The Western Wall - First Century Jerusalem

Photo of The Western Wall in Jerusalem  
Photo of The
Western Wall in Jerusalem

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bar-kochba-coin-small.jpgWhen Rome destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, only one outer wall remained standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall as well, but it must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount. For the Jews, however, this remnant of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly became the holiest spot in Jewish life.

 

THE WESTERN (WAILING) WALL "Hakotel Hama'aravi" is all that remains of the Jerusalem temple where Jesus taught and prayed. This wall formed part of the plaza upon which stood the remodeled temple of Herod the Great. Herod's vast remodeling project began in 19 BC, and continued long after his death. It was completed only 7 years before the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. It acquired the name "Wailing Wall" because during the long exile of the Jewish people from the city, they could return only once a year to mourn the destruction of the Temple. When Israeli tanks rumbled into Jerusalem's Old City in June of 1967, it was the first time, except for a brief period in 135 AD, that Jews controlled the site since 70 AD.

 

 

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On the image on the right you may notice an area with a reddish rectangle box around it. That is the area known today as the Western "Wailing" Wall. It gives an idea of how large this wall actually was. Also in the background is Wilson's Arch which connected the Upper and Lower Cities.

 

Throughout the centuries Jews from throughout the world made the difficult pilgrimage to Israel, and immediately headed for the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi (the Western Wall) to thank God. The prayers offered at the Kotel were so heartfelt that gentiles began calling the site the "Wailing Wall." This undignified name never won a wide following among traditional Jews; the term "Wailing Wall" is not used in Hebrew. The Western Wall was subjected to far worse than semantic indignities. During the more than one thousand years Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, the Arabs often used the Wall as a garbage dump, so as to humiliate the Jews who visited it.

 


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Map of Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (Click to Enlarge)

Ancient Jerusalem - First Century Jerusalem Market Pavilions Hill of Calvary (Golgotha) Phasael Tower Hippicus Tower Mariamne Tower Hyrcanus Monument Herod's Barracks Click here to view the illlustration Herod's Palace Upper Agora Hasmonean Palace Xystus Market Palace of Annas Herod's Theater Palace of Caiaphas Tomb of King David Dyers Quarter Wilson's Arch Robinson's Arch Western Wall Adiabenian Palaces Synagogue of the Freedmen Sports Hippodrome Pool of Siloam Huldah Gates Tomb of Huldah Temple Facade Antonia Fortress Pool of Bethesda Alexander Jannaeus Monument Jerusalem Roads Tomb of Absalom Gihon Spring Tunnel of Hezekiah Hakeldama - Field of Blood First Century Jerusalem - Roads Serpent's Pool Western Road Hinnom Valley Kidron Valley Tyropoeon Valley New City Upper City Jerusalem's Lower City City of David Mount of Olives Damascus Gate New City Kidron Valley Pilate's Aquaduct Herod's Bridge Jerusalem Temple Court of the Gentiles Court of the Gentiles Golden Gate Introduction Kidron Bridge Walls Walls Jerusalem's Walls Walls Lower City Walls Hyrcanus Monument Jerusalem Walls Jerusalem Walls Walls Jerusalem Walls Pinnacle of the Temple

"Whoever has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen a fine city."? Babylonian Talmud (Succah, 51b)

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Primary Sources for the Study of First Century Jerusalem: Josephus, The Mishnah, The New Testament, Pliny.

First Century Jerusalem

The Jerusalem of Herod the Great

 

The Jerusalem Jesus knew nowhere near resembled the city David conquered in the tenth century BC. At that time, it had been a small, isolated hill fortress, valued more for its location than its size or splendor. Yet from that time on it was known as the City of David, and the kings of David's dynasty, especially his son Solomon, had enlarged and beautified it.

 

In the sixth century BC, the army of Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and drove its citizens into exile. During the long years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews in exiles' prayers and longings focused on the distant Holy City. But the city rebuilt by the Jews who returned a century later was far inferior to its former splendor. It was, ironically, the hated tyrant Herod the Great who restored Jerusalem to its former grandeur.

 

In the 33 years of his reign (37-4 B.C.), Herod transformed the city as had no other ruler since Solomon. Building palaces and citadels, a theatre and an amphitheatre, viaducts (bridges) and public monuments. These ambitious building projects, some completed long after his death, were part of the king's single-minded campaign to increase his capital's importance in the eyes of the Roman Empire.

 

No visitor seeing Jerusalem for the first time could fail to be impressed by its visual splendor. The long, difficult ascent from Jericho to the Holy City ended as the traveler rounded the Mount of Olives, and suddenly caught sight of a vista like few others in the world. Across the Kidron Valley, set among the surrounding hills, was Jerusalem, "the perfection of beauty," in the words of Lamentations, "the joy of all the world."

 

The view from the Mount of Olives was dominated by the gleaming, gold-embellished Temple which was located in the most holy spot in the Jewish world and really God's world. This was the Lord's earthly dwelling place, He mediated His throne here and raised up a people to perform rituals and ceremonies here that would foreshadow the coming of His Messiah kinsman redeemer who would be the lamb of God, slain for the sins of the whole world.

 

The Temple stood high above the old City of David, at the center of a gigantic white stone platform.

 

To the south of the temple was THE LOWER CITY, a group of limestone houses, yellow-brown colored from years of sun and wind. Narrow, unpaved streets and houses that sloped downward toward the Tyropean Valley, which ran through the center of Jerusalem.

 

Rising upward to the west was THE UPPER CITY, or Zion, where the white marble villas and palaces of the very rich stood out like patches of snow. Two large arched passageways spanned the valley, crossing from the Upper City to the temple.

 

A high, thick, gray stone wall encircled Jerusalem. It had been damaged, repaired and enlarged over the centuries, and in Jesus' day it was about 4 miles in circumference, bringing about 25,000 people into an area about a square mile. At intervals along the wall were massive gateways. Just inside each gate was a customs station, where publicans collected taxes on all goods entering or leaving the city.

 

First Century Jerusalem

Bible History Online


? Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)

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