What is a “mezuzah” in the Bible?
King Solomon’s Temple was resplendent. Described in 1 Kings 6–7, the temple was divided into three parts: the forecourt (ulam), the outer sanctum (heikhal) and the inner shrine (devir), also known as the Holy of Holies. Built of stone and roofed with wooden beams, Solomon’s Temple was intricately ornamented. Its interior walls and floors were lined with wooden boards and covered in gold. It took seven years to complete the temple and its furnishings.
Despite the Biblical description and archaeological parallels, there are still some mysteries about Solomon’s Temple. For example, 1 Kings 6:31 describes the doors between the outer sanctum and the inner shrine of Solomon’s Temple as having five mezuzot (the plural form of mezuzah).
What is a mezuzah? In the Bible, mezuzah is normally translated as “doorpost.” However, in the context of Solomon’s Temple, doors with five doorposts do not make sense.
Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel explore this enigma in “The Puzzling Doorways of Solomon’s Temple” in the July/August 2015 issue of BAR. They contend that a recent discovery from Khirbet Qeiyafa may hold the answer to unlocking the meaning of a mezuzah in the Bible regarding Solomon’s Temple.
Located 20 miles from Jerusalem, Khirbet Qeiyafa was occupied in the 11th–10th centuries B.C.E. It is noteworthy as being a fortified site in Judah from the time of King David.
Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel present a building model from Khirbet Qeiyafa that depicts a doorframe with three—or maybe four—interlocking doorframes surrounding an opening. They suggest that these interlocking frames are what is meant by mezuzot in the description of Solomon’s Temple. According to their interpretation, then, the doors to the inner shrine (devir) of Solomon’s Temple did not have five doorposts—but rather five recessed doorframes.
Temples with recessed doorways have been uncovered throughout the ancient Near East, and Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel further note that recessed doorframes set apart inner rooms and spaces as being sacred. In the case of Solomon’s Temple, the more recessed the doorframes, the holier the space:
There is a gradual increase in the number of recessed doorframes from the entrance to the forecourt (three) to the outer sanctum (four) and finally to the entrance from the outer sanctum to the devir (five). It is as if the devir had the highest number of mezuzot because it was the most sacred part of the Temple.
For a full description of the doorways of Solomon’s Temple—and parallels throughout the ancient Near East—read the article “The Puzzling Doorways of Solomon’s Temple” by Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel in the July/August 2015 issue of BAR.
Explore this Temple model from Khirbet Qeiyafa further in Solomon’s Temple and Palace by Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu, available for purchase in the BAS Store >>
Victor Hurowitz, “Solomon’s Temple in Context,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2011.
Victor Hurowitz, “Inside Solomon’s Temple,” Bible Review, April 1994.
Volkmar Fritz, “Temple Architecture: What Can Archaeology Tell Us About Solomon’s Temple?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1987.
John Monson, “The New ‘Ain Dara Temple: Closest Solomonic Parallel,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2000.
Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel and Martin Klingbeil, “An Ending and a Beginning,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2013.
Hershel Shanks, “Newly Discovered: A Fortified City from King David’s Time,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2009.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on June 15, 2015.
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[…] King Solomon’s Temple was resplendent. Described in 1 Kings 6–7, the temple was divided into thr… […]
One of the neurological aspects of the number 5 is that it is associated with redemption, silver and harnessed. The silver cord tied the fabric to their frames in the mobile tabernacle and is know to be a symbol of mercy. The idea of harnessed comes from the way the Hebrews were seen when leaving the cities of Egypt after the Passover and release of the people. Every 5 men were harnessed together to tow what ever their load was from the treasures they were given to LEAVE Please. From a bird’s eye view of the Exodus each group passing out the gates were repeating the an implied phrase – By God’s Mercy, For His Glory, In His Grace.
The recessed doorframes make sense if one pictures that each succeeding door has its hinges on the opposite side of the door frame from the door preceding it.
Phil, can you invite me to Chistianartifacts as it is a closed group?
There’s a more realistic one. I would take a look at this:
It is a wonderful knowledge
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The “entrance” (Heb., peʹthach; Ge 19:11) of a room, a house, or some other building consisting of: (1) the “upper part of the doorway” (Heb., mash·qohphʹ; Ex 12:7), that is, the lintel, a horizontal beam of wood or stone spanning the door-opening at the top and carrying the weight of the structure above the door; (2) the two upright “doorposts” (Heb., mezu·zothʹ; Ex 12:7, ftn), one on each side of the doorway, on which the lintel rests; (3) the door (Heb., deʹleth; Gr., thyʹra) itself; (4) the “threshold” (Heb., saph [Jg 19:27]) lying beneath the door.
The lintel and doorposts of the entrances of Israelite houses in Egypt were obediently splashed with the blood of the Passover victim as a sign for God’s angel to pass over such homes and not destroy their firstborn. (Ex 12:7, 22, 23) According to the Law, if a slave (male or female) desired to remain permanently in his master’s service, the master brought the slave up against the door or the doorpost and pierced his ear through with an awl. (Ex 21:5, 6; De 15:16, 17) The Hebrew word for doorpost (mezu·zahʹ) has come to be applied to a small container called a mezuzah. It is nailed to the doorpost by Orthodox Jews and contains a parchment bearing the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21.—See MEZUZAH.
The door was generally made of wood, and many of them turned on pivots fitted into sockets in the lintel and the threshold. (Pr 26:14) Door pivots were often wooden, but the Egyptians sometimes fastened to a door’s lower and upper ends metal hinges having projections that fitted into sockets, these doors thus pivoting in that way. Sockets for the doors of the temple built by Solomon were of gold.—1Ki 7:48, 50.
Doors of average homes were small and not ornate. But the entrance of Solomon’s temple had two, two-leaved juniper-wood doors, and there were two doors made of oil-tree wood leading to the Most Holy, all these doors having carved representations of cherubs, palm trees, and blossoms, overlaid with gold. (1Ki 6:31-35) Large doors having folding sections or leaves were also used elsewhere. For instance, Jehovah saw to it that Babylon’s copper “two-leaved doors” were opened to King Cyrus.—Isa 45:1, 2.See.doors: it-1 645; it-2 1077.