Monday, February 15, 2010

The Lord Our Rock and Living Water

Modern building codes in Jerusalem stipulate that all structures must be either built with or given a facade of Limestone. As we walk around the city we are surrounded by the stuff – sidewalks are lined with it, small buildings, hotels, large apartment buildings, literally every structure we see is made to look like its coming right up out of the limestone foundation its built on.  Until modern times, this was the primary, almost exclusive building material used as well reflected in the many ruins we’ve seen. This means, of-course that the buildings of David’s day were constructed the same way, as were those of his son Solomon, including the temple, palaces, tombs and everything else. 

Its no wonder than that David, who was quite familiar with stones, writes the following:

“I love  you, Lord, my source of strength! 
The Lord is my high ridge, my stronghold, my deliverer.
My God is my rocky summit where I take shelter,
my shield, the horn that saves me, 13 and my refuge.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I was delivered from my enemies.


Nearly all the structures I’ll show you below are from well after David, but they all carry the limestone theme.  In some ways many of the structures – their very existence or purpose -- reflect an attitude that finds its security not the Rock of ages but in the rock of the hills.

Click for larger view.

The Old City walls of Jerusalem on the Western Side, south of the Jaffa Gate.
Notice the different looking stones. The newest on top are from the Turkish empire, ca 700AD.  Bottom left there are two layers of stones, one from the Ottoman, ca 400AD, and another from the Hasmonean, ca. 200 BC.
 DSC_0031_00 The Board Wall
(8th C BC, its purpose is described below.)
It is very difficult to appreciate the immensity of the wall from the picture, but it’s huge –approximately 30’ across (yes, that’s feet).
image The Board wall is not all there anymore.  It used to be considerably higher.  It’s estimated that it was almost to the top of that sign that’s on the wall behind it.
That would make it 24’ tall. 

That’s a Sturdy Wall!

Now, read about the wall’s purpose below.


The Board Wall

King Hezekiah of Judah was on the throne in 720 when Assyria’s Sargon came and took the northern tribes of Israel away as part of his bid to take over the world.  Israel and Judah along with many other small nation states in the region were like paddle boats in the ocean while the tidal wave Assyria sweeps through on its way to power house Egypt.  Swoosh, Israel was gone.  As the wave approached from the North it would have led throngs to head south in safety and ultimately led to a population surge in Jerusalem. 

When Sargon died and before his son Sennacherib regained the effort in Judah, Hezekiah saw the pause as an opportunity to fortify and make a stand against the world power.  It is at this time, the Bible tells us that Hezekiah ceased to pay his tribute tax to Assyria. Apparently it is believed, that the city walls from Solomon and David’s days were also now expanded.  

In the North end of the new wall there is short dipping valley that would present weak point, thus the “Broad Wall” was created.  This section of the wall was built to protect against a breach at this dip in the elevation by making it especially thick and tall.

In 701 Sennacherib besieged the city. The event is recorded in some detail in the Bible (as well as in extent Assyrian documents).   In this story, Assyrians sent the Rabshekeh (“chief of the princes”) to the wall to taunt Hezekiah and the people not to trust in Yahweh.  Bad idea… the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians and Judah was spared (for a few more years until in 586 Babylon takes them).

The wall wasn’t the only of Hezekiah’s efforts to save his city.  He also had tunnels dug (expanded) outside the city to waters outside the city at the Pool of Siloam (pictures below).

The Bible speaks mostly favorably of Hezekiah.  It seems to be his prayer that saved him in the end though. Walls and tunnels only go so far when you’re a paddle boat in the ocean, after all.  "Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.”



Solomon’s City
This is the approximate extent of the city in the time of Solomon.  The picture doesn’t adequately give you a feel for the drop in elevation.  In the next pictures, we’re standing a little to the right of the “C”, looking down the valley to the spot that is far left on this illustration.  To get the proper orientation, visualize standing at “C” and looking to the left spot.
DSC_0065 - Copy Aerial photo highlighting the same area.  What is far left above is now at the bottom, “D” above is in the far back.
DSC_0065 Artists representation of the same area in the time of David.
DSC_0035_00 Standing on the “Ramparts” looking out at the valley below the currently walled city.
DSC_0039_00 Fellow students up on the rampart.
Kidron Valley View of the Kidron Valley below south end of the city, as viewed from the ramparts.
DSC_0044_00 Same picture as above, but cropped to the center. I’m zooming in on the Pool of Siloam. See next picture.
DSC_0045_00 - Copy The Edge of the Pool of Siloam can just be seen here, to the left of the tall tree in the center (see next picture).

The tree if far left on the illustration above.
DSC_0045_00 Again, the same picture, just cropped to highlight where the pool was.  The excavation of the pool is just behind this tree. 
DSC_0066 Taking steps down into the tunnel that Hezekiah built to bring water from the Pool of Siloam into the city.
DSC_0067 Approaching the tunnel.
DSC_0075 We actually didn’t go through Hezekiah’s tunnel (though you can), instead we took a higher (in elevation) tunnel that’s from the age of Abraham (2000BC)!
Hezekiah’s tunnel is still wet and sometimes waste deep, long and completely unlit.
DSC_0082 Walking on what was the steps leading to the Pool of Siloam.  This was only discovered a few years ago when reconstruction of the road that used to be above this was started.
DSC_0087 Artist’s rendering of the pool as it was.

The picture above is represented in the steps behind Tally on the left side going back in perspective.
DSC_0100 Aerial of the surrounding area. 

Notice the color of every building you see is white limestone.  The Dome of the Rock and a few church steeples are the few exceptions.
DSC_0102 A tool for moving large stones.


Impressive Stone Structure

Hezekiah had his building projects to protect his people.  In the end he was spared, as was his generation, but in 586 Babylon came Jerusalem was ransacked, Judah taken captive.  After 70 years, Babylon lost power to the Persians who had a more tolerant policy and allowed the Judeans to return to their land.  So, under the leadership of Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah, a few of the people did just that.  Zerubabbel built a new, smaller temple where the old one once stood, and Nehemiah put up new walls (he mentions building them as far as the “Broad Wall”, mentioned above).

Shortly thereafter the Greeks came into town on their way to take over the world.  They quickly gained control of Judah.  Some time later, there was a revolt by the Jewish people against the Greeks known as the Maccabean revolt.  Antiochus, the Greek ruler had issued a decree forbidding the Jewish people from worshipping which sparked the revolt in 165.  The Maccabees gained power and ruled with autonomy from 164 to 63BC. There are many ruins from this period in Jerusalem (and elsewhere), including many portions of the Old City walls.

Now, enter the Romans.  The new international powerhouse came to dominate things and in 63 grabbed Judea.  Rome placed Herod the Great on the throne in 37BC and things began to get interesting. Herod may be the most ambitious and successful “architect” of all history.  He built numerous buildings and structures that are each absolutely amazing (see the Herodium in the next blog for a stunning example).   One of those structures, made of-course of limestone, is the Temple and temple mount.

The Temple Mount, still very much in tact today was built by Herod.  Notice on the map the notation for the “Pool of Siloam” in the bottom right.
The City Walls as shown here are the present day walls, built in 700AD by the Turks.  In David’s day, they would have been much narrower, but extended much more south (bottom right corner) to just short of the Pool of Siloam.
DSC_0107 Artist rendering of the south west retaining wall of the temple mount build by King Herod at the time of Christ.

On the map above, this would be the bottom left corner of the white squared in “Temple Mount” area that today includes the dome of the rock.  This corner is just north of the “Dung Gate” in the map above.
DSC_0105 This is the actual remains of the wall today, same corner as illustrated above.
It’s absolutely massive.
DSC_0106 In the picture, notice what is today a window, at the very top, to the left of Tally.
Below that jutting out of the wall is where the aching stepped structure would have attached, and people would have entered.
It’s really large.
DSC_0110 Same wall, just viewed from further left, looking toward the same corner.
DSC_0114 Notice the little doorways in the golden section of the bottom of  the arch, and the four cubicles inside. 
DSC_0115 This is one of those cubicles.  Look at the illustration above again and then the picture of the wall.

This should give you a small idea of the magnitude of this structure.

Some of the stones to build the retaining wall are 400 tons. 


More Stones

Just outside the Eastern retaining wall are a set of 15 steps leading up to the temple mount.   It is likely the 15 steps of ascent, one for each of the psalms of ascent sung on the way up the temple mount. 


There’s reason to believe that Paul would have received some of his seminary training on these steps (much as I did on this day). It is quite likely that Jesus spoke from the steps. From these steps you can see below to the bottom edge of the city of David, the Pool of Siloam, to the east you see the tombs on the Mt of Olives (many of which were there in Jesus day as well), and behind you is the massive temple mount of Herod.  It would have been a great gathering place with many people.

Jesus preached about a life that is full, a life that is new or from above (John 3), a life that is eternal and available to all who will accept the free gift of it.  Herod built a great structure that took over 60 years to build, Jesus spoke of being able to rebuild it in 3 days if it were destroyed. Of-course he spoke not of the temple but His body—offered so that we could have that life He promised.  Life, safety and protection do not come from limestone structures, for no matter how big they are, they will never give life – it’s not what rocks do, after all. 


midspoint said...

Sooooo impressive...words fail me when I read and see in pictures what you get to experience in person. How awesome that, even though I long to walk through my computer screen into those pictures and immerse myself in God's presence, I know He is with me here, and He knows my heart and my love for Jerusalem, for Israel, for His Son.
Thank you for the way you make me feel a part of what you are experiencing!

Kathleen said...

Very cool. Until seeing Tally in the doorway of the shops, you are right, it's hard to imagine the magnitude of that wall. I'm sure it's still not as impressive as being there in person. Thanks for trying to demonstrate that through the pictures.

Still waiting for the picture of Dung Gate ;) But - you did say that it was called Dung Gate b/c it was basically the trash dump for the city, right?