The Altar in Herod's Temple by Edersheim

The most prominent object in the Court of the Priests was the immense altar of unhewn stones, * a square of not less than 48 feet, and, inclusive of 'the horns,' 15 feet high. They were 'whitened' twice a year. Once in seven years the high-priest was to inspect the Most Holy Place, through an opening made from the room above. If repairs were required, the workmen were let down through the ceiling in a sort of cage, so as not to see anything but what they were to work at. All around it a 'circuit' ran for the use of the ministering priests, who, as a rule, always passed round by the right, and retired by the left. * The three exceptions to this are specially mentioned in the Talmud. The high-priest both ascended and descended by the right. As this 'circuit' was raised 9 feet from the ground, and 1 1/2 feet high, while the 'horns' measured 1 1/2 feet in height, the priests would have only to reach 3 feet to the top of the altar, and 4 1/2 feet to that of each 'horn.' An inclined plane, 48 feet long by 24 wide, into which about the middle two smaller 'descents' merged, led up to the 'circuit' from the south. Close by was the great heap of salt, from which every sacrifice must be salted with salt. * Also a receptacle for such sin-offerings of birds as had become spoiled. This inclined plane was kept covered with salt, to prevent the priests, who were barefooted, from slipping. On the altar, which at the top was only 36 feet wide, three fires burned, one (east) for the offerings, the second (south) for the incense, the third (north) to supply the means for kindling the other two. The four 'horns' of the altar were straight, square, hollow prominences, that at the south-west with two openings, into whose silver funnels the drink-offerings, and, at the Feast of Tabernacles, the water from the Pool of Siloam, were poured. A red line all round the middle of the altar marked that above it the blood of sacrifices intended to be eaten, below it that of sacrifices wholly consumed, was to be sprinkled. The system of drainage into chambers below and canals, all of which could be flushed at will, was perfect; the blood and refuse being swept down into Kedron and towards the royal gardens. Finally, north of the altar were all requisites for the sacrifices--six rows, with four rings each, of ingenious mechanism, for fastening the sacrifices; eight marble tables for the flesh, fat, and cleaned 'inwards'; eight low columns, each with three hooks, for hanging up the pieces; a marble table for laying them out, and one of silver for the gold and silver vessels of the service.

Read More