Josephus and the Temple Mount

Josephus states that the square Solomonic Temple Mount was four stades in circumference in Antiquities of the Jews. However, he also says six stades, including Fortress Antonia, in his earlier work, Wars of the Jews. A stade in Early Roman Palestine measured roughly 185 meters. Now, it is well known that the original, square Temple Mount was 500 Egyptian cubit-and-hands breadths, or 861.25 feet (262.51 meters), in both length and width beginning with the reign of Hezekiah and possibly even before. These borders were the same as the outer borders of the Court of Gentiles. According to Josephus in Wars, Herod doubled the size of the Temple courts. The present Temple Mount, however, measures 1540 meters, or just over 8 stades! How do we reconcile Josephus and archaeological fact? The closest we can get is assuming Josephus, knowing the sides of the square Temple Mount were roughly a stade in length, and that Herod roughly doubled the size of the Hasmonean Temple Mount, and knowing increasing the four stade circumference of a square to six stades would just over double the area of the square, attributed the area remaining to Fortress Antonia. Perhaps the six-stade estimate was corroborated by a rounded-up 1110 meter (six stade) estimate of the 1050 meter circumference of the Square Temple Mount which Josephus mistakenly ascribed to the Herodian Temple Mount.

Mountain of Fire Extinguished-A Critical Review

While I wasn’t looking, a new, 27 minute YouTube video with an extremely witty title popped up in the past month (June 25, 2011), finally helping to turn the tide around regarding the amount of YouTube videos for and against Jebel al-Lawz. It was not me who made it (a TaylorX04 did), for I do not have a YouTube account (I do as of Jan. 4, 2012), but it does use one statement clearly taken from AJaL and links to the work in the description box. Overall, it is excellent in some parts, but is so-so or neglects to mention pro-Lawz arguments in others (a sort of negative curate’s egg).

Firstly, as I show in AJaL, Eusebius does not “declare a mountain in the southern portion of the Sinai Peninsula to be Mount Sinai“, but is confused, somewhat like the planner of the Madaba Map-

As for Eusebius, who wrote the Onomasticon living in Caesarea Palestina while the Province of Arabia was being entirely removed from Arabia, in 293 AD (http://tinyurl.com/26856bg), long before 327 AD, when Helena established the chapel of the Burning Bush, he seems to suffer from conflation of sources, confusing a “Pharan” 3 days east of Aila (entry on “Pharan”) with the Pharan traditionally considered to be the site of Raphidim, having the “Monastery of the Hill of Moses”, 28°42’36.7″N, 33°37’55″E, on Jebel Tahuneh (entry on Raphidim). By this he ends up with a Midianite Sinai (entry on Choreb) with Rapadim “near Pharan”.

The first person to explicitly state a Jebel Musa/Ras Safsafeh tradition is Egeria, and the tradition was solidified by St. Helena in 327, after the writing of the Onomasticon in the 290s. Jerome, who translated Eusebius’s Onomasticon, also clearly implies a locale of Rephidim somewhere between Pharan and Ras Safsafeh.

Also, contra the video’s statement “This proposed [south Sinai] location has been rejected by many Christians and scholars, though, because of its faliure to fit the biblical portrait, among other reasons.”, I show clearly in the last section of AJaL that Jebel Musa/Ras Safsafeh perfectly fits the biblical portrait, and that those “many Christians” only reject the site because they think St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Wadi ed-Deir is thought to be the campsite of the Israelites, while that monastery is only a monument to the Burning Bush and the Virgin Mary! If one looks at the plain to the NW of Ras Safsafeh, that is, er-Raha, the traditional Sinai fits wonderfully (and, indeed, is the most impressive mountain in any part of the Sinai Peninsula).

It perfectly describes the context in the 2:30-6:00 minute area. However, it gets a little awry when describing the methodology one should use when searching for Sinai. Yes, one cannot use the Bible as a road map, but one must have an interpretation of the Bible as describing real localities in order to even try to analyze the Exodus itinerary. The video is also fuzzy on the sea crossing, since it is unclear whether TaylorX04 is referring to the Gulf of Suez crossing or the “Suez Canal area” crossing. The video gets it totally wrong on why scholars think the area of the Suez Canal area is supported by scholars. It is NOT because of any interpretation of the term “Sea of Reeds” as referring to the reedy lakes of the Suez Canal area, for the Gulf of Aqaba is mentioned as Yam Suph several times in the Bible. Lake Timsah was a seasonal lake until the canal-building, was NOT in the Gulf of Suez (what a laughable error!!) and was barely ever filled with water in Nisan. The statement “Further significance is that this site was connected to Pithom by a canal which was referred to as Migdol Baalzephon by one Ptolemaic-era text” is an awful mistake! While TaylorX04 does point out a certain Ptolemaic itinerary which lists a “Migdol Baalzephon”, it was a fortress, not a canal, and, due to its lateness, might not have any bearing whatsoever on the Exodus account, which was likely written half a millennium earlier. He must not have read any part of the very important section 6 of AJaL. I will quote it here for his benefit:

6. The only body of water the name “Yam Suph” is undeniably used for is the Gulf of Aqaba. Therefore, the crossing should be located at the Gulf of Aqaba.

Refutation: This is false, for Exodus 10:19 confirms that the whole Red Sea was meant by the term “Yam Suph”, for a wind coming from the Mediterranean and blowing all the locusts in both Upper and Lower Egypt toward the “Yam Suph” could not blow them all toward the Gulf of Aqaba. Out of the 24 mentions of “Yam Suph” in the Hebrew Bible, one (Exodus 10:19) refers to the whole Red Sea, another (Judges 11:16) probably refers to a confusion of the Sea of the Exodus with the Gulf of Aqaba,  eight, that is, one third, including Exodus 13:18, refer to the Gulf of Aqaba, two (Numbers 33:10-11) refer to the Gulf of Suez, and the other thirteen relate to the Sea of the Exodus. Exodus 15:22 confirms that the Sea of the Exodus was in the Isthmus of Suez, preferably, nearer to Shur than the Gulf. According to Exodus 13:17-22, the Israelites journeyed from Succoth/Tjeku, in the Wadi Tumilat, to Etham, which was at the edge of the wilderness, in order to attempt to use the Hajj route to get to Canaan. Since there is no Semitic etymology for “Etham”, the best etymology for this toponym is Egyptian “Isle of Atum”, Atum being the Egyptian primordial god. If this etymology is correct, the best fit for Etham would be the small “Ruines” on a peninsula in Lake Timsah in the Napoleonic maps, which are located around 30°32’45″N, 32°16’58″E. From there, the Israelites turned back (Exod 14:2), to camp facing(east of?) Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the Sea of the Exodus, facing(east of?) Baal-Zephon, opposite it, by the Sea of the Exodus. It was there, not at Etham, that Israel was “shut in by the wilderness”, not by the mountains (Ex 14:3). The only finger of water that is “back” from my suggested location from Etham whose west side has any trace of wilderness is Lake Ballah. Indeed, the Ballah Lake was, as shown by Hoffmeier, called by the Egyptians “pe twfy”, equivalent to the Hebrew “Yam Suph”, and described as a watery region filled with reeds, rushes, tamarisks, and fish. The Red Sea, meanwhile, was called by the Egyptians “the Great Green” or “the great sea of the inverted water”, the Bitter Lakes were called “the Great Black”. Lake Ballah/pe twfy‘s description fits well with the fact “Suph” means “Reeds”, and was introduced to Egypt by Semites in the 2nd intermediate period (Kitchen, Kenneth, OROT, pg. 262), and the fact the writer of the Exodus 14 account needed to provide a coherent geographic setting for any possible mythological “Sea of the End” (for “Suph” can also mean ending, extermination). Lake Ballah was, during the Roman period, deep enough to hold crocodiles and stone quays at Tell Abu Sefeh, which continues to preserve the name “pe twfy“. If the Migdol of Exodus is to be identified with Amarna “Magdalu” and Ramesseside “Migdol”, and “Pi-Hahiroth” is to be identified with Qantara, as suggested by the fact it is mentioned in all passages relating to the location of the crossing and since the canal next to it might have been called by the Egyptians “pe-hrw” (“h” is with a dot under it), Baal-Zephon must, if the “facing” in Num 33:7 is to be interpreted as “east of”, be located at the small “Ruines” near Qantara in the Napoleonic Maps, which were destroyed by the cutting of the Suez Canal. If, as is likely, the scenario I have presented above is correct, the record of the Exodus must have been written before the Saite period, when Migdol moved to Tell Kedua. There must have also been two Seas of Reeds- the Red Sea and Lake Ballah.

The Red Sea was likely named “Yam Suph”, as Colin Humphreys suggests, from the fact that reeds do grow at the clayey head of the gulf of Aqaba due to rainwater from Seir and Paran flowing under the sands of the Aravah to the head of the gulf. The naming may have served as a deliberate irony on the name of the original Yam Suph/pe twfy and on the greater degree of similarity between the new Sea of Reeds and the the description given in the late twelfth century Song of the Sea than the sea the Song originally referred to.

And, for the record, the Nile-Red Sea canal which TaylorX04 speaks of was, as I have shown in the above AJaL section, likely dug after the crossing account in Ex. 14 was written. It simply cannot be known whether the Ptolemaic itinerary Taylor X04 refers to has any bearing on this issue. A Migdol was always located on the E. side of the mouth of Pelusiac I, and moved from its southern tip (site T-78, 30°54’46″N, 32°27’3″E) to its northeastern during the Saite period (to Tell Kedua, 30°58’60″N, 32°28’31″E), to an intermediate location during the Persian period (Tell el-Herr, 30°58’2″N, 32°29’35″E), where it remained as “Magdolum” during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Baal Zephon was moved to the highest point of the land strip surrounding Lake Sirbonis perhaps during the Saite or Persian period, although there might have been other Baal-Zephons still existing. There was also a fish-carrying “waters of Baal” during the Ramesside era (Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in the Sinai, pg. 106). In any case, Taylor X04’s evidence for a Suez area crossing is misguided-he should have just pointed to Exodus 15:22!! Moving on.

Taylor X04’s discussion of Josephus is excellent and deserves praise. Also an excellent point is that the Egyptians would not have been “swept away” on such a shallow land bridge as Cornuke and Williams show.

The quotes and ideas Josephus might well have come from me, and the references to Herodotus and Strabo might have been influenced by me, although Taylor X04 does not betray any influence of my words in the first section of AJaL. In any case, the parts around the 12 minute mark are very educational to all those who know little about the borders of Arabia in classical times. Taylor X04 does not refer to Paul’s use of the word “sustochios”, which might refer to Jebel al-Lawz if Paul knew his latitudes and implied a double meaning, but there is no indication Paul had any less-than-obvious meanings here. The rebuttal of the Midian argument seems to have come from me, however, the “land” argument is not in any way an argument I would use in a debate, for it in no way contradicts the location of Sinai in Midian. The term “land” might denote only the tract of land Jethro owned. What seems to me decisive is Exodus 15:22 and the lack of a reference to passing through Edom to get to Sinai in the Exodus narratives (Deut 1:2 implies more than one way to get to Kadesh than through Mount Seir). The eleven days argument is entirely borrowed from Gordon Franz, and is rebutted by me toward the end of AJaL. I shall quote the relevant passage here:

The proof of a North Ballah crossing in my refutation of Pillar 6 still does not narrow the location of Mount Sinai down enough. Some will quote Deut 1:2 to attempt to put Mt. Sinai in the North Sinai. Deut 1:2 appears to be only a redactorial comment, advice for a traveler, such as Edward Robinson, who, traveling by camel, started from St. Catherine’s Monastery on March 29th, 1:00 PM, arrived at Aqaba on April 4th, 3:50 PM, left Aqaba on April 5th, 1:15 PM, and arrived at Wadi Abu Retemat, (Num 33:18, “Rithmah”, same as Kadesh-Barnea, the plain NW of Meribah, that is, ‘Ain Qudeis), on April 10th, 1:10 PM, taking a total of twelve days from Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea. The fact of Horeb encompassing a larger region than just Mount Sinai and the fact Robinson stayed 21 ½ hours at Aqaba fully account for the extra day. Also, Elijah journeyed for forty days and forty nights to go to Horeb, without a camel, from Beersheba (1 Kings 19:8). If he traveled by Way of Kadesh, and his rate of travel to Horeb was the same as the Israelites’, Elijah only traveled two miles per day, an utter absurdity. If he traveled any faster than a slow shepherd, he would easily reach Jebel Musa in 40 days, and Hashm el-Tarif, 137 miles from Beersheba, in 21 days. Any candidate for Biblical Mount Sinai must then be south of 29°20′N.

The passage from Hoffmeier appears to come straight from me, since TaylorX04 certainly has not read Hoffmeier’s book. His replacement of “that” to “which” in the brackets clearly shows this. The “15 miles” claim at the 15:15 mark could only have come from me:

A hot glory of God is also rendered unnecessary by the biblical narrative, for God’s fire fried not Moses nor the bush, and, even if this desert varnish was caused by heat, God barely missed the summit and accidentally burned the whole mountain country west of Jebel al-Lawz for 15 miles!

It is, in fact, a remarkably conservative estimate, since a better estimate would be at least 17-19 miles, and at most 24! I report, you decide:

Also, TaylorX04 does a far better job than either Hoffmeier, Franz, or me in showing the absurdity of the claim that the petroglyphs on the stone heap near Jebel al-Lawz are the remains of Aaron’s altar. The art comparisons are brilliant!!! I was not aware of the Caldwells’ claims of finding footprint tracings and connecting them with the Bible. Also, showing other split rocks with wind erosion and pointing out the Jeddah floods goes far above and beyond what any person has done regarding the Wyattists’/Cornukites’ claim so far.

Might the sign in Aaron Sen’s photograph have been from my link to it, too? That was added relatively late (May/June). The analysis of what Wyatt, Williams and Cornuke had to gain was brilliant, especially in showing the Cornuke team’s shift in emphasis away from treasure hunting.

Velikovsky and Amalek

While reading “Ages in Chaos”, I finally realized what got people into becoming Velikovskyans: the sheer ingeniousness of his theories. Velikovsky identifies el-Arish with Avaris, Avaris with 1 Sam 15’s “City of Amalek”, Apepi with Agog, and the one who destroyed Avaris with the Israelites. However, the only count on which he may be right is his idea of Sharuhen inspiring Manetho’s Jerusalem. In any case:

1. Avaris was not el-Arish, but Tell ed-Dab’a.
2. El Arish was almost certainly not the City of Amalek, which should be sought further east.
3. Havilah was not near the Euphrates(!!!), but in Arabia.

The Bible does not tell us where the City of Amalek was located, but, it seems from the mention of Telaim, the fact the region beyond the Besor was still in Amalekite hands (1 Sam 30), and the mention of Kenites, or Aravah copper-smiths, that the City of Amalek should be sought somewhere in a valley E. of Beersheeba. Perhaps it might be a Negev site such as Masos, Mahlata, or Nahas???

The Gates of OT Jerusalem

Before the mid-8th century, the only gates which are both mentioned and located are in Amaziah’s wall in the Temple Mount complex (which did not extend to the City of David, contra the image in the biblical account). According to this account, the distance from the Corner Gate to the Gate of Ephraim was about 580 feet. Since the Ephraim Gate was obviously in the north, so must be the Corner Gate. The corner gate was on the western corner of the Temple Mount, on the opposite side of the Tower of Hananel (Jeremiah 31:38-9), which was at the farthest part of Jerusalem northward. The Ephraim Gate must therefore have been that on the NE corner of the present Muslim platform of the Dome of the Rock. The Benjamin Gate was on the northeast corner of the Temple Mount, near the Tower of Hananel, probably to the west of the Golden (Sheep?) Gate. The Gate of the Guard was somewhere S. or E. of the Sheep Gate. The Old and Fish Gates (Nehemiah 12:39) were somewhere in between the Corner and Ephraim Gates. The Horse Gate was the gate at the SE corner of the Temple Mount (Jer 31:40, 2 Kings 11:16). The gates outside those of the Mount were built by Jotham (or Uzziah).

The east gates, the Fountain Gate and Water Gate, are pretty easy to figure out, the Water Gate being the gate leading to the Gihon somewhere on the southeastern Ophel or the narrow area between Ophel and the City of David, and the Fountain Gate being the SE gate of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:26, 12:37).

The Valley (Gai) Gate (Nehemiah 2:13) was on the southwest, bordering the Valley (Gai) of Ben-Hinnom, due to the fact if it led east it would be called the Brook (Nakhal) Gate. The Refuse (Dung) gate was roughly 1450 feet away from the Valley Gate toward the east (Neh 3:13), probably at the southernmost point of Jerusalem, the Dragon’s (Serpent’s) Spring probably being the Gihon, which had a dragon-related legend regarding its irregular flow in the 19th century, or, possibly, the En Rogel, or Bir ‘Ayyub, which is closer to the Refuse Gate. The potsherd gate was also at the entrance to the Hinnom (Jeremiah 19:2) and may be the same as the Refuse Gate. The Middle Gate was perhaps somewhere in the northern Broad Wall (see Jerusalem tab on this blog).

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.