The Court of the Women obtained its name because the women were not allowed to proceed farther than this point, except for sacrificial purposes. This was probably the common place of worship for the females, according to Jewish tradition. It was only a raised gallery along three sides of the court. Their area covered a space of a little upwards of 200 sq. feet.
Against the wall that ran around the colonnade there were thirteen ‘trumpets’ or chests. They were narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom, making them look like the shape of a trumpet, whence the name. Their specific objects were carefully marked on them. Nine were for the receipt of what was legally due by worshippers; the other four were for strictly voluntary gifts.
Trumpets 1 and 2 were appropriated to the half-shekel Temple-tribute of the current and of the past year.
Trumpet 3 was marked for women to drop in the amount of money it would take to buy a turtledove for a burnt or sin offering. They dropped the money in and daily when the money was taken out there would be a corresponding number of turtledoves offered up for the sin or burnt offering. Doing this saved the labor of so many separate sacrifices and also enabled them to keep their modesty about what sin they had done. This way their sin would not be publicly known, at least not for every little thing that they did wrong.
Trumpet 4 similarly received the value of the offerings of young pigeons.
Trumpet 5 received contributions for the wood used for sacrifices.
Trumpet 6 received money for the incensed used,
Trumpet 7 received money for the golden vessels for the ministry.
Trumpet 8 had the money cast into it that was left over after a person had set aside a certain amount for an offering and it didn’t cost quite as much as what he had anticipated. That money was not to be kept for personal use, but was still to be donated in this ‘trumpet.’
Trumpets 9, 10, 11, and 12 were set up for similar use as No. 8. They were destined for what was left over from trespass-offerings, offerings of birds, the offering of the Nazarite, of the cleansed leper, and voluntary offerings.
In all probability, this space where the thirteen Trumpets were placed was the ‘treasury’. where Jesus taught on that memorable Feast of Tabernacles in John 7 and 8. It’s also easy to understand how, with each of these Trumpets being labeled, the Lord could distinguish the contributions of the rich who cast in much money compared with the widow who gave all she had.
There was also a special treasury-chamber where they carried the contents of the thirteen chests periodically as they needed emptying. Here was a ‘chamber of the silent’ where devout persons could secretly deposit money that would be used to educate children of the poor.
This is probably why the Lord made mention of describing the ones who were not giving from a pure heart as those who “in their almsgiving, sought glory from men as ‘sounding a trumpet’ before them”. This was something they could have totally identified with, as the chests were called trumpets.
In each of the four corners of the Court of the Women were chambers, or unroofed smaller courts. Each of them was 60 feet long.
In the northeast corner were the priests who were unfit for anything other than menial services on account of bodily blemishes. If anything was wrong and they had some kind of handicap, they could not offer sacrifices. They did things such as pick out the worm-eaten wood from the finest wood that would be used for the sacrifices.
In the northwest corner the purified lepers washed before presenting themselves to the priests at the Gate of Nicanor.
In the southeast corner the Nazarites polled (cut off or trimmed) their hair and cooked their peace offerings.
In the southwest corner 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 (which will be described next). The access to this court was from the Court of the Women.
The western colonnade of the Court of the Women was open because it led to fifteen steps and through the Gate of Nicanor into the Court of Israel. It was at this Gate that 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. It was also there that the ‘water of jealousy’ was given to any woman who was suspected of committing adultery against her husband. (Picture shown below, but hopefully it will be loaded by the time you read all the text).
The Court Of Israel And The Court Of The Priests
The Court of Israel and the Court of the Priests together make up the next area after passing through the Gate of Nicanor. This large double court inclusive of the Sanctuary itself would measure 280 1/2 feet in length by 202 1/2 feet in breadth. Of this area a narrow strip about 16 1/2 feet long formed the Court of Israel. Two steps led up from it into the Court of the Priests. Here again were three more steps where the Levites sang and played during the ordinary service. On the right and left sides of the Nicanor Gate were receptacles for the priestly vestments. There was one for each of the four kinds, and for the twenty-four courses of priests. All in all there were 96 vestments. This was called the Chamber of Phinehas.
The above picture cannot show all the different chambers, but can just give a general picture. Next came the high-priest’s meat offering, where each morning before going to their duties the officiating priesthood gathered from the so-called ‘Beth-ha-Moked,’ or ‘house of stoves’. It was built on arches and contained a large dining-hall that communicated with four other chambers. One of the chambers was a large apartment where fires were continually burning for the use of the priests who ministered barefoot. There also the priests could sleep, and it was here that the keys of the Temple were hung up at night in a special place. The other chambers were used for various different things. One was where the shewbread was prepared. Another was where at least six lambs were kept ready for the regular sacrifice. Here also a subterranean passage led to a well-lit subterranean bath for the use of the priests. Another chamber was for storing salt for the various purposes and things related to the sacrifices. Finally, there was the Hall of Hewn Stones, where the Sanhedrin met. Above some of these large chambers were other apartments, such as where the High Priest spent the week before the Day of Atonement in study and meditation.
There were many chambers that could not been seen from the courtyards. They were hidden from view, but held many important objects that were used in the sacrifices. Many of the doors that led from the main Courts were called Gates. Through these gates were brought water, animals to be sacrificed, wood for the altar, and many other things that would be needed. Over or under each of the big rooms were smaller rooms that were used for specific things that in our day would be like a stock room. They were filled with whatever was needed to keep things organized and ready for the sacrifices for the Temple. There were also apartments for the high-priest and his council chamber. All along the colonnades there were seats and benches for accommodations for the worshippers.
The whole area leading up to the Temple itself was one of great beauty and was very highly organized so that everything functioned well.
The Court of the Women is the large open section of the picture shown below. You can also see two of the chambers on either side that we talked about above. When you go up the steps you must walk up the many steps and through the Gate of Nicanor to get to the Court of Israel. This is where the sacrifices were made with the huge altar. It can barely be seen behind the Gate of Nicanor. It will be shown more in depth in the text give next month.
The following picture is reproduced by the kind permission of Angus Hudson Ltd/Kregel Pictorial Guide to the Temple. Their work is wonderful and I thank them immensely for allowing me to use this picture.