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The Temple - its Ministry and Service #7

At NIGHT in the Temnple!




'Blessed is be that watchetb, and keepeth his garments.' - REV.
xvi. 15.


     THERE is a marked peculiarity and also a special charm about
the allusions of the 'beloved disciple' to the 'Temple and its
services.' The other New Testament writers refer to them in their
narratives, or else explain their types, in such language as any
well-informed worshipper at Jerusalem might have employed.  But
John writes not like an ordinary Israelite. He has eyes and ears
for details which others would have left unnoticed. As, according
to a Jewish tradition, the high-priest read the Divine answer of
the Urim and Thummim by a heavenly light cast upon special
letters in the names of the tribes graven upon his breast-plate,
so to John the presence and the words of Jesus seem to render
luminous the well-remembered services of the Temple. This, as we
shall have frequent occasion to show, appears in his Gospel, but
much more in the Book of Revelation. Indeed, the Apocalypse, as a
whole, may be likened to the Temple services in its mingling of
prophetic symbols with worship and praise. But it is
specially remarkable, that the Temple-references with which the
Book of Revelation abounds are generally to minutiae, which a
writer who had not been as familiar with such details, as only
personal contact and engagement with them could have rendered
him, would scarcely have even noticed, certainly not employed as
part of his imagery. They come in naturally, spontaneously, and
so unexpectedly, that the reader is occasionally in danger of
overlooking them altogether; and in language such as a
professional man would employ, which would come to him from the
previous exercise of his calling. Indeed, some of the most
striking of these references could not have been understood at
all without the professional treatises of the Rabbis on the
Temple and its services. Only the studied minuteness of
Rabbinical descriptions, derived from the tradition of
eye-witnesses, does not leave the same impression as the
unstudied illustrations of St.John.
     These naturally suggest the twofold inference that the Book
of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel must have been written before
the Temple services had actually ceased, and by one who had not
merely been intimately written before acquainted with, but
probably at one time an actor in them. 1  (No, the book of
Revelation was not written until near the very end of the first
century. John was under inspiration, as well as indeed an actor
in the Temple service at one time - Keith Hunt) 
The argument 

1 This is not the place for further critical discussions.   
Though the arguments in support of our view are only inferential,
they seem to us none the less conclusive. It is not only that the
name of John (given also to the son of the priest Zacharias)
reappears among the kindred of the high-priest (Acts iv.6), nor
that his priestly descent would account for that acquaintance
with the high-priest (John xviii.15,16) which gave him access
apparently into the council-chamber itself, while Peter, for whom
he had gained admittance to the palace, was in 'the porch;' nor
yet that, though residing in Galilee, the house of 'his own' to
which he took the mother of Jesus (John xix.27) was probably at
Jerusalem, like that of other priests - notably of the Levite
family of Barnabas (Acts xii.12) - a supposition confirmed by his
apparent entertainment of Peter, when Mary Magdalene found them
together on the morning of the resurrection (John xx. 2). But it
seems highly improbable that a book so full of liturgical
allusions as the Book of Revelation - and these, many of them,
not to great or important points, but to minutia--could have been
written by any other than a priest, and one who had at one time
been in actual service in the Temple itself, and thus become so
intimately conversant with its details, that they came to him
naturally, as part of the imagery he employed.
(A very possible truth, but the bottom line is that Jesus was
inspiring John to write the book of Revelation, he was a scribe,
and no prior working knowledge of the Temple would be needed, as
holy inspiration covers it all - Keith Hunt)

may be illustrated by an analogous case. Quite lately, they who
have dug under the ruins of the Temple have discovered one of
those tablets in the Court of the Temple which warned Gentiles,
on pain of death, not to advance farther into the sanctuary. The
tablet answers exactly to the description of Josephus, and its
inscription is almost literally as he gives it. 1  This tablet
seems like a witness suddenly appearing, after eighteen
centuries, to bear testimony to the narrative of Josephus as that
of a contemporary writer. Much the same instantaneous conviction,
only greatly stronger, is carried to our minds, when, in the
midst of some dry account of what went on in the Temple, we
suddenly come upon the very words which St.John had employed to
describe heavenly realities. Perhaps one of the most striking
instances of this kind is afforded by the words quoted at the
head of this chapter 'Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth
his garments.' They literally describe, as we learn from the
Rabbis, the punishment awarded to the Temple-guards if found
asleep at their posts; and the Rabbinical account of it is
curiously confirmed by the somewhat naive confession of one of
their number 2  that on a certain occasion his own maternal uncle
had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set
on fire by the

1 See the account of this remarkable discovery by M. Clermont-
Ganneau in his letter to the Athenaum, reprinted in the Quarterly
Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund for August, 1871, pp.
2 Rabbi Elieser ben Jacob. See Middoth, i. 2.

captain of the Temple as he went night his rounds at night.
     For the service of the officiating ministers was not only by
day, but also 'at night in the Temple.' 


     From Scripture we know that the ordinary services of the
sanctuary consisted of the morning and evening sacrifices. To
these the Rabbis add another evening service, probably to account
for their own transference of the evening service to a much later
hour than that of the sacrifice. 1  There is, however, some
difficulty about the exact time when each of the sacrifices was
offered. According to general agreement, the morning sacrifice
was brought at the 'third hour,' corresponding to our nine
o'clock. But the preparations for it must have commenced more
than two hours earlier. Few, if any, worshippers could have
witnessed the actual slaying of the lamb, which took place
immediately on opening the great Temple-gate. Possibly they may
have gathered chiefly to join in the prayer 'at the time of
incense.' 2  In the modified sense, then, of understanding by the
morning sacrifice the whole service, it no doubt coincided with
the third hour of the day, or 9 a.m. This may explain how on the
day of Pentecost such a multitude could so readily 'come
together,' to hear in their various tongues 'the wonderful works
of God' - seeing it was the third hour, 3  when they would all be
in the Temple. The evening sacrifice was fixed by the Law! as

1 The Rabbinical statement about a correspondence between that
service and 'the burning of the yet unconsumed fat and flesh' of
the sacrifices (which must have lasted all night) is so
far-fetched that we wonder to see it in Kitto's Cyclopiadia,
third edition (art. Synagogue), while Gratz's assertion that it
corresponded to the closing of the Temple gates (Gesch. vol.iii.
p.97) is quite unsupported.
2 Luke i.10.   
3 Acts ii.15.  
4 Numb. xxviii.4,8.

the evenings,' that is, between the darkness of the gloaming and
that of the night.'

Take note you Passover observers, and study all my studies on the
Passover - Keith Hunt)

     Such admonitions as 'to show forth thy faithfulness every
night upon an instrument of ten strings and on the psaltery,' 2
and the call to those who 'by night stand in the house of the
Lord,' to 'lift up their hands in the sanctuary and bless the
Lord,' 3  seem indeed to imply an evening service - an impression
confirmed by the appointment of Levite singers for night service
in 1 Chron.ix.33; xxiii.30. 


     But at the time of our Lord the evening sacrifice certainly
commenced much earlier. Josephus puts it down 4  as at the ninth
hour. According to the Rabbis the lamb was slain at the eighth
hour and a-half, or about 2.30 P.M., and the pieces laid on the
altar an hour later - about 3.30 P.M. Hence, when ' Peter and
John went up together into the Temple at the hour of prayer,
being the ninth hour,' 5  it must have been for the evening
sacrifice, or rather half an hour later, and, as the words
indicate, for the 'prayer' that accompanied the offering of
incense. The evening service was somewhat shorter than that of
the morning, and would last, at any rate, about an hour and
a-half, say till about four o'clock, thus well meeting the
original requirement in Numb.xxviii.4.  After that no other
offering might be brought except on the eve of the Passover, when
the ordinary evening sacrifice took place two hours earlier, or
at 12.30 p.m. 6


1 Sunset was calculated as on an average at 6 o'clock p.m. For a
full discussion and many speculations on the whole subject, see
Herzfeld, Gesch. d. V. Is. vol.iii. Excurs. xxiv. par.2.
2 Psa.xcii.2,3.     
3 Psa.cxxxiv.
4 Ant.xiv.4,3. 
5 Acts iii.1.
6 Accordingly the Rabbis laid down the principle that evening
prayers (of course, out of the Temple) might be lawfully said at
any time after 12.30 P.M. (Again Pharisee traditions that had no
bearing on truth - see what Jesus said about their traditions in
Mark 7 - Keith Hunt)

     We can conceive the laborious work of the day over, and the
rest and solemnity of 'night in the Temple' begun. The last notes
of the Temple music have died out, and the worshippers slowly
retired, some after lingering for private prayer, or else
tarrying in one of the marble porches. Already the short Eastern
day is fading out in the west. Far over the mountains of Gibeon
the sun is sinking in that ocean across which the better light is
so soon to shine. The new company of priests and Levites who are
to conduct the services of the morrow are coming up from Ophel
under the leadership of their heads of houses, their elders.
Those who have officiated during the day are preparing to leave
by another gate. They have put off their priestly dress,
depositing it in the appointed chambers, and resumed that of
ordinary laymen, and their sandals. For such, although not shoes,
might be worn in the Temple, the priests being barefoot only
during their actual ministry. Nor did they otherwise wear any
distinctive dress, not even the high-priest himself, nor yet
those who performed in the Temple other than strictly sacrificial
services. 1  As for the Levites, they had no clerical dress at
all, but only wore the white linen, 2   till they obtained from
Agrippa II. permission to wear priestly garments

1 Those who, being declared physically unfit, discharged only
menial functions, wore not the priestly dress. They on whom no
lot had fallen for daily ministration put off their priestly
garments - all save the linen breeches - and also performed
subordinate functions. But, according to some, it was lawful for
priests while in the Temple to wear their peculiar dress - all
but the girdle, worn always and only on sacrificial duty.
2 2 Chron. v. 12.

as Josephus rightly remarks, 'contrary to the laws of our
country.' 1
     We know that on Sabbaths at least, when one company gave
place to another, or, rather, as the outgoing course left the
Temple precincts, they parted from each other with a farewell,
reminding us of St.Paul's to the Corinthians, 2  'He that has
caused His name to dwell in this house cause love, brotherhood,
peace, and friendship to dwell among you.' Each of the twenty-
four 'courses' into which not only the priests and Levites, but
also all Israel, by means of representatives, were divided,
served for one week, from Sabbath to Sabbath, distributing the
daily service among their respective 'families' or 'houses.'     
     For the Sabbath the new ministrants came earlier than on
week-days. 3  As the 'family' whose daily 'ministration was
accomplished' left the Temple, the massive gates were closed by
priests or Levites, some requiring the united strength of twenty
men. Then the Temple keys were hung up in a hollow square, under
a marble slab in the 'fire-room' (Beth-ha-Moked), which may also
be designated as the chief guard-room of the priests. Now, as the
stars were shining out on the deep blue Eastern sky, the priests
would gather for converse 4  or the evening meal. 5  Pieces of
the sacrifices and the 'prepared' first-fruits (the Therumoth)

1 Ant, xx.9,6, 
2 2 Cor.xiii.ii.
3 Probably this had also been the arrangement in the first
Temple. See 2 Kings xi.9; 2 Chron.xxiii.8.   Herzfeld, u.s. p.
4 The queton of evening prayers in the Temple is involved in some
difficulty. The curious reader will find it discussed by Herzfeld
with almost confusing minuteness.
5 The partaking of sacred things by priests who had been
ceremonially unclean is expressly stated by the Rabbis as 'when
the stars shone out.'

supplied the needful refreshments. 1  Though the work of the day
was over, certain arrangements had yet to be made. For the
Levites in charge of collecting the tithes and other business
details were wont to purchase in large quantities what each who
brought any sacrifice needed for meat and drink-offerings, and to
sell it to the offerers. This was a great accommodation to the
worshipper, and a source of daily profit to the Temple. On
payment of a price, fixed by tariff every month, the offerer
received his proper counterfoil, 2  in exchange for which a
Temple official gave him what he needed for his sacrifice.  Now,
the accounts of these transactions had to be made up and checked
every evening.


     But already the night-watches had been set in the Temple. By
day and night it was the duty of the Levites to keep guard at the
gates, to prevent, so far as possible, the unclean from entering.
To them the duties of the Temple police were also entrusted,
under the command of an official known to us in the New Testament
as the 'captain of the Temple,' 3  but in Jewish writings chiefly
as 'the man of the Temple Mount.' The office must have been of
considerable responsibility, considering the multitude on
feast-days, their keen national susceptibilities, and the close
proximity of the hated Romans in Fort Antonia. At night guards
were placed in twenty-four stations about the gates and courts.  
Of these twenty-one were occupied by

1 The Therumoth, such as oil, flour, etc., in opposition to those
au naturel, such as corn, fruits, etc., called the Biccurim.
2 Of these there were four kinds, respectively bearing the words
'male,' when the sacrifice was a ram; 'sinner,' when it was a
sin-offering; and for other offerings, 'calf,' or 'kid.'
3 Acts iv.1, etc.

Levites alone; the other innermost three jointly by priests and
Levites. 1  Each guard consisted of ten men; so that in all two
hundred and forty Levites and thirty priests were on duty every
night. The Temple guards were relieved by day, but not during the
night, which the Romans divided into four, but the Jews,
properly, into three watches, the fourth being really the morning
watch. 2  Hence, when the Lord saith, 'Blessed are those servants
whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching,' He expressly
refers to the second and third watches as those of deepest sleep.


     During the night the 'captain of the Temple' made his
rounds. On his approach the guards had to rise and salute him in
a particular manner. Any guard found asleep when on duty was
beaten, or his garments were set on fire - a punishment, as we
know, actually awarded. Hence the admonition to us who, as it
were, are here on Temple guard, 'Blessed is he that watcheth, and
keepeth his garments.' 4  But, indeed, there could have been
little inclination to sleep within the Temple, even had the deep
emotion natural in the circumstances allowed it. True, the chief
of the course and 'the heads of families' reclined on couches
along that part of the Beth-Moked in which it was lawful to sit
down, 5  and the older priests might lie on the floor, having
wrapped their priestly garments beside them,

1 The watch at some of the gates seems at one time to have been
hereditary in certain families. For this, see Herzfeld, vol. i.
p.419; ii. 57.
2 Compare Matt.xiv.25. See, however, the discussion in Jer. Ber.
3 Luke xii.38. 
4 Rev.xvi.15.
5 The part built out on the Chel; for it was not lawful for any
but the king to sit down anywhere within the enclosure of the 
'Priests' Court.

while the younger men kept watch. But then the preparations for
the service of the morning required each to be early astir. The
priest whose duty it was to superintend the arrangements might
any moment knock at the door and demand entrance. He came
suddenly and unexpectedly, no one knew when. The Rabbis use
almost the very words in which Scripture describes the unexpected
coming of the Master, 1  when they say, 'Sometimes he came at the
cock-crowing, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little
later. He came and knocked, and they opened to him. Then said he
unto them, 'All ye who have washed, come and cast lots.' 3  For
the customary bath required to have been taken before the
superintending priest came round, since it was a principle that
none might go into the court to serve, although he were clean,
unless he had bathed. A subterranean passage, lit on both sides,
led to the well-appointed bath-rooms where the priests immersed
themselves. After that they needed not 3  all that day to wash
again, save their hands and feet, which they had to do each time,
however often, they came for service into the Temple. It was, no
doubt, to this that our Lord referred in His reply to Peter 'He
that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean
every whit.' 4


     Those who were prepared now followed the superintending
priest through a wicket into the court. Here they divided into
two companies,  each carrying a torch, except on the Sabbaths,
when the Temple itself was lit     

1 Mark xiii.35.     
2 Mishnah, Tamid. i. 1,2. 
2 Except under one circumstance.
4 John xiii.10. The peculiarities of our Lord's washing the feet
of the disciples are pointed out in Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p.1094.

up.  One company passed eastwards, the other westwards, till,
having made their circuit of inspection, they met at the chamber
where the high-priest's daily meat-offering was prepared, 1  and 
reported, 'It is well! All is well!' Thereupon those who were to
prepare the high-priest's offering were set to their work, and
the priests passed into the 'Hall of Polished Stones,' 2  to cast
lots for the services of the day.  This arrangement had been
rendered necessary by certain painful scenes to which the
eagerness of the priests for service had led. Altogether the lot
was cast four times, though at different periods of the service.
It was done in this manner. The priests stood in a circle around
the president, who for a moment removed the head-gear of one of
their number, to show that he would begin counting at him.  Then
all held up one, two, or more fingers - since it was not lawful
in Israel to count persons when the president named some number,
say seventy, and began counting the fingers till he reached the
number named, which marked that the lot had fallen on that
priest. The first lot was for cleansing the altar and preparing
it; the second, for those who were to offer the sacrifice, and
for those who were to cleanse the candlestick and the altar of
incense in the Holy Place. The third lot was the most important.
It determined who was to offer the incense. If possible, none was
to take part in it who had at any previous time officiated in the
same capacity. The fourth lot, which followed close on the third,
fixed those who were to burn the pieces of the sacrifice on

1, according to the Rabbinical interpretation of the
2 Or Gazith, where also the Sanhedrim met. The sittings were, in
that part, built out on the Chel.

the altar, and to perform the concluding portions of the service.
The morning lot held good also for the same offices at the
evening sacrifice, save that the lot was cast anew for the
burning of the incense.


     When the priests were gathered for 'the first lot' in the
'Hall of Polished Stones,' as yet only the earliest glow of
morning light streaked the Eastern sky. Much had to be done
before the lamb itself could be slain.  It was a law that, as no
sacrifice might be brought after that of the evening, nor after
the sun had set, so, on the other hand, the morning sacrifice was
only to be slain after the morning light had lit up 'the whole
sky as far as Hebron,' yet before the sun had actually risen upon
the horizon. 1  The only exception was on the great festivals,
when the altar was cleansed much earlier, 2  to afford time for
examining before actual sunrise the very numerous sacrifices
which were to be brought during the day. Perhaps it was on this
ground that, on the morning of the Passover, they who led Jesus
from Caiaphas thronged so 'early' 'the judgment-hall of Pilate!  
Thus, while some of them would be preparing in the Temple to
offer the morning sacrifice, others were at the same moment
unwittingly fulfilling the meaning of that very type, when He on
whom was 'laid the iniquity of us all' was 'brought as a lamb to
the slaughter.' 3

1 Maimonides, Yad ha Chazakah, the tractate on the daily
sacrifice, ch.i. par.2.
2 For the three great festivals, in the first watch; for the Day
of Atonement, at midnight. See also Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. p.1135.
3 Isa.liii.7.


To be continued

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