The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Now let us go back and going over it again describe the Temple more in detail. The great open unroofed space between the cloisters and the terraces rising within, was called the Choi: " The Profane," because here the Gentiles could assemble for worship. The higher part farther in, on which the Temple itself stood, was called the Chel, " The Holy." This was approached by the steps of the grand staircase leading up east to the Women's Court, from the latter court, up to the Court of the Men, was another great and still more beautifully ornamented wide row of fifteen steps, on which the Levites stood when singing the services, where they chanted the " Fifteen Psalms of Degrees " on the Feast of Tabernacles. Over them rose the famous Nicanor Gate, made of magnificent, costly, burnished Corinthian brass. The wealthy merchant Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, had this made for the Temple of their fathers, and sent it by sea to Jerusalem. The ship was wrecked but they claimed that the gate was saved by a miracle.
The reason it was called the Xicanor Gate is as follows. In the days of the Machabees, Demetrius sent his general Nicanor, with a great army against Jerusalem. " And when Xicanor came down from the citadel into the Temple, some of the priests and elders met him, and saluted him, and showed him the sacrifices, which they said they offered for the king. Upon which he blasphemed and threatened them, that unless the people would deliver up Judas, upon his return he would pull down the Temple." 1 After blaspheming God, and his Temple, and threatening to burn the whole building, he went away to Betheron. Then Judas Machabeus and the Jewish army attacked, defeated and killed him. " And they cut off Nicanor's head and his right hand which he had proudly stretched out, and they brought it and hung it over against Jerusalem." (1. Mach. vii. 47.) It was over the old gate, built at these fifteen steps, that they hung up his head and arm, and that is why it was called the Nicanor Gate.
This was the most beautiful and costly of all the numerous gates in the Temple. It was all made of brass and bronze, with finest tracery, all burnished and shining like gold. It took the united strength of twenty men to open and close this gate morning and evening. Through this gate all the people of Israel, except the priests and Levites, passed, coming to or leaving the sanctuary.
The Women's Court was surrounded on the inside with a smaller cloister forming a colonnade, supported with beautiful columns carved in white marble. Under this colonnade was the Gazophylakeon, " The Treasury," with thirteen chests, called " Trumpets," because they were narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. Into these the offerings for the support of the Temple were placed —nine being for legal dues, the other four for free gifts. It was into one of the latter that the widow's mite was dropped." (Mark xii. 41.)
The four chambers in the corners were each sixty feet square. In the one at the north, to the right as you enter, priests, unlit to offer sacrifice because of blemishes, picked the worm-eaten wood from that destined for the altar. In the chamber at the northwest the lepers washed be fore presenting themselves to the priests at the Nicanor Gate. In the chamber at the southwest the oil and wine for the sacrifices were kept, and in the southeast corner, at the left as you entered, the Nazarines cut their hair or were tonsured, and there they cooked their peace-offerings In two rooms under the Court of the Israelites, the musical instruments were kept. Rooms like these extended all around the Court, each being sixty feet wide, four stories high, and forming a four-sided quadrangle completely inclosing the Women's Court.
Passing through this gate, you are in the Court of Israel, extending right and left the whole extent of the building. But it was very narrow, being 202.5 feet long and only 16.5 wide. It was separated from the Priests' Court to the west by a low balustrade of carved marble, only eighteen inches high the latter pierced in the center by an open gate or entrance, approached by three low semicircular steps, on which the priests stood in choir with vocal and instrumental music responding to the choir of Levites. These two Courts of Israel and the Priests might be taken as one. They formed an open roofless inclosure 280.5- by 202.5- feet. As you enter the Nicanor Gate on your right and left, in the Phinehas Chamber were receptacles for the priestly vestments, one for each of the four colors of the twenty-four courses of Priests, making in all ninety-six sets of vestments.
Then came the chamber of the meat-offering of the high priest, where each morning, before going to his duties, the officiating priests gathered and waited for the services to begin. The priests not chosen by lot for that day remained in the Beth-ha-Moked, "the House of Stoves." There was their dining hall, and there they had a fire to warm their feet, for they always ministered barefooted. In chambers, opening off this room the heads of the courses slept, and under the pavement was a receptacle where the keys of the Temple were kept at night, a priest sleeping on guard over them. In other rooms the proposition bread was prepared, warrants given to those who paid their tithes, and in another room six lambs were kept for the sacrifices. Other rooms to the north and south were for the salt, utensils used on the altar, storing clean wood, and the machinery for raising water.
But one room interests us. It was called Gazith: " Hall of Hewn Stones." There the Sanhedrin used to meet. It was here first they met in the great Council which condemned Jesus to death. These rooms were all on the ground floor, and with other rooms they formed an inclosure surrounding the courts. Over the rooms we have described were many others. In one of them the high priest had his private chambers, in another he spent the week preparing for his functions on the day of the Atonement, another was for synagogue services, another was a library, in another the genealogies of the families were kept.
It was not necessary for the priests to enter by the Xicanor Gate, for six gates, three on the north, and the same on the south, led into these courts. On the southern side was the Water Gate, through which, on the Feast of Tabernacles, was brought the pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam. The chamber over it was called Abtinas, there the priests kept guard at night; then the Gate of the Firstlings, through which the first-fruits were brought, and the Wood Gate through which the wood for the fire on the altar was carried- Above it were the private apartments of the high priest and the council chamber, where gathered the council or committee of the men who had charge of the Temple buildings. Along the north side was the Mtzut, " Spark Gate," with a guard-chamber over it for the priests, the Gate of Sacrifices, and the Gate of the Beth-ha-Moked. Besides those gates and rooms were chambers for the salting of the sacrifices, another for salting the skins, the latter being called Parvah, from its builder. A private bath room above it was for the use of the high priest.
1 Josephus Ant. B. xii., C x., 5.