The following is a version of the “Historical Lecture” traditionally given during the conferral of the Royal Arch degree in many jurisdictions.
There are three epochs in Freemasonry which particularly merit your attention. They are the history of the first, or Holy Lodge; the second, or Sacred Lodge; and the third, or Grand and Royal Lodge.
The first, or Holy Lodge, was opened two years after the exodus of the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, by Moses, Aholiab, and Bezaleel, on consecrated ground at the foot of Mount Horeb in the Wilderness of Sinai, where the children of Israel had pitched their tents and assembled together to offer up praises and thanksgivings to the Most High for their signal deliverance from the hands of the Egyptians. There, but before that time, the Almighty had revealed Himself to His faithful servant Moses, and commissioned him His high ambassador of wrath against Pharaoh and his people, but of freedom and salvation to the house of Jacob. There were delivered the forms of those mysterious prototypes, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Tables of the Sacred Law engraven by the hand of the Most High, together with those sublime and comprehensive precepts of religious and moral duties. There were dictated, by His unerring wisdom, those peculiar forms of civil and religious polity, which, by separating His once favoured people from all other nations, consecrated Israel a chosen vessel to His service. For these reasons, it was denominated the first, or Holy Lodge.
Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff, presided over the second, or Sacred Lodge. It was opened in the bosom of the Holy Mount Moriah, on the very centre of the ground on which the Sanctum Sanctorum was afterwards erected. On that consecrated spot Abraham had proved his intuitive faith by not refusing to offer up his beloved son Isaac a destined victim on the altar of his God, when it pleased the Almighty to provide a more acceptable sacrifice. There, upon the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, David offered up the mediatorial sacrifice by which the plague was stayed; and there were revealed to him, in a vision, the plans of that magnificent Temple afterwards erected by his illustrious son; for God said, He shall build a house for My Name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. For these reasons it was designated the second, or Sacred Lodge.
The third, or Grand and Royal Lodge, was holden at Jerusalem, and opened soon after the return of the children of Israel from their Babylonish captivity, by Zerubbabel, prince of the people, Haggai, the Prophet, and Jeshua, the son of Josedech, the High Priest. Then was it that the kingly power was restored, in the person of Zerubbabel, to the royal line of David and princely tribe of Judah; nor was all vestige thereof again effaced until after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus, in the seventieth year of the present era. Therefore, to commemorate this restoration, it was called the third, or Grand and Royal Lodge.
There is now a resemblance in the present Chapter of those grand originals. In every regular, well formed and properly constituted Royal Arch Chapter we acknowledge the representatives of the Grand and Royal Arch Chapter at Jerusalem, in the persons of the three Principals, Jeshua, Zerubbabel, and Haggai, whose names they bear. . . . [The three candidates] represent the three Sojourners, who for their zeal and fidelity in having discovered the secrets of the Royal Arch, were rewarded with seats among the princes and rulers of the people, represented by the rest of the Companions.
The following questions and answers were traditionally recited during the closing of a Royal Arch Chapter.
Q: How many original Grand Lodges do we commemorate?
Q: Name them.
A: The First or Holy Lodge, the Second or Sacred Lodge, and the Third or Grand and Royal Lodge.
Q: Where was the First or Holy Lodge holden?
A: At the foot of Mount Horeb, in the Wilderness of Sinai.
Q: Who presided?
A: Moses, Aholiab, and Bezaleel.
Q: Where was the Second or Sacred Lodge holden?
A: In the bosom of the Holy Mount Moriah.
Q: Who presided?
A: Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff.
Q: Where was the Third or Grand and Royal Lodge holden?
A: At Jerusalem.
Q: Who presided?
A: Jeshua, the son of Josedech the High Priest, Zerubbabel, a Prince of the people, and Haggai, the prophet.