Jerusalem Temple Mount

Jerusalem Temple Mount

Temple Mount or Haram esh- Sharif ("Noble Sanctuary") of Jerusalem is a historical and religious center of the city. According to widely accepted beliefs this was the mount Moriah where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac.


Location: Jerusalem


Jerusalem Temple

If you make it inside you can clearly see part of the natural rock that was cut to make way for the walls that once belonged to the Temple. You can still see a part of the temple that was called Holy of Holiest. The Ark of the Covenant once stood here in the niche dug in the rock. You can tell its former location by the shape of the impression left here.

Jerusalem Temple  Jerusalem Temple

Jerusalem Temple Reconstruction

Jerusalem Temple  Jerusalem Temple  Jerusalem Temple Reconstruction 

Jerusalem TempleThis is how Temple of Jerusalem looked at the time of Jesus Christ. It was significantly increased on the orders of king Herod the Great. Retaining walls were increased. Even today Herodian massive stones are easily distinguished from later stones. Western or Wailing Wall is not the only part where you can see ruins of this religious complex. They can be seen on the South side and on the Eastern side where they serve as a base for later medieval walls. Left picture of reconstruction depicts the Temple from the Eastern side from the side of the Olive Mountain. Magnificent Golden Gate are not bricked up by the Muslim rulers since this is the road Messiah will take to enter the Temple Mound. Right picture shows the mount from the Western side. Large causeway that people used to enter the inner courtyard is mostly destroyed. Today only parts of the Roberson's Arch are visible protruding from the West Wall at the right upper corner. Another Wilson's Arch is visible in the upper left corner.


History of Jerusalem Temple

The history of Jerusalem Temple start in the deserts of Egypt and Sinai peninsula. In the events described in the Exodus Jews left their former country of enslavement. Along they brought their holiest shrine known as the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the ark Jews carried the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Once they returned to the land promised to them by God they kept the Ark in a portable sanctuary known as The Tabernacle.

First Temple

According to the Old Testament in the Bible the idea of creation of a single temple was first proposed by king David (1 Book of Chronicles 22:5) shortly after he managed to capture the city from the Canaanite tribe of Jebusites. He erected a small altar on top of Mount Moriah to worship single God. Along with Sanhedrin he developed plan for a future Jerusalem Temple. King David gathered enough resources from huge sums of tribute that were paid by conquered peoples. (1 Kings 10:14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents), but he didn't get a chance to start construction of the Jerusalem Temple. At his death bed he transferred his plans to his son, legendary king Solomon.

First Temple was erected in 957 BC by King Solomon who reigned between c. 970 and c. 940 BC. Unlike other religions at the time. in Judaism the Temple became one and only place to serve single God. So thousands of people laboured to create a magnificent structure. Huge doors were cut from cedars delivered from Lebanon. Stones were cut from the local quarries.

1 Kings (6:1) And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.

(6:38) And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.

Shortly thereafter however Jerusalem was captured by the Egyptian army of Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonk I (ruled between c. 943 and 922). He stole most of valuables from the Temple, but Ark itself it seems was preserved inside the sanctuary. In the Bible Sheshonk I was referred to as a "Shishaq" as he is mentioned in the 1st Kings 11:40, 14:25 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9. Conquerors did not destroy Jerusalem Temple, but they left it badly damaged.

1 Kings (11:40) Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

1 Kings (14:25) And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem

2 Chronicles (12:2-9)

2 And it came to pass, that in the fifth year of king Rehoboam Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the Lord,

With twelve hundred chariots, and threescore thousand horsemen: and the people were without number that came with him out of Egypt; the Lubims, the Sukkiims, and the Ethiopians.

4 And he took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem.

5 Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Ye have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak.

6 Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The Lord is righteous.

7 And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.

8 Nevertheless they shall be his servants; that they may know my service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.

9 So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house; he took all: he carried away also the shields of gold which Solomon had made.


However it took another century before Jehoash, King of Judah gathered enough resources to start reconstruction of the Temple in 835 BC. Around 700 BC new enemy, this time Assyrian army under leadership of king Sennacherib, stormed Jerusalem. Despite the fact that Jews frantically tried to preserve their city and erect new fortifications like the Broad Wall their attempts to stop mighty military machine proved to be futile.

Isaiah (22:10) And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.

Assyrians breached the walls and stormed into Jerusalem. They stole many of the riches from Jerusalem residents and of course didn't forget about the Temple. However they too saved the building itself. The First Temple was completely destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians who sacked the city and stole everything they could carry away.

Ark of the Covenant disappearance

Destruction of the First Temple started one of the biggest archaeological hunts in history. It was described as a wooden box covered in gold. The lid of the Ark contained two winged cherubims kneeled over the box. Inside the Ark Moses put Tablets of Stone with written Ten Commandments, the pot of manna that fell from the sky to feed the Jews and Aaron's rod. The Ark of the Covenant that disappeared from the altar of the Temple still capture many people's mind. We also don't have any official documents that records the Ark among loot. The general assumption is that the Ark probably disappeared during the final destruction of the Temple. Book of Esdras that is accepted as canonical in the Eastern Church, but not in the Western Churches.

(1 Esdras 1:54) "took all the holy vessels of the Lord, both great and small, and the ark of God, and the king's treasures, and carried them away into Babylon."

Golden plating plates from the Ark might have been stolen earlier, but its most valuable contents probably didn't leave the sanctuary until 586 BC.

Some legends have other claims about the fate of the Ark of the Covenant. One of these legends claim that the Ark apparently disappeared from the Jerusalem long before the siege. Although the Bible is silent on this, some legends claim that Menelik, son of Solomon and Queen of Sheba, stole it from the Temple Mount and fled to Ethiopia, where it was kept ever since in Axum.


Golden Artefact of Mycenae Possible Ark of the CovenantGolden Artefact of Mycenae

This Golden depiction was discovered by archaeologists in the ancient Greek settlement of Mycenae. Today it is housed in the Archaeological Museum in Athens. According to the filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici this is depiction was made by the Greek artisans who helped Jews to build the Ark of the Covenant. As the two groups departed Greeks made a depiction of the Ark with two birds on both sides. Additionally the added the view of the stairs that led to the altar that stood before the Ark. It is visible in the centre of the composition.

Second Temple

The end to Babylonian Empire came when new Empire, the Persians, under leadership of Cyrus the Great defeated the Babylonian army. New monarch allowed its Jewish suzerains to reconstruct their Temple to worship their God as it was mentioned in the Book of Ezra. Construction of the Second Temple started in 538 BC and it took 23 years to complete. It was dedicated by Jewish governor Zerubbabel on the third day of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the Great or 12th March 515 BC.

Jews lived in relative peace under control of the Persian Empire. Its end came with the attack of a Greek coalition under leadership of Alexander the Great of Macedon. Legendary ancient general came close to destroying the Temple when Jews refuse to accept his deification. He changed his mind after Jewish officials changed his mind with flattery and diplomacy. After death of Alexander his generals divided the immense empire and Ptolemies (descendants of general Ptolemy) got Judea along with Egyptian province. Ptolemies were liberal and granted its Jewish subjects rights and certain liberties, but it didn't last long. Another part of the Alexander's Empire ruled by descendants of general Seleucid known as Seleucids attacked Ptolemaic Empire and defeated them at battle of Panium under command of Antiochus III in 198 BC. Judea along with Jerusalem fell under control of the Seleucids and Jews were forced to Hellenize (accept Greek culture and way of life). Antiochus III went even further and tried introduce a pantheon of pagan Ancient Greek gods to the Second Temple. Rebellion shortly ensued, but it was crushed by the army.

After Antiochus III died in 187 BC in Luristan and his son Seleucus IV Philopator was shortly thereafter assassinated, younger brother Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the new king of the country. He continued brutal Hellenization of his empire. Among many laws that he passed he outlawed circumcision and prohibited the religious observation of Sabbath. Additionally Antiochus IV ordered placement of a statue of Zeus in the Temple. And to make things worse he allowed traditional sacrifice of pigs on the grounds of the former Jewish sanctuary. It is unclear why did Seleucids were so obsessed with getting rid of traditional religion of its subjects. It is likely that the conflict in the region started as a conflict between traditional or conservative Jews and those who accepted and embraced Greek culture and way of life. The civil conflict that ensued between these two groups of Jews had to be stopped and this was probably the idea behind enforcing Hellenic life style. It is certain that Seleucids did not try to repeat similar moves in other parts of their Empire.

As a final insult to Jewish religion Greek official ordered Mattathias, Jewish priest, to perform a Hellenistic sacrifice to a Zeus. Mattathias killed Greek official and started a rebellion against Seleucid Empire along with his five sons. Rebels cleared the Temple from all signs of presence of foreign polytheistic gods. In 165 BC son of priest Judas Maccabeus "The Hammer" re- dedicated Temple for Jewish religious rituals. It is still celebrated during Jewish holiday of Hanukkah that can be translated as "establishing" or "dedication" in Hebrew as a reference to re- dedication of the Jerusalem Temple.

A new power player the Roman Republic started to extend its presence in the region. Two member of the first Triumvirate (political coalition of Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus aka Pompey, Marcus Licinius Crassus) made it to the Jerusalem Temple. First Pompey entered and therefore desecrated (by being a pagan layman) the Holy of Holies of the Temple in 63 BC. Later Crassus looted the Temple Treasury in 54 BC on his ill fated military expedition against Parthian Empire where he was killed at the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC). Jews perceived defeat of the Roman politician and a general as a good sign so they rebelled once they got news about the catastrophic battle. Rebellion was put down in 43 BC.

Herod's Second Temple

King Herod the Great ordered reconstruction and increase of the Second Temple. He went beyond just increasing the size of the Temple itself. Jewish engineers and artisans went on to change the landscape of the city. Mount Moriah stood overlooking the city below. Herod the Great decided to cover it with a platform that rested on retention walls. In essence his architects took a stone box and put it upside down on the mountain. Judea lost its independence and became a province of the Roman Empire, but Jerusalem Temple was still kept in the hands of the religious Jewish authority. Construction of this immense structure took several decades to complete. In the time when Jesus Christ walked here the Temple was still a large construction site.

Herod's Second Temple was badly damaged during Jewish Rebellion that started in 68 AD. Romans conquered Jerusalem at the conclusion of the Siege of Jerusalem. They demolished parts of the retaining walls, preserving only Western Wall or the Wailing Wall to demonstrate the size of the fortress that Roman soldiers managed to take. However current platform that allows access to the retaining wall of the Herod's Temple is situated several meters above street level of the first century AD. If you want to appreciate the size of the original structure visit Ophel Archeological Museum. Archaeologists uncovered the whole extent of the ancient wall along with huge stones at its base.

Another Jewish Rebellion was started in 132 AD under leadership of Simon bar Kokhba. Along with Rabbi Akiva they wanted to rebuild parts of the damaged Temple. These plans were cut short with end of rebellion in 135 AD. Jews were expelled from Jerusalem (except for Ninth day of Av month aka Tisha B'Av) and Judea became part of Syrian province of the Roman Empire.

Medieval Period

Muslim Arabs conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century AD. Umayyad Caliph (ruler) al- Malik ibn Marwan ordered construction of an Islamic temple in 691 AD on the site where Jerusalem Temple once stood. It became known as the Dome of the Rock or the al- Aqsa Mosque.

Knights Templar and Jerusalem Temple Mount legends

One of the most famous legends of Temple Mount is tied to a medieval Roman Catholic order of warrior monks that became known as Knights Templars. In 1120 the French knight Hugues de Payens requested a lands on top of Temple Mount for headquarters of a new monastic order. He suggested that European pilgrims to the Holy Land will require protection from military order. Christian order of warriors would offer this protection. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Patriarch of Jerusalem Warmund complied with the request. Knights became known as Templars due to location of their central headquarter on top of ruins of former Temple of Solomon.

Shortly thereafter impoverished small order become increasingly rich and increasingly powerful. In fact it becomes largest banking system in Europe. Monarchs and nobility grant money and land to the order. Their sons join the ranks of warriors. And finally Pope Innocent II issues a papal bull in 1139 Omne Datum Optimum. It basically exempted the order from obedience to local laws. Needless to say such rise in wealth and power gave rise to multiple alternative theories on a hidden history of this mysterious and highly influential medieval order. Many suggested that the underground vaults of Temple Mount yielded hidden documents and artefacts that were related to the life, death and possibly marriage of Jesus Christ. It is certain that some knights did attempt to do archaeological digs on the mount and even tried to break through underground vaults of the Herod's Temple. However we have absolutely no proof that they found anything of valued in these artificial caverns and tunnels.


Modern Period

Upon creation of modern state of Israel, Jerusalem was divided. After Six- Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was reunited under rule of the Israeli state, however Temple Mount and various buildings on the site are under administrative control of the Temple Mount. Although many Jews (and Christians) alike believe that a Third Temple will be constructed on its previous site.