Temple 201-The Temple Officials-Part 1

The affairs of the Temple were managed by 15 appointed officers called “memunim.” The Mishnah records the following duties requiring an officer:
* in charge of the seals given in exchange for the money to purchase a korban. The worshipper would take this seal (like a receipt) and go to the proper place, show the receipt and receive the korban he paid for.
* of libations
* of allotments (lots) to select kohanim for the daily duties
* of the nest of the birds for korbanot
* health department that dealt with physical needs of the kohanim
* the digging of wells for the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem along the roads
* of announcements, or the Temple Crier called the “gever” or “rooster”
* the opening and the closing of the gates
* of the wicks for the Menorah
* of the cymbals that lead the Levitical Choir
* of the musical instruments
* of the preparation of the Lechem ha Pannim (bread of the faces)
* of the incense and preparation
* of the veils
* of the vestments
Seven “trustees” or “amarkelim” and three cashiers (gizbarim) had charge of the Temple Treasury. In the courts of the Temple, there were 13 shofar shaped contribution boxes, with narrow necks and broad bases (Mishnah, Shekalim 6). The half shekel contributions for the public korbanot was demanded on the 1st of Adar and was payable by the 25th of Adar. There was a special room called the “Lishkat ha Sha’im” which means the “secret chamber.” This was for anonymous donations out of which the poor were supported.

There was also a chamber called the “Lishkat ha Kelim” or the “vessel chamber.” The people could donate vessels of silver and gold for the Temple services. Every 30 days this chamber was opened by the gizbarim (cashiers) who then selected what vessels could be used in the Temple. What was not selected was sold and the proceeds was applied to a fund that repaired the Temple and the buildings.

The priestly officials were the Kohan ha Gadol (High Priest), the Sagan (his deputy) and his two attendants called “Katolikin.” The priestly guard stood a strict watch of the Temple and this was made up of 3 priests and 21 Levites. The priests were stationed at the Beit ha Moked (Chamber of the Hearth), the chamber of Beit Avtinas at the southeast corner of the Azarah, and another at the chamber of the flame, called Beit ha Nitzotz (Mishnah, Midot 1.1). The 21 Levites were stationed in the following places:
*one at each of the five gates leading to the Temple Mount
* one at each of the four corners within the Azarah
* one at each of the five important gates of the courts
* one at each of the four corners of the Temple Mount enclosure
* one at the chamber of sacrifice
* one at the chamber of the veils
* one behind the Kapporet (Holy of Holies)
A captain of the guard saw that every man was alert. If he came along at night and the guard was asleep, they would burn his shirt (Mishnah, Midot 1.2).

The kohanim were divided into 24 mishmarot (courses) and these courses changed duty every week. When they were in the Temple for duty, they slept in the Beit ha Moked and the Beit ha Nitzotz. A fire was always burning and part of the chamber of the flame extended out into the Chel so the kohanim could come in, sit down and rest.
At night, the other priests slept on cushions placed in niches and steps. They would put their priestly garments under their heads and covered themselves with their common garments (Tamid 1.1). The older priests kept the keys to the Temple. These keys were put under a marble slab in the floor that had a ring so you could lift it up. A priest watched over this marble slab by sleeping over it until the keys were asked for by the memunay (officer) in the morning. A king had no rights beyond those of the ordinary Israelite when it came to these things. Only the kings from the house of David were allowed to sit down in the Azarah (Talmud, Sotah 41b; Tamid 27a).

The major Sanhedrin met in the Lishkat ha Gazit (Chamber of Hewn Stone) and this court was comprised of 71 judges. Two minor sanhedrin’s were made up of 23 judges and they sat in two places. One was by the south gate of the Temple Mount and the other was in front of the east gate leading to the court of the women. Sessions were held from the morning Tamid till the afternoon Tamid. On Sabbaths and festivals, the major Sanhedrin sat outside on the Chel (Talmud, Sanhedrin 88b). The minor Sanhedrin sat in the Beit ha Midrash (house of study).

There were several key locations around the Azarah. Beit Avtinas was in the southeast corner of the Azarah, where the High Priest stayed. This housed the Sanhedrin Major, the chamber of wood called the Lishkat ha Etz. There was also a place called the Beit Kior, where the laver was. The Kior was filled up every morning with water so the kohanim could wash their hands and feet. The Beit ha Osei Chavitim is where the pancake offering was made and baked. There was also a chamber for the Levitical choir. The Parbar was behind the Temple building where the korbanot of the kohanim were separated till offered. The Altar (mizbeach) is a major location, as was the slaughter area. The Beit ha Nitzotz was a chamber for the korbanot and was in the northeast corner of the Azarah. Salt for the korbanot was stored there and a room to press hides. A flame was kept there in case the fire on the Altar went out. The Beit Even (house of stone) was there and it is where the priest who was going to slaughter the Red Heifer stayed for one week. In the northwest corner of the Azarah stood and the Beit ha Moked is where the kohanim stayed while serving. The two lambs for the Tamid service were kept in the southwest corner of the building. A bakery for the Lechem ha Pannim (bread of the faces; the 12 loaves that went into the Holy Place on the Shulchan (table) located there was there. In this chamber, the stones from the previous altar that were defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes during the war with the Maccabee’s.

In Part 2, we will deal with the administration of the kohanim, the water drainage system in the Temple, Tophet and Akeldama.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, The Temple, Understanding the New Testament

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