Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VII.

THE TEMPLE-THE HOLY PLACES - PRESENT STATE OF

THE SITE.

The pile of building containing the temple itself, as reconstructed by Herod, was much larger, and in some respects differed in form from that of Solomon, already described. The east front, or porch, was 180 feet long, and 218 high in the centre; but lower on each side, and contained many apartments. It had a flat roof surrounded with battlements. The body of the temple, behind this, was narrower, so that the whole was in the form of the letter T.

This porch was entered by twelve steps, each nearly eleven inches high, and of different widths, but extending almost to the altar. Thus the whole elevation of the threshold of the porch above the court of the Gentiles was more than forty feet. The porch was about thirty-nine feet across, from the threshold of the holy place, including the thickness of the walls. The entrance to the porch was a large opening, more than seventy feet high, and half as wide. It had no doors, but stood always open.

Josephus says this was intended to be emblematical of heaven -always open to the prayer of the believer. In the porch of Solomon's temple stood the two pillars, called Jachin and Boaz. In that of Herod's temple was a golden vine richly wrought, the bunches of grapes as large as a man; it was continually increased in size, some persons giving a leaf or a grape, others more.

The entrance to the holy place was through a wall eleven feet thick. A door of two leaves was hung next to the porch, and another next to the holy place; each opened inwards. The priest, whose business it was to open and shut these doors, first passed through a wicket in the outer door, then entered the holy place through a small opening in the wall, exactly where one of the leaves of the inner door fell back against the wall when opened. He then unclosed the large leaves of the doors. Those of the outer door, being richly adorned, formed ornamental sides to the entrance. In this entrance was a marble slab, which could be lifted by a ring fastened in it. From a cavity underneath this, the priest took the dust used in the trial by the bitter water, Numb. v. 17. We may here observe,

Veils were

that the proceedings of that trial, as originally directed, were simple, solemn, and considerate towards both parties; but, in later times, many circumstances of unkindness to wards the woman were added to the cerer

remonial, rather showing a determination to prejudge the case against the accused, than leaving the result to the Most High.

When the doors of the holy place were opened, the entrance was closed by a veil richly wrought. also hung in the gates of the court of Israel, and in the gateway of the porch.

The holy place, at the time our Saviour was upon earth, was not only larger, but more lofty than that of Solomon; the flooring and the sides were covered with gold, and richly wrought with carved-work, probably flowers, palm trees, and cherubim. In each temple there was a range of windows near the roof, above the chambers at the sides of the building. A candlestick for the lamps, a table

for the shew-bread, and a golden altar for incense, stood in the holy place of each temple, as in that of the tabernacle. When Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, a priest named Joshua, or Jesus, preserved the first two articles, and delivered them to the conqueror, who had them carried in his triumphal procession, and deposited them in the Temple of Peace, at Rome. The table and the candlestick are represented among the sculptures with which the triumphal arch of Titus, in that city, is adorned ; a copy is given in the engraving, which also represents the silver trumpets. Very frequent use was made of the trumpets in the temple services. In Numb. x. 10, “In the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burntofferings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings ;

that they may be to you for a memorial before

your

God :" and they were introduced into the temple services, 2 Chr. v. 13; xxix. 27. In later times the rule was, that not more than one hundred and twenty, nor less than two trumpets, were to be blown on any occasion of sacrifice.

In the temple of Solomon, the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, was separated from the outer apartment by folding-doors of olive wood, gilded and richly ornamented. In the second temple there were no doors, but two veils instead, exceedingly thick and strong, being of blue, purple, scarlet, and white twined linen yarn, some say of woollen yarn ; each thread sixfold, and woven upon hair warp, seventy-two hairs to each thread. Though two veils in number, they are spoken of as one, both in Scripture and by Josephus, as they formed one partition. These veils were rent asunder, from the top to the bottom, at our Saviour's death, which signified that the mysteries of the Jewish dispensation were then to be revealed and to pass away; and that the way of access to God was opened, Christ having entered for us into the holy place not made with hands : see Heb. ix. 7; x. 19. Having overcome the sharpness of death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to believers; and there is nothing now to hinder, but every thing to encourage, our direct access to our God

upon

his mercy-seat.

It is thought that the most holy place in the temple was about four times the size of that in the tabernacle; the length, breadth, and height each being doubled. In Solomon's temple, the floor and ceiling were of cedar, overlaid with gold; the walls of cedar, carved with palm trees, cherubim, and flowers covered with gold ; and doubtless they were very magnificent in the temples of Zerubbabel and Herod. Here was no window. The glory of the Lord had been its light when the Shekinah appeared ; at other times it was in darkness. In Solomon's temple, the ark of the covenant was placed here; but when he deposited it, the golden pot with manna and Aaron's rod appear to have been lost, or perhaps they were placed near, but not within it, for it only contained the tables of stone, 2 Chron. v. 10. The copy of the law, see Deut. xxxi. 26, probably also was deposited by its side, which was found by Hilkiah, in the days of Josiah, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 14. The ark, doubtless, perished when the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, but a copy of it was made for the latter temples. The Jews have a tradition, that the original ark was concealed by Jeremiah, and will be found hereafter. No human ingenuity, however, could bring again the Shekinah, the cloud of glory, over the mercy-seat, or the spirit of prophecy. The urim and thummim, and the fire kindled from heaven, also were wanting, as well as the original ark. In all these respects, the Jews admit that the latter temple was inferior to that of Solomon.

In one respect, the glory of the latter house exceeded that of the former. Hag. ii. 7–9 is here adverted to. In the latter temple appeared the Desire of all nations,” the Messiah, the Son of God when manifest in the flesh. And this prophetic declaration, preserved by the Jews themselves, is one of the strong proofs of Scripture that Jesus was the Messiah, since to no other person did this description apply; and as that temple has long since ceased to exist, it cannot now be applied to any other.

The glorious appearance presented by this inner pile of building is described by Josephus. “ To strangers who were approaching, it appeared at a distance like a mountain covered with snow, for where it was not decorated with plates of gold, it was extremely white and glistening.” On the top were pointed spikes of gold, to prevent any birds from resting upon the building and polluting it. He describes some stones in that structure as more than eighty feet long, nine high, and eleven wide. Well might the disciples exclaim, " Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings are here!" Mark xiii. 1; and be surprised at our Saviour's declaration, that not one of these stones should be left upon another, and that this destruction should come to pass before that generation had ceased to exist. But it was the declaration of Him who is Truth itself; it was fulfilled, as every other of his words has been or shall be. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His words shall not pass away.

The description of THE LATTER TEMPLE is now nearly finished. Along the sides, and at the west end of the main building of the temple, were thirty-eight chambers in three stories. These were chiefly used as store-houses, for laying up the sacred utensils, and the offerings made for the sustenance of the priests and the services of the altar. Over these chambers was a flat terrace, to which persons could ascend by a staircase at the north-east. Two rooms over the holy places were entered from the south-west corner of this terrace, by an ascent of steps eighteen feet high. The floor of these rooms being that height above the terrace, allowed space for the windows which lighted the holy place. The rooms were of the same length as the holy places below them; and two cedar trees, laid sloping, as inclined planes, led from them to the top of the temple. The use of these rooms is not clearly stated. From the one over the most holy place, workmen were let down through trap-doors to repair or clean the walls.

At the north-west corner of the inner court was a large apartment called the fire-room, where a fire was kept constantly burning in cold weather and at night. Here the priests in attendance, who were not posted as sentinels, remained during the night. It was a sort of guard-room to the temple; and they slept in their clothes, on benches placed round the room. The buildings in the several courts have already been noticed, as containing a vast number of apartments, but the particulars are too uncertain to justify any attempt at describing them.

The whole extent occupied by the courts and buildings is estimated at somewhat more than nineteen acres. A large part of the ground beneath the surface, it is said, was excavated and arched, to prevent the possibility of pollution from any secret graves : thus repositories for various purposes were also supplied, and for the water reservoirs.

An Arabian historian relates, that when the caliph Omar took Jerusalem, be inquired of the patriarch for a proper place to build a mosque, and was conducted to the site of Solomon's temple. Subsequent caliphs added to the buildings, and inclosed the rock with walls. The crusaders used it for a place of Christian worship; but the sultan Saladin restored it to the former use, and it has ever since continued to be a Mohammedan mosque. This application of the spot has prevented it from being crowded with common buildings, and the remembrance of the site has thus been preserved to the present day.

Belzoni found means, a few years since, in the disguise of a Turk, to obtain a hasty and superficial view of this building and the court around it, while some repairs were going forward; and Dr. Richardson, having, by his medical skill, gained the favour of the Turkish ecclesiastical authorities, obtained permission, in 1821, to visit this mosque, disguised as a Turk. He has given a minute description of the buildings within the inclosure, which he was told is

« PreviousContinue »