An eagle-eye view of the Temple Mount
The Temple Mount is without a doubt the most important piece of real estate on the face of the earth. This tiny plot of land overlooking the Kidron Valley was certainly chosen in the mind of God before the world began. In fact, ancient Jewish traditions tell us that the Temple Mount was the place of the creation of the first man, Adam. When Abraham, the progenitor of the Hebrew race first set foot on the Promised Land, there was already a priest serving the true God in the vicinity of this mount. He was the mysterious Melchizedek, king of Salem. Melchizedek’s name meant “King of Righteousness.” He was the king of Salem (King of Peace), one of the names by which Jerusalem was called in ancient times.
Abraham must have instantly grasped the significance of this mysterious person and of the equally mysterious place he represented, for the patriarch gave him a tithe, or a tenth of all the spoils of his great victory over the Babylonian kings. It must have seemed strange to Abraham that in a day when genealogies were of great significance, this man had no genealogy. Later, David picked up this interesting point and applied it to the coming Messiah, who would be both king and priest; who would be “King of Righteousness” and “King of Peace,” without beginning of days or end of years. David said, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek'” (Psa. 110:4).
Some years later, the patriarch was called upon by God to sacrifice his son. We read that he went a three day journey from Beersheva to the land of Moriah (pronounced Mor-ee-ah) and there he prepared for the sacrifice. We know how the angel of the Lord appeared to him at that moment and spared the boy. Abraham learned much about redemption that day and about the nature of the place of this sacrifice. The Bible says, “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Gen. 22:14 KJV). Jewish tradition affirms that this mountain of sacrifice was none other than the Temple Mount. To this day the Temple Mount is called “Moriah.” In that mountain, Abraham was allowed to see a picture of the coming sacrifice or provision in God’s Messiah (Jn. 8:56).
Many years later, a young lad by the name of Jacob wearily stumbled along his journey. He stopped just a few short miles north of the present Temple Mount. As he laid his head upon a rock and went to sleep, he had a vision of a ladder which reached to heaven. The lad awoke in fear and trembling and exclaimed, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17). I used to take many walks around the hillside where we lived on Jerusalem’s southern edge. It was always a delight when the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount come into view. I can remember that I would almost shudder just like Jacob did. Truly, this is the house of God – this is the gate of heaven!
Later on in Israel’s history, as the people were wandering in the wilderness, Moses spoke by revelation of this special place. He said, “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance— the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.” (Exo. 15:17).
Many years after the children of Israel were settled in the land of Canaan, David and his men at last took the stronghold of the Jebusites, or ancient Jerusalem. Later in his life he purchased from Araunah the Jebusite the very threshing floor where the great temple would later stand (2 Sam. 24:18-25). The king then built an altar to the true God on
Some years later David’s son, King Solomon, built the majestic temple to God. When the structure was finished, the glory of the Lord descended upon it (2 Chron. 5:14). Then the Lord appeared to Solomon and spoke these words: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (1 Ki. 9:3).
Throughout the scripture many things are spoken of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. It is said that this mount is God’s resting place forever; and a place in which he dwells (Psa. 132:14; Psa. 9:11). We are told that his foundations are there (Psa. 87:1); that will put his name there (1 Ki. 14:21); and that it is to be called his holy mountain (Zech. 8:3). We are also told that God’s throne is there (Jer. 3:17); that he will rule over all nations from this mount (Psa. 2:6-9).
For these and many other reasons, the Lord challenges us to pray and request the good of Jerusalem (Psa. 122:6). We are challenged not to forget her (Psa. 137:5); and to literally “give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (Isa. 62:7).
DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE
With all the beautiful promises in scripture, it was quite unthinkable to the Jewish people that the temple would ever be destroyed, and yet the unthinkable happened. In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Many of the inhabitants were carried away to spend seventy years in Babylonian captivity. In the days of Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah, some of the captives were allowed to return and rebuild the city and the temple. The rebuilding of the temple was done in perilous times, and the structure had little of the magnificence of the temple built by Solomon. When some of the older men saw the new temple they wept tears of disappointment (Ezra 3:12).
Many centuries later this new temple (second temple) received a face lift. Herod, king of the Jews, and master builder, renovated it and brought it again into some of the magnificence it had boasted in earlier years. The work of this renovation began in 19 BC and continued until AD 64. Unfortunately, it was an exercise in futility. The beautiful temple was completely destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. It was so thoroughly destroyed that one stone was not left upon another, in exact fulfillment of the prediction made by Jesus in Matthew 24:2.
It is reputed that the destruction of both the first temple, and the second temple many centuries later, happened on the same day of the Hebrew calendar, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’ Av). This day has come to be a day of mourning for the Jewish people. They mourn for their beautiful temple, as well as for the other disasters which have strangely befallen them on this same day.
The nations of Babylon and Rome no doubt rejoiced at their great triumphs. In Rome, on the Arch of Titus, the victory over the Jews is engraved. Still today the menorah, and certain temple items which were carried away to Rome, can be seen represented on this arch. The nations rejoiced because they did not understand what they were doing. In the Talmud there is this statement; “If the nations of the world had only known how much they needed the temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses to protect it…” (Bamidbar Rabbah 1,3).
There are many scriptures which indicate that the temple will be rebuilt once more. From what we can gather in the Bible it will probably be rebuilt again in times of trouble. The Apostle Paul tells us that unfortunately, it will be the “man of lawlessness” who “sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4).
STRUGGLE OVER THE MOUNT
There is one thing about which we can be absolutely certain: The Middle East conflict which has been raging now for well over a hundred years, and which has roots thousands of years old, will ultimately focus upon Jerusalem and then upon the Temple Mount. It is not in essence a struggle over Gaza, Palestinian rights, a just peace, or anything else. At the heart of it all is an incredible spiritual struggle over the one place in the world where God has chosen to establish his throne. Satan will use every political means on earth in seeking to unseat God. He will finally enlist all the nations in a vain attempt to move the rock (Zech. 12:3). However, we know from scripture that the rock, Mount Zion, will not be moved forever (Psa. 125:1).
JOY OF THE WHOLE EARTH
The Temple Mount is said to be “the joy of the whole earth” (Psa. 48:2). Many of the earth’s inhabitants do not yet realize this, but they soon will. The covering, or veil that has blinded the nations will be removed in Zion according to the word of the Lord (Isa. 25:7). Then the Lord will be seen from this mount (Psa. 50:2). We are told that the glory of the Lord will so shine from Mount Zion that “The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed” (Isa. 24:23). We are told that “The wolf and the lamb will feed together” on this hill, and that “‘They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the
LORD” (Isa. 65:25).
We are told that the kings of the earth will come to this mount bringing presents (Psa. 68:29). We are told: “‘From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me, ‘says the LORD” (Isa. 66:23). We also know that God will give the gift of eternal life from this hill (Psa. 133:3); and that finally he will rule from this mount over all the nations of earth.
In light of all this, the Bible gives us a challenge and a wonderful promise when it says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance” (Isa. 66:10-11).
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem (original publication date, 1994).
Picture credit Wikimedia Commons