The Temple Mount
It’s Day 7! Going into the Temple Mount this morning seemed intimidating because of all the tourists and security but we got in seamlessly. We Learning that Temple Mount has a lot of religious history not just Christianity. It is a holy place for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We learned that the place where Abraham offered his own son as a sacrifice is where the temple use to to be. Then we went to the southern most corner where Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4. It was so powerful being there and imagining all that Jesus went through and all he endured.
The present Temple Mount was constructed by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC. Construction on it continued for 83 years until AD 64 when a halt was called to the project and 18,000 workers were laid off (riots resulted). The Temple Mount is 1/6 the size of today’s Old City and covers 35 acres. Construction of this rectangular platform required filling in a large part of the Central Valley.
Then we headed to the Western wall, which is believed the be the closest point to where the holy of holies use to be when the temple was still standing. We got to go on an underground tour where we saw the rest of the western wall underground. It was crazy walking in the tunnels that have been dug under the Muslim quarter along the wall. They are continuing to do amazing excavations and finding things from when the first temple was built. It was an incredible couple of hours and something we will never forget!
The tour of the western wall tunnels is one of the most popular tourist sites in Jerusalem. These underground tunnels connect the western wall prayer area to the north-west side of the temple mount, passing along the side of the temple mount and under the present day houses in the Old City. Along its path are remains from the second temple period, as well as structures from later periods.
After that we headed to Herodium where we learned all about another place that Herod built alongside the temple, Caesarea, Masada, and Jericho. We got to see this incredible palace that he built for himself and got to see the mountain he created and built on so that you could see it all the way from Jerusalem. That is eventually where he desired to be buried, where all could see and all would remember him. We also read in Matthew 2, about how Herod wanted Jesus dead. It has been crazy to read about how the Bible all interweaves story by story.
Herodium is 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem and 8 miles south of Jerusalem. Its summit is 2,460 feet above sea level.
Herod built or re-built eleven fortresses. This one he constructed on the location of his victory over Antigonus in 40 BC.
Then we went to Bethlehem and learned that only 5% of the population are Christians because the Palestine’s currently are in control of Bethlehem. We got to shop and see the treasures of olive wood in a local Bethlehem shop!
Lastly we saw a shepherds field where Boaz and Ruth met and also got to walk inside a cave much like the one that Jesus would have been born in. It was so powerful imagining what it would have been like on that night.
We can’t believe this trip is almost over. We are having the time of our lives!
Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah,and the New Testament describes it as the "City of David". It is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. It was the home of Jesse, father of King David of Israel, and the site of David's anointment by the prophet Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.
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