Monday, September 16, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem - A Sacred Burial Site?

From the excavation report by MacAlister and Duncan - Excavations on the Hill of Ophel, Jerusalem 1923-1925: "We thought, when they were first uncovered that they were cisterns and in the original draft of this report we described them as such. We have now definitely abandoned this theory. There is no trace of a water line on the walls. There is no cup-hollows such as usually exists in the bottom of rock-cut cisterns to catch the last dregs of the water. We now hold that these carefully hewn chambers were tombs of a very early date, presumably belonging to notable of the Jebusite city. In fact we have come to the conclusion that there are no Jebusite cisterns at all in the city, but that the Jebusite city was dependent entirely on the Virgins Fountain (and possibly other springs since dried up) for their water supply."

The statement above related to burial sites in Field 5, but also 7 and 9 of the excavation, which is the upper elevation of the east facing north-south ridge of Mount Moriah - west of and between the modern Area G and E. It is testimony to the use of at least some of these areas as cultic worship sites established around sacred burial caves in the early and mid Bronze Age periods.

Presenting my tomb theory to members of the Israel Antiquity Authority

The vigil seen at grave-sides in Israel today may resemble an early form of a tradition that continues by devotees who recite psalms and other prayers.

Prayer vigil at Joseph's tomb 
As I have previously written, shaft tombs were common in the region during the early through middle Bronze Age.  Arguably Jerusalem's most ancient and important tomb may have existed for 1000 years or more before it was hacked by the Iron Age quarry that cut north-south passage on the lower eastern slope of the mountain. The path between two significant Bronze Age features, the upper floor blocked cave and the lower cave house (Parker), that exist either side of the quarry may have been purposely cut in order to prevent (stop or cancel) the continuous tradition of occupation and organized cultic worship.

Plan of Gihon excavations - The Rock-cut pool disconnected bidirectional north-south access 
The slope of the bedrock surface in the rock-cut quarry can be seen below. It is now known that no water could be contained in it because the geophysical slope from the Gihon spring could not build sufficient hydraulic pressure to raise water into any section of the cut quarry.

Cut quarry often confused as - upper Gihon Pool
The remnant round chamber contained in the bedrock of the rock-cut quarry is visible below. The round chamber (as it is known today) may once have been a much taller shaft connecting the burial chamber at the base to the surface (as illustrated top left of image).

Remnant of shaft to round chamber in rock-cut quarry 
The confirmed discovery of early and mid-bronze burial sites on the eastern slopes of Mount Moriah, as it descends toward the Kidron Valley and Gihon spring offer strong support for the theory that the round chamber in the rock-cut quarry once was a shaft-tomb to a sacred burial chamber. Eventually the burial chamber was connected to the Gihon Spring source through channels.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Report from City of David

After living in exile for 210 years in Egypt and after wondering the desert for 38 years, Israel sought to enter the land of its inheritance. To their surprise Amelikites disguised as Canaanites attacked them, Edomites refused them passage, Moabites and Amonites withheld the offer of food or water. All these events took place on Israel's southern approach along the eastern side of the Jordan river and are recorded for posterity in passages of Chukat (Numbers:20-22) from the Bible.

What inspired these independent nations to collaborate against Israel? They could not have individually or collectively attributed harm, ill treatment or designation as enemy of their various states, yet they unanimously stood against Israel's attempt to reach its destination. The threat of Israel rising must have been a significant motivating factor that contributed to these coordinated national actions against Israel.

If we use the Bible as a context, Israel's redemption from exile in Egypt must have seemed like the impossible come true. This fledgling nation of 70 had grown to an army of 600,000 men and now their families were amassed along the south eastern boundary of Jordan River. The daunting prospect should have dampened the conviction of the alliance against Israel, yet each nation stood resolute against them.

This article is not about the war that ensued, during which Israel conquered the land of Moab, Amon and the Emorites east of the Jordan river instead it focuses on the ultimate destination, the mountain that motivated Israel's allied opponents to remain united and intransigent.

Some 300 years after these events, there was good reason King David waited for 7 years before he could advance on the mountain from which he would ultimately establish the united kingdom of Israel. The mountain, is ancient Jerusalem's Mount Moriah associated with some of Israel's most significant events during establishment, and post redemption from Egypt. Israel's preamble, as recorded in the Bible and commentaries preserved over multiple millennia include stories of, Adam, Malchi-Tzedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, David and a 1000 year lineage of kings. So why was conquering the mountain a go-no-go event for David and why did he risk his fragile kingdom to capture it?

To answer that I offer the following pictorial study of the early through late bronze age (4000-3300 years ago) artifacts that preceded King David (3000 years ago) on Mount Moriah.

Passage out of cave home, north to steel steps
Inside cave home (south of steel steps) on the lower
eastern slope of Mt Moriah
Early bronze graveside pottery discovered by Parker north of iron steps
Connection arrives at upper ridge altar and liquids channel
Connection from top of iron steps to upper ridge

Upper ridge steel bedrock and steel cabinet
Standing stone/pillar or matzevah on upper ridge

Oil press on upper ridge (north end)

V-markings on upper ridge (animal processing - south end)

Double wall fortress of Zion
north of upper ridge, south of Gihon spring
View from upper ridge into the double wall fortress of Zion

 More at this interactive map 

The massive double wall of the fortress of Zion was built up the steep eastern slope of Mount Moriah. It was an enormously complex feat of architecture and engineering during the middle and late Bronze Age. It could not have been accomplished by the small local population alone. They must have obtained the full support of the alliance and there must have been a deeply rooted reason to dedicate resources required for its construction because the water of the adjacent Gihon Spring was not protected by it.

The artists rendition of the eastern slope of Mt Moriah demonstrates how the double wall fortress of Zion circa 3300 years ago may once have cut access across north-south directions on the eastern slope. The city wall was a later addition circa 2700 years ago before the destruction of the first temple.

The ~2700 year old city wall can be seen
in the upper section of this image on top
 of an older wall connected to the bedrock
Connect the blue plastic to piece together remnant of the
 southern element of the double wall fortress of Zion

Apparently the allied forces opposing Israel did not want Israel to come back to the mountain and particularly this section on the south section of the eastern slope. Why and why did King David make sure to conquer this mountain in order to unify his kingdom?

Eli Shukron, the lead archaeologist who excavated these discoveries, contradicts the view that this area was especially important to Israel because it was the original Beit El designated by Jacob. It was once known as Luz, and Salem previous to that. It was the area that Malchi-Tzedek practiced as high priest, where Abraham tithed to him, Isaac was offered as a sacrifice and Jacob erected the pillar, standing stone or matzevah. For these reasons Israel's allied enemies were intent on permanently isolating it and they did all they could to ensure the impracticality of its future. These are my opinions, I invite you to form yours!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Democratic Israel - Secular or Sovereign Theocracy?

Israel Defense Force
Ultra-orthodox recruits

Since 1949 students attending Yeshiva have been exempt from national service and their learning institutions have been eligible for government funded benefits. In 2017 Israel's Supreme Court ruled that a new Draft Law would be required to change the 70 year-old practices of non-Zionist, ultra-orthodox, religious communities by ensuring their greater participation in national service. As Defense Minister Lieberman negotiated with representatives of these communities, but failed to reach an agreement over the inclusion of quota's and penalties for non-adherence. The Rabbinical leaders took umbrage that Lieberman wanted to legislate to ensure their good faith. When Lieberman discovered his Prime Minister supported the Rabbi's, he resigned from office and removed his political party from the coalition sending the country to new elections.

Perhaps the only mandate of last April 9, pre-Passover election was whether Bibi should be indicted while sitting as Prime minister, many more important questions failed to capture the electorate. On April 10 it seemed Bibi would be back with a majority, the initiated knew it would be tough to negotiate and Lieberman would be toughest of all, but very few doubted the formation of a government.

Most Israeli's, including Liberman and Netanyahu have family members that are religious so they may be sympathetic to some national religious laws and practices that impact their secular lives, but for others tolerance is scarce. For Lieberman the secular Jewish State is sacrosanct! Despite low participation the non-Zionist, ultra-orthodox sector has and continues to attract foreign philanthropy that provides a significant boost to Israel's economy. This election must decide whether the secular distrust of these religious leaders, that underscores Lieberman's Draft Law is a legislative necessity. It must also determine Israel's commitment to the US sponsored push for peace and the permanency of a divided Jerusalem.

Jared Kushner's recent, trip to North Africa. the Middle East and Israel crashed into Liberman's iceberg - in the desert. The much anticipated push for Trump's Deal of The Century, was slowed to a crawl first awaiting whether or not Israel will uphold the opinion of their religious leaders. If affirmative, Israel will begin its progressive transformation from a secular-democracy to democratic-theocracy. The religious-center and right wing will be strengthened. Secular voters will be split and the extreme-left will join Liberman in opposition. What that means for peace and the division of Jerusalem is unknown, but support for these issues have never been dependent on Israel's electorate, but its enemies Fatah and Hamas.

In the upcoming pre-Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) election, Lieberman's red-line will polarize religious and secular communities. Last April 10 Israel learned its previous election fate, on September 18 it will learn its next decision - both days have interesting history. 5 Nissan/10April, was the day Moses dispatched spies to report about Israel's future land, but their divided opinions caused pandemonium and split the nation. 18 Elul/18 September is strongly associated with the modern movement of orthodox Hasidim:- It's the day the Ba'al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe were born and the Maharal of Prague died, all are connected with the Chabad phenomena and worldwide post-war return to Judaism.

I am looking forward to Israel increasing its Torah aware elected representation, which will of course be opposed by secularists. However I believe the nation is returning to its indigenous root and will eventually establish an elected Rabbinical House of Lords that will appoint a King who will build the Temple in Jerusalem! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Gihon Excavations

This map, with hot-links to the extensive Gihon excavations at the City of David, Jerusalem has been compiled to help understand the context and magnitude of these discoveries on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah. Zoom in or expand to full screen.

PDF alternative to Lucid Chart available here. 

Interactive Chart of GIhon Excavations

Monday, May 6, 2019

From Missiles on Sderot To a Terrorist in Poway

Missiles fired from Gaza to Sderot
In everything there is a lesson to be learned as the Israeli family from Sderot who recently moved to Poway, California discovered.

The elderly Isaac became blind because, as is warned against in the Gemara (Megila 28) he had too often gazed into the eyes of his evil son Esau. Isaac's good son Jacob on his return, after 20 years in exile was injured in his hip, lamed in a battle with the angel of his evil brother Esau, who bestowed on him the name Israel for prevailing over him.

The Gemara added that Avimelech, King of the Philistines cursed Isaac's mother Sara, when he found out that she was the wife, not the sister of Abram. Commentary about the curse centered on the word K'SooS[T], which normally means a garment, but suggested punctuation on the same letters could have rendered the word K'SiyaS[T], which would mean a cover - over your eyes. Its use in a curse would have meant to loose your eyesight, which is what had happened to Sara's son - Isaac. The Gemara accepts both reasons as valid.

After Avimelech's shepherds attacked Issac's wells, Isaac agreed with Avimelech to extend his father Abraham's peace-pact permitting all future decedents of the Philistine King to reside in the land of Isaac's inheritance.  But, peace with the Kings antagonistic subjects was short lived, fragile at best. For his weakness in pursuit of improbable peace, Isaac was nick-named - "The Blind" and after Jacob returned to the home of his father the antagonists nick-named him "The Lame" because of his injured hip. Together they became known as The Lame and The Blind!

The coast in Aza, today known as Gaza, was once home to the Philistine antagonists. But, 10 Kilometers east, along the ridge of central hill territory their antagonist cousins occupied Isaac's inherited land spanning north from the Town of Four (Kiryat Arba) to Mount Moriah. Not long after Isaac's death, Jacob and his family of 70 escaped severe drought by immigrating to Egypt leaving behind the land he inherited, but had struggled to possess.

Mount Moriah (looking north) - Jerusalem - time of Joshua 
For the entire 210 years of Israel's sojourn in Egypt the antagonists were free to spread their occupation and entrench themselves in the important cities of Kiryat Arba (which is Hebron) and Jerusalem on the lower southern slopes of  Mount Moriah. Empowered, by their false beliefs narratives of The Lame and The Blind became entrenched in their antagonistic cultures as they mocked Israel.

Egypt provided a protected environment for the family of Israel to flourish. Jacob's son Joseph, who preceded their arrival had been empowered as the Egypts viceroy which provided the basis for the fledgling family of Israel to spread their influence. The family grew to millions, but toward the latter years, after Egypt's Pharaohs turned against them the path was established for their return to the land of their inheritance. Egypt's political alliances followed their direct family relationships to the Philistines along the Mediterranean coast and cousins to the inland mountain ridge, where news of Israel's rise against and threat of departure from Egypt spread.

The central hill antagonists anticipated Israel's return to their beloved Mount Moriah, the source of their inheritance:- The place, Noah's son Shem had practiced as the high priest of Salem, to whom Abraham had tithed his wealth, from whom Abraham descended:- The place Abraham had offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice :- The place Jacob had erected a standing stone, pillar or matzevah as a covenant to build the House of God. Intent on stopping their repossession, the antagonists lobbied their regional allies to provide labor and skilled stonemasons to erect a massive structure up the eastern slope of Mount Moriah and block the sacred places that Israel would no doubt seek on their return.

Quarry - cutting access across eastern slope of Mount Moriah
To the sacred place on the eastern slope

Quarrying massive stones from the adjacent rock plateau, they hacked Mount Moriah's lower, eastern mountain-side to ensure any prior access to the sacred places was forever impassable. One by one massive cut-boulders were lifted on top of each other progressively rising from valley floor up a steep slope to the most sacred place, 120 meters above the valley floor. The massive structure resembling a ziggurat, an ascending stepped structure and the quarry remnant would forever alter the landscape of the once naive, east facing slope of Mount Moriah.

The first of Israel's spies to return to this place could not believe what they saw. Their experience with the pyramids in Egypt must have led them to believe such similar structure on Mount Moriah was beyond human. It shook them to the core, shattered their confidence, motivated them to publicly express anxiety, report dangerous tidings and ultimately delayed Israel's return to their land by 40 years.

When Israel under Joshua finally entered the land of their inheritance and made their way to Mount Moriah, the antagonists were waiting on the very structure they had constructed in preparation. From their strategic vantage point they beat on drums, threw stones,  displayed their idols and shouted reminders that Israel, the ascendants of The Lame and The Blind had an obligation and responsibility to honor their pact with the central hill antagonists and their Gaza kin. It took 300 more years before a brave King David (2 Samuel 5:8) finally antagonized the antagonists in a manner that induced their co-existence.

Rabbi Goldstein on the White House Lawn
Like those before them, today the antagonists of Gaza antagonize their neighboring Israeli residents with a constant barrage of missiles on places like Sderot. Israel cannot hide from antagonists, only their constant strong-arm, offensive, counter-antagonistic strategies will mimic the tactic of King David to neutralize the behavior of antagonists who otherwise will forever recall the curse of Avimelech. Israel must adopt the attitude of the Rabbi of Poway, who avenged the dead and injured to change the curse of terror to the blessing of peace!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Israel Echoes From Zion!

I’m done dreaming of Moshiach (Messiah) because Israel’s 2019 election result has ushered in a new reality. 13 of the seats to the far right (in the chart below) are religious parties that represent a growing trend in Israel politics. Further, the New Right party of Naftali Bennett closely missed the voter threshold, all their votes, which otherwise would have obtained 4 seats, were wasted. Imagine in the next election another 4 seats to the right wing, conservative religious parties will be delivered simply because demographically more young voters will be from this block. Then, the combined strength of the far right religious parties will be at least 25 seats as opposed to the 21 they just obtained.

Israel's 2019 balance of power

One of the most intriguing pre-election party battles was won by Bezalel Smotrich during the formation of the Right Union. Naftali Bennett abdicated to his New Right party so, Bezalel beat the old guard National Union, incorporated Kahanists and engraved clarity to this party’s future. His execution was swift and very impressive. With a Right Union party in place, chances are good that the next generation of young voters will significantly boost its numbers at the next election. Of the 25 religious conservative seats, I expect Right Union could obtain 9 or 10 seats making them the largest conservative, religions right wing party.

Three well ordered events must occur in order that millions of Jews and hundreds of millions of Christians can realize their dreams of Moshiach. Think of these events as keys that unlock the great mystery, the one which the world has been waiting. But, I am not writing of mystery, instead I am writing of fact that Israeli society is becoming more religious and that the religious tend to vote for religious, conservative right wing politicians.

The first of these three events is underway. It occurs through the realignment of Israel’s political democracy through the Religious Ministry. The minister is responsible, in part for appointing the nations 300+ Rabbis who obtain their life-time nominations by a nationally representative electoral process. The regime is as old as the state of Israel, as are some of its appointees, but revival of its cultural and strategic importance make it the perfect vehicle for national religious, political revolution. Modern, qualified Rabbi’s being appointed to replace the old guard carry the burning torches of their constituents. Further, their group political empowerment is a short legislative bridge to self-determination and governmental representation in the form of Israel’s first upper house, the equivalent of its House of Lords.

With a Rabbinical upper-house Israel will restore its sovereign identity, once known as a Sanhedrin and with it the capacity to rule in all matters of law, both secular and religious. For the first time in thousands of years Israel will be in a position to converge laws, not because secular law can be invented, but because religious law, under such a recognized legal-religious body can ultimately adapt to unify the principles of its national law for all Israel.

The second of these three events, can only take place after Israel’s Upper House of elected Rabbi’s is legislated and Rabbi’s are seated as the nations representatives. As this Upper House realizes its popular, cultural, religious and spiritual duty it will be empowered to fulfil its legal responsibility to re-appoint the nations sovereign. In addition to the national Prime Minister and its President, the royal house of David and the appointment of a King over all Israel will finally be in the hands of the nation to realize its full identity. Israel’s land law’s and much of its present legislative processes are enhanced by the appointment of its Sovereign and only its Upper House of religious representatives has the power to ratify this appointment.

In the final step, with the appointment of the nations King and the re-establishment of the royal house all of the ceremonial functions of the King can be realized. This is expected to be an enormous boost to the nations constituents in spiritual and economic terms, particularly as a result of tourism and related industries that flow benefits to citizens of the country. The King with support of the nations President, Prime Minister, Cabinet and Upper and Lower Houses will then, by popular demand oversee the rebuilding of the third and final temple in Jerusalem.

These are the reasons I no-longer dream of Moshiach, because I am close enough to Israel and its people to see and know that the nation is well on the way to realizing its cultural destiny. And if you think some may derail this train, like they did at Gush Katif, think again, Israel is bound to this cultural and indigenous destiny, its only a matter of time. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

2900 Year Jerusalem Mystery Solved!

The most significant and immovable artifact at the City of David has been protected by a steel locked box since its discovery in 2011. Understanding its origin, especially in context of its location has been aided by the recent discovery of a small 2600 year old seal that once belonged to a man named Nathan, servant of King Josiah, mentioned in 2 Kings 23:11 of the Bible.  However, the geophysical location of the artifact and recorded events surrounding Nathan, servant of King Josiah are trans-formative in resolving the artifacts interpretation. Three verses of chapter 23 are pivotal:

23:4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the guards of the threshold, to take out of the Temple of the Lord all the utensils that were made for the Baal and for the asherah, and for the entire host of the heaven, and he burnt them outside Jerusalem in the plains of Kidron, and he carried their ashes to Bethel.

23:11 And he abolished the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, from the entrance of the house of the Lord until the chamber of Nathan-melech the eunuch who was in the outskirts, and he burnt the sun chariots with fire.

23:15 And also the altar that was in Bethel, the high place that Jeroboam the son of Nebat-who caused Israel to sin-had made, also that altar and the high place he demolished, and he burnt the high place; he pulverized it and burnt the asherah.

Eli Shukron, the archaeologist who discovered the protected artifact, known as a standing stone or matzevah was prompted by a question; “Eli- is there any chance the stone was from Genesis (the one Jacob erected)?” 

As you can see @7:40 minutes into the video Eli answered; "..yes, maybe Jacob was here, but this is not the stone of Jacob because we are talking about Jerusalem".

300 years before King Josiah and Nathan - melech the eunuch, King Jeroboam erected the altar at Bethel on the border of the territory of Benjamin and Ephraim. During the ceremony a prophet was sent to announce its future destruction by a man named Josiah. These events of chapter 23 capture the moment the prophecy came true when King Josiah destroyed the altar of Jeroboam at Bethel (north of Jerusalem). Ever since this time, the location of the original Beit El, of Jacob has been lost to the nation of Israel.

Jeroboam's prevailing geologic continues to plague the modern nation. Eli, like many others is confused because modern Bethel (~10 km north of Jerusalem) considered to be named by Jacob is not the location Jacob erected the standing stone at the place he named Beit El. Miraculously, the recent discovery of Nathan - melech the eunuch's seal comes to resolve this longstanding error.

We read in 23:11 that the chamber of Nathan -melech was on the outskirts of the temple, therefore  it may have been the very location his seal was discovered in the Givati excavation shown @0:37 into the next video.

Remarkably, the dispute between Bethel north of Jerusalem and Beit El of Jerusalem is now resolved because the only reference in the entire 24 books of the Bible that can possibly have resolved this conflict is verse 23:4. Indisputably this is the area outside Jerusalem (the tiny ancient city on Mount Moriah) and the plains of the Kidron Valley, where the wooden idols were burned to ashes and Beit El, the place where the ashes were carried and deposited. Hilkiah the High priest did not walk, ride, drive or fly to Bethel ~10km north of Jerusalem to deposit these ashes and that is in direct opposition to Eli Shukron's denial that the standing stone is Jacob's Beit El in Jerusalem.

To this day, the matzevah or standing stone of Jacob remains locked in its steel box and each time I think of it I'm inspired to continue my struggle to correct the long, perplexing, disinformation campaign Jeroboam imposed on Israel, which was confounded by the prophet who came from Judah, who was mauled to death by a lion that was waiting on the road with a donkey - wow!

The matzevah of Jacob

Monday, March 11, 2019

City of David is Zion - What is the Temple Mount?

Altar built on a bedrock platform or foundation
The first temple was constructed by King Solomon around the co-ordinates of the sacrificial altar King David had built on Aravnah's (Ornan's) land. On the day of its dedication the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant from the City of David, which is Zion (1 Kings 8:1) where it had been located for 37 years. Some 400 years later, the first temple was destroyed and the Jewish people exiled to Persia. To this day Purim, as it became known is the annual festival that celebrates the hidden miracle in which the exiled Jewish people were saved from certain destruction.

Following the original Purim festivities, Jews were granted permission to return to Jerusalem to reconstruct their temple that had been destroyed 70 years earlier in the year 423 BCE . Haggai was a prophet of the Persian exile who foresaw the first temple reconstruction and final temple building. (2:9) The glory of this later house will be greater than the former said the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will grant peace. He had announced his prophecy and when King Darius II of Persia was appointed, the previous vassal Zerubavel oversaw the Jewish return to Jerusalem and their second attempt to rebuild. Only some Jewish leaders returned, but Haggai also foresaw something that troubled him...

In the shortest chapters of the Bible, Haggai enters and exits with few words. In his rare prophecy God asked Haggai to direct two questions of Jewish law at the priests who were to serve in the reconstructed temple. Their answer was deemed incorrect. Strangely, these educated priests and leaders of the Jewish people were very familiar with Jewish law and all were focused on locating the place of the altar from where coordinates for the temple reconstruction would be obtained.

Bedrock foundation for Altar of Zion in City of David
Texts also recall that the skull of Aravnah, the Jebusite king who sold his threshing floor to King David was found underneath the altar by Haggai. It had previously been found by King Hezekiah who wrongly inculcated the month of Nissan to purify the nation after they discovered the skull under the altar, almost 125 years prior to Haggai's prophecy. Why was this skull still present under the altar and how did it fit with Jewish law that the altar be constructed on a raised bedrock foundation?

While the temple was still in ruins, the priests had offered sacrifices on the foundation rock where they deemed the first temple altar to have been 70 years prior. In this context, Haggai's ongoing prophecy (2:14) is puzzling. "Such is the people and such is the nation before Me, says the Lord; and such is every work of their hands; and whatever they offer there is defiled. Why is this place (2:9) of the future temple and "there" (2:14) of the first temple singled out in these two verses?

Prophet Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai and wrote (Zech 8:7.2) So said the Lord of Hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and with great fury I am jealous for her. I will return to Zion, and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth, and the mount of the Lord of Hosts [shall be called] the holy mountain.

Zechariah's prophecy exposed God's jealously for Zion, Samuel's earlier prophecies and writings had declared Zion is the City of David. So, why is "this place", of Haggai's final temple distinguished from "there" of the first temple reconstruction - will they be the same place? Bible texts unequivocally state Zion is the city of David. However, the altar at the City of David is not at the location of King David's altar on the temple mount of the first and reconstructed (second) temple.

Lower Mount Moriah - City of David is Zion
The Temple Mount and City of David are different locations on Mount Moriah. Surely Zion defines "this place" as the location, the one to which God wants to return? We also know that God's presence, in the temple rests above the Ark (cover) of the Covenant and the above the Altar. Must God's presence in the final temple be at Zion, which is the City of David, the midst of Jerusalem and not "there" the place at which every offer is "defiled"? The tension that exists between these locations gives rise to Haggai's prophecy as he tries to warn the headstrong priests, but his few words fell on deaf ears and Zechariah's prophecy reinforced the momentum of Zrubavel's appointment and the ensuing ceremonial dedication.

Haggai and King Hezekiah encountered the skull of Aruvnah, both realized something about the altar of King David was not quite right. At these crucial moments neither was able to effect change, they succumbed to the status-quo, but for the final construction we will be more careful.

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.