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Journal Article

Bet Ha-Mesibah in the Temple Scroll and in the Mishnah / 'המסיבה' או 'בית המסיבה' של המקדש

יצחק מגן and I. Magen
Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies / ארץ-ישראל: מחקרים בידיעת הארץ ועתיקותיה
Vol. יז‎, A.J. BRAWER MEMORIAL VOLUME / ספר אברהם יעקב ברור‎ (1983 / תשמ"ד), pp. 226-235
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23619506
Page Count: 10
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Abstract

The Hebrew architectural term mesibah appears in the Temple Scroll and in two tractates of the Mishnah (Middot and Tamid) in the description of the Temple and its associated buildings. According to the Temple Scroll (cols. 30—31), the Bet ha-Mesibot was a square building measuring 20×20 cubits, located at the northwestern corner of the Temple; within it, a spiral staircase winding around a central pillar ascended to the entrance of the upper level. This description calls to mind an architectural form well known in the Greco-Roman world — the staircase-tower. This appears in the 2nd century BCE at Araq el-Amir and in Egypt; its fully developed form is seen in Nabatean architecture and in various temples of the Roman period in Syria and Lebanon. It also appears in theatres, gateways and private homes. Accordingly, one of the earliest examples of a staircase-tower was to be found in the Temple in Jerusalem, from the late 2nd century BCE. In contrast to the description of the Bet ha-Mesibot in the Temple Scroll, the references in the Mishnah are less clear. According to Middot and Tamid, there were three different mesibot: (a) one ascending from the chamber of the madiḥin to the roof of lishkat ha-parwah (Middot 5:3); (b) another leading from Bet ha-Moked to Antonia, which was somehow connected with the Tadi gate (Tamid 1:1; Middot 1:8,9); and (c) a third, of the Temple (Middot 4:5) — which Yadin compares with the one described in the Temple Scroll. In the light of the description in the Temple Scroll, and the conclusions concerning the Mishnaic references to two additional mesibot, as well as a reappraisal of the verse dealing with the Temple mesibah, it can be shown that this last mesibah, too, was actually a staircase encircling a pillar, giving access to the roof of the building for those charged with maintaining the Holy-of-Holies. The Temple Scroll and the Mishnah describe the mesibah in an identical manner, as a staircase-tower. The importance of the Temple mesibah lies in its being the only means of access to the Holy-of-Holies, besides that used by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

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