The Genesis of the Temple Mount
“So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’” Genesis 22:14 NIV
The story of Jerusalem and its eternal destiny are inextricably tied to a 37 acre parcel of land which sits upon the top of a mountain in the Old City. Cherished as the Temple Mount or Mountain of the House of God by Jews and Christians, and the Noble Sanctuary or Haram al-Sharif by Moslems, it is the most contested piece of real estate on earth. The history of Jerusalem can be told most succinctly by recounting the story of those who exercised control of that revered property and the sanctuaries they either erected and/or destroyed upon it. And so I will begin there.
The history of this mountain dates back to its first mention four thousand years ago in the book of Genesis. It was there, referred to by God as Mount Moriah, that Abraham was commanded to journey in order to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2). When the angel of the Lord intervened and provided a sacrifice ram to die in Isaac’s stead, Abraham in thanksgiving made a memorial declaration. “So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided’” (Genesis 22:14 NIV). With that pronouncement, Mount Moriah, the place of sacrifice and God’s provision, forever became hallowed ground. The significance of God’s choice of Abraham to be His instrument to do this is worth noting. It was a fait accompli given He had already made covenant with Abraham designating him the father of the Jewish people, nation, and religion.
It was not until a thousand years later, approximately 1000 BC, that the narrative of this holy place is once again resumed. When David became the king of a united Israel in Saul’s stead, his first order of business was to establish a capital. His choice for its location was a Jebusite stronghold known as Jebus. Upon conquering this enemy fortress he took up residence there and called it Zion – the City of David (1 Chronicles 11:1-8).
Several years later the nation was smitten with a plague as a judgment for David’s pride in taking a census of Israel’s army. In response David’s heart smote him. God relented and just as Jerusalem was about to be destroyed He revealed to David an angel of the Lord withdrawing his hand of judgment. The angel was standing on a threshing floor owned by a Jebusite name Araunah and that threshing floor just happened to be atop Mount Moriah, which is adjacent to David’s Mount Zion. God then commanded David through the prophet Gad to build an altar to the Lord on that spot in which to sacrifice offerings on behalf of the land for the plague to stop. In order to do that David insisted on buying the plot of ground from Araunah, saying “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24 NIV).
Like the choice of Abraham who had preceded him, God’s selection of David, to be the one to re-hallow this ground, is imbued with eternal significance. King David is the one who would prepare the materials for the construction of the Holy Temple, select its site, and provide the plans for his son Solomon to build it. It is from his offspring that the Old Testament prophecies testify will proceed the “Messiah, son of David.” This Messiah is the one for whom the Jews pray will return to build the Third Temple; and whom Christians acknowledge has already come in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is critically important to pause and reflect upon the foundational significance of these two historical events on Mount Moriah. The similarities are remarkable and underscore emphatically God’s initiative to set aside this ground above all other places on earth as His redemptive meeting place with His people. The two men whom God used are both Judeo-Christian fathers of the faith. Both were sovereignly directed to this place, had the angel of the Lord appear to them, miraculously experienced God’s deliverance, worshipped God there through offering sacrifices, and designated the location as eternally hallowed ground. All debate over the origins of what is now called the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary and ultimately Jerusalem’s eternal destiny must begin with acknowledging these facts. They provide the only legitimate reference point from which meaning can be derived in reckoning with the fate of that mountain over the past three thousand years. In that light therefore, let us proceed to review the history of this mountain of the Lord. To be continued in my next blog post.
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