We started our tour today at the Mount of Olives. We visited the Mount of Olives on our trip to Israel back in 2013, but this time was every bit as amazing. I can already understand why people visit this amazing land over and over again.
In the English language, we tend to think of the word “mount” as referring to a particular peak. In Hebrew, however, the word is referring to more of a range of peaks, or a mountainous area. The Mount of Olives is definitely more of a range of peaks. It is directly east of Jerusalem, and overlooks much of the city.
The Mount of Olives serves as a physical barrier between the Judean desert and the city of Jerusalem. The physical and geographical differences are incredible! Even the climate is different on one side of the mount in comparison to the other, though the physical distance is so small (1-2 miles).
The city of Jerusalem is mentioned somewhere around 1,000 times (also referred to as “city of Zion”) in Old and New Testament. Obviously this is a prominent Biblical location, though it was not really made prominent until King David first conquered Jebus and essentially made it the capital city of Israel.
Jerusalem during the time of king David was located to the immediate south and east of modern-day Jerusalem. David’s son, King Solomon extended the kingdom to the north and built the temple on Mount Moriah (which was also where Abraham went to sacrifice his only son, Isaac). The kingdom continued to extend to the north and to the west, further up in elevation, because it could not continue south or east. The Kidron Valley and Hinnom Valley prohibit south and east expansion.
Today a Muslim mosque stands where Solomon’s great temple once stood. It is somewhat difficult to look at modern Jerusalem and imagine what it would have looked like in previous time periods. Almost nothing on the surface in Jerusalem is from Biblical times. Even the impressive stone city walls, which look so ancient, were actually built by the Turks in 1500’s. Sure, that seems old to us Americans (Civil War sites seem practically ancient to us), but it is not nearly old enough to be from the time when Jesus walked the earth.
So… to help us get a better idea of what the city looked like during the time of Jesus, our second stop will put us at the Israel Museum, where there is a large 3D model of the city before it was destroyed by Rome in the first century.