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Temple Mount

One of the most important sites to the monotheistic faiths, the Temple Mount houses the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

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Temple Mount

When King Solomon constructed his first Temple in Jerusalem, the hillside on which he did so became the most important cultic site of the monotheistic world, and is still reverenced by Jews and Muslims today. Solomon (960 - 900BCE) built the temple that David was not allowed to, using Phoenician craftsmen from the neighboring kingdom of Tyre (See the lengthy account of the process in 1 Kings). He also built a circular platform around the edge of the hill to hold the courtyards that encircled the cedar wood and bronze building, and the whole edifice was to have been the focus of Jewish worship forever. However, after his reign the Northern Kingdom declared autonomy, after which time the Temple was used by the tribes of Judea and Benjamin only.

 

In 586BCE the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians as Israelites continued to be trapped between warlike Southern and Northern empires. The inhabitants of Judea were killed or taken into exile (excepting the farmers). It was only after fifty years and the auspicious intervention of Persia, the new inheritors of imperial power, that they had the opportunity to return and rebuild the Temple, the thought of returning having sustained many of them during their exile (See Ezra and Nehemiah).

 

This hastily constructed Temple stood until the Hasmonaeans shored it up in 186BCE, but was pulled down by Herod the Great in 20BCE who began a brand new building that was only finished sixty years after his death. He also constructed a much larger square platform around the hill to allow the Gentiles to go there without profaning the sacred areas towards the temple itself, and it is this platform that is the "Temple Mount" to this day.

 

This temple was destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish revolt in 70AD, just six years after its completion. The platform was, however, allowed to remain and it became the basis for a temple to Jupiter in the new Hadrianic city of Aelia Capitolina, surviving until the Byzantine period when the area was turned into a rubbish dump, proving visibly to the recently pagan that God had turned his favor from Jew to Gentile Christian. Such was the state when Omar the first caliph marched triumphant into the city and, having forced the Christian Patriarch to crawl on his hands and knees from the Holy Sepulchre to the Mount as penance for desecrating it, built the Dome of the Rock where the temple had stood six hundred years previously.



From the Scriptures

Temple Mount

2 Samuel 24

18 And Gad came that day to David, and said to him, ”Go up, rear an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.“ 19 So David went up at Gad’s word, as the Lord commanded. 20 And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him; and Araunah went forth, and did obeisance to the king with his face to the ground. 21 And Araunah said, ”Why has my lord the king come to his servant?“ David said, ”To buy the threshing floor of you, in order to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be averted from the people.“ 22 Then Araunah said to David, ”Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.“ And Araunah said to the king, ”The Lord your God accept you.“ 24 But the king said to Araunah, ”No, but I will buy it of you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.“ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded supplications for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.

 

1 Kings 5

 1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father; for Hiram always loved David. 2 And Solomon sent word to Hiram, 3 “You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. 4 But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5 And so I purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set upon your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’ 6 Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me; and my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

 

 

The Book of Ezra

Chapter 1

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

 2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; 4 and let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.”


The Revised Standard Version, (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.) 1973, 1977.

 

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