In the first century, the Beit ha Mikdash, or “House of Kedusha”, was destroyed. Many, like Josephus and in the Mishnah, wrote about the glory of the Temple. Even the talmidim made mention of this glory in Matt 24.1. Many came from all over the world to see it. We are going to deal with the building itself, called the Sanctuary. Sometimes this is called “Herod’s Temple” but we will not be referring to it with that name. The Jewish people never liked that designation because Herod was so evil
The Sanctuary itself was wider at the bottom than at the top because of all the cells, or small chambers, that were at the bottom. The Sanctuary is in sections. First we have the “Ulam” or “porch.” Then the Heichal, also called the Ha Kodesh and the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting). Then we come to the Devir, or Kodesh ha Kodeshim. Debir is the biblical term meaning “word” (1 Kings 7.49, 8.6 in Hebrew). God “spoke” from there and that is why the word “Devir” (word) is used (Exo 25.22). A stairway on the north side up to the roof is called the Mesibah. On the other side of the Sanctuary building there is a water drain. Both the Mesibah and the water drain are 3 cubits wide.
Now, the Sanctuary had an attic. This was where King Joash was hidden for six years in 2 Kings 11. This attic was exactly over the bottom floor and it had a parochet (veil) up there separating the section that was over the Devir. Every seven years, priests were lowered down from this part of the attic through holes called “Lulin” in the floor of the attic into the Devir. They would clean the walls and were lowered into the Devir in three-sided baskets. It was a stressful job because they couldn’t look around or what if the cable broke, etc. This may have been done during a sabbatical year because things slowed down that year in the Temple (no tithes, etc). So, let’s look at some of the dimensions of the Sanctuary.
Cubits were used for measurements and there was what was called “The Royal Cubit” of 20.67 inches used on the 500 cubit x 500 cubit Temple Mount. The word “cubit” is “amah” and is the same word for “mother” in Hebrew. The Heicahl was 40 cubits (68.9 feet) long and 20 cubits (34.45 feet) wide. The Sanctuary wall is 6 cubits (10.3 feet) thick. The space between the two parochet (veils) in the Heichal is 1 cubit (20.67 inches). The front of the Sanctuary, going north to south, was 100 cubits (172.25 feet). The Ulam (porch) wall is 5 cubits (8.6 feet thick). The Mesibah is 66 cubits (113.68 feet) long and 45 cubits (77.5 feet) high. The Devir is 20 cubits (34.45 feet). There were two other cubit sizes used in the Temple. In the Ezrat Nashim (Court of the Women) and the outer courts leading up to the Chel, a 5 hand-breadth cubit of 19.2 inches was used. In all other areas there was a 6 hand-breadth cubit of 23.04 inches.
Each cell is 6 cubits (10.3 feet) wide from east to west, and the wall was 5 cubits (8.6 feet) thick. The rear of the Sanctuary is 70 cubits, going north to south (120.6 feet), wide. The length, starting from the front to the rear (east to west) is 100 cubits (172.25 feet) long. The wall next to the Mesibah (north) is 5 cubits (8.6 feet) thick. The Mesibah is 3 cubits wide (5.16 feet). Then the wall of the around the cells is 5 cubits (8.6 feet) thick. The Amah Tracksin (the wall around the Sanctuary) is 6 cubits (10.3 feet) thick. Then we have the water drain that was 3 cubits (5.16) wide.
Some vertical measurements include the basement that was 6 cubits (10.3 feet) high. Many do not realize that the Sanctuary had a basement, but it did. The Sanctuary is 40 cubits (68.9 feet) high. The attic is 40 cubits (68.9 feet) high. From the floor to the attic ceiling was 85 cubits (146.4 feet) high in the front. Beams were 1 cubit (20.67 inches). Spikes on the roof to keep birds off were 1 cubit (20.67 inches) high. The bottom cells (offices) has a corridor of 7 cubits 12 feet) wide and the cell was 5 cubits (8.6 feet). The second floor had a corridor of 6 cubits (10.3 feet) and 6 cubit (10.3 feet) cells. The third floor had a 5 cubit corridor (8.6 feet) and 7 cubit (12 feet) cells. The beams between each level was 1 cubit (20.67 inches) thick, with a 1 cubit (20.67 inches) ledge.
On the outside, the front facade was gold, the lower parts on the side of the Sanctuary was gold. The upper portion of the Sanctuary building was whitewashed. They said it looked like a snow-capped mountain when you saw it.
As you can see by these measurements a hurricane could not move this building. We need to have a vision of what this building really looked like to even see a glimpse of its glory. Going over numbers like this can send people into a “coma” but we need to relate to a Temple of these dimensions. If we have some idea then we can look at buildings today and think “how tall is that” and then say “the Temple was bigger than that. There is a saying about the Temple, that we should think big…then think bigger! When you come up the 12 steps, you come to the Ulam (porch) and it was a building. When you go through the Ulam, the Temple building has a facade. It was very elaborate and it had four columns with golden vines coming down on them. Each leaf was nearly the size of a man (Josephus). They would take a leaf and give it to a priest in need, it was part of their care. These leaves were donated to the Temple and they could have their name engraved on it. This made the Temple “personal.”
Three times a year the males of Israel were to appear before the Lord (Exo 23.14-15). They were not to come “empty-handed.” Deut 16.16 also mentions this fact. Now, Paul came out of a Nazarite vow (Acts 18.18) and was coming to Jerusalem to keep the festival of Shavuot (Acts 20.16). In Acts 24.17 Paul states why he came to the Temple. He came to “bring alms to my nation and to present korbanot (sacrifices).” When you came to the Temple, you were to bring gifts for the poor who waited there. You were to look for them and the poor and needy were to go there to seek help. There were no Social Security benefits back then, the people were to help those in need. Acts 3.1-2 talks about a lame man at the Beautiful Gate, and he was supposed to be there. This is not a negative on his part. You could also give to the Temple treasuries as well as directly.
The Kingdom offer was extended after Yeshua was rejected. The Kingdom of God is a variation of the Kingdom of YHVH in 1 Chr 28.5 and 2 Chr 13.8. The Kingdom of God is the same as the Kingdom of Heaven and it is the restored Kingdom of Israel (Acts 1.6). Healing and taking care of the needy was a part of that, so that is why the poor and needy were at the Temple. First, let’s look at something.
The people who were agricultural would tithe for six years to the Levites. Then the Levites would tithe to the kohanim, and the Levites would take what they needed. The rest was put into storehouses in each of the 24 districts, and there was a city in each district with Levites in it, with storehouses, corrals and silos. The Levites would then distribute these goods to the poor in that district who were on a “list” of the truly needy. There were qualifications that needed to be met to get on that list, like a widow who could work would not qualify and a widow who had children would not qualify. It was the responsibility of the of her children to take care of her. In the case of someone with a disability, or you are a stranger in the land or you haven’t been able to work, the Levites would help.
In Part 2, we will pick up here and discuss the procedure at the Temple in giving and helping the poor. Then we will go on to discuss the Temple building, the windows, the parochet (curtains), colors and so much more.