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?

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