Biblical Archaeology Review 5:5, September/October 1979

Was There a Seven-Branched Lampstand in Solomon’s Temple?

By Carol L. Meyers

Did Solomon’s temple contain a seven-branched lampstand known as a menorah? Most people answer this question with an automatic “of course.”

But the Biblical text is not so clear. The Bible describes the building of the Temple itself in great detail (1 Kings 6–7). The furnishings of the Temple are also described in somewhat less detail, including ten “lampstands of pure gold, five on the south (or right) side and five on the north (or left) side of the inner shrine [of the Temple]” (1 Kings 7:49). But no mention is made of branches, let alone seven branches, on lampstands. The only detail of the Solomonic lampstands that the Temple texts in 1 Kings provides is a possible reference to their “flowers and lamps.”

One reason the Solomonic Temple or First Temple is so often assumed to have contained a seven-branched menorah is that when the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. it most assuredly contained a seven-branched menorah. We are all familiar with the famous bas-relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome depicting the captured artifacts from the Jewish Temple which Titus had destroyed, including a beautiful seven-branched menorah.

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