Locating Solomon's Temple
THE OPHEL EXCAVATIONS
beyond the south wall
The Ophel mound excavations began in 1968 soon after Israel got control of Jerusalem. At that time these ruins lay beneath tons of earth, as we can see by this photo taken in 1923.
Side view of this same area today reveals the ruins that were completely below ground level.
The wall cutting through these ruins, cutting the Ophel mound in half, is the Muslim city wall (built in the fifteenth century). It meets up with the building erected by the Crusaders in the twelfth century.
building was built on the huge steps that lead up to Double Gate.
Josephus described the Temple complex with many sets of steps leading up to the inner gates. Meaning the south section of the complex was terraced, with steps between the flat places.
These ancient steps reveal a lot about the Ophel Mound. They were
originally cut into the bedrock, which protruded out of the earth. This is
evidence of a gigantic rock mounding out of the ground at the top of this hill.
I believe this rock to lead up to the threshing floor that King David bought
and built the Altar to God on, and the place where Solomon built the Temple.
Josephus tells us that Fort Antonia was built on the
highest hill, which overlooked the Temple and the Temple overlooked the City of
David. This to me means there were two hills on this eastern ridge of
“King David purchased a threshing floor north of, and above, the City of David and on that foundation rock he built an altar to God. And before the altar his son built the House of God and in it he placed the Ark of the Covenant.”
Quote; The massive stairs lead up to the platform. ["The large monumental stairway just to the south of the Double Gate was excavated.] This stairway of 30 steps is 215 feet wide, paved with smoothly trimmed stones, and its FOUNDATION STEPS ARE CUT INTO THE BEDROCK. From a wide plaza below on the south…the STAIRWAY ROSE 22 FEET [sic 22-1/2 feet] to the UPPER STREET [the rampart/platform] in front of the Double Gate" [W. Harold Mare, The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area, p. 154]
describes the upper courts and the Inner wall. "This court was foursquare,
and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its building,
although it were on the outside forty cubits (58
ft), was hidden by the steps,
and on the inside that height was but twenty-five cubits (36 ft) for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps.
(War of the Jews - BOOK 5, CH. 5)
If we add up the numbers of 22’ + 36’ = 58 feet they are the exact amount required to be the steps that rose up 22 feet and hid part of the wall from view that Josephus spoke of. Most likely they are the steps where Jesus over-turned the tables.
In the photo there appears to be 14 deep steps and 16 shallow steps. The shallow steps are for “stepping-up” to the next level. The large steps are where one would stop and pray before ascending to the next step, the same as it was for the steps in the women’s court that led up to the eastern inner gate.
Josephus describes the upper courts and the Inner wall.."This court was four-square, and had a wall about it peculiar to itself; the height of its buildings, although it were on the outside forty cubits, was hidden by the steps, and on the inside that height was but twenty-five cubits for it being built over against a higher part of the hill with steps. War of the Jews - BOOK 5, CH. 5)
So these appear to be the steps that led up to the upper Gate (Double
Gate) of the inner wall, which encompassed the inner courts. At the top of the
steps would then have been a terrace, called the chel ; (m. Kelim 1.8), a 15
foot wide walkway, which was bounded by the walls of the inner court. According
to Josephus, there were fourteen steps leading up to the Chel or terrace.
The Crusader’s building hides most of double gate and a large part of the western half of the steps and the Chel.
I found even more proof in the ruins that the southern half of
Solomon’s temple complex and Herod’s extended courts lay beyond the south wall.
Herod’s wall foundations would most likely be thicker than Solomon’s older
The thinner wall
ends, and thicker begins, at the same place where Herodian's extended walls
would have begun.
There is no way to know which earthquake in Israel's history caused the twisted mess in the midst of the Ophel hill ruins, but it seems as though it happened sometime before the Muslims built their new city wall through the center of the ruins.
In the picture below I rotated the collapsed area around 27 degrees, and put things back together a little to get an idea of how it would have looked like pre-earthquake. This allowed me to further identify the position of Herod’s southern gate, which would have been 600 feet directly across from his northern gate. Once the ruins are adjusted like this then room for the gate can be seen.
The city wall was built right through the center of it. As near as I can tell, an angled wall on the other side of the city wall, is the other half of the gate.
I found a drawing of the oldest ruins of what I believe to be the Herodian South Gate (brown colored ruins) in the graphic below. The city wall was built right through the center of the gate and so parts of it are on both sides of the Islamic city wall. It was driven side ways in an earthquake but it is easy to still see the shape of a gate. From this I was able to see that it is double the width of a normal Herodian gate. The Huldah gate (south gate) of Herod's Temple is said to have been a double gate.
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