Sunday, July 24, 2016

Breaking walls!

For 300 years the armies of Joshua, Judah and finally King David were repeatedly motivated to conquer the impenetrable walled city on Mount Moriah. During those times the walls did not surround the summit of the mountain (north of the city) that is most precious to Jews today. It was only after King David that the summit was used as the platform for Solomon’s temple, the temple mount of the second temple and pen-ultimately the grandiose Herodian temple, the ruins of which remain today. Back then the summit was not the important section of the mountain! So, what made the lower section so important and attractive for such an extended period of time?

You don’t have to venture far in the annals of Jewish history to discover the deep affinity the Israelite tribes had for this location. It was the mountain where Noah’s son Shem practiced his righteousness as the High Priest of Shalem, for which he became known as Melchizedek - Righteous King. Somewhere on this mountain was Shalem, it was later connected with Abraham who named it ‘heavenly awe’ - ‘Yira’, which was joined as Yira-Shalem, eventually Jerusalem. It’s the place Isaac was offered by Abraham as a sacrifice and Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven before he re-named the place once known as Luz - Beit El. So where was Shalem and Luz on this mountain well before anything had been built?

The artist impression places the walled city around the ridge of the lower section of the Mount Moriah sandstone monolith ~3700 years back. Around this time the protruding structure from the city wall to the valley floor is thought by archaeologists to have been built. At that stage, as shown there was no temple, no temple mount and the summit of the mountain north of the city, was not included in its walls. 

The archaeology shows the city wall and spring house were significant scale constructions.
The spring house at the valley floor contained the Gihon Spring, the city’s water source, yet according to the archaeology, before any construction its’ water flowed freely into the Kidron valley. The artist's impression is not accurate, particularly the area marked by the black rectangle. The archaeology there reveals that structures (south) adjacent to the protruding wall and spring house had previously been constructed in the bedrock, but they are not represented.

Today the City of David organization has physically and virtually reconstructed the spring house and as can be seen in the next image the remaining walls are significant. Some of the one tonne boulders that are stacked from the valley floor up the mountain follow a line of at least 70 meters. It would have required a large workforce of skilled artisans and laborers to develop this structure over a period of several decades.

The missing elements from the artists image are better represented below, on the south side of the thin red line. They include an early Bronze Age cave dwelling ~4500 years old, a series of four rooms on the High ridge and a deep cut (in the bedrock) upper Gihon pool to which water from the spring was once channeled. 

This area marked in the boundary of the black rectangle is the oldest on the mountain. The features were well used by a relatively small number of people. It contains several flour presses that remain carved in the bedrock around the pool. Steps from the pool to the high ridge, which contains significant artifacts once used for holy worship were destroyed. This was probably done to stop the growing numbers of people going up to the high ridge to offer sacrifice. One of the most unique artifacts is a stone monument known as a matzevah used to record a covenant. I hold a view that it is the one erected by Jacob and that established the overwhelming motivation for Israel's 300 year pursuit of this area.

The holy use of the high ridge is just coming to light through archaeology and a review of ancient texts. King David may have been disappointed to discover that the sacred areas on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah were closed by the massive construction that fenced them in. Shalem, Luz and Beit El had been closed down by the occupiers of the city. Before Israel had been exiled to Egypt, this was the place his ancestors had come, but it was no longer serviceable, so during the King’s reign he preserved the area for later generations. That time is now!

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