The description of Solomon’s Temple in 1 Kings 6 is confusing and often ambiguous. Moreover, any discussion of this chapter is made even more difficult because translations differ so widely—a result of the fact that the Hebrew itself is difficult to understand.

Finally, the words or terms for the parts of the Temple are translated in various ways. That is why in the text of this article we have used the Hebrew terms, rather than English terms. In parentheses we have given the terms used by the New Jewish Publication Society translation in the Book of Kings (see The Torah, The Prophets and The Writings—A New Jewish Translation,” BAR 08:06, by Marc Brettler).

In the table below we give the Hebrew terms together with the translations of these terms used in the Book of Kings in six versions of the Bible: the New Jewish Publication Society (NJPS), the King James (KJV), the Revised Standard (RSV), the new King James (NKJV), the New English Bible (NEB) and the Jerusalem Bible (JB). In books of the Bible other than Kings, these same Hebrew words may be translated in still other ways.

Thus, ulam may be translated “portico,” “porch” or “vestibule.” Debir and hekhal each have five different translations. Even worse, the English word “temple” is used to refer both to the Hebrew bayit and to the Hebrew hekhal.

Hebrew Terms and Translations

bayit l’Yahweh House of the Lord house of the Lord house of the Lord house of the Lord house of the Lord Temple of Yahweh
bayit House house house house, temple house Temple, house
debir Shrine oracle inner sanctuary inner sanctuary inner shrine debir (sanctuary or back room)a
Kodesh Ha-Kodashim Holy of Holies most holy place most holy place Most Holy Place Most Holy Place Holy of Holies
hekhal Great Hall temple nave sanctuary sanctuary Hekal (Great Chamber; later called Holy [place])b
ulam portico porch vestibule vestibule vestibule ulam (porch)c