We left off last time talking about a discovery years ago. This discovery is called the “Monumental Stairway” on the south side and scholars believe this was part of the stairway that led to the Chel of the Second Temple. The Moslems have either destroyed it or they have buried it behind a wall and filled it in with dirt and trees. Where that stairway ends, that is right where the stairway before the Al-Kos fountain is. That stairway is in direct line with the Huldah passageways of the Second Temple were, the Kodesh ha Kodeshim and a tunnel called the Tadi Gate Tunnel on the north side.
That stairway anciently was not as wide as it is today. In the Moslem era, we have quotes from visitors that said this stairway was enlarged. Now, what this means is that the old stairway was exactly as wide as the Huldah Gate passageways and the Tadi Gate tunnel. What is interesting is, if you put the House of the Forest of Lebanon there, it will overlap this stairway. This means that the stairway that is there now is possibly sitting over the stairway that Solomon had built, that Joash used, made of almug wood, inside the House of the Forest of Lebanon.
The king would go into the House of the Forest of Lebanon and ascend up into the Temple courtyard inside this house. He would go up the stairway and enter through this gate called the “upper gate” of the Shaar ha Elyon. But there is a problem in the Azarah. Only a king descended from David is allowed to sit down in it. The rule is, a building has the kedusha of what courtyard the gate opens to. The gate was the whole complex, or building. You had to pass through the gate/building to enter the courtyard. But once you entered that gate, you could not go any further.
In Middot 1.7-8 we will tie this concept to the House of the Forest of Lebanon. The Beit ha Moked had two gates, one to the Azarah and at the other end of the building one to the Chel. The Kohanim slept at that end of the building. They could sleep there becvause the Beit ha Moked was divided, it was a huge building. Half of the building did not have the kedusha of the Azarah because the gate at that end opened to the Chel, so they could sit and sleep there. The other half opened to the Azarah so it had the kedusha of the Azarah, so they could not eat or sleep at that end. Middot 1.7-8 says, “There were two gates to the Chamber of the Hearth (Beit ha Moked): one opened towards the Rampart (Chel) and one opened towards the Temple Court (Azarah). R. Judah said: In that which opens towards the Temple Court was a small wicket by which they went in to inspect the Temple Court. The Chamber of the Hearth was vaulted; it was a large chamber and around it ran a raised stone pavement; and there the eldest of the father’s house (of priests) used to sleep with the keys of the Temple Court in their hand. The young priests had each his mattress on the ground.”
Middot 1.6 says, “There were four rooms in the Beit ha Moked, like cells opening into a hall, two within holy ground and two outside holy ground (so we have it written about this “division”), and then ends of flagstones (telling you when you crossed over from holy ground to common ground) divided the holy from what was not holy. And what was their use? That to the south west was the Chamber of the Lamb-offerings (Tamid); that to the south east was the Chamber of them that made the Showbread (the Lechem ha Pannim, or “Bread of the Faces”) ; in that to the north east the sons of the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) had hidden away the stones of the Altar which the Grecian kings had defiled; and by that to the north west they went down to the Chamber of Immersion.”
Now, let’s go back to Solomon’s original structures. We are going to look at one more that deals with the southern area of the Azarah. This is found in Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chaper 5, Paragraph 2, “There was also another house so ordered, that its entire breadth was placed in the middle: it was quadrangular, and its breadth was thirty cubits, having a temple over against it, raised upon massy pillars; in which temple there was a large and very glorious room, wherein the king sat in judgment.” 1 Kings 7.7-8 says, “And he made the hall of the throne where he was to judge, the Hall of Judgment, and it was paneled with cedar from floor to floor and his house where he was to live, the other court inward from the hall.” This was the “Hall of Judgment.” What is doesn’t give is any description of its size. It just says it was a hall for the throne and judgment. 1 Kings 7.9-12 goes on to say, “All these were of costly stones, of stones cut according to measure sawed with saws, inside and outside, even from the foundation to the coping, and so on the outside to the great court. And the foundation was of costly stones, even large stones, stones of ten cubits and stones of eight cubits. And above were costly stones cut accordingly to measure, and of cedar. So the great court all around had three rows of cut stone and a row of cedar beams even as the inner court of the house of the Lord had the porch of the house.”
Now, in the Second temple, you had a chamber called the “Chamber of Hewn Stone.” And we are told that it is on the south east side of the Azarah. Remember, Solomon only built (as far we know) on the southern side of the Temple enclosure, on the southern wall of the Azarah, with its gates and structures. Middot 5.4 says, “Those to the south were the Lishkat ha Etz, the Lishkat ha Golah (where they drew water for the Azarah), and the Lishkat ha Gazit (Chamber of Hewn Stone) where the Great Sanhedrin of Israel sat to judge the kohanim as they entered to perform their week’s service in the Azarah. This was Israel’s great court in the Second Temple period.
What is believed is that the Lishkat ha Gazit is sitting exactly where the Hall of Judgment was, built by Solomon where he could sit and judge. There are no dimensions given for this chamber, not in Josephus or the Tanach, or in the Mishnah tractate Middot. However it is believed that this chamber was exactly the same as the House of the Forest of Lebanon (100c x 50c x 30c=1 Kings 7.2). Remember, the rule about sitting in the Azarah. No king could sit in the Azarah unless they were descended from David. That wasn’t a problem for Solomon or the other kings when they sat to judge, at least until the Babylonian Captivity. But later, how are the judges going to sit in the Second Temple, unless they sat outside the gate area, and the person being judged would have to stand in the Azarah areas with that kedusha? An accused person must stand before the judge (Exo 17.13).
We have descriptions of the Chamber of Hewn Stone and there are several reasons why this chamber is called this. At the south east corner we find that the bedrock had an outcropping of stone there. Charles Wilson in the 1870’s found that the ground had been “hewned” down in that area. Wilson was an engineer with the Palestinian Exploration Fund out of England. It also relates to the passage in 1 Kings 7.9-12 where huge stones were cut and dressed and trimmed. Also, Solomon had costly stones because of their quality. Even though all the Temple was hewn stone, this building was of exceptional quality.
Over the Chamber of Hewn Stone, there was a dome. The purpose of this dome was for a covering and being under the covering of God. There are many examples in the Tanach. A sukkah is a covering, the kohanim were covered because of the anointing oil on their head and a chuppah is a covering. The judges sat under this “kippah” (dome) to show they were under the covering of God as they gave their judgments. As to whether there was a dome in the First Temple Hall of Judgment, nobody can say. You can assume there was if they had one in the Second Temple, but there is no way of knowing for sure. They did not just change structures in the later period on the whole.
In Part 5, we will pick up here and begin discussing Solomon’s throne and where they were.