7 – Rules Of Rabbis

Rules of the Rabbis and Disciplinary Actions

     To the devout and earnest Jew the second Temple was inferior in comparison to the first one.  In architectural splendor it far surpassed the first one, but the real elements of the first temple no longer existed in the second.  The Holy of Holies was  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.  The visible presence of God was not there, nor could the will of God be ascertained through the Urim and Thummim, nor even could the high priest be anointed with the holy oil, as its composition was unknown.  Even though all the REAL things were not there anymore, the Rabbis looked upon this Temple as being just as holy as the first one was, and they went to great lengths to protect its religious sanctity. 

     In general, the first camp in the wilderness had consisted of three parts:  the camp of Israel, that of the Levites, and that of God.  By this same token, they reckoned three corresponding parts to the city of Jerusalem and the Temple area.  The Rabbis made sure that the same rules were followed in these three areas as were followed by the first tabernacle in the wilderness many years before that.  They enforced rules such as if a person were unclean he could not enter into certain areas of the Temple.  People who had been defiled by a dead body were shut out for the prescribed length of time.  The space between the altar and the Temple itself was shut out to even priests who had not shown that they recognized the solemnity of the place they were about to enter.  They could enter only after washing their hands and feet; and lastly, the Most Holy Place was only entered only by the high-priest alone and that only once a year, just like the Tabernacle in the wilderness.  

     They had tried to do everything just like God had told Moses and the people to do years before.  Even though they were doing many other things that were not pleasing to God, they tried in just about every way to do exactly like their ancestors had done in worshipping God.


     From the above rules, it should be readily understood that the Rabbis expected outward reverence of each person who entered into the Temple Mount.  They laid down certain rules for the people to abide by as they entered into this holy area.

  • No one was to come in except for strictly religious purposes.

  • It was not a thoroughfare to shorten the road from one place to another.

  • Worshipers were to enter from the right and withdraw from the left, going out from a different gate than they came in.

  • The exceptions were mourners who were to come in from the left and go out from the right so that people could offer them their condolences, and people who were being disciplined.  In this case, people could give them words of encouragement or admonition that could help to restore them to their previous state.

  • It was expressly forbidden to sit down in the Court of Priests.  The only exception to this was in favor of princes of the House of David.  

  • The ministering priests and the worshippers were to walk backwards when leaving the immediate neighborhood were the holy service was performed.

  • At the Gate of Nicanor (studied in previous text) each one was to stand with his head bent.  Reverence in every gesture and tone of speech was expected here.

  • Even when people were at a distance away from the Temple, if they could see it they were expected to act in a reverent way.

  • Once a week the sanctuary was thoroughly cleaned out of strict reverence to God.  Any repairs that needed to be done were done by the Levites except in extreme cases of necessity.

  • No man should go to the Temple with his staff, meaning that he was going for business or pleasure.  

  • He could not wear shoes, as sandals were only allowed.

  • He could not have dust upon his feet.  

  • He could not take his scrip in with him ( a small bag or wallet).

  • He could not take extra money in his wallet in with him either.

  • His offering must be carried in his hand, indicating that the money he did carry was intended for one purpose only, and it was a sacred one.

     From the above mentioned rules of the Temple,  it is easy to see that when a person went there that they were to have one thing on their mind – worshipping God.  It seems the Rabbis expected them to be in the right frame of mind before they even got there, as they had to do some preparation before they went; just doing things any way was not acceptable.  Their Temple service was to be their main thought during the time that they were there.


     Even though they had all the rules for worship set out, it was inevitable that some people would break the rules.  For those people who broke them willfully and consciously, there were basically two different punishments that were given by men to right the wrong that had been done:  1.  “the forty stripes save one” and 2.  “the rebels’ beating”.  The first was only inflicted after a regular judicial investigation and sentence, and for the breach of some negative precept or prohibition.  The last one was in the hands of the people.  They might administer it on the spot, and without trial, if any one were caught in supposed open defiance of either the Law of Moses or the traditions of the elders.  

     In reading the New Testament, it is easy to recall reading several outbursts by the people against Jesus, the other disciples, and Paul.  It’s interesting to read, though, that when both Jesus and Stephen went before the Sanhedrin; it was in direct opposition  to all the rules to the Rabbinical criminal law.  Basically they just took the law into their own hands and did what they wanted to do with complete disregard for any laws that the Rabbis had made.

     The punishment of 40 stripes was the most severe awarded at one time.  If the number of stripes given was less than 39, they still had to be given in multiples of three, because the scourge was composed of three separate thongs.  It was considered with each stroke of the scourge that 3 stripes were inflicted, so the greatest number of strokes administered at one time would have been 13.  The law even defined the posture of the criminal at the time the strokes were given.  It must have been a terrible punishment to receive, but afterwards the person was not to be reproached, but received as a brother.  


     There was an immense number of people which thronged Jerusalem and the Temple, especially on feast occasions.  It is easy to see how some form of strict discipline would have had to be necessary with all those people.  According to a computation done, the Temple could have held within its vast walls ‘two amphitheatres of the size of the Coliseum’.  As the coliseum was supposed to be capable of accommodating 109,000 persons, the calculation that the Temple might contain at one time about 210,000 people would not be exaggerated.  

     All these vast amount of people would have brought a vast amount of money in to pay for their sacrifices.  We will discuss this in the next text.  Below is a diagram of what a scourge may have looked like.

Scourge - The Temple

This is the best diagram that I could find and is not clear, but from this example you can see how painful it must have been to get hit 13 times by this thing.  With all the knots or whatever was tied into each stripe, by the time they were through a person’s back must have looked like raw meat.  

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God has radically changed my life, and I want to share the awesome things I am learning with you. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life.


About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996). I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.