Jerusalem (Herod’s) Temple
The temple in Jerusalem was the Jew’s most holy place. The first one was called Solomon’s Temple, having being built during the reign of King Solomon, believed to have been around 832 BC. It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in the Siege of Jerusalem around 587 BC. It was rebuilt as The Second Temple around 516 BC.
When Herod the Great became king of Judaea around 37 BC, he spent an enormous amount of money upgrading the temple to the one shown in the plan here. Work was not completed until 62-64 AD, only to be completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
The temple contained 4 different courts; the Court of the Priests, the Court of the Israelites, the Court of the Women and finally the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the most outer court encompassing the temple. Despite the whole of the temple being considered holy, this was the least holy court in the temple.
To the east of the Court of the Gentiles, was Solomon’s Porch, also called Portico or Colonnade. This area was primarily a bazaar, with vendors selling souvenirs, sacrificial animals and food. There were also currency changers. They would exchange Roman coins for Tyrian money because the Jews were not allowed to coin their own money, and they viewed Roman currency as an abomination to the Lord. That was the area mentioned in the Gospel account of Jesus and the Money Changers.
The entrance to the temple through Solomon’s Porch was via the Beautiful Gate. Here people would often beg for money from people entering the temple to worship.
According to Josephus, a 1st century Roman historian, there were ten entrances into the inner courts – four on the south, four on the north, one on the east and one leading east to west from the Court of the Women to the Court of the Israelites, named the Nicanor Gate. The gates were – on the south side (going from west to east) the Fuel Gate, the Firstling Gate, the Water Gate and the Women’s gate. On the north side, from west to east, were the Jeconiah Gate, the Offering Gate, the Song Gate and the Women’s Gate.
The Court of the Women was open to all Jews, male and female. Even a ritually unclean Cohen could enter to perform various housekeeping duties. There was also a place for lepers (considered ritually unclean), as well as a ritual barbershop for Nazirites. In this, the largest of the temple courts, one could see constant dancing, singing and music.
Only men were allowed to enter the Court of the Israelites, where they could observe sacrifices of the high priest in the Court of the Priests. The Court of the Priests was reserved for Levite priests. Between the entrance of the building and the curtain veiling the Holy of Holies, were the famous vessels of the temple – the menorah, the incense-burning altar, and various other implements.
Today, only The Western Wall remains of the once majestic structure.