Thursday, November 01 2018
This is The Mount of Olives
On Day 10 our journey will take us to the Mount of Olives (“Olivet”), which is a portion of the Central Mountain Range. It consists of a small ridge of three summits that stretch approximately 2 miles long. This highest peak is just shy of 3,000 ft above sea level. The mountain is directly east of Jerusalem and adjacent to the Temple Mount. It has obviously been known throughout the centuries for its olive trees, which are hardy to the heavy limestone-laden surface. Due to the popularity of the burial sites that are close to the Temple compound, the mountain has largely been deforested. Most Zionistic millennial dispensations believe that Jesus will return to the Jerusalem Temple and reign for a thousand years. Thus, being buried adjacent to the Temple gives them an assumed advantage of “being there” when He returns. Many church buildings memorialize locations in the region, though the actual histories of events at the geographical points are held in question by many scholars.
The Mount of Olives is mentioned several times throughout the Scriptures in varying circumstances. David fled Jerusalem from his son, Absalom, who was leading a charge to overthrow him. Zechariah prophetically spoke of the mountain as where Yahweh would stand and cause enemies to run while His holy ones come forth. Debatable references also include the names, “The Mount of Offense,” “Mount of Corruption,” “Mount of Sandal,” and “Mount of Evil Counsel.” These names were used in terms of the idolatrous places of worship, including those that King Solomon built for his foreign wives. Another possible passage in Ezekiel speaks of where the Holy Spirit came to rest after departing from the Temple. Jewish tradition held that the Spirit tarried there for three and one-half years awaiting Israel’s repentance. Direct references to the mountain during the time of Christ are also present and several indirect references exist as well. Aside from the passion week, the home of Mary and Martha and the events surrounding their home occurred somewhere in proximity to Bethany, which is on the east side of the Mount of Olives. It is also probable that the raising of Lazarus, the cursing of the fig tree, the teaching of moving a mountain by faith when Christ sent His disciples to go into Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (probably on the west side of Olivet) and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus were all somewhere in proximity to the Mount of Olives.
According to the Talmud, the Jews practiced the burning of the red heifer (Numbers 19:1-10) at the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple East Gate. Another interesting tradition practiced the announcement of the new moon to the brethren in Babylonia via a series of fire signals. The Mishnah records that the chain (of signals) would be started at the Mount of Olives. Jewish tradition also held that the dove sent from the ark by Noah returned with an olive branch from the same mountain. More on the side of superstition, Jews held that brethren who died on distant shores would be brought back through a series of underground caverns and be resurrected at the Mount of Olives.
When approaching Jerusalem from Galilee, most Jews would travel east and turn south, thus entering the city from the Mount of Olives. This detour was solely to avoid touching Samaritan soil.
Many shrines have been built on the Mount of Olives over the centuries. While most of them declare specific events occurring at the locations, they are hardly verifiable. Muslims have also placed value on the area and teach that the final judgment will occur in the Kidron Valley, between the Mount of Olives and their Jerusalem shrine, The Dome of The Rock.