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When it comes to important characters within the Masonic tradition, few are more significant than Hiram Abiff. He is also known as ‘The Widow’s Son’ and is referred to as such in many Masonic texts and teachings.
As with so many tales of intrigue within Freemasonry, the story of the widow’s son is multi-layered and is at the very center of all Masonic teachings and practices.
So, what is the story behind Hiram Abiff? What is his significance to the Masonic teachings? This article takes a more in-depth look at Hiram’s role and the subsequent importance of his life when it comes to Freemasonry more broadly.
As always, this writing does not reflect the official views of Freemasons Community, but is merely the views of one Mason.
Who is Hiram Abiff?
Although not a religion within itself, Freemasonry takes much of its mythological framework from the teachings of the Bible, particularly the events leading up to and in the aftermath of King Solomon’s Temple’s construction in Jerusalem.
Within this context, Hiram Abiff is a name that needs little introduction in Masonic circles. Hiram is the man who inspired the secret fraternity of Freemasonry into being. He is referred to in teachings and ceremonies within Masonic lodges across the world, and his history is fascinating.
We understand that Hiram Abiff was, in fact, the chief architect, or at least one of the leading masons employed by King Solomon to build his grand temple in Jerusalem. Masonic tradition dictates that Hiram was later murdered by three lower stonemasons when he refused to reveal the secrets of his masterful construction.
This is a vital source of information, as much of the Masonic imagery and allegory used within plays and teachings within lodges today refers to symbolism around this same legend.
References to Hiram can be found in several passages in the Bible. In fact, within the Old Testament, Hiram is mentioned on three separate occasions, each associated with the construction of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
The most pertinent reference to Hiram as far as Freemasonry is concerned can be found in 1 Kings 7. We are told: “King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Hiram, whose mother was a widow from the tribe of the Napthali and whose father was from Tyre and a skilled craftsman in bronze. Hiram was filled with wisdom, with understanding, and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.” 1 Kings 7: 13-14.
The Widow’s Son
It is thought that it is a direct result of this passage within the Bible that Hiram became known as the widow’s son. If we trace the widow’s son back in the scriptures, we learn that it refers to a woman called Ruth. From this perspective, the widow’s son is a literal genealogical lineage that produced Jesus, Solomon, David, and even Enoch and Adam.
Ruth was a woman of the Moabite tribe and was married to a man called Boaz. The Bible tells us that she was something of a heroine in the Old Testament, and she was the Great Grandmother of King David. This was significant because King David was King Solomon’s father, who we know built the grand temple in Jerusalem.
Ruth is referred to as the widow because Boaz died the night after their first child’s birth. From this moment onward, all descendants of Ruth were referred to simply as sons of the widow.
If we look at Ruth’s genealogy, those in the line include Obed, David, Solomon, and Nathan. Moreover, when we refer to the Christian Bible, Jesus is also a descendant of Ruth, although forty-five generations separate Ruth and Jesus. However, when tracing this lineage, it’s not clear where the link to Hiram Abiff is actually made. This poses a challenge to Masons who seek confirmation of his existence.
So within this framework, does Hiram being the widow’s son directly connect to Biblical genealogy? It’s difficult to say in all honesty, as Freemasonry doesn’t provide us with such a detailed genealogical analysis. What we can take value from, though, is the fact that this line of genealogy has an important symbolic value to Masons. As a descendant of Jesus, Hiram’s role takes on even more significance and can be understood as God guiding his lost children back into the fold. Such symbolism resonates with the Masonic virtue of enlightenment and would merit further study and examination.
Solomon’s need to hire Hiram
Much can be said about Solomon’s desire to hire Hiram to complete his temple’s construction in Jerusalem. He didn’t merely hire Hiram randomly or as a matter of delegation. Solomon himself was a descendent of Seth, and for all of his poetic artistry, he wasn’t up to the difficult task of laboring to complete an elaborate temple for himself.
The skillset of a descendent of Cain was required, and Hiram Abiff fit the bill perfectly. Hiram was not only a descendent of the original widow’s son but was also a widow’s son himself. This duality within humanity is said to continue even now.
The descendants of Seth being represented within the church, and the fiery sons of Cain illuminate the world outside with their intellectual curiosity and intuition. It is clear that Freemasonry sits under the fiery side of this duality, with much of the symbolism emanating from craftsmen, builders, and intellectuals.
So how is the story of the Widow’s Son presented within Freemasonry?
Tracing genealogy through the Bible is challenging, and it’s hard to know what to believe regarding Hiram Abiff’s existence. Given what has been written about him, it’s unlikely that we will ever know for sure if Adam, Jesus, and Hiram were indeed related.
However, the characters of the Bible are related; their importance in history is undisputed. The same can be said for Hiram, who remains a vital part of the Masonic story.
In Freemasonry, the story of Hiram Abiff is of spiritual importance. Masons follow in the footsteps of Hiram Abiff, and the journey through Freemasonry is thought to represent Hiram’s journey through life. In the end, all Masons hope to become a widow’s son or a descendent of Ruth.
The fundamental lessons of Freemasonry are taught around the symbolism of the story of Hiram Abiff’s life and his construction of King Solomon’s Temple. Built-in Jerusalem in approximately the 10th century, there is actually no archaeological evidence of its existence. That being said, most religious and historical scholars agree that it did exist, and we find many references to it in various passages of the Bible.
For Masons, the world over, Solomon’s Temple has become a metaphor for building the individual into a better person and an active and values-driven member of society. The materials that built the temple are said to represent the knowledge that a Mason accumulates throughout their lives.
It is fair to say then, in this respect, that Hiram is like the founding father of Freemasonry. He used his tools and skillset to construct the lavish temple for King Solomon. From this experience, the vast majority of Masonic teachings take their significance from today.
So from this understanding, when we come to think of the widow’s son, we should acknowledge that we are concerned with the story of Hiram Abiff and his construction of King Solomon’s Temple. As has been explored in this article, a case can be made for many characters within the Bible to be referred to as the widow’s son, as the genealogical lineage presented makes for an interesting study.
Conclusion: the story of the widow’s son in Freemasonry
As has been explored in this article, the story of the widow’s son has its roots in the Old Testament of the Bible. Because of the emphasis placed on the story of King Solomon’s Temple’s construction within Freemasonry, we understand the widow’s son in the Masonic world to refer specifically to Hiram Abiff, the chief architect of the temple.
That being said, a strong case can be made for many other important Biblical characters to be referred to as the widow’s son, with Ruth’s descendants spanning forty-five generations or more. I would argue that it is not within the remit of Freemasonry to get too bogged down in the genealogy debate regarding their understanding of the widow’s son.
Instead, we should retain our focus on understanding the story of Hiram Abiff’s life and the vital contribution he made to the temple’s construction and the preservation of the secrets of his craft.