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Posts Tagged ‘Babylonians’

Muband/Wikimedia Commons

For those who love puzzles, the last piece to fit in is victory, completion, rest. And at the end of this section, Part 3, my case will rest. Fortunately the puzzle of Jerusalem is of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, for after all, we can’t all be right! Of far more significance is the coming Kingdom of God that Jesus alluded to when he said My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36)

If we have chosen him, above all others, and above all else, we are his  subjects now, but he was speaking of a kingdom in the future, which we know very little about. Most of us can’t see into the future, but we do have the privilege of looking back, through the eyes of those who lived before us, and wrote it down. What a treasure are the ancient holy books; and not only those, but the priceless secular writings that over and over again support and confirm the veracity of scripture.

Once more we look at Jerusalem of old, the first settlement, on the southeast hill. That summit is still long and narrow, though today the northern section is substantially wider, having been filled in and added to a number of times over the years. The Jewish historian Josephus who lived in Jerusalem during the first century wrote that when Solomon built the first temple, “the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar . . . but when King Solomon had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on a bank cast up for it . . . in future ages the people added new banks, and the hill became a larger plain.” (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5, Section 1, Paragraph 184-185)

It is here that Josephus’ translator, Whiston, who lived one thousand and seven hundred years after the fact of the temple, totally discredits Josephus, a Jew who saw the temple with his own eyes and lived contemporary with Jews whose business it was to hold sacred and safe the record of their heritage as the people of God! Whiston dares not alter the translation, but he casts aspersions on Josephus with a footnote, arguing that the wide and spacious Temple Mount is the correct location, and that Josephus is just plain wrong!

And how many historians, scientists, and religious leaders of today who are happy to take Josephus’ word on practically everything else want to find fault with him here . . . refusing to accept that the “plain” upon which the temple was built was very skimpy, so much that a bank had to be cast up for a cloister? Josephus had no axe to grind, no reason to make such a statement were it not so. I am convinced the words of Josephus settle the issue as to the non-location of the temple.

Unknown Artist’s Rendering of the Temple
Public Domain

Solomon was seven years building the first temple. At its dedication the Bible tells us that the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice and a dense cloud of glory filled the temple (First Kings 8:10) insomuch that the priests were unable to carry on their functions. And when Solomon had made an end of praying the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. (Second Chronicles 7:1-2) These words seem far fetched and fantastic to lots of people, but for folks who have felt the unseen but very real presence of the Spirit of God, they are easy to believe.

Eventually, forgetting the Lord’s supernatural acts, many of the Jews turned away from God and his temple. Sometimes the ruling class, the kings and their officers and associates were the worst offenders. Even Solomon, when he was old, was lured away from the Lord by his many pagan wives, whom he sought to please. As the years passed intrigue developed; the northern tribes split off from Judah and Benjamin and began to worship golden calves. The rulers of the northern kingdom were basically apostates. Nor were the kings of Judah much better. However God continued to raise up prophets to whom people could turn for advice and direction. Some of the kings of Judah sought the Lord’s direction, obeyed his commandments, and obtained divine assistance in desperate times. One of these was Hezekiah, who lived about the eighth century BC. And he (Hezekiah) did what was right in the sight of the Lord. (Second Kings 18:3)

Hezekiah came to the throne of Judea at the age of twenty-five. His predecessor King Ahaz had worshiped heathen gods, even sacrificed his children to them, and had done very wickedly in his reign. As a result Judah had been invaded repeatedly, and a number of its citizens carried away captive by the neighboring countries. When Hezekiah came to the throne he found the house of the Lord (the temple) neglected and in disarray, dirty and filled with rubbish. Right away, in the first month of his reign, he assembled the Levites And said to them, hear me ye Levites, sanctify yourselves and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord and have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their back . . . Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem and he hath delivered them to trouble . . . Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel that his fierce wrath may turn from us . . . And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. It took the priests and eighteen Levites and their brethren of which we have no number, eight days to clean and sanctify the temple. For shame! (Second Chronicles 29:5-17)

Note that the rubbish was not taken far off, but to the brook Kidron. I can’t help wondering if the temple had been situated where the Dome of the Rock now stands, would they have bothered to carry the trash all the way to the brook Kidron — round trip to the spillway and return, what, a mile or more?

If you read my first post on the Puzzle of Jerusalem, you may recall a paragraph mentioning Hezekiah’s tunnel. Yes, this is the same Hezekiah who around 700 BC ordered the building of the underground water channel diverting the runoff of the Gihon spring from its exit in the Kidron valley to a pool within he city walls. Hezekiah did this in response to a forewarning of invasion by Sennacherib, king of Assyria. In addition to the rerouting of the water supply, the massive city walls were repaired and strengthened; shields and weapons were made and soldiers organized for war.

Hezekiah laid out the message before the Lord.
The Art Bible/Wikimedia Commons

And then: sure enough, before long the Assyrians were at the door. The king of Assyria dispatched a servant with a message to Hezekiah and the people of Judah. Here King Sennacherib made a fatal mistake in that his message spoke against the Almighty. The king’s message read: Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? (Second Kings 19:20-21) When Hezekiah received this message from the Assyrian king’s servant he went immediately to the temple and laid it out before the Lord, praying earnestly for deliverance from the Assyrians. In a little while Hezekiah received word from the prophet Isaiah that God had heard his prayer and that God himself would prevent the Assyrians from harming Jerusalem.

The angel of the Lord smites the Assyrians
Rubens/Wikimedia Commons

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred, four score and five thousand; and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed. (Second Kings 19:35-36) Oh! How marvelous are his works! He is the same today as he was in the days of Hezekiah. Pray that you will live to witness the things he will do in our time.

A hundred years more or less after this remarkable deliverance from the Assyrians, in the year 605, we find Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon has come to Judah, plundered the treasury, and taken certain of the nobility captive. This should not have surprised anyone and should have been a wake up, since the prophet Jeremiah had been warning them for more than twenty years that if they did not mend their ways they would find themselves ousted from their land and would spend seventy years in servitude to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 25:1-11) Jeremiah continued preaching, but his message fell on deaf ears. Then, in the winter of 598 BC Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and by spring had conquered the city. Many thousands of Jews were exiled to Babylon at that time. Later, in 588 BC the Babylonians again laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. The city was better fortified this time, but it was unable to outlast the Babylonians, who pounded away at them. Two and a half years later, starving and weakened to exhaustion, the city fell. The walls were breached, the temple was destroyed and the city lay in ruins. Those remaining citizens who had escaped with their lives were deported to Babylon. The prophet Micah had spoken truly. Be in pain, and labor to bring forth,  like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies. (Micah 4:10)

Over and over have we seen how God in his mercy sends prophets to his people. We would do well to heed them even in this day. Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

Nehemiah Surveys the Ruined Walls of Jerusalem
Dore/Wikimedia Commons

The day of the Jews’ redemption finally came. Nebuchadnezzar and his sons were no longer in power, having been defeated by the Persians. King Artaxerxes issued the decree: the Jews were free to go home. Zerubbabel led the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem; the year was 536 BC. But wouldn’t you know, there was opposition, there were delays;  the rebuilding of the temple would not be complete until twenty years later. Though a number of the Jews were eager to return to their mother country, many remained in Babylon. One of these was Nehemiah, the king’s cup bearer. Some time around 444 BC Nehemiah learned from a fellow Jew Haniah, who had been to Jerusalem and was just returning, that Jerusalem was still in a sad state of affairs. The people were in great affliction and reproach, Haniah said, and the city walls and gates which had been destroyed by the Babylonians a full century earlier still lay in ruins. (Nehemiah 1:2-3) Nehemiah was so moved by this report that he petitioned the king for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild. Soon afterwards we find Nehemiah riding a “beast” (probably a donkey), at night, surveying the ruins of Jerusalem and considering what to do first.

A Section of Hezekiah’s Wall Ian Scott/Wikimedia Commons

You will recall from the discussion of Hezekiah above that in preparation for a possible invasion by the Assyrians, the ancient city walls were repaired and strengthened. These were the original mid-slope Jebusite walls. They were very strong, being several feet thick. Nevertheless large sections of them had been toppled by the Babylonians. These were the walls that Nehemiah repaired. Sections of these massive walls are extant today. The Bible says it took fifty two days to repair the wall. (Nehemiah 6:15) During the whole of that time the other inhabitants of the land hindered the work at every opportunity and made plans to attack the workers. When Nehemiah heard of this he divided the men and the work continued, with half the people working on the wall and the other half standing guard with shields, spears, and bows. (Nehemiah 4:16)

When the repairs to the wall were done a great dedication processional was held, complete with musicians and singers, and with much pomp, ceremony and celebration. Jewish officials, the “princes” of Judah, priests and Levites and many others gathered in two great companies of them that gave thanks. (Nehemiah 12:31) Walking on top of the wall, these two companies of celebrants began on the west side of the city, one group going south and the other group going northward, with loud rejoicing and blowing of trumpets and much jubilation. The first group heading south passed the Dung gate, and then the Fountain gate and ended up on the east at the Water gate. That great archaeologist Benjamin Mazar identified the Water gate as that one nearest the Gihon spring. http://www.biblicalarchaeologytruth.com/the-water-gate.html The northbound group passed their several gates and ended at the Guard or Prison gate on the east. From there the two companies continued into the house of God. Also that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced: for God had made them to rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off. (See Nehemiah 12:31-43.)

This celebration at the dedication of the wall took place four hundred and some years before the birth of Christ. Except for Malachi’s prophecies, which date to this same era, the Old Testament section of the Bible — the sixty-six-book canon we are accustomed to — ends here.

We have covered many years in this three part series, touching on much of the history of Jerusalem in this puzzle we have been working on. And still have not solved, I might add! The compelling saga of this city and the land of Israel can not be true, and yet it is! To quote a modern saying, “You just can’t make this stuff up!”

My desire, when I began writing this treatise was to set forth in an easily understood format my opinion as to the location of Jerusalem’s temple(s). I think I have accomplished that. I hope in the process I have piqued someone’s curiosity about that One, greater than the temple that John wrote about, Jesus of Nazareth, the suffering Savior and the coming King.

end

 

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