« Prev Chapters 31-40 Next »

A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica

John Lightfoot
(1602-1675)

A Chorographical Century
Chapters 31-40

Chapter 31
Concerning the Gates and Chambers lying on the South Side of the Court.

Here, concerning the chambers, they differ. The tract Middoth assigns these to the south side; "The chamber of wood, the chamber of the spring water, the chamber Gazith."--The Babylonian Gemara and Maimonides assign them to the north side. In Middoth, "the chamber of salt, the chamber of Happarva, the chamber of them that was," were on the north side: in those, they are said to be on the south. The matter is hardly of so great moment, that we should weary ourselves in deciding this controversy. We enter not into disputes, but follow those things that are more probable, the Middoth being our guide.

I. Therefore we suppose, first, that the chamber Gazith was on the south side of the court, near the east corner: and that upon this reason,--that since, according to all the Jews (howsoever differing on what side it was placed), this chamber was not in the middle of the three chambers before named, but on the outside, either on the one hand or on the other,--the council could not sit in the lot Judah, if Gazith were not seated about that place which we assign.

"The chamber Gazith was in the form of a great court walk. And half of it was in the Holy Place, and the other half in that which was common: and it had two doors; whereof one opened towards the Holy Place,--the other towards that which was common":--that is, one into the court, the other to the Chel. The great Sanhedrim sat in that part, which was in Chel; for "none might sit in the court, unless kings only of the stock of David."

"In the chamber of Gazith sat the council of Israel, and judged concerning the priests. Whosoever was found touched with any spot was clothed in black, and was veiled in black, and went away. Whoever was without spot, being clothed and veiled in white, went into the court, and ministered with his brethren."

"The president sat in the west part of the chamber"; and "Ab Beth Din [the next in rank to the president], on his right hand, and the elders on both sides, in a half circle."

How the Sanhedrim was driven from this chamber, and when and why, we observe elsewhere.

II. "The chamber of the spring" was next to this, westwardly: "where was a well, and a pulley: whence water was supplied to the whole court."

III. Contiguous to this was the "gate of waters"; so called, either because the water, to be poured out upon the altar, on the feast of Tabernacles, was brought in through this gate; or because the water-course, conveyed into the Temple from the fountain Etam, went along through this gate into the chamber of the spring. "Abai saith, That fountain was deeper than the pavement of the court three and twenty cubits."--"And I think (saith the author of the Gloss), that the fountain Etam was the same with the waters of Nephtoah, of which mention is made in the book of Joshua, 15:9; from thence it descends and slopes into the east and west, and that place was the highest in the land of Israel."

IV. After this gate was the 'chamber of wood'; and above that, "the chamber of the magistrates"; or, as it was commonly called, "the chamber of the counsellors": where there was a sessions of the priests, consulting about the affairs of the Temple and Service. The 'wood-chamber' seems to be called so upon this account, because the wood was conveyed hither, after the search about it was made in the 'chamber of wood' (which was in the corner of the Women's Court,) whether there were any worms in it: that which was found fit for the altar was laid-up here, that it might be more in readiness.

V. Beyond that was "the gate of offering": and, after that, "the gate of kindling."

Chapter 32
The Gates and Doors on the North Side.

I. First, we meet with the "gate and chamber Nitsots"; where the priests and Levites watched. This was also called "the gate of a song."

II. The "chamber of them that wash" was next to that: and the "chamber of Happarva," joining to that. In that, they washed the inwards of the sacrifices; in this, they salted the skins of the sacrifices. Some believe one Parva, a magician, built this chamber; others, that that magician, Parva, made a secret hole in the wall of this chamber, that through that he might see what was here done by the high priest: "For in a covered place of this chamber there was a bath for the great priest, in the day of expiation."

III. Thence was the 'gate of offering,' or of 'Corban': this was also called 'the gate of the women.' The reason rendered of the former name is, "that by this gate they brought in the Most Holy sacrifices, which were slain on the north." But the reason of the latter is more obscure: perhaps before that gate the women delivered their sacrifices into the hands of the priests.

IV. After that gate, westward, was the "chamber of salt": where salt was laid up for the offerings.

V. Following that was the "gate Beth Mokadh," or the "gate of burning": so called from a chamber adjoining, where a fire continually burnt for the use of the priests. This also was called the "gate Corban": for, between this and the gate last named was the chamber, where the public treasure of the Temple was laid up. In 'Beth-Mokadh' were four chambers:--1. 'The chamber of lambs': where they were kept for the use of the altar. 2. 'The chamber of the show-bread.' 3. The chamber, where the stones of the altar were laid up by the Asmoneans, when the kings of Greece had profaned the altar. 4. The chamber, whence they went down into the bath.

Chapter 33
The Court itself.

"The floor of the whole sacred earth was not level, but rising: when any went on, from the east gate of the Court of the Gentiles, to the farthest part of the Chel,--he went all in a level. From the Chel, he went up into the Court of the Women, twelve steps,--whereof every step was half a cubit in height. Along the whole Court of the Women he went in a level; and thence went up into the Court of Israel fifteen steps, every step half a cubit in height."

The Court of Israel was a hundred and thirty-five cubits in length, eleven in breadth.

Through all this court one went in a level; and thence went up into the Court of the Priests by one step of a cubit high: on which was set a pulpit (where the choir of the Levites that sang stood), and in it were three steps, each half a cubit. Therefore, the Court of the Priests is found to be two cubits and a half higher than the court of Israel.

The Court of the Priests was a hundred thirty-five cubits in length, eleven in breadth. And they divided the heads of the beams between the Court of Israel and the Court of the Priests.

They went through the Court of the Priests in a level; and the same they did along the space by the altar, and along the space between the altar and the Pronaon, or the 'Porch of the Temple.' Thither they ascended by twelve steps, each half a cubit high. The floor of the Pronaon and the Temple was all level: and was higher than the floor of the east gate of the Court of the Gentiles, two and twenty cubits.

The length of the whole court was a hundred eighty-seven cubits, that is, from east to west. To wit,


The breadth of the Court of Israel - 11

The breadth of the Court of the Priests - 11

The breadth of the altar - 32

The space between the altar and the Pronaon - 22

The length of the Pronaon and the Temple - 100

Behind the Temple to the west wall - 11

Chapter 34
The Altar. The Rings. The Laver.

The altar was, on every side, two-and-thirty cubits; after the ascent of one cubit, it was so straitened, that it was less by one cubit in the whole square,--that is, on every side thirty cubits. It went up five cubits, and again was straitened a cubit; so that there it was eight and twenty cubits on every side. The place of the horns on every part was the space of one cubit; so that now it was six and twenty cubits every way. The place of the priests' walk, hither and thither, was one cubit; so that the place of burning extended four and twenty cubits round about.

A scarlet thread begirt the middle of the altar, to discern between the upper bloods and the lower.

The basis of the altar towards the south-east had no corner, because that part was not within the portion of Judah.

At the horn between the west and the south were two holes, like nostrils, through which the sprinkled blood descended, and flowed into the brook Kedron.

The ascent to the altar was, on the south, two and thirty cubits, and the breadth sixteen cubits. There was a time, when, upon this ascent, one priest stabbed another priest with his knife, while they strove who should first get up to the altar.

On the north were six orders of rings, each of which contained four. There are some who assert there were four orders, and each contained six, at which they killed the sacrifices: there, therefore, was the place of slaughter. Near by were low pillars set up, upon which were laid, overthwart, beams of cedar: in these were fastened iron hooks, on which the sacrifices were hung; and they were flayed on marble tables, which were between those pillars.

There was a laver or cistern between the porch and the altar, and it lay a little to the south. "Ben Kattin made twelve cocks for it, which before had but two. He also made the machine of the cistern": that is, as the Gloss explains it, "Ben Kattin, when he was the chief priest, made those cocks for the cistern, that the waters might flow out of them; he made also a pulley, or a wheel, whereby water might be drawn for the use of the cistern."

Between the altar and the porch was the space of two and twenty cubits. They went up thither by twelve steps, each half a cubit in height.

The Temple was strait on the hinder part, but broad on the fore part; and resembled the figure of a lion, because it is said, "Woe to Ariel" (the lion of the Lord), "to Ariel, the city where David encamped." As the lion is narrower behind, and broader before, so also was the Temple. For the porch was broader than the Temple fifteen cubits on the north, and fifteen cubits on the south; and that space, jetting out on both sides, was called "The place of knives,"--namely, where the holy knives, used in killing of the sacrifices, were laid up.

The length of the Temple contained a hundred cubits,--the breadth seventy: including within this measure the porch, the chambers, and the thickness of the outward wall; to trace all which would be too much. And these things, which we have said, we have, therefore, run through with the more haste, both because the famous Constantine L'Empereur hath, very learnedly and largely, treated of them; and because we ourselves largely enough, though much more unlearnedly, have heretofore done these things in a just volume, in our English tongue.

Chapter 35
Some other memorable Places of the City.

I. There was a street leading from the Gate of Waters to the mount of the Temple, which seems to be called "the street of the Temple," Ezra 10:9. This way they went from the Temple to mount Olivet.

II. The ascent to the mount of the Temple was not so difficult but cattle and oxen might be driven thither; nor so easy, but that it required some pains of those that went up. "A child was free from presenting himself in the Temple at the three feasts, until" (according to the school of Hillel) "he was able, his father taking him by the hand, to go up with him into the mount of the Temple."

III. "The vale of the Tyropaei" (or the cheesemongers), "that divided between the hill of the Upper City and the Lower, went down unto Siloam." The entrance into this vale, probably, was eastward by the Horse-gate, and the street (the most noted of the whole city) went onward to the west.

IV. The Upper Street.--"Any spittle, found in the city, was clean, except that which was found in the upper street." The Gloss thus; "The spittle of any unclean person is unclean, and defiles. But strangers of another country are as unclean among us, as those that have a flux. Now the strangers dwelt in the upper street." Here I remember the story of Ismael Ben Camithi, the high priest; who when he went out on the day of expiation to speak with a certain (heathen) captain, some spittle was sprinkled upon his clothes from the other's mouth: whereby being defiled, he could not perform the service of that day: his brother therefore officiated for him.

V. "The street of the butchers." [Saginatorum, Buxtorf.]

VI. "The street of those that dealt in wool."

"In the butchers' street, which was at Jerusalem, they locked the door" (on the sabbath), "and laid the key in the window which was above the door. R. Jose saith, That this was in the street of those that dealt in wool."

Josephus hath these words, "In the new city there was a wool-market, and braziers' shops, and a market of garments."

VII. "At Jerusalem was a great court, called Beth Jaazek, where the cities were gathered together,"--namely, that they might testify concerning the new moon: "and there the Sanhedrim took them into examination; and delicious feasts were made ready for them there, that they might the more willingly come thither for the sake thereof."

VIII. Some courts also were built upon a rock, under which there was made a hollow, that by no means any sepulchre might be there. Hither they brought some teeming women, that they might be delivered there, and might there also bring up their children. And the reason of that curiosity was, that those children, there born and brought up, where they were so secure from being touched by a sepulchre, might be clean without doubt, and fit to sprinkle, with purifying water, such as were polluted with a dead carcass. The children were shut up in those courts, until they became seven or eight years old. (So R. Solomon, who also cites Tosaphtoth, where nevertheless it is, "until they are eighteen years of age.") And when the sprinkling of any one is to be performed, they are brought with the like care and curiosity to the place, where the thing is to be done, riding upon oxen, because their bellies, being so thick, might defend them the more securely from the defilement of any sepulchre in the way.

IX. There were not a few caves in the city, hollowed out of the rock, which we observed concerning the hollowed floor of the Temple. Into one of these Simon the tyrant betook himself with his accomplices, when he despaired of his affairs. Of whom you have a memorable story in the place quoted.

X. Besides the pool of Siloam, of Bethesda, of Solomon, (if that were not the same with Bethesda,) there was "the Sparrow-pool," before Antonia; and "the Almond-pool," on the north side of the city.

XI. We cannot also pass over "The stone of things lost": where publicaiton was made concerning any thing lost or missing.

XII. We conclude with the trench brought round the city by Titus, wherein he shut it up in the siege. "Beginning from the tents of the Assyrians, where he encamped, he brought a trench to the nether new city" (the Upper was the hill Bezetha, the Nether was a place somewhat lower on the east of Sion), "and thence along Kedron to mount Olivet. Thence bending to the south, he shut up the mountain round, to the rock called the Dove-cote,--and the hill beyond, which lies over the valley of Siloam. From thence bending on the west, he came even into the vale of the fountain. After which, ascending along the sepulchre of Anan the chief priest, and enclosing the mountain where Pompey pitched his tents, he bended to the north side, and going forward as far as the village, which is called, 'the house, or place of turpentine'"; "and after that taking in the sepulchre of Herod, he came eastwardly to his own intrenchment."

Chapter 36
Synagogues in the City; and Schools.

"R. Phinehas, in the name of R. Hoshaia, saith, There were four hundred and sixty synagogues in Jerusalem: every one of which had a house of the book, and a house of doctrine," "A house of the book for the Scripture," that is, where the Scripture might be read: "and a house of doctrine for traditions," that is, the Beth Midrash, where traditions might be taught. These things are recited elsewhere, and there the number ariseth to four hundred and eighty. "R. Phinehas, in the name of R. Hoshaia, saith, There were four hundred and eighty synagogues in Jerusalem," &c. We do not make inquiry here concerning the numbers being varied: the latter is more received: and it is made out by gematry, as they call it, out of the word 'full,' Isaiah 1:21. "We find in Pesikta: R. Menahem, from R. Hoshaia, saith, Four hundred and eighty synagogues were in Jerusalem, according to the arithmetical value of the word full" [mem, lamed, aleph, tav, yod]. Note, that the letter aleph is not computed. [men=40, lamed=30, tav=400, yod=10]

"The synagogue of the Alexandrians," is mentioned by the Talmudists: concerning which also the Holy Scripture speaks, Acts 6:9.

"Eleazar Ben R. Zadok received (for a price) the synagogue of the Alexandrians, and did his necessary works in it. The Alexandrians had built it at their own charge." This story is recited by the Babylonian Talmudists, and they for Alexandrians have The Braziers. For so they write: "The synagogue of the Braziers, which was at Jerusalem, they themselves sold to R. Eleazar," &c. The Gloss renders 'the braziers' by 'workmen by brass.'--The reason why the Alexandrians were so called, you may fetch, perhaps, from this story: "There was a brass cymbal in the Temple; and there being a crack in it, the wise men brought artificers from Alexandria to mend it, &c. There was also a brass mortar in the Temple, in which they beat their spices; and there being a crack in it, the wise men brought artificers in brass from Alexandria to mend it," &c.

Consider well, what "The language of Tursi," means in that legend. "Bigthan and Teresh (perhaps) were two Tarsians": or, if you will, 'two artificers': "and they talked together in the language of Tursi" (where the Gloss, 'Tursi is the name of a place'); "and they knew not that Mordecai was one of the elders in the chamber Gazith, and that he understood seventy languages," &c.

In the place noted in the margin, these words are related concerning the sending away the goat Azazel, or the scape-goat: "The chief priests permitted not an Israelite to lead away the scape-goat into the wilderness: but once, one Arsela, who was an Israelite, led him away: and they made him a footstool because of the Babylonians, who used to pull off his hair, and to say, Take it, and go." The Gemara thus; "Rabba Bar Bar Channah saith, They were not Babylonians, but Alexandrians; but, because they hated the Babylonians, therefore they called them by their name. Take it, and go. Why does this goat tarry, when the sins of this generation are so many?" Where the Gloss thus; "They made him a footstool, or something to put under his feet, that he might be higher: and upon this he went out of the court, and out of the city: and this, lest the Babylonians should touch the goat: for they used to pull of his hair, and to say, Go, make haste, begone, delay not, our sins are yet upon us." And after; "The inhabitants of the land of Israel hated the Babylonians; every one, therefore, carrying himself irreverently and indecently, they called by their name."

'The synagogue of the Libertines,' Acts 6:9: "The synagogue of those, that are made free": of whom the Talmudists speak infinitely.

Chapter 37
Bethphage

There is very frequent mention of this place in the Talmudists: and, certainly, a more careful comparison of the maps with those things which are said by them of the situation of this place is worthy to be made; when they place it in mount Olivet, these make it contiguous to the buildings of Jerusalem.

I. In the place cited in the margin, the case "of a stubborn judge" (or elder) is handling. For when, by the prescript of the law, difficult matters, and such things as concerning which the lower councils could not judge, were to be brought unto the chief council, unto the place which God should choose, Deuteronomy 17:8;--and when that judge of the lower council, who, after the determination and sentence pronounced in that cause, which he propounded, shall refuse to obey, and shall deny to behave himself according to their sentence,--is guilty of death, verse 12, inquiry is made, "Whether if he shall find the Sanhedrim sitting in Bethphage, and shall rebel against the sentence pronounced by them there, that stubbornness be to be judged for rebellion," which, according to the law, is to be punished with death: and it is answered, "The text saith, 'Thou shalt arise, and go up to the place,' &c. Whence it is taught, that the place itself" (the chamber Gazith only) "adds force to the sentence."--The Gloss writes thus, "Bethphage was a place within the walls of the city, and was reckoned as Jerusalem itself, in respect of all things." Observe, 'Bethphage was within the walls of Jerusalem': so that if the sentence of the Sanhedrim, pronounced at Jerusalem (out of the chamber Gazith), obtained in the case propounded,--it had obtained, when pronounced in Bethphage.

II. "He that kills a sacrifice of thanksgiving within the wall, and the bread of it is without the wall, the bread is not holy. What is without the wall? R. Jochanan saith, Without the wall of Bethphage; but without the wall of the court, it is holy."--The Gloss thus; "Bethphage is the outmost place in Jerusalem: and whosoever is without the walls of Bethphage, is without Jerusalem, where is no place to eat the holy things."

III. It is disputed, whether the passover be to be slain in the name of a person in prison singly; and, among other things, it is thus determined: "If he be within the walls of Bethphage, let them kill it for him singly. Why? Because it is possible, to come to him, and he may eat it."--The Gloss; "Bethphage is the outmost place in Jerusalem: and thither they carry the passover to the person imprisoned, that he may eat it, because he is there within Jerusalem." For it was by no means lawful to eat the passover without Jerusalem.

IV. "The two loaves" (daily offered by the chief priest) "and the show-bread are baked aright either in the court or in Bethphage."

V. That which we produced first concerning the cause "of the stubborn elder," is recited also elsewhere; and these words are added, "He found the council sitting in Bethphage: for example's sake, if he betook himself thither to measure for the beheading of the cow, or to add to the space of the city, or the courts."

VI. "He thrashes within the walls of Bethphage."--The Gloss; "Bethphage is the outmost circuit of Jerusalem." The Aruch;--"The wall of Bethphage is the wall of Jerusalem."

Now consult the maps and the commentaries of Christians, and you have Bethphage seated far from the walls of the city, not very far from the top of mount Olivet: where, also, the footsteps of it (even at this day) are falsely shown to travellers. So our countryman Sandys, an eyewitness, writes concerning it: "We now ascend mount Olivet (saith he), another way bending more northwards" (for before, he had described the ascent to Bethany). "On the right hand, not far from the top, was Bethphage seated, whose very foundations are confounded; from whence Christ, sitting upon the foal of an ass, went in triumph to Jerusalem: the father-guardian every Palm Sunday now superstitiously imitating him."

They took their resolutions concerning the situation of this place not elsewhere certainly than from the gospel history, which seems openly to delineate Bethphage at the mount Olivet. True, indeed; and yet nothing hinders, but we may believe the Jews, asserting it to be within the walls of Jerusalem, since they illustrate the thing with so many examples; nor is there any reason, why they should either feign or dissemble any thing in this matter.

To the determining, therefore, of the business, we must have recourse, first, to the derivation of the word: Bethphage is rendered by some a 'house or place of a fountain,' from the Greek "a fountain": but this is something hard: by the Glosser in Bava Mezia, in the place last cited, it is rendered, a paved 'causeway'; "The outmost compass of Jerusalem (saith he), which they added to it, is called Bethphage, and seems to me to denote a beaten way." To which that of the Targumists seems to agree, who render "At the valley of Shaveh," Genesis 14:17. But what needs is there of wandering abroad either into a strange or more unusual dialect,--when the word Phagi most vulgarly, and in all men's mouths, denotes "green figs," which mount Olivet was not a little famous for? For although it took its name from 'Olives' yet it produced both 'fig' trees and 'palms'; and according to the variety of these, growing in divers tracts of the mount, so various names were imposed upon those tracts, which we note elsewhere. That lowest part, therefore, of the mountain, which runs out next the city, is called, from the green figs, "Bethphage": by which name also that part of Jerusalem, next adjacent, is called, by reason of the vicinity of that place. And from these things, well regarded, one may, more rightly and plainly, understand the story of Christ coming this way.

He had lodged in Bethany, the town of Lazarus, John 12:1. From thence, in the morning, going onward, he is said to come to Bethphage, and Bethany, Mark 11:1; that is, to that place, where those tracts of the mountain, known by those names, did touch upon one another. And when he was about to ascend into heaven, he is said to lead out his disciples, "as far as Bethany," Luke 24:50; but not farther than a sabbath-day's journey, Acts 1:12; whereas the town, where Lazarus dwelt, was almost twice as far, John 11:18. He went, therefore, out of Jerusalem through Bethphage within the walls, and Bethphage without the walls,--and measuring a sabbath-day's journey, or thereabouts, arrived at that place and tract of Olivet, where the name of Bethphage ceased, and the name of Bethany began; and there he ascended. I doubt, therefore, whether there was any town in Olivet called Bethphage; but rather a great tract of the mountain was so called; and the outermost street of Jerusalem within the walls was called by the same name, by reason of its nearness to that tract.

Chapter 38
Kedron

"A deep bottom, called Kedron, bounds the mount of Olives, which lies against the city eastward." "They built a foot-causeway, or a foot-bridge, upheld with arches, from the mount of the Temple to the mount of Olives, upon which they led away the red cow (to be burned). In like manner, such a foot-causeway they made, upon which they led away the scape-goat: both were built at the charges of the public treasure, which was in the Temple." The reason of that curiosity concerning the red cow was this:--when the ashes of that cow were especially purifying above all other things (for they cleansed from the uncleanness contracted by the touch of a dead person), they thought no caution enough to keep him safe from uncleanness, who was to burn the cow. When, therefore, there might be, perhaps, some sepulchres not seen, in the way he was to go, whereby he might be defiled, and so the whole action be rendered useless,--they made him a path, at no small cost, all the way, upon arches joining to one another, where it was not possible to touch a place of burial. The like care and curiosity was used in leading away the scape-goat.

The sheaf of first-fruits was reaped from the Ashes'-valley of the brook Kedron. The first day of the feast of the Passover, certain persons, deputed from the Sanhedrim, went forth into that valley, a great company attending them; and very many out of the neighbouring towns flocked together, that the thing might be done, a great multitude being present. And the reason of the pomp was fetched thence, because the Baithuseans, or Sadducees, did not think well of doing that action on that day: therefore, that they might cross that crossing opinion, they performed the business with as much show as could be. "When it was now even, he, on whom the office of reaping laid, saith, 'The sun is set'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'The sun is set'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'With this reaping-hook'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'With this reaping-hook'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'In this basket'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'In this basket'; and they answered, 'Well.'--If it were the sabbath, he said, 'On this sabbath'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'On this sabbath'; and they answered, 'Well.'--'I will reap'; and they answered, 'Reap.'--'I will reap'; and they answered, 'Reap.' This he said thrice; and they answered thrice, 'Well.'"

In the place, marked in the margin, they are treating concerning removing a sepulchre, seated in an inconvenient place, that it might not pollute any man. Examples are brought-in of the sepulchres of the house of David, which were moved out of their places,--and of the sepulchres of the sons of Huldah, which were within Jerusalem, and were not moved out of their places. "Hence it appears (saith R. Akibah), that there was a certain cave, whereby filth and uncleanness was carried down into the valley of Kedron."

By such a pipe and evacuation under-ground, did the filth of the Court of the Temple run into the valley of Kedron. "The blood poured at the foot of the altar flowed into a pipe, and emptied itself into the valley of Kedron: and it was sold to the gardeners to dung their gardens."

Chapter 39
The Valley of Hinnom.

A great part of the valley of Kedron was called also the 'Valley of Hinnom.' Jeremiah, going forth into the valley of Hinnom, went out by the gate "Hacharsith, the Sun-gate," Jeremiah 19:2; that is, the Rabbins and others being interpreters, 'by the East-gate.' For thence was the beginning of the valley of Hinnom, which, after some space, bending itself westward, ran out along the south side of the city.

There is no need to repeat those very many things, which are related of this place in the Old Testament; they are historical. The mention of it in the New is only mystical and metaphorical, and is transferred to denote the place of the damned. Under the second Temple, when those things were vanished, which had set an eternal mark of infamy upon this place, to wit, idolatry, and the howlings of infants roasted to Moloch,--yet so much of the filthiness, and of the abominable name remained, that even now it did as much bear to the life the representation of hell, as it had done before.

It was the common sink of the whole city; whither all filth, and all kind of nastiness, met. It was, probably, the common burying-place of the city (if so be, they did now bury within so small a distance from the city). "They shall bury in Tophet, until there be no more any place," Jeremiah 7:32. And there was there also a continual fire, whereby bones, and other filthy things, were consumed, lest they might offend or infect the city. "There was a tradition according to the school of Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai. There are two palm-trees in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, between which a smoke arises: and this is that we learn, 'The palms of the mountain are fit for iron.' And, 'This is the door of Gehenna.'"

Some of the Rabbins apply that of Isaiah hither, chapter 66, verse the last: "They shall go out, and see the dead carcases of the men, that rebel against me; for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched."--"Those Gentiles (saith Kimchi upon the place) who come to worship from month to month, and from sabbath to sabbath, shall go out without Jerusalem into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and shall see the carcases of Gog and Magog," &c. And a little after; "The just shall go out without Jerusalem into the valley of Hinnom, and shall see those that rebel," &c.

What is to be resolved concerning the 'valley of Jehoshaphat,' he himself doubts, and leaves undetermined: "For either Jehoshaphat (saith he) here erected some building, or did some work, or it is called 'the valley of Jehoshaphat' because of judgment." So also Jarchi [on Joel 3:2]; "Jehoshaphat means all one with the 'judgments of the Lord.'"

Chapter 40
Mount Olivet. The Mount of Olives,
2 Samuel 15:30.

Zechariah 14:4. In the Rabbins commonly, The Mount of Oil.

"The mount called the mount of Olives, lying over against the city, is distant five furlongs." But Luke saith, Acts 1:12, "Then they returned from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath-day's journey." But now a sabbath-day's journey contained eight furlongs, or a whole mile. Neither yet, for all this, doth Luke fight against Josephus. For this last measures the space to the first foundation of Olivet; the other, to that place of Olivet, where our Saviour ascended. The first foot of the mount was distant five furlongs from the city; but Christ, being about to ascend, went up the mountain three furlongs farther.

The mount had its name from the Olive-trees, however other trees grew in it; and that, because the number of these perhaps was greater, and the fruit better. Among other trees, two cedars are mentioned, or rather two monsters of cedars. "Two cedars (they say) were in the mount of Olivet, under one of which were four shops, where all things needful for purifications were sold: out of the other, they fetched, every month, forty seahs" (certain measures) "of pigeons, whence all the women to be purified were supplied."

It is a dream like that story, that, beneath this mountain, all the dead are to be raised. "When the dead shall live again (say they), mount Olivet is to be rent in two, and all the dead of Israel shall come out thence; yea, those righteous persons, who died in captivity, shall be rolled under the earth, and shall come forth under the mount of Olivet."

There was a place in the mount, directly opposite against the east gate of the Temple, to which the priest, that was to burn the red cow, went along a foot-bridge laid upon arches, as it was said before. And when he sprinkled its blood there, he directly levelled his eyes at the Holy of Holies.

Those signal flames also, accustomed to be waved up and down on the top of this mount in token of the new moon now stated, are worthy of mention. The custom and manner is thus described: "Formerly, they held up flames; but when the Cutheans spoiled this, it was decreed, that they should send messengers." The Gloss is this; "They held up the flames presently after the time of the new moon was stated: and there was no need to send messengers to those, that were afar off in captivity, to give them notice of the time; for those flames gave notice: and the Cutheans sometime held up flames in an undue time, and so deceived Israel."

The text goes forward: "How did they hold up the flames? They took long staves of cedar, and canes, and fat-wood, and the coarse part of the flax, and bound these together with a thread. And one, going up to the mount, put fire to it, and shakes the flame up and down, this way and that way, until he sees another doing so in a second mountain, and another so in a third mountain. But whence did they lift up these flames first? From the mount of Olivet to Sartaba; from Sartaba to Gryphena; from Gryphena to Hauran; from Hauran to Beth Baltin. And he who held up the flame in Beth Baltin, departed not thence, but waved his flame up and down, this way and that way, until he saw the whole captivity abounding in flames. The Gemarists inquire, what 'from Beth Baltin' means? This is Biram. What the captivity means? Rabh Joseph saith, This is Pombeditha. What means abounding in flames? There is a tradition, that every one taking a torch in his hand, goes up upon his house," &c.

The Jews believe, the Messias shall converse very much in this mountain: which is agreeable to truth and reason. For when they think his primary seat shall be at Jerusalem, they cannot but believe some such thing of that mount. R. Janna saith, "The Divine Majesty stood three years and a half in mount Olivet, and preached, saying, 'Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near.'"

And now let us from this mountain look back upon the city. Imagine yourself sitting in that place, where the priest stood, while he burnt the red cow, directly over against the east gate of the Temple. Between the mount and the city you might see a valley running between, compassing Sion on the right hand, and Jerusalem on the left: the Gate of Waters against you, leading to the Temple; on the left hand, Ophla and the Horse-gate. From thence, as we have said, was the beginning of the valley of Hinnom, which, at length, bowed towards the south side of the city. In that place, near the wall, was the Fullers' field; which whether it was so called from wood framed together, where fullers dried their cloth; or 'from a fuller's monument,' of which Josephus writes,--we do not dispute.

From the Horse-gate, westward, runs out the valley Kedron, in which is a brook, whence the valley takes its name--embracing Sion also on the north, and spreading abroad itself in a more spacious breadth.

"Below the city, there was a place" (we do not dare to mark it out) "which was called Motza: hither they came down" (in the feast of Tabernacles) "and cropped off thence long boughs of willow" (it may be, from the banks of the brook Kedron); "and, going away, placed them near the sides of the altar,--bended after that manner, that their heads might bow over the top of the altar," &c.

It is no marvel, if there were a multitude of gardens without the city, when there were none within. Among them "a garden of Jerusalem is famed, wherein figs grew, which were sold for three or four assarii each: and yet neither the Truma, nor the Tenth, was ever taken of them."

Josephus hath these words, "The gardening was all compassed about from the wall with trenches; and every thing was divided with crooked gardens, and many walls."

« Prev Chapters 31-40 Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |