Anyone that knows anything about Freemasonry is likely to have heard the name Hiram Abiff. He’s a significant figure in the history of the Masons and is widely thought of as the person who inspired the Freemason fraternity into existence.
In this post, we take a look at the significance of Hiram Abiff and learn about his story. The story of Hiram Abiff also tells us about the age of Freemasonry, as the fraternity is rooted in ancient times. Let’s begin by understanding exactly who Hiram Abiff was.
Who was Hiram Abiff?
Hiram Abiff is a name of utmost significance in the world of Freemasonry. He is widely regarded as the man who inspired the secret fraternity of Freemasonry into being. He is referred to in Masonic lodges across the world, and his history is an interesting one.
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.
If Hiram was one of those involved with constructing King Solomon’s temple and helped start Freemasonry, then the secret society is older than modern Christianity and Islam.
This is significant, as being older than two of the world’s Abrahamic religions is no mean feat and is evidence that Freemasonry is a historic fraternity.
The Allegory of Hiram Abiff
In the Third Degree, Hiram Abiff is one of the main characters in an allegory told to the candidates. During this allegorical tale, Hiram Abiff is known among Freemasons as the chief architect of King Solomon’s Temple.
In the tale, Hiram Abiff arrived in Jerusalem was appointed by King Solomon as the principal architect and Master of Works at the temple’s construction site.
During construction, it is supposed that Hiram was ambushed by three thugs who requested the master mason’s password before striking him with a masonic tool when he refused.
It turns out that this attack is fatal to Hiram, who is injured by the first two blows, and the third blow finally kills him. The thugs who attacked him then buried Hiram’s body under a sprig of acacia, which itself has become an essential symbol in modern-day Freemasonry.
When he hears about the murder, King Solomon sends out more masons to find Hiram Abiff, who later discovers the spring and exhumes his body to provide him with an appropriate burial.
At the burial, King Solomon remarked that following Hiram’s death, the Masonic password had been lost forever. He also replaced the signs and symbols traditionally used by the Masons as a sign of respect to Hiram, most of which are used in Masonic ceremonies today.
The allegory of Hiram Abiff is told to Masons to indicate the importance of fidelity and to portray the certainty of death within Freemasonry.
The importance of King Solomon’s Temple in Freemasonry
King Solomon’s Temple is a biblical structure built in Jerusalem during the time of King Solomon. The temple is believed to have been built in the 9th or 10th century, and we learn about it from the stories of the Hebrew Bible.
While the temple has incredibly important historical significance, there is actually no archaeological evidence of its existence. In spite of this, most scholars can agree that the temple did exist.
No excavation attempts have been made in the area surrounding Temple Mount because of the religious conflicts that exist in the region. Perhaps one day, if religious tensions die down, archaeologists may return to the site to see if any proof of the temple’s existence can be found.
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.
What does the Bible tell us about Hiram Abiff?
If you study the Hebrew Bible, there are some indications as to who Hiram Abiff was. We can decipher whether or not the story has any credence or if it is just a myth circulated by those involved in Freemasonry.
In the Old Testament, the name Hiram is mentioned on three occasions, each of which was associated with the construction of King Solomon’s Temple.
The first man named in the Bible was Hiram I, who was also the King of Tyre. He was said to be involved in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple and actually sent the materials and men in order to complete construction.
He is the first individual mentioned in the Bible that could fit the profile of Hiram Abiff, who is widely cited in Freemason circles today.
The second mention of Hiram Abiff is the Hiram who is mentioned in the scriptures. Hiram is clearly identified in the scriptures as the son of a widow. He is mentioned in the 1 Kings 7:13 – 14 as the son of a bronze worker from Israel.
Members of the Israeli tribe of Napthali were involved in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple. Solomon called the aforementioned bronze worker to cast the bronze furnishings and ornate decorations in the temple.
We understand from the Bible that this Hiram perhaps most closely resembles Hiram Abiff as mentioned in the allegory. The Bible acknowledges that King Solomon made a formal request to King Hiram I of Tyre to send materials to construct the temple in Jerusalem.
Suppose you believe in any of the Abrahamic religions, and therefore read the scriptures. In that case, it’s hard to deny the fact that King Solomon and his temple existed before these religions existed. If we do believe this, then it’s difficult to deny the existence of Hiram Abiff, as he is central to the tale of the construction of King Solomon’s temple.
The story of the widow’s son
As we’ve already mentioned, Hiram Abiff was referred to 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.
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 are to 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.
Furthermore, Masons query whether or not Hiram could be in some way related to Jesus. But again, there is no evidence from the Bible to confirm this.
What do these stories tell us about Hiram Abiff?
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.
So was Hiram Abiff a Mason?
Although we can identify several Hiram’s mentioned in the Bible, as well as the story of the son of the widow, we can’t say for sure whether or not Hiram Abiff was actually a Mason. This is mainly due to the fact that Freemasonry can only really be traced back to the middle ages.
There have been numerous references to other Masonic orders which existed in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Many of these Masonic lodges are known to be involved with constructing other significant structures in Christianity.
It’s most likely that Hiram Abiff was an architect or stonemason that was, in fact, associated with the building of King Solomon’s Temple. Because he worked with King Solomon and due to his position as a stonemason, he was revered by his peers who came after him in the Holy Land.
While it is disputable if he was a mason, it’s undoubtedly true that masons of later ages were inspired by his actions and the work he carried out on Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.
Because approximately 3,000 years have passed since Hiram Abiff helped to build King Solomon’s Temple, it’s unlikely that any further light will be shed on the matter.
Conclusion: understanding the role of Hiram Abiff
In this post, we have explored the significance of Hiram Abiff in the story of Freemasonry. We know for a fact that Hiram is an important symbol of Freemasonry today, and whether it can be proven or not, many believe that he was instrumental in building King Solomon’s Temple and is, therefore, a significant part of the history of Freemasonry.
We’ve also learned that Freemasonry itself is as old, if not older, than the main Abrahamic religions. This fact is likely to be contended by some within religious circles, but if we take the construction of King Solomon’s Temple as fact and Hiram’s existence as so, then we know that this pre-dated much of the stories shared in the Bible.