Temple Mount, Jerusalem – Mount Moriah
The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, is on the top of Mount Moriah within the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel. Known as Har ha Bayit in Hebrew and haram al-sharif in Arabic, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and a significant site for Christianity. To the east is the Kidron Valley, and to the west is the Tyropoeon valley, now mostly filled in. The complex is shaped somewhat like a rectangle, but more specifically a trapezium, currently measuring about 488m on the west, 470m on the east, 315m on the north, and 280m on the south. Earlier versions of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem were smaller and shaped more like a square, but Herod the Great expanded it immensely.
Temple Mount, Jerusalem – History of the Jewish Temple
According to pottery finds at the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Jerusalem, there has been settlement on the Temple Mount area as far back as the Early Bronze Age—before 3000 BC, predating Abraham by over 1,000 years. When Abraham first visits this area, he meets Melchizedek, and the city is called Salem (Genesis 14:18). Only later does the name become Jerusalem, as is also attested by multiple ancient documents. In the Egyptian Execration Texts of the 19th century BC and the Ebla archives of the 23rd century BC, it is called Salem. By the time of the Amarna Letters in the 14th century BC the city is called Jerusalem.
After David conquered Jerusalem, God commanded him to build a permanent house of worship in Jerusalem instead of the temporary Tabernacle. Solomon, David’s son, finally completed the Temple in about 957 BC. Previously, it was a holy site, but this was the first of three Israelite Temples on the site, followed by a Roman temple, Christian churches, and Islamic mosques. The evidence for many of the earlier buildings is limited because of destructions, rebuilding, and because excavation on the Temple Mount is not currently allowed. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in about 586/587 BC by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II, then after Cyrus defeated Babylon, many of the exiles returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple under the governorship of Zerubbabel, completing it in about 516/517 BC (Ezra 3:8-13).
Temple Mount, Jerusalem – Location of the Jewish Temple
Evidence has been discovered that the Hasmoneans did some expansion of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem at the south end around the 2nd century BC. Herod then massively expanded the area beginning in about 23 BC, and continuing even after his death. Remnants from the Herodian period are easily seen, the most famous of these being the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall), where every Shabbat (Friday evening) Jews come to pray and celebrate. The Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD, and eventually erected a temple to Jupiter on the site. In about 325 AD, Helena had a church built called the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, but it was eventually destroyed by the Muslims and the Dome of the Rock was built in its place.
Many scholars believe the Jewish Temple was where the Dome of the Rock once stood, that the rock was in the Holy of Holies, and even that the rectangular indentations in the rock match the dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant. The Royal Porch was located on the southern end of the Temple Mount, and was lavishly decorated with 162 columns with Corinthian capitals, many of which have been found and placed in what is thought to be their original area. The Sanhedrin probably met in the Royal Porch beginning in the time of Jesus, where He stood in front of the high priest.
Temple Mount, Jerusalem – The Temple Periods
Evidence of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem at the time of Solomon’s United Kingdom is limited to small finds such as pottery and possible fragments of decoration from the Jewish Temple. Other interesting artifacts have been found from the period of the Divided Kingdom after Solomon, such as a bulla with the name Gedalyahu son of Immer the Priest, dated to about 600 BC, possibly a relative of Pashur Ben Immer, described in Jeremiah 20:1 as a priest and temple official. An important find from the Second Temple Period (after 515 BC before 70 AD) is a Hebrew inscription on a slab of stone from the southwest corner of the temple mount reading “to the trumpeting place.” Two Herodian era inscriptions were also discovered around the Temple Mount, warning signs in Greek and Latin that were placed on the barrier wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the courts in the Temple area reserved for Israel. The warnings read:
“No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the Holy Place; whoever is caught will be to blame for his subsequent death.”
Josephus mentions these warning signs (Antiquities 15.417-419), and Paul is accused of defiling the Temple because the Jews think he violated these signs when he brought a Greek into the Temple Mount area (Acts 21:27-29).
Josephus mentions what was probably the pinnacle of the temple where Satan told Jesus to jump in Matthew 4, and can still be seen today, minus the tower that stood on the edge, at the southeast edge of the Temple Mount.
“This cloister deserves to be mentioned better than any other under the sun; for while the valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen, if you looked from above into the depth, this farther vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon that height, insomuch that if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both those altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth.” (Josephus, Antiquities 15.412)
Even though the valley below is currently higher than it was in ancient times, the drop from the top of the wall to the valley is still immense. Add in the tower and the earlier depth of the valley, and the description in Josephus and Matthew 4 is very appropriate. In Luke 19:42-44, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple.
Temple Mount, Jerusalem – The Destruction of the Jewish Temple
In 70 AD under the Roman general and soon to be Emperor Titus Vespasian, the Romans besieged and destroyed Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. They pushed the building stones of the Jewish Temple off the Temple Mount, and leveled the area. Many of the ruins of this destruction can be seen today in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Compliments of Titus and our friends at Drive Thru History. Copyright 2010 – All rights reserved in the original.
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