Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Jacob And His Trees

Covenant of Jacob - Standing Stone or Matzevah at Beit El, Bethel, Ancient Jerusalem

For 39 years the progenitor Israel lived with a gnawing frustration because the covenant he, as Jacob made at Beit El to build the House of God had not been fulfilled. Confounding events had distracted him from meeting his obligation.  After a successful 20 year exile he returned to his homeland to fulfill his covenant, but was delayed by the burden of his cattle, the idols his entourage carried, the rape of his daughter and massacre in revenge, the death of his mother, the death of his favored wife, the sale of his favored son Joseph into slavery, by his brothers and their living lie to Jacob.

Ultimately his family’s exile to Egypt, where they were finally reunified with Joseph must have been a bittersweet 17 year end to Jacob’s life. On his deathbed, he struggled to express the vision of his yet unfulfilled covenant, perhaps still hoping to motivate his children to fulfill it. Instead Jacob died hearing their acknowledgement that they too would unify their Creator and with that he bestowed his final blessings to them.

When you make a covenant with your one and only God, there is no escaping it. There is no other god who can cancel or adjust it, that constitution is expressed in the continuity of Jewish law. Jacob memorialized his covenant by setting and anointing a standing stone in Luz, which he renamed Beit El, that marked the place of his obligation. By his default, to build the House of God his unfulfilled covenant became the cornerstone of his nations indigenous memory.

The essential backstory to Jacobs yet unfulfilled covenant is less well known. Before his final exile to Egypt he gathered Acacia seeds, some say the Acacia trees that had originally been planted by Abraham and Jacob south of Jacob’s standing stone at Beit El. Nurturing these trees was Jacob’s contemplation, to provide the wood to construct and fulfill his covenant at the place Malchi-tzedek - High Priest of Salem had practiced, Abraham had offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice and Jacob had set his standing stone on Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah. When Jacob left the land of his inheritance, he took the Acacia seeds with him and, not to give up on his indigenous dream he planted them when they settled in Egypt.

210 years after Jacob’s exile his disenfranchised nation were thrust out of Egypt. Before departing some realized the contemplation of their forefather Jacob was about to come true. Tantalizingly, they anticipated returning to Mount Moriah, they felled the trees prepared the wood and took it from Egypt to be used to complete Jacob’s covenant and vision. But, Israel’s circuitous route back to their land took 40 more years. Along the journey Jacob’s trees were used to construct a temporary sanctuary to house the Ark of the Holy Covenant and offer sacrifices. The sanctuary was deconstructed and reconstructed at 42 locations before the nation was ready to arrive.

The seeds Jacob took with him did not merely provide wood, they also implanted a will, in the national psyche that had taken root with his family to fulfill his covenant. When they carried the wood out of Egypt into the desert to worship The God that had saved them from tyrant Pharaohs they were sentimentally expressing Jacobs Beit El contemplation. But, when Joshua finally led each of the tribes into battle to conquer their allotted land, there were two places he was unable to dislodge the occupant enemy. One was the territory of modern Gaza, which is the territory of Dan and the other Mount Moriah, which straddles territory on the southern boundary of Benjamin and northern boundary of Judah. Emorites and Jebusites had constructed massive fortifications on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah that concealed the bedrock, which in light of recent archaeology is Jacob’s Beit El to hide features of the earliest temple Israel’s ancestors had once developed and used.

It took another 300 years before King David mustered a small force that penetrated the fortification by scaling the water channel flowing out of the Gihon Spring and a bedrock fissure. The young Kings forces successfully occupied the lower section of Mount Moriah, but did not dislodge previous occupants of the mountain including the Jebusite King. King David recovered the Ark of the Holy Covenant that had been stolen by the Philistines of Gaza, but abandoned by them because of their superstitions. He temporarily housed it on the mountain until a permanent temple could be built. Progressively King David established Mount Moriah as his base for unifying the administration of justice over all Israel’s tribes.

During his tenure, the King struggled to find the Mount Moriah site that was destined for the altar of the permanent temple. The exact location was not obvious, but the prerequisite, by Jewish law had to be akeida - the site of the binding of Isaac. Despite all of his efforts, he was unable to locate it. Toward the end of his life, under political pressure for his moral ineptitude he dispatched his loyal general on an ill fated census of the nation. A plague ravaged the nations north killing 70,000, as it approached Jerusalem the King witnessed the angel of death standing on Mount Moriah with its sword drawn over the lower slope, which was Jerusalem at that time. The nations prophet declared the site suitable for an altar. King David who publicly sought forgiveness and the tribal leaders whose tribes were being ravaged, purchased the site from the Jebusite King. King David brought his sacrifices and the plague stopped. The event that unified the tribes was soon forgotten, but the location of the Kings altar was not. Finally King David’s blueprint, for the construction of Jerusalem’s first permanent temple were completed and made ready for his son King Solomon to construct.

Notwithstanding the joyful pomp and ceremony at the inauguration of Jerusalem’s first permanent temple, Jacob’s Beit El location had been lost. It was inadvertently re-discovered by King Hezekiah’s builders during his Gihon Spring tunnel reconstruction, but it was quickly and perfectly re-buried and preserved. It was rediscovered by Eli Shukron, in the City of David on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah 3533 after Jacob’s exile in 2010.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The long search

The Bible recounts that moments before Jacob’s death he invoked his redeeming angel (Vayechi 48:16) and blessed Joseph’s sons, his grandsons Efraim and Menashe. He adopted them and in doing so bestowed the double blessing on Joseph, first born to his first love, wife Rachel.

The Zohar asks - why did they deserve to be blessed? And answers because Joseph preserved the sign of the holy covenant by not allowing himself to be seduced (by evil). The mystery of faith is a covenant with My chosen (righteous) one [1:231a] alluding to King David. He finds pleasure together with the souls of the righteous (Israel) and will not enter Jerusalem below until Israel enters the city. The world was not created until He took a certain stone -Foundation Stone, central point of the whole world. That stone, I set up as a pillar (matzevah) to be a house of God (Genesis 28:22). I am sending an angel before you. 

Jacob took 12 stones of that place and they become one

(Vayechi 49:1) Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days". [1:234b] "Gather" - that I may tell you - "Ve-agidah", the mystery of wisdom! Why the mystery of wisdom? Because the word contains (g)imel followed by (d)alet, though sometimes (y)ud intervenes. He sought to reveal Israel's future, but his end of days vision dwindled.  

Jacob was about to reveal that his stone-pillar would locate the permanent temple he had committed to build, but he couldn't explain what he saw. How do we know this? Because the non-incidental prophet Gad, also spelled (g)imel (d)alet connected him to this same mystery of wisdom. Some 670 years after Jacob, Gad authorized King David and all Israel's tribal leaders to locate an altar, on Mount Moriah at a different place than the place Jacob erected his stone-pillar. This confronting fact disturbed Jacob's vision.

The deeper mystery connected Efraim and brother Menashe to the northern tribes, collectively named Israel. They vehemently resisted re-locating the temporary temple from Shilo in Efraim's territory, where it had been abandoned to Jerusalem on the southern border of Benjamin's territory with Judah. When a plague killed 70,000 northern Israelite's a short-lived reprieve led them to unify and accept Gad's prophetic house of God relocation from the neck to the head of Mount Moriah.

Rivalry between Judah and Joseph (Efraim) over Benjamin would eventually lead to the destruction of two temples at Gad's location. Jacob saw beyond these destruction's, but the perpetual denial by Joseph and his brothers, including their silencing Benjamin about their kidnapping and selling Joseph disturbed Jacob's foretelling.

In 2008 the Hebrew year 5768, Jacob's stone-pillar was rediscovered at its location on Mount Moriah. It had been purposely buried, preserved for more than 3700 years. This time there will be no destruction.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Place Jacob Stumbled and Became Israel

Of 79,847 words in the Hebrew Bible "va-yi[ph][g]ah" is used once to describe the manner in which Jacob came to a certain "place". It is also used once in the Book of Samuel and three times in the first book of Kings. In the latter books it verbalizes the murder of priests and retribution against a traitor. So, how does the murder of priests by Do'eg, who became King David's conniving, ruthless teacher and retribution metered by Ben'ayahu ben Yehoiada, for the King relate to Jacob's experience at the place?

The verb "[ph]-[g]ah" means to encounter, meet or reach, perhaps encounter (as in strike down) can relate to killing or murder. However, because a softer verb was not chosen commentators interpret this long memory, encoded into the Bible's Hebrew words as if Jacob came upon, fell upon, collided with, or stumbled onto the place.

Regular readers of this blog will know my view that the standing stone or matzevah in ancient Jerusalem's temple zero complex (see image below) is the one Jacob erected the morning after his "va-yi[ph][g]ah" experience which was followed, that night by his famous 'stairway-to-heaven' dream.

Four room temple complex on Upper Ridge above the Gihon Spring
Of the four rooms discovered in the temple complex, on the eastern face of Mount Moriah the bedrock at the western end of room 2 drops to a low point around 1 meter above the ground. This apparently natural feature outlined in red and immediately further west in green (in the images below) illustrates the fall of bedrock toward the ground level bedrock. The standing stone (also in the images below) is not depicted in room 2 (above) to illustrate that it was erected on top of the ground level bedrock well after this temple complex had already been constructed.

Looking west into Room 2 

Only the raised bedrock platform at the rear (west) end of room 3 was purposely left in place when the original constructors shaped the bedrock into these four rooms. The image (below) of room 3 bedrock floor contrasts the liquids channel (left of image) carved into the bedrock floor from retained (top rear) raised altar platform. This serves to emphasize the purpose of the construction as a temple complex from the outset.

Room 3 altar platform left in place when rooms bedrock was removed to shape rooms

The man-made-wall in the background, west of the green outlined bedrock (below) was dated to the time of King Hezekiah by various archaeologists. Around 1000 years earlier, toward the end of the middle Bronze Age the man-made-wall did not exist, but the bedrock features of rooms 1,2,3 and 4 did. We know that because pottery artifacts discovered in passages immediately east and north of these rooms are dated to the middle bronze age and chisel markings are indicative of that time. 

Matzevah or standing stone at the rear, west end of room 2
Further west of the man-made-wall bedrock continues under the wall, as seen in the image below. In the middle Bronze Age, before the man-made-wall was built bedrock access to and from the west of the temple complex would have been a more gentle access route. The grade of the east facing slope seen in the following image supports the idea of gradual access.

The man-made-wall  (City Wall in image below) approximately demonstrates the relative position of the four room temple complex on the Upper ridge in context to the City Wall at the site of the excavations. It also illustrates the proximity of the Upper Ridge temple complex to the water of the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley below.

For those who are familiar with the Bible story of Jacob: On the run from his brother, Jacob made his way to Mount Moriah (Genesis 28:11), the holy place of his ancestors where his father was once offered as a sacrifice by his grandfather whose homeland Jacob was about to leave behind. When the sun set he stumbled upon the bedrock and fell into room 2 of the temple complex. That night he packed stones around his head, which he took from room 3 and exhausted he fell asleep. In the morning when he awoke, he erected the stone and anointed it (Genesis 28:18) and after twenty years in exile he returned back to it (Genesis 35:14). I maintain that this is the place Jacob was seeking and this is the place Israel is still seeking, perhaps one day we will find it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Myopic Archaeological Reporting

A major disagreement between archaeological giants over a 2008 discovery at the City of David, Jerusalem remains unresolved. The modern equivalents of Macalister and Duncan, Reich and Shukron, who excavated sections of the lower and upper ridges near the Gihon Spring remain ~1000 years apart in their time estimates for a critically important upper ridge discovery. By professional standards its a serious issue that could eventually backfire on Israel's Antiquities Authority.

Its not unusual for archaeologists to challenge each other with evidence based theories including at  the Gihon Spring. Recently Dr. Joe Uziel discovered evidence that presented a similar time conflict. Under the north-eastern corner stone of the Bronze age citadel construction adjacent to the Gihon Spring, seeds were carbon dated by Weizmann Institute to the Iron age. The seeds were presumed to be in their original location, but if they had been washed under the corner stone, in a prior rain-storm the arguments over Iron or Bronze age dating would be futile. 

To elucidate the futility, myopic archaeological reporting is often contained to single fragments of evidence that draw inferences absent of broader context discoveries found in proximity. For example Jerusalem's oldest constructed cave was probably a mansion carved into the east face of Mount Moriah, south of the upper Gihon Pool. 

Parker and Vincent Excavation ~1910
Early Bronze Age Cave (2018)

Further up the eastern face, a tomb containing ~4000 year old sophisticated tomb pottery was discovered by Parker-Vincent. Importantly this early Bronze Age tomb pottery dates Mount Moriah's first permanent population to a similar time in which the cave home on the eastern face would have been in use.

From Ronny Reich's book - Excavating the City of David: Where Jerusalem's History Began

The Pottery Artifacts from the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem
Direct evidence does not link the tomb pottery to the cave, but both were sophisticated developments of that time. The cave would have been constructed by skilled laborers and the pottery by refined artisans indicating the importance of the individuals to whom these discoveries were once attributed. Leading archaeologist Hillel Geva made it clear that Mount Moriah was sparsely populated until much later periods when permanent construction on the mountain expanded from around 3800 years ago, around the time of Biblical Abraham.

One of the most compelling observations echos a ziggurat like stairway the lower sections having been partly reassembled with steel staircase. Immediately adjacent, north of the cave, the base of the stairway was once quarried in sloping bedrock, but today it is a sheer-rock-cut-face that reshaped the natural slope of the bedrock to displace or destroy the arrangements that once provided gradual stepped-access from lower to upper ridge.

Stairway view bottom to top (looking west)
Stairway view top to bottom (looking east) - see video below

The slope may have first been reshaped to include steps for easier access on the ~30 meter rise (see profile image below) from the lower rock shelf, at the cave's natural entrance to the stairs leading to the high ridge. Interestingly, the lower section of stairs would have once landed on the east face of Mount Moriah, as it falls to the Kidron Valley, but the dramatic absence at the now sheer-rock-cut-face appears related to the quarrying that ultimately formed the large impassable void of the Upper Gihon Pool (see image below).

Profile slice through Mount Moriah looking north.
In 2008 Eli Shukron broke through a false wall on the upper ridge and discovered that the stairway led directly to a sacrificial altar of a significant pre-Solomon temple complex. Soft sand filled the entire upper ridge spaces between the false wall on the east (side of Kidron Valley) and the western bedrock, below the city wall. Thousands of years before Eli's breakthrough, the temple complex had been cleaned of artifacts and purposefully buried, a fact that has not been officially revealed. Below, the four numbered rooms, notably #1 and #3 have short passages connecting these rooms with the upper section of the ridge as it makes its way higher and to the west.

On the eastern bedrock, below the temple complex middle Bronze Age artifacts were discovered by Shukron and previous archaeologists, but several rooms built against the city wall (see image above) contained artifacts that were dated to the Iron Age.

The image above illustrates how access through the rear passage of room #1 of the temple complex led to the bedrock behind the wall. When the temple complex was excavated, several Iron Age artifacts were found in the passages and caused Ronny Reich to firmly date the temple complex to the Iron Age. However, it is evident these artifacts could have moved. The basement of the Iron Age rooms (above image) terminated on the bedrock as it descends east and like so many cavernous basements in and around the old city of Jerusalem the contents on the bedrock found the tunnel of room #1 where the Iron Age contents of the house slipped into and filled the space of the tunnel. 

Based on the above,the definitive statements by Ronny Reich, as seen in the video below would therefore be an example of myopic archaeology. Eli Shukron has made public statements that the temple complex is a Bronze Age construct in direct opposition. 

I'll leave it to you the reader to decide, which version is more likely just keep in mind that the standing stone or matzevah in room #2 (seen below) is most likely a relic from 3800 years ago, the the time of Israel's Biblical fathers, as such it is more likely to fit the context that supports the narrative of Eli Shukron.

Room #2 matzevah or standing stone is not a grave marker

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jerusalem's 'Temple Zero' Predicament!

The southern room - animal processing and grain press
The lead archaeologist says its Middle Bronze Age, but the tour guides say Iron Age and the City of David is silent? For the uninitiated that’s an impossible gap of 600 years!

In 2011 lead archaeologist Eli Shukron discovered 4 hidden bedrock rooms preserved by a false wall. They feature an altar, a grain press, an oil press and a stone monument known as a matzevah. Small loops chiseled in bedrock corners were once used to tie small animals before they were sacrificed. He openly attributes the rooms to MalchiTzedek’s Shalem, but the matzevah he unwittingly says cannot be Jacob's because"...we're talking about Jerusalem...” (See the video @7:40).

The matzevah of Jacob
This is where Eli and I diverge. Jacob’s matzevah was erected at a place he called Beit El, which according to the clearest geophysical reference in the bible (2Kings 23:4) is on eastern face, on the southern end of Mount Moriah, Jerusalem. Exactly at the location in this blog-post! Eli falls victim to the confusing arguments promoted by Jeroboam after King Solomon built the first temple at its alternative location on Mount Moriah.

The ramifications of Eli's statements strengthen me to overcome ignorance, which I justify because archaeologists are not biblical scholars nor the alternative. Who can blame them? However, the City of David has a far greater responsibility to reveal facts. Jerusalem's "temple zero" predates King David so why didn't he identify these rooms as the location at which his son Solomon would  build the first temple further up the mountain?

If you're fortunate enough to visit this place, tour guides may tell you King David built it to house the Ark of the Covenant during the 37 years before the first temple was built. Or that the rooms already existed so he brought the Ark here to rest and this is where he built a tent to house it. But, nothing in their explanation addresses why King David would permit a matzevah, a practice abolished in the bible ~350 years before him. Worse, they won't tell you of the Middle Bronze Age evidence that predates King David to Jacob, Isaac, Abraham and MalchiTzedek. They promote confusion by saying things that are not helpful to absolving ignorance.

The simplest answer is that King David never found these four rooms. However, someone after him, in the mid-late Iron Age did because Middle Bronze Age evidence was found in the area surrounding these rooms, but the rooms had been filled with soft sand, preserved and cleared of Middle Bronze Age evidence.

I've written extensively about these rooms, you can explore my blog for more, but Jerusalem's Temple Zero predicament challenges interpretations of Jewish law and tradition that preceded King David. Fundamentally, if this is Jacob's Beit El then established ancient traditions also declare it to be the site of the future, final temple, which competes with present views and raises questions that may be too hard for people to answer.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Stop the "fake news"!

Moses was told to gaze west, north, south and east (Deuteronomy - 3:27) similarly Jacob (Genesis 28:14), but Abram was told to look north, south, east and west (Genesis 13:14). The Me'Am Lo'ez says; one would expect east to be mentioned first since this is the direction of sunrise. However, Abram, their predecessor was in BethEl where the future Temple would be built.

About the whereabouts of this location, only one defining statement in all the 24 books of the Bible exists. Undisputed, 2Kings 23:4 states BethEl is the lower south-east slope of Mount Moriah, adjacent to the Kidron Valley in the City of David archaeological park, which is ancient Jerusalem from before the time of King David.

For more than 300 years Israel's tribal logic was dominated by Ephraim's envy over the southern boundary Benjamin shared with Judah, the location Abram was standing. Following King Davids ascension to Jerusalem and unification of the tribes, his son Solomon built the temple at the location. But, one generation later the exiled Jeroboam became King over a divided nation and established a temple of idolatry at Bethel, which is ~20km north of the location at ancient Jerusalem. The nation remained divided since that time.

Significantly, Jeroboam's actions left Israel confused until today. In northern Bethel, Professor Hagi Ben Artzi, the brother of Sarah Netanyahu argues it is the place Jacob experienced his famous dream of a stairway between heaven and earth on which angels were ascending and descending. And, archaeologist Eli Shukron argues the matzevah (monument) he recently discovered at BethEl, the location of Abram cannot be Jacob's because he was in Hagi Ben Artzi's Bethel (to the north) (see Eli @7:40 in the video below). 

The confusion has become endemic and logic circular causing many investigators to justify the ancient city of Ai  must also be ~20km to the north because that's where Bethel was and Abram is said to have pitched his tent between these two locations (Genesis 12:8). Despite the ancient city of Ai never being discovered academics happily defend their entrenched views.

Few have stopped to consider ancient Jerusalem is Mount Moriah, Salem of MalchiTzedek (Noah's son Shem), BethEl of Abram who became Abraham, akeida of Isaac, Luz and BethEl of Jacob's matzevah, Zion of King David and the Temple of King Solomon. Further that Abram could just as easily have pitched his tent opposite BethEl at the site of a Benedictine Monastery that is today a guesthouse called Maison d'Abraham - the House of Abraham. Finally that Ai could have been east of Maison d'Abraham toward the village Jabal Batin Alhawah.

Maison d'Abraham opposite BethEl in the reclaimed City of David.
Regardless, the irrefutable evidence that Eli Shukron discovered in 2011 is too impact-full to uphold the confusion that has permeated our logic for thousands of years. The temple complex in which the matzevah is located predates King David. Middle bronze age artifacts in the adjacent surroundings, the stone cut rooms of bedrock, preservation of the altar platform, liquids channel, oil and flour press are far too compelling to endure prevailing confusion. Further the middle bronze vessels found under the stone floor of homes built in the perimeter wall of the lower south-eastern valley floor, establishes occupation to the time of Abram. 

This enlightenment firmly establishes a path to realize this location. It is repeatedly referred in the Bible, a living text that is archaeologically established for at least 2300 years. It serves as Israel's permanent record which governments will be formed to express and a King appointed to realize Jerusalem's temple at this location that screams out for it.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Shaft Tomb or Deep Well Preceded Jerusalem's Upper Gihon Pool

Honed bedrock entry to Shaft Tomb
Shaft tombs were commonly used during the Middle Bronze Age to bury the dead, including in and around Jerusalem. They were generally constructed as a vertical shaft, cut into bedrock leading to a chamber at the bottom of the shaft where bones and valuable possessions of individuals or family members were laid to rest. Important people were buried in prominent locations where they had once lived, the scale of their burial commensurate.

Cylindrical Shaft Tomb
Prayer at the graveside of those who had progressed to afterlife may have been practiced similar to Jewish  religion and tradition in Israel today. Cemeteries from this period are found scattered through Israel like the one in Michmash from the Middle Bronze age. Generally the tombs were constructed cylindrical, but sometimes rectangular or irregular shapes were built. Over extended periods of tens or hundreds of years populations at specific locations waxed and waned. Because of famine, pestilence, disease or wars shaft-tombs were often abandoned, which exposed the contents to vandalism.

Once tombs had been vandalized and emptied and with the passage of time as local inhabitants lost touch with lore of the deceased, they may have been used for other purposes. One such example could be the Round Chamber (named by lead archaeologist Ronny Reich) of the Upper Gihon Pool at the City of David, Jerusalem.

Upper Gihon Pool and Round Chamber in front of image (camera facing south)
The Upper Gihon Pool is immediately south of  the Gihon Spring, from where it once received its water. The eastern rock-cut face, which is substantially lower than the other faces marked the pools maximum potential water line.  Today the sunken walkway sits in the pool immediately adjacent (south) of the Round Chamber resembling the remnant of a cylindrical shaft.  The top of the Round Chamber appears roughly honed suggesting its original deep cylindrical shaft preceded cutting rock away from it to form the large cavity of the Upper Gihon Pool. Since the lower height of the eastern face is the maximum water line, it can be concluded most of the cavity area was quarried for some other purpose.

Southern face of rock cut Upper Gihon Pool (camera facing south-east)
The southern rock cut face (seen above) of the Upper Gihon Pool expansion follows the original slope of the mountain as it falls east toward the Kidron valley.  The cavity bedrock once filled the entire pool area. The Shaft tomb or deep cylindrical well of the Round Chamber was first cut from untouched bedrock. Later more rock was cut and removed to form the present cavity of the Upper Gihon Pool.

Yardstick in Round Chamber expanded in the direction of camera facing north-east
The yardstick in the image above illustrates the height from the bottom of the Round Chamber to the top of the northern rock cut face. The north-eastern Tunnel III (considered to be Middle Bronze Age) is visible and leads directly to the Gihon Spring. It is possible it once formed a Shaft Tomb burial chamber prior to widening the south-east side of the Round Chamber and the addition of steps into the pool (as can be seen in the map below).

Round Chamber - Shaft Tomb and east facing burial chamber

Entrance to the northern Tunnel IV in the image (bellow) is considered an Iron Age addition and may have been part of Iron Age efforts to dam water for storage within a few hundred years of the construction of the Siloam (Hezekiah) Tunnel.

View north-east to the expanded corner of the Round Chamber
In a previous post I identified the "other purpose" of the quarrying effort in the Upper Gihon Pool was entirely political. Specifically to stop Israel's access and to obfuscate the Middle Bronze Age, holy temple complex on the high, east facing ridge facing east, looking over the Upper Gihon Pool.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Dueling Altars in Time and Place.

One of the most confusing sections in the entire 24 books of Torah (1 Kings 13:1) describes the account of the man of God from Yehuda who arrived as the altar was being dedicated by King Yerovam (Jeroboam) in BeitEl - Shomron. Yerovam had capitalized on King Solomon's opulence, its burden on taxpayers, which he used to revitalize a lingering grievance between the leaders of Yehuda and Yosef about the location of Solomon’s Jerusalem Temple. After Solomon, he led a successful split of the entire nation. Then, he reintroduced a form of nationalized, intermediate idolatry using golden calves. His success confused many that grappled God’s intent.

The man of God from Yehuda arrived, interrupted proceedings and directed his prophecy to the altar proclaiming it would be destroyed in the future by a man born to the House of David (of the tribe Yehuda) named Yoshiahu. Then, he paralyzed the right hand of a crazed Yerovam and released it before he returned along a different path. On his way he was intercepted by an old prophet who had not joined Yerovams entourage that day. The old prophet challenged and convinced the man of God to break the oath he took when accepting God's mission to deliver the prophecy. On his return, the man of God was mauled by a lion who sat by the side of the road with a donkey. The old prophet sent his sons to recover the body and instructed it be buried in his grave, which he proclaimed he would share with the man of God.

Some three hundred years later (2 Kings 22:1) King Yoshiahu rid Israel of idolatrous objects and realized the man of God’s prophecy by destroying the altar in BeitEl. Seems simple at first, but the detailed time and place descriptions that span Kings one and two are separated by 300 years and the places these verses speak of span the tribal territory of Yehuda and Yosef (Ephraim) which were separated by the territory of Binyamin in between.

Consider this pre-requisite information about the altar of akeida, the place Abraham bound and offered his son Isaac. Rambam, the famous Maimonides states: “The altar is [to be constructed] in a very precise location, which may never be changed, as it is said (I Chronicles 22:1 [by David]): "This is the altar for the burnt-offerings of Israel." David’s conclusion or Rambam’s insistence that a “universally” accepted tradition that the altar once stood on Mount Moriah does not suffice for the Jewish law stringency akeida imposes on the precise location required for the third temple’s altar.

The prefix ‘Ha’ of the word ‘Ha’Makom (הַמָּק֔וֹם) is unique as to “The Place”, generally ‘The’ place of God’s resting presence. The word is never used to describe Yerovams altar in BeitEl in Shomron. However, it is extensively used to describe locations associated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob especially at Mount Moriah. It is therefore a universally accepted tradition that HaMakom, used in Torah verses to do with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob more often associate with Mount Moriah including Shalem of Malchitzedek, akeida, BeitEl and Luz.

In the text of 2 Kings 23:4 Yoshiahu ordered the High Priest to remove objects of idolatry from the temple, in Jerusalem, which the High Priest, for the strong symbolism burned in the Kidron valley (in Jerusalem) before depositing the ashes at BeitEl in Jerusalem. Then, the eradication of idolatrous objects continued in and around Jerusalem and Yehuda until 23:14. At 23:15 - “And also the altar that was at BethEl…” in Shomron, of Yerovam, “also that altar” he destroyed. At Yerovams BethEl the prophecy of the man of God came true. But, here it was Yoshiyahu who did the destruction not the High Priest, because  human bones were used to defile the altar and that precludes the High Priest.

Three hundred years before the man of God incident, before the book of Kings toward the end of Joshua’s reign Judges 1:8-15 briefly states Judah conquered Jerusalem, 1:20-21 states Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem and 1:22-26 declares the house of Joseph smote Beit El, which was Luz. Therefore, Judges declares a northern (Benjamin) and southern (Judah) Jerusalem (since the city ran in a north south direction) - this is not controversial. However that Joseph smote BeitEl, which was Luz contradicts Judah conquering the southern section of Mount Moriah synonymous with Jerusalem at the time. This may be the first hint of competition between Joseph and Judah over the location of the temple Solomon would eventually build.

2 Kings 23:4 is the only specific reference to BeitEl being in Jerusalem. It leaves little ambiguity about its proximity to Jerusalem and the Kidron valley and is directly supported by archaeology discovered in the area. The BeitEl of Jacob and the Bethel of Yerovam are different places that are deeply convoluted by competition and grievance that have long distorted facts. Perhaps that time is coming to an end.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sword over Jerusalem!

The Bible relates King Davids' dilemma, his test. To unify the nation he was required to identify the location of the national altar from which Israel’s temple would eventually be built. Without his 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 at the place 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 Prophet Samuel, his teachers, Do'eg, Achitofel and eventually the Prophet Gad.

Do'eg was a convert and very serious Torah scholar. He was 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's prohibition is limited to descendants of male Moabite converts only.

Do'eg also challenged David who was struggling to determine the site of the future temple, lobbying for it be located in the high mountains south-west of ancient Jerusalem. David preferred it be built in close proximity of the people of ancient Jerusalem. In his later years, King David, by the King’s own will ordered his general to make a census of the nation, it was not requested of him through a prophet by God, as was the law. After 9 months and 20 days Yoav, his general reluctantly delivered his count of males over 20 in Israel.

David reflected on the opposition expressed by his general and his public contravention of  Jewish law and became remorseful. Retribution followed swiftly and Gad conveyed his prophecy as three choices by which to repent; seven years of famine, three months fleeing his enemies or 3 days of plague in the land. King David chose plague. Immediately 70,000 men from the northern tribal lands received their fate. On the second day, as the nation suffered the King witnessed a vision; the angel of death was standing on the threshing floor where Ornan - King of the Jebusites would separate chaff in the wind. From there the angel stretched out its sword over Jerusalem (The ancient City of David). David immediately and deeply repented for his sins asking God’s forgiveness for the people. With David’s confession and the angels dictate, Gad 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 willing Jebsuite King. He built the altar, made holy sacrifices to seek forgiveness for the sin of his ill fated census. In the process and the pandemonium the tribal leaders of the day unanimously accepted this altar as the beacon by which the future site of the first and second temples in Jerusalem would be determined. The demand, in 1 Chronicles 21:18  by the angel of death to build an altar on the threshing floor, at the angel's feet became accepted as a prophecy of Gad.

Are we to rely on a a vision, much less than a prophecy through the voice of an angel or on chance or hidden meaning that David's altar is in fact the site at which Isaac was bound and offered by Abraham - Akeida? Was David opportunistic? There are no scholarly sources that directly state King David’s selection of this location is one and the same with Akeida. 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 the true Akeida. How is it that the most holy site for Jews is identified with the feet of the angel of death?

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. 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's binding, which is the essential item according  Rambam and Halacha (Torah Law) for building a temple in Jerusalem. So where is it?

Intriguingly the sacrifice offered for a sin offering is the same as the new month (Rosh Chodesh). When David brought his sacrifice at the altar the first time, he repented for his sin, not that of the nation it was not a communal offering, but David's. Today, in the Rosh Chodesh prayer Jews the world over ask for a "New altar to be built in Zion", but when David first used the word "Zion" the angel of death's altar had not been identified and Solomon had not built the temple. So where is David's Zion the place we ask for a new altar to be built?

In numerous articles I have argued that the newly excavated temple complex above the Gihon, on the neck of the mountain, where sacrificial worship and ceremony is now known to have taken place, is in fact the site of the altar on which Isaac was bound. Notwithstanding popular opinion, this site is likely to be the original site of Salem, Luz, Beit-El, Zion 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 while allowing them to obtain water from the perennial Gihon Spring. Within and adjacent inner sections of the city walls, many homes had been built.

The walls and the homes were built on the foundation of bedrock over the site of Isaac’s altar, that had once been carved out of bedrock on the Upper Ridge. After occupants first began living on the mountain area, they extended the small Upper Ridge which serviced worship on the east facing hillside. It is probable the first small walls were chiseled or even built by Jacob and his sons when they returned from Shechem on their way to Hevron via the place of the matzevah (monument) Jacob erected at the site of Akeida, the altar. This is also the place where Jacob experienced his famous dream in which the angels walked up and down the ladder or stairway between heaven and earth and where he accepted the name Israel upon himself. It is also where he anointed his monument to God and formally took the name Israel.

When King David entered the city for the first time this general location, at and around the Gihon Spring became known as the Zion fortress and is referred to numerous times in the Bible. There is little doubt this is the physical location Tzion or Zion that David referred to. Whether or not King David knew of the existence of the temple complex 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?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Jerusalem - alternative theories

David Ussishkin’s alternative view is a wonderful account of excavations at the City of David on which many facts turn. Three references ought to be given greater weight because they fit the Biblical timelines.
  1.  Fill L1654A/1656A comprised the fill beneath the floor which also abutted Wall 285 (De Groot and Bernick-Greenberg 2012: 110, photo 130, plan 58). The floor yielded MB II pottery, including one complete, and two partly complete storage jars (Eisenberg 2012: figs 7.4–7.6, 7.12–7.14).
  2. We should add at this point that ʻMB II pottery is likewise associated with the floor inside the cave at the south-eastern exit of Warren’s Shaft System’ (Reich and Shukron 2000b: 333).   
  3. Hardly any remains from the Late Bronze or Iron I–IIA periods — structural remains and pottery alike — were uncovered in the Gihon Spring excavations (Reich 2011: 304–06; Reich and Shukron 2004: 213; Uziel et al. 2013: 24*). This datum indicates that, for some 800 years or so, between the end of the MB II in the 16th century and the Iron IIB in the 8th century, there was hardly any human activity in the area of the spring.

The presence of whole jars at L1654A/1656A is sufficient archaeological proof, by any standard that the floor post-dates the fill. The MBII pottery in the cave at the south-eastern end of the Warren’s Shaft System is sufficient to tie the period with L1654A/1656A, therefore the use of these features. Finally an 800 year gap in evidence at the Gihon Spring must surely be alluded to in the Biblical record.

According to Wikipedia, the Bronze Age and Iron Age together are sometimes called the "Biblical period".[9] The periods of the Bronze Age include the following:

Early Bronze Age I (EB I) 3330–3050 BCE
Early Bronze Age II–III (EB II–III) 3050–2300 BCE
Early Bronze Age IV/Middle Bronze Age I (EB IV/MB I) 2300–2000 BCE
Middle Bronze Age IIA (MB IIA) 2000–1750 BCE
Middle Bronze Age IIB (MB IIB) 1800–1550 BCE
Late Bronze Age I–II (LB I–II) 1550–1200 BCE

In the Iron Age/Israelite period both the archaeological and narrative evidence from the Bible become richer and much writing has attempted to make links between them. A chronology includes:

Iron Age I (IA I) 1200–1000 BCE
Iron Age IIA (IA IIA) 1000–925 BCE
Iron Age IIB-C (IA IIB-C) 925–586 BCE
Iron Age III 586–539 BCE (Neo-Babylonian period)

We can already see the discrepancy between Ussishkin’s “800 year gap” and Wikipedia’s 625 years. Give or take inaccuracies, that could be reduced to 550-600 years. In any event it’s a significant period where trace of life is almost non-existent.

L1654A/1656A fill pre-dated the physical construction of wall 285, as such wall 285 may have occurred some reasonable time after MBII, the time for signs of life begins to narrow. If the theory that the Massive Fortified Corridor (MFC) of the Gihon Tower was built in response to Israel’s exodus from Egypt, it would serve the evidentiary gap. In the 436 years between the time Israel, under Joshua returned to their homeland and the appointment of King David, there is good reason significant evidence is absent.

Joshua 10:2-4 discloses that after news of Joshua’s destruction of Ai and secession by Gibeon , Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem gathered neighboring kings from Hebron (south) Jarmuth (west), Lachish (south west), Eglon/Debir (south) to a battle they ultimately lost against Joshua.

The opening verses of Judges, 1:4-7 states the tribe of Judah brought Adoni-bezek to Jerusalem to die after he had been maimed by them. 1:8-15 briefly states Judah conquered Jerusalem. 1:17-19 states Judah also conquered Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron and territory. 1:20,21 states Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 1:22-26 declares the house of Joseph smote Beit El, which was Luz. Shortly after these accounts Joshua dies and the period of Judges begins.

I included Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron to illustrate that the tribe of Dan, to which this territory was allotted was unable to occupy it fully and were forced to also establish territory in the north. Further, Jerusalem was split because Judah conquered Jerusalem, but Benjamin did not. Finally the question about the location of Luz must be addressed. Two potential locations exist for BeitEl/Luz, Jerusalem and to the north modern Bethel. If Jacob’s dream at HaMakom was Mount Moriah - Jerusalem, it would support that the following tit-for-tat verses are not declarative as to territorial achievements. In any event there appears to be empirical victory over some of Jerusalem, which may also be related to the area defined as Beit El or Luz.

Wall 285, to which L1654A/1656A abuts was a wall of the lower city on the south east slope of Mount Moriah, therefore it stands to good reason that this was the Jerusalem Judah conquered. It would also comport with Benjamin’s allotment to the northern section of Mount Moriah, designated Jerusalem. Curiously Judges 1:22-26 uses the adverb גם (gum) meaning also or further to the previous verse, regarding Benjamin's Jerusalem. As such BeitEl/Luz, which was smote by the House of Joseph forms a relationship between the verses and associates BeitEl/Luz with Jerusalem.

Returning to the absence of evidence at the Gihon, if indeed Judah or Joseph had destroyed the lower city of Jerusalem, it would necessitate that life ceased abruptly and that the ever present Israelite threat may have rendered the lower slopes of Mount Moriah uninhabitable for the entire ~440 years of Joshua through through King David.

The biblical account emphasizes that Ussishkin’s unusual absence of evidence associates the time of Joshua-Judges and suggests that use of the Warren’s Shaft System, following the Judah-House of Joseph attack on the lower city became the limitation on access to water, a significant factor that restricted the upper city's population growth.