The Treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem

A unique feature of our new guide book to the Temple Mount are two plans, one of the present-day Temple Mount and a corresponding map of the area in the first century, on which all the New Testament links are indicated. Comparing these two plans allows the visitor (or armchair traveler) to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his disciples around the Temple.

This post also contains new images that have recently been added to our Image Library. Clicking on each of the watermarked images enables you to download a Powerpoint size copy (without the watermark, of course) for a small fee.

Most of the activities recorded in the New Testament took place in the Treasury, also known as the Court of the Women. When, for example, we read that Jesus taught in the Temple (Matthew 21.23; John 7.14,28; 8.2,20), he did not enter the Sanctuary itself because, as a non-Levite, he would not have been allowed inside this beautiful building which was reserved for priests only.

The Treasury was a court that was located to the east of the Temple itself, just below the Nicanor Gate.

This paved area looking out at the Mount of Olives was the place where the Treasury was located. It is an excellent place to meditate on the many events described in the New Testament that took place here.

This court is also called the Court of the Women, as that is as far as women were allowed to enter the Temple courts. It was in this court that the Presentation of Jesus and the meeting with Simeon and Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2.25–38) took place.

A view of the large Court of the Women, also known as the Treasury in the Gospels. This court was as far as women were allowed to proceed into the Temple. Four high towers, two of which we see here in this model, each carried four golden lamps which were lit during the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus may have referred to these lights in John 8.12.
In this reconstruction drawing, we see the Temple, viewed from the east. It was surrounded by a court, called the Temple Court or azarah in Hebrew. In front of the Temple stood the Altar, the Laver (Basin) and the pillars and tables that were used in the preparation of sacrifices. Several gates and other buildings stood to the north and south of the Temple.
To the east of the Temple stood the Court of the Women (centre front). The Nicanor Gate stood in front of Herod’s Temple. It gave access to the Temple Courts from the Court of the Women.

In Luke 21.1-4 it is recorded that Jesus contrasted the gifts that the rich people gave with the two mites (Greek: lepta, singular: lepton) of the widow. How did he know that this widow had cast in two little coins? Thirteen wooden boxes with trumpet-shaped bronze funnels to guide the coins into the box were placed under the colonnades of the Court of the Women. This area was the actual Treasury. The sound these coins made against the metal would have indicated how much people offered to the Temple.

Two of the thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles for monetary offerings placed under the colonnades that encircled the Court of the Women of Herod’s Temple Mount.

Another place shown on these maps of New Testament links in the guide book is the location of the Altar, which we commented on in a previous post. During the Feast of Tabernacles, a water-libation ceremony took place every evening, that was watched by many people standing in this Court of the Women.  When the water that was drawn from the Siloam Pool in a golden vessel was poured out on the Altar, Jesus said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink”, pointing out that faith in him was foreshadowed by this ceremony (John 7.37-38).

After drawing water from the Pool of Siloam, a priest and his procession would return to the Temple Mount, crossing the courts and heading for the Water Gate. The priest would then be greeted by three trumpet blasts on his way to the Altar to complete the water libation ceremony.
Associated with the Feast of Tabernacles was a daily ceremonial of water-drawing. The priest (on the left) who carried the flagon of water from the Siloam Pool to the Temple was joined on the Altar by another priest who carried the wine of the drink-offering. There were two silver bowls there, one on the west side of the Altar for the water and one on the east for the wine. The bowls were perforated on the bottom to allow the liquid to flow (most probably through pipes) down the Kedron Valley, the bowl for the wine having a wider hole as wine flows more slowly than water.

Golden lampstands on high tower-like constructions were lit, casting light over the whole city. Again, Jesus used this ceremony in his teaching when he said “I am the light of the world: (John 8.12).

One of four lampstands, each of which had four golden lamps, that stood in the Court of the Women. During the Rejoicing over the Water-drawing ceremony, the golden lamps on top of these massive towers were lit. The model portrays a young priest climbing a ladder to reach the the lamps in order to fill them with oil.

It was also in this Court of the Women that during the Triumphal Entry the children cried out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21.15).

Ater Judas had betrayed Jesus, knowing that he had condemned himself, he cast the thirty pieces of silver “in the Temple” (Mathhew 27.3-5). Again, that would not have happened in the Sanctuary itself, but in this court where the thirteen money boxes were located.

Continuing the tradition of Jesus’ teaching in the Treasury, the disciples taught here too on a daily basis. In Acts 5.20,42, we read that Peter and John were commanded to do so by an angel of the Lord.

The Temple, viewed from the east in this image, was surrounded by the Temple Court. On the east (centre front), was the large Court of the Women, also known in the Gospels as the Treasury, where both Jesus and the disciples used to teach.

10 thoughts on “The Treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem”

  1. A friend of mine recently presented a whole list of reasons why the last days of Jesus’ life were on Sukkot, not Passover. I’m not sure I’m convinced, but the list was certainly impressive. What you mention in this post seems to back up that theory. Do you have any thoughts?

  2. The New Testament is quite clear that Jesus was the Passover sacrifice, see for example: 1Cor. 5:7 … Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.

  3. Of course. I see now that I misread your post: He is *referring* to the ceremonies, not necessarily witnessing them (at the time).

  4. Nachum perhaps your friend was referring to Hyam Maccobys book “Revolution in Judea” which postulate that Jesus logically would have entered Jerusalem in the Autumn but that he was executed 6 months later.

    “The Triumphal Entry was the high point of Jesus’s political career. The apocalyptic hopes which had centered around him, first as a Prophet and then as a Prophet-King, burst into an ecstatic welcome as the teeming crowds of Jerusalem … hailed him with the cry, “Hosanna! Save us!”

    What was the date of Jesus’s Triumphal Entry? According to the Gospels, it was at the time of the Feast of Passover, i.e., in the spring. However, there are many indications that this was not so, and that the Triumphal Entry in fact occurred in the autumn, the time of the Jewish festival known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

    The whole series of events from the Triumphal Entry to Jesus’s crucifixion (including the enquiry by the High Priest, a trial before the Sanhedrin, a trial before Herod Antipas, and a trial before Pilate, not to mention various previous activities such as the Cleansing of the Temple, the preaching in the Temple, and the Last Supper) is supposed to have taken six days … This is an impossible speeding-up of human political and judicial proceedings … The history to be argued here is that Jesus’s Triumphal Entry took place just before the Feast of Tabernacles, and his execution took place on the Feast of Passover, about six months later.

    The most obvious feature that points to autumn as the date of the Triumphal Entry is the palms which were in evidence on Palm Sunday. At Passover time, there are no palm branches in the region, and it is unlikely that Jesus’s admirers would have greeted him with withered palm branches left over from the previous autumn. Furthermore, palm branches played (and still play today) an essential part in the rites of the Festival of Tabernacles. The “branches of trees” mentioned in the Triumphal Entry accounts are also important in these rites, being used in profusion to roof over the “tabernacles” or booths which give the festival its name, and to accompany the use of the palms (see Leviticus xxii. 40).

    A curious confirmation of autumn being the time of the Triumphal Entry can be found in the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, which happened immediately after his Entry. Jesus, apparently, came across a fig tree without fruit, and said, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth for ever”… Now this must have occurred in the autumn, as no one would expect to find a fig tree bearing fruit in the spring. The reason for Jesus’s angry reaction is probably this: the Hebrew Prophets had foretold that the time of the Messiah would be one of unprecedented fertility of plants and animals (Joel ii. 22: “…the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength”). Jesus, with his Galilean belief in evil spirits, may have thought that the fig tree contained an evil spirit that was fighting against the kingdom of God.

    Use of the cry “Hosanna” by the crowd (Hebrew, “hosha-na,” meaning “save, please”) also confirms an autumn date for Jesus’s Entry. This cry has a special liturgical use in the rites of Tabernacles, and in no other festival. The cry was addressed to God, not to Jesus, and meant something like “Save us, God, through your Messiah.” The word “save” is especially associated, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, with God’s mercies through rulers and fighters who protected Israel against their enemies. A prayer for such salvation was offered up in the Feast of Tabernacles and would have been especially fitting as an accompaniment to Jesus’s Entry on a mission of salvation.

    This leads us to an even more important point: that the Feast of Tabernacles was in a special sense a Royal festival. In general, the Jewish royal family had little part to play in the ceremonials of the Jewish religion; but the exception was the Feast of Tabernacles. In this festival, the King actually entered the Temple Court and read aloud “the paragraph of the King,” i.e., the portion of the Mosaic Law relating to his duties (Deut. xvii. 14-20)….

    The Reading of the Law by the King was performed every seven years. No doubt Jesus timed his Entry to coincide with the end of the Year of Release, on the expiry of which the King’s Reading of the Law took place. He would have carefully planned the timing of his Coronation and his Royal Progress so that he arrived in Jerusalem just in time for the Festival. He would then enter the Temple Court as King and renew the rite performed by his great predecessors on the Jewish throne. This act more than any other would signalize his accession to the throne and his intention to carry out the duties of king and savior.” –Hyam Maccobby-“Revolution in Judea

  5. I enjoy much of the discussion on your website, and wanted to give back in a small way by offering an insight. The reason for there being 13 Treasury depositories for depositing coins (as well as for depositing the Biblical 1/2 Shekel by each man as a census each year,) as well as for there being 13 gates by which to enter the Temple compound itself, was that every citizen was required to use the depository (as well as the gate) designated for the tribe to which they belonged. The reason for 13 instead of 12? Because there were people who no longer knew which tribe that they belonged to, and therefore, provision was made for them to use the 13th of the various facilities (gates, depositories, etc.) so as not to feel put off from, or left out of, participation.

  6. “The reason for 13 instead of 12?”

    Perhaps instead of one for the tribe of Joseph, his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh are represented, which accounts for the one extra.

    After all, it is those two sons of Joseph who were given land in Israel by Moses. None to Joseph, per se.

  7. There is mention in the Holy Scriptures that “Pilate mingled the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices.” Does this refer to the occasion when Governor Pilate sent his soldiers armed with clubs into the Court of the Gentiles and massacred the Galileans while they were offering literal (or symbolic) sacrifices to God? The men were protesting over the temple’s treasury money being used for building an aqueduct? It resulted in a great slaughter.

  8. Thankyou Leen. The Feast of Tabernacles was associated in the 1st Century not only with history (Yahweh’s protection of Israel in the desert and provision of water and food and symbolic presence through the Shekinah cloud of light) but also with eschatology – the future Kingdom or Reign of God on the Earth with believed elevation of Israel as a nation. So Jesus teaching in the gospel of John is full of reference to Water, and Light). At the last Passover the crowds want to refer back to elements of the Tabernacle’s rituals because they want “the coming kingdom of our father David”. But before the glory must come the sacrifice, before the reward must come the work, which is the Passover.

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