In writing the letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul contrasts the Israelites with “strangers.” There was a “wall,” he said, that “fenced” the two groups off from each other. (Ephesians 2:11-15) Paul was referring to “the Law of commandments” given through Moses, but his use of the word “wall” might have reminded readers of a stone barrier that really existed.
In the first century C.E., Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem had a number of courtyards with restricted access.
Anyone could enter the Court of the Gentiles, but entry into any of the temple’s courtyards was restricted to Jews and proselytes. Separating the reserved areas from those accessible to all was the Soreg, an elaborate stone balustrade, said to be about four feet [1.3 m] high. According to first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, inscriptions in Greek and Latin were posted on this barrier, warning Gentiles not to cross it so as not to set foot within the holy precincts.
One complete Greek inscription from this partition wall has been recovered. It reads: “Let no foreigner enter inside of the barrier and the fence around the sanctuary. Whosoever is caught will be responsible for his death which will ensue.”
Paul apparently used the Soreg to represent the Mosaic Law covenant, which had long separated Jews and Gentiles. The sacrificial death of Jesus abolished the Law covenant and thus “destroyed the wall in between.”