al Aqsa moasque


Everyone who goes to Jerusalem recognizes the impressive gold domed building called the Dome of the Rock.

Most fail to notice the other less glamorous major building that now occupies the South end of the same raised platform which was  built by Herod the great at the time of Jesus. This second building is quite large and figures importantly in Islam as its 3rd most revered site.

It is called the al Aqsa mosque or al haram ash sharif  aka  The Noble Sanctuary.

This is the top of temple Mount where prominemt Muslim shrines are located

This is the top of temple Mount where prominemt Muslim shrines are located

Question: Is it possible that some of the massive timbers used to build this mosque in the 7th century could date back to the time of Solomon 1700 years earlier? or at least back to Herod the Great and Jesus some 700 years earlier? Seems there is reason to consider this possibility seriously.

It is interesting to consider the idea that part of a Temple, holy to the Jews, could now actually be an integral part of one of Islam’s most revered places.

Ironic one might say!

It needs to be understood that such huge cedar timbers used for the construction of the Temple of Solomon and later Herod were extremely difficult to acquire and very expensive to purchase and so, whenever available later in history, they would always be recycled into other buildings.

It is apparent that such huge cedar timbers have been used in the construction of the al Aqsa mosque and it is thought that they may date back to the time of Solomon making them 3000 years old. In fact they may well have been recycled more than once and perhaps also used in the Temple of Herod of Jesus’ day.

The Biblical record of the estimated 950 BC harvesting of such timbers is quite interesting as it describes the enormous expense and effort expended in taking delivery of these prized timbers brought at great expense and difficulty from modern Lebanon.

You will recall that King David was forbidden by God to build this Temple because he had blood on had hands  and that the responsibility for such construction was reserved for his son Solomon to fulfill.

And so Solomon, like David his father before him,  appealed to Hiram king of Sidon (read Lebanon) for his help. Hiram’s men were experienced wood cutters. He also controlled the mountain area where the huge cedar trees grew and still grow today.

(An interesting aside: The cedar tree that figured so prominently in its history is  the emblem of the modern country of Lebanon. You will also see it painted on the tail section of the official Lebanese airlines. Also note this special wood was also used by the ancient Egyptians for boat construction such as the huge solar boat discovered buried at the base of the Great Pyramid in Giza. The Philistines also used it in their temples.

When we go to the Sea of Galilee on the Holy Land tours I conduct annually we will see the 1st century fishing boat discovered buried in the mud of the Sea of Galilee and now on display in a special museum on the north shore near Capernaum. It is made mostly of cedar as well. They call it the “Jesus boat”. )

All very interesting.)

And so Hiram readily agreed to Solomon’s request. Solomon  offered to pay him well.

Hiram said:  “I have received your message and I will supply all the cedar timber you need. My servants will bring the logs from the Lebanon mountains to the Mediterranean Sea”   (an enormous challenge)    “and make rafts and float them along the coast to whatever place you choose. Then they will break the rafts apart so you can carry the logs away”.    (another enormous task transporting these huge timbers from the port of Jaffa , read Jaffa/Tel Aviv, all the way up to Jerusalem, approximately 36 miles but also an increase in elevation of about 3500 feet) “You can pay me by providing me with food for my household,” said Hiram.  1 Kings 5.

The record states that Solomon provided Hiram with an enormous supply of olive oil and wheat in return for the timber.

Solomon’s part of the needed labor force was also huge.

Building this temple was an enormous undertaking and a religious duty that Solomon eagerly embraced.

He employed teams of 10,000 men at a time in Lebanon, working for one month and then having 2 months off, thus requiring 30,000 laborers just in the timber business part of this project.

In addition he also had over 150,000 other workers engaged in the project.

So these cedar timbers could well have quite a history to reflect back upon.

It took 7 years for Solomon’s workers to complete this project.

Back to the Al Aqsa Mosque. The platform where this Mosque now stands was originally erected by Herod the Great at the time of Jesus to be the platform on which to build a replacement for the temple of Solomon that had been destroyed hundreds of years earlier.

Nearby the present Mosque is what, at the time of Jesus, was called the “pinnacle of the temple” where Satan tempted Jesus to commit suicide. This is the high point of the platform walls at the corner where the Southern and Eastern walls come together as you view it from afar.

Under the platform on which the al Aqsa Mosque now stands is a remarkable structure of Herodian columns built to support the weight of the upper floor of the vast platform. Mostly filled with rubble it is mistakenly called Solomon’s Stables under the mistaken notion that Solomon used this for his horses. Not true.

The al Aqsa Mosque has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt over the years, often as a result of earthquake. Unlike the golden covered Dome of the Rock which is built on Rock, the Al Aqsa mosque rests on fill dirt.

On a recent Friday during the month of Ramadan it is reported that 155,000 Muslims came there to pray.

Visiting the Temple Mount is always a high point of the Holy Land tours we take to the Middle East, now well over 125 such journeys to the Bible lands.

Although it is in Israeli territory, control of the Temple Mount  was ceded by the Israeli General Moshe Dyan (the guy with the eye patch) (some say foolishly )  to the Palestinian Authority after the 6 day war in 1967. So the Arabs now control who can go there or not. Security is tight. A long elevated walkway has been built for access complete with metal detectors.

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Although I have been on top of the Temple Mount innumerable times I have never entered the al Aqsa Mosque.

Next time I am there in February 2014,  I will go inside and try to see if any of those famous recycled timbers possibly  purchased by Solomon or by Herod are in view.

BTW:  Our next journey to the Holy Land is scheduled for February 2014 when we will be taking some new friends with us to Turkey, Jordan and Israel for 11 wonderful days.

Information about that journey can be found on the website.

If you have not yet had the ultimate travel experience then we invite you to consider coming with us. And if you are a pastor you are encouraged to invite your church members to accompany you as well on this journey so that your expenses can be fully covered. Only 3 couples needed for you to  accomplish this goal. Not difficult at all.  I will be fully engaged in overseeing all aspects of the experience so you don’t need prior experience.

Dr.  Robert Grant has been traveling to the Holy land for over 46 years hosting special holy land tours for friends. He has been designated the holy land guru by some.


With warm appreciation to Biblical Archeology Review for updated information.

July 25, 2013