The Original Grand Master’s Represented within the Chapter

By Roger Tigner
Colorado Springs Royal Arch Chapter No. 6

Hiram, King of Tyre, was the son of Abibal, and the contemporary of both David and Solomon. In the beginning of the David’s reign, he sent messengers to him, and King Hiram provided the Hebrew king with “cedars, carpenters, and masons; and they built David a house.” Nearly forty years afterward, when Solomon ascended the throne, and began to prepare for the building of the Temple, he sent to the old friend of his father for the same kind of assistance.

The King of Tyre gave a favorable response, and sent workmen and materials to Jerusalem, by the aid of which Solomon was enabled to carry out his great design. Historians have documented the friendly discourse between these monarchs, and state that the correspondence between them in respect to the building of the Temple was reserved in the Archives of the kingdom of Tyre.

Solomon’s famous temple, built by Hiram, is so well known for its twin pillars of Jachin and Boaz that one would assume them to be wholly unique. In fact, these columns were patterned on three temples that already existed on Tyre: one for Baal, one for Asarte, and one for Melqart. All three had the dual pillars of Jachin and Boaz. This lead one author, Gerhard Herm, to conclude that the Jachin/Boaz concept central to the cabala was of purely Phoenician origin, and had no “connection to any part of Jewish liturgy.” Similar pillars were found at the Temple of Baal on Cyprus, and in Samaria, Megiddo, and Hazor. The descriptions of such pillars are invariably identical: Jachin was always covered with gold and Boaz was always covered with some emerald-colored material. We are told that the purpose of these pillars was to preserve sacred knowledge for future generations against any calamities (like the Deluge) that might destroy civilization. One of these pillars was supposedly immune to destruction by water, the other destruction by fire. Such descriptions also mention that the emerald pillar “shone brightly at night.” This bizarre-seeming observation has lead to the speculation that the emerald pillar may have been constructed out of some kind of green glass tube in which there was a flame.

At any rate, it is clear that Hiram and Solomon were followers of the same basic doctrine. They employed the pillars of Jachin and Boaz for the same reason they refused to abandon the principle of the divine couple: they both felt strongly about the notion of the dual nature of God. This is probably the same reason that the royal colors of the Merovingian kings were gold and green, and a reminder of the true doctrine of their forebears: that perfect power comes from the equilibrium between mildness and severity.

I want to move from the Blue Lodge depiction of these men, to how they are depicted in the York Rite – specifically the Royal Arch Chapter and Cryptic council, the degrees here go into much greater detail of the events that relating to the building of the temple and what followed.

King Solomon asks King Hiram in the Cryptic Council.

“My illustrious companion of Tyre, shall we resume our labors and complete the work we have so happily begun?”

Hiram earnestly responds “…It is my most ardent desire to see the work completed…that I may return to my own country with the satisfaction of having faithfully discharged my duties to the craft”

It is never eluded in the Masonic ritual of what a horrific discovery it must have been for Hiram, that the murders of Grand Master Hiram Abif, to be all three brothers and men from Tyre!

He had gone to considerable expense to perform his duty to the craft, only to be disgraced by his own subjects, who had been sent to create the temple. Though their fate was not idyllic at King Solomon’s hands, the ruffians should have considered themselves lucky that their fate had not been given to King Hiram!

The connection of the King of Tyre with King Solomon in the construction of the Temple has given him a great importance, but often overlooked, in the legendary history of Freemasonry. The tradition is that King Hiram had been Grand Master of all Masons, but when the Temple was finished, King Hiram came to survey it before its consecration, and to commune with Solomon about wisdom and art. On finding that the Great Architect of the Universe had inspired Solomon above all mortal men, King Hiram very readily yielded the pre-eminence to Solomon Jedediah, the “beloved of God.”

In return for this gesture and kindness, Solomon gave King Hiram 200,000 bushels of wheat and 1,500,000 gallons of oil — an incredible amount, but not disproportionate to the magnificent expenditure of the Temple in other respects. After Solomon had finished his work, he presented the King of Tyre with twenty towns in Galilee. But when King Hiram viewed these places, he was so displeased with their appearance that he called them “the land of Cabul” — which signifies barren or desolate.

This event is illustrated in the Council Degree of the disappointment of King Hiram, but his ire is short lived; for when King Solomon heard of the state of the twenty towns he executed the governor of the district and sent supplies and men to repair and create towns fitting of the gift he had meant to bestow on his great friend.

Historically, King Hiram reigned over the Tyrians for thirty-four years. He permitted Solomon’s ships to participate in the profitable trade of the Mediterranean, and Jewish sailors, under the instructions of Tyrian mariners, were taught how to bring from India the gold necessary to enrich their people and to beautify the Temple of their king. Tradition says that King Hiram gave his daughter in marriage to King Solomon.

The death of Grand Master Hiram Abif by his subjects was not to be the only indignity to befall the great king. The Phoenician city of Tyre is most well known from the legendary tale of its siege by Alexander the Great.
When Alexander decided to capture Tyre, he had a string of victories under his belt, and seemed an unstoppable force. But even his staunchest supporters questioned the wisdom of trying to take a city as mighty as Tyre. Conventional wisdom deemed Tyre as virtually unconquerable, as it was situated on an island surrounded by a turbulent sea. It had been a powerful city-state for centuries, and was a place viewed by outsiders with a kind of mythic awe.

This, of course, made Alexander all the more determined to succeed in his quest. So his soldiers put aside their swords, and spent the next seven months constructing a land bridge out to the island. The Tyrians, who had ruled the seas for nearly a thousand years, were out of their element in a land battle.

Alexander’s measures were generally not so harsh, but the Tyrians had offended him. He had only been on his way to Egypt, and had no intention of conquering Tyre. He had merely wanted to visit the Temple of Melqart in Tyre to make a sacrifice. But when he was refused access to the city or the temple, he became angry. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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