10 Interesting Facts about the Mysterious Hiram Abif
By Nate W. Beck
Hiram Abif is a central character in both the Biblical story of King Solomon’s Temple and in the Master Mason degree in Freemasonry. Hiram is one of the most interesting and mysterious people in the Bible and his role in the Allegory of Freemasonry is also fascinating.
What we know of Hiram Abif comes from the Bible, from 1 King 7:13-46, 2 Chronicles 2:13-14, and two verses from 2 Chronicles 4. With those verses in mind and with what I know about Freemasonry, I’d like to present my top ten interesting facts on this Mysterious Mason.
1.Hiram Abif was indeed a Master Stone-Mason
Hiram Abif was indeed a Master Stone-Mason, as presented in Freemasonry. Over the years I’ve read some Christian critics of Freemasonry try to claim that Hiram was only a Brass worker and not a Stone-Mason. However, right there in 2 Chronicles 2:14 it is said that he had skill to work in stone as well as other building materials.
2.The name Abif derives from Hebrew for ‘his father’
The name Abif, while not translated in the King James Bible as such, is derived from the Hebrew for “his father” in 2 Chronicles 4:16. It can be translated as Abi, which implies that the “Abif” might have been a typographical error from old Masonic documents that just carried over into later Masonic ritual as it was copied down. The term Abi for father can also denote a Master, as in Master Mason, which Hiram certainly was.
3. Hiram Abif was a widow’s son
Hiram was a widow’s son, which is where Freemasons get that title. 1 Kings 7:14 tells us “He was a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.” God commanded special care for sons of widows in Exodus 22:22 and Deuteronomy 10:18, so they were often given special treatment. I dare say that Masons treat their fellow fraternity members with the same special care!
4. Hiram of the Bible lived in Tyre
Another fact gleaned from I Kings 7:14 is that Hiram was from the Tribe of Naphtali, which means that Hiram was an Israelite living in Tyre. Hiram being of Jewish blood may be the reason King Solomon allowed Hiram to work on the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
5. Solomon’s Temple pillars, Jachin and Boaz, were crafted by Hiram Abif
Jachin and Boaz, the famous and mysterious pillars reared up in the Porch of the Temple, were crafted by Hiram Abif. Jachin and Boaz are another of those Biblical symbols of the Temple that Freemasons borrowed for their Blue Lodge Rituals. Their function at the Temple is as mysterious as their function in Freemasonry. The Bible is strangely silent on the matter, although it gives great details on Jachin and Boaz in three different books of the Bible! Therefore, there are many colorful and interesting interpretations for Jachin and Boaz that have been put forward by many different writers throughout the centuries, both Masonic, theological and archaeological!
6. Hiram is sometimes called Huram
In 2 Chronicles, Hiram is called Huram due to the language differences of the Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity. It is generally recognized that the Books of I and 2 Chronicles were written after the Captivity, and 1 and 2 Kings before then. So, this is the reason for the discrepancies in names between the two records.
7. Hiram Abif made the pillars of Jachin and Boaz hollow
In Jeremiah 52:21, we are given an extra little detail about how Hiram made the pillars of Jachin and Boaz. It is said in this verse that he made them hollow. This is understandable since the pillars stood over 34 feet (by my calculations, taking the Biblical cubit to be 18 inches in length), so the brass (or bronze depending on some scholars) would have been a whole lot easier to rear up in the porch of the Temple if they were hollow.
In addition to this, this little Biblical detail also gave rise to the Masonic legend of the two pillars being hollow so that important documents could be hidden and stored inside them. Pretty intriguing for those who delight in Tales of Lost Masonic/Temple Treasure!
8. Careful reading of Hiram Abif’s lineage solves a common thought contradiction
There is a seeming contradiction between 1 Kings 7:14 and 2 Chronicles 2:14, which has troubled some scholars. 1 Kings 7:14 says that Hiram was of the Tribe of Naphtali, while 2 Chronicles 2:14 says he was “The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre…” So, which is it? Well, I think this is only a problem for those who don’t know how to read carefully.
If you notice, 1 Kings 7:14 does NOT say that Hiram’s mother was of the Tribe of Naphtali, it just says Hiram was a “widow’s son of the Tribe of Naphtali and his father was a man of Tyre”! However, 2 Chronicles 2:14 directly says Hiram’s mother was “a woman of the daughters of Dan.”
The supposed discrepancy can be cleared up once one realizes that Hiram’s father, though he is a man of Tyre, is probably the one who is of the Tribe of Naphtali, while Hiram’s mother is of the tribe of Dan. Or, since we are told Hiram’s mother is only a woman OF THE DAUGHTERS of the tribe of Dan, the possibility exists that one of the grandmothers of the tribe of Dan gave birth to Hiram’s mom, but she married a man of the tribe of Naphtali. So, in my years of research this is one of a boatload of seeming Bible contradictions that clear up pretty well after you read very carefully and take in all the facts. Ain’t research wonderful?
9. Hiram Abif’s story differs between Biblical and Freemasonry accounts
In the Biblical account, Hiram Abif simply seems to return home after finishing the work on the Temple. In Masonic legend and ritual, however, Hiram Abiff is murdered by three ruffians who want the Secrets of a Master Mason for themselves. In the Blue degree rituals it is very unclear what exactly these “Secrets” are supposed to be, although there are many theories.
But whatever they are, Freemasons are charged to go and “to seek that which was lost with the death of our Grand Master Hiram.” In Freemasonry, as in the New Testament, building the Temple is seen as an allegory for the spiritual life. Perhaps the Masonic legend is an allegory to find that which is lost to humanity, which Hiram himself had while living -communion with God. Is this what we are supposed to get out of the legends of Freemasonry?
10. Hiram made holy vessels in the the ‘clay ground’ which is often considered a metaphor for ‘human life’
2 Chronicles 4:17 tells us that the holy vessels for the Temple made by Hiram were cast by King Solomon “in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredathah.” In the Bible, clay ground is a metaphor for the human life in verses such as Isaiah 64:8 “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Personally, I like the metaphor that, as the vessels made for the Temple of God, though we are clay, we are to be pure vessels fit for the Master’s use, and our lives are supposed to represent a marvelous and glorious edifice for both our fellow man and for God to take pleasure in.
What more can be said for the Mysterious Master-Mason, Hiram Abif?
By Nate W. Beck
Text Copyright 2017 by Nate W. Beck, All Rights Reserved. Image from Wikipedia
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