WHERE IS MORIAH?
L.T. Pearson, M.A., Hon. C.F. (UK)
Excerpted from: Where is Calvary?
WE can go to Jerusalem today and investigate the temple area. We are certain to be impressed by its immense size ... thirly-five acres. Imagination can hardly exaggerate the glory of that magnificent temple. It is estimated that every Cathedral and Minster in England could be built side by side on the platform prepared by Solomon.
Now the temple area was on a Mount, a rocky eminence. The temple court did not cover the whole of Mount Moriah, but only a third of it, that is, the southern end. Naturally, the area had to be made level and where the mountain sloped away towards the south, the sacred edifice was supported on vast substructures - walls rising 120 feet, and great pillars. If we examine the North-West corner of the platform, however, we notice that the rock face was cut into and lowered twenty-six feet because at that point the Mount rises as it continues in a northerly direction.
THE VIA DOLOROSA
The reader is here advised to follow closely the map below. Leaving the Temple area by a gate on the north side, the Stephen gate is reached. Here turn left and follow a road running East to West and in a few minutes the traveller will find himself climbing until he stands on the site of the Castle of Antonio. It was here Pontius Pilate condemned Christ. From here we pass along the Via Dolorosa - the Way of Tears, going downhill slightly. The fact is we have passed over the Mount Moriah; the Castle of Antonio stood on it and at a higher level than the Temple.
THE NORTH WALL
Now making for the Herod Gate and climbing to the top of the North Wall the traveller should turn left, that is Westwards. He will find himself climbing up to a certain point and then descending sharply until the Damascus Gate is reached. The wall of the City has passed over Mount Moriah. It should be noticed that all the part of the city called Bezetha, which stands between the temple area and the North wall, is Mount Moriah. In Solomon's time all this would be open country, the city wall then ran from the temple to the Jaffa Gate. This explains why the North Wall is frequently termed the "Second Wall."
The traveller will notice that he has been making a gradual ascent in this journey from the Temple area to the Damascus Gate. If he stands on the North Wall at its highest point he can then look over two hundred yards away and see the very summit of the hill. It is the Northern end of this long backed mountain of Moriah and at this summit is Golgotha.
The Gospel writers are very emphatic about the Place where our Saviour was crucified, and there must have been a reason for this.
St Matthew writes: "And when they were come unto the place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull..."
St Mark writes: "And they bring Him unto the place called Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull"
St Luke writes: "And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him."
St John writes: "And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him. "
THE OFFICIAL EXECUTION GROUND
A few years earlier the Romans had taken over this Hill from the Jews and made it their official execution ground. In bringing Christ to die here, surely God was over-ruling, for actually there was no other place where He could have laid down His life sacrificially; and the Gospel writers evidently came to realise this fact, for the word Golgotha means "Summit," the highest point of Moriah. It is a word which means the cranium, or top of a skull.
As we stand gazing upon this little green Hill we notice it has a cliff-like face to it, and in this there is a curious representation of a human skull face brought about by the natural weathering of the rock, as though the rock wished to bear evidence that this is Golgotha. This abrupt face of the hill is the result of a dry moat cut through the Hill some 50 to 60 feet in depth and 200 yards in width. It was made some years before our Lord's birth for defence, and in order to keep an enemy at a safe distance from the wall. This moat has separated Golgotha from the rest of Moriah so successfully that few people have realised that they were ever united. There is a proof of this which is most interesting, and the writer is probably the first to have discovered it.
At the foot of the moat and under the NorthWall is the entrance to Solomon's quarries, well known to visitors. This is not the original entrance, but was made when the moat was quarried out. The visitor finds the entrance small, but it expands into a great gallery. Actually this gallery used to run north and the termination of it lies under Golgotha, where mason's tooling may be seen just similar to those in the quarries.
Continuing our research we leave the City and make our way to the top of the Green Hill. Happily this has been preserved from any buildings by the fact that it is a Moslem graveyard. What a commanding view we have of the City-perhaps this is why the Romans made it their execution ground, for an exhibition of crucifixion would be seen all over the City and by those standing at the two gates in the NorthWall, and by people passing along both the Damascus and the Jericho roads. How gracious it was of God at the Crucifixion to shroud the Hill in thick darkness so that no one could behold the death of His Beloved Son.
As we look to the South we see that the Second Wall stands, as already described, on Moriah, and that the mountain runs South to the Temple area.
THE EARTHQUAKE CRACKS
St Matthew records - "Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the Ghost And, behold, the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. "
Leaving the Hill and coming into the moat, the traveller standing at the very foot of Calvary, unmistakeable evidence is before his eyes of the rending of the rocks. Experts say that the force of the quake did a most unusual thing. Instead of only causing cracks along the weakness of the rock, following the natural seams, a fierce crack had taken place from the top to the bottom.
THE WITNESS OF THE NORTH WALL
In the wall there is a very noble Gate, the finest specimen of Suleiman's work of 1542. It is generally called by the name Damascus Gate, or by the Arabs, Bab Amud, The Gate of the Pillar. According to the mosaic map of Jerusalem at Medeba there ran a street with pillars on either side from this gate through the centre of the new portion of the City,which seems to show that this was the gate used on ceremonial occasions. We are not so much interested in this Sarescenic Gate as the one beneath it, for it is built on the top of the old Roman Gate, erected by Herod the Great twenty years before Christ was born. Thanks to a recent excavation, a very mean Archaeological excavation, when we remember the importance of the gate, we can see the top of one of the two gates while part of the great Herodian masonry rises above present ground level to a height of about fifteen feet. Another excavation has revealed more of the masonry, marvellous stone work, with bevelled stones forming the base. This Roman Gate is a sure proof that the present North Wall follows the line of the Second Wall of our Lord's day and the moat takes the date of the wall line much farther back still. It must have been through this Gate that Christ left the City bearing His Cross to Calvary.
THE SACRIFICES - TYPlCAL
God ordained the typical sacrifices of the Old Testament as foreshadowing the death of Christ, the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Every sacrifice was slain on the North side of the altar of the Temple on Mount Moriah. Christ became the Burnt offering and the Peace-offering and died on Golgotha - the Northern end of the Mount. "He is our peace". "Having made peace by the Blood of His Cross". "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".
There was one sacrifice - the sin-offering - which, after being slain on the North side of the altar, was taken outside the North Wall of the City and burnt. Christ was the antitype of this sacrifice. In the Gospel by Isaiah (chapter 53) we read: " The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all... when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin ... for He shall bear their iniquities". In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we have the precious words: "ForHe hath made Him to be the sin-offering, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him ".
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