Some have suggested that this is because of the prohibition in Exodus 20:22 against using any tool on a stone used to build an altar. That verse doesn’t refer to the temple, but only to an altar built of stones, and if applied accurately, it would require the stones to be in their natural state, which these were not because they were being cut at the quarry.
Instead, the avoidance of hammers and chisels at the site seems more a decision based on maintaining reverence for God, a silence in acknowledgment of the awesome presence of God. Since no evidence of this first temple remains (a fulfillment of prophecy), we don’t know the details of its construction beyond the Bible and extra-biblical Hebrew sources.
We live in a time where silence is almost impossible to achieve. There is noise from traffic, aircrafts overhead, devices, appliances, plumbing, and people. The latest craze is to immerse yourself in a sensory deprivation tank — filled with salt water and completely darkened and soundproof. The idea is that this allows one to experience “total body relaxation.” I don’t know about that, but I know there is a sense of closeness to God when we are able to escape being surrounded by man.
As a child, when we would travel across country by car, I would look out the window through a small square I made with my fingers, trying to frame an image that captured only nature. No fences, no telephone lines, no buildings, and no cars. I enjoyed when we could go camping and try to find a place in the woods where I could imagine I was the first human to set foot in this spot. The root behind these childhood imaginings was a desire to be completely alone with God in His creation.
I wonder if Solomon’s desire to not have hammers banging away was a similar desire to block out the evidence of everything that distracts us from God. How do you best find time alone with God, away from distractions?