Damien F. Mackey
“He [Solomon] made that Temple which was beyond this a wonderful one indeed, and
such as exceeds all description in words; nay, if I may so say, is hardly believed upon
sight; for when he had filled up great valleys with earth, which, on account of their
immense depth, could not be looked on when you bent down to see them without
pain, and had elevated the ground four hundred cubits [600 feet], he made it to
be on a level with the top of the mountain on which the Temple was built…This
wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man”.
(Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, 3, 9; XV, 11, 3 – Temples, p. 441)…
Thus Roger Waite quotes from Jewish historian Josephus’s Antiquities in his fine compilation, “The Lost History of Jerusalem”, much of which is, in turn, based on the research of the biblical historian, Dr. Ernest L. Martin (RIP), from his book, The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot.
Waite goes on to write of the Great Eastern Wall of the Temple built by King Solomon, the SE corner of which in later times was the pinnacle of the Temple, to where Satan took Jesus.
According to Waite (beginning p. 63):
The Great Eastern Wall of Solomon‟s Temple
Solomon built a great wall on the eastern side from the very base of the Kidron Valley. It rose 300 cubits which is the equivalent of 40 to 45 story modern skyscraper. This can hardly be said about the eastern wall of the Haram [esh-Sharif, or “Temple Mount”] which at its highest point in the SE corner is only several stories high.
Solomon built this great eastern wall straight up from the very base of the Kidron Valley which brought the Gihon spring within the city walls and then he had the area between the top of the SE spur known as the City of David and this eastern wall filled in.
A huge amount of fill was dumped and compacted on the eastern slope between the top of the hill and the eastern wall that shot straight up from the base of the valley.
All this fill went directly over the Gihon spring and then Solomon built the Temple in an east–west direction from the top of the Ophel summit where Ornan‘s threshing floor was and over this artificial extension that was directly above the Gihon spring.
Speaking in amazement of Solomon‘s original work that was added to by others Josephus writes:
He [Solomon] also built a wall below, beginning at the bottom [of the Kidron ravine] which was encompassed by a deep valley. At the south side he laid stones together, and bound them one to another with lead, and included some of the inner parts till it proceeded to a great height, and till both the largeness of the square edifice and its altitude were immense. The vastness of the stones in the front were plainly visible on the outside yet so that the inward parts were fastened together with iron, and preserved the joints immovable for future times.
When this work was done in this manner, and joined together as part of the hill itself to the very top of it, he wrought it all into one outward surface. He filled up the hollow places that were about the wall, and made it a level on the external upper surface, and a smooth level also.
[Later in Herod‟s day], this hill was walled all round, and in compass four stades [a stade was 600 feet], each angle [of the square] containing in length a stade [it was a square of 600 feet on each side]. But within this wall and on the very top of all, there ran another wall of stone also having on the east quarter a double cloister [colonnade] of the same length with the wall; in the midst of which was the Temple itself (Antiquities of the Jews XV, 11, 3 – Temples p.451).
About this description by Josephus Ernest Martin writes:
Notice two points in Josephus' description that I emphasized. He said the stones that made up the wall on the east side of the Temple were "bound together with lead" and on the inside they had "iron clamps" that fused them together with such a bond that Josephus reckoned they would be permanently united together. These bonding features in the east wall that used iron and lead would have been a unique aspect associated with the binding of those stones. But note this: Much of the eastern wall of the Haram (that some attribute to Solomon because they think it is the Temple Mount) DO NOT have any of these features. The stones of the Haram are all placed one on another without any type of cement between them (either of lead, iron or whatever). This fact is, again, a clear indication the walls surrounding the Haram are NOT those that encompassed the Temple of Herod as described by Josephus, our eyewitness historian (Temples, p.466).
Notice carefully what Josephus said about the position of this eastern wall. He said that it was begun at the very bottom of the valley.
The eastern wall was built at the very bottom of the valley NOT half-way up! The eastern
wall of the Haram does not start from the very bottom of the valley. It starts half-way up and is not anywhere near 300 cubits (450 feet) high!
This eastern wall gave the appearance of great height and impressiveness to the completed structure. Josephus, in the account of the Roman general Pompey‘s attack against the Temple in 63 B.C. before Herod‘s extensions to the Temple complex, says the following:
At this treatment Pompey was very angry, and took Aristobulus into custody. And when he was come to the city [Jerusalem], he looked about where he might make his attack. He saw the walls were so firm, that it would be hard to overcome them. The valley before the walls was terrible [for depth]; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall, insomuch that if the city were taken, that temple would be a second place of refuge for the enemy to retire to (Wars of the Jews, I.7,1 – Temples p.439).
Speaking of the incredible height of the eastern wall of the city which was also the eastern wall of the Temple Josephus also writes:
He [Solomon] made that Temple which was beyond this a wonderful one indeed, and such as exceeds all description in words; nay, if I may so say, is hardly believed upon sight; for when he had filled up great valleys with earth, which, on account of their immense depth, could not be looked on when you bent down to see them without pain, and had elevated the ground four hundred cubits [600 feet], he made it to be on a level with the top of the mountain on which the Temple was built…This wall was itself the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man (Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, 3,9; XV, 11, 3 – Temples, p.441)…
The Romans also burnt the whole northern portico [colonnade] right up to that on the east, where the angle [northeastern angle of the Temple wall] connecting the two was built over the ravine called the Kidron, the depth at that point being consequently terrific (War of the Jews, VI, 3, 2 – Temples, p.442).
Notice Josephus says Solomon artificially “elevated the ground 400 cubits (600 feet).” Then he made it level at the top of this artificial extension “on which the Temple was
Josephus‘ figure of 600 feet, if true, would put this work, “the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man”, 120 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The highest point was at the SE corner and was called the pinnacle of the Temple which was built at the top of this extended mountain.
The pinnacle of the Temple, which had a sheer drop between 300 and 600 feet, was the
place that Satan took Jesus to and tempted him to jump off and see if angels would catch his fall as promised in the Bible.
Notice further what Josephus said about its great height:
This cloister [that is, the southeast comer of the southern colonnade] deserves to be mentioned better than any other under the sun. For while the valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen, if you looked from above into the depth, this farther vastly high elevation of the colonnade stood upon that height, insomuch that if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both these altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such a great depth (Antiquities of the Jews XV, 11, 5 – Temples p.443).
This incredible height from which someone would be giddy looking down from could certainly not be true of the SE corner of the Haram. Ernest Martin has these things to say about Josephus‘ descriptions of the Temple:
While Josephus said in Wars of the Jews V.5,1 that the top of the eastern wall of Herod's Temple was 300 cubits' above the Kidron Valley (or higher in places), he said in Antiquities of the Jews VIII.3,9 the height was 400 cubits (that is 100 cubits higher). Reading the texts carefully means that the extra 100 cubits (of the 400 cubits' measurement) remained below ground because "the whole depth of the foundations was not evident; for they filled up a considerable part of the ravines" (Wars of the Jews V.5,1). And in Antiquities of the Jews VIII.3, 9 Josephus said Solomon "filled up great valleys with earth." This means Solomon actually filled in with earth the
original Kidron Valley (to the height of 100 cubits) and then on top of this foundational "fill-in," his east wall ascended another 300 cubits exposed to the air up to the top of the Temple wall…
[End of quotes]
Then the devil took [Jesus] to the holy city [Jerusalem] and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’.”
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’.”
Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”.’