the Jewish Temple

Herod's temple, second Jewish temple
Herod’s temple

The Jewish Temple is inseparably linked to Mount Moriah, which is better known as the Temple Mount.

The first permanent residents of this mountain were the Jebusites. They founded Jerusalem. On neighboring Mount Zion, they built a fortress and from there, they controlled the area. It was a high fortress with heavy walls. So heavy that the Jebusites thought it was impregnable. When the Jewish king David appeared at the gates with his army, they laughed at him. David, however, had his men crawling in through the underground waterways and managed to conquer the castle in this way.

David settled in the fortress and made Jerusalem the capital of his empire. And, what is even more important in the context of “The Third Temple”: David carried the Ark of the Covenant into the city. He was dancing when he did this because the ark was the most sacred object of Judaism. The ark was a chest containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, the covenant that God had personally given to Moses.

Before David’s capture of Jerusalem, the Jews kept the ark in the tabernacle. This was a tent. A very special one, for it was the tent in which God dwelt. On their journeys through the desert, the Jews always carried the tabernacle with them. It was the first tent they put up when they arrived somewhere and the last one they took down again.

the first Jewish temple

After his conquest of Jerusalem, however, David felt that a tent did too little justice to God and his covenant. Therefore he commissioned his son Solomon to build a temple on Mount Moriah. That was the first Jewish temple, also called “Solomon’s Temple”. Since then, Mount Moriah is better known as “the Temple Mount”.

For four centuries that temple served as the home of God. Then the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s Temple. They took the Jews to their realm and made them work as slaves there. Their Babylonian captivity, the Jews call this period.

the second Jewish temple

Seventy years later, the Persians conquered Babylon and the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. They immediately started building a new Jewish temple there. That second temple was smaller than the first one though. And over the centuries several conquerors desecrated it. Because of this, the temple fell into disrepair.

But shortly before the beginning of our era, the Biblical King Herod the Great decided to restore it. He made it more beautiful than ever. This took him more than eighty years. When he finally completed it, the temple even surpassed Solomon’s temple in splendor. That was in 64 CE. Since then, the second Jewish temple has been called the Temple of Herod.

The Jews could not enjoy Herod’s temple for long. Two years after its completion, the Jewish war broke out. And six years later Titus captured Jerusalem. Titus was the last person to visit the temple and therefore the last person to speak with God there. After his visit, he razed the city. Only the west wall of the temple remained intact. Since the Jews grieve the loss of their temple there, that wall is better known as the Wailing Wall.

Tisha B’Av

The Jews still mourn there daily for the destruction of their temple. They also entered an official day of mourning in their calendar, to commemorate the temple. They call that day Tisha B’Av, or the ninth of the month Av. In the Gregorian calendar, the date varies, but it is never more than two weeks before or after the beginning of August. Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and the second Jewish temple. According to tradition, these calamities took place on exactly the same date.

Three weeks prior to Tisha B’Av, the Jews already start fasting, and from that moment on there are strict restrictions in daily life. It is not permitted to get married, to have a haircut, or to shave for example. The last week before Tisha B’Av, Jews aren’t even allowed to wash themselves and put on clean clothes. These commandments have been in place for nearly two thousand years and will probably not be released until the third temple is built.

The story of my novel “The Third Temple” begins a few days after Tisha B’Av in the year 70 CE. It was then that Titus’s troops invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the city.