A Freemason’s History of Jerusalem – The Widow’s Son

The legend of the Holy Royal Arch tells us that this First Temple at Jerusalem was the Second or Sacred Lodge, held in “the bosom of the Holy Mount Moriah”.  Mount Moriah, according to 2 Chronicles was the name given to Temple Mount before construction on the temple began.  The “land of Moriah” is also the name given by Genesis to the location of Abraham’s binding of Isaac.  According to the rabbinic sages whose debates produced the Talmud, it was from here the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered the dust used to create the first human, Adam.

As such, this hill in the old City of Jersusalem has, for thousands of years, been venerated as a holy site in Judaism (“Mount of the House of God”), Christianity and Islam (“The Noble Sanctuary”).  Today, it is dominated by a flat plaza surrounded by retaining walls, including the Western or Wailing Wall, built by Herod the Great to expand the temple.  But more of that later.

For now, we are more concerned with the three who presided over this Second or Sacred Lodge: Solomon, King of Israel; Hiram, King of Tyre; and Hiram Abiff.  We have already established that the legend of Hiram Abiff, “the Widow’s son” was not always the story on which our ritual is based and, in fact, it is not entirely clear who he even was.  We are told that he arrived in Jerusalem having been appointed by King Solomon as chief architect and master of works for his new temple.  In 1 Kings, Hiram is indeed described as the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali who was the son of a Tyrian bronze worker, sent for by Solomon specifically to cast the bronze furnishings and ornate decorations.  He cast these bronzes in clay ground in the plain of Jordan between Succoth and Zeredathah, near where the the Hebrews crossed the Jordan.

2 Chronicles relates a formal request from King Solomon of Jerusalem to King Hiram I of Tyre, for workers and for materials to build a new temple. King Hiram (or Huram) responds “And now I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Ḥuram ‘abi (the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre), skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, purple and blue, fine linen and crimson, and to make any engraving and to accomplish any plan which may be given to him, with your skillful men and with the skillful men of my lord David your father.” The New King James bible translates Huram ‘abi as “Huram my master craftsman”.

The interpretation of the suffix “abi” is problematic.  It could mean master but could also mean father.  Did King Hiram send his own father to decorate the temple? When James Anderson wrote the 1723 Constitutions, he skirted around this riddle by deciding that Abi was simply Hiram’s surname, and resolved it as “Abif”, in accordance with the translations of 2 Chronicles by Martin Luther and Miles Coverdale.

There was a fourth character in this story, of course.  The obligated Master, during his installation, is told that, when the temple was nearly completed, King Solomon and his entourage went to view the magnificent structure.  King Solomon took a particular interest in a man named Adoniram.  But who was he and why did he attract the King’s attention and praise?  Well, 2 Samuel tells us Adoniram was the son of Abda and a tax collector in Israel for over forty years, from the late years of the reign of David, Solomon’s father, until the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and the first King of Judah.  He was in charge of conscripted timber cutters during the building of the temple.  He was eventually to meet a violent death as a result of his rather unpopular job.

It was also about this time that Hiram himself was also about to meet a sticky end.  But more of that next time.


W.Bro. Merrick Jones PAGPurs, Prov G Orator – A third-generation Freemason, Merrick was initiated into Wenallt Lodge No. 9082 in 1994, where he is currently Director of Ceremonies. He is Master of the Albert Edward Court Lodge of Research No. 9908, a member of Hendre Lodge No. 3250 and Lodge of Benevolence No. 7305 and a member of the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle. He is Treasurer of Hiraeth Chapter No. 8834 and Director of Ceremonies of Colonnade Chapter No. 7305. In 2015 he was appointed Past Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies. In 2017 he was appointed Provincial Grand Orator and Learning & Development Officer. In that role he also chairs the Provincial Research Group. In 2018 he was appointed Assistant Grand Pursuivant in UGLE. He is also a Subject Manager for the Solomon learning system.