Below is the Temple Mount as viewed from the Mount of Olives, note the graves in the foreground.
Abraham was directed by God to take his son Isaac, to the land of Moriah, and there to offer him for a burnt offering upon a mountain which God would show him. This land is mentioned only here, and there is little to guide us in trying to identify it. Much later the name of Moriah is affixed to the mount on which Solomon’s Temple was built, possibly associating it with the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham journeyed from the land of the Philistines, and on the 3rd day he saw the place afar off. This naturally suggests some prominent mountain farther North than Jerusalem. The description could hardly apply to Jerusalem in any case, as it could not be seen “afar off” by one approaching either from the South or the West.
The mountains associated with Jerusalem today are Mount Ophen, Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. I believe Mount Ophen is actually part of Mount Moriah which rises to 2,549 feet. The Temple Mount sets at 2,428 feet. I believe the entire City of David was built on the lowest part of Mount Moriah. Mount Zion stands at 2,533 feet and to the east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley lies the Mount of Olives rising 2,739 feet. Most translations say the Temple was built “on” Mount Moriah. The King James Version says “in” Mount Moriah. Mount or “har” in Hebrew can mean mountain, hill or hill country.
Jesus ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives. Even before Solomon the Mount of Olives was used as a Jewish burial place. There are more than 150,000 graves there today. When King David wrote about the Shadow of the Valley of Death he was writing about the Kidron Valley. Below is a photo of the Kidron Valley looking south with the Temple mount on the right and the Mount of Olives on the left. The tomb in the valley with the pointed top is the tomb of Absalom, David’s third son.
It was Mount Zion where the Tabernacle rested and David in times of stress would look up from the City of David and see the place where the Ark rested. Seeing the Tabernacle would give David the peace to compose and sing inspiring psalms of faith. “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy Tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.” Psalm 61:2-4
A hundred and fifty years ago, Mount Zion was believed to be the location of the City of David. Even 100 years ago it was still debated. I think there is no argument today that the City of David was located to the south of the Temple Mount. There are various claims that David’s Palace has been found but this is disputed. When Jesus spoke of the Temple and said that not one stone would be left upon another, He gave an accurate description. So complete was the destruction of the Temple and the City of David that not one piece of evidence was found to prove that David ever existed until The Tel Dan Tablet was discovered in Northern Israel in 1994. It is pictured below and mentions “The House of David.”
The Roman Fort built by King Herod around 19 BC but not completely finished until long after his death was named for Mark Anthony, Herod’s friend and Cleopatra’s boyfriend. Fort Antonia was described by Josephus as being like a city with large areas for troop parades. A legion of troops and support personnel totaling 10,000 personnel were housed there. Like all major fortresses, Josephus describes Fort Antonia as being built over a “rock” the highest point of the area. We are to believe that this mighty fortress occupied a tiny space on the Temple Mount next to the Jewish Temple? I believe the image below fairly accurately depicts the Antonio Fort.
Over a thousand years after Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac, Solomon built the Temple on the spot that had been the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. A threshing floor was a hard surface where sheaves where placed and then tread by oxen and cattle to loosen the edible part of cereal grain from the inedible chaff that surrounds it. Then winnowing forks were used to throw the mixture into the air so the wind could blow away the chaff, leaving only the good grain on the floor.
Both the Old and New Testaments refer to the threshing floor as a symbol of judgment. Hosea prophesied that because Israel had repeatedly turned from God to false idols, His judgment upon them would scatter them to the winds as the chaff from the threshing floor. “Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window” (Hosea 9:2). As you know, Israel ceased to exist in 586 BC even though there were Jews living in the land later under Greek and Roman rule. It was 2,534 years later when the Jews reclaimed the Promised Land in 1948.
King Solomon built the Temple on the site of the threshing floor of Ornan which was in the City of David. The Temple Mount was never in the City of David. Josephus also tells us that the Antonia Fortress was built on a rock 25 meters above the Temple Mount floor platform. In simple terms, that means the fort floor was 82 feet higher than the Temple floor. That’s eight stories higher. The height of the Western Wall is 19 meters or 62 feet. That would put the floor of the Temple 20 feet lower than the bottom of the Western Wall once referred to as the Wailing Wall. It makes sense to me that Ornan would pick a low spot for his threshing floor. The workers would not have to carry wheat up the hill and the oxen would not have to climb the equivalent of eight stories to trample the wheat. An additional clue that the Temple was lower than the Fort is the fact that the Commander of Antonia came down to the Temple when Paul caused turmoil there.
American archaeologist and author, the late Professor Dr. Ernest L. Martin, conducted archaeology work in East Jerusalem before writing his book “The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot,” published in 1999 Dr. Martin claimed that Muslim sacred places, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of Rock are not built on top of the Temple Mount ruins. Several other historians in the past have reached similar conclusions that the 45-acre landmass known as Haram al-Sharif to the Muslim world since 638 AD – is in fact a Roman fortress built by King Herod. Furthermore, the Jewish holy Wailing Wall (the Western Wall) had never been part of the first or second Temples. In the early 1970s, Professor Benjamin Mazar, former President of Hebrew University, confirmed that Haram al-Sharif was indeed a Roman fortress.
According to Dr. Martin, the Hebrew Temples were built south of the fort over Gihon Spring. Martin also explained how Haram al-Sharif was comparable in size and water supply to other Roman fortresses built to guard Roman occupied cities. I like the aerial photo below. Just above the center of the bottom of the photo the lower part of Mount Moriah begins. This area along the Kidron Valley was the City of David reaching almost to the Temple Mount. You can judge that much of this part of the Mount is about 80 feet or eight stories below the floor of the Temple Mount. The topography has surely changed some since David’s time 3,000 years ago.
Josephus in his book ‘The War of Jews’ quoted Jewish rebel commander at Masada in 73 AD saying: “Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing left but that monument of it preserved; I mean the camp of those that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins”.
Professor George Wesley Buchanan, a United Methodist minister, wrote a research article entitled Misunderstanding about Temple Mount, published by the Washington Report (August 2011). “In biblical times the Haram was not a sacred place. Instead it was the place that Orthodox Jews considered defiled and the most despised place in the world. Within these walls were found no remnants of any of the earlier Temples but rather an image of Mars, the Roman god of war,” wrote Buchanan.
“After two violent wars with Rome, the City of David was so completely destroyed that it could not be recognized as a city. The Roman emperor Hadrian decreed that it would be used as an area where the Upper City could dump trash and garbage. It continued in that condition for hundreds of years,” wrote Buchanan. The Muslim Arab army, which took control of Jerusalem in 638, observed the City of David being used as a city garbage dump.
I am pleased that serious scholars are researching facts rather than perpetuating old wives’ tales. For all of my life people have believed that the Mosque would have to be destroyed before the Hebrew Temple could be rebuilt. What does it say when Christians and Jews don’t even know where the Holy Temple was? If Josephus was correct, I would look for the site 25 meters or 82 feet below the so-called Temple Mount. Perhaps even lower depending on the height of the foundation. Josephus was meticulous in his research and writing.
Most Christians and Jews also don’t know where Abraham came from. I am absolutely positive It was not the Ur halfway between Baghdâd and the Persian Gulf, but that is a story for another time.