A Brief History
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands...He said, "But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet, LORD my God, give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive." ...When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "He is good; his love endures forever."
- Solomon's Dedication of the Temple,
Full account found in 2 Chronicles, Chapters 5-7
Brief History of the Temple
The forerunner to Solomon's temple was the tabernacle, a tent which God instructed Moses and the Israelites to build while they were at Mount Sinai in the wilderness. God gave specific instructions as to how the tabernacle should be constructed, and how each of the vessels and furnishings should be fashioned and ornamented (Exodus 25-40). The tabernacle was designed to be taken down quickly, and each of the furnishings were equipped with rings through which poles could be placed for transporting. This "portable" sanctuary was used by the people of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness until they finally reached the promised land of Canaan, after which the tabernacle was set up permanently. It was used until the time of Solomon who built a glorious temple for God to dwell in, fulfilling the dream of his father David.
During the era of the kings, the temple went through several periods of defilement and restoration. It was ransacked by Shishak of Egypt during King Rehoboam's reign, and was later restored by King Asa (2 Chronicles 12:9, 15:8,18). After another period of spiritual decline and idolatry, King Joash repaired and restored the temple (2 Chronicles 24:4-14). King Ahaz gave several of the temple furnishings to the King of Assyria as a gift and closed the temple. His son Hezekiah reopened the temple and repaired and cleansed it. However, Hezekiah's son Manasseh would defile the temple again with idolatrous practices. These practices continued through Manasseh's successors until the temple was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon (2 Chronicles 28:21-24; 29:1-19; 33:1-7; 34:1,-13; 36:18-19). Fifty years after Nebuchadnezzer destroyed the temple, King Cyrus allowed the Israelites to return from exile in Babylon to Palestine and rebuild the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:1-4; 3:8).
There was opposition to the rebuilding of the temple from other inhabitants in the area. This caused a delay of around 10-15 years. Under the stirring of the prophets Zechariah and Haggai, temple restoration continued till completion and dedication around 516 B.C. This second temple was smaller and less ornate than its predecessor. Much expansion and restoration, spanning 46 years, was done to the temple by King Herod during the time of Jesus, which is referenced in John 2:20. It is this temple which Jesus visited as a child with Mary and Joseph to celebrate the annual Passover feast. And it is this temple from which He would expel the moneychangers. The early Church gathered at this temple to worship, God used Peter to to heal a man at the temple's gate, and Paul was physically accosted and accused of defiling the temple by bring Gentiles into the inner court. Jesus prophesied the temple's destruction, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Matthew 25:1-2). This was fulfilled by the Roman military under the leadership of Titus in 70 A.D. who destroyed, not only the temple, but most of Jerusalem as well.
Biblical prophecies mention a time in the future when the Antichrist will desolate the temple and stop the sacrifices offered. Because of these prophecies, Israel must sometime in the future rebuild the temple and start offering sacrifices once again. Plans are already being drawn up to rebuild the temple and to fashion its furnishings.