The Mount of Olives History - An Introduction (520BC-85AD)
This brief essay is about thinking differently about Olives as well as the Mount of Olives - its history, and other things, too.
The Mount of Olives is actually a series of four hills, two of them being situated directly east of the Temple Mount (a "sabbath day's journey" - the distance of no more than 1/2 to 3/5ths of a mile) rising up from the Kidron Valley. The sacred Temple Mount (Mount Moriah) is where Abraham took Isaac as the LORD God directed him, testing his faith in action. Here Abraham professed to his servants that he and his son would "go yonder and worship, and [they would] come again to [them]". In Genesis 22, we learn that instead of offering his only son, GOD commanded Abraham to stay his hand declaring, "Now, I know that you fear GOD and will withhold nothing from Me" and provided a ram caught in the nearby thicket.
Located between the Temple Mount and Mount of Olives is an piece of real estate that includes both the Kidron Valley where King David fled from his son Absolom and the Garden of Geth-semane - significant places not only in past Biblical history, but also a future location of momentous events.
Throughout the Scripture, we learn the Olive represents peace and prosperity from the LORD (Psalms 52, Jeremiah 11, Hosea 14). It's oil provided fuel for the Lampstands of the ancient Temple. In Romans, we read of the wildOlive branch engrafted on to the people of God for His purposes. In the Book of Revelations, the two Olive trees will give witness to God in the last days of history as we understand it.
When usually still green, Olives are harvested in September or October by shaking or striking the tree branches with long poles. When crushed by treading or pressed between two stones, a precious oil is produced - used in the daily activity of cooking to the ceremonial activities from anointing kings to anointing the sick.
Several years ago while listening to teaching from the book of Genesis, we were surprised to discover that the first reference to the Olive and its identity with "peace on earth" was when God remembered Noah...
... and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged;
2-The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped...
4-And the ark rested... upon the mountains of Ararat.
5-And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.
6-And it came to pass... that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
7-And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro...
8-Also... a dove, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;
9-But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot...
10- And again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;
11- And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an Olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
Even the world's most august political institutions recognize the Olive Branch of Peace and other Biblical accounts in their ceremony and symbols and designs though they deny the power thereof. It makes you wonder: Could this generation be the one Jesus the Nazarene declared would cry out, "Peace, peace" when there really is no peace? It seems that 21st Century mankind - with all its genius and technology might be an excellent candidate to attempt to usurp God's character and authority, finally causing Him to rise up and call things "quits".
Dr. Gene Scott would often say "Life's choice is still a hard, cold decision - every day. It's one of time versus eternity - man's word or God's Word -- so who are you going to trust? Either we're going to walk by faith, or by sight." Let's face it, if Christ is not risen from the dead, if the walk of faith is just an empty, meaningless activity no different than what everybody else around us is doing... to occupy their rather boring reality until the day they die, then we are of all men most miserable... if Christ is not risen.
But Christ is risen.
Years ago in the halls of the Far East Broadcast Company in La Mirada, California, Dr. Robert Bowman, founder and president of FEBC made a passing comment relevent to the conversation that was going on - in which he simply answered by quoting the first verse of Psalm 2 (written by David, perhaps not far from this ancient city 3000 years ago) that still echoes true today:
1: Why do the nations rage and people devise a vain thing? 2: The kings [ie. - the politicians, you know... those royal asses] of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed, saying,
3: Let us break Their bands asunder, and cast away Their cords from us.
4: He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.
5: Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.
6: Yet have I set My King upon my Holy Hill of Zion.
7: I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.
8: Ask of Me, and I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession.
9: You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10: Be wise now therefore, O you kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11: Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12: Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.
For the rest of us, this study on the Mount of Olives serves one purpose - to appreciate the simple truths that God has planted in His Word... truths which will enable us to better understand Who He is, and to know His will and His great love for us. Thank God He is in charge. Thankfully, He has a way to understate His intentions so some of us simple-minded folk can comprehend. Through these few pages and pictures, we see how GOD chose an area no bigger than a few city blocks, to embrace completely and tie together fully His redemptive plan - past, present and future.
In Psalm 103 we read Moses came to know the ways of God, though the children of Israel merely saw His miraculous acts. Of Jesus, we discover in the Scriptures, that like none other, the Father and He were One, and He loved to visit the Mount of Olives... where He could go and talk with the Eternal God... where He would see before Him redemption's plan for mankind that His Father spoke of in His Word through divers ways and manners, but in these last days has spoken to us through His Son.
From this Mount of Olives study, we can, in mind's eye, reach back in time 3,000 years to see a temple destroyed and reconstructed (currently occupied by a mosque)... on the sacred site hardly more than 1/4 mile away. With the Temple Mount dimension of: 1600 feet in length, 900 feet in width, and approximately 9 stories high... the ancient site is one of the largest building structures in the world today. Archaeology confirms its old foundation hasn't moved... especially the stone 40-feet in length weighing 600 tons.
In this study, we see before us Mount Moriah where Abraham, the father of faith... when he was 100 years old... four millenia ago, the "father of many nations" willingly offered up his only son confidently trusting that God would somehow provide a Lamb.
From this place - the Mount of Olives, we learn His disciples came to Jesus asking when the end of all things would be. And it was here on the Mount, where Jesus quietly sat and calmly unfolded His eschatological teaching declaring everything needed to know about "the sign of times and seasons".
From the baseline of the Mount of Olives, we see an ancient olive grove that makes up the Garden of Geth-semane (literally: oil-press)... where Jesus agonized in prayer, while disciples slept and Judas quickly carried out his treacherous betrayal. Here is where Jesus spoke rich words of hope to those in all the generations to come who would "...keep [guard] His Word" - spoken 12 times... that very night He was betrayed.
Forty days later - having raised from the dead, somewhere along this Mountain side Jesus last instructed His disciples, before He was taken up into the heavens... and two witnesses promised He would one day return in like manner... asking, "Why stand you here gazing up to heaven? This same Jesus will come again in like manner."
By the way, it is interesting to note that both Christian and Muslim faiths believe that Jesus ascended into heaven. Most people do not realize that the Chapel of the Ascenion is consider a shared Christian and Muslim holy site... marking the place where Jesus stepped from earth into heaven... and that the church/mosque contains the right foot print of Jesus preserved in a rock; a section of rock containing His left footprint has been kept in Al-Aqsa mosque since the middle ages. The Chapel of the Ascension site is under the authority of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem - registered in October, 1188; and is open to people of all faiths.
Just an aside: most people do not know: the name Muhammed (Mohammad, or other variant) is mentioned 4 or 5 times in the Qu'ran... depending on the Islamic writer; and, the name Isa (Jesus, or other variant) is mentioned 25 times. Is it just me; or, does anyone else wonder why?
On the left side of the Mount of Olives, we see the Jewish cemetary where 100s and 1000s are buried awaiting the fulfillment of their coming Messiah Whose feet will touch this sacred site.
From the vantage point of the Mount of Olives, the East Gate (sometimes referred to as the Golden Gate, or the Gate of Mercy) is clearly inaccessible and blocked shut. In mid-1500s after the Ottoman conquest of Israel, the existing walls around the Old City were erected by Sultan Suleiman (the "Magnificent" - depending on one's take on his brilliance... as time and forgetfulness are often kind to some.... At that time, the sheik ordered a Muslim cemetery placed directly in front of the East Gate postulating that since the Messiah would be a Cohen, the High Priest could not enter through the East Gate given that a High Priest was not permitted to touch the dead. You can decide about the wonder of the Sultan's logic!).
The East Gate has held special interest with Jews, Christians and Muslims as the place of final Judgment. Throughout history, judgments were rendered in the gates of ancient cities. Since the Messiah is to come from the East, it is concluded that His judgment will be at the Eastern Gate. For this reason, adherents of the three faiths - Jewish, Christian and Muslim, have placed grave markers on the Eastern slope of the Temple Mount, in the Kidron Valley, and on the Western slope of the Mount of Olives.
Jews identify Messiah's arrival with the East Gate, Muslims place God's final judgment at this location, and Christians link the Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as well as His second coming with this Gate.
Lastly from our position on the Mount, we look forward to future events once foretold, still waiting for their appointed time to be fulfilled.
In Psalm 122, David wrote: I was glad when they said to me: let us go to the House of the LORD (which was a temporary tent at that time); verse 6, he added: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall securely rest who love thee.
You know, that is something we all can do: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem... which is not just cheap talk - neither political nor religious BS - bovine scatology. Don't just think about it! Do it! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! What more needs to be said? Does anybody really need the LORD God himself to come pound those words into our heads? And can you almost hear someone cynically suggest: well, it's not a very peaceful place? But to that one, I would simply ask: Whose fault is that? Not God's! Perhaps, we learn a great deal about the level of love for one another... in those who reside there... as we do in any community experiencing unrest. Hear it again: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall securely rest who love thee.
The LORD God loves this City, and it is apparent the Blessed Son also loves this place. Honestly, we at ilibros.net are not much concerned about the brick and stone buildings. Jesus the night He was betrayed, said: In My Father's House... are many dwelling places. I bet where His Father lives... is amazing! Can't hardly wait to see it some day. In the meantime, we hope you love this place, too... and enjoy the Scripture and the pictures of the history of the Mount of Olives only a "Sabbath's journey" from where time has often met eternity... and still awaits sure and certain promises... to be fufilled as we continue our upward look.