The Nicanor Gate was not used to go in and out like other gates. When you went into the Court of Israel, you went in through the northern wicket next to the Nicanor Gate, and when you went out you went through the southern wicket. The Nicanor Gate was only used for ceremonial purposes. For example, at Sukkot, you had the Beit Ha Shoevah (“House of the Water Pouring”) ceremony in the morning, and then at night the chief priests, levitical choir and musicians would come through the Nicanor Gate to take part in the Simchat Beit Ha Shoevah (Rejoicing in the House of the Water Pouring”) that took place in the Court of the Women.
In the courtyard there were four huge lights. Each light was on a pole in the four corners of the court. There four vats of oil to each pole, for a total of sixteen. The discarded undergarments of the priests were used as wicks, called “swaddling clothes.” These vats were lit up and it is said that every courtyard in Jerusalem was illuminated by these lights (which were called “the light of the world”). So, the chief priests, levitical choir and the musicians along with the people, rejoiced with torches, music, singing and dancing. All of this was done under these four great lights. It is said that anyone who has not seen the Simchat Beit Ha Shoevah ceremony at night has not seen rejoicing in his life.
So, during Sukkot, they drank wine and strong drink (Deut 14.22-29) during these celebrations. They could not go into the Azarah if they drank wine and strong drink, but they could in the Court of the Women (lower kedusha). As a result, them men were separated from the women and children at that time for safety reasons. We are told that the Sages (Chachmim, “wise men”, scholars) danced with torches and swords also, so you don’t want any anyone hurt so that is why they were separated. There was a southern wicket next to the Eastern Gate to the Court of the Women. They went up a set of stairs to a balcony overlooking the Court of the women, and they could watch the celebrating from there.
What can you expect by studying the Temple? There will be a degree of education and change that you will go through. Your understanding will grow in the Scriptures. The misconceptions people have about the Temple will be corrected, and it is far more than most people think. The scope and and magnificence of the Temple Complex will be appreciated. It is sais, “When you think of the Temple, thin k big…then think bigger!” The information needed to rebuild the Temple has already been provided by the Lord through the Tanach, the Mishnah, Josephus, The Palestinian Exploration Fund, the Dead Sea Scrolls and archaeological finds almost daily. Your appreciation for the “Jewish writings” will grow and you can read about these things for yourself. The concept of “Kedusha” will be understood, probably for the first time. The complexity of the day to day operations in the Temple will amaze you.
The role of the people when they went into the Temple and the eagerness they had in coming will be clearly seen. Far from being a burden, the kohanim, the Levi’im and Am Israel (people) loved the Temple. The kohanim ran to do their duties, even to the point a priest got hurt trying to get to his post first. The Temple was far from burdensome for the people. It was always filled with worshippers well before the services began everyday. The services were well organized, moving to cues like the Great Gate opening or trumpets sounding. Cymbals and songs would begin on cues without anyone telling the choir to start, they just listened for the cues. There is a document called the Letter of Aristeas that testifies to this fact. He was amazed at the silence of the services and everyone knowing exactly what to do, and how coordinated it was.
The Temple teaches the nature of God, very orderly and detailed. What we would think is important really wasn’t. God is precise and so should we when we study and in our walk. The kohanim went about their duties without a single loose word. Everyone knew what they were doing. This is another example for us in our studies and walk. That also went for the Levites, musicians and singers, as well as the people. The Temple was seen as a “palace” so God will be seen as a king. God designed the Temple, the ceremonies, the sacrifices (korbanot) the rules and they were given to David. Everyone had a role to play and you cannot usurp these roles. It was serious but there was a joy.
It is said that if the nations of the world (including Israel) had really known and understood the value of the Temple, they would have taken their armies and surrounded it to protect it, and yet believers take it very lightly and think of it as unimportant. To most it is just a curiosity of history, and just another archaeological site.
The Temple is coming back, with all the kedusha and importance it had before and we should be prepared. The Temple is the “eye of the universe” and there is a good book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan called “The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology II” which really develops this concept. The music of the Temple and the requirements were set. There were certain songs for certain times and there was no time for “creative expression” in the Temple music. The music came from God to the people through the choir, that’s why their backs were to the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim. They were not there to lead the people in their worship to God, it was the Lord who was leading the choir to speak to the people. That is a totally opposite of what is seen today. The word “selah” seen in the Psalms means to “prostrate” not the vague concept “pause” taught today.
The inheritance of Temple duties is an interesting concept. We know that kohanim had an inheritance, but the Levites, singers and musicians did, too. If you were a musician, your children were musicians. It was the same with singers and so on. Those that baked bread in the wilderness had descendants who baked bread in the Temple. Those that made the incense were from the Avtinas family. There was no “cross training” in the Temple or changing of duties. In this way they could perfect their duties and they were empowered by God to do them.
Idioms, phrases and concepts from the Temple are seen all over the Scriptures and knowing them will help in interpretation. For instance, the Temple Crier who gave verbal instructions to the kohanim, Levi’im and the people was called a “rooster” (Gever). This illuminates what happened at the trial of Yeshua. The “swaddling clothes” of the priests, the “light of the world” in the Court of the Women, the 18 Benedictions prayed at the incense service are all related to the birth of Yeshua. Then we come to all the ceremonies, there are so many idioms, phrases and concepts that are seen from these ceremonies in the Scriptures that whole books would have to be written. The term “rightly dividing” that Paul uses is directly related to the korbanot. The washing of hands and the feet only is a Temple concept. All the fundamental principles of the faith in Heb 6.1-2 are all taught in the Temple. The Temple was like a “University of Biblical Studies” with the kohanim as the professors. Knowing the Temple and its services will go hand in hand with our understanding of the Messiah. To the extent that we understand the Temple, will be to the same extent that we understand the Messiah.
Sources used in the Temple 201 series include:
NASB and KJV
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament
The Two Babylons (Hislop)
The Mishnah (Danby edition)
Biblical Archaeology Review (Nov/Dec-1989 and Mar/April-1992)
Jerusalem Temple Study (Hatikva)
The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (Edersheim)
Josephus’ Wars of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews
Korban Asham article in Wikipedia
The Workforce Significance of the Guilt Offerings (Theology at the Workplace)
Rosh Ha Shannah and the Messianic Kingdom to Come (Joseph Good)
Sketches of Jewish Social Life (Edersheim)
Hertz Pentatuech and Haftorahs (Hertz)
Tz’enah Ur’enah (Artscroll)
Mishanh Says on Shemot (Weissman)
The Coming of Messiah and Yom Kippur (Hatikva. Org)
Hertz Authorized Daily Prayer Book (Hertz)
Exodus Rabbah (a midrash)
Everyman’s Talmud (Cohen)
Waters of Eden (Aryeh Kaplan Anthology II)
Ancient Israel (Deveaux)
List of titles and names for Prince Charles (Wikipedia)
Colorful Ceremonies of the Beit Ha Mikdash (Toah V’ Mesorah)
Days of Awe (B.S. Jacobson)
The Psalms in Israels Worship (Mowinckel)
The Story of Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus: Talmudic Sage and a Nazarene (Nazarenespace.Com)
Israel Today, May 2014
Zodiates Hebrew-Greek Study Bible
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon
James the Brother of Jesus (Eisenmann)
The Targums (Ben Uzziel and Onkelos)
The Dictionary of Dieties and Demons (Brill Pub)
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary
The Letter of Aristeas (can be obtained online)
John Gill Commentary
Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus (Blizzard/Bivin)
The Temple that Jerusalem Forgot (Ernest Martin)
Witness in the Stars (Bullinger)
Unger’s Bible Dictionary
Anchor Bible Dictionary
Rosh Ha Shannah and Yom Kippur Machzor (Artscroll)
Measure the Pattern (Joseph Good)