The Battle for the Temple Mount

There are many reasons for the conflict between the Jewish people and the Arab, Moslem countries, not least of which is a spiritual battle. However, probably the most visible area of conflict is over possession of what is referred to as “the Temple Mount” – Mount Moriah.

What is there over this piece of land that causes such strong emotion in the hearts of these peoples?

The Bible first introduces us to this mountain in Genesis where we read of God testing Abraham, the father of the Jewish race.

“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” ~ Genesis 22:1-2

Abraham obeyed God and took his son to Mount Moriah where he built an altar. After God had stopped him from sacrificing his son, and blessed him for his obedience, he offered up a burnt offering to the Lord on this altar.

Centuries later, David, the beloved King of Israel, sinned against God and angered Him so much that He sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21). The angel obeyed God and started to destroy the city, until The Lord became grieved at what was being done and ordered the angel to stop. At this point the angel was standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then the angel ordered King David, through the prophet Gad, to set up an altar to the Lord, on this threshing floor. David approached Araunah and subsequently purchased the site for six hundred shekels of Gold.

This site was Mount Moriah. The rock on which Abraham was to sacrifice his son, the threshing floor of Araunah and the rock upon which King David set up his altar to the Lord, are all believed to be one and the same slab of rock. The same slab of rock that is today, encased within the Arab Mosque – The Dome of the Rock.

David longed to build a temple to God, but as a mighty warrior, he had so much blood on his hands that God would not allow him to build this temple. Instead he spent his life accumulating all the materials together ready for the temples eventual construction by others.

The First Temple – Solomon’s Temple (957 BC to 587 BC)

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This honour fell to his son, King Solomon:

“Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. He began building on the second day of the second month in the fourth year of his reign.” ~ 2 Chronicles 3:1-2

Regardless of modern claims by other nations and peoples, Mount Moriah, where the Dome of the Rock stands today, belongs to Israel. It was given by God, and brought and paid for by King David, in hard, cold cash!

It took a labour force of at least 70,000 labourers, 80,000 stonecutters and 3,600 foremen to build Solomon’s temple. In addition there were numerous craftsmen skilled in working with gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue yarn, and experienced in the art of engraving. (2 Chronicles 2:1-7) A total work force in excess of 150,000, plus another 10,000 men who cut down cedar, pine and algum trees in Lebanon and floated them via the sea to Israel to use in the temple construction.

Solomon and his work force followed God’s instructions, which He had previously given to King David, with great care. The temple foundation was 27 meters (90 feet) long by 9 meters (30 feet) wide with a portico at the front of the temple 9 meters (30 feet) long. The Most Holy Place was 9 meters wide, the same as the temple, and 9 meters long. In addition to the buildings, a large courtyard was constructed.

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The inside of the temple and the Most Holy Place were overlaid with pure gold and adorned with precious stones. Solomon even overlaid the ceiling beams, doorframes, and doors with gold. The weight of the gold overlay in just the Most Holy Place was about 23 tons (21 metric tons). (2 Chronicles 3)

Some of the items made to go in this temple were almost beyond description. The bronze altar alone measured 9 meters (30 feet) in length by 9 meters wide and 4.5 meters (15 feet) high. The ‘sea’, a huge cast metal bowl, which stood outside the temple, was so large that it was a handbreadth thick and contained around 17,500 gallons of water.

It has been estimated that, in today’s values, the total cost of this building would be in excess of $1 trillion dollars.

The temple took seven years to build and was completed in November of the year 959 B.C. At the dedication ceremony, King Solomon sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats.

Years later, King Solomon disobeyed God and married a number of women from foreign nations. These women eventually caused his downfall by leading him into worshipping false gods and idols. As a result, a large number of his descendants turned away from God. (1 Kings 11)

Soon after Solomon’s death, the King of Egypt ransacked the temple and carried off all its treasures. (1 Kings 14:25-26) Asa, King of Judah took further temple treasures and money to buy an alliance with King Ben-Hadad of Aram. (1 Kings 15: 18-19)

Queen Athaliah of Judah later ravaged the temple (2 Kings 11:13-15 and 2 Chronicles 24:7) and another king of Judah, King Joash, took gold and sacred objects from the temple to stop King Hazael of Aram attacking. (2 Kings 12:18)

Next King Jehoash of Israel entered the temple, taking gold and silver to get back at Amaziah. (2 Kings 14:14) and King Ahaz of Judah took more gold, silver and various furnishings from the temple to send tribute to appease Assyria’s king. (2 Kings 16:8-18)

King Hezekiah of Judah then took all the silver from the temple and stripped the gold from its doors to persuade King Sennacherib of Assyria to call off his threatened attack. (2 Kings 18:13-16) Then another King of Judah, Manasseh, placed pagan altars in the temple. (2 Kings 21:4-8)

Finally God allowed Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, to raid the temple during his second and third invasions of Judah. In his third invasion he destroyed the temple and carried away what was left of its treasures. (2 Kings 24:13, 25:1-17 and 2 Chronicles 36:10, 36:18-19) The final destruction of the temple occurred on the 9th of Av (July-August) of the year 587 B.C.

The Second Temple: Stage 1 – Zerubbabel’s Temple (520 BC to 20 BC)

When King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem he took the Jewish people back with him in exile, to Babylon. Years later, after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, the Persian Empire overthrew the Babylonian Empire.

Persian King Cyrus was used by God to fulfil a prophecy given through Isaiah over a century earlier. (Isaiah 44:28 - 45:6) This prophecy actually named Cyrus and predicted that he would help the Jews return to Jerusalem.

Another prophesy, by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10) foretold that the Jewish captivity would last for a period of seventy years.

In 538 B.C. Cyrus did indeed open the way for the Jews to return to their homeland. The first volunteers, numbering 42,360, plus servants and musicians, returned to Israel under the leadership of Zerubbabel, who had been appointed governor of Judah by the Persians (Ezra 1 & 2). These people took with them large amounts of gold and silver, which they had accumulated during their exile. Those who decided not to return with them also donated gold, silver and many other items. King Cyrus returned to the people all the temple treasures and items of worship that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the Temple seventy years earlier. Successive Persian Kings also gave large amounts of gold, silver and treasures. King Artaxerxes, a later King, alone gave 25 tons of silver and 3 and three quarter tons of gold.

Two years after their return the Israelites started the rebuilding of God’s Temple. Although it was built on the site of Solomon’s temple, and hence was around the same size as the original, it was not nearly as elaborate or ornate. It would appear that much more silver than gold was used in this temple.

After a number of delays the temple was completed in 516 B.C. – twenty years after work was started.

During the following centuries God’s temple was variously honoured or neglected as the peoples worship and obedience to God waxed and waned.

After the fall of the Persian Empire, the next world empire, Greece, ruled the land. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Greek Empire divided into four areas, each ruled by one of Alexander’s generals. Antiochus Epiphanes ruled one of these areas, Syria, from 175 B.C. to 163 B.C. This King is believed to be a type of the Antichrist to come. He imagined himself to be a god whilst his subjects referred to him as “the madman.” He invaded Israel and desecrated the temple by setting up worship to Zeus and offering up a sow as a sacrifice on the altar. In 165 B.C. the Syrians were defeated, Jerusalem was recaptured and the temple cleansed.

The Second Temple: Stage 2 – Herod’s Temple (20 BC to 70 AD)

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496 years after the building of the second temple, King Herod the Great began extending and beautifying the temple in 20B.C. Most of the work was done in the first ten years, but after Herod died in 4 B.C., the work continued. In the time of Jesus it had already been under way for 46 years (John 2:20) and was finally completed in 63A.D. It was said to be one of the largest and most magnificent building complexes in the ancient world.

This is the temple of Jesus’ time and the one in which the disciples were so proud.

Jesus predicted that this temple would be destroyed (Luke 21:6) and on the 9th of Av (July-August) of the year 70 A.D. the Roman legions under General Titus completely destroyed the temple.

After setting fire to the temple the gold melted and ran down into the cracks of the building stones. To get at the gold the soldiers dismantled the temple stone by stone, literally fulfilling the prophecy that not one stone would be left upon another.

The Third Temple

Since 70 A.D. and the exile of the Jewish people no temple has existed on Mount Moriah.

However in 691 A.D, Abdul Malik, built and dedicated the Mosque of Omar, on the temple site. He chose this site because of the Moslem tradition that the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the rock on Mt. Moriah. This rock is in the centre of the Mosque of Omar, hence the reason it is also referred to as the Dome of the Rock.

This is the same rock upon which the Bible says Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, the same rock, which King David purchased and set up an altar to God, and the same rock around which the Jewish temples were built. It’s no wonder that this site causes so much emotion and violence between the Arab and Jewish peoples.

Since their exile in the first century A.D. the Jews have longed for a return to their holy city of Jerusalem and the subsequent rebuilding of God’s temple. On May 14th 1948, Israel again became a nation and the Jewish people began returning to their land. In 1967, during what is now referred to as “the six day war” Israel recaptured the old city of Jerusalem from Jordan.

Both Jews and Christians understand from the Bible that the Messiah (Jesus to the Christians) will reign from Jerusalem during the forthcoming promised kingdom. Both groups also understand that God’s temple will exist again prior to the arrival (or return) of the Messiah. (Revelation 11:1-2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4)

Orthodox Jews have been working for years, preparing for the rebuilding of the temple, waiting only for some event to occur that would remove the Dome of the Rock and clear the way for construction to start.

In May of 1967 the following large advertisement appeared in the Washington Post:

“TO ALL PERSONS OF THE JEWISH FAITH ALL OVER THE WORLD:
A project to rebuild the Temple of God in Israel is now being started. With Divine guidance and help the “Temple” will be completed. Jews will be inspired to conduct themselves in such a moral way that our Maker will see fit to pay us a visit here on earth. Imagine the warm feeling that will be ours when this happy event takes place. “THIS IS MY GOD” is the book that was the inspiration for this undertaking. God will place in the minds of many persons in all walks of Jewish life the desire to participate in this work. Executive talent, administrations, and workers on all levels are needed. All efforts will be anonymous. God will know those desiring to participate.”

In 1974, the Institute of Bible Design placed this advertisement in the Jerusalem Post:

“May it be thy will, O Lord our God, that our Holy Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem in our days.”

Whilst there are many unsubstantiated reports, such as the building stones being already cut and stored, there are also many other substantiated reports, of preparations for the third temple. Many institutions have been set up by Israeli’s to prepare for this temple. Organisations such as The Temple Institute, The Jerusalem Temple Foundation, The Faithful of the Temple Mount and others are training priests, manufacturing the vessels and articles of worship and of course, preparing for the actual construction.

Reports are surfacing of special cattle being bred to enable the sacrifices in the temple to conform to God’s instructions. Of Biblical Temple music being interpreted and taught, ready to be played in a new temple. In just the last few years a replica altar has been completed to Biblical design as has sets of priestly garments. These and many other reports confirm that the Jews are ready and waiting to build God’s third Temple.

A report from Israel in July of 2015 told of a member of the Israeli Government calling for the building of a third temple to start.

The only hindrance to work actually commencing is the existence of the Dome of the Rock. Any attempts to start building the temple on or near this site would undoubtedly see the Arab’s starting a “holy war.”

Many Christians believe a forthcoming world leader, referred to in the Bible as the Antichrist, will give permission for this temple to be built. Few doubt that this temple will indeed be built and that it will herald in a time of great Tribulation prior to the return of Jesus, the Messiah.

Preparations are believed to be so well advanced that work could be started within days of the opportunity being given to do so. Just how close this day is, only God knows; yet it would appear to be not far away.

Readers are urged to watch for developments and to understand what is behind the current violence. One day, a day I believe is not far away, a peace treaty will be signed which will give the Jews the go ahead to build their temple. If you see this day, then be prepared, for the return of the Lord will follow!