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The Temple - Ministry and Servics #1

In the time of Christ


From the book by Alfred Edersheim


"And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over
it." Luke xix.41.

     IN every age, the memory of Jerusalem has stirred the
deepest feelings. Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans turn to it
with reverent affection. It almost seems as if in some sense each
could call it his 'happy home,' the 'name ever dear' to him. For
our holiest thoughts of the past, and our happiest hopes for the
future, connect themselves with 'the city of our God.' We know
from many passages of the Old Testarrent, but especially from the
Book of Psalms, with what ardent longing the exiles from
Palestine looked towards it; and during the long centuries of
dispersion and cruel persecution, up to this day, the same
aspirations have breathed in almost every service of the
synagogue, and in none more earnestly than in that of the paschal
night, which to us is for ever associated with the death of our
Saviour. It is this one grand presence there of the 'Desire of
all nations,' which has for ever cast a hallowed light round
Jerusalem and the Temple, and given fulfilment to the prophecy--
"Many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the
mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He
will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in is paths: for out
of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from
Jerusalem." 1 
     His feet have trodden the busy streets of Jerusalem, and the
shady recesses of the Mount of Olives; His figure has 'filled
with glory' the Temple and its services; His person has given
meaning to the land and the people; and the decease which He
accomplished at Jerusalem has been for the life of all nations.
These facts can never be past - they are eternally present; not
only to our faith, but also to our hope; for He 'shall so come in
like manner' as the 'men of Galilee' had on Mount Olivet 'seen
Him go into heaven.'

     But our memories of Jerusalem stretch far back beyond these
scenes. In the distance of a remote antiquity we read of
Melchisedek, the typical priest king of Salem, who went out to
meet priest the ancestor of the Hebrew race, and blessed him. A
little later, and this same Abraham was coming up from Hebron on
his mournful journey, to offer up his only son. A few miles south
of the city, the road by which he travelled climbs the top of a
high promontory, that juts into the deep Kedron valley. From this
spot, through the cleft of the mountains which the Kedron 

1 Isaiah ii.3

has made for its course, one object rose up straight before him. 
It was Moriali, the mount on which the sacrifice of Isaac was to
be offered. Here Solomon afterwards built the Temple. For over
Mount Moriah David had seen the hand of the destroying angel
stayed, probably just above where afterwards from the large altar
of burnt-offering the smoke of countless sacrifices rose day by
day. On the opposite hill of Zion, separated only by a ravine
from Moriah, stood the city and the palace of David, and close by
the site of the Temple the tower of David. After that period an
ever-shifting historical panorama passes before our view,
unchanged only in this, that, amidst all the varying events,
Jerusalem remains the one centre of interest and attraction, till
we come to that Presence which has made it, even in its
desolateness, 'Hephzibah,' 'sought out,' 'a city not forsaken.' 1
     The Rabbis have a curious conceit about the origin of the
name Jerusalem, which is commonly taken to mean, 'the
foundation,' 'the abode,' or 'the inheritance of peace,' They
make it a compound of Jireh and Shalem, and say that Abraham
called it 'Jehovah-Jireh; while Shem had named it Shalem, but
that God combined the two into Jireh-Shalem, Jerushalaim, or
Jerusalem. 2 
     There was certainly something peculiar in the choice of
Palestine to be the country of the chosen people, as well as of
Jerusalem to be its capital. The political importance of the land
must be judged from its situation rather than its size. Lying
midway between the east and the west, and placed between the
great military monarchies, first of 

1 Isaiah Lxii. 4.   2 Ber. R.

Egypt and Assyria, and then of Rome and the East, it naturally
became the battle-field of the nations and the highway of the
world. As for Jerusalem, its situation was entirely unique.

     Pitched on a height of about 2,610 feet above the level of
the sea, its climate was more healthy, equable, and temperate
than that of any other part of the country. From the top of Mount
Olivet an unrivalled view of the most interesting localities in
the land might be obtained. To the east the eye would wander over
the intervening plains to Jericho, mark the tortuous windings of
Jordan, and the sullen grey of the Dead Sea, finally resting on
Pisgah and the mountains of Moab and Ammon. To the south, you
might see beyond 'the king's gardens,' as far as the grey tops of
'the hillcountry of Judea.' Westwards, the view would be arrested
by the mountains of Bether, 1  whilst the haze in the distant
horizon marked the line of the Great Sea. To the north, such
well-known localities met the eye as Mizpeh, Gibeon, Ajalon,
Michmash, Ramah, and Anathoth. But, above all, just at your feet,
the Holy City would lie in all her magnificence, like 'a bride
adorned for her husband.'

'Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount
Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King. . .
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof,
Mark Ye well her bulwarks consider her palaces.'  If this could
be said of Jerusalem even in the humbler days of her native
monarchy? it was emphatically true at the time when Jesus 'beheld
the city,' after Herod the Great had

1 Song of Solomon ii. 17.
2 Psalm xlviii. 2,12,13. The psalm was probably written during
the reign of Jehoshaphat.

adorned it with his wonted splendour. As the pilgrim bands 'came
up' from all parts of the country to the great feasts, they must
have stood enthralled when its beauty first burst upon their
gaze.1  Not merely remembrances of the past, or the sacred
associations connected with the present, but the grandeur of the
scene before them must have kindled their admiration into
enthusiasm. For Jerusalem was a city of palaces, and right
royally, enthroned as none other. Placed on an eminence higher
than the immediate neighbourhood, it was cut off and isolated by
deep valleys on all sides but one, giving it appearance of an
immense natural fortress. All round it, on three sides, like a
natural fosse, ran the deep ravines of the Valley of Hinnom and
of the Black Valley, or Kedron, which merged to the south of the
city, descending in such steep declivity that where the two meet
is 670 feet below the point whence each had started 2  
     Only on the north-west was the city, as it were, bound to
the mainland. And as if to give it yet more the character of a
series of fortress-islands, a deep natural cleft - the Tyropceon
- ran south and north right through the middle of the city, then
turned sharply westwards, separating Mount Zion from Mount Acra. 
Similarly, Acra was divided from Mount Moriah, and the latter
again by an artificial valley from Bezetha, or the New Town.
     Sheer up from these encircling ravines, rose the city of
marble and cedar-covered palaces. Up that middle cleft, down in
the valley, and along the slopes of the hills,

1 See the 'Songs of Degrees,' or rather 'Psalms of Ascent' (to
the feasts), specially Psalm cxxii.
2 In fact, the valley of Hinnom and the glen of Kedron were
really one. For this and other topographical details the reader
is referred to 'The Recovery of Jerusalem,' by Capts. Wilson and
Warren, R.E.

crept the busy town, with its streets, markets, and bazaars. But
alone, and isolated in its grandeur, stood the Temple Mount.
Terrace upon terrace its courts rose, till, high above the city,
within the enclosure of marble cloisters, cedar-roofed and richly
ornamented, the Temple itself stood out a mass of snowy marble
and of gold, glittering in the sunlight against the
half-encircling green background of Olivet. In all his wanderings
the Jew had not seen a city like his own Jerusalem. Not Antioch
in Asia, not even imperial Rome herself, excelled it in
architectural splendour. Nor has there been, either in ancient or
modern times, a sacred building equal to the Temple, whether for
situation or magnificence; nor yet have there been festive
throngs like those joyous hundreds of thousands who, with their
hymns of praise, crowded towards the city on the eve of a
Passover. No wonder that the song burst from the lips of those

'Still stand our feet Within thy gates, Jerusalem! Jerusalem, ah!
thou art built As a city joined companion-like together.' 1

     From whatever side the pilgrim might approach the city, the
first impression must have been solemn and deep. But a special
surprise awaited those who came, whether from Jericho or from
Galilee, by the well-known road that led over the Mount of
Olives. From the south, beyond royal Bethlehem - from the west,
descending over the heights of Beth-horon--or from the north,
journeying along the mountains of Ephraim, they would have seen
the city first vaguely looming in the grey distance, till,
gradually approaching, they had become familiar with its
outlines. It

1 Psalm cxxii. 2,3. The allusion is to the various hills which, 
'like companions,' are joined together to form 'the city.'

was far otherwise from the east. A turn in the road, and the
city, hitherto entirely hid from view, would burst upon: them
suddenly, closely, and to most marked advantage. It was by this
road Jesus made His triumphal entry from Bethany on the week of
His Passsion 1. Up from 'the house of dates' the broad, rough
road wound round the shoulder of Olivet. Thither the wondering
crowd from Bethany followed Him, and there the praising multitude
from the city met Him. They had come up that same Olivet, so
familiar to them all. For did it not seem almost to form part
of the city itself, shutting it off like a screen from the desert
land that descended beyond to Jordan and the Dead Sea?
     From the Temple Mount to the western base of Olivet, it was
not more than 100 or 200 yards straight across, though, of
course, the distance to the summit was much greater, say about
half a mile.
     By the nearest pathway it was only 918 yards from the city
gate to the principal summit.2  Olivet was always fresh and
green, even in earliest spring or during parched summer--the
coolest, the pleasantest, the most sheltered walk about
Jerusalem. For across this road the Temple and its mountain flung
their broad shadows, and luxuriant foliage spread a leafy canopy
overhead. They were not gardens, in the ordinary Western sense,
through which one passed, far less orchards; but something
peculiar to those climes, where Nature everywhere strews with
lavish hand her flowers, and makes her 

1 See the glowing description in Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine."
2 'By the longer footpath it is 1,310 yards, and by the main
camel road perhaps a little farther.' Josephus calculates the
distance from the city evidently to the top of Mount Olivet at
1,010 yards, or 5 furlongs. See "City of the Great King," p.59.

gardens - where the garden bursts into the orchard, and the
orchard stretches into the field, till, high up, olive and fig
mingle with the darker cypress and pine. The stony road up Olivet
wound along terraces covered with olives, whose silver and dark
green leaves rustled in the breeze. Here gigantic gnarled
fig-trees twisted themselves out of rocky soil; there clusters of
palms raised their knotty stems high up into waving plumed tufts,
or spread, bush-like, from the ground, the rich-coloured fruit
bursting in clusters from the pod. Then there were groves of
myrtle, pines, tall, stately cypresses, and on the summit itself
two gigantic cedars. To these shady retreats the inhabitants
would often come from Jerusalem to take pleasure or to meditate,
and there one of their most celebrated Rabbis was at one time
wont in preference to teach. 1  Thither, also, Christ with His
disciples often resorted.
     Coming from Bethany the city would be for some time
completely hidden from view by the intervening ridge of Olivet.
But a sudden turn of the road, where 'the descent of the Mount of
Olives' begins, all at once a first glimpse of Jerusalem is
caught, and that quite close at hand. True, the configuration of
Olivet on the right would still hide the Temple and most part of
the city; but across Ophel, the busy suburb of the priests, the
eye might range to Mount Zion, and rapidly climb its height to
where Herod's palace covered the site once occupied by that of
David. A few intervening steps of descent, where the view of the
city has again been lost, and the pilgrim would hurry on to that
ledge of rock. What

R. Jochanan ben Saccai, who was at the head of the Sanhedrim
immediately before and after the destruction of Jerusalem.

a panorama over which to roam with hungry eagerness! At one
glance he would see before him the whole city - its valleys and
hills, its walls and towers, its palaces and streets, and its
magnificent Temple almost like a vision from another world. There
could be no difficulty in making out the general features of the
scene. Altogether the city was only thirty-three stadia, or about
four English miles, in circumference. Within this compass dwelt a
population of 600,000 (according to Tacitus), but, according
to the Jewish historian, amounting at the time of the Passover to
between two and three millions, or about equal to that of
London. 1


     The first feature to attract attention would be the city
walls, at the time of Christ only two in number. 2 The first, or
old wall, began at the northwestern angle of Zion, at the tower
of Hippicus, and ran along the northern brow of Zion, where it
crossed the cleft, and joined the western colonnade of the Temple
at the 'Councilhouse.' It also enclosed Zion along the west and
the south, and was continued eastward around Ophel,

1 Mr.Fergusson, in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, i. p.1025,
controverts these numbers, on the ground of the population of
modern cities within a given area. But two millions represent not
the ordinary population, only the festive throngs at the
Passover. Taking into consideration Eastern habits - the sleeping
on the roof, and possibly the camping out - the computation is
not extravagant. Besides, however untruthful Josephus was, he
may, as a general rule, be trusted where official numbers,
capable of verification, are concerned. In fact, taking into
account this extraordinary influx, the Rabbis distinctly state,
that during the feasts - except on the first night - the people
might camp outside Jerusalem, but within the limits of a
sabbath-day's journey. This, as Otho well remarks (Lex. Rabb.
p.195), also explains how, on such occasions, our Lord so often
retired to the Mount of Olives.
2 The third, largest, and strongest wall, which enclosed Bezelha,
or the New Town, was built by Herod Agrippa, twelve years after
the date of the crucifixion.
till it merged in the south-eastern angle of the Temple. Thus the
first wall would defend Zion, Ophel, and, along with the Temple
walls, Moriah also. The second wall, which commenced at a gate in
the first wall, called 'Gennath,' ran first north, and then
east, so as to enclose Acra, and terminated at the Tower of
Antonia.  Thus the whole of the old city and the Temple were
sufficiently protected.
     The Tower of Antonia was placed at the northwestern angle of
the Temple, midway between the castle of the same name and the
Temple. With the former it communicated by a double set Tower of
of cloisters, with the latter by a subterranean passage into the
Temple itself, and also by cloisters and stairs descending into
the northern and the western porches of the Court of the

     Some of the most glorious traditions in Jewish history were
connected with this castle, for there had been the ancient
'armoury of David,' the palace of Hezekiah and of Nehemiah, and
the fortress of the Maccabees.     
     But in the days of Christ, Antonia was occupied by a hated
Roman garrison, which kept watch over Israel, even in its
sanctuary. In fact, the Tower of Antonia overlooked and commanded
the Temple, so that a detachment of soldiers could at any time
rush down to quell a riot, as on the occasion when the Jews had
almost killed Paul. 1 The city walls were further defended by
towers - sixty in the first, and forty in the second wall.   
Most prominent among them were Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne,
close by each other, to the north-west of Zion - all compactly
built of immense marble blocks, square, strongly fortified, and
surmounted by 

1 Acts xxi. 31.

buildings defended by battlements and turrets 1  They were built
by Herod, and named after the friend and the brother he had lost
in battle, and the wife whom his jealousy had killed.
If the pilgrim scanned the city more closely, he would observe
that it was built on four hills. Of these, the western, or
ancient Zion, was the highest, rising about 200 feet above
Moriah, though still 100 feet lower than the Mount of Olives.   
     To the north and the east, opposite Zion, and divided from
it by the deep Tyropeeon Valley, were the crescent-shaped Acra
and Moriah, the latter with Ophel as its southern outrunner. Up
and down the slopes of Acra the Lower City crept. Finally, the
fourth hill, Bezetha (from bezaion, marshy ground), the New Town,
rose north of the Temple Mount and of Acra, and was separated
from them by an artificial valley. The streets, which, as in all
Eastern cities, were narrow, were paved with white marble. A
somewhat elevated footway ran along for the use of those who had
newly been purified in the Temple, while the rest walked in the
roadway below. The streets derived their names mostly from the
gates to which they led, or from the various bazaars Thus there
were 'Water-street,' 'Fish-street,' 'East-street,' etc. The
'Timber Bazaar' and that of the 'Tailors' were in the New City;
the Grand Upper Market on Mount Zion. Then there were the 'Wool'
and the 'Braziers' Bazaar;' 'Bakerstreet,' 'Butcher-street,' 
'Strangers'-street,' and many others similarly named. Nor would
it have been difficult to identify the most prominent buildings
in the city. At the north-western angle of Mount Zion, 

1 For particulars of these forts, see Josephus's Wars, v. 3.

the ancient Salem and Jebus, on the site of the castle of David,
was the grand palace of Herod, generally occupied by the Roman
procurators during their temporary sojourn in Jerusalem. It stood
high up, just within shelter of the great towers which Herod had
reared - a marvel of splendour, of whose extent, strength,
rooms, towers, roofs, porticoes, courts, and adjacent gardens
Josephus speaks in such terms of admiration.


     At the opposite, or north eastern corner of Mount Zion,   
the, palace of the High-priest. Being built on the slope of
the hill, there was under the principal apartments a lower story,
with a porch in front, so that we can understand how on that
eventful night Peter was 'beneath' in the palace. 1 
     Beyond it, probably on the slope of Acra, was the
Repository of the Archives, and on the other side of the cleft,
abutting on the Temple, with which it was probably connected by a
colonnade, the Council Chamber of the Sanhedrim.  Following the
eastern brow of Mount Zion, south of the High-priest's palace,
and opposite the Temple, was the immense Xystus, which probably
extended into the Tyropoeon. Whatever may have been its original
purpose, 2  it was afterwards used as a place of public meetings,
where, on great occasions, the populace was harangued. Here Peter
probably addressed the three thousand converts on the day of
Pentecost when the multitude had hurried thither from the Temple
on hearing 'the mighty rushing sound.'  The Xystus was surrounded
by a covered colonnade.  Behind it was the palace of

1 Mark xiv.66.
2 Barclay suggests that the Xystus had originally been the
heathen gymnasium built by the infamous high-priest Jason. (City
of the Great King, p.101.)

Agrippa, the ancient palace of David and of the Maccabees, and
again, in the rear of it, that of Bernice. On Acra stood
afterwards the palaces of certain foreign princes, such as those
of Queen Helena, King Monobasus, and other proselytes. In this
quarter, or even beyond it to the north-west, one would naturally
look for the Theatre and the Amphitheatre, which, being so
essentially un-Jewish, must have been located as far as possible
from the Temple. The space around the Temple was no doubt kept
clear of buildings. On the south-eastern corner behind it was the
great Sheep Market, and to the south of it the Hippodrome.
Originally, 'the king's house' by the horse-gate, built by
Solomon, and the royal stables, had occupied the southern area of
the Temple Mount, where Herod afterwards built the 'Royal
Porch.' For the Temple of Solomon was 300 feet shorter, from
north to south, than that of Herod. Transversely, between Xystus
and the Fish Gate, lay the quarter of Maktesh, 1  occupied by
various bazaars, chiefly connected with the Temple. Lastly,
south of the Temple, but on the same hill, was Ophel, the crowded
suburb of the priests.


     In this hasty survey of the city no notice has been taken of
the magnificent monuments and pillars in various parts of
Jerusalem, nor of its synagogues of which tradition fixes the
number at from 460 to 480; nor of many public buildings; nor yet
of such sacred spots as the Pool of Siloam, or that of Bethesda,
on which the memory loves to dwell. In sharp contrast to all this
beauty and magnificence must have been the great walls and
towers, and the detached forts, which guarded either the Temple

1 Zeph. i. 10,11.

access to the various hills on which the city rose, such as
Millo, Ophel, and others. Of these the highest and strongest was
the L-shaped Tower of Antonia, which rose to a height of 105
feet, being itself reared on a rock 75 feet high. Indeed, the
towers and the castle of Antonia, with its squares, outbuildings,
and colonnades, must have looked almost like a small town, on its
rocky height. Beyond the city, numerous large gates opened
everywhere into the country, upon the slopes and crests of hills
covered by delicious gardens and dotted with beautiful villas.
     Such must have been a first view of, Jerusalem, as beheld
from the Mount of Olives, on which we are supposed to have taken
our stand. If Jewish tradition on the subject may be trusted, a
gate opened upon this Mount of Olives through the eastern wall of
the Temple. 1 It is called 'the Shushan Gate,' from the
sculptured representation over it of the city to which
so many Jewish memories attached.  From this gate an arched
roadway, by which the priests brought out the 'red heifer,' and
on the Day of Atonement the scapegoat, is said to have conducted
to the Mount of Olives. Near the spot where the red heifer was
burned were extensive lavatories, and booths for the sale of
articles needed for various purifications. Up a crest, on one
of the most commanding elevations, was the Lunar Station, whence,
by fire signals, the advent of each new moon was telegraphed from
hill to hill into far countries. If Jewish tradition may
further be trusted, there was also an unused gate in the Temple
towards the north-Tedi or Tere - and two gates towards the

1 In the chamber above this gate two standard measures were kept,
avowedly for the use of the workmen employed in the Temple.
(Chel. xvii. 9.)

south. We know for certain of only a subterranean passage
which led from the fortress Antonia on the 'north-western angle'
of the Temple into the Temple Court, and of the cloisters with
stairs descending into the porches, by one of which the chief
captain Lysias rushed to the rescue of Paul, when nearly killed
by the infuriated multitude. Dismissing all doubtful questions,
we are sure that at any rate five gates opened into the outer
Temple enclosure or Court of the Gentiles - one from the south,
four - and these the principal - from the west. That southern
gate was double, and must have chiefly served the convenience of
the priests. Coming from Ophel, they would pass through its
gigantic archway and vestibule (40 feet each way), and then by a
double tunnel nearly 200 feet long, whence they emerged at a
flight of steps leading straight up from the Court of the
Gentiles into that of the priests, close to the spot where they
would officiate. 1


     But to join the great crowd of worshippers we have to enter
the city itself. Turning our back on Mount Zion, we now face
eastwards to Mount Moriah. Though we 'look towards the four
principal' entrances to the Temple, yet what we see within those
walls on the highest of the terraces is not the front but the
back of the sanctuary. It is curious how tradition is here in the
most palpable error in turning to the east in worship. The Holy
Place itself faced eastwards, and was approached from the east;
but most

1 Jewish tradition mentions the following five as the outer gates
of the Temple: that of Shushan to the east, of Tedi to the north,
of Copponus to the west, and the two Huldah gates to the south.
The Shushan gate was said to have been lower than the others, so
that the priests at the end of the 'heifer-bridge ' might look
over it into the Temple. In a chamber above the Shushan gate, the
standard measures of the 'cubit' were kept.

assuredly the ministering priests and the worshippers looked not
towards he east, but towards the west. The Temple plateau had
been artificially levelled at immense labour and cost, and
enlarged by gigantic substructures. The latter served also
partly for the purpose of purification, as otherwise there might
have been some dead body beneath, which, however great the
distance from the surface, would, unless air had intervened,
have, according to tradition, defiled the whole place above.  


     As enlarged by Herod the Great, the Temple area occupied an
elongated square of from 925 to 950 feet and upwards. 1 
     Roughly calculating it at about 1,000 feet, this would,
extent more than one-half greater than the length of  St.Peter's
at Rome, which measures 613 feet, and nearly double our own St.
Paul's, whose extreme length is 520 feet. And, then we must bear,
in mind that the Temple plateau was not merely about 1,000 feet
in length, but a square of nearly 1,000 feet! It was not however,
in the centre of this square, but towards the north-west, that
the Temple itself and its special courts were placed. Nor, as
already hinted, were they all on a level, but rose terrace upon
terrace, till the sacred edifice itself was reached, its porch
protruding, 'shoulder-like,' on either side--perhaps rising into
two flanking towers - and covering the Holy and Most Holy Places.
Thus must the 'golden fane' have been clearly visible from, all
parts; the smoke of its sacrifices slowly curling up against the

1 Many modern writers have computed the Temple area at only 606
feet, while Jewish authorities make it much larger than we have
stated it. The computation in the text is based on the latest and
most trustworthy investigations, and fully borne out by the
excavations made on the spot by Capts, Wilson, and Warren.

blue Eastern sky, and the music of its services wafted across the
busy city, while the sunlight glittered on its gilt roofs, or
shone from its pavement of tesse-lated marble, or threw great
shadows on Olivet behind.
     Assuredly, when the Rabbis thought of their city in her
glory, they might well say: 'The world is like unto an eye. The
ocean surrounding the world is the white of the eye; its black is
the world itself; the pupil is Jerusalem; but the image within
the pupil is the sanctuary.' In their sorrow and loneliness they
have written many fabled things of Jerusalem, of which some may
here find a place, to show with what halo of reverence they
surrounded the loving memories of the past. 


     Jerusalem, they say, belonged to no tribe in particular - it
was all Israel's. And this is in great measure literally true;
for even afterwards, when ancient Jebus became the capital of the
land, the boundary line between Judah and Benjamin ran right
through the middle of the city and of the Temple; so that,
according to Jewish tradition, the porch and the sanctuary itself
were in Benjamin, and the Temple courts and altar in Judah. In
Jerusalem no house might be hired.  The houses belonged as it
were to all; for they must all be thrown open, in freehearted
hospitality, to the pilgrim-brethren that came up to the feast.  

Never had any one failed to find in Jerusalem the means of
celebrating the paschal activities, nor yet had any
lacked a bed on which to rest. Never did serpent or scorpion hurt
within her precincts; never did fire desolate her streets, nor
ruin occur. No ban ever rested on the Holy City. It was
Levitically more sacred than other cities, since there alone the
paschal lamb, the thank-offerings, and the second tithes might be
eaten. Hence they carefully guarded against all possibility of
pollution. No dead body might remain in the city overnight; no
Sepulchres were there, except those of the house of David, of the
prophetess Huldah. Not even domestic, fowls might be kept, nor
vegetable gardens be planted, lest the smell of decaying
vegetation should defile the air; nor yet furnaces be built; for
fear of smoke. Never had adverse accident interrupted the
services of the sanctuary, nor profaned the offerings. Never had
rain extinguished the fire on the altar, nor contrary, wind
driven back the smoke of the sacrifices; nor yet, however great
the crowd of worshippers, had any failed for room to bow down and
worship the God of Israel!

     Thus far the Rabbis. All the more impressive is their own
admission and their lament - so significant as viewed in the
light of the Gospel: 'For three years and a half abode the
Shechinah' (or visible Divine presence) on the Mount of Olives,'
waiting whether Israel would repent 'and calling upon them, "Seek
ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is
near." And when all was in vain, then the Shechinah returned to
its own place!'

     The Shechinah has withdrawn to its own place! Both the city
and the Temple have been laid 'even with the ground, because
Jerusalem knew not the time of her visitation. 1 'They have
laid Jerusalem on heaps. 2  'The stones of the sanctuary are
poured out in the of every street.' 3  All this, and much more,
did the

1 Luke xix. 44.     2 Psalm lxxix. 1.   3 Lament. iv. 1.

Saviour, the rightful King of Israel, see in the near future,
when 'He beheld the city, and wept over it.' And now we must
search very deep down, sinking the shaft from 60 to over 125
feet through the rubbish of accumulated ruins, before reaching at
last the ancient foundations. 1 
     And there, close by where once the royal bridge spanned the
deep chasm and led from the City of David into the royal porch of
the Temple, is 'the Jews' Wailing Place,' where the mourning
heirs to all this desolation reverently embrace the fallen
stones, and weep unavailing tears - unavailing because the
present is as the past, and because what brought that judgment
and sorrow is unrecognised, unrepented, unremoved. Yet 'Watchman,
what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman
said, The morning cometh, and also the night. If ye will inquire,
inquire! Return, come!'

1 Recovery of Jerusalem, p.185.


To be continued

(Entered on this Website February 2009)

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