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Old Legends of Hiram Abiff


This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted
from a paper presented at the Southern Arizona
Research Lodge in 1982 by Bro. Paul T.
Hughes and is published with the gracious per-
mission of Southern Arizona Research Lodge.
According to an ancient Greek historian,
Hiram Abif was "a son of a man of Tyre and
whose mother was a Jewess of the House of
David" that is, of Judah. I Kings, Vll,
13-14, tells us that he was a "widow's son of the
Tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of
Tyre." In 11 Chron., 11, 13-14, he is described
as the son of a "woman of the daughters of
Dan." The stories of his skill and "cunning" as
an artificer and metal worker are told in scrip-
ture, as well as Masonic lore, and myth and
The central character which he plays in
Masonic teaching and ritual needs no repeating.
The legends which exist about him, but which
are not incorporated into Masonic work, form
a fascinating and illuminating picture of a man
about whom little factual knowledge exists.
He may have been a member of the cult of
Dionysian Artificers. (1) One old legend tells
that prior to the start of construction of the
Temple, King Solomon held a contest and of-
fered a prize for the best design which could be
drawn by any of the prospective workman. It
was Hiram who drew the figure which we know
as an illustration of the forty-seventh problem
of Euclid.
He displayed and used the trestle board
about which we hear in our ritual. It was a table
of wood coated with wax. On this he drew his
designs with a stylus of iron. Upon seeing the
figure of the 47th problem and recognizing its
significance, Solomon, with joy, laid the foun-
dation stone of the Temple.(2)
There is a Moslem account that the jewel
worn about the neck of Hiram Abif was in-
scribed with the "word." He wore this jewel on
a chain of gold and when he was attacked, he
threw it down a well to prevent his assassins
from obtaining it. It was later recovered from
the well, which gives us yet another version of
the "recovery of the word."(3)
Part of the credit for obtaining materials to
enrich and adorn the Temple is given to Hiram
Abif according to another old legend. Four
years before construction of the Temple began,
he purchased some curious and precious stones
from an Arabian merchant. He was told that
they had been found on an island in the Red
Sea. He traveled there to investigate and was
able to discover great quantities of topaz, which
later was imported by ships of Hiram of Tyre in
the service of King Solomon.(4)
There is an interesting legend of a Temple
workman whose name was Cavelum. He was
kinsman of King Solomon and was the house of
David thus he had high status among the other
workmen. In the process of inspection of work
in progress on the north wall of the Temple at a
place where the north gate was to be, Hiram
Abif accidentally dislodged a stone. It fell and
struck Cavelum, who was killed. Hiram Abif
was so overcome by grief that he ordered the
north gate sealed and closed forever. (5)
This legend was once used as the basis for a
degree called Fellow Craft Mark. Dr. Albert
Mackey has stated that this was an early trace
of the present Mark Master degree.
The Gothic Constitution Manuscripts,
Chaphan and Colne No. 1, refer to Hiram and
"Hiram of Tickus, a Mason's sonne." In
another old Masonic writing there is a gap or a
blank, which Masons of today (and we may
assume of past days) would immediately fill
with the name "Hiram Abif." Many
authorities on this subject are of the opinion
that the name of this man at one time had an
esoteric significance, and it was forbidden to
put it in written form. In other writings,
substitute names are used. It is curious to note
that the oldest of the ancient manuscripts often
refer to him as "son of the King of Tyre."
There is also confusion about the name of
Hiram because of a variety of spellings used in
translations. The reference "Hiram, my
father" is confusing. Many older writers failed
to distinguish between Hiram of Tyre and
Hiram Abif. There is also a legend that there
were two workmen named Hiram who were ac-
tually father and son, that one was an architect
while the other was a metal worker. Advocates
of this theory point to the spelling of "Huram"
and "Hiram."(6)
In spite of our legend of the Third Degree
(and it must be emphasized that it is legend and
not history), the death of Hiram Abif is poorly
documented. Consequently, many other
legends have developed. Ancient stories of the
Talmud tell us that at the completion of the
Temple all the workmen were killed so that they
could never build a temple to a heathen
godor according to some versions, so that
they could never construct another building
which would rival the Temple in magnificence.
In still other versions, which come to us from
Rabbinical lore, Hiram was the one of all the
workmen who escaped death by being taken up
into heaven like Enoch and Elijah.
Legend and conjecture lend a greater air of
mystery to the circumstances of the death of
this man, and scholars have called attention to
the account by Virgil of the death of Polydorus
as a possible source of the substance of our
Third Degree Hiramic legend. In this story King
Priamus of Troy sent his son, Polydoris, to the
King of Thrace, where he was killed and secret-
ly buried. Aeneas discovered the body on a
hillside because he pulled up an unrooted shrub
at the site of the grave.
There is a legend which indicates that
Hiram, King of Tyre, was not at the huilding
site of the Temple in Jerusalem, but was in Tyre
when the death of Hiram, as we know the
legend in the Third Degree, occurred. Solomon
was concerned, for Hiram Abif was an impor-
tant individual and a citizen of Tyre. Solomon
followed a cautious, diplomatic course by keep-
ing Hiram of Tyre well informed of the
capture, examination, and confession of guilt
from the ruffians and he inquired of King
Hiram his wishes in the matter of the penalty
that should be imposed. King Hiram replied to
Solomon and the sentence was imposed and
carried out as he directed.
This account appears in an old ritual, and
the ruffians are identified by the last letters of
their names. When combined, the letters form
the mystic word of certain Eastern cults,
"OAM." Certain mystic writers have made
much of this coincidence.
One of the so-called Masonic rites which
arose in the eighteenth century but has now fad-
ed from the scene was the Rite of Misraim,
which consisted of more than ninety degrees.
In this work, the legend was altered and accor-
ding to his version, Hiram Abif returned to
Tyre when the Temple was completed. There he
lived out his days in peace and contentment,
surrounded by the material wealth with which
he had been compensated by King Solomon.
This account finds some support in the
writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus. He
tells us that after the Temple was completed,
the two great Kings remained friends. They
often posed riddles to each other and the King
of Tyre obtained assistance in solving them
from Hiram Abif, for whom Josephus uses the
name Abdemon. Josephus also tells us that
Hiram Abif spent his old age in Tyre.(6) In 2
Chron. 11, 14, we are told that Hiram Abif
could "find out any device which should be put
to him."
An Oriental legend traces the lineage of
Hiram from Adam through Tubal Cain and
Nimrod, the builder of the Tower of Babel. It
deals with fantasies concerning various mar-
riages of men to Oriental spirits and emphasizes
an Eastern belief that all smiths were related to
spirits of fire.
When Saba, the Queen of Sheba, visited
King Solomon, she was much attracted to
Hiram and Solomon became jealous. He ar-
ranged with three workmenFanor, a Syrian
Mason Amru, a Phoenician carpenter and
Metusael, a Hebrew quarrymanto disrupt the
casting of the brazen sea. The spilled molten
metal would have killed Hiram, except that he
was saved by the spirit of his ancestor, Tubal
Saba and Hiram fled. Hiram threw his jewel
down a deep well, but he was taken by the
assassins and killed by a blow to the head. They
buried his body on a hill and planted an acacia
bush on the grave.
Three masters later discovered his body.
The account of the exclamations made by those
who found the body of Hiram are the same as
those given in an exposure of our ritual in the
early part of the eighteenth century. There is
even an account of an agreement concerning
future action by masons to compensate for the
loss of the word which had been inscribed on
Hiram's jewel.
This legend continues with the finding of
Hiram's jewel, which Solomon had placed on a
triangular altar in a secret vault under the Tem-
ple. The vault was concealed by a stone, in the
shape of a perfect cube, placed to seal the en-
This account comes to us from writings of
Sheite Moslems who were responsible for the
taking of the American Embassy and the
holding of its personnel captive in Iran in 1981.
1. Dionysian Artificers, Hippolyte Joseph da Costa
2. George Oliver, The Antiquities of Freemasonry
3. Author Unknown, Fire and Sword
4. Alex Horne, King Solomon's Temple in the
Masonic Tradition
5. Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey,
Rev. Hawkins and Hughan
6. 11 Chron. IV, 11, King James Version
7. Josephus, Antiquities, Vlll, 3:4
8. Arabian Nights, Unabridged, Translated by Pror.
Honus Watmer, Oxford U.
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