The Temple–Its Ministry and Services Alfred Edersheim–1
The Temple–Its Ministry and Services
It has been my wish in this book, to take the reader back nineteen centuries; to show him Jerusalem as it was, when our Lord passed through its streets, and the Sanctuary, when He taught in its porches and courts; to portray, not only the appearance and structure of the Temple, but to describe its ordinances and worshippers, the ministry of its priesthood, and the ritual of its services. In so doing, I have hoped, not only to illustrate a subject, in itself most interesting to the Bible-student, but also, and chiefly, to sketch, in one important aspect, the religious life of the period in which our blessed Lord lived upon earth, the circumstances under which He taught, and the religious rites by which He was surrounded; and whose meaning, in their truest sense, He came to fulfil.
The Temple and its services form, so to speak, part of the life and work of Jesus Christ; part also of His teaching, and of that of His apostles. What connects itself so closely with Him must be of deepest interest. We want to be able, as it were, to enter Jerusalem in His train, along with those who on that Palm-Sunday cried, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’; to see its streets and buildings; to know exactly how the Temple looked, and to find our way through its gates, among its porches, courts, and chambers; to be present in spirit at its services; to witness the Morning and the Evening Sacrifice; to mingle with the crowd of worshippers at the great Festivals, and to stand by the side of those who offered sacrifice or free-will offering, or who awaited the solemn purification which would restore them to the fellowship of the Sanctuary. We want to see these rites, as it were, before us–to hear the Temple-music, to know the very Psalms that were chanted, the prayers that were offered, the duties of the priesthood, the sacrificial worship in which they engaged, and the very attitude of the worshippers–in short, all those details which in their combination enable us vividly to realise the scenes, as if we ourselves were present in them. For, amidst them all, we ever see that one great outstanding Personality, Whose presence filled that house with glory.
The New Testament transports us into almost every one of the scenes described in this book. It also makes frequent reference to them for illustration. We see the father of John ministering in his course in the burning of incense; the Virgin-Mother at her purification, presenting her First-born; the child Jesus among the Rabbis; the Master teaching in the porches of the Temple, sitting in the Treasury, attending the various festivals, giving His sanction to the purifications by directing the healed leper to the priest, and, above all, as at the Feast of Tabernacles, applying to himself the significant rites of the Sanctuary. And, as we follow on, we witness the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost; we mark the frequent illustrations of spiritual realities by Temple-scenes, in the writings of the apostles, but more especially in the Book of Revelation, whose imagery is so often taken from them; and we still look for the accomplishment of the one yet unfulfilled type–the Feast of Tabernacles, as the grand harvest-festival of the Church.
I have thus placed the permanent Christian interest in the foreground, because it occupied that place in my own mind. At the same time, from the nature of the subject, I hope the volume may fulfil yet another and kindred purpose. Although it does not profess to be a Handbook of Biblical Antiquities, nor a treatise on the types of the Old Testament, both these subjects had to be constantly referred to. But to realise the gorgeous Temple ritual, in all its details, possesses more than a merely historical interest. We are indeed fascinated by it; we live over again, if not the period of Israel’s temporal glory, yet that of deepest interest to us; and we can vividly represent to ourselves what the Temple had been before its services had for ever passed away. But beyond this, stretching far back through the period of prophets and kings, and reaching up to the original revelation of Jehovah amid the awful grandeur of Sinai, our holiest recollections, and the very springs of our religious life rise among these ordinances and types, which we here see fully developed and carried out, and that under the very light of His Presence, to Whom they all had pointed. I say not, whether or how far later Jewish practice may have misapprehended the original import or the meaning of the Divine ordinances. That was beyond my present task. But an accurate acquaintance with the sacrificial services at the time of Christ must not only tend to correct mistakes, but throw a fresh and vivid light upon all, and influence our views of what the Levitical ordinances were intended to be and to teach.
To have thus stated my object in this book, is also to have indicated its difficulties. Yet abundant materials for such a work, though scattered far and wide, are within our reach. Not to speak of contemporary writings, as those of Josephus and Philo, and references in the New Testament itself, we have in the Mishnah a body of authoritative traditions, reaching up, not only to Temple-times, but even to the days of Jesus Christ. (1) On this source of information, of course in conjunction with the Old Testament itself, I have been chiefly dependent.
While thus deriving my materials at first hand, I have also thankfully made use of any and every help within my reach. Foremost I place here the writings of Maimonides, not only because he is of greatest authority among the Jews, but because his vast and accurate knowledge of these subjects, and the clearness and subtlety of his intellect, entitle him to that position. Next to him come the numerous writers on Biblical Antiquities, in Latin and German; works on Typology–scientific and popular; treatises on the Life and Times of our Lord; histories of the Jewish Nation, or of Judaism; commentaries on such passages in the Old and New Testament as bore on these subjects; and numerous treatises on cognate points. In my study of ancient Jerusalem, I had the benefit of the labours of recent explorers, from Robinson and Barclay to the volumes published under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
To the Cyclopaedias of Winer, Herzog, Ersch and Gruber, Dr. Smith, and Kitto (the third edition), I have been greatly indebted. The last-named of these works has the special merit of a series of articles on Jewish subjects (as I may designate them), written in quite an original manner, and with most competent knowledge. Although, as will appear from the text, I have been obliged frequently to differ from their writer, yet these articles must, from the fulness and ability of their treatment, be of very great use to the student. Lightfoot’s Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae are known to every scholar. Not so, perhaps, his small learned treatise De ministerio templi. The title and many of the subjects are similar to those treated in the present volume. But the learned reader will at once perceive that the plan and execution are quite different, though the work has been of great service to me. Perhaps I ought not here to omit such names as Relandus, Buxtorf, Otho, Schottgen, Meuschen, Goodwin, Hottinger, Wagenseil, and Lundius; and, among modern writers, Bahr, Keil, Kurtz, de Wette, Saalschutz, Zunz, Jost, Geiger, Herzfeld, and Fratz, of whose works I have, I may say, constantly availed myself. Many others have been consulted, some of which are quoted in the foot-notes, while others are not expressly referred to, as not adding anything material to our knowledge.
In general, I should explain, that I have acted on the principle of giving the minimum of references possible. It would have been easy to have multiplied them almost indefinitely. But I wished to avoid cumbering my pages with an array of authorities, which too often give a mere appearance of learning; and, while they are not needed by scholars, may tend to interfere with the more general and popular use of such a work. For a similar reason, I have throughout avoided the use of Hebrew and even Greek letter-press. To print an expression in Hebrew letters could not be necessary for students, while the general reader, whom it too often bewilders by a show of knowledge, must in such case necessarily pass it over, unnoticed and unknown.
While this book embodies the studies of many years, I have during its actual composition deemed no labour nor pains irksome in comparing the results of my own investigations with those of all, within reach, who were entitled to such consideration. Thus much for the matter of the book. As to its form, some subjects may be touched in it which do not equally interest all readers; (2) others may appear to have been treated with too little or else with too much detail; objections may be raised to interpretations of types, or even to the general view of the Old Testament which has been taken throughout. My aim has been to make the book as complete and generally useful as I could, and clearly to express my convictions as to the meaning of the Old Testament. But on one point especially I would wish to be quite explicit. At the close of these studies, I would say, with humble and heartfelt thankfulness, that step by step my Christian faith has only been strengthened by them, that, as I proceeded, the conviction has always been deepened that Christ is indeed ‘the end of the Law for righteousness,’ to Whom all the ordinances of the Old Testament had pointed, and in Whom alone, alike the people and the history of Israel find their meaning. Viewed in this light, the Temple-services are not so many strange or isolated rites, for the origin of which we must look among neighbouring nations, or in the tendencies natural to men during the infancy of their history. Rather, all now becomes one connected whole–the design and execution bearing even stronger evidence to its Divine authorship than other of God’s works,–where every part fits into the other, and each and all point with unswerving steadfastness to Him in Whom the love of God was fully manifested, and its purposes towards the world entirely carried out. From first to last, the two dispensations are substantially one; Jehovah, the God of Israel, is also the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ–Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet; Vetus in Novo patet.
(1) Quite a different estimate must be formed of the Gemara (which in a general way may be described as a twofold commentary–the Jerusalem and Babylonian Gemara–upon the Mishnah), not only from its much later date, but also from the strange and heterogeneous congeries which are found in the many folios of the Talmud. Judaism was, at the time of its compilation, already thoroughly ossified; and the trustworthiness of tradition greatly impaired not merely by the long interval of time that had elapsed, but by dogmatic predilections and prejudices, and by the not unnatural wish to foist comparatively recent views, practices, and prayers upon Temple-times. Indeed, the work wants in its greatest part even the local colouring of the Mishnah–an element of such importance in Eastern traditions, where, so to speak, the colours are so fast, that, for example, to this day the modern Arab designations of places and localities have preserved the original Palestinian names, and not those more recent Greek or Roman with which successive conquerors had overlaid them.
(2) Thus Chapters 1 and 2, which give a description of ancient Jerusalem and of the structure and arrangements of the Temple, may not interest some readers, yet it could neither be left out, nor put in a different part of the book. Those for whom this subject has no attractions may, therefore, begin with Chapter 3.
A First View of Jerusalem, and of the Temple
‘And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it.’
The Charm of Jerusalem
In every age, the memory of Jerusalem has stirred the deepest feelings. Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans turn to it with reverent affection. It almost seems as if in some sense each could call it his ‘happy home,’ the ‘name ever dear’ to him. For our holiest thoughts of the past, and our happiest hopes for the future, connect themselves with ‘the city of our God.’ We know from many passages of the Old Testament, but especially from the Book of Psalms, with what ardent longing the exiles from Palestine looked towards it; and during the long centuries of dispersion and cruel persecution, up to this day, the same aspirations have breathed in almost every service of the synagogue, and in none more earnestly than in that of the paschal night, which to us is for ever associated with the death of our Saviour. It is this one grand presence there of ‘the Desire of all nations,’ which has for ever cast a hallowed light round Jerusalem and the Temple, and given fulfillment to the prophecy–‘Many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.’ (Isa 2:3) His feet have trodden the busy streets of Jerusalem, and the shady recesses of the Mount of Olives; His figure has ‘filled with glory’ the Temple and its services; His person has given meaning to the land and the people; and the decease which He accomplished at Jerusalem has been for the life of all nations. These facts can never be past–they are eternally present; not only to our faith, but also to our hope; for He ‘shall so come in like manner’ as the ‘men of Galilee’ had on Mount Olivet ‘seen Him go into heaven.’
But our memories of Jerusalem stretch far back beyond these scenes. In the distance of a remote antiquity we read of Melchisedek, the typical priest-king of Salem, who went out to meet Abraham, the ancestor of the Hebrew race, and blessed him. A little later, and this same Abraham was coming up from Hebron on his mournful journey, to offer up his only son. A few miles south of the city, the road by which he travelled climbs the top of a high promontory, that juts into the deep Kedron valley. From this spot, through the cleft of the mountains which the Kedron has made for its course, one object rose up straight before him. It was Moriah, the mount on which the sacrifice of Isaac was to be offered. Here Solomon afterwards built the Temple. For over Mount Moriah David had seen the hand of the destroying angel stayed, probably just above where afterwards from the large altar of burnt-offering the smoke of countless sacrifices rose day by day. On the opposite hill of Zion, separated only by a ravine from Moriah, stood the city and the palace of David, and close by the site of the Temple the tower of David. After that period an ever-shifting historical panorama passes before our view, unchanged only in this, that, amidst all the varying events, Jerusalem remains the one centre of interest and attractions, till we come to that Presence which has made it, even in its desolateness, ‘Hephzibah,’ ‘sought out,’ ‘a city not forsaken.’ (Isa 62:4)
Origin of the Name
The Rabbis have a curious conceit about the origin of the name Jerusalem, which is commonly taken to mean, ‘the foundation,’ ‘the abode,’ or ‘the inheritance of peace.’ They make it a compound of Jireh and Shalem, and say that Abraham called it ‘Jehovah-Jireh,’ while Shem had named it Shalem, but that God combined the two into Jireh-Shalem, Jerushalaim, or Jerusalem. There was certainly something peculiar in the choice of Palestine to be the country of the chosen people, as well as of Jerusalem to be its capital. The political importance of the land must be judged from its situation rather than its size. Lying midway between the east and the west, and placed between the great military monarchies, first of Egypt and Assyria, and then of Rome and the East, it naturally became the battle-field of the nations and the highway of the world. As for Jerusalem, its situation was entirely unique. Pitched on a height of about 2,610 feet above the level of the sea, its climate was more healthy, equable, and temperate than that of any other part of the country. From the top of Mount Olivet an unrivalled view of the most interesting localities in the land might be obtained. To the east the eye would wander over the intervening plains to Jericho, mark the tortuous windings of Jordan, and the sullen grey of the Dead Sea, finally resting on Pisgah and the mountains of Moab and Ammon. To the south, you might see beyond ‘the king’s gardens,’ as far as the grey tops of ‘the hill country of Judea.’ Westwards, the view would be arrested by the mountains of Bether, (Song 2:17) whilst the haze in the distant horizon marked the line of the Great Sea. To the north, such well-known localities met the eye as Mizpeh, Gibeon, Ajalon, Michmash, Ramah, and Anathoth. But, above all, just at your feet, the Holy City would lie in all her magnificence, like ‘a bride adorned for her husband.’
The Situation of Jerusalem
‘Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King….Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces.’ If this could be said of Jerusalem even in the humbler days of her native monarchy, (Psa 48:2,12,13) it was emphatically true at the time when Jesus ‘beheld the city,’ after Herod the Great had adorned it with his wonted splendour. As the pilgrim bands ‘came up’ from all parts of the country to the great feasts, they must have stood enthralled when its beauty first burst upon their gaze. Not merely remembrances of the past, or the sacred associations connected with the present, but the grandeur of the scene before them must have kindled their admiration into enthusiasm. For Jerusalem was a city of palaces, and right royally enthroned as none other. Placed on an eminence higher than the immediate neighbourhood, it was cut off and isolated by deep valleys on all sides but one, giving it the appearance of an immense natural fortress. All round it, on three sides, like a natural fosse, ran the deep ravines of the Valley of Hinnom and of the Black Valley, or Kedron, which merged to the south of the city, descending in such steep declivity that where the two meet is 670 feet below the point whence each had started. Only on the north-west was the city, as it were, bound to the mainland. And as if to give it yet more the character of a series of fortress-islands, a deep natural cleft–the Tyropoeon–ran south and north right through the middle of the city, then turned sharply westwards, separating Mount Zion from Mount Acra. Similarly, Acra was divided from Mount Moriah, and the latter again by an artificial valley from Bezetha, or the New Town. Sheer up from these encircling ravines rose the city of marble and cedar-covered palaces. Up that middle cleft, down in the valley, and along the slopes of the hills, crept the busy town, with its streets, markets, and bazaars. But alone, and isolated in its grandeur, stood the Temple Mount. Terrace upon terrace its courts rose, till, high above the city, within the enclosure of marble cloisters, cedar-roofed and richly ornamented, the Temple itself stood out a mass of snowy marble and of gold, glittering in the sunlight against the half-encircling green background of Olivet. In all his wanderings the Jew had not seen a city like his own Jerusalem. Not Antioch in Asia, not even imperial Rome herself, excelled it in architectural splendour. Nor has there been, either in ancient or modern times, a sacred building equal to the Temple, whether for situation or magnificence; nor yet have there been festive throngs like those joyous hundreds of thousands who, with their hymns of praise, crowded towards the city on the eve of a Passover. No wonder that the song burst from the lips of those pilgrims:
‘Still stand our feet
Within thy gates, Jerusalem!
Jerusalem, ah! thou art built
As a city joined companion-like together.’
From whatever side the pilgrim might approach the city, the first impression must have been solemn and deep. But a special surprise awaited those who came, whether from Jericho or from Galilee, by the well-known road that led over the Mount of Olives. From the south, beyond royal Bethlehem–from the west, descending over the heights of Beth-horon–or from the north, journeying along the mountains of Ephraim, they would have seen the city first vaguely looming in the grey distance, till, gradually approaching, they had become familiar with its outlines. It was far otherwise from the east. A turn in the road, and the city, hitherto entirely hid from view, would burst upon them suddenly, closely, and to most marked advantage. It was by this road Jesus made His triumphal entry from Bethany on the week of His Passion. Up from ‘the house of dates’ the broad, rough road would round the shoulder of Olivet. Thither the wondering crowd from Bethany followed Him, and there the praising multitude from the city met Him. They had come up that same Olivet, so familiar to them all. For did it not seem almost to form part of the city itself, shutting it off like a screen from the desert land that descended beyond to Jordan and the Dead Sea?
Mount of Olives
From the Temple Mount to the western base of Olivet, it was not more than 100 or 200 yards straight across, though, of course, the distance to the summit was much greater, say about half a mile. By the nearest pathway it was only 918 yards from the city gate to the principal summit. *
* ‘By the longer footpath it is 1,310 yards, and by the main camel road perhaps a little farther.’ Josephus calculates the distance from the city evidently to the top of Mount Olivet at 1,010 yards, or 5 furlongs. See City of the Great King, p. 59.
Olivet was always fresh and green, even in earliest spring or during parched summer–the coolest, the pleasantest, the most sheltered walk about Jerusalem. For across this road the Temple and its mountain flung their broad shadows, and luxuriant foliage spread a leafy canopy overhead. They were not gardens, in the ordinary Western sense, through which one passed, far less orchards; but something peculiar to those climes, where Nature everywhere strews with lavish hand her flowers, and makes her gardens–where the garden bursts into the orchard, and the orchard stretches into the field, till, high up, olive and fig mingle with the darker cypress and pine. The stony road up Olivet wound along terraces covered with olives, whose silver and dark green leaves rustled in the breeze. Here gigantic gnarled fig-trees twisted themselves out of rocky soil; there clusters of palms raised their knotty stems high up into waving plumed tufts, or spread, bush-like, from the ground, the rich-coloured fruit bursting in clusters from the pod. Then there were groves of myrtle, pines, tall, stately cypresses, and on the summit itself two gigantic cedars. To these shady retreats the inhabitants would often come from Jerusalem to take pleasure or to meditate, and there one of their most celebrated Rabbis was at one time wont in preference to teach. * Thither, also, Christ with His disciples often resorted.
* R. Jochanan ben Saccai, who was at the head of the Sanhedrim immediately before and after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Coming from Bethany the city would be for some time completely hidden from view by the intervening ridge of Olivet. But a sudden turn of the road, where ‘the descent of the Mount of Olives’ begins, all at once a first glimpse of Jerusalem is caught, and that quite close at hand. True, the configuration of Olivet on the right would still hide the Temple and most part of the city; but across Ophel, the busy suburb of the priests, the eye might range to Mount Zion, and rapidly climb its height to where Herod’s palace covered the site once occupied by that of David. A few intervening steps of descent, where the view of the city has again been lost, and the pilgrim would hurry on to that ledge of rock. What a panorama over which to roam with hungry eagerness! At one glance he would see before him the whole city–its valleys and hills, its walls and towers, its palaces and streets, and its magnificent Temple–almost like a vision from another world. There could be no difficulty in making out the general features of the scene. Altogether the city was only thirty-three stadia, or about four English miles, in circumference. Within this compass dwelt a population of 600,000 (according to Tacitus), but, according to the Jewish historian, amounting at the time of the Passover to between two and three millions, or about equal to that of London. *
* Mr. Fergusson, in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, i. p. 1025, controverts these numbers, on the ground of the population of modern cities within a given area. But two millions represent not the ordinary population, only the festive throngs at the Passover. Taking into consideration Eastern habits–the sleeping on the roof, and possibly the camping out–the computation is not extravagant. Besides, however untruthful Josephus was, he may, as a general rule, be trusted where official numbers, capable of verification, are concerned. In fact, taking into account this extraordinary influx, the Rabbis distinctly state, that during the feasts–except on the first night–the people might camp outside Jerusalem, but within the limits of a sabbath-day’s journey. This, as Otho well remarks (Lex. Rabb. p. 195), also explains how, on such occasions, our Lord so often retired to the Mount of Olives.
The first feature to attract attention would be the city walls, at the time of Christ only two in number. *
* The third, largest, and strongest wall, which enclosed Bezetha, or the New Town, was built by Herod Agrippa, twelve years after the date of the crucifixion.
The first, or old wall, began at the north-western angle of Zion, at the tower of Hippicus, and ran along the northern brow of Zion, where it crossed the cleft, and joined the western colonnade of the Temple at the ‘Council-house.’ It also enclosed Zion along the west and the south, and was continued eastward around Ophel, till it merged in the south-eastern angle of the Temple. Thus the first wall would defend Zion, Ophel, and, along with the Temple walls,, Moriah also. The second wall, which commenced at a gate in the first wall, called ‘Gennath,’ ran first north, and then east, so as to enclose Acra, and terminated at the Tower of Antonia. Thus the whole of the old city and the Temple was sufficiently protected.
Tower of Antonia
The Tower of Antonia was placed at the north-western angle of the Temple, midway between the castle of the same name and the Temple. With the former it communicated by a double set of cloisters, with the latter by a subterranean passage into the Temple itself, and also by cloisters and stairs descending into the northern and the western porches of the Court of the Gentiles. Some of the most glorious traditions in Jewish history were connected with this castle, for there had been the ancient ‘armoury of David,’ the palace of Hezekiah and of Nehemiah, and the fortress of the Maccabees. But in the days of Christ Antonia was occupied by a hated Roman garrison, which kept watch over Israel, even in its sanctuary. In fact, the Tower of Antonia overlooked and commanded the Temple, so that a detachment of soldiers could at any time rush down to quell a riot, as on the occasion when the Jews had almost killed Paul (Acts 21:31). The city walls were further defended by towers–sixty in the first, and forty in the second wall. Most prominent among them were Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne, close by each other, to the north-west of Zion–all compactly built of immense marble blocks, square, strongly fortified, and surmounted by buildings defended by battlements and turrets. * They were built by Herod, and named after the friend and the brother he had lost in battle, and the wife whom his jealousy had killed.
* For particulars of these forts, see Josephus’ Wars, v. 4, 3.
The Four Hills
If the pilgrim scanned the city more closely, he would observe that it was built on four hills. Of these, the western, or ancient Zion, was the highest, rising about 200 feet above Moriah, though still 100 feet lower than the Mount of Olives. To the north and the east, opposite Zion, and divided from it by the deep Tyropoeon Valley, were the crescent-shaped Acra and Moriah, the latter with Ophel as its southern outrunner. Up and down the slopes of Acra the Lower City crept. Finally, the fourth hill, Bezetha (from bezaion, marshy ground), the New Town, rose north of the Temple Mount and of Acra, and was separated from them by an artificial valley. The streets, which, as in all Eastern cities, were narrow, were paved with white marble. A somewhat elevated footway ran along for the use of those who had newly been purified in the Temple, while the rest walked in the roadway below. The streets derived their names mostly from the gates to which they led, or from the various bazaars. Thus there were ‘Water-street,’ ‘Fish-street,’ ‘East-street,’ etc. The ‘Timber Bazaar’ and that of the ‘Tailors’ were in the New City; the Grand Upper Market on Mount Zion. Then there were the ‘Wool’ and the ‘Braziers’ Bazaar’; ‘Baker-street,’ ‘Butcher-street,’ ‘Strangers’-street,’ and many others similarly named. Nor would it have been difficult to identify the most prominent buildings in the city. At the north-western angle of Mount Zion, the ancient Salem and Jebus, on the site of the castle of David, was the grand palace of Herod, generally occupied by the Roman procurators during their temporary sojourn in Jerusalem. It stood high up, just within shelter of the great towers which Herod had reared–a marvel of splendour, of whose extent, strength, height, rooms, towers, roofs, porticoes, courts, and adjacent gardens Josephus speaks in such terms of admiration.
At the opposite, or north-eastern corner of Mount Zion, was the palace of the High-priest. Being built on the slope of the hill, there was under the principal apartments a lower story, with a porch in front, so that we can understand how on that eventful night Peter was ‘beneath in the palace.’ (Mark 14:66) Beyond it, probably on the slope of Acra, was the Repository of the Archives, and on the other side of the cleft, abutting on the Temple, with which it was probably connected by a colonnade, the Council Chamber of the Sanhedrim. Following the eastern brow of Mount Zion, south of the High-priest’s palace, and opposite the Temple, was the immense Xystus, which probably extended into the Tyropoeon. Whatever may have been its original purpose, * it was afterwards used as a place of public meetings, where, on great occasions, the populace was harangued.
* Barclay suggest that the Xystus had originally been the heathen gymnasium built by the infamous high-priest Jason. (City of the Great King, p. 101)
Here Peter probably addressed the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost when the multitude had hurried thither from the Temple on hearing ‘the mighty rushing sound.’ The Xystus was surrounded by a covered colonnade. Behind it was the palace of Agrippa, the ancient palace of David and of the Maccabees, and again, in the rear of it, that of Bernice. On Acra stood afterwards the palaces of certain foreign princes, such as those of Queen Helena, King Monobasus, and other proselytes. In this quarter, or even beyond it to the north-west, one would naturally look for the Theatre and the Amphitheatre, which, being so essentially un-Jewish, must have been located as far as possible from the Temple. The space around the Temple was no doubt kept clear of buildings. On the south-eastern corner behind it was the great Sheep Market, and to the south of it the Hippodrome. Originally, the king’s house by the horse-gate, built by Solomon, and the royal stables, had occupied the southern area of the Temple Mount, where Herod afterwards built the ‘Royal Porch.’ For the Temple of Solomon was 300 feet shorter, from north to south, than that of Herod. Transversely, between Xystus and the Fish Gate, lay the quarter of Maktesh, (Zeph 1:10,11) occupied by various bazaars, chiefly connected with the Temple. Lastly, south of the Temple, but on the same hill, was Ophel, the crowded suburb of the priests.
The Shushan Gate
Such must have been a first view of Jerusalem, as ‘beheld’ from the Mount of Olives, on which we are supposed to have taken our stand. If Jewish tradition on the subject may be trusted, a gate opened upon this Mount of Olives through the eastern wall of the Temple. *
* In the chamber above this gate two standard measures were kept, avowedly for the use of the workmen employed in the Temple. (Chel. 17. 9.)
It is called ‘the Shushan Gate,’ from the sculptured representation over it of the city to which so many Jewish memories attached. From this gate an arched roadway, by which the priests brought out the ‘red heifer,’ and on the Day of Atonement the scapegoat, is said to have conducted to the Mount of Olives. Near the spot where the red heifer was burned were extensive lavatories, and booths for the sale of articles needed for various purifications. Up a crest, on one of the most commanding elevations, was the Lunar Station, whence, by fire signals, the advent of each new moon was telegraphed from hill to hill into far countries. If Jewish tradition may further be trusted, there was also an unused gate in the Temple towards the north–Tedit or Tere–and two gates towards the south. We know for certain of only a subterranean passage which led from the fortress Antonia on the ‘north-western angle’ of the Temple into the Temple Court, and of the cloisters with stairs descending into the porches, by one of which the chief captain Lysias rushed to the rescue of Paul, when nearly killed by the infuriated multitude. Dismissing all doubtful questions, we are sure that at any rate five gates opened into the outer Temple enclosure or Court of the Gentiles–one from the south, and four–and these the principal–from the west. That southern gate was double, and must have chiefly served the convenience of the priests. Coming from Ophel, they would pass through its gigantic archway and vestibule (40 feet each way), and then by a double tunnel nearly 200 feet long, whence they emerged at a flight of steps leading straight up from the Court of the Gentiles into that of the priests, close to the spot where they would officiate. *
* Jewish tradition mentions the following five as the outer gates of the Temple: that of Shushan to the east, of Tedi to the north, of Copponus to the west, and the two Huldah gates to the south. The Shushan gate was said to have been lower than the others, so that the priests at the end of the ‘heifer-bridge’ might look over it into the Temple. In a chamber above the Shushan gate, the standard measures of the ‘cubit’ were kept.
But to join the great crowd of worshippers we have to enter the city itself. Turning our back on Mount Zion, we now face eastwards to Mount Moriah. Though we look towards the four principal entrances to the Temple, yet what we see within those walls on the highest of the terraces is not the front but the back of the sanctuary. It is curious how tradition is here in the most palpable error in turning to the east in worship. The Holy Place itself faced east-wards, and was approached from the east; but most assuredly the ministering priests and the worshippers looked not towards the east, but towards the west.
The Temple Plateau
The Temple plateau had been artificially levelled at immense labour and cost, and enlarged by gigantic substructures. The latter served also partly for the purpose of purification, as otherwise there might have been some dead body beneath, which, however great the distance from the surface, would, unless air had intervened, have, according to tradition, defiled the whole place above. As enlarged by Herod the Great, the Temple area occupied an elongated square of from 925 to 950 feet and upwards. *
* Many modern writers have computed the Temple area at only 606 feet, while Jewish authorities make it much larger than we have stated it. The computation in the text is based on the latest and most trustworthy investigations, and fully borne out by the excavations made on the spot by Capts. Wilson and Warren.
Roughly calculating it at about 1,000 feet, this would give an extent more than one-half greater than the length of St. Peter’s at Rome, which measures 613 feet, and nearly double our own St. Paul’s, whose extreme length is 520 1/2 feet. And then we must bear in mind that the Temple plateau was not merely about 1,000 feet in length, but a square of nearly 1,000 feet! It was not, however, in the centre of this square, but towards the north-west, that the Temple itself and its special courts were placed. Nor, as already hinted, were they all on a level, but rose terrace upon terrace, till the sacred edifice itself was reached, its porch protruding, ‘shoulder-like,’ on either side–perhaps rising into two flanking towers–and covering the Holy and Most Holy Places. Thus must the ‘golden fane’ have been clearly visible from all parts; the smoke of its sacrifices slowly curling up against the blue Eastern sky, and the music of its services wafted across the busy city, while the sunlight glittered on its gilt roofs, or shone from its pavement of tesselated marble, or threw great shadows on Olivet behind.
Fables of the Rabbis
Assuredly, when the Rabbis thought of their city in her glory, they might well say: ‘The world is like unto an eye. The ocean surrounding the world is the white of the eye; its black is the world itself; the pupil is Jerusalem; but the image within the pupil is the sanctuary.’ In their sorrow and loneliness they have written many fabled things of Jerusalem, of which some may here find a place, to show with what halo of reverence they surrounded the loving memories of the past. Jerusalem, they say, belonged to no tribe in particular–it was all Israel’s. And this is in great measure literally true; for even afterwards, when ancient Jebus became the capital of the land, the boundary line between Judah and Benjamin ran right through the middle of the city and of the Temple; so that, according to Jewish tradition, the porch and the sanctuary itself were in Benjamin, and the Temple courts and altar in Judah. In Jerusalem no house might be hired. The houses belonged as it were to all; for they must all be thrown open, in free-hearted hospitality, to the pilgrim-brethren that came up to the feast. Never had any one failed to find in Jerusalem the means of celebrating the paschal festivities, nor yet had any lacked a bed on which to rest. Never did serpent or scorpion hurt within her precincts; never did fire desolate her streets, nor ruin occur. No ban ever rested on the Holy City. It was Levitically more sacred than other cities, since there alone the paschal lamb, the thank-offerings, and the second tithes might be eaten. Hence they carefully guarded against all possibility of pollution. No dead body might remain in the city overnight; no sepulchres were there, except those of the house of David and of the prophetess Huldah. No even domestic fowls might be kept, nor vegetable gardens be planted, lest the smell of decaying vegetation should defile the air; nor yet furnaces be built, for fear of smoke. Never had adverse acident interrupted the services of the sanctuary, nor profaned the offerings. Never had rain extinguished the fire on the altar, nor contrary wind driven back the smoke of the sacrifices; nor yet, however great the crowd of worshipperes, had any failed for room to bow down and worship the God of Israel!
Thus far the Rabbis. All the more impressive is their own admission and their lament–so significant as viewed in the light of the Gospel: ‘For three years and a half abode the Shechinah’ (or visible Divine presence) ‘on the Mount of Olives,’–waiting whether Israel would repent–‘and calling upon them, „Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” And when all was in vain, then the Shechinah returned to its own place!’
Jerusalem in Ruins
The Shechinah has withdrawn to its own place! Both the city and the Temple have been laid ‘even with the ground,’ because Jerusalem knew not the time of her visitation (Luke 19:44). ‘They have laid Jerusalem on heaps’ (Psalm 79:1). ‘The stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street’ (Lam 4:1). All this, and much more, did the Saviour, the rightful King of Israel, see in the near future, when ‘He beheld the city, and wept over it.’ And now we must search very deep down, sinking the shaft from 60 to over 125 feet through the rubbish of accumulated ruins, before reaching at last the ancient foundations. And there, close by where once the royal bridge spanned the deep chasm and led from the City of David into the royal porch of the Temple, is ‘the Jews’ Wailing Place,’ where the mourning heirs to all this desolation reverently embrace the fallen stones, and weep unavailing tears–unavailing because the present is as the past, and because what brought that judgment and sorrow is unrecognised, unrepented, unremoved. Yet–‘Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh and also the night. If ye will inquire, inquire! Return, come!’
Within the Holy Place
‘There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’–Matthew 24:2
‘The Royal Bridge’
Of the four principal entrances into the Temple–all of them from the west–the most northerly descended, perhaps by flights of steps, into the Lower City; while two others led into the suburb, or Parbar, as it is called. But by far the most magnificent avenue was that at the south-western angle of the Temple. Probably this was ‘the ascent…into the house of the Lord,’ which so astounded the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:5) *
* According to Mr. Lewin, however (Siege of Jerusalem, p. 270), this celebrated ‘ascent’ to the house of the Lord went up by a double subterranean passage, 250 feet long and 62 feet wide, by a flight of steps from the new palace of Solomon, afterwards occupied by the ‘Royal Porch,’ right into the inner court of the Temple.
It would, indeed, be difficult to exaggerate the splendour of this approach. A colossal bridge on arches spanned the intervening Valley of the Tyropoeon, connecting the ancient City of David with what is called the ‘Royal Porch of the Temple.’ From its ruins we can reconstruct this bridge. Each arch spanned 41 1/2 feet, and the spring-stones measured 24 feet in length by 6 in thickness. It is almost impossible to realise these proportions, except by a comparison with other buildings. A single stone 24 feet long! Yet these were by no means the largest in the masonry of the Temple. Both at the south-eastern and the south-western angles stones have been found measuring from 20 to 40 feet in length, and weighing above 100 tons.
The Temple Porches
The view from this ‘Royal Bridge’ must have been splendid. It was over it that they led the Saviour, in sight of all Jerusalem, to and from the palace of the high-priest, that of Herod, the meeting-place of the Sanhedrim, and the judgment-seat of Pilate. Here the city would have lain spread before us like a map. Beyond it the eye would wander over straggling suburbs, orchards, and many gardens–fairest among them the royal gardens to the south, the ‘garden of roses,’ so celebrated by the Rabbis–till the horizon was bounded by the hazy outline of mountains in the distance. Over the parapet of the bridge we might have looked into the Tyropoeon Valley below, a depth of not less than 225 feet. The roadway which spanned this cleft for a distance of 354 feet, from Mount Moriah to Mount Zion opposite, was 50 feet broad, that is, about 5 feet wider than the central avenue of the Royal Temple-Porch into which it led. These ‘porches,’ as they are called in the New Testament, or cloisters, were among the finest architectural features of the Temple. They ran all round the inside of its wall, and bounded the outer enclosure of the Court of the Gentiles. They consisted of double rows of Corinthian pillars, all monoliths, wholly cut out of one block of marble, each pillar being 37 1/2 feet high. A flat roof, richly ornamented, rested against the wall, in which also the outer row of pillars was inserted. Possibly there may have been towers where one colonnade joined the other. But the ‘Royal Porch,’ by which we are supposed to have entered the Temple, was the most splendid, consisting not as the others, of a double, but of a treble colonnade, formed of 162 pillars, ranged in four rows of 40 pillars each, the two odd pillars serving as a kind of screen, where the ‘Porch’ opened upon the bridge. Indeed, we may regard the Royal Porch as consisting of a central nave 45 feet wide, with gigantic pillars 100 feet high, and of two aisles 30 feet wide, with pillars 50 feet high. By very competent authorities this Royal Porch, as its name indicates, is regarded as occupying the site of the ancient palace of Solomon, to which he ‘brought up’ the daughter of Pharaoh. Here also had been the ‘stables of Solomon.’ When Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple, he incorporated with it this site of the ancient royal palace. What the splendour and height (Professor Porter has calculated it at 440 feet) of this one porch in the Temple must have been is best expressed in the words of Captain Wilson (Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 9): ‘It is almost impossible to realise the effect which would be produced by a building longer and higher than York Cathedral, standing on a solid mass of masonry almost equal in height to the tallest of our church spires.’ And this was only one of the porches which formed the southern enclosure of the first and outermost court of the Temple–that of the Gentiles. The view from the top of this colonnade into Kedron was to the stupendous depth of 450 feet. Here some have placed that pinnacle of the Temple to which the tempter brought our Saviour.
These halls or porches around the Court of the Gentiles must have been most convenient places for friendly or religious intercourse–for meetings or discussions. Here Jesus, when still a child, was found by His parents disputing with the doctors; here He afterwards so often taught the people; and here the first assemblies of the Christians must have taken place when, ‘continuing daily with one accord in the Temple,…praising God, and having favour with all the people,…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.’ Especially do we revert to Solomon’s Porch, that ran along the eastern wall of the Temple, and faced its great entrance. It was the only remnant left of the Temple built by the wise King of Israel. In this porch ‘Jesus walked’ on that ‘Feast of the Dedication,’ (John 10:23) when He ‘told it plainly,’ ‘I and my Father are one’; and it was thither ‘that all the people ran together’ when ‘the notable miracle’ on the lame man had been wrought at the ‘Beautiful Gate of the Temple.’
Court of the Gentiles
It was the rule when entering the Temple to pass in by the right, and when leaving it to go out by the left hand. The great Court of the Gentiles, * which formed the lowest or outer enclosure of the Sanctuary, was paved with the finest variegated marble.
* We have adopted this name as in common use, though Relandus (Antiq. p. 78) rightly objects that the only term for it used in Jewish writings is the ‘mountain of the house.’
According to Jewish tradition, it formed a square of 750 feet. Its name is derived from the fact that it was open to all–Jews or Gentiles–provided they observed the prescribed rules of decorum and reverence. In this court tradition places eating and sleeping apartments for the Levites, and a synagogue. But, despite pharisaic punctilliousness, the noise, especially on the eve of the Passover, must have been most disturbing. For there the oxen, sheep, and doves selected as fit for sacrifices were sold as in a market; and here were those tables of the money-changers which the Lord overthrew when He drove from His Father’s house them that bought and sold (Matt 21:12; John 2:14). Within a short distance, in the court, a marble screen 4 1/2 feet high, and beautifully ornamented, bore Greek and Latin inscriptions, warning Gentiles not to proceed, on pain of death. One of those very tablets, bearing almost the same words as those given by Josephus, has been discovered in late excavations. It was because they thought Paul had infringed this order, that the infuriated multitude ‘went about to kill him’ (Acts 21:31). Beyond this enclosure a flight of fourteen steps, each 9 inches high, led up to a terrace 15 feet broad, called the ‘Chel,’ which bounded the inner wall of the Temple. We are now approaching the Sanctuary itself, which consisted, first, of three courts, each higher than the former, and, beyond them, of the Holy and Most Holy Places, with their outbuildings. Entering by the principal gate on the east we pass, first into the Court of the Women, thence into that of Israel, and from the latter into that of the Priests. This would have been, so to speak, the natural way of advancing. But there was a nearer road into the Court of the Priests. For both north and south, along the terrace, flights of steps led up to three gates (both north and south), which opened into the Court of the Priests, while a fourth gate (north and south) led into the middle of the Court of the Women. Thus there were nine gates opening from ‘the Terrace’ into the Sanctuary–the principal one from the east, and four north and south, of which one (north and south) also led into the Court of the Women, and the other three (north and south) into that of the Priests.
The ‘Beautiful Gate’
These eight side gates, as we may call them, were all two-leaved, wide, high, with superstructures and chambers supported by two pillars, and covered with gold and silver plating. But far more magnificent than any of them was the ninth or eastern gate, which formed the principal entrance into the Temple. The ascent to it was from the terrace by twelve easy steps. The gate itself was made of dazzling Corinthian brass, most richly ornamented; and so massive were its double doors that it needed the united strength of twenty men to open and close them. This was the ‘Beautiful Gate’; and on its steps had they been wont these many years to lay the lame man, just as privileged beggars now lie at the entrance to Continental cathedrals. No wonder that all Jerusalem knew him; and when on that sunny afternoon Peter and John joined the worshippers in the Court of the Women, not alone, but in company with the well-known cripple, who, after his healing, was ‘walking and leaping and praising God,’ universal ‘wonder and amazement’ must have been aroused. Then, when the lame man, still ‘holding by’ the apostles, again descended these steps, we can readily understand how all the people would crowd around in Solomon’s Porch, close by, till the sermon of Peter–so fruitful in its spiritual results–was interrupted by the Temple police, and the sudden imprisonment of the apostles.
Court of the Women
The Court of the Women obtained its name, not from its appropriation to the exclusive use of women, but because they were not allowed to proceed farther, except for sacrificial purposes. Indeed, this was probably the common place for worship, the females occupying, according to Jewish tradition, only a raised gallery along three sides of the court. This court covered a space upwards of 200 feet square. All around ran a simple colonnade, and within it, against the wall, the thirteen chests, or ‘trumpets,’ for charitable contributions were placed. These thirteen chests were narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom, shaped like trumpets, whence their name. Their specific objects were carefully marked on them. Nine were for the receipt of what was legally due by worshippers; the other four for strictly voluntary gifts. Trumpets I and II were appropriated to the half-shekel Temple-tribute of the current and of the past year. Into Trumpet III those women who had to bring turtledoves for a burnt- and a sin-offering dropped their equivalent in money, which was daily taken out and a corresponding number of turtledoves offered. This not only saved the labour of so many separate sacrifices, but spared the modesty of those who might not wish to have the occasion or the circumstances of their offering to be publicly known. Into this trumpet Mary the mother of Jesus must have dropped the value of her offering (Luke 2:22,24) when the aged Simeon took the infant Saviour ‘in his arms, and blessed God.’ Trumpet IV similarly received the value of the offerings of young pigeons. In Trumpet V contributions for the wood used in the Temple; in Trumpet VI for the incense, and in Trumpet VII for the golden vessels for the ministry were deposited. If a man had put aside a certain sum for a sin-offering, and any money was left over after its purchase, it was cast into Trumpet VIII. Similarly, Trumpets IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII were destined for what was left over from trespass-offerings, offerings of birds, the offering of the Nazarite, of the cleansed leper, and voluntary offerings. In all probability this space where the thirteen Trumpets were placed was the ‘treasury,’ where Jesus taught on that memorable Feast of Tabernacles (John 7 and 8; see specially 8:20). We can also understand how, from the peculiar and known destination of each of these thirteen ‘trumpets,’ the Lord could distinguish the contributions of the rich who cast in ‘of their abundance’ from that of the poor widow who of her ‘penury’ had given ‘all the living’ that she had (Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1). But there was also a special treasury-chamber, into which at certain times they carried the contents of the thirteen chests; and, besides, what was called ‘a chamber of the silent,’ where devout persons secretly deposited money, afterwards secretly employed for educating children of the pious poor.
It is probably in ironical allusion to the form and name of these treasure-chests that the Lord, making use of the word ‘trumpet,’ describes the conduct of those who, in their almsgiving, sought glory from men as ‘sounding a trumpet’ before them (Matt 6:2)–that is, carrying before them, as it were, in full display one of these trumpet-shaped alms-boxes (literally called in the Talmud, ‘trumpets’), and, as it were, sounding it. *
* The allusion is all the more pointed, when we bear in mind that each of these trumpets had a mark to tell its special object. It seems strange that this interpretation should not have occurred to any of the commentators, who have always found the allusion such a crux interpretum. An article in the Bible Educator has since substantially adopted this view, adding that trumpets were blown when the alms were collected. But for the latter statement there is no historical authority whatever, and it would contravene the religious spirit of the times.
In each of the four corners of the Court of the Women were chambers, or rather unroofed courts, each said to have been 60 feet long. In that at the right hand (on the north-east), the priests who were unfit for other than menial services on account of bodily blemishes, picked the worm-eaten wood from that destined for the altar. In the court at the farther angle (north-west) the purified lepers washed before presenting themselves to the priests at the Gate of Nicanor. At the left (south-east) the Nazarites polled their hair, and cooked their peace-offerings; while in a fourth court (at the south-west) the oil and wine were kept for the drink-offerings. The musical instruments used by the Levites were deposited in two rooms under the Court of the Israelites, to which the access was from the Court of the Women.
Of course the western colonnade of this court was open. Thence fifteen easy steps led through the so-called Gate of Nicanor into the Court of Israel. On these steps the Levites were wont on the Feast of Tabernacles to sing the fifteen ‘Psalms of Degrees,’ or ascent (Psalms 120 to 134), whence some have derived their name. Here, or, rather, in the Gate of Nicanor, all that was ordered to be done ‘before the Lord’ took place. There the cleansed leper and the women coming for purification presented themselves to the priests, and there also the ‘water of jealousy’ was given to the suspected wife.
Court of Israel
Perhaps it will be most convenient for practical purposes to regard the two Courts of Israel and of the Priests as in reality forming only one, divided into two parts by a low balustrade 1 1/2 feet high. Thus viewed, this large double court, inclusive of the Sanctuary itself, would measure 280 1/2 feet in length by 202 1/2 feet in breadth. Of this a narrow strip, 16 1/2 feet long, formed the Court of Israel. Two steps led up from it to the Court of the Priests. Here you mounted again by three low semicircular steps to a kind of pulpit or platform, where, as well as on the ‘fifteen steps,’ the Levites sang and played during the ordinary service. The priests, on the other hand, occupied, while pronouncing the blessing, the steps at the other end of the court which led up to the Temple porch. A similar arrangement existed in the great court as in that of the Women. Right and left of the Nicanor Gate were receptacles for the priestly vestments (one for each of the four kinds, and for the twenty-four courses of priests: 4 x 24 = 96).
Next came the chamber of the high-priest’s meat-offering (Lev 6:20), where each morning before going to their duties the officiating priesthood gathered from the so-called ‘Beth-ha-Moked,’ or ‘house of stoves.’ The latter was built on arches, and contained a large dining-hall that communicated with four other chambers. One of these was a large apartment where fires were continually burning for the use of the priests who ministered barefoot. There also the heads of the ministering courses slept, and here, in a special receptacle under the pavement, the keys of the Temple were hung up at night. Of the other three chambers of the Beth-Moked, one was appropriated to the various counterfoils given as a warrant when a person had paid his due for a drink-offering. In another the shewbread was prepared, while yet a third served for the lambs (at least six in number) that were always kept ready for the regular sacrifice. Here also a passage led to the well-lit subterranean bath for the use of the priests. Besides the Beth-Moked there were, north and south of the court, rooms for storing the salt for the altar, for salting the skins of sacrifices, for washing ‘their inwards,’ for storing the ‘clean’ wood, for the machinery by which the laver was supplied with water, and finally the chamber ‘Gazith,’ or Hall of Hewn Stones, where the Sanhedrim was wont to meet. Above some of these chambers were other apartments, such as those in which the high-priest spent the week before the Day of Atonement in study and meditation.
The account which Jewish tradition gives of these gates and chambers around the Court of the Priests is somewhat conflicting, perhaps because the same chambers and gates may have borne different names. It may, however, be thus summarised. Entering the Great Court by the Nicanor Gate, there was at the right hand the Chamber of Phinehas with its 96 receptacles for priests’ vestments, and at the left the place where the high-priest’s daily meat-offering was prepared, and where every morning before daybreak all the ministering priests met, after their inspection of the Temple and before being told off to duty. Along the southern side of the court were the Water-gate, through which at the Feast of Tabernacles the pitcher with water was brought from the Pool of Siloam, with a chamber above it, called Abtinas, where the priests kept guard at night; then the Gate of the Firstlings, through which the firstlings fit to be offered were brought; and the Wood-gate, through which the altar-wood was carried. Alongside these gates were Gazith, the hall of square polished stones, where the Sanhedrim sat; the chamber Golah, for the water apparatus which emptied and filled the laver; and the wood-chamber. Above and beyond it were the apartments of the high-priest and the council-chamber of the ‘honourable councillors,’ or priestly council for affairs strictly connected with the Temple. On the northern side of the Priests’ Court were the gate Nitzutz (Spark Gate), with a guard-chamber above for the priests, the Gate of Sacrifices, and the Gate of the Beth-Moked. Alongside these gates were the chamber for salting the sacrifices; that for salting the skins (named Parvah from its builder), with bathrooms for the high-priest above it; and finally the Beth-Moked with its apartments. The two largest of these buildings–the council-chamber of the Sanhedrim at the south-eastern, * and the Beth-Moked at the north-western angle of the court–were partly built into the court and partly out on ‘the terrace.’
* It is very strange what mistakes are made about the localisation of the rooms and courts connected with the Temple. Thus the writer of the article ‘Sanhedrim’ in Kitto’s Encycl., vol. iii. p. 766, says that the hall of the Sanhedrim ‘was situate in the centre of the south side of the Temple-court, the northern part extending to the Court of the Priests, and the southern part to the Court of the Israelites.’ But the Court of Israel and that of the Priests did not lie north and south, but east and west, as a glance at the Temple plan will show! The hall of the Sanhedrim extended indeed south, though certainly not to the Court of Israel, but to the Chel or terrace. The authorities quoted in the article ‘Sanhedrim’ do not bear out the writer’s conclusions. It ought to be remarked that about the time of Christ the Sanhedrim removed its sittings from the Hall of Square Stones to another on the east of the Temple-court.
This, because none other than a prince of the house of David might sit down within the sacred enclosure of the Priests’ Court. Probably there was a similar arrangement for the high-priest’s apartments and the priests’ council-chamber, as well as for the guard-chambers of the priests, so that at each of the four corners of the court the apartments would abut upon ‘the terrace.’ *
* We know that the two priestly guard-chambers above the Water-gate and Nitzutz opened also upon the terrace. This may explain how the Talmud sometimes speaks of six and sometimes of eight gates opening from the Priests’ Court upon the terrace, or else gates 7 and 8 may have been those which opened from the terrace north and south into the Court of the Women.
All along the colonnades, both around the Court of the Gentiles and that of the Women, there were seats and benches for the accommodation of the worshippers.
The most prominent object in the Court of the Priests was the immense altar of unhewn stones, * a square of not less than 48 feet, and, inclusive of ‘the horns,’ 15 feet high.
* They were ‘whitened’ twice a year. Once in seven years the high-priest was to inspect the Most Holy Place, through an opening made from the room above. If repairs were required, the workmen were let down through the ceiling in a sort of cage, so as not to see anything but what they were to work at.
All around it a ‘circuit’ ran for the use of the ministering priests, who, as a rule, always passed round by the right, and retired by the left. *
* The three exceptions to this are specially mentioned in the Talmud. The high-priest both ascended and descended by the right.
As this ‘circuit’ was raised 9 feet from the ground, and 1 1/2 feet high, while the ‘horns’ measured 1 1/2 feet in height, the priests would have only to reach 3 feet to the top of the altar, and 4 1/2 feet to that of each ‘horn.’ An inclined plane, 48 feet long by 24 wide, into which about the middle two smaller ‘descents’ merged, led up to the ‘circuit’ from the south. Close by was the great heap of salt, from which every sacrifice must be salted with salt. *
* Also a receptacle for such sin-offerings of birds as had become spoiled. This inclined plane was kept covered with salt, to prevent the priests, who were barefooted, from slipping.
On the altar, which at the top was only 36 feet wide, three fires burned, one (east) for the offerings, the second (south) for the incense, the third (north) to supply the means for kindling the other two. The four ‘horns’ of the altar were straight, square, hollow prominences, that at the south-west with two openings, into whose silver funnels the drink-offerings, and, at the Feast of Tabernacles, the water from the Pool of Siloam, were poured. A red line all round the middle of the altar marked that above it the blood of sacrifices intended to be eaten, below it that of sacrifices wholly consumed, was to be sprinkled. The system of drainage into chambers below and canals, all of which could be flushed at will, was perfect; the blood and refuse being swept down into Kedron and towards the royal gardens. Finally, north of the altar were all requisites for the sacrifices–six rows, with four rings each, of ingenious mechanism, for fastening the sacrifices; eight marble tables for the flesh, fat, and cleaned ‘inwards’; eight low columns, each with three hooks, for hanging up the pieces; a marble table for laying them out, and one of silver for the gold and silver vessels of the service.
Between the altar and porch of the Temple, but placed towards the south, was the immense laver of brass, supported by twelve colossal lions, which was drained every evening, and filled every morning by machinery, and where twelve priests could wash at the same time. Indeed, the water supply to the Sanctuary is among the most wonderful of its arrangements. That of the Temple is designated by Captain Wilson as the ‘low-level supply,’ in contradistinction to the ‘high-level aqueduct,’ which collected the water in a rock-hewn tunnel four miles long, on the road to Hebron, and then wound along so as to deliver water to the upper portion of the city. The ‘low-level’ aqueduct, which supplied the Temple, derived its waters from three sources–from the hills about Hebron, from Etham, and from the three pools of Solomon. Its total length was over forty miles. The amount of water it conveyed may be gathered from the fact that the surplusage of the waters of Etham is calculated, when drained into the lower pool of Gihon, to have presented when full, ‘an area of nearly four acres of water.’ And, as if this had not been sufficient, ‘the ground is perfectly honeycombed with a series of remarkable rock-hewn cisterns, in which the water brought by an aqueduct form Solomon’s Pools, near Bethlehem, was stored. The cisterns appear to have been connected by a system of channels cut out of the rock; so that when one was full the surplus water ran into the next, and so on, till the final overflow was carried off by a channel into the Kedron. One of the cisterns–that known as the Great Sea–would contain two million gallons; and the total number of gallons which could be stored probably exceeded ten millions.’ There seems little doubt that the drainage of Jerusalem was ‘as well managed as the water supply; the mouth of the main drain being in the valley of the Kedron, where the sewerage was probably used as manure for the gardens.’
The Great Stones
The mind becomes bewildered at numbers, the accuracy of which we should hesitate to receive if they were not confirmed by modern investigations. We feel almost the same in speaking of the proportions of the Holy House itself. It was built on immense foundations of solid blocks of white marble covered with gold, each block measuring, according to Josephus, 67 1/2 by 9 feet. Mounting by a flight of twelve steps to the ‘Porch,’ we notice that it projected 30 feet on each side beyond the Temple itself. Including these projections, the buildings of the Temple were 150 feet long, and as many broad. Without them the breadth was only 90, and the length 120 feet. Of these 60 feet in length, from east to west, and 30 feet in breadth, belonged to the Holy Place; while the Most Holy was 30 feet long, and as many broad. There were, therefore, on either side of the Sanctuary, as well as behind it, 30 feet to spare, which were occupied by side buildings three stories high, each containing five rooms, while that at the back had eight. These side-buildings, however, were lower than the Sanctuary itself, over which also super-structures had been reared. A gabled cedar roof, with golden spikes on it, and surrounded by an elegant balustrade, surmounted the whole.
The entrance to the ‘Porch,’ which was curiously roofed, was covered by a splendid veil. Right and left were depositories for the sacrificial knives. Within the ‘Porch’ a number of ‘dedicated’ gifts were kept, such as the golden candelabra of the proselyte queen of Adiabene, two golden crowns presented by the Maccabees, etc. Here were also two tables–one of marble, on which they deposited the new shewbread; the other of gold, on which they laid the old as it was removed from the Holy Place. Two-leaved doors, * with gold plating, and covered by a rich Babylonian curtain of the four colours of the Temple (‘fine linen, blue, scarlet, and purple’), formed the entrance into the Holy Place.
* There was also a small wicket gate by which he entered who opened the large doors from within.
Above it hung that symbol of Israel (Psa 80:8; Jer 2:21, Eze 19:10; Joel 1:7) a gigantic vine of pure gold, and made of votive offerings–each cluster the height of a man. In the Holy Place were, to the south, the golden candlestick; to the north, the table of shewbread; and beyond them the altar of incense, near the entrance to the Most Holy. The latter was now quite empty, a large stone, on which the high-priest sprinkled the blood on the Day of Atonement, occupying the place where the ark with the mercy-seat had stood. A wooden partition separated the Most Holy from the Holy Place; and over the door hung the veil which was ‘rent in twain from the top to the bottom’ when the way into the holiest of all was opened on Golgotha (Matt 27:51). *
* The Rabbis speak of two veils, and say that the high-priest went in by the southern edge of the first veil, then walked along till he reached the northern corner of the second veil, by which he entered the Most Holy Place.
Such was the Temple as restored by Herod–a work which occupied forty-six years to its completion. Yet, though the Rabbis never weary praising its splendour, not with one word do any of those who were contemporary indicate that its restoration was carried out by Herod the Great. So memorable an event in their history is passed over with the most absolute silence. What a complete answer does this afford to the objection sometimes raised from the silence of Josephus about the person and mission of Jesus!
Our Lord’s Prediction
With what reverence the Rabbis guarded their Temple will be described in the sequel. The readers of the New Testament know how readily any supposed infringement of its sanctity led to summary popular vengeance. To the disciples of Jesus it seemed difficult to realise that such utter ruin as their Master foretold could so soon come over that beautiful and glorious house. It was the evening of the day in which He had predicted the utter desolation of Jerusalem. All that day He had taught in the Temple, and what He had said, not only there, but when, on beholding the city, He wept over it, seems to have filled their minds alike with awe and with doubt. And now He, with His disciples, had ‘departed from the Temple.’ Once more they lingered in sweet retirement ‘on the Mount of Olives’ (Matt 24:1,3). ‘The purple light on the mountains of Moab was fast fading out. Across the city the sinking sun cast a rich glow over the pillared cloisters of the Temple, and over the silent courts as they rose terrace upon terrace. From where they stood they could see over the closed Beautiful Gate, and right to the entrance to the Holy Place, which now glittered with gold; while the eastern walls and the deep valley below were thrown into a solemn shadow, creeping, as the orb sunk lower, further and further towards the summit of Olivet, irradiated with one parting gleam of roseate light, after all below was sunk in obscurity’ (Bartlett, Jerusalem Revisited, p. 115).
Then it was and there that the disciples, looking down upon the Temple, pointed out to the Master: ‘What manner of stones and what buildings are here.’ The view from that site must have rendered belief in the Master’s prediction even more difficult and more sad. A few years more, and it was all literally fulfilled! It may be, as Jewish tradition has it, that ever since the Babylonish captivity the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ lies buried and concealed underneath the wood-court at the north-eastern angle of the Court of the Women. And it may be that some at least of the spoils which Titus carried with him from Jerusalem–the seven-branched candlestick, the table of shewbread, the priests’ trumpets, and the identical golden mitre which Aaron had worn on his forehead–are hidden somewhere in the vaults beneath the site of the Temple, after having successively gone to Rome, to Carthage, to Byzantium, to Ravenna, and thence to Jerusalem. But of ‘those great buildings’ that once stood there, there is ‘not left one stone upon another’ that has not been ‘thrown down.’
Temple Order, Revenues, and Music
‘For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.’–Hebrews 13:11, 12
Second Temple Inferior in Glory
To the devout and earnest Jew the second Temple must, ‘in comparison of’ ‘the house in her first glory,’ have indeed appeared ‘as nothing’ (Hagg 2:3). True, in architectural splendour the second, as restored by Herod, far surpassed the first Temple. *
* The Talmud expressly calls attention to this, and mentions as another point of pre-eminence, that whereas the first Temple stood 410, the second lasted 420 years.
But, unless faith had recognised in Jesus of Nazareth ‘the Desire of all nations,’ who should ‘fill this house with glory’ (Hagg 2:7), it would have been difficult to draw other than sad comparisons. Confessedly, the real elements of Temple-glory no longer existed. The Holy of Holies was quite empty, the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim, the tables of the law, the book of the covenant, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the pot of manna, were no longer in the sanctuary. The fire that had descended from heaven upon the altar was extinct. What was far more solemn, the visible presence of God in the Shechinah was wanting. *
* The following five are mentioned by the Rabbis as wanting in the last Temple: the ark, the holy fire, the Shechinah, the spirit of prophecy, and the Urim and Thummim.
Nor could the will of God be now ascertained through the Urim and Thummim, nor even the high-priest be anointed with the holy oil, its very composition being unknown. Yet all the more jealously did the Rabbis draw lines of fictitious sanctity, and guard them against all infringement.
Lines of Sanctity
In general, as the camp in the wilderness had really consisted of three parts–the camp of Israel, that of the Levites, and that of God–so they reckoned three corresponding divisions of the Holy City. From the gates to the Temple Mount was regarded as the camp of Israel; thence to the gate of Nicanor represented the camp of Levi; while the rest of the sanctuary was ‘the camp of God.’ It is in allusion to this that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares Christ’s suffering ‘without the gate’ of Jerusalem to the burning of the sin-offerings ‘without the camp.’ According to another Rabbinical arrangement different degrees of sanctity attached to different localities. The first, or lowest degree, belonged to the land of Israel, whence alone the first sheaf at the Passover, the firstfruits, and the two wave-loaves at Pentecost might be brought; the next degree to walled cities in Palestine, where no leper nor dead body (Luke 7:12) might remain; the third to Jerusalem itself since, besides many prohibitions to guard its purity, it was only there lawful to partake of peace-offerings, of the firstfruits, and of ‘the second tithes.’ Next came, successively, the Temple Mount, from which all who were in a state of Levitical uncleanness were excluded; ‘the Terrace,’ or ‘Chel,’ from which, besides Gentiles, those who had become defiled by contact with a dead body were shut out; the Court of the Women, into which those who had been polluted might not come, even if they ‘had washed,’ till after they were also Levitically fit to eat of ‘things sacred,’ that is, after sunset of the day on which they had washed; the Court of Israel, into which those might not enter who, though delivered from their uncleanness, had not yet brought the offering for their purification; * the Court of the Priests, ordinarily accessible only to the latter; the space between the altar and the Temple itself, from which even priests were excluded if their bearing showed that they did not realise the solemnity of the place; the Temple, into which the priests might only enter after washing their hands and feet; and, lastly, the Most Holy Place, into which the high-priest alone was allowed to go, and that only once a year.
* This class would include the following four cases: the cleansed leper, a person who had had an issue, a woman that had been in her separation, and one who had just borne a child. Further explanations of each case are given in subsequent chapters.
Rules of the Rabbis
From these views of the sanctity of the place, it will readily be understood how sufficient outward reverence should have been expected of all who entered upon the Temple Mount. The Rabbis here also lay down certain rules, of which some are such as a sense of propriety would naturally suggest, while others strangely remind us of the words of our Saviour. Thus no one was to come to it except for strictly religious purposes, and neither to make the Temple Mount a place of thoroughfare, nor use it to shorten the road. Ordinarily the worshippers were to enter by the right and to withdraw by the left, avoiding both the direction and the gate by which they had come. But mourners and those under ecclesiastical discipline were to do the reverse, so as to meet the stream of worshippers, who might address to them either words of sympathy (‘He who dwelleth in this house grant thee comfort!’), or else of admonition (‘He who dwelleth in this house put it into thy mind to give heed to those who would restore thee again!’). As already stated, it was expressly prohibited to sit down in the Court of the Priests, an exception being only made in favour of princes of the house of David, probably to vindicate their consistency, as such instances were recorded in the past history of Israel. Alike the ministering priests and the worshippers were to walk backwards when leaving the immediate neighbourhood where the holy service was performed, and at the gate of Nicanor each one was to stand with his head bent. It need scarcely be said that reverence in gesture and deportment was enjoined while on the Temple Mount. But even when at a distance from Jerusalem and the Temple, its direction was to be noted, so as to avoid in every-day life anything that might seem incongruous with the reverence due to the place of which God had said, ‘Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually’ (1 Kings 9:3). Probably from a similar feeling of reverence, it was ordered, that when once a week the sanctuary was thoroughly cleaned, any repairs found needful should be executed if possible by priests or else by Levites, or at least by Israelites, and only in case of extreme necessity by workmen not Levitically ‘clean.’
Other Rabbinical ordinances, however, are not so easily explained, unless on the ground of the avoidance of every occupation and undertaking other than worship. Thus ‘no man might go on the Temple Mount with his staff,’ as if on business or pleasure; nor yet ‘with shoes on his feet’–sandals only being allowed; nor ‘with the dust upon his feet’; nor ‘with his scrip,’ nor ‘with money tied to him in his purse.’ Whatever he might wish to contribute either to the Temple, or for offerings, or for the poor must be carried by each ‘in his hand,’ possibly to indicate that the money about him was exclusively for an immediate sacred purpose. It was probably for similar reasons that Jesus transferred these very ordinances to the disciples when engaged in the service of the real Temple. The direction, ‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves,’ must mean, Go out in the same spirit and manner as you would to the Temple services, and fear not–‘for the workman is worthy of his meat’ (Matt 10:9,10). In other words: Let this new Temple service be your only thought, undertaking and care.
But, guard it as they might, it was impossible wholly to preserve the sanctuary from profanation. For wilful, conscious, high-handed profanity, whether in reference to the Temple or to God, the law does not appear to have provided any atonement or offering. To this the Epistle to the Hebrews alludes in the well-known passage, so often misunderstood, ‘For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’ (Heb 10:26,27). In point of fact, these terms of threatening correspond to two kinds of Divine punishment frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. The one, often referred to in the warning ‘that he die not,’ is called by the Rabbis, ‘death by the hand of Heaven or of God’; the other is that of being ‘cut off.’ It is difficult to distinguish exactly between these two. Tradition enumerates thirty-six offences to which the punishment of ‘cutting off’ attaches. From their graver nature, as compared with the eleven offences on which ‘death by the hand of God’ was to follow, we gather that ‘cutting off’ must have been the severer of the two punishments, and it may correspond to the term ‘fiery indignation.’ Some Rabbis hold that ‘death by the hand of God’ was a punishment which ended with this life, while ‘cutting off’ extended beyond it. But the best authorities maintain, that whereas death by the hand of Heaven fell upon the guilty individual alone, ‘the cutting off’ extended to the children also, so that the family would become extinct in Israel. Such Divine punishment is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 16:22, under the well-known Jewish expression, ‘Anathema Maranatha’–literally, Anathema when the Lord cometh!
To these two Divine punishments corresponded other two by the hand of man–the ‘forty stripes save one,’ and the so-called ‘rebels’ beating.’ The distinction between them is easily explained. The former were only inflicted after a regular judicial investigation and sentence, and for the breach of some negative precept or prohibition; while the latter was, so to speak, in the hands of the people, who might administer it on the spot, and without trial, if any one were caught in supposed open defiance of some positive precept, whether of the Law of Moses or of the traditions of the elders. The reader of the New Testament will remember such popular outbursts, when the men of Nazareth would have cast Jesus over the brow of the hill on which their city was built (Luke 4:29), and when on at least two occasions the people took up stones in the Temple to stone Him (John 8:59; 10:31). It is a remarkable fact, that when the Lord Jesus and when His martyr Stephen were before the Sanhedrim (Matt 26:59,68; Acts 7:57,58), the procedure was in each case in direct contravention of all the rules of the Rabbinical criminal law. In each case the sitting terminated in ‘the rebels’ beating,’ both when they ‘buffeted the Master’ and ‘smote Him with the palms of their hands,’ and when ‘they ran upon’ Stephen ‘with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.’ For the rebels’ beating was really unto death. The same punishment was also to have been inflicted upon Paul, when, on the charge of having brought a Gentile beyond the enclosure in the court open to such, ‘the people ran together, and they took Paul, and drew him out of the Temple,’ and ‘went about to kill him.’ This summary mode of punishing supposed ‘rebellion’ was probably vindicated by the example of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar (Num 25:7,8). On the other hand, the mildness of the Rabbinical law, where religious feelings were not involved, led to modifications of the punishment prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:2, 3. Thus because the words were, ‘by a certain number, forty stripes he may give him,’ instead of a simple direction to give the forty stripes, the law was construed as meaning a number near to forty, or thirty-nine, which accordingly was the severest corporeal punishment awarded at one time. If the number of stripes were less than thirty-nine, it must still be some multiple of three, since, as the scourge was composed of three separate thongs (the middle one of calf’s leather, the other two of asses’, with a reference to Isaiah 1:3), each stroke of the scourge in reality inflicted three stripes. Hence the greatest number of strokes administered at one time amounted only to thirteen. The law also most particularly defined and modified every detail, even to the posture of the criminal. Still this punishment, which St. Paul underwent not less than five times at the hands of the Jews (2 Cor 11:24), must have been very severe. In general, we can only hope that it was not so often administered as Rabbinical writings seem to imply. During the scourging, Deuteronomy 28:58, 59, and at its close Psalm 78:38, were read to the culprit. After the punishment he was not to be reproached, but received as a brother. *
* Further details belong to the criminal jurisprudence of the Sanhedrim.
Necessity for Discipline
That strict discipline both in regard to priests and worshippers would, however, be necessary, may be inferred even from the immense number of worshippers which thronged Jerusalem and the Temple. According to a late computation, the Temple could have held ‘within its colossal girdle’ ‘two amphitheatres of the size of the Coliseum.’ As the latter is reckoned to have been capable, inclusive of its arena and passages, of accommodating 109,000 persons, the calculation that the Temple might contain at one time about 210,000 persons seems by no means exaggerated. * It will readily be believed what immense wealth this multitude must have brought to the great national sanctuary.
* See Edinburgh Review for January, 1873, p. 18. We may here insert another architectural comparison from the same interesting article, which, however, is unfortunately defaced by many and serious mistakes on other points. ‘The length of the eastern wall of the sanctuary,’ writes the reviewer, ‘was more than double that of the side of the Great Pyramid; its height nearly one-third of the Egyptian structure from the foundation. If to this great height of 152 feet of solid wall you add the descent of 114 feet to the bed of the Kedron, and the further elevation of 160 feet attained by the pinnacle, we have a total of 426 feet, which is only 59 feet less than the Great Pyramid.’
The Temple Treasury
Indeed, the Temple treasury had always been an object of cupidity to foreigners. It was successively plundered by Syrians and Romans, though at the last siege the flames deprived Titus and his soldiers of this booty. Even so liberal and enlightened a statesman as Cicero inveighed, perhaps on the ground of exaggerated reports, against the enormous influx of gold from all lands to Jerusalem. From Biblical history we know how liberal were the voluntary contributions at the time of Moses, of David, and again of Joash (2 Chron 24) and of Josiah (2 Kings 22). Such offerings to the Temple treasury continued to the last a very large source of revenue. They might be brought either in the form of vows or of free gifts. Any object, or even a person, might be dedicated by vow to the altar. If the thing vowed were suitable, it would be used; if otherwise, sold, and its value given to the treasury. Readers of the New Testament know how fatally such spurious liberality interfered with the most sacred duties of life (Matt 15:5). From Jewish tradition we gather that there must have been quite a race for distinction in this respect. The wood, the incense, the wine, the oil, and all other things requisite for the sacred services, as well as golden and silver vessels, were contributed with lavish hand. Certain families obtained by their zeal special privileges, such as that the wood they brought should always be first used for the altar fire; and the case of people leaving the whole of their fortune to the Temple is so often discussed, that it must have been a by no means uncommon occurrence. To this practice Christ may have referred in denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees who ‘devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers’ (Matt 23:14). For a good deal of this money went in the end from the Temple treasury to them, although there is no evidence of their intriguing for personal gifts.
The Tribute Money
Besides these votive offerings, and the sale of the surplusage of incense, flour, etc., the people were wont on the Sabbaths and feast-days to bring voluntary contributions ‘in their hand’ to the Temple. another and very large source of revenue was from the profit made by the meat-offerings, which were prepared by the Levites, and sold every day to the offerers. But by far the largest sum was derived from the half-shekel of Temple tribute, which was incumbent on every male Israelite of age, including proselytes and even manumitted slaves. As the shekel of the sanctuary was double the ordinary, the half-shekel due to the Temple treasury amount to about 1s. 4d. (two denarii or a didrachma). Hence, when Christ was challenged at Capernaum (Matt 17:24) for this payment, He directed Peter to give the stater, or two didrachmas, for them both. This circumstance also enables us to fix the exact date of this event. For annually, on the 1st of Adar (the month before the Passover), proclamation was made throughout the country by messengers sent from Jerusalem of the approaching Temple tribute. On the 15th of Adar the money-changers opened stalls throughout the country to change the various coins, which Jewish residents at home or settlers abroad might bring, into the ancient money of Israel. For custom had it that nothing but the regular half-shekel of the sanctuary could be received at the treasury. On the 25th of Adar business was only transacted within the precincts of Jerusalem and of the Temple, and after that date those who had refused to pay the impost could be proceeded against at law, and their goods distrained, the only exception being in favour of priests, and that ‘for the sake of peace,’ that is, lest their office should come in disrepute. From heathens or Samaritans no tribute money was to be received, the general rule in reference to all their offerings being this: ‘A votive and a free-will offering they receive at their hands; but whatever is not either a votive or a free-will offering (does not come under either category) is not received at their hands.’ In support, Ezra 4:3 was quoted. The law also fixed the rate of discount which the money-changers were allowed to charge those who procured from them the Temple coin, perhaps to obviate suspicion of, or temptation to usury–a sin regarded as one of the most heinous civil offences.
Annual Sum of Tribute
The total sum derived annually from the Temple tribute has been computed at about 76,000 pounds. As the bankers were allowed to charge a silver meah, or about one-fourth of a denar (2d.) on every half-shekel, their profits must have amounted to nearly 9,500 pounds, or, deducting a small sum for exceptional cases, in which the meah was not to be charged, say about 9,000 pounds–a very large sum, considering the value of money in a country where a labourer received a denar (8d.) for a day’s work (Matt 20:2), and the ‘good Samaritan’ left only two denars (1s. 4d.) in the inn for the keep of the sick man (Luke 10:35). It must therefore have been a very powerful interest which Jesus attacked, when in the Court of the Temple He ‘poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables’ (John 2:15), while at the same time He placed Himself in direct antagonism to the sanctioned arrangements of the Sanhedrim, whom He virtually charged with profanity.
Tribute Enforced By Law
It had only been a century before, during the reign of Salome- Alexandra (about 78 B.C.), that the Pharisaical party, being then in power, had carried an enactment by which the Temple tribute was to be enforced at law. It need scarcely be said that for this there was not the slightest Scriptural warrant. Indeed, the Old Testament nowhere provided legal means for enforcing any payment for religious purposes. The law stated what was due, but left its observance to the piety of the people, so that alike the provision for the Temple and for the priesthood must have varied with the religious state of the nation (Mal 3:8-10). But, irrespective of this, it is matter of doubt whether the half-shekel had ever been intended as an annual payment. Its first enactment was under exceptional circumstances (Exo 30:12), and the mode in which, as we are informed, a similar collection was made during the reign of Joash, suggest the question whether the original institution by Moses was not treated rather as affording a precedent than as laying down a binding rule (2 Chron 24:6-11). At the time of Nehemiah (Neh 10:32-34) we read only of a self-imposed ‘ordinance,’ and at the rate of a third, not a half-shekel. But long before the coming of Christ very different views prevailed. ‘The dispersed abroad’ regarded the Temple as the one bond of their national as well as their religious life. Patriotism and religion swelled their gifts, which far exceeded the legal dues. Gradually they came to regard the Temple tribute as, in the literal sense of the words, ‘a ransom for their souls’ (Exo 30:12). So many were the givers and so large their gifts that they were always first brought to certain central places, whence the most honourable of their number carried them as ‘sacred ambassadors’ to Jerusalem. The richest contributions came from those crowded Jewish settlements in Mesopotamia and Babylon, to which ‘the dispersed’ had originally been transported. Here special treasuries for their reception had been built in the cities of Nisibis and Nehardea, whence a large armed escort annually accompanied the ‘ambassadors’ to Palestine. Similarly, Asia Minor, which at one time contributed nearly 8,000 pounds a year, had its central collecting places. In the Temple these moneys were emptied into three large chests, which were opened with certain formalities at each of the three great feasts. According to tradition these three chests held three seahs each (the seah = 1 peck 1 pint), so that on the three occasions of their opening twenty-seven seahs of coin were taken.
How the Money was Spent
The Temple revenues were in the first place devoted to the purchase of all public sacrifices, that is, those offered in the name of the whole congregation of Israel, such as the morning and evening sacrifices, the festive sacrifices, etc. This payment had been one of the points in controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. So great importance was attached to it, that all Israel should appear represented in the purchase of the public sacrifices, that when the three chests were emptied they took expressly from one ‘for the land of Israel,’ from another ‘for the neighbouring lands’ (that is, for the Jews there resident), and from the third ‘for distant lands.’ Besides, the Temple treasury defrayed all else necessary for the services of the sanctuary; all Temple repairs, and the salaries of a large staff of regular officials, such as those who prepared the shewbread and the incense; who saw to the correctness of the copies of the law used in the synagogues; who examined into the Levitical fitness of sacrifices; who instructed the priests in their various duties; who made the curtains, etc.,–not omitting, according to their own testimony, the fees of the Rabbis. And after all this lavish expenditure there was not only enough to pay for the repairs of the city-walls, the roads, and public buildings, etc., about Jerusalem, but sufficient to accumulate immense wealth in the treasury!
The Temple Hymnody
To the wealth and splendour of the Temple corresponded the character of its services. The most important of these, next to the sacrificial rites, was the hymnody of the sanctuary. We can conceive what it must have been in the days of David and of Solomon. But even in New Testament times it was such that St. John could find no more adequate imagery to portray heavenly realities and the final triumph of the Church than that taken from the service of praise in the Temple. Thus, when first ‘the twenty-four elders,’ representing the chiefs of the twenty-four courses of the priesthood, and afterwards the 144,000, representing redeemed Israel in its fulness (12 x 12,000), sing ‘the new song’–the former in heaven, the latter on Mount Zion–they appear, just as in the Temple services, as ‘harpers, harping with their harps’ (Rev 5:8; 14:2,3). Possibly there may also be an analogy between the time when these ‘harpers’ are introduced and the period in the Temple-service when the music began–just as the joyous drink-offering was poured out. There is yet a third reference in the Book of Revelation to ‘the harps of God’ (Rev 15:2), with most pointed allusion, not to the ordinary, but to the Sabbath services in the Temple. In this case ‘the harpers’ are all they ‘that had gotten the victory over the beast.’ The Church, which has come out of great tribulation, stands victorious ‘on the sea of glass’; and the saints, ‘having the harps of God,’ sing ‘the song of Moses, the servant of God.’ It is the Sabbath of the Church; and as on the Sabbath, besides the psalm for the day (Psalm 92) at the ordinary sacrifice, they sung at the additional Sabbatic sacrifice (Num 28:9,10), in the morning, the Song of Moses, in Deuteronomy 32, and in the evening that in Exodus 15, so the victorious Church celebrates her true Sabbath or rest by singing this same ‘Song of Moses and of the Lamb,’ only in language that expresses the fullest meaning of the Sabbath songs in the Temple.
Properly speaking, the real service of praise in the Temple was only with the voice. This is often laid down as a principle by the Rabbis. What instrumental music there was, served only to accompany and sustain the song. Accordingly, none other than Levites might act as choristers, while other distinguished Israelites were allowed to take part in the instrumental music. The blasts of the trumpets, blown by priests only, formed–at least in the second Temple–no part of the instrumental music of the service, but were intended for quite different purposes. Even the posture of the performers showed this, for while the Levites stood at their desks facing towards the sanctuary, or westwards, the priests, with their silver trumpets, stood exactly in the opposite direction, on the west side of the rise of the altar, by the ‘table of the fat,’ and looking eastwards or down the courts. On ordinary days the priests blew seven times, each time three blasts–a short sound, an alarm, and again a sharp short sound (Thekiah, Theruah, and Thekiah *), or, as the Rabbis express it, ‘An alarm in the midst and a plain note before and after it.’
* Inferring from the present usage in the Synagogue, Saalschutz (Gesch. d. Musik bei d. Hebr.)–Thekiah, Theruah, Thekiah midi file (.5 k)
According to tradition, they were intended symbolically to proclaim the kingdom of God, Divine Providence, and the final judgment. The first three blasts were blown when the great gates of the Temple–especially that of Nicanor–were opened. Then, when the drink-offering was poured out, the Levites sung the psalm of the day in three sections. After each section there was a pause, when the priests blew three blasts, and the people worshipped. This was the practice at the evening, as at the morning sacrifice. On the eve of the Sabbath a threefold blast of the priests’ trumpets summoned the people, far as the sound was carried over the city, to prepare for the holy day, while another threefold blast announced its actual commencement. On Sabbaths, when, besides the ordinary, an additional sacrifice was brought, and the ‘Song of Moses’ sung–not the whole every Sabbath, but divided in six parts, one for every Sabbath,–the priests sounded their trumpets additional three times in the pauses of the Sabbath psalm.
The Influence of David
The music of the Temple owed its origin to David, who was not only a poet and a musical composer, but who also invented musical instruments (Amos 6:5; 1 Chron 23:5), especially the ten-stringed Nevel or lute (Psa 33:2; 144:9). From the Book of Chronicles we know how fully this part of the service was cultivated, although the statement of Josephus (Anti. viii. 3, 8.), that Solomon had provided forty thousand harps and lutes, and two hundred thousand silver trumpets, is evidently a gross exaggeration. The Rabbis enumerate thirty-six different instruments, of which only fifteen are mentioned in the Bible, and of these five in the Pentateuch. As in early Jewish poetry there was neither definite and continued metre (in the modern sense), nor regular and premeditated rhyme, so there was neither musical notation, nor yet any artificial harmony. The melody was simple, sweet, and sung in unison to the accompaniment of instrumental music. Only one pair of brass cymbals were allowed to be used. But this ‘sounding brass’ and ‘tinkling cymbal’ formed no part of the Temple music itself, and served only as the signal to begin that part of the service. To this the apostle seems to refer when, in 1 Corinthians 13:1, he compares the gift of ‘tongues’ to the sign or signal by which the real music of the Temple was introduced.
The Harp and Lute
That music was chiefly sustained by the harp (Kinnor) and the lute (Nevel). Of the latter (which was probably used for solos) not less than two or more than six were to be in the Temple orchestra; of the former, or harp, as many as possible, but never less than nine. There were, of course, several varieties both of the Nevel and the Kinnor. The chief difference between these two kinds of stringed instruments lay in this, that in the Nevel (lute or guitar) the strings were drawn over the sounding-board, while in the Kinnor they stood out free, as in our harps. Of wind-instruments we know that, besides their silver trumpets, the priests also blew the Shophar or horn, notably at the new moon, on the Feast of the New Year (Psa 81:3), and to proclaim the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:9), which, indeed, thence derived its name. Originally the Shophar was probably a ram’s horn (Jos., Ant. v. 5, 6.), but afterwards it was also made of metal. The Shophar was chiefly used for its loud and far-sounding tones (Exo 19:16,19; 20:18; Isa 58:1). At the Feast of the New Year, one priest with a Shophar was placed between those who blew the trumpets; while on fast-days a priest with a Shophar stood on each side of them–the tones of the Shophar being prolonged beyond those of the trumpets. In the synagogues out of Jerusalem the Shophar alone was blown at the New Year, and on fast-days only trumpets.
The flute (or reed pipe) was played in the Temple on twelve special festivities. *
* The flute was used in Alexandria to accompany the hymns at the love feasts of the early Christians, up to the year 190, when Clement of Alexandria introduced the harp in its place.
These were: the day of killing the first, and that of killing the second Passover, the first day of unleavened bread, Pentecost, and the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles. Quite in accordance with the social character of these feasts, the flute was also used by the festive pilgrim-bands on their journey to Jerusalem, to accompany ‘the Psalms of Degrees,’ or rather of ‘Ascent’ (Isa 30:29), sung on such occasions. It was also customary to play it at marriage feasts and at funerals (Matt 9:23); for according to Rabbinical law every Jew was bound to provide at least two flutes and one mourning woman at the funeral of his wife. In the Temple, not less than two nor more than twelve flutes were allowed, and the melody was on such occasions to close with the notes of one flute alone. Lastly, we have sufficient evidence that there was a kind of organ used in the Temple (the Magrephah), but whether merely for giving signals or not, cannot be clearly determined.
The Human Voice
As already stated, the service of praise was mainly sustained by the human voice. A good voice was the one qualification needful for a Levite. In the second Temple female singers seem at one time to have been employed (Ezra 2:65; Neh 7:67). In the Temple of Herod their place was supplied by Levite boys. Nor did the worshippers any more take part in the praise, except by a responsive Amen. It was otherwise in the first Temple, as we gather from 1 Chronicles 16:36, from the allusion in Jeremiah 33:11, and also from such Psalms as 26:12; 68:26. At the laying of the foundation of the second Temple, and at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the singing seems to have been antiphonal, or in responses (Ezra 3:10,11; Neh 12:27,40), the two choirs afterwards apparently combining, and singing in unison in the Temple itself. Something of the same kind was probably also the practice in the first Temple. What the melodies were to which the Psalms had been sung, it is, unfortunately, now impossible to ascertain. Some of the music still used in the synagogue must date from those times, and there is no reason to doubt that in the so-called Gregorian tones we have also preserved to us a close approximation to the ancient hymnody of the Temple, though certainly not without considerable alterations.
But how solemn must have been the scene when, at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the service of praise, ‘the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of Jehovah; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of Jehovah had filled the house of God’! (2 Chron 5:13,14) Such music, and such responsive singing, might well serve, in the Book of Revelation, as imagery of heavenly realities (Rev 4:8,11; 5:9,12; 7:10-12), especially in that description of the final act of worship in Revelation 14:1-5, where at the close of their antiphony the two choirs combine, as at the dedication of the second Temple, to join in this grand unison, ‘Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth’ (Rev 19:6,7; comp. also Rev 5:13).
The Officiating Priesthood
‘And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.’–Hebrews 10:11
Among the most interesting glimpses of early life in the church is that afforded by a small piece of rapidly-drawn scenery which presents to our view ‘a great company of the priests,’ ‘obedient to the faith’ (Acts 6:7). We seem to be carried back in imagination to the time when Levi remained faithful amidst the general spiritual defection (Exo 32:26), and then through the long vista of devout ministering priests to reach the fulfilment of this saying of Malachi–part admonition, and part prophecy: ‘For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts’ (Mal 2:7). We can picture to ourselves how they who ministered in holy things would at eventide, when the Temple was deserted of its worshippers, gather to speak of the spiritual meaning of the services, and to consider the wonderful things which had taken place in Jerusalem, as some alleged, in fulfilment of those very types that formed the essence of their office and ministry. ‘For this thing was not done in a corner.’ The trial of Jesus, His condemnation by the Sanhedrim, and His being delivered up to the Gentiles, must have formed the theme of frequent and anxious discussion in the Temple. Were not their own chief priests implicated in the matter? Did not Judas on that fatal day rush into the Temple, and wildly cast the ‘price of blood’ into the ‘treasury’? On the other hand, was not one of the principal priests and a member of the priestly council, Joseph of Arimathea, an adherent of Christ? Did not the Sanhedrist Nicodemus adopt the same views, and even Gamaliel advise caution? Besides, in the ‘porches’ of the Temple, especially in that of Solomon, ‘a notable miracle’ had been done in ‘that Name,’ and there also its all-prevailing power was daily proclaimed. It specially behoved the priesthood to inquire well into the matter; and the Temple seemed the most appropriate place for its discussion.
The Number of Priests
The number of priests to be found at all times in Jerusalem must have been very great, and Ophel a densely inhabited quarter. According to Jewish tradition, half of each of the twenty-four ‘courses,’ into which the priesthood were divided, were permanently resident in Jerusalem; the rest scattered over the land. It is added, that about one half of the latter had settled in Jericho, and were in the habit of supplying the needful support to their brethren while officiating in Jerusalem. Of course such statements must not be taken literally, though no doubt they are substantially correct. When a ‘course’ was on duty, all its members were bound to appear in the Temple. Those who stayed away, with such ‘representatives of the people’ (or ‘stationary men’) as, like them, had been prevented from ‘going up’ to Jerusalem in their turn, had to meet in the synagogues of their district to pray and to fast each day of their week of service, except on the sixth, the seventh, and the first–that is, neither on the Sabbath, nor on the days preceding and succeeding it, as the ‘joy’ attaching to the Sabbath rendered a fast immediately before or after it inappropriate.
Symbolism of the Priesthood/Mediation
It need scarcely be said, that everything connected with the priesthood was intended to be symbolical and typical–the office itself, its functions, even its dress and outward support. The fundamental design of Israel itself was to be unto Jehovah ‘a kingdom of priests and an holy nation’ (Exo 19:5,6). This, however, could only be realised in ‘the fulness of time.’ At the very outset there was the barrier of sin; and in order to gain admittance to the ranks of Israel, when ‘the sum of the children of Israel was taken after their number,’ every man had to give the half-shekel, which in after times became the regular Temple contribution, as ‘a ransom (covering) for his soul unto Jehovah’ (Exo 30:12,13). But even so Israel was sinful, and could only approach Jehovah in the way which Himself opened, and in the manner which He appointed. Direct choice and appointment by God were the conditions alike of the priesthood, of sacrifices, feasts, and of every detail of service. The fundamental ideas which underlay all and connected it into a harmonious whole, were reconciliation and mediation: the one expressed by typically atoning sacrifices, the other by a typically intervening priesthood. Even the Hebrew term for priest (Cohen) denotes in its root-meaning ‘one who stands up for another, and mediates in his cause.’ *
* This root-meaning (through the Arabic) of the Hebrew word for priest, as one intervening, explains its occasional though very rare application to others than priests, as, for example, to the sons of David (2 Sam 8:18), a mode of expression which is thus correctly paraphrased in 1 Chronicles 18:17: ‘And the sons of David were at the hand of the king.’
For this purpose God chose the tribe of Levi, and out of it again the family of Aaron, on whom He bestowed the ‘priest’s office as a gift’ (Num 18:7). But the whole characteristics and the functions of the priesthood centred in the person of the high-priest. In accordance with their Divine ‘calling’ (Heb 5:4) was the special and exceptional provision made for the support of the priesthood. Its principle was thus expressed: ‘I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel’; and its joyousness, when realised in its full meaning and application, found vent in such words as Psalm 16:5, 6: ‘Jehovah is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’
But there was yet another idea to be expressed by the priesthood. The object of reconciliation was holiness. Israel was to be ‘a holy nation’–reconciled through the ‘sprinkling of blood’; brought near to, and kept in fellowship with God by that means. The priesthood, as the representative offerers of that blood and mediators of the people, were also to show forth the ‘holiness’ of Israel. Every one knows how this was symbolised by the gold-plate which the high-priest wore on his forehead, and which bore the words: ‘Holiness unto Jehovah.’ But though the high-priest in this, as in every other respect, was the fullest embodiment of the functions and object of the priesthood, the same truth was also otherwise shown forth. The bodily qualifications required in the priesthood, the kind of defilements which would temporarily or wholly interrupt their functions, their mode of ordination, and even every portion, material, and colour of their distinctive dress were all intended to express in a symbolical manner this characteristic of holiness. In all these respects there was a difference between Israel and the tribe of Levi; between the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron; and, finally, between an ordinary priest and the high-priest, who most fully typified our Great High-priest, in whom all these symbols have found their reality.
The Twenty-four Courses
This much it seemed necessary to state for the general understanding of the matter. Full details belong to the exposition of the meaning and object of the Levitical priesthood, as instituted by God, while our present task rather is to trace its further development to what it was at the time when Jesus was in the Temple. The first peculiarity of post-Mosaic times which we here meet, is the arrangement of the priesthood into ‘twenty-four courses,’ which undoubtedly dates from the times of David. But Jewish tradition would make it even much older. For, according to the Talmud, it should be traced up to Moses, who is variously supposed to have arranged the sons of Aaron into either or else sixteen courses (four, or else eight, of Eleazar; and the other four, or else eight, of Ithamar), to which, on the one supposition, Samuel and David each added other eight ‘courses,’ or, on the other, Samuel and David, in conjunction, the eight needed to make up the twenty-four mentioned in 1 Chronicles 24. It need scarcely be told that, like many similar statements, this also is simply an attempt to trace up every arrangement to the fountain-head of Jewish history, in order to establish its absolute authority. *
* Curiously enough, here also the analogy between Rabbinism and Roman Catholicism holds good. Each claims for its teaching and practices the so-called principle of catholicity–‘semper, ubique, ab omnibus’ (‘always, everywhere, by all’), and each invents the most curious historical fables in support of it!
The Courses After the Captivity
The institution of David and of Solomon continued till the Babylonish captivity. Thence, however, only four out of the twenty-four ‘courses’ returned: those of Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur, and Harim (Ezra 2:36-39), the course of ‘Jedaiah’ being placed first because it was of the high-priest’s family, ‘of the house of Jeshua,’ ‘the son of Jozadak’ (Ezra 3:2; Hagg 1:1; 1 Chron 6:15). To restore the original number, each of these four families was directed to draw five lots for those which had not returned, so as to form once more twenty-four courses, which were to bear the ancient names. Thus, for example, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, did not really belong to the family of Abijah (1 Chron 24:10), which had not returned from Babylon, but to the ‘course of Abia,’ which had been formed out of some other family, and only bore the ancient name (Luke 1:5). Like the priests, the Levites had at the time of King David been arranged into twenty-four ‘courses,’ which were to act as ‘priests’ assistance’ (1 Chron 23:4,28), as ‘singers and musicians’ (1 Chron 25:6), as ‘gate-keepers and guards’ (1 Chron 26:6 and following), and as ‘officers and judges.’ Of these various classes, that of the ‘priests’ assistants’ was by far the most numerous, * and to them the charge of the Temple had been committed in subordination to the priests.
* Apparently it numbered 24,000, out of a total of 38,000 Levites.
It had been their duty to look after the sacred vestments and vessels; the store-houses and their contents; and the preparation of the shewbread, of the meat-offerings, of the spices, etc. They were also generally to assist the priests in their work, to see to the cleaning of the sanctuary, and to take charge of the treasuries (1 Chron 23:28-32).
In the Temple of Herod
Of course these services, as also those of the singers and musicians, and of the porters and guards, were retained in the Temple of Herod. But for the employment of Levites as ‘officers and judges’ there was no further room, not only because such judicial functions as still remained to the Jews were in the hands of the Sanhedrim and its subordinate authorities, but also because in general the ranks of the Levites were so thinned. In point of fact, while no less than 4,289 priests had returned from Babylon, the number of Levites was under 400 (Ezra 2:40-42; Neh 7:43-45), of whom only 74 were ‘priests’ assistants.’ To this the next immigration, under Ezra, added only 38, and that though the Levites had been specially searched for (Ezra 8:15,18,19). According to tradition, Ezra punished them by depriving them of their tithes. The gap in their number was filled up by 220 Nethinim (Ezra 8:20), literally, ‘given ones,’ probably originally strangers and captives, * as in all likelihood the Gibeonites had been the first ‘Nethinim’ (Josh 9:21,23,27).
* This is also confirmed by their foreign names (Ezra 2:43-58). The total number of Nethinim who returned from Babylon was 612–392 with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:58; Neh 7:60), and 220 with Ezra (Ezra 8:20).
Though the Nethinim, like the Levites and priests, were freed from all taxation (Ezra 7:24), and perhaps also from military service (Jos. Anti. iii. 12; iv. 4, 3.), the Rabbinists held them in the lowest repute–beneath a bastard, though above a proselyte–forbade their intermarrying with Israelites, and declared them incapable of proper membership in the congregation.
Duties of Priests and Levites
The duties of priests and Levites in the Temple may be gathered from Scripture, and will be further explained in the course of our inquiries. Generally, it may here be stated that on the Levites devolved the Temple-police, the guard of the gates, and the duty of keeping everything about the sanctuary clean and bright. But as at night the priests kept watch about the innermost places of the Temple, so they also opened and closed all the inner gates, while the Levites discharged this duty in reference to the outer gates, which led upon the Temple Mount (or Court of the Gentiles), and to the ‘Beautiful Gate,’ which formed the principal entrance into the Court of the Women. The laws of Levitical cleanness, as explained by the Rabbis, were most rigidly enforced upon worshippers and priests. If a leper, or any other who was ‘defiled,’ had ventured into the sanctuary itself, or any priest officiated in a state of ‘uncleanness,’ he would, if discovered, be dragged out and killed, without form of process, by ‘the rebels’ beating.’ Minor punishments were awarded to those guilty of smaller offences of the same kind. The Sabbath-rest was strictly enforced, so far as consistent with the necessary duties of the Temple service. But the latter superseded the Sabbath law (Matt 12:5) and defilement on account of death. If the time for offering a sacrifice was not fixed, so that it might be brought on one day as well as another, then the service did not supersede either the Sabbath or defilement on account of death. But where the time was unalterably fixed, there the higher duty of obedience to a direct command came in to supersede alike the Sabbath and this one (but only this one) ground of defilement. The same principle applied to worshippers as well as priests.
The Week’s Service
Each ‘course’ of priests and of Levites (as has already been stated) came on duty for a week, from one Sabbath to another. The service of the week was subdivided among the various families which constituted a ‘course’; so that if it consisted of five ‘houses of fathers,’ three served each one day, and two each two days; if of six families, five served each one day, and one two days; if of eight families, six served each one day, and the other two in conjunction on one day; or, lastly, if of nine families, five served each one day, and the other four took it two in conjunction for two days. These divisions and arrangements were made by ‘the chiefs’ or ‘heads of the houses of their fathers.’ On Sabbaths the whole ‘course’ was on duty; on feast-days any priest might come up and join in the ministrations of the sanctuary; and at the Feast of Tabernacles all the twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate. While actually engaged on service in the Temple, the priests were not allowed to drink wine, either by day or by night. The other ‘families’ or ‘houses’ also of the ‘course’ who were in attendance at Jerusalem, though not on actual duty, were, during their week of ministry, prohibited the use of wine, except at night, because they might have to be called in to assist their brethren of the officiating ‘family,’ which they could not do if they had partaken of strong drink. The law even made (a somewhat curious) provision to secure that the priests should come up to Jerusalem properly trimmed, washed, and attired, so as to secure the decorum of the service.
These Functions Not Sacerdotal
It would be difficult to conceive arrangements more thoroughly or consistently opposed to what are commonly called ‘priestly pretensions,’ than those of the Old Testament. The fundamental principle, laid down at the outset, that all Israel were ‘a kingdom of priests’ (Exo 19:5,6), made the priesthood only representatives of the people. Their income, which even under the most favourable circumstances must have been moderate, was, as we have seen, dependent on the varying religious state of the nation, since no law existed by which either the payment of tithes or any other offerings could be enforced. How little power or influence, comparatively speaking, the priesthood wielded, is sufficiently known from Jewish history. Out of actual service neither the priests nor even the high-priest wore a distinctive dress (comp. Acts 23:5; see also chapter 7), and though a number of civil restrictions were laid on priests, there were few corresponding advantages. It is indeed true that alliances with distinguished priestly families were eagerly sought, and that during the troubled period of Syrian domination the high-priest for a time held civil as well as religious rule. But the latter advantage was dearly bought, both as regarded the priests and the nation.
Nor must we forget the powerful controlling influence which Rabbinism exercised. Its tendency, which must never be lost sight of in the study of the state of Palestine at the time of our Lord, was steadily against all privileges other than those gained by traditionary learning and theological ingenuity. The Pharisee, or, rather, the man learned in the traditional law, was everything both before God and before man; ‘but this people, who knoweth not the law,’ were ‘cursed,’ plebeians, country people, unworthy of any regard or attention. Rabbinism applied these principles even in reference to the priesthood. It divided all priests into ‘learned’ and ‘unlettered,’ and excluded the latter from some of the privileges of their own order. Thus there were certain priestly dues which the people might at will give to any priest they chose. But from some of them the ‘unlettered’ priests were debarred, on the ostensible ground that in their ignorance they might have partaken of them in a state of Levitical uncleanness, and so committed mortal sin.
Training of Priests
In general, the priests had to undergo a course of instruction, and were examined before being allowed to officiate. Similarly, they were subject to the ordinary tribunals, composed of men learned in the law, without regard to their descent from one or another tribe. The ordained ‘rulers’ of the synagogues, the teachers of the people, the leaders of their devotions, and all other officials were not necessarily ‘priests,’ but simply chosen for their learning and fitness. Any one whom the ‘elders’ or ‘rulers’ deemed qualified for it might, at their request, address to the people on the Sabbath a ‘word of exhortation.’ Even the high-priest himself was answerable to the Sanhedrim. It is distinctly stated, that ‘if he committed an offence which by the law deserved whipping, the Great Sanhedrim whipt him, and then had him restored again to his office.’ Every year a kind of ecclesiastical council was appointed to instruct him in his duties for the Day of Atonement, ‘in case he were not learned,’ or, at any rate, to see to it that he knew and remembered them. Nay, the principle was broadly laid down–that ‘a scholar, though he were a bastard, was of far higher value than an unlearned high-priest.’ If, besides all this, it is remembered how the political influence of the high-priest had decayed in the days of Herod, and how frequently the occupants of that office changed, through the caprice of the rulers or through bribery, the state of public feeling will be readily understood.
At the same time, it must be admitted, that generally speaking the high-priest would, of necessity, wield very considerable influence, and that, ordinarily, those who held the sacred office were not only ‘lettered,’ but members of the Sanhedrim. According to Jewish tradition, the high-priest ought, in every respect, to excel all other priests, and if he were poor, the rest were to contribute, so as to secure him an independent fortune. Certain marks of outward respect were also shown him. When he entered the Temple he was accompanied by three persons–one walking at each side, the third behind him. He might, without being appointed to it, officiate in any part of the Temple services; he had certain exceptional rights; and he possessed a house in the Temple, where he lived by day, retiring only at night to his own home, which must be within Jerusalem, and to which he was escorted by the people after the solemnities of the Day of Atonement, which devolved almost exclusively upon him.
Originally the office of high-priest was regarded as being held for life and hereditary; * but the troubles of later times made it a matter of cabal, crime, or bribery.
* According to the Rabbis, he was appointed by the Sanhedrim.
Without here entering into the complicated question of the succession to the high-priesthood, the following may be quoted from the Talmud (Talmud Jer. Ioma, I.), without, of course, guaranteeing its absolute accuracy: ‘In the first Temple, the high-priests served, the son succeeding the father, and they were eighteen in number. But in the second Temple they got the high-priesthood for money; and there are who say they destroyed each other by witchcraft, so that some reckon 80 high-priests during that period, others 81, others 82, 83, 84, and even 85.’ The Rabbis enumerate 18 high-priests during the first Temple; Lightfoot counts 53 from the return from Babylon to Matthias, when the last war of the Jews began; while Relandius reckons 57. But there is both difficulty and confusion amid the constant changes at the last.
There was not any fixed age for entering on the office of high-priest, any more than on that of an ordinary priest. The Talmudists put it down at twenty years. But the unhappy descendant of the Maccabees, Aristobulus, was only sixteen years of age when his beauty, as he officiated as high-priest in the Temple, roused the jealousy of Herod, and procured his death. The entrance of the Levites is fixed, in the sacred text, at thirty during the wilderness period, and after that, when the work would require less bodily strength, but a larger number of ministers, at twenty-five years of age. *
* It is thus we reconcile Numbers 4:3 with 8:24, 25. In point of fact, these two reasons are expressly mentioned in 1 Chronicles 23:24-27, as influencing David still further to lower the age of entrance to twenty.
Disqualifications for the Priesthood
No special disqualifications for the Levitical office existed, though the Rabbis insist that a good voice was absolutely necessary. It was otherwise with the priest’s office. The first inquiry instituted by the Sanhedrim, who for the purpose sat daily in ‘the Hall of Polished Stones,’ was into the genealogy of a candidate. Certain genealogies were deemed authoritative. Thus, ‘if his father’s name were inscribed in the archives of Jeshana at Zipporim, no further inquiry was made.’ If he failed to satisfy the court about his perfect legitimacy, the candidate was dressed and veiled in black, and permanently removed. If he passed that ordeal, inquiry was next made as to any physical defects, of which Maimonides enumerates a hundred and forty that permanently, and twenty-two which temporarily disqualified for the exercise of the priestly office. Persons so disqualified were, however, admitted to menial offices, such as in the wood-chamber, and entitled to Temple support. Those who had stood the twofold test were dressed in white raiment, and their names properly inscribed. To this pointed allusion is made in Revelation 3:5, ‘He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.’
Thus received, and afterwards instructed in his duties, the formal admission alike of the priest and of the high-priest was not, as of old, by anointing, but simply by investiture. For even the composition of the sacred oil was no longer known in the second Temple. They were called ‘high-priests by investiture,’ and regarded as of inferior rank to those ‘by anointing.’ As for the common priests, the Rabbis held that they were not anointed even in the first Temple, the rite which was applied to the sons of Aaron being valid also for their descendants. It was otherwise in the case of the high-priest. His investiture was continued during seven days. In olden days, when he was anointed, the sacred oil was not only ‘poured over him,’ but also applied to his forehead, over the eyes, as tradition has it, after the form of the Greek letter X. The coincidence is certainly curious. This sacred oil was besides only used for anointing such kings as were of the family of David, not other Jewish monarchs, and if their succession had been called in question. Otherwise the royal dignity went, as a matter of course, by inheritance from father to son.
The Dress of the High-priest
The high-priests ‘by investiture’ had not any more the real Urim and Thummim (their meaning even being unknown), though a breast-plate, with twelve stones, was made and worn, in order to complete the eight sacred vestments. This was just double the number of those worn by an ordinary priest, viz. the linen breeches, the coat, the girdle, and the bonnet. To these the high-priest added other four distinctive articles of dress, called ‘golden vestments,’ because, unlike the robes of the ordinary priests, gold, the symbol of splendour, appeard in them. They were the Meil, or robe of the ephod, wholly of ‘woven work,’ of dark blue colour, descending to the knees, and adorned at the hem by alternate blossoms of the pomegranate in blue, purple, and scarlet, and golden bells, the latter, according to tradition, seventy-two in number; the Ephod with the breast-plate, the former of the four colours of the sanctuary (white, blue, purple, and scarlet), and inwrought with threads of gold; the Mitre; and, lastly, the Ziz, or golden frontlet. If either a priest or the high-priest officiated without wearing the full number of his vestments, his service would be invalid, as also if anything, however trifling (such, for instance, as a plaster), had intervened between the body and the dress of the priest. The material of which the four vestments of the ordinary priest were made was ‘linen,’ or, more accurately, ‘byssus,’ the white shining cotton-stuff of Egypt. These two qualities of the byssus are specially marked as characteristic (Rev 15:6, ‘clothed in pure and shining linen.’), and on them part of the symbolic meaning depended. Hence we read in Revelation 19:8, ‘And to her’–the wife of the Lamb made ready–‘was granted that she should be arrayed in byssus vestments, shining and pure; for the byssus vestment is the righteousness of the saints.’
Allusions to the Dress in the New Testament
We add some further particulars, chiefly in illustration of allusions in the New Testament. The priest’s ‘coat’ was woven of one piece, like the seamless robe of the Saviour (John 19:23). As it was close-fitting, the girdle could not, strictly speaking, have been necessary. Besides, although the account of the Rabbis, that the priest’s girdle was three fingers broad and sixteen yards long (!), is exaggerated, no doubt it really reached beyond the feet, and required to be thrown over the shoulder during ministration. Hence its object must chiefly have been symbolical. In point of fact, it may be regarded as the most distinctive priestly vestment, since it was only put on during actual ministration, and put off immediately afterwards. Accordingly, when in Revelation 1:13, the Saviour is seen ‘in the midst of the candlesticks,’ ‘girt about the paps with a golden girdle,’ we are to understand by it that our heavenly High-Priest is there engaged in actual ministry for us. Similarly, the girdle is described as ‘about the paps,’ or (as in Rev 15:6) about the ‘breasts,’ as both the girdle of the ordinary priest and that on the ephod which the high-priest wore were girded there, and not round the loins (compare Eze 44:18). Lastly, the expression ‘golden girdle’ may bear reference to the circumstance that the dress peculiar of the high-priest was called his ‘golden vestments,’ in contradistinction to the ‘linen vestments,’ which he wore on the Day of Atonement.
The Breast-plate/Mitre/Phylacteries/The Ziz
Of the four distinctive articles in the high-priest’s dress, the breast-plate, alike from its square form and the twelve jewels on it, bearing the names of the tribes, suggest ‘the city four-square,’ whose ‘foundations’ are twelve precious stones (Rev 21:16,19,20). The ‘mitre’ of the high-priest differed from the head-gear of the ordinary priest, which was shaped like the inverted calyx of a flower, in size and probably also somewhat in shape. According to the Rabbis, it was eight yards high (!!). Fastened to it by two (according to the Rabbis, by three) ribbons of ‘blue lace’ was the symbol of royalty–the ‘golden plate’ (or Ziz), on which, ‘Holiness unto Jehovah’ was graven. This plate was only two fingers wide, and reached from temple to temple. Between this plate and the mitre the high-priest is by some supposed to have worn his phylacteries. But this cannot be regarded as by any means a settled point. According to the distinct ceremony of the Talmud, neither priests, Levites, nor the ‘stationary men’ wore phylacteries during their actual service in the Temple. This is a strong point urged by the modern Karaite Jews against the traditions of the Rabbis. Can it be, that the wearing of phylacteries at the time of Christ was not a universally acknowledged obligation, but rather the badge of a party? This would give additional force to the words in which Christ inveighed against those who made broad their phylacteries. According to Josephus, the original Ziz of Aaron still existed in his time, and was carried with other spoils to Rome. There R. Eliezer saw it in the reign of Hadrian. Thence we can trace it, with considerable probability, through many vicissitudes, to the time of Belisarius, and to Byzantium. From there it was taken by order of the emperor to Jerusalem. What became of it afterwards is unknown; possibly it may still be in existence. *
* When Josephus speaks of a triple crown worn by the high-priest, this may have been introduced by the Asmoneans when they united the temporal monarchy with the priesthood. Compare Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, i. 807a.
It only requires to be added that the priests’ garments, when soiled, were not washed, but used as wicks for the lamps in the Temple; those of the high-priest were ‘hid away.’ The high-priest wore ‘a fresh suit of linen vestments’ each time on the Day of Atonement.
The Fourteen Officers
The priesthood ministering in the Temple were arranged into ‘ordinary’ priests and various officials. Of the latter there were, besides the high-priest, * the ‘Sagan,’ or suffragan priest; two ‘Katholikin,’ or chief treasurers and overseers; seven ‘Ammarcalin,’ who were subordinate to the Katholikin, and had chief charge of all the gates; and three ‘Gizbarin,’ or under-treasurers.
* The Rabbis speak of a high-priest ordained ‘for war,’ who accompanied the people to battle, but no historical trace of a distinct office of this kind can be discovered.
These fourteen officers, ranking in the order mentioned, formed the standing ‘council of the Temple,’ which regulated everything connected with the affairs and services of the sanctuary. Its members were also called ‘the elders of the priests,’ or ‘the counsellors.’ This judicatory, which ordinarily did not busy itself with criminal questions, apparently took a leading part in the condemnation of Jesus. But, on the other hand, it is well to remember that they were not all of one mind, since Joseph of Arimathea belonged to their number–the title by which he is designated in Mark 15:43 being exactly the same word as that applied in the Talmud to the members of this priestly council.
It is difficult to specify the exact duties of each of these classes of officials. The ‘Sagan’ (or ‘Segen,’ or ‘Segan’) would officiate for the high-priest, when from any cause he was incapacitated; he would act generally as his assistance, and take the oversight of all the priests, whence he is called in Scripture ‘second priest’ (2 Kings 25:18; Jer 52:24), and in Talmudical writings ‘the Sagan of the priests.’ A ‘Chananjah’ is mentioned in the Talmud as a Sagan, but whether or not he was the ‘Annas’ of the New Testament must be left undecided. The two Katholikin were to the Sagan what he was to the high-priest, though their chief duty seems to have been about the treasures of the Temple. Similarly, the seven Ammarcalin were assistants of the Katholikin, though they had special charge of the gates, the holy vessels, and the holy vestments; and again the three (or else seven), ‘Gizbarin’ assistants of the Ammarcalin. The title ‘Gizbar’ occurs so early as Ezra 1:8; but its exact meaning seems to have been already unknown when the LXX translated that book. They appear to have had charge of all dedicated and consecrated things, of the Temple tribute, of the redemption money, etc., and to have decided all questions connected with such matters.
Next in rank to these officials were the ‘heads of each course’ on duty for a week, and then the ‘heads of families’ of every course. After them followed fifteen overseers, viz. ‘the overseer concerning the times,’ who summoned priests and people to their respective duties; the overseer for shutting the doors (under the direction, of course, of the Ammarcalin); the overseer of the guards, or captain of the Temple; the overseer of the singers and of those who blew the trumpets; the overseer of the cymbals; the overseer of the lots, which were drawn every morning; the overseer of the birds, who had to provide the turtledoves and pigeons for those who brought such offerings; the overseer of the seals, who dispensed the four counterfoils for the various meat-offerings suited for different sacrifices; the overseer of the drink-offerings, for a similar purpose to the above; the overseer of the sick, or the Temple physician; the overseer of the water, who had charge of the water-supply and the drainage; the overseer for making the shewbread; for preparing the incense; for making the veils; and for providing the priestly garments. All these officers had, of course, subordinates, whom they chose and employed, either for the day or permanently; and it was their duty to see to all the arrangements connected with their respective departments. Thus, not to speak of instructors, examiners of sacrifices, and a great variety of artificers, there must have been sufficient employment in the Temple for a very large number of persons.
Sources of Support for the Priests
We must not close without enumerating the twenty-four sources whence, according to the Talmud, the priests derived their support. Of these ten were only available while in the Temple itself, four in Jerusalem, and the remaining ten throughout the Holy Land. Those which might only be used in the Temple itself were the priest’s part of the sin-offering; that of the trespass-offering for a known, and for a doubtful trespass; public peace-offerings; the leper’s log of oil; the two Pentecostal loaves; the shewbread; what was left of meat-offerings, and the omer at the Passover. The four which might be used only in Jerusalem were the firstlings of beasts, the Biccurim, * the portion from the thank-offering (Lev 7:12; 22:29,30), and from the Nazarite’s goat, and the skins of the holy sacrifices.
* To prevent mistakes, we may state that the term ‘Therumoth’ is, in a general way, used to designate the prepared produce, such as oil, flour, wine; and ‘Biccurim,’ the natural product of the soil, such as corn, fruits, etc.
Of the ten which might be used throughout the land, five could be given at will to any priest, viz. the tithe of the tithe, the heave-offering of the dough (Num 15:20; Rom 11:16), the first of the fleece and the priest’s due of meat (Deut 18:3). The other five, it was thought, should be given to the priests of the special course on duty for the week, viz. the redemption-money for a first-born son, that for an ass, the ‘sanctified field of possession’ (Lev 27:16), what had been ‘devoted,’ and such possession of ‘a stranger’ or proselyte as, having been stolen, was restored to the priests after the death of the person robbed, with a fifth part additional. Finally, to an unlettered priest it was only lawful to give the following from among the various dues: things ‘devoted,’ the first-born of cattle, the redemption of a son, that of an ass, the priest’s due (Deut 18:3), the first of the wool, the ‘oil of burning’ (a term meaning ‘defiled Therumoth.’), the ten things which were to be used in the Temple itself, and the Biccurim. On the other hand, the high-priest had the right to take what portion of the offerings he chose, and one half of the shewbread every Sabbath also belonged to him.
Thus elaborate in every particular was the system which regulated the admission, the services, and the privileges of the officiating priesthood. Yet it has all vanished, not leaving behind it in the synagogue even a single trace of its complicated and perfect arrangements. These ‘old things are passed away,’ because they were only ‘a shadow of good things to come.’ But ‘the substance is of Christ,’ and ‘He abideth an High-Priest for ever.’
Sacrifices: Their Order and Their Meaning
‘There are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.’–Hebrews 8:4, 5
It is a curious fact, but sadly significant, that modern Judaism should declare neither sacrifices nor a Levitical priesthood to belong to the essence of the Old Testament; that, in fact, they had been foreign elements imported into it–tolerated, indeed, by Moses, but against which the prophets earnestly protested and incessantly laboured. The only arguments by which this strange statement is supported are, that the Book of Deuteronomy contains merely a brief summary, not a detailed repetition, of sacrificial ordinances, and that such passages as Isaiah 1:11, etc., Micah 6:6, etc., inveigh against sacrifices offered without real repentance or change of mind. Yet this anti-sacrificial, or, as we may call it, anti-spiritual, tendency is really of much earlier date. For the sacrifices of the Old Testament were not merely outward observances–a sort of work-righteousness which justified the offerer by the mere fact of his obedience–since ‘it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins’ (Heb 10:4).
Symbolism of the Sacrifices
The sacrifices of the Old Testament were symbolical and typical. An outward observance without any real inward meaning is only a ceremony. But a rite which has a present spiritual meaning is a symbol; and if, besides, it also points to a future reality, conveying at the same time, by anticipation, the blessing that is yet to appear, it is a type. Thus the Old Testament sacrifices were not only symbols, nor yet merely predictions by fact (as prophecy is a prediction by word), but they already conveyed to the believing Israelite the blessing that was to flow from the future reality to which they pointed. Hence the service of the letter and the work-righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ran directly contrary to this hope of faith and spiritual view of sacrifices, which placed all on the level of sinners to be saved by the substitution of another, to whom they pointed. Afterwards, when the destruction of the Temple rendered its services impossible, another and most cogent reason was added for trying to substitute other things, such as prayers, fasts, etc., in room of the sacrifices. Therefore, although none of the older Rabbis has ventured on such an assertion as that of modern Judaism, the tendency must have been increasingly in that direction. In fact, it had become a necessity–since to declare sacrifices of the essence of Judaism would have been to pronounce modern Judaism an impossibility. But thereby also the synagogue has given sentence against itself, and by disowning sacrifices has placed itself outside the pale of the Old Testament.
Sacrifices the Centre of the Old Testament
Every unprejudiced reader of the Bible must feel that sacrifices constitute the centre of the Old Testament. Indeed, were this the place, we might argue from their universality that, along with the acknowledgment of a Divine power, the dim remembrance of a happy past, and the hope of a happier future, sacrifices belonged to the primeval traditions which mankind inherited from Paradise. To sacrifice seems as ‘natural’ to man as to pray; the one indicates what he feels about himself, the other what he feels about God. The one means a felt need of propitiation; the other a felt sense of dependence.
The Idea of Substitution
The fundamental idea of sacrifice in the Old Testament is that of substitution, which again seems to imply everything else–atonement and redemption, vicarious punishment and forgiveness. The firstfruits go for the whole products; the firstlings for the flock; the redemption-money for that which cannot be offered; and the life of the sacrifice, which is in its blood (Lev 17:11), for the life of the sacrificer. Hence also the strict prohibition to partake of blood. Even in the ‘Korban,’ gift (Mark 7:11) or free-will offering, it is still the gift for the giver. This idea of substitution, as introduced, adopted, and sanctioned by God Himself, is expressed by the sacrificial term rendered in our version ‘atonement,’ but which really means covering, the substitute in the acceptance of God taking the place of, and so covering, as it were, the person of the offerer. Hence the Scriptural experience: ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity’ (Psa 32:1,2); and perhaps also the Scriptural prayer: ‘Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of Thine Anointed’ (Psa 84:9). Such sacrifices, however, necessarily pointed to a mediatorial priesthood, through whom alike they and the purified worshippers should be brought near to God, and kept in fellowship with Him. Yet these priests themselves continually changed; their own persons and services needed purification, and their sacrifices required constant renewal, since, in the nature of it, such substitution could not be perfect. In short, all this was symbolical (of man’s need, God’s mercy, and His covenant), and typical, till He should come to whom it all pointed, and who had all along given reality to it; He whose Priesthood was perfect, and who on a perfect altar brought a perfect sacrifice, once for all–a perfect Substitute, and a perfect Mediator (Heb 10:1-24).
The Paschal Lamb
At the very threshold of the Mosaic dispensation stands the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb connected with the redemption of Israel, and which in many respects must be regarded as typical, or rather anticipatory, of all the others. But there was one sacrifice which, even under the Old Testament, required no renewal. It was when God had entered into covenant relationship with Israel, and Israel became the ‘people of God.’ Then Moses sprinkled ‘the blood of the covenant’ on the altar and on the people (Exo 24). On the ground of this covenant-sacrifice all others rested (Psa 50:5). These were, then, either sacrifices of communion with God, or else intended to restore that communion when it had been disturbed or dimmed through sin and trespass: sacrifices in communion, or for communion with God. To the former class belong the burnt- and the peace-offerings; to the latter, the sin- and the trespass-offerings. But, as without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin, every service and every worshipper had, so to speak, to be purified by blood, and the mediatorial agency of the priesthood called in to bring near unto God, and to convey the assurance of acceptance.
Bloody and Unbloody Offerings
The readiest, but perhaps the most superficial, arrangement of sacrifices is into bloody and unbloody. The latter, or ‘Minchah,’ included, besides the meat- and drink-offering, the first sheaf at the Passover, the two loaves at Pentecost, and the shewbread. The meat-offering was only brought alone in two instance–the priest’s offering (Lev 7:12) and that of jealousy (Num 5:15), to which Jewish tradition adds the meat-offerings mentioned in Leviticus 2. If in Leviticus 5:11 a meat-offering is allowed in cases of extreme poverty as a substitute for a sin-offering, this only further proves the substitutionary character of sacrifices. From all this it will be evident that, as a general rule, the meat-offering cannot be regarded as separate from the other or bloody sacrifices. In proof of this, it always varied in quantity, according to the kind of sacrifice which it accompanied (Num 15:1-12; 28:1-12; 39:1, etc.).
The Requisites of Sacrifice
The general requisites of all sacrifices were–that they should be brought of such things, in such place and manner, and through such mediatorial agency, as God had appointed. Thus the choice and the appointment of the mode of approaching Him, were to be all of God. Then it was a first principle that every sacrifice must be of such things as had belonged to the offerer. None other could represent him or take his place before God. Hence the Pharisees were right when, in opposition to the Sadducees, they carried it that all public sacrifices (which were offered for the nation as a whole) should be purchased, not from voluntary contributions, but from the regular Temple revenues. Next, all animal sacrifices were to be free of blemishes (of which the Rabbis enumerate seventy-three), and all unbloody offerings to be without admixture of leaven or of honey; the latter probably because, from its tendency to fermentation or corruption, it resembled leaven. For a similar reason salt, as the symbol of incorruption, was to be added to all sacrifices. *
* The Rabbis speak of the so-called ‘salt of Sodom,’ probably rock salt from the southern end of the Dead Sea, as used in the sacrifices.
Hence we read in Mark 9:49–‘For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt’; that is, as the salt is added to the sacrifice symbolically to point to its incorruption, so the reality and permanence of our Christian lives will be brought out by the fire of the great day, when what is wood, hay, and stubble shall be consumed; while that which is real shall prove itself incorruptible, having had the fire applied to it.
The Creatures Appointed
In Scripture three kinds of four-footed beasts–oxen, sheep, and goats; and two of birds–turtle-doves and young pigeons–are appointed for sacrifices. *
* ‘The birds’ used at the purification of the leper (Lev 14:4) cannot be regarded as sacrifices.
The latter, except in certain purifications, are only allowed as substitutes for other sacrifices in case of poverty. Hence also no direction is given either as to their age or sex, though the Rabbis hold that the turtle-doves (which were the common birds of passage) should be fully grown, and the domestic pigeons young birds. But, as in the various sacrifices of oxen, sheep, and goats there were differences of age and sex, the Jews enumerate twelve sacrifices, to which as many terms in Scripture correspond. The Paschal lamb and that for the trespass-offerings required to be males, as well as all burnt- and all public sacrifices. The latter ‘made void the Sabbath and defilement,’ i.e. they superseded the law of Sabbath rest (Matt 12:5), and might be continued, notwithstanding one kind of Levitical defilement–that by death.
The Eleven Sacrifices of the Rabbis
The Rabbis, who are very fond of subtle distinctions, also speak of public sacrifices that resembled the private, and of private sacrifices that resembled the public, in that they also ‘made void the Sabbath and defilement.’ Altogether they enumerate eleven public sacrifices, viz. the daily sacrifices; the additional for the Sabbath; for the New Moon; the Passover sacrifices; the lamb when the sheaf was waved; the Pentecostal sacrifices; those brought with the two first loaves; New Year’s; Atonement Day sacrifices; those on the first day of, and those on the octave of ‘Tabernacles.’ Private sacrifices they classify as those on account of sins by word or deed; those on account of what concerned the body (such as various defilements); those on account of property (firstlings, tithes); those on account of festive seasons; and those on account of vows or promises. Yet another division of sacrifices was into those due, or prescribed, and those voluntary. For the latter nothing could be used that had previously been vowed, since it would already belong unto God.
Holy and Less Holy
But of far greater importance is the arrangement of sacrifices into the most holy and the less holy, which is founded on Scripture (Lev 6:17; 7:1; 14:13). Certain meat-offerings (Lev 2:3,10; 6:17; 10:12), and all burnt-, sin-, and trespass-sacrifices, as well as all public peace-offerings, were most holy. Such were to be offered or sacrificed in one of the more holy places; they were slain at the north side of the altar * (the less holy at the east or south side); and they were either not partaken of at all, or else only by the officiating priests, and within the court of the Temple.
* The reason of this is obscure. Was it that the north was regarded as the symbolical region of cold and darkness? Or was it because during the wilderness-journey the Most Holy Place probably faced north–towards Palestine?
The skins of the most holy sacrifices, except such as were wholly burnt, belonged to the priests; those of the less holy to the offerers. In the latter case they also partook of their flesh, the only exception being the firstlings, which were eaten by the priests alone. The Rabbis attach ten comparative degrees of sanctity to sacrifices; and it is interesting to mark that of these the first belonged to the blood of the sin-offering; the second to the burnt-offering; the third to the sin-offering itself; and the fourth to the trespass-offering. Lastly, all sacrifices had to be brought before actual sunset, although the unconsumed flesh might smoulder on the altar till next dawn.
The Acts of Sacrifice
The Rabbis mention the following five acts as belonging to the offerer of a sacrifice: the laying on of hands, slaying, skinning, cutting up, and washing the inwards. These other five were strictly priestly functions: catching up the blood, sprinkling it, lighting the altar fire, laying on the wood, bringing up the pieces, and all else done at the altar itself.
The whole service must have been exceedingly solemn. Having first been duly purified, a man brought his sacrifice himself ‘before the Lord’–anciently, to ‘the door of the Tabernacle’ (Lev 1:3; 4:4), where the altar of burnt-offering was (Exo 40:6), and in the Temple into the Great Court. If the sacrifice was most holy, he entered by the northern; if less holy, by the southern gate. Next he placed it so as to face the west, or the Most Holy Place, in order thus literally to bring it before the Lord. To this the apostle refers when, in Romans 12:1, he beseecheth us to present our ‘bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.’
Laying on of Hands
But this was only the commencement of the service. Women might bring their sacrifices into the Great Court; but they might not perform the second rite–that of laying on of hands. This meant transmission and delegation, and implied representation; so that it really pointed to the substitution of the sacrifice for the sacrificer. Hence it was always accompanied by confession of sin and prayer. It was thus done. The sacrifice was so turned that the person confessing looked towards the west, while he laid his hands between the horns of the sacrifice, * and if the sacrifice was brought by more than one, each had to lay on his hands.
* If the offerer stood outside the Court of the Priests, on the topmost of the fifteen Levitical steps, or within the gate of Nicanor, his hands at least must be within the Great Court, or the rite was not valid.
It is not quite a settled point whether one or both hands were laid on; but all are agreed that it was to be done ‘with one’s whole force’–as it were, to lay one’s whole weight upon the substitute. *
* Children, the blind, the deaf, those out of their minds, and non-Israelites, were not allowed to ‘lay on hands.’
If a person under vow had died, his heir-at-law took his place. The only public sacrifices in which hands were laid on were those for sins of public ignorance (Lev 4:15; 16:21), when the ‘elders’ acted as representing the people–to which some Rabbinical authorities add public sin-offerings in general (on the ground of 2 Chron 29:23)–and the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, on which the high-priest laid his hands. In all private sacrifices, except firstlings, tithes, and the Paschal lamb, hands were laid on, and, while doing so, the following prayer was repeated: ‘I entreat, O Jehovah: I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have rebelled, I have committed (naming the sin, trespass, or, in case of a burnt-offering, the breach of positive or negative command); but I return in repentance, and let this be for my atonement (covering).’ According to Maimonides, in peace-offerings a record of God’s praise, rather than a confession of sins, was spoken. But, as the principle prevailed that frequent confession even without sacrifice was meritorious, another formula is also recorded, in which the allusion to sacrifices is omitted.
Closely connected with this was ‘the lifting and waving’ of certain sacrifices. The priest put his hands under those of the offerer, and moved the sacrifice upwards and downwards, right and left; according to Abarbanel also ‘forwards and backwards.’ The lamb of the leper’s trespass-offering was waved before it was slain (Lev 14:24); private peace-offerings, only after they had been slain; while in public peace-offerings, the practice varied.
Sacrifices Slain by Priests Only
Under ordinary circumstances all public sacrifices, and also always that of the leper, were slain by the priests. *
* The Hebrew term used for sacrificial slaying is never applied to the ordinary killing of animals.
The Talmud declares the offering of birds, so as to secure the blood, * to have been the most difficult part of a priest’s work.
* In the case of birds there was no laying on of hands.
For the death of the sacrifice was only a means towards an end, that end being the shedding and sprinkling of the blood, by which the atonement was really made. The Rabbis mention a variety of rules observed by the priest who caught up the blood–all designed to make the best provision for its proper sprinkling. *
* The Rabbis mention five mistakes which might render a sacrifice invalid, none of them the least interesting, except, perhaps, that the gullet might never be wholly severed.
Thus the priest was to catch up the blood in a silver vessel pointed at the bottom, so that it could not be put down, and to keep it constantly stirred, to preserve the fluidity of the blood. In the sacrifice of the red heifer, however, the priest caught the blood directly in his left hand, and sprinkled it with his right towards the Holy Place: while in that of the leper one of the two priests received the blood in the vessel; the other in his hand, from which he anointed the purified leper (Lev 4:25).
The Application of the Blood
According to the difference of sacrifices, the blood was differently applied, and in different places. In all burnt-, trespass-, and peace-offerings the blood was thrown directly out of the vessel or vessels in which it had been caught, the priest going first to one corner of the altar and then to the other, and throwing it in the form of the Greek Letter gamma, so that each time two sides of the altar were covered. Any blood left after these two ‘gifts,’ as they were called (which stood for four), was poured out at the base of the altar, whence it flowed into the Kedron. In all sin-offerings the blood was not thrown, but sprinkled, the priest dipping the forefinger of his right hand into the blood, and then sprinkling it from his finger by a motion of the thumb. According to the importance of the sin-offering, the blood was so applied either to the four horns of the altar of burnt-offering, or else it was brought into the Holy Place itself, and sprinkled first seven times towards the veil of the Most Holy Place (Lev 4:6,17), and then on the four horns of the golden altar of incense, beginning at the north-east. Finally, on the Day of Atonement the blood was sprinkled within the Most Holy Place itself. From all sin-offerings the blood of which was sprinkled on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering certain portions were to be eaten, while those whose blood was brought into the Holy Place itself were wholly burnt. But in the sacrifices of firstlings, of tithes of animals, and of the Paschal lamb, the blood was neither thrown nor sprinkled, and only poured out at the base of the altar.
On the shedding of blood, which was of the greatest importance–since, according to the Talmud, ‘whenever the blood touches the altar the offerer is atoned for’–followed the ‘flaying’ of the sacrifice and the ‘cutting up into his pieces.’ All this had to be done in an orderly manner, and according to certain rules, the apostle adopting the sacrificial term when he speaks of ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15). The ‘inwards’ and ‘legs’ having been washed (Lev 1:9), and dried with sponges, the separate pieces of the sacrifice were brought up by various priests: the calculation of the Rabbis being, that in the case of a sheep or a she-goat six priests carried the sacrifice, one more the meat-, and another the drink-offering (in all eight); while in that of a ram twelve, and in that of a bullock four-and-twenty priests were needed for the service. Next, the sacrificial salt was applied, and then the pieces were first confusedly thrown and then arranged upon the fire. * This latter part of the service requires explanation.
* Whatever was laid upon the altar was regarded as ‘sanctified’ by it, and could not be again removed, even though it should have become defiled. This explains the words of Christ in Matthew 23:19.
The common idea that the burning either of part or the whole of the sacrifice pointed to its destruction, and symbolised the wrath of God and the punishment due to sin, does not seem to accord with the statements of Scripture. The term used is not that commonly employed for burning, but means ‘causing to smoke,’ and the rite symbolises partly the entire surrender of the sacrifice, but chiefly its acceptance on the part of God. Thus the sacrifice consumed by a fire which had originally come down from God Himself–not by strange fire–would ascend ‘for a sweet savour unto the Lord’ (Lev 1:9; 4:31). Even the circumstance that the fire for the altar of incense was always taken from that on the altar of burnt-offering, shows that, while that fire might symbolise the presence of a holy Jehovah in His house, it could not refer to the fire of wrath or of punishment. *
* Compare the article in Herzog’s Encyc. vol. x. p. 633. Some of the sacrifices were burned on the altar of burnt-offering, and some outside the gate; while in certain less holy sacrifices it was allowed to burn what was left anywhere within the city.
As already stated, those parts of the sin-, trespass-, * and public peace-offerings, which were allowed to be eaten, could only be partaken of by the priests (not their families) during their actual ministry, and within the Temple walls.
* Except those for the whole people and for the high-priest, which had to be burned outside the gate.
The flesh of these offerings had also to be eaten on the day of the sacrifice, or in the night following; while in other offerings the permission extended to a second day. The Rabbis, however, restrict the eating of the Paschal lamb to midnight. Whatever was left beyond the lawful time had to be burned.
New Testament View of Sacrifice Agrees with the Synagogue
It is deeply interesting to know that the New Testament view of sacrifices is entirely in accordance with that of the ancient Synagogue. At the threshold we here meet the principle: ‘There is no atonement except by blood.’ In accordance with this we quote the following from Jewish interpreters. Rashi says (on Lev 17:11): ‘The soul of every creature is gave it to atone for the soul of man–that one soul should come and atone for the other.’ Similarly Aben Ezra writes: ‘One soul is a substitute for the other.’ And Moses ben Nachmann: ‘I gave the soul for you on the altar, that the soul of the animal should be an atonement for the soul of the man.’ These quotations might be almost indefinitely multiplied. Another phase of Scriptural truth appears in such Rabbinical statements as that by the imposition of hands: ‘The offerer, as it were, puts away his sins from himself, and transfers them upon the living animal’; and that, ‘as often as any one sins with his soul, whether from hate or malice, he puts away his sin from himself, and places it upon the head of his sacrifice, and it is an atonement for him.’ Hence, also, the principal laid down by Abarbanel, that, ‘after the prayer of confession (connected with the imposition of hands) the sins of the children of Israel lay on the sacrifice (of the Day of Atonement).’ This, according to Maimonides, explains why every one who had anything to do with the sacrifice of the red heifer or the goat on the Day of Atonement, or similar offerings, was rendered unclean; since these animals were regarded as actually sin-bearing. In fact, according to Rabbinical expression, the sin-bearing animal is on that ground expressly designated as something to be rejected and abominable. The Christian reader will here be reminded of the Scriptural statement: ‘For He has made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.’
There is yet one other phase on which the Synagogue lays stress. It is best expressed in the following quotation, to which many similar might be added: ‘Properly speaking, the blood of the sinner should have been shed, and his body burned, as those of the sacrifices. But the Holy One–blessed be He!–accepted our sacrifice from us as redemption and atonement. Behold the full grace which Jehovah–blessed be He!–has shown to man! In His compassion and in the fulness of His grace He accepted the soul of the animal instead of his soul, that through it there might be an atonement.’ Hence also the principle, so important as an answer to the question, Whether the Israelites of old had understood the meaning of sacrifices? ‘He that brought a sacrifice required to come to the knowledge that that sacrifice was his redemption.’
In view of all this, the deep-felt want so often expressed by the Synagogue is most touching. In the liturgy for the Day of Atonement we read: ‘While the altar and the sanctuary were still in their places, we were atoned for by the goats, designated by lot. But now for our guilt, if Jehovah be pleased to destroy us, He takes from our hand neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice.’ We add only one more out of many similar passages in the Jewish prayer-book: ‘We have spoken violence and rebellion; we have walked in a way that is not right…Behold, our transgressions have increased upon us; they press upon us like a burden; they have gone over our heads; we have forsaken Thy commandments, which are excellent. And wherewith shall we appear before Thee, the mighty God, to atone for our transgressions, and to put away our trespasses, and to remove sin, and to magnify Thy grace? Sacrifices and offerings are no more; sin- and trespass-offerings have ceased; the blood of sacrifices is no longer sprinkled; destroyed is Thy holy house, and fallen the gates of Thy sanctuary; Thy holy city lies desolate; Thou hast slain, sent from Thy presence; they have gone, driven forth from before Thy face, the priests who brought Thy sacrifices!’ Accordingly, also, the petition frequently recurs: ‘Raise up for us a right Intercessor (that it may be true), I have found a ransom (an atonement, or covering).’ And on the Day of Atonement, as in substance frequently on other occasions, they pray: ‘Bring us back in jubilee to Zion, Thy city, and in joy as of old to Jerusalem, the house of Thy holiness! Then shall we bring before Thy face the sacrifices that are due.’
The Eve of Day of Atonement
Who shall make answer to this deep lament of exiled Judah? Where shall a ransom be found to take the place of their sacrifices? In their despair some appeal to the merits of the fathers or of the pious; others to their own or to Israel’s sufferings, or to death, which is regarded as the last expiation. But the most melancholy exhibition, perhaps, is that of an attempted sacrifice by each pious Israelite on the eve of the Day of Atonement. Taking for males a white cock, * and for females a hen, the head of the house prays: ‘The children of men who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in misery and iron–them will He bring forth from darkness and the shadow of death, and break their bonds asunder. Fools, because of their transgressions and because of their iniquities, are afflicted; their soul abhorreth all manner of meat, and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, that He save them out of their distresses. He sends His word and heals them, and delivers them from their destruction. Then they praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His marvellous works to the children of men. If there be an angel with Him, an intercessor, one among a thousand, to show unto men his righteousness, then He is gracious unto him, and saith, Let him go, that he may not go down into the pit; I have found an atonement (a covering).’
* Because the Hebrew word for ‘man’ (Gever) is used in the Talmud for ‘a cock,’ and ‘white,’ with reference to Isaiah 1:18.
Next, the head of the house swings the sacrifice round his head, saying, ‘This is my substitute; this is in exchange for me; this is my atonement. This cock goes into death, but may I enter into a long and happy life, and into peace!’ Then he repeats this prayer three times, and lays his hands on the sacrifice, which is now slain.
This offering up of an animal not sanctioned by the law, in a place, in a manner, and by hands not authorised by God, is it not a terrible phantom of Israel’s dark and dreary night? and does it not seem strangely to remind us of that other terrible night, when the threefold crowing of a cock awakened Peter to the fact of his denial of ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’?
And still the cry of the Synagogue comes to us through these many centuries of past unbelief and ignorance: ‘Let one innocent come and make atonement for the guilty!’ To which no other response can ever be made than that of the apostle: ‘Such an High-Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens’! (Heb 7:26)
The Burnt-Offering, the Sin- and Trespass-Offering, and the Peace-Offering
‘And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.’–Hebrews 10:11, 12
The Idea of Substitution
The question whether or not sacrifices were to cease after the coming of the Messiah is differently answered in the Jewish synagogue, some arguing that only thank- and peace-offerings would then be brought, while the majority expect a revival of the regular sacrificial worship. *
*It has been matter of controversy whether or not, in the first years after the destruction of the Temple, solitary attempts were made by enthusiasts to offer sacrifices. My own conviction is, that no such instance can be historically established.
But on one point the authorities of the old synagogue, previous to their controversy with Christianity, are agreed. As the Old Testament and Jewish tradition taught that the object of a sacrifice was its substitution for the offender, so Scripture and the Jewish fathers also teach that the substitute to whom all these types pointed was none other than the Messiah.
It has been well remarked, that the difficulties of modern interpreters of the Messianic prophecies arise chiefly from their not perceiving the unity of the Old Testament in its progressive unfolding of the plan of salvation. Moses must not be read independently of the Psalms, nor yet the Psalms independently of the Prophets. Theirs are not so many unconnected writings of different authorship and age, only held together by the boards of one volume. They form integral parts of one whole, the object of which is to point to the goal of all revelation in the appearing of the Christ. Accordingly, we recognize in the prophetic word, not a change nor a difference, but three well-marked progressive stages, leading up to the sufferings and the glory of Messiah. In the Proto-Evangel, as Genesis 3:15 has been called, and in what follows it, we have as yet only the grand general outlines of the figure. Thus we see a Person in the Seed of the woman; suffering, in the prediction that His heel would be bruised; and victory, in that He would bruise the serpent’s head. These merely general outlines are wonderfully filled up in the Book of Psalms. The ‘Person’ is now ‘the Son of David’; while alike the sufferings and the victory are sketched in vivid detail in such Psalms as 22, 35, 49, and 102; or else in Psalms 2, 72, 89, 110, and 118–not to speak of other almost innumerable allusions.
Christ our Substitute
One element only was still wanting–that this Son of David, this Sufferer and Conqueror, should be shown to be our Substitute, to whom also the sacrificial types had pointed. This is added in the writings of the prophets, especially in those of Isaiah, culminating, as it were, in Isaiah 53, around which the details furnished by the other prophets naturally group themselves. The picture is now completed, and so true to the original that, when compared with the reality in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can have no difficulty in recognising it; and this not so much from one or other outline in prophecy or type, as from their combination and progressive development throughout the Scriptures of the Old Testament, considered as a connected whole.
As already stated, such early works as the Targum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum frankly adopt the Messianic interpretation of these prophecies. The later Rabbis also admit that this had been the common view of the Jewish fathers; but, on account of ‘the sages of the Nazarenes, who apply it to that man whom they hanged in Jerusalem towards the close of the second Temple, and who, according to their opinion, was the Son of the Most Blessed, and had taken human nature in the womb of the Virgin,’ they reject that interpretation, and refer the prediction of suffering either to some individual, or mostly to Israel as a nation. But so difficult is it to weaken the language in which the Messiah’s vicarious sufferings are described–not less than twelve times in Isaiah 52:13 to 53–that some of their commentators have been forced to admit it, sometimes almost unconsciously. The language of Isaiah has even crept into the following Messianic hymnal prayer for the Passover:
‘Haste, my Beloved; come, ere ends the vision’s day;
Make haste, and chase Thyself the shadows all away!
„Despised” is He, but yet „extolled” and „high” shall be;
„Deal prudently,” „sprinkle nations,” and „judge” shall He.’
Thus, if by the universal consent of all who are unprejudiced sacrifices point to substitution, substitution in its turn points to the Person and Work of the Messiah.
It has already been explained that all sacrifices were either such as were offered on the ground of communion with God–the burnt- and the peace-offering; or else such as were intended to restore that communion when it had been dimmed or disturbed–the sin- and the trespass-offering. Each of these four kinds of sacrifices will now have to be separately considered.
Symbolism of the Burnt-offering
I. The burnt-offering–Olah, or also Chalil (Deut 33:10; in Psalm 51:19 literally rendered ‘whole burnt-offering).–The derivation of the term Olah, as wholly ‘ascending’ unto God, indicates alike the mode of the sacrifice and its meaning. It symbolised the entire surrender unto God, whether of the individual or of the congregation, and His acceptance thereof. Hence, also, it could not be offered ‘without shedding of blood.’ Where other sacrifices were brought, it followed the sin- but preceded the peace-offering. In fact, it meant general acceptance on the ground of previous special acceptance, and it has rightly been called the sacrificium latreuticum, or sacrifice of devotion and service. *
* In the historical books the term Olah is, however, used in a more general sense to denote other sacrifices also.
Thus day by day it formed the regular morning and evening service in the Temple, while on sabbaths, new moons, and festivals additional burnt-offerings followed the ordinary worship. There the covenant-people brought the covenant-sacrifice, and the multitude of offerings indicated, as it were, the fulness, richness, and joyousness of their self-surrender. Accordingly, although we can understand how this sacrifice might be said to ‘make atonement’ for an individual in the sense of assuring him of his acceptance, we cannot agree with the Rabbis that it was intended to atone for evil thoughts and purposes, and for breaches of positive commands, or of such negative as involved also a positive command.
The burnt-offering was always to be a male animal, as the more noble, and as indicating strength and energy. The blood was thrown on the angles of the altar below the red line that ran round it. Then ‘the sinew of the thigh’ (Gen 32:32), * the stomach and the entrails, etc., having been removed (in the case of birds also the feathers and the wings), and the sacrifice having been duly salted, it was wholly burned.
* The ‘sinew of the thigh’ was neither allowed to be eaten nor to be sacrificed.
The skins belonged to the ministering priests, who derived a considerable revenue from this source. The burnt-offering was the only sacrifice which non-Israelites were allowed to bring. *
* If they brought a ‘peace-offering,’ it was to be treated as a burnt-offering, and that for the obvious reason that there was no one to eat the sacrificial meal. Of course, there was no imposition of hands in that case.
The Emperor Augustus had a daily burnt-offering brought for him of two lambs and a bullock; and ever afterwards this sacrifice was regarded as indicating that the Jewish nation recognised the Roman emperor as their ruler. Hence at the commencement of the Jewish war Eleazar carried its rejection, and this became, as it were, the open mark of the rebellion.
Symbolism of the Sin-offering
II. The sin-offering.–This is the most important of all sacrifices. It made atonement for the person of the offender, whereas the trespass-offering only atoned for one special offence. Hence sin-offerings were brought on festive occasions for the whole people, but never trespass-offerings (comp. Num 28, 29). In fact, the trespass-offering may be regarded as representing ransom for a special wrong, while the sin-offering symbolised general redemption. Both sacrifices applied only to sins ‘through ignorance,’ in opposition to those done ‘presumptuously’ (or ‘with a high hand’). For the latter the law provided no atonement, but held out ‘a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.’ By sins ‘through ignorance,’ however, we are to understand, according to the Rabbis, not only such as were committed strictly through want of knowledge, but also those which had been unintentional, or through weakness, or where the offender at the time realised not his guilt. The fundamental difference between the two sacrifices appears also in this–that sin-offerings, having a retrospective effect on the worshippers, were brought at the various festivals, and also for purification in such defilements of the body as symbolically pointed to the sinfulness of our nature (sexual defilement, those connected with leprosy, and with death). On the other hand, the animal brought for a trespass-offering was to be always a male (generally a ram, which was never used as a sin-offering); nor was it lawful, as in the sin-offering, to make substitution of something else in case of poverty. These two particulars indicate that the trespass-offering contemplated chiefly a wrong, for which decided satisfaction was to be made by offering a male animal, and for which a definite, unvarying ransom was to be given.
In All Cases Repentance Was Necessary
However, in reference both to sin- and to trespass-offerings, the Rabbinical principle must be kept in view–that they only atoned in case of real repentance. Indeed, their first effect would be ‘a remembrance of sins’ before God (Heb 10:3). All sin-offerings were either public or private (congregational or individual). The former were always males; the latter always females, except the bullock for the high-priest’s sin of ignorance (Lev 4:3), and the kid for the same offence of a ‘ruler’ (Lev 4:22). They were further divided into fixed, which were the same in the case of rich and poor, and varying, which ‘ascended and descended’ according to the circumstances of the offerer. ‘Fixed’ sacrifices were all those for sins ‘through ignorance’ against any of the prohibitory commands (of which the Rabbis enumerate 365); * for sins of deed, not of word; or else for such which, if they had been high-handed, would have carried the Divine punishment of being ‘cut off’ (of which the Rabbis enumerate 36).
* They also mention 248 affirmative precepts, or in all 613, according to the supposed number of members in the human body.
The ‘varying’ sacrifices were those for lepers (Lev 14:21); for women after childbirth (of which concession to poverty Mary, the mother of Jesus, availed herself) (Luke 2:24; Lev 12:8); for having concealed a ‘thing known’ (Lev 5:1); for having unwittingly sworn falsely; and for having either unwittingly eaten of what had been consecrated, or gone into the Temple in a state of defilement. Lastly, there were ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ sin-offerings, according as the blood was applied to the altar of burnt-offering or brought into the inner sanctuary. In the former case the flesh was to be eaten only by the officiating priest and within the sanctuary; the latter were to be wholly burnt without the camp or city. *
* According to the Talmud, if doves were brought as a sin-offering, the carcases were not burned, but went to the priests.
In both cases, however, the ‘inwards,’ as enumerated in Leviticus 4:8, were always first burned on the altar of burnt-offering. Neither oil nor frankincense were to be brought with a sin-offering. There was nothing joyous about it. It represented a terrible necessity, for which God, in His wondrous grace, had made provision.
The Sin-offering Differed with the Rank of the Offerer
It only remains to explain in detail two peculiarities connected with the sin-offering. First, it differed according to the theocratic position of him who brought the sacrifice. For the high-priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:3), or when he had sinned, ‘to the rendering guilty of the people’ (Lev 4:3), that is, in his official capacity as representing the people; or if the whole congregation had sinned through ignorance (Lev 4:13); and at the consecration of the priests and Levites a bullock was to be brought. This was the highest kind of sin-offering. Next in order was that of the ‘kid of the goats,’ offered for the people on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:5), and on the other festivals and New Moons (Num 28:15, etc.; 29:5, etc.); also for the ruler who had sinned through ignorance (Lev 4:23); for the congregation if aught had been committted by any individual ‘without the knowledge of the congregation’ (Num 15:24); and, lastly, at the consecration of the Tabernacle (Lev 9:3,15). The third kind of sin-offering consisted of a female kid of the goats * for individual Israelites (Lev 4:28, etc.; 5:6), and of a ewe lamb for a Nazarite (Num 6:14) and a leper (Lev 14:10).
* It is not very easy to understand why goats should have been chosen in preference for sin-offerings, unless it were that their flesh was the most unpalatable of meat.
The lowest grade of sin-offering was that of turtle-doves or young pigeons offered at certain purifications (Lev 12:6; 15:14,29; Num 6:10); or else as a substitute for other sacrifices in case of poverty–in extreme cases something resembling to, or ‘as a meat-offering’ being even allowed (Lev 5:11-13).
The Blood to be Sprinkled
Secondly, the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled, not thrown. In the case of a private Israelite, it was sprinkled, that is, either jerked or dropped successively on each of the four horns * of the altar of burnt-offering–beginning at the south-east, thence going to the north-east, then the north-west, and finishing at the south-west, where the rest of the blood was poured at the bottom of the altar through two funnels that conducted into the Kedron.
* The ‘horns’ symbolized, as it were, the outstanding height and strength of the altar.
On the other hand, when offering bullocks and goats, whose carcases were to be burned without the camp, the officiating priest stood in the Holy Place, between the golden altar and the candlestick, and sprinkled of the blood seven times * towards the Most Holy Place, to indicate that the covenant-relationship itself had been endangered and was to be re-established, and afterwards touched with it the horns of the altar of incense.
* Seven was the symbolical number of the covenant.
The most solemn of all sacrifices were those of the Day of Atonement, when the high-priest, arrayed in his linen garments, stood before the Lord Himself within the Most Holy Place to make an atonement. Every spot of blood from a sin-offering on a garment conveyed defilement, as being loaded with sin, and all vessels used for such sacrifices had either to be broken or scoured.
Quite another phase of symbolic meaning was intended to be conveyed by the sacrificial meal which the priests were to make of the flesh of such sin-offerings as were not wholly burnt without the camp. Unquestionably Philo was right in suggesting, that one of the main objects of this meal was to carry to the offerer assurance of his acceptance, ‘since God would never have allowed His servants to partake of it, had there not been a complete removal and forgetting of the sin’ atoned for. This view entirely accords with the statement in Leviticus 10:17, where the purpose of this meal by the priests is said to be ‘to bear the iniquity of the congregation.’ Hence, also, the flesh of all sacrifices, either for the high-priest, as representing the priesthood, or for the whole people, had to be burnt; because those who, as God’s representatives, were alone allowed to eat the sacrificial meal were themselves among the offerers of the sacrifice.
Symbolism of the Trespass-offering
III. The trespass-offering was provided for certain transgressions committed through ignorance, or else, according to Jewish tradition, where a man afterwards voluntarily confessed himself guilty. The Rabbis arrange this class into those for a doubtful and for a certain trespass. The former were offered by the more scrupulous, when, uncertain whether they might not have committed an offence which, if done high-handed, would have implied being ‘cut off,’ or, if in ignorance, necessitated a sin-offering. Accordingly, the extreme party, or Chassidim, were wont to bring such a sacrifice every day! On the other hand, the offering for certain trespasses covered five distinct cases, * which had all this in common, that they represented a wrong for which a special ransom was to be given.
* Leviticus 5:15; 6:2; 19:20 (in these three cases the offering was a ram); and Leviticus 14:12 and Numbers 6:12 (where the offering was a he-lamb). The Word of God considers every wrong done to another, as also a wrong done against the Lord (Psa 51:4), and hence, as needing a trespass-offering.
It forms no exception to this principle, that a trespass-offering was also prescribed in the case of a healed leper (Lev 14:12), and in that of a Nazarite, whose vow had been interrupted by sudden defilement with the dead (Num 6:10-12), since leprosy was also symbolically regarded as a wrong to the congregation as a whole, * while the interruption of the vow was a kind of wrong directly towards the Lord.
* Hence the leper was banished from the congregation.
But that this last was, at the same time, considered the lightest kind of trespass appears even from this–that, while ordinarily the flesh of the trespass-offering, after burning the inwards on the altar of (Lev 7:3), was only to be eaten by the officiating priests within the Holy Place, the lamb offered for such a Nazarite might be eaten by others also, and anywhere within Jerusalem. The blood of the trespass-offering (like that of the burnt-offering) was thrown on the corners of the altar below the red line.
IV. The most joyous of all sacrifices was the peace-offering, or, as from its derivation it might also be rendered, the offering of completion. *
* It always followed all the other sacrifices.
This was, indeed, a season of happy fellowship with the Covenant God, in which He condescended to become Israel’s Guest at the sacrificial meal, even as He was always their Host. Thus it symbolised the spiritual truth expressed in Revelation 3:20, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.’ In peace-offerings the sacrificial meal was the point of main importance. Hence the name ‘Sevach,’ by which it is designated in the Pentateuch, and which means ‘slaying,’ in reference to a meal. It is this sacrifice which is so frequently referred to in the Book of Psalms as the grateful homage of a soul justified and accepted before God (Psa 51:17; 54:6; 56:12; 116:17,18). If, on the one hand, then, the ‘offering of completion’ indicated that there was complete peace with God, on the other, it was also literally the offering of completeness. The peace-offerings were either public or private. The two lambs offered every year at Pentecost (Lev 23:19) were a public peace-offering, and the only one which was regarded as ‘most holy.’ As such they were sacrificed at the north side of the altar, and their flesh eaten only by the officiating priests, and within the Holy Place. The other public peace-offerings were slain at the south side, and their ‘inwards’ burnt on the altar (Lev 3:4,5). Then, after the priests had received their due, the rest was to be eaten by the offerers themselves, either within the courts of the Temple or in Jerusalem (Deut 27:7). On one occasion (1 Kings 8:63) no less than 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were so offered. Private peace-offerings were of a threefold kind (Lev 7:11): ‘sacrifices of thanksgiving’ (Lev 7:12), ‘vows,’ and strictly ‘voluntary offerings’ (Lev 7:16). The first were in general acknowledgment of mercies received; the last, the free gift of loving hearts, as even the use of the same term in Exodus 25:2, 35:29 implies. Exceptionally in this last case, an animal that had anything either ‘defective’ or ‘superfluous’ might be offered (Lev 22:23).
What Constituted Peace-offerings
Peace-offerings were brought either of male or of female animals (chiefly of the former), but not of pigeons, the sacrifice being, of course, always accompanied by a meat- and a drink offering (Lev 7:11, etc.). As every other sacrifice, they needed imposition of hands, confession, and sprinkling of blood, the latter being done as in the burnt-offering. Then the ‘inwards’ were taken out and ‘waved’ before the Lord, along with ‘the breast’ and the ‘right shoulder’ (or, perhaps more correctly, the right leg). In reference to these two wave-offerings we remark, that the breast properly belonged to the Lord, and that He gave it to His priests (Lev 7:30), while Israel gave the ‘right shoulder’ directly to the priests (Lev 7:32). The ritual of waving has already been described, * the meaning of the movement being to present the sacrifice, as it were, to the Lord, and then to receive it back from Him.
* The pieces were laid on the hands as follows: the feet, and then the breast, the right shoulder, the kidneys, the caul of the liver, and, in the case of a thank-offering, the bread upon it all.
The Rabbinical suggestion, that there was a distinct rite of ‘heaving’ besides that of ‘waving,’ seems only to rest on a misunderstanding of such passages as Leviticus 2:2, 9; 7:32; 10:15, etc. *
* The ‘heave’ is, in reality, only the technical term for the priest’s ‘taking’ his portion.
The following were to be ‘waved’ before the Lord: the breast of the peace-offering (Lev 7:30); the parts mentioned at the consecration of the priests (Lev 8:25-29); the first omer at the Passover (Lev 23:11); the jealousy-offering (Num 5:25); the offering at the close of a Nazarite’s vow (Num 6:20); the offering of a cleansed leper (Lev 14:12); and ‘the two lambs’ presented ‘with the bread of the firstfruits,’ at the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:20). The two last-mentioned offerings were ‘waved’ before being sacrificed. After the ‘waving,’ the ‘inwards’ (Lev 3:3-5, etc.) were burnt on the altar of burnt-offering, and the rest eaten either by priests or worshippers, the longest term allowed in any case for the purpose being two days and a night from the time of sacrifice. Of course, the guests, among whom were to be the Levites and the poor, must all be in a state of Levitical purity, symbolical of ‘the wedding garment’ needful at the better gospel-feast.
We close with a few particulars about meat-offerings. These were either brought in conjunction with burnt- and peace-offerings (but never with sin- or with trespass-offerings) or else by themselves. The latter were either public or private meat-offerings. The three public meat-offerings were: the twelve loaves of shewbread, renewed every Sabbath, and afterwards eaten by the priests; the omer, or sheaf of the harvest, on the second day of the Passover; and the two wave-loaves at Pentecost. Four of the private meat-offerings were enjoined by the law, viz: (1) the daily meat-offering of the high-priest, according to the Jewish interpretation of Leviticus 6:20; (2) that at the consecration of priests (Lev 6:20); (3) that in substitution for a sin-offering, in case of poverty (Lev 5:11,12); and that of jealousy (Num 5:15). The following five were purely voluntary, viz. that of fine flour with oil, unbaken (Lev 2:1); that ‘baken in a pan’; ‘in a frying-pan’; ‘in the oven’; and the ‘wafers’ (Lev 2:4-7). All these offerings were to consist of at least one omer of corn (which was the tenth part of an ephah) (Exo 16:36). But any larger number under 61 omers might be offered, the reason of the limitation being, that as the public meat- offerings enjoined on the feast of Tabernacles amounted to 61, * all private offerings must be less than that number.
* See Relandus, p. 353. This, however, only when the feast fell on a Sabbath.
In all baken meat-offerings, an ‘omer’ was always made into ten cakes–the symbolical number of completeness–except in that of the high-priest’s daily meat-offering, of which twelve cakes were baken, as representative of Israel. Finally, as the Rabbis express it, every meat-offering prepared in a vessel had ‘three pourings of oil’–first into the vessel, then to mingle with the flour, and lastly, after it was ready–the frankincense being then put upon it. The ‘wafers’ were ‘anointed’ with oil, after the form of the Hebrew letter caph, or the Greek letter kappa, as they explain, ‘to run down in two parts.’ *
*The subjoined Rabbinical table may be of use:
Requiring the addition of oil and frankincense: Of fine flour unbaken; baken in a pan; baken in a frying-pan; baken in the oven; the ‘wafers’; the high-priest’s daily and the priest’s consecration offering; the flour from the ‘sheaf’ offered on the second day of the Passover. Requiring oil without frankincense: all meat-offerings, accompanying a burnt- or a peace-offering. Requiring frankincense without oil: The shew bread. Requiring neither oil nor frankincense: The two loaves at Pentecost; the jealousy-offering; and that in substitution for a sin-offering.
When presenting a meat-offering, the priest first brought it in the golden or silver dish in which it had been prepared, and then transferred it to a holy vessel, putting oil and frankincense upon it. Taking his stand at the south-eastern corner of the altar, he next took the ‘handful’ that was actually to be burnt, put it in another vessel, laid some of the frankincense on it, carried it to the top of the altar, salted it, and then placed it on the fire. The rest of the meat-offering belonged to the priests. * Every meat-offering was accompanied by a drink-offering of wine, which was poured at the base of the altar.
* Except in the meat-offering of the high-priest, and of priests at their consecration; the exception in both cases for the obvious reason already referred to in explaining sacrificial meals. Similarly, the meat-offerings connected with burnt-sacrifices were wholly consumed on the altar.
Large Number of Priests Needed
So complicated a service, and one which enjoined such frequent sacrifices, must always have kept a large number of priests busy in the courts of the Temple. This was especially the case on the great festivals; and if the magnificent Temple could hold its 210,000 worshippers–if the liturgy, music, and ritual were equally gorgeous–we cannot wonder that it required, multitudes of white-robed priests properly to discharge its ministry. Tradition has it, that on the Day of Atonement no less than five hundred priests were wont to assist in the services. On other feast-days even more must have been engaged, as it was a Rabbinical principle, ‘that a man should bring all his offerings, that were either due from him or voluntarily dedicated, at the solemn festival that cometh next.’ In other words, if a man incurred a sacrifice, or voluntarily promised one, he was to bring it when next he came to Jerusalem. But even this provision showed ‘the weakness and unprofitableness thereof,’ since in all ordinary cases a long time must have elapsed before the stain of guilt could be consciously removed by an atoning sacrifice, or a vow performed. Blessed be God, the reality in Christ Jesus in this, as in all other things, far out-distances the type! For we have always ‘liberty to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus’; and ‘if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God!’
At Night in the Temple
‘Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments.’–Revelation 16:15
Allusions to the Temple in New Testament
There is a marked peculiarity and also a special charm about the allusions of the ‘beloved disciple’ to the ‘Temple and its services.’ The other New Testament writers refer to them in their narratives, or else explain their types, in such language as any well-informed worshipper at Jerusalem might have employed. But John writes not like an ordinary Israelite. He has eyes and ears for details which others would have left unnoticed. As, according to a Jewish tradition, the high-priest read the Divine answer of the Urim and Thummim by a heavenly light cast upon special letters in the names of the tribes grave upon his breast-plate, so to John the presence and the words of Jesus seem to render luminous the well-remembered services of the Temple. This, as we shall have frequent occasion to show, appears in his Gospel, but much more in the Book of Revelation. Indeed, the Apocalypse, as a whole, may be likened to the Temple services in its mingling of prophetic symbols with worship and praise. But it is specially remarkable, that the Temple-references with which the Book of Revelation abounds are generally to minutiae, which a writer who had not been as familiar with such details, as only personal contact and engagement with them could have rendered him, would scarcely have even noticed, certainly not employed as part of his imagery. They come in naturally, spontaneously, and so unexpectedly, that the reader is occasionally in danger of overlooking them altogether; and in language such as a professional man would employ, which would come to him from the previous exercise of his calling. Indeed, some of the most striking of these references could not have been understood at all without the professional treatises of the Rabbis on the Temple and its services. Only the studied minuteness of Rabbinical descriptions, derived from the tradition of eye-witnesses, does not leave the same impression as the unstudied illustrations of St. John.
Fourth Gospel and Apocalypse Written Before Temple Services Ceased
These naturally suggest the twofold inference that the Book of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel must have been written before the Temple services had actually ceased, and by one who had not merely been intimately acquainted with, but probably at one time an actor in them. *
* This is not the place for further critical discussions. Though the arguments in support of our view are only inferential, they seem to us none the less conclusive. It is not only that the name of John (given also to the son of the priest Zacharias) reappears among the kindred of the high-priest (Acts 4:6), nor that his priestly descent would account for that acquaintance with the high-priest (John 18:15,16) which gave him access apparently into the council-chamber itself, while Peter, for whom he had gained admittance to the palace, was in ‘the porch’; nor yet that, though residing in Galilee, the house of ‘his own’ to which he took the mother of Jesus (John 19:27) was probably at Jerusalem, like that of other priests–notably of the Levite family of Barnabas (Acts 12:12)–a supposition confirmed by his apparent entertainment of Peter, when Mary Magdalene found them together on the morning of the resurrection (John 20:2). But it seems highly improbable that a book so full of liturgical allusions as the Book of Revelation–and these, many of them, not to great or important points, but to minutia–could have been written by any other than a priest, and one who had at one time been in actual service in the Temple itself, and thus become so intimately conversant with its details, that they came to him naturally, as part of the imagery he employed.
The argument may be illustrated by an analogous case. Quite lately, they who have dug under the ruins of the Temple have discovered one of those tablets in the Court of the Temple which warned Gentiles, on pain of death, not to advance farther into the sanctuary. The tablet answers exactly to the description of Josephus, and its inscription is almost literally as he gives it. This tablet seems like a witness suddenly appearing, after eighteen centuries, to bear testimony to the narrative of Josephus as that of a contemporary writer. Much the same instantaneous conviction, only greatly stronger, is carried to our minds, when, in the midst of some dry account of what went on in the Temple, we suddenly come upon the very words which St. John had employed to describe heavenly realities. Perhaps one of the most striking instances of this kind is afforded by the words quoted at the head of this chapter–‘Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments.’ They literally describe, as we learn from the Rabbis, the punishment awarded to the Temple-guards if found asleep at their posts; and the Rabbinical account of it is curiously confirmed by the somewhat naive confession of one of their number, * that on a certain occasion his own maternal uncle had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set on fire by the captain of the Temple as he went his rounds at night.
* Rabbi Elieser ben Jacob. See Middoth, i. 2.
Night in the Temple
For the service of the officiating ministers was not only by day, but also ‘at night in the Temple.’ From Scripture we know that the ordinary services of the sanctuary consisted of the morning and evening sacrifices. To these the Rabbis add another evening service, probably to account for their own transference of the evening service to a much later hour than that of the sacrifice. *
* The Rabbinical statement about a correspondence between that service and ‘the burning of the yet unconsumed fat and flesh’ of the sacrifices (which must have lasted all night) is so far-fetched that we wonder to see it in Kitto’s Cyclopaedia, third edition (art. Synagogue), while Gratz’s assertion that it corresponded to the closing of the Temple gates (Gesch, vol. iii. p. 97) is quite unsupported.
There is, however, some difficulty about the exact time when each of the sacrifices was offered. According to general agreement, the morning sacrifice was brought at the ‘third hour,’ corresponding to our nine o’clock. But the preparations for it must have commenced more than two hours earlier. Few, if any, worshippers could have witnessed the actual slaying of the lamb, which took place immediately on opening the great Temple-gate. Possibly they may have gathered chiefly to join in the prayer ‘at the time of incense’ (Luke 1:10). In the modified sense, then, of understanding by the morning sacrifice the whole service, it no doubt coincided with the third hour of the day, or 9 a.m. This may explain how on the day of Pentecost such a multitude could so readily ‘come together,’ to hear in their various tongues ‘the wonderful works of God’–seeing it was the third hour (Acts 2:15), when they would all be in the Temple. The evening sacrifice was fixed by the Law (Num 28:4,8) as ‘between the evenings,’ that is, between the darkness of the gloaming and that of the night. *
* Sunset was calculated as on an average at 6 o’clock p.m. For a full discussion and many speculations on the whole subject, see Herzfeld, Gesch. d. V. Is, vol, iii. Excurs< xxiv. par. 2.
Such admonitions as ‘to show forth thy faithfulness every night upon an instrument of ten strings and on the psaltery’ (Psa 92:2,3), and the call to those who ‘by night stand in the house of the Lord,’ to ‘lift up their hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord’ (Psa 134), seem indeed to imply an evening service–an impression confirmed by the appointment of Levite singers for night service in 1 Chronicles 9:33; 23:30. But at the time of our Lord the evening sacrifice certainly commenced much earlier. Josephus puts it down (Ant. xiv. 4, 3) as at the ninth hour. According to the Rabbis the lamb was slain at the eighth hour and a-half, or about 2:30 p.m., and the pieces laid on he altar an hour later–about 3:30 p.m. Hence, when ‘Peter and John went up together into the Temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour’ (Acts 3:1) it must have been for the evening sacrifice, or rather half an hour later, and, as the words indicate, for the ‘prayer’ that accompanied the offering of incense. The evening service was somewhat shorter than that of the morning, and would last, at any rate, about an hour and a-half, say till about four o’clock, thus well meeting the original requirement in Numbers 28:4. After that no other offering might be brought except on the eve of the Passover, when the ordinary evening sacrifice took place two hours earlier, or at 12:30 p.m. *
* Accordingly the Rabbis laid down the principle that evening prayers (of course, out of the Temple) might be lawfully said at any time after 12:30 p.m. This explains how ‘Peter went up upon the house-top to pray about the sixth hour,’ or about 12 o’clock (Acts 10:9)–or to what was really ‘evening prayer.’ Comp. Kitto’s Cycl. iii. p. 904.
Change of Priests
We can conceive the laborious work of the day over, and the rest and solemnity of ‘night in the Temple’ begun. The last notes of the Temple music have died out, and the worshippers slowly retired, some after lingering for private prayer, or else tarrying in one of the marble porches. Already the short Eastern day is fading out in the west. Far over the mountains of Gibeon the sun is sinking in that ocean across which the better light is so soon to shine. The new company of priests and Levites who are to conduct the services of the morrow are coming up from Ophel under the leadership of their heads of houses, their elders. Those who have officiated during the day are preparing to leave by another gate. They have put off their priestly dress, depositing it in the appointed chambers, and resumed that of ordinary laymen, and their sandals. For such, although not shoes, might be worn in the Temple, the priests being barefoot only during their actual ministry. Nor did they otherwise wear any distinctive dress, not even the high-priest himself, nor yet those who performed in the Temple other than strictly sacrificial services. *
* Those who, being declared physically unfit, discharged only menial functions, wore not the priestly dress. They on whom no lot had fallen for daily ministration put off their priestly garments–all save the linen breeches–and also performed subordinate functions. But, according to some, it was lawful for priests while in the Temple to wear their peculiar dress–all but the girdle, worn always and only on sacrificial duty.
As for the Levites, they had no clerical dress at all, but only wore the white linen (2 Chron 5:12), till they obtained from Agrippa II permission to wear priestly garments–as Josephus rightly remarks, ‘contrary to the laws of our country’ (Ant. xx. 9, 6).
The Farewell on the Sabbath
We know that on Sabbaths at least, when one company gave place to another, or, rather, as the outgoing course left the Temple precincts, they parted from each other with a farewell, reminding us of St. Paul’s to the Corinthians (2 Cor 13:11), ‘He that has caused His name to dwell in this house cause love, brotherhood, peace, and friendship to dwell among you.’ Each of the twenty-four ‘courses’ into which not only the priests and Levites, but also all Israel, by means of representatives, were divided, served for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath, distributing the daily service among their respective ‘families’ or ‘houses.’ For the Sabbath the new ministrants came earlier than on week-days. *
* Probably this had also been the arrangement in the first Temple. See 2 Kings 11:9; 2 Chronicles 23:8. Herzfeld, u.s. p. 185.
As the ‘family’ whose daily ‘ministration was accomplished’ left the Temple, the massive gates were closed by priests or Levites, some requiring the united strength of twenty men. Then the Temple keys were hung up in a hollow square, under a marble slab in the ‘fire-room’ (Beth-ha-Moked), which may also be designated as the chief guard-room of the priests. Now, as the stars were shining out on the deep blue Eastern sky, the priests would gather for converse or the evening meal. *
* The partaking of sacred things by priests who had been ceremonially unclean is expressly stated by the Rabbis as ‘when the stars shone out.’
Pieces of the sacrifices and the ‘prepared’ first-fruits (the Therumoth) supplied the needful refreshments. *
* The Therumoth, such as oil, flour, etc., in opposition to those au naturel, such as corn, fruits, etc., called the Biccurim.
Though the work of the day was over, certain arrangements had yet to be made. For the Levites in charge of collecting the tithes and other business details were wont to purchase in large quantities what each who brought any sacrifice needed for meat- and drink-offerings, and to sell it to the offerers. This was a great accommodation to the worshipper, and a source of daily profit to the Temple. On payment of a price, fixed by tariff every month, the offerer received his proper counterfoil, * in exchange for which a Temple official gave him what he needed for his sacrifice. Now, the accounts of these transactions had to be made up and checked every evening.
* Of these there were four kinds, respectively bearing the words ‘male,’ when the sacrifice was a ram; ‘sinner,’ when it was a sin-offering; and for other offerings, ‘calf,’ or ‘kid.’
But already the night-watches had been set in the Temple. By day and night it was the duty of the Levites to keep guard at the gates, to prevent, so far as possible, the unclean from entering. To them the duties of the Temple police were also entrusted, under the command of an official known to us in the New Testament as the ‘captain of the Temple’ (Acts 4:1, etc.), but in Jewish writings chiefly as ‘the man of the Temple Mount.’ The office must have been of considerable responsibility, considering the multitude on feast-days, their keen national susceptibilities, and the close proximity of the hated Romans in Fort Antonia. At night guards were placed in twenty-four stations about the gates and courts. Of these twenty-one were occupied by Levites alone; the other innermost three jointly by priests and Levites. *
* The watch at some of the gates seems at one time to have been hereditary in certain families. For this, see Herzfeld, vol. i. p. 419; ii. p. 57.
Each guard consisted of ten men; so that in all two hundred and forty Levites and thirty priests were on duty every night. The Temple guards were relieved by day, but not during the night, which the Romans divided into four, but the Jews, properly, into three watches, the fourth being really the morning watch. *
* Compare Matthew 14:25. See, however, the discussion in Jer. Ber. i. 1.
Hence, when the Lord saith, ‘Blessed are those servants whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching,’ He expressly refers to the second and third watches as those of deepest sleep (Luke 12:38).
The Rounds of the Captain
During the night the ‘captain of the Temple’ made his rounds. On his approach the guards had to rise and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep when on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire–a punishment, as we know, actually awarded. Hence the admonition to us who, as it were, are here on Temple guard, ‘Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments’ (Rev 16:15). But, indeed, there could have been little inclination to sleep within the Temple, even had the deep emotion natural in the circumstances allowed it. True, the chief of the course and ‘the heads of families’ reclined on couches along that part of the Beth-Moked in which it was lawful to sit down, * and the older priests might lie on the floor, having wrapped their priestly garments beside them, while the younger men kept watch.
* The part built out on the Chel; for it was not lawful for any but the king to sit down anywhere within the enclosure of the ‘Priests’ Court.’
But then the preparations for the service of the morning required each to be early astir. The priest whose duty it was to superintend the arrangements might any moment knock at the door and demand entrance. He came suddenly and unexpectedly, no one knew when. The Rabbis use almost the very words in which Scripture describes the unexpected coming of the Master (Mark 13:35), when they say, ‘Sometimes he came at the cock-crowing, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later. He came and knocked, and they opened to him. Then said he unto them, All ye who have washed, come and cast lots’ (Mishnah, Tamid. i. 1, 2). For the customary bath required to have been taken before the superintending priest came round, since it was a principle that none might go into the court to serve, although he were clean, unless he had bathed. A subterranean passage, lit on both sides, led to the well-appointed bath-rooms where the priests immersed themselves. After that they needed not (except under one circumstance) all that day to wash again, save their hands and feet, which they had to do each time, however often, they came for service into the Temple. It was, no doubt, to this that our Lord referred in His reply to Peter: ‘He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit’ (John 13:10).
Casting Lots for the Services
Those who were prepared now followed the superintending priest through a wicket into the court. Here they divided into two companies, each carrying a torch, except on the Sabbaths, when the Temple itself was lit up. One company passed eastwards, the other westwards, till, having made their circuit of inspection, they met at the chamber where the high-priest’s daily meat-offering was prepared (Lev 6:12-16, according to the Rabbinical interpretation of the law), and reported, ‘It is well! All is well!’ Thereupon those who were to prepare the high-priest’s offering were set to their work, and the priests passed into the ‘Hall of Polished Stones,’ * to cast lots for the services of the day.
* Or Gazith, where also the Sanhedrim met. The sittings were, in that part, built out on the Chel.
This arrangement had been rendered necessary by certain painful scenes to which the eagerness of the priests for service had led. Altogether the lot was cast four times, though at different periods of the service. It was done in this manner. The priests stood in a circle around the president, who for a moment removed the head-gear of one of their number, to show that he would begin counting at him. Then all held up one, two, or more fingers–since it was not lawful in Israel to count persons–when the president named some number, say seventy, and began counting the fingers till he reached the number named, which marked that the lot had fallen on that priest. The first lot was for cleansing the altar and preparing it; the second, for those who were to offer the sacrifice, and for those who were to cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense in the Holy Place. The third lot was the most important. It determined who was to offer the incense. If possible, none was to take part in it who had at any previous time officiated in the same capacity. The fourth lot, which followed close on the third, fixed those who were to burn the pieces of the sacrifice on the altar, and to perform the concluding portions of the service. The morning lot held good also for the same offices at the evening sacrifice, save that the lot was cast anew for the burning of the incense.
The First Lot
When the priests were gathered for ‘the first lot’ in the ‘Hall of Polished Stones,’ as yet only the earliest glow of morning light streaked the Eastern sky. Much had to be done before the lamb itself could be slain. It was a law that, as no sacrifice might be brought after that of the evening, nor after the sun had set, so, on the other hand, the morning sacrifice was only to be slain after the morning light had lit up ‘the whole sky as far as Hebron,’ yet before the sun had actually risen upon the horizon. The only exception was on the great festivals, when the altar was cleansed much earlier, * to afford time for examining before actual sunrise the very numerous sacrifices which were to be brought during the day.
* For the three great festivals, in the fist watch; for the Day of Atonement, at midnight. See also Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p. 1135.
Perhaps it was on this ground that, on the morning of the Passover, they who led Jesus from Caiaphas thronged so ‘early’ ‘the judgment-hall of Pilate.’ Thus, while some of them would be preparing in the Temple to offer the morning sacrifice, others were at the same moment unwittingly fulfilling the meaning of that very type, when He on whom was ‘laid the iniquity of us all’ was ‘brought as a lamb to the slaughter’ (Isa 53:7).
The Morning and the Evening Sacrifice *
In Hebrew, Tamid, the constant sacrifice, sacrificium juge.
‘And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.’–Luke 1:8-10
Before proceeding to describe the ‘morning sacrifice,’ it is necessary to advert to a point of considerable interest and importance. There can be no doubt that, at the time of Christ, public prayer occupied a very prominent place in the ordinary daily services of the Temple. Yet the original institution in the law of Moses contains no mention of it; and such later instances as the prayer of Hannah, or that of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, afford neither indication nor precedent as regards the ordinary public services. The confession of the high-priest over the scape-goat (Lev 16:21) cannot be regarded as public prayer. Perhaps the nearest approach to it was on occasion of offering the firstfruits, especially in that concluding entreaty (Deut 26:15): ‘Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the land which Thou hast given us, as Thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.’ But, after all, this was again private, not public prayer, and offered on a private occasion, far different form the morning and evening sacrifices. The wording of King Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8) implies indeed an act of united and congregational worship, but strictly speaking, it conveys no more than that public supplication was wont to be offered in times of public necessity (1 Kings 8:30-52). Nor can anything definite be inferred from the allusions of Isaiah to the hypocrisy of his contemporaries (Isa 1:15) in spreading forth their hands and making many prayers. *
* Such language as that of Psalm 27:4 seems also to point to the absence of any liturgy: ‘to behold the beauty of the Lord.’
Regulations of the Rabbis
It was otherwise after the return from Babylon. With the institution and spread of synagogues–designed for the twofold purpose, that in every place Moses should be read every Sabbath day, and to provide a place ‘where prayer was wont to be made’–the practice of public worship soon became general. In Nehemiah 11:17 we find already a special appointment ‘to begin the thanksgiving in prayer.’ Afterwards progress in this direction was rapid. The Apocrypha afford painful evidence how soon all degenerated into a mere form, and how prayer became a work of self-righteousness, by which merit might be obtained. This brings us to the Pharisees of the New Testament, with their ostentatious displays of devotion, and the hypocrisy of their endless prayers, full of needless repetitions and odious self-assertion. At the outset we here meet, as usual, at least seeming contradictions. On the one hand, the Rabbis define every attitude and gesture in prayer, fix the most rigid formulas, trace each of them up to one of the patriarchs, * and would have us believe that the pious have their nine hours of devotion, laying down this curious principle, suited to both worlds–‘Prolix prayer protracts life.’
* The Rabbis ascribe the origin of the morning prayers to Abraham, that of the afternoon prayers to Isaac, and of the evening prayers to Jacob. In each case supposed Scriptural evidence for it is dragged in by some artificial mode of interpretation.
On the other hand, they also tell us that prayer may be contracted within the narrowest limits, and that a mere summary of the prescribed formulas is sufficient; while some of their number go the length of strenuously contending for free prayer. In fact, free prayer, liturgical formulas, and special prayers taught by celebrated Rabbis, were alike in use. Free prayer would find its place in such private devotions as are described in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. It also mingled with the prescribed liturgical formulas. It may be questioned whether, even in reference to the latter, the words were always rigidly adhered to, perhaps even accurately remembered. Hence the Talmud lays it down (in the treatise Berachoth), that in such cases it sufficed to say the substance of the prescribed prayers.
That liturgical formulas were used not only in the Temple, but in the daily private devotions, cannot be doubted. The first trace of them appears so early as in the arrangement of the Psalter, each of its first four books closing with a ‘eulogy,’ or benediction (Psa 41; 72; 89; 106), and the fifth book with a psalm which may be designated as one grand doxology (Psa 150). Although it is a task of no small difficulty to separate the ancient prayers of Temple-times from the later additions, which have gradually swelled into the present Jewish prayer-book, it has, in great measure, successfully been accomplished. Besides such liturgical formulas, some prayers taught by celebrated Rabbis have been preserved. It was in accordance with this practice that John the Baptist seems to have given forms of prayer to his followers, and that the disciples asked the Saviour to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).
The Lord’s Prayer
The prayer spoken by the Lord far transcended any that Jewish Rabbis ever conceived, even where its wording most nearly approaches theirs. *
* It must always be kept in mind that such expressions as ‘Our Father,’ ‘Thy kingdom come,’ and others like them, meant in the mouth of the Rabbis a predominance of the narrowest Judaism; in fact, the subjection of all the world to Rabbinical ordinances, and the carnal glory of Israel.
It is characteristic that two of its petitions find no real counterpart in the prayers of the Rabbis. These are: ‘Forgive us our trespasses,’ and ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ In the Temple the people never responded to the prayers by an Amen, but always with this benediction, ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom for ever!’ *
* Thus the words in our Authorised Version, Matthew 6:13, ‘For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen,’ which are wanting in all the most ancient MSS, are only the common Temple-formula of response, and as such may have found their way into the text. The word ‘Amen’ was in reality a solemn asseveration or a mode of oath.
This formula was traced up to the patriarch Jacob, on his death-bed. In regard to ‘the kingdom,’ whatever the Rabbis understood by it, the feeling was so strong, that it was said: ‘Any prayer which makes not mention of the kingdom, is not a prayer at all.’
Attitude in Prayer
The attitude to be observed during prayer is very accurately defined by the Rabbis. The worshipper was to stand, turning towards the Holy Place; he was to compose his body and his clothes, to draw his feet close together, to cast down his eyes, at least at the beginning of his prayer, to cross his hands over his breast, and to ‘stand as a servant before his master, with all reverence and fear.’ Even the priests, while pronouncing the priestly blessing, were to look to the ground. In regard to the special manner of bowing before the Lord, a distinction was made between bending the knees, bending the head, and falling prostrate on the ground. The latter was not deemed ‘fit for every man, but only for such as knew themselves righteous men, like Joshua.
The Two Elements in Prayer
In general the Rabbis distinguish two elements in prayer, on the ground of the two terms used by Solomon (1 Kings 8:28),–thanksgiving and petition. To these correspond the two kinds of early Jewish prayer: the Eulogies and the Tephillah. And thus far correctly, as the two Hebrew words for prayer indicate, the one adoration, the other supplication, or, rather, intercession. Both kinds of prayer found expression in the Temple services. But only after the manifestation of Him, who in His person united the Divine with the human nature, could adoration and supplication be fully called out. Nay, the idea of supplication would only be properly realised after the outpouring of the Spirit of adoption, whereby the people of God also became the children of God. Hence it is not correct to designate sacrifices as ‘prayers without words.’ The sacrifices were in no sense prayers, but rather the preparation for prayer. The Tabernacle was, as its Hebrew designation shows, the place ‘of meeting’ between God and Israel; the sacrificial service, that which made such meeting possible; and the priest (as the root of the word implies), he who brought Israel near to God. Hence prayer could only follow after the sacrifice; and its appropriate symbol and time was the burning of incense. This view is expressed in the words: ‘Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense’ (Psa 141:2), and authoritatively confirmed in Revelation 5:8, where we read of the ‘golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.’
Burning the Incense
It is this burning of incense which in the Gospel is alluded to in connection with the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:9). Zacharias had come up from the hill country of Judea, from the neighbourhood of priestly Hebron, to minister in the Temple. His course–that of Abia–was on duty for the week, and the ‘house of his fathers’ for that special day. More than that, the lot had fallen on Zacharias for the most honourable service in the daily ministry–that of burning the incense on the golden altar within the Holy Place. For the first time in his life, and for the last, would this service devolve on him. As the pious old priest ministered within the Holy Place, he saw with such distinctness that he could afterwards describe the very spot, Gabriel standing, as if he had just come out from the Most Holy Place, between the altar and the table of shewbread, ‘on the right side of the altar.’ So far as we know, this was the first and only angelic appearance in the Temple. For we cannot attach serious importance to the tradition that, during the forty years of his pontificate, an angel always accompanied Simeon the Just, when on the Day of Atonement he entered and left the Most Holy Place, except the last year, when the angel left him in the Sanctuary, to show that this was to be the end of his ministry. What passed between Gabriel and Zacharias is beside our present purpose. Suffice it to notice several details incidentally mentioned in this narrative, such as that a special lot was cast for this ministry; that the priest was alone in the Holy Place while burning the incense; and that ‘the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.’
Filling the Laver
The lot for burning the incense was, as we have seen, the third by which the order of the ministry for the day was determined. The first lot, which in reality had been cast before the actual break of day, was that to designate the various priests who were to cleanse the altar and to prepare its fires. The first of the priests on whom this lot had fallen immediately went out. His brethren reminded him where the silver chafing-dish was deposited, and not to touch any sacred vessel till he had washed his hands and feet. He took no light with him; the fire of the altar was sufficient for his office. Hands and feet were washed by laying the right hand on the right foot, and the left hand on the left. *
* Perhaps this might therefore be appropriately described as washing ‘the feet only,’ (John 13:10).
The sound of the machinery, as it filled the laver with water, admonished the others to be in readiness. This machinery had been made by Ben Catin, who also altered the laver so that twelve priests could at the same time perform their ablutions. Otherwise the laver resembled that in the Temple of Solomon. It was of brass. All the vessels in the Sanctuary were of metal, the only exception being the altar of burnt-offering, which was solid, and wholly of stones taken from virgin soil, that had not been defiled by any tool of iron. The stones were fastened together by mortar, pitch, and molten lead. The measurement of the altar is differently given by Josephus and the Rabbis. It seems to have consisted of three sections, each narrower than the former: the base being thirty-two cubits wide, the middle twenty-eight, and the top, where the fire was laid (of course, not including the horns of the altar nor the space where the priests moved), only twenty-four cubits. With the exception of some parts of the altar, in which the cubit was calculated at five hand-breadths, the sacred cubit of the Temple was always reckoned at six hand-breadths. Lastly, as readers of the New Testament know, whatever touched the altar, or, indeed, any sacred vessel, was regarded as ‘sanctified’ (Matt 23:19), but no vessel could be dedicated to the use of the Temple which had not been originally destined for it.
Preparing the Altar
But to return. While the assistant priests were waiting, the first priest had taken the silver chafing-dish, and scraped the fire on the altar, removing the burnt coals, and depositing them at a little distance north of the altar. As he descended, the other priests quickly washed hands and feet, and took shovels and prongs, with which they moved aside what of the sacrifices had been left unburned from the previous evening, then cleaned out the ashes, laying part on the great heap in the middle of the altar, and the rest in a place whence it was afterwards carried out of the Temple. The next duty was to lay on the altar fresh wood, which, however, might be neither from the olive nor the vine. For the fire destined to feed the altar of incense the wood of the fig-tree was exclusively used, so as to secure good and sufficient charcoal. The hitherto unconsumed pieces of the sacrifice were now again laid upon the fire.
The Second Lot
These preliminaries finished, the priests gathered once more for the second lot. The priest on whom it fell was designated, along with the twelve who stood nearest to him, for offering the sacrifice and cleansing the candlestick and the altar of incense. Immediately after casting this second lot, the president directed one to ascend some ‘pinnacle,’ and see whether it was time to kill the daily sacrifice. If the priest reported, ‘The morning shineth already,’ he was again asked, ‘Is the sky lit up as far as Hebron?’ If so, the president ordered the lamb to be brought from the chamber by the Beth-Moked, where it had been kept in readiness for four days. Others fetched the gold and silver vessels of service, of which the Rabbis enumerate ninety-three. The sacrificial lamb was now watered out of a golden bowl, and anew examined by torch-light, though its Levitical fitness had been already ascertained the evening before. Then the sacrificing priest, surrounded by his assistants, fastened the lamb to the second of the rings on the north side of the altar–in the morning in the western, in the evening in the eastern corner. *
* The sacrifice was always offered against the sun.
The sacrifice was held together by its feet, the fore and hind feet of each side being tied together; its head was laid towards the south and fastened through a ring, and its face turned to the west, while the sacrificing priest stood on the east side. The elders who carried the keys now gave the order for opening the Temple gates. As the last great gate slowly moved on its hinges, the priests, on a signal given, blew three blasts on their silver trumpets, summoning the Levites and the ‘representatives’ of the people (the so-called ‘stationary men’) to their duties, and announcing to the city that the morning sacrifice was about to be offered. Immediately upon this the great gates which led into the Holy Place itself were opened to admit the priests who were to cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense.
The Slaying of the Lamb
The opening of these gates was the signal for actually slaying the sacrificial lamb. The sacrifice was offered in the following manner. One priest drew forward the windpipe and gullet of the sacrifice, and quickly thrust upwards the knife, while another caught the blood in a golden bowel. Standing at the east side of the altar, he sprinkled it, first at the north-east, and then at the south-west corner, below the red line which ran round the middle of the altar, in each case in such manner as to cover two sides of the altar, or, as it is described, in the form of the Greek letter (gamma). The rest of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. Ordinarily, the whole of this service would of course be performed by priests. But it was valid even if the sacrifice had been killed by a layman, or with an ordinary knife. Not so if the blood were caught up in any but a consecrated vessel, or sprinkled by other than the hands of a priest who at the time was Levitically fit for the service.
The Altar of Incense and the Candlestick
We proceed to describe the service of those whose duty it was to cleanse the altar of incense and to dress the golden candlestick in the Holy Place. A few particulars as to each of these will not be out of place. The triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome bears a representation of the golden mortars in which the incense was bruised, and of the golden candlestick, but not the altar of incense. Still, we can form a sufficiently accurate idea of its appearance. It was square, one cubit long and broad, and two cubits high, that is, half a cubit higher than the table of shewbread, but one cubit lower than the candlestick, and it had ‘horns’ at each of its four corners. It was probably hollow, and its top covered with a golden plate, and like an Eastern roof, surrounded by what resembled a balustrade, to prevent the coals and incense from falling off. Below this balustrade was a massive crown of gold. The incense burned upon this altar was prepared of the four ingredients mentioned in Exodus 30:34, with which, according to the Rabbis, seven others were mixed, besides a small quantity of ‘Ambra,’ and of a herb which gave out a dense smoke. To these thirteen substances (Jos. Wars, v. 5. s.) salt was of course added. The mode of preparing the incense had been preserved in the family of Abtinas. The greatest care was taken to have the incense thoroughly bruised and mixed. Altogether 368 pounds were made for the year’s consumption, about half a pound being used every morning and evening in the service. The censer for the Day of Atonement was different in size and appearance from that for ordinary days. The golden candlestick was like that delineated in Exodus 25:31, etc., and is sufficiently known from its representation on the Arch of Titus.
Now, while one set of priests were busy in the Court of the Priests offering the sacrifice, the two on whom it devolved to trim the lamps of the candlestick and to prepare the altar of incense had gone into the Holy Place. As nearly as possible while the lamb was being slain without, the first of these priests took with his hands the burnt coals and ashes from the golden altar, and put them into a golden vessel–called ‘teni’–and withdrew, leaving it in the sanctuary. Similarly, as the blood of the lamb was being sprinkled on the altar of burnt-offering, the second priest ascended the three steps, hewn in stone, which led up to the candlestick. He trimmed and refilled the lamps that were still burning, removed the wick and old oil from those which had become extinguished, supplied fresh, and re-lit them from one of the other lamps. But the large central lamp, towards which all the others bent, and which was called the western, because it inclined westward towards the Most Holy Place, might only be re-lit by fire from the altar itself. Only five, however, of the lamps were then trimmed; the other two were reserved to a later period of the service.
Salting the Sacrifice
Meantime in the Court of the Priests the sacrifice had been hung on one of the hooks, flayed, cut up according to rules, cleaned, and handed to the six priests who were successively to carry up the pieces to the rise of the altar, where they were salted and deposited. For ‘every sacrifice must be salted with salt’–nay, everything that was laid on the altar, except the drink-offering. At the same time, three other priests carried up to the rise of the altar the daily meat-offering, that of the high-priest, and the drink-offering. The skins of the sacrifices were salted, and on the eve of each Sabbath distributed among the ‘course’ of priests that had been on ministry. *
* This in the case of burnt-, sin-, or trespass-offerings. The skins of the other offerings belonged to the offerers themselves.
Prayer Before the Third Lot
And now the most solemn part of the service was about to begin. For the third time the priests assembled in the ‘Hall of Polished Stones,’ to draw the third and the fourth lots. But before doing so the president called on them to join in the prescribed prayers. Tradition has preserved these to us. Subjecting them to the severest criticism, so as to eliminate all later details, the words used by the priests before the third and fourth lots were as follows:
‘With great love hast Thou loved us, O Lord our God, and with much overflowing pity hast Thou pitied us. Our Father and our King, for the sake of our fathers who trusted in Thee, and Thou taughtest them the statutes of life, have mercy upon us, and enlighten our eyes * [in Thy law; cause our hearts to cleave to Thy commandments; unite our hearts to love and to fear Thy name, and we shall not be put to shame, world without end. For Thou art a God who preparest salvation, and us hast Thou chosen from among all nations and tongues, and hast, in truth, brought us near to Thy great name, Selah, in order] that we in love may praise Thee and Thy Unity. Blessed be the Lord, who in love chose His people Israel.’
* The words here and afterwards within square brackets are regarded by Jost (Gesch. d. Jud.) as a later addition.
After this prayer the ten commandments were (at one time) wont to be repeated, a practice discontinued, however, lest the Sadducees should declare them to be the only essential part of the law. Then all assembled said the so-called ‘Shema’ * which may be designated as a sort of ‘credo’ or ‘belief.’ It consisted of these three passages–Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41.
* So named from the first word, Shema, ‘Hear,’ viz. ‘O Israel,’ etc. By one of the strangest mistakes, Lightfoot confounds the contents of the ‘Shema’ with those of the phylacteries.
The Lot for Incense
After this the lot was cast for burning the incense. No one might take part in it who had ministered in that office before, unless in the very rare case that all present had previously so officiated. Hence, while the other three lots held good for the evening service, that for the incense required to be repeated. He on whom this lot fell chose from among his friends his two assistants. Finally, the third was succeeded by the fourth lot, which designated those who were to lay on the altar the sacrifice and the meat-offerings, and to pour out the drink-offering.
Offering the Incense
The incensing priest and his assistance now approached first the altar of burnt-offering. One filled with incense a golden censer held in a silver vessel, while another placed in a golden bowl burning coals from the altar. As they passed from the court into the Holy Place, they struck a large instrument (called the ‘Magrephah’), at sound of which the priests hastened from all parts to worship, and the Levites to occupy their places in the service of song; while the chief of the ‘stationary men’ ranged at the Gate of Nicanor such of the people as were to be purified that day. Slowly the incensing priest and his assistants ascended the steps to the Holy Place, preceded by the two priests who had formerly dressed the altar and the candlestick, and who now removed the vessels they had left behind, and, worshipping, withdrew. Next, one of the assistants reverently spread the coals on the golden altar; the other arranged the incense; and then the chief officiating priest was left alone within the Holy Place, to await the signal of the president before burning the incense. It was probably while thus expectant that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias. As the president gave the word of command, which marked that ‘the time of incense had come,’ ‘the whole multitude of the people without’ withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands * in silent prayer.
* The practice of folding the hands together in prayer dates from the fifth century of our era, and is of purely Saxon origin. See Holemann, Bibel St. i. p. 150, quoted by Delitzsch, u.s.
Imagery in the Apocalypse
It is this most solemn period, when throughout the vast Temple buildings deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of ‘odours’ (Rev 5:8) rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in this description (Rev 8:1,3,4): * ‘and when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour…And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.’
* According to Tamid, vi. 3, the incensing priest ‘bowed down,’ or prayed, on withdrawing backwards from the Holy Place.
Prayers with the Incense
The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: * ‘True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Saviour and the Saviour of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the sea-shore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel. **
* A few details for those who wish fuller information. Tradition has preserved two kinds of fragments from the ancient Jewish liturgy in the times of the Temple. The one is called the ‘Tephillah,’ or Prayer, the other the ‘Eulogies,’ or Benedictions. Of the latter there are eighteen, of which the three first and the three last are the oldest, though four, five, six, eight, and nine are also of considerable antiquity. Of the ancient Tephilloth four have been preserved–two used before and two (in the morning, one) after the Shema. The first morning and the last evening Tephillah are strictly morning and evening prayers. They were not used in the Temple service. The second Tephillah before the Shema was said by the priests in the ‘Hall of Polished Stones,’ and the first Tephillah after the Shema by priests and people during the burning of incense. This was followed by the three last of the eighteen Eulogies. Is it not a fair inference, then, that while the priests said their prayers in ‘the hall,’ the people repeated the three first Eulogies, which are of equal antiquity with the three last, which we know to have been repeated during the burning of incense?
** Now follow in the text the three last ‘Eulogies.’
‘Be graciously pleased, Jehovah our God, with Thy people Israel, and with their prayer. Restore the service to the oracle of Thy house; and the burnt-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept graciously and in love; and let the service of Thy people Israel be ever well-pleasing unto Thee.
‘We praise Thee, who art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh, our Creator, and the Creator from the beginning! Blessing and praise be to Thy great and holy name, that Thou hast preserved us in life and kept us. So preserve us and keep us, and gather the scattered ones into Thy holy courts, to keep Thy statutes, and to do Thy good pleasure, and to serve Thee with our whole heart, as this day we confess unto Thee. Blessed be the Lord, unto whom belongeth praise.
‘Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy, and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance hast Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace. And may it please Thee to bless Thy people Israel at all times, and at every hour with Thy peace. [May we and all Thy people Israel be remembered and written before Thee in the book of life, with blessing and peace and support.] Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, who blessest Thy people Israel with peace.’
These prayers ended, he who had formerly trimmed the candlestick once more entered the Holy Place, to kindle the two lamps that had been left unlit; and then, in company with the incensing priest, took his stand on the top of the steps which led down to the Court of the Priests. *
* According to Maimonides, it was at this part of the service, and not before, that the sound of the Magrephah summoned the priests to worship, the Levites to their song, and the ‘stationary men’ to their duties.
The other three who had also ministered within the Holy Place gathered beside him, still carrying the vessels of their ministry; while the rest of the priests grouped themselves on the steps beneath. Meanwhile he on whom the fourth lot had fallen had ascended to the altar. They whose duty it was handed to him, one by one, the pieces of the sacrifice. Upon each he pressed his hands, and next flung them confusedly upon the fire, that so the flesh of the sacrifice might be scattered as well as its blood sprinkled. After that he ranged them in order, to imitate as nearly as possible the natural shape of the animal. This part of the service was not unfrequently performed by the high-priest himself.
The priests, who were ranged on the steps to the Holy Place, now lifted their hands above their heads, spreading and joining their fingers in a peculiar mystical manner. *
* The high-priest lifted his hands no higher than the golden plate on his mitre. It is well know that, in pronouncing the priestly blessing in the synagogue, the priests join their two outspread hands, by making the tip of the first fingers touch each other. At the same time, the first and second, and the third and fourth fingers in each hand are knit together, while a division is made between those fingers by spreading them apart. A rude representation of this may be seen in Jewish cemeteries on the gravestones of priests.
One of their number, probably the incensing priest, repeated in audible voice, followed by the others, the blessing in Numbers 6:24-26: ‘Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee: Jehovah make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Jehovah lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.’ To this the people responded, ‘Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.’ In the modern synagogues the priestly blessing is divided into three parts; it is pronounced with a disguised voice and veiled faces, while the word ‘Lord’ is substituted for the name of ‘Jehovah.’ *
* Dr. Geiger has an interesting argument to show that in olden times the pronunciation of the so-called ineffable name ‘Jehovah,’ which now is never spoken, was allowed even in ordinary life. See Urschrift u. Uebers d. Bibel, p. 259, etc.
Of course all this was not the case in the Temple. But if it had been the duty of Zacharias, as incensing priest for the day, to lead in the priestly blessing, we can all the better understand the wonder of the people as ‘he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless’ (Luke 1:22) while they waited for his benediction.
After the priestly blessing the meat-offering was brought, and, as prescribed in the law, oil added to it. Having been salted, it was laid on the fire. Next the high-priest’s daily meat-offering was presented, consisting of twelve cakes broken in halves–twelve half-cakes being presented in the morning, and the other twelve in the evening. Finally, the appropriate drink-offering was poured out upon the foundation of the altar (perhaps there may be an allusion to this in Revelation 6:9, 10).
The Temple Music
Upon this the Temple music began. It was the duty of the priests, who stood on the right and the left of the marble table on which the fat of the sacrifices was laid, at the proper time to blow the blasts on their silver trumpets. There might not be less than two nor more than 120 in this service; the former in accordance with the original institution (Num 10:2), the latter not to exceed the number at the dedication of the first Temple (2 Chron 5:12). The priests faced the people, looking eastwards, while the Levites, who crowded the fifteen steps which led from the Court of Israel to that of the Priests, turned westwards to the sanctuary. On a signal given by the president, the priests moved forward to each side of him who struck the cymbals. Immediately the choir of the Levites, accompanied by instrumental music, began the Psalm of the day. It was sustained by not less than twelve voices, with which mingled the delicious treble from selected voices of young sons of the Levites, who, standing by their fathers, might take part in this service alone. The number of instrumental performers was not limited, nor yet confined to the Levites, some of the distinguished families which had intermarried with the priests being admitted to this service. *
* It is a curious coincidence that of the two families named in the Talmud as admitted to this service, one–that of Tsippariah–should have been ‘from Emmaus’ (Luke 24:13).
The Psalm of the day was always sung in three sections. At the close of each the priests drew three blasts from their silver trumpets, and the people bowed down and worshipped. This closed the morning service. It was immediately followed by the sacrifices and offerings which private Israelites might have to bring, and which would occasionally continue till near the time for the evening service. The latter resembled in all respects that of the morning, except that the lot was only cast for the incense; that the incense was burned, not, as in the morning, before, but after the pieces of the sacrifice had been laid on the fire of the altar, and that the priestly blessing was generally admitted.
The Order of Psalms
The following was the order of the Psalms in the daily service of the Temple (Tamid, sect. vii, and Maimonides in Tamid). On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 24, ‘The earth is the Lord’s,’ etc., in commemoration of the first day of creation, when ‘God possessed the world, and ruled in it.’ On the second day they sang Psalm 48, ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,’ etc., because on the second day of creation ‘the Lord divided His works, and reigned over them.’ On the third day they sang Psalm 82, ‘God standeth in the congregation of the mighty,’ etc., ‘because on that day the earth appeared, on which are the Judge and the judged.’ On the fourth day Psalm 94 was sung, ‘O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth,’ etc., ‘because on the fourth day God made the sun, moon, and stars, and will be avenged on those that worship them.’ On the fifth day they sang Psalm 81, ‘Sing aloud unto God our strength,’ etc., ‘because of the variety of creatures made that day to praise His name.’ On the sixth day Psalm 93 was sung, ‘The Lord reigneth,’ etc., ‘because on that day God finished His works and made man, and the Lord ruled over all His works.’ Lastly, on the Sabbath day they sang Psalm 92, ‘It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,’ etc., ‘because the Sabbath was symbolical of the millennial kingdom at the end of the six thousand years’ dispensation, when the Lord would reign over all, and His glory and service fill the earth with thanksgiving.’
Sabbath in the Temple
‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.’–Mark 2:27, 28
The Law Not A Burden, But A Gift
It is a beautifully significant practice of the modern Jews, that, before fulfilling any special observance directed in their Law, they always first bless God for the giving of it. One might almost compare the idea underlying this, and much else of a similar character in the present religious life of Israel, to the good fruits which the soil of Palestine bore even during the Sabbatical years, when it lay untilled. For it is intended to express that the Law is felt not a burden, but a gift of God in which to rejoice. And this holds specially true of the Sabbath in its Divine institution, of which it was distinctly said, ‘I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I, Jehovah, sanctify them’ (Eze 20:12). In the same sense, the Sabbath is called ‘a delight, the holy of Jehovah, honourable’ (Isa 58:13); and the great burden of the Sabbath-Psalm (Psa 92) * is that of joyous thanksgiving unto God.
* The Talmud discusses the question whether Psalm 92 bears reference to the Sabbath of creation, or to that final Messianic Sabbath of the Kingdom–according to Rabbi Akibah, ‘the day which is wholly a Sabbath.’ (See Delitzsch on the Psalm.) It is a curiously uncritical remark of some Rabbis to ascribe the authorship of this Psalm to Adam, and its composition to the beginning of the first Sabbath–Adam having fallen just before its commencement, and been driven from Paradise, but not killed, because God would not execute the punishment of death on the Sabbath.
The term Sabbath, ‘resting,’ points to the origin and meaning of the weekly festival. The Rabbis hold that it was not intended for the Gentiles, and most of them trace the obligation of its observance only to the legislation on Mount Sinai. Nor is another Rabbinical saying, that ‘circumcision and the Sabbath preceded the law,’ inconsistent with this. For even if the duty of Sabbath-observance had only commenced with the promulgation of the law on Mount Sinai, yet the Sabbath-law itself rested on the original ‘hallowing’ of the seventh day, when God rested from all His works (Gen 2:3). But this was not the only rest to which the Sabbath pointed. There is also a rest of redemption, and the Sabbath was expressly connected with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. ‘Remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and that Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath-day’ (Deut 5:15). At the close of the work-a-day week, holy rest in the Lord; at the end of the labour and sorrow of Egypt, redemption and rest; and both pointing forward to the better rest (Heb 4:9), and ultimately to the eternal Sabbath of completed work, of completed redemption, and completed ‘hallowing’ (Rev 11)–such was the meaning of the weekly Sabbath. It was because this idea of festive rest and sanctification was so closely connected with the weekly festival that the term Sabbath was also applied to the great festivals (as Lev 23:15,24,32,39). For a similar reason, the number seven, which was that of the weekly Sabbath (the first seven that had appeared in time), became in Scripture-symbolism the sacred or covenant number. *
* The term ‘Sabbath’ is also applied to ‘a week,’ as in Leviticus 23:15; 25:8; and, for example, in Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1. This seems to indicate that the Sabbath was not to be regarded as separate from, but as giving its character to the rest of the week, and to its secular engagements. So to speak, the week closes and is completed in the Sabbath.
Later Perversion of the Sabbath
It is necessary to bear all this in remembrance when thinking of what the perverted ingenuity of the Rabbis made the Sabbath at the time of Christ, and probably even more in the generations following. For there is evidence that the Sabbath-law has become stricter than it had been, since, for instance, the practice of taking an ox or an ass out of a pit, to which our Saviour alludes (Luke 14:5) as uncontroverted, would now no longer be lawful, unless, indeed, the animal were in actual danger of life; otherwise, it is to receive food and water in the pit. This ‘actual danger to life,’ whether to beast or to man (at any rate, to Israelites), determined the only cases in which a breach of the law of Sabbath-observance was allowed. At the outset, indeed, it must be admitted that the whole social Rabbinical legislation on the subject seems to rest on two sound underlying principles: negatively, the avoidance of all that might become work; and, positively, the doing of all which, in the opinion of the Rabbis, might tend to make the Sabbath ‘a delight.’ Hence, not only were fasting and mourning strictly prohibited, but food, dress, and every manner of enjoyment, not incompatible with abstinence from work, were prescribed to render the day pleasurable. ‘All the days of the week,’ the Rabbis say, ‘has God paired, except the Sabbath, which is alone, that it may be wedded to Israel.’ Israel was to welcome the Sabbath as a bride; its advent as that of a king. But in practice all this terribly degenerated. Readers of the New Testament know how entirely, and even cruelly, the spirit and object of the Sabbath were perverted by the traditions of ‘the elders.’ But those only who have studied the Jewish law on the subject can form any adequate conception of the state of matters. Not to speak of the folly of attempting to produce joy by prescribed means, nor of the incongruousness of those means, considering the sacred character of the day, the almost numberless directions about avoiding work must have made a due observance of the Sabbath-rest the greatest labour of all. All work was arranged under thirty-nine chief classes, or ‘fathers,’ each of them having ever so many ‘descendants,’ or subordinate divisions. Thus, ‘reaping’ was one of the ‘fathers,’ or chief classes, and ‘plucking ears of corn’ one of its descendants. So far did this punctiliousness go that it became necessary to devise ingenious means to render the ordinary intercourse of life possible, and to evade the inconvenient strictness of the law which regulated a ‘Sabbath-day’s journey.’ *
* By depositing a meal of meat at the end of a Sabbath-day’s journey to make it, by a legal fiction, a man’s domicile, from which he might start on a fresh Sabbath-day’s journey. The Mishnic tractate Eruvin treats of the connecting of houses, courts, etc., to render lawful the carrying out of food, etc. On the other hand, such an isolated expression occurs (Mechilta, ed. Weiss, p. 110 a): ‘The Sabbath is given to you, not you to the Sabbath.’ If we might regard this as a current theological saying, it would give a fresh meaning to the words of our Lord, Mark 2:27.
The Schools of Shammai and Hillel
The school of Shammai, the sect of the Essenes, and strange to say, the Samaritans, were the most stringent in their Sabbath-observance. The school of Shammai held that the duty of Sabbath-rest extended not only to men and to beasts, but even to inanimate objects, so that no process might be commenced on the Friday which would go on of itself during the Sabbath, such as laying out flax to dry, or putting wool into dye. The school of Hillel excluded inanimate things from the Sabbath-rest, and also allowed work to be given on a Friday to Gentiles, irrespective of the question whether they could complete it before the Sabbath began. Both schools allowed the preparation of the Passover-meal on the Sabbath, and also priests, while on their ministry in the Temple, to keep up the fire in the ‘Beth Moked.’ But this punctilious enforcement of the Sabbath-rest became occasionally dangerous to the nation. For at one time the Jews would not even defend themselves on the Sabbath against hostile attacks of armies, till the Maccabees laid down the principle, which ever afterwards continued in force (Jos. Anti. xii. 6, 2; xiv. 4, 2.), that defensive, though not offensive, warfare was lawful on the holy day. Even as thus modified, the principle involved peril, and during the last siege of Jerusalem it was not uniformly carried out (compare Jewish Wars, ii. 19, 2, but, on the other hand, Antiq, xiv. 4, 2.). Nor was it, so far as we can judge from analogy (Josh 6:15, etc), sanctioned by Scripture precedent. But this is not the place further to explain either the Scripture or the Rabbinical law of Sabbath-observance, as it affected the individual, the home, and the social life, nor yet to describe the Sabbath-worship in the ancient synagogues of Palestine. We confine our attention to what passed in the Temple itself.
Scripture Rules for the Sabbath
The only directions given in Scripture for the celebration of the Sabbath in the sanctuary are those which enjoin ‘a holy convocation,’ or a sacred assembly (Lev 23:3); the weekly renewal of the shewbread (Lev 24:8; Num 4:7); and an additional burnt-offering of two lambs, with the appropriate meat- and drink-offerings, ‘beside the continual’ (that is, the ordinary daily) ‘burnt-offering and his drink-offering’ (Num 28:9,10). But the ancient records of tradition enable us to form a very vivid conception of Sabbath-worship in the Temple at the time of Christ. Formally, the Sabbath commenced at sunset on Friday, the day being reckoned by the Hebrews from sunset to sunset. As no special hour for this was fixed, it must, of course, have varied not only at different seasons, but in different localities. Thus, the Rabbis mention that the inhabitants of a low-lying city, like Tiberias, commenced the observance of the Sabbath half an hour earlier, while those who lived on an eminence, such as at Sepphoris, * continued it half an hour later than their brethren.
* Sepphoris, the Dio-Caesarea of the Romans, was near Nazareth. It is often referred to by Josephus, and, after the destruction of Jerusalem, became for a time the seat of the Sanhedrim. (See Robinson’s Researches in Pal. vol. ii. p. 345.)
If the sun were not visible, sunset was to be reckoned from when the fowls went to roost. But long before that the preparations for the Sabbath had commenced. Accordingly, Friday is called by the Rabbis ‘the eve of the Sabbath,’ and in the Gospels ‘the preparation’ * (Mark 15:42; John 19:31)
* The expression, Luke 6:1, rendered in our version ‘the second Sabbath after the first,’ really means, ‘the first Sabbath after the second’ day of the Passover, on which the first ripe sheaf was presented, the Jews calculating the weeks from that day to Pentecost.
No fresh business was then undertaken; no journey of any distance commenced; but everything purchased and made ready against the feast, the victuals being placed in a heated oven, and surrounded by dry substances to keep them warm. Early on Friday afternoon, the new ‘course’ of priests, of Levites, and of the ‘stationary men,’ who were to be the representatives of all Israel, arrived in Jerusalem, and having prepared themselves for the festive season, went up to the Temple. The approach of the Sabbath, and then its actual commencement, were announced by threefold blasts from the priests’ trumpets. The first three blasts were drawn when ‘one-third of the evening sacrifice service was over’; or, as we gather from the decree by which the Emperor Augustus set the Jews free from attendance in courts of law (Jos. Ant. xvi. 6, 2.), about the ninth hour, that is, about three p.m. on Friday. This, as we remember, was the hour when Jesus gave up the ghost (Matt 27:45; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:44). When the priests for the first time sounded their trumpets, all business was to cease, and every kind of work to be stopped. Next, the Sabbath-lamp, of which even heathen writers knew (Seneca, ep. 95.), was lit, and the festive garments put on. A second time the priests drew a threefold blast, to indicate that the Sabbath had actually begun. But the service of the new ‘course’ of priests had commenced before that. After the Friday evening service, the altar of burnt-offering was cleansed from its stains of blood. *
* The altar was whitened twice a year, before the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. But no tool of iron was used in this.
Then the outgoing ‘course’ handed over to the incoming the keys of the sanctuary, the holy vessels, and all else of which they had had charge. Next the heads of the ‘houses’ or families of the incoming ‘course’ determined by lot which of the families were to serve on each special day of their week of ministry, and also who were to discharge the various priestly functions on the Sabbath.
The first of these functions, immediately on the commencement of the Sabbath, was the renewal of the ‘shewbread.’ It had been prepared by the incoming course before the Sabbath itself, and–we might almost say, invariably–in one of the chambers of the Temple, though, in theory, it was held lawful to prepare it also at Bethphage. For, although it was a principle that ‘there is no Sabbath in the sanctuary,’ yet no work was allowed which might have been done on any other day. Even circumcision, which, like the Temple services, according to the Rabbis, superseded the Sabbath, was deferred by some to the close of the festive day. Hence, also, if Friday, on the afternoon of which the shewbread was ordinarily prepared, fell on a feast day that required Sabbatical rest, the shewbread was prepared on the Thursday afternoon. * The Rabbis are at pains to explain the particular care with which it was made and baked, so that in appearance and colour the lower should be exactly the same as the upper part of it.
* This must have been the case on the Thursday of Christ’s betrayal.
But this subject is too important to be thus briefly treated. Our term ‘shewbread’ is a translation of that used by Luther (Schaubrod), which, in turn, may have been taken from the Vulgate (panes praepositionis). The Scriptural name is ‘Bread of the Face’ (Exo 25:30; 35:13; 39:36); that is, ‘of the presence of God,’ just as the similar expression, ‘Angel of the Face’ (Isa 63:9) means the ‘Angel of His Presence.’ From its constant presence and disposition in the sanctuary, it is also called ‘perpetual bread’ (Num 4:7) and ‘bread of laying out’ (set in order), which latter most nearly corresponds to the term used in the New Testament (Matt 12:4; Luke 6:4; Heb 9:2). The placing and weekly renewal of the ‘Bread of the Presence’ was evidently among the principal Temple services (2 Chron 13:10,11). The ‘table of shewbread’ stood along the northern, or most sacred side of the Holy Place, being ranged lengthways of the Temple, as all its furniture was, except the Ark of the Covenant, which stood broadways.
The Table on the Arch of Titus
As described by the Rabbis, and represented on the triumphal Arch of Titus at Rome, the table of shewbread was two cubits long (two cubits = three feet), one cubit broad, and one and a half high. *
* The table on the Arch of Titus seems only one cubit high. We know that it was placed by the victor in the Temple of Peace; was carried about the middle of the fifth century to Africa, by the Vandals under Genseric, and that Belisarius brought it back in 520 to Constantinople, whence it was sent to Jerusalem.
It was made of pure gold, the feet being turned out and shaped to represent those of animals, and the legs connected, about the middle, by a golden plate, which was surrounded by a ‘crown,’ or wreath, while another wreath ran round the top of the table. Thus far its form was the same as that made at the first for the tabernacle (Exo 25:23, etc.), which was of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold. The ‘table’ originally provided for the second Temple had been taken away by Antiochus Epiphanes (about 170 BC); but another was supplied by the Maccabees. Josephus tells a story (Anti. xii. 2, 8) about the gift of yet another and most splendid one by Ptolemy Philadelphus. But as its description does not tally with the delineations on the Arch of Titus, we infer that at the time of Christ the ‘table’ of the Maccabees stood in the Holy Place.
The Vessels of the Table
Considerable doubt exists as to the precise meaning of the terms used in Scripture to describe the golden vessels connected with the ‘table of shewbread’ (Exo 25:29). The ‘dishes’ are generally regarded as those on which the ‘shewbread’ was either carried or placed, the ‘spoons’ as destined for the incense, and the ‘covers,’ or rather ‘flagons,’ and the ‘bowls’ for the wine of the drink-offering. On the Arch of Titus there are also two urns. But all this does not prove, in the silence of Scripture, and against the unanimous testimony of tradition, that either flagons, or bowls, or urns were placed on the table of shewbread, nor that drink-offerings were ever brought into the ‘Holy Place.’ On the other hand, the Rabbis regard the Hebrew terms, rendered ‘covers’ and ‘bowls,’ as referring to hollow golden tubes which were placed between the shewbread so as to allow the air to circulate between them; three of these tubes being always put under each, except the highest, under which there were only two, while the lowest rested on the table itself, or, rather, on a golden dish upon it. Thus they calculate that there were, in all, twenty-eight of these tubes to support the twelve loaves. The ‘tubes’ were drawn out each Friday, and again inserted between the new shewbread each Sunday, since the task of removing and reinserting them was not among those labours which made ‘void the Sabbath.’ Golden dishes, in which the shewbread was carried, and golden lateral plates, further to protect it on the stand, are also mentioned by the Rabbis.
The Shewbread Itself
The ‘shewbread’ was made of the finest wheaten flour, that had been passed through eleven sieves. There were twelve of these cakes, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, ranged in two piles, each of six cakes. Each cake was made of two omers of wheat (the omer = about five pints). Between the two rows, not upon them (as according to the Rabbis) (Menach. xi. 5), two bowls with pure incense were placed, and, according to Egyptian tradition (LXX Lev 24:7; Philo ii. 151), also salt. The cakes were anointed in the middle with oil, in the form of a cross. As described by Jewish tradition, they were each five handbreadths broad and ten handbreadths long, but turned up at either end, two handbreadths on each side, to resemble in outline the Ark of the Covenant. Thus, as each cake, after being ‘turned up,’ reached six handbreadths and was placed lengthwise on the breadth of the table, it would exactly cover it (the one cubit of the table being reckoned at six handbreadths); while, as the two rows of six cakes stood broadwise against each other (2 x 5 handbreadths), it would leave between them two handbreadths vacant on the length of the table (2 cubits = 12 handbreadths), on which the two bowls with the incense were placed. *
* We have been thus particular on account of the inaccuracies in so many articles on this subject. It ought to be stated that another Mishnic authority than that we have followed seems to have calculated the cubit at ten handbreadths, and accordingly gives different measurements for the ‘shewbread’; but the result is substantially the same.
The preparation of the shewbread seems to have been hereditarily preserved as a secret family tradition in ‘the house of Garmu,’ a family of the Kohathites (1 Chron 9:32; Mish. Shekal. v. 1). The fresh cakes of shewbread were deposited in a golden dish on the marble table in the porch of the sanctuary, where they remained till the Sabbath actually commenced.
The Mode of Changing
The mode of changing the shewbread may be given in the words of the Mishnah (Men. xi. 7): ‘Four priests enter (the Holy Place), two carrying, each, one of the piles (of six shewbread), the other two the two dishes (of incense). Four priests had preceded them–two to take off the two (old) piles of shewbread, and two the two (old) dishes of incense. Those who brought in (the bread and incense) stood at the north side (of the table), facing southwards; they who took away at the south side, facing north: these lifted off, and those replaced; the hands of these being right over against the hands of those (so as to lift off and put on exactly at the same moment), as it is written: „Thou shalt set upon the table bread of the Presence before Me alway.”‘ The shewbread which had been taken off was then deposited on the golden table in the porch of the sanctuary, the incense burnt on that heap on the altar of burnt-offering from which the coals were taken for the altar of incense, after which the shewbread was distributed among the outgoing and the incoming course of priests. *
* According to other authorities, however, the incense of the shewbread was burned along with the morning sacrifice on the Sabbath.
The incoming priests stood at the north side, the outgoing at the south side, and each course gave to the high-priest half of their portion. The shewbread was eaten during the Sabbath, and in the Temple itself, but only by such priests as were in a state of Levitical purity.
The Symbolism of the Shewbread
The importance of the service which has just been described depended, of course, on its meaning. Ancient symbolism, both Jewish and Christian, regarded ‘the bread of the Presence’ as an emblem of the Messiah. This view is substantially, though not literally, correct. Jehovah, who dwelt in the Most Holy Place between the Cherubim, was the God manifest and worshipped in the Holy Place. There the mediatorial ministry, in the name of, and representing Israel, ‘laid before’ Him the bread of the Presence, kindled the seven-lamped candlestick, and burnt incense on the golden altar. The ‘bread’ ‘laid before Him’ in the northern or most sacred part of the Holy Place was that of His Presence, and meant that the Covenant-people owned ‘His Presence’ as their bread and their life; the candlestick, that He was their Light-giver and Light; while between the table of shewbread and the candlestick burned the incense on the golden altar, to show that life and light are joined together, and come to us in fellowship with God and prayer. For a similar reason, pure incense was placed between the shewbread–for, the life which is in His Presence is one of praise; while the incense was burned before the shewbread was eaten by the priests, to indicate God’s acceptance and ratification of Israel’s dependence upon Him, as also to betoken praise to God while living upon His Presence. That this ‘Presence’ meant the special manifestation of God, as afterwards fully vouchsafed in Christ, ‘the Angel of His Presence,’ it is scarcely necessary to explain at length in this place.
The Courses on the Sabbath
But although the service of the incoming ‘course’ of priests had begun with the renewal of the ‘shewbread,’ that of the outgoing had not yet completely ceased. In point of fact, the outgoing ‘course’ of priests offered the morning sacrifice on the Sabbath, and the incoming the evening sacrifice, both spending the Sabbath in the sanctuary. The inspection of the Temple before the Sabbath morning service differed from that on ordinary days, inasmuch as the Temple itself was lit up, to obviate the necessity of the priests carrying torches on the holy day. The altar of burnt-offering was cleansed before the usual hour; but the morning service commenced later, so as to give an opportunity of attending to as many as possible. All appeared in their festive garments, and each carried in his hand some contribution for religious purposes. It was no doubt from this that the practice was derived of ‘laying by in store upon the first day of the week,’ which St. Paul recommended to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:1,2). Similarly, the apostolic practice of partaking the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s-day may have been in imitation of the priests eating the shewbread every Sabbath. The Sabbath service was in every respect the same as on other days, except that at the close of the ordinary morning sacrifice the additional offering of two lambs, with its appropriate meat- and drink-offerings, was brought (Num 28:9,10). When the drink-offering of the ordinary morning sacrifice was poured out, the Levites sang Psalm 92 in three sections, the priests drawing, at the close of each, three blasts from their trumpets, and the people worshipping. At the close of the additional Sabbath sacrifice, when its drink-offering was brought, the Levites sang the ‘Song of Moses’ in Deuteronomy 32. This ‘hymn’ was divided into six portions, for as many Sabbaths (v 1-6; 7-12; 13-18; 19-28; 29-39; 40-end). Each portion was sung in three sections with threefold blasts of the priests’ trumpets, the people worshipping at each pause. If a Sabbath and a ‘new moon’ fell on the same day, the Sabbath hymn was sung in preference to that for the new moon; if a feast day fell on the Sabbath, the Sabbath sacrifice was offered before that prescribed for the day. At the evening sacrifice on the Sabbath the song of Moses in Exodus 15 was sung.
The Sabbatical Year
Though not strictly connected with the Temple services, it may be desirable briefly to refer to the observance of the Sabbatical year, as it was strictly enforced at the time of Christ. It was otherwise with the year of Jubilee. Strangely, there are traces of the latter during the period before the return from Babylon (1 Kings 21:3; Isa 5:8; 37:30; 61:1-3, Eze 1:1; 7:12; Micah 2:2), while the Sabbatical year seems to have been systematically neglected. Hence Jewish tradition explains, in accordance with 2 Chronicles 36:21, that the seventy years’ captivity were intended to make up the neglected Sabbatical years–commencing the calculation, if it be taken literally, from about the accession of King Solomon. But while, after the return from Babylon, the year of Jubilee was no longer kept, at least, as a religious ordinance, the Sabbatical year was most strictly observed, not only by the Jews (Neh 10:31; 1 Macc vi. 49, 53; Jos. Antiq. xiii. 8, 1; xiv. 10, 6; xv. 1, 2; Jew. Wars,, i. 2-4), but also by the Samaritans (Antiq xi. 8, 6). Jewish tradition has it, that as it took seven years for the first conquest, and other seven for the proper division of the Holy Land, ‘tithes’ were for the first time paid fourteen years after the entrance of Israel into Canaan; and the first Sabbatical year fell seven years later, or in the twenty-first year of their possession of Palestine. The Sabbatical law extended only to the soil of Palestine itself, which, however, included certain surrounding districts. The Rabbis add this curious proviso, that it was lawful to use (though not to store or sell) the spontaneous produce of the land throughout the extent originally possessed by Israel, but that even the use of these products was prohibited in such districts as having originally belonged to, were again occupied by Israel after their return from Babylon. But this, as other rules laid down by the Rabbis, had many exceptions (Mish. Shev. vi. 1).
Scripture References To It/The ‘Prosbul’
As Divinely enjoined, the soil was to be left uncultivated at the end of every period of six years, beginning, as the Jews argue, after the Passover for the barley, after Pentecost for the wheat, and after the Feast of Tabernacles for all fruit-trees. The Sabbatical year itself commenced, as most of them hold, on New Year’s Day, which fell on the new moon of the tenth month, or Tishri. *
* The year of Jubilee began on the 10th of Tishri, being the Day of Atonement.
Whatever grew of itself during the year was to belong to the poor (Exo 23:10,11), which, however, as Leviticus 25:6 shows, did not exclude its use as ‘meat’ only its storage and sale, by the family to which the land belonged. Yet a third Scriptural notice constitutes the Sabbatical year that of ‘the Lord’s release,’ when no debt might be claimed from an Israelite (Deut 15:1-6); while a fourth enjoins, that ‘in the solemnity of the year of release, in the Feast of Tabernacles,’ the law was to be read ‘before all Israel in their hearing’ (Deut 31:10,11). It has been strangely overlooked that these four ordinances, instead of being separate and distinct, are in reality closely connected. As the assignment of what grew of itself did not exclude the usufruct by the owners, so it also followed of necessity that, in a year when all agricultural labour ceased, debts should not be claimed from an agricultural population. Similarly, it was quite in accordance with the idea of the Sabbath and the Sabbatical year that the law should be publicly read, to indicate that ‘the rest’ was not to be one of idleness, but of meditation on the Word of God. *
* Idleness is quite as much contrary to the Sabbath law as labour: ‘not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words’ (Isa 58:13).
It will be gathered that in this view the Divine law had not intended the absolute remission of debts, but only their ‘release’ during the Sabbatical year. *
* The manumission of Jewish slaves took place in the seventh year of their bondage, whenever that might be, and bears no reference to the Sabbatical year, with which, indeed, some of its provisions could not easily have been compatible (Deut 15:14).
Jewish tradition, indeed, holds the opposite; but, by its ordinances, it rendered the law itself void. For, as explained by the Rabbis, the release from debt did not include debts for things purchased in a shop, nor judicial fines, nor yet money lent on a pledge. But, as the great Rabbi Hillel found that even these exceptions were not sufficient to insure the loan of money in view of the Sabbatical year, he devised a formula called ‘Prosbul’ (probably ‘addition,’ from a Greek word to the same effect), by which the rights of a creditor were fully secured. The ‘Prosbul’ ran thus: ‘I, A.B., hand to you, the judges of C.D. (a declaration), to the effect that I may claim any debt due to me at whatever time I please.’
The Effect Of It
This ‘Prosbul,’ signed by the judges or by witnesses, enabled a creditor to claim money lent even in the Sabbatical year; and though professedly applying only to debts on real property, was so worded as to cover every case (Mish. Shev., sec x). But even this was not all, and the following legal fiction was suggested as highly meritorious to all concerned. The debtor was to offer payment, and the creditor to reply, ‘I remit’; upon which the debtor was to insist that ‘nevertheless’ the creditor was to accept the repayment. In general, money owing to Jewish proselytes was to be repaid to them, but not to their heirs, even though they also had turned Jews, as by becoming a proselyte a man had separated himself from his kin, who therefore were no longer, strictly speaking, his natural heirs. Still, to make payment in such a case was deemed specially meritorious. The Rabbinical evasions of the law, which forbade the use of that which had grown spontaneously on the soil, are not so numerous nor so irrational. It was ruled that part of such products might be laid by in the house, provided sufficient of the same kind were left in the field for cattle and beasts to feed upon. Again, as much land might be tilled as was necessary to make payment of tributes or taxes. The omer (or ‘wave-sheaf’) at the Passover, and the two wave-loaves at Pentecost, were also to be made from the barley and wheat grown that year in the field. Lastly, Rabbinical ordinance fixed the following portions as being ‘the law’ which was to be publicly read in the Temple by the king or the high-priest at the Feast of Tabernacles in the Sabbatical year, viz., Deuteronomy 1:1-6; 6:4-8; 11:13-22; 14:22; 15:23; 17:14; 26:12-19; 27; 28 (Mish. Sotah, vii. 8). This service concluded with a benediction, which resembled that of the high-priest on the Day of Atonement, except that it referred not to the remission of sins.
Rabbinical Perversion of the Sabbatical Year
The account just given proves that there was scarcely any Divine ordinance, which the Rabbis, by their traditions, rendered more fully void, and converted into ‘a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear,’ than the Sabbath law. On the other hand, the Gospels bring before us Christ more frequently on the Sabbath than on any other festive occasion. It seemed to be His special day for working the work of His Father. On the Sabbath He preached in the synagogues; He taught in the Temple; He healed the sick; He came to the joyous meal with which the Jews were wont to close the day (Luke 14:1). Yet their opposition broke out most fiercely in proportion as He exhibited the true meaning and object of the Sabbath. Never did the antagonism between the spirit and the letter more clearly appear. And if in their worship of the letter they crushed out the spirit of the Sabbath law, we can scarcely wonder that they so overlaid with their ordinances the appointment of the Sabbatical year as well-nigh to extinguish its meaning. That evidently was, that the earth, and all that is upon it, belongeth to the Lord; that the eyes of all wait upon Him, that He may ‘give them their meat in due season’ (Psa 104:27; 145:16); that the land of Israel was His special possession; that man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord; and that He giveth us our daily bread, so that it is vain to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows (Psa 127:2). Beyond it all, it pointed to the fact of sin and redemption: the whole creation which ‘groaneth and travaileth in pain together unto now,’ waiting for and expecting that blessed Sabbath, when ‘creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Rom 8:21,22). Thus, as the Sabbath itself, so the Sabbatical year pointed forward to the ‘rest which remaineth to the people of God,’ when, contest and labour completed, they sing, ‘on the other side of the flood,’ the song of Moses and of the Lamb (Rev 15:3,4): ‘Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest.’
Festive Cycles and Arrangement of the Calendar
‘Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that He will not come to the feast?’–John 11:56
The Number Seven
The symbolical character which is to be traced in all the institutions of the Old Testament, appears also in the arrangement of its festive calendar. Whatever classification of the festivals may be proposed, one general characteristic pervades the whole. Unquestionably, the number seven marks in Scripture the sacred measurement of time. The Sabbath is the seventh of days; seven weeks after the commencement of the ecclesiastical year is the Feast of Pentecost; the seventh month is more sacred than the rest, its ‘firstborn’ or ‘New Moon’ being not only devoted to the Lord like those of the other months, but specially celebrated as the ‘Feast of Trumpets,’ while three other festivals occur within its course–the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and its Octave. Similarly, each seventh year is Sabbatical, and after seven times seven years comes that of Jubilee. Nor is this all. Seven days in the year may be designated as the most festive, since in them alone ‘no servile work’ was to be done, * while on the so-called minor festivals (Moed Katon), that is, on the days following the first of the Passover week and of that of Tabernacles, the diminution of festive observances and of restrictions on labour marks their less sacred character.
* These are: the first and the seventh days of the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread,’ Pentecost, New Year’s Day, the Day of Atonement, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and its Octave.
The Three Cycles
Besides this general division of time by the sacred number seven, certain general ideas probably underlay the festive cycles. Thus we may mark two, or else three, such cycles; the one commencing with the Paschal sacrifice and ending on the Day of Pentecost, to perpetuate the memory of Israel’s calling and wilderness life; the other, which occurs in the seventh month (of rest), marking Israel’s possession of the land and grateful homage to Jehovah. From these two cycles the Day of Atonement may have to be distinguished, as intermediate between, applying to both, and yet possessing a character of its own, as Scripture calls it, ‘a Sabbath of Sabbatism,’ * in which not only ‘servile work,’ but as on the weekly Sabbath, labour of any kind was prohibited.
* The term is rendered in the Authorised Version, ‘Sabbath of rest,’ Leviticus 16:31; 23:32.
In Hebrew two terms are employed–the one, Moed, or appointed meeting, applied to all festive seasons, including Sabbaths and New Moons; the other, Chag, from a root which means ‘to dance,’ or ‘to be joyous,’ applying exclusively to the three festivals of Easter, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, in which all males were to appear before the Lord in His sanctuary. If we might venture to render the general term Moadim by ‘trystings’ of Jehovah with His people, the other would be intended to express the joyousness which was to be a leading characteristic of the ‘pilgrim-feasts.’ Indeed, the Rabbis expressly mention these three as marking the great festivals: Reiyah, Chagigah, and Simchah; that is, presence, or appearance at Jerusalem; the appointed festive offerings of the worshippers, which are not to be confounded with the public sacrifices offered on these occasions in the name of the whole congregation; and joyousness, with which they connect the freewill offerings that each brought, as the Lord had blessed him, and which afterwards were shared with the poor, the desolate, and the Levite, in the joyous meal that followed the public services of the Temple. To these general characteristics of the three great feasts we ought, perhaps, to add in regard to all festive seasons, that each was to be a ‘holy convocation,’ or gathering for sacred purposes; the injunction of ‘rest’ from ‘servile,’ or else from all work; and, lastly, certain special sacrifices which were to be brought in the name of the whole congregation. Besides the Mosaic festivals, the Jews celebrated at the time of Christ two other feasts–that of Esther, or Purim, and that of the Dedication of the Temple, on its restoration by Judas the Maccabee. Certain minor observances, and the public fasts in memory of the great national calamities, will be noticed in the sequel. Private fasts would, of course, depend on individuals, but the strict Pharisees were wont to fast every Monday and Thursday * during the weeks intervening between the Passover and Pentecost, and again, between the Feast of Tabernacles and that of the Dedication of the Temple. It is to this practice that the Pharisee in the parable refers (Luke 18:12) when boasting: ‘I fast twice in the week.’
* Because on a Thursday Moses had gone up to Mount Sinai, and came down on a Monday, when he received for the second time the Tables of the Law.
Three Annual Visits to Temple
The duty of appearing three times a year in the Temple applied to all male Israelites–bondsmen, the deaf, dumb, and lame, those whom sickness, infirmity, or age rendered incapable of going on foot up the mountain of the house, and, of course, all in a state of Levitical uncleanness, being excepted. In general, the duty of appearing before the Lord at the services of His house was deemed paramount. Here an important Rabbinical principle came in, which, although not expressed in Scripture, seems clearly founded upon it, that ‘a sacrifice could not be offered for any one unless he himself were present,’ to present and to lay his hand upon it (Lev 1:3, 3:2,8). It followed that, as the morning and evening sacrifices, and those on feast-days were purchased with money contributed by all, and offered on behalf of the whole congregation, all Israel should have attended these services. This was manifestly impossible, but to represent the people twenty-four courses of lay attendants were appointed, corresponding to those of the priests and the Levites. These were the ‘stationary men,’ or ‘men of the station,’ or ‘standing men,’ from ‘their standing there in the Temple as Israel’s representatives.’ For clearness sake, we repeat that each of these ‘courses’ had its ‘head,’ and served for one week; those of the station on service, who did not appear in Jerusalem, meeting in a central synagogue of their district, and spending the time in fasting and prayer for their brethren. On the day before the Sabbath, on the Sabbath itself, and on the day following, they did not fast, on account of the joy of the Sabbath. Each day they read a portion of Scripture, the first and second chapters of Genesis being for this purpose arranged into sections for the week. This practice, which tradition traced up to Samuel and David (Taan. iv. 2), was of ancient date. But the ‘men of the station’ did not impose hands on either the morning or evening sacrifice, nor on any other public offering. *
* The only public offerings, with ‘imposition of hands,’ were the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, and the bullock when the congregation had sinned through ignorance.
Their duty was twofold: to represent all Israel in the services of the sanctuary, and to act as a sort of guide to those who had business in the Temple. Thus, at a certain part of the service, the head of the course brought up those who had come to make an atonement on being cleansed from any impurity, and ranged them along the ‘Gate of Nicanor,’ in readiness for the ministry of the officiating priests. The ‘men of the station’ were dispensed from attendance in the Temple on all occasions when the ‘Hallel‘ was chanted, * possibly because the responses of the people when the hymn was sung showed that they needed no formal representatives.
* This happened therefore on eighteen days of the year. These will be specified in a subsequent chapter.
Difficulties of the Calendar
Hitherto we have not adverted to the difficulties which those who intended to appear in Jerusalem at the feasts would experience from the want of any fixed calendar. As the year of the Hebrews was lunar, not solar, it consisted of only 354 days 8 hours 48′ 38″. This, distributed among twelve months, would in the course of years have completely disordered the months, so that the first month, or Nisan (corresponding to the end of March or the beginning of April), in the middle of which the first ripe barley was to be presented to the Lord, might have fallen in the middle of winter. Accordingly, the Sanhedrim appointed a Committee of three, of which the chief of the Sanhedrim was always president, and which, if not unanimous, might be increased to seven, when a majority of voices would suffice, to determine which year was to be made a leap-year by the insertion of a thirteenth month. Their resolution * was generally taken in the twelfth month (Adar), the additional, or thirteenth month (Ve-Adar), being inserted between the twelfth and the first.
* Tradition has it, that neither high-priest nor king ever took part in these deliberations, the former because he might object to a leap-year as throwing the Day of Atonement later into the cold season; the king, because he might wish for thirteen months, in order to get thirteen months’ revenue in one year!
A Sabbatical year could not be a leap-year, but that preceding it was always such. Sometimes two, but never three, leap-years succeeded each other. Commonly, every third year required the addition of a month. The mean duration of the Jewish month being 29 days 12 hours 44′ 3 1/3″, it required, during a period of nineteen years, the insertion of seven months to bring the lunar era in accordance with the Julian.
The New Moon
And this brings up yet another difficulty. The Jews calculated the month according to the phases of the moon, each month consisting of either twenty-nine or thirty days, and beginning with the appearance of the new moon. But this opened a fresh field of uncertainty. It is quite true that every one might observe for himself the appearance of a new moon. But this would again partly depend on the state of the weather. Besides, it left an authoritative declaration of the commencement of a month unsupplied. And yet not only was the first of every month to be observed as ‘New Moon’s Day,’ but the feasts took place on the 10th, 15th, or other day of the month, which could not be accurately determined without a certain knowledge of its beginning. To supply this want the Sanhedrim sat in the ‘Hall of Polished Stones’ to receive the testimony of credible witnesses that they had seen the new moon. To encourage as many as possible to come forward on so important a testimony, these witnesses were handsomely entertained at the public expense. If the new moon had appeared at the commencement of the 30th day–which would correspond to our evening of the 29th, as the Jews reckoned the day from evening to evening–the Sanhedrim declared the previous month to have been one of twenty-nine days, or ‘imperfect.’ Immediately thereon men were sent to a signal-station on the Mount of Olives, where beacon-fires were lit and torches waved, till a kindling flame on a hill in the distance indicated that the signal had been perceived. Thus the tidings, that this was the new moon, would be carried from hill to hill, far beyond the boundaries of Palestine, to those of the dispersion, ‘beyond the river.’ Again, if credible witnesses had not appeared to testify to the appearance of the new moon on the evening of the 29th, the next evening, or that of the 30th, according to our reckoning, was taken as the commencement of the new month, in which case the previous month was declared to have been one of thirty days, or ‘full.’ It was ruled that a year should neither have less than four nor more than eight such full months of thirty days.
The Seven Messengers of the New Moon
But these early fire-signals opened the way for serious inconvenience. The enemies of the Jews lit beacons to deceive those at a distance, and it became necessary to send special messengers to announce the new moon. These were, however, despatched only seven times in the year, just in time for the various feasts–in Nisan, for the Passover on the 15th, and in the month following, Iyar, for the ‘Second Passover,’ kept by those who had been debarred from the first (Num 9:9-11); in Ab (the fifth month), for the fast on the 9th, on account of the destruction of Jerusalem; in Elul (the sixth month), on account of the approaching solemnities of Tishri; in Tishri (the seventh month), for its festivals; in Kislev (the ninth month), for the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple; and in Adar, for Purim. Thus, practically, all difficulties were removed, except in reference to the month Elul, since, as the new moon of the following month, or Tishri, was the ‘Feast of Trumpets,’ it would be exceedingly important to know in time whether Elul had twenty-nine or thirty days. But here the Rabbis ruled that Elul should be regarded as a month of twenty-nine days, unless a message to the contrary were received–that, indeed, since the days of Ezra it had always been so, and that accordingly New Year’s Day would be the day after the 29th of Elul. To make, however, assurance doubly sure, it soon became the practice to keep New Year’s Day on two successive days, and this has since been extended into a duplication of all the great feast days (of course, with the exception of fasts), and that, although the calendar has long been fixed, and error is therefore no more possible.
Names of the Hebrew Months
The present Hebrew names of the months are variously supposed to be derived from the Chaldee, or from the Persian language. They certainly do not appear before the return from Babylon. Before that, the months were named only after their numbers, or else from the natural phenomena characteristic of the seasons, as Abib, ‘sprouting,’ ‘green ears,’ for the first (Exo 13:4; 23:15; Deut 16:1); Ziv, ‘splendour,’ ‘flowering,’ for the second (1 Kings 6:1); Bul, ‘rain,’ for the eighth (1 Kings 6:38); and Ethanim, ‘flowing rivers,’ for the seventh (1 Kings 8:2). The division of the year into ecclesiastical, which commenced with the month Nisan (the end of March or beginning of April), or about the spring equinox, and civil, which commenced with the seventh month, or Tishri, corresponding to the autumn equinox, has by many likewise been supposed to have only originated after the return from Babylon. But the analogy of the twofold arrangement of weights, measures, and money into civil and sacred, and other notices seem against this view, and it is more likely that from the first the Jews distinguished the civil year, which began in Tishri, from the ecclesiastical, which commenced in Nisan, from which month, as the first, all the others were counted. To this twofold division the Rabbis add, that for tithing the herds and flocks the year was reckoned from Elul to Elul, and for taxing fruits often from Shebat to Shebat.
The Eras Used By the Jews
The earliest era adopted by the Jews was that which was reckoned to commence with the deliverance from Egypt. During the reigns of the Jewish kings, time was computed from the year of their accession to the throne. After their return from exile, the Jews dated their years according to the Seleucidic era, which began 312 BC, or 3,450 from the creation of the world. For a short time after the war of independence, it became customary to reckon dates from the year of the liberation of Palestine. However, for a very long period after the destruction of Jerusalem (probably, till the twelfth century AD), the Seleucidic era remained in common use, when it finally gave place to the present mode of reckoning among the Jews, which dates from the creation of the world. To commute the Jewish year into that of our common era we have to add to the latter 3,761, always bearing in mind, however, that the common or civil Jewish year commences in the month of Tishri, i.e. in autumn.
The week was divided into seven days, of which, however, only the seventh–the Sabbath–had a name assigned to it, the rest being merely noted by numerals. The day was computed from sunset to sunset, or rather to the appearance of the first three stars with which a new day commenced. Before the Babylonish captivity, it was divided into morning, mid-day, evening, and night; but during the residence in Babylon, the Hebrews adopted the division of the day into twelve hours, whose duration varied with the length of the day. The longest day consisted of fourteen hours and twelve minutes; the shortest, of nine hours forty-eight minutes; the difference between the two being thus more than four hours. On an average, the first hour of the day corresponded nearly to our 6 a.m.; the third hour (when, according to Matthew 20:3, the market-place was full), to our 9 a.m.; the close of the sixth hour, to our mid-day; while at the eleventh, the day neared its close. The Romans reckoned the hours from midnight, a fact which explains the apparent discrepancy between John 19:14, where, at the sixth hour (of Roman calculation), Pilate brings Jesus out to the Jews, while at the third hour of the Jewish, and hence the ninth of the Roman and of our calculation (Mark 15:25), He was led forth to be crucified. The night was divided by the Romans into four, by the Jews into three watches. The Jews subdivided the hour into 1,080 parts (chlakim), and again each part into seventy-six moments.
For the convenience of the reader, we subjoin a calendar, showing the occurrence of the various festive days–
Spring Equinox, end of March or beginning of April.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 14. The preparation for the Passover and the Paschal Sacrifice.
Day 15. First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Day 16. Waving of the first ripe Omer.
Day 21. Close of the Passover.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 15. ‘Second,’ or ‘little’ Passover.
Day 18. Lag-le-Omer, or the 33rd day in Omer, i.e. from the presentation of the first ripe sheaf offered on the 2nd day of the Passover, or the 15th of Nisan.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 6. Feast of Pentecost, or of Weeks–7 weeks, or 50 days after the beginning of the Passover, when the two loaves of first ripe wheat were ‘waved,’ commemorative also of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 17. Fast; taking of Jerusalem on the 9th by Nebuchadnezzar (and on the 17th by Titus). If the 17th occur on a Sabbath, the Fast is kept on the day following.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 9. Fast–(threefold) destruction of the Temple.
Day 1. New Moon.
Beginning of Civil Year
Day 1 &2. New Year’s Feast.
Day 3. Fast for the murder of Gedaliah.
Day 10. Day of Atonement; Great Fast.
Day 15. Feast of Tabernacles.
Day 21. Close of the above.
Day 22. Octave of the Feast of Tabernacles. (In the Synagogues, on the 23rd, Feast on the annual completion of the Reading of the Law.)
8–Marcheshvan or Cheshvan
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 25. Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, or of Candles, lasting eight days, in remembrance of the Restoration of the Temple after the victory gained by Judas Maccabeus (BC 148) over the Syrians.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 10. Fast on account of the Siege of Jerusalem.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 1. New Moon.
Day 13. Fast of Esther. If it fall on a Sabbath, kept on the Thursday preceding.
Day 14. Purim, or Feast of Haman.
Day 15. Purim Proper.
* The Megillath Taanith (‘roll of fasts’), probably the oldest Aramean post-biblical record preserved (though containing later admixtures), enumerates thirty-five days in the year when fasting, and mostly also public mourning, are not allowed. One of these is the day of Herod’s death! This interesting historical relic has been critically examined of late by such writers as Derenbourg and Gratz. After their exile the ten tribes, or at least their descendants, seem to have dated from that event (696 BC). This appears from inscriptions on tombstones of the Crimean Jews, who have been shown to have descended from the ten tribes