2 Chronicles 3 – “The Temple and its Pillars”

pillarHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The temple construction begins. The building is decorated with gold and jewels, and the two giant pillars are erected.

II. Photo
Solomon erects the temple’s giant pillars: “He erected the columns in front of the Great Hall, one to its right and one to its left; the one to the right was called Jachin, and the one to the left, Boaz.” (v. 17)

III. Important Verses
v. 1: Then Solomon began to build the House of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where [the LORD] had appeared to his father David, at the place which David had designated, at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
vv. 6-7: He studded the House with precious stones for decoration; the gold was from Parvaim. He overlaid the House with gold — the beams, the thresholds, its walls and doors; he carved cherubim on the walls.
v. 10: He made two sculptured cherubim in the Holy of Holies, and they were overlaid with gold.
v. 17: He erected the columns in front of the Great Hall, one to its right and one to its left; the one to the right was called Jachin, and the one to the left, Boaz.

IV. Outline
1-2. The work commences
3-9. Construction of the edifice
10-13. The cherubim
14. The curtain
15-17. The two columns and their accessories

V. Comment
Chapter 3 recounts the beginning of the temple’s construction. One of the main feature of the temple was the two pillars called Jachin and Boaz. Verses 15-17 read as follows: “At the front of the House he made two columns 35 cubits high; the capitals on top of them were 5 cubits high. He made chainwork in the inner Sanctuary and set it on the top of the columns; he made a hundred pomegranates and set them into the chainwork. He erected the columns in front of the Great Hall, one to its right and one to its left; the one to the right was called Jachin, and the one to the left, Boaz.”

While there are discrepancies between the different descriptions of Jachin and Boaz, Myers writes: “the information in the Bible provides a good idea of the physical appearance of the pillars. According to the Kings account, each stood 18 cubits high (ca. 26.5 ft.) and was 12 cubits (ca. 17.5 ft.) in circumference. The pillars were made of cast bronze and were hollow, with the metal being four fingers (ca. 3 inches) thick. Each pillar was surmounted by a bowl-shaped capital (or double capital, so Yeivin 1959) five cubits (ca. 7.5 ft.) in height, giving the pillars a total height of 23 cubits (ca. 34 ft.). The capitals were elaborately decorated, with ‘nets of checker work,’ ‘wreaths of chain work,’ and ‘two rows of pomegranates.’ Although these features cannot be exactly understood, the text (1 Kgs 7:19) apparently summarizes them as ‘lily-work,’ a designation that relates the capitals of Jachin and Boaz to the complex floral capitals that were characteristic of monumental architecture in the ANE. Egyptian architecture in particular is notable for its use of plant forms in structural elements, and the Phoenician workmanship responsible for the Jerusalem temple no doubt meant the use of many of the Egyptianizing forms that characterized Phoenician and W Syrian art.” (Myers, Carol. “Jachin and Boaz” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. III, pp. 597-598)

Even though the Hebrew Bible describes Jachin and Boaz in many different places, the pillars are shrouded in mystery. Meyers writes: “Once fabricated by Hiram of Tyre, the pillars were erected at the entrance to the temple, the one on the S being called Jachin, perhaps meaning ‘the establisher,’ and the one on the N named Boaz, which is also the name of the great-grandfather of David… Their enigmatic names, their great size, the use of a term (gulla) meaning ‘bowl’ for part of their capitals, and ambiguity about whether they were freestanding or structural elements has led to much speculation about the role of these prominent elements of the Jerusalem temple. They have been called cressets (Albright 1942, following W. R. Smith; cf. Myres 1948); and they have been identified as fire altars, obelisks, phalli, twin mountains, sacred stones, pillars of heaven, and trees of life (see, e.g., Scott 1939; IDB 4: 534–60; Wright 1941; and the summary of the literature in Busink 1970). The variety of suggestions indicates a strong measure of conjecture. All of these suggestions focus upon the symbolic nature of the pillar and upon an understanding of them as freestanding. However, analyzing the Jerusalem temple in relation to contemporary Syrian architecture has led to the supposition (Ouellette 1976) that the pillars were functional, just as were the pillars in an analogous building at Tell Tainat.” (ibid.)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
De Vries, Simon J. “1 and 2 Chronicles,” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989).
Myers, Carol. “Jachin and Boaz” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. III, pp. 597-598
Photo taken from http://www.muslimcongress.org/newsletter/images/pillar.jpg

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