The Temple Mount Essay, Research Paper
The Temple of Jerusalem
Every organization in the world has a focal point; a place, thing, or idea that embodies the existence and purpose of the group. Religion is not different from this generalization. Every religion has something specific it worships, usually a god or very important idea of that god. The Jews are no different. They worship one god and his principles; but they have different things which embody these. The Torah is the religious book which embodies their god, but perhaps more importantly to them as a people is the Temple of David in Jerusalem. The Temple of Jerusalem is quite possibly the single most important part of Jewish history in Jerusalem and the world.
The original temple was called the Temple of David. According to scripture, God had told David himself not to build it, but to wait until his son Solomon was king and let him build it. (Solomon’s Speech) That was what Solomon did, completing the temple in c.960 BCE. In Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication, many important aspects of that Temple are expressed. One was the idea that God had made an agreement with David that the completion of the Temple would ensure a ruler of David’s line would always occupy the throne of the Jewish kingdom. In stating this he also stated that this temple and Jerusalem, the city it was built in, would be God’s house forever (Solomon’s Dedication),
long as God’s people, the Israelites, acted in God’s favor. A third important statement was that of Jerusalem and its temple becoming a place for all foreigners to be welcome to come to worship the lord. He entreats God to hear the prayers of these people as well as the Israeli people when they pray in the direction of the temple. All of these things were important because in reality, these were combined into a statement of national identity. Solomon had created a temple that was the focal point of a nation that was based on the laws and word of their God. This established national identity was closely linked to, if not dependent on Jerusalem and the Temple, the place where God ruled from on earth. (Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication) This was the beginning of the Israeli Nation and even the seeds of Zion Theory.
Zion Theory is the belief that the city of Jerusalem can never be injured, much less destroyed, because it was the city in which God dwells. The Jews simply believed that no matter what the circumstances, they would be safe as inhabitants of Jerusalem because God would never allow anything bad to happen to his home. Unfortunately for the Jews, there was a glitch in the theory. In 587 BCE, the Babylonians came to Jerusalem, sacked the city, and destroyed the Temple. The “important” inhabitants of Jerusalem were brought to Babylon as slaves. The rest of the Jews were exiled from the city. According to Ezekiel, God had left Jerusalem through the east gate and allowed for the destruction of the city, temple, and the exile of his subjects because they had ceased to please him and act in his favor. (Ezekiel 8, Gods Glory Leaves Jerusalem)
In 517 BCE, a second Temple was built in place of the first. The Persians had defeated the Babylonians and Cyrus the Great sent the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild
their city and Temple. At first they were selfish and started rebuilding their homes soon after there arrival, neglecting the Temple. Perhaps this shows that at the time, Jews felt more unification as a Nation then as a religious group. Under Haggai and Zecheriah, two important Jewish profits, the Jews were convinced to build the Temple before all else. They were told that Jerusalem would not thrive until it was complete. The Lord would not provide for them until his house was in order. (Haggai with Zecheriah) The Temple was then rebuilt and the Jewish Nation was restored once again in Jerusalem.
A great deal happened as a result of the building of the second temple. First of all, the new Temple meant a return of Jewish religious costoms in practice. During the period of exile, there was no guiding force or symbol in the Jewish religion. For almost two generations the Jews had been void of religious interaction with priests or profits. The house of God did not exist at the time so neither did the organized Jewish religion, or Nation for that matter. This was now changed. There was now a focal point of religion. Organization could be reinstated. A formal practice of the religion could now take place. This is best exemplified in Ezra’s historical narrative of Passover Celebrated. “With joy they celebrated the festival for the Lord had made them joyful.”(Ezra, Passover Celebrated) Another development was that the Jewish people exiled all over the world came back to Jerusalem and re-established it as their home. Zecheriah and Haggai call for the scattered people of Israel to return. They state, “Up! Escape to Zion”. This calling back of the population helped to reinstate the Nation of David which was made possible by the religious connection with the new Temple. Along the lines of this migration of Jews to establish permanent residency, this second Temple was the cause for
another less permanent migration. This journey became known as the religious pilgrimage. The Jews that had been exiled to other parts of the world and had decided to remain living there permanently, now would perform a journey, usually once a year during important holidays, to Jerusalem and its Temple. The pilgrimage was very important to the Jewish people because the Temple was the closest connection one could get to God. Thus, it was necessary to make that connection. Jerusalem became a religious mecca and was once again established as the capital of David’s religious kingdom of which all Jews, permanent residents or foreigners, were members. The second Temple reinstated Jerusalem as the home of God. The Jewish Nation once again had a capital due to its presence. God had come back after reinstating the Jews to their city. This reaffirmed the idea without question that Jerusalem was the home of God and his people, the Jews. Zecheriah states this when he says ” The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” Statements like these made on the completion of the second Temple express the Jewish belief that Jerusalem is their “natural capital”. The statement “Thus says the Lord, I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem ” is much like that of Solomon’s dedication, clearly stating that Jerusalem is the focal point and capital of the Jewish Nation and Religion. The difference is that the fact that God came back to the Jews and chose the exact same place, becomes more like proof which gave the Jewish nation confidence in their existence and unique right to the city. Lastly, the Second Temple affected Zion theory. Originally, a blow had been dealt to the theory, for God had let the Temple and its city be destroyed with its people exiled. After the completion of the Temple and Re-
establishment of the Jewish Nation’s presence in Jerusalem however, Jews saw the theory as that much more valid. It had been “proven” that God had come back to the city and would, like He told David, be there forever, and not give up on his people. This strengthened the Jewish Nation as a people by reinstating their national identity and demonstrating that Jerusalem belonged to them and their God.
The temple of Jerusalem is a very important part of Jewish history as a Nation and in their relationship with Jerusalem as a city and home. It stands out as the most tangible part of the Jewish religion in the past and no doubt will continue to be on the future. Even today, millions of people go to pray at the Wailing Wall. Only a small fraction of the old Temple, it is considered the most religious place on earth according to Judaism.
The Encyclopedia of Religion, Zionism, Vol.15, p. 570-572
-Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication
-Ezekiel 8, Gods Glory Leaves Jerusalem
-Haggai with Zecheriah
-Ezra, Passover Celebrated