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Israel, that the particular priests, who had the charge of their offerings, and had brought their lambs that were devoted for trespass, might sprinkle a part of their blood on their right ears, right thumbs, and right toes, in order to their purification.
The only remaining corner we have to examine is the south-west. The chambers here were called the houses of oil, for here they laid up the wine and the oil which were required by the law for the public meat-offerings and drink-offerings. Such was the platform of the Court of the Women. It was a perfect square : in the middle of each wall was a gate; and at each corner of it was a smaller court, devoted to sacrifices and other purposes. The prophet Ezekiel refers to this Court, and to the inclosed spaces in the corners of it, in his 46th chapter, verses 21–24. “Then he brought me forth into the outer court, and caused me to pass by the four corners of the court; and behold, in every corner of the court there was a court : in the four corners of the court there were courts joined of forty cubits long, and thirty broad; these four corners were of one measure; and there was a row of building round about in them, round about them four, (namely for the chambers which we were describing,) and it (viz. the open space within the chambers,) was made with boiling places under the rows round about. Then said he unto me, These are the places of them that boil, where the ministers of the house shall boil the sacrifice of the people.” But what, it may be asked, was between these smaller courts, in the corners, and the doors on the different sides? Was the wall bare, and unornamented ? or, had it covered walks like the Court of the Gentiles? We answer, it had piazzes below, and galleries above, on three of its sides, namely, the east, south, and north ; but the west side, or that next the court of Israel, had none. Nor were those piazzes and galleries built at the same time with the Court; for it was not till inconveniences were felt from the men and women crowding together, that they thought of erecting them at all. But when that happened, they built a piazza for the men to walk under below, and galleries for the women to sit in above. Hence they differed from those around the Court of the Gentiles in two respects. For in the first place, they consisted only of two rows of pillars; one at the side of the wall to prevent the weight of the balconies from injuring it, and another a considerable way out: it is not said how far, but as there were only two rows, and the spaces between the two rows in the Court of the Gentiles was fifteen cubits, it is probable that the distance was the same here. Secondly, those in the Court of the Gentiles were twenty-five cubits high, without any interruption between the ground and the top; but these were divided into parts or stories. It is not indeed said how many ;..but if we divide the twenty-five cubits, or forty-five feet seven inches, into four stories, we have eleven feet five inches nearly for each story. So that, according to this, there might have been piazzas below for the men, and three stories above for the women, which, on the three sides of the Court, would be able to hold a considerable number. There is only one thing more that remains to be noticed in this Court-viz. the treasury chests. The treasuries of the temple were divided into two classes: the treasury chests, and the treasury chambers. The former of which were called Shûperấth, (197519,) or trumpets, because they were wide in the bottom and narrow at the top, to prevent the money that was put in from being taken out. The latter was called Lesecúth, (1930),) or the repositories; and both bore the general name of Corban, (1277) or Ker. ben, an oblation, or sacred gift. We have already had occasion to notice some of the treasure chambers, when VOL. I.
describing the west gates of the outer wall named Asuppim; and as they will present themselves to our consideration in a subsequent page, we shall at present confine our attention to the treasure chests. These were thirteen in number, eleven of which stood constantly in the Court of the Women, before the pillars on the east, south, and north sides. Their designations and uses were as follow :-The first was to receive the price of the two turtle doves, or two young pigeons, from those who had to offer them; the one for a burnt-offering, and the other for a sin-offering. The second was for those who offered a burnt-offering of birds only. The third, for any that offered money to buy wood for the altar. The fourth, for those who offered money to buy frankincense. The fifth, for those who offered gold for the mercy-seat. The sixth, for the residue of sin-offerings; that is to say, if apart a sum of money for a sin-offering, and the price was less than the money destined, the remainder of the sum, whatever it was, was cast in there. The seventh was for the residue of trespass-offerings : these two last belonged to the priests. The eighth chest was for the residue of the offerings of birds, of men and women that had issues, and of women after childbirth. The ninth, for the surplus of the Nazarite's offering. The tenth, for the surplus of the leper's trespass-offering: and the eleventh, for any person that voluntarily offered a sacrifice of the herd in order to buy it. Such were the eleven treasury chests which constantly stood in the Court of the Women, viz. three on one side of the Beautiful Gate, three on the other, and the other five on the north and south sides of the Court. The other two chests were appropriated, as we formerly saw, to the collecting the half shekel, which every Israelite had to pay for the redemption of his life:* the one for the payment of the present year, and the other for the past; if from accident er neglect it happened to be omitted, and they commonly stood for about thirty days before the passover at the gate Shushan, or the east gate in the outer wall, as being the most frequented entrance to the temple.b
a 2 Kings xii. 16.
Such were the money chests which stood in the temple: viz. the two that were temporary at the gate Shushan, and the eleven that were permanent in the Court of the Women. In this court of the Women, called the Treasury, it was that our Saviour delivered his striking discourse to the Jews, related in John viii. 1-20, and his beautiful commendation of charity, when seeing the widow throw her two mites into one of the chests. Perhaps it may be gratifying to know their real value, which we may easily ascertain by attending to the table of money given in a subsequent part of this work. In that table we find that a mite was a small brass coin, equal in value to the Jewish half farthing; and that the two mites, or farthing, were only equal in value to the twelfth and a half part of a penny sterling. But it is the motive, and not the sum, that God regards. Man looketh only, or at least often, to the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart. Before we quit this Court of the Women we may remark, that it was hither the Pharisee and Publican came to pray; the one advancing with confidence towards the gate Nicanor, through which he had a view of the temple, and saying, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men;" while the other stood afar off, smiting upon his breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner." Into this court also it was that the lame man followed Peter and John, when it is said, in Acts i. 8. that he went with them into the temple after he was cured; the Court of the Women being the ordinary place of worship to those who brought no sacrifice. And from thence, after prayers, he went back with them through the Beautiful Gate of the temple, where he had been lying, and through the Sacred Fence into the Court of the Gentiles, where, under the eastern piazza, or Solomon's Porch, Peter delivered that sermon which converted five thousand. It was in this same Court of the Women that the Jews laid hold of Paul, when they thought him a violater of the temple, by taking Gentiles within the Sacred Fence. In this Court did the high priest once a-year, namely, at the feast of expiation, read a portion of the law. Here also the king, once in seven years, or in the year of release, did the same at the feast of tabernacles. And in this Court, as we shall see in a subsequent page, did the people rejoice with great joy every year at that solemnity.
a Exod. xxx. 13. b Lightf. Chorog. Decad. before Heb. and Talm. Exer. on Mark, chap. iii * Luke xviii. 10–13.
We shall only add, that it was in this Court that the King Agrippa hung up the gold chain given him by Caius Caligula, the Roman emperor, of equal weight with that iron chain with which he had been bound by the order of Tiberius, as a testimony of his gratitude to Almighty God for the favourable change in his affairs." And perhaps it was around this Court, or the Court of the Gentiles, or of Israel, that the spoils which Herod took from the barbarous nations were suspended; when Josephus says of them, that they were fixed around the entire temple, being dedicated to the temple; with the addition of those he had taken from the Arabians.“
Such are the particulars that claim our notice in the Court of the Women. They are not uninteresting to the Christian scholar, as they serve to throw considerable light on the oracles of truth.
a Acts xxi. 26, &c.
6 Joseph. Antiq. xix. 6.
< Antiq. xv. 11.