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'For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.'--Hebrews 13:11, 12
To the devout and earnest Jew the second Temple must, 'in comparison of' 'the house in her first glory,' have indeed appeared 'as nothing' (Hagg 2:3). True, in architectural splendor the second, as restored by Herod, far surpassed the first Temple. *
* The Talmud expressly calls attention to this, and mentions as another point of pre-eminence, that whereas the first Temple stood 410, the second lasted 420 years.
But, unless faith had recognised in Jesus of Nazareth 'the Desire of all nations,' who should 'fill this house with glory' (Hagg 2:7), it would have been difficult to draw other than sad comparisons. Confessedly, the real elements of Temple-glory no longer existed. The Holy of Holies was quite empty, the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim, the tables of the law, the book of the covenant, Aaron's rod that budded, and the pot of manna, were no longer in the sanctuary. The fire that had descended from heaven upon the altar was extinct. What was far more solemn, the visible presence of God in the Shechinah was wanting. *
Nor could the will of God be now ascertained through the Urim and Thummim, nor even the high-priest be anointed with the holy oil, its very composition being unknown. Yet all the more jealously did the Rabbis draw lines of fictitious sanctity, and guard them against all infringement.
Lines of Sanctity
In general, as the camp in the wilderness had really consisted of three parts--the camp of Israel, that of the Levites, and that of God--so they reckoned three corresponding divisions of the Holy City. From the gates to the Temple Mount was regarded as the camp of Israel; thence to the gate of Nicanor represented the camp of Levi; while the rest of the sanctuary was 'the camp of God.' It is in allusion to this that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares Christ's suffering 'without the gate' of Jerusalem to the burning of the sin-offerings 'without the camp.' According to another Rabbinical arrangement different degrees of sanctity attached to different localities. The first, or lowest degree, belonged to the land of Israel, whence alone the first sheaf at the Passover, the firstfruits, and the two wave-loaves at Pentecost might be brought; the next degree to walled cities in Palestine, where no leper nor dead body (Luke 7:12) might remain; the third to Jerusalem itself since, besides many prohibitions to guard its purity, it was only there lawful to partake of peace-offerings, of the firstfruits, and of 'the second tithes.' Next came, successively, the Temple Mount, from which all who were in a state of Levitical uncleanness were excluded; 'the Terrace,' or 'Chel,' from which, besides Gentiles, those who had become defiled by contact with a dead body were shut out; the Court of the Women, into which those who had been polluted might not come, even if they 'had washed,' till after they were also Levitically fit to eat of 'things sacred,' that is, after sunset of the day on which they had washed; the Court of Israel, into which those might not enter who, though delivered from their uncleanness, had not yet brought the offering for their purification; * the Court of the Priests, ordinarily accessible only to the latter; the space between the altar and the Temple itself, from which even priests were excluded if their bearing showed that they did not realise the solemnity of the place; the Temple, into which the priests might only enter after washing their hands and feet; and, lastly, the Most Holy Place, into which the high-priest alone was allowed to go, and that only once a year.
* This class would include the following four cases: the cleansed leper, a person who had had an issue, a woman that had been in her separation, and one who had just borne a child. Further explanations of each case are given in subsequent chapters.
Rules of the Rabbis
From these views of the sanctity of the place, it will readily be understood how sufficient outward reverence should have been expected of all who entered upon the Temple Mount. The Rabbis here also lay down certain rules, of which some are such as a sense of propriety would naturally suggest, while others strangely remind us of the words of our Savior. Thus no one was to come to it except for strictly religious purposes, and neither to make the Temple Mount a place of thoroughfare, nor use it to shorten the road. Ordinarily the worshippers were to enter by the right and to withdraw by the left, avoiding both the direction and the gate by which they had come. But mourners and those under ecclesiastical discipline were to do the reverse, so as to meet the stream of worshippers, who might address to them either words of sympathy ('He who dwelleth in this house grant thee comfort!'), or else of admonition ('He who dwelleth in this house put it into thy mind to give heed to those who would restore thee again!'). As already stated, it was expressly prohibited to sit down in the Court of the Priests, an exception being only made in favor of princes of the house of David, probably to vindicate their consistency, as such instances were recorded in the past history of Israel. Alike the ministering priests and the worshippers were to walk backwards when leaving the immediate neighborhood where the holy service was performed, and at the gate of Nicanor each one was to stand with his head bent. It need scarcely be said that reverence in gesture and demeanor was enjoined while on the Temple Mount. But even when at a distance from Jerusalem and the Temple, its direction was to be noted, so as to avoid in every- day life anything that might seem incongruous with the reverence due to the place of which God had said, 'Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually' (1 Kings 9:3). Probably from a similar feeling of reverence, it was ordered, that when once a week the sanctuary was thoroughly cleaned, any repairs found needful should be executed if possible by priests or else by Levites, or at least by Israelites, and only in case of extreme necessity by workmen not Levitically 'clean.'
Other Rabbinical ordinances, however, are not so easily explained, unless on the ground of the avoidance of every occupation and undertaking other than worship. Thus 'no man might go on the Temple Mount with his staff,' as if on business or pleasure; nor yet 'with shoes on his feet'--sandals only being allowed; nor 'with the dust upon his feet'; nor 'with his scrip,' nor 'with money tied to him in his purse.' Whatever he might wish to contribute either to the Temple, or for offerings, or for the poor must be carried by each 'in his hand,' possibly to indicate that the money about him was exclusively for an immediate sacred purpose. It was probably for similar reasons that Jesus transferred these very ordinances to the disciples when engaged in the service of the real Temple. The direction, 'Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves,' must mean, Go out in the same spirit and manner as you would to the Temple services, and fear not--'for the workman is worthy of his meat' (Matt 10:9,10). In other words: Let this new Temple service be your only thought, undertaking and care.
But, guard it as they might, it was impossible wholly to preserve the sanctuary from profanation. For wilful, conscious, high- handed profanity, whether in reference to the Temple or to God, the law does not appear to have provided any atonement or offering. To this the Epistle to the Hebrews alludes in the well- known passage, so often misunderstood, 'For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries' (Heb 10:26,27). In point of fact, these terms of threatening correspond to two kinds of Divine punishment frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. The one, often referred to in the warning 'that he die not,' is called by the Rabbis, 'death by the hand of Heaven or of God'; the other is that of being 'cut off.' It is difficult to distinguish exactly between these two. Tradition enumerates thirty-six offences to which the punishment of 'cutting off' attaches. From their graver nature, as compared with the eleven offences on which 'death by the hand of God' was to follow, we gather that 'cutting off' must have been the severer of the two punishments, and it may correspond to the term 'fiery indignation.' Some Rabbis hold that 'death by the hand of God' was a punishment which ended with this life, while 'cutting off' extended beyond it. But the best authorities maintain, that whereas death by the hand of Heaven fell upon the guilty individual alone, 'the cutting off' extended to the children also, so that the family would become extinct in Israel. Such Divine punishment is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 16:22, under the well-known Jewish expression, 'Anathema Maranatha'--literally, Anathema when the Lord cometh!