There were six veils, or curtains, in the Temple. There was one at the entrance to the Ulam, or porch, that had the “panorama of the heavens” on it. This was the veil that was torn. There was another at the doorway to the Holy Place. There were two at the entrance to the Kodesh ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies), or “Devir” (which means “the Word”), and two more that corresponded to those on the ground floor in the attic, or loft, of the Temple. This is where Joash was hidden for six years in 2 Kings 11.
The priests go into the Heichal (Holy Place) daily because the Menorah, the Shulchan ha Pannim (table of the bread of the faces) and the Mizbeach shell Zahav (Golden Incense Altar) was in that room. But, only one time a year could the High Priest enter into the Kodesh ha Kodeshim (the Holy of Holies, also called the “Devir.” Let’s say you are in the attic, or loft. There are different jobs that they would do up there. However, if you are in the attic you are not allowed to go into the area directly over the Holy of Holies. So, there were two veils separating the areas that corresponded to the Holy Place and Holy of Holies in the attic. Now, every seven years, the Holy of Holies was cleaned. There were holes in the floor in the attic area directly over the Holy of Holies. Priests were lowered through these holes in a three sided box to clean the walls.
The two veils into the Holy of Holies had Cherubim on them, and they did not go across all the way across the width of the Holy of Holies, which was 20 cubits wide. The veils were 19 cubits wide. When you walked into the Holy Place and saw the curtains, there was a one cubit opening on the left that you would walk through, in between the curtains. Then you would come to the other one cubit opening on your left, turn and walk through it into the Holy of Holies.
What does the tearing of the veil mean? Some say this tearing “destroyed the barrier” between God and man at the Holy of Holies. However, we don’t have any more access to the Holy of Holies than we had before if there was a Temple. The book of Hebrews tells us that Yeshua is a High Priest in the Heavenly Temple according to the order of Melchi-Zedek, and not according to the earthly Temple and Aaronic priesthood, which God promised Aaron and his family eternally. This is a very important concept, in Ezekiel’s Temple there will be no High Priest. If you read about this Temple in Ezekiel chapters 40-48 you won’t find one. What you have is the “prince” or “nasi” performing the duties of High Priest. This “prince” or “nasi” is understood as the Messiah. However, this first meaning of the tearing of veil cannot be the meaning. It is not saying the veil was torn to give us access into the Holy of Holies because it is the wrong veil, and there were two at the entrance of the Holy of Holies, not a single veil. And as we have seen, you could enter into the Holy of Holies anyway, because these veils had an opening on the ends to walk through.
If you notice at Yeshua’s immersion, the “heavens” were torn in Mark 1.10. This was at the beginning of his ministry. The veil that was called “the heavens” at the entrance to the porch of the sanctuary was torn at his death (Mark 15.38), at the end of his ministry. The same word “schizo” is used in both passages. In other words, we have the veil at the porch (the Ulam) that was torn. The veil to the Holy Place was already open during the day, but the veil that was not open was the veil to the Sanctuary building, at the porch. When this was torn, with the veil to the Holy Place already open, you could see right into the Holy Place. You could see the Menorah, the Shulcahn ha Pannim and the Mizbeach shell Zahav. There were panels on the walls inscribed with the various “mysteries” of the Lord. So, that needs to be taken into account. The meaning is this. We can’t go into the Holy Place, but we can “see” things we never saw before. This was saying that the deeper things of God will now be understood, it is “open” to those who want to see.
In 2 Chr 26.16-23 we have the account of King Uzziah entering the Holy Place to burn incense, and how he was truck be leprosy. He had to live in a separate house the rest of his life. In Amos 1.1 we read a prophecy of Uzziah, two years before “the earthquake.” Remember, the veil was torn at an earthquake in Matt 27.51. Zech 14.4-5 also talks about an earthquake, like the one in the time of Uzziah. Then the Lord comes with his “holy ones.” In Deut 33.2 it talks about the coming of the Messiah from Mount Sinai with a “fiery law” (Torah) with his holy ones. Hab 3.3-13 says the same thing, and how the Lord will come from Teman and his radiance is like the sun. These verses talk about his coming with an upheaval.
In Josephus, Antiquities 9.10.4, it talks about how Uzziah went into the Holy Place to burn incense, and there was an earthquake. The Temple building was torn and the wall cracked, letting the sun shine in on Uzziah’s face, and he was struck with leprosy. In the first century, the Jewish people were looking for the redemption. There was a question at his crucifixion that if he was the Messiah, let Elijah come and take him down from the cross. We have read where there will be an earthquake when the Messiah comes, bringing the redemption, like in the days of Uzziah and the Temple was “torn.” So, Yeshua dies and there was an earthquake, and the veil that could be seen by the people was torn from top to bottom. What were they thinking? Some of them were shaken. The reality that the redemption had come was sinking in, but nothing happened for three days. Then Yeshua was resurrected.
In 70 AD the Temple was destroyed, and it was destroyed on a Sabbath. The Psalm that was to be read that day was Psalm 92, but they didn’t read that one. They read the Psalm for Tuesday instead. Why did they do that? In 1967, it was a Tuesday when they took the Temple Mount. It connected this event with the events in 70 AD. In the same way, we have a closing “part” of the redemption in the first century, and then it will pick up where it left off.
The tearing of the veil showed that the “deeper things of God” will now be seen and understood. During the three pilgrim festivals, these veils may have been opened to the Holy of Holies for the people to see into the Holy of Holies (Aryeh Kaplan “Anthologies; Talmud Yoma 54a; Tosefot Yeshenim). A “doorman” in the house of God” is one who can “open up” the deep things of God for the people (Psa 84.10).
Sources used in this study include:
Josephus Antiquities, Book 9
Josephus “Wars”, Book 5
Study series on “Tearing the Veil” from Hatikva Ministries
Anthology, Aryeh Kaplan, p 91
Personal study notes