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In Second Samuel we find that King David bought from the Jebusite king Araunah a threshing floor that later became the site of King Solomon’s temple. Most people who have any interest in Bible history will tell you that. And after that they will tell you that site is located on the Temple Mount. They don’t have Bible proof of that, but they do have tradition.

We are going to look at the Temple Mount and some other historical prominences, piece by piece, beginning with the threshing floor. We have Bible evidence there was a threshing floor in the Jebusite city King David captured, and that David bought bought the threshing floor  from the Jebusite king.

Old Image of the Destroying Angel Hovering Over Jerusalem, Author Unknown

The story begins in 2 Samuel 24. The Bible says God inspired David to take a census and that it was the wrong thing to do, and that his closest people advised against it, to none avail. I do not understand why God would provoke David to do something wrong. But I am not going to explain it away somehow. Someone suggested David did wrong by not taking an offering from the people as they were numbered. There is a place in Exodus where God instructed Moses to take an offering from each individual when he took a census. See Exodus Chapter 30. Verse 12 says that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.  For some reason Moses had to take this offering to forestall a plague among the people. However, in David’s instance, even from the outset we see his  advisors counseling him against numbering the people. We do not know why, and for us to make guesses and invent explanations for what the word of God says is foolishness, or worse. Let us just know that David took a census and he should not have done so.

When the census was finished God sent the prophet Gad to David and gave him a choice of punishments: seven years of famine in the land, three months flight from his enemies while they pursued him, or three days pestilence in the land. David chose the deadly pestilence as opposed to the three months fleeing from his enemies because he figured the hand of God would be easier to bear than the hand of man.

The historian Josephus, who did not live at the time of this event, but worked from sources available to him said of the pestilence: “Now, the miserable disease was one indeed, but it carried them off by ten thousand causes and occasions, which those that were afflicted could not understand; for one died upon the neck of another, and the terrible malady seized them before they were aware, and bought them to their end suddenly, some giving up the ghost immediately with very great pains and bitter grief; and some were worn away by their distempers, and had nothing remaining to be buried, but as soon as ever they fell, were entirely macerated; some were choked, and greatly lamented their case, as being also stricken with a sudden darkness, some there were who, as they were burying a relation, fell down dead….” Seventy thousand people died of this pestilence. (Chapter 13, The Antiquities of the Jews)

The Bible records the ending of the plague in this way: And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan (same as Araunah) the Jebusite.

And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Jerusalem, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.

And David said unto God, is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house, but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.  (1 Chronicles 21:15-17)

Then the prophet Gad instructed David to build an altar to the Lord at the threshing floor of King Araunah.  This David did, purchasing from the Jebusite king the threshing place and the oxen that were there. Then David offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings the plague was stayed from the land.

The first verse of the next Chapter records a statement made by David: This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel. (1 Chronicles 22:1) After this we read how David began to gather materials for the construction of the temple that his son Solomon would build later on.

What a tumultuous beginning! Nor is it over yet, nor will it be until the King of Kings returns. But let us continue. Just what is a threshing floor? What is its function and how does it work? Where modern machinery is lacking threshing floors are still in use today.  The purpose of the threshing floor is to facilitate the work of separating grain from the stems whereon it grows. This is accomplished by thrashing or beating the stalks of grain, causing the grain to dislodge from the stalk. Then the grain is further cleaned by winnowing to rid it of chaff, the inedible plant matter that still clings to the grain. Winnowing can be accomplished by hand, by tossing the grain in the air and allowing the wind to blow away the chaff. Threshing floors were level sites, where the threshing could be done more easily. They were typically located on a hill or rise to take advantage of an unhindered breeze or wind.

by Stan Zurek, Wikimedia Commons

Here is a photo of a threshing floor in Greece. You will see that it is level and in an open area. If you care you can find a number of photos of threshing floors, ancient and current, on the internet. They are typically round, and slope a little to one direction to let the rain run off. They often have a border of stones and are paved in some fashion. Some are paved with flat stones. This one appears to be paved with concrete. Animals were often used to facilitate the task of threshing. King Araunah was using oxen, which he sold to David along with the threshing floor. King David then sacrificed the oxen as an offering to the Lord.

The photo below from Conservapedia shows the interior of the Dome of the Rock. Here is the sacred stone of Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Muslims believe their prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from this site. Early Christians believed that this is the stone upon which Jesus stood prior to his crucifixion when he was interrogated by Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.  The early Christians perhaps are correct, for the large enclosure surrounding the Dome of the Rock was the camp of the Tenth Roman Legion at the time of Christ. Then, both Jews and Christians hold the stone to be the place of Abraham’s testing, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to him.

The rays of the sun coming in illuminate the large rock quite clearly. This rock hardly qualifies as a threshing floor, now does it? This is the highest point of this large outcropping. The rest of the rock lies beneath the fill dirt that makes the surface of the Temple Mount level.  The ancient report from Josephus in The Jewish Wars says that this rock was 75 feet high from the bottom up and that it was covered with “smooth stone flags”. This would be the retaining wall that encloses the Temple Mount. This wall was built mostly by Herod the Roman king of Judea just prior to the time of Christ. However, there is a section on the eastern side that is of older construction.

Of course in an area as large as the temple mount a threshing floor could have been there somewhere. True, but if the temple were in close proximity to a large rock outcropping, would there be no mention of that anywhere in the descriptions of the temple?? Read the Bible, or any other historical document you like; you will not find any mention of such a prominent feature as a 75 foot rock near the temple.

Another argument you often encounter is that the historian Josephus, upon whom we must rely for much recorded history of the time of Christ and the temple, exaggerates. On subjects other than the temple Josephus is deemed an expert, but he is accused of bias when it comes to the temple. The fact is his work is most accurate. He lived in the era he writes about. He saw the temple and its destruction with his own eyes. Further, the Romans furnished him access to all their documents. His work was not guesswork, but factual.  It is tradition that exaggerates.

Next time we will explore another facet of the truth pertaining to Jerusalem, the place where God chose to put His name.

Old Greek threshing floor, by ZDE Wikimedia Commons

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