I Kings 7:13-26.
This week we backtrack to the construction details for the first Holy Temple–reminding us that the haftorah portions were often chosen to parallel the accompanying parshot rather than progress sequentially.
While we’re in the midst of construction, King Solomon calls for an expert coppersmith, Hiram of Tyre, to create copper columns for the doorway to the Temple; these were to be capped with intricate carvings of pomegranates and palm leaves. The right column was named Jachin; the left Boaz. Hiram was also to build a giant copper basin, sanding on 12 oxen statuary, three pointed in each direction, to be used as a mikvah for the priests.
The size of these massive columns were about 6-feet thick by 27-feet tall, and hollow, (four “fingers” thick) with 8-foot capitals, featuring brass lilies. Interestingly, despite that these giant columns, which would have been very much a “big deal” in construction and ornamentation, the reasoning for the names is not entirely clear. Some theories suggest the inscription as possibly an acronym, the names of an architect, donors, or sons of Solomon. The words themselves, yakhin, has a conventional interpretation as “he shall establish” and bo’az “in it is strength.”
The columns seem to be purely ornamental, not structural, or “pillars of witness,” perhaps witness to the contract between Jacob and Laban.
According to some reports, upon the destruction of the temple, the metal from the columns was broken up and sent to Babylon (recall that the temple was purportedly sacked by Nebuchadnezzer II). In the prophetic Third Temple, similar columns are made simply of wood.
The infamous debate over the legitimacy of the Ivory (actually, hippopotamus bone) Pomegranate found at the Temple Mount stems from this scripture. Some claim that this is archaeological evidence of Solomon’s Temple; others claim that the inscription, in paleo-Hebrew, is a forgery. Even with special committees, a swarm of scientists, and microscopic evaluation, the mystery has not been resolved. Yet even if not a forgery, it’s not conclusive whether it was necessarily an ornamentation of the Temple—pomegranates were popular ritual objects, and the words used in the inscription have ambiguous meanings.
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com