Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

by Lambert Dolphin

Topographic Map of Jerusalem

Contour Interval is 10 meters

Even prior to the conquest of the city of Jebus - which became the City of David, (1 Chronicles 11:4) - we know of the existence of Jerusalem from the record of Abraham's visit to Melchizedek there, recorded in Genesis Chapter 14. Although the original inhabitants were descendants of Noah's son Caanan, Melchizedek was both a priest and a king of "God Most High," in Jerusalem about 4 millennia ago. Melchizedek (his name means "king of righteousness") was a man to whom Abraham paid tithes, and he is a "type" of Jesus Christ as the believer's Great High Priest, (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5-7).

Jerusalem does not lie on any important trade routes nor is there any natural reason why this city should be one of the most important places in the world for more than four thousand years. Jerusalem lies at the crest of a low range of hills which are a barrier to winter rains from the Mediterranean Sea which is only 30 miles to the West. Immediately to the East, annual rainfall drops nearly to zero in the Judean Wilderness. The elevation to the East also drops rapidly to the Dead Sea, falling to 1290 feet below sea level, in less than 15 miles as the crow flies.

Jerusalem's importance as a site chosen by God for His special purposes dates from the call of God to Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, in the city of Jebus, as recorded in Genesis 22. (This important event in the life of Abraham is known to the Jews as "the Akeda" or "the binding of Isaac.")

"After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you."

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.

Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

So Abraham called the name of that place The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided." And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.
The topographic map shows that Mount Moriah is not a single peak, but an elongated ridge which commences to rise at its Southern end at the junction of the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys, at the original City of David, (elevation approximately 600 meters). The ridge then climbs in elevation to a maximum of 777 meters just Northeast of the present Damascus Gate of the Old City. The Temple Mount, prominent in most photos of Jerusalem occupies an area of about 45 acres. However the elevation of the bedrock outcropping on the Temple Mount within the Dome of the Rock Moslem shrine is only 741 meters.

A distinctly separate "mountain" is Mount Zion (elevation 772 meters) which lies about 600 meters to the West. In ancient times a deep valley, the Tyropean Valley, or Valley of the Cheesemakers, separated Mt. Zion from Mt. Moriah. Today many layers of ruined city and rubble from Jerusalem's many destructions completely fills this valley. In fact at the Western Wall, the Kotel, or Jewish prayer plaza, about half of the old wall of the Temple Mount lies below the present ground level. (Sometimes Scripture calls all of Jerusalem "Zion" or "Mt. Zion"). Outside the present old city walls, the traditional tomb of David and site of the Upper Room are located on present-day Mt. Zion, as well as the Church of the Domition and the Institute of Holy Land Studies.

East of Mt. Moriah a few hundred meters is the Mount of Olives which is about 100 meters higher than the high points of Mt. Zion or Mt. Moriah. Jesus ascended to heaven from the summit of the Mt. of Olives according to Acts 1:1-12 and will make his triumphant return to earth from the same location, according to Zechariah 14:4. At the Western base of the Mount of Olives just above the Kidron Brook is the Garden of Gethsamene. This was not only the place of Jesus' arrest and final prayers, it was a popular spot where he and his disciples often met and slept.

There is some archaeological evidence to suppose that the place of the crucifixion of Jesus was at the summit of Mt. Moriah, probably near the present-day Damascus Gate and the Garden Tomb which would of course be a literal fulfillment of Abraham's offering of Isaac when God said, "On the mount of the Lord it [the final offering for sin] will be provided."

Late in his reign as King of Jersualem David erred grievously in the sight of the Lord by ordering a census. (I Chronicles 21, 2 Samuel 24). As part of his repentance before the Lord, David purchased a large piece of property owned by a Jebusite man named Ornan (or Araunah) for 600 shekels of gold. David's purchase of Ornan's property seems to have included an additional 50 shekels of silver for the purchase threshing floor proper, and oxen for sacrifice. David then erected an altar there and offered sacrifices there.

It was David's intent to build a temple to the Lord on this property, on Mt. Moriah, however God chose Solomon for this task instead, after allowing David to amass the material resources that would be required. (I Chronciles 22ff, 1 Kings 5ff).

Our knowledge of the topography of present-day Jerusalem is due to a careful survey of Israel by the Palestine Exploration Society in 1868-1881. Cisterns and sub-surface rooms under the Temple Mount were also more accessible then and were mapped by Sir Charles Warren.

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"
Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
"May they prosper who love you!
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!"
For my brethren and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!"
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

(Psalm 122)

Mount Moriah...

by Lambert Dolphin
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April 8, 1996.