The beginning of the circumference was from 'the sheep-gate.' That, we suppose, was seated on the south part, yet but little removed from that corner, which looks south-east. Within was the pool of Bethesda, famous for healings.
Going forward, on the south part, was the tower Meah: and beyond that, "the tower of Hananeel": in the Chaldee paraphrast it is, 'The tower Piccus,' Zechariah 14:10; Piccus, Jeremiah 31:38.--I should suspect that to be, the Hippic tower, were not that placed on the north side, this on the south. The words of Jeremiah are well to be weighed; "The city shall be built to the Lord, from the tower of Hananeel to the gate of the corner. And a line shall go out thence, measuring near it to the hill of Gareb, and it shall go about to Goath. And all the valley of dead carcasses, and of ashes, and all the fields to the brook Kidron, even to the corner of the horse-gate on the east, shall be Holiness to the Lord," &c.
The hill of Gareb:--not that Gareb certainly, where the idol of Micah was, [Judges 17] concerning which the Talmudists thus; "R. Nathan saith, From Gareb to Shiloh were three miles, and the smoke of the altar was mixed with the smoke of Micah's idol":--but, as Lyranus, not amiss, "The mount of Calvary."
Goathah: the Chaldee, 'the calves' pool,' following the etymology of the word, from bellowing. Lyranus, Golgotha.
The valley of carcasses and ashes. The Chaldee paraphrast and the Rabbins understand this of the place where the army of the Assyrians perished: nor very subtily; for they seem to have perished, if so be they perished near Jerusalem, in the valley of Tophet, or Ben-Hinnom, Isaiah 30:33. And Jeremiah speaks of that valley, namely, the sink and burying-place of the city,--a place, above all others that compassed the city, the most foul and abominable: foretelling that that valley, which now was so detestable, should hereafter be clean, and taken into the compass of the city: but this mystically, and in a more spiritual sense. Hence we argue, that "the tower of Hananeel" was on the south side of the city: on which side also was the valley of Ben-Hinnom; yet bending also towards the east: as the valley of Kidron bent from the east also towards the north. It will be impossible, unless I am very much mistaken, if you take the beginning of that circumference in Nehemiah, for the corner looking north-east, which some do,--to interpret these words of Jeremiah in any plain or probable sense; unless you imagine that which is most false,--that the Valley of Hinnom was situate northwardly.
Nehemiah 3:3: The Seventy render it by, The fish-gate. That was also southward. Of it mention is made, Zephaniah 1:10; where the Seventy have something obscure. Many conjecture this gate was called the 'Fish-gate,' because fish were carried into the city through it: I rather, because it was the 'fish-market': as the Sheep-gate was the market for sheep. Zephaniah addeth, "And he shall howl from the second." The Chaldee reads; R. Solomon, 'from the Bird-gate': perhaps the gate, near unto which fowls were sold. Kimchi reads, 'from Ophel'; more plain indeed,--but I ask, whether more true? This Bird-gate perhaps was that which is called the Old-gate, Nehemiah 3:6.
Near the corner, looking south-west, we suppose, the fountain of Siloam was; and that, partly, being persuaded by the words of Josephus before alleged,--partly, being induced to it by reason itself. For hence flowed that fountain by the south wall eastwardly to the Sheep-gate, as we suppose; thence the river, somewhat sloping, bends towards the north into the valley, and ends, at length, in the pool of Siloam, at the foot of mount Sion.
On the west was, 1. "The gate of the valley," verse 13, being now gotten to the foot of mount Acra. And, 2. A thousand cubits thence, "The Esquiline, or Dung-gate," verse 14. And, 3. "The Fountain-gate," verse 15; not that of Siloam, nor of Draco; but another.
And now we are come to the pool of Siloam, and to the foot of Sion, whither they went up by certain steps, verse 15. The pool of Siloam was first a fountain, and a river, on the west, without the walls: but at last, Manasseh the king enclosed all, 2 Chronicles 33:14, that the city might be more secured of water, in case of a siege: taught it by the example of his grandfather Hezekiah, but more incommodious, 2 Chronicles 32:3.
The wall went forward along "burying-places of David, another pool, and the House of the strong," verse 16. And, not much after it, bended eastwardly.--And now we are come to the north side. See verses 19, 20.
At the turning of this corner, Herod built the most famous Pspehin tower, of which Josephus thus; "On the north-west corner, the admired Psephin tower lifts up itself, near which Titus encamped," &c.
There was no gate on this north side. The buildings, which were inward, are mentioned, Nehemiah 3:20-24; and the Hippic tower is mentioned by Josephus.
On the east were, 1. A tower, advancing itself in the very bending of the north-east corner. Within was the 'King's House,' and the court of the prison, verse 25. 2. The Water-gate, of which is mention, Nehemiah 12:37. 3. Ophel, and the Horse-gate, Nehemiah 3:27,28; of which mention is also made, Jeremiah 31:40. Whence was the beginning of the valley of Ben-Hinnom: which, running out below the city southward, at last bent into the west. Therefore, the Water-gate led into the valley of Kedron: but the Horse-gate into the valley of Hinnom, at that place touching on the valley of Kedron. 4. The Gate Miphkad: the Vulgar calls it, The Gate of Judgment. 5. Not far distant thence was the south-east corner. And thence a little on the south side was the Sheep-gate, whence we first set out.
Let us add the words of Josephus, describing how the outmost wall went. "It began on the north at the Hippic (or horse) tower, and extended to the Xystus (or open gallery); then touching upon the Council-0house, it ended at the east walk of the Temple. On the other side, westwardly, beginning from the same tower, it stretched along by a place called Bethos, to the gate of the Essenes; and thence it inclined to the south behind the fountain Siloam: and hence it bowed again eastwardly unto Solomon's pool, and passed on to a certain place, which they call Ophla, and joined to the east walk of the Temple."
In which words let us observe two things for the asserting the procession that we have gone:--1. That this description proceeds from the north to the west, the south, and the east. 2. That Ophla, or Ophel, lay between the south-east corner and the porch of the Temple; which cannot at all be conceived, if you begin Nehemiah's delineation at any other place than where we have. To these may be added, the situation of Siloam, of which those things, spoken in Josephus and the Scripture, can in no manner be said, if you reckon it to be near Sion.
Let us add also the processions of the choir, Nehemiah 12:31. They went up upon the wall, and went forward on the right hand to the Dung-gate, the Fountain-gate, the city of David, &c. verse 37. Let those words, "They went forward on the right hand," verse 31, be observed: which could not be, unless according to the procession which we have laid down,--if so be they went up on the wall on the inside of the wall, which it is rough and strange not to think.
The other part of the choir went on the left hand, towards the south west, and to the gate of Ephraim, and the Old-gate, and the Fish-gate, &c. verse 29. Of the gate of Ephraim nothing was said in the delineation given chapter 3. Mention also is made of it, 2 Kings 14:13; where the Corner-gate is also spoken of; concerning which, also, here is nothing said.
In Nehemiah, seems to be understood that place, where formerly was a gate of that name,--but now, under the second Temple, was vanished.