The Prophets Division
Now, I have spent a considerable time in explaining the reason for walking counterclockwise in the camp and in the Temple. 1 What does this have to do, however, with the positioning of the books of the Old Testament by Ezra the priest? Look at an important point. As a matter of policy, if one entered the Camp, the Temple, or any area of the Temple, the people always turned right and then they continued their walk in a counterclockwise manner. Even if one (like the High Priest) left the Holy of Holies and entered the outer court called the Holy Place, the priest still turned right. Let us notice what this means from God’s viewpoint in regard to the arrangement of the furniture in the Holy Place.
Recall that there were 6 pieces of furniture in the priestly compartment in the Temple (the Second Division), and there were also 6 books in the Second Division of the Holy Scriptures. When the High Priest would leave the Holy of Holies, what was the most important piece of furniture in the Priestly (or Second) Division of the Temple that he would encounter? This was the Golden Altar of incense (which Paul in the Book of Hebrews said was a part of the furniture of the Holy of Holies though it was located outside the curtain that separated the Holy Place of the priests from the Holy of Holies — see Hebrews 9:4). This Golden Altar of incense was in front of the entrance to the Holy of Holies. If the priest continued in the ordained counterclockwise direction from
1. the Golden Altar of incense,
2. he would next meet with the Menorah,
3. then the Laver,
4. the Altar of Burnt Offering,
5. the Slaughtering Area,
6. and finally the Table of Sbewbread.
Is there a literary connection between these 6 pieces of furniture in the priestly compartment of the Temple and the 6 books (in the original numeration) of the Prophets (Second) Division of the Old Testament? Let us see.
We are informed that the 15 steps that led from the court level of the Israelites and the women to the priestly section of the Temple was where the 15 Degree psalms (120–134) were read in succession:
“Fifteen steps led up from within it to the Court of the Israelites, corresponding to the fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Psalms, and upon them the Levites used to sing. They [the steps] were not four-square, but rounded like the half of a round threshing-floor.”
We see in this a literary connection of a body of canonical readings to an architectural design of the Temple. Also, the significance of the Menorah being reckoned as the 7 planets (among other things) means there must be literary teaching within the Bible or tradition to explain this analogy. This also applies to the 12 loaves on the Table of Shewbread being reckoned as the 12 months and the solar year and this requires literary teaching within the Bible or tradition to explain the analogy. And recall that Psalm 19 gives an astronomical basis for teaching the word of God. The first four verses speak of
1. the heaven (v. 1),
2. the firmament (v. 1),
3. the day (which meant the Sun, v. 2), and
4. the night (v. 2),
These four celestial divisions with their movements give a voice — a speech and a language — to all areas of earth. But there are two other astronomical factors. They are:
5. the line (or rule and direction, v. 4) that these heavenly bodies
traverse throughout all the earth, and also
6. their words (v. 4) to the end of the world.
The chief astronomical body is the Sun (item number 3 above which answers in a symbolic sense to the “Sun of righteousness” in Malachi 4:Z). In Psalm 19 the Sun acts like a bridegroom making a marriage covenant with his bride (Israel) in a tabernacle (like being in God’s Tabernacle or Temple) while he traverses his circle around the heavenly vault. In doing so, the Sun and the heavenly bodies (divided into 6 celestial items) teach the world their truths (and Paul referred to this in Romans 10:18).
Then note a comparison that the psalmist makes in Psalm 19. He gives precisely 6 literary comparisons (which appear to be 6 equations) with these 6 celestial items that are speaking forth the knowledge of God. These 6 comparisons are:
1. the law of YHWH (v. 7),
2. the testimony of YHWH (v. 7),
3. the statutes of YHWH (v. 8),
4. the commandment of YHWH (v. 8),
5. the fear of YHWH (v. 9), and finally
6. the judgments of YHWH (verses 9).
In actual fact, the Tabernacle in Moses’ time (and the later Temples) were designed to show forth these astronomical themes of teaching the Word of God, just as the literary works found in the canon of the Old Testament provided the written Word of God.
It is my belief that the same type of literary connection or comparison is made between the 6 pieces of furniture in the priestly compartment of the Temple (where the astronomical zodiacal center for the Temple was located) with the 6 books of the Prophets (Second) Division. Look at this matter from a canonical point of view.
The Golden Altar of Incense (the first piece of furniture on the western side of the Zodiac) would answer to the first book of the Prophets which was Joshua/Judges written by the priest Samuel. This book was the connecting link, the historical link, between the first five books of the Law and the later books of the Old Testament, as the Golden Altar of Incense is also the connecting link between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Thus, the Book of Joshua/Judges (or the “Pre-Kingdoms Book”), like the Golden Altar of Incense, was the connecting historical book that showed Israel’s proper relationship with God from the time of Moses onward. It connects the first five books of the Law with the rest of the Old Testament.
Then, continuing outward while still in the Holy Place, the priest would proceed in a counterclockwise fashion from the entrance of the Holy of Holies. The next piece of furniture in the Temple was the 7 lamps called the Menorah (representing the 7 planets in an astronomical sense). It was located to the south of the Golden Altar of Incense and its western lamp was always to be kept burning. This Menorah answers to the Book of Kingdoms (which we call today the two Books of Samuel and the two Books of Kings). Again, Josephus said the 7 lamps answered to the 7 wandering stars (the planets), and this is true, but in a literary sense this one “Book of Kingdoms” also features the history of seven rulers who were known for their importance in the righteous development of the Kingdom of Israel (later, and most specifically, the “Kingdom of Judah” which was ruled by Davidic kings.).
Those rulers were (1) Samuel, (2) Saul, (3) David, (4) Solomon, (5) Hezekiah, (6) Josiah, and (7) Jehoiachin, the last ruler mentioned in the book. Interestingly, all these seven rulers had their good points with God at the first but at their deaths they left a legacy of evil or captivity for Israel.
The moral of this single “Book of Kingdoms” is the fact that even the seven principal human authorities that God picked to rule his people Israel and ones He greatly cared for still wound up (as do many human rulers) with many problems facing them and the nation of Israel. The Menorah has seven lamps like the seven rulers of the Book of Kingdoms. The moral of this historical account in the Bible is this: Only one king and ruler will be successful, according to prophecy, and that is King Messiah.
From the Menorah (the 7 branched lampstand, representing the 7 planets in an astronomical sense), a person would continue in a counterclockwise direction in the priestly section of the Temple to reach the Laver, located between the Holy Place and the Altar of Burnt Offering. This answers in a literary sense to the Book of Isaiah. Interestingly, the first chapter of Isaiah emphasizes the need for all Israel to wash themselves clean before appearing before God to ask Him any favors or petitions. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16).
In the priestly section of the Temple one then comes (in the counterclockwise direction) to the Altar of Burnt Offering of the priests. In a literary sense this answers to the Book of Jeremiah. The central services in the Temple were conducted daily at the Altar of Burnt Offering. It was the center area of the Temple (the fulcrum for Temple activities), and Jeremiah, a priest, was the “fulcrum” prophet of the Bible. He was an “axial” prophet who was commissioned to destroy the civilization into which he was born and to begin a new one with different principles and social norms governing it. See Jeremiah 1:4–19 for this prophetic role that Jeremiah was to fulfill. The central theme of Jeremiah’s prophecies was the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple of God.
It is often not realized, but the burning of animal sacrifices on the Altar of Burnt Offering represented in symbol a type of judgment on the animals who in turn represented either the people of Judah and Israel or even Gentile nations. 2 Indeed, in Isaiah God’s judgment of destruction upon the evil nations is called a “sacrifice” like that of animals (Isaiah 34:6) that are being devoted (in the original Hebrew) on an altar (Isaiah 34:2, 5).
The exact same illustration is given by the apostle John in the Book of Revelation who wrote that God’s judgment on the nations of the earth at the Second Advent of Christ is compared to a gigantic sacrifice on an altar of judgment (cf. Revelation 19:17–21).
That is precisely what the Book of Jeremiah is all about: the judgment of God on the nations of the world, starting with God’s own children the people of Judah. But before these animals on God’s altar can be offered up in a sacrificial burning, they must first be killed. Both Isaiah 34 and Revelation 19 show that one of the prime symbols of such destruction are the animal sacrifices on the Altar of Burnt Offering.
The actual killing of such animals for sacrifice, however, was not performed on the Altar of Burnt Offering itself, but at the next piece of furniture located just to the north of the Altar. This was the Slaughtering Place and it answers to the Book of Ezekiel — a companion book of prophecies to Jeremiah — where we find a further description of the judgments upon Judah and Israel and the nations of the world. The whole book of Ezekiel is showing, carrying on with the theme in Jeremiah, the sacrifice (the slaughter) of the Kingdom of Judah for all their sins against God and the sacrifice (the slaughter) of judgment upon the evil nations. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, however, show that Israel and Judah will be restored at the end of the age. The Altar of Burnt Offering and the Place of Slaughter in the priestly section of the Temple fit the themes of Jeremiah and Ezekiel very well.
And then, continuing in a counterclockwise direction, one would return to the Holy Place and in its northern section would be found the Table of Shewbread. This answers to the Twelve Minor Prophets, from Hosea to Malachi. And indeed, on that Table of Shewbread were placed every Sabbath twelve loaves of bread (Leviticus 24:5–9). 3 Since there was only one Table of Shewbread but twelve loaves, this answers to the fact that the twelve Minor Prophets were all placed on one scroll but there were twelve of them altogether.
All this relationship of the 6 pieces of furniture with the 6 books of the Second Division of the canon is seen when one goes counterclockwise (that is, from right to left) in walking in the Second Division of the Temple. And remember, since the books of the Old Testament are analogous to each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, it is also instructive that the Hebrew language is written and read from right to left.
It thus appears that the 6 pieces of ritualistic
furniture located within the priestly section of the Temple can answer in a
literary sense to the 6 books of the Prophets Division (the Second Division) of
the Holy Scriptures in the Hebrew language. These 6 books are associated with
the priestly section of the Temple (and not in the outer region of the Court of
the Israelites, either the men’s or the women’s courts). This indicates that
these prophetic books are best interpreted by priests who have a firm grasp of
the rules, customs, and history of the people of God and the nations of the
world. The Book of Daniel, however, was not placed alongside these 6 books of
the prophets for reasons which I will discuss in the next chapter.
|A. Holy of Holies||H. House of Abtinas|
|B. Outer Holy Place||I. Chamber of Wood|
|C. Outer Curtain||J. Court of Priests|
|D. Altar of Burnt Offering||K. Court of Israel|
|E. Slaughter Area||L. Steps to Nicanor Gate|
|F. Chamber of Hewn Stone (Sanhedrin Hall)||M. Eastern Gate|
|G. Counsellor's Chamber||Diagram by Norman Tenedora|
|Tabernacle / Temple||Psalm 19
|1||Golden Altar of Incense||Heavens =||Law||Joshua/Judges|
|2||Menorah||Firmament =||Testimony||Book of Kingdoms|
|4||Altar of Burnt Offering||Night =||Commandments||Jeremiah|
|5||Slaughter Area||Line =||Fear||Ezekiel|
|6||Table of Shewbread||Words =||Judgment||Book of the Temple|
1 See Chapter 9-1.
2 The seventy bullocks that were offered on the seven days of Tabernacles, symbolically represented the seventy nations on earth.
3 This is the bread that David illegally ate when he went to the Sanctuary of the Tabernacle that was then located at the city of Nob on the Mount of Olives (1 Samuel 21:1–9). This event was referred to by Christ in Matthew 12:4.
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