Temple--Its Ministry and Services
« Prev Temple Order, Revenues, and Music Next »

Chapter 3

Temple Order, Revenues, and Music

‘For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high-priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.’—Hebrews 13:11, 12

Second Temple Inferior in Glory

To the devout and earnest Jew the second Temple must, ‘in comparison of’ ‘the house in her first glory,’ have indeed appeared ‘as nothing’ (Hagg 2:3). True, in architectural splendour the second, as restored by Herod, far surpassed the first Temple.2222The Talmud expressly calls attention to this, and mentions as another point of pre-eminence, that whereas the first Temple stood 410, the second lasted 420 years.

But, unless faith had recognised in Jesus of Nazareth ‘the Desire of all nations,’ who should ‘fill this house with glory’ (Hagg 2:7), it would have been difficult to draw other than sad comparisons. Confessedly, the real elements of Temple-glory no longer existed. The Holy of Holies was quite empty, the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim, the tables of the law, the book of the covenant, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the pot of manna, were no longer in the sanctuary. The fire that had descended from heaven upon the altar was extinct. What was far more solemn, the visible presence of God in the Shechinah was wanting.2323The following five are mentioned by the Rabbis as wanting in the last Temple: the ark, the holy fire, the Shechinah, the spirit of prophecy, and the Urim and Thummim.

Nor could the will of God be now ascertained through the Urim and Thummim, nor even the high-priest be anointed with the holy oil, its very composition being unknown. Yet all the more jealously did the Rabbis draw lines of fictitious sanctity, and guard them against all infringement.

Lines of Sanctity

In general, as the camp in the wilderness had really consisted of three parts—the camp of Israel, that of the Levites, and that of God—so they reckoned three corresponding divisions of the Holy City. From the gates to the Temple Mount was regarded as the camp of Israel; thence to the gate of Nicanor represented the camp of Levi; while the rest of the sanctuary was ‘the camp of God.’ It is in allusion to this that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares Christ’s suffering ‘without the gate’ of Jerusalem to the burning of the sin-offerings ‘without the camp.’ According to another Rabbinical arrangement different degrees of sanctity attached to different localities. The first, or lowest degree, belonged to the land of Israel, whence alone the first sheaf at the Passover, the firstfruits, and the two wave-loaves at Pentecost might be brought; the next degree to walled cities in Palestine, where no leper nor dead body (Luke 7:12) might remain; the third to Jerusalem itself since, besides many prohibitions to guard its purity, it was only there lawful to partake of peace-offerings, of the firstfruits, and of ‘the second tithes.’ Next came, successively, the Temple Mount, from which all who were in a state of Levitical uncleanness were excluded; ‘the Terrace,’ or ‘Chel,’ from which, besides Gentiles, those who had become defiled by contact with a dead body were shut out; the Court of the Women, into which those who had been polluted might not come, even if they ‘had washed,’ till after they were also Levitically fit to eat of ‘things sacred,’ that is, after sunset of the day on which they had washed; the Court of Israel, into which those might not enter who, though delivered from their uncleanness, had not yet brought the offering for their purification;2424This class would include the following four cases: the cleansed leper, a person who had had an issue, a woman that had been in her separation, and one who had just borne a child. Further explanations of each case are given in subsequent chapters. the Court of the Priests, ordinarily accessible only to the latter; the space between the altar and the Temple itself, from which even priests were excluded if their bearing showed that they did not realise the solemnity of the place; the Temple, into which the priests might only enter after washing their hands and feet; and, lastly, the Most Holy Place, into which the high-priest alone was allowed to go, and that only once a year.

Rules of the Rabbis

From these views of the sanctity of the place, it will readily be understood how sufficient outward reverence should have been expected of all who entered upon the Temple Mount. The Rabbis here also lay down certain rules, of which some are such as a sense of propriety would naturally suggest, while others strangely remind us of the words of our Saviour. Thus no one was to come to it except for strictly religious purposes, and neither to make the Temple Mount a place of thoroughfare, nor use it to shorten the road. Ordinarily the worshippers were to enter by the right and to withdraw by the left, avoiding both the direction and the gate by which they had come. But mourners and those under ecclesiastical discipline were to do the reverse, so as to meet the stream of worshippers, who might address to them either words of sympathy (‘He who dwelleth in this house grant thee comfort!’), or else of admonition (‘He who dwelleth in this house put it into thy mind to give heed to those who would restore thee again!’). As already stated, it was expressly prohibited to sit down in the Court of the Priests, an exception being only made in favour of princes of the house of David, probably to vindicate their consistency, as such instances were recorded in the past history of Israel. Alike the ministering priests and the worshippers were to walk backwards when leaving the immediate neighbourhood where the holy service was performed, and at the gate of Nicanor each one was to stand with his head bent. It need scarcely be said that reverence in gesture and deportment was enjoined while on the Temple Mount. But even when at a distance from Jerusalem and the Temple, its direction was to be noted, so as to avoid in every-day life anything that might seem incongruous with the reverence due to the place of which God had said, ‘Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually’ (1 Kings 9:3). Probably from a similar feeling of reverence, it was ordered, that when once a week the sanctuary was thoroughly cleaned, any repairs found needful should be executed if possible by priests or else by Levites, or at least by Israelites, and only in case of extreme necessity by workmen not Levitically ‘clean.’

Other Rabbinical ordinances, however, are not so easily explained, unless on the ground of the avoidance of every occupation and undertaking other than worship. Thus ‘no man might go on the Temple Mount with his staff,’ as if on business or pleasure; nor yet ‘with shoes on his feet’—sandals only being allowed; nor ‘with the dust upon his feet’; nor ‘with his scrip,’ nor ‘with money tied to him in his purse.’ Whatever he might wish to contribute either to the Temple, or for offerings, or for the poor must be carried by each ‘in his hand,’ possibly to indicate that the money about him was exclusively for an immediate sacred purpose. It was probably for similar reasons that Jesus transferred these very ordinances to the disciples when engaged in the service of the real Temple. The direction, ‘Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves,’ must mean, Go out in the same spirit and manner as you would to the Temple services, and fear not—’for the workman is worthy of his meat’ (Matt 10:9, 10). In other words: Let this new Temple service be your only thought, undertaking and care.

Wilful Profanity

But, guard it as they might, it was impossible wholly to preserve the sanctuary from profanation. For wilful, conscious, high-handed profanity, whether in reference to the Temple or to God, the law does not appear to have provided any atonement or offering. To this the Epistle to the Hebrews alludes in the well-known passage, so often misunderstood, ‘For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’ (Heb 10:26, 27). In point of fact, these terms of threatening correspond to two kinds of Divine punishment frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. The one, often referred to in the warning ‘that he die not,’ is called by the Rabbis, ‘death by the hand of Heaven or of God’; the other is that of being ‘cut off.’ It is difficult to distinguish exactly between these two. Tradition enumerates thirty-six offences to which the punishment of ‘cutting off’ attaches. From their graver nature, as compared with the eleven offences on which ‘death by the hand of God’ was to follow, we gather that ‘cutting off’ must have been the severer of the two punishments, and it may correspond to the term ‘fiery indignation.’ Some Rabbis hold that ‘death by the hand of God’ was a punishment which ended with this life, while ‘cutting off’ extended beyond it. But the best authorities maintain, that whereas death by the hand of Heaven fell upon the guilty individual alone, ‘the cutting off’ extended to the children also, so that the family would become extinct in Israel. Such Divine punishment is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 16:22, under the well-known Jewish expression, ‘Anathema Maranatha’—literally, Anathema when the Lord cometh!

Its Penalties

To these two Divine punishments corresponded other two by the hand of man—the ‘forty stripes save one,’ and the so-called ‘rebels’ beating.’ The distinction between them is easily explained. The former were only inflicted after a regular judicial investigation and sentence, and for the breach of some negative precept or prohibition; while the latter was, so to speak, in the hands of the people, who might administer it on the spot, and without trial, if any one were caught in supposed open defiance of some positive precept, whether of the Law of Moses or of the traditions of the elders. The reader of the New Testament will remember such popular outbursts, when the men of Nazareth would have cast Jesus over the brow of the hill on which their city was built (Luke 4:29), and when on at least two occasions the people took up stones in the Temple to stone Him (John 8:59; 10:31). It is a remarkable fact, that when the Lord Jesus and when His martyr Stephen were before the Sanhedrim (Matt 26:59, 68; Acts 7:57, 58), the procedure was in each case in direct contravention of all the rules of the Rabbinical criminal law. In each case the sitting terminated in ‘the rebels’ beating,’ both when they ‘buffeted the Master’ and ‘smote Him with the palms of their hands,’ and when ‘they ran upon’ Stephen ‘with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.’ For the rebels’ beating was really unto death. The same punishment was also to have been inflicted upon Paul, when, on the charge of having brought a Gentile beyond the enclosure in the court open to such, ‘the people ran together, and they took Paul, and drew him out of the Temple,’ and ‘went about to kill him.’ This summary mode of punishing supposed ‘rebellion’ was probably vindicated by the example of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar (Num 25:7, 8). On the other hand, the mildness of the Rabbinical law, where religious feelings were not involved, led to modifications of the punishment prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:2, 3. Thus because the words were, ‘by a certain number, forty stripes he may give him,’ instead of a simple direction to give the forty stripes, the law was construed as meaning a number near to forty, or thirty-nine, which accordingly was the severest corporeal punishment awarded at one time. If the number of stripes were less than thirty-nine, it must still be some multiple of three, since, as the scourge was composed of three separate thongs (the middle one of calf’s leather, the other two of asses’, with a reference to Isaiah 1:3), each stroke of the scourge in reality inflicted three stripes. Hence the greatest number of strokes administered at one time amounted only to thirteen. The law also most particularly defined and modified every detail, even to the posture of the criminal. Still this punishment, which St. Paul underwent not less than five times at the hands of the Jews (2 Cor 11:24), must have been very severe. In general, we can only hope that it was not so often administered as Rabbinical writings seem to imply. During the scourging, Deuteronomy 28:58, 59, and at its close Psalm 78:38, were read to the culprit. After the punishment he was not to be reproached, but received as a brother.2525Further details belong to the criminal jurisprudence of the Sanhedrim.

Necessity for Discipline

That strict discipline both in regard to priests and worshippers would, however, be necessary, may be inferred even from the immense number of worshippers which thronged Jerusalem and the Temple. According to a late computation, the Temple could have held ‘within its colossal girdle’ ‘two amphitheatres of the size of the Coliseum.’ As the latter is reckoned to have been capable, inclusive of its arena and passages, of accommodating 109,000 persons, the calculation that the Temple might contain at one time about 210,000 persons seems by no means exaggerated.2626See Edinburgh Review for January, 1873, p. 18. We may here insert another architectural comparison from the same interesting article, which, however, is unfortunately defaced by many and serious mistakes on other points. ‘The length of the eastern wall of the sanctuary,’ writes the reviewer, ‘was more than double that of the side of the Great Pyramid; its height nearly one-third of the Egyptian structure from the foundation. If to this great height of 152 feet of solid wall you add the descent of 114 feet to the bed of the Kedron, and the further elevation of 160 feet attained by the pinnacle, we have a total of 426 feet, which is only 59 feet less than the Great Pyramid.’ It will readily be believed what immense wealth this multitude must have brought to the great national sanctuary.

The Temple Treasury

Indeed, the Temple treasury had always been an object of cupidity to foreigners. It was successively plundered by Syrians and Romans, though at the last siege the flames deprived Titus and his soldiers of this booty. Even so liberal and enlightened a statesman as Cicero inveighed, perhaps on the ground of exaggerated reports, against the enormous influx of gold from all lands to Jerusalem. From Biblical history we know how liberal were the voluntary contributions at the time of Moses, of David, and again of Joash (2 Chron 24) and of Josiah (2 Kings 22). Such offerings to the Temple treasury continued to the last a very large source of revenue. They might be brought either in the form of vows or of free gifts. Any object, or even a person, might be dedicated by vow to the altar. If the thing vowed were suitable, it would be used; if otherwise, sold, and its value given to the treasury. Readers of the New Testament know how fatally such spurious liberality interfered with the most sacred duties of life (Matt 15:5). From Jewish tradition we gather that there must have been quite a race for distinction in this respect. The wood, the incense, the wine, the oil, and all other things requisite for the sacred services, as well as golden and silver vessels, were contributed with lavish hand. Certain families obtained by their zeal special privileges, such as that the wood they brought should always be first used for the altar fire; and the case of people leaving the whole of their fortune to the Temple is so often discussed, that it must have been a by no means uncommon occurrence. To this practice Christ may have referred in denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees who ‘devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers’ (Matt 23:14). For a good deal of this money went in the end from the Temple treasury to them, although there is no evidence of their intriguing for personal gifts.

The Tribute Money

Besides these votive offerings, and the sale of the surplusage of incense, flour, etc., the people were wont on the Sabbaths and feast-days to bring voluntary contributions ‘in their hand’ to the Temple. another and very large source of revenue was from the profit made by the meat-offerings, which were prepared by the Levites, and sold every day to the offerers. But by far the largest sum was derived from the half-shekel of Temple tribute, which was incumbent on every male Israelite of age, including proselytes and even manumitted slaves. As the shekel of the sanctuary was double the ordinary, the half-shekel due to the Temple treasury amount to about 1s. 4d. (two denarii or a didrachma). Hence, when Christ was challenged at Capernaum (Matt 17:24) for this payment, He directed Peter to give the stater, or two didrachmas, for them both. This circumstance also enables us to fix the exact date of this event. For annually, on the 1st of Adar (the month before the Passover), proclamation was made throughout the country by messengers sent from Jerusalem of the approaching Temple tribute. On the 15th of Adar the money-changers opened stalls throughout the country to change the various coins, which Jewish residents at home or settlers abroad might bring, into the ancient money of Israel. For custom had it that nothing but the regular half-shekel of the sanctuary could be received at the treasury. On the 25th of Adar business was only transacted within the precincts of Jerusalem and of the Temple, and after that date those who had refused to pay the impost could be proceeded against at law, and their goods distrained, the only exception being in favour of priests, and that ‘for the sake of peace,’ that is, lest their office should come in disrepute. From heathens or Samaritans no tribute money was to be received, the general rule in reference to all their offerings being this: ‘A votive and a free-will offering they receive at their hands; but whatever is not either a votive or a free-will offering (does not come under either category) is not received at their hands.’ In support, Ezra 4:3 was quoted. The law also fixed the rate of discount which the money-changers were allowed to charge those who procured from them the Temple coin, perhaps to obviate suspicion of, or temptation to usury—a sin regarded as one of the most heinous civil offences.

Annual Sum of Tribute

The total sum derived annually from the Temple tribute has been computed at about 76,000 pounds. As the bankers were allowed to charge a silver meah, or about one-fourth of a denar (2d.) on every half-shekel, their profits must have amounted to nearly 9, 500 pounds, or, deducting a small sum for exceptional cases, in which the meah was not to be charged, say about 9,000 pounds—a very large sum, considering the value of money in a country where a labourer received a denar (8d.) for a day’s work (Matt 20:2), and the ‘good Samaritan’ left only two denars (1s. 4d.) in the inn for the keep of the sick man (Luke 10:35). It must therefore have been a very powerful interest which Jesus attacked, when in the Court of the Temple He ‘poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables’ (John 2:15), while at the same time He placed Himself in direct antagonism to the sanctioned arrangements of the Sanhedrim, whom He virtually charged with profanity.

Tribute Enforced By Law

It had only been a century before, during the reign of Salome- Alexandra (about 78 B.C.), that the Pharisaical party, being then in power, had carried an enactment by which the Temple tribute was to be enforced at law. It need scarcely be said that for this there was not the slightest Scriptural warrant. Indeed, the Old Testament nowhere provided legal means for enforcing any payment for religious purposes. The law stated what was due, but left its observance to the piety of the people, so that alike the provision for the Temple and for the priesthood must have varied with the religious state of the nation (Mal 3:8-10). But, irrespective of this, it is matter of doubt whether the half-shekel had ever been intended as an annual payment. Its first enactment was under exceptional circumstances (Exo 30:12), and the mode in which, as we are informed, a similar collection was made during the reign of Joash, suggest the question whether the original institution by Moses was not treated rather as affording a precedent than as laying down a binding rule (2 Chron 24:6-11). At the time of Nehemiah (Neh 10:32-34) we read only of a self-imposed ‘ordinance,’ and at the rate of a third, not a half-shekel. But long before the coming of Christ very different views prevailed. ‘The dispersed abroad’ regarded the Temple as the one bond of their national as well as their religious life. Patriotism and religion swelled their gifts, which far exceeded the legal dues. Gradually they came to regard the Temple tribute as, in the literal sense of the words, ‘a ransom for their souls’ (Exo 30:12). So many were the givers and so large their gifts that they were always first brought to certain central places, whence the most honourable of their number carried them as ‘sacred ambassadors’ to Jerusalem. The richest contributions came from those crowded Jewish settlements in Mesopotamia and Babylon, to which ‘the dispersed’ had originally been transported. Here special treasuries for their reception had been built in the cities of Nisibis and Nehardea, whence a large armed escort annually accompanied the ‘ambassadors’ to Palestine. Similarly, Asia Minor, which at one time contributed nearly 8,000 pounds a year, had its central collecting places. In the Temple these moneys were emptied into three large chests, which were opened with certain formalities at each of the three great feasts. According to tradition these three chests held three seahs each (the seah = 1 peck 1 pint), so that on the three occasions of their opening twenty-seven seahs of coin were taken.

How the Money was Spent

The Temple revenues were in the first place devoted to the purchase of all public sacrifices, that is, those offered in the name of the whole congregation of Israel, such as the morning and evening sacrifices, the festive sacrifices, etc. This payment had been one of the points in controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. So great importance was attached to it, that all Israel should appear represented in the purchase of the public sacrifices, that when the three chests were emptied they took expressly from one ‘for the land of Israel,’ from another ‘for the neighbouring lands’ (that is, for the Jews there resident), and from the third ‘for distant lands.’ Besides, the Temple treasury defrayed all else necessary for the services of the sanctuary; all Temple repairs, and the salaries of a large staff of regular officials, such as those who prepared the shewbread and the incense; who saw to the correctness of the copies of the law used in the synagogues; who examined into the Levitical fitness of sacrifices; who instructed the priests in their various duties; who made the curtains, etc.,—not omitting, according to their own testimony, the fees of the Rabbis. And after all this lavish expenditure there was not only enough to pay for the repairs of the city-walls, the roads, and public buildings, etc., about Jerusalem, but sufficient to accumulate immense wealth in the treasury!

The Temple Hymnody

To the wealth and splendour of the Temple corresponded the character of its services. The most important of these, next to the sacrificial rites, was the hymnody of the sanctuary. We can conceive what it must have been in the days of David and of Solomon. But even in New Testament times it was such that St. John could find no more adequate imagery to portray heavenly realities and the final triumph of the Church than that taken from the service of praise in the Temple. Thus, when first ‘the twenty-four elders,’ representing the chiefs of the twenty-four courses of the priesthood, and afterwards the 144,000, representing redeemed Israel in its fulness (12 x 12,000), sing ‘the new song’—the former in heaven, the latter on Mount Zion—they appear, just as in the Temple services, as ‘harpers, harping with their harps’ (Rev 5:8; 14:2, 3). Possibly there may also be an analogy between the time when these ‘harpers’ are introduced and the period in the Temple-service when the music began—just as the joyous drink-offering was poured out. There is yet a third reference in the Book of Revelation to ‘the harps of God’ (Rev 15:2), with most pointed allusion, not to the ordinary, but to the Sabbath services in the Temple. In this case ‘the harpers’ are all they ‘that had gotten the victory over the beast.’ The Church, which has come out of great tribulation, stands victorious ‘on the sea of glass’; and the saints, ‘having the harps of God,’ sing ‘the song of Moses, the servant of God.’ It is the Sabbath of the Church; and as on the Sabbath, besides the psalm for the day (Psalm 92) at the ordinary sacrifice, they sung at the additional Sabbatic sacrifice (Num 28:9, 10), in the morning, the Song of Moses, in Deuteronomy 32, and in the evening that in Exodus 15, so the victorious Church celebrates her true Sabbath or rest by singing this same ‘Song of Moses and of the Lamb,’ only in language that expresses the fullest meaning of the Sabbath songs in the Temple.

Instrumental Music

Properly speaking, the real service of praise in the Temple was only with the voice. This is often laid down as a principle by the Rabbis. What instrumental music there was, served only to accompany and sustain the song. Accordingly, none other than Levites might act as choristers, while other distinguished Israelites were allowed to take part in the instrumental music. The blasts of the trumpets, blown by priests only, formed—at least in the second Temple—no part of the instrumental music of the service, but were intended for quite different purposes. Even the posture of the performers showed this, for while the Levites stood at their desks facing towards the sanctuary, or westwards, the priests, with their silver trumpets, stood exactly in the opposite direction, on the west side of the rise of the altar, by the ‘table of the fat,’ and looking eastwards or down the courts. On ordinary days the priests blew seven times, each time three blasts—a short sound, an alarm, and again a sharp short sound (Thekiah, Theruah, and Thekiah2727Inferring from the present usage in the Synagogue, Saalschutz (Gesch. d. Musik bei d. Hebr.)—Thekiah, Theruah, Thekiah midi file (.5 k)), or, as the Rabbis express it, ‘An alarm in the midst and a plain note before and after it.’

According to tradition, they were intended symbolically to proclaim the kingdom of God, Divine Providence, and the final judgment. The first three blasts were blown when the great gates of the Temple—especially that of Nicanor—were opened. Then, when the drink-offering was poured out, the Levites sung the psalm of the day in three sections. After each section there was a pause, when the priests blew three blasts, and the people worshipped. This was the practice at the evening, as at the morning sacrifice. On the eve of the Sabbath a threefold blast of the priests’ trumpets summoned the people, far as the sound was carried over the city, to prepare for the holy day, while another threefold blast announced its actual commencement. On Sabbaths, when, besides the ordinary, an additional sacrifice was brought, and the ‘Song of Moses’ sung—not the whole every Sabbath, but divided in six parts, one for every Sabbath, —the priests sounded their trumpets additional three times in the pauses of the Sabbath psalm.

The Influence of David

The music of the Temple owed its origin to David, who was not only a poet and a musical composer, but who also invented musical instruments (Amos 6:5; 1 Chron 23:5), especially the ten-stringed Nevel or lute (Psa 33:2; 144:9). From the Book of Chronicles we know how fully this part of the service was cultivated, although the statement of Josephus (Anti. viii. 3, 8.), that Solomon had provided forty thousand harps and lutes, and two hundred thousand silver trumpets, is evidently a gross exaggeration. The Rabbis enumerate thirty-six different instruments, of which only fifteen are mentioned in the Bible, and of these five in the Pentateuch. As in early Jewish poetry there was neither definite and continued metre (in the modern sense), nor regular and premeditated rhyme, so there was neither musical notation, nor yet any artificial harmony. The melody was simple, sweet, and sung in unison to the accompaniment of instrumental music. Only one pair of brass cymbals were allowed to be used. But this ‘sounding brass’ and ‘tinkling cymbal’ formed no part of the Temple music itself, and served only as the signal to begin that part of the service. To this the apostle seems to refer when, in 1 Corinthians 13:1, he compares the gift of ‘tongues’ to the sign or signal by which the real music of the Temple was introduced.

The Harp and Lute

That music was chiefly sustained by the harp (Kinnor) and the lute (Nevel). Of the latter (which was probably used for solos) not less than two or more than six were to be in the Temple orchestra; of the former, or harp, as many as possible, but never less than nine. There were, of course, several varieties both of the Nevel and the Kinnor. The chief difference between these two kinds of stringed instruments lay in this, that in the Nevel (lute or guitar) the strings were drawn over the sounding-board, while in the Kinnor they stood out free, as in our harps. Of wind-instruments we know that, besides their silver trumpets, the priests also blew the Shophar or horn, notably at the new moon, on the Feast of the New Year (Psa 81:3), and to proclaim the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:9), which, indeed, thence derived its name. Originally the Shophar was probably a ram’s horn (Jos., Ant. v. 5, 6.), but afterwards it was also made of metal. The Shophar was chiefly used for its loud and far-sounding tones (Exo 19:16, 19; 20:18; Isa 58:1). At the Feast of the New Year, one priest with a Shophar was placed between those who blew the trumpets; while on fast-days a priest with a Shophar stood on each side of them—the tones of the Shophar being prolonged beyond those of the trumpets. In the synagogues out of Jerusalem the Shophar alone was blown at the New Year, and on fast-days only trumpets.

The Flute

The flute (or reed pipe) was played in the Temple on twelve special festivities.2828The flute was used in Alexandria to accompany the hymns at the love feasts of the early Christians, up to the year 190, when Clement of Alexandria introduced the harp in its place.

These were: the day of killing the first, and that of killing the second Passover, the first day of unleavened bread, Pentecost, and the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles. Quite in accordance with the social character of these feasts, the flute was also used by the festive pilgrim-bands on their journey to Jerusalem, to accompany ‘the Psalms of Degrees,’ or rather of ‘Ascent’ (Isa 30:29), sung on such occasions. It was also customary to play it at marriage feasts and at funerals (Matt 9:23); for according to Rabbinical law every Jew was bound to provide at least two flutes and one mourning woman at the funeral of his wife. In the Temple, not less than two nor more than twelve flutes were allowed, and the melody was on such occasions to close with the notes of one flute alone. Lastly, we have sufficient evidence that there was a kind of organ used in the Temple (the Magrephah), but whether merely for giving signals or not, cannot be clearly determined.

The Human Voice

As already stated, the service of praise was mainly sustained by the human voice. A good voice was the one qualification needful for a Levite. In the second Temple female singers seem at one time to have been employed (Ezra 2:65; Neh 7:67). In the Temple of Herod their place was supplied by Levite boys. Nor did the worshippers any more take part in the praise, except by a responsive Amen. It was otherwise in the first Temple, as we gather from 1 Chronicles 16:36, from the allusion in Jeremiah 33:11, and also from such Psalms as 26:12; 68:26. At the laying of the foundation of the second Temple, and at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the singing seems to have been antiphonal, or in responses (Ezra 3:10, 11; Neh 12:27, 40), the two choirs afterwards apparently combining, and singing in unison in the Temple itself. Something of the same kind was probably also the practice in the first Temple. What the melodies were to which the Psalms had been sung, it is, unfortunately, now impossible to ascertain. Some of the music still used in the synagogue must date from those times, and there is no reason to doubt that in the so-called Gregorian tones we have also preserved to us a close approximation to the ancient hymnody of the Temple, though certainly not without considerable alterations.

But how solemn must have been the scene when, at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the service of praise, ‘the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of Jehovah; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of Jehovah had filled the house of God’! (2 Chron 5:13, 14) Such music, and such responsive singing, might well serve, in the Book of Revelation, as imagery of heavenly realities (Rev 4:8, 11; 5:9, 12; 7:10-12), especially in that description of the final act of worship in Revelation 14:1-5, where at the close of their antiphony the two choirs combine, as at the dedication of the second Temple, to join in this grand unison, ‘Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth’ (Rev 19:6, 7; comp. also Rev 5:13).

« Prev Temple Order, Revenues, and Music Next »


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