Easton's Bible Dictionary
The temple erected by the exiles on their return from Babylon had stood for
about five hundred years, when Herod the Great became king of Judea. The building
had suffered considerably from natural decay as well as from the assaults of
hostile armies, and Herod, desirous of gaining the favour of the Jews, proposed
to rebuild it. This offer was accepted, and the work was begun (B.C. 18), and
carried out at great labour and expense, and on a scale of surpassing splendour.
The main part of the building was completed in ten years, but the erection of
the outer courts and the embellishment of the whole were carried on during the
entire period of our Lord's life on earth (John 2:16,19-21), and the temple was
completed only A.D. 65. But it was not long permitted to exist. Within forty
years after our Lord's crucifixion, his prediction of its overthrow was
accomplished (Luke 19:: 4144-44). The Roman legions took the city of Jerusalem by
storm, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts Titus made to preserve the temple,
his soldiers set fire to it in several places, and it was utterly destroyed
(A.D. 70), and was never rebuilt.
Several remains of Herod's stately temple have by recent explorations been
brought to light. It had two courts, one intended for the Israelites only, and the
other, a large outer court, called "the court of the Gentiles," intended for
the use of strangers of all nations. These two courts were separated by a low
wall, as Josephus states, some 4 1/2 feet high, with thirteen openings. Along the
top of this dividing wall, at regular intervals, were placed pillars bearing
in Greek an inscription to the effect that no stranger was, on the pain of
death, to pass from the court of the Gentiles into that of the Jews. At the entrance
to a graveyard at the north-western angle of the Haram wall, a stone was
discovered by M. Ganneau in 1871, built into the wall, bearing the following
inscription in Greek capitals: "No stranger is to enter within the partition wall and
enclosure around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be responsible to
himself for his death, which will ensue."
There can be no doubt that the stone thus discovered was one of those
originally placed on the boundary wall which separated the Jews from the Gentiles, of
which Josephus speaks.
It is of importance to notice that the word rendered "sanctuary" in the
inscription was used in a specific sense of the inner court, the court of the
Israelites, and is the word rendered "temple" in John 2:15 and Acts 21:28,29. When
Paul speaks of the middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14), he probably makes
allusion to this dividing wall. Within this partition wall stood the temple
proper, consisting of, (1) the court of the women, 8 feet higher than the outer
court; (2) 10 feet higher than this court was the court of Israel; (3) the court of
the priests, again 3 feet higher; and lastly (4) the temple floor, 8 feet
above that; thus in all 29 feet above the level of the outer court.
The summit of Mount Moriah, on which the temple stood, is now occupied by the
Haram esh-Sherif, i.e., "the sacred enclosure." This enclosure is about 1,500
feet from north to south, with a breadth of about 1,000 feet, covering in all a
space of about 35 acres. About the centre of the enclosure is a raised
platform, 16 feet above the surrounding space, and paved with large stone slabs, on
which stands the Mohammedan mosque called Kubbet es-Sahkra i.e., the "Dome of the
Rock," or the Mosque of Omar. This mosque covers the site of Solomon's temple.
In the centre of the dome there is a bare, projecting rock, the highest part of
Moriah (q.v.), measuring 60 feet by 40, standing 6 feet above the floor of the
mosque, called the sahkra, i.e., "rock." Over this rock the altar of
burnt-offerings stood. It was the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. The exact
position on this "sacred enclosure" which the temple occupied has not been yet
definitely ascertained. Some affirm that Herod's temple covered the site of
Solomon's temple and palace, and in addition enclosed a square of 300 feet at the
south-western angle. The temple courts thus are supposed to have occupied the
southern portion of the "enclosure," forming in all a square of more than 900 feet.
It is argued by others that Herod's temple occupied a square of 600 feet at
the south-west of the "enclosure."
These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible
Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy
Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for 'Temple, Herodís'". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". 1897.