Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has a long, violent history. The Temple Mount is one name for the original Mount Moriah. The large rectangular platform that covers the mountain today was constructed on the orders of Herod the Great, who reigned at Jesus’ birth. The mountain was the site of the Jewish temples. Today, the platform is covered with Islamic buildings but retains the size and shape (and the Herodian foundations) of 2,000 years ago. The Temple Mount includes large courtyards today just as it did in New Testament times.
What happened on Mount Moriah/the Temple Mount in Bible times?
- Abraham bound Isaac in “the land of Moriah” in Genesis 22. The account does not identify this specific mountain, but verse 14 appears to connect the site with the future temple to God.
- “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah… at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” (2 Chronicles 3:1, ESV)
- After the original temple’s destruction by the Babylonians, the returned Jewish exiles built a new one on the same site. This interesting story is given in Ezra chapters 1 – 6.
- Herod the Great began a massive project that created a large paved platform over Mount Moriah along with a larger temple complex. He built a military fortress/barracks on the northwest corner of the new platform for defensive purposes – and to permit monitoring of the restive Jewish population.
- The platform is the location of all New Testament events that occurred at “the Temple.” Jesus engaged in religious discussions there when He was 12 years old. He taught and healed there during His ministry. Peter first announced the Gospel there in Acts 2. The original church met on the Temple Mount in an area called Solomon’s Portico (Acts 5:12) which was probably along the platform’s eastern edge. Paul was saved from a Jewish mob by Roman soldiers from the fortress, though they promptly arrested him and took him to the barracks (Acts 21).
- The temple and all its surface building were destroyed by the Roman army in A.D. 70. This event was foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2.
- Other structures were built on the Temple platform after the Roman destruction, but all of the modern structures are Islamic. The Dome of the Rock, built in the late-7th century A.D., sits on the site of the Jewish Temples.
I have twice had the privilege of walking atop the Temple Mount. Visits by tourists are possible, though the site is closed to non-muslims on Fridays and Saturdays. Entrance to the Temple Mount platform is free. The only entrance available for non-muslims is located near Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
Here is a short video from my visit in July of 2010. It is filmed on the Mount of Olives and on the Temple Mount itself.