Discovery of Canaanite Body at Tel Gezer

In a recent Haaretz article published about two weeks ago, skeletons of bodies were discovered at ancient Gezer. Having participated in last year’s excavation at Tel Gezer, I am excited to hear this news.

Skeleton at Gezer

One of the skeletons found at Tel Gezer. This body was apparently crushed by falling stones (Credit: Tandy Institute of Archaeology)

Often times when bones are discovered at an archaeological site in Israel, such an uncovering potentially puts into place certain steps that requires the dig to slow down and verify what has been found. To be honest, finding bones, particularly human bones, can potentially bring a dig to a halt in that area of excavation because it forces the archaeologist to report the finding of bones to certain authorities who then, in turn, come and evaluate the find. For the religious Jew, finding human bones requires special attention and respect for the deceased, even a proper burial, although the bones may date back to biblical times. In this case at Gezer, it appears that these human bones belonged to ancient Canaanites who lost their lives during the time of the Egyptian destruction of the city in the 13th century BC.  What makes this so interesting is how this find of skeletons matches up well with both other archaeological records as well as with the Bible.

Merneptah Stele

The Merneptah Stele that records that the Egyptian Pharaoh “seized Gezer.” (credit: Webscribe, Wikimedia Commons)

The ancient city of Gezer is mentioned a few times in Egyptian records. Apparently, the Egyptians had great interest in controlling Gezer and this most strategic region of Israel. Located along the Aijalon Valley, Gezer served as the primary fortified city that guarded the south-north route from Egypt. In the 15th century BC, Thutmose III captured the city (this is recorded on the walls of the Karnak Temple in Luxor). Later in the 14th-13th centuries BC, Gezer is actually mentioned in the Amarna Letters. These were a series of about 350 tablets written in cuneiform (the diplomatic language of the day) that preserved the conversation of what was going on in Canaan. The Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep II actually addresses the Gezer king by name – a Canaanite named Milkilu. These Amarna Letters are actually displayed at the Egyptian Museum. Dr. Ortiz comments, “We know from the Amarna Tablets that the [Canaanite] kings of Gezer were major players in the region during the 14th century B.C.E. Egypt would have been keen on the great agricultural land in the vicinity.

Canaanite body

The uncovering of one of the bodies (credit: Tandy Institute of Archaeology)

But where the find of these skeletons comes into play relates to what is mentioned on the Merneptah Stele (also displayed at the Egyptian Museum). Gezer was again taken by the Egyptians. According to this stone stele, Merneptah (the son of Ramses II and the 4th Pharoah of the 19th Dynasty) seized Gezer.” This accounts for the destruction level found in the 10th season of excavating here at Gezer.

According to the Bible, Gezer was initially captured by Joshua, for the city makes the list of 31 cities taken in the Conquest (see Joshua 12). However, like a few other cities, the Canaanites were apparently able to maintain control over the city (Judges 1:29). Thus, the three skeletons found here (2 adults and one child) were probably Canaanites who were killed in the Merneptah destruction of the city.

Canaanite Body Gezer

More excavation of the Canaanite body in Room 1 (Credit: Tandy Institute of Archaeology)

Furthermore, “the skeletal remains had been reduced mostly to powdery charred dust. The adult was lying on its back with arms above its head. The child, who was wearing earrings, was next to the adult, to the left. This room was filled with ash and collapsed mud brick,” says Ortiz. “We can only guess what they were doing in the building on the eve of destruction. Were they hiding? Were they fleeing the Egyptian soldiers? Did they go back into the building to retrieve valuables?

Gezer dig

The rooms where the bodies were uncovered (credit: Tandy Institute of Archaeology)

In a second room, the excavators found the remains of a particularly intriguing rectangular room with a supporting wall and two pillars in its center. The article continues, “In this room, which had been finely plastered, a third body was found, also telling a tale of gruesome death. This person, 1.72 centimeters tall, was found beneath a jumble of collapsed stones that ironically helped to preserve the skeletal remains.” Ortiz added, “This individual attests to the violent nature of the destruction, as it is clear he experienced the trauma of the event,

To read this full article about this exciting new discovery, go HERE.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

The 2,000 Year-Old Street in Jerusalem

lot of ancient ruins have been uncovered in Jerusalem. Specifically, much has been found relating to the world of Herodian Jerusalem, or in other words, Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. This is one of the reasons why seeing and experiencing Jerusalem first hand is so very exciting!

Drainage channel Jerusalem

The drainage channel that runs under the Herodian street above.

On each and every tour I lead, people always have the option to walk up through what is now called the drainage channelThis is located under the street where the man is standing in the video below. I just took my June 2017 group through this channel, enabling us to see the bottom of the Herodian pavement above us. It is quite remarkable!

Jerusalem drainage channel

What the Herodian street probably looked like, with the drainage channel below

While the video below is in Hebrew, it is sub-titled in English. It displays the newest excavations taking place in the City of DavidThis excavation is taking place 12 months a year and what is being revealed  is quite stunning!  The aggressiveness of the approach to uncover was much as possible is amazing to see and witness first hand. Each time we go here, something new is unearthed!

Watch the video below.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Silver Shekel Coin

Ancient shekel coin

Ancient silver shekel coin found in the drainage channel in Jerusalem in 2008. This was probably minted in Tyre. It weighs 13 grams and was minted in 22 AD.

How many of you keep lose change in your pocket?  For me, it’s usually annoying. I especially don’t like pennies, although I do have a few large jars of them under my bed somewhere. I suppose I should see how much these jars are worth one of these days! But in today’s culture of debit cards, some people don’t deal with cash and lose change in their pockets at all. However, times were different in the days of the Bible. Having coins in one’s pocket or pouch was common. If you were a Jew going to the Temple in Jerusalem in the days of Jesus, it was important to have a possession of coins, especially one kind of coin … the half shekel coin!

According to the Bible in the days of Moses, “Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” (Exodus 30:15).

The major weight of metal mentioned in the Bible was the shekel, as its name, which means simply “weight,” testifies. Since the shekel was the definite weight, an expression such as “1,000 silver” (Genesis 20:16) can be explained as 1,000 shekels of silver, and the name of the weight is omitted since it is self-explanatory. The fundamental nature of the shekel can also be seen in the fact that all weights which the Bible explains are explained only in terms of the shekel. Thus in the days of the Old Testament, the shekel was used as a bartering material, not a minted coin. Jeremiah bought a plot of land and weighed his payment (silver) on scales (Jeremiah 32:9).

However eventually the shekel was minted as a coin as early as the Persian period. Hundred of years later during the time of the Hasmoneans (137 BC), the Jews minted their own coins. By the time of Herod the Great (37-4 BC) and later his sons (Herod Archelaus – 4 BC – 6 AD; Herod Antipas -4 BC – 39 AD; and Herod Philip I – 4 BC – 34 AD), coins were in wide use.

According to the Talmud, the collection of the half shekel coin occurred every year on the first day of the month of Adar when the “heralding of the shekelim” took place, that is to say the beginning of the collection of the money and it ended on the first day of the month of Nissan, when there was new budget in the temple and the purchase of public sacrifices was renewed.

It was most likely a shekel minted in Tyre that Jesus and Peter used to pay the Temple head tax (a half shekel each, see Matthew 17:27). Moreover, 30 Tyrian silver coins probably were given as payment to Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:15). This annual half shekel head-tax was donated in shekels and half shekels from the Tyre mint where they were struck from the year 125 BCE until the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 66 CE. Incidentally, one of these coins was found in the Herodian drainage channel in Jerusalem in March, 2018. It must have been dropped by someone walking on the street above and fell through either a crack in the street or through one of many man holes discovered (go HERE for the full article of this discovery).

half shekel coin

Newly minted half-shekel coin. To date, over 200,000 coins have been purchased as donations in building the 3rd Temple.

This brings us up to today. According to Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz (in a Breaking Israel News article), “While the Temple was standing, every Jewish man was required to give one half-shekel weight of silver, approximately eight grams of silver (worth about $4 today), as a mandatory tax to support the Temple. Each man was obligated to give the same amount, regardless of his economic condition. The coins, once deposited in the Temple courtyard, were hekdesh (sanctified) and not permitted to be used for any other purpose.”  The giving of this coin towards the expense and upkeep of the Tabernacle (and eventually Temple in Jerusalem) was considered a mitvah (command).” This command was instituted from before the First Temple Period all the way through the days of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD despite the Temple being destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.

However, a special 1/2 shekel coin has been minted in preparation for the building of the 3rd Temple. This coin is different than the common 1/2 shekel coin in circulation today (worth only about 12.5 cents). But through the vision of Reuven Prager, this mitzvah is being reinstated. To date, 200,000 coins have been purchased. They are deposited into the Otzar Hamikdash (“Treasury of the Temple”), an organization established to oversee the financing of the new Temple.

Follow this link to the full article:  HERE

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Cave 12 Found at Qumran

Cave 12 Qumran

Fragments of six jars, parchment, and papyrus was found in Cave 12 (photo credit: Dr. Randall Price)

The whole world of biblical scholarship changed in 1947 when the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found at Qumran. Before these 2,000 year old texts of Scripture were found, the oldest Hebrew Bible texts scholars had dated to only around 1,000 AD. Yet God miraculously preserved these texts for the world to see and study them.

Between 1947 and 1956, 11 caves were found in this area of Qumran. Between 750 – 950 texts (depending on how you count them) were found. About 25% of the texts of copies of Hebrew Scriptures, all 39 books of the OT except for Esther. About 27% of the scrolls were common Judaism texts. About 38% were sectarian documents of the community of Essene community. And about 11% of the scrolls were too fragmentary to place in a category.

Qumran Cave 12

The opening to Cave 12 (photo credit: Dr. Randall Price)

Seven scrolls were found in Cave 1 – Two Isaiah Scrolls, the Thanksgiving Scroll, the War Scroll, the text of the Community Rules, and a commentary on Habakkuk (the Pesher Habakkuk). I always provide an option to hike to this famous “Cave 1” on all the trip I lead.

However, it was just announced that a twelfth cave was just found. This “Cave 12” is located high on the western cliffs overlooking the archaeological site of Qumran. This is quite exciting!

Inside this cave, pieces of six 2000 year-old jars were found. Also small fragments of parchment and papyrus were discovered as well as at least one linen used for wrapping scrolls. The jars are identical to those found in other caves. Apparently the cave was looted in the 1950s, with pick-axe heads found inside the cave.

Randall Price in Cave 12

Dr. Randall Price in Cave 12 (photo credit: Dr. Randall Price)

Dr. Randall Price, professor at Liberty University, is one of a few who led this latest expedition. Another archaeologist who was part of the dig was Oren Gutfield of Hebrew University. His comments reflect the significance of this discovery, “This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave.”

Several articles were written about this latest discovery of Cave 12.  Stay tuned…. more to come I’m sure!

The Logos Academic Blog

Fox Science News



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

The 2016 Gezer Dig in Review

silver medallion gezer

Cleaning by the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed an embossed, eight-pointed star and a crescent shape on the cult pendant discovered at Gezer. Researchers believe the star represents the fertility goddess Ishtar and the crescent shape symbolizes the moon god, Sin. (Credit: Baptist Press; Photo by IAA)

The biblical site of Gezer is one of my favorite archaeological sites. We will be stopping by the site next week once again on the next tour I lead. The ruins of Gezer date from the Middle Bronze Period (around 2,100 – 1500 BC or so, give or take 50 years depending on what scholarship chronology you use) to the Iron Age I & II (also called Israelite – 1200- 586 BC). The site is located along the Ajalon Valley in a region called the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. I had the chance to dig here this past June. You can read my “personal” take on it HERE.

The location of the ancient city of Gezer made it one of the more strategically held cities through the Middle Bronze and Iron Age periods. Founded on the crossroads of the primary south-north route (called the Via Maris) and a west-east route (from the MEd Sea to Jericho and the Jordan River Valley to the east), it is no wonder why not only the Canaanites and Egyptians were interested in controlling the city but also Solomon. In fact, Israel’s third king refortified the city, along with Jerusalem to the east and Megiddo and Hazor to the north (see 1 Kings 9:15).

Aerial view of Gezer

An aerial view of Tel Gezer (credit: Ferrell Jenkins)

In this blog, I want to share with you an update of the exciting archaeological finds from last summer’s excavation. While I wrote about it already (see link above), this is a more thorough summary of last summer’s dig.

Among the many interesting finds, the most significant was the silver medallion. The Baptist Press reported:

The silver pendant was discovered, along with a cache of other items, in the complex of rooms associated with the wall. The cache of items had been wrapped in a linen cloth and placed in a clay “container” made of two bowls. The container was then hidden in the foundation of one of the rooms.

location of gezer

The strategic location of Gezer (credit: Bible Atlas)

Dr. Dan Warner, one of Gezer’s archaeologists, believes that the cache represents a “foundation deposit” meant to bless the room. “Finding a foundation deposit like this one in what appears to be a public storeroom is rare,” Warner said. “Surely it had a religious function; an offering to gods to make sure the structure would remain standing.”

The pendant includes a disk embossed with an eight-pointed star and prominent crescent shape. Irit Ziffer from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) believes the star disk represents the Canaanite fertility goddess Ishtar and the crescent symbolizes the Mesopotamian moon god Sin. It was very neat to see this medallion firsthand as it was carefully extracted from the dig.


Tel Gezer Canaanite Water system

Although this medallion was the most important discovery, the primary focus of the dig in June (the July team focused on Iron Age ruins) was the Middle Bronze water system. Throughout the last few seasons, a massive effort has been on-going to extract all the debris from the water tunnel. One hundred years ago, Macalister, one of the first pioneer archaeologists in Israel, cleaned it out, but since then it has filled back up with mud and massive stones (probably form the tower or wall above). The task is to once again clear it out again.

Click HERE to read the full article.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Has the House of Jesus in Nazareth Been Found?

house of Jesus in Nazareth

Is this the house of Jesus in Nazareth? Archaeologist Ken Dark suggests it could be! (photo: Ken Dark)

Has the house of Jesus in Nazareth been found? I just came across an article the other day that suggests it has been found…. well, maybe! How is that for an answer!  It’s really the best I can do.

Now in the age of archaeological forgeries and church traditions, to answer this question requires great care. For to answer “yes” to this question holds the precarious potential for followers of Jesus to worship the place where Jesus potentially spent many years of His young life. But to answer “no” to this question may cause someone to begin to doubt the relationship we see between biblical archaeology and the Bible. To answer “no” may even cause the skeptic to doubt the historicity of the Gospel account.

Well, for sure archaeologists have uncovered in recent years the remains of 1st century stone structures. While the walls of what appears to be house structures have been dated to the time of Jesus primarily by the type of pottery found, we just can’t be sure to label this particular house as the very dwelling place of Jesus during His childhood years. However, I must admit that it is fascinating to think that it could be the house. But I think that is as far as we should go.

map of Nazareth

Map of Nazareth

According to archaeologist Ken Dark (of the University of Reading), the rock-hewn courthouse found argues that although the evidence can’t prove Jesus grew up in the house, it does suggest it’s possible. In Dark’s own words, “It is always very hard to link archaeological evidence to specific people.

All throughout Israel, there has been many places “venerated” as traditional locations associated with Jesus. The three examples that come to mind around the Sea of Galilee are these: The site of Tabgha – the location of the Feeding of the 5000; The site Peter Primacy – the location where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection (John 21); and the site of Peter’s house in Capernaum (Mark 1). None really hold any archaeological weight, if you will. That doesn’t mean these “traditions” couldn’t be the very location of where the stories form the Gospels took place, but we just can’t be certain. We also have “traditional” sites for Jesus’ birth (Church of Nativity in Bethlehem), death & resurrection (Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem). So to identify this ancient 1st century house in Nazareth as the house of Jesus is quite intriguing!

Now if you hear a bit of skepticism within me, it’s only because there’s a big difference between identifying a stone house structure as a 1st century dwelling dating to the time of Jesus (which it for sure is!) and suggesting it could be the house of Jesus!  Saying this, I do appreciate Dark’s reluctance to say that this is actually the house of Jesus with definitive assertion.

According to the excavation report produced by the Nazareth Archaeological Project, the dig (that first started in 2006) “revealed a first-century ‘courtyard house’ that was partially hewn from naturally occurring rock and partially constructed with rock-built walls. Many of the home’s original features are still intact, including doors and windows. Also found at the site were tombs, a cistern and, later, a Byzantine church.” The presence of Byzantine ruins on top of the 1st century site does indicate that at the very least Christians in this Late Roman Period seemed to believe that this area was special for some reason. As the article states, “The remains combined with the description found in the seventh-century pilgrim account De Locus Sanctis point to the courtyard house found beneath the convent as what may have been regarded as Jesus’ home in Nazareth.”  While this adds some value to the statement that this was the house of Jesus, once again, it is only a tradition.

Nazareth in Israel

The city of Nazareth today

Today, a few other “traditional” sites are located in this general vicinity of the archaeological dig. This includes the Catholic Church called the Church of Annunciation (where Mary was visited by the angel in Luke 1) and a Greek Orthodox Church called the Church of the Well (where the town’s water source was originally located). Today, Nazareth is a city of about 100,000 people (Arabs and Jews).

Either way you want to look at this, I must admit that the archaeological discoveries and revelations are indeed intriguing! Just keep in mind that if archaeology does come up with definitive proof that this was the house of Jesus while growing up, we worship the Person and not the place. 

To read the Biblical Archaeology Review article HERE.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

The Piano Guys, Petra, & Indiana Jones

Treasury tomb at petra

The most famous tomb in Petra called the “Khazneh,” which is Arabic for the “Treasury.”

Petra is an amazing place. It is actually one of the 7 wonders of the world!  If you have ever been there, there are no words to describe the uniqueness and beauty of this place. One needs at least 6-7 hours (minimum!) to see just the highlights of the site that spands around 40 square miles!

Petra is a Romanized spelling of the word coined from the Nabati (Arabic) name of the city Al Batraa. Petra was the name given to this ancient city of red sandstone by the Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. Located about 150 miles south of the Jordanian capital of Amman, the city served as the Nabatean capital from around 400 BC to 106 AD (when the Romans took control of the city). It was the Nabateans who actually carved the main city.

Historically, the Nabateans controlled everything from the Red Sea to the Euphrates river, and had their own coin money made in Damascus which they also ruled until the Romans took over in 106 AD. They were not only conquerors but also traders.

The only access to Petra is a 300 meter high canyon that is about a mile long. It leads directly to the Treasury. This is best known tomb at Petra, also called the “Khazneh.” Today, archaeologists regard it as a two-story high tomb, albeit a masterful one. Its facade measures 82 feet wide and 128 feet high. Depending on who you ask, the total number of tombs within Petra is over 1,000!

The treasury at petra

The Treasury – Petra

Scholars know the Nabataeans were in Petra since at least 312 B.C.,” says archaeologist Zeidoun Al-Muheisen of Jordan’s Yarmouk University. Al-Muheisen, who has been excavating in Petra since 1979 and specializes in the Nabataean period, says no one has yet found any archaeological evidence dating back to the fourth century B.C. The earliest findings thus far date back only to the second and first centuries B.C. “We have uncovered just 15 percent of the city,” he says. “The vast majority—85 percent—is still underground and untouched.”

Of course, Petra was made even more famous by the 3rd Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (made in 1989). At the last scene, Indy rides on a horse from the Treasury out the site through the Sik (canyon).

Recently, the Piano Guys performed among the ruins of Petra. I think you will enjoy their playing as they offer their own Arabian rendition of the famous Indy theme song!


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Ancient Mirrors

ancient egyptian mirror

An ancient bronze Egyptian-style mirror like ones found at Accor and Megiddo

On an average day, how many times do you look at yourself in the mirror? Interestingly, an United Kingdom study shows that men look into a mirror 23 times a day, while women use a mirror 16 times a day. Fact is, people have been using mirrors throughout the history. While glass mirrors are the most common and popular today, mirrors used to be made from a variety of material in ancient times including copper, steel, silver and gold. Ancient mirrors have been found at archaeological sites! The Department of Antiquities in Israel has a few of these on display.

The first mirrors used by people were most likely to be a pool of water where they could observe their reflection and consider it magic. The first man-made mirrors were typically made of polished stone such as black volcanic glass obsidian and some examples of this kind of mirrors were found in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). The ancient Egyptians made mirrors of metal (copper, bronze, silver, tin, etc). They flattened sheets of metal and polished them until it could be used as a mirror. The mirror they produced had rounded shapes, sometimes with ornamentation on the back side, and usually with a handle so that one could easily use the mirror for self-viewing.

greek mirrors

Ancient Greek mirrors

If you recall, melted-down mirrors were used to make the laver used in the Tabernacle. The Bible says, “Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting (Exodus 38:8).”  

It is believed that glass mirrors were invented at Sidon in the first century AD. After the discovery of glass making, the Romans produced glass mirrors by finishing them with a metal layer. Pieces of glass covered with lead were also found in Roman graves dating from the second and third century. Glass mirrors were quite common in Egypt, Gaul, Germany and Asia. The earliest glass made mirrors were only about three inches in diameter and mirror manufactured from metal was still preferable by many people due to the fact that glass mirrors still did not have a very good reflection.

This reminds us of what James said in the New Testament, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror (James 1:23).” The point James was trying to make was this – In the mirror we may look as if we are a person of faith, but unless we put our faith into action, that’s the only way to prove the genuineness of our faith.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

The “Thinking Man” Statue Found in Israel

jug statue thinking man

This is a 3,800 year-old pottery jug with a rare statuette, discovered during excavation in central Israel, at the Israel Antiquities Authority offices in Jerusalem November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

New archaeological discoveries happen all the time in Israel. In fact, it is archaeology that unveils the historicity of God’s Word for us over and over again.

It was just reported that a very interesting jug made out of pottery was discovered in Israel. Found at an excavation at Yehud near Tel Aviv, the jug had a very rare statue attached to the top of it. Authorities are calling it the “thinking man’s statue.” The Israel Antiquities Authority said that the jug dates back to the Middle Bronze or Canaanite Period. This means it dates to around 1,800 BC, or the middle of this Middle Bronze/Canaanite Period. This means that this jug dates to around the time of Joseph in the Bible.

ancient thinking man middle bronzeWhat this seven inch statue represents is a leading question. Gilad Itach, the lead archaeologist of the excavation, said, “One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection.”  While other vessels and metal items were found (e.g. daggers, arrowheads, an axe head, and bones, etc…), Itach said “the collection seemed to be funeral offerings, likely of an important member of an ancient community.” He added, “To the best of my knowledge such a rich funerary assemblage that also includes such a unique pottery vessel has never before been discovered in the country.

Go HERE for the full article.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

The Temple Mount & Amazing Flyover

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount of Jerusalem

From a biblical, historical, and even contemporary – political point of view, the Temple Mount is the focal point in all of Jerusalem! The Temple Mount represents the historical location of Mt. Moriah (Abraham & Isaac, Genesis 22, see also 2 Chr. 3) as well as the specific location for the 1st and 2nd Temples (built by Solomon and King Herod, respectively). But more specifically, the Temple Mount represents the very place where God made Himself known! It was where the Shekinah glory of God was experienced! It was where sacrifices were made to God. It was where the Ark of the Covenant resided for 100s of years during the days of the 1st Temple. It was where Jesus (and later the Apostles) spent so much time teaching about the malchut shamyim (“kingdom of heaven”) within the courts of the 2nd Temple.

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount (illustrated by Getty Image)

Today the Muslim Dome of the Rock (completed in 691 AD) stands where the Jewish 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. It’s the “traditional” place where Mohammed supposedly ascended to heaven during his “night flight.’ By the way just as a matter of “fact,” Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Koran once! And the “tradition” of Mohammed taking his “night flight” from Mecca to some mosque in Jerusalem (that incidentally didn’t even exist yet) didn’t develop until well after the Dome was built. Nevertheless, even though Herod’s Temple stood twice as high in the days of Jesus, the Dome is an impressive building. I’ve been in it a number of times in the 1980s. It has now been “off-limits” to non-Muslims since 2000.

The Temple Mount is so large that it can hold about 11 football fields side by side. This expanded platform is attributed to none other than King Herod the Great. It was in 20 BC that this Temple project began. The Temple would not be complete until long after Herod’s death in 4 BC. (see John 2:20… it took at 46 years to build, with Josephus mentioning that the final details of the Temple were not completed until decades later). The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount

The Dome of the Rock where the 1st and 2nd Jewish Temples once stood

To visit the Temple Mount today is actually a bit disappointing. This is primarily because of the political tension that exists between Palestinians and Israelis. For the Jew, the Temple Mount represents the most holy place in all of Judaism. For the Palestinian Muslims, while their “tradition” venerates the place as significant in Islamic history for the reason I stated above, it is a place where a political statement can be maintained. In fact, UNESCO regrettably just voted last month to no longer call it “Temple Mount” but rather “The Al Asca,” using the name of the mosque built about 15 years after the Dome of the Rock was built. Specifically, the Al Asca Mosque was built in 705 AD, although the present silver-dome structure dates to 1035 AD. The UN’s anti-Semitic intention is to divorce any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. To be honest, this is quite sad and disturbing!

But indeed the Temple Mount is an important place in Jewish history. In fact, the folks at the Temple Institute in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City have planned and prepared all the elements for the building of the 3rd Temple on the Temple Mount. How this is all going to work with the presence of both the Dome of the Rock and the Al Asca Mosque on the Temple Mount currently is a topic for another blog.:) Sure makes for interesting political and theological dialogue though!

So enjoy this “flyover” produced by our friends at SourceFlix of the beautiful Temple Mount in the holy city of Jerusalem!

Temple Mount Flyover from on Vimeo.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather