Church of God, New World Ministries

God’s Temple In Prophecy - Part 7

The Courts Of The Lord

The subject of the courts of the temple is probably the least understood of any part of God’s House. Most Bible students realize that there are courts associated with God’s House. They, however, do not realize what they are for, how they are arranged, or how many important buildings and chambers they contain.

It is because of this confusion that many have a completely erroneous idea of important aspects of the temple.

Most accounts in the Bible referring to the temple concern primarily the activities in the courts, and not in the main temple building.

Even in the New Testament there is confusion by many people regarding activities of the temple. We read many times in the gospel and in the book of Acts where Christ and the Apostles went up to the temple to pray, or to meet with other people in religious worship. Just where did they go? They did not pray in the main temple building as they were forbidden to enter. Only Priests could enter that building. The inner court was exclusively for the Priests in carrying out their duties.

“In Herod’s Temple, which is not systematically described in the Bible, there were four courts, those of the Gentiles, the Women, the Men (Israel) and the Priests, in ascending order of exclusiveness” (The New Bible Dictionary, Article Court, p. 240).

When we understand the basic pattern of Ezekiel’s temple, we will have a better understanding of what transpired in the New Testament account concerning Christ and the Apostles at the temple.

On one occasion we read that the apostles met in one of the courts in a section known as “Solomon’s Porch.” This account in Acts 5:12 has been confused by some people who thought this was the porch of the actual temple building. The porch of the temple building is quite small. Solomon’s Porch, as it was called, was a long porch extending along the whole eastern extremity of the temple area.

In Jeremiah, chapters 35-36 we read of certain events which took place in various chambers of the “house of the Lord” (Jere. 35:2). In these particular chambers the priests ate and drank. From the context it is plain that there were several stories of rooms (v. 4), so some have mistaken these chambers to be the side chambers in the main temple building. The side chambers are relatively small. But, the rooms mentioned here in Jeremiah, are apparently large rooms, or they could not hold many people at one time. The confusion here has arisen largely because of the term “house of the Lord.” This term included the courts and their buildings as well.

Here is a scripture to prove this statement. Keep in mind when reading it that the people are not permitted into the main temple building. Only certain of the priests were permitted in the main temple building to perform specific services during their period of duty.

“Then the prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of the Lord” (Jere. 28:5).

Since people were in the “house of the Lord,” and yet the people were not permitted in the inner court, or in the temple building, it is obvious that this term includes the courts which surrounded the temple. We should be better able to understand many places in the Bible where certain activities took place in these courts.

Before we finish this article, you will know where these particular chambers were located, and where it was that the people went when they went to the “house of the Lord”.

It has been mentioned earlier that Ezekiel is the only place in the Bible where the courts are described in detail. We have already had the gates described in great detail, however, their exact placement in the courts may not be entirely clear yet.

We are now ready to start the Bible description of the courts, and the buildings in them. In order that you might better understand the overall picture of these courts it is necessary for you to understand one fact to start with. This will later be proved in detail. The courts and temple area are 500 cubits square. It is foursquare, 500 cubits on each side.

We have already learned that there are gates on the east, south and north. These gates are exactly in the middle of the 500-cubit wall, and each are 50 cubits square. A wall encircles this 500-cubit area. The wall is one reed high and one reed (6 cubits) thick. The account concerning this was given in the last article and the exact description is given in Ezk. 40:5.

After Ezekiel described and measured the outer east gate (Ezk. 40:6-16) he gave important details concerning what is called the outer court. In this description he mentioned that around the edge of this outer court there was a pavement 50 cubits wide. A pavement is defined as “a surface, ground covering or floor made by paving.” To be more specific he stated that this pavement was the same width as the gates and were on each side of the gates. There is no gate on the west, so from his account it should be clear that there is no pavement on that side of the outer court. Here is the Bible account of this pavement.

“Then brought he me into the outer court, and, lo, there were chambers and a pavement, made for the court round about; thirty chambers were upon the pavement. And the pavement was by the side of the gates, corresponding unto the length of the gates, even the lower pavement” (Ezk. 40:17-18).

Built upon this pavement are 30 chambers. The Bible does not say how large these chambers are, nor does it say what they are used for. Later on, we should have a good idea as to what their use is.

Just how large should these chambers be, and how many should there be along each wall?

To start with, let us settle on how many there should be along each wall. These chambers are on the three walls east, south and north, therefore there must be 10 on each side. Some authorities have conceived of them as separate buildings, usually quite small, located around the court. The Bible describes them as 30 chambers, not 30 buildings, which seem to imply a continuous building. If they are a part of a continuous building, then the dimension is limited along the outside wall to a definite measurement. There is one factor that will affect this measurement which will be taken up later.

What should the other dimension of these chambers, from the wall of the court inward be?

In the article on the gates, it was stated that there are exactly 10 cubits of the gate which is used for the opening of the porch and the posts. As previously mentioned this 10-cubit space is used for the walkway around the court to the 30 chambers.

Later on, we will come back to this walkway in connection with the “galleries.” For the time being let it suffice to say that these 10 cubits (about 20 feet) continues on around the court on the three sides. The distance from the exterior of the outside wall to the walkway on the inside of the outer court is then 40 cubits, so the 30 chambers depth must be the same dimension.

There is another important aspect of the outer court which we must consider next. This new point concerns the four corners of the outer court.

“Then he brought me forth into the outer court, and caused me to pass by the four corners of the court, and, behold, in every corner of the court there was a court. In the four corners of the court there were courts enclosed, forty cubits long and thirty broad; these four in the corners were of one measure” (Ezk. 46:21-22.

A court is an open space, without roof. These particular courts are 30 x 40 cubits.

“And there was a row of masonry round about in them, round about the four, and it was made with boiling-places under the rows round about. Then said he unto me: These are the boiling-places, where the ministers of the house shall boil the sacrifices of the people” (Ezk. 46:23-24).

The purpose of these courts is to provide a place to cook the sacrifices that the people bring. The people did partake of part of the offerings that they presented. Here is the place where they are cooked. Since these cooking places are associated directly with the 30 chambers it now becomes rather obvious that the chambers are probably used as dining rooms for the people to eat the food prepared in these corner courts. Later, we will see where there are extensive other facilities for the priests to eat.

The next important point regards the three inner gates and their exact placement.

“Then he measured the breadth from the forefront of the lower gate unto the forefront of the inner court without, a hundred cubits, eastward as also northward” (Ezk. 40:19).

Since the inner gates are exactly 100 cubits from the outer gates, that means that the outer court would be 100 cubits across. Inside of this one hundred cubit area are the inner gates, the other buildings, the inner court, and the main temple building. Now we will gradually begin to place the various buildings and parts of this section together.

There are two very large three-story buildings which must now be described. One of these buildings is placed directly north of the main temple building, and the other directly south. If you will remember the article concerning the main temple building, you may remember that on the north, south, and west side of the temple were open spaces of exactly 20 cubits. This particular space which surrounds the temple is called the “separate place.” These two buildings form a boundary on the north and south of this “separate place.”

Almost one whole chapter in Ezekiel is given to the description of these two buildings. Therefore, they must be important. They are very unusual buildings as you will soon see from the description. As usual, we will find certain difficulties in really understanding what God inspired Ezekiel to write. In order to understand this first section, just remember that the word “against” means “opposite” in modern English. This first quotation tells us exactly where the building is located.

“Then he brought me forth into the outer court, the way toward the north; and he brought me into the chamber that was over against the separate place, and which was over against the building, toward the north, even to the front of the length of a hundred cubits, with the door on the north, and the breadth of fifty cubits, over against the twenty cubits which belonged to the inner court, and over against the pavement which belonged to the outer court; with gallery against gallery in three stories” (Ezk. 42:1-3).

Now let’s analyze what was given in this text. Ezekiel was taken from where he was measuring in the main temple building (chapter 41), out through the inner north gate to a spot in the north that was opposite the separate place, which was also opposite the northernmost buildings of the outer court (the north row of the 30 chambers) This particular place was the side of the building which was 100 cubits long. To make doubly sure we understand, he mentioned that this particular side (v. 3) was opposite the 20 cubits (separate place) which is associated with the inner court. It is also opposite the pavement (on which the 30 chambers were placed). In other words, he was standing in a spot between the separate place and the 30 chambers.

Now we have the exact location of the building. There is one additional point which he makes by stating that the building was “gallery against gallery in three stories:” Just what does this mean?

First, we must understand what a gallery is. A gallery is “a covered walk or promenade,” or “a raised platform or passageway along the outside or inside of the wall of a building.” It is sometimes used as a promenade on the inside of a courtyard.

Since we have a little idea of what a gallery is, we are brought back to the point in this text which states that gallery is against gallery. Or, in modern English, there are galleries opposite each other. Also notice that the building has three stories.

“And before the chambers was a walk of ten cubits breadth inward, a way of one cubit; and their doors were toward the north” (v. 4).

The “walk” of 10 cubits described here is the “promenade” of the “galleries.” The doors of the chambers on the three floors are toward the north. Therefore, the promenades, walks or galleries as they are variously referred to must be on the north.

There is one important point in this verse that we will have to come back to a little later, which concerns the “way of one cubit.” The next verse, clarifies certain other important points about these galleries or promenades.

“Now the upper chambers were shorter, for the galleries took away from these, more than from the lower and the middlemost, in the building” (v. 5).

The two upper floors were narrower than the lower floor as each floor had the 10-cubit promenade or gallery cut back into the building. What is described here is something like stair steps. In verse 2 we learned that the building was 50 cubits wide. But the second floor would only be 40 cubits wise and the third floor would be 30 cubits wide, because of the 10-cubit wide gallery.

The next verse brings out a surprising point.

“For they were in three stories, and they had not pillars as the pillars of the courts; therefore, room was taken away from the lowest and the middlemost, in comparison with the ground” (v. 6).

The amazing point here concerns the pillars. It means that these particular promenades, galleries or walks belonging to this building do not have pillars. Previously in verse 3, we read that the galleries were opposite galleries. That point has not been cleared up yet.

What galleries could be opposite those of this building?

These galleries face north, so the others would have to face south. They must be 10 cubits wide, if the same pattern is used, and they must have pillars to support the roof. The point made in verse 6 is that the galleries of the building do not have pillars but those in the courts do. The only place for these galleries in the courts would be the ten-cubit space around the outer courts which gives access to the 30 chambers. It is just as simple as that!

With this in mind, we should focus our attention back to the outer court to add a point here concerning this gallery or promenade.

Do you remember in article 1 where it was mentioned that the saints of this era would be “pillars” in the temple of God? This was taken from the statement of Revelation 3:12. These pillars are only a figure or type of the saints. Here they are, clear around the outer court of God’s temple.

How high are these pillars, how many of them are there, and how far apart should they be spaced?

The Bible does not tell us directly, however, there are good clues. The side chambers of the temple are 5 cubits high. Most of the chambers or rooms ought to be the same height of five cubits if the biblical pattern is followed. That is about ten feet and should be adequate for the various individual chambers. Using that height inside for the 30 chambers plus a cubit for the roof would make a total of 6 cubits. This also follows the numerical pattern used so frequently in the temple of 5 and 6 cubits.

If the rooms were five cubits high, then the roof overhang of 10 cubits over the walk way would surely be the same height of 5 cubits. On that basis we should expect the pillars to be about the same distance apart, that is, 5 cubits between centers.

“And thou shall make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. And the pillars thereof shall be twenty, and their sockets twenty, of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. And likewise, for the north side in length there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, and the pillars thereof twenty, and their sockets twenty, of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver. The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty everywhere, and the height five cubits; of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass” (Ex. 27:9-11, 18).

From these scriptures we can see that the pillars of the court of the tabernacle in the wilderness were spaced five cubits apart and were five cubits high. That is the same conclusion already mentioned from the pattern used in the temple.

Now back to the subject of the building to the north of the temple building. We left the subject to explain about the pillars in the courts. If you will remember, there were no such pillars in the galleries of this large building. Without pillars for support, it is obvious that these galleries or promenade are uncovered having no roof. They look something like stairsteps as previously mentioned.

With this in mind, we must go back now and answer another question that was left unanswered regarding verse 4. Do you remember that there was a walk of 10 cubits and a way of 1 cubit? Just what is this “way.”  Most of the commentators and scholars are completely at a loss to explain this. They assume that this is an incorrect translation, that there has been a corruption of the text. They assume that it really means 100 cubits instead of 1.

One source dares to differ on this one point with the other scholars. Havenick and Klieforth state about this word “way” as follows. “’A way of one cubit’ in the sense of the approaches (entrance into the rooms) were a cubit broad.” This conclusion is scorned by other authorities who state that it is “impossible” and just “correct” the text to read 100 cubits.

This last source really has the nearest to the correct answer. The word used here is not easily defined from the Hebrew, at least from an architectural point of view. From a practical point of view, it soon becomes obvious what is meant. The galleries are open to the weather. In order to protect the entrance and doorway to each door, they are merely recessed into the wall one cubit (two feet). It is as simple as that. There is no need to change or “correct” the text.

Now that you have the description and understanding of these two large buildings and their use it becomes plain which chambers were mentioned in Jeremiah 35 and 36. The Hebrew word for the “chambers” of Jeremiah and those of this building in Ezekiel is “lishtkah.” It should be plain now that chambers similar to these are what Jeremiah had reference to (Jere. 35:2) and not the side chambers of the temple which are “tsela” in the Hebrew.

It was to similar chambers in ancient times that the musicians went (I Chron. 9:33), where the gold was weighed (Ezra 8:29), and when the tithes were taken (Neh. 10:37-39; 13:4-9).

Ezekiel next gives attention to details about a wall to the east of this building.

“And the wall that was without by the side of the chambers, toward the outer court in front of the chambers, the length thereof was fifty cubits” (Ezk. 42:7).

This particular wall is nowhere mentioned in scripture beside this particular place. Just where is this 50-cubit wall located? It is toward the outer court, so the first conclusion might be that it is an east-west wall in front of the 100-cubit side. That is completely unreasonable and does not fit into the overall pattern of this part of the court.

Which court is this toward? In the preceding verse (v.6) did you notice that the pillars were in the courts? There are actually three sections to the great outer court, and in one sense there are three courts. In this particular place (v. 6) the main outer court, or the eastern part of the outer court is meant. This particular wall is located just east of the building and runs north and south, separating the entrances to this building from the inner court. It is 50 cubits long, the same length as the eastern wall of the building.

This wall ought to be at least 10 cubits to the east of the building, following the pattern of the galleries.

The next verse again verifies the fact that this side of the building is the 50-cubit side.

“For the length of the chambers that were toward the outer court was fifty cubits; and, lo, before the temple were a hundred cubits” (v. 8).

An important point to note in this last verse concerns the 100 cubits before (opposite) the temple. This plainly shows us the exact east-west location of the building. It is directly opposite the main temple building. Since both are 100 cubits long, they are both in exactly the same location from east to west.

“And from under these chambers was the entry on the east side, as one goes into them from the outer court” (v. 9).

Another problem is now presented. Just what entries are meant here? We have already read that all of the doors were on the north (v. 2, 4). Now entries are described on the east, and they are under the chambers. The doors to the individual chambers open onto the galleries for each story. The second and third story would have no access to the ground floor. Therefore, this particular scripture tells how entry is made to the second and third floors. It is through entries on the eastern end of the building, through exits which are under these particular chambers. There is an interior stairway which connects to the second and third story and the entry to them is located at the east end of the building. Their entry is from the outer court, not the inner court.

The next points mentioned by Ezekiel are at first confusing.

“In the breadth of the wall of the court toward the east, before the separate place, and before the building, there were chambers” (v. 10).

This almost reads as though there are another set of chambers or another building in the same place. This does not refer to other chambers in the same place, since the following verses plainly show that this is referring to an identical building to the south of the main temple building. It faces to the south, toward the southern outer court.

“With a way before them, like the appearance of the chambers which were toward the north, as long as they, and as broad as they, with all their goings out, and according to their fashions; and as their doors” (v. 11).

One additional point is mentioned in the following verse that was not mentioned regarding the building on the north.

“So were also the doors of the chambers that were toward the south, there was a door in the head of the way, even the way directly before the wall, toward the east from the east, as one entereth into them” (v. 12).

From this text it is plain that there is also an entry or doorway in this 50-cubit wall toward the east. It gives access to the entry of the inner gate.

Just what are these large buildings used for? Surprising as it may seem, they are dining halls for the priests.

“Then said he unto me: “The north chambers and the south chambers, which are before the separate place, they are the holy chambers, where the priests that are near unto the Lord shall eat the most holy things.”

Do you realize how large these buildings are and how much floor space there are in them? The first floor of each one has 5,000 square cubits, the second 4,000 cubits and the third has 3,000 square cubits. In all a total of 12,000 square cubits. That is equivalent to about 24,000 square feet of floor space for both buildings. The equivalent of about 25 small five room houses.

If these are the dining halls, just where are the kitchens to prepare so much food? The answer to this question is found in a different chapter.

“Then he brought me through the entry, which was at the side of the gate, into the holy chambers for the priest, which looked toward the north; and, behold, there was a place on the hinder part westward. And he said unto me: This is the place where the priests shall boil the guilt-offering and the sin-offering, where they shall bake the meal-offering: that they bring them not forth into the outer court, to sanctify the people” (Ezk. 46:19-20).

This building was at the rear of the building on the north. It is not a “court” like we had described for the kitchens in the four corners of the outer court. Different words are used, so this is obviously an enclosed building.

The word translated “place” here is the same used in the KVJ translation in chapter 41:9. It refers to a building or structure as a Lexicon will show.

The next building that we must consider is an even larger one located immediately to the west of the temple building. It is described only briefly.

“And the building that was before the separate place at the side toward the west was seventy cubits broad; and the wall of the building was five cubits thick round about, and the length thereof ninety cubits” (Ezek. 41:12).

This particular building is further descried in the following text.

“And he measured the length of the building before the separate place which was at the back thereof, and the galleries thereof on the one side and on the other side, a hundred cubits” (v. 15).

Here is another building with “galleries.” In this case there are “galleries on the one side and on the other side.” The galleries are said to be 100 cubits long, therefore they must be on the east and west side of the building, extending north and south.

There is one important factor missing regarding this particular building, the entrances! Here is the only place where this particular building is mentioned, and yet no doors are described.

Where could these doors be? They could not be on the west, since it is enclosed by the wall. They could not be on the north or south, since that is a part of the outer court and the kitchens take up this space. The only alternative is to conclude that they are on the east. Following the pattern of the other buildings with galleries there are doors to the second and third floor opening onto the galleries. Since there are galleries on both sides of the second and third floor, then their doors open on the east and west. This implies that there are double sets of rooms, east and west, in this particular building. All the first-floor exits must be on the east, giving entry to the “separate place,” and from there to the inner court. This building is almost twice as large as the other two buildings that were previously described.

Our next subject concerns the “inner court.” It is briefly mentioned in the following text.

“And he measured the court, a hundred cubits long, and a hundred cubits broad, foursquare, and the altar was before the house” (Ezk. 40:47).

This 100-cubit square is immediately in front of the temple building and is the inner court. Since it is a separate court, and gates give entry to it, there must be a wall to separate it from the outer court, where no buildings exist to cause a separation. Such a wall should be on the pattern of the exterior wall. There is no pattern to go by.

Another important point has been skipped in describing this building to the west. This point is brought out in the following excerpt:

“And he measured . . . . the separate place, and the building, with the walls thereof, a hundred cubits long” (v. 13).

This gives us the final measurement for the whole temple enclosures and courts from east to west. It was mentioned at the beginning of this article that the wall enclosed an area of 500 cubits square. Now let us add up the various dimensions. Going from east to west.

Outer gate 50 cubits
Outer court 100 cubits
Inner gate 50 cubits
Inner court          100 cubits
Temple 100 cubits
Separate place and Building 100 cubits
Total 500 cubits

Here is the summary from north to south.

Outer gate 50 cubits
Outer court 100 cubits
Inner gate 50 cubits
Inner court 100 cubits
Inner gate 50 cubits
Outer court 100 cubits
Outer gate 50 cubits
Total 500 cubits

There are only two more buildings in the courts which must be mentioned. Here again is where the biblical scholars err. An important point about one of these chambers is unreasonable to them. The Bible is incorrect on this particular point, according to their reasoning.

“And without the inner gate were chambers for the guard in the inner court, which was at the side of the north gate, and their prospect was toward the south, one at the side of the east gate having the prospect toward the north” (Ezk. 40:44).

The point that is usually rejected by these scholars concerns the building which is beside the inner east gate, but which has its prospect (face or front part) toward the north. In order to have symmetry all of the authorities have placed this one chamber by the south gate instead of the east gate. Most modern translations state south gate instead of east gate. This is incorrect, since the text is plain and specific in this place. God has been able to preserve what is right, therefore we do not agree with the conclusion of the men who have had to “correct” or “amend” the text.

Just exactly where are these buildings placed. From the description given, we are limited to a very small area. The one building which faces toward the south cannot be located on the west of the inner north gate. The reason will be given soon. It can only be on the east. Since it faces the inner court, it has its entrance toward the inner court.

These two chambers are for the use of the priests as Ezekiel 40:45-46 explains.

There is an additional chamber or room situated by the inner north gate which is described in the following text.

“And a chamber with the entry thereof was by the posts at the gates; there was the burnt-offering to be washed” (Ezk. 40:38).

In order to fit this room into the pattern already established it must fit to the west of the inner gate, in the space left, which is 10 by 409 cubits.

That completes the important points regarding the courts.

The question may arise regarding the courts of Solomon’s temple in comparison with those described by Ezekiel. Were the courts of Solomon’s temple exactly the same?

Very little is said in the description of Solomon’s temple regarding the courts except for the following quotations:

“Furthermore, he made the court of the priests, and the great court, and doors for the court, and overlaid the doors of them with brass” (II Chron. 4:9)

His own court was paved in a similar fashion to that of the inner court of the temple.

“And the great court round about had three rows of hewn stone, and a row of cedar beams, like as the inner court of the house of the Lord, and the court of the porch of the house” (I Kings 7:12).

No dimensions are given so we cannot be sure that it was 500 cubits square. These were two separate and distinct courts as II Chronicles 33:5 states, and other texts suggest. The inner court was for the priest and the outer for the people.

Probably the courts were not square and of the same size as described by Ezekiel. If they were this large then they could not fit in the area which is raised like a platform on Mt. Moriah. Even though they were probably not the same shape, with the same buildings, they obviously were similar in many ways.

This work concerns primarily the physical aspects of the temple and not the use or service of the temple. Therefore, nothing has been said about the altar which is located in the center of the inner court. Briefly summarized, it is 11 cubits high and 18 cubits square at the base. In addition, there are steps leading to it on the east.

Nothing has been said about the many utensils that Solomon had made, nor of the brazen sea. The brazen sea is not mentioned in connection with Ezekiel’s temple.

Nothing has been said about the cherubim, except to state that they are engraved upon the walls. The Bible describes them in quite some detail, especially in Ezekiel Chapters 1 and 10.

Even after understanding the physical aspects of God’s temple, it is almost impossible for us to fully understand the magnificence of these courts and the temple. We have not been able to fully realize the joy and pleasure it will be to be in these very courts of God. David had a better vision of the time to come than we sometimes do. He wrote of this time of joy in the following Psalm.

“How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns, yea, even pineth for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy unto the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself. Where she may lay her young. Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. Happy are they that dwell in Thy house, they are ever praising Thee” (Ps. 84:2-5).

God speed the day when we too may live, with Christ and David in these very courts.

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; give thanks unto Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good, His mercy endures for ever, and His faithfulness unto all generations” (Ps. 100:4-5).

Want to know more?
  1. Enroll in our correspondence course Request the FREE correspondence by clicking here
  2. Sign up for our monthly DVD Sermon program Request the FREE monthly sermon DVD's by clicking here
  3. Subscribe to our mailing list Request to be added to the mailing list by clicking here
They are all free, there are NO strings attached and we DO NOT solicit for money.
  Web Site Artwork Credits
© 2018 Church of God, New World Ministries
P.O. Box 5536 Sevierville, TN 37864       (865) 774-8485