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Herod's Temple

Certainly the most famous of all Herod's massive construction projects was his expansion and refurbishing of the Jerusalem Temple and its precincts. The Temple Mount was enlarged to more than 35 acres, making it the largest sacred compound in the ancient world -- twice as large as the Roman Forum.

Only a short excerpt of Josephus's detailed and extensive description of the Temple is reproduced here. From all the available evidence, scholars have concluded that his description is quite accurate.






The temple was built of stones that were white and strong, and each of their length was twenty-five cubits, their height was eight, and their breadth about twelve; and the whole structure, as well as the structure of the royal cloister, was lower on each side than it was in the middle, so that they were visible to those dwelling a great many furlongs off in the country, and especially to those living close by and to those that approached.

The temple had doors at the entrance, and lintels over them, of the same height as the temple itself. They were adorned with embroidered veils, with their flowers of purple, and pillars interwoven: and over these, but under the crown-work, was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and fine workmanship of which was a astonishing sight for the vastness of the materials and the great skill of the artisans.

He also encompassed the entire temple with very large cloisters, designed to be proportion to the temple; and he laid out larger sums of money upon them than any had done before him, till it seemed that no one else had so greatly adorned the temple. There was a large wall to both the cloisters; which wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man. . . .

When the work [for the foundation] was done, and joined together as part of the hill itself to the very top of it, he wrought it all into one outward surface, and filled up the hollow places which were about the wall, and made it a level on the external upper surface, and a smooth level also. This hill was walled all round, and in compass four furlongs, [the distance of] each angle containing in length a furlong: but within this wall, and on the very top of all, there ran another wall of stone also, having, on the east quarter, a double cloister, of the same length with the wall; in the midst of which was the temple itself. The cloister looked to the gates of the temple; and it had been adorned by many kings in former times; and round about the entire temple were fixed the spoils taken from barbarous nations; all these had been dedicated to the temple by Herod, with the addition of these he had taken from the Arabians.