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|The Ancient Steps of the Ophel||Josephus: Temple|
-Map of City Wall
The Temple complex is called the Bais Hamikdash
the sacred area of the complex, was made up of the Temple House, Priest
court, Men's court, and the inner gates.
The Chanuyos, Herod's Royal Stoa, was the court along the southern wall, much like a modern mall.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 8 - Chapter 3 Verse 9
But he made that temple which was beyond this a wonderful one indeed, and such as exceeds all description in words; nay, if I may so say, is hardly believed upon sight; for when he had filled up great valleys with earth, which, on account of their immense depth, could not be looked on, when you bended down to see them, without pain, and had elevated the ground four hundred cubits, he made it to be on a level with the top of the mountain, on which the temple was built, and by this means the out most temple, which was exposed to the air, was even with the temple itself.
9. Solomon made all these things for the honor of God, with great variety and magnificence, sparing no cost, but using all possible liberality in adorning the temple; and these things he dedicated to the treasures of God.
He also placed a partition round about the temple, which in our
tongue we call Gison, but it is called Thrigcos by the Greeks, and he raised
it up to the height of three cubits; and
it was for the exclusion of the multitude from coming into the temple,
and showing that it was a place that was free and open only for the priests.
He also built beyond this court a temple, whose figure was that of a quadrangle, and erected for it great and broad cloisters; this was entered into by very high gates, each of which had its front exposed to one of the [four] winds, and were shut by golden doors (inner gates).
He encompassed this also with a building of a double row of cloisters,
which stood on high upon pillars of native stone, while the roofs were
of cedar, and were polished in a manner proper for such high roofs; but
he made all the doors of this temple of silver
War of the Jews - BOOK 5, CH. 5
A DESCRIPTION OF THE TEMPLE.
1. NOW this temple, as I have already said, was
built upon a strong hill. At first
the plain at the top was hardly sufficient
for the holy house and the altar, for the ground about it was very uneven,
and like a precipice; but when king Solomon,
who was the person that built the temple, had built a wall to it on
its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on
a bank cast up for it, and on the other parts the holy house stood
But in future ages the people added new banks,
(12) and the hill became a larger plain.
They then broke down the wall on the north side, and took in as much as sufficed afterward for the compass of the entire temple.
And when they had built walls on three sides of the temple round about, from the bottom of the hill, and had performed a work that was greater than could be hoped for, (in which work long ages were spent by them, as well as all their sacred treasures were exhausted, which were still replenished by those tributes which were sent to God from the whole habitable earth,) they then encompassed their upper courts with cloisters, as well as they [afterward] did the lowest [court of the] temple. (courts of the gentiles) The lowest part of this was erected to the height of three hundred cubits,and in some places more; yet did not the entire depth of the foundations appear, for they brought earth, and filled up the valleys, as being desirous to make them on a level with the narrow streets of the city; wherein they made use of stones of forty cubits in magnitude; for the great plenty of money they then had, and the liberality of the people, made this attempt of theirs to succeed to an incredible degree; and what could not be so much as hoped for as ever to be accomplished, was, by perseverance and length of time, brought to perfection.
2. Now for the works that were above these foundations, these were not unworthy of such foundations; for all the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver.
The cloisters [of
the outmost court] were in breadth
thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six
furlongs, including the
tower of Antonia;
courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts.
When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that "no foreigner should go within that sanctuary" for that second [court of the] temple was called "the Sanctuary," and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court. This court was four-square, and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its buildings, although it were on the outside forty cubits, was hidden by the steps, and on the inside that height was but twenty-five cubits; for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps, it was no further to be entirely discerned within, being covered by the hill itself.
Beyond these thirteen steps(?)there was the distance of ten cubits; (15 ft) this was all plain,; whence there were other steps, each of five cubits (7 ft) a-piece, that led to the gates, which gates on the north and south sides were eight, on each of those sides four, and of necessity two on the east. For since there was a partition built for the women on that side, as the proper place wherein they were to worship,there was a necessity for a second gate for them: this gate was cut out of its wall, over against the first gate (gate entering women's court from the east).
There was also on the other sides (of the women's court) one southern and one northern gate, through which was a passage into the court of the women; for as to the other gates, the women were not allowed to pass through them; nor when they went through their own gate could they go beyond their own wall (could not leave court of the women). This place was allotted to the women of our own country, and of other countries, provided they were of the same nation, and that equally.
The western part of this court had no gate at all, but the wall was built entire on that side. But then the cloisters which were betwixt the gates extended from the wall inward, before the chambers; for they were supported by very fine and large pillars. These cloisters were single, and, excepting their magnitude, were no way inferior to those of the lower court.
3. Now nine of
these gates (
4 on the north and 4 on the south and 1 east gate, not including
the womans gate cut into the east wall)
were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs
of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was
without the [inward court of the] holy house, which was of Corinthian brass,
gate/east upper gate)
and greatly excelled
those that were only covered over with silver and gold.
Each gate had two
doors, whose height was severally
thirty cubits, and their breadth fifteen. However, they had large
spaces within of thirty cubits (long),
and had on each side rooms, and those, both in breadth and in length,
built like towers, and their height was above forty cubits. Two
pillars did also support these rooms, and were in circumference twelve
Now the magnitudes of the other gates were equal one to another; but that over the Corinthian gate, which opened on the east over against (opposite of) the gate of the holy house itself, was much larger; for its height was fifty cubits; and its doors were forty cubits; and it was adorned after a most costly manner, as having much richer and thicker plates of silver and gold upon them than the other.
These nine gates had that silver and gold poured upon them by Alexander, the father of Tiberius.
Now there were fifteen steps, which led away from the wall of the court of the women to this greater gate; whereas those that led thither from the other gates were five steps shorter. (10 steps)
The Court of Israel (men's court) was west of the Women's Court and was part of the sacred inner court of the Temple. It was a rectangular area that was just inside the eastern wall of the sacred Temple court. It covered half the area from the eastern wall and the Great Altar, and it was slightly lower in elevation than the Priest's Court to its west, where the offerings were made.
Herod's Temple according to Josephus
(My notes added in italic)
Antiquities of the Jews - Book 15 Ch 11
3. So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them, being in length a hundred cubits, and in height twenty additional cubits, which [twenty], upon the sinking of their foundations (23) fell down; and this part it was that we resolved to raise again in the days of Nero. Now the temple was built of stones that were white and strong, and each of their length was twenty-five cubits, their height was eight, and their breadth about twelve; and the whole structure, as also the structure of the royal cloister, was on each side much lower, but the middle was much higher, till they were visible to those that dwelt in the country for a great many furlongs, but chiefly to such as lived over against them, and those that approached to them. The temple had doors also at the entrance, and lintels over them, of the same height with the temple itself. They were adorned with embroidered veils, with their flowers of purple, and pillars interwoven; and over these, but under the crown-work, was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and fine workmanship of which was a surprising sight to the spectators, to see what vast materials there were, and with what great skill the workmanship was done.
He also encompassed the entire temple with
very large cloisters, contriving them to be in a due proportion thereto;
and he laid out larger sums of money upon them than had been done before
him, till it seemed that no one else had so greatly adorned the temple
as he had done.
There was a large wall to both the cloisters, which wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man.
The hill was a rocky ascent, that declined by degrees towards the east parts of the city, till it came to an elevated level.
This hill it was which Solomon, who was the first of our kings, by Divine revelation, encompassed with a wall; it was of excellent workmanship upwards, and round the top of it."
He also built a wall below, beginning at the bottom, which was encompassed
by a deep valley; and at the south side he laid rocks together,
and bound them one to another with lead, and included some of the inner
parts, till it proceeded to a great height, and till both the largeness
of the square edifice and its altitude
were immense, and till the vastness of the stones in the front were plainly
visible on the outside, yet so that the inward parts were fastened together
with iron, and preserved the joints immovable for all future
When this work [for the foundation] was done in this manner, and joined together as part of the hill itself to the very top of it, he wrought it all into one outward surface, and filled up the hollow places which were about the wall, and made it a level on the external upper surface, and a smooth level also.
This hill was walled all round, and in compass four furlongs,
[the distance of] each angle containing in length a furlong:
The Roman foot at 29.6 centimeters (11.7 inches).but within this wall, and on the very top of all, there ran another wall of stone also, having, on the east quarter, a double cloister (Nicanor gate), of the same length with the wall; in the midst of which was the temple itself. (Inner wall and double inner east gate.) This cloister looked (faced) to the (inner)gates of the temple; and it had been adorned by many kings in former times; and round about the entire temple were fixed the spoils taken from barbarous nations; all these had been dedicated to the temple by Herod, with the addition of those he had taken from the Arabians.
This is equivalent to 606.95 feet, 202.32 yards, or 185.00 meters.
the Roman mile would have been 1480 meters or 4856 feet. 1/8 of that would equal 607 feet for a furlong according to the Roman measurement.) Making a Roman furlong about 185 meters.
5. Now in the western quarters of the enclosure of the temple
there were four gates;
the first led to the king's palace, and went to a passage over the intermediate valley; (Wilson's Gate)
two more led to the suburbs of the city; (Two lower gates)
and the last led to the other city, where the road descended down into the valley, by a great number of steps, (Robinson's Arch) and thence up again by the ascent for the city lay over against (across from) the temple in the manner of a theater, and was encompassed with a deep valley along the entire south quarter;
but the fourth front of the temple, which was southward, had indeed itself gates in its middle, as also it had the royal cloisters, with three walks, which reached in length from the east valley unto that on the west, for it was impossible it should reach any farther: and this cloister (covered area. Court of the gentiles) deserves to be mentioned better than any other under the sun; for while the (Kidron) valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen, if you looked from above into the depth, this further vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon that height, insomuch that if any one looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both those altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.
This cloister had pillars that stood in four rows one over against (across from or opposite of) the other all along, for the fourth row was interwoven into the wall, which [also was built of stone]; and the thickness of each pillar was such, that three men might, with their arms extended, fathom it round, and join their hands again, while its length was twenty-seven feet (High), with a double spiral at its basis; and the number of all the pillars [in that court] was a hundred and sixty-two. Their chapiters were made with sculptures after the Corinthian order, and caused an amazement [to the spectators], by reason of the grandeur of the whole.
These four rows of pillars included three intervals (isles) for walking in the middle of this cloister; two of which walks were made parallel to each other, and were contrived after the same manner; the breadth (width) of each of them was thirty feet, the length was a furlong, (1/8 of a mile or 600 ft.) and the height fifty feet; but the breadth of the middle part of the cloister was one and a half of the other, (45 feet wide) and the height was double, for it was much higher than those on each side; but the roofs were adorned with deep sculptures in wood, representing many sorts of figures. The middle was much higher than the rest, and the wall of the front was adorned with beams, resting upon pillars, that were interwoven into it, and that front was all of polished stone, insomuch that its fineness, to such as had not seen it, was incredible, and to such as had seen it, was greatly amazing. Thus was the first enclosure. (Court of the Gentiles)
In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps: this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in under pain of death (Sorag). Now this inner enclosure had on its southern and northern quarters three gates [equally] distant one from another; but on the east quarter, towards the sun-rising, there was one large gate (East gate), through which such as were pure came in, together with their wives; but the temple further inward (Inner courts) in that gate (Nicanor gate) was not allowed to the women; but still more inward was there a third [court of the] temple, whereinto it was not lawful for any but the priests alone to enter. The temple itself was within this; and before that temple was the altar, upon which we offer our sacrifices and burnt-offerings to God. Into none of these three did king Herod enter, (24) for he was forbidden, because he was not a priest. However, he took care of the cloisters and the outer enclosures, and these he built in eight years.
6. But the temple itself was built by the priests in a year and six months; upon which all the people were full of joy; and presently they returned thanks, in the first place, to God; and in the next place, for the alacrity the king had showed. They feasted and celebrated this rebuilding of the temple: and for the king, he sacrificed three hundred oxen to God, as did the rest every one according to his ability; the number of which sacrifices is not possible to set down, for it cannot be that we should truly relate it; for at the same time with this celebration for the work about the temple fell also the day of the king's inauguration, which he kept of an old custom as a festival, and it now coincided with the other, which coincidence of them both made the festival most illustrious.
Tractate Talmid of the Mishnah describes the daily work of the priests in detail. The priests who served in the Temple slept in a dormitory called the Hearth Room because of the fireplace that kept the sleeping quarters warm (Gemara, Yoma 20b). The Hearth Room was built into the eastern part of the northern wall that surrounded the sacred precinct of the Temple proper. It extended partly into the sacred area, while the part that was within the wall was considered to be outside the sacred area. Within the sacred precinct, the priests were required to be in a state of ritual purity, so the dormitory had its own mikvah or ritual bath in a lower chamber outside the sacred precinct.
Steps of the women's court
In the Temple they were played with the temple ensemble and other instruments on the fifteen steps (maalot) (Mishan, Suka, 5:4) on the feast of simchat bet hashoeva and also below ezrat Israel (court of the Men) and open to to the ezra of the women (court of the women) (Mishna, Midot, 2:6). The 15 steps in the Court of the Women were shallower than all the others (Josephus-War 5.206). The fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Psalms were sung by the Levites on the steps.
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