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Jerusalem conflict: The history of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount and the holiest Jewish temple that preceded it
The Temple Mount complex is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are allowed to worship, and the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine
A source of major resentment in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the religious divide between the Israeli Jewish people and the Palestinian Muslims. This resentment stems from the fact that Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in both Judaism and Islam remains the bone of contention behind the conflict. The Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism where Jews turn towards during prayer is in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount complex is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are allowed to worship, and the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine that is instantly recognizable because of its gold-plated dome.
However, before the construction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, there was a grand Jewish temple on the same location on the Temple Mount. This Jewish Holy Temple, called the Second Temple, was the holiest Jewish site of worship until it was destroyed by the Roman Empire in the 70 A.D. as punishment for a Jewish revolt. The Second Temple was constructed in 516 BCE after the First Temple or Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE.
The Foundation Stone, the holiest site for the Jews at present, is located on the floor of the Dome of the Rock. However, the Jews are not allowed to visit it as it located inside the Islamic shrine.
The Western Wall, which is now the holiest site Jews are allowed to worship due to the restrictions on entry to Temple Mount, is a remnant of the retaining wall erected by King Herod as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple. There is extensive physical evidence confirming the existence of the Second Temple on Temple Mount.
Evidence confirming the existence of a Jewish temple on Temple Mount
In 1871, a stone tablet engraved with Greek letters was discovered near a court on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This stone tablet was identified by French archaeologist Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau as being the Temple Warning inscription. The stone inscription outlined the prohibition extended unto those who were not of the Jewish nation to proceed beyond the soreg (a low wall) separating the larger Court of the Gentiles and the inner courts. The inscription goes on for seven lines.
The translation reads, “Let no foreigner enter within the parapet and the partition which surrounds the Temple precincts. Anyone caught [violating] will be held accountable for his ensuing death.” Today, the stone is preserved in Istanbul’s Museum of Antiquities. The inscription confirms the existence of a temple beyond a shadow of a doubt. A partial fragment of a less well-made version of the inscription was found in 1936 by J. H. Iliffe, who was Keeper of the Palestine Archaeological Museum from 1931-48, during the excavation of a new road outside Jerusalem’s Lions’ Gate. The inscription is now held in the Israel Museum.
Another ancient inscription, called the Trumpeting Place inscription, was partially preserved on a stone discovered below the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. The inscription shows two complete words and a third incomplete word in the Hebrew alphabet. The translation of the two complete words reads, “To the Trumpeting Place”. This has been interpreted as belonging to a spot on the Mount described by the 1st-century historian Josephus, “where one of the priests to stand and to give notice, by sound of trumpet, in the afternoon of the approach, and on the following evening of the close, of every seventh day…” closely resembling what the Talmud says.
The various walls and gates surrounding the Temple Mount, constructed by King Herod are all proof of the Second Jewish Temple. These walls and gates include, the Western Wall, the Southern Wall, Robinson’s Arch and even structures like Solomon’s Stables are all proof of the existence of the Second Jewish temple.
On September 25, 2007, Yuval Baruch, an archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a quarry compound which may have provided King Herod with the stones to build his Temple on the Temple Mount. Coins, pottery, and an iron stake found proved the date of the quarrying to be about 19 BCE. Archaeologist Ehud Netzer confirmed that the large outlines of the stone cuts are evidence that it was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves.
The Magdala Stone, a carved stone block unearthed by archaeologists from an ancient synagogue, dates before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. It is notable for detailed carvings depicting the Second Temple, carvings made while that Temple still stood and therefore assumed to have been made by an artist who had seen the Temple before it was destroyed by the Roman military. Some archaeologists describe the carvings as enabling a new, scholarly understanding of the synagogue conceptualized as a sacred space even during the period while the Temple was still standing.
All of the above-mentioned inscriptions, stone tablets, etc. are proof of the existence of a Jewish Holy temple on Temple Mount, hundreds of years before the Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the Dome of the Rock, or any Islamic presence for that matter. The idea of religious Palestinian nativism is incorrect because it ignores the historical reality of Jerusalem’s Jewish roots.
According to Jew Theology related to events associated with the end of days, a Third Temple will be built where once the Second Temple stood. Several attempts were made in the past to construct the Third Temple, but they were not successful, and several Jew organisations have been formed in modern times with the goal of constructing the temple. Israeli Jews keep talking about building a Third Temple on Temple Mount to succeed the First Temple and the Second Temple, and it remains a major subject of tension between Muslims and Jews in the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
Even though the Jerusalem city is part of Israel since 1967, the Islamic Shrines located on Temple Mount are managed by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. Moreover, currently the Israeli government prevents non-Muslims from entering the area as a security measure.
What was Solomon’s temple / the first temple?
The crowning achievement of King Solomon’s reign was the erection of a magnificent temple in Jerusalem, often called Solomon’s temple or the first temple. Solomon’s father, King David, had wanted to build a great temple for God a generation earlier, as a permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments. However, God had forbidden him from doing so: "You will not build a house for my name for you are a man of battles and have shed blood" (1 Chronicles 28:3). Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David (2 Chronicles 3:1). This new, stationary temple would replace the portable tabernacle constructed during the wilderness wandering.
If Solomon reigned from 970 to 930 BC, then he began building the temple in 966 BC. A very interesting fact concerning the building of the temple was there was no noise of the construction. The material was prepared before it was brought to the building site. The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7). The Bible’s description of Solomon’s temple suggests that the inside ceiling was 180 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 50 feet high. The highest point on the temple that King Solomon built was actually 120 cubits tall (about 20 stories or about 207 feet). First Kings 6:1&ndash38 and chapters 7&mdash8 describe the construction and dedication of Solomon’s temple.
Until the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians some four hundred years later, in 586 BC, sacrifice was the predominant mode of divine service there. Seventy years later, a second temple was completed on the same site, and sacrifices again resumed. The book of Ezra chronicles the building of the second temple. During the first century, Herod greatly enlarged and expanded this temple, which became known as Herod’s temple. It was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, during the siege of Jerusalem. Only a small portion of the retaining wall remains to this day, known as “The Wailing Wall.”
King Solomon's Wall Found—Proof of Bible Tale?
A 3,000-year-old defensive wall might be unprecedented archaeological support for a Bible passage on King Solomon.
A 3,000-year-old defensive wall possibly built by King Solomon has been unearthed in Jerusalem, according to the Israeli archaeologist who led the excavation. The discovery appears to validate a Bible passage, she says.
The tenth-century B.C. wall is 230 feet (70 meters) long and about 6 meters (20 feet) tall. It stands along what was then the edge of Jerusalem—between the Temple Mount, still Jerusalem's paramount landmark, and the ancient City of David, today a modern-day Arab neighborhood called Silwan.
The stone barrier is part of a defensive complex that includes a gatehouse, an adjacent building, and a guard tower, which has been only partially excavated, according to Eilat Mazar, who led the dig for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Over the years, the structures have been partially demolished—their building materials scavenged for later structures—and what remained was buried under rubble, Mazar said.
The Bible's First Book of Kings—widely believed to have been written centuries after the time period in question—says Solomon, king of Israel, built a defensive wall in Jerusalem. The new discovery is the first archaeological evidence of this structure, Mazar says.
Bearing Out a Bible Passage?
Ancient artifacts found in and around the complex pointed Mazar to the tenth-century B.C. date.
"We don't have many kings during the tenth century that could have built such a structure, basically just David and Solomon," she said.
According to the Bible, King David, of David-and-Goliath fame, was the father of King Solomon, who is said to have built the First Temple of Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.
Ceramics found near the wall helped narrow the date down, being of a level of sophistication common to the second half of the tenth century B.C.—King Solomon's time, according to Mazar.
Three-foot-tall (one-meter-tall) earthenware storage vessels were found near the gatehouse, one of them with a Hebrew inscription indicating the container belonged to a high-ranking government official.
Figurines typical of tenth-century B.C. Jerusalem—including four-legged animals and large-breasted women likely symbolizing fertility—were also uncovered, as were jar handles bearing impressions reading "to the king" and various Hebrew names, she said.
The artifacts may hint at the area's street life in biblical times. Here ancient Jerusalemites would have gathered around the wall's city gate to trade, settle disputes via street-side judges, engage in ritual practices, and stock up on water and supplies for treks out of the city, Mazar said.
How Reliable Is the Bible?
Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, who was not involved in the excavation, agrees that it's possible King Solomon constructed the wall.
But Finkelstein cautioned against leaning too heavily on the Bible to interpret the findings. (Related travel blog post: "In Israel, the Bible Is our GPS.")
Familiarity with religious or historic texts connected to any given site is important, he said, but their usefulness can vary.
"It depends upon the text. Each has its own characteristics, each needs to be approached differently," he said. "There is the question as to when it was written—300 years after, or at the time of the events? What are its goals and its ideology? Why was it written?"
For her part, Mazar believes it's natural for archaeologists excavating in the Holy Land to consult with biblical texts along with other ancient documents.
"I don't believe there is an archaeologist who would excavate a site upon which texts have been written without being familiar with those texts," she said.
Israel heralds first direct evidence of King Solomon’s Temple
TEMPLE Mount: It’s the hill at the heart of much of the Middle East’s turmoil. Now, for the first time, archaeologists say they have found evidence of King Solomon’s temple.
The Dome of the Rock, in the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's old city. Picture: AFP Source:AFP
TEMPLE Mount: It’s the hill at the heart of much of the Middle East’s turmoil. Now, for the first time, archaeologists say they have found evidence of King Solomon’s temple.
The veracity of the Old Testament’s accounts of King Solomon building the First Temple have long been questioned. While remnants of the Second Temple abound, only uncertain hints of an earlier structure have previously been found.
The Bible states Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. This has been dated to about 587BC.
The Second Temple, remnants of which include the Jerusalem’s famous Wailing Wall, was razed by the Romans about AD70.
But the Times of Israel is today reporting a secret archaeological excavation on Temple Mount has unearthed the first ever artefacts conclusively dated to the First Temple — some 2600 years ago.
The paper says the dig was done with the permission of the Islamic organisation that administers the 7th Century Dome of the Rock, from which the prophet Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven.
At its heart is the Foundation Stone — the holy site where Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, Isacc according to Bibilcal traditions and Ishmael in Islamic texts.
The new finds constitute little more than a few fragments of pottery, pips and bone. But Israeli archaeologists are excited at its religious and political significance.
The handful of fragments, found on Temple Mount, which have been dated to the era of the First Temple, or the Temple of Solomon, in Jerusalem. Picture: Israel Antiquities Authority Source:Supplied
“It’s the first time that we’ve found artefacts from this period in situ on the Temple Mount,” the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem, Yuval Baruch, said.
The dig exposed Roman arrowheads and a coin, as well as traces of a previously unknown structure dating from the early Crusader period.
But the most significant finds were some 120m to the southeast of the Dome of the Rock.
“This layer included pottery fragments characterised in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, as well as animal bones and charred olive pits,” a paper detailing the discoveries reads. rbon 14 dating of the olives yielded dates from the 6th to 8th centuries BCE. This date is confirmed by the dates of the pottery.”
The secretive and heavily guarded dig was done first in 2007 and again in 2016 as part of maintenance work on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock including the laying of an underground power cable.
It was the first such organised archaeological dig there since the 1930s.
Previously, the only indications that the sacred hill had even been occupied before the Second Temple were found among rubble removed from Temple Mount during the construction of a new mosque in the 1990s.
The announcement of the discovery comes just weeks after Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on the occupied Palestinian territories including annexed east Jerusalem. The resolutions refered to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem&aposs Old City - Islam&aposs third holiest site - without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Solomon's Temple, Jerusalem - History
It is said certain Israeli groups are planning rebuilding the Temple. If so, which one should it be, the First built by King Solomon, or the Second built by King Herod? The two temples were several hundred years apart. Is choosing one model over the other solely a matter of personal taste or is there something more substantial involved?
King Solomon’s Temple is the better choice and here is why: Solomon’s was built in the hidden form of a tripartite man who is Jacob, the Levite High Priest, and King Messiah, as explained and illustrated in the above links. But in Herod’s Temple (T- shaped roof at right) it is impossible to find these three biblical figures because the features identifying them were erased or radically altered. And who will argue that these three are of little or no import to Israel and Judaism? In fact, they may also be of interest to Christianity and perhaps even Islam. Here is why Solomon’s Temple ought be preferred over Herod’s.
Herod Raises the Foundation Six Cubits
In the Second Temple the foundation was raised six cubits making the floor of the Hekal, the Holy Place, level with the floor of the Holy of Holies. In other words, in Solomon’s Temple the floor of the Holy of Holies was at least six cubits higher than the floor of the Holy Place. Therefore, on Yom Kippur the High Priest had to ascend a ramp or short stairway to enter the Holy of Holies. But not so in Herod’s Temple because both floors were made the same height. The problem? By raising the floor of the Holy Place and making it level with the Holy of Holies, Herod e rased forever the figure of Jacob sleeping at Bethel and using a stone for a headrest for as the graphic at right shows, the ramp or stairway relates to Jacob’s neck, and the elevated Holy of Holies to his raised head. Hence, the rock upon which Isaac was bound earlier by Abraham (Genesis 22:9) – the Eben Shetiyah , the Foundation Stone – corresponds to Jacob’s ‘pillow stone’ at Bethel. But in Herod’s Temple, because of the new and higher foundation, only three finger breadths of Isaac’s rock could be seen, a paltry few inches. For mention of Herod’s six cubit foundation consult the Jewish Encyclopedia:
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=126&letter=T . See under the heading hekal.
For more links on this topic enter into Google’s search box: 6 cubit foundation.
The Human Body Form Altered
And there is another large problem: Not only was Herod’s Porch (ulam) 100 cubits high, it was also 100 cubits wide, making the Temple appear like an inverted letter T when viewed from the top (see first graphic at the beginning of this article).
Since he made the Porch extraordinarily wide, Temple Man’s hips appear ridiculously broad (silhouette figure at right). Solomon’s Temple Man appears like an ordinary human figure, but not so Herod’s. Also, Herod’s man has no neck because the new higher foundation eliminated the stairway or ramp leading up to the Holy of Holies.
Although Herod’s Temple, like Solomon’s, had two pillars at the Porch’s entrance, Herod added two rectangular pilasters to his temple, making his man appear as having four legs.
Again, notice on the silhouette that the five lavers of Solomon’s Temple relate to the five fingers of each hand. But in Herod’s Temple the ten lavers were replaced by a single Rinsing Chamber, so that with one stroke Herod cut off the hands of Jacob, the Levite High Priest, and King Messiah. Should not we be leery of schemes promoting the rebuilding of a temple based on the Herodian design?
Also missing is Solomon’s superb Sea of Bronze with its magnificent twelve bulls, replaced with a puny Wash Basin. And of course, Herod’s Temple did not have the enigmatic Ark of the Covenant (it vanished centuries before), nor the stately and imposing ten-cubit tall gold cherubim inside the Holy of Holies.
The Mosaic Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple were designed by heaven the Second Temple was designed by profane men to give form and substance to King Herod’s ill-conceived, misguided building notions.
Two questions: Which of these two temples presents a clearer view of the human form? Which one symbolizes key Jewish figures in biblical history?
Why Jews and Muslims Both Have Religious Claims on Jerusalem
The matter of Israel’s capital city has long been a source of dispute.ਊlthough nearly allਏoreign embassies in Israelਊre located in Tel Aviv, the countryonsiders Jerusalem to be its capital. Jerusalem, which is one of the oldest cities in the world, has been formally divided between Israel and Palestine for nearly 70 years, yet changed hands many other times throughout the course of its over 5,000-year history.
Israel and Palestine’s dueling claims to the city are steeped in decades of conflict, during which Jewish settlers pushed Muslim Arabs out of their homes and established the state of Israel on their land in the middle of the 20th century. But the claims are also tied to the religions of Judaism and Islam, both of which recognize Jerusalem as a holy place.
On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump broke with previous U.S. foreign policy and announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, effectively endorsing Israeli control of the city. On May 14, 2018, the U.S. relocated its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Jerusalem seen through a door with the shape of the star of David. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday, Dec. 6, and instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. (Credit: Oded Balilty/AP Photo)
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are strongly tied to the ancient city, and followers of each of these religions have controlled all or part of the city over the past few thousand years. In 1,000 B.C.E., King David established Jewish control over Jerusalem. The city fell in and out of other hands during the next couple of millenia particularly during the crusades, when Christian crusaders fought competing Christian and Muslim factions for control of the city. And between 1517 and 1917, the Ottoman Empire—whose official religion was Islam—ruled the city.
Jerusalem features prominently in the Hebrew Bible. In the Jewish tradition, it is the place where Abraham, the first Patriarch of Judaism, nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to God thousands of years ago. Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob (who took the name “Israel”) learned that Jerusalem is “the site that the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name,” according to the Book of Deuteronomy.
Religious Jewish men praying at The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, ahead of the Sabbath, 2005. (Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Jerusalem was the capital of King David’s Israel in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the city where David’s son Solomon built his temple. In biblical times, Jewish people who could not make a pilgrimage to the city were supposed to pray in the direction of it.
According to the Quran, Jerusalem was also the last place the Prophet Muhammad visited before he ascended to the heavens and talked to God in the seventh century. Before that, he was flown from Mecca to Jerusalem overnight by a mythical creature.
Both this miraculous night journey and his communion with God are important events in Islam. During the night journey, Muhammad was purified in preparation for his meeting with God. Once in heaven, God told Muhammad that he should recite the salat, or ritual prayer, 50 times each day. However, Muhammad begged God to reduce the number to five times a day, which is the current standard for Muslim prayer.
TURKEY – APRIL 08: Walls of Constantinople (first half of the 5th century AD) and the city, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Muhammad saw his mission as an extension of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, the first Qibla, or direction in which Muslims should pray, was Jerusalem (today, Muslims bow towards Mecca). In addition, Islamic tradition predicts that Jerusalem will play an important role in the future, naming it as one of the cities where the end of the world will play out.
Though the world doesn’t appear to be ending there right now, Trump’s announcement has increased tensions in the region. The president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital drew praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and condemnation from Palestinian allies who worried that this move would make it more difficult to negotiate a long-sought peace treaty between the states.
Solomon's Temple, Jerusalem - History
The history of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem
King Solomon built the first Temple in the 10th century BCE, on a site whose sanctity went back eons before that.
By David B. Green | Aug. 11, 2014 | 12:42 PM
Depiction of the Temple Menorah (IAA)
An incised depiction of the Temple Menorah, found at the site of the Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo by Israel Antiquities Authority
Since at least July 2000, when U.S.-sponsored peace talks at Camp David, Maryland, collapsed, soon to be followed by what became known as the Second Intifada, the very existence of an Israelite temple in ancient Jerusalem has been a point of contention between Palestinians and Israelis. This is ironic, since the principal reason that the place Jews call the “Temple Mount” and Muslims call the “Haram al-Sharif” (“Noble Sanctuary”) is supremely holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity too is that it is where both the First and the Second Temples stood.
The New Testament tells of several important episodes in the life of Jesus that took place in the precinct of the Second Temple, and the Koran and other Muslim texts refer to the Temple specifically and to the great holiness of the mount on which it stood. It is the very spot from which the Prophet Muhammad is said to have begun his Night Journey to Heaven, in the 7th century.
Holy site going back thousands of years
The First Temple was built in the 10th century B.C.E. by King Solomon, according to the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 5-9). But the sanctity of the site goes back hundreds and possibly thousands of years before that.
The land on which Solomon built the temple had been acquired by King David, Solomon’s father, who thought to build a grand temple himself. But the Lord, according to the biblical story, rejected David’s ambition because of the king’s sins and the job passed to the son.
The land David chose, a threshing floor, was associated with Moriah, where the patriarch Abraham brought his son Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22:14). (In the Bible, the mount is also referred to as “Zion,” a name that eventually came to encompass the entire Land of Israel.) That too is a tradition shared by the three great monotheistic religions. Other than that, and a few other minor references to the site in the Bible, however, there is no obvious explanation why Solomon built his temple here.
What is clear is that the Temple was meant to be a permanent residence for the Ark of the Covenant (Aron Habrit), which held the stone tablets of the law Moses received on Mt. Sinai, and [which traveled with the Israelites during their journey through the desert.
‘Feeding’ the god
Temples were standard institutions in the Ancient Near East, and until the construction of Solomon’s Temple, it was normal, even among the Hebrews, for individual localities to have their own altar or sanctuary.
Among pagan peoples, the temple would be the home of their god, who would be represented in the form of an idol. Among the Israelites, the Temple was initially thought of as the literal residence of God, but God’s presence was intangible, at most a type of radiance called “kavod” in Hebrew.
As the conception of God changed from that of a neighborhood or national deity who had an address and needed to be placated, to being universal and omnipresent, the sanctuary evolved from being the place where God lived to being the place that the people visited so as to offer service to God, in the form of sacrifices. By the time of the final destruction of the Temple, the Jews, as they now could be called, no longer needed to “feed” God with physical sacrifices, but rather could serve him with prayer and obedience to his laws.
No direct evidence for Solomon’s Temple
The precise location of Solomon’s Temple — the First Temple — on the mount is not known, nor have any physical artifacts from it been unearthed by archaeologists, though there are numerous artifacts portending to its existence (see the pictures gallery). Even if remnants have been preserved below-ground, the fact that two Muslim shrines stand on the Temple Mount – the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque – means there is no possibility of Israeli archaeologists excavating there.
That being said, in 1999, the Waqf (the Muslim authority entrusted with the maintenance and functioning of the mount) began construction of an underground mosque in the southeastern corner of the Haram, adjacent to Al-Aksa. When Jewish archaeologists observed that the large quantities of soil and detritus extracted from the site were being dumped a little to the northeast of the Old City, in the Kidron Valley, they organized an ongoing project, called the Temple Mount Sifting Project, to go through the refuse systematically.
Large numbers of items that they date to the First Temple period have been found.
The Temple was meant to serve as a single facility for the United Monarchy, where sacrifices to God would take place, and where, in the Holy of Holies, an elaborate chamber in the innermost sanctum of the Temple, God’s presence was said to dwell. After the single monarchy split into the distinct kingdoms of Judah and Israel, which happened, according to the Bible, under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, there was again a duplication of temples, as new altars were erected in Israel, at Dan, in the north, and Bethel, in the south.
After Israel was conquered in about 720 B.C.E., and its 10 tribes driven into exile, Jerusalem again became the lone cultic center.
Solomon’s Temple sustained several attacks by foreign powers before finally, in 586 B.C.E., being totally destroyed by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. The residents of Judah were sent into a short-lived exile, in what is present-day Iraq.
With the fall of Babylon, the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to the Land of Israel, beginning in 538. A rebuilt temple was dedicated in 515 B.C.E. – a little-known precursor to the grand structure called Herod’s Temple.
That Second Temple was an expanded and significantly upgraded structure whose construction was led by the half-Jewish, half-Edumean Herod, the Roman-appointed king of Judea who died in 4 B.C.E. Finished in about 20 B.C.E., the extravagant edifice stood less than a century. The first Jewish Revolt began in 66 C.E. and in 70 C.E., the Roman general (later emperor) Titus looted the Temple and leveled it.
Following the destruction of the Second Temple during the First Revolt and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem itself, accompanied by the exile of its inhabitants, during the Second Jewish Revolt, in 132-135, that Judaism made a sharp turn from being a temple-based cult that relied on daily sacrifices to its god. It became a mobile faith that revolved around law and prayer, and whose members soon spread out around the Mediterranean basin, and later to more distant points. The synagogue replaced the single Temple, but recalled the sanctuary by always being physically oriented in the direction of Jerusalem. Prayer took the place of animal sacrifices.
Jews still mourn the destruction of the Temple, principally on Tisha B’av (the Ninth of the month of Av), the date traditionally associated with the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, and other catastrophes that befell the people. But the Jewish longing for “Zion” evolved from being focused mainly on the loss of the ritual center of the Temple, to mourning over the loss of the land. It therefore made sense that the modern movement dedicated to reestablishment of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel called itself “Zionism.” Yet there remains a significant stream within Orthodox Judaism that aspires to rebuild the Temple, in Jerusalem, and to return to an era when Jews worshipped through pilgrimage and sacrifices.
The prophet Daniel had been one of Nebuchadnezzar’s trusted advisors during the reign of the king and was elevated to a new place of influence because of his ability to interpret dreams.
One day, Nebuchadnezzar woke up from one of his dreams, frightened. He found himself in a dream living like a farm animal, eating grass from the field, and losing his ability to reason. He then asked Daniel for an interpretation. Daniel told him that he would quickly fall into an animal-like life and that the only way to keep his mental health from failing was to offer charity.
Nebuchadnezzar opened his storehouses and for a year gave charity to those who wanted it most, especially the recently-exiled Jews.
As the year went by, he grew resentful and closed his storehouses, thereby stopping the giving of the charity, because his mental health had shown no decline.
Nebuchadnezzar then began to behave like an animal and had to be removed from the throne. He was in this state for seven years. His son, Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk) ruled in his place as regent during the period of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity. After the seven years had elapsed, Nebuchadnezzar returned to his senses and emerged from his exile where he found his son seated on his throne. Immediately, Evil-Merodach was thrown into prison for life and held responsible for what had happened to his father. He remained there until the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C.
As long as Nebuchadnezzar lived, no man smiled. Therefore, at his death, the entire world burst forth in triumphant jubilation.
Upon the death of his father, the Babylonian advisors asked Evil-Merodach to take up his rightful place, which he declined until he was certain his father was really dead. The advisors then exhume Nebuchadnezzar’s body and then proceeded to stab the corpse repeatedly before dragging it through the streets of Babylon. This fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy:
“But you are cast out of your grave like a rejected branch, covered by those slain with the sword, and dumped into a rocky pit, like a carcass trampled underfoot.” – Isaiah 14:19.
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