The architectural plan for Solomon’s Temple harks back ultimately to the megaron-style building of southeastern Europe, Thessaly and Anatolia in the third millennium B.C. (above). A megaron is a single long-room residence, the long walls of which protrude in front, creating an open portico. From Anatolia, the basic design spread to Syria in the second millennium in an elaborated plan and then to Canaan.

The Canaanite long-room temple began appearing as early as the second millennium B.C.—with several interesting variations. The temple at Hazor in upper Galilee consisted of a single room without an entrance porch. The temple at Tell Musa had a more classic design, consisting of a single room and a portico complete with two pillars.

The Middle Bronze II B (1750–1550 B.C.) temples at Megiddo and Shechem represent a special development: In each case, the temple’s entrance was flanked by twin towers, seen on the plans as hollow spaces in the projecting arms enclosing the temple portico.

Independent of the Canaanite adaptation of the long-room temple plan, temples were also built on a broad-room plan, of which we have a tenth-century B.C. example from Arad and fourth-century B.C. examples from Lachish and Tell es Seba. The tenth-century B.C. temple from Arad is the only Israelite temple to the Hebrew god Yahweh ever recovered in an excavation.

Was Solomon influenced by the early Canaanite temples? Probably not, says the author. Designed and built by Phoenician craftsmen, the Solomonic Temple was likely modeled on Phoenician examples that no longer survive.