A mound on the Mount?

Israel Finkelstein, Oded Lipschits, and Ido Koch have, in their recent (July 2011) article, “The Mound On The Mount: A Possible Solution To The “Problem With Jerusalem””, have proposed a very curious idea: that, for at least some historical periods, there were two Jerusalems: one on the Temple Mount which sustained itself on cisterns and one on the southeastern hill which sustained itself by the Gihon. This is largely due to the fact that, in at least two periods-Iron IIa and the Persian period- there was known to be a temple on the temple mount by the textual evidence and a village at and as far as some 780 ft. south of Area G (slightly more northward and westward for Iron IIa) by the archaeological evidence. This archaeological evidence has also shown that the two Jerusalems- the one on the southeastern hill and the hypothetical one on the Temple Mount were not connected during those two periods. The Ophel, for instance, was bedrock until Iron IIB, and was not inhabited during the Persian period. The fact the Temple Mount is archaeological terra incognita until the 8th century BC, when it was converted into a square platform, only increases the possibility of speculation. Was the wall of Amaziah on the Temple Mount? A Middle Bronze fortress? An Iron I watchtower? A 12-acre tell revealing beneath it an MB city guarded by a moat (see Temple Mount) originating in the MB? Neither the Bible nor archaeology can tell us.

Topography (In Which I Prove What Everyone Already Knows)

But what does our main source, the Bible say about this matter? The City of David was the place several Judean kings, including David, were buried, on whose west side a pool was built by Hezekiah, and in which Pharaoh’s daughter stayed when Solomon was building his structures on the Temple Mount. Indeed, 1 Kings 9:24 explicitly states that the Palace of Solomon was located outside of the City of David, probably on the Temple Mount. 1 Kings 8:1 ff. also strongly implies the Temple was located outside of the City of David, as does 2 Samuel 24, which implies the area of the altar on the Temple Mount was reserved for a few scattered threshing floors, implying little settlement on the eastern side of the Temple Mount.

Now, since we know the Gihon to be the Virgin’s fount, due to the existence of Hezekiah’s tunnel and 2 Chron 33:14, which states Jerusalem was west of the Gihon, 2 Chron  32:30 shows well the City of David is to be identified with the southeastern hill, not the Temple Mount, as does 1 Kings 3:1’s conflation of the building projects of Solomon’s palace, which was outside the city of David, with the Temple, which we know to be at the top of the Temple Mount from Josephus (see Wars 5’s description of the Temple). Indeed, the theory the southeastern hill was the City of David is also supported by later writers, the author of 1 Maccabees. The decisive hit against the idea the Temple Mount is the City of David is that David’s Tomb (or any of the other Tombs of the Kings) would not be located in the Temple precinct.

Now, as I have shown the Southeastern hill to be identified with the City of David and the stronghold of Zion, and, consequently, what is biblically stated as the primary late Iron I settlement of the Jebusites, at least part of the proposed theory in the above-mentioned article is nullified. Archaeologically, the Middle Bronze settlement was also on the southeastern hill (a city-state divided into two walled areas separated by just over 1000 feet is logically absurd), as was probably the LB settlement. However, the part of the theory referring to the Persian period is certainly correct, and the proposal for Iron IIa is extremely attractive. This would propose Solomon and his successor kings tried as hard as they could to make the Temple Mount precinct a “new Jerusalem”, serving as a walled royal capital city entirely reliant on cisterns highly similar to Samaria (probably divided into four quarters, as Kenneth Kitchen suggested), building a Mizpah-like wall of Amaziah around the site in the late Iron IIa, leaving the unfortified Jebusite-populated Zion to benign neglect. It was only in the 8th century BC, in the days of Jotham (2 Chron 27:3), when the Temple Mount and the City of David finally joined together to establish a new, united, Zion.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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