JERUSALEM - FASHIONED FOR A KING

In the Valley of Hinnom in Jesus' day was the city incinerator, a pit to which the rubbish of the city was carried every day and which was perpetually burning. The Valley of Hinnom in Hebrew gives us the Word " Gehenna," so that the "everlasting fire" of Gehenna is simply the Jerusalem incinerator.

IMPREGNABLE STRENGTH OF JERUSALEM

These two valleys, of Kidron and Hinnom, gave to Jerusalem its strategic strength. They made it impregnable from those sides, and it is significant that the recently-discovered foundations of the Jebusite fort which David captured after enormous difficulty lie in the angle of those valleys. Strategically, the weakest side of Jerusalem is on the north, and to some extent the west. To overcome this difficulty deep moats were cut in the limestone rock with a perpendicular face some 20 to 30 feet high. On the western side a series of intersecting valleys lead up to Jerusalem. Strategically these were always used by the Jews for making attacks from the city on foes advancing from the Philistine Plain; and therefore coming at a disadvantage up one or other of the valleys. But the essential strategy of Jerusalem lay in their spiritual strength.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning

If 1 do not remember thee Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth

If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy

The walls around Jerusalem in Jesus' day covered a circuit of 4 miles. At intervals along those 4 miles were 100 towers. The highest and most majestic of these were three on the cast side facing the Mount of Olives. Herod the Great, who built them, named one tower Hippicus after a friend of his killed in war, another Phasaelus after a brother, also slain in battle, and the third Mariamne after his wife, whom Herod himself had assassinated when he was in a mad fury of jealousy.

In order to get from the Mount of Olives (where the Galilean pilgrims used to camp) to the Temple, Jesus went down the steep pathway of the Mount into the Kidron Valley, past the tomb of Absalom, the only monument which He saw that now exists. From the valley he climbed up the steep Roman stone-stepped street that ran up the hill of Ophel (some of it has recently been unearthed) toward a gate through the southern wall of the city. Inside the city He found the entrance to the bridge across the Tyropean Valley, with a drop of over 200 feet below.

The glory of Jerusalem was a wonderful sight from the spot on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley where the Galileans camped. Looking across that deep ravine the gorgeous buildings put up by Herod the Great would overwhelm the senses. They were all carved from pure white stone from the quarries beneath. There was Herod's first great building, the Tower of Antonia, which loomed above the Roman fortress on the western hill. A marble open-air theatre and Herod's royal palace as well as the three colossal towers stood above the valley of Kidron. What made Jerusalem the center of the universe to the devout Hebrew of those days, however, was the new Temple which had been in process of building for decades through Herod's reign and was not even finished in Jesus' boyhood.

From the topmost tower of that Temple, where a white-robed priest at the end of the night waited for the first gleam of dawn as the signal for starting the sacrifices, down to the bottom of the Kidron Valley, was fully 450 feet. The walls that supported that Temple on the edge of Jerusalem in its south-east corner were built of enormous stones. The Porch of the Temple, which Jesus entered over the bridge across the Tyropean Valley, had a colonnade Seven hundred feet long. Eighteen marble pillars one hundred feet high supported the center aisle. This colonnade and those on either side, slightly lower, were roofed with cedar wood. This Porch or colonnade was itself really an entrance to the still greater Center Court of the Temple. This was called the Court of the Gentiles (or " the peoples ") because non-Jews of any nationality might come in. Here were the money-changers that Jesus drove out.

Walking across that court you would come to a marble screen four and a half feet high with an opening through it from which steps led up to an inner part of the court. On this screen was a marble slab with a notice in Greek capital letters. It was in Greek so that a non-Hebrew could understand it. The wording was as follows:

LET NO FOREIGNER ENTER WITHIN THE SCREEN AND ENCLOSURE AROUND THE HOLY PLACE. WHOSOEVER IS TAKEN SO DOING WILL HIMSELF BE THE CAUSE THAT DEATH OVERTAKES HIM.

On this terrace Jesus faced the central building of the Temple. 9 gateways led into it (4 on the north and 4 on the south, and 1, the Gate Beautiful, on the east), facing the ravine of the Kidron and the Mount of Olives. So mighty was this last gate that the full strength of twenty men was called for to swing it open in the morning and close it at night.

Entering by any one of these gates you would enter another great area called the Court of the Women. It was so called not because it was for women only, but because no women might go beyond it. The innermost court was that of the Priests, into which only the priests and adult Jews coming to make sacrifice could enter. At the very heart of that court was the Holy of Holies, built over the sacred rock on which it was believed that Abraham had made his sacrifice. If, passing out of the Court of the Priests and the Court of the Women, through the Gate Beautiful, you turned to the left, you would be on the north side of the Temple. There you could see the Tower of Antonia above the northwest corner of the outer court. On it Roman sentries kept watch day and night, especially through the festivals. From that Tower the sentry gave the alarm when the Jews tried to assassinate Paul. On the steps leading up to that Tower Paul made his speech that angered the Jews. From that Tower came the soldiers who arrested Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, which lies in the Kidron Valley at the beginning of the slope up to the Mount of Olives.

Exiting out of the Temple area across the bridge and over the Tyropean Valley, you would find yourself again in the busy streets of Jerusalem. In each narrow street or market-place were craftsmen selling in the front of the shop the articles that they made at the back, the leather-worker and the carpenter, the goldsmith, the silversmith and the man who hammered copper vessels, the potter and the tailor. At the time of the festivals these city markets were packed with crowds of pilgrims walking in the narrow streets, often covered with arched roofs to keep out the sun and the rain. Here you might find goods or meet someone from India, China, Egypt, Persia, or Gaul.

© Bible History Online http://www.bible-history.com

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