New drawings of the Development of the Temple Mount.

Our Image Library contains reconstruction drawings of Jerusalem in the various periods. I made different versions of them for the ESV Study Bible and for the Chronological Life Application Study Bible.

However, when compiling our latest book, a Guide Book to the Temple Mount (forthcoming), a new set of drawings was necessary, the focus this time being on how Mount Moriah developed over time.  The series begins with a drawing of the topography of Mount Moriah:

We can no longer see what Mount Moriah originally looked like. All that is visible today is its summit inside the Dome of the Rock. However, Charles Warren, the British engineer who explored Jerusalem in the 1860s produced a rock contour map, which has not been surpassed in accuracy to this day. Using this rock map and taking the general configuration of the Jerusalem mountains, with the layered rock sloping from north to south, into consideration, our illustration shows what Mount Moriah would have looked like before the subsequent temples were built. It was near the top of this mountain that Abraham built an altar to sacrifice his son Isaac. © Ritmeyer Archaeological Design

In the succeeding days, we will feature the following drawings of Mount Moriah in the historical periods from the Jebusites till the Early Muslim period.

25 thoughts on “New drawings of the Development of the Temple Mount.”

  1. Excellent!!! Could you include the Jebus city of Salem, Gihon, 500 cubit walls & platform? I also like the proposed tombs of the kings at the South end of Ophal. Gihon – gusher, the largest spring around and intermittent, must have been a special site to all the earlier peoples. With the cave in the rock of Moriah, at the crossroads of two of the earliest roads, this was marked at a very special location.

  2. I recently read that the Dome of the Rock was not a Muslim Shrine, that it does not face Mecca, etc. Do you have an opinion on this?

  3. John,
    The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine, but not a mosque, and therefore doesn’t have to face Mecca. The al-Aqsa is a mosque. The architecture of the Dome of the Rock is derived from centrally designed Byzantine commemorative churches where the worshipers went round the centre during processions. They were not used for preaching.

  4. Thanks for the wonderful work u are doing.

    My question is:
    So the thrashing floor of Ornan is where Solomon later built the temple?

  5. Rebecca,
    David built an altar in the threshing floor and Solomon would have placed his altar there too. The temple stood a little west of the altar.

  6. I am asking this question from the viewpoint of a Rabbi. If a Jew wants to enter the temple mount he must prepare ritually and only go to the places that are allowed. My concern is the western wall. My understanding is that it is the outer wall of the temple (there were 2 walls)
    Your picture shows that it was a real mountain (not a hill) and the highest point was where the temple was built I see that the western side is not at the edge of the har habayit. That would mean that in the time of Solomon there were restrictions to enter by way of the west side. What I mean is that one may not go up on the mountain from any side without ritual preparation. We know that Herod/Romans filled in the west side and built the upper city. My question is how much of the plaza sits on what was once mountain. If they dig deep enough will they find the inclined plane of the other side or was a sharp cliff? To be precise are people when they enter the plaza standing on the har habayit (if we dug away would we find the rest of the mountain)

  7. Isaiah Beilin,

    The present Western Wall is not built on Mount Moriah, but sits partly on the other side of there Central Valley, see: https://www.ritmeyer.com/product/image-library/illustrating-the-bible/books-of-moses/temple-building-activities-on-mount-moriah/
    Only the 500 cubit square Temple Mount built by King Hezekiah is located on Mount Moriah and only that area was considered holy and needing purification in the First Century. Two mikvaot were located to the immediate south of the sore, showing that purification was required before going inside the holy area, see: Cisterns 6 and 36 on: https://www.ritmeyer.com/product/image-library/temple-mount/herods-temple-mount/cisterns-of-the-temple-mount/ and https://www.ritmeyer.com/product/image-library/illustrating-the-bible/the-gospels/herods-temple-mount-plan/
    .

  8. You mentioned the 500×500 amos of the temple. i studied midos and know the dimensions of all the courtyards etc. Did Herod change any of that. Was it still 500×500? Was the courtyard of the priests the same size? The courtyard of the men? Courtyard of the women? etc.

    Do you describe somewhere those changes if they were made?

  9. Thank you for the last response. I see that Herod did not change any of the dimensions. Why do scholars say that the model in the Mishnah in midos follows the pre Herodian model – either from Simon the Just or the Maccabees? The 500×500 is intact as I see it.

    Let me point out that Maimonides records that one may not enter any part of the Har Habayit even outside the 500×500 area with shoes. Also, any orthodox Jew who goes there will go the the Mikvah before entering the har habayit. This is why I asked you about the western wall.

  10. I would like to be precise. So, let me repeat myself and make doubly sure. The following measurements come from the Mishnah in Midos. The women’s court was 135×135. The Israel court for men and the court for the priest’s were 135×11. All these had different levels of sanctification. Each court was raised higher than the previous one by a certain specified measure. Then there are lishkos etc. Each one has a dimension in the Mishnah. Herod beautified the Temple. Did he in any way make any of the places mentioned in the Mishna larger. My impression from what you say is that he did not.

    Scholars write the mishnah is discussing the pre Herodian temple. In what way are the measurements in the Mishnah different?

    Finally, I want to repeat that if a religious Jew goes on the Har Habayit he will only go where he may which is stated in other mishnot, go to the mikvah first and put on non leather shoes.

  11. Two final questions.
    (1) What in feet is the length of the amoh that was used for the 500×500 amot. In halacha we have different values. It would be interesting to know what they used.

    (2) You claim to know where the “even hashesiya” was. Os it the rock in the Dome of the rock or something else. Where I can read up on this and see your evidence.

  12. All your question have been answered in my book “The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”.
    The length of the Royal or sacred cubit used in Middot is 52.5cm or 20.67 inches, see The Quest p.171.
    The even hashtiyah is The Rock inside the Dome of the Rock, see The Quest p.244.
    The measurements in Middot are correct and relate to Herod’s Temple and its courts, but only those that are located inside the 500 cubit Temple Mount. This Temple Mount was created by Hezekiah, but after Herod built around it to the north, west and south, it became a kind of separate court inside the enlarged Temple Mount. This Herodian enlargement was not considered holy in the First Century, and therefore is not mentioned in the Mishnah. Proof for this is for example Cistern 11, which is mentioned as the be’er haqqer in M. Erubin 10.14 which is said to be located in the “province” while in fact it is on what we call the southern part of the Temple Mount.

  13. In your book “The Quest” you state the court of the women was completed in 44 AD – you have a reference. Could you explain why you are convinced that it was not there all along. Also, if it was not there till later what was the purpose of the area. Why was it there? The whole 500×500 was considered holy – as Josephus points out Herod was banned for the inner area. Also, let me note that the Mishnah in Avot considers it one of the miracles that took place in the Temple that there was enough room for all and no one complained that he was crowded.

    The height of the exposed “even hashesiyah” was only 3 (ezboot) fingers high. The High Priest put the vessel with the incense on it during the Yom Kippur service. Was not the ark there in the first temple. How would the Priest be able to sprinkle the blood if it were that high? One of the commentaries posits that the mountain was eroded by the Romans to account for the rock’s present height. Is there any proof that the mountain was eroded? How do you account for the discrepancy in what part of the rock was exposed?

  14. The word “province” in the Mishnah in that context is contrasted to the opposite term “mikdash”. It just means that it is not in the holy area. It means that it is on the Har Habayit but not in the relatively speaking holy area.

  15. (1) I agree from a halachic perspective that the rabbis did not sanctify Herod’s extensions. Your proof from the Mishnah and the fact it is not mentioned is adequate. But, the term medinah is not used in Eruvin 10:14 when discussing the Beer hakar. The commentaries on the Mishnah identify it as a well that was known to the authors of the Mishnah and it was somewhere on the road available for the pilgrims to drink and not on the Temple Mount. Why was it identified as cistern 11?

    (2) What other proofs do you have that they did not sanctify herod’s extensions?

  16. be’er haqqer means the Cistern of the Akra. For its location and explanation, see The Quest, pp.211-212.
    Other proof: Herod’s extensions lay outside of Mount Moriah, unlike the 500 c. Temple Mount

  17. Hollis, who made this comment probably meant that it was not yet completed until 44 AD.Structures such as the colonnades and the four lampstands were added later on.
    The “even hashestiyah” stood high in Solomon’s temple, but only the top 3 fingers were visible after Herod had built the foundations of the new Temple around it, see: The Quest, p.276-277.

  18. What proof is there that 135×135 court for the women was finished in 44AD. This implies that it was not there till very late.

    Also, how do we know that the “even hashesiyah” is the rock in the dome of the rock? as I said, it is described as 3 fingers high and the rock is very large. This is only possible if the mount was eroded. It makes no sense that the ark rested so high and the High Priest sprinkled the blood at such a height. We know that it was sprinkled with the arm outstretched unless the Priests were giants. If it is one and the same then as I said the mountain is shorter than it was.

  19. Sorry. I sent you my last post while you were writing a response to another of mine.
    You say that the “even hashesiyah” was high in Solomon’s temple and was 3 fingers high in Herod’s time. Today it is again high. How do you account for this? Herod did not fill it in. He was excluded from the 500×500 area as reported by Josephus. And, why is it high again?

  20. The commentaries on “beer hakar” translate it as source (mokor) not akra. I have to integrate what you say with the halacha.

    I read what you say about the “even hashesiya” in “The Quest”. I will study it over the weekend.
    I have to see those mishnayot and the commentaries.

  21. I read what you wrote about the foundation covering the “even hashesiya” leaving only 3 fingers. How do you know it was Herod that made it. We know that Josephus (you quote it) claims that he could not enter the 500×500 area. Perhaps it was made that way from the beginning. Then we do not have posit a ramp that you mention for the High Priest. I think that it could be part of the specification that the prophets required. The reason that we see now a high stone is because it was eroded. There is a tradition that that they eroded everything down to the foundations. “oru oru hayesod boh”. Do you think Abraham came with a ladder when he wamted to sacrifice Isaac?

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