Sing: Lord, Speak to Me, UMH 463
The Temple Mount is a massive masonry platform occupying the southeast corner of Jerusalem’s Old City and has sacred connections for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All three of these Abrahamic faiths regard it as the location of Mount Moriah, where Abraham prepared to offer his son Isaac (or Ishmael in the Muslim tradition) to God. For Jews, this is where their Temple once stood. For Christians, this is where Jesus once taught and prayed. For Muslims, this is al Haram al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), Islam’s third holiest site.
Israel’s King Solomon built the first Temple around 950 BC on the traditional site of Mount Moriah. His father, King David, had purchased a Jebusite threshing floor and “then he built an altar for the Lord” some forty years earlier. Solomon built the Holy of Holies on the high point of Mount Moriah and raised a platform, 861 feet square, around that point to provide room for the temple’s outer rooms and courtyards around the temple. Solomon’s Temple stood for about 360 years until invading Babylonians destroyed it and took most of the Jews into exile. Fifty years later the Jews were allowed to return from Babylon. They rebuilt the Temple, completing it in 515 BC.
The Temple Jesus knew was remodeled by Herod (the Great) in a project he began around 20 BC. Although the Temple had already been rebuilt once, Herod’s Temple is still known in Jewish tradition as the Second Temple. Herod began his grandiose project by extending the Temple Mount on the north, south, and west to create a vast platform supported by a retaining wall of huge limestone blocks. The expansion, which nearly doubled the previous area to approximately 37 acres, involved burying several structures, including Solomon’s palace. Herod’s Temple (and everything else built on top of the temple platform) was totally destroyed when the Roman army took Jerusalem in 70 AD as part of the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). After the Third Jewish-Roman War (also called the Bar Kokhba Revolt, 132-136 AD) the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem and the city was rebuilt as a Roman colony and the Temple Mount became a wasteland.
Arab Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century and converted the Temple Mount into an Islamic sanctuary. They cleared the rubbish and erected the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Muslims consider the entire Temple Mount to be a mosque and a holy place behind only Mecca and Medina in reverence.
This is another place that I had long wanted to visit – the Temple Mount of Jerusalem! Early morning was the perfect time to be here – so few people and so peaceful. It is too bad that we could not go into these two places of worship.