The Talmud, by Joseph Barclay, , at sacred-texts.com
1. The altar was thirty-two cubits square. It ascended a cubit and receded a cubit. This was the foundation. It remains thirty cubits square. It ascended five cubits, and receded one cubit. This is the circumference. It remains twenty-eight cubits square. The place for the horns was a cubit on each side. It remains twenty-six cubits square. The place of the path for the feet of the priests was a cubit on each side. The hearth remains twenty-four cubits square. Rabbi Josh said, "at first it was only twenty-eight cubits square." It receded and ascended until the hearth remained twenty cubits square; but when the children of the captivity came up, they added to it four cubits on the north, and four cubits on the west, like a gamma it is said; and the altar was twelve cubits long by twelve broad, being a square. One might say it was only "a square of twelve" 1 as is said. Upon its four sides we learn that it measured from the middle twelve cubits to every side. And a line of red paint girdled it in the midst to separate the blood sprinkled above from the blood sprinkled below. And the foundation was a perfect walk along on the north side; and all along on the west, but it wanted in the south one cubit, and in the east one cubit. 2
2. And in the south-western corner were two holes as two thin nostrils, that the blood poured upon the western and southern foundation should run into them; and it commingled in a canal and flowed out into the Kidron.
3. Below in the plaster in the same corner there was a place a cubit square, with a marble tablet; and a ring fastened
in it. Through it they descended to the sewer and cleansed it. And there was a sloping ascent 1 to the south of the altar, thirty-two cubits long by sixteen broad. In its western side was a closet, where they put the birds unmeet for the sin-offering.
4. Either the stones of the sloping ascent, or the stones of the altar were from the valley of Bethcerem. 2 And they digged deeper than virgin soil, and brought from thence perfect stones over which iron 3 was not waved. For the iron defiles by touching. And a scratch defiles everything. In any of them a scratch defiled, but the others were lawful. And they whitewashed them twice in the year; once at the passover, and once at the feast of Tabernacles. And the Sanctuary (was whitewashed) once at the passover. The Rabbi said, "every Friday evening they whitewashed them with a mop on account of the blood." They did not plaster it with an iron trowel, "mayhap it will touch and defile." Since iron is made to shorten the days of man, and the altar is made to lengthen the days of man, it is not lawful, that what shortens should be waved over what lengthens.
5. And there were rings to the northern side of the altar, six rows of four each: though some say four rows of six each. Upon them the priests slaughtered the holy beasts. The slaughter-house was at the north side of the altar. And in it were eight dwarf pillars with a beam of cedar wood over them. And in them were fastened iron hooksthree rows to each pillar. Upon, them they hung up (the bodies), and skinned them upon marble tables between the pillars.
6. The laver was between the porch and the altar, but inclined more to the south. Between the porch and the altar were twenty two cubits, and there were twelve steps. The height of each step was half a cubit, and its breadth a cubita cubita cubita landing three cubitsa cubita
cubit and a landing three cubits. And the upper one a cubita cubit, and the landing four cubits. Rabbi Jehudah said, "the upper one a cubit,a cubit, and the landing five cubits."
7. The doorway of the porch was forty cubits high, and twenty broad. Over it were five carved oak beams. The lower one extended beyond the doorway a cubit on either side. The one over it extended a cubit on either side. It follows that the uppermost was thirty cubits; and between each one there was a row of stones.
8. And stone buttresses were joined from the wall of the sanctuary to the wall of the porch, lest it should bulge. And in the roof of the porch were fastened golden chains, upon which the young priests climbed up, and saw the crowns. As it is said, "And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen, the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord." 1 And over the doorway of the sanctuary was a golden vine supported upon the buttresses. Every one who vowed a leaf, or a berry, or a cluster, he brought it and hung it upon it. Said Rabbi Eleazar, the son of Zadok, "it is a fact, and there were numbered three hundred priests to keep it bright."
Our Beauty be upon Thee, O Altar.
260:1 Ezekiel xliii. 16.
260:2 As this corner would have been in the tribe of Judah, it was not added, that the whole altar might remain in the tribe of Benjamin. Gen. xlix. 27.
261:1 This sloping ascent to the altar was strewn with salt. This salt was brought from the mountain of Sodom at the south of the Dead Sea. The salt was intended to keep the priests from slipping and falling, which might easily happen, as they were obliged to minister barefooted. The coldness of the pavement in winter, and eating so much flesh of the sacrifices, brought various diseases on the priests.
261:2 House of the vineyard.
261:3 Deut. xxvii. 5.
262:1 Zechariah vi. 14.