« AnteriorContinuar »
The Court of Israel.
Height of the wall between it and the Court of the Women; relative heights of
the two courts; steps which led from the one into the other ; for what they were remarkable; Psalms of Degrees explained; chamber under them for the musical instruments. The gate Nicanor; its height, beauty, the names it has in Scripture; various things appointed to be done in it (the three remarkable things that happened forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem.) Size of the Court of Israel. Objects on the east side of it:-a room for the Council of Twenty-three. The place where Solomon's brazen scaffold stood; the king's pillar; the Levites' ward; the chamber of Phineas ; pastry-man's chamber; the place where the stationary men stood. Objects on the south side :-the chamber of lots; Gezith, where the Sanhedrin sat; their number, qualifications for office, manner of sitting, hours of attendance, causes that came before them, punishments they inflicted. The names of their presidents, and places to which they removed on leaving Gezith. The draw-well chamber; the Water gate ; the chamber of incense ; receipt for making and using it; the room where the high priest first bathed on the day of expiation ; the wood room; Peredrin, or the vestry of the temple; the Levites' ward; the Gate of Firstlings; another Levites' ward; the Gate of Kindling; the common-hall of the Levites while on guard; the distance of the gates on this side of the Court from each other. Objects on the zvest side ; none. Objects on the north side :--the relative situation of the gates. Bithmuked, contain. ing the chamber for the lambs used in the daily sacrifice; a bathing room for the priests; the common-hall for the priests on guard; the chamber where the shew bread was prepared, and the place where the Maccabees deposited the stones of the altar that was polluted by Antiochus. The gate Muked; the treasure chamber for the poll-tax; another Levites' ward; chamber for the money that was devoted to repair the temple; the gate Corban, or of the Women ; the salt chamber; chamber for the bides; chamber for washing the entrails; the other chamber where the high priest bathed on the day of expiation; the Gate of Sparkling, or of Song; Levites’ and priests' wards; the chamber of stone vessels.
The Court of Israel was formerly mentioned as the third division of the sacred ground; and in passing out of the Court of the Women into it, we meet with a high wall of separation, the side of which, next the Court of the Women, was thirty-two cubits and a half high, but the side next the Court of Israel only twenty-five. The reason of which difference was, that as the rock on which the temple stood always became higher as you went to the westward, so the several courts naturally became elevated in proportion. Thus, as we formerly said, there were twelve steps, or six cubits of ascent from the Court of the Gentiles into the Hil, or Sacred Fence; five steps, or two cubits and a-half thence into the Court of the Women; and now, there are fifteen steps, or seven cubits and a-half from the Court of the Women into the Court of Israel; which seven cubits and a-half are the exact difference between thirty-two and a-half and twenty-five, or the outer and inner sides of the dividing wall. Consequently, the Court of Israel was higher than the Court of the Gentiles by sixteen cubits, or twentyfour feet, and the ascent from the one to the other was by thirty-two steps in all. The fifteen steps which led out of the Court of the Women into the Court of Israel were in the form of a semicircle, so as to allow a more
a easy communication : and their number gave rise to the fifteen psalms, from the 120th to the 134th inclusive, being entitled, “ Psalms of Degrees ;" because upon these the Levites stood and sung them at the feast of tabernacles. We may also remark, that on either side of these steps there was a door in the wall, facing the Court of the Women, which opened into chambers under ground, whose roof was level with the floor of the Court of Israel, where the Levites deposited their musical instruments when they had finished their singing in the daily service in the Court of Israel. They came down the fifteen steps, and at the bottom turned, to the right and left, into the chambers we are now describing. But let us ascend the steps to the gate that conducts us from the one court into the other.
According to Josephus it was fifty cubits high, including the tower at the top, but the door was only forty cubits, and richly ornamented with silver and gold, laid on to a great thickness; but he does not inform us whether it was gilt or plated. Either way, however, it would form a counterpart to the gate called Beautiful at the other end of the Court." The gates at the sides of the Court are not described, but they were probably much lower: perhaps of the same size as those in the Court of the Gentiles.
This gate, between the Courts of the Women and of Israel, was formerly known by different appellations. Thus it is called the higher gate of the Lord's house, in 2 Kings xv. 35, and 2 Chron. xxvii. 3, in allusion to those which were lower down : the new gate, in Jer. xxvi. 10, and xxxvi. 10, because rebuilt by Jotham ; the gate of entrance, in Ezek. xl. 15, and the brazen gate, in Josephus :' but the most common name by which it was known in our Saviour's days, was the Gate of Nicanor; either because one of that name residing at Alexandria, in Egypt, sent the two doors of it to Jerusalem; or because they slew there a Grecian prince of the name of Nicanor, in the time of the Asmonæans; or in honour of Saleucus Nicanor, the first king of Syria, who had shewn himself a friend to the Jewish nation. However
a this may be, it was in this gate, which was accounted of the same sanctity with the Court of the Women, that the leper stood, to have his atonement made, and cleansing completed : here they tried the suspected wife by making her drink of the bitter waters; an account of which is given in Part IV. Sec. 5th: it was here that the gold tablet, presented by Helena, Queen of the Adiabeni, on the River Adiab, in Assyria, was suspended, on which was written the section about the suspected wife: here likewise women appeared after childbirth for purification ; and here consequently the Virgin Mary presented her child." We may also remark, that Josephus, when treating of the prodigies that presaged the destruction of Jerusalem, mentions a remarkable one concerning this gate. His words are as follow : 66 The east gate of the inner temple being of brass and extremely heavy, and which could hardly be shut by twenty men ; when barred and bolted exceedingly strong and sure, was seen by night to open of its own accord; which the simpler did interpret as a very good omen; but those of deeper research suspected that it presaged the decay and ruin of the strength of the temple.” It is indeed worthy of notice, that the Jews themselves date three remarkable things as happening forty years before the destruction of the temple, or, in other words, about the time of our Saviour's death; namely, the opening of these folding-doors, the Sanhedrin's leaving the room Gezith, and the scarlet list on the scape goat's head not altering from red to white, which they assert it did in former times. Might not these have convinced them, that their ecclesiastical glory was departing; that their civil liberties were coming to a close; and that he whom the scape goat represented, had actually appeared to take away the sin of the world? But “blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."
· War, v. 5.
6 2 Chron. sxvii. 3.
War, ii. 17
Let us now enter the gate and examine attentively the several odjects which were to be seen in the Court of Israel.
Generally speaking, the whole of the remaining space might be called the Court of Israel, for there was no wall between it and the Court of the Priests : but as it was commonly limited to much narrower bounds, we shall adopt that limitation. Let it be observed, then,
a Luke ii. 22.
b War, vi, 5.
< Rom. xi. 25.
that the Court of Israel, as thus defined, was that portion of ground which surrounded the Court of the Priests; and was itself surrounded on the south, west, and north sides, by the wall which separated it from the Sacred Fence, and on the east by that which divided it from the Court of the Women. It was in the form of an oblong, whose north and south sides were one hundred and eighty-seven cubits long, by only eight cubits broad; and whose east and west sides were one hundred and thirty-five cubits long, by eleven cubits broad; and thus contained one rood, twenty-eight poles, sixteen yards, six feet, English measure. As the dividing line between it and the Court of the Priests was a row of pillars, and these were covered above, like the pillars in the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women; so the Court of Israel was properly a piazza of the above dimensions, under which the Israelites stood, while their sacrifices were burning in the Court of the Priests. This piazza was formed of part of the Algum trees, which the servants of Solomon brought from Ophir ;' and it had a full view of the altar and temple, and of all the priests who were officiating.
But let us proceed regularly, and survey the objects worthy of notice on its several sides, beginning with the east. Here, above the gate Nicanor, was a room for one of the Councils of Twenty-three, of which there were. two in the temple, one here, and one over the gate Shushan, in the outer wall, before the Sanhedrin took possession of it. It was in one of these judicatories that our Saviour disputed, when only twelve years of age, astonishing the doctors. Immediately before the gate was the place where Solomon erected the brazen scaffold, on which he uttered that beautiful prayer at the consecra
b Luke ïj, 46.
a 2 Chron. ix. 11. VOL. I.