According to the Torah and the Bible, Solomon's Temple was the first Jewish temple built in Jerusalem in the time of King David (10th century BCE) and destroyed by Babylonians in 586 BCE. Like many key aspects of the Bible, such as Noah's Ark, Moses's parting of the Red Sea, or the very existence of Jesus Christ, finding physical evidence of Solomon's Temple has been on the minds of historians for decades, and for a long time, it was practically impossible. Since the biblical descriptions are vague at best and confusing at worst, it seemed historians would never find proof of what Solomon's Temple may have looked like. That all changed in the early 1980s with the excavation of Ain Dara, a temple found just north of Aleppo, Syria.
Solomon's Temple and Ain Dara were incredibly similar, and the remains of Ain Dara helped historians piece together some of the more confusing aspects of the biblical descriptions of Solomon's Temple. In fact, Ain Dara isn't just the strongest source of evidence for the existence of Solomon's Temple—some scholars are convinced Ain Dara served as the architectural inspiration for Solomon's Temple. Despite significant damage from a Turkish airstrike in 2018, Ain Dara still serves as a valuable resource for historians and archeologists.
Turkish Airstrikes Destroyed Nearly Half Of Ain Dara In 2018
دمار معبد عين دارا، عفرين سوريا بسبب قصف الأتراك pic.twitter.com/zxN7sLad7M— Fahad althaqafi (@Fahadalthaqafi6) January 27, 2018
Turkish airstrikes destroyed a significant portion of the Ain Dara excavation site in early 2018. Ain Dara is one of many archeological sites in the Aleppo region that have been affected by collateral damage from the Syrian Civil War. Nearly half of the temple was reduced to rubble, leaving just a fraction of the original carvings and statues standing.
Some Scholars Believe Ain Dara Is Proof That Solomon's Temple Was Not Based On Literary Imagination
The inability to excavate at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon's Temple by the Babylonians have left scholars in a predicament in terms of proving the temple's actual existence. Many biblical scholars simply believe the temple is a symbol, rather than an actual building. However, the detailed architectural descriptions in the Bible have long led historians to search for contemporaries to Solomon's Temple in order to prove it was a real building.
When Ain Dara was discovered, many scholars determined it to be the very proof that they were searching for. The amount of similarities between the still-standing temple and the biblical descriptions of the destroyed temple were too significant to ignore, and further comparisons only strengthened scholars' belief that Solomon's Temple was not only real, but that it may also have even been based on Ain Dara itself.
Both Temples Showcased Resplendent Architecture For The Era
According to the Bible, Solomon's Temple was a magnificent building for which King David spared no expense and had a collection of exquisite materials brought in. King David managed to provide astronomically large quantities of gold and silver (3,000 tons of gold and 30,000 tons of silver, according to biblical translation), which were used as overlays on many of the temple's carvings.
Ain Dara was built with similarly impressive features. Hundreds of carved reliefs still remained on Ain Dara's walls and floors. The most notable carvings were a series of giant footprints on the floor of the temple. Two footprints were carved into the entryway followed by additional steps at 30-foot intervals. Scholars believe that these footsteps were intended to symbolize the footsteps of a deity, meaning that those who worshiped at the temple envisioned their god as a giant standing at about 65 feet tall (based on the spacing between the footprints).
Ain Dara Also Helps Clear Up Some Confusion In The Biblical Description Of Solomon's Temple
Part of the enigma of Solomon's Temple stemmed from some downright confusing biblical descriptions of the temple. However, after comparing Ain Dara with those confounding details, some mysteries have become clear. One major issue was the description of "five-sided doors," which scholars puzzled over until finding doors at Ain Dara that were made with a design trick known as rabbeting. Using this technique, a series of five decorative recesses were built into the frame. Ain Dara also helped make sense of confusing stairways, windows, and hallways described in the Bible.