In every age, there has been a memory of Jerusalem that has stirred very deep feelings in people. It really doesn’t matter which religion or creed a person is. There seems to be an inner knowledge that Jerusalem is a very special place, whether a person is a true Christian or not. Almost everyone knows that in the last days Israel will have a very special place and is the barometer for everything else that will happen.
The land that the temple was built on was the same mount on which the sacrifice of Isaac was to be offered – Mount Moriah. David built his palace on the opposite hill across the ravine from where the new temple would stand in all its glory. It must have meant so much to him because God himself had given him the plans for every exact detail on how to build it.
The Rabbis have different opinions as to how Jerusalem got its name. The word Jerusalem means; the foundation, the abode, or the inheritance of peace. They make it a compound of Jireh and Shalem, and say that Abraham called it Jehovah-Jireh, while Shem had named it Shalem, but that God combined the two into Jireh-Shalem, Jerushalaim, or Jerusalem.
We maybe should wonder why God chose Palestine to be the country of His chosen people and Jerusalem to be its capital. The land should be judged from importance and situation instead of size. It lay midway between the east and the west, and was placed between the great military monarchies, first of Egypt and Assyria, and then of Rome and the East. It naturally became the highway of the world for people to go from one place to the other. Jerusalem was pitched on a height of about 2,610 feet about sea level. Its climate was the best of any nation around it. The Bible refers to her as the holy city set on a hill. Just think how magnificent it would have been to look out on all the surrounding countries from the temple at the top of the mountain.
Jerusalem was a beautiful city to look upon. It was a city of palaces and filled with royalty everywhere. It was cut off and isolated by deep valleys on all sides but one, giving it the appearance of a great and mighty fortress that was all but impregnable. All around it ran the deep ravines of the Valley of Hinnom and of the Black Valley, or Kedron. In places around the city the ravines were as much as 670 feet below where they had started going downward. Several ravines and mountains ran through the land, but even with all the palaces and grandeur there, nothing could match the magnificent wonder of the Temple Mount. It rose high above the city, and stood out a mass of snowy marble and of gold, glittering when the sun shone on it. In the background was the lush, green Olivet. Never had the Jew seen a city as beautiful as his own Jerusalem. Not even Rome itself was equal to the architectural splendor that was found there.
Another thing that made Jerusalem so special was the Mount of Olives. It was about 1,000 yards along the walking path from the city to the Olivet. It was always fresh and green, even in the hottest parts of summer. It was the coolest, most pleasant walk about Jerusalem. The temple could be seen in all its magnificent beauty overshadowing the coolness of the Olivet.
This was not just a regular garden as we might think of a garden, but something more particular to the climate where Nature everywhere strews with lavish hand her flowers, and makes her gardens – where the garden bursts into the orchard, and the orchard stretches into the field, till high up, the olive trees and fig trees mingled in with the taller trees of cypress and pine. The stony road wound around through terraces covered with olives and all their lush green foliage. Palm trees also grew here, and all manner of other trees that stretched to the summit, where two gigantic cedars stood.
People often came here to meditate or just take pleasure in their surroundings. Jesus and the disciples also came to rest here. It was on this road that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as the road from Bethany to Jerusalem went through the Mount of Olives.
The city would be hidden for people coming along the road for a time, but little by little it would come into full view with the Temple Mount shining forth in all its glory. All the ravines, walls, towers and palaces just seemed to be all pointing to the Temple of God standing forth as a precious jewel.
Altogether the city was only four English miles in circumference. Within this compass dwelt a population of 600,000 people according to Tacitus, the Jewish Historian. At the time of the Passover, though, the population rose to between two and three million people, or so Tacitus described.
Each of the later lessons in this section will be dedicated to in depth study of The Temple and everything that happened there. It is my desire that we would have a deep desire to know the Word and learn about the people and the times they lived in.