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The Rich History of Moriah & Jerusalem

The Rich History of Moriah & Jerusalem

Jerusalem is mentioned six hundred forty-three times in Scripture, which is more than any other location. This does not even include the times it is called Zion, the City of David, or referenced indirectly. Babylon is second, occurring only two-hundred sixty-two times. Jerusalem is first mentioned in Genesis 14:18 when Melchizedek, the “King of Salem,” shows up in Scripture. “Salem” means “peace,” hence Jerusalem being “The City of Peace.” Second Corinthians 3:1 reveals Mount Moriah is in Jerusalem.

The Location of the Temple

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God told them He would choose a place for Himself:

You shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.

Deuteronomy 12:5; also 11, 14, 18, 21, and 26

The Canaanites controlled the Promised Land when Israel entered it. Since Jebusites inhabited Jerusalem, it was called “Jebus” (Joshua 10:1, 3, 5, 23):

“As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Israel could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.”

Joshua 15:63

The Jebusites remained in Jerusalem until David conquered it, drove out the Jebusites, and made it his capital. Second Samuel 5:6-7, 9 records:

[David] and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David).
Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward.

While David lived in the palace, he decided God should have His own “house”:

Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.”

2 Samuel 7:1-2

Although David’s desire was good, God told him his son, Solomon, would build the temple instead (2 Samuel 7:13):

Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of [Araunah] the Jebusite.

2 Chronicles 3:1

Jerusalem is on Mount Moriah.

Isaac and Jesus Were Sacrificed in Jerusalem (Moriah)

Genesis 22:1 says, “God tested Abraham,” and the test was to see whether Abraham would sacrifice his son. Abraham could pass this test anywhere, but God said:

“…and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Genesis 22:2

Consider the following:

  • God had Abraham travel fifty miles over three days from Beersheba to Jerusalem.
  • God showed Abraham the specific location to sacrifice Isaac.
  • The account serves as a picture of what God would later do with His Son.

More than likely the location God revealed to Abraham was Calvary or Golgotha. “Moriah” means, “chosen by Jehovah,” and God chose this location for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because two thousand years later He would sacrifice His Son on this same mountain:

The decision of God to establish his temple at Moriah in Jerusalem has affected all history; for this mountain became the focus of the Holy City, where His Son was crucified. And it will continue to affect history; for from this ‘city He loves,’ He will someday rule the nations of the earth.

Barker, Kenneth L. and John R. Kohlenberger III. Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Abridged Edition Old Testament. Zondervan, 2017.

The First Time the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) Appeared at Moriah (Jerusalem)

With this foundation in mind, we can look at some verses, and I confess I feel inadequate to do them justice:

But the Angel of the Lord called to (Abraham) from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
So he said, “Here I am.”
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Genesis 22:11-12

The Angel of the Lord is the preincarnate Jesus Christ, and the way He speaks sounds confusing. We would expect Him to say, “I know you fear God, since you did not withhold your son (from Him)” or “I know you fear (Me), since you have not withheld your son from Me.” The Angel refers to God while also identifying Himself as God. The Angel is God but also separate from God. This only makes sense when considering God exists as three distinct persons.

Jesus intervened at this moment to prevent Isaac’s sacrifice. He stopped Abraham a short distance from the location where He would be crucified two thousand years later in Jerusalem. Isaac lay on the altar when the voice of the person he prefigured called out from heaven. Abraham and Isaac heard from the individual who would later die for their sins, fulfilling what they were only prefiguring.

When the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham, this was the first time the pre-incarnate Christ appeared at this Moriah (Jerusalem).

The Second Time the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) Appeared at Moriah (Jerusalem)

The second instance took place one thousand years later when David numbered the people. In Exodus 30:12, God commanded, “When you take the census of the children of Israel… then every man shall give a ransom… to the Lord… that there may be no plague.” David numbered the people but did not give the ransom, and his actions brought a plague on the people:

So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell… And the Angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite… The Angel of the Lord commanded (David to) erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite… Then David said to Araunah, “Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the Lord, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.” … And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering.

1 Chronicles 21:14-16

After David offered his sacrifice, God “answered him from heaven by fire.” There are only three other instances of this happening in Scripture:

  • After the priests were consecrated for worship and ready to offer sacrifices, Leviticus 9:24 says, “Fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.”
  • When Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 7:1 says, “Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”
  • When Elijah was on Mt. Carmel facing hundreds of false prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 18:38 says, “Fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.”

In each situation, something dramatic took place—the priesthood was established, the temple was dedicated, and Baal worship was removed. What was so significant about David’s sacrifice that God would “answer from heaven by fire”? The timing and the location! Regarding the timing, David’s sacrifice coincided with the plague ceasing and the turning away of God’s wrath. After God answered from heaven by fire, 1 Chronicles 21:27 records, “So the Lord commanded the Angel, and He returned His sword to its sheath.”

Regarding the location, this is where the temple would be built:

“Solomon (built) the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father… on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

2 Chronicles 3:1

Wheat and chaff are separated on threshing floors, making them fitting pictures of judgment and an appropriate place for the temple. David’s sacrifice was the first of many at this location.

Araunah’s threshing floor was on Mount Moriah, which means this is also where God sent Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, first showed up at this location to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. One thousand years later, at this same location, God the Father stopped the plague that threatened Jerusalem and the Angel of the Lord sheathed His mighty sword in response to David’s repentant worship.

The Third Time the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) Appeared at Moriah (Jerusalem)

Finally, going forward another one thousand years, at this same location (Jerusalem), the Angel of the Lord stopped the true and greater plague that threatened all mankind when He was willing to hang on a cross. David did not pay the ransom, and his sin brought a plague that affected one group of people for one moment in time. Adam sinned, but it brought a plague that affects every person throughout history:

Sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.

Romans 5:12

On Moriah, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings following the plague in his day. What ransom is required to turn away the plague Adam brought on by his sin?

The Son of Man (gave) His life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

In Jerusalem, Jesus stopped the true and greater plague, and His sinless, perfect life was the required payment.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is Mount Moriah so significant?
  2. How is the plague Jesus stopped worse than the plague in David’s day?
  3. Why did God ask Abraham to take Isaac to Moriah to be sacrificed?

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