- “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25).
- And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She did not leave the temple grounds, serving night and day with fasts and prayers. And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak about Him to all those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38)
The consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem revolve around God’s promises to Jacob:
- to regather the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland
- to console them for centuries of sorrow
- to redeem them from the hand of all their enemies.
How would this happen? When would this happen? These questions captivated the hearts of the Hebrew prophets, as Simon Peter tells us: “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Messiah in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Messiah and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).
The prophesied restoration of Jerusalem includes the future defeat of Israel’s foes – all those who oppose Jewish return and redemption:
- “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the House of his servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago) – salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember His holy covenant – the oath he swore to our father Abraham – to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear” (Luke 1:69-74).
In our day international opposition to these core biblical promises is the daily bread of most nations, whose leaders and analysts are blind to God’s heart and strategies. Superpowers, diplomats and politicians, rabbis and imams – an absolute majority fail to grasp sober biblical realities here.
Jerusalem of Gold
On Tuesday, January 3, 2023 Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir paid a quick early-morning visit to the Temple Mount (also known in Arabic as al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf – ‘the Noble Sanctuary).
International condemnation of the move immediately exploded. China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE, one of the co-signers of the Abraham Accords ‘peace process’) catalyzed a possible United Nations Security Council condemnation of Israel in response.
According to US State Department spokesman Ned Price, such Jewish visits to the Temple Mount by Members of Knesset are unacceptable violations of the status quo which will set back the prospects for a two-state solution. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi described Ben-Gvir’s visit as a “dangerous provocative act,” part of “illegal Israeli measures that are undermining peace prospects . . . and can only cause more violence.” UAE described the visit as part of “serious and provocative violations taking place there.”
Historically speaking, visits by Israeli politicians to the Temple Mount may not be common, but neither are they illegal. In October 2005 Israel’s Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra visited the Temple Mount as part of his security responsibilities and Palestinian Arabs did not respond with violence. On October 15, 2000 then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was interviewed on ABC television, stating that visits by Israeli Members of Knesset to the Temple Mount are “part of the legal right. It’s part of freedom of access to holy sites by everyone . . . We are an open society, it is in the middle of our capital, and we cannot forbid it.”
A ‘politically correct’ world has come to the conclusion that Jewish prayer (or even Jewish physical presence on the Temple Mount) is illegal, dangerous, provocative and unacceptable. All diplomatic talking heads of the world are in agreement about this. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has added fuel to the fire with his statement regarding Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount: “Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [i.e. Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”
- What are the historical foundations for seeing Jewish prayer and physical presence on the Temple Mount as something explosive, illegal and unacceptable?
At the time of the Babylonian invasion of Israel and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (about 598 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar banished the bulk of Jerusalem’s Jews to mournful exile by the rivers of Babylon. But at the same time a remnant was left in Zion: “The king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam over the land, and put him in charge of the men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been exiled to Babylon” (Jeremiah 40:7).
Roman Emperor Aelius Hadrianus (better known as Hadrian) took a more obsessive approach after the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-135 A.D.), issuing an edict banning Jews from living in Jerusalem or coming close enough to even see the city. In Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (Book IV; chapter 6; 2-4), Hadrian’s decree is described:
- The leader of the Jews at this time was a man by the name of Bar Kochba (which signifies a star) . . . The war raged most fiercely in the eighteenth year of Hadrian . . . When the siege had lasted a long time, and the rebels had been driven to the last extremity by hunger and thirst, and the instigator of the rebellion had suffered his just punishment, the whole nation was prohibited from this time on by a decree, and by the commands of Hadrian, from ever going up to the country about Jerusalem. For the emperor gave orders that they should not even see from a distance the land of their fathers . . . And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called Ælia, in honor of the emperor Ælius Hadrian. And as the church there was now composed of Gentiles, the first one to assume the government of it . . . was [a non-Jew named] Marcus.
Justin Martyr in his First Apology (Chapter 47; written 155-157 A.D.) refers to Hadrian’s edict exiling all Jews from Jerusalem on pain of death:
- “The land of the Jews, then, was to be laid waste . . . And you are convinced that Jerusalem has been laid waste, as was predicted. And concerning its desolation, and that no one should be permitted to inhabit it, there was the following prophecy by Isaiah: ‘Their land is desolate, their enemies consume it before them, and none of them shall dwell therein’ [ed. Isaiah 1:7]. And that it is guarded by you lest anyone dwell in it, and that death is decreed against a Jew apprehended entering it, you know very well.”
The first nation to forbid Jews from living in Jerusalem or ascending to the Temple Mount was the Roman nation.
The anonymous Bordeaux Pilgrim arrived in Jerusalem in 333 A.D. while Constantine the Great was on the Byzantine throne. In his Itinerarium Burdigalense, he mentioned that Jews were only allowed into Jerusalem once a year (probably on the Ninth of Av) to ascend to the Temple Mount and mourn over its destruction (probably reading Jeremiah’s Lamentations). Here is his description of the Temple Mount: “There are two statues of Hadrian. Not far from the statues is a pierced stone to which the Jews comes every year and they anoint it and they lament with a groan and they tear their garments and then they withdraw.” Hadrian’s total ban of Jews from the Temple Mount was preserved by Constantine with only slight modifications.
Toward the end of the Byzantine period (circa 630 A.D.) Emperor Heraclius arrived at Jerusalem, defeating the Persian invaders and massacring Zion’s Jews. These events are described in ‘The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria’ (10th c. A.D. – chapter 18; part 2; 6-8):
- The monks and the inhabitants of Jerusalem said to Heraclius: “The Jews living around Jerusalem, together with those from Galilee, took the side of the Persians, and they helped them when they invaded the country. They went to the trouble of killing more Christians than did the Persians: they destroyed the churches and set fire to them”. Then they let him see the dead who had been cast in the Mamilla, and made him aware of how many Christians they murdered, how many churches had been destroyed at Tyre by the Jews. Heraclius said to them: “What do you want, then?” “That you give us satisfaction,” they replied. “Kill every Jew who is found around Jerusalem and in Galilee.” . . . Heraclius appeased them, and he killed an uncountable number of Jews who lived around Jerusalem and in Galilee. Others managed to hide, and the rest fled into the wilderness, and into the valleys, the mountains and into Egypt. So it was decided that the first week of fasting, in which the Melkites abstained only from flesh, should become a period of absolute fasting. They fasted for King Heraclius, to beg pardon, because he had violated the treaty and killed the Jews. In this period they refrained from eating eggs, cheese and fish.
The Christian Byzantine Empire in Constantinople continued Hadrianic Roman policies, forbidding Jews from living in Jerusalem or going up to the Temple Mount.
It might surprise some to discover that, during Byzantine rule, Christian religious focus in Jerusalem was not on the Temple Mount. Much of the compound had actually been turned into a garbage dump, though remains of a possible small church mosaic were discovered there by Robert Hamilton in 1938-42. But there was fear, as Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem expressed, that the Jews would once again try to rebuild their Temple.
Under Byzantine rule, two things were crystal-clear:
- Jews were forbidden from living in Christian Jerusalem
- the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount was deliberately profaned by Christianity’s leaders (who were ‘card-carrying’ adherents of Replacement Theology).
Christian (and later, Muslim) fears that there might be a future connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount was expressed also by Sebeos, a 7th-century Armenian bishop and historian. In Chapter 31 of his History, he wrote about this dynamic:
- Regarding the Jews and their wicked plans: Now I shall speak about the plot of the Jewish rebels, who, finding support from the Hagarenes for a short time, planned to build the temple of Solomon. Locating the place called the holy of holies, they constructed [the temple] with a pedestal, to serve as their place of prayer. But the Ishmaelites envied [the Jews], expelled them from the place, and named the same building their own place of prayer. [The Jews] built a temple for their worship elsewhere. It was then that they came up with an evil plan: they wanted to fill Jerusalem with blood from end to end, and to exterminate all the Christians of Jerusalem.
Muslims and Christians cooperate in banning Jews
The tsunami wave of Muhammad’s jihadi armies crashed upon the shores of the Land of Israel between 635-640 A.D. The city of Jerusalem (also called Aelia, one of the Roman names of Jerusalem, based on the Latin Aelia Capitolina) was besieged in November 636 A.D. The official general of these mujāhidīn (jihad warriors) was Caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khattāb, Muhammad’s father-in-law. It is traditionally believed in Islam that he was the author of the Pact of Umar (Arabic, Al-‘Uhda Al-‘Umariyya), a terms-of-surrender agreement (purportedly written down in 637-638 A.D.) between the Islamic forces and Jerusalem’s Christian leadership. Here is a portion of that document, according to the Muslim historian al-Ṭabarī (circa 900 A.D.)
- In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of Allah, ʿUmar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Aelia. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. And Jews will not live in Aelia with them.
The Islamic conquerors chose to maintain the Roman and Byzantine status quo, legally preserving Jerusalem as a judenrein (Nazi pejorative term meaning ‘cleansed of Jews’) city.
Modern Islamic apologists defend this policy as “in conformity with the Jews’ position in Jerusalem, which had been decided since the Emperor Hadrian . . . The Muslims did not take Jerusalem away from the Jews . . . The Muslims received it from the Romans.”
According to Islamic law, conquered lands which become ‘Islamic charitable trusts’ (waqf) can never be ceded, sold or mortgaged to non-Muslims. According to Islamic law the Temple Mount is waqf, and thus it is forbidden for it to fall under Jewish control or oversight. Herein lies the intractable heart of present tensions.
According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad bestowed the Holy Land’s first waqf in an endowment involving Hebron, bequeathing it to Tamīm ibn Aws al-Dārī, a former Christian priest who converted to Islam. The Islamic perspective on how this affected the future legal status of the Holy Land is revealed in this Muslim comment: “By making this endowment to him, the Prophet was in fact staking Islam’s claim to legitimate ownership of Palestine.”
Jerusalem, Mecca or a small village in the desert
In modern Sunni Islam, the three holiest mosques, in descending order, are – Mecca (al-Masjid al-Ḥarām), Medina (al-Masjid an-Nabawi) and the Temple Mount prayer hall (Jami’ Al-Aqsa). Yet this Islamic tradition runs into problems when confronted and contradicted by Islamic history.
Muhammad originally had his followers face Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in prayer. This prayer focus is known as the qibla in Arabic. Yet this lasted less than 18 months: “Narrated Al-Bara: The Prophet prayed facing Bait-ul Maqdis [i.e. Arabic for ‘The Holy House’ or Jerusalem] for sixteen or seventeen months but he wished that his qibla would be the Ka`ba [at Mecca]” (Sahih al-Bukhari 4486; 2.142-143; Book 65, Hadith 13). Muhammad then changed the direction of prayer to Mecca, which cause no little confusion among his followers. According to the Quran, Allah’s response was to use scorn and ad hominem attacks against any questioners: “The Statement of Allah ‘The fools [pagans, hypocrites and Jews] among the people will say, “What has turned them [Muslims] from their qibla [prayer direction]?”
According to the 8th-century Arab historian al-Waqidi in his Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi (‘Book of History and Campaigns’), Muhammad had a group of supporters in the city of al-Ta’if, a two-day’s walk from Mecca. Muhammad would spend the night in the half-way point – the village of al-Juʽranah. Near the village were two mosques, ‘The Nearby Mosque’ (al-Masjid al-Adna) and the ‘Distant Mosque’ (‘al-Masjid al-Aqsa’). Muhammad would pray in one of them before setting out on his day-long journey. The Qur’an (17:1) tells a story that one night in 630 A.D. a miracle occurred to Muhammad; the Creator took him to the ‘Distant Mosque’ (‘al-Masjid al-Aqsa’) to reveal some miracles. Muhammad’s contemporaries understood the reference in this passage literally. They knew that ‘al-Masjid al-Aqsa’ was near the village of al-Juʽranah, half-way to Ta’if. There were no mosques or Muslims in Jerusalem at that time, and Jerusalem was not at all what al-Juʽranah’s residents would have thought about.
It should be noted that when Muhammad died in the year 632 A.D., he had never visited Jerusalem.
Later internal Islamic politics led to the spreading of false propaganda. Muslim theologians began to ascribe the al-Masjid al-Aqsa as being the same as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. One needs to remember that in Muhammad’s day Arab jihadis had not yet set foot in Israel, nor had they built a mosque there. Such ‘unimportant issues’ were swept under the Middle Eastern carpet as Islamic Replacement Theology christened the Temple Mount with a counterfeit name and destiny.
One historical vignette written down by 9th-century historian al-Tabari describes an event in 637-638 A.D. As Kaʿb al-Aḥbār (a Jewish convert to Islam) approached the Temple Mount with Caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, the former began to remove his shoes in respect for the holiness of the Temple Mount. The Caliph rebuked him, saying: “By Allah, O Ka‘b, in your heart you are still a Jew, for I have seen how you took off your shoes [before entering the Temple Mount]. But we Muslims were not ordered to sanctify this Rock (al-Saḵrah); we were only ordered to turn [in prayer] towards the Ka‘ba [in Mecca].”
According to early Islamic understanding, the Temple Mount in 637 A.D. was not considered by its Islamic conquerors to be a holy place.
One way and the only way
Islam believes that there is only one way and one Prophet: “Certainly, Allah’s only Way is Islam” (Quran; Surah 3 Ali ‘Imran’ Ayat 19). Islam believes that it is the only true religion; that Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and Yeshua were Muslims; and that Jews (and Christians) falsified the Scriptures. Islam believes that the Jews have lost their claims to their gifts and calling, to the Temple Mount, and to any prophetic or covenantal claims to the Land. Based on this theological foundation, Islam does not see itself as coexisting in peace with other religions, but rather as replacing them. This is why Jihadi Islam deliberately built its mosques on top of synagogues, churches, monasteries and pagan temples. This is why Islam founded a network of laws to denigrate Jews and Christians (the dhimmi status).
Islam’s self-understanding refuses to allow sovereign Jewish existence on any lands once occupied by jihadi forces. This includes all of Israel and especially the Temple Mount. Knesset Member Ben-Gvir’s brief walk around the Temple Mount compound is seen as serious, provocative, illegal, and a violation of the status quo – because that is exactly how jihadi Islam sees the Jewish people’s existence in the Land of Israel, in the city of Jerusalem, and on the Temple Mount.
The Islamic vision for the Jewish people was stated clearly by both Muhammad and Caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb:
- Caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb searched for information about that until he was absolutely convinced that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had said, ‘Two deens [religions] shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula,’ and he therefore expelled the Jews from Khaybar” (Maliks Muwatta; Book 45; Hadith Number 18)
- It was narrated that ʿUmar said: “If I live, insha-Allah, I shall certainly expel the Jews and Christians from al-Ḥijāz [the Arabian Peninsula]” (Sahih (Darussalam) Muslim (1767); Musnad Ahmad 215; Book 2, Hadith 132).
Marionettes and the restoration of Jerusalem
In Genesis 27:22, Isaac spoke dramatic words: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” Today at the UN the voice (and the vote) of the nations can be seen as ‘the hands of Esau.’ But what is more troubling is the voice coming through loud and clear – a voice which is demonic in nature. That voice opposes YHVH’s restoration of Israel to their land and to their Temple Mount by issuing condemnations against Jacob and against the God who makes promises to Jacob.
The blind repeating of Hadrianic, Byzantine and Islamic falsehoods by the UN, the US, the UAE, France, China, etc., shows that, spiritually speaking, the nations of the world are behaving like marionettes on a string, roaring their anger and rebellion against the One who sits enthroned in the heavens and laughs (see Psalm 2).
The prophetic confession of John the Baptist’s father Zechariah is also our prayer at this time: may YHVH bring to the Jewish people “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us!” (Luke 1:71).
In the next newsletter, the unique contributions of the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the dynamics in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War will be considered, as well as Israeli Minister of Defense General Moshe Dayan’s fateful decisions regarding the Temple Mount, and the connection between today’s ‘status quo’ and the Last Battle.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God to restore clarity to believers and leaders regarding Satan’s Replacement Theology strategies regarding the Land of Israel and the Temple Mount
- Pray for YHVH to thwart the destructive plans of the enemy against Israel, the apple of God’s eye
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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