Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 8, 1971
NUMBER 38, PAGE 4-5a

The Dome Of The Rock


No single spot on this earth is hallowed by more memories, both sacred and secular, than the great barren rock which was once the place where Araunah the Jebusite threshed his grain. "Go up rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite," was the instruction given by Gad the prophet to King David when the pestilence was destroying the people.

David did as the prophet ordered, and built the altar. After David, Solomon, his son, built here his magnificent temple (slightly to the westward of the great rock), and on the rock itself reared his altar of burnt-sacrifice. Even today the visitor can see the channels cut in the rock to drain off the blood of the sacrificial victims into the huge cavern beneath. For nearly four centuries this mighty temple stood, perhaps the most majestic building in the ancient world. It was utterly destroyed by the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Two generations later the returning exiles built another temple on this site, so poor in comparison with the first that the aged ones, who could recall the temple of their forefathers, wept when they saw the new one going up. (Haggai 2:3) ... Poor as it was, however, this temple of the exiles lasted longer than had Solomon's. It was razed by Herod the Great in 20 B.C. to make way for the gorgeous edifice which so awed the Jews of Jesus' day. "Forty and six years was this temple in building," was the way the Jews told it to Jesus. Herod enlarged the temple area, and actually had the structure itself erected by some one thousand specially trained priests in about eighteen months. However, work on the temple and in the temple area doubtless did extend over a great period of time, and was even going on at the time the Savior himself was living.

But the Lord's dire warning "not one stone shall be left upon another" was completely fulfilled when the Roman army of Titus destroyed the city in 70 A.D. It was the general custom of the Romans to permit their conquered people to maintain their own religions and shrines. In keeping with this policy, Titus had given strict orders to his soldiers that the Temple should be preserved and not desecrated. But when the city was entered, and the general burning and looting began, one of the Roman soldiers either by design (or, more probably, accidently) put a torch to some of the costly draperies inside the structure. The resulting fire completely gutted the inside of the temple. Two days later, when the ruins had cooled, Titus came to inspect the burned out edifice. His eye caught the glint of gold which the fire had melted and caused to run down in the crevices and mortar joints. He then ordered that the temple should be razed, and the very foundations of it should be broken up and sifted for gold.

Not a single stone of Herod's great temple was left standing (remember what Jesus said?); and today there is only one solitary piece of it which is positively identifiable as coming from this building. That is a stone, now preserved in the Imperial Museum at Istanbul, which contains a stern warning to all Gentiles not to enter the inner court on pain of death. It is the only piece of writing in the world which we may be sure that Jesus read.

Another sixty years passed into history, and a fresh Jewish rebellion broke out against the Romans in 133 A.D. The Emperor Hadrian came down upon the city in a furious rage, once again burned the town, ordered a temple to Jupiter to be built on the Dome of the Rock, changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, and no Jew was allowed to set foot on the Temple area. Three centuries more came and went, and early in the fourth century the Jews were allowed to come once a year to the western wall of the Temple area and weep for their ruined city. When the Moslems came under Caliph Omar in the seventh century, they found the holy site covered with trash and rubbish which the Christians (?) had thrown there to spite these detested Jews.

The magnificent Mosque of Omar has now stood on the Dome of the Rock for more than 1200 years. Furious battles have raged all around it, but the beautiful mosque has survived. When Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders (1099) an eye-witness to the slaughter says: "In Solomons' Porch and in the temple our men rode in the vile blood of the Saracens up to the knees of their horses." It took only a hundred years for the Saracens to recover and drive the Crusaders from their land, and until Allenby came into the city in 1917 it was under Turkish rule. To this very day the orthodox Jew avoids walking on a certain area of the pavement of the temple grounds for fear he may walk above the sacred hiding place where he thinks the Ark is waiting, or (most dreadful thought of all!) may chance to wander on the spot where the Holy of Holies stood.

Moslem, Jew, and. Christian, they have all wept at their first sight of the great Dome of the Rock. It is a very real symbol of man's relationship to God; it speaks to the human heart, telling him that he is not alone in this violent and frightening world. To the Jew it speaks of Abraham (tradition has it that this is the spot where Isaac was offered) and David and Solomon; to the Christian it holds memories of the Christ; to the Moslem it is second only to Mecca. But for each of them, it is a spot that is closely associated with their thoughts of God — and of the eternal home for which they long and toward which they strive.

— F. Y. T.