Page images

The inner court corresponded, in general, with the court of the tabernacle. Toward the middle of it, in front of the sanctuary, stood a great Altar of burnt-offering, twenty cubits square, and ten high. (Ezek. viii. 16. Joel ii. 17. Matt. xxiii. 35.) It was furnished, also, with a huge brazen Laver, called a molten sea, five cubits high, and ten from brim to brim: this great vessel rested on the back of twelve oxen made of the same metal. In addition to this, Solomon caused ten other lavers, of much smaller size, to be set up in the court, five on the north side, and five on the south. They were placed every one upon a base, curiously wrought and fixed upon four wheels: the whole was molten-work of brass. Water was kept in these smaller lavers for washing the flesh of the victims that were sacrificed. Each of them, according to the common calculation of Jewish measures, held between nine and ten barrels, while the great brazen sea could contain about seven hundred. This last was appropriated altogether to typical use,-it was the Fountain for uncleanness, where the priests were required to wash, day after day, that they might not die when they drew near to minister before the Lord.

The description that is given of this temple in the bible is short, and it is not easy to understand it completely in all its parts, by reason of our ignorance of some of the terms employed. We must rest satisfied, therefore, with a gene. ral notion of its manner. We are told enough, however, to convince us that its beauty and magnificence were such as to surpass all representation. (1 Kings, chap. vi. vii. 2 Chron. chap. iii. iv.)

It was a most interesting and solemn occasion, when, after its completion, the temple was dedicated to the Most High God. The elders of the nation, and a vast congregation of the people, were assembled. The ark was borne in sacred order from Mount Zion. Sacrifices more than could be numbered were offered before it. The priests conveyed it then into the oracle, and set it in its place, beneath the wings of the two stately cherubim that stood upon the floor. When they came out, an exceeding loud burst of music was sounded from the sacred choir, swelling with the harmony of voices and instruments, in vast concert, and rolling its note of grand and thrilling praise all over Jerusalem. In

the midst of this solemnity, the cloud of Jehovah's glory took possession of the house, as it had long before filled the tabernacle, when it was first erected. Before its majesty the priests were not able to stand, to perform their ministry. On a brazen scaffold, before the altar, king Solomon stood and blessed the people, and, falling upon his knees, with his face toward the people, and his hands extended, poured forth a solemn and affecting prayer to God. When he had ended, a miraculous fire descended from heaven and consumed the sacrifices that were on the altar. Thus the Lord testified his approbation. The whole congregation bowed with their faces to the ground, and worshipped. Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. Many thousand were the victims slain. (2 Chron. chap. v. vi. vii.)

After being completely spoiled of its treasures, this beautiful temple was reduced to ashes by the Babylonians. The ruin took place about four hundred and twenty years from the time of its building, when the nation was crushed and carried into captivity for their many sins.



AFTER the return of the Jews from their captivity, according to a decree of Cyrus the Persian king, to which he was moved by a divine influence, the foundation of a new Temple was laid, under the direction of Zerubbabel. Soon after its commencement, the work was stopped for fifteen years. In the second year of the reign of Darius, God sent his word by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, to reprove the people for delaying to go on with the building, and to encourage them to carry it forward to completion. Then it was renewed, and, in a few years, finished. We have an account of this in the book of Ezra. Thus rose, on the ruins of the first, the Second Temple, about 515 years before the birth of Christ.

When the foundations of this house were laid, the old men, who had seen the temple of Solomon, wept, because

they thought it would fall so far short of that in glory. (Ezra iii. 12. Hag. ii. 9.) And, truly, there seemed to be much reason for such an opinion. The other had been erected in the most prosperous age of the nation, with every advantage that wealth, the most unbounded, and art, the most perfect, could unite: this was to be raised by a broken remnant of the kingdom, just restored from distant captivity to a wasted and almost deserted country. When it was completed it seemed to labour under a still more melancholy imperfection. It wanted those miraculous manifestations of divine regard, which had been displayed toward the tabernacle and the first temple, and some other most sacred advantages which they had enjoyed. No CLOUD of glorious majesty was seen taking possession of its newly erected sanctuary: no fire descended from heaven to kindle the sacrifice upon its altar: no Shechinah abode between the cherubim in the Most Holy Place. Alas, there was neither ark, mercy-seat, or cherubim, found there! They had perished, with the two tables of the law, in the ruin of the other temple. Thus, the oracle was without its glory. No voice sounded from behind the veil, as in ancient times, to acquaint the inquiring high-priest with the will of Heaven. Silence and darkness reigned together there year after Five important things, the Jews say, were wanting, in the second state of the temple, that belonged to the first: these were the Ark-the Urim and Thummim-the Fire from Heaven-the Shechinah-and the Spirit of Prophecy.

Yet this was the word of God by his prophet: I will fill this house with glory—the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts. (Hag. ii. 6-9.) The outward glory of the latter house became in the end very great; the silver and gold of the earth belong to the Lord, and he caused them to meet in vast quantity for the decoration of his temple: but the prophecy had in view a different and far more excellent glory. The second temple never equalled the first in the costly magnificence of its work, and wanted much that gave moral dignity and sacredness to the other: but it obtained the pre-eminence, at last, by such a manifestation of Divine Presence within its courts as the first was never permitted to enjoy. It was not honoured with the Cloud of Jehovah's glory, but it was

distinguished by the presence of JESUS CHRIST, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily-who was God himself manifest in the flesh! (Mal. iii. 1. Col. ii. 9. 1 Tim. iii. 16.)

The second temple was completely builded over again by Herod the Great. To gratify his pride, and to recommend himself to the favour of the nation, which he was conscious of having justly forfeited by his unheard-of cruelties, he took it into his head to pull down the house which Zerubbabel had erected, and to raise in its room a new one, vastly more beautiful and magnificent. The Jews were afraid, at first, that he was not sincere in his proposal, and might, after taking down the old building, leave them without any; for he was a deceitful and malicious man. It was not, therefore, until they saw the materials made ready for a new one, with prodigious labour and expense, that they were willing to let the other be removed. This was done only seventeen years before our Saviour appeared in the world, and in nine years and a half from that time, the main part of the new building was completed, so as to be fit for its regular service. Still, however, the work of beautifying and adding to the general structure, continued to be carried on many years after, even till after the Redeemer's death. Wherefore, the Jews were not wrong, when they said to him, about the thirtieth year of his life, Forty and six years was this temple in building. (John ii. 20.) So long, at that time, was the period which had elapsed from the laying of its foundations, and all the while it had been receiving new improvement.

Let us now take a rapid view of the several parts of this second temple, as it stood in the days of our Saviour, in all its beautiful grandeur. It was, indeed, as we have just seen, the third building erected on Moriah's sacred summit for the worship of God: but, because the temple put up after the captivity, had never been destroyed by enemies, like the first, and had been taken down by the Jews themselves, merely that it might immediately rise again, with a more excellent form, both these buildings were very properly spoken of as together forming, one after the other, the same Second Temple; which, accordingly, had its pe

riod from the time of Zerubbabel to the destruction of the city by the Romans.


THE top of Moriah, the Mountain of the Lord's House, (which, as already noticed, was so extended by art, as to measure about half a mile in compass, or a furlong square,) was enclosed by a wall, five and twenty cubits high, built around upon each side. This was the outer wall; in some parts, perhaps pretty generally all the way round, it took its start, properly, from the base of the mountain, being nothing else than the wall that was built, as we have seen, from the valleys below, in order to increase the surface above, carried upward twenty-five cubits higher than the summit of the hill. Prodigious, then, we may well conceive, was the distance directly downward, in many places, from the top of this wall on the outside, to its deep bottom in the valley beneath.

This outer wall, which was built of stone, beautiful and strong, was furnished with several gates. They were all large, and costly in their workmanship; having each two great folds, covered over with precious metal, and so heavy that they could not be opened or shut without considerable effort. The most stately and costly one of all, was on the east side-if that was, indeed, as some suppose, the magnificent Eastern Gate, noticed by the Jewish historian, Josephus. It was covered with Corinthian brass, exceedingly splendid, and more precious than silver and gold. A flight of many steps rose to its entrance, from the deep valley of Cedron, below. A causeway, also, lifted high upon arches, stretched in front of it, across the valley, making a straight and level way over to the Mount of Olives, on the other side. This gate was not situated in the middle of the eastern wall, but considerably farther along towards the north end, in order that it might directly face the porch of the sanctuary, or sacred house of the temple, which was fixed, by divine direction, to the northern part of the enclosed square. It was called the King's Gate, because all the eastern side of the hill to which it belonged, had been formed, originally, by king

« PreviousContinue »