Temple Worship - practical question

Over the many years of its use, thousands of animals were slaughtered in the Jerusalem Temple. Has anybody ever heard a reasonable explanation of how it was cleaned? If it wasn’t it would have become infested with stench, disease, rodents, insects, etc. I’ve never heard the cleanup discussed, particularly in view of the fact that only the high priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies.

Inquiring minds want to know!

That’s a great question. I’ll admit that I don’t know the answer to most of it, although I’ll point out that the Levites may well have had something to do with it. What is likely is that the prevalence of incense used at sacrificial services across the whole ancient Near East is almost certainly a way of dealing with the smell. Strong frankincense would be pretty much the only thing available in those days to mask the very, very strong smell of blood and animals.

All of the offerings were burnt. I imagine that. They burned the offerings to ash and coal and then shoveled them out with the coals from the fire.

The animals were not sacrificed inside of the Holy of Holies. The altar was outside of the Holy of Holies.


Leviticus actually provides some clues. There are instructions for dumping parts of the animals that weren’t burned, etc. And as TimothyH pointed out, the Holy of Holies wasn’t used for animal sacrifices. Nor was the “Holy Place.” Animal sacrifices were done in the outer court. The Levites would have been in charge of cleanup. I’m sure that their standards of hygiene weren’t ours, and in fact one reason incense was used was to cover up bad smells. But I’m not sure why you’re assuming that there was no cleanup.

Many of the botanicals used in incense and anointing oils (e.g., frankincense, myrrh, etc) also have antiseptic properties. The burning of the offerings along with the incense and oils used, helped kill bacteria. I’m certain the Levites kept the temple clean.

I wrote to a rabbi, and got this answer, “There was built in drainage system and running water.”

Maybe, but what about all the sprinkled blood in the Holy of Holies, as in 2 or 300 years of sprinkled blood?

Indeed there was, at least in the Second Temple.

There is, in fact, a rather famous (if somewhat spurious) legend from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD that says that after the Romans carted off the temple implements and set fire to the Temple that the heat from the fire melted the gold and silver remaining on the Temple Mount and that the Romans tore up the whole area in an attempt to reclaim the precious metals from the sewers underneath the Temple Mount.

Thus was fulfilled our Lord’s prophecy regarding the Temple Mount in Mark 13 that “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

It’s also worth noting that this extensive sewer system features prominently, as I understand it, in the traditional explanation for the Ethiopian Orthodox claim to be in possession of the Ark of the Covenant.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.