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193

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE TEMPLE WORSHIP.

1 Kings viii. 1-11.

"Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these.... Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit."—Jer. vii. 4, 8.

The actual Temple building, apart from its spacious courts, was neither for worshippers nor for priests, neither for sacrifice nor for prayer. It existed only for symbolism and, at least in later days, for expiation. No prayer was offered in the sanctuary. The propitiatory was the symbol of expiation, but even after the introduction of the Day of Atonement the atoning blood was only carried into it once a year.

All the worship was in the outer court, and consisted mainly, (1) of praise, and (2) of offerings. Both were prominent in the Dedication Festival.

"It is written," said our Lord, "My house shall be called a House of Prayer, but ye have made it a den of robbers." The quotation is from the later Isaiah, and represents a happy advance in spiritual religion. Among the details of the Levitic Tabernacle no mention is made of prayer, though it was symbolised both in the incense and in the sacrifices which have been called "unspoken prayers."315315   "Sacrificia symbolicæ preces" (Outram, De Sacrif., p. 108). "Let my prayer be set forth as194 incense," says the Psalmist, "and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." In the New Testament we read that "the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense." But during the whole history of the first Temple we only hear—and that very incidentally—of private prayer in the Temple. Solomon's prayer was public, and combined prayer with praises and benedictions. But no fragments of Jewish liturgies have come down to us which we can with any probability refer to the days of the kings. The Psalms which most clearly belong to the Temple service are mainly services of praise.

In the mind of the people the sacrifices were undoubtedly the main part of the Temple ritual. This fact was specially emphasised by the scene which marked the Festival of the Dedication.

It is difficult to imagine a scene which to our unaccustomed senses would have been more revolting than the holocausts of a great Jewish Festival like that of Solomon's Dedication. As a rule the daily sacrifices, exclusively of such as might be brought by private worshippers, were the lambs slain at morning and evening. Yet Maimonides gives us the very material and unpoetic suggestion that the incense used was to obviate the effluvium of animal sacrifice. The suggestion is unworthy of the great Rabbi's ability, and is wholly incorrect; but it reminds us of the almost terrible fact that, often and often, the Temple must have been converted into one huge and abhorrent abattoir, swimming with the blood of slaughtered victims, and rendered intolerably repulsive by heaps of bloody skins and masses of offal. The smell of burning flesh, the swift putrescence caused by the tropic heat, the unlovely accompaniments of swarms of flies, and ministers with195 blood-drenched robes would have been inconceivably disagreeable to our Western training—for no one will believe the continuous miracle invented by the Rabbis, who declare that no fly was ever seen in the Temple, and no flesh ever grew corrupt.316316   Yoma, f. 21, a. No doubt the brazen sea and the movable caldrons were in incessant requisition, and there were provisions for vast storages of water. These could have produced a very small mitigation of the accompanying pollutions during a festival which transformed the great court of the Temple into the reeking shambles and charnel-house of sheep and oxen "which could not be told nor numbered for multitude."

Had such spectacles been frequent, we should surely have had to say of the people of Jerusalem as Sir Monier Williams says of the ancient Hindus, "The land was saturated with blood, and people became wearied and disgusted with slaughtered sacrifices and sacrificing priests."317317   On vast ancient holocausts, see Athen., Deipnos., i. 5; Diod. Sic., xi. 72; Porph., De abstin., ii. 60; Suet., Calig., 14; Sen., De Benef., iii. 27; Ammian. Marcel., xxii. 4, xxv. 4; and other passages collected by the diligence of commentators. See, too, Josephus (B. J., VI. ix. 3) who reckons that at a passover in Nero's time 256,000 sacrifices were offered. What infinite, and what revolting labour, must have been involved in the right burning of "the two kidneys and the fat," and the due disposition of the "inwards" of all these holocausts! The groaning brazen altar, vast as it was, failed to meet the requirements of the service, and apparently a multitude of other altars were extemporised for the occasion.

When the festival was over God appeared to Solomon in vision, as He had done at Gibeon. So far Solomon196 had not gravely or consciously deflected from the ideal of a theocratic king. Anything which had been worldly or mistaken in his policy—the oppression into which he had been led, the heathen alliances which he had formed, his crowded harem, his evident fondness for material splendour which carried with it the peril of selfish pride—were only signs of partial knowledge and human frailty. His heart was still, on the whole, right with God. He was once more assured in nightly vision that his prayer and supplication were accepted. The promise was renewed that if he would walk in integrity and uprightness his throne should be established for ever; but that if he or his children swerved into apostasy Israel should be driven into exile, and, as a warning to all lands, "this house, which I have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of My sight, and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people."

Here, then, we are brought face to face with problems which arise from the whole system of worship in the Old Dispensation. Whatever it was, to whatever extent it was really carried out and was not merely theoretical, at whatever date its separate elements originated, and however clear it is that it has utterly passed away, there must have been certain ideas underlying it which are worthy of our study.

1. Of the element of praise, supported by music, we need say but little. It is a natural mode of expressing the joy and gratitude which fill the heart of man in contemplating the manifold mercies of God. For this reason the pages of Scripture ring with religious music from the earliest to the latest age. We are told in the Chronicles that triumphant praise was largely introduced into the great festival services, and197 that the Temple possessed a great organisation for vocal and orchestral music. David was not only a poet, but an inventor of musical instruments.318318   Amos vi. 5; 1 Chron. xxiii. 5. Fifteen musical instruments are mentioned in the Bible, and five of them in the Pentateuch. Most important among them are cymbals, flutes, silver trumpets, rams' horns, the harp (Kinnor) and the ten-stringed lute (Nevel).319319   Edersheim, The Temple and its Services, p. 54. The remark of Josephus that Solomon provided 40,000 harps and lutes and 200,000 silver trumpets is marked by that disease of exaggeration which seems to infect the mind of all later Jewish writers when they look back with yearning to the vanished glories of their past. There can, however, be no doubt that the orchestra was amply supplied, and that there was a very numerous and well-trained choir.320320   The chronicler says that there were 38,000 Levites, of which 24,000 were "to oversee the work of the house of the Lord; and 6000 were officers and judges, and 4000 door-keepers; and 4000 praised the Lord with the instruments which I made," said David, "to praise therewith." We read in the Psalms and elsewhere of tunes which they were trained to sing. Such tunes were "The Well," and "The Bow," and "The Gazelle of the morning," and "All my fresh springs shall be in Thee," and "Die for the son" (Muth-labben).321321   Some of these titles of the Psalms are, however, very uncertain. Gesenius thinks that this last title (Psalm ix.) means that the Psalm "was to be sung by boys with virgins' voices." It is, to say the least, a very curious coincidence, that in 1 Chron. xxv. 4 the names of the sons of Heman, Giddalti and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth, mean (omitting the strange Joshbekashah, for which the LXX. Cod. Alex. reads Σεβακαιτάν), consecutively, "I have given | great and high help: | I have spoken | visions | in abundance." Had the names any reference to tunes? In the second Temple198 female singers were admitted;322322   Ezra ii. 65; Neh. vii. 67; Psalm lxxxvii. 7. in Herod's Temple Levite choir-boys took their place.323323   Of these, perhaps, were "the children" who shouted their hosannas to Jesus in the Temple (Matt. xxi. 15). The singing was often antiphonal. Some of the music still used in the synagogue must date from these times, and there is no reason to doubt that in the so-called Gregorian tones we have preserved to us a close approximation to the ancient hymnody of the Temple. This element of ancient worship calls for no remark. It is a religious instinct to use music in the service of God; and perhaps the imagination of St. John in the Revelation, when he describes the rapture of the heavenly host pouring forth the chant "Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth," was coloured by reminiscences of gorgeous functions in which he had taken part on the "Mountain of the House."

2. When we proceed to speak of the Priesthood we are met by difficulties, to which we have already alluded, as to the date of the varying regulations respecting it. "It would be difficult," says Dr. Edersheim, "to conceive arrangements more thoroughly or consistently opposed to what are commonly called 'priestly pretensions' than those of the Old Testament."324324   The Temple and its Services, p. 67. According to the true ideal, Israel was to be "a kingdom of priests and an holy nation";325325   Exod. xix. 5, 6. but the institution of ministering priests was of course a necessity, and the Jewish priesthood, which is now utterly abrogated, was, or gradually became, representative. Representatively they had to mediate between God and Israel, and typically to symbolise the "holiness," i.e., the199 consecration of the Chosen People. Hence they were required to be free from every bodily blemish. It was regarded as a deadly offence for any one of them to officiate without scrupulous safeguard against every ceremonial defilement, and they were specially adorned and anointed for their office. They were an extremely numerous body, and from the days of David are said to have been divided into twenty-four courses. They were assisted by an army of attendant Levites, also divided into twenty-four courses, who acted as the cleansers and keepers of the Temple. But the distinction of priests and Levites does not seem to be older than "the Priestly Code," and criticism has all but demonstrated that the sections of the Pentateuch known by that name belong, in their present form, not to the age of Moses, but to the age of the successors of Ezekiel. The elaborate priestly and Levitic arrangements ascribed to the days of Aaron by the chronicler, who wrote six hundred years after David's day, are unknown to the writers of the Book of Kings.

In daily life they wore no distinctive dress. In the Temple service, all the year round, their vestments were of the simplest. They were of white byssus to typify innocence,326326   Rev. xv. 6. and four in number to indicate completeness. They consisted of a turban, breeches, and seamless coat of white linen, together with a girdle, symbolic of zeal and activity, which was assumed during actual ministrations.327327   Comp. Rev. i. 13, xv. 6. The only magnificent vestments were those worn for a few hours by the high priest once a year on the Great Day of Atonement. These "golden vestments" were eight in number. To the ordinary robes were added the robe of the ephod (Meil)200 of dark blue, with seventy-two golden bells, and pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet; a jewelled pectoral containing the Urim and Thummim; the mitre; and the golden frontlet (Ziz), with its inscription of "Holiness to the Lord." The ideal type was fulfilled, and the poor shadows abolished for ever, by Him of whom it is said, "Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."

The priests were poor; they were very often entirely unlettered; they seem to have had for many centuries but little influence on the moral and spiritual life of the people. Hardly any good is recorded of them as a body throughout the four hundred and ten years during which the first Temple stood, as very little good had been recorded of them in the earlier ages, and not much in the ages which were to follow. We read of scarcely a single moral protest or spiritual awakenment which had its origin in the priestly body. Their temptation was to be absorbed in their elaborate ceremonials. As these differed but little from the ritual functions of surrounding heathendom they seem to have relapsed into apostasy with shameful readiness, and to have submitted without opposition to the idolatrous aberrations of king after king, even to the extent of admitting the most monstrous idols and the most abhorrent pollutions into the sacred precincts of the Temple, which it was their work to guard. When a prophet arose out of their own supine and torpid ranks he invariably counted his brethren amongst his deadliest antagonists. They ridiculed him as they ridiculed Isaiah; they smote him on the cheek as they smote Jeremiah. The only thing which roused them was the spirit of revolt against their vapid ceremonialism, and their abject obedience to kings. The Presbyterate could have no worse ideal,201 and could follow no more pernicious example, than that of the Jewish priesthood. The days of their most rigid ritualism were the days also of their most desperate moral blindness. The crimes of their order culminated when they combined, as one man, under their high priest Caiaphas and their sagan Annas328328   On this sagan, the later title for the "second priest," see 2 Kings xxv. 18; Jer. lii. 24. to reject Christ for Barabbas, and to hand over to the Gentiles for crucifixion the Messiah of their nation, the Lord of Life.


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