Jewish Tradition and the Alignment of the Temple and the East Gate

One of the key arguments in my book, The Temple Revealed, is that the famed Golden Gate of the Temple Mount (or East Gate of the outer sanctuary) shown above, was in a direct line with the temple. This is really a core argument for why the Golden Gate stands as an irrefutable landmark of the East-West line of the temple, proving that this is truly the area where the temple was formerly located. This arrangement can be inferred in scripture from the design of the temple in Ezekiel chapters 40-42, but it is also described repeatedly in rabbinic literature. Take a look…

One should not show disrespect to the Eastern Gate, because it is in a direct line with the Holy of Holies.
(Mishnah Berakhot 9:5)

One may not deport himself light-headedly opposite the eastern gate (of the Temple) [outside the Temple Mount, in the lower wall at the foot of the Temple to the east], for it is aligned with the Holy of Holies. [All of the gates were aligned with one another: the eastern gate, the gate of the ezrath nashim (Court of the Women), the gate of ezrath Yisrael (Court of Israel), the entrance of the Ullam (Entrance Hall), the sanctuary, and the holy of holies—in the days of the first Temple.]
(Commentary on Mishnah Berakhot 9:5 by Obadiah Bartenura, c. 1445–1515, translated by Rabbi Shraga Silverstein)

The entire Temple was not on level ground, but on the slope of the mountain. When a person entered from the east gate of the Temple Mount, he would walk on level ground till the end of the rampart. From the rampart he would ascend twelve steps to the Women’s Court, the height of each step being half a cubit and its tread half a cubit.
He would then walk the entire length of the Women’s Court on level ground. From there he would ascend fifteen steps to the Israelite Court, which was the beginning of the Temple Court. The height of each step was half a cubit and its tread half a cubit.
(Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, 6:1-2)

The great gate had two small doors, one to the north and one to the south. By the one to the south no one ever went in, and concerning it was stated explicitly be Ezekiel, as it says, “And the Lord said to me: this gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, neither shall any man enter in by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered in by it; therefore it shall be shut” (Ezekiel 44:2). He [the priest] took the key and opened the [northern] door and went in to the cell, and from the cell he went into the Hekhal. Rabbi Judah says: he used to walk along in the thickness of the wall until he came to the space between the two gates. He would open the outer doors from within and the inner doors from without.
(Mishnah Middot 4:2)

The Gemara seeks the opinion according to which this would be feasible. And we learned in a mishna: All the entrances that were there in the Temple were twenty cubits high and ten cubits wide. And we learned in a different mishna describing the layout of the Temple: Inside the eastern wall of the Temple Mount was a latticed gate. And we learned in a different mishna: Inside the latticed gate was the rampart, which was an elevated area ten cubits wide. In that area there were twelve stairs; each stair was half a cubit high and half a cubit deep, for a total ascent of six cubits.

Granted, if you say that the mishnayot in tractate Middot are in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov, that is how it can be understood that the entrance was concealed. The threshold of the entrance to the Sanctuary was more than twenty cubits higher than the threshold of the eastern gate of the Temple Mount. One looking through the Eastern Gate would be unable to see the entrance of the Sanctuary, because the gate was only twenty cubits high. In order to provide the priest performing the red heifer ritual on the Mount of Olives with a view of the entrance to the Sanctuary, the eastern wall had to be lowered.

However, if you say that the mishnayot in tractate Middot are in accordance with the opinion of the Rabbis, who do not add the two and a half cubits of the stair and the platform added by Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov, isn’t there half a cubit through which the entrance can be seen? Since the threshold of the Sanctuary is only nineteen and a half cubits higher than the threshold of the gate, the priest on the Mount of Olives could look through the eastern gate of the Temple Mount and see the bottom of the Temple entrance. There would be no need to lower the eastern wall.
(Talmud Yoma 16a)

Pious people and men of [great] deeds would dance before them with lit torches in their hands, and says before them words of song and praise. And the Levites [would play] with lutes, and harps, and cymbals, and trumpets, and countless musical instruments, upon the fifteen steps which descent into the women’s court, corresponding with the fifteen songs of ascents in the Psalms, that upon them the Levites would stand with their musical instruments and sing. And two priests would stand at the upper gate, which descends from the court of the Israelites to the women’s court, with two trumpets in their hands. When the rooster [first] crowed, they would blow a tekiyah [a steady blast], and a teruah [a broken blast], and [another] tekiyah. When they arrived at the tenth step, they would [again] blow a tekiyah, and a teruah, and a tekiyah. When they arrived at the court, they would [for a third time] blow a tekiyah, and a teruah, and a tekiyah. They went on, blowing and walking, until they arrived at the gate that goes out to the east. When they arrived at the gate that goes out to the east, they turned their faces westward [towards the Temple], and said, “Our ancestors, who were in this place, their backs were [turned] towards the Temple of Hashem, and their faces eastwards, and they would bow eastward to the sun; but we, our eyes are [raised] towards God.” Rabbi Yehudah says: they would repeat and say, “We are for God, and our eyes are towards God.”
(Mishnah Sukkah 5:4)

So based on these testimonies, we can be confident that all of the gates of the temple, all the way out the the eastern gate of the outer Temple Mount enclosure, were truly all in a line. We also see this same design in the future temple described in Ezekiel 40-42. Now that wouldn’t exactly prove that the past temple was this way, except that we read in Hebrews that all of the temples are a copy of the heavenly one. So we can expect them to all follow the same basic design (with the exception of a larger holy area surrounding the temple in the millennium of 25,000 cubits square).

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 8:5

The only other line of attack to defeat the argument of alignment, would be to try to prove that the Golden Gate was not really an ancient temple gate, but was in fact built after the destruction of the temple. However, the authenticity of the Golden Gate has been supported by archaeologist Dr. Leen Ritmeyer. You can find his work analyzing the Golden Gate here: The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Plus, the existence of the Golden Gate was witnessed by and attested to in accounts recorded by the following visitors and pilgrims to Jerusalem down through the ages. And they all give very similar and corroborating accounts of its appearance and attest to it belonging to a much earlier age or to the temple itself. Therefore, if none of these visitors knew it as a new gate, or as belonging to the Roman or Byzantine era, then how could it be anything but an ancient gate of the temple?

  • Flavius Josephus, c. AD 100
  • Prudentius, c. AD 394
  • The Madaba Map, c. AD 542-570
  • The Piacenza Pilgrim, c. AD 570
  • Arculfus, c. 670 AD
  • Al-Muqaddasi, c. AD 985
  • Niccolo da Poggibonsi, c. 1346
  • Mujir al-Din, c. AD 1496

So what is the proper conclusion to draw from this information? Simply, that the Golden Gate is a true landmark of the temple and therefore must have been in front of it. Consequently, the most logical place to look for the temple is directly in front of the Golden Gate, on the Temple Mount, which is in the northern third of the enclosure.

And one final possible witness from the prophet Isaiah, also bears consideration.

12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God.
I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far north
;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities,
who did not let his prisoners go home?’

Isaiah 14:12-17, RSV

Read carefully, one could take this to be a reference to the Temple Mount and the northern position of the temple, in the context of a fulfillment of Daniel 9:27. Granted, there are many potential meanings and translations that could be considered from this passage, but the possibility of a connection to the Temple Mount, the Abomination of Desolation, and a northern positioning for the temple, is certainly worthy of some consideration…

To find out more, check out my YouTube video explaining the main evidence:

https://youtu.be/aWN0RVII1MA

One Comment on “Jewish Tradition and the Alignment of the Temple and the East Gate

  1. Some very stimulating thoughts here Christian. I’ve got 2 books in the hopper before I get to your’s but I’m thirsty for it. Hope all is well with you, your wife (and family? right?) and your business. Greg from the Maranatha Tour.

    Like

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