Sources from Tanach (The Bible) relate King Davids' difficulty deciphering his thoughts and God’s signs to select the place to build the altar, thus to mark the location Israel’s temple would eventually be built. Without this selection no temple could ever be built and King David would be unable to fulfill his life mission. The King had to locate the altar precisely where Isaac was offered as a sacrifice by his father Abraham and he had to do it with prophetic support. However, his search for Isaac’s altar was futile, instead he turned to the advice of Shmuel, Do'eg, Achitofel and eventually the Prophet Gad.
Do'eg was a convert and very serious Torah scholar. He is known to have ruthlessly consumed the intellects of his fellow students and teachers with his sharp commentary. His rivalry with knowledge of Torah law that King David possessed revealed his jealous disposition. Paradoxically Do'eg tried to disqualify David from being King because David was born through the lineage of Ruth, a Moabite convert which was allegedly forbidden by Torah law. However, the prevailing legal opinion, in David’s favor, ruled that Torah limits its prohibition to descendants of male Moabite converts only.
Do'eg also challenged David who was struggling to determine the site of the future temple, preferring it be located in the high mountains south-west of ancient Jerusalem. David preferred it be built in close proximity among the people of the city. King David ordered his generals to make a census of the nation. The census was ordered by the King’s own will , it was not requested of him by God, as was the law. Reluctantly after 9 months and 20 days he received their count of males over 20 in Israel.
David reflected on the opposition of his general and his contrarian order, he became remorseful. Retribution followed swiftly and Prophet Gad told him he had three choices by which to repent; seven years of famine, flee three months while his enemies pursue him or endure 3 days of plague in the land. King David chose plague. Immediately 70,000 men from the northern outlying tribal lands received their fate. As the nation suffered, the King saw the angel of death standing on the threshing floor of Arunah - King of the Jebusites, stretching out its sword over Jerusalem (The ancient City of David) and David immediately and deeply repented for his sins asking God’s forgiveness for the people. With David’s confession, Gad prophetically told David to purchase the threshing floor on which to build an altar to God and through which he would be forgiven.
David purchased the threshing floor from the Jebsuite King, built the altar, made holy sacrifices to seek forgiveness for the sin of the census he had committed. In the process this became accepted by the tribal leaders of the day as the place by which the future site of the first and second temples in Jerusalem would be determined. Here we have a declaration in Tanach that the site was the threshing floor identified with the angel of death and the prophecy to build it there was Gad’s.
Are we to rely on chance or hidden meaning that this prerequisite site of the altar is in fact the site at which Isaac was offered by Abraham? No scholarly source exists directly stating King David’s selection of this location is one and the same. For the past 2840 years from the time King Solomon built the first temple and its altar, people have simply believed the site to be precisely true to Akeida.
How is it that the most holy site for Jews is identified with the feet of the angel of death and the sword pointed over Jerusalem.
David struggled to find the site of the temple, for years he contended with Doeg over its location. Did he not have a sign, an archaeological fingerprint, something to go on that was better than the feet of the angel of death and a prophecy of Gad to annul the plague that he caused? Did David know that the altar of Isaac was a prerequisite for the building of the Temple? David’s son Solomon built Jerusalem’s first temple based on the plans of his father, we don’t have those plans and we don’t have a prophecy that precedes the building of the temple including instructions for its building. What we have is a declaration in 1-Kings Chapter 6 that details how it was built by Solomon.
The missing ingredient in all this is the location of the altar of Isaac which is the essential item according Rambam and Halacha (Torah Law) for building a temple in Jerusalem. So where is it? In numerous articles I have argued that the newly excavated site above the Gihon, on the neck mountains neck, where sacrificial worship and ceremony is now known to have taken place, is in fact the site of Isaac’s altar. Notwithstanding popular opinion, this site is likely to be the original site of Salem, Luz, Beit-El and Jerusalem as such it ought to be more seriously considered as the primary site King David did not identify. To understand the reasons why the King did not identify the site, we must be sensitive to a chronological series of events that presented him a great difficulty.
When King David and a small band of men first attacked and conquered the Jebusite city, now known as the City of David, its walls had been heavily fortified and constructed to prevent and protect its residents from attack whilst they would draw water from the perennial Gihon Spring. Within and adjacent to the inner sections of the city walls, many homes had been built.
The walls and the homes were built over the site of Isaac’s altar, that had been carved out of bedrock on the Upper Ridge. After the Jebusites first began occupying the area, they extended the existing small rectangular Upper Ridge. It is probable the first small protective walls were built by Jacob and his sons when they returned from Shechem to Hevron via the place of the altar. This is also the place where he experienced his famous dream in which the angels walked up and down the ladder between heaven and earth and where he accepted the name Israel upon himself. It is also where he anointed a monument to God and formally took the name Israel.
Whether or not King David knew of this site’s existence is unknown, regardless its emergence for the first time in more than 3000 years and its identity today is remarkable. The question remains whether we will be open minded enough to seriously question whether or not the site we presently identify for the third temple is in fact its true location?