Vivid details of the sacrifice. The unerring accuracy of the priests is notable. A savage orgy. A description of the temple and its water-works.
I HAVE given you this description of the presents because I thought it was necessary.
2 The next point in the narrative is an account of our journey to Eleazar, but I will first of all give you a description of the whole country.
3 When we arrived in the land of the Jews we saw the city situated in the middle of the whole of Judea on the top of a mountain of considerable altitude.
4 On the summit the temple had been built in all its splendour.
5 It was surrounded by three walls more than seventy cubits high and in length and breadth corresponding to the structure of the edifice.
6 All the buildings were characterised by a magnificence and costliness quite unprecedented.
7 It was obvious that no expense had been spared on the door and the fastenings, which connected it with the door-posts, and the stability of the lintel.
8 The style of the curtain too was thoroughly in proportion to that of the entrance.
9 Its fabric owing to the draught of wind was in perpetual motion, and as this motion was communicated from the bottom and the curtain bulged out to its highest extent, it afforded a pleasant spectacle from which a man could scarcely tear himself away.
10 The construction of the altar was in keeping with the place itself and with the burnt offerings which were consumed by fire upon it, and the approach to it was on a similar scale.
11 There was a gradual slope up to it, conveniently arranged for the purpose of decency, and the ministering priests were robed in linen garments, down to their ankles.
12 The Temple faces the east and its back is toward the west.
13 The whole of the floor is paved with stones and slopes down to the appointed places, that water may be conveyed to wash away the blood from the sacrifices, for many thousand beasts are sacrificed there on the feast days.
14 And there is an inexhaustible supply of water, because an abundant natural spring gushes up from within the temple area.
15 There are moreover wonderful and indescribable cisterns underground, as they pointed out to me, at a distance of five furlongs all round the site of the temple, and each of them has countless pipes so that the different streams converge together.
16 And all these were fastened with lead at the bottom and at the sidewalls, and over them a great quantity of plaster had been spread, and every part of the work had been most carefully carried out.
17 There are many openings for water at the base of the altar which are invisible to all except to those who are engaged in the ministration, so that all the blood of the sacrifices which is collected in great quantities is washed away in the twinkling of an eye.
18 Such is my opinion with regard to the character of the reservoirs and I will now show you how it was confirmed.
19 They led me more than four furlongs outside the city and bade me peer down towards a certain spot and listen to the noise that was made by the meeting of the waters, so that the great size of the reservoirs became manifest to me, as has already been pointed out.
20 The ministration of the priests is in every way unsurpassed both for its physical endurance and for its orderly and silent service.
21 For they all work spontaneously, though it entails much painful exertion, and each one has a special task allotted to him.
22 The service is carried on without interruption--some provide the wood, others the oil, others the fine wheat flour, others the spices; others again bring the pieces of flesh for the burnt offering, exhibiting a wonderful, degree of strength.
23 For they take up with both hands the limbs of a calf, each of them weighing more than two talents, and throw them with each hand in a wonderful way on to the high place of the altar and never miss placing them on the proper spot.
24 In the same way the pieces of the sheep and also of the goats are wonderful both for their weight and their fatness.
25 For those, whose business it is, always select the beasts which are without blemish and specially fat, and thus the sacrifice which I have described, is carried out.
26 There is a special place set apart for them to rest in, where those who are relieved from duty sit.
27 When this takes place, those who have already rested and are ready to resume their duties rise up spontaneously since there is no one to give orders with regard to the arrangement of the sacrifices.
28 The most complete silence reigns so that one might imagine that there was not a single person present, though there are actually seven hundred men engaged in the work, besides the vast number of those who are
occupied in bringing up the sacrifices.
29 Everything is carried out with reverence and in a way worthy of the great God.
30 We were greatly astonished, when we saw Eleazar engaged in the ministration, at the mode of his dress, and the majesty of his appearance, which was revealed in the robe which he wore and the precious stones upon his person.
31 There were golden bells upon the garment which reached down to his feet, giving forth a peculiar kind of melody, and on both sides of them there were pomegranates with variegated flowers of a wonderful hue.
32 He was girded with a girdle of conspicuous beauty, woven in the most beautiful colours.
33 On his breast he wore the oracle of God, as it is called, on which twelve stones, of different kinds, were inset, fastened together with gold, containing the names of the leaders of the tribes, according to their original order, each one flashing forth in an indescribable way its own particular colour.
34 On his head he wore a tiara, as it is called, and upon this in the middle of his forehead an inimitable turban, the royal diadem full of glory with the name of God inscribed in sacred letters on a plate of gold . . . having been judged worthy to wear these emblems in the ministrations.
35 Their appearance created such awe and confusion of mind as to make one feel that one had come into the presence of a man who belonged to a different world.
36 I am convinced that any one who takes part in the spectacle which I have described will he filled with astonishment and indescribable wonder and be profoundly affected in his mind at the thought of the sanctity which is attached to each detail of the service.
37 But in order that we might gain complete information, we ascended to the summit of the neighboring citadel and looked around us.
38 It is situated in a very lofty spot, and is fortified with many towers, which have been built up to the very top, of immense stones, with the object, as we were informed, of guarding the temple precincts, so that if there were an attack, or an insurrection or an onslaught of the enemy, no one would be able to force an entrance within the walls that surround the temple.
39 On the towers of the citadel engines of war were placed and different kinds of machines, and the position was much higher than the circle of walls which I have mentioned.
40 The towers were guarded too by most trusty men who had given the utmost proof of their loyalty to their country.
41 these men were never allowed to leave the citadel, except on feast days and then only in detachments, nor did they permit any stranger to enter it.
42 They were also very careful when any command came from the chief officer to admit any visitors to inspect the place, as our own experience taught us.
43 They were very reluctant to admit us--though we were but two unarmed men--to view the offering of the sacrifices.
44 And they asserted that they were bound by an oath when the trust was committed to them, for they had all sworn and were bound to carry out the oath sacredly to the letter, that though they were five hundred in number they would not permit more than five men to enter at one time.
45 The citadel was the special
protection of the temple and its founder had fortified it so strongly that it might efficiently protect it.