The Pattern of the Temple
by David Sielaff, Director, November 2003
Read the accompanying Newsletter for November 2003
The first Temple built by Solomon was constructed from plans given by God to David. When God refused David permission to build the Temple (2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17), David took the plans and gave them to his son and designated heir, Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:1–19). Solomon constructed the Temple according to those plans. This article will discuss the details of the plan.
Dr. Martin wrote that the scene in Eden in the early chapters of Genesis shows that the Garden within Eden was a sanctuary where God dwelt. 1 “God planted a garden eastward in Eden” (Genesis 2:8). The structure of Eden and its environs were in the shape of the later Tabernacle and Temples.
In Genesis 6:13–16 we have the digest account of God giving Noah specifications for construction of the Ark. There is no mention that a “pattern” or model was given to Noah, although the measurements of length, breadth and height were precise.
Moses was also given instructions for the tent structure that God wanted built — the Tabernacle. When Moses was up in Mount Sinai God showed him the “pattern” of the Tabernacle and all the instruments that were to be used within it (Exodus chapters 24–31). He was instructed to make the Tabernacle and the instruments exactly as God showed him.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering. ...
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, after the pattern [tabniyth] of the tabernacle, and the pattern [tabniyth] of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it.’”
Exodus 25:1–2, 8–9
The Hebrew word for “pattern” in verse 9 is tabniyth. It is elsewhere translated in the King James Version as likeness, form, similitude and figure. The term “pattern” fits and works for most all instances. Another translation that could easily be used is “model” in some contexts because, as some scholars believe, the root of tabniyth is the word banah, “to build.” Without doubt the meaning of the word indicates something that has a likeness or a similarity to the final product or to an original that can be represented in some way. The author of Hebrews clearly states that on Mt. Sinai Moses saw a representation of the heavenly Tabernacle, 2
“Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, ‘See,’ says he, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.’”
After describing all the instruments Moses should make for the Tabernacle, God concludes by saying,
“And look that you make them after their pattern [tabniyth], which was showed you in the mount.”
David greatly desired and intended to build the Temple, but God prevented him from doing so because he was “a man of war, and has shed blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3). David therefore gathered all the necessary materials together for the construction of the Temple.
When David was near death he had Solomon, prince and heir to the throne (chosen by God, 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 29:1), brought before him with the people of Israel attending. All were to be told important information concerning the construction of the Temple that God would allow Solomon to build.
“And you, Solomon my son, ... Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen you to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.”
1 Chronicles 28:9–10
David gave Solomon “the pattern” of the Temple. 3 This pattern was the design that David himself intended to use to build the Temple. David made it clear that Solomon was to use the same pattern that David wished to use. Although Solomon would perform the actual construction of the Temple, it would be the design that David intended. I have set out the verse in an outline format for clarity.
“Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern [tabniyth]
of the porch, and
of the houses thereof, and
of the treasuries thereof, and
of the upper chambers thereof, and
of the inner parlors thereof, and
of the place of the mercy seat,
And the pattern [tabniyth] of all that he had by the spirit,
of the courts of the house of the Lord, and
of all the chambers round about,
of the treasuries of the house of God, and
of the treasuries of the dedicated things:
Also [David gave to Solomon the pattern]
for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and
for all the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and
for all the vessels of service in the house of the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 28:11–13
God even specified the weight in gold and silver for the various implements and tools used for the future Temple service. All were part of “the pattern” as were “the courses of the priests and the Levites” and even how they were to do the work. That is a great amount of detail.
“He gave of gold
● by weight for things of gold, for all instruments of all manner of service;
silver also for all instruments of silver
● by weight, for all instruments of every kind of service:
● Even the weight for the candlesticks of gold, and for their lamps of gold,
● by weight for every candlestick, and for the lamps thereof:
and for the candlesticks of silver
● by weight, both for the candlestick, and also for the lamps thereof,
according to the use of every candlestick.
[Some instruments, candlesticks and lamps were made of gold; others were made of silver. All were provided for by weight. The list continues,]
And by weight
● he gave gold for the tables of shewbread, for every table; and
● likewise silver for the tables of silver:
Also pure gold
● for the fleshhooks,
● and the bowls, and
● the cups: and
● for the golden basins
he gave gold by weight for every basin; and
likewise silver by weight for every basin of silver: And
for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and
gold for the pattern [tabniyth] of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and
covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 28:11–18
Note how David concluded this list of items. Remember that David spoke this not only to Solomon but to all Israel assembled before him,
“‘All [this,’ said David], 4 ‘the Lord made me understand in writing by his [God’s] hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern [tabniyth].’”
1 Chronicles 28:19
This is remarkable! David states precisely that God gave this information to him “by the spirit” (verse 12) and “in writing by His hand … the works of this pattern” (verse 19). The information is apparently as detailed as were the instructions given to Moses for the Tabernacle.
Remember also that Moses received the tablets of stone that were “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 24:12, 31:18, 32:15–16) after God spoke the words to the assembled tribes of Israel. David, similar to Moses, received a “pattern” that was in God’s own handwriting. David concluded his instructions and told the assembly about all the provisions he made according to the “pattern” that God showed him. Then David asked the people to participate by giving their treasure for God’s Temple and they responded generously (1 Chronicles 29:1–19).
There are other occurrences of tabniyth in the Old Testament; some have to do with idols and how neighboring peoples constructed them,
“Lest you corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness [tabniyth] of male or female, the likeness [tabniyth] of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness [tabniyth] of any winged fowl that fly in the air, the likeness [tabniyth] of any thing that creeps on the ground, the likeness [tabniyth] of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:”
I must mention again that this “likeness” of tabniyth is a different Hebrew word than is used in Genesis 1:26–27 talking about man’s creation being in God’s “likeness” (Hebrew, demuth). For some reason patterns of altars was important to ancient peoples. Note these two passages,
“Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, ‘Behold the pattern [tabniyth] of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.’”
“And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern [tabniyth] of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.”
2 Kings 16:10
“They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude[tabniyth] of an ox that eats grass.”
In a discussion about the absurdity of idol worship, Isaiah and Ezekiel continue the same theme,
[tabniyth] of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.”
“The carpenter stretches out his rule; he marks it out with a line; he fits it with planes, and he marks it out with the compass, and makes it after the figure
“And he said unto me, ‘Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.’ So I went in and saw; and behold every form[tabniyth] of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about.”
The other verses containing the word tabniyth also give the sense of pattern or model.5
The image below is a bas-relief carving of a figure in the “Stones of Aram” Exhibit Room #13 at the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem.6 It is a bit less than 1½ feet tall and about 8 inches wide. The image presented here was extracted from the website of the Bible Lands Museum, www.BLMJ.org (an excellent museum website by the way). Note the inscription of this artifact,
A man holding a model of a temple — similar perhaps to the “pattern” that Moses was shown and that King David gave to Solomon. The figure has a beard and braided hair and he is a Syrian. There is no way to tell if the figure is a god or a man. It is not important whether the person depicted is a god or a human. It is not important whether the model is a temple, a house or a palace. What is important is that this carving depicts a model of a building in ancient times,7 a fitting usage of tabniyth to describe a model.
The timeframe of the artifact’s making is some 150–200 years after King David’s time, although such dating is problematical and often speculative. It cannot be known if the model depicted was made out of wood or stone, or whether the model represents a temple or a palace. It is clear that the model was important enough to be built, presented and held up to someone as represented in the bas-relief carving. And finally, the relief shows that it was a sufficiently important event to carve a memorial in stone of the model and its presentation.
We cannot know the kind of pattern that David received from God. It may have been a set of blueprint-like drawings on parchment. The “pattern” may have been detailed descriptions (like those were given to Moses) from a visualization of a three dimensional object. We cannot know for sure and we do not need to know. We can know for certain that the pattern David received from God was“by the spirit” (verse 12) and “in writing by His hand … the works of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19). David passed that “pattern” on to Solomon, commanding him to build the structure as given by God (compare 1 Chronicles 29:1 with v. 19).
In either case a physical model may have been sculpted or molded or made out of wood. David may have constructed a three dimensional model like the one represented in the bas-relief sculpture. In fact archeologists have discovered many such models of buildings used for ritual purposes from the 9th or 8th centuries B.C.E. and later.8
(used with permission)
The item on the top is an incense burner from Iron Age I.9 The item on the bottom is a model of a temple, also likely for incense, with figures. These items are quite small and can be held in one hand, smaller than the bas relief in the Bible Lands Museum. 10
The details of “The Pattern of the Temple” were used for the construction of the Temple,
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. ... Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. ...”
2 Chronicles 3:1–3 (see also 1 Kings 7:38)
The measurement dimensions of the various structures of the Temple complex are detailed in 1 Kings 6:2–38 and 2 Chronicles 3:3–14. The accessories and other items for the Temple are discussed in 1 Kings 7:13–51 and 2 Chronicles 2:13–14, 3:15–5:1. All were made according to “The Pattern of the Temple” that God provided God provided. God also provided the location of the Temple. God chose Solomon to construct it. God provided the measurements and the weight specifications. God provided peace so the Temple could be constructed. God provided, through David, all the materials for the Temple. God even designated the format of services.
Just before His ascension into heaven Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2–3). He was speaking about preparations for you also. Know for certain that your place in God’s Living Temple is being prepared with far greater care than any physical Tabernacle and Temple. Read John 2:19–21; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 10:16, 12:12–27; Ephesians 3:6, 4:12 and Revelation 21:22.
David Sielaff, November 2003
1 See chapter 15, “The Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and the Temple of God” in The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot (Portland, OR: ASK, 2000), pp. 248–261.
2 See also the descriptions of the naos translated Temple in the KJV in the book of Revelation, particularly Revelation 11:1–2.
3 “Pattern” is the same Hebrew word Moses used to describe what he saw on Mt. Sinai when he received the Tabernacle details.
4 These words are not in the Hebrew, but they are implied.
5 Note the verses that give the same sense for tabniyth,
[Hebrew, “cut”] after the similitude [tabniyth] of a palace.”
- Psalm 144:12:
- “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished
6 “Aram” is another name for Syria. A full 360 degree rotational view of the room this artifact is displayed can be seen at the website of the Bible Lands Museum, Room 13. Go with the viewer to the right and you will see this artifact. You can also zoom onto the image and get a good view of the original. The webpage is: http://www.blmj.org/TheMuseu/virtour/gal13/gal13.html.
7 Architects of every major construction project today have architectural models built beforehand so that people can conceptualize a project or a building. It gives the viewer a sense of the project.
8 The movie King David (1985) starring Richard Gere puts forth its understanding of these verses in Chronicles of a “pattern.” The film depicts David eagerly examining a model of the proposed Temple. When David receives word from God that he would not to be allowed to build the Temple, David destroys the model. It is important to note that such a pattern or model did actually exist. It is doubtful that David destroyed it because he commanded Solomon to follow the “pattern” God gave him.
9 From Amihai Mazar’s, Excavations at Tell Qasile, Qedem 12, (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 87–100. When I dug at Tel Rehov during the summer of 2003 (the dig was supervised by archeologist Amihai Mazar), the fellow next to me uncovered a clay incense burner with a different shape, but just as detailed as the one shown. It too had the shape of a building, presumably a temple.
10 The model on the right with the figures looks much like a holiday crèche, does it not? Where do you think such traditions come from? They come from paganism, of course. “Learn not the way of the heathen” (Jeremiah 10:2).
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