958 BC

When the structure was nearing completion, Solomon invited a skilled foundryman from Tyre to embellish the Temple with gold, silver and bronze metal-work. (22). Although he was called Hiram, ostensibly of the tribe of Naphtali, Freemasons have, over the last three centuries, come to know him as Hiram Abif. However, nowhere in the Old Testament does this name appear in this form. The origin of ‘Abif’ itself is unknown and about which there is still much speculation. A widely accepted view is that ‘Hiram Abif’ could be a translating corruption of the Hebrew ‘Huram abi’, namely ‘the son of Huram’. At all events, he was never an architect, nor was he ever involved in the actual construction of the Temple, as has been commonly believed. On the other hand, the genius that he displayed in the scale and beauty of his craftsmanship, earned him a special relationship with Solomon

Using the great clay pits at Succoth on the east side of the Jordan Valley, 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Jerusalem, Hiram cast two great hollow pillars in bronze (each 25 feet (8 m) high and six feet (2 m) in diameter) and adorned them with capitals in the shape of huge bowls seven feet (2m) deep, ornately decorated, and each rimmed with two rows of 100 pomegranates. These columns were erected and stood alone on either side in front of the vestibule at the east end of the Temple. Hiram named them 'Boaz' on the right (north) and 'Yachin' on the left (south), as viewed from outside the entrance.

He then cast a bronze circular cistern 15 feet (4.5 m) in diameter and with sides three inches (7.5 cm) thick, capable of holding 10,000 gallons (37,800 litres) of water, which he mounted upon twelve life-size bronze bulls. The whole structure was assembled opposite the Southeast corner of the Temple, and referred to as the 'Molten Sea' or 'Laver' (23). Its purpose was to provide the priests with ample water, obtained initially from the deep and large underground cisterns which had been recently excavated to supply the future citadel. Some of these cisterns still exist. Although two streams ran down either side of Mount Moriah, it was the larger one in the Kidron Valley, and which was augmented by water from the Gihon Spring, that provided the main supply to the cisterns by means of a series of tunnels and siphons.

Hiram then went on to erect a huge sacrificial altar in bronze, measuring 30 feet (9 m) square at the base and tiered to a height of 15 feet (4.5 m). Ten very large wheeled basins, together with numerous bronze lamp stands, sacrificial implements, and chariots were added. All this metal-work was heavily embellished with decorative embossing. Added to which, Hiram created an altar in gold for the Holy of Holies, as well as all plating, ornaments, lamps, jars, etc.; each beautifully worked in solid gold and silver. But above all, the surfaces of the whole edifice, both inside the Temple and outside, were clad with gold sheeting so that no part of the basic structure was evident.

There is no known record of the vast quantities of gold, silver, bronze and precious stones that were used (24), although rough calculations have suggested that about 20 tons (20.3 tonnes) of gold alone were utilised. At all events, it must have presented a stunning spectacle that would have been visible for miles around. Incidentally, there is no known record of the fate of Hiram Abif.