Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Southern Steps

Our last stop of our first day in Jerusalem was at the southern steps of the Temple Mount. This is one of the newer archaeological discoveries and one of the most important. It is also significant since there can be no archaeological excavations on top of the Temple Mount, so a lot of the new information we have from the time period comes from this excavation. The southern steps are circled in this drawing.

Ben-Dov, the archaeologist who worked on the southern wall of the temple mount, recalls that he was once asked by Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut, to show him an area in Jerusalem where Jesus might have walked. Ben-Dov took him inside the Hulda Gates in the Southern Wall and Armstrong said that he was just as thrilled to stand on this staircase as he had been when he took his first steps on the moon.



Unfortunately, by this time of the day I was extremely tired and had just about decided I had enough pictures (to my regret now), so I borrowed some general pictures of the area off of the internet The following photos from  shows a general view of the southeastern side of the temple walls. On the left side and in the center are the Hulda gates. The monumental staircase below them leads to the Herodian temple mount.  On the bottom right side are some of the ritual baths and cisterns found in this area, part of the installations that were used by the visitors to the temple. This is all part of an archaeological park now.


This is a good picture from the Mount of Olives.



The staircase consists of 15 pairs of alternating broad and narrow steps. Although most of the steps were reconstructed, this is one of the remains of the southern entrance.  Archaeologists believe that at the base of the steps there was a large plaza area. As you can see in the drawing above, pilgrims would enter through the eastern Hulda gate and exit through the one to the west. Those entering the temple mount would have stopped at the mikvahs, which can still be seen to the east of the stairs, so that they could have a ritual bath and enter the temple area in a state of ceremonial cleanliness.  Of course, we know that the only way to approach God with a clean heart is through the righteousness of Jesus, our Savior. This is also where the Gentiles would have entered the temple mount.

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psalm 24:3-6

Without a doubt, Jesus would have walked up these steps. Luke 19:47 And He was teaching daily in the temple… He and His disciples probably taught on these steps since it was a bustling and large area. We sat and listened to Kay teach just as the people listened to Jesus here on these steps. If that doesn’t give you a thrill, I don’t know what will!

Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Psalm 24:7-10



A closer look on the stairs is seen below, with the Mount of Olives on the background.  You can easily see the pattern of the broad and narrow steps. Perhaps this was done so that people would have to look down to see where they were stepping, bowing their head in anticipation of entering the holy area.


This is our whole group sitting on the southern steps underneath a part of the western Hulda gate.To our left we saw the Mount of Olives and straight in front of us was the City of David.



Another group arrived at the same time we arrived. We waited quietly while they had their lesson and prayer before Kay started teaching from Daniel 9, emphasizing the prophecy of events yet to come. 

O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” Daniel 9: 18-19


Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.’” How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion. Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. Isaiah 52: 6-10

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