Many people consider it the most sacred spot on earth. For those of us that have grown up studying the Bible from a Christian background we are taught from an early age that this was once the home of the Jewish Temple. Muslims still consider it to be the place in which Muhammad ascended to Heaven. It has come to be a place of great tension for the world. Held sacred by so many religions, just what actually makes this site so special?
For the majority of us a view of the bright golden dome is as close as we will ever come to actually seeing the theological treasure that lies inside. Just underneath the famous Dome of the Rock sitting in the middle of Jerusalem on the Temple Mount is the Foundation Stone, Rock, or Sakhrah in the Hebraic translation.
The Rock is the central focus of the building and sits at the very center of the Temple Mount. From a Jewish perspective the Rock is the center of the world. The sages of Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism, records that the Rock was the first part of the Earth to come into existence.
The Talmud also states that it was in this same area God gathered the dust of the ground to form the first human, Adam. The Jewish people believe that this rock is the exact same place in which Adam, Cain, Abel, and Noah offered sacrifices to God. It is also the historically regarded spot where Abraham went to the brink of sacrificing his promised child Isaac before God stopped him in a spiritual exercise.
Genesis 22 calls the mountain by the name of Moriah. King David later purchased the site and aspired to build the First Temple. However according to the Old Testament King David was not eligible to build the Temple because his hands were “bloodied.” David’s son Solomon finished constructing the Temple which was completed in 950 B.C.
The Temple was built as a permanent holy place for the people of Israel. For many years their most prized possessions were housed in the Ark of the Covenant which moved with the Tabernacle, a large tent like structure used as sort of a mobile holy temple for the Jewish people and their God.
The First Temple was built and made the tent like tabernacle obsolete.
At the center of the First Temple sitting on the Rock sat the Holy of Holies. This was the housing place of the Ark of the Covenant. When the Second Temple was built the Ark of the Covenant had been hidden. The Rock was used as an offering place where the Jewish High Priest offered incense and sprinkled sacrificial blood on the Rock during Yom Kippur.
During the time of the Crusades the Rock was put through terrible conditions and suffered several man-made cuts to it’s top surface. The Crusaders damaged the rock so severely that the later Christian Kings of Jerusalem placed a large marble slab over it for protection. Saladin removed this slab after taking control of Jerusalem on October 2, 1187. Recent studies have proved to be differing at best. Some archaeologist have noted that the rock has sections that are entirely flat and predate the Crusaders. The flat surface if taken as the position of the southern wall of a square room in which the ledges on the north and west sides for a clean edge, the center is a cut in the shape of a rectangle with dimensions of 1.5 cubits wide by 2.5 cubits long. These are the exact same measurements according to the Book of Exodus as the Ark of the Covenant.
It is very likely that many changes have taken place over the years that have made either slight or massive alterations to the Rock itself. The Mishnah, the first large work of Rabbinic Judaism, for instance records that the height of the Rock as three finger breadths above the ground, or 6.6675 centimeters. However the actual measurement of the height of the Rock is the height of about two men or 12 feet above the ground give or take a couple of feet. These differing measurements could be attributed to the many excavations probably conducted over thousands of years by different groups.
The Rock is still the center point of the earths three major religions. Although it appears to provide a relationship between the major three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Rock instead acts a major line drawn in the sand that divides the world.
Photo 1: Fossil HD Cover. Credit: Photo by idobi
Photo 2: Abraham comes close to sacrificing Isaac. Credit: Public Domain
Photo 3: The Rock as photographed in 1915. Credit: Public Domain
Photo 4: The Rock. Credit: Public Domain