The Bible says that when Solomon was building the Temple around 950 B.C., he ordered cedar timbers to be brought from Lebanon for its construction:
“And we will cut wood from Lebanon, as much as you need; we will bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, and you will carry it up to Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 2:16).
According to the book of Ezra, when the second Temple was being built in 538 B.C., once again cedar timbers were shipped from Lebanon for its construction: “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 3:7).
By A.D. 70, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple structure Herod the Great refurbished, leaving behind only a retaining wall. Eventually the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque covered the Temple Mount and have remained there since the early 8th century A.D.
In antiquity it was common to reuse building materials from old structures for new ones; this is called “secondary use.” In the 1930s and ‘40s the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits a little more than 100 yards south of where Herod’s Temple once stood, went through serious renovations. During these renovations 42-foot-long cedar beams were removed from the ancient mosque and cast aside. Cedar is naturally decay-resistant, which gives these beams the ability to be used and reused for centuries.
Recently, archaeologists carbon-14-dated these beams. The tests revealed that one of these cedar timbers came from the ninth century B.C., which was the exact time Solomon built the Temple, while several others came from the second Temple period (530 B.C. – 70 B.C.) and Byzantine period (A.D. 330 -1453). One of the beams contained Herodian/Roman decorations showing its potential use in one of Herod’s ancient buildings from the time of Jesus.
So could these ancient cedar timbers have helped to hold up the Solomonic Temple, the second Temple, and even Herod’s Temple? Maybe. We’ll never really know. However, there is strong evidence to show they could have.
- First, the Bible states the beams used in the Temple were cedars of Lebanon.
- Second, the cedar beams were carbon-14-dated to the time period of both the first and second Temples.
- Third, one of the beams revealed Herodian/Roman decorations showing it was used as building material during the time of Herod the Great, who rebuilt and refurbished the second Temple.
- Fourth, the beams were used and reused in the location of the Temple complex. These large beams would have probably been used and reused in the same location given their massive size.
- Finally, these 42-foot-long beams were designed to be used for very large building projects like the Temple structure and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was originally built to hold 3,000 worshipers.
There is strong evidence these beams were designed for the Temple, but it cannot be confirmed. I wish there was a stamp on each cedar beam that said FOR TEMPLE USE, but there isn’t. We can only go on the evidence we have and our assumptions.