Nothing comes close to Solomon’s temple chronology in its ability to drive a person to drink. Everyone and every source has its own calculations, including this one, so “prove all things”.

When was Solomon’s temple built?

First, we must navigate the interconnection of the three valid calendars involved. There is the moon-based calendar in  current use by the Jews. It has had 240 years deleted over time, but just when these were taken out is not documented adequately, so the date of the destruction in that calendar is up for debate.

Next, are we to go by the count of time starting with the destruction and count backwards, or go by the very questionable king’s reigns stacked on top of one another, with or without co-regency? That would be very risky. And that’s just the beginning of the decision tree that will eventually leave everyone who tries the exercise out on a limb, including this one.

For instance, the Chabad organization web site states that the 10 tribes went into captivity in 555 BCE, while the commonly accepted date is 722 BCE. Their web site also says that Judah fell in 328 BCE. Which is true? If those dates are in error, none of the other dates can be trusted, so eliminate that group as a source of data for calculations, and go for the general consensus.

Using the commonly accepted date of the destruction of the first temple as being 587 BCE, and combine it with Josephus’ data of the temple having stood 470 years, 6 months and 10 days, we arrive at the date of its service beginning in the year 1057 BCE. All that is left now is to run the calendar back that amount of time.

Oh, but wait, the calendar extended by 5.2422 days during the reign of Hezekiah and the sundial incident. That means that we need to use a year of 360 days to get to the right day. But it’s safe to run the years alone without regard to the number of days in each year, maybe.

Not so fast. The calendar that determined the cycle of priests is the Jubilee calendar, which begins in March. We are translating from a “before the common era” that begins on January first into a calendar that begins near the Spring equinox, so just do the best you can to handle the “lost three months”. Here we go.

Start at 587 BC, the year the temple was burned.

Back up 470 years, 6 months, 10 days (Josephus, Jew. Ant. 10.8.5. He was there, he should know.)

That takes us to 1057 BC, that was a Land Sabbath, the year Solomon dedicated the temple.

The temple took 7 years to build, so back up another 7 years to 1065, which was another Land Sabbath, so no new work could be started. Now back up to 1066, and we are in the 4th year of Solomon’s reign, the year he started building the temple.

The temple was completed in 1059 BC, but Solomon waited to dedicate it until the next year, which was a Land Sabbath. There is actually a document that says Solomon waited eleven years to dedicate the temple. If so, that was the length of time it took to build the sand fulcrum that lowered the Ark of the Covenant into the secret place underneath the temple for safe-keeping when the destruction was at hand by the enemies of Israel. Which timeline, or neither, is correct is uncertain at this time.

The Priestly Service in the Temple

The first year the priests served in the temple that Solomon built would be the Land Sabbath year of 1058 BC, which is the AM year of 2942, after adjusting for all the Rabbinical deletions and additions.

The priests rotated in such a way that they served two weeks every year by themselves, both courses served during the weekends adjoining their weekly service, then all 24 rotations served during the Annual Holy Days of Passover/Unleavened Bread, and Feast of Tabernacles/Last Great Day, then on the single days of the Feast of First Barley, Feast of First Wheat, Feast of Trumpets, and Atonement. When the two week-long Holy Days are inserted into the rotation, it throws the rotation off in such a way that it extends into the following year, so that the rotations were simplified into naming the priestly rotation whose normal service fell during the Days of Unleavened Bread that included the Day of the Spring equinox. That reads “Jedaiah, Mijamin, Shecaniah, Jesheelbeab, Happizzez, Gamul”.

Following that pattern, the first priests to serve in the temple were all 24 courses. The first of the courses to serve alone after the Feast was that of Jedaiah.

The priestly course on duty when the temple was destroyed was Jedaiah.

Four-hundred-seventy years, 6 months and 10 days of priestly courses can be translated into a daily spreadsheet, if your care to code about 200,000 lines of course changes. Just remember to set the pattern of 360 numbered days, which is what was in effect before the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, when the shadow on the sun dial went back 10 steps, and then insert the week intercalated every Land Sabbath and two weeks for every Jubilee, except for every 350th year in which only one week was inserted, both of which required all 24 courses and extends the length of time of the complete cycle of courses, and you’ll be fine. 

Here are the original source documents, digitized from the records in the Qumran caves, courtesy of L. A. Schuetz. He still has a site on the Internet, but not on this ISP, so you will need to Google him to find the new one.

Try to avoid a headache figuring all this out accurately (if that is possible).