There were 12 ma’alot (steps) that led to the Eastern Gate into the Ezrat Ha Nashim (Court of the Women), with a smaller gate on the north and the south also, just like at the Nicanor Gate. There were two buildings to the right (north) and to the left (south) of this gate. The building to the north was called the “Sanhedrin Katanah” or “smaller Sanhedrin” with 23 judges. The Sanhedrin Gedolah (Great Sanhedrin) met in Beit Avtinas with 71 judges. These courts would hear different types of cases, just like in our criminal justice system, where we have criminal, civil and juvenile courts. Generally, a judge who wants to serve on the Sanhedrin Gedolah will serve for a period of time on the Sanhedrin Katanah. There was a third court called the “Beit Din Gedolah” (Great House of Judgement) that sat outside of the Temple walls at the southern steps that had three judges. They actually have found a building there with a plaque that said it housed the Beit Din Gedolah. Every major city will have a Beit Din and one of these will even be found in cities in the Diaspora. Good judges can move up to the higher courts. In the Mishanh, there is a tractate called “Sanhedrin” that explains all this.
To the left of the Eastern Gate there was a smaller building and this was one of the places that the ashes of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) were store At least one-third of the ashes of the last Parah Adumah that was slain were kept there. The ashes were also stored in several other places. One-third was stored on the Mount of Olives where the heifer was slain and burned. Another one-third was divided up among the Levitical cities throughout the land. You don’t need a lot of ashes to do a purification ceremony and they would last for 100’s of years. There have only been nine heifers slain since the first one with Moses. The tenth heifer will be slain when the Messiah comes, so say the Rabbi’s based on Ezek 36.25). You must be free from corpse impurity, or death, before you can enter the Temple, so that is why they are stores in this building to the left of the Eastern Gate. Nobody can go beyond the Soreg wall with corpse impurity.
Inside the 135 cubit x 135 cubit area of the Ezrat Ha Nashim, on the western wall there was a semi-circular stairway of 15 steps. The five handbreadth cubit of 19.2 inches was used in the Ezrat Ha Nashim. The steps were a half cubit. The steps in the Azarah were a half cubit, but the Royal Cubit of 20.67 inches was used. So, it depends on where you were to determine the size of the steps. The Great Nicanor Gate is at the west end of the Ezrat Ha Nashim. They were made of Corinthian brass and were very beautiful, and the only gate not plated with gold. It took 20 men to open this gate. To the north of this gate there was a wicket, or smaller door. The Sotah (woman suspected of adultery) ceremony took place here. The woman would stand at that smaller gate to drink the bitter waters (Num 5.16-28). The Meztora (one with Zara’at, or “leprosy”) stood there for their ceremony as well. In addition, a mother who had a child would stand there for her purification ceremony (Lev 12.1-8).
The south wicket (door) was used when you exited the Court of Israel. You entered in through the north wicket. The larger Nicanor Gate was only used for ceremonial purposes, you did not go in and out of the Court of Israel through that gate. To the right and left side of the 15 steps were two doorways to the music chambers. These went underneath the Azarah (Court of Israel). The musicians practiced and stored their instruments there.
We have four corner buildings associated with the Ezrat Ha Nashim. In the southwestern corner there was the Lishkat Ha Shemen, or Chamber of Oil. Wine was also stored there. There is not a lot of information on this building right now. It is 40 cubits long and 40 cubits wide (64 feet x 64 feet) and it had an open roof. In the southeastern corner there was a building called the Lishkat Ha Netzerim, or Chamber of the Nazarites. The nazir would take their hair after it had been cut off their body and put it into a fire there. They would also eat parts of the korbanot that had been offered for them as they came out of their Nazarite Vow. This is where Paul was in Acts 21.26.
Now, in-between this chamber and the Eastern Gate there was a small wicket/door that had a stairway (mesibah) up to the the balcony that overlooked the Ezrat Ha Nashim. This mentioned in the Mishnah, Sukkot 5.2 and called a “great amendment.” This was used by women and children during Sukkot because it got very “joyous” in the court below because of all the celebrating, so this was a safety issue.
In the northeast corner there was a building called the Lishkat Ha Etz, or the Chamber of Wood. Aged or disqualified priests could still in the Temple, but they could not minister in the daily services, so they inspected the wood that came into the Temple for the Altar. There can be no olive wood, grape vines or pine wood (made sparks). The wood could not have insects or be moldy either. There was a “wood offering” mentioned in Neh 10.34 with a schedule or fixed time to bring it. The posterity (house) of David of the tribe of Judah, which included Yeshua and his family, brought wood on the 20th of Tammuz (for more information on this, go to the John Gill Commentary on Neh 10.34). Nine times a year they would bring wood to the Lishkat Ha Etz, according to this fixed schedule: Nisan 1, the sons of Arach of Judah; Tammuz 20, the posterity of David; Av 5, the children of Parosh of Judah; Av 7, the sons of Jonadab, the son of Rechab; Av 10, the posterity of Senaah of Benjamin; Av 15, the children of Lattu and with them the priests and Levites and all who were of an uncertain tribe; Av 20, the posterity of Pahathmoab of Judah; Elul 20, the children of Adin of Judah; Tevet 1, the posterity of Perosh.
In the northwestern corner there was a building called the Lishkat Ha Metzorim or Chamber of the Lepers. A metzora was one with Zara’at, or leprosy, but it is not what we call leprosy today, that is called Hansen’s Disease and the two were unrelated. Once they were healed of zara’at, they must go to a kohen (priest). The kohen must examine the metzora and declare him free of zara’at. They still have ritual impurity so they must come to the Lishkat Ha Metzorim for a ceremony described in Lev 14.1-32. The kohen shaves every hair on the meztora, then they must immerse themselves. They have a separate day for men and another day for women. The women are shaved by women of priestly descent. The hair is burned in a fire in this chamber. They put their clothes back on and stay home for seven days. On the seventh day they come back again and they are shaved again, they wash their clothes and do an immersion. On the eighth day, offerings are given and the individual stands at the north wicket next to the Nicanor Gate. Remember, when you enter into a gate, and some were nearly 100 yards long, once you enter into that gate it has the kedusha of the court it opens up to, except for the Nicanor Gate and the two wickets on the north and south side. They have the kedusha of the Ezrat Ha Nashim because the ceremony of the metzora has to be “before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting” but he can’t go into the Azarah till after the ceremony. The Heichal, or Holy Place, is called the Ohel Moed, or “tent of meeting.”
Once at the north wicket, a kohen comes over with the blood of their offering and oil. He will be anointed on the right ear, the right thumb and right big toe. So, they stand in that wicket but they cannot enter the Azarah, so they stick their head through the wicket so their head is in the Azarah and the ear is anointed, looking towards the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim. Then they stick their hand in and the thumb is anointed. Then they stick their right foot in and the toe is anointed, making sure he does not touch down in the Azarah. There was a mikvah underneath the Lishkat Ha Meztorim, and it was found by Conrad Shick of the Palestinian Exploration Fund in 1870. It has been converted into a cistern by the Moslems. It was the only mikvah found that was on that side and that is how they know where the Lishkat Ha Metzorim was. This chamber had to be on the outside corner of the Ezrat Ha Nashim, so that is how they determined that these four corner buildings had to be on the outside of the corners of the Ezrat Ha Nashim.