square Temple Mount, showing Solomon's Temple and his adjacent royal and military complex.

On the above plan, the blue line indicates what would appear to have comprised the “wall between me and them”. It divides the square mount in two equal halves and may be an indicator as to how Hezekiah laid out the boundaries of the square Temple Mount. The blue dot indicates the place where pottery from an apparently undisturbed layer dating from the end of the First Temple period was found during repair work on the Temple Mount, see this previous post.

Solomon’s royal and military complex was located to the immediate south of the Temple. As history has shown, the royal household (e.g. Queen Athaliah and Kings Uzzah and Ahaz) tried on several occasions to control the temple services and the priesthood. By dismantling this royal complex, Hezekiah effectively separated state from religion.

Hezekiah’s religious and political reforms as expressed in his Temple platform construction would therefore have served as an inspiration and encouragement for  the renewal of a purified priesthood and temple service, free from political interference.

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6 Responses to What happened to Solomon’s Palace in Jerusalem?

  1. Pingback: History of the Temple Mount | Exploring Bible Lands

  2. Robert Kerson says:

    Dr. Ritmeyer:
    You state that your drawing of the complex is “based on parallels with similar complexes excavated elsewhere in the Middle East.” 
The length of the palace complex you have drawn is 250 Cubits. Are there other complexes excavated with this same length?

  3. Robert,
    The comparison I made was not so much about size, but about alignments of temple and palace complexes, such as the one in Tel Tayinat.
    Best

    Leen

  4. Gordon says:

    1 Kings 7:2 says 4 rows of columns?

  5. Gordon,

    You are right. I must have overlooked that.

    Thanks

  6. Tamara says:

    Its really impressive the layer drawing you made of the development of the Mount Temple.
    Is it possible to purchase this image for a singe-use lecture i’m doing? (its for my final tour guide exam.. ) it may seem strange to ask that, but its just really hard to find such layered drawings from this specific angle.. most drawings are from the front – and i’m looking a point-of-view from the back of the Temple – where the tourists actually can see the view from above.
    Please let me know if it’s at all possible. thank you.

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