The Court of the Women in the Temple
The 15 Step Curved Staircase
through the Court of the Women was a semicircular staircase and the magnificent
Nicanor Gate. Josephus mentioned the Great Gate at this location in Wars 5. It
was fashioned of magnificent brass and led down to a 15 step stairway to the
Court of Women. According to the Mishnah (Middoth 2) these steps in front of the
Nicanor Gate were curved. The stairs were located on the west end of the Women's
Court and lined up with the portal of the porch. It was on these circular stairs
in front of the Nicanor Gate that the Levites would sing choirs.
Edersheim - The
Chambers. In each of the four corners of the Court of the Women were
chambers, or rather unroofed courts, each said to have been 60 feet long. In
that at the right hand (on the north-east), the priests who were unfit for other
than menial services on account of bodily blemishes, picked the worm-eaten wood
from that destined for the altar. In the court at the farther angle (north-west)
the purified lepers washed before presenting themselves to the priests at the
Gate of Nicanor. At the left (south-east) the Nazarites polled their hair, and
cooked their peace-offerings; while in a fourth court (at the south-west) the
oil and wine were kept for the drink-offerings. The musical instruments used by
the Levites were deposited in two rooms under the Court of the Israelites, to
which the access was from the Court of the Women. Of course the western
colonnade of this court was open. Thence fifteen easy steps led through the
so-called Gate of Nicanor into the Court of Israel. On these steps the Levites
were wont on the Feast of Tabernacles to sing the fifteen 'Psalms of Degrees,'
or ascent (Psalms 120 to 134), whence some have derived their name. Here, or,
rather, in the Gate of Nicanor, all that was ordered to be done 'before the
Lord' took place. There the cleansed leper and the women coming for purification
presented themselves to the priests, and there also the 'water of jealousy' was
given to the suspected wife.
Lightfoot - The Court of the Gentiles
compassed the Temple and the courts on every side. The same also did Chel, or
the Ante-murale. "That space was ten cubits broad, divided from the Court of the
Gentiles by a fence, ten hand-breadths high; in which were thirteen breaches,
which the kings of Greece had made: but the Jews had again repaired them, and
had appointed thirteen adorations answering to them." Maimonides writes:
"Inwards" (from the Court of the Gentiles) "was a fence, that encompassed on
every side, ten hand-breadths in height, and within the fence Chel, or the Ante-murale:
of which it is said, in the Lamentations, 'And he caused Chel and the Wall to
lament,'" Lamentations 2:8. Josephus writes, "The second circuit was gone up to
by a few steps: which the partition of a stone wall surrounded: where was an
inscription, forbidding any of another nation to enter, upon pain of death."
Hence happened that danger to Paul because of Trophimus the Ephesian, Acts
21:29. "The Chel or Ante-murale" (or second enclosure about the Temple), "was
more sacred than the Court of the Gentiles: for hither no heathen, nor any
unclean by that which died of itself, nor who lay with a menstruous woman, might
come." "From hence they ascended into the Court of the Women by twelve steps."
On the east it had only one gate, called in the Holy Scripture, 'Beautiful,'
Acts 3:2. In Josephus, the 'Corinthian' gate: saith he; "Of the gates, nine of
them were every where overlaid with gold and silver, likewise the posts, and the
lintels. But one, without the Temple, made of Corinthian brass, did much exceed,
in glory, those, that were overlaid with silver and gold. And two gates of every
court were each thirty cubits high, and fifteen broad." On the south was only
one gate also, and one on the north: and galleries; or court-walks within,
joining to the wall, in the same manner as in the outer court, but not double.
Before which were the treasuries placed, or thirteen chests, called by the
Talmudists, Shopharoth; in which was put the money offered for the various
services of the Temple; and, according to that variety, the chests had various
titles written on them: whence the offerer might know into which to put his
offering, according to his quality. Upon one was inscribed, "The new shekels";
into which were cast the shekels of that year. Upon another, "The old shekels";
into which were gathered the shekels owing the last year. Upon another, "pigeons
and turtles." Upon another, "The burnt sacrifice." Upon another, "The wood."
Upon another, "Frankincense." Upon another, "Gold for the propitiation." And six
chests had written on them, "Voluntary sacrifice." "The length of the Women's
Court was a hundred thirty-five cubits, and the breadth a hundred thirty-five
cubits. And there were four chambers in the four corners of it, each forty
cubits, but not roofed." See Ezekiel 46:21,22. "At the south-east was the court
of the Nazarites: because there the Nazarites boiled their thank-offerings, and
cut their hair, and put it under the pot." "At the north-east was the chamber of
wood: where the priests, defiled with any spot, searched the wood, whether it
was unclean by worms. And all wood in which a worm was found was not fit for the
altar." "At the north-west was the chamber of the Leprous." "At the south-west
was the chamber of wine and oil." "On the highest sides" (we follow the version
of the famous Constantine L'Empereur), "was the smooth and plain Court of the
Women; but they bounded it round about with an inward gallery, that the women
might see from above, and the men from below, that they might not be mingled."
In this Court of the Women was celebrated the sacred and festival dance, in the
feast of Tabernacles, called the "Pouring out of Water": the ritual of which you
have in the place cited in the margin. "The Court of the Women was more sacred
than the Chel; because any, who had contracted such an unclearness that was to
be cleansed the same day, might not enter into it."
We will go up, at the east gate, out of the Chel,
out of which there were five steps, that rose up to the gate to land you in it.
The gate itself was exceeding sumptuous, and exceeding beautiful: and this was
that which was called "the Beautiful gate of the Temple," Acts iii. 2, at which
the cripple lay begging of alms, both of men and women, that went into the
Temple. At this gate began To "the inner Temple," as Josephus doth often call
it,—distinguishing between that space, that was enclosed within the boundary
wall that encompassed the whole holy ground,—and that space, that was enclosed
within the wall that encompassed the courts: the former of them was called, "
the Outer Temple," and the latter was called, "the Inner and both of them bare
the name of the Temple: and so, in the Scripture, whosoever went but within the
compass of the holy ground, is said to have gone into the Temple. Now this gate
being the very front and entrance into the inner Temple, or into that space,
within which the choicest sanctity and bravery of the Temple was,—it was built
and decked with such sumptuousness and singular gallantry, as was fitting for
the frontispiece of so brave a place. And hence it came to bear the name of
"Beautiful;" and that the rather, also, in comparison of the gate "Shushan," or
the outmost east gate, that entered into the Mountain of the House; for that was
but a low and homely gate-house,—for a reason that hath been observed
heretofore: but this was goodly and lofty, and stood bravely mounted upon the
far higher ground. This gate Josephus" calleth the "Corinthian Gate," because it
was of Corinthian brass; whereas the rest of the gates were gilt with gold. And
here occurreth a difference betwixt him and the Talmudical writers; for they do
unanimously hold the brazen gate to be the gate of Nicanor (which we shall
survey anon), which was the gate that went out of the Court of the Women into
the Court of Israel: but he doth as confidently affirm on the other hand, that
it was that, that went out of" the 'Chel' into the Court of the Women. "There
was one gate without the Temple, of Corinthian brass, which exceeded in glory
those of gold or silver." Now where this gate stood,—namely, in that place that
we are upon, appeareth by this passage of his a little after; "The gate above
the Corinthian gate, which opened east, over-against the gate of the Temple,"
The Women's Court in the
Temple in Jerusalem
Mark 12:41-44 "Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people
put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one
poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called
His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that
this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the
treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her
poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
If you were to approach the Temple in
Jerusalem in the first century A.D. you would pass through the eastern gate
where Jesus made His triumphal entry. Then you would come to the Court of
the Gentiles which was a large court paved with stones of various colors. It
was open to all comers including the cattle-dealers and the money-changers
who desecrated the Temple. This court was also called the Outer Court, the
Lower Court, and the rabbi’s usually called it "the Mountain of the Lord’s
House." All around the Temple proper was a 9 foot high terrace with stairs
which was higher than the Court of the Gentiles. It was surrounded by a 5
foot high wall which was designed to keep out the gentiles. There was also
pillars in the wall at various distances (the Soreg) with inscriptions in
Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, warning all gentiles to come no further under
penalty of death.
Going beyond the Court of the Gentiles and at the top of the terrace there
was a platform for about 15 feet and then there was another wall. On the
east side stood the magnificent 60 foot wide "Gate Beautiful" mentioned in
Acts 3:2,10. It was also referred to as the "Gate Susan" because it
contained a beautifully sculptured relief of the city of Susa. During the
time of the morning and evening sacrifices this great entrance was the place
of public worship.
Entering through the Susan Gate you would come to a large court called "the
Court of the Women" not because there were only women there but because
women could not go beyond it. There were smaller courts with columns in the
four corners of the court.
According to the Mishnah (Middoth 2,5) the Women's Court was was just over
200 feet square between bounding lines. Each court on the outside was 60
In front of these columns were the eleven treasure chests of the Temple for
the voluntary offerings of money, and there were also two at the Gate of
Susan, for the half-shekel tax. Jesus was sitting ‘opposite the treasury'
when he saw the widow put into one of the containers the two copper coins
which were all that she had (Mark 12:41-44; Lk 21:1-2).
It was near these treasure chests that the man healed of his blindness came
up to Jesus in John 8:20 and worshipped Him.
Continuing eastward there was a magnificent circular staircase and the
Nicanor Gate. Entering through the gate there was a narrow hall filled with
beautiful cloistered columns called "Court of the Israelites" and it was
also through a wall and up a flight of stairs. The Court of the Israelites
surrounded the "Court of the Priests" which was where the altar of sacrifice
was. The women could only glance over a balcony from the Court of the Women
to see the ceremonies inside the Inner Court (According to Middoth).
Oil of Yah Court
Leper's Chamber Court
The Temple Treasury
Woman - A Heart Message