Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

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

It is not in the Temple only that the new day has produced fresh signs of life. Morning is always most interesting in Palestine, and above all in its capital, Jerusalem. In the narrow lanes among the houses, people are driving their camels, sheep and goats afield. Here and there a man is on the way to his daily work, with his plough on his shoulder.

At the sides of the broader streets, the sellers of sweetmeats and fruits preside over their boxes and baskets, sitting cross-legged on the projecting front ledges of the house arches in all the glory of turban, flowing robes and bare legs. Milk, bread and vegetables have their own purveyors, turbaned figures of imposing dignity, who seem to think their dens the most important spot in the Holy City, as the Holy City is the most important spot on the face of the earth. Garlic, leeks, carrots, radishes like Bologna sausages in length and thickness, find numerous buyers. Fishshops are frequent, and cobblers drive a brisk trade in the open air, mending sandals and slippers that would be thrown into the dust-bin in any other part of the civilized world.

Veiled women too pass along frequently, ordinarily dressed in a long sack of blue cloth, without any folds, but reaching from the head to the bare feet. In parts, the streets are even crowded with strange Oriental figures, which from time to time must press closely together to let a drove of mules or asses pass, laden with mysterious cases, ready for export, or with huge rough stones or boxes of oranges. Servants too with weights that seem overwhelming trot along through a way readily opened for them through selfish motives. Then there are strings of silent, splay-footed camels, freighted with portmanteaus, boxes, barrels, or loads of wheat and furniture. One is more than once reminded of the burdens heavy and grievous to be borne, to which Jesus compares the legal exactions of the scribes and the Pharisees.

But the attention of the inhabitants of the Holy City is not wholly absorbed in earthly pursuits. A look at the four western entrances of the exterior Temple court reveals to us such a crowd of devout and eager worshippers that we are tempted to regard this day either as a special feast or, at least, as an exceptional day of national devotion. The crowds from the Lower City ascend by flights of steps to the most northerly of the western gates, close by the castle of Antonia. The inhabitants of the suburbs, or Parbar, enter by the two gates that occupy the central portion of the western inclosure.

But by far the greatest number approaches from the Hill of Zion, the city of David, by a most magnificent avenue leading to the southwestern angle of the Temple. The colossal bridge on which they come, connects the royal palace on Zion with the Royal Porch of the Temple, spanning the whole intervening valley of the Tyropœon. Each arch of the bridge springs forward about fifty-six cubits, and its key-stones are sixteen cubits in length by four cubits in thickness. The bridge’s roadway across the cleft between the two mountains, is two hundred and thirty-six cubits long and thirty-three or thirty-four cubits wide. On looking over its parapet, one sees into the depth of the Tyropœon valley, not less than one hundred and fifty cubits below. The city too is spread out before us like a map, with its straggling suburbs, its rich orchards, its fair gardens, and most remarkable of all, the “garden of roses” or the royal garden, south of the Holy City, in the valley between the Mount of Offence and the Hill of Evil Council.

Attractive as the view is, it does not delay any of the many passengers from Mount Zion. Not as if the place itself did not admit of any disorderly crowd of men; before many years will have passed, the most riotous mob that ever trod the streets of the City of David, will pass that bridge, counting Roman soldiers, elderly Pharisees, learned scribes, grave looking priests and misled patriots among its number, with “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world” in its midst, jeering, blaspheming, reviling, as only natives of the East know how to do. But there is no indication of such disorder to-day. Long-robed scribes, gray-bearded Pharisees with their Phylacteries conspicuous on their foreheads, and deeply veiled women walk in one long and eager procession towards the high portals of the Temple Mount. The men often greet each other with the profound oriental salam, but no such sign of recognition or friendship is extended to the women. Within a few years from now R. Akiba will give his famous decision against him who has saluted a woman in the street, fining him four hundred sus.

Entering with the devout multitude, we find ourselves in the Royal Porch, which consists of four rows of columns, forty pillars in each row, arranged in such a way that the fourth row is inserted into the southern wall of the Court of Gentiles. Two more pillars serve as a kind of a screen where the porch opens upon the bridge. By this arrangement is obtained a central nave, thirty cubits in width, and two side aisles, each twenty cubits wide. The pillars which form the nave are over sixty-six cubits high, while the two outer rows are only a little more than thirty-three cubits in height. All pillars have Corinthian capitals, and a double spiral runs around their base. Each pillar’s thickness is such that three men, with their arms extended, “fathom it round and join their hands again.” The roofs are adorned with a profusion of sculptures in wood, representing many sorts of figures. The middle part is twice as high as the two side roofs. The inner front of the wall is adorned with beams, resting upon pillars, which are built into the solid masonry. According to Josephus, the front itself is of polished stone, whose beauty surpasses the belief of such as have not seen it, and greatly amazes all who see it.

From the top of this colonnade one has a view into the Kedron valley close by, to the stupendous depth of three hundred cubits. Josephus tells us that if any one looks from the top of the battlement down into the valley below, he becomes giddy, and his sight cannot reach to such an immense depth. No wonder then that Satan will choose this precise point for tempting Jesus with the words: “If thou art the son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, he shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and on their hands they shall bear thee up, lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

A number of worshippers begin to occupy seats on the bench which runs all along the back wall of the Royal Porch. The reason is easily learned from one of the bystanders; they are proselytes, and therefore forbidden to enter the Court of Women or that of the Israelites.

The Royal Porch has a real claim to the name “Solomon’s Porch,” though it has never been known by that title. Its foundations, indeed, do not date from the time of that great king, but it stands on the ground formerly occupied by the king’s stables and the palace to which he brought the daughter of Pharaoh. King Herod has extended the platform of the Temple so as to include these localities. “It is impossible to realize the effect produced by a building longer and higher than most Christian Cathedrals, standing on a solid mass of masonry almost equal in height to the tallest of our church spires. And this is only one of the porches which forms the southern enclosure of the first, or outermost court of the Temple called the Court of Gentiles, though Rabbinic writers commonly name it ‘the mountain of the house.’ ”

Following the main stream of new arrivals, we pass obliquely through the western end of the Royal Porch and then turn to our left, where we enter a marble-paved, unroofed, rectangular space. The Rabbis tell us that it forms a square of five hundred cubits. Walls surround the whole place but a single glance shows us that their height is not the same on the four sides. The eastern wall, right in front of us, is considerably lower than any of the other three. Nor are the Doctors at a loss to account for this fact. When the priest slays the red heifer on the Mount of Olives, he must sprinkle its blood seven times towards the Most Holy Place. Were the eastern wall so high as are the walls on the south, north or west, the sacrificing priest could not see the Most Holy over Solomon’s Porch, which is built against that wall.

Solomon’s Porch is, on the whole, constructed like the Royal Porch by which we have entered. It contains, however, only a double colonnade, instead of the triple one we have observed in the Royal Porch. Its pillars are all monoliths, wholly cut out of one block of marble, each pillar being twenty-five cubits high. Double rows of these pillars run, in fact, all round the three sides of the court not occupied by the Royal Porch. A flat cedar roof, richly ornamented, rests on the Corinthian pillars and abuts on the wall, in which the outer row of pillars is inserted. Benches and seats, placed at random throughout the various parts of the porches, invite the worshippers to friendly religious intercourse, to discuss matters relating to the Temple or the national hope of Israel.

We have already seen that Solomon’s Porch runs along the eastern wall, thus joining the Royal Porch in the southeastern corner of the court. The porch bears Solomon’s name, not because he constructed it, but because it rests on foundations remaining from the first Temple. This porch owes its importance mainly to the fact that, being situated east of the court, it faces the principal entrance to the Court of Women, and to that of Israel. Here will Jesus walk on that memorable day when he will declare plainly. “I and my Father are one.” Here too will S. Peter speak to the assembled multitudes, running together after the remarkable miracle at the Beautiful Gate.

Allowing ourselves to be carried along still further by the stream of worshippers, we pass through a marble screen, three cubits high, having so far as we can learn from the Rabbinic Doctors, thirteen different entrances. Any one willing to take the trouble, will see that it surrounds the whole inner Temple building. The latter is situated in the Court of Gentiles in such a way that the free space left on its south side is broader than that at its north side, and the latter is broader than the space at the west side, though narrower than that on the east side. The Temple proper is, therefore, located in the northwest corner of the Court of Gentiles, and the free space around it becomes narrower as one passes from the south to the east, from the east to the north, and from the north to the west.

But what is the meaning of yonder stragglers receding from the crowd of worshippers, and approaching the Temple from its left side, instead of entering by the common access at its right? The guard at the northwestern corner of the marble screen is about to obtain the desired information.

“Why dost thou approach by the left?” he asks in an imperative tone.

“I am in sorrow,” the lonely worshipper replies.

“He who dwelleth in this house grant thee comfort,” the guard answers.

“I am separated from Israel, because I am unclean,” the man continues in explanation of his former statement.

“He who dwelleth in this house put it into thy mind to heed those who would restore thee again!” the guard answers.

And those tablets with inscriptions posted up on the pillars that rise at regular intervals above the marble screen? Being written in Latin and Greek, they may be deciphered without the assistance of an interpreter. “No stranger,” they read, “may enter within this balustrade. Whoever offends, is responsible to himself for his death which will ensue.” Even S. Paul will experience that this threat is not meaningless. On the mere suspicion that he has taken Trophimus the Ephesian proselyte into the prohibited inclosure, the Jews will rise up against him in wild excitement, and they would tear him to pieces, did not the commandant of the fortress Antonia, on the northwest corner of the Court of Gentiles, hurry to his aid with a band of Roman soldiers.

At the risk of our lives we follow the crowd of devout worshippers, behaving, so far as possible, like the rest of the bystanders. Passing through the marble inclosure, we meet a flight of fourteen steps, each half a cubit high, leading up to a terrace ten cubits wide, and surrounding the whole inner wall of the Temple. The terrace is called Chel, and is, according to some authors, not subject to the same laws of purity as the inner Temple courts. At least, it is certain that several regulations pertaining to the Court of Priests, do not regard the Chel. Thus, in the former, no one but a prince of David’s royal blood is allowed to be seated. It is for this reason that the Beth-Moked, the Gazith and the two other buildings, occupying the corners of the Court of Priests, extend beyond the limit of the court, properly so called, into the Chel. This provision is rendered absolutely necessary by the said regulation; without it the meeting of the Sanhedrin in Gazith and the sleeping of the priests in the House of Stoves would be impossible.

A solid wall, forty cubits high, rises on the inner limits of the Chel, having four gates on both its north and south side, but only one on the east. With six of these gates, three on the north and three on the south side, we are already acquainted. They are the Water-Gate, the Gate of Firstlings and the Wood-Gate on the south; the Gate Nitzutz, the Gate of Sacrifices and the Gate of Beth-Moked on the north. The fourth northern and southern gates both open at the eastern extremity of the inclosing wall into the Court of Women. But they are hardly used on ordinary occasions like to-day. The whole stream of worshippers is easily swallowed up by the eastern or the Beautiful Gate.

Like the eight side-entrances, the Beautiful Gate is two-leaved, twenty cubits high and ten cubits wide; it too has superstructures and chambers, supported by two pillars, and is covered with gold and silver-plating. But the excellence of its workmanship, and the magnificence of its whole appearance betray at once that it is the principal entrance to the Temple of the Lord. Twelve easy steps, each half a cubit high and half a cubit wide, lead up through the wall, and only privileged beggars are allowed to take here their daily position, in order to profit by the charity of the devout Israelites. Similar sights are presented at the doors of the European Cathedrals at the present day. It is here that Sts. Peter and John will meet the man, lame for many years, and restore him by the power of Jesus’ name. From this place the beggar will follow them into the Court of Women “walking and leaping and praising God.” Near by, in fact just opposite, is Solomon’s Porch, whither all the people will crowd after the service in order to behold the miracle—for all Jerusalem knows the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate—and to hear Peter’s famous sermon announcing the Messiahship of Jesus the Crucified.

But all these associations are not yet connected with the gate and the court. The place in itself offers sufficient interest to keep our attention far longer than we can afford to bestow upon it, the time of the morning sacrifice being now at hand. Any one of the worshippers willingly explains to us the principal features of the court. It is a square of one hundred and thirty-five cubits; its pavement presents the same fine tesselated marble which we noticed in the Court of Gentiles. Its north, east and south sides are surrounded by single porches built in the same style as those in the outer court, only their height and breadth are not so pretentious. The porches are provided with seats constructed and arranged as those of the outer court. For the apartments contrived in the four corners of the court we have, at present, only a passing glance, reserving a more accurate examination of the same for a later period.

Though we have constantly spoken of the Court of Women, we have already intimated that men are not excluded from it. Its name, therefore, indicates rather that women are allowed to worship in it, than that it is reserved for them exclusively. A number of Rabbinic Doctors assure us that they are allowed only on the raised galleries, constructed along three sides of the court. According to the same testimony, it is only for sacrificial purposes that any woman may dare to enter the lower part of the court. The gallery is accessible by a stairway, leading up to it through the wall at the Beautiful Gate. The women now present on the floor of the court, are to appear at the Gate of Nicanor towards the close of the morning sacrifice, when the first-born are redeemed and the mothers after child-birth are purified.

Continuing our way onward with the seemingly, more devout Pharisees, who are not content with assisting at the coming service in the Court of Women, we approach its western extremity, and there confront another flight of steps, fifteen in number, each half a cubit high, half a cubit broad, and semi-circular in shape. Here the Levites sing on the Feast of Tabernacles the fifteen psalms of degrees. Here too, close by the Nicanor Gate, at the head of the stairs, takes place all that must be done before the Lord; here the cleansed lepers and the women after child-birth present themselves for purification; the suspected wife here drinks the water of jealousy.

Passing through the Gate of Nicanor wholly made of Corinthianbrass, we enter the Court of Israel properly so called. It measures only eleven cubits from east to west, while it extends like the Court of Women, one hundred and thirty-five cubits north and south. For all practical purposes we may consider it as being one with the Court of Priests, from which it is separated by a balustrade only one cubit in height. Two steps, each half a cubit high, lead up to it. Besides, in the Priests’ Court one mounts again by three semicircular steps of the legal height to a kind of pulpit or platform, on which as well as on the fifteen steps the Levites sing during the ordinary service. But does it not appear irreverent on our part to indulge in a curious examination of the sacred Temple courts and walls, while the devout multitude is absorbed in prayer, either lying prostrate on the floor or standing with uplifted hands? And what are the priests doing all this while?

We remember that after salting the divers parts of the victim, the priests withdrew to the Hall of Polished Stones. So soon as they are assembled, the prefect of the lots Matthiah, orders the recital of the morning blessing. In slow and solemn tone of voice, all join in the following prayers:—

“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 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.”

“I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor the likeness of any form that is in the heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

“Thou shalt do no murder.”

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

“Thou shalt not steal.”

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against, thy neighbor.”

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be upon thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the doorposts of thy house and upon thy gates.”

“And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart, and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine and thy oil. And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, talking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth.”

“And the Lord spake unto Moses saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of each border a cord of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that you go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to go a whoring, that ye may remember and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

These prayers ended Matthiah calls in a loud voice: “Let the new ones approach and cast lots!” Zachary, in spite of his old age, is among the new ones. For the lot to be cast will determine him who is to burn the incense. No one may perform this duty twice, or twice take part in the casting of the third lot, except in the rare case that all priests present have previously ministered in this office. From the words of Deuteronony the learned in the law infer that a special blessing attaches to the performance of this duty, a blessing which extends even to the priest’s temporal goods. For the text says: “They shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt-offerings upon thine altar. Bless Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise up against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.”

Never during all the long years of his faithful service has Zachary been called upon to perform this office of special divine benediction. Nor is he more successful now. Matthiah seizes the cap and counts the determined number of uplifted fingers in the customary way, and the lot falls on Simon, one of the youngest priests of the whole course of Abijah.

“O,” sighs Zachary within his heart, “that my vexation were but weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! It would be heavier than the sands of the seas. The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof my spirit drinketh up: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.”

“God does not cast away a perfect man,” loudly jeers Abiathar; “neither can he uphold the evil-doers. If thou wert pure and upright, Zachary, surely God would now awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.”

“If I have sinned,” murmurs Zachary, “what do I unto thee, O thou watcher of men? why hast thou set me as a mark for thee, so that I am a burden to myself?”

Meanwhile Simon selects two of his young companions as his assistants for the burning of incense, and Matthiah loudly invites those present to stand in line for the fourth lot, by which those are chosen who must lay the sacrifice and the meat-offerings on the altar, and pour out the drink-offering. All on whom no lot has fallen are now allowed to withdraw for the day. Accordingly, they prepare to retire to the building in the Court of Israel, north of the Gate of Nicanor. Pinchas the priestly wardrobe-keeper reigns here supreme. The sacerdotal garments are kept in ninety-six chests, each of the four articles of the priestly dress being placed in a separate compartment, bearing an inscription in accordance with its contents. “Breeches,” “tunics,” “girdles,” “turbans,” such are the various inscriptions engraven on the chests of the wardrobe. Since the apparel of the different courses is not mixed, there must be twenty-four boxes for every one of the four articles of the sacerdotal dress.

When the priests are on the point of starting for Pinchas’s department, Abiathar calls aloud for Abdiah and Zachary. A Levite is about to be scourged and they are to be present as witnesses and assistant ministers. Zachary bows his head in silent submission to his superior’s orders, though he would rather suffer pain and shame himself than see it inflicted on any one else. On noticing his reluctance, Abiathar rejoices in his heart, at having discovered this simple way of annoying one whom he considers his deadly enemy. For does not the headship of Abijah’s course as well as Abiathar’s place in the Sanhedrin, rightfully belong to Zachary? As to Zachary’s childlessness, which has thus far been the only obstacle preventing him from enjoying his rights, a whim of Herod with a corresponding decree of the obsequious Sanhedrin may, at any time, make Samuel Zachary’s legal heir and thus restore its full rights to Josiah’s house.

Meanwhile Ben Bebai leads the culprit into a remote apartment of the Gazith, Zachary and Abijah following them. The law referring to this punishment, as contained in Deuteronomy, prescribes “by a certain number, forty stripes he may give him.” Instead of being taken as a simple direction to give forty stripes, the law is explained as meaning a number near to forty, or thirty-nine, which accordingly is the severest corporeal punishment inflicted at one time. Even if the number of stripes be less than forty-nine, it is always a multiple of three, since the scourge is composed of three separate thongs, so that every stroke inflicts three stripes. The middle thong is made of calf’s leather, the other two of asses’, to verify Isaiah’s words, “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”

Every detail of the punishment is determined by law. Ben Bebai inflicts the first third of the stripes on the culprit’s bare breast, being careful that the ends of the thongs do not reach below the navel. The sufferer is tied in a reclining position during this portion of the punishment. The second and third parts of the legal number of stripes are inflicted on the bare back, over the sufferer’s right and left shoulder respectively, his position being now a stooping one. From the Rabbinic description of this punishment and from St. Paul’s words “of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one,” we rightly infer its painful severity.

While Ben Bebai administers the legal number of stripes, Abdiah reads aloud the words of Deuteronomy, appointed for this occasion: “If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God; then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.” So soon as the punishment is over, and the victim has his garments replaced, Zachary reads Asaph’s soothing words: “But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.” The last part of the law ordaining that after his punishment the culprit is not to be reproached, but received as a brother, is fulfilled so far as the sufferer’s painful condition permits.

While Zachary and Abdiah are thus detained in the Gazith, the other priests not destined by lot for one of to-day’s sacred services pass across the court to the priestly wardrobe. As soon as they enter, Pinchas hands them their laydress. They divest themselves of girdle and tunic, and put on the common tunic, girdle and semlah. Then the priestly breeches are taken off, and excepting his grave and decorous deportment, there is now nothing external to distinguish the priest from the layman.

By appointment, Samuel was to meet Zachary on his way to Pinchas’s department. Accordingly, he has taken his position in the Court of Israel, and closely watches all the white-robed figures, as they noiselessly glide by. Samuel’s look becomes more troubled with the passage of every priest, and when the last two approach, he resolves, in spite of his reverent awe for the sacred place, to inquire for the reason of Zachary’s delay. Obed has been observing all Samuel’s movements, and now beckons him to come to Pinchas’s department.

“Zachary is detained in the Gazith,” he addresses Samuel, so soon as they are hid from the looks of the devout multitudes, “but he will join thee presently.”

Samuel casts an inquiring look at Obed; but the sacred surroundings and Obed’s priestly attire re-assure him. Obed notices Samuel’s anxiety and smiling tells him of his lifelong friendship for Zachary, and his acquaintance with Zachary’s family concerns. He shows that he knows the object of Samuel’s presence, and hints at Zachary’s disappointment over Samuel’s projects.

“Zachary is my father’s brother,” explains Samuel, “and the last words of my dying mother were an exhortation to consult him in all my doubts and follow his advice in my way of life.”

“The wisdom of youth, Samuel, consists in obedience to the counsels of old age. Zachary fears to offend thy youthful longings by revealing to thee his wishes concerning thy future.”

“I have anticipated every one of Zachary’s wishes,” Samuel says more to himself than to his companion; “I have considered all his words as sacred; why then should he fear to disclose to me the wisdom of his counsel?”

“Samuel, the eye of old age reaches further than the eye of youth; as the offspring of Aaron is the chosen mediator between God and man, so old age is the natural link between the past and the future. What will our priesthood be in the future? Thou hast seen the priests of Bel and Istar at Babylon: dost thou envy their position or esteem their calling? What Babylon’s priests are to us, our priests are to the Romans and to the world at large.”

For a moment Samuel is fairly stunned by Obed’s impious words; not even the most bitter enemies of the Jewish race whom Samuel has met at Babylon have allowed themselves such language as he now hears in the house of the Lord from the lips of God’s chosen priest and reputed servant. Obed immediately perceives his mistake, and embracing Samuel exclaims: “A true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.” Then he leads his youthful companion to the place where Zachary’s laydress is kept, and touching the clothing with a rather vigorous gesture of the hand, assures Samuel that he may there safely wait for Zachary’s arrival. The whole apparel falls to the floor, and while they pick up the articles of dress, a case with a document drops out. Taking up the roll carefully, Samuel opens it and explains that it contains his genealogical record. Obed admires the well formed Babylonian letters which appear so irregular and are, nevertheless, drawn with such evident precision. After thus handling the document for a minute or two, Obed returns it with the greatest care, and Samuel who has noticed nothing extraordinary hides it in Zachary’s dress.

“Wilt thou, then, enter the ministering priesthood in spite of thy mother’s wish?” resumes Obed.

“It was my mother’s wish that I should follow Zachary’s guidance,” answers Samuel rather impatiently.

“Zachary prefers to see thee united to Herod’s family. Arrangements have been made for thy marriage with the king’s niece.”

“Whoever thou be,” says Samuel decidedly, “thou speakest untrue.”

“Youth is always rash,” patiently rejoins Obed; “hast thou ever compared the soldier’s glory, the ruler’s power, the sovereign’s wealth, with the obscurity, the lowliness and poverty of Jehovah’s priest? His fame is circumscribed by the walls of the Temple, his resources are limited to the morsels he picks from the burnt-offerings, his occupation is that of the butcher and the woodcutter.”

“Stranger! may the God of our fathers open thine eyes to the glory of our nation and the dignity of the priesthood. A day in the courts of the Lord is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

“Samuel, I hoped to be a herald of glad tidings unto thee; God knoweth my sorrow at being thus obliged to pain thee. Thou seest this document, signed by Zachary’s own hand? Take and read.”

With trembling hands and pallid countenance, Samuel received the scroll from Obed. There is no mistake; it bears the seal of Herod and below it Zachary’s signature. The first part contains the customary phraseology of a marriage contract and would hardly interest Samuel, were it not for the fact that his own name figures as that of the bridegroom. With an artificial calmness Samuel glances at the conditions of the transaction. Herod’s grandson is to marry Samuel’s sister, and in order to render such a union possible, the bride’s house must be raised to the level of the royal family by the proposed marriage of Samuel. Zachary is appointed member of the Seventy-One, and Samuel may choose a position according to his liking, either at court or in the army. Another glance at the signatures, and the document is torn into pieces. Then Samuel quietly takes the scroll hid in Zachary’s dress and without even looking at Obed he prepares to leave the wardrobe.

“Thy doom is sealed, son of Ananiah,” Obed utters with a voice that might have proceeded from the inmost heart of hatred incarnate, and instantly disappears into a curtained recess.

Zachary and Abdiah have, meanwhile, found their way to the wardrobe; in fact, their unexpected appearance at the entrance was the cause of Obed’s sudden departure. Samuel walks on with hurried steps, completely insensible to all his surroundings. The last few moments have been an eternity. A deep abyss yawns between the past and the present. His life has been a constant dream. Intellectually he has worshiped idols, his will has clung to deceit, and his love—his love is about to change to hatred. His state is similar to the soul’s condition immediately after leaving its mortal body; its past views of things are so many lies, its affections are sins, its supports are broken reeds, its love is folly, only its relations to God are eternal truth.

“Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear,” murmurs Samuel.

“Though war should rise against me,” answers Zachary, who has overheard Samuel’s soliloquy, “even then will I be confident.”

Instead of greeting the old priest in the customary way, Samuel rejoins with a significant emphasis and decision: “Mine head shall be lifted up above mine enemies round about me; and I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy.” Then looking straight into Zachary’s face Samuel adds: “All my inward friends abhor me, and they whom I loved are turned against me.”

Uttering these words he is about to leave the wardrobe, when Zachary steps in his way, and with all the authority of his age demands an explanation of Samuel’s words and conduct.

“The shreds of yonder parchment cry out against thee to heaven! Thou hast betrayed my soul to my enemies, thou hast despised the dignity of Jehovah’s priesthood, thou hast sold thy conscience for a place in the Sanhedrin.”

“Samuel, judgest thou thy friends unheard?” replies the old priest with a voice quivering with emotion. “As God liveth I know not what thou sayest.”

“The stranger, with anointed beard and smooth countenance, thy friend and accomplice, has shown me the contract by which thou hast bound me to Herod’s niece, and removed me and mine forever from the altar of the Most High.”

“Obed the Herodian has deceived thy simplicity, Samuel; Matthiah will bear witness to my truthfulness. For more than ten years has he kept the contract by which I have promised thee to his daughter Ismeria, provided it should so please thee and her. I should not have openly told thee of this, had not the circumstances forced me.”

The sound of the Magrephah which now fills all the Temple courts prevents further explanations. For while the conversation took place in the department of Pinchas, Simon, the incensing priest, has taken a silver saucer covered with a lid, inside of which there is a smaller golden saucer containing the incense. The latter is composed in strict accordance with the divine precept: “The Lord said to Moses: Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte and onycha, and galbanum; sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight; and thou shalt make of it incense, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy: and thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And the incense which thou shalt make, according to the composition thereof ye shall not make for yourselves: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, he shall be cut off from his people.”

According to the Rabbinic writers, thirteen substances, not reckoning the salt, form the component parts of incense. Ambra and a herb giving out a dense smoke are especially mentioned. The whole year’s service requires a total amount of about three hundred and sixty-eight pounds of incense, about half a pound being burned every morning and evening.

Josephus has it that the thirteen kinds of sweet smelling ingredients are furnished by the sea, in order to signify that God is the Lord of all things, both of the habitable and the uninhabitable parts of the earth, and that all must be dedicated to his service. In a similar spirit the same author explains that the seven lamps signify the seven planets, and that the twelve loaves of showbread mean the twelve signs of the Zodiac. We are already acquainted with a side gate, called after Abtinas, in the southeastern corner of the inner court, close by the Gazith. The name is due to the fact that the family of Abtinas, which has charge of the incense manufacture, exercises its art in the Chamber of Abtinas, situated over this gate, and forming part of the Gazith.

One of Simon’s assistants has in the meantime taken a silver and a golden pan, the former large enough to hold four, and the latter to hold three kabs—a kab is nearly three pints—and ascending the altar of burnt-offering, he fills the silver pan with live coals from the fire on the south side of the altar, and empties the vessel into the golden pan. About one kab of coals is supposed to be spilled during this process.

To prevent accidents, the spilled coals are carefully swept into the channel which carries all the offal of the Temple into the valley of Kedron. On Sabbath days the spilled coals are covered over with a pot-shaped vessel, large enough to hold half a homer, or a little over sixteen pecks. It serves three purposes: to carry out the ashes from the altar of burnt-offering, to cover the spilled coals on the Sabbath, and to cover any reptile that may be found in the court on the Sabbath. For on the day of rest neither reptile nor coal can be removed from the court, though the reptile must be removed even on this day, if it is found in the porch of the Temple itself.

Simon and his two assistants, the one carrying the censer filled with burning coals, the other holding the double incense-boat, turn to their left and slowly approach the steps of the Temple porch. They are preceded by the two priests who in the morning cleansed the altar of incense and trimmed the lamps of the candlestick. Passing through the space between the altar and the stairs, they sound the Magrephah and for a moment no one in the Holy City can hear the voice of his friend and his neighbor. The priests, on hearing the sound, know that the hour of incense has come; they hasten to a place between the Court of Israel and the altar of burnt-offering, to bow down and adore. The Levites, too, hear the Magrephah, and know that they must hurry to their pulpit-shaped platform in the Court of Priests so as to be in time for the approaching psalmody. The chief of the “stationary men” recognizes in the sound a signal for bringing all those that are to be purified to the Gate of Nicanor, and for arranging them in their legal position.

Three of the more elderly priests speak a few solemn words to the youthful Simon, before the latter reaches the foot of the stair-way leading to the Temple porch. “Take care,” says the first; “begin at the off-side of the altar,” adds another; “beware of the fire,” is a third’s warning. Slowly the incensing priest, preceded by the two assistants and the two other sacred ministers, ascends the easy steps of the Temple porch, and soon disappears within the door of the sanctuary. When the altar of incense is reached, he who has cleansed it takes the Teni, makes a low reverence and withdraws. His companion approaches the candlestick, and trims the two lamps left untrimmed in the morning; he then takes up the Cuz, makes a deep reverence and withdraws. Then the censer-bearer spreads the live coals upon the altar of incense, and evenly distributes them on the surface with the foot of the censer. After this he too makes a deep reverence, and retires from the sanctuary. Meanwhile, the assistant who carries the incense-boat, takes the interior golden saucer out of the exterior silver one, and hands it to Simon. He carefully pours the few grains spilled in the external boat, into the hand of the sacred minister, and then retires, imitating his companion in the low reverence.

No sooner has the presiding priest seen the last assistant minister appear in the Temple porch, than he gives the loud command, “burn the incense.” Trembling and awestruck, Simon extends his hand with the golden incense-boat, and pours the precious material upon the burning coals, being careful to begin at the further end of the altar, facing the Holy of Holies. The cloud of sweet smelling perfume fills the whole place, and Simon lies prostrate before the face of the Most High.

In the courts without, the whole multitude falls down before the Lord, spreading the hands in silent prayer. Tradition has faithfully preserved the very words: “True it is that thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our Saviour and the Saviour of our fathers; our King and the King 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 they all praise and own thee as king, and say Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.”

“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, 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, oh 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.”

After the prayer, the priest who has trimmed the candlestick, once more enters the Holy Place, and there lights two lamps which are to burn throughout the day before the Lord. This duty performed, he joins the incensing priest and in his company leaves the sanctuary in order to take his stand together with the three other sacred ministers at the top of the stairs which lead from the Temple porch down into the Court of Priests. They all hold the insignia, as it were, of their morning office in their hand, the Teni, the Cuz, the censer, the silver saucer for the incense-boat, and the incense-boat itself. The rest of the priests who are not actively engaged about the burnt-offering and its accompanying sacrifices, gather together on the steps in front of the Temple porch.

He on whom the fourth lot has fallen, now ascends the altar, and entering the sacerdotal circuit on the south side, he turns to the right and proceeds to the middle of the east side. The priests who carried the divers parts of the victim and the necessary sacrifices to the inclined ascent, take up their several portions, and present them to the priest in front of the altar, who presses his hands upon them severally, and then flings them confusedly upon the altar. Thus the victim’s flesh is scattered, as its blood has been sprinkled at the foot of the altar. When all the parts are laid on the altar, the priest arranges them, as well as he can, in the same relative position which they occupied in the live victim.

Look once more at the five priests standing on the stairs which lead to the Temple porch. Grouped in a semi-circular line, they lift up their hands above their head, while they join their fingers in a mystical way, so as to separate the thumbs from the fingers, and the two inner from the two outer fingers. May we not suppose that in this manner the mystery of the Holy Trinity is, at least, obscurely indicated? Simon clearly and distinctly pronounces the priestly blessing, the other four joining in the words so soon as they hear Simon’s voice: “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.” In a slow and solemn tone of voice the vast multitudes of the devout worshipers respond: “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.”

Perhaps the Jewish ceremonial of to-day will throw light on the ritual blessing of old. In the synagogues the reputed Jewish priest joins his uplifted and outspread hands by making the tips of the first fingers touch each other. At the same time, the thumb is separated from the hand, and the first and second fingers of each hand are knit together, and divided from the joint third and fourth fingers. Representations of this ceremony may be seen on the tombstones of Jewish priests. Though the word “Jehovah” is replaced by “Lord” in the present synagogue blessing, it is not certain that a similar substitution was customary at the time we are considering. The disguised voice and the veiled face now customary, may be safely supposed to have been entirely unknown in the blessing at Zachary’s time.

When the voice of the priests dies out in the courts, and the smoke of the burnt-offering curls upward through the morning air, the meat-offering is presented to the Lord. According to God’s explicit command, laid down in the Book of Numbers, “he that offereth his oblation shall offer unto the Lord a meat-offering of a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour mingled with the fourth part of a hin of oil: and wine for the drink-offering, the fourth part of a hin, shalt thou prepare with the burnt-offering or for the sacrifice, for each lamb.” Oil is, as a matter of course, added in the prescribed manner and quantity. For, as the Rabbinic Doctors tell us, every meat-offering prepared in a vessel has three pourings of oil; the first, into the vessel, the second, to mingle with the flour; the third after the offering is ready. Lastly, salt is added to the sacrifice, and the whole is laid on the fire.

Next, the high priest’s meat-offering is oiled, salted and placed on the altar. It consists of twelve half-cakes, the other halves being reserved for the evening sacrifice.

The order of the meat-offerings here described does not contradict the words of St. Paul: “For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.” For the Apostle principally insists on the inefficiency of the Old Testament sacrifices as compared with the bloody sacrifice of the New Law; besides, he only maintains that the high priest’s sin-offering must precede the people’s. But the daily meat-offering is not the high priest’s sin-offering.

Finally, the drink-offering is poured out at the foot of the altar. When the priest is bending forward to perform this duty, the presiding priest, standing near the southeastern horn of the altar of burnt-offering, waves a handkerchief-like piece of cloth. Upon this signal, Ben Arsa, the keeper of the warning cymbal, who stands near the table of fat, west of the ascent to the altar, strikes his instrument. Immediately, the priests take their position to the right and left of Ben Arsa, their face turned eastward, towards the people. The Levites crowding the fifteen steps of the Nicanor Gate, face westward, towards the sanctuary. The Levitical choir accompanied by instrumental music, begins the psalm of the day.

Not less than twelve voices may ever sustain the choir, and the charming treble of specially trained Levites’ children mingles with the deep voices of their fathers. The offspring of the children now singing in the Temple, will rehearse on the memorable Sunday of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem the psalm which they have rendered on the preceding Feast of Tabernacles: “Save now, we beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, we beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.” And Jesus himself will defend their song against their jealous parents by referring to the words of the psalm: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.”

“The number of the instrumental performers is not limited, nor is the office confined to the Levites strictly so called. Several prominent families, intermarried with the priestly tribe, are admitted to the rank of musicians. But as to the trumpeters, they may not be fewer than two, nor more numerous than a hundred and twenty; for there were only a hundred and twenty present at the dedication of the first Temple, which number may, therefore, not be exceeded. Besides, only priests may blow the silver trumpets.

The other musical instruments may be reduced to three classes: wind instruments, stringed instruments, and vibrating instruments. Josephus testifies that Solomon, after the erection of the first Temple, made two hundred thousand trumpets according to the command of Moses, two hundred thousand garments of fine linen for the singers that were Levites, and forty thousand musical instruments, and such as were invented for the singing of hymns called Nablæ and Cinyræ, or psalteries and harps, made of electrum. No doubt this report is a gross exaggeration. For as to the vibrating bars and surfaces, only one pair of cymbals was allowed to be used. Indeed, even this “sounding brass” and “tinkling cymbal” does not belong to the Temple music proper; it only gives the signal when the latter is to begin. May not the Apostle have considered this as an additional reason for comparing it with the external extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost?

The Rabbis mention so many as thirty-six different kinds of musical instruments, of which the Bible knows only fifteen, and the Pentateuch only five. The principal stringed instruments are the Nebel (lute) and the Kinnor (harp). The chief difference between these two instruments consists in this, that in the Nebel the strings are drawn over the sounding board, while in the Kinnor they stand out free as in our harp. Besides, according to Josephus, the Nebel had twelve strings and was played with one hand, while the Kinnor had only ten strings and was played with the plectrum. The Rabbinic doctors accurately determine the number of each kind of instruments allowable in the Temple music. There may not be fewer than two, and not more than six Nebels, while the Kinnors must at least be nine, and they may be multiplied at pleasure. There are, of course, several varieties of both Nebel and Kinnor; but from all we know of them, we must infer that the Kinnor is the chief and leading instrument, while the Nebel serves as its accompaniment.

Besides the cymbals and stringed instruments, reed pipes or flutes are also used in the Temple on twelve different occasions: “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.” Not less than two and not more than twelve flutes are allowed on these occasions, and the melody must close with the notes of only one flute. Every Jew is bound to provide at least two flutes and one mourning woman at the funeral of his wife. The sound of the same instrument is heard at the joyful marriage feasts and at the processions of the pilgrims going up to Jerusalem and chanting in festive strains the Psalms of Degrees.

In addition to these we know of three other wind instruments employed in the Temple. The first is the organ-shaped Magrephah, consisting according to Rabbinic tradition of a row of ten pipes, each of which has ten holes, and is thus eanbled to emit ten different sounds. This instrument seems to have served merely for giving signals. Trumpets too, are in regular use, and while the playing of the instruments hitherto mentioned is left to the Levites, with some doubtful exceptions as to the use of the reed-pipes, the blowing of trumpets is reserved to the priests. Priests also blow the Shophar or horn. Originally the Shophar was a ram’s horn, but probably later on it was made of brass. Its loud and far-sounding tones make it especially fit for the feast of the New Year and for fast days, on which occasions it alone is blown in the synagogues outside of Jerusalem. The year of Jubilee, too, is announced by the sound of the Shophar, and what is more, derives its name from this practice. If the New Moon be added to the occasions thus far mentioned, we have a complete list of the occasions on which the use of the Shophar is prescribed. It may be of interest to know that on the Feast of the New Year a priest with the Shophar is placed between those who blow the trumpets, while on fast-days priests with the Shophar stand on each side of the trumpeters.

But the vocal music is of far more importance in the Temple service than the instrumental. It should seem that in the first Temple the people responded while the Levites led the song. When the foundations of the second Temple were laid, and when the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated, the singing was again antiphonal; but the two choirs soon combined and sang in unison in the Temple. In Ezra and in Nehemiah there is even mention of women singing in the Temple. But the female voices must have been soon replaced by the boys’ treble. The Rabbinic Doctors maintain that a good voice is an essential qualification for a Levite. The Temple melodies are perhaps best represented by the synagogue airs now in use; Gregorian music, too, must have an affinity with the Jewish psalmody. Absolute certainty on matters of this nature cannot be expected at a period when the sanctuary and the Holy City have been sacked ten times by hostile armies.

We are more fortunate when there is question of the special hymns that were chanted on the several days of the week, after the burnt-offering was laid on the altar. Psalm 24 (23) “the earth is the Lord’s,” was chanted on the first day of the week in commemoration of the first day of creation. For on that day “God possessed the world and ruled it.” On the second day “the Lord divided his works and ruled over them;” hence they sang Psalm 48 (47) “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” On the third day “the earth appeared, on which are the Judge and the judged,” a fact commemorated by Psalm 82 (81) “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty.” Because God will be avenged on them that worship the sun, the moon and the stars which he made on the fourth day, Psalm 94 (92) is sung on Wednesday: “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth.” “Sing aloud unto God our strength,” or Psalm 81 (80) was intoned on the fifth day to celebrate the “variety of creatures made that day to praise his name.” On the sixth day “God finished his works and made man, and the Lord ruled over his works;” hence they sang Psalm 93 (92) “The Lord reigneth.” The Sabbath is the symbol of the kingdom at the end of the six thousand years dispensation, when the Lord will reign over all, and his glory and service fill the earth with thanksgiving: Psalm 92 (91) “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,” is therefore specially adapted to the Sabbath day.

To-day, as on all other occasions, the Psalm is sung in three sections: at the close of each the priests draw three blasts from their silver trumpets, while the people adore and worship. The Psalm ended, the great bulk of the worshippers leave the Temple, going out by the left. Only priests, Levites and special devotees prolong their prayers and tarry in the courts.

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com