Inner Courts: Court of Israel; Court of the Priests:
From the women's court, the ascent was made by 15 semicircular steps (Mid., ii.5; on these steps the Levites chanted, and beneath them their instruments were kept) to the inner court, comprising, at different levels, the court of Israel and the court of the priests. Here, again, at the entrance, was a lofty, richly ornamented gate, which some, as said, prefer to regard as the Gate of Nicanor or Beautiful Gate. Probably, however, the view above taken, which places this gate at the outer entrance, is correct. The Mishna gives the total dimensions of the inner court as 187 cubits long (East to West) and 135 cubits wide (Mid., ii.6; v.1). Originally the court was one, but disturbances in the time of Alexander Janneus (104-78 BC) led, as formerly told, to the greater part being railed off for the exclusive use of the priests (Josephus, Ant, XIII, xiii, 5). In the Mishna the name "court of the priests" is used in a restricted sense to denote the space--11 cubits--between the altar and "the court of Israel" (see the detailed measurements in Mid., v.1). The latter--"the court of Israel"--2 1/2 cubits lower than "the court of the priests," and separated from it by a pointed fence, was likewise a narrow strip of only 11 cubits (Mid., ii.6; v.1). Josephus, with more probability, carries the 11 cubits of the "court of Israel" round the whole of the temple-court (BJ, V, vi). Waterhouse (Sacred Sites, 112) thinks 11 cubits too small for a court of male Israelites, and supposes a much larger enclosure, but without warrant in the authorities (compare Kennedy, ut supra, 183; G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 508 ff).
According to Josephus, there were ten entrances into the inner courts, four on the south, four on the north, one on the east and one leading east to west from the Court of Women to the court of the Israelites, named the Nicanor Gate. The gates were: On the south side (going from west to east) the Fuel Gate, the Firstling Gate, the Water Gate. On the north side, from west to east, are the Jeconiah Gate, the Offering Gate, the Women's Gate and the Song Gate. On the Eastern side, the Nicanor gate, which is where most Jewish visitors entered via the Nicanor gate. A few pieces of the Soreg have survived to the present day.
Within this area was the court of the women where all Jews, male and female, were permitted. Even a ritually unclean Cohen could enter to perform various housekeeping duties. There was also a place for lepers (considered ritually unclean), as well as a ritual barbershop for Nazirites. In this, the largest of the temple courts, there could be seen constant dancing, singing and music.
The Court of the Israelites could only be entered by men. Sacrifices of the high priest in the court of the priests were visible from here. The Court of the Priests was reserved for Levite priests.
The Inner Courts were on a higher level than the outer court. To enter into the Inner Courts one would have to pass through the western gate of the outer court and up a flight of stairs that had 15 steps to the first court which was the Court of the Israelites. This inner court measured 187 cubits (280 feet) long and 135 cubits (202 feet) wide, and surrounded the whole Temple Proper. Against the walls were chambers which stored the utensils required for the services. There were 3 gates on both the south and north sides, making seven entrances in all. 11 cubits of the eastern end were partitioned off by a stone balustrade 1 cubit high, for the men (the court of the Israelites), separating it from the rest of the space that went to form the court of the priests.