Jerusalem’s Golden Gate
Golden Gate on the east wall of the Temple Mount dates back to 1541 AD and is the oldest of the eight gates of Jerusalem today. During the time of the First Temple (10th century BCE to 586 BCE) the eastern Gate was the main entrance into the Temple area. The rebuilt eastern Gate of Jerusalem was the main entrance to the Second Temple area, and the same gate that Jesus entered on a humble donkey in His triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.
This eastern Gate of the Second Temple which Jesus entered may have had only one archway. The original gate of the Second Temple that Nehemiah built was maybe 1000 feet south of where the eastern Gate is today and is underground, as documented by archaeologist James Fleming in 1969. It was through the lower gate (now underground) that Jesus would have entered Jerusalem in 30 AD.
The eight gates of the Old City of Jerusalem – Golden Gate, Lion’s Gate, Herod’s Gate, Damascus Gate, New Gate, Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate and Dung Gate
The destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE, included the destruction of the the wall of Jerusalem and the burning down of the gates.
The Second Temple
516 BCE to 70 AD
Cyrus II of Persia or Cyrus the Great (600 – 530 BCE) reigned for 30 years. According to the Bible, when the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem following a decree from Cyrus the Great, construction of the Second Temple started at the original site of Solomon’s Temple. It took 46 years to complete.
In 444 BC the King of Persia, Artaxerxes I, authorized a rebuilding project of the City of Jerusalem including its wall and gates at the request of Nehemiah, whom he appointed as governor of Persian Judea. Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem as governor and ruled with justice and righteousness for 12 years.
Nehemiah rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananeel Tower at the North West corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West Corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.
.Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s Golden Gate
The Golden Gate is on the eastern side of the Temple Mount and the closest gate to the Temple site. It is on the eastern wall of the Old City, facing the Mount of Olives and the Jewish cemetery.
The Golden Gate is also called the Gate of Mercy and the Gate of Eternal Life. The gate has two doorways. The southern part is known as the Gate of Mercy, and the northern part as the Gate of Repentance.
Centuries ago Jews prayed opposite this gate, facing the Temple. They began praying at the Gate of Repentance before proceeding to the Gate of Mercy to ask God for mercy.
The Christians later called this gate the Golden Gate. The Arabs in the Middle Ages named it as the Gate of Eternal Life. They also called this gate the Mercy Gate. According to the Islamic Koran, the just will pass through this gate on the Day of Judgment.
Sealing of Jerusalem’s Golden Gate
The East Gate was closed by the Muslims in 810 AD, reopened in 1102 AD by the Crusaders, and then it was walled up by Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt, after regaining Jerusalem in 1137 AD.
The Muslim conquerors (the Ottoman Turks) added great stones to the Golden Gate in 1530 AD and a cemetery was planted in front of it thinking that the Jewish Messiah would not set foot in a cemetery. Many believe this was done to prevent the entrance of the Jewish Messiah through that gate as was foretold by known Old Testament prophecies. However, Ezekiel prophesied the shutting of this gate itself around 600 BCE: that it would be shut “because the LORD (Jehovah or Yahweh), the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.”
In 1535 AD Suleiman the Magnificent, longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, ordered the ruined walls of the City of Jerusalem to be rebuilt including the East Gate. In 1541 AD, in the process of rebuilding, Suleiman had the new gate walled up and it has stayed that way until today.
It is interesting that this gate is the only one of the eight gates in Jerusalem that is sealed. The Arabs believe that since the Jews expect the Messiah to come through this gate they tried to prevent any possibility of His return.
Muslim cemetery in front of the Golden Gate
The First Temple
10th century BC
King Solomon, son of King David and king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah (from 970 to 931 BCE), began to build a House for the Lord in Jerusalem (the First Temple) on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. The architectural plans for the construction of the First Temple were that of King David, who supplied most of the costly and beautiful materials.
A thousand years before, it was on this same Mount Moriah that God tested Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his only son:
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Construction of Solomon’s Temple began in the 4th year of King Solomon’s reign (966 BCE) and was dedicated to Yahweh, meaning “God” in Hebrew.
Artist’s rendition of King Solomon’s Temple
The Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism, is the inner sanctuary within the Tabernacle and Temple. That is where Solomon placed the Ark of the Covenant, an ornate, gold-plated chest that was originally built to hold the two pieces of stone inscribed—“written with the finger of God,” with the Ten Commandments when Moses ascended Mount Sinai. Exodus 31:18
Tablets containing the Ten Commandments
Siege of Jerusalem
In 597 BCE, on 2 Adar (16 March) Nebuchadnezzar’s army captured Jerusalem. Eleven years later (586 BCE) the Temple was totally destroyed.
No one knows for sure what happened to the Ark of the Covenant, but prior to the destruction of the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was hidden by the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah was born in 655 BCE and lived 5 kilometers from Jerusalem in Anathoth. After the Siege of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was left behind in the desolate city by the Babylonian captors.
Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1630
The Babylonian Exile
In late 598 BCE the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II invaded Judah and for the second time laid siege to Jerusalem. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, after conquering Jerusalem in 597 BCE Nebuchadnezzar deported 3,000 Jews, forcing them to relocate in the city of Babylon. Those he deported were the most prominent citizens of Judah, professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. The poor or “people of the land” were allowed to stay.
Two of those deported were Ezekiel and Zechariah.
Ezekiel & Zechariah prophecies fulfilled
Ezekiel, as depicted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, fresco
Ezekiel ben-Buzi was born in Jerusalem in 622 BCE. He had trained for the temple priesthood in Jerusalem, which he intended to enter at age 30, but was carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar and living in exile with many other Jews in the city of Babylon between 593 and 571 BCE. As a boy in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was already active as a prophet, and he retained this gift when he was exiled with the nobles of the country to Babylon.
The Book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophetic books in the Old Testament. It records six of Ezekiel’s visions, some of which concern the East Gate or Golden Gate.
In 597 BCE Ezekiel, the prophet, saw in a vision the glory of the Lord depart from the temple. Ezekiel 10:18
In 586 BCE The First Temple was totally destroyed by the army of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian king.
The Glory of the Lord departed the Temple
Book of Ezekiel 10:18
Then the glory of the Lord moved away from the threshold of the Temple and stood over the cherubim.
The Vision of the Outer Gates
Book of Ezekiel 44:1-3
Then the Lord God brought me back through the east-facing outer gate of the sanctuary. But it was shut. The Lord told me, “This gate is to remain shut. It will not be opened. No man is to enter through it, because the Lord God of Israel entered through it, so it is to remain shut. The Regent Prince will be seated there, as Regent Prince, and will dine in the Lord’s presence, entering through the portico of the gate and exiting through it also.”
Zechariah, as depicted by Michelangelo in a fresco in the Sistine Chapel, c. 1509
Zechariah was a priest and prophet of the two-tribe Kingdom of Judah and traditionally considered the author of the Book of Zechariah.
The Coming of Zion’s King
“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion;
cry out, daughter of Jerusalem!
Look! Your king is coming to you.
He is righteous,
and he is able to save.
He is humble,
and is riding on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.
Meeting at the Golden Gate (Scene from the Life of Joachim – Mary’s father), 1304-06 Fresco by Giotto di Bondone, Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua, Italy
The Golden Gate was the scene of the meeting between the parents of Mary after the Annunciation, so that the gate became the symbol of the virgin birth of Jesus and Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate became a standard subject depicting the Life of the Virgin.
Joachim and Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate by Albrecht Dürer, 1504
The King Enters Jerusalem
When they came near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples on ahead and told them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them, and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and that person will send them at once.”The Temple Mount Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, 1st Century AD, by Balage Balogh. NOTE: Balage based his illustration on a photo taken from the Mount of Olives. He did extensive research on the architecture of the Second Temple and Herod the Great’s construction projects in Jerusalem. He consulted scholarly literature on the archaeology of Jerusalem in the 1st century AD and superimposed this information onto the photo which he copied to the work surface to maintain accuracy of detail. http://www.archaeologyillustrated.com/
The Golden Gate can be seen on the right side of the city wall, in front of the entrance to the Second Temple.
All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti: entering the city on a donkey symbolizes arrival in peace rather than as a war-waging king arriving on a horse.
Ezekiel’s final vision of the holy city,
the new Jerusalem
The Millennial Temple (the Third Temple) measured in Ezekiel is significantly larger than the first two temples, and the Jerusalem of the millennium will have twelve gates, not eight.
The Gates of the City
“These are the exits from the city: On the north side, 4,500 units by measurement, are to be the gates of the city. Named after the tribes of Israel, three gates are to serve the north site: one named the Reuben Gate, one named the Judah Gate, and one named the Levi Gate. On the east side, 4,500 units by measurement, there are to be three gates: one named the Joseph Gate, one named the Benjamin Gate, and one named the Dan Gate. On the south side, 4,500 units by measurement, there are to be three gates: one named the Simeon Gate, one named the Issachar Gate, and one named the Zebulun Gate. On the west side, 4,500 units by measurement, there are to be three gates: one named the Gad Gate, one named the Asher Gate, and one named the Naphtali Gate. A perimeter is to measure 18,000 units, and the name of the city from that time on is to be:
‘The Lord is There.’”