Since we have been studying the Book of Nehemiah, let’s talk about the Temple Mount and the Temple. There is a teaching going around today that says the Temple was located in the City of David and not on the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock is located. We are going to show that this is virtually impossible. To believe that the Temple was located in the City of David you would have to deny the Scriptures. You would have to say that the Book of Nehemiah, which we have just gone over, is inaccurate and wrong in what it is saying.
This book plainly puts the Temple on the present day Temple Mount, and Josephus puts the Temple on the present day Temple Mount. But one of the big problems people have is that they are unfamiliar with the geography of Jerusalem. So we are going to try and correct that with some valid information. For those of you who do not like geography, please stick with us because it will be a real blessing for you. You will need a good map of the ancient City of David with the gates to go along with this teaching, and they are easily available on the Internet.
We have two detailed accounts of the geography of Jerusalem and both will be in the Second Temple period. The first will be in Nehemiah 3, with additional information in Neh 12, and the second account will be Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 5. He gives a very detailed account of the Temple at the time it was destroyed, as well as the city of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah is giving his account at the time the Temple was being rebuilt with Ezra, Yehoshua Ben Yehozadak the high priest and Zerubbabel. That will be early Second Temple period but it gives us a real good view of Jerusalem and the Temple of the late First Temple period.
The view that the Temple was located in the City of David does not fit the archaeology. Archaeologists can tell us in detail what has been found and one of the best archaeologists today is Eilat Mazar. She has a book called “The Complete Guide to Temple Mount Excavations.” She is the granddaughter of Benjamin Mazar, who conducted the excavation around the south and southwest of the Temple Mount. The archaeologists can also tell us what is not there.
If one is going to study the Bible, you need to study Jerusalem. It is the Throne of God on earth and the center piece of the Bible, from beginning to end (Jer 17.12). Yehovah “planted a garden toward the east in Eden and there he placed the man he had formed” (Gen 2.8). The question is, “East of what?” You have to have a reference point. That reference point is east of the throne, and the throne of God is the Temple. There is a belief that the Temple was a representation of the Garden of Eden, and that Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden are linked. The motif of the Temple relates back to a garden (trees, pomegranates, gourds, flowers, olive wood, etc-1 Kings 6.18, 29, 31, 7.18, 36; Psa 52.8; 92.12-14; Ezek 31.8-9) and Ezek 28.13-16 speaks of “Eden, the garden of God” and the “mountain of God.” Adam fell in what would be Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and Yeshua as the second Adam restored mankind from the sin of Adam in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, and was buried in a nearby garden. But, that again is another story.
The stone within the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim is called the “Even Shetiyah” or “Foundation Stone.” It is taught that from that point Yehovah created the world. So, from the beginning (Bereshit means “beginning” and is the Hebrew name for the Book of Genesis) of the Bible to the Book of Revelation, we have Jerusalem.
If you want to understand the Tanak, the Gospels, Epistles and prophecy, you need to understand the geography of Jerusalem. If you don’t, you will end up making all types of assumptions based on what you learn in Sunday School, movies, books and teachings by people who didn’t know the geography. It is a key to understanding the Scriptures.
The oldest part of Jerusalem is called “Ir David” or the City of David. You can look on any map and you can locate it, and it is only about 14 acres. By comparison, the White House grounds in Washington, D.C. is 18 acres, so the City of David is a small area.
North of the the city is a place called the Ophel (fortified hill) and it is like a bridge between the City of David (Ir David) and the Temple Mount. This is a biblical word that can be found in 2 Chr 27.2, 33.14; Neh 3.26 and Neh 11.21. So we are talking about a real geological location.
At the southern tip of the City of David you will see the Dung Gate. In the Torah, latrines must be outside of the “camp of Israel.” When they come into the land, the camp of Israel was defined as being within sight of the Mishkan in Shiloh (Mishnah, Zevachim 14.6). In Jerusalem, the camp of Israel was within the walls of the city (Mishnah, Zevachim 14.8). Because of that there was a Dung Gate at the south end of the city.
That doesn’t mean everyone in the north part of the city had to go all the way south to the Dung Gate to use a latrine. But what it does mean is they used chamber pots, and once the refuse was collected it was carried out of the city to the Hinnom Valley where it was thrown in heaps. They also burned trash there and it was later called “Tophet” (Jer 7.30-34) and “Gehenna” (Gei Hinnom or Valley of Hinnom) to the south of the city.
This valley south of the city formed a “wind tunnel” that carried the smoke and odor away from the city to the east. The Dung Gate is also called the “Potter’s Gate” (Jer 19.1-2) for the same reason. The potter’s need clay and water, and there were several pools to the south called Siloam (Sent) and the King’s Pool, and there was a spring in En-Rogel.
To the north we have the Gihon Spring and when Solomon was crowned it was held at the Gihon Spring (1 Kings 1.32-39). Adonijah his brother is going to appoint himself king at En-rogel (1 Kings 5-9). The distance between the two sites is only about a half a mile. That is why Adonijah and all the guests could hear Solomon’s coronation at the Gihon Spring (1 Kings 1.38-43).
The potters fired their pottery at the southern end of the city also and the wind carried the smoke away from the city. Jer 18 tells us about the potter and the clay, and Jer 19.1-2 says, “Thus says Yehovah, ‘Go and buy a potters earthenware jar and take some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests. Then go out to the Valley of Ben-hinnom which is by the entrance of the potsherd gate and proclaim there the word that I shall tell you.’ “
There is a term called “Gei Hinnom” or “Valley of Hinnom” and this is where we get the word “Gehenna” (Matt 5.22; Mark 9.43). That is the valley we have mentioned before that comes around from the west side to the south of Jerusalem. That is where they burned the trash and the dung. Jer 19.5-7 says that the bamot (high places) to Baal were built to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal. So Yehovah says the days were coming when this place will no longer be called Tophet (spitting) or the Valley of Ben-hinnom (sons of Hinnom) but rather the Valley of Slaughter.
God will deliver the carcasses of the unbelievers over as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth there after he judges them at his return (Isa 66.24; Ezek 29.1-8, 32.1-8; Luke 17.33; Matt 13.30; Matt 24.28; Rev 19.21). Spiritually, we “burn” our children when we don’t tell them about the truth of God, but the doctrines of some religion that runs contrary to the Torah, and they die unconverted. This valley is seen as the most cursed place in Jerusalem, Israel and the earth.
In Jer 19.14-15 it says that Jeremiah came from Tophet where Yehovah had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court (azarah) of the Temple and said that Yehovah was going on Jerusalem and all its towns the calamity that he has prophesied about because the people have stiffened their necks and were not listening to God’s words. They would not accpet the “yoke” of the Torah and they wanted to be “free from the Law.”
The Temple Mount is at the top of the hill and the Tophet and Gei Hinnom were at the bottom of the hill of Mount Moriah. The blood from the Temple would flow down to a place called “Akeldama” meaning “Field of Blood.” They have recently discovered the conduit that carried the blood from the Temple through the Ophel, down the Kidron Valley to Akeldama and into the soil. It was called the Amah (mother, conduit) and Judas will hang himself in Akeldama (Acts 1.18-19).
But this area is also called the Potter’s Field because it was near the Potter’s Gate. The richest and most elaborate tomb in Jerusalem in the First Century was the tomb of Annas, and it was found in Tophet where Akeldama was. Now, why would he choose to be buried in Tophet, at Gehenna, the most cursed place in Jerusalem and the world? Because he got a real good real estate deal. He was a Sadducee and they only believed what was written in the Torah, not any other books. So, he didn’t believe in Jeremiah’s prophecies or that there was going to be a judgment from God, the Messiah or the resurrection. Geography is the key.
In Luke 16.19-31 we have the parable (aggadah) of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Both pass away and Lazarus goes to “Abraham’s Bosom” in Sheol, and the rich man goes to “Torments” in Sheol. Before yeshua died and was resurrected, the righteous went to Abraham’s Bosom and the unrighteous went to Torments. After the resurrection, the righteous go to Heaven (Abraham’s Bosom) and the unrighteous go to Sheol to await the Great White Throne judgment of God (Rev 20.11-15). In the story, Abraham’s Bosom is seen as the Temple, and Torments is seen as the Valley of Hinnom (Tophet/Gehenna). The rich man “lifted up his eyes” and saw Lazarus and wanted him to come and give him some water, but there was a great chasm between the two, and this alludes to the decree of God that fixes the eternal state of the righteous and the wicked.
Now, if you stood in the Valley of Hinnom and if you “lifted up” your eyes you would see the Temple Mount, and in between you would have the Pool of Siloam filled with water. The setting for this parable is the Temple, the Pool of Siloam and the Hinnom Valley (Tophet/Gehenna), all according to the geography of the time.
The teaching that the Temple was in the City of David (Ir David) does a lot of harm because the Moslems love the idea. They say, “See, you never had the place where the Dome of the Rock is, it was never Jewish.” Secondly, it overtly says, “You Jews don’t know what you are talking about.” The bottom line is, the belief that the Temple was not on the Temple Mount is antisemitic and this is a real problem. In our opinion, that belief is based on shoddy scholarship and we are going to show that it denies what we have in the Tanak.
So, in Part 2, we are going to go to Neh 3 to show that the Temple Mount is where the Dome of the Rock is. We could use other books as well but that is for another time.