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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Temple Mount and the Holy of Holies

By Stan Wilson
Special to ASSIST News Service

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (ANS) -- When we first entered Temple Mount, my heart almost stopped. While I had seen The Dome of The Rock from a distance, to see it up-close and know that it rests where The Holy of Holies once stood made me almost sick to my stomach. Our guide told us that only Muslims may enter, but I have heard that some Christians have been allowed inside.

Soon, however, my mind flashed back to Bible stories when Jesus was

The Muslim Dome of the Rock sits on the most controversial real estate in the world. The Dome was built over the rock where Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven. Jewish history indicates that this is the same rock where Abraham took Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice to God, and where the Holy of Holies was originally built.

teaching in the Temple, and asked His parents, "Didn't you know that you would find me in my Father's house?" and I could see Him overturning the tables of the money-changers in His last days.

Fortunately, we can turn to Solomon to see what he had in mind when he had it built.

King Solomon sent the following message to King Hiram of Tyre: "You know that my father, David, was not able to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord his God because of the many wars waged against him by surrounding nations. He could not build until the Lord gave him victory over all his enemies. But now the Lord my God has given me peace on every side; I have no enemies, and all is well. So I am planning to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God, just as he had instructed my father, David. For the Lord told him, "Your son, whom I will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honor my name." 1 Kings 5:3-5.

The temple was started 480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt. The exact location is not known, but most believe that the Muslim Dome of the Rock (built in the 7th century A.D.) sits above (or very near) both the First and Second Temples. The level of the bedrock of Mount Moriah outcrops within the Dome of the Rock and is just beneath the paving stones of the surrounding platform.

This is an artist concept of what the front of Temple Mount would have looked like after Herod expanded the Temple. It doesn't take much imagination to compare this to the photo of the steps as seen today

The Temple itself was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. The innermost sanctuary of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, or Kodesh Hakodeshim was in total darkness and contained the Ark of the Covenant, gilded inside and out, in which were placed the Tablets of the Covenant, the Rod of Aaron and a pot of manna. When the Temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity, the Ark was no longer present in the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was hidden by a veil, and no one was permitted to enter except the High Priest, and even he could only enter once a year on Yom Kippur, to offer the blood of sacrifice and incense before the mercy seat.

The ridge system where the Temple Mount is now located is believed by many to be the site where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2).

Both ancient Jewish Temples are of interest to Christians as well as to Jews. The Second Temple was modest in size and furnishing until Herod the Great began his grand remodeling plans which continued for 40 years. It was in this enlarged and expanded Second Jewish Temple and its grand courts where the naming and circumcision of Jesus took place (Luke 2:21-39). Later, Jesus astonished the religious leaders with his understanding and insight as a twelve-year-old boy (Luke 2:41-50). On two separate occasions Jesus entered and cleansed the temple by throwing out the money changers and commercial vendors from the courts. (John 2:12-25; Matthew 21:23-26)

In one of his final discussions with his disciples (Matthew 24), Jesus predicted the destruction of the Second Temple. It was in fact leveled to the ground on the 9th day of the month of Av in 70 C.E. The temple was thoroughly razed and the site has been so extensively modified during the late Roman, Moslem and Crusader eras that considerable doubt exists as to where the temples actually stood.

Josephus Flavius describes the fact that the Bizita Hill (Golgotha?) was located north of the Temple Mount and obscured the view of the Temple from the north.

After the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 C.E., the Romans leveled the entire city of Jerusalem and a built a Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins. To obliterate any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, they built a temple to Jupiter on the site.

The Temple Mount of today measures today approximately 45 acres in extent. It is surrounded by a trapezoidal wall: The south wall measures about 910 feet, the North about 1025, the east wall about 1520 and the west wall about 1580 feet in length. Most of the buildings and surface features are Islamic - no visible traces of the First or Second Temples can be found on the platform today.

Unfortunately, the Temple Mount presently remains under the supervision of the Waqf, the Supreme Moslem Council, and they have prevented any systematic archaeological studies.

Who knows what events developing in the history of Jerusalem will one day change the status quo, allowing scientific investigation of the entire Temple Mount, below ground as well as above? Then, according to the hopes and dreams of devout Jews for centuries, a Third Temple can be built on the foundations of the First and Second Temples and temple worship according to the Torah restored.

Yes, I was there, and I will never be the same.

For further information about Israel and tour information, I suggest that you visit This is the official website of the Israel Ministry of Tourism. They offer several "virtual tours" online and you can get complete information and find links to help you make your plans. You can actually spend days just navigating the website in preparation for your "trip of a lifetime." Yes, I'll go back.and take my wife.

Stan Wilson is a lifetime journalist after graduating from college in 1970 with
a B.A. in journalism. He worked in various positions in newspapers in Texas,
Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas prior to starting Southwest Kansas Faith and
Family in 2001. Faith and Family is a monthly Christian newspaper serving Dodge
City, Garden City and 18 other surrounding communities. He can be contacted by
email at

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