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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:
Often downloaded together with this is an image which shows a series of reconstruction drawings of the Temple Mount in the different historical periods:
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:
Space and time does not allow me to describe these remains here (seeThe 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.
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 betweenme 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.