The Southern Steps of the Temple Mount

Wayne Stiles always writes enthusiastically about places in Israel that have a connection with the Bible. In his latest article for the Jerusalem Post, he describes the steps leading up to the Double Gate of the Temple Mount. These were indeed used by most of the pilgrims that used to go up to the Temple to worship.

This reconstruction model shows the Double Gate in the Southern Wall of Herod's Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A 210 feet (64 m) wide stairway led up to this gate from the lower plaza. Because of its monumental proportions, this gate was probably used by most of the pilgrims going to worship at the Temple. The interior of this gateway is beautifully decorated and some researchers have proposed that it was the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, mentioned in Acts 3.10. © Leen Ritmeyer

Wayne recounts that some tourists say the 15 Psalms (120-134), called “Psalms of Ascents” (which could be translated the Psalms of the Steps) on the Southern Wall Steps.

There are, however, more than 15 steps, in fact, there are 27 at the eastern end and 31 at the southern end. Twelve of these steps are broad landings, which some people have suggested have a spiritual meaning (twelve being the number of Israel). However, as the lower steps are cut out of the bedrock, these landings were designed to take the natural slope into consideration, making the ascent easier as well. Wayne correctly observes that:

The Mishna notes that these fifteen psalms were sung by the priests who stood not on the Southern Steps, but on the fifteen steps from the Court of the Women ascending to the Court of Israel: “On the fifteen steps which led into the women’s court, corresponding with the fifteen songs of degrees, stood the Levites, with their musical instruments, and sang” (see m. Sukkah 5:4-5).

This moving scene has been portrayed in one of our models:

The Nicanor Gate stood in front of Herod's Temple. It gave access from the Court of the Women to the Temple Courts. In front of this gate were fifteen semi-circular steps on which Levites sang the fifteen "Psalms of the Steps" (Psalms 120-134 of Degrees or Ascents). The gold-covered Temple towered above all other buildings. © Leen Ritmeyer


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