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Posts Tagged ‘Jebusite’

It is the glory of the Lord to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Proverbs 25:2)

When I started my series of articles about the Hebrew people five years ago I thought it might take two articles to say the things I wanted to. My goodness! What a miscalculation. There have been seven and we are not finished yet.

I have attempted to give you a peek at the Old Testament history of the Jews. I have no qualifications to speak of, that you should listen to me. I just have a desire to communicate the story of these people, for it is the greatest story ever told.

Cuyp, Aelbert
Christ Riding into Jerusalem

Jesus was a Jew. His mother was a descendant of Abraham and his father the Creator of the universe. Yes! He was no ordinary man, but he was a man. He walked the streets of Jerusalem and the dirt roads of the countryside. He was a friend of sinners and political dissidents. He hung around with smelly fishermen as well as educated publicans. He dumbfounded priests, scholars and learned elders. And in the end he became the Lamb that took our place; he gave his blood for us; he took our punishment. Only he could do that, for he was sinless; we are not.

And it does matter. Heaven and hell are both real places. We need his provision of forgiveness for our sins, otherwise we are doomed to go to hell. We can never be good enough to earn our way into heaven, but he was and is good enough for all of us. His love for us is real, and our response to his love must be real also. It involves a true turning from what we used to be, a quality decision, made from the heart. It can’t be, Oh yes, I want that, and then tomorrow you have forgotten what you said you wanted.  Jesus said it himself, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father. (Matthew 7:21)

I can not emphasize enough that our turning to Jesus has to be genuine. Too often we have been told, “Just slip up your hand, or just come down to the front…” It is true that salvation is free; but more is involved than simply slipping up one’s hand or coming to the front. Jerry was saved as a child when he went to the front of the church, but he went under a powerful conviction that he was a sinner in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. There was a change in his life that day that has lasted seventy years — a change that began with genuine repentance for his childish sins.

It is the Lord’s will that we all choose him. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (Second Peter 3:9).  He offers us peace. Come unto me, he says to those who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest . . . learn of me . . . for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your soul. (Matthew 11:28-29) Rest is so much better than fear and uncertainty. Whoever comes to me, He says, I will never cast out. (John 6:37)

 . . . .

From time to time during the three years of his public ministry Jesus had occasion to be in the city of Jerusalem. Perhaps you know some of the stories — how he was so furious they were selling animals and exchanging monies in the temple that he took a whip and drove the merchants from the temple courtyard. He was no wimp, even if he was a gentle man! I would not want to incur his wrath. Maybe you know that he was a miracle worker: he healed sick people, blind people, even raised the dead. One time he rode into town on a donkey as people spread their cloaks and palm branches in the road before him, rejoicing and saying, Blessed is the king of Israel! (John 12:13) But he said My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) Nevertheless, he remains King of Kings in this world and the next.

James Tissot
Disciples Admire Buildings of the Temple

Once when they were in Jerusalem his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:1-2) The disciples were impressed with the magnificence of the temple and attendant structures. These were remarkable, for Herod had spared no expense in building this new temple, using costly materials and employing the finest artisans. But here is Jesus saying that not one stone will be left in its place, not one. This is an important statement and we find the same words repeated in the gospels of Mark and Luke — not one stone left upon another.

And in addition,  there is a very ominous warning in Luke: And when he (Jesus) was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)

The Romans attacked Jerusalem in 70 AD, and very soon all of Jewish Jerusalem was in ruins, including the whole of the splendid temple that Herod had built. Scavengers dug to the bedrock in various places, seeking melted gold and valuables. The toppled stones were eventually recycled into other building projects until what had been the city of Jerusalem was unrecognizable. So complete was the destruction that in time the hill where the temple and attendant buildings had stood was plowed for crops. The only remaining structure was the Roman fortress Antonia, on the hill overlooking the desolation. And that was pretty much the end of Jerusalem, for centuries.

And then, two thousand years later — Amazement! Israel officially became a nation, recognized throughout the world, in 1948. The rest is history — recent history. But by that time, for the most part, we (Christians and Jews) had lost the centerpiece of our heritage, the place where God put his name, the holy hill of Zion and the temple of his presence. Oh, there is a presence for sure, erected by the Muslims in 691 AD within the perimeter of the old fortress. But God’s house and David’s citadel seem to be misplaced. We don’t know where they are.

Stepped Stone Structure
Omerm/Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists are digging and looking, and a lot has been found, and artifacts dated. It is wonderful to see the ancient stones exposed, and to know the era to which they pertain, even if we don’t know for certain what some of them mean structurally. But, in our desire to assemble the puzzle as quickly as possible, we have forced some pieces into places where they do not belong. Then, we have empty spaces that will never be filled until we dislodge those ill fitting places and move them to their proper locations.

It is an easy thing to move a name. Read my article Whatever Happened to Whetstone Gap?  A land developer liked the name apparently, and so he moved it eight miles to the west and named the road into his housing project Whetstone Gap Road. Within fifteen to twenty years everyone knew Whetstone Gap Road and where it went — to the cul-de-sac at the border of that subdivision, never mind there wasn’t a hint of a gap there. The little whetstones for which Whetstone Gap was originally named are to this day where they always were, eight miles east, strewn across the slopes of the Whetstone Ridge.

I don’t know where Ornan’s threshing floor was, but I promise you the coordinates of that landmark have not moved! Was there really a threshing floor up there on that rugged wild mountain, or was it within the perimeter of the walled city of Salem, protected and secure?

The Spring

Now, we have the eye witness account of Aristeas https://www.ellopos.com/blog/4508/letter-of-aristeas-full-text-in-greek-and-english/34/and also the account of Tacitus (The History of Cornelius Tacitus, V,11) that there was water springing up within the confines of the Jewish temple.

Old Water Tower
Frostproof, FL

These accounts are summarily dismissed as false or impossible. After all, the springs we are accustomed to flow from the surface of the ground downhill to lower elevations. Very well, but now think of the thousands of small towns that are served by water tanks or towers standing high above the level of the structures. The water flows down out of the tank into pipes below ground level, and then up from the ground into spigots in the various buildings. How does it do that?

If you think about that for a little while you might get some idea of how Solomon’s temple could have been supplied with fresh water.

In my article about the Gihon Spring I mentioned a small (less than ten feet across) spring in South Carolina that reportedly gushed periodically as much as six feet in the air. That little spring in South Carolina worked on the same principle as the Gihon, and like the Gihon, it has ceased its spouting. But, here is a fascinating article about another of these springs — The Bubble, a man made lake in the community of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.  https://www.fandm.edu/news/latest-news/2017/07/06/f-m-researchers-find-ground-water-runs-deeper-than-hydrologists-thought 

This lake is fed by a group of about 30 springs arising from a whopping 1800 feet below the surface. Furthermore a recent study has determined the main source of the springs’ water (the catchment area) is some 50 miles away, on the other side of the mountain. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2017GL073790

Based on this study, water is gushing into The Bubble at the rate of 16 million gallons a day. (Figure appears to be correct. I double checked.) A 13 minute  video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_r9y_abG2w shows two of the bubbling inflow sites; one is bubbling rapidly. Note in the following article that water under pressure is forced to the surface, creating the bubbles.  https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC680XC_the-bubble?guid=0c346836-34df-40db-9489-3bf8da62a433

The water level of The Bubble sometimes rises rapidly, but this is due to rainfall at the main catchment site miles away. None of these articles mention a siphon effect such as was associated with the Gihon.

Both the Gihon and The Bubble are karst springs, which means the subsurface rock is pretty much limestone, a soft rock that forms caves, pipes and cisterns due to percolating water over the millennia. Great quantities of water can be stored in these underground compartments. Karst waterways can be quite complex; and, they can be connected over long distances. In the case of the Gihon, an additional feature was present — a natural siphon, perhaps at a great distance away, which drained a large subterranean cavern, which, when refilled to a certain level, would activate the siphon and drain again, resulting in periodic gushing.

Hezekiah’s tunnel

Presently the Gihon is no longer pulsing. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s10040-010-0600-6

However the yield is quite significant, witness the photos of Hezekiah’s tunnel. Now let us go back to the old days, when the Gihon was a gushing spring, that is during the time of the kings of Judah/Israel. I find it interesting that King Hezekiah and the people stopped up “springs” and then they stopped up the brook (Kidron). (Second Chronicles 32:4) There must have been a lot of water originating at the Gihon spring. At eight pounds a gallon, even a little water can exert a lot of pressure. Now, think about The Bubble — the lake in Pennsylvania. Hydrologists have determined that water bubbles up from 1800 feet under the ground! Even if the pulsing of the Gihon had not been sufficient to raise its waters to the surface of the Jebusite ridge, some simple engineering could  have, and if necessary did remedy that problem. I am not alone in this belief.

The Gihon spring is the key to the temple location. Think about how many thousands, tens of thousands, of animals, even big animals such as oxen, were sacrificed on feast days, when the twelve tribes gathered in Jerusalem. In the early days there were no aqueducts to Jerusalem. They had to get rid of that blood and gore somehow. Pity the hundreds of poor donkeys that (theoretically) would have had to trudge for days on end up and down hill from the Gihon all the way to the Dome of the Rock! There was a better way!

The Akra

Now, what did David obtain when he and his troops invaded and took the Jebusite stronghold of Salem? For one thing, a fortress or fortification inside the walls of the city. Josephus In the Whiston translation tells us David took the lower city but the citadel “held out still”, whereupon King David issued a challenge to his men: the first to go up by way of the “tsinor” and smite the Jebusites would be captain, and here it was that Joab won that position for himself.  After David and his men conquered the Jebusites David took up residence in Salem (Jerusalem). He erected buildings from the Millo (a filled area) and inward “round about the lower city ; he also joined (See Psalm 122) the citadel to it,” and named Jerusalem The City of David . (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 3, Sections 1 and 2) (See also Second Samuel Chapter 5) Here we have an excellent clue as to where the citadel was, and its relation to the rest of Jerusalem. The lower city mentioned here is that part of ancient Jerusalem (Salem) that was lower in elevation than the citadel — which would have been all of it. Remember, these were the first days, the beginning of David’s Jerusalem. If we look at ancient Jerusalem today — the 12 acre crescent shaped southeast ridge — there is no evidence whatever of an elevation significantly higher than the rest of the ridge. However, we know the citadel was higher than its surroundings. Josephus plainly states this later in The Antiquities. Scriptures in First Maccabees also support this conclusion. So? Shortly we are going to find that the high hill that supported the citadel/Akra in the ancient city was leveled to the bedrock under the Hasmonean king/priest Simon. Small wonder we can not find the Akra today!

A Section of Hezekiah’s Wall

We hear about the citadel again in 444 BC when, in preparation for his work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah asks the Persian King Artaxerses for timber to make gates for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall. (Nehemiah 2:8) This was during the time the Jewish exiles who had been 70 years in Babylon were returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding their city. Here the writer of the narrative indicated the citadel was by (beside) the temple. The fortress (citadel) is mentioned again after the rebuilding of the wall. Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, and Hanani are given charge of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 7:2) Before the Babylonian captivity King Hezekiah had rebuilt and strengthened the Jebusite mid-slope walls. They were very strong, being several feet thick. Nevertheless the Babylonians had toppled some of them in their invasion. These were the walls that Nehemiah repaired. Sections of these massive walls are extant today.

The Bible says it took the people 52 days to repair the wall. (Nehemiah 6:15) During the whole of that time the inhabitants of the land who had taken up residence there while the Jews were in Babylon hindered the work at every opportunity and made plans to attack the workers on the wall. When Nehemiah heard of this he divided the workers. Half continued the work an the other half stood guard with shields, spears and bows. (Nehemiah 4:16)

When the repairs were done Nehemiah gathered the princes of Judah, the priests and Levites, elders and officials — two great companies of them that gave thanks. (Nehemiah 12:31) These divided and held a dedication processional, beginning at a point on the west side of the city, and walking upon the wall, one group walking toward the north and the other group to the south, going around the city with rejoicing and blowing of trumpets and much jubilation, meeting on the east side of the city at the double gates before the temple (the Prison Gate and the Water Gate, above the Gihon spring) and then proceeding in two rows into the house of God. The Bible says the joy of this celebration was heard afar off. (See Nehemiah 12:31-43)

Tomb of Mattathias ben johanan
Father and First Leader of Maccabean Revolt
Ariel/Wikipedia

We find more about the Akra in the books of First and Second Maccabees. These books (and others) were taken from most Bibles in the 1800’s. However they are still available from booksellers in the collection known as the Apocrypha. The Maccabean Revolt took place in the interim between the recordings of the Old Testament and the Gospels in the New Testament. The story of the Maccabees and their leadership in the struggle for Jewish independence during that time is inspiring. The word Maccabee is from the Hebrew word for hammer. It was not a surname, at least to start with.  When Antiochus and the Seleucids began to oppress the Jews, forbidding reading of the Torah, observance of the sabbath, circumcision of boys —  in effect requiring them to turn from the worship of the one true God to the worship of idols, the resistance was led by Mattithias, a priest from a settlement near Jerusalem, and his five sons, of which the high priest Simon was the last survivor. The Maccabees are better known as the Hasmoneans. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/history-and-overview-of-the-maccabees

In Nehemiah’s time the Jews had been subject to the Persians, But by the time of the Maccabees (around 170 BC) the Persians had yielded to the authority of the Greeks. Consequently the area of Judea and Samaria came to be ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s successors, namely Antiochus of the Seleucid/Greek empire. The Greeks cared naught for the God of Israel. They were pagans, worshippers of Zeus and other false gods. In time these wicked rulers abolished the Aaronic priesthood and the position of high priest was sold to the highest bidder. Finally a dispute between Antiochus and one of his appointees spiraled into an all out war with much bloodshed and sweeping political changes. One result of these changes was that temple worship became a mix of Judaism and the worship of Hellenistic gods. This was totally unacceptable to devout Jews. Then, to cap it all, in 167BC Antiochus greatly antagonized the Jews by sacrificing a pig in the temple.

After their invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. Antiochus and his forces (and their sympathizers) built a new stronghold next to the temple. Then builded they the city of David with a great and strong wall and with mighty towers and made it a strong hold for them . . . For it was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary . . . Thus they shed blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it. (First Maccabees 1:33-37) Josephus said of the Akra in this situation, “for the place was high, and overlooked the temple.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Chapter 5, Section 4, paragraph 252) 

While they held the Akra the Hellenists harassed and even killed Jews who attempted temple worship. The Maccabees, with God’s help, were eventually successful in leading the devout Jews to victory in their revolt against the Syrians (Seleucids), Greeks and Eqyptians and the many powers that had sought to enslave them and take away their heritage, though it was a long and hard fought battle that cost thousands and thousands of lives. In the end, around 142BC, Simon, the last of the Maccabee sons, high priest and ruler of Judea, successfully attacked and took the Akra from the Seleucid forces.

Josephus gives a pretty good location for the Akra. He describes the hills of the city of Jerusalem. Then he says, “But the other hill, which was called ‘Acra’ and sustains the lower city, is of the shape of the moon when she is horned.” This is the southeastern ridge, the original Jebusite city, which is in roughly the shape of a crescent. Here Josephus is calling the entire southeastern ridge the ‘Acra’. He goes on to say “However in those times when the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) reigned, they filled up that valley (Cheezemongers or Tyropean) with earth . . . Then they took off part of the height of Acra, and reduced it to be of less elevation than before, that the temple might be superior to it. (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 4, Section 1, paragraph 137)

Reinforcing this statement we go to Josephus again for more detail: “Simon, (high priest of Jerusalem, of the Hasmonean family above) took the citadel of Jerusalem by seige (which was then occupied by the Hellenistic Syrians/Greeks and apostate Jews) and cast it down to the ground, that it might not be any more a place of refuge to their enemies . . . And when he had done this he thought it . . . for their advantage to level the very mountain itself upon which the citadel happened to stand that so the temple might be higher than it. And indeed when he had called the multitude to an assembly he persuaded them to have it so demolished, . . . so they all set themselves to the work and leveled the mountain, and in that work spent both day and night without intermission, which cost them three whole years before it was removed, and brought to an entire level with the plain of the rest of the city. After which the temple was the highest of the buildings.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, Chapter 6, Section 7, Paragraphs 215-217)

Dr. Ernest Martin, author of The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot believed the Akra was built on a tel or layered hill, south of that other rise known as the Ophel summit, where the temple was. If you read my article about Joshua you remember the city of Jericho had been occupied by many preceding civilizations, building one upon another, and had grown to a great height. Obviously the mound supporting the Akra was somewhat higher than the Ophel because the citadel overlooked the temple. This excess of elevation could well be the reason the citadel “held out still”  (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 3, Secion 1, Paragraph 63) when David attacked it. If Dr. Martin’s supposition is correct and the high southernmost hill that Simon dug down and carried away was in fact a tel, (and it might have been; after all it took three years to reach bedrock) it would be very interesting to find what is in the filled ravine of the Cheesemongers and at the bottom of the corresponding section of the Kidron Valley. Three years of digging day and night must have misplaced, or sadly, destroyed very many artifacts.

The Temple

Unknown Artist’s Rendering of the Temple
Public Domain

The southeast hill of Jerusalem was long and narrow, though today the northern section of that hill is substantially wider, due to having been filled in and added to a number of times over the years. 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) Earlier we read that David joined the citadel to the structures he built in the “lower city”. And now we see the “plain” upon which the temple was built was very skimpy, so much that a bank had to be cast up for a cloister. If we at first discount the words of Josephus, maybe we can give him credit if we look at Psalm122, a psalm Jewish pilgrims sang on their way to worship at the temple. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up . . . to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. (verses 3-4) Most sources indicate the temple itself was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. “It was covered all over (with) plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fine splendor . . . But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.” (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5, Section 6, Paragraph 222-223) Seven years in the building, it was as beautiful and impressive as it was within Solomon’s means to make it.

Painting of Solomon Dedicating the Temple
James Tissot/public domain

When Solomon dedicated the temple many thousands of Jews were present as 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 as the priests were unable to carry on their functions and the people fell on heir faces in worship. 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) Our God is a supernatural God!

But in time, people turned away from the 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. 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 there were some Judean kings who sought the Lord’s direction and obeyed the commandments. One of these was Hezekiah. And he (Hezekiah) did what was right in the sight of the Lord. (Second Kings 18:3) 

Ahaz, Hezekiah’s predecessor, had worshipped heathen gods, and 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 succeeding Ahaz he found the house of the Lord neglected and in disarray, dirty and filled with rubbish. Right away 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 backs . . . 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 here the rubbish was not taken far off, but to the brook Kidron. I can’t help wondering if the temple had been where the Dome of the Rock now stands, would they have gone to the trouble to carry the trash as far as the brook — round trip probably over a mile.

This wonderful old book illustration shows worshippers and their sacrificial animals going up to Jerusalem from the Gihon spring.

I have made my point; however Hezekiah’s story is worth the re-telling and so we continue. After the purification of the Lord’s house Hezekiah sent word to all the tribes, even to the northern tribes who had earlier broken away from Judah, inviting them to the feast of unleavened bread. A multitude of people from all Israel came. It was such a joyous occasion that when the feast was over, they elected to add another week to the festivities. After that the people went out and destroyed the heathen worship places before they went back to their homes.

Later on Hezekiah learned that the king of Assyria had in mind to invade Judah. At that time, the Bible says he stopped the fountains and closed the Gihon spring exit, turning the water into an underground tunnel, so the Assyrians would not be able to take advantage of Jerusalem’s water source. He built up and strengthened the city wall, and made shields and weapons and organized the soldiers for war. In time the king of Assyria sent his servant with a message to taunt and threaten Hezekiah and the people of Judah. The Assyrians made a gross error however, in that they spoke against the Almighty saying: 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 19:10-11)

When Hezekiah received the king’s message he went to the temple and prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians. In a little while the prophet Isaiah came to him and told him God had heard his prayer and that God himself would prevent the Assyrians from harming Jerusalem. 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, fourscore 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)

photo by
Dietmar Rabich
Wikimedia Commons

Continuing on we read that later Hezekiah was sick. Again Isaiah came. This time Isaiah told him the Lord had said to get his house in order that he was going to die. In response to this the scriptures say that Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and that he cried and prayed. Then the Lord changed his mind and sent Isaiah back to tell him that he would heal him. The Lord said he would add fifteen years to his life, and that furthermore he would deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Hezekiah then asked for a sign from the Lord that he would do what he promised. Here the prophet asked him, Shall the shadow (sundial) go forward ten degrees or go back ten degrees? Hezekiah said he wanted it to go back. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord; and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward. (Second Kings 20:9-11)  This was the second time the Lord in his wisdom altered the spinning of the heavenly orbs for one of his servants. See Joshua Chapter 10 for the story of how the sun stood still for Joshua. They laid a lump of figs on Hezekiah (he had a boil). Hezekiah’s sickness was healed and he lived fifteen more years.

Now we have looked at the Akra, the Temple, and the Gihon spring. As promised in the first edition of this post, here is a map that depicts the topography of the ancient Jebusite city of Salem and the high area to the north as it was when King David and his men took the city. The dot on the map is the approximate location of the Gihon spring. The Jebusites had waterways from the spring, but they are not shown. The numbering of the contours is in meters above sea level; the interval is 10 meters.  The rise in the far north represents the area of the Roman fortress, now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. The middle rise going south is my opinion of the approximate location of the temples. The southernmost hump represents what I believe to be the area of David’s citadel, the Akra, which land feature Simon the Hasmonean high priest and the citizens of Jerusalem dug down and dumped into the Tyropean and Kidron valleys.

God Bless You! It’s Easter! He is risen!

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Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh — the Lord will provide

Count the stars. From an old woodcut. Wikipedia

Most of us have heard the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac — near, because it nearly happened! If you have read the book of Genesis, or the articles preceding this one, you know Abraham and his wife Sarah had a son in their old age, Isaac, the first of a vast multitude of descendants, the Hebrew nation, the Israelites. Look now toward heaven, God said to Abraham, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them, . . . so shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:4-5)

God had promised this son years earlier, but as time drew on and Sarah did not conceive, she gave her handmaiden Hagar to Abraham as a wife. Here is what she said, Go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. (Genesis 16:2) We don’t know why she did this. Was she trying to help God fulfill his promise? Was she trying to diminish the reproach of her barrenness? We don’t know. But, we do know Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael.

Thirteen years later the Lord spoke to Abraham and told him that Sarah would have a son the next year. When Abraham voiced some concern for Ishmael at this point, God was quick to tell him what he had already promised Hagar, that he would make Ishmael fruitful, and . . . multiply him exceedingly; . . . and . . . make him a great nation. (Genesis 17:20)

God further stated: But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. Though long in coming, this was God’s plan. May we be patient to wait for his plan. There had been conflict between Hagar and Sarah already, and now Ishmael is causing distress in the family. In Galatians is a comment by Paul that indicates Ishmael “persecuted” Isaac, who was much younger than him. (Galatians 4:28-29) Then Sarah said to her husband, Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son. (Genesis 21:10) The Bible says Abraham was grieved about this, but God told him, Let it not be grevious in thy sight . . . in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Genesis 21:12) So Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, and the angel of the Lord took care of them. After that Hagar and Ishmael lived in Paran. (See Genesis 21.)

Now, can you imagine what consternation Abraham experienced later on when God spoke to him saying, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:2) By then Isaac was a youth, old enough to understand that an animal was necessary for a burnt offering. He questioned his father as they were on their way to the land of Moriah, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? In answer Abraham told his son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:7-8)

Rembrandt painting
Abraham and Isaac

Here we need more revelation than Genesis provides. Let’s go to Hebrews Chapter 11 where the writer is talking about faith. By faith Abraham, when he was tested (that is, while the testing of his faith was still in progress), offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises (of God) was ready to sacrifice his only son (of promise); to whom it was said “IN ISAAC SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE CALLED.” for he considered (it reasonable to believe) that God was able to raise Isaac, even from among the dead. (Hebrews 11:17-19 Amplified Bible)

When they came to the place God showed him, Abraham made an altar, laid the wood on it, bound his son and laid him upon the wood. Oh my! And as he took up the knife to kill his son the angel of the Lord stopped him. And he said, lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything to him, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Genesis 22:12) At that point Abraham saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh. (Genesis 22:13) And it is said to this day, On the mount of the Lord it will be provided. (Genesis 22:14 Amplified Bible) Isaac’s life was spared by God, who provided the lamb for the burnt offering. What a wonderful picture of Jesus, the Lamb who died in our place!

After the sacrifice of the ram Abraham and Isaac came down from the mountain and joined their two traveling companions who were waiting for them, and together they left the land of Moriah and returned home to Beersheba. Where had they been? Just where is the land of Moriah? There is only one other mention in scripture of the word Moriah and that is: Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (Second Chronicles 3:1) Here is a mount Moriah which is synonymous with the temple and another  place — the threshing floor of Ornan.  Now that puts the temple, the threshing floor, and Mount Moriah all in one place. Who can argue with that!

Well, the Samaritans will. Their land was the land of Moreh, the place where God first spoke to Abraham, promising his descendants the land on which he stood. Their city was Shechem of old, and their mountain, Gerazim, the Mount of Blessing, where Joshua convened all of Israel upon their entrance into their promised land. The Samaritans believe their mountain to be the sacred mountain, where God provided his own sacrifice, the ram caught in the bushes. The Samaritans number less than a thousand today, yet those few cling tenaciously to their beliefs and customs, as witnessed by their annual celebration of Passover. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/samaritans-perform-sacrificial-passover-ritual-452001

Samaritan ruins at Sebastia

These people are a remnant of those Jews in the northern kingdom of Israel of whom nearly all were taken captive by the Assyrians and resettled along the Euphrates River and beyond.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25079122/ Those Jews that were taken captive are now considered “lost tribes” since they never returned to Israel. The northern tribes of Israel had separated from their southern brothers shortly after the death of Solomon and in time established the city of Samaria as their capital. The northern kingdom lasted over 200 years, but finally fell in 722 BC after a three year siege by the Assyrians. Many years later Samaria became a Roman possession and the Emperor Augustus gave Samaria to King Herod; he renamed it Sebaste. Today, the ruins of ancient Samaria can be seen near the modern town of Sebastia.

Returning now to our subject — concerning the words the land of Moriah, Robert Harris, a professor of ancient languages in an excellent web publication from 2006 tells us that the translation is actually the land of THE Moriah. He also gives us the medieval interpreter Rashbam’s opinion that God was sending Abraham to the Amorites. Professor Harris does not claim to give us any clear facts, which is understandable (since there aren’t any) but he does give a short discussion of Moriah from an important (and very old) Jewish commentary. https://www.jtsa.edu/torah/examining-the-word-moriah/

So, what do we have now? We know the threshing floor of Ornan (or Araunah, see First Chronicles) was named Mount Moriah according to Ezra the writer of Second Chronicles, and that Solomon built the temple there. We have the traditional narrative (repeated by Josephus in the first century AD) that the temple was built on the site of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac. Then, we know the Samaritans claim their land to be the land of Moriah and their mountain of Gerazim to be the sacrificial site. Further, we have the translation (in the foregoing paragraph) that speaks of the land of THE Moriah.

Proximity of Temple Mount to City of David. Temple Mt. at top; City of David on hill east of paved street. Avram Graicer/Wikimedia Commons

Now, some folks hold fiercely to a tradition that the Temple Mount was the place Abraham brought his son Isaac intending to sacrifice him to the Lord. But, we need to consider that we still don’t know for certain where the land of Moriah was, let alone the mountain where it all took place. Further, and more importantly, we need to consider that the Temple Mount is a mere one third of a mile (or less) from the City of David, which at the time of Abraham’s sacrifice was an inhabited settlement, the walled city of Salem. We know Abraham had been there before and was already acquainted with Melchizedek, king and priest of that city. Melchizedek had come down out of Salem bringing bread and wine to Abraham in the valley of Shaveh as he was returning from the battle of Siddim. (Genesis 14:18-20) The Temple Mount location, so near the city of Salem, within shouting distance even, seems very unlikely.

So where is that mountain that Abraham saw afar off?  Obviously the answer can not be found in the Bible. Is there a preponderance of extrabiblical evidence that gives a clear answer to that question? Not that I have found. But I have found some scholarly folk who admit not knowing where it was the Lord sent Abraham. Regardless of that, by the first century AD certain suppositions about this event were already beginning to solidify. Josephus, the Jewish historian from that era wrote that the temple was  built on the site of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son. (The Antiquities of The Jews, Book 1, Chapter 13, Section 2, Paragraph 226)  Josephus can be counted a reliable source reporting the events he actually saw and lived through; but, can he be expected to give a first hand account of an event 2,000 years before his time. Of course not.

But, there are certain things people want to believe. It sounds right. It seems right. Grandma said it. It must be so. It is here we come up against an immovable stone — the rock of tradition — can we ever chip it all away?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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