Jerusalem and the Temple Mount

editor - 17 November 2016

By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. Jerusalem and the Temple Mount
“…But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in safety. Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for His name – there you shall bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and the special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD. And there rejoice before the LORD your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants…” (Deuteronomy 12:10-12). “…Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name… You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the LORD your God gives you except in the place He will choose as a dwelling for His Name. There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt…” (Deuteronomy 16:2, 5-6).


When Israel recaptured Jerusalem in 1967, the hearts of devout Jews began to beat faster. Would this be the moment that the Temple could be rebuilt, and if so, where? Of course many pious Jews said that the location must be Jerusalem, on top of Mount Zion, where the Temples of Solomon and of Zerubbabel stood! It would replace the Temple that was destroyed in history by the heathen nations of Babylon and Rome. But why should it be in Jerusalem? What is so special about Jerusalem and Mount Zion? What is unique about that small mountain, 800 metres above sea level, at the edge of the desert?


The name ‘Jerusalem’, which literally means ‘possession of peace’ is found more than eight hundred times in the Old and the New Testaments. Other names are used to refer to Jerusalem as well, including Ariel, City of God, City of David, City of Judah, Jebus, City of Righteousness, City of Truth, City of the Great King, Holy City, Faithful City, Salem and Zion. Some of these names only appear once, while others appear a couple of times, but the name ‘Zion’ appears more than 150 times. When the name ‘Zion’ is used in Scripture, it is used affectionately, passionately, intimately.


Let us see how Israel found out where this special place of God would be. It was a long time before Israel took Jerusalem, and realized that this was the place where God would make His Name dwell. It was hundreds of years after entering the Promised Land that Israel found out where that place was that the Lord would choose. It all started with the promise the Lord made to Abraham, the promise about a land, a nation and a blessing. Genesis 12:1-3: “…The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’…” (Genesis 12:1-3). This is the basic Covenant that God made with this forefather of Israel, and the cornerstone of all the following Covenants as well. In later meetings with Abraham, more details of this Covenant were revealed.


“…On that day the LORD made a Covenant with Abraham and said: ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the River of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites’…” (Genesis 15:18-21).


So God did not promise an empty land to Abraham, but one inhabited by various peoples. One of these, the Jebusites, lived in Jerusalem. Joshua and the people of Israel had to be ‘strong and courageous’, and place the soles of their feet upon the Promised Land, as the Lord had said seven times (Deuteronomy 31:6, 7, 23; Joshua 1:3, 6, 7, 9, 18), and then the Lord would give the land to Israel. Those people had to be strong and courageous and walk in faith. In the process of going, they would experience the generosity of the Lord and the truthfulness of His promises. The land was inhabited by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites. So it was not an empty land!


Did the Lord Himself arrange that those peoples would willingly move on before Israel took possession of the Promised Land? On the contrary, Israel had to conquer the Promised Land. In order to achieve that objective Moses’ successor, Joshua, under whose leadership the people of Israel would enter the land after wandering in the desert for forty years, had to be strong and very courageous. Many times he and the people of Israel were told: “…I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses…” (Joshua 1:3). This promise meant that Joshua had to be courageous himself, to go in faith and put down the soles of his own feet. Faith is like that. If you have a vision, andyou know in faith that you are called by God to do something, then go out in faith and obedience. And in the going, you will find that you will possess ‘the land’, and that God will fulfill His promise and make you realise your calling. But you have to do it yourself. It will not just be tossed into your lap like a birthday-present. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going!


After entering the Promised Land, and conquering enemy strongholds like Jericho and Ai, Joshua and the Israelites also planned to conquer Jerusalem. Then Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem, joined forces with five kings of the Amorites to fight the people of Gibeon, who had escaped conquest by Joshua through making a treaty with Israel (Joshua 9). The five kings tried to conquer Gibeon, but Joshua defeated them. The Lord fulfilled His promise to give the enemies into the hands of the Israelites. Sun and moon stood still, stones fell from the sky (‘barad’, probably means hot stones or meteorites, not hailstones of ice) and Joshua won the battle (Joshua 10). Although he killed the five kings, including that of Jerusalem, we read in Joshua 10:22-27 that apparently he did not conquer the city itself. “…Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day (the writer of the book of Joshua says) the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah…” (Joshua 15:63). And that, apparently, remained the case for the next couple of hundred years or so. This is remarkable. Although Israel conquered the Promised Land and divided it among the twelve tribes they did not obtain Jerusalem! We have to wait until David became king over Israel, after the death of Saul.


In 2 Samuel 5:6-10 and 1 Chronicles 11:4-9, we read how finally the Jebusites were overcome. “…The king [David] and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites (who apparently were still full of confidence) said to David, ‘You will not get here; even the blind and lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David…” He used the water shaft to get in. “…David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years…” (2 Samuel 5:4-5).


Here we have a striking parallel with Israel’s current situation. Even now that there is the independent State of Israel, Jerusalem’s status is still hotly disputed. There are claims from the Palestinians, and from the Muslim Arab world for whom Jerusalem is their third holiest city. The Pope wants to ‘internationalise’ Jerusalem as a Holy City for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Meanwhile, the United Nations do not accept Israel’s decision, following the Six-Day-War in 1967, to make Jerusalem the undivided capital of the independent Jewish State of Israel! So we find that almost seventy years have already elapsed between the ‘conquest’ of the land and the definitive destiny of Jerusalem in the middle of Israel!


God’s choice of Mount Zion

What do we know about the historical location of the Temple? It is certain that Solomon built this Temple in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah. 2 Chronicles 3:1 says: “…Then Solomon began to build the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David…”


The site of the Temple, Mount Zion, and Mount Moriah are one and the same place. The link between the Temple and Mount Zion is particularly clear from 1 Maccabees 14:26, which states: “They wrote this [an account of the exploits of Simon Maccabee] on bronze tablets and applied them to the pillars on Mount Zion.” Verse 48 reiterates this: “They ordered that this decree should be inscribed on bronze tablets and set up in the Temple precinct in a prominent place.”This was the same Mount Moriah where Abraham had been prepared to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord, but instead God gave him a ram to sacrifice (Compare Romans 8:32). Genesis 22:2 and 9-14 say: “…Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about…’ …When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ He said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided’…”


So this was the mountain that Abraham had called “The LORD will provide, and to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided’…” (Genesis 22:14). Here the Lord provided Abraham with what he needed for body, soul and spirit, just as Melchizedek, the Priest-King of Salem, had provided Abraham with what he needed for body, soul and spirit. Mount Moriah is Mount Zion, the Temple Mount in the heart of Jerusalem. Grace characterises the site of the Temple. It was not a place where people provided for God’s needs, as so many temples of other gods appeared to do. It was the place where God provided for the needs of His people (1 Kings 8:31-53).


But why was the Temple situated there? Moses had referred to “…the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for His Name…” (Deuteronomy 16:2, 11, 15) making it clear that the location was to be chosen by God. Much time passed before the Lord made known His choice to king David, as reported by Solomon: “…Since the day I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a Temple built for My Name to be there, but I have chosen David to rule My people Israel. … My father David had it in his heart to build a Temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father, David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a Temple for My Name, you did well to have this in your heart. Nevertheless you are not the one to build the Temple, but your son who is your own flesh and blood – he is the one who will build the Temple for My Name. … [And now] I have provided a place there for the Ark, in which is the Covenant of the LORD, which He made with our fathers when He brought them out of Egypt’…” (1 Kings 8:16-21; 2 Samuel 7:1-17).


Solomon may have done the building, but David had made all the preparations, as he explained to Solomon: “…I have taken great pains to provide for the Temple of the LORD a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. … Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you…” (1 Chronicles 22:14-16).


David’s choice
David had identified the site where the Temple would be built. God chose by choosing David, the man after his own heart, and David made God’s choice. The Lord inspired David’s heart, and thus David’s choice became God’s choice. In Psalm 132, David had said: “…I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids; till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob…” (Psalm 132:4-5). Jerusalem was to be the city where the Lord chose to establish His Name (2 Chronicles 12:13). The mountain of His inheritance was the place that the Lord had chosen for His dwelling place (Exodus 15:17; 1 Kings 11:32, 11:36, 14:21). “…For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling. ‘This is My resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it’…” (Psalm 132:13-14). Psalm 132 clearly shows that the Lord, David and his descendants, Jerusalem, and the mountain (Zion/Moriah) are in an unbreakable relationship.


The threshing floor of Araunah
David knew that this was to be the place, because this was where the Angel had brought destruction to Israel through David’s sin. “…When the Angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the Angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’ The Angel of the LORD was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite… On that day Gad went to David and said to him, ‘Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. Araunah said, ‘Why has my lord the king come to his servant?’ ‘To buy your threshing floor,’ David answered, ‘so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.’ Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.’ Araunah also said to him, ‘May the LORD your God accept you.’ But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing…’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped…” (2 Samuel 24:16-25).


David did not simply seize or conquer the threshing floor, but he bought it from Araunah (or Ornan) the Jebusite. He paid fifty silver shekels for the whole area, but the place for the altar he bought for six hundred golden shekels. “…So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering…” (1 Chronicles 21:24-26). Only gold was good enough for the LORD, for it is this metal that represents the Glory of God. To buy property means that you become the legal owner. David as the king of Israel bought this piece of property. Probably a contract was made, signed and sealed. He did not occupy or conquer the place by military might. So from then onwards, Israel was the legal owner of Mount Zion, and they never sold it. It is their piece of real estate, with only one destiny, that the Name of the GOD of Israel would dwell in that place.


As we have seen, the LORD confirmed the choice of the site by allowing fire to descend from heaven: “…David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the LORD and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering…” (1 Chronicles 21:26). Moses had said that God would choose His own place to dwell. Through His servant David, God had chosen the city of Jerusalem and Mount Zion. And after the prayer of dedication by King Solomon, the LORD confirmed this by fire from heaven. 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 says: “…When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the Glory of the LORD filled the Temple. And the priests could not enter the House of the LORD, because the Glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the Glory of the LORD on the Temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever’…”


Destruction and rebuilding
David prepared – Solomon built – Nebuchadnezzar destroyed (2 Chronicles 36:19). After the Babylonian captivity, a second Temple was built by Zerubbabel (1 Chronicles 3:19; Ezra 2:2, 3:2, 8, 4:2-3). Little is known about this Temple, other than that it was built by decree: “…This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build a Temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah’…”(Ezra 1:2). Zerubbabel appears in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 1:12), and is mentioned by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah after the Babylonian exile (Haggai 1:1-2, 12-14; Zechariah 4:6-10). Haggai calls him a signet ring of the Lord (Haggai 2:23). The Temple built by Zerubbabel was much smaller and less beautiful than that of Solomon (Ezra 3:1), and there was no Ark in the Holy of Holies. There was therefore no mercy seat where the blood of the sacrifice could be sprinkled. Jewish tradition records that there was a stone in it, on which the high priest set incense on the Day of Atonement. Centuries later, Herod the Great constructed beautiful additions to this small Temple in an attempt to win favour with the Jewish population. These building activities had barely been completed when the Romans destroyed this Temple in AD 70.


According to some, a small Temple, with rituals and a high priest named Eleazar, was built in AD 132. This was during the time of Bar Kochba’s Jewish revolt against Emperor Hadrian, because this Roman Emperor had failed to keep his promise to rebuild the Temple. Although some say that Simon Bar Kochba did indeed build a small Temple, it was only used for a very short period of time. Already in AD 135, Hadrian had recaptured Jerusalem, destroyed the Bar Kochba Temple, and erected in its place a Roman Temple dedicated to Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva. The name of Jerusalem was changed to Aelia Capitolina, and it became a Roman fortress. At the same time, Hadrian changed the name of the land of Israel to Palestine.


Dreams of rebuilding the Temple revived under Emperor Julian the Apostate in AD 363. Funds and building materials were secured, but on May 19th, the day before building operations were to commence, there was a great earthquake. Underground gases exploded and the building materials were destroyed by fire, and thus the building project collapsed. Hope of rebuilding the Temple flared again under Empress Eudocia, who was married to Emperor Theodosius II, who himself lived in Jerusalem in AD 443. However it was to no avail. In AD 614 the Jews assisted the Persians in defeating Heraclius, a Christian Caesar, and were given permission to rebuild the Temple. The Persian king Chosroes II appointed a Jew with the name of Nehemiah(!) governor of the city, and history seemed to be about to repeat itself. Another Nehemiah, also with the permission of a Persian king, had in the past rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem! (Nehemiah 2:1-10). For a brief period (AD 614-617), the Jews enjoyed the favour of this Persian shah, but later (possibly in response to Christian pressure) he changed his mind, and the promised Temple was never built. Worse still, the Persians drove the Jews out of Jerusalem, and when Emperor Heraclius recaptured Jerusalem fifteen years later all hopes died, as he built an octagonal Church on the Temple Mount instead.

Rebuilding the Temple
Preparations for the rebuilding of the Temple today are in full swing in all kinds of Jewish organisations. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the Qumran caves in 1952 was a copper scroll, which interpreters maintain lists 64 places where Temple treasures are hidden or buried. Rabbi Goren insists that Temple artefacts are hidden deep under the Temple Mount. These treasures may even include the Ark of the Covenant, lost since the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. However, we must bear in mind our previous quote from Jeremiah 3:16: “…‘In those days, when numbers have increased in the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘men will no longer say, “The Ark of the Covenant of the LORD.” It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made’…”


The Institute of Talmudic Studies has already published more than twenty-five books about a new Temple. The Temple Faithful regularly try to lay the cornerstone for the new Temple, but are hindered by the Israeli authorities. A large number of Israelis with the appropriate genealogy are being instructed in priestly duties in yeshivas, the Jewish schools of learning. The Temple Institute has woven the prescribed priestly garments. Funds have been earmarked for the Temple. When the time comes, the building can be erected very quickly. And there are more Jewish organizations who are hoping for the rebuilding of the Temple. But all these attempts to me seem like attempts to rebuild the Second Temple. And I am not sure if that is what the Lord wants. According to Ezekiel 40-48 there will be a final Temple though. Just look at an amazing book by Chaim Clorfene (Author): The Messianic Temple: Understanding Ezekiel’s Prophecy.


On the website www.menorah-books.com one reads: “This book has been 2600 years in the making. More than 2414 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a future Temple that would bring peace and harmony to the world. And with the vision came the tradition that the key to building this Temple was to learn its design. But Ezekiel’s cryptic design was confusing even to the greatest of scholars. And so it was neglected and even suppressed down through the ages. It was almost as if Ezekiel had concealed the plan of this Temple until the time was right for it to be revealed. Now, the time has come.”


The everlasting Covenant with Jerusalem
Ezekiel 16:59-60, 62: ”…This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised My oath by breaking the Covenant. Yet I will remember the Covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting Covenant with you… So I will establish My Covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD’…”


At the beginning of this chapter, we see that in the book of Ezekiel the Lord addressed Jerusalem, but He was not simply talking to bricks, mortar and Jerusalem-stone. He was speaking collectively to ‘Zion’, the city, the land and the people – the divinely ordered unity. This ‘marriage Covenant’ with Jerusalem encompassed most of the other Covenants, such as the Abrahamic Covenant, the Covenant of the Law, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, the Covenant with Levi, and ultimately the New Covenant and the Covenant of Peace.


Isaiah 4:2-5: “…In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, will remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The LORD will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a Spirit of judgment and a Spirit of fire. Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; all over the Glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hidden place from the storm and the rain…”


The Shekinah Glory of the LORD dwelt in the Temple which was built by King Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). Ezekiel saw the Shekinah Glory of the Lord depart from the Temple shortly before the Babylonians destroyed it.


Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:22-23: “…Then the Glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the Temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s House, and the Glory of the God of Israel was above them… Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the Glory of the God of Israel was above them. The Glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it…” That mountain is the Mount of Olives. From that direction it will return to the Temple as the permanent presence of the Lord, the God of Israel, to dwell among His ancient covenant people. Ezekiel sees how the Glory of the Lord returns to the final Temple.


Ezekiel 43:1-7a: “…Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the Glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with His Glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when He came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The Glory of the LORD entered the Temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the Glory of the LORD filled the Temple. While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the Temple. He said: ‘Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place for the soles of My feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The people of Israel will never again defile My holy Name’…”


Psalm 132:13-14: “…For the LORD has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His dwelling, saying, ‘This is My resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it’…”


The book of Revelation tells us that the earthly reign of Messiah ben David in Jerusalem will last a thousand years. As the only place in the Bible (Revelation 20:4-5) where a time limit is placed on the Messianic Age on planet earth, it seems to be at odds with most of the prophecies in the Bible concerning the Messianic Kingdom, which emphatically tell us that it will be an everlasting Kingdom. But so it will be. Only, the theatre of the Messianic Kingdom will be moved from one stage to another. The Jerusalem Covenant goes so far as to link the earthly city with the heavenly city (Isaiah 65:17-19; Revelation 21). Isaiah tells us that in the New Jerusalem there will be no memory of the horror surrounding or associated with the previous city and the world in which it existed. The new heavens and the new earth will become the place of the eternal Messianic Kingdom. Just as the Abrahamic Covenant promised the Land of Israel and the earthly Jerusalem as the inheritance for all Jewish people for all times, whether they are living in the Land or in the Diaspora, the New Testament promised the heavenly Jerusalem as the eternal inheritance for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Hebrews 12:22-24, 13:14). That covers all those who are partakers of the New Covenant, whether they are Jew or Gentile.


Rev. Willem J. J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International
Honorary President European Coalition for Israel.

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