The Temple had 13 gates leading into the inner courts. When looking at the Temple, we will be dealing with the southern gates primarily, and one in particular. Gates and buildings will not change locations when the First Temple was destroyed and the Second Temple was built. In the coming Third Temple, the gates and buildings will be in the exact locations also because we have a “tavnit” or “blueprint” from God, unless God homself chsnges it. There are some who believe Ezekiel’s Temple will not be on Mount Moriah.
In the southwest corner, there was a chamber called the Beit Ha Otzrot (House of the Treasuries). There was a gate going through this chamber called the Shaar Ha Elyon, or “Upper gate.” In the Mishnah, Middot 2.6, it says, “And there were chambers beneath the Court of the Israelites which opened into the Court of the Women, and there the Levites played upon harps and lyres and the cymbals and all the instruments of music. The Court of the Israelites was 135 cubits long and 11 cubits wide; so, too, the Court of the Priests was 135 cubits long and 11 wide, and the ends of flagstones separated the Court of the Israelites from the Court of the Priests. R. Eliezer b. Jacob said: There was a step one cubit high, and the Platform (Duchan) was set thereon, and on it were three steps each half a cubit high; thus the Court of the Priests was two cubits and a half higher that the Court of the Israelites. The whole of the Temple Court was 187 cubits long and 135 cubits wide. And thirteen prostrations were made there. Abba Jose b. Hanin said: Opposite the thirteen gates. The southern gates were thus reckoned counting from the west: The Shaar Ha Elyon (Upper Gate), The Shaar Ha Delek (Kindling Gate); The Shaar Ha Bechorot (First Born Gate); and the Shaar Ha Mayim (Water Gate). And why was it called the Shaar Ha Mayim (Watar Gate)? Because through it they brought in the flagon of water for the libation at the Feast of Tabernacles (Beit ha Shoevah ceremony). R. Eliezer b. Jacob said: Through it the waters trickle forth, and hereafter they will issue out from under the threshold of the house (Ezek 47.1). And opposite them on the north, counting from the west: The Shaar Ha Yechoniah (Gate of Jeconiah), the Shaar Ha Korban (Sacrifice Gate), The Shaar Ha Nashim (Gate of the Women) and the Shaar Ha Shir (Gate of the Singers). And why is it called the Shaar Ha Yechoniah? Because through it Yechoniah (Jeconiah) went forth when he went into exile (this shows that this gate was there in the First Temple-2 Kings 24.12). To the east was the Nicanor Gate, and it had two wickets, one to the right and one to the left. And there were two gates gates to the west (behind the Sanctuary) which had no names.” This mishnah is giving us the order of the gates from west to east. All these gates were in the First Temple eventually, and the Second Temple. However, they will have multiple names. We are going to deal with the Shaar Ha Elyon primarily in this teaching.
In 2 Kings 11 we have the account of the coronation of Joash. Athaliah tried to usurp the throne. She was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and brought Baal worship with her to the south. She begins to kill all the heirs to the throne she can find, but the priests hide a child named Joash in the attic of the Temple. He is there for 6 years. Now, the kohanim and Levi’im change courses every Sabbath. They decide that one-third will guard the kings house, one-third will guard the Shaar Ha Elyon and one-third will be at the Gate Sur, also called the Shaar Yesod, or “Foundation Gate” in 2 Chr 23.5. It was apparently an interior gate in or leading to the kings palace, which was on the Temple Mount (500c x 500c). In the Second Temple, it was in the outer courts and there was a building that connected the two called the Beit Ha Notzrot. It was where the Babylonian officials came and waited for Zedekiah to declare defeat (Jer 39.3). In the 7th year of this drama, they bring Joash out of the House of the Lord, capture Athaliah and kill her. This chapter is very eschatological.
The Beit Ha Notzrot was called the House of the Forest of Lebanon in the First Temple and the gate there was the Shaar Ha Elyon (Upper Gate). In 2 Kings 11.19 this gate was also called the “Gate of the Guard” or “Shaar Ha Ratzim” (guard, runner) in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. So we know that in 2 Chr 23 this gate is called the Shaar Ha Elyon (Upper Gate) and in 2 Kings 11 is called the Shaar Ha Ratzim. Same gate, different names. This is in the southwest corner building. So, let’s go back to a description of one of Solomon’s buildings in 2 Kings 7.2.
This building is called the House of the Forest of Lebanon, or Beit Ha Yair Ha Levanon. It was a massive structure, 100 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. It was located between the Temple building (Beit Ha Mikdash) and the palace (1 Kings 7.1-5). Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 5, Paragraph 2 says, “This house was a large and curious building, and it was supported by many pillars, which Solomon built to contain a multitude for hearing cases and taking cognizance of suits. It was sufficiently capacious to contain a great body of men who would come together to have their cases determined. It was a 100 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 high, supported by quadrangular pillars, which were all of cedar; but its roof was according to the Corinthian order, with folding doors, and their adjoining pillars of equal magnitude, each fluted with three cavities.”
We have another mention of this building in regards to the Queen of Sheba in Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 6, Paragraph 5 where it says, “She was so amazed at the wisdom of Solomon, and discovered that it was more excellent upon trial than what she heard by report beforehand; and she was surprised at the fineness and largeness of his royal palace, and not less so at the good order of the apartments, for she observed that the king had shown great wisdom; but she was beyond measure astonished at the house which was called the Forest of Lebanon.” This is quite an endorsement by another monarch.
in 1 Kings 10.4-5 we another account of the account in Josephus and we have a stairway mentioned. It is called “his stairway” and this stairway is the Shaar Ha Elyon, the Upper Gate. The gate to the House of the Forest of Lebanon connected the palace to the Azarah. There is a building that is there and a gate that the king would use to go up to the Azarah. This was the kings outer entrance into the Temple (2 Kings 16.18). This was a very artistic work of art and it had to be big enough to accommodate his security as he moved around. The king would “aliyah” or “go up” to the Azarah, and this is one reason why this gate is called the Shaar Ha Elyon, the “Upper” Gate. It was also higher in elevation than the palace. You can’t have anything higher than the Temple because it was the “palace” of the Lord, so the king cannot have a palace as high as the Temple.
The Queen of Sheba was a non-Jew, but she is allowed to go into the outer courts, and that is where the palace was. She will be able to view this “ascent” and the House of the Forest of Lebanon but cannot go into the Azarah. In the conclusion, we will pick up here and begin discussing the Levites as guards, the weapons that were used in 2 Kings 11 and where these things came from in relation to the Shaar ha Ratzim (Gate of the Guards) or Shaar Ha Elyon in the House of the Forest of Lebanon.