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Herod's Temple - Overview

Bible overview
A 3D tour of Herod's Temple.
Contributed by Bible Scenes
Story also available on our translated website: Spanish
This is how the Temple in Jerusalem looked in the time of Jesus from the Mount of Olives. The historian Josephus wrote that the Temple, ‘appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white’. – Slide 1
The Temple Mount, the platform upon which the Second Temple stood, was significantly expanded by Herod the Great, doubling in size to become the largest religious sanctuary in the ancient world. To construct this platform Herod built a box around Mount Moriah and filled it in. The Temple Mount complex initially measured 7 hectares (17 acres) in size, but Herod expanded it to 14.4 hectares (36 acres). The Eastern wall had an entrance known as the Shushan Gate or ‘Golden Gate’. – Slide 2
This is the view of the temple looking north from the Kidron Valley. The Eastern wall of the Temple can be seen. A thousand priests trained as masons were the only ones allowed to work on the innermost and most holy parts of the temple. They were assisted by ten thousand skilled labourers. Massive hand shaped stones were brought from a quarry 1 mile (1.6km) away. At one point the walls of the Temple rise more than 69m (225ft) above the Kidron valley floor. – Slide 3
Jesus crossed the valley many times travelling between Jerusalem and Bethany. The valley contains the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the night before He was crucified. – Slide 4
The southern wall had two entrances, the double gate and the triple gate. – Slide 5
On the south-west corner of the temple was an entrance known today as Robinsons Arch and stairway (named after Biblical scholar Edward Robinson who identified its remnants in 1838). – Slide 6
On the north-west corner of the temple stood the Antonia Fortress built by Herod the Great and named after Mark Antony. During the pilgrimage feasts, when hundreds of thousands came to the Temple, Roman troops could overlook the Temple to guard against an uprising by national zealots who wished independence from Rome. – Slide 7
The East wall of the temple was 466m (1530ft) in length. The southern wall was 278m (914ft). The western wall was 485m (1590ft) and the northern wall extended 316m (1038ft). Some conclude that the high south-east corner of the temple is the pinnacle of the temple referred to in the temptation of Jesus. The drop from here is 137m (450ft) to the Kidron Valley below. – Slide 8
The outer Court of the Gentiles was primarily a bazaar, with vendors selling souvenirs, sacrificial animals and food. Currency was also exchanged, with Roman currency exchanged for Tyrian money, as mentioned in the New Testament account of Jesus and the Money Changers. – Slide 9
Gentiles could enter the temple to be in the outer Courtyard of the Gentiles. But they could only go as far as the small wall called the Soreg. According to Josephus the Soreg was 1.57m (5ft 2 inches) high. – Slide 10
The Soreg wall had 13 gaps to allow Jews through and a warning notice which read ‘Let no foreigner enter within the parapet and the partition which surrounds the Temple precincts. Anyone caught violating will be held accountable for his ensuing death.’ – Slide 11
Jews then entered the Court of the Women, which was the furthest women could go. Outside the court were four chambers and entrances on the east south and north sides. The Chamber of Wood was in the north-east corner, the Chamber of the Nazarites was in the south-east corner, the Chamber of Oils was in the south-west corner and the Lepers Chamber in the north-west corner. – Slide 12
The Court of the Women was 62m square and could hold 6,000 worshippers at one time with the woman positioned on the upper terraces around the court. A large gate known as the Nicanor gate stood at the western end of the Court of Woman. Inside the courtyard were four large lampstands. – Slide 13
Only Jewish men could enter through the Nicanor gate and stand in the Court of Israel in front of the Altar where offerings were made. – Slide 14
In front of the sanctuary was a place where the animals for sacrifice were slaughtered, the altar and a laver where priests washed. – Slide 15
The Temple sanctuary was 52m (172ft) long, broad and high. There were 12 steps  up to the porch (or ulam). The entrance to the temple was overlaid with gold. – Slide 16
The opening to the sanctuary had two sets of double folding doors allowing priests to enter the Holy Place. Zechariah was in the Holy Place when an angel of the Lord appeared and announced to him that his wife would give birth to a son, whom he was to name John, and that this son would be the forerunner of the Lord. – Slide 17
A large veil (parokhet) separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It was so heavy that it took 300 priests to move it. It was this veil that was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45). – Slide 18
The Holy Place contained the golden menorah or lampstand, the Table of Shewbread and the Altar of Incense. – Slide 19
The Holy of Holies was a square of 20 cubits - 10.5m (34.5ft) and 40 cubits - 21m (69ft) high. It was empty as the Ark of the Covenant went missing after the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple. It is still debated whether the Ark of the Covenant was hidden or captured. A recess in the rock indicated where the Ark of the Covenant once stood. Once a year at Yom Kippur the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies to offer incense and sprinkle blood. – Slide 20
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