We are going to begin talking about a typical day in the Temple. We have already talked about when the kohanim come on duty and they entered the Beit Avitinas at the southeast corner building. They were interviewed by the Sanhedrin for eligibility, those eligible wash their hands and feet at the Kior after they changed their clothes. They then assisted the outgoing mishmar in changing the Lechem ha Pannim (the 12 loaves that went on the table in the Holy Place). On the right side of the Sanctuary entrance there was a marble table, and on the left side there was a gold table. The new bread was placed on the marble table, and the out-going bread was placed on the gold table. It came off a gold table, so it needed to stay on a gold table. You can’t go backward in kedusha. The old bread was eaten by the new and incoming mishmarot. The incoming mishmar then took over the afternoon service.
That night, the Temple was locked and the priests stayed in the northwestern corner building called the Beit ha Moked. This building was 100 x 50 cubits and four stories high. They slept inside this building on stone bleachers going up along the wall. The elders of each mishmar were called the Beit Av or “father of the house.” The oldest of them held the keys to the Temple. They locked the doors of the Beit ha Moked and then laid down, putting the keys in a hole in the marble floor underneath them. If you were a young priest, you would sleep on the lower bunks and oldest slept on the upper ones. During the night, around 3 am, priests would begin to go down a stairway leading down to a place called the Beit ha Tevilah, or “house of immersion.” This was under the Azarah and there was a fire and a “chair of dignity” or a toilet. They would use the facilities, then immerse, and warm themselves by a fire there. They would then come back to the Beit ha Moked. If some became ritually unclean during the night they would go through another tunnel underground which had benches. They would wait till the gates of the Temple were opened and exit. They would not participate in the services of that day. The kohanim who were ritually clean waited in the Beit ha Moked for the officer called the Memunay (permanent official-Tamid 1.2)) to come. These officers were Levites, not priests, and there were 15 of them and we have already mentioned them. The Temple Crier mentioned in the Gospels as a “rooster” was one of them (Yoma 1.8). This memunay did not always come to the Beit ha Moked at the same time everyday. Yeshua referred to this practice when he said that he would come when some weren’t ready. Sometimes he came at “cockcrowing” (Temple Crier’s cry) or other times. These priests had to get up early and be ready if they wanted to participate in the services. It can get cold in Jerusalem and they can have blizzards. They are on top of a mountain. The mikvah is cold and they were barefooted, but they had to be ready. When the memunay knocked, they weren’t going to wait for anyone still downstairs in the mikvah. Only those ready could participate in that day’s services and participate in the lots (Tamid 1.2; Yoma 2.1-4).
So, what we are going to get into now is what they did exactly, and what the daily Tamid service looked like. This Tamid was a lamb that was totally burnt on the Altar, called an Olah. This service was familiar to all who went to the Temple and is referred to in Num 28.1-8. It was the afternoon Tamid service that is being referred to in Acts 3.1, called the “hour of prayer.” We are going to be quoting from the Danby Mishnah, Tractate Tamid 1.1 through 7.3, with comments in parenthesis. You will need a copy of Tamid and illustrations of what we will be referring to help you see this service. The daily Tamid service is as follows:
The priests kept watch at three places in the Temple: at the Beit Avtinas (SE corner), the Beit ha Nitzotz (“chamber of the spark”-NE corner), and the Beit ha Moked (SW corner). The Beit Avtinas and the Beit ha Nitzotz were on the upper story and there were young men (priests) kept watch. The Beit ha Moked was vaulted; it was a large chamber and around it ran a raised stone pavement; and there the eldest of the fathers house used to sleep with the keys to the Temple Court in their hand. The young priests had each his mattress on the ground. They did not sleep in the sacred garments but stripped them off, folded them up and put them under their heads and dressed themselves in their own clothes. If one of them suffered a pollution he would go out and go along that passage that leads below the Temple building, where lamps were burning here and there, until he reached the Beit ha Tevilah (house of immersion). There was a fire there and a toilet, and this was its seemly use: if he found it locked he knew that someone was there; if open he knew that no one was there. He went down and immersed himself, came up and dried himself, and warmed himself before the fire. He returned and lay down beside his brethren the priests until the gates were opened, when he went out and left the Temple.
He that was minded to clean the Altar of ashes rose up early and immersed himself before the officer (memunay) came. At what time did he come (the memunay)? Sometimes he came at cockcrow(sunrise and the three fold cry of the Temple Crier) and sometimes a little sooner or later. The officer came and knocked on the door where they were, and they opened to him. He said, :Let him that has immersed himself come and cast lots.” And they cast lots and the lot fell upon whom it fell.
He took the key and opened the wicket (door) and entered the Temple Court (Azarah) by the Beit ha Moked. The priests entered after him carrying two lighted torches and they separated into two parties, the one going colonnade eastwards and the other going along the colonnade westwards. As they went they kept diligent watch until they came to the place where the Baken Cakes (in Beit Avitinas) were made. When both were come together they called to the other, “All is well?” “All is well!” There they left them that made the Baken Cakes to make the Baken Cakes.
He whose lot it was to clear the Altar of ashes went to clear the Altar of ashes, while they said to him, “Take heed that thou touch not the vessel before thou hast sanctified they hands and feet (can’t go into this area because of the kedusha) in the laver (Kior); and lo, the fire-pan lies in the corner between the ramp (62 feet long) and the Altar (about 64 feet square and 15 feet high), on the western side of the ramp.” None went in with him and he carried no lamp, but he walked in the light of the Altar fire. They neither saw him nor heard the sound of him until they heard the noise of the wooden device (called the “Muchni” which was a wheel to draw water from a cistern) which Ben Katin (named after the man who made it) had made for the laver (the Kior had 12 spikets); and they said, “The time is come!” He sanctified his hands and feet at the laver, took the silver fire-pan and went up to the top of the Altar and cleared away the cinders to this side and to that, and scooped up the innermost burnt cinders and came down again. When he reached the pavement he turned his face to the north and went some ten cubits to the east of the ramp. He heaped the cinders together on the pavement three handbreadths away from the ramp at the place where they throw the crops of the birds and the ashes from the inner Altar (of incense) and the Candlestick (Menorah).
We will continue in Tamid 2.1 in Part 2.