In the House of the Forest of Lebanon, the royal and Temple armory was located there. We also have a guardhouse. Now, we are not saying theses were the only functions of the House of the Forest of Lebanon, but we have a massive building. It was huge and it has the room to do many things, plus other functions. So, certain rooms of the House of the Forest of Lebanon will be used as an armory and a guardhouse. So, let’s look at some passages that will tell us this. 1 Kings 10.16-17 tells us it was also a treasury of sorts because the shields stored there were of gold.
Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 7 Paragraph 2 says, “He also cast 2000 hundred targets of gold, each of them weighing 600 shekels, he also made 300 shields, every one weighing 3 pounds of gold, and he also had them carried and put into the house which is called the House of the Forest of Lebanon.” In 2 Chr 12.9-11 and 1 Kings 14.25-28 it says that “Shishak king of Egypt came against Jerusalem and took the treasures of the House of the Lord and the treasures of the kings palace. He took everything; he even took the golden shields which Solomon had made.” The House of the Forest of Lebanon was an armory and Shishak took everything.
In 2 Chr 12.10 we have in the NASB the word “guard” and that is “ratzim” in Hebrew. This word means a “runner” as well as guard. What we have is an armory and the gold shields are replaced by bronze ones by Rehoboam.
There is another reference to the House of the Forest of Lebanon being an armory in Isa 22.8 during the time of Hezekiah where it says, “He removed the defense of Judah, in that day you depended on the weapons of the house of the forest.” Where it really opens up is when we come to the coronation of Joash in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chr 23. This is a tremendous eschatological passage. Athaliah usurps the throne in Judah and puts to death any heirs. One child is hidden in the attic of the Temple and he is under guard for protection. After six years, the king is to be brought out from the house of the Lord by way of the gate of the guards (ratzim) and that was in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. This gate is also called the Shaar ha Elyon or “upper gate.” We know that the House of the Forest of Lebanon is the armory and we are told that three times (2 Chr 12.9-11; 1 Kings 14.25-28 and Josephus). Exactly where in the House of the Forest of Lebanon the chamber of the ratzim was located is unsure. We know that Jehoida in 2 Kings 11 goes there to get spears and shields. When the king is taken out, he goes through the Gate of the Ratzim. He passes through that to the palace built by Solomon. This palace was used during the First Temple period. When the Temple is rebuilt by Zerubbabel, they will not build the palace there but they will incorporate the same area into it. Now, remember, the Temple building was in the exact spot that the Second Temple was, right over what is called the Dome of the Rock. The House of the Forest of Lebanon is where the Beit Otzrot was, so this will give you some perspective.
Now, let’s go to another passage in this in 2 Chr 23. It will basically describe the same events in 2 Kings 11 Why would this be important? We need to know where the gates are. Once you find the first gate, it becomes an anchor for finding the others. 2 Chr 23.1-5 mentions the “Gate of the Foundation” or “Shaar ha Yesod.” This gate is different than the Shaar ha Elyon. In 2 Chr 23.16-21 we will pick up additional information. In v 20 we have the “upper gate” mentioned and that is the Shaar ha Elyon in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. This is the same gate as the “gate of the guards” or “ratzim” in 2 Kings 11.19. This is the gate of the runners (ratzim) and associated with associated with the House of the Forest of Lebanon. So, in other words, the House of the Forest of Lebanon equals the armory, equals the Chamber of the Runners/Guards (ratzim), equals the Gate of the Guards/Runners (ratzim) which equals the Shaar ha Elyon or the “upper gate.” Therefore, the Shaar ha Elyon equals the House of the Forest of Lebanon. 2 Chr 23.20 and 2 Kings 11.19 are the same gate, the Shaar ha Ratzim and the Shaar ha Elyon. This will eventually be the southwest corner building of the Azarah in the Second Temple called Beit ha Otzrot.
Trying to keep up with all of this is like trying to keep your eye on a peanut in a shell game, so all you have to do is keep your eye on the House of the Forest of Lebanon. The Shaar ha Ratzim and the Shaar ha Elyon are the same gate, and we have traced this information to the House of the Forest of Lebanon.
In Middot 2.6 it says, “The whole of the Temple Court was a hundred and eighty-seven cubits long and a hundred and thirty-five cubits wide.. And thirteen prostrations were made there (the Azarah). Abba Jose b. Hanin said: Opposite the thirteen gates. The southern gates were thus reckoned counting from the west: the Upper gate (Shaar ha Elyon), the Kindling Gate, the Gate of the Firstlings, and the Water Gate.” So, the Shaar ha Elyon, or Upper Gate, was the most western gate. So, with that information we can can establish the House of the Forest of Lebanon, and in the First Temple, this gate carried you to the palace. We can assume that Solomon’s palace was in the western half of the southern area of the 500 cubit by 500 cubit Temple Mount proper. They could go from one to the other.
There is more in formation on the House of the Forest of Lebanon, so we are going back to 1 Kings 10.4-5. It says that the Queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon in the house he had built and their attire, his cupbearers, the food of his table, the seating of his servants and the attendance of his waiters, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. King Joash went down this stairway to the palace from the Temple in 2 Kings 11.19 and 2 Chr 23.20. So the stairway went through the Shaar ha Elyon to the Temple. 2 Chr 9.4 is telling the same story as in 1 Kings 10.4-5 and it says the Queen of Sheba was “breathless.” In 1 Kings 10.11-12 it talks about “almug” tree’s. In 2 Chr 9.10-11 it is “algum” tree’s. It is believed that from these Solomon made the stairway (2 Chr 9.11). The stairway was inside the House of the Forest of Lebanon that ascend to the Temple. Many people could use it. This building was huge, with an armory and a guardhouse remember.
We have talked about what the Temple area looks like today. We have the Al-Aqsa mosque at the southern wall of the Temple Mount, towards the western, middle. That area had been built up by the Hasmoneans, there was no ground there in the time of Solomon and the First Temple. This area was further extended by Herod. The walls of Solomon’s palace is north of that, quite a ways in, as you come to the Al-Kos Fountain, and in front of that there is a stairway. Next to that stairway, a discovery was made a few years ago. It revealed what was called a “Monumental Stairway.” Scholars believe that this stairway was the steps that led to the Chel on the south side of the Temple in the Second Temple period. It is not there at this time because the Moslems did some renovations right after a picture was taken of it in 1870. They have either destroyed it or they have buried it behind a wall, and filled in with dirt and tree’s. There is just no way of knowing at this time.
In Part 4, we will pick up here and continue discussing the Monumental Stairway and how this fits in to placing Temple buildings, gates in the past, which will help place them in the coming Temple.