By David Sielaff, February 2008
Read the accompanying Newsletter for February 2008
As I wrote previously, Psalm 30 has a direct relation to the Tomb of King David of Israel. 1 This article will show that relationship in light of 2 Samuel 7:18–29. Then I shall analyze Psalm 30 which is David’s answer to God’s sentence of death upon David, God’s beloved, by God making “the house of David” which is the Tomb of David.
Soon after David made the request to God to build a Temple (2 Samuel 7:1–3), and after God’s rejection of that request (2 Samuel 7:4–17), “Then went king David in, and sat before YHWH” (2 Samuel 7:18). David’s sitting “before YHWH” meant that he went to the tabernacle he had erected for the Ark of the Covenant that was placed in Zion, the City of David (2 Samuel 6:17, 7:2; and 2 Chronicles 5:2).
Although God refused permission for David to build the Temple, God gave him promises that were more glorious than David could imagine at the time. Much to his surprise God pronounced David’s death, but then God immediately made promises about David’s seed and David’s kingdom proceeding from that seed. But first God promised that He would “make” David a “house” 2:
“Also YHWH tells you that he [YHWH] will make you an house. And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers [after your death; then], I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.” 3
2 Samuel 7:11–12
The word “made” is the same very common Hebrew verb Moses used to describe that God “made” the firmament in Genesis 1:7, “made” the two great lights (sun and moon) in Genesis 1:16, “made” the animals in Genesis 1:25, and “made” man in Genesis 1:26. Therefore when YHWH says to David that “He will make you an house” this means that it was a creation specifically for David by YHWH Himself, similar to the way that God made portions of the physical creation. This bit of information also tells us that David’s “house” was a physical creation that likely did not exist until after God spoke those words to David through Nathan the prophet.
God in 2 Samuel 7:12–17 tells how one of David’s descendants will construct the Temple that David so greatly desired to build for God’s glory. At the time God spoke to David that descendant had not yet been born. David did not realize that fact when his death sentence was declared by God. David thought he was going to die soon after the pronouncement. David responded to God in 2 Samuel 7:18–29.
The entire incident of 2 Samuel chapter 7 took place at least three years before David committed adultery with Bathsheba. It was at least that long because David’s armies fought three wars and battles. Two of the wars were in northern Syria (at the Euphrates River near Iraq today), probably one war each year or longer. All this took place before David ever saw Bathsheba.
These three wars took place after God’s announcement of death to David. The accounts of these wars are in 2 Samuel 8:1–18 (with a parallel account in 1 Chronicles 18:1–17). Then came the siege and capture of the city of Rabbah (2 Samuel 11:1, 12:26–31; 1 Chronicles 20:1–3). It was during that siege that David’s adultery with Bathsheba took place. Then came the subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband, the birth of David and Bathsheba’s first child (after 9 months), and the death of their firstborn child:
“But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again?I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:23
Solomon’s conception and gestation took another 9 months. 4 All of these events took placebefore Solomon, the promised seed of David, was born (1 Chronicles 28:5–6). This encompasses a time period at least 3 years and more likely 5 years, from the time of God’s rejection of David’s request to build the Temple (and pronouncement of David’s death) to the birth of Solomon. Solomon became king at an unknown age, but apparently he was anywhere between 16 to 20 years old when David died and Solomon succeeded to the throne. 5
David reigned 7½ years in Hebron, 33 years in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:5, 2 Kings 2:10–11; 1 Chronicles 3:4, 29:27). David died some 20 to 25 years later at age 70 (2 Samuel 5:4–5)after the sentence of death was given in 2 Samuel 7:11. This means that, of course, God knew David would not die until decades after David was given a death sentence in 2 Samuel 7:11, but David did not know that fact. He had been given a death sentence from God Himself without a timetable for when that would occur. However, David probably realized that the only other person to have their death pronounced by God, Moses, died soon afterwards (Deuteronomy 31:14–16, 34: 5–7).
Now look at another portion of 2 Samuel chapter 7 that I have not dealt with before. After God’s shocking pronouncement of death, God tells David about the future after his death. One of David’s descendants will be chosen by God to build the Temple. His seed and David’s kingdom will continue.
2 Samuel 7:18–29
The only subject of 2 Samuel 7:18–29 is “the house of David” and what it means to David. Everything else in that passage revolves around the central focus of the house of David. The death pronouncement by God upon David (from 2 Samuel 7:11–12) is stated back to God by David in 2 Samuel 7:11–12. 6 Notice how David goes and boldly confronts YHWH who has just pronounced a death sentence upon him:
18 “Then went king David in, and sat before YHWH, and he said, ‘Who
am I, O Lord YHWH? and what is my house [the house of David,
David’s tomb], that you have brought me hitherto [so far]?
19 And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord YHWH; but
you have spoken also of your servant’s house [the house of David]
for a great while to come. 7 And is this the manner [torah, law]
of man, O Lord YHWH?
20 And what can David say more unto you? for you, Lord YHWH, know
21 For your word’s sake, and according to your own heart, have you
done all these great things, to make your servant know them.
22 Wherefore you are great, O YHWH Elohim: for there is none like you,
neither is there any Elohim beside you, according to all that we have
heard with our ears.
23 And what one nation in the earth is like your people, even like Israel,
whom Elohim went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make
him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for your land,
before your people, which you redeemed to yourself from Egypt, from
the nations and their elohim?
24 For you have confirmed to yourself your people Israel to be a people
unto you for ever [for the eon]: and you, YHWH, are become their
25 And now, O YHWH Elohim, the word that you have spoken concerning
your servant, and concerning his house [the house of David], establish
it for ever [olam, for the eon], and do as you have said.
26 And let your name be magnified for ever [for the eon], saying, The
YHWH of hosts is the Elohim over Israel: and let the house of your
servant David be established before you.
27 For you, O YHWH of hosts, Elohim of Israel, have revealed [lit. “opened
the ear”] to your servant, saying, I will build you an house [the house of
David]: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this
prayer unto you:
28 And now, O Lord YHWH, you are that Elohim, and your words be true,
and you have promised this goodness unto your servant:
29 Therefore now let it please you to bless the house of your servant
[the house of David], that it may continue for ever [for the eon] before
you: for you, O Lord YHWH, have spoken it: and with your blessing let
the house of your servant [i.e., the house of David] be blessed for
ever [olam, for the eon].’”
2 Samuel 7:18–29
The Hebrew term “house” occurs 7 times in this passage, each time referring to “the house of David.” And this is considering that David spends most of this passage rehearsing what God has done in the past for Israel, and for himself up to and including his kingship. David speaks to YHWH regarding his own actions:
● David asks YHWH several rhetorical questions that David answers for
(1) “Who am I, O Lord YHWH? and what is my house, that
you have brought me hitherto? David is wondering if God
brought him to the height of power over Israel just to kill
him, and place him in the “house” or tomb.
(2) “is this the manner [torah, law] of man, O Lord YHWH?”
David is wondering, is this how things work? You raise me
up and then kill me? Yet, David submits to what God has in
store for him.
(3) “what can David say more unto you?” David is unable to
understand or question more. God knows him well, and
David acknowledges this fact.
● In verses 25–27 David declares five things for God to do:
(1) “the word that you have spoken concerning your servant,
and concerning his house [the house of David], establish it
for ever [olam, for the eon], …”
(2) “do as you have said”
(3) “let your name be magnified for ever [for the eon]”
(4) “let the house of your servant David be established
(5) “therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this
prayer unto you.”
● In verse 29 David asks two things of God, after noting that God
“promised this goodness unto your servant”:
(1) “let it please you to bless the house of your servant
[the house of David]”
(2) “with your blessing let the house of your servant be
blessed for ever [for the eon].”
This submission of David to God’s should be an example to us all. David has very little information available to him other than God’s pronouncement. He resolves not to question God any longer. We should all take notice of what David has said and done. He is not pleased with what God has told him, he is confused, but David will submit to whatever God wants of him.
David’s resolve is shown in the five actions he takes. He submits to God’s word and desires God’s word to be established even though it appears to mean his own death. He wants God do as His word has said. David desires God to be magnified and glorified by what He will do by accomplishing His words. He acknowledges that David’s “house” or tomb will be“established” before God, which we have noted elsewhere means it will be near to God. David implies he sees all this as good.
Finally, David says that his prayer is from his heart. He asks God’s blessing on the “house” and that the blessing be for the eon. Why? Because God has said it to be so, and if God says it, it shall be so for the entire time God says it shall be for.
As a subordinate ruler (for David is after all a king appointed and anointed by God), David speaks to his superior with proper respect. That being said, David is saying, God, you have made a promise, now make it so, make it happen. This is exactly how someone used to command would speak to a superior.
Second Samuel 7:18–29 shows that David came to accept that “the house of David” was made by God to be his tomb, located in the city of David (1 Kings 2:10). After God “made” (2 Samuel 7:11) and “built” (2 Samuel 7:27, 1 Chronicles 17:10, 25) the house, David finished the inside of the house/tomb with furniture and other items. Josephus tells us that such items were in the tomb, and some of them were removed by King Herod:
“As for any money, he found none, as Hyrcanus had done, but thatfurniture of gold, and those precious goods that were laid up there; all which he took away.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 16:181
This is typical in ancient times for tombs of major kings, and David was one of ancient history’s greatest kings, both in deeds as well as wealth (2 Samuel 7:9). Just one example suffices to show the “finishing” of an ancient king’s tomb. That would be King Tut’s tomb, which was richly adorned with art on every wall and ceiling, with implements, including furniture filling the several rooms. Every great king of ancient times decorated their tomb, and similar things are likely inside King David’s tomb, the house of David.
Remember that David was not allowed to build a Temple to God. But he was allowed to gather every–thing necessary for the future construction by David’s successor (2 Chronicles 22:2–4). David also spent considerable time and effort finishing out his tomb, and by accounts in Josephus, storing gold and silver in his tomb (see note 1 above).
Psalm 30 is a short psalm that has a most interesting title attached to it. The title specifically mentions the “house of David.” The theme throughout the twelve verses of Psalm 30 is death. The psalm tells of David’s rescue from God’s anger and an unknown illness that would have led directly to David’s death. God’s reprieve from death gave David an extension of life, just as King Hezekiah was given 15 years extra life during the time of Isaiah the prophet (2 Kings 20:6 and Isaiah 38:5). David eventually died, of course, 8 but David’s extension of life did occur, and it too was to God’s glory. The house of David, the tomb of David is also specified to be to God’s glory.
Below I quote Psalm 30 in full from the King James Version. When using the KJV (which I use most often) I insert YHWH and Elohim where the Hebrew has them. I do this for clarity and to reduce ambiguity. It is always important to know and understand when YHWH or Elohim are used. They do not mean the same thing. YHWH is God the Father’s personal name. Elohim is the generic title for God. Unfortunately the KJV usage diminishes that understanding as do most all translations. Also, I change “thee-s,” “thou-s,” and “shalt-s” to you, you, and shall, etc.
In Psalm 30 the name of God, YHWH, is used 10 times while Elohim is used twice. This means that David is directly addressing YHWH by name in song. I have set out the Psalm into a poetic structure. No one really knows what the true structure might be, so there is no right or wrong to doing this. Create your own structure if it helps your understanding.
The first line of the title sets the stage for understanding the entire psalm:
1 “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.
I will extol you, O YHWH; for you have lifted me up, and
have not made [let] my foes to rejoice over me.
2 O YHWH my Elohim, I cried unto you, and you have healed me.
3 O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from the grave [sheol]:
you have kept me alive, that I should not go down [descend]
to the pit [crypt].
4 Sing unto YHWH, O you saints of his, and
give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
6 And in my prosperity I said, I shall never [not olam, not for the eon]
7 YHWH, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong:
you did hide your face, and I was troubled.
8 I cried to you, O YHWH; and unto YHWH 9 I made supplication.
9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit [grave]?
Shall the dust praise you?
shall it declare your truth?
10 Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy upon me:
YHWH, be you my helper.
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing:
you have put off my sackcloth, and
[you have] girded me with gladness [joy];
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent.
O YHWH my Elohim, I will give thanks unto you for ever [olam, for
To the chief Musician 10
• Psalm 30:1–12 & 31:1
The first thing I want to point out is that there are no direct quotations of Psalm 30 anywhere else in the Bible. There are allusions, however, and we shall look at several of them as we analyze this short psalm.
Psalm 30 is attributed to have been authored by King David himself as it says in the title of verse 1, and it is included with the Psalms from 1–72 inclusive. Psalm 72:20 makes David’s authorship explicit: “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” meaning that all those psalms are from David. More importantly it has an intriguing title phrase, “at the dedication of the house of David,” about which scholars show confusion. Their confusion exists because that title topic does not seem to relate to the subject of the psalm itself.
Analyses of Psalm 30
Psalm 30 relates King David’s thoughts commemorating an event, a ceremony. That event was the dedication of the house of David. That house was the tomb that God had made for David, which David had properly finished and prepared for the body of God’s anointed King of Israel.
In the psalm David looks back to his past. Psalm 30 describes his thoughts when God announced his death, his thoughts of his subsequent healing, his relief when he realized he was not going to soon die, and his joy that God was delaying his death sentence. Here is one commentator’s brief analysis of Psalm 30:
“Psalm 30 Overconfident … overwhelmed … overjoyed. In a time of prosperity, David had become overconfident (30:6). When illness came, he was overwhelmed (30:1–5, 7–10). Then came the healing, and his mourning turned to joy.”
Wilmington’s Bible Handbook 11
All the emotions of Psalm 30 take place within the context of God’s revelation about the house of David which was to be his sepulcher. Note again the alliteration in another analysis of Psalm 30 by the same author, H.L. Willmington 12:
I. David’s Triumphs (30:1–3): David praises God for victory over
A. Danger (30:1): David’s enemies did not triumph over
B. Disease (30:2): God restored David’s health.
C. Death (30:3): The Lord kept David from being killed.
II. David’s Troubles (30:6–10): David recounts when he was
overwhelmed and cried out to God.
III. David’s Testimony (30:4–5, 11–12): David praises God for
rescuing him once again, turning his mourning into joy.
These two analyses are typical of the content of Psalm 30, but neither they, nor do any other scholars connect the title with the content of Psalm 30. It is a total mystery to them.
The Placement of Psalm 30
Most all psalms in the Bible are contained within the Book of Psalms. The psalms in the Book of Psalms are organized into a five-fold structure. This structure corresponds to the 1st five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, and to the structure of the 5 books of the Megilloth, the wisdom books of the Bible. Book 1 is made up of Psalms 1 through 41. Psalm 30 is within this “Book 1” of the Psalms which relates to Genesis.
[ To refresh your memory regarding the placement of the entire Book of Psalms within the Old Testament and within the entire Bible, see Dr. Martin’s article “Appendix One: Preliminary Suggestions for the Structure of Psalms” athttp://askelm.com/restoring/res040.htm. Dr. Martin notes:
“Book 1 of the Psalms corresponds to the Song of Songs which was sung at the Passover season. The whole of the 41 psalms (1 plus 40) relate to this theme.”
This is indeed true for Psalm 30. To see visually how the Book of Psalms fits within the structure of the Bible, look at the schematic athttp://www.askelm.com/restoring/res000a.gif, from Dr. Martin’s book Restoring the Original Bible. ]
According to Dr. Bullinger, Book 1 of Psalms concerned man: man’s blessings, man’s rebellion, man’s prayer, the man of the earth, the anointed man (Jesus Christ), and the life of man. He groups Psalms 30, 31, 32, and 33 together as a series of psalms of praise. 13This appears to be the case.
The Occasion of Psalm 30
Most commentators agree with Matthew Henry’s Commentary regarding a label for Psalm 30. It is considered a psalm of thanksgiving. However, there are varying ideas regarding the occasion being celebrated. One thought is that the Psalm celebrated the dedication of King David’s house of cedar, his palace, built with the help of David’s friend Hiram King of Tyre (2 Samuel 5:11, 7:2; 1 Chronicles 14:1, 17:1; and 2 Chronicles 2:3). Matthew Henry’s Commentary notes the problem as it tries to describe the purpose of the psalm:
“This is a psalm of thanksgiving for the great deliverances which God had wrought for David, penned upon occasion of the dedicating of his house of cedar, and sung in that pious solemnity, though there is not any thing in it that has particular reference to that occasion.”
“Psalm 30,” Commentary on the Bible 14
It was Israelite tradition to dedicate a house to YHWH although there is no command from God to do so. This tradition is first mentioned in Deuteronomy. When military commanders were required to muster men into the army to fight against Israel’s enemies, there were also provisions to exclude men from military service because of certain unique circumstances. 15 One circumstance for a temporary exemption from military service was that of a man who recently built and dedicated a house:
“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, ‘What man is there that has built a new house, and has not dedicated it? let him go and return.’”
Other scholars are unclear as to what was the occasion that prompted David to write Psalm 30, even though that occasion is clearly stated in the title. This is for two reasons. First, the title seems to have little relationship to the rest of the psalm. Second, no one seems to know what the title itself refers to:
“The superscription [meaning the title in verse 1] indicates that the psalm was composed for [a] the ‘dedication of the temple,’ [b] a reference to either David’s palace (2 Samuel 5:11) or perhaps [c] the house of Obed-Edom, where the ark of the covenant remained for three months before being brought up to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:10–11). Some scholars suggest that [d] this refers to the dedication of the temple site after the outbreak of pestilence (2 Samuel 24:15–25). God delivered David from near death, for the pit was the grave, the place of the dead (Psalm 30:31). Some scholars hold that 30:6–7 refers to David’s pride, which led him to number the people (2 Samuel 24:1–14).”
Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary 16
What confusion. Scholars have no idea what Psalm 30 is all about. Yet the meaning is plain. This Psalm was written for the dedication of the house of David, the tomb of David, and not for a dedication of the Temple, David’s palace, the tent for the Ark of the Covenant, or for the future site of the temple (which was the house of God, not the house of David). In fact, the title exactly describes the subject matter of Psalm 30 if we correctly understand the meaning of the phrase “house of David.”
Was the occasion of Psalm 30 to celebrate the Ark of the Covenant being placed within the tabernacle David had made for it? This cannot be the case. That structure was not a house, but a tabernacle, a tent. The distinction between a house and a tent is emphasized by God Himself in 2 Samuel 7:2–7. 17 Furthermore, the event of the placement of the Tabernacle has its own celebration, the thanksgiving psalm in 1 Chronicles 16:4–37. 18
Was David’s palace the subject of Psalm 30’s title? Even though the palace was indeed a “house,” and David’s house to be sure (and houses were traditionally dedicated according to Deuteronomy 20:5), the entire subject matter of Psalm 30 itself is not about happiness, rejoicing, and celebration. It is about David being given a postponement of a death sentence and why death at that time would have reduced God’s glory. It is indeed a thanksgiving psalm, but escape from death is what David is giving thanks about. In other words the psalm is not an expression of celebration, but an expression of relief.
Professor Franz Delitzsch even wondered:
“There is nothing in the Psalm to point to the consecration of any holy place, whether the mount of Moriah or the tent-temple (2 Samuel 6:17). We might rather refer it to the re-consecration of the palace on David’s return after it had been polluted by Absalom; but the Psalm speaks of an imminent peril from which he had been graciously delivered, not by the removal of bloodthirsty enemies, but by recovery from a deadly sickness.”
Delitzsch, Commentary on Psalms 19
Was the subject of Psalm 30 the re-dedication of David’s house, his palace, after the rebellion of Absalom? Matthew Henry’s Commentary remarks:
“Some conjecture that this psalm was sung at the re-dedication of David’s house, after he had been driven out of it by Absalom, who had defiled it with his incest, and that it is a thanksgiving for the crushing of that dangerous rebellion.”
“Psalm 30,” Commentary on the Bible
This idea also has problems. First, nothing in the psalm links Absalom’s incest with David’s concubines (2 Samuel 15:16, 16:20–22). Second, there is no reference in the psalm to Absalom’s rebellion, or any other rebellion. Finally, this act by Absalom did not defile the house, but it defiled David’s concubines who were put away from him (2 Samuel 20:3) to the day he died.
Scholars refute (with strength) each others’ arguments about subject of Psalm 30:
“… that the Psalm was originally composed by David either (1) at the dedication, not of the Temple, but at the site of the Temple at the threshing-floor of Ornan, after the pestilence described in 1 Chronicles 21:28, or (2) at the dedication of his own palace in Zion, see 2 Samuel 5:11. There is serious objection to both these explanations.
The first was not properly speaking, the dedication of a house, though in 1 Chronicles 11:1, David is reported to have said, ‘This is the house and the altar’; and in the second case, David’s palace was not properly speaking ‘dedicated,’ a word being employed which is not suitable either for a private house or a royal palace. …
What ‘house,’ then, is intended?”
Davison, The Psalms, p. 151 20
What house indeed? The Temple, the house of God, the house of the name, 21 was built by David’s son, Solomon. David was not allowed to construct it although he made all possible preparations (1 Chronicles 22:1–5). Some think that the illness of King David (“you have healed me,” Psalm 30:2) related to God’s judgment over David’s census of Israel. But Delitzsch notes that David did not suffer from the pestilence which was a punishment against the nation for David’s numbering of the people (2 Samuel 24:17). 22
The Structure of Psalm 30
There are interesting repetitions of words in this psalm which reveal its parallel internal structure. One such outline structure is as follows. Refer to Psalm 30 above as you look at this structure proposed by David Dorsey 23:
a promise to praise: because you “have not let my foes to rejoice
[samach] over me” (30:1)
b report of appeal to God and rescue from the pit (30:2–3)
• “I cried to you … you brought up my soul from Sheol … from
among those gone down [yarad] to the pit”
c statement of YHWH’s favor [b-ratson]; “Sing unto YHWH” (30:4–5)
d CENTER: expression of confidence (30:6)
c′ statement of YHWH’s favor [b-ratson] (30:7)
b′ report of appeal to God and plea to rescue from the pit (30:8–10)
• “I cried to you … ‘what profit is there … if I go down [yarad]
to the pit?’”
a′ promise to praise: because YHWH has “clothed me with joy
[samach]”; “sing praise to [YHWH]” (30:11–12).
Verse 1: The Title of Psalm 30
Not all psalms have titles, Psalm 30 has one, and as we noted, it is most significant: “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.” In Hebrew the title of Psalm 30 is (along with Psalms 65, 67, 68, 75, 76, 87, and 92) “a psalm, a song,” mizmor shir,which indicates a class of psalm according to the Hebrew system. Mismor means a meditation and it is the ordinary word for psalm. Mizmor shir means that this psalm was designed to be sung by an individual or a chorus. It was composed as a musical composition with a beginning, middle, and an end.
Most psalms are categorized into different classes by scholars. The title of Psalm 30 is one of 13 Psalms that have an historical heading giving a time and place setting. All the historical psalms are by David. These are not biblical classifications, but they are often useful. As mentioned earlier, Psalm 30 is also considered a thanksgiving psalm, and on that all scholars agree. Psalm 30 celebrates God’s deliverance of David from an illness and approaching death. Other thanksgiving psalms are Psalms 21, 32, 34, 40, and 66.
The one understanding not thought of by commentaries and scholars is that Psalm 30 is a psalm and song of thanksgiving celebrating the very occasion its title states: “the dedication of the house of David.”
The importance of the title in Psalm 30 is that the body of the psalm relates directly to the title. In other words, the title identifies what the psalm is about. Scholars are unwilling to accept the Psalm 30 title as it stands because they see no connection between the title and the text. This is because they do not understand the meaning of the phrase “the house of David.”
The Word “Dedication”
The word “dedication” in the title of verse 1 is the singular construct of the Hebrew noun “chanukkah.” This is the same word for the non-biblical but honored Jewish holiday called today Hanukkah. This Jewish holiday was called the Feast of Dedication (or the “feast of chanukkah”) in John 10:22. 24
The primary English definition of “dedicate” and “dedication” is, according to my handyAmerican Heritage computer dictionary: “To set apart for a deity or for religious purposes; consecrate.” This is the meaning in Hebrew also, so the King James translation is quite correct. King David is setting apart and consecrating “the house of David” in Psalm 30 so that God’s name can be magnified in the world, just as it says in 2 Samuel 7:26 for “the house of your servant David.” He is consecrating it in Psalm 30 to please and magnify God. “The house of David” in Psalm 30:1 is that same house that God built for David:
“Also YHWH tells you that he [YHWH] will make you an house. And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers [after your death], I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom [the kingdom of David’s seed].”
2 Samuel 7:11–12
The word “dedicate” or “dedication” occurs in the Hebrew in several instances besides Psalm 30:1. The Aramaic form of the same noun occurs two times in Ezra 6:16–17 and two times in Daniel 3:2–3. In each case it refers to a physical thing dedicated to God. In the Bible dedications were usually of a physical place or structure:
- a house (as mentioned above, Deuteronomy 20:5),
- the sanctuary (Numbers 7:9–10),
- the Temple (1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 7:5; Ezra 6:16–17),
- an altar (Numbers 7:84, 88; 2 Chronicles 7:9),
- a wall (Nehemiah 12:27).
The exceptions are Genesis 14:14 when the people in Abraham’s household were dedicated to God and in Daniel 3:2–3 when a pagan idolatrous image of King Nebuchadnezzar was dedicated. The place of the image does not seem to be important to the dedication.
The title of Psalm 30:1 tells about the dedication of a physical place, a house, just as in Deuteronomy 20:5. The common Hebrew term for house, beyt, is used: “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.” All the terms in the title are clear, unambiguous, and not disputed. Yet the title remains a problem for scholars. That problem will remain until the tomb of David is discovered or revealed.
Let us examine Psalm 30 in greater detail.
Verse 1: Exalting God
David often exalted and praised God as we see throughout 2 Samuel chapter 7 and 1 Chronicles chapter 17, acknowledging God’s protection throughout his life:
“I will extol you, O YHWH; for you have lifted me up, and have not made[let] my foes to rejoice over me.”
David’s foes were prepared to rejoice over him if he failed and died from a deadly disease. David often praised God for protecting him.
“Be you exalted, YHWH, in your own strength: so will we sing and praise your power.”
“O magnify YHWH with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought YHWH, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
“David’s Psalm of praise. I will extol [exalt] you, my Elohim, O king; and I will bless your name for ever and ever [olam va ad, for the eon and beyond].
King Nebuchednezzar of Babylon exalted and honored God as the king of heaven with phrasing similar to that of David. This occurred when God brought Nebuchednezzar, king of Babylon, the head of gold (Daniel 2:38), and ruler of the world system at that time, back to sanity (Daniel 4:34–37). Nebuchednezzar publicly acknowledged his subjection, his subservience to God, and announced to the world God’s sovereignty over his person. King David’s exalting God in verse 1 corresponds with and parallels David’s later praise of God in verse 12.
Verses 2–3: Cry and Healing
David cried out to God. He was near death, so close to death that David felt that his soul was at the edge of the grave, close to going down into the pit of dead bodies. God kept David alive, rescued, and healed him:
“O YHWH my Elohim, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from the grave [sheol]: you have kept me alive, that I should not go down [descend] to the pit [bowr, crypt].”
The Hebrew word “healed” means from a illness, not from some malady of the soul or a lapse of morals, but healed from a physical problem or illness that threatened death. While David suffered many afflictions in his lifetime (Psalm 132:1), these were not illnesses but rather they were humiliations and physical dangers such as combat or “close calls” that threatened David’s life. In Psalm 30:1, however, the word “healed” does mean healing from an illness that brought David close to death. There are other instances where David had close calls and been rescued by God:
“A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for YHWH; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit [bowr,crypt], out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”
Psalm 41 is also a Davidic psalm, without an historical title. This psalm seems to deal with similar circumstances reminiscent of Psalm 30:1–2 both, with foes that want David’s illness to lead to death:
“YHWH will protect him and keep him alive, And he shall be called blessed upon the earth; And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies. YHWH will sustain him upon his sickbed; In his illness, You restore him to health. As for me, I said, ‘O YHWH, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.’ My enemies speak evil against me, “When will he die, and his name perish?’”
Psalm 41:2–5, New American Standard
Some have thought that David’s illness and healing were related to the episode of David’s numbering of Israel (2 Samuel 24:1–17; 1 Chronicles 21:24–22:1). However, there is no record of David ever being sick or near death because of that situation, only the people of David’s kingdom suffered and died. Therefore there is no reason to believe that Psalm 30 has reference to the numbering of Israel incident. Furthermore, David’s numbering of Israel occurred very late in David’s reign, shortly before his death.
King David accepted life as it came from God, good and bad. He lived what Job talks about, just as David describes in Psalm 30:3:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he makes sore, and binds up: he wounds, and his hands make whole [he heals].”
Verses 4–5: God’s Anger, God’s Favor
“Sing unto YHWH, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Anger and weeping are contrasted with life and joy by David. At present many of us endure silent weeping because of our physical, everyday life, but it will be, comparatively, “for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy in the morning is frequently referred to in the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 90:14 and 143:8. 25 That morning for us will be our resurrection from the dead. It will come for King David also, who is presently in his tomb.
In the meantime we should recognize that in God’s favor is life (verse 5) when He so chooses, and we must accept His decision is when He chooses otherwise. When it is given, God’s favor is like a shield covering us (Psalm 5:12). God’s favor provides mercy (Isaiah 60:10), preservation (Psalm 86:2, Hebrew), and security (Psalm 41:11), and assures that our prayers are answered if they are in God’s will Psalm106:4. 26 Such popular concepts that “hope springs eternal” and that things will be better with “the dawn of a new day come” all come from Psalm 30:5.
Verse 6–7: When God Removes Prosperity
David’s unbroken successes due to his being lifted up and rescued by God made him somewhat haughty. He was on top of the world and would stay that way because God was with him. David took that for granted, as did Moses (Numbers 20:10–12). Both of them missed out on what they greatly desired.
“And in my prosperity I said, I shall never [not olam, not for the eon] be moved. YHWH, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong: you did hide your face, and I was troubled
God’s death sentence woke David up. Certainly he expected to die some day, but God surprised him with the pronouncement of a death much sooner than he expected. GodHimself told David he would die, and at the moment of the peak of his success. He expected that once God put him in power and gave him rest from all his enemies (2 Samuel 7:1), that he would have a long reign. David knew that God made him great, but he forgot that God can diminish him and keep him humble.
Verses 8–10: David Cries Out to God
“I cried to you, O YHWH; and unto YHWH I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit [shachath, grave]? Shall the dust praise you? shall it declare your truth? Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy upon me: YHWH, be you my helper.”
Knowing he was wrong David appeals to God on the basis that nothing that God wants done can come from those who are dead. The dead know nothing. They cannot praise. They cannot speak truth.
“He made a pit [bowr, crypt], and dug it, and is fallen into the ditch[shachath, grave] which he made.”
Verses 11–12: Turning and End
David was rescued by God from death and his internment in the “house of David” was delayed. At the end of his life David once again is joyful for his gifts from God, gifts that were undeserved, yet welcomed.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. To the end that my glory maysing praise to you, and not be silent. O YHWH my Elohim, I will give thanks unto you for ever [olam, for the eon].”
Putting on sackcloth is not only associated with mourning (Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31), but also with repentance in crisis (see Nehemiah 9:1; Jeremiah 6:26; Jonah 3:5–9; and particularly Matthew 11:21). The reason for putting on sackcloth for repentance was to mourn and lament one’s own anticipated death. 27 Death was exactly what David anticipated in 2 Samuel 7:11–12 (paralleled in 1 Chronicles 17:10–11). God performs the action of putting off the sackcloth and putting on the girdle of gladness.
Comparison with Hezekiah
Compare the lament of King David in Psalm 30 with the lament and supplication to God by King Hezekiah some 250 years later. Hezekiah making his request to God seems almost to paraphrase David’s lament of Psalm 30. Note the terms sheol, soul, grave, crypt, praise, truth, corruption, life/live and their cognates used by both:
Psalm 30:2–3, 9–10 (King David)
Isaiah 38:16–19 (King Hezekiah)
“O YHWH my Elohim, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from the grave[sheol]: you have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit [crypt].
… What profit is there in my blood,when I go down to the pit [grave]? Shall the dust praise you? shall it declare your truth? Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy upon me: YHWH, be you my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent.”
“O YHWH, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so will you recover me, and make me to live. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but you have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit [grave] of corruption: for you have cast all my sins behind your back. For the grave [sheol]cannot praise you, death can not celebrate you: they that go down into the pit [crypt] cannot hope for your truth. The living, the living, he shallpraise you, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known your truth.”
The title and subject of Psalm 30 may seem strange to set to music, but that is what David did. Singing and rejoicing about God’s rescue from illness, death, while dedicating a tomb seems contradictory. Putting together 2 Samuel chapter 7 with Psalm 30, we can know David’s thoughts about this crisis, and we can understand how David accepts what God has proposed for him, both the good and bad.
He accepts, of course, God’s blessings (as we all do), but he also accepts God’s pronouncement of death and His preparation of his tomb, “the house of David,” which was a constant shadow over David. That house, that tomb, was to be — and is today — established for the eon. It shall accomplish its purpose to magnify God’s name for the eon (2 Samuel 7:26), so that God will be praised and His truth proclaimed (Psalm 30:9). Without realizing the implications of his request, David prays for God to bless “the house of David” so that the house would indeed be blessed and established for the eon (2 Samuel 7:29).
“So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
It seems arrogant for David to “accept” what God has already decreed. However, this is the way of kings. David knew that God is approachable if one’s attitude and heart is correct. With lapses, David was such a man after God’s own heart (1 Kings 15:3, 5; Acts 7:46, 13:22). As children of God, we can do the same, coming boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
Psalm 30 celebrates the dedication of “the house of David,” his tomb, which YHWH made for David “before” God Himself (2 Samuel 7:11). This means that the house of David has a close proximity to God’s presence, the Temple. God established that “house” (2 Samuel 7:25–26) and David decorated, and furnished the interior. Psalm 30 celebrates its dedication after the house was completed, some time before David died.
At the end of Psalm 30 (like the 2 Samuel 7:18–29 and 1 Chronicles 17:16–27 passages), David resolves within himself to accept totally what God brings to his life — good or bad. God heals him (Psalm 30:2) and David continues being God’s servant, making other mistakes to be sure, but he is still God’s anointed king.
In our personal lives today, for us as Christians, just like for David “our weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” That morning joy will come when the daystar arrives. That morning star is Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Peter 1:19; and Revelation 22:16 and the full context around those verses.
God removes the “sackcloth” (Psalm 30:11) of our physical body and will “girdle” or put around us gladness. This is exactly what will happen in the resurrection. Our resurrected physical body will be removed and we will be girdled with a glorious resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:52–54). For us, tears and weeping will go away, and joy will come with Christ (Psalm 126:5; 2 Timothy 1:4; John 16:19–22).
David Sielaff, February 2008
1 The House of David” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t040801.htm and “The Location and Future Discovery of the Tomb of David” athttp://www.askelm.com/temple/t061001.htm. The unopened tomb is just south of the correct Temple site.
2 See the discussion in the articles in note 1 above and also the evidence in Lyle Eslinger book on one chapter of the Bible, House of David or House of God: Rhetoric of 2 Samuel 7, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 164 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994). Jesus was legally of David’s seed (Acts 13:22–23):
“And when he had removed him [King Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.’ Of this man’s seed has God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus.”
3 The promises of the house of David, the seed of David (future kings from the Davidic line), and the kingdom from David are three distinct promises of God. The house of David refers to David’s tomb, his sepulcher. The seed refers to David’s descendants. The kingdom refers to the physical Davidic kingdom continuing for a long time in the future, derived from the one who will inherit David’s kingdom. We learn later this was Solomon.
4 Four sons were born to David and Bathsheba in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:14 and 1 Chronicles 3:5). It is unknown if the listing of the children in 1 Chronicles 3:5 represents their order of birth. If so, then the time between 2 Samuel chapter 7 and Psalm 30 is considerably longer. Nathan is listed as Jesus’ ancestor in Luke 3:31. Solomon is Jesus’ ancestor in Matthew 1:6–7.
5 Solomon was young when he took the throne: 1 Chronicles 29:1 and 22:1; 1 Kings 3:7. Solomon died about age 60 seeming to be an old man (1 Kings 11:4), having reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42). Solomon’s son Reheboam was 41 years old when he succeeded to the throne (1 Kings 14:41). Therefore Reheboam was born 1 year before Solomon succeeded David.
6 This prayer of 2 Samuel 7:18–29 in the first person. The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 17:16–27 is presented in the 3rd person, meaning that someone else is relating the story from an objective vantage point. The Chronicles account has a few additions, no subtractions, and only minor word changes from the Samuel account. This indicates that a scribe is writing in Chronicles describing what David wrote, while the Samuel account is from David’s personal perspective.
7 David’s house, his tomb, was prophesied by God to last for the eon (2 Samuel 7:16, 1 Chronicles 17:14).
8 David is still dead at this moment (Acts 2:29). He has not been resurrected (Acts 2:34). We cannot be sure how many years of life David was given after God’s anger subsided and God healed him.
9 This is an instance of a textual emendation by the Sopherim changing YHWH to Adoni in reverence for the divine name. See Appendix 32 of Bullinger’s Companion Bible athttp://www.levendwater.org/companion/append32.html.
10 This subscript “To the chief Musician” clearly goes with the preceding Psalm 30, rather than the beginning of Psalm 31. This is shown from the single psalm in Habakkuk chapter 3 which ends the chapter and book with the subscript at the end (Habakkuk 3:19: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments”). James Thirtle, The Titles of the Psalms: Their Nature and Meaning Explained (London: Morgan & Scott, 1916), pp. 173–174. See also the psalm of Hezekiah in Isaiah chapter 38, ending in verse 20. Thirtle’s excellent small book is available online athttp://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTeSources/19-Psalms/Text/Books/Thirtle-PsTitles/Thirtle-PsTitles.htm.
11 H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Bible Handbook (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), S. 311.
12 H.L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), S. Ps 30.
13 E.W. Bullinger, Companion Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, reprint 1974), pp. 721, 746–747.
15 Other exemptions from military service were those men who had a newly planted vineyard and those who were newly married (Deuteronomy 20:6–7). After the exempting situation was ended, then military service was mandatory for all men.
16 I inserted the [a], [b], [c], [d]. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), S. 212.
17 Note also the reference to the “tabernacle of David” in Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:15.
18 Psalm 87 celebrates the arrival of the Ark to Zion (2 Samuel 6:4, 14–15). See Thirtle,Titles of the Psalms, p. 171. The psalm of 1 Chronicles 16:4–37 was broken up and portions were used in various Psalms (in order): Psalm 105:1–15, 96:1–13, and 106:1, 47–48. This is clearly shown in James Newsome, ed., A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, with related passages from Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezra(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 33–36.
19 Franz Delitzsch, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1883), p. 455.
20 W.T. Davison, The Psalms, I–LXXII (New York: H. Frowde, n.d.), p. 151
22 Delitzsch, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, p. 455.
23 This structure of Psalm 30 is from David Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis–Malachi (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), pp. 183–184. Dorsey’s translation is from the RSV. Dorsey notes:
“A parallel arrangement may be employed to establish or underscore an important pattern in the psalmist’s line of reasoning. The repetitions generated by this pattern may also serve to emphasize certain points.”
24 The entire passage of John 10:22–39 took place during that day of the Feast of the Dedication in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch (verse 23). It was during this confrontation with the Jews that Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 (and by implication all 8 verses of Psalm 82). Jesus used that opportunity to make clear to the Jews that He was both the Messiah and the Son of God, a declaration of His divinity. The Jews clearly understood this to be so because they took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy, as the Jews said, “making Himself equal with God” (John 10:31–34).
25 Davison, Psalms, p. 153.
26 E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (New York: E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1898), S. 728.
27 “Sackcloth” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988): “The physical characteristics of the material made it suitable attire for times of danger, grief, personal and national crisis, and distress.”
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By David Sielaff, October 2006
Read the accompanying Newsletter for October 2006
The location of the Tombs of King David and his family can be easily understood once the proper site of the Temples of God is taken into account. If the biblical and historical evidence is correctly understood (and I believe it is), then what those Tombs could contain would change the world and lead millions to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah, starting from Jerusalem.
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In his book The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot, 1 Dr. Ernest L. Martin explains in a few words the location of the Tombs of King David:
“Particularly notice that at the time of Nehemiah the sepulchres of David (and many other early kings of Judah) were located at the base of the stairs that went down into the Kedron Valley from the City of David. 2They were positioned alongside a pool that was fed by the waters of a conduit from the Gihon Spring. …
These sepulchres in Nehemiah’s time were positioned not far south of the Gihon Spring over which the Temple then stood. In the earlier period from David to Nehemiah it was common to place the tombs of distinguished persons (especially kings) outside the Temple, but not far away. They were certainly not buried far to the north near the Dome of the Rock.”
Martin, Temples Jerusalem Forgot, p. 336
He was exactly correct in this assessment. Later, in chapter 24 of his book, Dr. Martin shows that in the time of Simon the Hasmonean the buildings on the top of Mount Zion, including the Zerubbabel Temple, were demolished and their function transferred to different locations. The hill was cut down to bedrock and an enlarged Temple was reconstructed on the original site, expanding to the north and to the west.
Dr. Martin goes on to state that Simon’s transfer of structures included the sepulchers of David. He thought that the sepulchers of David comprised an above ground structure. 3While this may be true for some sort of structure at the entrance to the sepulchers, it was not the case that the underground structures of the sepulchers of David were transferred. While sepulchers of other kings of Judah were indeed moved, the sepulchers of David, Solomon, and others were not transferred. They remained in their original location but inaccessible to the world.
Substantial biblical and historical evidence can now show a more precise location of the unopened Tombs of King David and his immediate family in relationship to one unchanged foundational wall of the Temple sanctuary, above and west of the Gihon Springs. This same wall did not change position throughout the various Temple reconstructions after the destruction of the original Solomonic Temple. This wall was used in the reconstruction of the Temple by Zerubbabel after the return of the people from Babylon. The same wall was used again in the later enlargement during the time of Simon the Hasmonean. The wall was used for a final enlargement of the Temple by King Herod. Each time the Temple was rebuilt or enlarged, the position of the southern wall remained unchanged. Enlargements of the Temple did not expand to the south, but only to the west and north.
The research by Dr. Martin provides an important framework for additional evidence leading directly to the location of the Tombs of King David of Israel. In turn, the discovery of the Tombs of King David will totally validate Dr. Martin’s evidence beyond question. The bodies are likely still in those tombs waiting to be discovered, along with astonishing artifacts, and most important of all — written documents. It is my understanding and belief that these written documents, along with the other artifacts, may initiate a period of rediscovery and presentation of the truths of Scripture to the world, leading to the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21). 4
Toward the end of this article I describe the writings and artifacts that could be contained within the Tombs. You will be amazed! Keep in mind, that at present it is pure speculation what items might be within the Tombs, although the speculation is informed by intriguing historical references, as you shall see. Then I shall describe one possible method by which the sepulchers can be located even more precisely so that an archaeological excavation can be conducted and the sepulchers entered without damaging the precious writings and artifacts within, so they can be properly preserved.
King David’s Unusual Burial
First, some background regarding King David’s burial. A comprehensive 1948 article by S. Yeivin, “The Sepulchers of the Kings of the House of David” 5 provides an excellent survey of the subject matter. Yeivin points out that in ancient times one important desire was to be buried with one’s ancestors:
“Moreover, several verses in the Bible not only voice the express desire to be buried in a family tomb but consider it a special privilege, while failure to be buried with one’s ancestors is regarded as a curse and a disaster.”
Yeivin, “Sepulchers,” p. 30
Genesis 47:29–30; Judges 8:32; 2 Samuel 19:38 are three examples of this ancient desire of Israelites to be buried with their ancestors. Failure to do so was seen as a curse and disaster. 6 King David was not buried with his fathers, although David helped others fulfill their burial customs (2 Samuel 2:32, 3:31–32, 17:23), even reburying the bones of King Saul and his son Jonathan in a more proper grave (2 Samuel 21:11–14).
“Yet this same David, who was so loyal to traditional customs, was not buried in his ancestral tomb at Bethlehem, but in a new grave: ‘So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David.’
[Yeivin’s footnote #12:] I Kings 2:10. It is unthinkable that this was done against David’s will or that he left no instructions concerning his burial place. … David, who remembered to give Solomon final instructions with regard to all his enemies, surely cannot have forgotten directions concerning the place of his own burial.”
Yeivin, “Sepulchers,” pp. 30–31
David did in fact make provision for his burial. To be more precise, God made that provision for David’s burial and David acceded to God’s desire.
King David’s “House”?
King David was the second king of Israel chosen by God after King Saul (2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Kings 8:16, 11:34; Psalm 78:70). After capturing Jerusalem, David ruled the 12 tribes of Israel from that capital city for the next 33 years, naming it the “City of David.” David came up with an idea to build a Temple to honor God within which would be placed the Ark of the Covenant and other items from the Tabernacle of Moses. 7 The prophet Nathan thought it was a good idea. He was sure that God would approve (2 Samuel 7:3). God thought otherwise and stated bluntly to King David through Nathan:
“Go and tell my servant David, Thus says the Lord, Shall you build me an house for me to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.”
2 Samuel 7:5–6
God reviewed for David all that He had done for Israel and for David. God concluded:
“Also the Lord tells you that he [the Lord] will make you [David] an house. And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, andI will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever [olam, for the age]. …
And your house and your kingdom shall be established for ever [olam, for the age] before you [before God]: your throne shall be established for ever[olam, for the age]. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.”
2 Samuel 7:11–13, 16–17
(cf. 1 Chronicles 17:10–12, 14–15)
God states explicitly that He shall make David a House (7:11). What does that mean? This does not mean a dynasty, contrary to what most all commentators believe. In fact the term “house” in 2 Samuel chapter 7 — in all 15 instances — always refers to a physical structure. A dynasty of David’s descendants is separately promised to David when God states “I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels”(7:12), after David’s death. The mistake is conflating the “house” with the “seed” in this passage. 8
In my article, “The House of David,” I explain there is an intentional and precise distinction made in this passage between the “house” of David and the “seed” of David. Professor Lyle Eslinger is one commentator who understands this distinction correctly. 9
The fact that God will make a house for David tells us that this “house” is a physical structure. It will not be a building above ground like the Temple, but it will be a structure such as a cave or series of caves common to sepulchers of kings in ancient times. 10 As Professor Eslinger puts it:
“Having revealed to David that God would be the one to make a ‘house’ for his covenant partner and not vice versa, Yahweh proceeds to talk about time after David. This house will be a house for the dead!”
Eslinger, House of David, p. 43
In other words the “house” structure built by God will be a tomb or sepulcher structure that shall remain for a long time: “And your house and your kingdom shall be established for ever [olam, for the age] before you” (7:16). Both David’s house and his kingdom shall be established for the age. 11
Although God did not allow David to build the Temple, he was allowed to gather everything necessary for its construction. The “pattern” for the Temple, the plan for its construction, was given directly from God Himself in God’s own handwriting! 12 When David died everything was prepared for Solomon to build the Temple of God exactly as God indicated. While David received plans for the Temple directly from God, no plans were necessary for the “house” that God “made” for David (2 Samuel 7:11).
As you read through David’s response to God, try to understand the mental turmoil David was going through: First, David desired to build God a Temple. His request was refused by God, but then God tells David that He “made” a house, a structure specially intended as David’s burial place. At the same time God tells David that a son of his shall build a Temple. Sometime later David receives the plans for the Temple from God’s own handwriting.
David’s Response to God
When God rejected David’s desire to build a Temple for His name (2 Samuel 7:5–16), David went before God and prayed about the house God was building for him. He was upset, frightened, and at first he did not understand what God was doing. David questions God in a complaint: Why did God bring him all this way through David’s life, protecting him, promoting him, assisting him in every trouble, raising him to be King over Israel, bringing Israel to peace and greatness, and then to tell David that God would build a “house” — a Tomb — for David? 13
God was pronouncing a death sentence upon David. David naturally asks, “Oh God, why?” During his prayer to God, David answers his own questions, and then concludes with the confession that whatever God has in store for him, David will accept from God in obedience. Read David’s entire response to God in 2 Samuel 7:18–29, keeping in mind that when David refers to his house he is referring to the tomb or sepulcher that God made for him (not the proposed Temple, the house for God). In fact, David did not fully understand what God had in mind. After all, David just received news from God that he was going to die!
David’s prayer to God is a model for us whenever we are presented with a major situation in life that we do not like or understand, when circumstances before us seem totally opposed to what we thought was God’s will. David challenges God with questions about what God really wants. The mention of the “house,” meaning the Tomb that God has prepared for him, has David questioning God’s intention.
“Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that you have brought me hitherto[brought me so far]? And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord God; but you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?
And what can David say more unto you? for you, Lord God, know your servant. For your word’s sake, and according to your own heart, have you done all these great things, to make your servant know them.’”
2 Samuel 7:18–21
What God says in an off-hand manner, as David refers to it: “a small thing in your sight,”is to David a death sentence! David complains that he has been brought so far in life, apparently to be given a sentence of death by God Himself at the pinnacle of God’s accomplishment using David as his servant for the good of God’s people. David does not understand. Like the apostle Paul (Ephesians 1:11), David realizes that God does everything according to His own heart and as He has spoken (“for your word’s sake,” verse 7:21).
David prepares to come to terms with whatever God will give him in life. Then David reviews what God has done for Israel and for him personally. While doing this, David realizes that God must have a plan to somehow glorify Himself, even with the death sentence He gave to David (verses 7:22–24). David then speaks to God directly about the “house” that God would “make” for him:
“And now, O Lord God, the word that you have spoken concerning your servant, and concerning his house,
 establish it for ever [confirm it for the age, olam], and
 do as you have said.
 And let your name be magnified for ever [olam, for the age], saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel’: and
 let the house of your servant David be established before you [close to God].
For you, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you an house’: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto you.”
2 Samuel 7:25–27
Note the numbered points in the passage. David completely and totally accepts what God presents to him. It was not easy for him. He had to search his heart to accept the difficult thing God proposed. David finally “found in his heart to pray this prayer.” He will no longer struggle with God about this matter. David was truly a man after God’s own heart, willing to fulfill God’s will (Acts 13:22, with Paul citing 1 Kings 15:5).
He asks God to “establish it,” meaning his “house,” his Tomb, and asks that God’s name“be magnified” for the age (verse 7:26) by His action. YHWH of Hosts is the God over Israel (and over David) and that the house (Tomb) of God’s servant David will be built with acquiescence and without complaint. David states directly “do as you have said” (verse 7:25), which equivalent to saying “thy will be done.”
“And now, O Lord God, you are that God, and your words be true, and you have promised this goodness unto your servant: Therefore now let it please you to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue for ever [olam, for the age] before you: for you, O Lord God, have spoken it: and with your blessing let the house of your servant be blessed for ever[olam, for the age].”
2 Samuel 7:28–29
David understands that God intends good for him regarding the Tomb. David accepts God’s pronouncement and asks that God will bless the house.
Contrary to his expectation at the time, David lived decades more. In fact the exchange of 2 Samuel chapter 7 occurred soon after the Ark was brought to Jerusalem, before David even saw Bathsheba and they married. Solomon was born from that union and he would build the Temple as God intended.
It may seem incredible to put forth that “house” means Tomb in this context, but the usage of “house” meaning “tomb” is borne out in several passages, particularly where the phrase “House of David” has that meaning. (See footnote #8 above.) To clarify the situation I substitute the word “tomb” for “house,” in these passages because that is what it means in context, and it will clarify your understanding:
“Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my TOMB, that you have brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord God; but you have spoken also of your servant’s TOMB for a great while to come. …
And now, O Lord God, the word that you have spoken concerning your servant, and concerning his TOMB, establish it for ever [olam, for the age], and do as you have said. And let your name be magnified for ever [olam,for the age], saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let theTOMB of your servant David be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed to your servant, saying, I will build you a TOMB: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto you.
And now, O Lord God, you are that God, and your words be true, and you have promised this goodness unto your servant: Therefore now let it please you to bless the TOMB of your servant, that it may continue for ever [olam, for the age] before you: for you, O Lord God, have spoken it: and with your blessing let the TOMB of your servant be blessed for ever[olam, for the age].”
2 Samuel 7:18–19, 28–29
Now substitute the word “dynasty” where “house” is in the original, where I have “tomb,” and note that the passages do not make near as much sense. David always desired and intended to have a dynasty. It is the goal of every ancient ruler. Why would David complain when God makes it so? Would David question God for creating a dynasty from him, as he questions God in verses 7:18–19? Would David ask for God’s blessing for something already so positive?
No. In his response to God in 2 Samuel chapter 7 David is not initially expressing thanks and praise. He expresses shock about an evil situation, his death sentence. David was partially accepting because a dynasty and kingdom were announced in 2 Samuel 7:12–16 with the words “seed,” “kingdom,” and “throne,” all of which indicate the establishment of a dynasty from David. Indeed, the dynasty was to be established for the age, although the duration of that age would be shorter than the “age” for the duration the “house.” David came to understand that he would have the best of both worlds. He would not die immediately as he initially feared. He would have his dynasty and he would have a “house” or Tomb built for him by God. 14
I analyzed 2 Samuel chapter 7 in detail to show that the Tombs of David are not ordinary sepulchers. They were made by God Himself for a special purpose, and that purpose will last “for the age.” That age has not yet seen its completion, even to our day.
Psalm 30 and David’s Last Words
David finished and furnished the interior of that “house,” those Tombs, in preparation before his death. 15 We can know this for a fact because Psalm 30 is written specifically to commemorate “the dedication of the House of David” (Psalm 30:1). This Psalm is not talking about a dynasty or David dedicating his personal house and home (his palace if you will) to God. That “house” or palace was built by Hiram king of Tyre, not by God. It was already completed when David conceived his idea to build a Temple for God (2 Samuel 5:11, 7:1–2; 1 Chronicles 14:1, 17:1). Psalm 30 must refer to the “house” that God made for David. 16
When David spoke his last words (2 Samuel 23:1–7), he states that he was a prophet and that God spoke through him (verse 23:2). David then spoke about the “house,” which makes no sense in the King James Version, but is made clear by the New American Standard translation:
“Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant [a covenant for the age, olam] with me, Ordered in all things, and secured; For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow?
2 Samuel 23:5 (NAS)
David talks about his house as a place of security for his salvation and fulfillment of God’s covenant to him. As he nears death, David desires his salvation. He likens his situation to a seed planted to grow. He even refers to thorns, undesirable elements burned in fire (verses 23:6–7). David’s body was being preserved until the resurrection, unto his salvation and desire (verse 23:5). The apostle Paul may be referring to this passage when he tells about the resurrection body:
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? You fool, that which you sow is not quickened, except it die: And that which you sow, you sow not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God gives it a body as it has pleased him, and to every seed his own body.”
1 Corinthians 15:35–38
David came to understand, as expressed in Psalm 132 (and several other Psalms of David), that just as God desires Zion to be His habitation, Zion also becomes a desired place of rest for David:
“For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”
“House” as Grave
Some may still question the understanding that “house” occasionally means grave. A definitive example is in Isaiah chapter 14. Here the context of verses 18–20 demands that “house” means tomb or a grave:
“All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie [dead] in glory, every one in his own house. But you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet. You shall not be joined with them in burial …”
The Tomb that God built for David is indicated in several contexts of Scripture by the phrase “House of David.” While that phrase certainly is often used to denote David’s kingly descendants, it is important to distinguish by the usage, in context, when “House of David” refers to the Tombs of David. In my article “The House of David” the term “house” often means “tomb” if the context indicates. 17 Two other definitive passages that indicate that “house” can mean tomb or sepulcher are Ecclesiastes 12:5, 7 and Nehemiah 2:3.
“House of David” in Isaiah
Another example of “house” meaning a structure takes place during the reign of King Hezekiah. Again, I must give the background because it shows relevance to burial and tombs. There was an important man in Hezekiah’s court by the name of Shebna who was a high official of the kingdom, perhaps the most powerful man after King Hezekiah himself. Shebna carved out a sepulcher himself for himself just like the kings of Judah. His sepulcher was “on high.” Shebna thought that his status was so great in the society of Judah that he intended to be buried with honors like a king, buried in the best and highest positions in the city:
“Thus says the Lord God of hosts, ‘Go, get you unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, 18 which is over the house, and say, What have you here? and whom have you here, that you have hewn you out a sepulchre here, as he that hews him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth [carves] an habitation [Hebrew: tabernacle] for himself in a rock?”
Three facts come out from Isaiah chapter 14 passage above, and the Isaiah 22:20–22 passage below: (1) “house” can mean grave and sepulcher, (2) many sepulchers were carved out of rock hillsides, and (3) the most desirable locations were high on the hillside, befitting exalted status. Shebna’s successor is discussed later in Isaiah chapter 22, leading to the important verse 22:22:
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah 19: And I will clothe him with your [Shebna’s] robe, and strengthen him with your girdle, and I will commit your government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and tothe house of Judah.
And the key of the House of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”
In this context “House of David” is a physical structure and does not refer to the descendants of David, even though the earlier phrase “house of Judah” refers to the people of the kingdom. This is clearly the case because of the reference to the key, and to opening and shutting. Keys do not open and close people. A key is used to open and close doors and enclosures, locking and unlocking them. In this case the door is to the “House of David,” a real physical structure and place. There is likely a direct connection to the Temple or the palace of the king. And yes, keys in ancient times were so large that they were put on the shoulder.
The name “Eliakim” means “God raises” or “God sets up.” This and other factors show that Isaiah 22:22 has a direct messianic reference as used in Revelation 3:7, almost a direct quote with one important change, in the message to the ekklesia of Philadelphia where it refers specifically to Christ.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; ‘These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.’”
The difference between the two passages is that Isaiah 22:22 has the long phrase “key of the house of David,” and Revelation 3:7 reduces it to “key of David.” The phrase “house of” in Isaiah is missing in Revelation, yet the reference to Isaiah in Revelation is obvious.20 The “key of the house of David” refers to the sepulchers of David. We shall know in the future whether the sepulchers of David are part of the door opened by Christ.
The Burials of David and His Successors
David was buried in his capital city called at that time the City of David: “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David” (1 Kings 2:10), and not in his ancestral tombs, because God “made” the sepulcher for David. David’s son Solomon was buried there also: “And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:43). Note what was written about some of David’s successor kings, their tombs, and burial practices 21:
“And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign. And they buried him in his own sepulchres [plural], which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and diverse kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art: and they made a very great burning for him.”
2 Chronicles 16:13–14, cf. 1 Kings 15:24
King Asa prepared sepulchers for himself and others in the city of David. It is unknown how close to the sepulchers of David they were. One successor to Asa was Jehoram (Joram). He was buried “in the city of David but not in the sepulchres [plural] of the kings” (2 Chronicles 21:20). King Azariah (named Uzziah in Chronicles) was buried in the city of David (2 Kings 15:7) but with added detail in 2 Chronicles 26:23: “they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings.” Because he was a leper Uzziah was buried in the field, not in the sepulchers. King Ahaz also has interesting details added:
“Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, even in Jerusalem: but they brought him not into the sepulchres of the kings of Israel: and Hezekiah his son reigned …”
2 Chronicles 28:27
It is clear from these passages in 2 Chronicles that the author considered the sepulchers of the descendants of King David (Ahaz’s fathers) to be “the sepulchres of the kings of Israel.” King Hezekiah died:
“Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David.”
2 Chronicles 32:33
This verse indicates that there were several “sepulchres [plural] of the sons of David” in the City of David. They comprised the sepulchers of the kings of Judah up to the time Hezekiah was buried. Was Hezekiah buried with David? Perhaps. This may be what is meant by “chiefest of the sepuchres of the sons of David.” 22 Of the first 12 immediate heirs of David all are said to be buried in the City of David. The successors to Hezekiah were not buried there.
The Carcasses of the Kings: Ezekiel 43:7–9
We come now to a verse that discusses the “wall” that gives us a major clue to a more precise location of the Tombs of David. It is to be found in Ezekiel chapter 43.
The vision of Ezekiel chapters 40–48 is a single prophecy given to the prophet Ezekiel and precisely dated to the 25th year of captivity, the 14th year after the destruction of Jerusalem (and the Temple, Ezekiel 40:1–2). In this vision Ezekiel was taken to view Jerusalem from the east (from the Mount of Olives) and then he is taken into the Temple sanctuary. Most of the vision relates to the future (Ezekiel 40:1–42:20 and 43:13–48:35). However, Ezekiel 43:1–12 is a historical parenthesis, obviously looking to the past, at least 14 years. The text describes the Temple before it was destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Glory of the Lord brought Ezekiel to the east gate (verse 1), then throughthe east gate of the Temple:
“So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house [the Holy Place in the Temple]. And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.”
Important information is then given regarding the sepulchers of the Kings of Judah in direct relation to God’s presence.
“And he said unto me, ‘Son of man,  the place of my throne, and  the place of the soles of my feet,  where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever [olam, for the age], and  [the place I put] my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places.”
There can be no doubt that the phrases  through  listed above all refer to the Temple, the sanctuary of God, and the place for His name, from which the Glory of the Lord was speaking. The carcasses of their kings were close to where God had His throne, placed His feet, and had His glory. 23 They were defiling His holiness by their presence so close to God’s sanctuary 24:
“In their setting of their threshold [singular, but implying one threshold per king’s sepulcher] by my thresholds [plural], and their post by my posts, andthe wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcasses of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever [olam, for the age].’”
God took action and consumed the evildoers. Now God wants the carcasses and their sepulchers removed: “let them put away … far from me” (verse 9). This was done in the time of Simon the Hasmonean.
How close were the sepulchers of the kings to God’s sanctuary? Verse 8 indicates that“thresholds” and “posts” separated the sanctuary from “the carcasses of their kings.”It appears that these sepulchers were above ground, unlike the sepulchers of David that God made. The text does not say they were in graves underground. Reference to“thresholds” and “posts” indicate buildings. For the Sanctuary the “thresholds” were doorways in the outer wall, while the “posts” were likely upright beams that supported the lintels of the doorway. 25 Those were often highly carved and likely had idolatrous designs.
Most importantly for our consideration here is that there was only “the wall between me and them.” The sepulchers containing “the carcasses of their kings” may have been along side the wall of the sanctuary so that the separation of just one wall was the distance of the sepulchers of the kings to God’s sanctuary. If we can identify that wall, it will give us a major clue as to the location of the sepulchers of the kings, and most particularly the House of David.
Evil Kings Defile the Sanctuary, Not Good Kings
It was not only the carcasses of evil kings whose proximity to the sanctuary was defiling to God (verse 43:7), but also the actions of people who did evil at the carcasses. This is explicitly stated by God:
“… they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcasses of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever [olam, for the age].”
The evil kings and others in Jerusalem were consumed by God’s anger. This was done by the invasion of the Babylonian army in successive attacks, mass death in Jerusalem, and exile for thousands in the city. God had no grievance with the good and righteous kings of Judah. Once the carcasses of the evil kings were removed from His presence, away from His sanctuary, God says He shall “dwell in the midst of them” for the age, meaning to the end of the age.
David, Solomon and their families were buried underground in the chambers “made” for David by God close to the Temple sanctuary. The evil kings of Judah were buried in above ground structures. It was the “carcasses” of the evil kings and their sepulchers that were removed in response to God’s command (Ezekiel 43:9) not the sepulchers of David that were deep in bedrock. When Simon the Hasmonean cut down Zion and the Temple in fulfillment of Isaiah chapters 25 to 35, he also moved “the carcasses of their kings.”Perhaps the earthquake that occurred (Isaiah 29:2–6) that destroyed a portion of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, as Dr. Martin believed, caused Simon to decide, with support of the religious leaders and the people, to cut the remains of Zion down to bedrock.26 The earthquake might have prevented Simon from entering and moving David’s sepulcher, although Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus, was able to enter the Tomb and remove treasure (as we shall see below).
These structures were turned into “high places” where the most foul evils was committed and had some sort of defiling abominations that were done and performed involving carcasses and whoredom. 27 Idolatry and whoredom (ritual sexuality) have always been part of pagan religious practice. Human depravity being what it is, and given God’s extremely strong reaction to these structures, it is not outrageous to suppose that these sepulchers had some ritual sexuality performed that involved the dead (“abominations that they have committed … their whoredom, and the carcasses of their kings”). While it is unpleasant to think about such things, God’s reaction in Ezekiel 43:7–9 has these things in mind. Read all of Jeremiah 19:1–15. The same kind of activity spoken against in Ezekiel is found there:
“And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and havepoured out drink offerings unto other gods.”
There was only one king of Judah at any one time. In prior days they did their defilements in the valley of Tophet, now they do it openly in Jerusalem on the rooftops of houses and on the rooftops of “the houses of the kings of Judah.” This is referring to the houses or sepulchers of the kings where the people of Jerusalem committed their evils — in the cemetery of the kings. Those acts include human sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:4–5, God’s punishment, verse 9). These above ground sepulchers were moved during the time of Simon the Hasmonean when he demolished and moved all the buildings above bedrock.
It is obvious to ask the question, which wall separated the Sanctuary of the Temple from the Tombs (“carcasses”) of the kings of Judah referred to by Ezekiel? It was the southern wall of the Temple Sanctuary. How can we know? We can know by historical evidence. Sepulchers and graves were not allowed under the greater Temple Sanctuary. Great care was taken to ensure that the Temple Sanctuary was not placed over graves. This is clear from the Mishnah:
“Beneath both the Temple Mount and the courts of the Temple was a hollowed space for fear of any grave down in the depths.”
Mishnah Parah 3.2
The Temple of Solomon was 150 feet wide (north to south) and 500 feet long (east to west) (Josephus, Against Apion 1.198). Simon doubled the dimensions by expanding the Sanctuary to the north and to the west, and added a porch. Herod doubled the area of the Sanctuary (Josephus, Jewish Wars 1.401), again expanding to the north and to the west resulting in a square platform 600 feet by 600 feet. 28
The wall that was not moved but merely lengthened was the southern wall. The eastern wall did not move either; it was already “into” the Kedron Valley and could go no further. The placement of that wall was not changed because the Tombs of David were located on the other side of that wall, deep in bedrock.
Nehemiah and the Sepulchers of David
At the beginning of this article I related Dr. Martin’s understanding of the Tombs of David based on indications from Nehemiah 3:15–16, but there are also indications from Nehemiah 12:37 which is a mirror image of the 3:15–16 passage. 29 Putting these verses together shows there is no doubt that the “house of David” equates with the “graves of David” in these two passages written 12 years apart. The same scene is being described from two different perspectives (Young’s Literal Translation):
Nehemiah 12:37 (12 yrs later)
“The gate of the fountain has Shallum …, strengthened: …
and unto the steps that
are going down from the city of David.
unto over-against the graves of David.”
“… by the gate of the fountain, … they have gone up
by the steps of the city of David,
at the going up of the wall, beyond
the house of David, and unto the
“Graves of David” = “house of David.” This fits with Zechariah chapter 12 above which contrasts David with “him who they have pierced” which was Jesus (Zechariah 12:10, John 19:37).
House of David in Zechariah?
The last 6 chapters of Zechariah were prophecies given by Jeremiah, even though it is found in the Book of Zechariah. 30 Zechariah chapters 12–14 is a single continuous prophecy. Chapter 12 tells Israel’s future victory over its enemies and then mourning over the one pierced. Chapter 13 tells about how idolatry shall end in Israel and how the shepherd is struck and the flock scattered. Chapter 14 tells about future war and ultimate victory. In these three chapters of Zechariah there is a recurring phrase, “in that day” that occurs 19 times like a drumbeat throughout the prophecy. Another important phrase,“house of David” occurs five times between Zechariah 12:7 and 13:1. The reference is not to the royal descendants of David. Every instance of those five occurrences of “house of David” refers to a physical structure, and indicates the sepulchers of David.
Zechariah 12:1 introduces the theme which is the burden of Israel. In verses 2 and 3 we find that Jerusalem shall become a problem to “all the people round about” so that eventually all nations will gather against the city. Jerusalem shall be a problem to all the peoples and nations of the earth. God shall intervene. The people shall depend upon God to save them, and He does:
“The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.”
First notice that the tents of Judah will be saved first, then the “house of David” is counterposed, again, with the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Most commentaries tell you that they both refer to people, the inhabitants of the city and the descendants of David. This is incorrect. The house of David refers to the sepulchers of David. The next verse says something remarkable about that house of David:
“In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
In the future the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be defended (somehow) by God who will make even the weakest will seem like King David at the height of his power, that is, almost invincible. The next sentence about the “house of David” seems to inflate that power of that “house” to outrageous proportions. Yet it all makes sense if the “house of David” is a physical structure having something inside it so wondrous that people will think God Himself is communicating with them, as if God’s personal messenger has come to them, the “angel of the Lord before them.”
This is not a hyperbolic poetic comparison about the power of the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” vis-à-vis the descendants of King David. God will defend the inhabitants (verse 8) and destroy the attackers (verse 9). Something about the “house of David” will be involved to make the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” be protected and have God intervene to destroy the attackers.
Something about the “house of David” shall lead the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” to recognize Jesus as their Messiah as understood in John 19:34, 27 and Revelation 1:7:
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they [the inhabitants] shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”
In the following verse it is impossible to claim that “house of David” refers to anything but a group of people just like the other groups. However, the grouping is peculiar …
“And the land shall mourn, every family apart;
the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.”
Some facts must be explained at this point. Nathan was a son of David (2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5, 14:4), a direct ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:31). Nathan was an older brother of Solomon, yet Solomon was chosen by God to succeed David to the throne. Shimei was a common name among those descended from Levi, but the closest is a grandson. If these four groups would be buried in the Tombs, different chambers for each family group, this obscure verse would make a great deal of sense. The next verse:
“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”
Do groups of people have fountains or springs opened to them? Do structures have fountains opened to them. Yes, if they are located near a spring such as the Gihon, which is the location of the House of David, the tombs of David. God is the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 17:13). His living waters are healing. To ignore them is a great evil. (Remember that Jeremiah also wrote the Zechariah passages we just considered):
“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Sepulchers of David in Josephus
Josephus tells of an event that took place during the reign of John Hyrcanus, King of Judah, son and heir of Simon the Hasmonean. Hyrcanus “opened one room of David’s sepulchre, and took out three thousand talents” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews7:393). Josephus indicates there are more rooms than the one room Hyrcanus entered and took treasure from. Elsewhere Josephus gives a bit more information: “But Hyrcanus opened the sepulchre of David, who excelled all other kings in riches, and took out of it three thousand talents” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 13:249). This passage tells us that there were probably more riches in other rooms of David’s sepulcher, and indeed that was the case. The location of the sepulcher of David was known to John Hyrcanus, and also others. Josephus later tells a fascinating story of when King Herod the Great tried to enter David’s sepulcher:
“As for Herod, he had spent vast sums on the cities, both outside and inside his own kingdom; and because he had before heard that Hyrcanus, who had been king before him, had opened David’s sepulchre, and taken out of it three thousand talents of silver, and that there was a much greater number left behind, and, indeed, enough to suffice all his wants[i.e. great wealth remained in the sepulcher], he had a great while an intention to make the attempt; and at this time he opened that sepulchre by night, and went into it, and endeavored that it should not be at all known in the city, but took only his most faithful friends with him. As for any money, he found none, as Hyrcanus had done, but that furniture of gold, and those precious goods that were laid up there; all which he took away.
However, he had a great desire to make a more diligent search, and to go farther in, even as far as the very bodies of David and Solomon, where two of his guards were slain, by a flame that burst out upon those who went in, as the report was. So he was terribly frightened, and went out, andbuilt a propitiatory monument of that fright he had been in; and this of white stone, at the mouth of the sepulchre, and that at great expense also.”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 16:179–182
Herod’s episode gives us more useful information. Herod’s suspicions were correct and he knew the precise location of David’s sepulcher, but entering it was the problem. He expected more treasure to be in the tomb than what Hyrcanus had already taken away, and he was correct. He took furniture of gold (gold leaf on wood), and other valuable objects, but no money. Josephus specifically says that Hyrcanus and Herod were both unsuccessful getting to the bodies of David and Solomon, but implies that the bodies were there. Indeed we shall see below that David’s body was indeed in the Tomb. Josephus has more information.
“Herod, the king opened another room, and took away a great deal of money, and yet neither of them came at the coffins of the kings themselves, for their bodies were buried under the earth so artfully, that they did not appear to even those who entered into their monuments; but so much shall suffice us to have said concerning these matters.”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 7:394
The Greek word “money” in these two passages frequently means simply possessions or wealth. In Antiquities 16:180 it says Herod found no money, and in Antiquities 7:394 it says he did. This cannot be reconciled. In any case Josephus relates that Herod became frightened because of fire killing his fellow grave robbers and he never entered the Tombs again so far as we know. 31 Although the bodies (plural) of David and Solomon and others were unattainable to both Hyrcanus and Herod, they expected to find the bodies. Remember Isaiah 22:22 about the opening and shutting, shutting and opening.
“So he [Herod] was terribly frightened, and went out, and built a propitiatory monument of that fright he had been in; and this of white stone, at the mouth of the sepulchre, and that at great expense also.”
Antiquities of the Jews 16:182
The “propitiatory monument” that Herod constructed would not have been placed at a newly moved tomb, but it makes sense that the monument would be at “the mouth of the sepulchre” of a cave-like structure.
I propose that the sepulchers of David and Solomon were not moved by Simon the Hasmonean for two reasons: (1) they contained the bodies of righteous kings whose Tombs did not defile the sanctuary (Ezekiel 43:7–9), and more importantly (2) their sepulchers were far underground in bedrock. Simon reduced the hill where the Temple was located down to bedrock; he did not carve into the bedrock. The sources Dr. Martin cites in his book The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot, p. 343, make this abundantly clear.
David and Jesus
King David and Jesus were associated by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost after Jesus ascension. Speaking from Jerusalem Peter writes.
“I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day. …
For David ascended not into the heavens: but he [David] said himself, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, “Sit you on my right hand, till I make your enemies the footstool of your feet”‘.”
Acts 2:29, 34–35
(quoting from Psalm 110)
Reading the text of Acts 2:29 critically, Peter knew where David’s tomb was, it seems to be visible to Peter and his audience, almost as if Peter was gesturing to it while he was speaking. Peter understood David’s body to be in the Tomb. If David is dead, buried, and his tomb is still with us, then the body should be there also. That phrase “his tomb is still with us unto this day” is meaningful if one remembers that many of the tombs of the kings of Judah were moved by Simon the Hasmonean. Peter is saying that David’s tomb was not put elsewhere, but that the body of David is in the original tomb. David’s sepulchre would be south of the Temple, at God’s right hand, just as Psalm 110 states (Acts 2:35).
The apostle Paul later spoke (as Peter did) about King David and transitioned to talk about David’s seed, Jesus, (Acts 13:22–23) who he identifies as the Savior of Israel. Then Paul told of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and contrasted David with Jesus. David saw corruption in the grave, while Jesus did not:
“And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David [Psalm 55:3].’ Wherefore he says also in another psalm, ‘You shall not suffer your Holy One to see corruption [Psalm 16:16].’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again,saw no corruption.”
Note how Peter and Paul both begin talking about David and then transition to talking about Jesus? This is intentional in both instances. The same thing was done in Zechariah chapter 12. That prophecy relates to the House of David and then changes to talk about him“whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). The apostle John states that prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus at His crucifixion (John 19:37).
Rabbi Akiba (b.40 C.E. and d.135) wrote this intriguing item after the destruction of the Temple about the burials and tombs within the city of David. He refers to the clearing away of the sepulchers, likely meaning the sepulchers of the kings of Judah discussed above.
“In Jerusalem it was not permitted to leave tombs [within the city] with the exception of those of the house of David and that of the prophetess Hulda. …
All sepulchers should be cleared away, except the sepulcher of a king and the sepulcher of a prophet. Rabbi Akiba says: ‘Even the sepulcher of a king and the sepulcher of a prophet should be cleared away.’
He was told, ‘But there were at Jerusalem the sepulchers [plural] of the House of David and the sepulcher [singular] of Huldah the prophetess andnobody ever touched them’: to which he [R. Akiba] replied: ‘Do you adduce these as evidence? There was a tunnel in them through which the uncleanness went forth to the Valley of Kidron.’”
Tosefta, Baba Bathra 1:2, 11–12
First notice what Rabbi Akiba was told. He was told about “the sepulchers of the house of David.” It is easy to see how “house of David” could come to mean the “sepulchers of David.” Second, note that there was a tunnel of uncleanness close to the sepulchres of the house of David and the sepulcher of Huldah. The term “uncleanness” is a direct reference to Zechariah 13:1–2 above.
Third is a most significant point. Nobody ever touched those two sepulchers. That means that according to this author, who wrote after the destruction of the Temple, the expectation was that the bodies of David’s family and Huldah the prophetess should still be inside intact sepulchers. This means that the Romans did not enter the sepulchers, even though Josephus, a friend to Rome, apparently knew where the sepulchers were. That means that the Romans, with all the time and resources in the world after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., were not able to access those sepulchers.
Chain of Evidence
Remember from Ezekiel 43:8–9 that the carcasses of the kings had just a wall of separation between them and the sanctuary of the Temple. I showed that was the south wall of the sanctuary. Most all of the sepulchers were moved by Simon the Hasmonean as per Rabbi Akiba. Two groups of sepulchers were not moved. Those were the sepulchers of the house of David and the sepulchers of Huldah the prophetess.
“There were five gates to the Temple enclosure: the two gates of Huldah from the south, which served for entrance and for exit”
Mishna Middoth 1.3, Danby Translation
There was only one set of gates in the southern wall of the Temple enclosure. They were named the “gates of Huldah” because they pointed to a location in the direction leading from the Temple through that gate. I propose that the significant location was the sepulcher of Huldah, just where it should be located.
“R. Phinehas in the name of R. Huna of Sepphoris said:
’The spring that issues from the Holy of Holies in its beginning resembles the antennae of locusts; as it reaches the entrance to the Sanctuary it becomes as the thread of the warp; as it reaches the Ulam, it becomes as the thread of the woof[slightly larger]; as it reaches the entrance to the [Temple]court, it [the channel] becomes as large as the mouth of a small flask [other feeder pipes for drainage increased its volume], that is meant by what we learned:
R. Eliezer b. Jacob said:
’[Hence] go forth the waters which will bubble forth from under the threshold of the Sanctuary. From there onwards it becomes bigger, rising higher and higher, until it reaches the entrance to the House of David [at the bottom of the Ophel slope where David pitched his “House” (Tabernacle) for the Ark at the Gihon Spring]. As soon as it reaches the entrance to the house of David [at the Gihon Spring], it becomes even as a swiftly running brook, in which men and women afflicted with gonorrhea, menstruating women, and women after childbirth bathe, as it is said:
’In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for purification and for sprinkling’ [Zechariah 13:1].”
Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 77b–78a 32
Ezekiel 43:7–9 gave the final key to the location of the sepulchers of David, the “house of David.” Everything fit into place with that piece of the puzzle. After all, who would have the closest, best location for their sepulcher? David would have. After all, God “made” David’s sepulcher for him and probably all of the chambers for David’s family, which David then had craftsmen “finish.” David’s tomb would have been the best location, chosen by God, decades before the Temple was constructed and even before Solomon was born. It is not by chance that, with God facing east from the Temple, if David’s sepulcher was to the south, then David would be at God’s right hand, awaiting the resurrection from the dead (Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:42; Acts 2:34–35).
- The tombs are an underground structure or series of chambers. (God made them, 2 Samuel 7.)
- They are hidden (Josephus), but locked (Isaiah 22:22); known but inaccessible (Acts 2:29, 34–35, Josephus).
- They are up high on the hill (Isaiah 22:22, Ezekiel 43:7–9), but in the bedrock.
- There are several chambers in the sepulchers (2 Chronicles and Josephus).
- They are on the other side of the southern wall of the Temple sanctuary (Ezekiel 43:7–9).
- There was apparently one entrance down near the water outlet from the Temple into the Kedron Valley (Babylonian Talmud).
- Attempts were made to enter the sepulchers by Hyrcanus (Josephus) and Herod (Josephus).
- The body and tomb of David were intact at Pentecost in 30 C.E. (apostle Peter) and soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (R. Akiba).
- If David’s sepulchers are immediately south of the southern Temple wall, figuratively David would be at God’s right hand (Acts 2:34–35).
Speculations: What Could Be in the Tombs?
Josephus mentions silver, other money or valuables, gilded furniture, and “precious goods” (Antiquities 16:181) in the sepulcher of David, along with the bodies. There is good reason to believe there might be other valuable items inside as well. Let us examine these and other possibilities of what might be in the Tombs. The possibilities are fascinating but keep in mind that they are speculative.
Gold and Silver?
The raw materials that David gathered as King of Israel and Judah for the Temple are discussed in 1 Chronicles 29:2. David contributed a substantial quantity of his own personal wealth to the project (verses 29:3–5). He then challenged the leaders of Israel to contribute materials for the Temple, and they responded generously (verses 29:5–8). Finally the people gave an unspecified amount (verse 29:9). According to the Jewish historian Josephus, King David collected for God’s Temple as much as 10,000 talents of gold and 100,000 talents of silver (Antiquities of the Jews 7.340), and that is at a conservative understanding of 48 pounds per talent. Solomon did not use all that gold and silver. A great deal of it was buried with David, as Josephus relates:
“He [David] also left behind him greater wealth than any other king, either of the Hebrews or of other nations, ever did. …
moreover he [David] had great and immense wealth buried with him, the vastness of which may be easily conjectured at by what I shall now say; for a 1,300 years afterward, Hyrcanus the High Priest, when he was besieged by Antiochus, … opened one room of David’s sepulchre, and took out 3,000 talents, and gave part of that sum to Antiochus.”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 7:391–392
David was buried with more wealth than any other king in history, up to that time. Hyrcanus took out 3,000 talents of silver (again, at 48 pounds per talent). Herod the Great also took “treasure” from the Tomb of David, although he did not reach the chamber with the bodies (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 7:394). There was much more still in the Tomb. Analysis done by Gary Arvidson shows there should be a considerable amount of gold and silver remaining in the Tomb of David, perhaps billions of dollars worth. 33Everyone should understand, however, that the gold and silver is YHWH’s, given through David, and it would be the property of the government of Israel. However, there would be no possibility or concern about the tomb being raided by poachers. Hyrcanus and Herod both failed to reach the bodies, and they had the resources of their empires at their disposal.
The Tabernacle of David?
David constructed a Tabernacle to house the Ark of the Covenant (brought from the town of Baale, 2 Samuel 6:2, 17) until the Temple would be built. The Tabernacle was constructed in Zion, the City of David (2 Chronicles 5:2), down by the Gihon Springs (1 Kings 1:33–45). Services and sacrifices were conducted there by David and the Levites. There is a messianic prophecy about this tabernacle and the throne in the Book of Isaiah:
“And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.”
All are present: Zion, a throne, the Tabernacle of David, judgment and righteous. A contemporary, the prophet Amos, also prophesied during the time of King Uzziah of Judah about the Tabernacle of David:
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old [during David’s time]. That they may possess the remnant of Edom [adam, mankind], 34 and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, says the Lord that does this.”
“In that day” refers to the time before the Second Coming of Christ. This is what James, the brother of Jesus, believed when he quoted Amos 9:11–12 in the Book of Acts. This prophetic verse came to James’ mind when the council met in Jerusalem about requirements for Gentile believers from Paul’s missions to present the Gospel (under New Covenant authority) to the Gentiles, James quoted Amos 9:11–12:
“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:That the residue of men [anthropos] might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, says the Lord, who does all these things.”
It is not said that the Tabernacle of Moses would be reconstructed, but that the tabernacle of David would be raised again. The Tabernacle of David was constructed before the Temple was built, and lasted until the Temple was completed and dedicated by Solomon. Note also that the result of this rebuilding of the Tabernacle, rebuilding of the ruins, and the setting up all occurs, the Gentiles will seek after YHWH.
The question arises, after the Temple was built, what happened to the physical Tabernacle of David? It was taken down, certainly, but how can it be rebuilt? Is the Tabernacle of David folded up and placed within David’s Tomb? If so, it seems impossible, under normal circumstances, that it would be usable again, but the prophecies seem to say thatsomething called the Tabernacle of David will be built again. 35
Physical “Throne of David”?
David’s son Solomon sat on the throne of David: “Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was established greatly” (1 Kings 2:12). There is no doubt he did this literally (1 Kings 2:19). Solomon performed this act to show his physical occupation of the chair, the throne, but also to show that Solomon ruled in place of David. Later Solomon had his own physical throne constructed. He used it instead of David’s throne. The throne is described in detail:
“Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold. The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom.”
1 Kings 10:18–20
Solomon put his throne in his palace and built a raised porch to put the throne upon (1 Kings 7:1–7). The question must be asked: if Solomon had a new physical throne built for himself, with great glory and splendor, what then was done with David’s physical throne? Would it have been destroyed? Would it have been thrown in the trash? Would it have been used like any other chair? No. David’s physical throne likely would have been put in David’s “house,” his Tomb. A psalm of David included into the Book of Psalms by Hezekiah, Psalm 122, specifically states that there are multiple “thrones” of the house of David.
“I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ … For there are set thrones [plural] of judgment, the thrones [plural] of the house of David.”
Psalm 122:1, 5
That throne is in the House of David. It is within the sepulcher of David.
Read all of Psalm 122 where there is an interconnection of “the House of the Lord”(verses 1, 9); the “gates” (verse 2), “walls” (verse 7), and “palaces” (verse 7) of the City of Jerusalem (verses 3, 6); and “the thrones of the House of David” which are“thrones of judgment” (verse 5). All are physical structures. All are contained within the city of Jerusalem “as a city that is compact together” (verse 3). While “thrones” is plural in both occurrences of the word, the usage may be a plural of majesty, indicating the one seated on that throne has many dominions. There is also the intriguing verse:
“And king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the Lord for ever [olam, for the age].”
1 Kings 2:45
Christ shall sit on that throne of David as prophesied in Isaiah, just as the angel told Mary:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: … Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever [olam, for the age].”
“And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever [aion, for the age]; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
The Bodies of David, Bathsheba, Solomon, et al.?
If the body of King David was present within the Tomb, forensic scientists could show the world, using computer modeling, a very close approximation of what King David of Israel looked like. We would be able to put a face to the bones in the Tombs. (Of course, you and I will meet David face to face soon in the resurrection.)
It might be possible to obtain DNA samples from David’s body. If the bodies of David, Bathsheba, and Solomon are present (or other family of David), then it is possible that the entire DNA structure of the Davidic kingly line could be determined. That would mean that any Jewish male could test his DNA to see if he were directly descended from King David. If so, that person (or persons) may in fact be heir to the throne of Judah.
In addition, David and Solomon are two of the last twelve prophets of Islam. Such a find would be considered by Muslims as highly significant and miraculous. Many would feel compelled to read everything that David and Solomon wrote. More importantly, they would inevitably make the associations between David and Jesus throughout the New Testament. This could lead to many accepting Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, especially to those in Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:10–11):
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.”
“For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of him shall not be broken.’ And again another scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced.’”
John 19:36–37, citing Zechariah 12:10
The discovery of written documents, whether on tablets or more perishable material, is the greatest aspiration of every archaeologist. Any find of written documents from the time of King David contained within the Tombs would be a discovery of the highest order. Very few written documents of any size from ancient Palestine exist anywhere, outside of those preserved in the Holy Scriptures. A major find of documents would increase considerably our vocabulary of ancient Hebrew. There are a surprising number of Hebrew words in Scripture that occur only once. When that is the case, translators of the Old Testament simply have insufficient context to determine the true meaning of those once-used words. This is because the meaning of a word is determined by the words around it. The more words occur, the more context there is to determine the precise meaning of a word. Those translations of once-used words are speculative at best, and may be completely wrong, even when hints and suggestions that can be gleaned from later Jewish writings and the Greek Old Testament (the LXX). These hints were themselves written sometimes a thousand years after the original was written. Job and the Song of Songs have the largest number of words used only once in Scripture. This means that portions of the texts of those books may be misinterpreted.
Writings found within the Tomb of David would increase and perhaps multiply our understanding of ancient Hebrew, and ultimately the meaning of important Scriptures, particularly prophetic Scriptures. God communicates to His people through His word and it is important — especially in the decades before Christ returns — that we understand His words and His message. Let us inquire about the possible writings that may be in the Tombs of King David.
Psalms of David?
The Psalms of David were important to the life of Israel and to the Temple. David himself composed much of the prose of the Psalms. Many of the Psalms were set to music that he may have written, and he established the procedures for the music for the Temple rituals, particularly for the feast days when Israel would gather. These were followed by Solomon.
Would the original compositions of those Psalms and procedures be discarded? Perhaps they were kept in the Temple, but just maybe they were buried with the composer and writer. We know that music was very important to David. There may be instruments and documents that give clues help us understand the music of the ancient Israelite kingdom, information that could be useful in the Temple to be constructed before Christ’s return.
Songs of Solomon?
If Solomon is buried with David as Josephus indicates, and if there are written documents in with the Tombs of David, then there likely will be writings of Solomon also.
“And he spoke three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springs out of the wall: he spoke also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.”
1 Kings 4:32–33
Of Solomon’s 3,000 proverbs, not all are contained in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Of the 1,005 songs he is reported to have written, we have only one (Song of Songs 1:1). Solomon’s proverbs, songs, and writings of natural observation, that today we call science, might also be in the Tombs with Solomon.
The “Pattern” of the Temple?
David was given a pattern of the Temple by God Himself. That pattern was given in writing. Again, refer to my article “The Pattern of the Temple” athttp://www.askelm.com/temple/t031102.htm.
“‘All this,’ said David, ‘the Lord made me understand in writing by his handupon me, even all the works of this pattern.’”
1 Chronicles 28:19
That writing was the pattern of the Temple as described in 1 Chronicles 28:11–19. What happened to that pattern after the Temple was constructed by Solomon? What would you do with an object given to Israel by God Himself, in His own handwriting?
Such a document similar in importance to the tables of stone given to Moses. They also were written by the hand of God (Exodus 24:12, 31:18, 32:15–16; Deuteronomy 5:22; Hebrews 8:5), and placed within the Ark of the Covenant. Is it reasonable to think that the “pattern” of the Temple would have been buried with the man who received it, after its usefulness was done?
The impact of this discovery of the pattern of the Temple (whatever that “pattern” might be), would be incredible, even for those who would not believe it was written by God Himself. It would give to scholars and all believers in God important details — in writing — about the Temple and the Israelite kingdom.
Court Histories and Records?
In King David’s court detailed records were kept by officials of David’s kingdom (Solomon’s also 36). The existence of those detailed records is recorded for us in Scripture. The books are named with titles and the subjects within them are indicated. I have set out the verse in an outline manner for clarity:
“Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written
in the book [history] of Samuel the seer, and
in the book [history] of Nathan the prophet, and
in the book [history] of Gad the seer,
his reign and
his might, and
the times that went
over him, and
over Israel, and
over all the kingdoms of the countries.”
1 Chronicles 29:29–30
The Hebrew term dabar in Hebrew means “word,” but it also can mean “book” and even “history,” and it is translated that way in many versions. Certainly a compiled set of records could be called by either of the latter terms. The books by the three authors contain information about David’s acts during his 40 years reign as king. They also tell about the great deeds, (“his might”) that he did whether personally or as the leader of Israel and Judah, probably during his entire life. For example, the song about Saul and David may be contained in those writings (1 Samuel 18:6–7).
The books also relate about what happened when (“the time that went”) in history. This likely means that the accounts in the books give the events in sequence and how those events relate to other kingdoms, nations, and peoples. This means that chronologies of ancient history up to the death of King David could be understood with precision. This is important because little is known outside of Scripture about the world outside Israel and Judah during this period of the United Kingdom. This has implications for the kingdoms of Hatti (the Hittites), Assyria, and even Babylon which were not yet powerful.
Egyptian history could be coordinated with the Bible. That is not the case at present. As Dr. Martin wrote in his 1981 article “The Importance of Egyptian History”:
“The way to come to a proper knowledge of the history of Egypt, in my view, is to first of all to be certain that we understand what was happening in Palestine, in the land of Canaan from the time of the flood of Noah right on through until historical times come along which we can be pretty well assured of. If you can understand the history of central Palestine, and Isaiah said Israel is placed in the middle of everything, then we should be able to understand what is happening on the flanks of Israel.” 37
The mention in such documents of the Hebrew name of just one pharaoh (and there should be several mentioned) that could be identified from the Egyptian dynastic lists would revolutionize Egyptian and all of ancient history. At present there is a 400 to 600 year mismatch between biblical history and Egyptian history that has evaded any attempts to reconcile the two, according to accepted traditional scholarship. It is my belief that “suddenly” the misunderstood Egyptian chronology and history would coordinate positively to the biblical record. Ancient history would suddenly “make sense” to scholars around the world. Events in one kingdom could be understood as having an impact upon another kingdom. A drought in one place would have an impact upon another place.
Finding these books within the Tomb of David would be a major breakthrough in understanding what the events in Palestine at that period of history. Even more important, as we approach the end times, it is vital that we have an accurate grasp of ancient history, to better understand the prophecies in the Bible in the time of David. Such knowledge would be informative for the great and sweeping prophecies that come after David. Such a discovery would show that the Bible is the basis for history of the ancient world, and that it is the standard to which all historical writings of the ancient world must compare. The Bible is accurate.
David’s Book of the Law
Finally, we come to the most amazing possible discovery of all. A passage in Deuteronomy chapter 17 talks about the Torah being copied (written down) by each new king:
“When he [a new king] sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law [torah] in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: … to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, 38 he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”
This means the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It is conjecture whether this unbelievably valuable writing is even in the Tomb of David, but there is reason for the speculation: If each new king was instructed to write out a copy of the law, can we expect that such a command would be followed by the righteous kings of Judah? Yes. Would David have followed this command of Deuteronomy? Again the answer is yes. David took the Law of the Lord very seriously 39 :
“Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate day and night.”
“The law [torah] of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”
I ask the question: If David did copy the Law given to him by “the priests, the Levites”(cf. Deuteronomy 31:9, 25–26), what happened to that copy after David died? Would it have been thrown in the trash? Or, just maybe, would that copy of the Law that David loved, written by David himself, be placed with his body in the “house” made by God — waiting — within the Tomb of David to be discovered?
The Mishnah (the book of Jewish oral tradition and ritual, written down post-70 C.E.) states that no Scriptures can be thrown away or burned, they must be stored or hidden (Mishnah Shabbath 9.6, 16.1). Does this tradition date far back to David’s time, or did it even originate with David? We cannot know. However, burial of the king’s personal copy of the Law would be an excellent solution.
The Importance of this Discovery
If David’s personal copy of the Law would be in the Tomb of David, it would be the single most remarkable historical event this side of the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Can you imagine the impact on the world? The discovery of a genuine copy of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy all written in the old Hebrew text. 40 And the words would be written in King David’s own hand.
I would think such a document would be “self authenticating,” although this too is speculation. David would be proud of his work and like anyone he would, in some manner, “sign” or identify his book to indicate that it was his copy of the Torah.
Keep in mind that such a document would have been written some 200 years before Elijah the Prophet was born, and even longer before Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and all of the Minor Prophets appeared on the scene. It might have been written before Solomon was born. The world would recognize and pay attention to the fact that the Law would be coming forth“out of Zion” (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2). Most all Jews, Christians, and Muslims would rejoice at such a discovery! It could lead directly to the prophesied conversion of Israel beginning at Jerusalem (Zechariah chapters 12–14).
The Law out of Zion
We can now begin to understand this Zechariah passage:
“In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
A discovery of a “genuine” Book of the Law would have a tremendous emotional impact upon the entire world, but particularly for those in Jerusalem, and the entire discovery would be due to God’s sovereign act!
“And many people shall go and say, ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:
for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’”
Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2
Did you catch that? The Law will go forth “out of Zion,” while the Word of the Lord comes from Jerusalem. Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries and this was a prophecy for a time future to them. As Christians we understand that this prophecy was fulfilled through Christ, who was the Word of God and the fulfillment of God’s law. But look at verses that say similar things, keeping in mind that Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2 and these other verses deal with Israel and not Gentiles: Deuteronomy 6:1; Isaiah 51:4; Jeremiah 31:6, 50:4–5; Zechariah 8:20–23, Psalm 25:8–9; Luke 24:27.
Most people read the phrase “the house of David shall be as God,” and “as the angel of the Lord before them” and believe it refers to a situation similar to Joshua 23:10 where it is promised that if Israel is faithful to God, He shall assist them in their battles and “one of you shall chase a thousand.” However, Zechariah 12:8–9 specifically states that God“will seek to destroy all the nations,” not the House of David or the inhabitants of Jerusalem or the people of Israel.
“In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel [a messenger] of the Lord before them[the inhabitants].”
If we understand the House of David to be a physical structure, the sepulchers of David, and if the sepulchers can be located, and if the Torah would be within the sepulchers, then it is easy to understand how “the House of David shall be as God, as the angel [a messenger] of the Lord before them.”
Many would consider the amazing discovery of the Tombs of David as a miraculous act of God, and they would be correct! Many would feel that God was sending them a message to change their lives, that He will soon be active in the world, and that God is revealing His Word to them after 3,000 years, starting with the Law of Moses. The contents of the House of David might contain such wondrous things (primarily writings confirming Scripture) that the world would suddenly seek God and a no-nonsense, truthful Gospel preached about Him. No one would doubt the authenticity of artifacts within the Tomb. Those most in awe would be the archaeologists, scientists, and scholars themselves! An original copy of the Law of Moses buried for 3,000 years waiting to be discovered intact with David’s body, which would be preserved but with corruption (Acts 13:36).
A Torah in the ancient Hebrew letters could be easily compared to the current text of the Torah that the Jews use today. The world will be able to judge whether the Jews, as keepers of the oracles of God (Deuteronomy 4:8; Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2), have faithfully carried out that commission. What interesting discussions those would be! Imagine Scripture being discussed seriously over every major media! Thousands of textual and biblical scholars (Jew and Gentile) would leap to the task of analysis.
Problems with this Discovery
Of course, discipline would be needed not to turn any of these “artifacts” into idols, whether that would be the bodies of David or Solomon, the “throne of David,” the pattern of the Temple, or other marvelous things that may be in the Tombs (Goliath’s sword and armor perhaps?). Also, the historical writings that may be in the Tombs must not supersede in our minds the canonical Scripture as we have today. Even though such a discovery would be seen as a miracle from God, such works would be for historical purposes and not to be considered Scripture. Most likely the Mystery would be diminished and discarded by most people in preference to following the Torah, forgetting that Christ has fulfilled all of those requirements.
The Gospel at the Time of the End
Often the small things are misplaced. It is interesting that one small fact has been forgotten by most students of prophecy. The preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in the period before Christ’s Second Coming shall follow the same process as it did in the 1st century C.E. The final and future preaching of the Gospel will not begin in America, or England, or continental Europe. It will not begin from the evangelical churches of those nations or churches from East Asia or Africa. The final preaching of the Gospel at the end of the age shall begin where it began in the time of the apostles — from Jerusalem:
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world [aion, the age]?’” … And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Matthew 24:3, 14
“Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? … And the gospel must first be published among all nations.”
Mark 13:4, 10
These verses are well understood. But where did it all begin? Where did the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom begin? At the time of the apostles, the preaching of repentance and remission of sins began from Jerusalem, and then expanded to the entire world. This is what Christ told the apostles immediately before His ascension into heaven:
“And said unto them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations,beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.’”
“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both  in Jerusalem, and  in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and  unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
It makes sense, of course, because Jerusalem is where the preaching should begin. That is where the apostles were located. They were instructed to remain in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49–53; Acts 1:4–5), and they did so. The preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God began from Jerusalem after the grace of God’s Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles and many, many of the people.
The final preaching of repentance and remission of sins shall also begin from Jerusalem. Remember that the law shall proceed from Jerusalem: “… for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:2), and “for out of[from]Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3), exactly from where the apostles began their ministry after that most important Pentecost of 30 C.E.
Here is an accurate description from Hosea of Israel’s situation at our present moment:
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim [this describes Israel today]:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and [seek] David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”
The Gospel that will be preached shall proceed from Jerusalem shall be accomplished mostly by Jews who will accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Christ.
- The children of Israel shall return.
- The children of Israel shall seek the Lord their God.
- The children of Israel shall seek David their king.
- But through God’s grace, the children of Israel shall find Jesus their Messiah!
Our job will be to ensure that they understand and have available to them the biblical knowledge of the reconciliation of all to the Father and Christ, and most importantly that they understand the Mystery of God as revealed to Paul and others in 63 C.E. This will be the toughest part because remember, most all believers in the 1st century rejected the Mystery, and even rejected the apostle Paul himself (2 Timothy 1:15).
The Process for Access to the Tombs
Although the location of the Tombs can be known biblically and historically, unfortunately the exact position of any of the chambers (and discovery of one will lead to all others) cannot yet be determined. This is due to several factors. First, the tomb chambers are within 75–100 feet of limestone bedrock above and west of the Gihon Springs, just south of the position where the southern Temple wall once stood. Second, the slope of the hillside containing the tomb chambers is about 60º, which makes tasks very difficult, but not impossible. Third, there are houses at the top of the hill and across the valley at the town of Silwan which would require a minimum of disturbance for such an endeavor. Fourth, while the proposed area is small geographically, we do not know how to precisely locate any one of the several Tomb chambers.
The problem is one of technology, not evidence. At present the technology does not exist, so far as I have been able to determine. God must intervene, whether through technology (new or old) or through His direct act to reveal exactly where any one of the chambers is located. If we find one chamber we can find all of them, just as in Egyptian archaeology. Certain of the tombs of the Pharaohs are family tombs with several (if not dozens) of interconnected chambers. All the chambers of the David’s Tomb complex are connected, or were so connected in the past.
Here is one process on how to proceed, once any one of the chambers is precisely located. It is acknowledged to be valid by professional archaeologists, geologists and other scientists. If a “fix” could be made on a chamber, the technique to “look inside” that chamber is easy and “off the shelf.” Of course the Israeli government, through the Israeli Antiquities Authority, would authorize and monitor all archaeological events.
Funding would come from any one of several archaeological foundations. Everyone in the field will want to be part of such a project with a low risk, great reward ratio — once a sepulcher chamber is located.
Step by Step, by the Numbers
First, a one or two inch borehole would be drilled down to the sepulcher chamber. Then a plumber’s camera would be sent into the chamber. The camera would have its own source of light. Video from the camera would yield a 360º, color computer image of the interior of the chamber.
After the image has been recorded, the camera would be extracted. Nitrogen (an inert gas) would be pumped into the chamber to force out oxygen that may have entered through the borehole. Oxidation is a great enemy to ancient artifacts and extremely destructive, particularly to written documents, until they are properly preserved. The borehole would then be sealed.
From the video recording it is technologically easy (or so I am told) to produce a 3-dimensional image of the contents within the chamber. I have seen such a computer model of the Temple both in Jerusalem at the Davidson Center and in Los Angeles where the Temple computer model was developed on the UCLA supercomputer. A computer model of the “inside” of the chamber would be produced and analyzed. This model would reveal most of the important objects within the chamber, what they are and where they are.
From analysis of the video data, specialists from around the world would be consulted. Archaeologists, geologists, and document preservation experts would determine the best method and direction of approach to excavate and enter the chamber, whether from the top, from the side, or from one of the connecting doorways. Remember, all of the chambers (now blocked after 3,000 years (Isaiah 22:22) were at one time connected either to other chambers or to passages to other chambers. By nature of this fact, discovery of one chamber would eventually lead to discovery of them all.
I have communicated with experts around the world regarding how to locate a chamber 75 to 100 feet within limestone bedrock. I have looked into remote satellite scanning from space, remote scanning from the surface using radar, sound, magnetics, atomic resonance and other methods, all of which have been examined and debated. Techniques for deep mineral testing (used to discover coal, copper, and other such resources) could not yield results. Seismic testing as used in oil exploration is not suitable because it seeks information much deeper than we are seeking, and it is intrusive for the people living on the top of the hill and for the people across the Kedron Valley at Silwan.
For quite a while I pursued contact with one company that seemed to have a non-intrusive deep scanning radar technology that could effectively “look” down to the required depth. When first approached, the president of the company indicated interest and agreed to a meeting. When I was close to their city I phoned to confirm the time, but he refused to meet. He said that although the David’s Tomb project was interesting, it did not interest him enough, so he did not want to meet, their company was moving on to other income streams. Quite disappointing, but it is probably for the best because other scanning experts had told me that the company’s claims would violate the laws of physics. Who knows?
At this time I am very well informed regarding archaeologists, their activities, and events in Israel through sources in Jerusalem and elsewhere in that small country. Of course, I monitor events very closely regarding the goings-on in the City of David. At present there are no archaeological digs either at the site of the Temples (as indicated by Dr. Martin’s evidence) or over the general area of the tomb chambers. There should be no reason to dig in either location because they will not find anything — unless they want to carve through 75 feet of limestone. Remember, the Herodian Temple had every stone upon another removed (Matthew 24:1–2; Mark 13:1–2; Luke 21:5–6). The only artifacts that might remain would be from the later attempted reconstructions during the reigns of Roman emperors Constantine and Julian the Apostate. And no one is going to dig down through the limestone bedrock unless they already have a precise location (within feet) of where to put the borehole. Another alternative is to drill 50 or 75 or 100 boreholes in a search pattern on a 60º slope, but that is unreasonable.
So, along the way there have been bumps in the road. The deep scanner letdown was a disappointment. I had hoped that events would move along with a pace based on technology but God would not have it be so. And then there have been people along the way who have claimed to have contacts (particularly in Israel) but those “contacts” did not even know them. All this is a part of life.
To me personally it matters a great deal that Dr. Martin receive the credit he deserves regarding his Temple research. My purpose in publishing at this time (October 2006) is to put out this information to the world so others can add to or correct the information I put forth here, all of which demands an understanding of the correct Temple location based on evidence from Dr. Ernest L. Martin’s research.
Although I would like to participate in the process of discovery (as we all would), ego aside, in the end it does not matter who “discovers” what God has hidden to be revealed at the proper time (Isaiah 22:22). As Solomon wrote (Proverbs 25:1):
“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.”
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
We who are children of God are much more than kings. We perform and “do all the words of this law,” through Christ, the Messiah, who performed all the words of the law (without exception) for us! Whether or not the discovery of David’s Tomb will be made (and I think it shall be so), what matters is that the truths of the biblical record be put out to the world — to the glory of God the Father. This time the world will pay attention and listen.
Representations of David’s Sepulcher Chambers
According to Dr. Martin’s Temple Illustration
David Sielaff, October 2006
1 Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 2000.
2 Referencing Nehemiah 3:15–16.
3 Martin, Temples Jerusalem Forgot, p. 343–344.
4 See Dr. Martin’s article “The Coming Revolution in Knowledge” athttp://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p060301.htm, and two articles by me “The Restitution of All Things, What to Expect” at http://www.askelm.com/news/n030621.htm and “Changes and the Knowledge Revolution” at http://www.askelm.com/news/n060301.htm.
5 In Journal of Near Eastern Studies 7:30 (Jan–Oct): 30–45. See also Nadav Na’aman’s article, “Death Formulae and the Burial Place of the Kings of the House of David” inBiblica, Vol. 85 (2004), pp. 245–254. This entire article is available online athttp://www.bsw.org/project/biblica/bibl85/Ani08.html.
6 Yeivin cites Jeremiah 8:1ff and 22:18ff. It was also important in ancient times the burial sites be maintained. This is made clear when Nehemiah approached the King of Persia with a special request “the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lies waste, … send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it” (Nehemiah 2:3, 5).
7 See my article “A Name for the Temple of God” athttp://www.askelm.com/news/n020921.htm. The Temple was where God placed His name. In Psalm 132 the Psalmist (apparently not David), records David’s thinking about his desire to build a Temple.
8 Outside of 2 Samuel chapter 7 the phrase “House of David” does often refer to David’s descendants. See my article “House of David” athttp://www.askelm.com/temple/t040801.htm. Context determines how and where “House of David” is used, whether to mean a structure or descendants.
9 See my article “House of David,” and Lyle Eslinger, House of David or House of God: Rhetoric of 2 Samuel 7, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 164 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994). In communication with Professor Eslinger, he says that I have understood and used his analysis correctly, although in a surprising manner beyond what he foresaw when he wrote his technical analysis book on the single chapter of 2 Samuel 7. Professor Eslinger did not foresee that the “house” that God built for David might be a structure to last for the age of undetermined length. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Kings 11:38, 15:5; Acts 13:22), Eslinger puts forth the idea that David’s desire to build a Temple to YHWH was in part self serving and was intended to consolidate his rule, centralizing all aspects of power in Israel under David’s personal control. Eslinger concludes this was God’s reason for rejecting David as builder of the Temple.
10 The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that there were “sepulchral caverns of the kings” (Jewish Wars 5.147). It is unclear which kings Josephus is referring to; they were likely some of the later Hasmonean kings.
11 Both the house and the kingdom (seed) will continue “unto the age” (2 Samuel 7:11–12). There is no reason to believe that the length of the “age” will be the same for both the house and the kingdom. Indeed we know that the kingdom ended with the Babylonian exile. The “house” of David continues to the present day as we shall see from additional and later Scripture. In fact, one could make an excellent case that three separate predictions “unto the age” are made in 2 Samuel chapter 7:
1. The house that God would build for David, verse 7:11. This structure would be the Tombs of David.
2. The seed of David’s descendents, verse 7:12. These would be the Kings of Judah (cf. Psalm 132:11–12).
3. “… the throne of his kingdom,” verse 7:13. This throne is occupied by the resurrected Christ today (Luke 1:32, citing Isaiah 9:7). It also refers to David’s descendents who also occupied the “throne of David” between the time of David and Christ, as in Psalm 132:11–12; Jeremiah 17:25, 22:2–4, 30, 29:16, 33:17, 21, 36:30.
13 2 Samuel 7:18–29. David goes before God at the tabernacle that held the Ark of the Covenant. This was not the tabernacle of Moses, which was still at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:13). This was the tabernacle of David (2 Samuel 6:17; Isaiah 16:5; Amos 9:11–12; and Acts 15:16–17).
14 In 2 Samuel 7:11 God will “make” (asah, to do or make) a house for David. In 1 Chronicles 17:10 God will “build” (banah, to build) a house for David. God fulfilled His purpose. Compare 2 Samuel chapter 7 is 1 Chronicles 17:10–27 side by side.
15 An example of “finishing” a tomb would be King Tut’s tomb, which was richly adorned with art and implements, including furniture. This is exactly what the Jewish historian Josephus tells us was inside David’s Tomb.
16 An analysis of Psalm 30 is my article “The House of David” athttp://www.askelm.com/temple/t040801.htm. Some think that “house” in Psalm 30 refers to the Temple and that this Psalm is David’s posthumous dedication to it. This is not possible. The topics of Psalm 30 are death, burial, the pit, the grave, glory and implied resurrection, very unlikely topics for a joyous dedication of a Temple. However, those topics they fit perfectly if the “house” is a sepulcher.
17 Basically the Hebrew word “house” (bayeth or beyt) means one of two things. First, it can indicate a structure, a physical construction of some kind. A tomb or sepulcher would fit within this meaning of “house.” Second, it can mean descendants, such as the House of Jacob referring to Jacob’s descendants. “House of David” is used to convey both meanings in different contexts.
18 Shebna held a high position in the court of King Hezekiah of Judah. He was treasurer (or steward) in charge of the king’s household. He was to be punished for his pride and crimes (Isaiah 22:17–19, which likely caused the situation described earlier in Isaiah 22:1–14). Shebna was arrogantly constructing for himself a sepulcher worthy of a king.
19 Eliakim assumed all Shebna’s authority and accouterments that accompany that role, administering the government for Hezekiah, much like Joseph administered Egypt for Pharaoh. Eliakim was to be beneficent, like a father to those who live in Jerusalem and Judah. The name “Eliakim” means “God raises” or “God sets up.” This and other factors show that Isaiah 22:22 has a direct messianic reference as used in Revelation 3:7 where verse 22:22 is almost directly quoted, with an important modification, in the message to the ekklesia of Philadelphia where it refers specifically to Christ.
20 Why is the phrase “house of” missing? Perhaps because the “house of” portion may no longer be relevant when the prophecy of Revelation 3:7 is fulfilled. At that time the words, “the house of” David may already have been discovered. The “key of David”refers to the work of Christ to open and close a door for salvation (Revelation 3:7–8).
21 Here is a list of burials texts of David’s successors through Hezekiah: Solomon: 1 Kings 11:43; 2 Chronicles 9:31. Rehoboam: 1 Kings 14:31; 2 Chronicles 12:16 (buried in the“sepulchres of the kings,” Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 8.264). Abijam (Abijah):1 Kings 15:8; 2 Chronicles 14:1. Asa: 1 Kings 15:24; 2 Chronicles 16:13–14.Jehoshaphat: 1 Kings 22:50; 2 Chronicles 21:1. Jehoram (Joram): 2 Kings 8:24; 2 Chronicles 21:20. Ahaziah: 2 Kings 9:28; 2 Chronicles 22:9. Jehoash (Joash): 2 Kings 12:21; 2 Chronicles 24:25 (“buried in the king’s sepulchres at Jerusalem,” Josephus,Antiquities of the Jews 9.166);. Amaziah: 2 Kings 14:20; 2 Chronicles 25:28. Azariah (Uzziah): 2 Kings 15:7; 2 Chronicles 26:23. Jotham: 2 Kings 15:38; 2 Chronicles 27:9.Ahaz: 2 Kings 16:20; 2 Chronicles 28:27. Hezekiah: 2 Kings 20:21; 2 Chronicles 32:33.
22 In fact, the “chiefest” is rendered by several translations by “highest” or “in the ascent” of the sepulchers of the son of David. After Hezekiah none of the kings of Judah were buried in the City of David. See Yeivin, “Sepulchers of the Kings,” p. 33 and Na’aman, “Death Formulae,” p. 245: “The death formula changes in the histories of the kings from Hezekiah onward. The words ‘(was buried) with his ancestors in the City of David’ disappear.” The phrase “sons of David” may refer to Davidic kings, or it may mean that Hezekiah was buried near or inside the chambers containing literal sons borne to David’s wives and concubines, including those who rebelled against David. A complete list of the sons of David is in 1 Chronicles 3:1–9.
23 Here again we have reference to the place of the dead being in “high places” (Ezekiel 43:7) just like Shebna sought to construct for himself in Isaiah 22:16. Carcasses associated with high places are also referred to in Leviticus 26:30, indicating idolatry.
24 Some might wonder about the use of the phrases “children of Israel” and “house of Israel” in verse 7 regarding God’s throne and presence. The kingdom of Israel ceased to exist and was exiled from their land over 120+ years before Ezekiel had this vision. The reference is not to the northern Kingdom of Israel. God never placed His presence in the northern kingdom or with the kings of Israel, who were buried in Samaria. However,God is speaking in this vision as ruler of greater Israel, meaning all of the 12 tribes. Most of the vision of Ezekiel chapters 40–48 refers to a time future to Ezekiel; only this small portion of Ezekiel 43:1–12 looks to the past. The exiles in Babylon represented all Israel.
25 The Hebrew word in this verse is most often translated “door” rather than “threshold,” although the latter term is properly descriptive. “Posts” is always translated thus in the King James Version and most other translations.
26 Martin, Temples Jerusalem Forgot, pp. 348–355.
27 God’s punishments fit the crimes. Read Leviticus 26:29–29. See particularly verses 29-30.
28 Martin, Temples Jerusalem Forgot, pp. 402–405.
29 I presented this in my “House of David” article, see note 8 above.
31 Josephus further records that Herod’s family troubles were the result of his evil act of trying to enter David’s Tomb (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 16:188). In fact, after relating Herod’s family troubles the very next subject is Herod’s sudden desire to expand the Temple. One wonders if his night attempt to enter the sepulcher of David prompted guilt in Herod and in an attempt to do penance to God, he decided to glory God’s Temple.
33 Gary Arvidson, In Search of King David’s Lost Tomb & Treasure, 2nd edition (Kings Mountain, NC: Gary Arvidson, 2001).
34 This should actually not be translated Edom, but it should be translated adam, or mankind. We know this not only because the Greek Old Testament, the LXX, translates it so, but because James translates it as adam in Acts 15:17.
35 Could the Ark of the Covenant be within the Tombs of David? It seems unlikely because Jeremiah states that the Ark shall not be spoken of, come to mind, remembered, visited, or done with anymore. The people shall appeal to the throne of God (Jeremiah 3:16–17). See also the generally reliable history of 2 Maccabees 2:1–19 which states that Jeremiah buried the Ark.
36 Solomon had the same documentation prepared by his court officials: “And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?” (1 Kings 11:41). If Solomon is buried in the tombs of David, it is possible Solomon’s records would be available also. After Solomon most every king, whether of Judah or Israel, has a formulaic statement like this: “Now the rest of the acts of [X], and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of [Judah or Israel]”?
38 During repairs made to the Temple during the reign of Josiah, King of Judah, a book of the law, a Torah, is discovered in the House of YHWH, the Temple, as told in 2 Kings 22:1–23:24. This discovery caused a repentance and a turn to righteousness in the kingdom of Judah by the people, the leaders, and the king. As a result God delayed His punishment upon Judah until the death of Josiah. By the nations and his repentance King Josiah did indeed “prolong his days in his kingdom.” They would have been prolonged even more if Josiah had obeyed God more carefully.
39 We know David wrote a very private letter himself in 2 Samuel 11:14. We also know that David instructed the priests to “minister before the Ark continually” (1 Chronicles 16:37) in accordance with “all that is written in the law of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 16:40) after the Ark of the Covenant was moved to Jerusalem.
40 Remember that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet were changed by Ezra the priest upon the return of the Jews from Babylon. The Hebrew letters today are different from the ancient Hebrew letters that David would have written.
© 1976-2013 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge – ASK is supported by freewill contributions
Reprinted with permission from
The Expository Times
Vol. 115 No. 2 (November 2003): 37-45
By George Wesley Buchanan
Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.
Read the accompanying Newsletter for December 2003
As soon as I arrived in Israel (July–August, 2000) I went at once to Jerusalem, where I had previously lived for two years, and the first day I was there I walked to the City of David, which I had seen many times. I was there after Kathleen Kenyon said the City of David was not on the Dome of the Rock, but down near the spring of Siloam. Most people did not believe her, and I had serious doubts. How could David’s holy city be this little town of about 10–12 acres, about ¾ of a mile long and 1/3 mile wide?
Now, however, archaeologists have discovered a wall that is more than 5,000 years old that circumscribed that little ridge, and alongside the eastern wall, on the Kidron Valley side, remains the footing of the Tower of Siloam. These are only the remnants of a much more complete recovery in 1920 by the archaeologist, Raymond Weill. 1 Weill, however, identified these ruins as constituting only “a circular structure.” It was not until the old wall was discovered in relationship to this structure that it was identified as the Tower of Siloam.
The whole picture now becomes clear. That 10–12 acre city was a strategic location. The spring was central to the city, and the ridge made it a secure fortress. It was easy to fortify a triangular, rocky ridge that was very steep on two sides, as it had been before the Hasmonean, Simon, removed the citadel and used the residue to fill in the entire Tyropoeon Valley. All the ancients had to do was to build a wall of small rocks, like a huge retaining wall, with the solid cliff to back it up. At that time the ridge displayed two hills on top. The tall hill was at the south end, and it became David’s citadel. That was Mount Zion. At the north end there was a lower, broader hill, called Mount Ophel, which lay west, and north, of the Spring of Siloam. In between were David’s palace and either David’s altar and tent or one of the temples, right over and behind the spring. After the time of Solomon, along the eastern wall, at the north end, was the temple, which was also a fortress. At the south end was David’s citadel, another fortress. In between was the Tower of Siloam, closer to the Spring of Siloam than to the Valley of Hinnom. On the western side of the ridge was once also a steep cliff that was fortified by a western wall. That is now an unfortified Tyropoeon Valley.
During the Maccabean period, the Syrians took control of the citadel and from it controlled the entire city. Jews hated that intrusion, and as soon as Simon gained freedom from Syria, he spent three years, removing the entire hill, down to bed rock, dumping the dirt into the Tyropoeon Valley (Ant 13.214–217), and filling in the valley between Zion and the ridge to the west. That which had been the tallest part of the ridge and city became the lower city (Ant 13.214–217). The temple became the highest point.
When Romans took control, they built a huge fortress, which is now mistakenly called the temple mount, north of the city of David, which enclosed 35 acres — about three times as much as the entire City of David. This was the Tower of Antonia. This fortress follows the same pattern as Roman fortresses and camps in other places in the world. 2 Herod’s fortress was built to replace the old Syrian citadel, and it was notoriously superior. It was much bigger and taller. From it soldiers could look over the top of the temple from the north, as David’s citadel did earlier, from the south. As many as 6,000 Roman soldiers were kept in the Tower of Antonia at one time. Roman deities were worshipped there. Orthodox Jews would not enter Herod’s temple, let alone the Roman city, because of its defilement. Six hundred feet south of Herod’s fortress, Herod built a new temple, which Romans could overlook from the Tower of Antonia (War 6.144). There were two bridges that connected the two.
When I first saw the City of David in July 2000, I knew at once that Solomon’s temple had to have been there, rather than up in the enclosure of the Dome of the Rock. I also thought David’s altar and tent had to have been here, and also Zerubbabel’s temple. At first, however, I thought that Herod’s temple was inside Herod’s city, but then I read Dr Ernest Martin’s excellent book, The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot (Portland: ASK Publications, 2000). Martin collected literary evidence, both contemporary and later Jewish, Christian and Muslim literature, that proved that Herod’s temple was also down, behind the Spring of Siloam. Scriptural testimony also places the temple on the ridge above the spring of Siloam. 3
The Temple and the Springs
Nehemiah described the stairs that went down to the spring of Siloam from the City of David (Neh. 3:15–16) and the fountain gate at the base of the stairs (Neh. 12:37). This may have been where the high priest descended (yah-ráhd ררי) to immerse himself five times on the Day of Atonement and where the priests of the temple went for purification after nocturnal emissions (mYoma 3–34). All of that water from the spring was necessary for the performance of sacrifices in the temple. The numerous sacrifices made could not have been satisfied by water from the cisterns inside Herod’s fortress. Describing the temple of Zion before its fall (70 IA) 4 Tacitus said,
‘The temple was built like a fortress . . . There is an ever-flowing spring tunnelled under the hills into collecting pools and cisterns.’
Aristeas (c.285 BIA) explained how the landscape of the temple area was designed with paved stones and gutters to carry away the blood washed down from the sacrifices. There was an inexhaustible supply of water gushing into the temple for sacrifices (Aristeas 87–89). This suggests that part of the temple was built over the spring or else the temple was so close to the spring that water from the spring could be directed from it into the temple itself. The temple scroll gives directions for establishing a place where priests could change their garments, bathe, and change into priestly garments before participating in the temple services. This bathing place required flowing water with a canal around it so the bath water, like the blood, could flow away into a drain that escaped into the ground (1QT 32.11–15). This mixture should not be touched before it vanished into the ground, because it would be defiled with blood (1QT 32.14–15). Rabbis said it would flow into the brook Kidron (mMid 3.2).
Yadin noticed that there was a great deal of agreement among the sources regarding the necessity of flowing water for sacrifices, but he seemed not to wonder what the source of all this water was if the temple was up north on top of the Dome of the Rock, where there is no water flowing. 5 Other archaeologists, historians and religious people have also assumed for many years that the temple once stood in the very place where the Dome of the Rock now stands. Four of the most recent archaeologists to publish their choice locations for the temple inside the huge walls built by the Romans during Herod’s time were Kaufman, Sporty, Ritmeyer and Jacobson. They all presumed that the temple had once existed in the area where the Dome of the Rock now stands. None of them agreed on its exact location. 6
Pre-Martin Scholarly Opinions
The Roman fortress constructed under Herod’s administration is large. There is easily room for a temple and an altar within that space in several locations, and fourteen scholars have indicated fourteen slightly different places, each one of which is intended to establish the very point where he thought the temple formerly stood. 7 Each one assumed that the temple had been inside of the walls that surround the Dome of the Rock. The four most recent suggestions are as follows.
Kaufman said the temple had not been located on the spot where the Dome of the Rock now stands. 8 He thought it would have to be directly in front of the Golden Gate entrance, and studied the ground to argue his case. Kaufman chose the NW corner of the grounds for the true location.
Ritmeyer, however, took a different approach. He claimed that the rock at the centre of the Dome of the Rock was the place where the ark was placed in the holy of holies. Ritmeyer’s theory had been widely accepted, and many accepted him as the one who had ‘identified the original Temple Mount’. 9 At first, other scholars asked only technical questions of detail about Ritmeyer’s interpretation of rabbinic literature or neglect of a few relevant texts, 10 and Ritmeyer answered them to the satisfaction of many. For example, Pretzky was one of Ritmeyer’s early critics. To answer one of Pretzky’s criticisms, 11 Ritmeyer said Pretzky’s point was not valid because it was based on the Talmud. He said,
‘The Talmud was written approximately a thousand years after the last sighting of the Ark, during the reign of Josiah. It is doubtful whether memory can stretch so far.’ 12
Hershel Shanks invited Jacobson to evaluate the work of Kaufman and Ritmeyer, to learn which was correct. Jacobson thought they were both wrong. 13 He thought that the temple should have been where the Dome of the Rock now is but the altar should be east of the temple. None of these scholars even considered the possibility that the temple could have been anywhere else except inside the walls that surrounded the Dome of the Rock. This means that Martin’s book, The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, came as a shock. Only Ritmeyer responded. He had been comfortable with his position of academic status, until Martin’s book appeared showing that the primary assumption upon which Kaufman, Sporty, Jacobson and Ritmeyer based their technical observations was false.
The temple never existed within the walls that surrounded the Dome of the Rock. Instead of the Talmud, Ritmeyer based most of his rabbinic arguments on the Mishnah, that was finally edited in the third century IA — centuries after the eyewitnesses either of the ark or the temple in which it was housed. Following his own logic, however, Ritmeyer should have been still more favourably impressed by the accounts written by the contemporary witnesses of Enoch, Hecataeus, Aristeas, Tacitus, Josephus and the Temple Scroll, but he was not. Yadin had recognized the necessity for lots of water in the temple for all the sacrifices and cleansings; he just overlooked the fact that the area near the Dome of the Rock had only cisterns for water supply. Kaufman, Ritmeyer and Jacobson, however, never even tried to find a huge spring near that area that would meet the needs of sacrifices and be available all the year around. Except for Josephus none of them consulted the earlier testimony written from eyewitnesses to the location of the temple.
Martin showed clearly that the temple had been located near the Spring of Siloam, rather than any place inside of Herod’s walled city and fortress. Kathleen and Leen Ritmeyer worked intensively to learn details about the temple. Part of their insights might be adapted to a different location, 6oo feet south of Herod’s fortress (War 6.144), if Leen Ritmeyer had analysed the new data Martin introduced appreciatively. Their analyses of Herod’s walls are just as valid if they were recognized as parts of Herod’s fortress as if they had been parts of the ‘temple mount’.
Ritmeyer followed others in concluding that the Herodian walls had been built on top of earlier walls, and that there was a moat somewhere in the vicinity. 14 The ridge that David found at Zion needed some kind of northern fortification. There were steep cliffs to protect the city on the east and west sides. Mount Zion was a natural hill that could easily have been fortified at the south end of the ridge. This became David’s citadel, placed at the end of the ridge as fortresses ordinarily are, such as Megiddo, Dan and Gezer. At the north end of this ridge, however, other fortification was needed, and the Hasmoneans had started to strengthen that before the time of Herod. If there had not been a fortress and strong walls there when David began his attack on the city, he could have conquered the city from the north without any resistance.
Instead of adapting appreciatively to Martin’s discoveries Leen Ritmeyer took Martin’s insights as a threat, and responded defensively. He ignored most of Martin’s data, arguments and contexts. Instead he selected a few of Martin’s statements, took them out of context, and said they were ‘flawed’, ‘strange’, and ‘outrageous’. 15 Before his death, Martin answered Ritmeyer, point by point. Martin is no longer alive to defend his thesis, but there are still scholars who agree with Martin’s insights, 16 so these important Interpretations are not likely to vanish. Ritmeyer can still take them into account if he chooses. The secular witnesses given above are not the only sources that assumed the close relationship between the Spring of Siloam and the temple. There is also scripture.
Ezekiel’s vision of the new age involved the stream flowing out from under the threshold of the temple, running down under the south edge of the temple toward the altar (Ezek. 47:1), down the Kidron Valley, toward the Dead Sea. It sweetened the water of the Dead Sea so that fish could survive there (Ezek. 47:10), because it flowed out from the sanctuary (Ezek. 47:12.). 17 All of this water had its origin in the temple from which it flowed south and then went [through Hezekiah’s tunnel] under the threshold of the temple and on into the Kidron Valley (Ezek. 47:1–2, 12; 2 Chron. 32:3, 30; 2 Kings 20:20), and down Wady Qumran to the Dead Sea.
The topography and geography of Ezekiel’s vision fit perfectly, once it is recognized that the temple was adjacent to the spring of Gihon (Siloam) that provided all of that water. After all, Ezekiel had lived in Jerusalem before he was taken to Babylon. He knew the geography and topography of that area. He would not have pictured a temple high on the dry hill north of the spring where this could not happen. Enoch also claimed to have seen the holy mountain with a stream that flowed underneath that mountain toward the south (1 Enoch 26:2–3). There is no such stream flowing underneath the Dome of the Rock. Hezekiah’s tunnel does not flow north. The holy mountain was obviously the temple mount, located just above Ain Gihon. This is the location of which Ezekiel spoke, where the stream that flowed underneath the mountain also flowed underneath the temple near Siloam. That was a reference to Hezekiah’s tunnel. 18
An early author, who had obviously read Ezekiel 47, visualized having been taken to Paradise, where there were blooming and fruit-bearing trees, whose roots were from an immortal land that were watered from a river of gladness, and the region around them, otherwise known as Zion, was the land of life of the age [to come]. These fruits were probably watered by the river in the Kidron Valley, and the area around was the land of life of the age [to come] (Odes of Sol [G] 11.15–16)
The psalmist spoke of the temple, where ‘Yehowah 19 sits over the flood’ where he is‘enthroned as king for the age’ (Ps. 29:10). ‘The voice of Yehowah is over the water; the God of glory roars; Yehowah over much water.’ The flood was the huge fountain of water, pouring through Hezekiah’s tunnel, under the temple. Another psalmist said, ‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High’ (Ps. 46:5). ‘The dwelling place of the Most High’ was the temple positioned near the streams that ‘make glad the city of God’. The Scroll of Blessings asked that the‘Lord bless’ the recipient from his holy dwelling, ‘the fountain of the age’ (1 QSb 1.3). The holy dwelling at ‘the fountain of the age’ was clearly the temple just above Ain Gihon.
One of the factors Zechariah anticipated in the future restoration, when Yehowah would become king over all the land, was having ‘the water of life flowing out from Jerusalem’(Zech. 14:8–9). The Jerusalem he pictured was Zion, near the spring of Gihon (Siloam) — not the hill to the north that later became Herod’s city.
When the NT seer looked forward to a new Jerusalem, he anticipated a heavenly city that had come to earth from God in heaven, prepared as a bride for a new wedding contract. In this new city one of the basic descriptions was ‘the river of the water of life going out from the throne of God’ (Rev. 22:1, thráw-noo too theh-oó [θρόνου του θεου] = keé-say áyl, לא אסכ]; cf. meek-dahsh áyl א שׁרקם (1 QpHab 12:8–9]).
Those who had come up out of great tribulation would be before the ‘throne of God’ where‘the Lamb would lead them to the springs of the water of life’ (Rev. 7:15, 17). These ‘springs of water’ were Ain Gihon and Ain Rogel at the base of the temple mount in Zion, where the Spring of Gihon streamed from the altar of the temple down the Kidron Valley to the south. The seer related the temple to the area near the spring of Gihon.
Hezekiah and the Rabshekah
Once I saw all of this and realized how much history took place in this little town, the scripture became clearer Suppose you were Hezekiah, for example, and you knew there were thousands of Assyrian soldiers stationed on Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. The Assyrian spokesman (the Rab-shekah) was standing on top of your wall and shouting so that nearly all of the people of that little town could hear, without any type of magnification, announcing that the Assyrians would come the next day and destroy every person in that little city if they did not surrender immediately. What would you do?
Hezekiah first consulted the chief of military intelligence, the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah told Hezekiah not to worry. Isaiah and his team had the situation well in control. These soldiers would all be gone by the very next day. How did Isaiah know? He knew that all of these soldiers depended on the spring for water He also knew that the wall was built right over the top of the spring, so that water could be obtained on both sides of the wall. Inside the wall there was a pool where people could come and dip water. There was probably a pool on the outside as well where water was not in motion. All the Jews had to do was to poison the water the Assyrians used, and thousands of Assyrians would lie dead upon the mountains the next day. Hezekiah prayed, but the Lord probably had a little help from the Jewish intelligence. This might have been one of the earliest uses of chemical and biological warfare.
This is not the usual explanation of this story, but it is more reasonable than others. Some scholars suppose that ‘The angel of the Lord’ (Isa. 37:36) that killed the Assyrian army was really a disease. 20 That is, of course, possible, but how did Isaiah know when diseases were going to break out? Most scholars are non-committal about the validity of this story. They think it might be exaggerated fact or it could be fabricated legend. 21Sarosdy, for example, thought this was some sort of fairytale. He thought the numbers given were ridiculous. He argued that if some Assyrians died, they would have died of thirst when Hezekiah may have closed up the spring, but this could not have happened overnight. 22
Sarosdy did not explain how Hezekiah could have closed that huge spring under the watchful eye of the Assyrians. The spring probably did not run through a water tap that could be turned off and on at will. Closing it would not have been an easy undertaking. Shea had made a strong case for two invasions against Hezekiah. By comparing the biblical texts with Sennacherab’s annals and the Egyptian inscriptions, he held that there was one invasion in 701 BC and another in 688 or 687 BC. 23 Shea thought that Hezekiah had spent the intervening years strengthening his defences and working to develop the tunnel. It is not clear how much of this work was finished before the Assyrians returned, but Shea thought it was the second attack that left the Assyrians dead in the Kidron Valley.
Assyria was the real threat to Judah in the time of Isaiah. When Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, was worried about the imminent danger of Israel and Syria, he started to check out the city’s water supply at the upper pool (Isa. 7:14). The archaeologists, Reich and Shukron, recently discovered the upper pool, near the Spring of Siloam. 24 It was a normal place for a king to be who was in danger of a military attack. Isaiah reminded Ahaz that the nation’s real danger was not either of these two small countries. It was Assyria (Isa. 7:17–20). The water supply was important both for the security of Judah and the success of any attacking enemy. Hezekiah had the tunnel built to provide secure water sources for Judah and to close off the water supply to attackers (2 Chron. 32:4). He may even have arranged a small pool on the outside of the wall, precisely for the purpose of trapping the Assyrians.
Sarosdy correctly held that the spring was there as a necessity for the Assyrians and played an important role in the event. If, however, the Assyrians had been poisoned, none of the problems Sarosdy suggested would have occurred. Death could have come rather suddenly, just as Isaiah expected. Since Hezekiah submitted to the Assyrians and gave them all of the gold of the national treasury (2 Kings 18:16–37), some think there could not have been any other event, such as this. That does not follow. Had this slaughter of Assyrians happened first, Hezekiah’s submission might still have happened later. On the other hand, Hezekiah is reported to have had many possessions. Some of them might have been hidden in places outside of the treasury that he showed Sennacherib (2 Chron. 32:29), allowing him to continue his building projects. New archaeological evidence shows the small size of Zion at the time and the military importance of the spring.
It would not have taken thousands of Assyrian soldiers to take that small town. The Assyrian campaign was really organized to expand Assyrian borders westward. That is why so many troops were present. Controlling Palestine was just part of the programme. Palestine was the land bridge between Egypt and the great nations of the north and east. Even if this had been the massive, miraculous slaughter that was reported, it would not have destroyed all of the Assyrian army. Assyria still could have sent other troops to confront Hezekiah again and obtained his submission.
The submission of Hezekiah does not invalidate the report that there was also destruction on Mount Scopus, the Mount of Olives, and the Kidron Valley even if the actual number was smaller than the one quoted. The destruction of all of these soldiers did not destroy Assyria or prevent it from returning and forcing Hezekiah to submission. Hezekiah depended on Egypt for protection against Assyria.
The fact that Joel expected a similar event to happen later in the Kidron Valley when all of the armies of the enemy would be overcome (Joel 4:11–20; RSV 3:11–20) might indicate that Joel knew of a similar earlier event that happened in that valley in the time of Hezekiah. Joel thought that since God did this once to save Israel, he might do it again. That was not a ridiculous dream or prophecy. Almost any country that wanted to capture Jerusalem would have to camp on the mountains east of the city and use the water from the spring. When that happened the attackers could be cut down like grain or grapes, by just poisoning the water
The details of the event may be exaggerated and explained to suit the faith of the interpreter, just as the exodus from Egypt was, but the Israelites really got out of Egypt, and it is likely that numerous Assyrians really died in the Kidron Valley. The needs of water for the Assyrian army and the fact that Isaiah was certain that it would happen in advance suggests that the deaths were not accidental. The reports in Isaiah, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles may be more valid than scholars have recognized.
Davidic Family Quarrels
Think of the Davidic family quarrels that took place in this little town! Absalom claimed possession of the kingdom, so he climbed up on the roof of David’s palace and had intercourse with four of David’s concubines, ‘in the sight of all Israel’ (2 Sam. 16:22) where everyone in the city could look down from Mount Zion or Mount Ophel and observe the theatrical performance. That could not have happened if the palace had been up on the Dome of the Rock.
When Adonijah was celebrating his succession to the throne at Ain Rogel — just 300 metres south of Ain Gihon — Solomon, Nathan and the priest Zadok were gathered at Ain Gihon. While there, ‘Zadok, the priest, took the horn of oil from the tent’ — that is the tent of the Lord (1 Kings 2:2 8) that David established for the chest containing the contract, which he brought up to Jerusalem. There he placed it adjacent to the altar near Ain Gihon. The text continues:
‘Then he [Zadok] anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the shofar and shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”’
1 Kings 1:39
Adonijah and his friends heard the shout, just a few city blocks away. Adonijah had to run at once to David’s altar and take hold of the horns for security, but he did not have to run up to the Dome of the Rock. He had only a few city blocks to run. By the time he got there, Solomon had already ridden his father’s mule to the palace, just a short distance from the spring where he had been anointed, and he was sitting on the throne when people told him Adonijah was asking for security. Solomon promised that so long as Adonijah remained virtuous he would be secure, but if he did anything evil he would die. He soon displeased Solomon, and Solomon had him killed. All of these events took place within easy walking distance of one another (1 Kings 1:5–2:25).
The Lukan Tower of Siloam
The tower of Siloam was small, compared to the huge towers in the Old City of Jerusalem. The remaining walls or footings have been recovered. The inside of the tower was about 19 feet (6 metres) in diameter, and the outside was about 22 feet (7 metres) in diameter. 25It was situated along the old wall on the inside, between the spring of Siloam and the Hinoam Valley. 26
It existed in NT times and is reported in a chreia in Luke. It is one of the most reliable and early textual passages in the gospels. The reference was written down in the form of two chreias (kbray-ah, χρεία), earlier than any of Paul’s writings or anything in the Gospel of Mark.
A chreia is a literary form, possibly designed by Diogenes, about 2,500 years ago. He required his students to memorize important passages from the works of great people, including his own. He taught them short cuts in memory which probably meant taking sharp lines from these works and putting them in chreia form, so that a much larger report could be remembered. Other chreias were made from hearing things said and writing them down at once in chreia form. In either case it is likely that Diogenes actually checked the work. Most of these are only one sentence long. A responsive chreia summarizes an entire event that
(1) identifies the speaker or actor,
(2) gives the situation that prompted the person to act or speak, and
(3) tells what the person did or said.
In Greek, the identity of the speaker or actor and the situation that prompted him or her to speak or act are usually contained in a genitive absolute. The rest of the sentence tells what the person did or said. The entire unit is very brief.
These literary units that were used more than 2,000 years ago were not invented by the so-called form critics of the twentieth century — Dibelius, Bultmann, and Taylor. Twentieth-century form critics who knew of chreias misunderstood them. Chreias are defined extensively in Greek books of Rhetoric, 27 written nearly 2,000 years ago. They selected choice parts of the actions, sayings, or writings of important people to preserve them for the future.
I have translated 194 chreias from the Greek that are preserved containing sayings of Diogenes. They are impressively coherent. There are hundreds of chreias attributed to church fathers, preserved to retain the memory of things church fathers did and said — used just as Diogenes planned these forms to be used. They could later be expanded into sermons, and many were — for example, the chreia in Matthew 15:1–3 is expanded in Mark 7:1–9 — but they were first written down before that happened, at a time when they were understood just as they were. They were not later composed on the basis of any oral tradition or so called ‘silences of Jesus’.
There are twenty-eight chreias in the gospels preserving sayings of Jesus — all of which are coherent among themselves and coherent with the thirty-eight parables of Jesus. Wherever history or geography is mentioned in one of these chreias, it is in Palestine at the time of Jesus and Pilate. Two of these are found in Luke 13:1–5:
‘Certain people, going along, at that time announced to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices. He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse criminals than all the Galileans because they suffered these things? No, but if you do not repent all of you will likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the Tower of Siloam fell and killed them. Do you think that these were worse debtors than all the inhabitants of Jerusalem? No, but I tell you if you do not repent all of you will likewise perish.”’ 28
The Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices are nowhere else mentioned in scripture or surrounding literature. The eighteen who were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell are mentioned nowhere else. Both events occurred around Jerusalem, just a few metres apart, during Jesus’ ministry, when Pilate was governor (26–36 IA). These reports were written down when people knew all about the events and did not have to be told ‘which Galileans’ or ‘which eighteen’. How far away from Jerusalem could that have been? Or how much later than the events could that have been written down without any explanation? Think about it — 2,000 years ago, when there were no cell-telephones, no TVs, no radios, no newspapers, no telegraphs, e-mail, web, or other modern means of communication. The ruins of this tower have now been discovered inside the City of David, near the old wall and near the spring of Siloam, several metres south of Herod’s fortress,29 confirming the validity of Luke 13:1–5.
Now the ruins of the Tower of Siloam have been found, and the location of the temple is known. These two structures were constructed very close to one another. At most they were only a few blocks apart. The blood Pilate shed in the temple is readily understood as a military confrontation. The eighteen who were killed when the Tower of Siloam fell might have been killed in a construction accident, but the fact that both chreias are mentioned together, and that the areas involved are geographically very close to each other, suggests that both events probably occurred at the same time and for the same reason, but this is only a deduction. The original readers of these chreias knew precisely what happened. The chreias only reminded them of something they already knew. That is why they were called ‘shortcuts in memory’.
The event in which Pilate killed the Galileans while they were offering sacrifices is nowhere else recorded, but if some redactor had invented these sayings fifty years later in Rome, Egypt, or Asia Minor and wanted to attribute them to Jesus for the local needs of the local church, he or she would have had to describe the Galileans and the eighteen more completely. Anyone who would believe that these were the inventions of the later church would have to be able to believe eight or ten incredible things before breakfast. The most logical conclusion of an objective historian is that these were actual reports of the sayings of Jesus. They happened in history at the very time Jesus and Pilate both lived and within the walls of the very city of David in which the temple stood.
The only reason NT scholars have not noticed this before is not that they did not have the ruins of the Tower of Siloam to look at. It is because they have been imprisoned by the hypothesis that Mark was the earliest gospel and that most of Matthew and Luke are additions of the later church. This hypothesis was invented by Ewald in the early nineteenth century — not as an analytical, historically based conclusion, but for defensive purposes,only. It has been used rhetorically ever since for the same reason. Archaeological discoveries and the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, continue to intrude upon the security of antiquated hypotheses.
At the meeting of the Society of New Testament Studies meeting in Durham, England, August 2002, Professor James Dunn astutely suggested, in his presidential address, that NT scholars were inhibited by their doctrinal ‘default settings’ that excluded important data. Archaeological data, such as this, may sooner or later force NT scholars to change their academic ‘default settings’ and open their minds to historical data. When this happens scholars will learn that the church can stand the tests of truth.
These data suggest the following:
1. David’s tent and altar and all of the temples were constructed upon the ridge just above and behind the spring of Siloam (old Ain Gihon). They could never have belonged on the dry hill, surrounded by Herod’s walls and the Tower of Antonia.
2. Jesus does not come to us as one unknown. There is an impressive amount of valid data for Jesus research available for the objective historian who will look for them on the soil of Palestine and in the scripture and surrounding literature rather than the ivy halls of Europe or America and rhetorical books on trial techniques.
George Wesley Buchanan, November, 2003
* This article is presented as given in The Expository Times with British spelling and punctuation. Minor formatting changes were made. DWS
1 T. Ariel (ed.), Excavations of the City of David 1978–1985. Directed by Yigal Shiloh V (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, c.2000), pp. 18–21 R. Weill, La Cité de David (Paris: Geunther, 1920–47), p. 2.
2 J. D. Tabor, ‘Locating the Herodian Temple: Old and New Theories in Light of Ancient Literary Evidence’ (Video-tape made by Biblical Archaeology Society). Martin, Temples, pp. 58–59.
3 Tabor read Martin’s book and reported that he was first shocked by the boldness of Martin’s conclusions, but was later 80 per cent persuaded. M. R Germano, Editor, BA[www.bibarch.com, DWS], said, ‘Not only a work of significant scholarly impact it may well serve as the awaited stimulus for the building of Jerusalem’s Third Temple.’
4 IA and BIA (international age and before the international age) are politically correct abbreviations used in preference to the apartheid abbreviations, AD, BC and CE, BCE.
5 Y. Yadin (ed.), The Temple Scroll (Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, 1983) I, p. 222.
6 H. Shanks, ‘Everything You Ever Knew about Jerusalem is Wrong’ BAR 25.6 (1999): 20–29, and ‘I Climbed Warren’s Shaft’, BAR 25.6 (1999): 30–35; J. Sudilovsky, ‘Virtual Temple Mount’, BAR 27.4 (2001): 16. R. Reich and E. Shukron, Light at the End of the Tunnel’, BAR25.1 (1999) 22–33, 72. A. S. Kaufman. ‘Where the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem Stood’, BAR9.2 (1983): 40–59, D. Jacobson, ‘Sacred Geometry’, BAR 25.4 (1999): 42–53, 62–63; 25.5:54–64, L. Ritmeyer, ‘Locating the Original Temple Mount’, BAR 18.2 (1992): 44.
7 Ritmeyer, ‘Locating’, p. 44.
8 Kaufman, ‘Ancient Temple’, pp. 40–59; Jacobson, ‘Sacred Geometry’, BAR 25.4 (1999): 54–64.
9 L. Ritmeyer, ‘The Ark of the Covenant’, BAR 22 (1996): 49. It had been accepted by E. Stern (ed.), The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), II, p. 718.
10 G. Avni, ‘Jerusalem as a Textbook’, BAR 22.3 (1996): 65–68.
11 Z. Pretzky, ‘The Long and the Short of it’, BAR 22.3 (1996): 66–67.
12 L. Ritmeyer, BAR 22.3 (1996): 67.
13 D. Jacobson, ‘Sacred Geometry’, 42–53, 62–63; 25.5 (1999): 54–63, 74.
14 L. Ritmeyer, ‘Locating’, pp. 22–45, 64–65.
16 At his own website, http://www.askelm.com/temple/t010513.htm, Martin answered Ritmeyer competently and extensively. Those who read both web sites will recognize Ritmeyer’s motivation in trying to dismiss Martin’s book.
17 See further Buchanan. The Gospel of Matthew 2 (Lewiston: Mellen Biblical Press, c.1996), pp. 816–18.
18 So Martin, Temples, pp. 277–280.
19 This is the correct pronunciation of the tetragramaton, as is clear from the pronunciation of proper names in the First Testament (FT), poetry, fifth-century Aramaic documents, Greek translations of the name in the Dead Sea Scrolls and church fathers. See further Buchanan, ‘Some Unfinished Business with the Dead Sea Scrolls’, RevQum 49–52, 13 (Mémorial Jean Carmignac (ed.), F. Garcia Martinez et E. Peuch (Paris, 1988), pp. 411–20.
20 R. B.Y. Scott, The Book of Isaiah (New York: Abingdon Press, c.1956), p. 371. G. A. Smith, The Book of Isaiah (London: Nodder & Stoughton, n.d.), p. 359.
21 J. N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, c.1986), Pp. 669–70; J. Maachline, Isaiah 1–39 (New York: Macmillan, c.1962), p. 233; E Delitzsch, Isaiah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976), p. 198. W. W. Hallo, ‘Jerusalem under Hezekiah: an Assyriological Perspective’, L. I. Levine, Jerusalem: its Sanctity and Centrality to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York: Continuum, 1999), p. 38, noted that there were very few defendants of the two-campaign theory. He also observed, however, that ‘The account in II Kgs. 19:35 and Isa 37:36 attributes Sennacherib’s retreat to the angel of the Lord who struck down 185,000 men — a figure uncannily close to the 200,150 exiles of Sennacherib’s annals.’
22 C. Sarosdy, ‘What Really Happened at Lachish’, BAR, 18.5 (2002): 14, 70.
23 W. H. Shea, ‘Jerusalem under Siege’, BAR 25.6 (1999): 36–44, 64.
24 R. Reich and E. Shukron, ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel,’ BAR 25.1 (1999): 22–33, 72.
25 Y. Shiloh, Excavations at the City of David (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, 1984), pp. 46–47.
26 Shiloh, Excavations, p. 40.
27 Such as L. Spengel, Rhetores Graeci (Lipsiae: B. G. Geubneri, 1854), 2, pp. 96–106, Greek.
28 The first part of this chreia was omitted because of its association with the previous chreia which belonged to the same situation.
29 Buchanan, Jesus: The King and his Kingdom (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984), pp. 227–230, 238.
© 1976-2013 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge – ASK is supported by freewill contributions
by David Sielaff, Director, November 2003
Read the accompanying Newsletter for November 2003
The first Temple built by Solomon was constructed from plans given by God to David. When God refused David permission to build the Temple (2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17), David took the plans and gave them to his son and designated heir, Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:1–19). Solomon constructed the Temple according to those plans. This article will discuss the details of the plan.
Dr. Martin wrote that the scene in Eden in the early chapters of Genesis shows that the Garden within Eden was a sanctuary where God dwelt. 1 “God planted a garden eastward in Eden” (Genesis 2:8). The structure of Eden and its environs were in the shape of the later Tabernacle and Temples.
In Genesis 6:13–16 we have the digest account of God giving Noah specifications for construction of the Ark. There is no mention that a “pattern” or model was given to Noah, although the measurements of length, breadth and height were precise.
Moses was also given instructions for the tent structure that God wanted built — the Tabernacle. When Moses was up in Mount Sinai God showed him the “pattern” of the Tabernacle and all the instruments that were to be used within it (Exodus chapters 24–31). He was instructed to make the Tabernacle and the instruments exactly as God showed him.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering. …
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, after the pattern [tabniyth] of the tabernacle, and the pattern [tabniyth] of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it.’”
Exodus 25:1–2, 8–9
The Hebrew word for “pattern” in verse 9 is tabniyth. It is elsewhere translated in the King James Version as likeness, form, similitude and figure. The term “pattern” fits and works for most all instances. Another translation that could easily be used is “model” in some contexts because, as some scholars believe, the root of tabniyth is the word banah, “to build.” Without doubt the meaning of the word indicates something that has a likeness or a similarity to the final product or to an original that can be represented in some way. The author of Hebrews clearly states that on Mt. Sinai Moses saw a representation of the heavenly Tabernacle, 2
“Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, ‘See,’ says he, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.’”
After describing all the instruments Moses should make for the Tabernacle, God concludes by saying,
“And look that you make them after their pattern [tabniyth], which was showed you in the mount.”
David’s Desire, and His Command to Solomon
David greatly desired and intended to build the Temple, but God prevented him from doing so because he was “a man of war, and has shed blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3). David therefore gathered all the necessary materials together for the construction of the Temple.
When David was near death he had Solomon, prince and heir to the throne (chosen by God, 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 29:1), brought before him with the people of Israel attending. All were to be told important information concerning the construction of the Temple that God would allow Solomon to build.
“And you, Solomon my son, … Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen you to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.”
1 Chronicles 28:9–10
David gave Solomon “the pattern” of the Temple. 3 This pattern was the design that David himself intended to use to build the Temple. David made it clear that Solomon was to use the same pattern that David wished to use. Although Solomon would perform the actual construction of the Temple, it would be the design that David intended. I have set out the verse in an outline format for clarity.
“Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern [tabniyth]
of the porch, and
of the houses thereof, and
of the treasuries thereof, and
of the upper chambers thereof, and
of the inner parlors thereof, and
of the place of the mercy seat,
And the pattern [tabniyth] of all that he had by the spirit,
of the courts of the house of the Lord, and
of all the chambers round about,
of the treasuries of the house of God, and
of the treasuries of the dedicated things:
Also [David gave to Solomon the pattern]
for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and
for all the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and
for all the vessels of service in the house of the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 28:11–13
God even specified the weight in gold and silver for the various implements and tools used for the future Temple service. All were part of “the pattern” as were “the courses of the priests and the Levites” and even how they were to do the work. That is a great amount of detail.
“He gave of gold
● by weight for things of gold, for all instruments of all manner of service;
silver also for all instruments of silver
● by weight, for all instruments of every kind of service:
● Even the weight for the candlesticks of gold, and for their lamps of gold,
● by weight for every candlestick, and for the lamps thereof:
and for the candlesticks of silver
● by weight, both for the candlestick, and also for the lamps thereof,
according to the use of every candlestick.
[Some instruments, candlesticks and lamps were made of gold; others were made of silver. All were provided for by weight. The list continues,]
And by weight
● he gave gold for the tables of shewbread, for every table; and
● likewise silver for the tables of silver:
Also pure gold
● for the fleshhooks,
● and the bowls, and
● the cups: and
● for the golden basins
he gave gold by weight for every basin; and
likewise silver by weight for every basin of silver: And
for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and
gold for the pattern [tabniyth] of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and
covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 28:11–18
Note how David concluded this list of items. Remember that David spoke this not only to Solomon but to all Israel assembled before him,
“‘All [this,’ said David], 4 ‘the Lord made me understand in writing by his[God’s] hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern [tabniyth].’”
1 Chronicles 28:19
This is remarkable! David states precisely that God gave this information to him “by the spirit” (verse 12) and “in writing by His hand … the works of this pattern” (verse 19). The information is apparently as detailed as were the instructions given to Moses for the Tabernacle.
Remember also that Moses received the tablets of stone that were “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 24:12, 31:18, 32:15–16) after God spoke the words to the assembled tribes of Israel. David, similar to Moses, received a “pattern” that was in God’s own handwriting. David concluded his instructions and told the assembly about all the provisions he made according to the “pattern” that God showed him. Then David asked the people to participate by giving their treasure for God’s Temple and they responded generously (1 Chronicles 29:1–19).
Other Examples of “Pattern”
There are other occurrences of tabniyth in the Old Testament; some have to do with idols and how neighboring peoples constructed them,
“Lest you corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness [tabniyth] of male or female, the likeness [tabniyth] of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness [tabniyth]of any winged fowl that fly in the air, the likeness [tabniyth] of any thing that creeps on the ground, the likeness [tabniyth] of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:”
I must mention again that this “likeness” of tabniyth is a different Hebrew word than is used in Genesis 1:26–27 talking about man’s creation being in God’s “likeness” (Hebrew,demuth). For some reason patterns of altars was important to ancient peoples. Note these two passages,
“Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, ‘Behold the pattern [tabniyth] of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.’”
“And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern [tabniyth] of it, according to all the workmanship thereof.”
2 Kings 16:10
“They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude [tabniyth] of an ox that eats grass.”
In a discussion about the absurdity of idol worship, Isaiah and Ezekiel continue the same theme,
“The carpenter stretches out his rule; he marks it out with a line; he fits it with planes, and he marks it out with the compass, and makes it after the figure [tabniyth] of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.”
“And he said unto me, ‘Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.’ So I went in and saw; and behold every form [tabniyth] of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about.”
The other verses containing the word tabniyth also give the sense of pattern or model. 5
The image below is a bas-relief carving of a figure in the “Stones of Aram” Exhibit Room #13 at the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem. 6 It is a bit less than 1½ feet tall and about 8 inches wide. The image presented here was extracted from the website of the Bible Lands Museum, www.BLMJ.org (an excellent museum website by the way). Note the inscription of this artifact,
A man holding a model of a temple — similar perhaps to the “pattern” that Moses was shown and that King David gave to Solomon. The figure has a beard and braided hair and he is a Syrian. There is no way to tell if the figure is a god or a man. It is not important whether the person depicted is a god or a human. It is not important whether the model is a temple, a house or a palace. What is important is that this carving depicts a model of a building in ancient times, 7 a fitting usage of tabniyth to describe a model.
The timeframe of the artifact’s making is some 150–200 years after King David’s time, although such dating is problematical and often speculative. It cannot be known if the model depicted was made out of wood or stone, or whether the model represents a temple or a palace. It is clear that the model was important enough to be built, presented and held up to someone as represented in the bas-relief carving. And finally, the relief shows that it was a sufficiently important event to carve a memorial in stone of the model and its presentation.
We cannot know the kind of pattern that David received from God. It may have been a set of blueprint-like drawings on parchment. The “pattern” may have been detailed descriptions (like those were given to Moses) from a visualization of a three dimensional object. We cannot know for sure and we do not need to know. We can know for certain that the pattern David received from God was “by the spirit” (verse 12) and “in writing by His hand … the works of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19). David passed that “pattern” on to Solomon, commanding him to build the structure as given by God (compare 1 Chronicles 29:1 with v. 19).
In either case a physical model may have been sculpted or molded or made out of wood. David may have constructed a three dimensional model like the one represented in the bas-relief sculpture. In fact archeologists have discovered many such models of buildings used for ritual purposes from the 9th or 8th centuries B.C.E. and later. 8
(used with permission)
The item on the top is an incense burner from Iron Age I. 9 The item on the bottom is a model of a temple, also likely for incense, with figures. These items are quite small and can be held in one hand, smaller than the bas relief in the Bible Lands Museum. 10
The details of “The Pattern of the Temple” were used for the construction of the Temple,
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. … Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. …”
2 Chronicles 3:1–3 (see also 1 Kings 7:38)
The measurement dimensions of the various structures of the Temple complex are detailed in 1 Kings 6:2–38 and 2 Chronicles 3:3–14. The accessories and other items for the Temple are discussed in 1 Kings 7:13–51 and 2 Chronicles 2:13–14, 3:15–5:1. All were made according to “The Pattern of the Temple” that God provided God provided. God also provided the location of the Temple. God chose Solomon to construct it. God provided the measurements and the weight specifications. God provided peace so the Temple could be constructed. God provided, through David, all the materials for the Temple. God even designated the format of services.
Just before His ascension into heaven Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2–3). He was speaking about preparations for you also. Know for certain that your place in God’s Living Temple is being prepared with far greater care than any physical Tabernacle and Temple. Read John 2:19–21; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 10:16, 12:12–27; Ephesians 3:6, 4:12 and Revelation 21:22.
David Sielaff, November 2003
1 See chapter 15, “The Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and the Temple of God” in The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot (Portland, OR: ASK, 2000), pp. 248–261.
2 See also the descriptions of the naos translated Temple in the KJV in the book of Revelation, particularly Revelation 11:1–2.
3 “Pattern” is the same Hebrew word Moses used to describe what he saw on Mt. Sinai when he received the Tabernacle details.
4 These words are not in the Hebrew, but they are implied.
5 Note the verses that give the same sense for tabniyth,
- Psalm 144:12:
- “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished [Hebrew, “cut”] after the similitude [tabniyth] of a palace.”
- Ezekiel 8:3:
- “And he put forth the form [tabniyth] of a hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looks toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy.”
- Ezekiel 10:8:
- “And there appeared in the cherubims the form [tabniyth] of a man’s hand under their wings.
6 “Aram” is another name for Syria. A full 360 degree rotational view of the room this artifact is displayed can be seen at the website of the Bible Lands Museum, Room 13. Go with the viewer to the right and you will see this artifact. You can also zoom onto the image and get a good view of the original. The webpage is:http://www.blmj.org/TheMuseu/virtour/gal13/gal13.html.
7 Architects of every major construction project today have architectural models built beforehand so that people can conceptualize a project or a building. It gives the viewer a sense of the project.
8 The movie King David (1985) starring Richard Gere puts forth its understanding of these verses in Chronicles of a “pattern.” The film depicts David eagerly examining a model of the proposed Temple. When David receives word from God that he would not to be allowed to build the Temple, David destroys the model. It is important to note that such a pattern or model did actually exist. It is doubtful that David destroyed it because he commanded Solomon to follow the “pattern” God gave him.
9 From Amihai Mazar’s, Excavations at Tell Qasile, Qedem 12, (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 87–100. When I dug at Tel Rehov during the summer of 2003 (the dig was supervised by archeologist Amihai Mazar), the fellow next to me uncovered a clay incense burner with a different shape, but just as detailed as the one shown. It too had the shape of a building, presumably a temple.
10 The model on the right with the figures looks much like a holiday crèche, does it not? Where do you think such traditions come from? They come from paganism, of course.“Learn not the way of the heathen” (Jeremiah 10:2).
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