Rev. Morris Rosenbaum
personality of Hiram Abif must always be an interesting one to all Master
Masons. Our martyred Grand Master is the central figure in the Third Degree
which forms the climax of Craft Masonry; he is held up to us, and rightly
so, as a glorious example of unshaken fidelity, and we are admonished to be
as true to our Masonic obligations as he proved to be to his.
traditional history which relates his untimely end, bears a striking
resemblance to various legends of ancient classical mythology, and it has
been argued by many writers on Masonry that it is nothing but another form
of these legends, devoid of all historical truth. Thus, Oliver, in his
Freemasons' Treasury, Lecture 45, asks whether anyone can "be simple
enough to believe that Dr. Anderson, in his Defence of Masonry,
[The Defence of
Masonry, printed in the 1738 Book of Constitutions, was not written by
Dr. Anderson, but by Martin Clare, A.M., F.R.S., Junior Grand Warden in 1735
intended to prove a real
historical fact when he explained the exhumation of the body of Hiram Abif
"? and adds "Why, it is well known that the celebrated artist was living at
Tyre many years after the Temple was completed." In Lecture 47 he points out
certain discrepancies which exist in the traditional history. No one would
venture to assert that there are no discrepancies, for it must be
remembered, that traditions which are transmitted orally, become altered in
the course of transmission, either by being misunderstood, or by the caprice
of those who repeat them. But Oliver and others assert, that there is no
trace of the death of Hiram Abif in the V. of the S.L. Perdiguier, in his
work Le Livre du Compagnonage (Vol. II, p. 8o) says, "The Bible,
the only book of any real authority concerning the construction of Solomon's
Temple, says nothing about Hiram's murder." Ragon (quoted in Oliver, Lecture
46) says, "The Holy Scriptures tacitly disprove them (i.e. the
Masonic traditions regarding Hiram's death), for they contain no reference
whatever to the circumstances which constitute the legend of initiation."
Now it is with these statements, and statements such as these, that this
Paper is intended to deal, and to sketch, if only briefly, a theory to shew
that some reference to the disappearance of our illustrious Grand Master
does exist in the Holy Scriptures.
The V. of the
S.L. contains two accounts of the building of Solomon's Temple, viz., in I
Kings and in II Chronicles. They apparently differ in many details, and the
differences in the paragraphs referring to Hiram may be here pointed out. In
Chronicles Hiram is described as being "the son. of a woman of the daughters
of Dan," whereas in I Kings (chap. 7, v. 14) he is said to be "a widow's son
of the tribe of Naphtali." Now a man's mother could not belong to two
tribes, Dan and Naphtali. We must therefore conclude that two different
Hirams are spoken of - one, whose mother was of the daughters of Dan,
another, whose mother was of the tribe of Naphtali. This conclusion is
strengthened by the fact that, according to the two versions, the Hirams
mentioned are engaged in different work. In Chronicles, Hiram is stated to
have been a worker "in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and
in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to
grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device." In Kings he is
called "a worker in brass ; and he was filled with wisdom, and
understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass." One is a brass-smith
only, the other is an all-round workman, skilled in every kind of
metal-work, also in stone and timber, consequently a builder, an engraver
and a master of design. This also would lead us to conclude that there are
two different men bearing the same name.
But there is
a further curious fact. According to II Chronicles, King Solomon, before
beginning the erection of the Temple, sent to Hiram, King of Tyre, asking
for a skilful workman, when the all-round man was sent. In I Kings, chap. 5,
we are told, that King Solomon asked Hiram, King of Tyre, to supply timber,
which was sent; not a word is said about sending a skilful workman. Chap. 6
describes the building of the frame-work of the Temple, built of cedar-wood
which Hiram, King of Tyre had supplied, and how it was overlaid with gold.
The first portion of chap. 7 speaks of King Solomon building his own palace
and in v. 13 states, that King Solomon "sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre,"
the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, a worker in brass alone; and
then follow particulars of the brass articles which this Hiram made. The
all-round good workman, the designer, was sent by Hiram, King of Tyre, at
King Solomon's request, before the work was commenced; the
brass-smith was sent for and fetched from Tyre by King Solomon, after
the Temple walls and rooms were built, and he made the brass pillars, sea
and lavers, all of molten or cast brass.
according to one account, Hiram was sent by the King of Tyre at the
beginning of the work, whilst according to the other account, he was sent
for and brought by King Solomon in the middle of the work. Consequently here
again there seem to be two Hirams referred to, a designer, who drew up
plans; and erected the framework of the temple, another who, after the
frame-work was set up, cast the pillars, sea and lavers. It is worthy of
mention, that whilst Josephus (Antiq. vii, 4) knew of but one Hiram, he
states "Now," - i.e. after the frame-work was erected - " Solomon
sent for an artificer out of Tyre, whose name was Hiram," - thus agreeing in
this respect with the statement in the book of Kings. In fact, the two
accounts in Kings and Chronicles do not refer to the same incident; they are
not repetitive, but supplementary. The attentive reader of Scripture will
observe this also in other passages in the books of Kings and Chronicles,
which deal with the same event - that an incident omitted in one account is
recorded in the other.
the two accounts, the facts seem to be as follow. At King Solomon's request
Hiram, King of Tyre, sent a man named Hiram, skilful in all kinds of
metal-work and designing, who acted as the architect, and under whose
supervision the temple was built. When the work was nearly completed,
i.e. when the temple proper was erected, King Solomon sent on his own
initiative, and without consultation with Hiram, King of Tyre, and fetched a
man, also named Hiram, out of Tyre, who cast the huge pillars, the sea and
Now we may
well ask why a second workman was required for the casting of these
articles; the first Hiram is described as skilful to work in brass, why,
therefore, did he not cast the pillars, etc.? Perhaps the solution of the
mystery may be found in an apparently insignificant variation in the
description of the two Hirams. The second Hiram, who was sent for by King
Solomon during the course of the work on the temple, is described as "a
widow's son," whilst this designation is missing in the description in
Chronicles of the first Hiram, the architect of the temple. The second Hiram
was a widow's son at the time when King Solomon sent and fetched him out of
Tyre. His father was dead. Who was his father ? He is stated to have been "a
man of Tyre." Let us endeavour to discover some further mention of his
father in the Scriptures themselves.
speaks of Hiram Abif. What is this name Abif ? There can be no doubt as to
its origin. The second book of Chronicles, chap. 4, v. 16, reads as follows
: "The pots also, and the shovels, and the flesh-hooks, and all their
instruments, did Huram his father make to King Solomon for the house of the
Lord of bright brass." This phrase "his father," has puzzled the
commentators. It is explained to mean that Huram is called, Solomon's
father, in the signification of instructor teacher, advisor. This is
possible, for the Hebrew word for "father" is often used in this sense.
Someone, however, perceiving the strangeness of Huram being called King
Solomon's father, regarded the Hebrew word for "his father" as part of
Huram's name. Now the Hebrew word for "his father " is Abif, and thus,
taking this word as forming part of Hiram's name, he called him Hiram Abif.
This explanation is beyond all doubt. It has been given repeatedly. Anderson
gave it in the first book of Constitutions; Luther also took the word "Abif,"
not as designating Hiram, but as part and parcel of his name, and called him
But what is
really the cause of Hiram being styled in this passage "his father," and
whose father is meant? For answers to these questions turn to the Book of
Kings. After stating that King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram the second out
of Tyre, there is given, in chap. 7, an account of all the articles which
this Hiram made, viz., the two pillars of brass, cast in the clay ground,
the molten sea or cistern, and ten lavers of brass. V. 40 and 41 read, "And
Hiram made the lavers" - the correct reading is "pots" not "lavers" "and the
shovels, and the basins. So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he
made King Solomon for the House of the Lord." And then again the articles
are enumerated as before, the pillars, the sea and the lavers, all, be it
noted, of molten or cast brass, and in v. 46 we read where they were cast.
But v. 45 breaks in as a parenthesis, repeating part of v. 40, - "and the
pots and the shovels, and the basins ; and all these vessels, which Hiram
made to King Solomon for the house of the Lord were of bright brass."
Compare this passage with the parallel passage in Chronicles. After stating
that Hiram, King of Tyre, was sending a designer, chap. 3 describes the
building of the walls and rooms of the temple, and concludes by saying, that
the temple building was finished off by the two pillars which stood in
front. Chap. 4 tells of the making of the molten sea and lavers, and v. 11
of that chapter reads "And Huram made the pots, and the shovels, and the
basins. And Huram finished the work that he was to make for King Solomon for
the house of God." And then, as in the account in the book of Kings, the
articles are again enumerated, the molten pillars, the sea and the lavers,
v. 17 informing us where they were cast. But v. 16, as in the book of Kings,
is a parenthesis, "The pots also, and the shovels, and the flesh-hooks, and
all their instruments, did Huram his father make to King Solomon for the
house of the Lord of bright brass."
repetition of the name Huram in verse 11, "And Huram made the pots, etc. -
and Huram finished the work"? Why also this insistence, both in Kings and
Chronicles, upon the facts that Huram made the pots and shovels, and that
they were of bright or polished brass?
explanation is this. Remember that the second Hiram was a brass-founder, and
nothing more, and that the first Hiram, besides being cunning in design - an
architect - is also stated to have been skilful in all kinds of metal-work.
Now, in the light of this explanation, read again the two passages. Hiram
made the pots and shovels, but Hiram finished the work, viz., the pillars,
the sea, and the lavers. It is quite evident that the two different Hirams
are here intended. The first Hiram made the pots, &c., the second Hiram the
pillars, &c. And then an explanation is given why the first Hiram made the
pots, &c. "The pots also, and the shovels, and the flesh-hooks, and all
their instruments, did Huram his father make * * * of bright brass," for he
alone possessed skill in this kind of brass-work. They were of beaten work,
beaten out of a lump, and highly polished. This was a very difficult class
[ cf. the Talmudical tradition
that Moses confessed his inability to fashion the golden candlestick of the
Tabernacle in this manner.]
and it required an artificer as
skilful as the first Hiram was, for this difficult kind of metal-work.
Now we come
to something of the utmost importance, the meaning of the phrase "his
father." Note well!" The pots and the shovels did Huram his father make."
(II Chron. chap. 4, v. 16). Whose father? THE FATHER OF THE LAST-MENTIONED
PERSON, of course. And who is the last-mentioned person? HIRAM THE SECOND,
who is said in the verses immediately preceding to have carried out the
casting of the huge brass pillars. THE TWO HIRAMS WERE, in fact, FATHER AND
SON. Hiram, the Son, made the pillars, but the pots, &c., did Hiram, HIS
father make, of bright brass.
curious fact bears out this interpretation. In Chronicles, which tells us
that at King Solomon's request, Hiram, King of Tyre sent him a skilful
workman, Hiram Abif - Hiram, his father - the name is not really H-i-ram,
but H-u-ram; whilst in Kings, which informs us that King Solomon sent and
fetched Hiram the son out of Tyre, the name is H-i-ram. The names are really
identical, the interchange of the vowels " i " and " u " being very frequent
in Hebrew proper names. In Chronicles, H-u-ram, the name of the father, is
used throughout, except once, when H-i-ram, that of the son is employed.
[vide earlier note]
This exception proves
almost to a certainty the correctness of the foregoing interpretation, for
it is in that very passage which various other considerations have led me to
conclude contains mention of both father and son. Thus v. 11 reads "And
H-u-ram" - bear in mind that this is the father's name - "made the pots and
the shovels, &c., but H-i-ram " - the son's name - " finished making all the
work," viz., the two pillars, the sea and the lavers
[vide earlier note].
There is a slight change
in the names in the parallel passage in Kings, which seems to point to two
different persons being designated there also.
[vide earlier note]
Now why did
not Hiram, the father, cast the pillars, &c.? Why was the second Hiram
needed to finish the work? The father is described as being skilful in all
kinds of metal-work, and he certainly intended casting them. Something must
have prevented him doing so, and necessitated another finishing the work.
What had happened? The V. of the S.L. is silent upon this point, but Masonry
gives us the light. It is unnecessary to remind Master Masons of what our
traditional history tells us regarding the untimely end of our illustrious
Grand Master, Hiram Abif. But is there nothing at all in the Bible, that
hints at what our tradition avers, prevented Hiram Abif completing the
labours he had begun?
necessity compelled King Solomon to obtain another Workman to complete the
Work of the Temple, he sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. SCRIPTURE TELLS
US, BY IMPLICATION, OF HIS FATHER'S DEATH HAVING PREVIOUSLY TAKEN PLACE, by
describing this second Hiram as being the son of a widow Woman. Her husband,
father of the second Hiram, was dead at the time When King Solomon sent and
fetched him out of Tyre. And as we have gathered from Scripture that this
"his father" Was Hiram Abif, who superintended the erection of the temple,
and as Scripture practically tells us that the father was dead when the son
was brought from Tyre, during the course of the work on the temple, WE HAVE
SURE CORROBORATION IN THE VOL. OF THE S.L. OF THE MASONIC TRADITION, THAT
HIRAM ABIF DIED WHILST THE TEMPLE WAS BEING ERECTED.
sent and fetched him out of Tyre." He evidently sent him an escort, fearing
that some attack might be made upon him, and the son suffer the same fate as
his father. The son of the murdered architect was the natural person to
complete the unfinished work, for amongst the ancients, sons were trained in
the occupations of their fathers, generation after generation.
There is a
Jewish tradition that Hiram, King of Tyre, was killed by Nebuchadnezzar,
King of Babylon, when he destroyed the temple that King Solomon had built.
This would have given him a life-time of extraordinary duration. There is,
however, another Jewish tradition, that, in reward for his participation in
the erection of the temple, Hiram, King of Tyre, never tasted death, but,
like Enoch and Elijah, entered Paradise alive. These two traditions are, of
course, contradictory, and there seems to be no doubt that the legend of
Hiram's admittance alive into Paradise, alludes, not to Hiram, King of Tyre,
but to Hiram the builder. Indeed, one Jewish version of the story,
distinctly relates it of Hiram the builder. Legends such as these, although
not committed to writing until centuries after the events took place which
they profess to record, were yet the common property of the populace, and
reflected their opinions and views. Have we not here, then, the popular
explanation of the disappearance of Hiram Abif? The legend certainly seems
to point, to there having been something mysterious connected with the end
of the builder's life in this world, and to have been invented in order to
account for his sudden withdrawal from the scene of his labours. The
Israelites, being unacquainted with the facts of his murder, the knowledge
of which was confined to only a few, accounted for his mysterious
disappearance by stating that he had been received alive into Paradise.
Indeed, it is difficult to explain such a rumour, except by assuming that
his end was sudden and secret. If this is the origin of this popular legend,
it is evident that at the time when it first became current, it was common
knowledge amongst the Israelites that Hiram the builder had come to a
mysterious end, and in ignorance of the real cause of his disappearance, the
rumour went that he had been taken into Paradise without suffering death,
because of the assistance he had rendered in the erection of the temple.
This legend, therefore, would seem to prove that there is something more
than a slight substratum of truth in the Masonic tradition regarding the
death of Hiram Abif.
It may be
taken for granted then, that there are distinct traces in the V. of the S.L.
of the so-called Hiramic legend. The death of Hiram Abif was known to but
few. Besides King Solomon, Hiram the son, and the fifteen present at the
re-interment, and perhaps also Hiram, King of Tyre, no one else was
cognisant of the true circumstances - they were regarded as a Masonic
secret. Consequently, the sacred historians of the books of Chronicles and
Kings, do not record them, even if they were aware of them. But in
describing the building of the temple, and the manufacture of the brass
articles contained therein, they state exactly how the temple was erected,
and exactly who made the various articles of brass, and in making these
statements of fact, they cannot avoid giving, in the very words and phrases
they employ, and probably without knowing that they were doing so, hint upon
hint which point to the main fact contained in the traditional history of
the third degree, viz., that the architect of the temple lost his life
during the course of erecting the sacred edifice.
The fact that
Hiram Abif did not live to complete the work may not be apparent in the
Scriptural records, the vulgar eye may not be able to read it, but,
nevertheless, it is there, and if we read the accounts of the building of
the temple by the light that Masonic tradition casts on them, we are enabled
to perceive this important fact referred to time after time. And since the
Bible, the unerring guide to truth, and therefore itself true in all
respects, does, more or less directly, inform us of the death of Hiram Abif,
we should be convinced that the legend of the third degree is something more
than a legend, that it is historically true, and that they who assert that
the biblical records are entirely silent upon this point, have themselves
not yet seen the light.
SUBSEQUENTLY SUPPLIED BY BRO. MARKS
To make the
matter clearer, it will be well to transliterate the Hebrew names.
where I hold the name of the son appears, it is Ch-i-ram (ch
guttural as in the Scotch loch).
In Chronicles where the name of the father appears, it is Ch-u-ram.
Thus I Chron., chap. 4, v. II, reads in the Hebrew "And Ch-u-ram made
the pots, &c., and Ch-i-ram finished the work, &c."
In II Kings, chap. 7, v. 40, the passage in the Hebrew reads, "And Ch-i-rom
made the pots, &c., and Ch-i-ram finished the work. The name Chirom in
Hebrew is not spelled the same as Chiram. This is the slight change referred
to, and seems to point to two different persons being mentioned. As a matter
of fact, there is a marginal note to the Hebrew text, calling attention to
the change of spelling in II Kings, chap. 7, v. 40.
British Masonic Miscellany,
George M. Martin
Dundee: David Winter and Son, c.1920
Vol 9, pp 114-125