Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

It is not easy to assign a reason for the employment by Solomon of a unit so unusual, and indeed so ill-omened, as the number 13. It may, however, be thought that as the Temple was intended for the worship of the thirteen tribes, the fusion of 13 into 12 was not without significance. But whatever be the cause, of the fact there is no doubt. So exact is the application of the unit to the original work, that the additions of later restorers may be detected by its disuse. The references made to it, besides those which we have cited, are extremely obscure. Maimonides, in his De Domo Selecta, in speaking of the steps round the Inner Temple, makes use of the expression half a pace of 3 cubits;' which no doubt refers to the reed of 6 cubits. But the knowledge possessed by the great doctors of the Talmud-the Tanaites and the Amoraim-on this point, if indeed they possessed it, has been hidden under the most complicated allusions. The outer court of the Temple of God was not to be measured, the prophet was told, till the Holy City had been trodden underfoot for the appointed time. No record of, no attempt at, such a measurement has been made until shortly before the Ordnance survey mapped city and mountain on one unimaginative sheet of paper. Even then, to know what were the ancient and proposed dimensions of Priests' Court, and Sanctuary, and mountain, it was necessary to recover the measuring-rod of Solomon, or the pattern of which David his father, to use the language of St. Jerome, spoke as scripta manu Domini.

In determining the exact alignment of the outer wall of the Mountain of the House, the founder of the Temple took account of the local features of the spot. The course of the deep ravines on the east and on the west side of Moriah confined within certain limits that of the walls. The question of level has evidently been studiously considered. The foundation course of the deepest part of the walls, at the south-east angle, and near to the angles at the north-east and south-west, is approximately level. Thus three orders of consideration were present to the great architect. There was an astronomical and historical orientation; there was the use of a definite unit of measurement; and there was a regard to the maximum height of the walls and the due level of the courses of masonry. Astronomic, geometric, and hypsometric science were all applied to the mighty plan. But while, as far as the application of the traditional implements of the mason—the plummet, the line, and the square-is concerned, the exactitude of the work is as remarkable as its magnitude, there are indications that no trigonometric science found a place in the wisdom of Solomon.

The erection of the east wall was a problem of no ordinary difficulty, in the absence of the theodolite and the spirit-level. The problem was solved; but the more modern method of slightly inclining the faces of the stones to the beds would have produced a more indestructible face than the stepped batter actually employed.

The reader who has thus far accompanied our inquiry may be prepared to expect a definite explanation of the form and character of that elevated and trapezoidal platform which surrounds the dome of the rock, and which is the site of the Sanctuary, or Inner Temple, of the Jewish writers. Its form, hitherto inexplicable, becomes perfectly intelligible when we grasp the three elements which have determined it. First, the position of the Great Altar and of the sunrise line, drawn through Temple, altar, and eastern gate, gives an approximate direction, east and west. Secondly, the meridian gives the eastern face with absolute precision. Thirdly, the Sanctuary being surrounded by a cloister, the founder has been careful to make each side equal to a definite number of intercolumniations. To do this it has been requisite to slew (or deflect) each side, except the east face, to some extent. The area thus defined is a sixth part of the entire Ilaram.

The gates of the Inner Sanctuary are referred to, in different places, in a manner that has occasioned perplexity as to their actual number ; but the apparent inconsistency of the Middoth is cleared up by the identification of the sites of the houses Nitsus and Moked,* through cach of which was a gate, now represented by modern steps. We have the indisputable authority of Rabbi Chija † for the fact that there were seven prefects of the gates, who locked and unlocked the seven gates of the Sanctuary at the same moment. They were closed during divine service, as well as at night.

On the east are now visible the rock-cut steps of the famous gate Nicanor. Two of the spiral columns of King Herod are built rudely into its piers. Diracles were wrought, the rabbis tell us, by the leaves of this great eastern portal, the Beautiful Gate of the Acts of the Apostles. It was this gate that opened self-moved, as recorded by Josephus, ß as an omen of the approaching downfall of the city. It was wrought in Alexandria ; and, a storm arising when it was shipped, one leaf was thrown overboard. The tempest continuing, the mariners proceeded to lighten the vessel by throwing off the

* Tract Tamid.

Tosaphta Yoma, in loc.

† Tosaphta Shckalim, xi. 18.
§ Bell. VI. v. 4.

second. But Nicanor, the maker, bound himself to his work, and declared that he would be thrown in with it. Not only did his insistance prevail, but the first leaf was thrown up upon

the shore in answer to his prayers. An unusual halo hovers over the silent relics of the gate Nicanor, from the fact that it is one of the two spots within the walls of Jerusalem that were, beyond any manner of doubt, lightened by the presence of the Infant Christ. There His mother, like all Jewish matrons, presented herself for her purification, before she might pass into the court beyond. At this gate, we learn from the Talmud,* the ordeal of the water of jealousy was administered. Here, too, the leper who was being cleansed was allowed to thrust his thumbs and great toes into the Sanctuary.f This gate is exactly central to the sunrise line of the Temple.

To the south, and a little to the west, of Nicanor, exist the steps of the Water Gate. As to this we have definite information. Through it, at the ceremony of water drawing, during the Feast of Tabernacles, I water from Siloe was borne in a golden vessel to be poured out into a silver basin in the Sanctuary. This was the most joyful of the Jewish festivals, and it was said that no one who had not witnessed it knew what rejoicing was. At night the broad court below was so illuminated that all Jerusalem shone.

To the west of the Water Gate exist the traces of the Gate of Firstlings, one of the most important features of the entire Temple system. It lies directly between the adit of the double Huldah Gate and the Great Altar. Its position is distinctly identified by the Talmud. On its fifteen steps the Levites chanted the fifteen psalms of degrees. It was ascended by the priests in a ceremonial which was instituted to commemorate the denunciation, by the prophet Ezekiel,|| of the worship of the sun by bowing towards the east. At this gate, or in its close vicinity, was breathed to God that

song

of the aged Simeon (the father of Paul's teacher, Gamaliel), which yet preserves, in the evensong of English churches and cathedrals, an echo of the music of the Temple. For here it was that the parents of the Child Jesus brought Him, as a firstborn son, to present Him to the Lord.

In the south-west of the Sanctuary, partly on the platform, and partly terraced over the Chel, stood the four-chambered

* Tract Sotah, in loc.
† Succah, v. 5.
|| Reg. I. vii. 3.

† Pesachim, vii.
$ Succah, v. 4

[ocr errors]

house Moked, in one of the vaults of which six lambs were constantly kept for the daily offering. In the north-west angle stood the famous house Nitsus, the Sparkling House, where the vestments of the high priest were kept. The position, the dimensions, and the employment, of this house, seem to identify it with the House of the Forest of Lebanon; in which the golden shields of the Temple guard were deposited. The curious disproportion in the spaces between the forty-five cedar pillars,* disappears when we regard the house, like its opposite neighbour, as being built partly upon the platform, and partly over the Chel. This identification further solves the problem of the eccentric position of the Golden Gate. It was opposite, not to the Temple, like Nicanor, but to the most splendid building within the mountain next to the Holy House itself. Thus it is appropriately termed the gate behind the guard. Through this three-storied house, and through the southern house Moked, where were kept the shewbread and other offerings, were gates from the Sanctuary into the Chel, each guarded by a priest above, and by a Levite below.f The two northern gates, that of Women (referred to by Ezekiel ) and that of Music, are also yet to be recognised by the steps.

Within the Sanctuary were pointed rails, or pillared divisions, bounding the Court of the Priests, which formed a sixth of the whole area. West of the altar were two raised platforms, each 11 cubits broad, on which stood the Levites, who chanted; the priests, who blew with the trumpet (120 of them as one man at the dedication of the Temples); and the · Mahamad,' or section of standing men,' who, in their twenty-four orders, corresponding to those of the priests, stood by the altar at the time of sacrifice, as representatives of the whole congregation of Israel.||

The Talmud I speaks of the portion of the Sanctuary between the standing place of Israel, or platform of the standing men, and the east gate, as the Court of the Women. We are ignorant of the exact interior divisions of the Sanctuary. There is no doubt that the women were excluded from the whole upper platform westward of the raised dais, and that at least the eastern part of the court of the Sanctuary was common to both sexes.

To the south of the Inner Sanctuary, at the foot of the

# Ezek. viii. 16.

Ezek. viii. 14.

|| Taanith, iv. 2.
VOL, CXXXVII, NO. CCLSXIX.

† Middoth, i. 1.

Par. II. v. 12.
Middoth ii. 6.

D

steps of the Water Gate, and of those of the Gate of Firstlings, lay what the Book of Esdras calls the Broad * Court of the Temple, and the Talmud, the Court of the Women. Here Ezra read the law. Here were held the great rejoicings at the Feast of Tabernacles. Here, on the ceremony of the water drawing, during that feast, was made an illumination that lit up every court in Jerusalem. Some remains of broad steps, defining the southern limit of this court, are shown on the Ordnance plan.

Without the Court of the Women was the Chel. There were nine gradations of sanctity in Jerusalem, the first being the space within the city walls, the ninth the Holy of Holies. Of these the Chel was the third. Its exact line has yet to be traced, but indications exist which will no doubt prove accurate. At the Passover three lambs were sacrificed, for three successive bodies of worshippers. Of these the first, after their service, went out from the Sanctuary, but remained in the mountain until nightfall. The second remained in the Chel; the third, in the body of the Sanctuary. After the three blasts of the trumpet that denoted the close of the 14th of Nisan, all went out from the precincts, to eat the pascal lambs within the walls of the city.

The great erudition of Dr. Lightfoot has not prevented him from making the unintelligent remark that the compass of the Temple, described in the last chapters of the prophecy of Ezekiel, was between three and four miles. In this estimate he has been unhesitatingly followed by every succeeding writer on the subject. The passage from which he makes the calculation is the last section of the 42nd chapter, containing five verses. In the Latin Vulgate, the last of these contradicts the four former, a fact which is betrayed by the interpolated italics of the English version. Four lines are successively measured, each being 500 cubits of reeds. The area enclosed is thus stated to be five hundred cubits long and five hundred 'cubits broad, to make a separation between the Sanctuary and - the profane place.' Contradiction is avoided, and the text is rendered intelligible, by taking the term cubits of reeds' to be equivalent with the great cubit’ of Chapter xli. 8. The Septuagint correctly translates the passage. We thus have the exact repetition of the statement of the Talmud, that the top of the Mountain of the House was 500 cubits square. This space designates the. Chel, or division lying between the ante

[ocr errors]

9

* Esdras. ix. 41. Cf. Nehemiah, viii. 3..
+ Suceah, v. 2.

# Codex Kelim. i. 1. In

« AnteriorContinuar »