Temple, Herod's

The temple erected by the exiles on their return from Babylon
had stood for about five hundred years, when Herod the Great
became king of Judea. The building had suffered considerably
from natural decay as well as from the assaults of hostile
armies, and Herod, desirous of gaining the favour of the Jews,
proposed to rebuild it. This offer was accepted, and the work
was begun (B.C. 18), and carried out at great labour and
expense, and on a scale of surpassing splendour. The main part
of the building was completed in ten years, but the erection of
the outer courts and the embellishment of the whole were carried
on during the entire period of our Lord's life on earth (John
2:16, 19-21), and the temple was completed only A.D. 65. But it
was not long permitted to exist. Within forty years after our
Lord's crucifixion, his prediction of its overthrow was
accomplished (Luke 19: 41-44). The Roman legions took the city
of Jerusalem by storm, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts
Titus made to preserve the temple, his soldiers set fire to it
in several places, and it was utterly destroyed (A.D. 70), and
was never rebuilt.

Several remains of Herod's stately temple have by recent
explorations been brought to light. It had two courts, one
intended for the Israelites only, and the other, a large outer
court, called "the court of the Gentiles," intended for the use
of strangers of all nations. These two courts were separated by
a low wall, as Josephus states, some 4 1/2 feet high, with
thirteen openings. Along the top of this dividing wall, at
regular intervals, were placed pillars bearing in Greek an
inscription to the effect that no stranger was, on the pain of
death, to pass from the court of the Gentiles into that of the
Jews. At the entrance to a graveyard at the north-western angle
of the Haram wall, a stone was discovered by M. Ganneau in 1871,
built into the wall, bearing the following inscription in Greek
capitals: "No stranger is to enter within the partition wall and
enclosure around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be
responsible to himself for his death, which will ensue."

There can be no doubt that the stone thus discovered was one
of those originally placed on the boundary wall which separated
the Jews from the Gentiles, of which Josephus speaks.

It is of importance to notice that the word rendered
"sanctuary" in the inscription was used in a specific sense of
the inner court, the court of the Israelites, and is the word
rendered "temple" in John 2:15 and Acts 21:28, 29. When Paul
speaks of the middle wall of partition (Eph. 2:14), he probably
makes allusion to this dividing wall. Within this partition wall
stood the temple proper, consisting of, (1) the court of the
women, 8 feet higher than the outer court; (2) 10 feet higher
than this court was the court of Israel; (3) the court of the
priests, again 3 feet higher; and lastly (4) the temple floor, 8
feet above that; thus in all 29 feet above the level of the
outer court.

The summit of Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood, is now
occupied by the Haram esh-Sherif, i.e., "the sacred enclosure."
This enclosure is about 1,500 feet from north to south, with a
breadth of about 1,000 feet, covering in all a space of about 35
acres. About the centre of the enclosure is a raised platform,
16 feet above the surrounding space, and paved with large stone
slabs, on which stands the Mohammedan mosque called Kubbet
es-Sahkra i.e., the "Dome of the Rock," or the Mosque of Omar.
This mosque covers the site of Solomon's temple. In the centre
of the dome there is a bare, projecting rock, the highest part
of Moriah (q.v.), measuring 60 feet by 40, standing 6 feet above
the floor of the mosque, called the sahkra, i.e., "rock." Over
this rock the altar of burnt-offerings stood. It was the
threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. The exact position on
this "sacred enclosure" which the temple occupied has not been
yet definitely ascertained. Some affirm that Herod's temple
covered the site of Solomon's temple and palace, and in addition
enclosed a square of 300 feet at the south-western angle. The
temple courts thus are supposed to have occupied the southern
portion of the "enclosure," forming in all a square of more than
900 feet. It is argued by others that Herod's temple occupied a
square of 600 feet at the south-west of the "enclosure."