HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







A Day In The Temple by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

It was after the sixth hour on an early Ellul-day in the year of Rome 748, that two lonesome travelers were journeying eastward, from Ain-Karim to Jerusalem. One was an old man, well stricken in years, while his companion had hardly reached the age of the early oriental manhood. Though not clad in any distinctively priestly dress—for such was worn only in the Temple at actual service—Zachary and Samuel may be recognized at first sight as belonging to the sacerdotal caste. Had all Jehovah’s priests been as just and faithful to their duty as Zachary had been all the days of his life, Malachy would have had no reason to upbraid the priestly generation of his time, for turning aside from the way and causing many to stumble in the law.

Their journey may be divided into three parts of nearly equal length. For the first two miles the road ascends and winds over a high plateau, past the village Beit-Masmile. Then follows an undulating road, nearly three miles in length, across the Wadys Diab, Badawieh and Madineh. An easy walk of two miles more would have brought them to the northwestern corner-gate of the Holy City, had they been willing to avail themselves of the straight road.

Zachary is so wrapped up in his own thoughts, that he is alike insensible to the heat of a Syrian September sun, to the luscious fruits of the extensive vineyards at both sides of the road, and to the view of the Holy City, with its surrounding hills and mountains. It is, however, a glimpse rather than an impressive view of Jerusalem, which presents itself to the eye of the traveler on the high plateau—more than two thousand feet above the Mediterranean—across which our friends pass in silence. All this and much more is seen and enjoyed by the youthful Samuel, Zachary’s ward and presumptive heir. He notices in the vineyards especially all the particulars which he has often read in Isaiah’s description of them: “My well beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he made a trench about it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed out a winepress therein.”

On the hill-tops, he compares the extensive western view with the limited eastern one. The former extends over the Mediterranean and suggests the world-embracing power of the Romans; the latter offers only a part of Jerusalem, and is cut off by the blue mountain ranges of Moab, most potent reminders of Egypt and Babylon. The questions concerning Daniel’s seventy weeks and Jacob’s prophecy that until the Messiah’s coming the scepter should not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, naturally revive with new vigor in Samuel’s active and ardent mind.

One thought, however, overpowers all his other reflections. In that city lives Herod, the murderer of his grandfather Josiah, the deadly enemy of his father Ananiah, and the destroyer of his family. He himself would not have been allowed to return to Jerusalem, had not Matthiah pleaded for him at Herod’s court. The old question, too, over which he has so often pondered, comes back to his mind: Why had his father Ananiah to flee to Babylon, while Zachary, his father’s brother, was left unmolested?

“Son,” replies Zachary, “when my father lost his life soon after Herod’s accession, I was already known among my friends and acquaintances as the childless. Herod intended to disgrace and blot out our family forever; all its members who had hope of offspring were slain, unless they saved themselves by flight. I was spared, not through mercy, but through hatred. My childlessness was to be the final disgrace of our ruined house.”

Now another object invites our attention. Close by the road Zachary points to the Upper Pool and the Fuller’s Field, places hallowed by Isaiah’s renowned prophecy given to Ahaz: “Behold the virgin is with child, and beareth a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

“Mar,” says Samuel, “why do our people consider virginity a reproach? Will not the Messiah be a virgin’s son?”

“In Judea,” interrupts Zachary, “we are not called ‘Mar,’ but ‘Rabbi;’ it is not expedient to betray thy Babylonian origin and training to every master in Israel.”

“With others,” replies Samuel, “I shall be most careful about the choice of my words. As to thee, Mar, I cannot change my life-long habit of speech and thought. Thou shouldst seem a stranger to me, were I to call thee Rabbi. But thou hast not yet answered my question.”

“In the Messiah,” answers Zachary, “the Lord will create a new thing on the earth: a woman shall encompass a man. Yet, all this will be accomplished in such a way, that the Messiah will be as the dew of heaven, the offspring of the heavenly mother.”

“If the Messiah is not to be the offspring of wedlock, the barren should not be despised as they are,” interposed Samuel; “nor should Elizabeth thy wife consider ‘barren’ a name of opprobrium. It afflicts my very soul to see how she shortens her days by grief over her childlessness.”

‘Alas, my son, there are more reasons than the one thou allegest for considering barrenness an evil and a reproach. The barren do not fullfil the creator’s wish: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth;’ they do not share God’s blessing promised to Moses on condition of Israel’s fidelity to Jehovah: ‘There shall none cast her young, nor be barren in the land;’ on the barren too rests Isaiah’s curse hurled against Babylon: ‘These two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children and widowhood.’ ”

Samuel is deeply moved by Zachary’s sigh of grief. Only once before has he seen his father by adoption in such a state of sorrow, when a few days ago an inconsiderate chiefpriest spurned the old man’s services asking: “How canst thou, childless though thou be, presume to stand among those blessed with offspring? Thy works are an abomination before the Lord, since he has deemed thee unworthy of fatherhood; for cursed is every one who has not begot a male or female in Israel.”

“Am I not thy brother’s son,” Samuel suggests as another motive of consolation, “and the offspring of Elizabeth’s sister Ismeria? In every Levirate marriage one’s brother’s seed is considered as one’s own; and similar legal adoption has taken place in our own priestly family.”

Zachary has meanwhile regained his habitual composure of manner. “When God hath tried me,” he repeats after holy Job, “I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held fast to his steps; his way have I kept, and turned not aside. I have not gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured up the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth that which he appointed for me. But, my son,” Zachary continues, “I am greatly perplexed at thy great ignorance of our priestly ancestry. Knowest thou not that no son of Aaron can minister in the Temple of Jehovah, unless he produces the proof of his sacerdotal pedigree? The children of Habaiah, of Hakkoz and of Barzillai who returned from Babylon, were deemed polluted and put from the priesthood, because they sought their registers among those that were reckoned by genealogy, and they were not found.”

Our travelers have now reached the immediate vicinity of the western gate, corresponding to the Joppa Gate of to-day. A line of camels takes up for the moment all its available space. They meekly follow their leader striding on before them in white headdress and byssus shirt, with bare legs, carrying a bundle on his back, and holding a cord from the nose of the foremost camel in one hand, and a water bottle in the other. Several grave turbaned figures rest in the shade of a solitary olive tree, seated on the ground, and reclining in all the delight of idleness on their crossed legs. Roman soldiers and palace guards stand at the gate or lean against the city wall, jesting and conversing in a barbarous tongue.

To the right of the gate, in full view of the new arrivals, there stands the magnificent palace of Herod, on the very site of David’s royal castle. Situated on the northwestern angle of Mount Zion, it is sheltered by the towers Hippicus, Phasælus and Mariamne, all compactly built of immense marble blocks, square, strongly fortified, and defended by battlements and turrets. The towers have been erected by Herod, and named after his friend and his brother lost in battle, and after his favorite wife killed through jealousy.

This gentile portion of the Holy City has been the repeated theme of Pharisaic complaint. Jerusalem must be Levitically purer than any other city of the promised land; the paschal lamb, the thank offerings, the second tithes may be eaten only in Jerusalem. No dead body may remain in the city overnight; no sepulchres are within, except those containing members of the house of David and that of the prophetess Hulda. No domestic fowls may be kept, no vegetable gardens planted, no furnace built. A favorite saying of the Rabbis has it: “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.”

We cannot blame Zachary and his youthful companion for avoiding the western gate and the gentile quarter of the city. Turning to the right, they pass along the western side of the city, by the Lower Pool and enter, south of Jerusalem, the pleasant valley of Hinnom, now the figure of the place of future torment. This southern valley meets another and a deeper ravine which sweeps around the eastern side of the city, and separates it also on its northern side from the rocky plateau of which it forms a part. Well might the old inhabitants of Jebus look proudly down upon David and his host appearing under their walls; well might they exult in the strength of their everlasting gates, as they sent to David the mocking message: “Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither.” What followed is well known. Joab first climbed that steep ascent, and won the chieftainship of David’s hosts, and the everlasting gates lifted up their heads, and Israel’s kings dwelt in the stronghold of Zion, and called it the “City of David.”

But it is not the verdure of Hinnom nor the darkness of the Kedron valley that interest Zachary and Samuel on their roundabout way into Jerusalem. The point they have last touched in conversation, is too vitally connected with the young Aaronite’s immediate future to be dismissed without further discussion. Samuel is about to assume the regular duties of the priesthood, and must therefore above and before all else produce evidence of his priestly descent.

“I meant to say, Mar,” resumes Samuel, “that our family has been substituted in place of Abijah’s family, and that we are, therefore, legally considered the offspring of Abijah.”

“My son,” replies Zachary, “thou only showest more clearly that thou dost not fully understand the history of the priestly families. The Book of Days gives us the first clear outline of our genealogical divisions. The courses of the sons of Aaron were these: the sons of Aaron, Nedab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. But Nedab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children; therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priestly office. And David with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to their ordering in their service. And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar, and thus were they divided: of the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen heads of fathers’ houses; and of the sons of Ithamar, according to their fathers’ houses, eight. Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for there were princes of the sanctuary and princes of God, both of the sons of Eleazar and of the sons of Ithamar.

“Do our genealogical records reach back to the period of David?” here inquires Samuel.

“Shemaiah the son of Nethanel the scribe, who was of the Levites,” answers Zachary, “wrote them in the presence of the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the priests and of the Levites; one father’s house being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar. Now the first lot came forth to Jehojarib, the second to Jedajah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, the fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, the ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah, the eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim, the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab, the fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, the seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Happizzez, the nineteenth to Petahiah, the twentieth to Jehezkel, the one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul, the three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah. This, my son, was the ordering of them in their service, to come into the house of the Lord according to the ordinance given unto them by the hand of Aaron their father, as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded him.”

“Before David’s time our genealogical registers must have been greatly confused,” observes Samuel.

“My son,” patiently corrects Zachary, “king David was not the first to divide the priests into definite courses; the tradition of our fathers traces a similar division up to Moses, who is variously supposed to have arranged the sons of Aaron into eight or sixteen courses, 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 which I mentioned a moment ago.”

“Thou hast as yet said nothing of the Botte-Aboth or subdivisions, Mar,” interrupts Samuel, “into which each of the twenty-four main divisions seems to be split up.”

“The twenty-four courses,” explains Zachary, “were at first called Machlekoth or divisions, Botte-Aboth or houses of fathers, Mishmaroth or watches. The first name merely indicates the generic idea of division; the second signifies that the division is made according to families; the third name denotes the office or service which each division is obliged to render in the Temple for a week at a time, whenever its turn of ministry demands it. The week of service, now as formerly, extends from Sabbath to Sabbath, the outgoing course offering the morning sacrifice, the entering course renewing the shew-bread and performing all the subsequent duties. On the Sabbath itself the whole course ministers; on feast-days any priest belonging to any of the twenty-four courses is admitted for service; on the Feast of Tabernacles all the twenty-four courses are on duty.”

“Great, indeed,” exclaims Samuel, “and impressive to behold must be the solemnity sustained by the sacerdotal functions of so many thousand priests. Truly may our Doctors say that he has never seen joy who has not seen the gladness of the Feast of Tabernacles.” After this reflection Samuel draws Zachary’s attention to the fact that he has not yet explained the priests’ division into families.

“The service of the week is divided,” resumes Zachary, “among the various families which constitute a course or Mishmar. If the course on duty consists of five families, three serve each one day of the week, and two each two days; if of six families, five serve each one day, and one two days; if of eight families, six serve each one day, and the other two jointly on one day, or if lastly of nine families, five serve each one day, and the four others serve in pairs on two days. All the particulars regarding the weekly service are arranged by the Sarim or princes of the courses, and the Rashim or heads of the families. For as Mishmar denotes a whole course, and Beth-Ab a single family belonging to the course, so Rosh-Hammishmar and Rosh-Beth-Ab signify the chief of a course and of a family respectively.”

“Malachy’s command,” observes Samuel, “that the priests’ lips should keep knowledge, and that all should seek the law at his mouth has not been neglected by thee; being about to enter the number of messengers of the Lord, I must endeavor to follow thy good example not less than thy verbal instructions. But it pains me exceedingly to see thee so weak and feeble. Thy ill-health seemed to all of us a sufficient excuse for not going up to the Temple.”

“Son,” says Zachary, “the time of our Temple-service is a sacred time. The Law enjoins that priests come up to Jerusalem at the due seasons, properly washed and attired. While actually on service in the Temple, we are not allowed to drink wine, either by day or by night. The families of the course in attendance at Jerusalem which are not actually on duty, are also prohibited the use of wine except by night. Those priests who stay away, or are prevented from going up to Jerusalem at the time prescribed, must meet in the synagogues of their district, and pray and fast each day of their week of service, except on the sixth, the seventh and the first. For the Sabbath-joy prevents a fast not only on the day itself but also on the day preceding and following it. How then can I exempt myself from Jehovah’s special service, when the whole course of Abijah fills the holy places of the Lord, and sings morning and evening the canticles of our fathers?”

“Ezra tells us,” here interrupts Samuel, “that only four courses of priests returned from the Babylonian captivity: the children of Jedajah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three; the children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two; the children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven; the children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen. Thou didst tell me a short while ago that our priestly clan has not been legally adopted instead of Abijah’s course which did not return from Babylon. How then can we belong to the course of Abijah?”

“Only the children of Jedajah, Immer, Pashur and Harim, numbering in all four thousand two hundred and eighty-nine men returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon,” explains Zachary. “But Nehemiah mentions as many as twenty-two chiefs of the priests at the time of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. The same classes of divisions are met with at the time of Jeshua’s successor Jojakim the high priest. Even some eighty years later the above four families comprised the whole body of the priesthood, as we learn from Ezra who is believed to have brought two more courses of priests with him from Babylon. Shortly after, Nehemiah enumerates twenty-one heads of priests, but only fourteen of these names are identical with the names of the previous lists. The organization of the priestly courses must, therefore, have undergone certain modifications in those times, so that the tradition of our fathers regarding this matter is in keeping with the records of the Ketubim.”

“What thou sayest, Mar,” interrupts Samuel, “renders it still more evident that without adoption the members of our course could never have been said to belong to Abijah. Or must I assume that Abijah’s return from Babylon is one of the modifications delivered to us by the tradition of the fathers?”

“Only four courses of service came back from the exile, my son,” eagerly responds Zachary, “viz.: Jedajah, Harim, Pashur and Immer. But the prophets that were among them arose and made twenty-four lots and put them into an urn. And Jedajah came up and drew five lots, which, including himself, would make six. And Pashur came and drew five lots, which, including himself, would made six. And Immer came and drew five lots, which, including himself, would make six. And Harim came and drew five lots, which, including himself, would make six. Then heads of the courses of service were appointed. And the courses were divided into houses. And there were courses consisting of five, six, seven, eight or nine houses. The ancient names were also given to the twenty-four new courses thus formed; thus we are only in name of the course of Abijah, though really we do not belong to that family, even by legal adoption.”

While thus discussing their priestly pedigree, Zachary and Samuel reach the lower part of Mount Olivet. The first impression Jerusalem makes on one coming from the north, west, or south, may be summed up in the simple expression of a modern traveler: “I am strangely affected, but greatly disappointed.” But the approach to Jerusalem from the east is really grand. By this way came sixty years before the period now under consideration, the first western army that ever confronted the Holy City, under the leadership of Pompey; by this way too Jesus will enter in triumph on that celebrated tenth day of Nisan, some thirty years from now.

“Great is the Lord,” breaks out Zachary, “and highly to be praised, in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion; on the sides of the north, the city of the great king.”

“Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters of Jerusalem rejoice,” responds Samuel; “walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”

“I was glad when they said unto me,” re-echoed Zachary, “let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem; Jerusalem, thou art builded as a city that is compact together: whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord, for a testimony unto Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.”

“Mar,” says Samuel, “how do these thy words apply to the Holy City?”

“How canst thou fail to understand their meaning, when their practical application is before thy very eyes? Thou seest the deep ravines of Hinnom and of the Kedron encircling the city on three sides, like a natural fosse. Only over yonder, at its northwestern side, is the city bound as it were to the mainland. Thou seest also the four hills on which Jerusalem is built: the deep Tyropœon, first runs from south to north, separating Mount Zion to the west, from Mount Moriah to the east; then turning sharply westward, it separates Mount Zion to the south from Mount Acra to the north; the Hasmonæan valley similarly divides Mount Acra to the west from Bezetha to the east, while an artificial fosse separates Mount Moriah to the south from Bezetha to the north. Truly then might the royal prophet sing: ‘Jerusalem, thou art builded as a city joined companion-like together.’ ”

Zachary might equally well have referred the words “mark well her bulwarks, consider her palaces” to Jerusalem alone. Though the whole city is only about thirty-three stadia, or nearly four miles, in circumference, it has the appearance of an immense natural fortress. The deep valleys form so many natural moats, making of the four hills a series of fortress islands. Besides all this, there are at the time we now speak of, two city walls: the first runs from the western colonnade of the Temple on Mount Moriah along the northern brow of Zion, to the tower Hippicus, then along the west and south of Zion, and continues eastward till it merges into the southeastern angle of the Temple. Thus it defends Zion, Ophel, and together with the Temple walls, also Moriah. The second wall runs from the gate Genath, first north, then east, and terminates at the tower Antonia, at the northwest corner of the Temple. The first wall is further defended by sixty towers, the second wall by forty. Hippicus, Phasaelus and Mariamne have been named already as being situated on the northwestern side of Zion. The reshaped tower of Antonia, seventy cubits high, is placed on a rocky elevation of fifty cubits, at the northwestern angle of the Temple. It communicates with the castle of Antonia by a double set of cloisters, with the Temple itself by a subterranean passage and also by stairs descending into the western porches of the Court of Gentiles. By this way, the chief captain Lysias, will rush to the rescue of St. Paul in order to save him from the infuriated multitude of Jewish zealots.

But Jerusalem is not merely a fortress, but also a city of palaces. In the whole civilized world there is no city like Jerusalem for architectural splendor. Syrian Antioch, imperial Rome and classic Athens have to yield in this respect to Zion and Moriah. High up, on the northwestern side of Mount Zion, which itself rises more than seventy cubits above Mount Moriah, though it is about sixty-six cubits lower than the summit of Mount Olivet, stands the royal palace of Herod, on the ancient site of the castle of David. The high priest’s palace crowns the opposite or northeastern height of Mount Zion. On the eastern brow, south of the high priest’s palace, is the immense Xystus, extending deep into the Tyropœon valley. Surrounded by a covered colonnade, it serves as a place of public meeting, whenever great numbers are to be addressed. Near by is David’s ancient palace; here the Maccabees have held their sway, and soon Agrippa will be master. Again, in its rear, stands Bernice’s palace. On the southern slope of Mount Acra is the Repository of the Archives, and opposite it, on the other side of the cleft, probably abutting on the Temple, we see the council chamber of the Sanhedrin. Palaces of foreign princes, especially of such as have become Jewish proselytes, cover the heights of Mount Acra. The Hippodrome, south of the Temple on Mount Moriah, and the great sheep market, on the southeastern corner of the Temple, the Amphitheater, in the far northwestern part of the city, and the four hundred and eighty synagogues built in various quarters throughout Jerusalem, the magnificent pillars and monuments, the pools of Siloam and Bethesda, and finally the innumerable public buildings that adorn every street and thoroughfare, are too well known to need description. “Mark well her bulwarks, consider her palaces, that ye may tell the generation following.”

But in this city of marble and cedar-covered palaces, the Temple-mount stands alone and unrivaled in its grandeur. Terrace upon terrace its courts ascend, and on its summit stands the Temple itself, high above the city, in the midst of marble cloisters, richly ornamented, while the brightness of its gold-plated walls blinds the spectator with its radiance when beheld in the light of the rising sun.

“I was glad when they said unto me,” repeats Samuel, “let us go into the house of the Lord; our feet are standing within thy gates. How is it adorned with goodly stones and offerings! What manner of stones, and what manner of buildings!”

“Alas,” sighs Zachary, “who is left among us that saw this house in its former glory? and how do we see it now? is it not in our eyes as nothing?”

“If thou quotest the prophet,” replies Samuel, “thou must quote the whole prophet. ‘Yet now be strong all ye people of the land, for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts; yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land, and I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.’ ”

“Whatever future glory may be in store for the house of the Lord,” answers Zachary, “the words of Asaph have been verified for the present: O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy Temple have they defiled. And though they have not laid Jerusalem on heaps, nor given the dead bodies of thy servants to be meat unto the fowls of heaven, or the flesh of thy saints to the beasts of the earth, still we are become a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us. How long, O Lord! wilt thou be angry for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the kingdoms that call not upon thy name.”

Samuel sincerely confesses that he does not understand the reason of Zachary’s lamentation. “Is not the Temple rebuilt more magnificently than ever? is not even now Herod priding himself in the splendor and magnificence of the Lord’s house? and are not those hundreds of workmen and masons who busily swarm around the outer wall, engaged in beautifying and enlarging the special inheritance of Jehovah?”

“Truly,” says Zachary, “thy bones are full of the foolishness of thy youth. When fourteen years ago Herod began the work of building, priests and people rose up in a body and protested against his bold attempt. A thousand priests were, however, provided with new sacerdotal garments, and some of them were instructed in the arts of stonecutters and carpenters; then ten thousand most skilled workmen were selected, one thousand wagons gotten ready and the Temple of Zerubbabel was pulled down, part after part.”

“Mar,” says Samuel, “if thou speakest truth, what shall become of the prophecy of Haggai, according to which the latter glory of the second Temple is to be greater than that of the first? do not our teachers tell us that this greater glory will result from the presence of king Messiah in the second Temple? and now the second Temple has passed away, and king Messiah has not entered it.”

“Son,” replies Zachary, “be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God. When this house of Jehovah was building, they made curtains for the Temple and curtains for the court; and then they built the walls of the Temple outside the curtains, but those of the court inside the curtains. Thus the ordinances of the worship were continued while the Temple was building; the sacrifices were not interrupted, nor were any of the sacred vessels and implements displaced. During the same time it did not rain in the day-time, but the showers fell in the night, so that the work was not hindered. Thus the Temple itself, Holy of Holies, Holy and Vestibule, were built by the priests in a year and six months, upon which all the people were full of joy. And presently they returned thanks to God. They feasted and celebrated this restoration of the Temple, and were especially glad that the continuance of God’s house had not been interrupted. The king himself sacrificed three hundred oxen to God, and the rest, every one according to his ability. The number of these sacrifices I cannot give, for no one could count them.”

“And was there hammer or axe or tool of iron heard, while the Lord’s house was building?” asks Samuel.

“The house was built of stone,” replies Zachary, “made ready in the quarry; and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building.”

Zachary’s answer was, no doubt, perfectly intelligible to Samuel. Had he not often been told that when his grandfather Josiah, together with the members of the Sanhedrin, was slain by Herod’s servants, his father Ananiah had been concealed in the quarry for three days? It was owing to the exertions of Zachary that Ananiah escaped from that den, now called the “Cotton Grotto,” and situated near the present Gate of Damascus. In 1852 an opening was accidentally discovered in a rubbish heap. One could enter it only by stooping and letting oneself drop down to the floor. Of late, the rubbish heap has been cleared away. First, one sees a rough floor of earth, and then solid rock. Huge stones lie scattered about in the heart of the quarry with mason’s marks abounding on them. The marks appear so fresh that one quite fancies it must be dinner hour, and the workmen will return ere long. A huge mass of stone chippings makes it plain that the stones were dressed in this place. And those red marks! Early explorers of the foundation walls of the Temple were sorely puzzled over the mysterious letters and marks found in the tunnels which they drove along the ancient groundworks. Now we understand the Phenician lettering and numbering, containing instructions for the masons where to lay each stone. Did Herod employ Phenician workmen at the Temple, or must all of these Phenician builder directions be referred back to about three thousand years ago, when Solomon erected his Temple under the supervision of Hiram? The modern estimate that the weight of single stones in the foundation walls amounts to a hundred tons, and that their length is in several instances thirty-eight feet nine inches, fully explains Samuel’s admiration of the stones.

“Lord, I have called upon thee; make haste unto me,” exclaims Zachary. “Let my prayer be set forth as incense before thee; the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”

The smoke of the evening sacrifice is even now curling up slowly against the blue western sky. The music of the sacred services is wafted across the Kedron valley and re-echoes on the heights of Mount Olivet.

“Truly,” rejoins Samuel, “thou leddest them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. The pillar of cloud departed not from over them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go.”

“Forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not,” continued Zachary; “nor has thy care over thy people ceased, since they are in possession of the land. Never has adverse accident interrupted the services of the sanctuary, nor profaned the offerings. Never has rain extinguished the fire on the altar, nor contrary wind driven back the smoke of the sacrifices. Never has the crowd of worshipers wanted room to bow down before Jehovah and to worship before the God of Israel. Never has any one in Jerusalem lacked the means of celebrating the Passover, nor has any pilgrim lacked a bed on which to rest. Never has serpent or scorpion hurt within the precincts of the Holy City, nor did ever fire or ruin desolate her streets. Verily, the Lord dwelleth in safety by Benjamin, and Judah hath been brought in unto his people.”

“Mar,” says Samuel, “the words of Moses proceeding from thy mouth, have ever been a riddle to me. Why is it said of Benjamin that the beloved of the Lord dwelleth in safety by him? and of Judah that the Lord will bring him unto his people?”

How can a youth understand the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death,” replies Zachary, “unless it be explained to him by the mouth of the ancients? Know then and understand that the porch, the sanctuary of the Temple and the altar of burnt-offerings are in Benjamin, while the courts of the women, of the Israelites and of the priests are situated in the lot of Judah. Hence the Lord and his beloved dwell in safety by Benjamin, and the congregation of the faithful is brought together in Judah.”

“Surely,” exclaims Samuel, “Solomon was wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda the sons of Mahol. Still I cannot understand why he built the Temple on such an uneven place. We were told in the Beth-Middrash that the summit of Moriah is one hundred and eight cubits higher than the ridge of the rock at the northeast angle of the Temple-mount, and one hundred cubits higher than the rock at its northwest angle, and one hundred and nine cubits higher than the same rock at the southwest corner. Why, nearly the whole platform on which it stands, seems to be raised by means of walls, arches and huge stone pillars.”

“My son,” replies Zachary in a tone of mild rebuke, “the knowledge of the Greeks and Gentiles is growing, but the memory of our prophets is daily decreasing. Do we not read in the Book of Samuel that Gad the prophet came to David, and said to him: ‘Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite?’ So David bought the threshing-floor, and built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. And when Solomon erected the house of the Lord, he built it over the same threshing-floor of Araunah. But as all threshing-floors are on the highest points of hills and ridges, so was Araunah’s on the very summit of Moriah. Nor could the height be cut down to obtain a large area for the intended Temple. That summit was sacred; for the angel of the Lord had stood on it, when David prayed unto the Lord to stay the pestilence that carried off seventy thousand men of Israel within the space of three days. The huge wall, the arches and the other supports became thus absolutely necessary, if the newly erected Temple was to leave the threshing-floor intact.”

“There are other questions, Mar,” continued Samuel, “that have frequently perplexed me, and no one has given me a clear answer. In the Psalms we read, ‘There is a river the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.’ And again, ‘They that sing as well as they that dance shall say, all my fountains are in thee.’ Isaiah, too, speaks of drawing water out of the wells of salvation, and Ezekiel is most explicit of all in maintaining that the Temple of the Lord should abound in water: ‘And he brought me back unto the door of the house; and behold waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward. And the waters came down from under, from the right side of the house, on the south of the altar. Then brought he me out by the way of the gate northward, and led me round by the way without, unto the outer gate, by the way of the gate that looketh toward the east; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. When the man went forth eastward with the line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he caused me to pass through the waters, waters that were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and caused me to pass through the waters, waters that were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand and caused me to pass though the waters, waters that were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass through; for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.”

“Son,” replies Zachary, “this is not a question of words and names. You learn in the Beth-Midrash too much Gentile wisdom which puffeth up without satisfying the spirit. Do not the Psalms and the Prophets typify every kind of blessing by water? As, therefore, the source of a stream is the cause of growth and fruitfulness, and beauty to the whole adjacent plain, so is the Temple the only source of temporal and spiritual blessings, which God’s goodness has bestowed on our nation, and on the world at large. Isaiah points out the principal source whence even our Temple receives its power of benediction. For the wells of salvation are none other than the merits and the graces of the king Messiah.”

“In reality, then, the Temple is placed on a thirsty hill,” infers Samuel from Zachary’s typical explanation; “I had always imagined that Mount Moriah was really to Jerusalem what pure water is to a thirsty soul.”

“The Scriptures may be said to be true even in a material and literal sense,” resumes the old priest; “yonder, across the brook at our feet, is the Pool of Siloam. We see its length and its width, thirty-four cubits by twelve, but its depth is hidden from our view. At its north end, a small tunnel opens in the rock, bringing the water from the fountain Rogel, on the border line between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Now this is the history of the tunnel which brings the water from Rogel to Siloam, down in the valley, through a passage measuring eleven hundred and forty cubits, though the straight course is only seven hundred and thirty-six cubits. While the excavators were lifting up the pick, each towards the other, and while there were yet three cubits to be broken through, the voice of one called to his neighbor—for there was an excess in the rock on the right. They rose up, they struck on the west of the excavation, the excavators struck, each to meet the other, pick to pick. And then flowed the waters from their outlet to the pool, for a distance of a thousand cubits, and three-fourths of a cubit was the height of the rock over the excavation. At its lowest, however the tunnel runs one hundred and four cubits below the surface.”

“Here, then, is Rogel at which the faithful Jonathan and Achimaas stayed and learned from a maid the counsel Chusai had given to Absalom,” observes Samuel, speaking to himself rather than to his companion.

“Isaiah too speaks of that fountain,” adds Zachary, “and represents it as a symbol of David’s royal house, when he says: ‘The people hath cast away the waters of Siloam that go softly.’ For thou must remember that the slope of the tunnel is very gentle, so that the water always flows very leisurely. Nehemiah, describing how he went out by night to view the walls of Jerusalem, calls Rogel the dragon-fountain.”

“Behold, Mar, those women with the water jars disappear within the fountain,” exclaims Samuel.

“Where thou seest the women descend,” quietly remarks Zachary, “there are two flights of steps hewn in the rock, which lead down to the water. Though the water seems to issue from under the second step, it is really believed to come from under the Temple. Hence, thou understandest, my son, why on the Feast of Tabernacles, at the time of the morning sacrifice, a priest accompanied by a joyous procession with music, goes down to the Pool of Siloam, to draw three logs of water in a golden pitcher. When his brethren carry up the pieces of the victim to lay them on the altar, the priest re-enters the Water-Gate, and is received by a threefold blast of the silver trumpets. He then ascends the altar and turns to the left, where there are two silver basins with narrow holes—the eastern somewhat wide for the wine, and the western narrower for the water. Into these the wine of the drink-offering is poured, and at the same time the water from Siloam. Meanwhile the people cries out to the priest: ‘Raise thy hand.’ For they are anxious to see the water flowing into the basin.”

“You do not imply, Mar,” resumed Samuel, “that the whole water supply of the Temple is drawn from Rogel and the Pool of Siloam? A single fountain cannot furnish all the water daily used in the sacred service and satisfy, besides, the needs of all the water-carriers who are even now surrounding Rogel.”

“Our understanding, son, is not the limit of the power of nature or of God, Still, thou rightly supposest that there is another source of water supply in the Temple besides Rogel. Of the latter I have spoken first, because its waters best illustrate the living waters which Ezekiel saw proceeding from under the Temple. The aqueduct which supplies the Temple is more than three hundred and twenty stadia in length, and derives its waters from three sources; from the hills about Hebron, from Ethan, and from the three pools of Solomon. The abundance of the supply may be gathered from the following facts which were communicated to us last year, at the season of the long drought, in order to allay our fear for the sacrificial supply. The overflow of Ethan, when drained into the Lower Pool of Gihon, presents an area of nearly four acres of water. Besides, the whole Temple-mount is perfectly honey-combed with rock-hewn cisterns, in which the water from Solomon’s pools, near Bethlehem, is stored. The cisterns are connected by a series of channels cut in the rock, so that when one is full, the water runs into the next, and so on, till the final overflow is carried off by a channel into the Kedron. One of the cisterns, called the Great Sea, contains two million gallons, and the total number of gallons that can be stored exceeds ten millions.”

Here the conversation of our friends is suddenly interrupted by a scene peculiar to Jerusalem. A group of persons approaches the tomb of Absolom, dragging with them two wayward boys, apparently about ten years of age. There is a scuffle and an angry cry, and then the whole party takes its stand in front of the monument. To any one versed in Jewish customs the whole proceeding is fully intelligible. Do not the Rabbis from the earliest ages enjoin: “If any one in Jerusalem has a disobedient child, he shall take him out to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to Absolom’s Monument, and force him, by words or stripes, to hurl stones at it, and to curse Absolom, meanwhile telling him the life and fate of that rebellious son?” An avenging providence has thus really turned Absolom’s endeavor to perpetuate his name into his everlasting disgrace. For we read in the second Book of Kings that Absolom, in his lifetime, had reared up for himself a pillar which is in the king’s dale; for he said: I have no son to keep my name in remembrance; and he called the pillar after his own name; and it is called to this day Absolom’s place. Impressed with this sad spectacle, and without regarding the tomb of Jehoshaphat to the east, or the tomb now called after St. James the Less, about one hundred cubits south, or the tomb of Zechariah, by the south entry of the former, the two priests turn their face to Jerusalem, resolved to enter the Holy City without further delay.

From the Temple-mount to the western base of Olivet, it is not more than two or three hundred cubits straight across, though the distance to the summit of Mount Olivet is about half a mile, or according to Josephus, five furlongs. Since Olivet is always fresh and green, and the coolest, the pleasantest, the most sheltered walk about Jerusalem, the throng of people passing hither and thither over the bridge across the Kedron, is no matter of astonishment. To Olivet’s shady retreats the inhabitants of Jerusalem often come to recreate or meditate. Among its groves of myrtle, pine, cypresses and cedars Jochanan ben Zaccai, one of the most celebrated Rabbis, will soon teach his numerous class of pupils.

Zachary and Samuel pass on among the crowd, across the Kedron, into the broad evening shadows of the Temple and its mountain. At times, a demure Pharisee or a long-robed scribe salutes the old priest in the solemn oriental fashion, a process which delays our wayfarers considerably. A certain patronizing air marks, however, even the slightest signs of courtesy extended by the proud Jerusalemites to the childless country-priest. Passing into the city, they first ascend the steep street of the lower Ophel, the quarter of the Nethinim, or Temple-slaves. Higher up, they enter the quarter of the priests and Levites; but all along the road, Zachary is called and known as, the husband of “Elizabeth the barren.” A few steps more, and the travelers turn to the right of the narrow marble-paved street, cross the elevated foot-way running along the street for the use of the newly purified, and disappear in the entrance of a massive stone house belonging to Matthiah the prefect of lots.








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com