Monday, May 21, 2012

Tour of the Temple: Class 6

Chambers of the Women's Courtyard

Chamber of the Wood
In each of the four corners of the Women's Courtyard were chambers measuring 40 cubits (60 feet) to a side and each chamber served a different purpose. The southeast chamber was called the Chamber of the Nazirites. A nazirite is a man or woman who, for a set period of time, accept upon themselves not to drink wine, cut their hair, or contract corpse-tumah. When the term of their vow is complete the individual was required to come to the Temple and offer certain sacrifices. The meat of the offering was brought to the Chamber of the Nazirites to be cooked, and the nazirite would also receive a haircut in this chamber and then the cut hair would be thrown into the fire beneath the pot cooking the offering. Nazirites were not permitted to eat their offerings in this chamber, either to prevent overcrowding in the Women's Courtyard or because it was preferable to eat inside a room with a roof and not under the open sky


In the northeast corner of the Women's Courtyard was the Chamber of the Wood. Here the Kohanim would inspect firewood for use upon the Altar. They had to determine if the wood was infested with worms since any piece of wood containing worms was not fit to be burned upon the Altar. This wormy wood was not discarded but rather was used for other purposes in the Temple, such as fueling the various warming fires or the stoves used for cooking sacrificial meat.


In the northwest corner stood the Chamber of the Metzoraim. Metzoraim (sing., metzora) are individuals who have contracted tzaraas, an affliction brought on by the commission of certain transgressions and whose physical symptoms must be recognized and diagnosed by a trained Kohen. When the Kohen has determined that the tzaraas affliction has passed, the metzora was required to undergo a purification process which involved the offering of sacrifices in the Temple. At one point during the course of this purification process the metzora was required to immerse in a mikveh [ritual bath] and would do so within the northwestern chamber in a mikveh built for this purpose. Although this chamber and the mikveh it contained was designated primarily for metzoraim, as its name indicates, it was also open to the general public who could immerse here prior to entering the Courtyard.
Chamber of the Oils
The chamber in the southwest corner was called the Chamber of the Oils and served as the storage area for the Temple's supply of oil, wine, and flour, all of which were used daily in large amounts. It was named for the oils stored here since oil was present in greater quantities than wine or flour. All of the supplies contained in this chamber were used in the Temple on a daily basis: oil was needed for the Menorah and, in combination with flour, for meal-offerings, while wine was poured onto the Altar as libations. For this reason the Chamber of the Oils had its own doorway leading directly into the Courtyard to its west.

On the western side of the Women's Courtyard was a large flight of steps leading up to the Nikanor Gate, the main entry point into the Courtyard. There were fifteen steps, each half a cubit in height, to account for the 7½-cubit difference in elevation between these two courtyards. Although these steps were used on a daily basis by the myriad people entering the Courtyard, they are more famously known for their role during the Rejoicing of the Water Drawing when they served as a stage for the Leviim who sang and played their musical instruments to accompany the celebrations. In order to accommodate the greatest number of Leviim, and to make these Leviim more visible to the crowds below, the fifteen steps were not built straight (like standard steps) but rather were round, forming a semicircular terrace which extended out into the Women's Courtyard. To add further to the capacity of these steps they ran across the entire western side of the Women's Courtyard and were not limited to the area directly in front of the gate.

At the foot of these steps to the north and south were doors which opened to the two music chambers of the Leviim which were located directly beneath the Israelites' Courtyard. In these rooms the Leviim would store their instruments on hooks all around the walls and cover them with protective cloths. Underground chambers were ideal for instrument storage since many of the instruments were made of wood (such as harps and lyres) and they would be best protected from the heat and fluctuations in humidity underground. These chambers were also used for rehearsal and training the next generation of musicians, thus highlighting another benefit of having the rooms underground — the Leviim would not disrupt the sacrificial service as they practiced. Tools needed to fix and tune the instruments, as well as a library of songbooks, were also kept here.

1 comment:

  1. So wonderful to be able to read your research about The Chamber of Wood in the Women's courtyard. Greatly appreciate your time and effort and great love for God's truth and God's history and Bible History. DAN A USA

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