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Hiram Abiff (other spellings "Hurum", "Abif", and "Huram-Abi") is a character who figures prominently in an allegorical play that is presented during the third degree of Craft Freemasonry. In this play, Hiram is presented as being the chief architect of King Solomon's Temple, who is murdered by three ruffians during an unsuccessful attempt to force him to divulge the Master Masons' secret password. It is explained in the lecture that follows this play that the story is a lesson in fidelity to one's word, and in the brevity of life.
Hirams in the Bible
The name "Hiram Abiff" does not appear as such in the Bible, but there are three references to people named Hiram that are present:
- Hiram, King of Tyre, is credited in 2 Samuel 5:11 and 1 Kings 5:1-10 for having sent building materials and men for the original construction of the Temple in Jerusalem; the Masonic drama separate character named "Hiram, King of Tyre" is not likely an alias of "Hiram Abiff" as the former is clearly a king and the latter clearly a master craftsman, but they are often confused.
- In 1 Kings 7:13–14, Hiram is described as the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali who was the son of a Tyrian bronze worker, contracted by Solomon to cast the bronze furnishings and ornate decorations for the new temple. From this reference, Freemasons often refer to Hiram (with the added Abiff) as "the widow's son." Hiram lived or at least temporarily worked in clay banks (1 Kings 7:46-47) in the plain of the Jordan between Succoth and Zarethan/Zeredathah.
- Hiram (often spelled Huram), a craftsman of great skill sent from Tyre. 2 Chronicles 2:13-14 relates a formal request from King Solomon of Jerusalem to King Hiram I of Tyre, for workers and for materials to build a new temple; King Hiram responds "And now I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman (the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre), skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, purple and blue, fine linen and crimson, and to make any engraving and to accomplish any plan which may be given to him, with your skillful men and with the skillful men of my lord David your father." In the original Hebrew version of 2 Chronicles 2:13, the phrase translated above as "Huram my master craftsman" is "ḤWRM 'BY" Ḥiram 'abi.
Note that the translation "Hiram my master craftsman" occurs only in the New King James Version. In other versions, "abi" is translated most often as "father", sometimes "master," or else "Hiram Abi" is left untranslated as a proper name. Peake's Commentary on the Bible, referring to Chronicles II-13, simply states "Huram-abi: RSV correctly reads this as the full name," and the English Standard Version gives the same translation "Huram-Abi" rather than "Huram my master...". Some[who?] say that the word "Abiff" may have arisen by misunderstanding Hebrew אָבׅו 'āvīw = "his father".
Other accounts of a Biblical Hiram
Flavius Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews (Chapter 3:76) refers to Hiram as an Artificer. "Now Solomon sent for an artificer out of Tyre, whose name was Hiram: he was by birth of the tribe of Naphtali, on his mother's side (for she was of that tribe); but his father was Ur, of the stock of the Israelites."
According to authors Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight, Hiram Abiff would have been Egyptian king Seqenenre Tao II, who met an extremely similar death. This idea is dismissed by most Masonic scholars.
In his book The Sufis, the Afghan scholar Idries Shah suggested that Mansur al-Hallaj might have been the origin of the character Hiram Abiff in the Freemasonic Master Mason ritual. The link, he believes, was through the Sufi sect Al-Banna ("The Builders") who built the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This fraternity could have influenced some early masonic guilds which borrowed heavily from the Oriental architecture in the creation of the Gothic style.}
- "Huram" in the following translations: King James Version, American Standard Version, Bible in Basic English, Darby, Noah Webster, World English, Young's Literal. Source:http://www.hebrewoldtestament.com/B14C002.htm#V13
- Lomas, Robert and Chris Knight. The Hiram Key. Arrow Books LTD, 1997
- Emulation Lodge Of Improvement (2007). Emulation Ritual. London: Lewis Masonic. ISBN 0-8531-8244-2.
- Samuel Pritchard, "Masonry Dissected" (1730), in D. Knoop, G.P. Jones & D. Hamer, The Early Masonic Catechisms, Manchester University Press, 1963.
- *Hiram Abiff and the ever-dying gods - Discovery Lodge of Research, Sydney
- 1 Kings 5 & 7:13-46 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Kings%205,7:13-46&version=NIV and 2 Chronicles 2:1-14 & 4:11-16 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Chronicles%202:1-14,4:11-16&version=NIV
- 2 Chronicles 2:13-14, New King James Version - From BibleGateway.com
- Shah, Idris (1971). The Sufis. Anchor. ISBN 0385079664.
- de Hoyos, Arturo; Morris, S. Brent (2004). Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0781-X.
- Strong, James (1990). Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. ISBN 0-8407-6750-1.
- Domenico V. Ripa Montesano, Vademecum di Loggia, Edizione Gran Loggia Phoenix – Roma Italia 2009 ISBN 978-88-905059-0-4