Chapter VI

 

 

(The Place of Offering)

 

The claim of the Biblical Scholars regarding the site of Moriah,at Jerusalem, requires a fairly detailed discussion. It was given the name of ‘Moriah’ to attach importance and reverence to the house of the Lord, commonly known as the ‘Temple’. McKenzie’s Dic. of Bible explains:

The hill on which Solomon’s temple was built is called Moriah (2 Ch 3:1), the only other incidence of the name; but this is in all probability due to the theological invention, which identified the Temple, the place of Yahweh’s dwelling and of Israel’s worship, with the site of the sacrifice of Isaac.[1]

In fact the site of the Temple had previously been without any proper name. It was simply called ‘the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebosite.’The name ‘Moriah’ was ascribed to it usurpingly to attach reverence and importance to it. G. A. Barrois has expounded the point in the Interpreter’s DBas below:

Since the name Moriah appears nowhere else in the texts relative to the topography of Jerusalem, there is good reason to suspect that the author of Chronicles intended to ascribe an early origin to the royal sanctuary, by identifying the unnamed hilltop formerly used as a threshing floor with the mountain in the land of Moriah, where Abraham had made ready to sacrifice his son.[2]

The Chronicler himself, who has attributed the name of ‘Moriah’ to the place, does not use this name for the place anywhere else in his narratives, whereas he has referred to this place at a number of times. Had the place had its identification with the proper name ‘Moriah’, it must have been used by the Chronicler at other places as well. Moreover, it was claimed to be situated in the city of Jerusalem, which was the most important city for the Jewish people. Then it was claimed to be the site of Solomon’s Temple, which had always remained the most important building to the Jewish community ever since its construction. How could it be that it had nowhere been mentioned with the nomenclature of ‘Moriah’ in the whole of the Bible except this forgery. Here is the fairly lengthy text of the narrative from the Bible to acquaint the reader with the background of the event:

 (15) And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, it is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.(…). (18) Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.(…).(21) And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face on the ground. (22) Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshing-floor, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. (23) And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. (24) And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. (25) So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. (26) And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. (27)And the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. (28) At that time when David saw that the Lord had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.[3]

It may be observed in the above narrative that the alleged place of ‘Moriah’ has been mentioned in these few lines for eleven times with the names of (1) the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, or merely (2) the threshingfloor, or (3) the place of this threshingfloor, or simply (4) the place, or the pronouns (5) it, (6) there, and (7) therein. But the proper name ‘Moriah’ has not been attributed to it even for a single time in the whole of the narrative. It may further be observed that these different words for the place have been used by different persons as detailed below:

a)  The phrase ‘the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite’: (1) once by the redactor of the book, (2) once by David, and (3) once by the angel of the Lord [which shows that even the angel of the Lord(and as he was speaking on behalf of God, that even the Lord Himself)did not know that the name of the site of the Temple was ‘Moriah’]. (Total: 3 times).

b)  The phrase ‘the threshingfloor’:only once, and that by the redactor of the book.

c)  The phrase ‘the place of this threshingfloor’:only once, and that by David.

d)  The word ‘therein’: only once, and that also by David.

e)  The word ‘it’: (1) twice by David, and (2) once by Ornan the Jebusite. (Total - 3 times).

f)  The word ‘there’:only once, and that by the redactor of the book.

g)  The Words ‘the place’:only once, and that also by the redactor of the book.

It means that neither the angel of the Lord (and as he was speaking on behalf of God, so it would mean that even the Lord Himself) knew that the name of the place, where the Solomon’s Temple was to be built later on, was ‘Moriah’, nor the redactor of the book, or King David, or Ornan the Jebusite knew it. It is simply unbelievable!

 Had ‘Moriah’ been the name of the place, and that too, from the times of the Patriarch Abraham or even before that; and that too, in connection with such a conspicuous event as that of the offering of his only son for sacrifice at this place; how could it be possible that the angel of the Lord, and king David, and the redactor of the book, and the owner of the place, Ornan the Jebusite, might so indifferently, rather disdainfully, have disregarded even the mention of the proper name of this place throughout the narrative!

Fl. Josephus has also afforded a narrative of the event in his ‘Antiquities’, which will further elaborate the point:

When God heard his[David’s] supplication, he caused the pestilence to cease; and sent Gad the prophet to him, and commanded him to go up immediately to the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebosite, and build an altar there to God, and offer sacrifices. When David heard that, he did not neglect his duty, but made haste to the place appointed him. Now Araunah was threshing wheat; and when he saw the king and all his servants coming to him, he ran before, and came to him (…). Now Araunah inquired, Wherefore is my lord come to his servant? He answered, To buy of him the threshing-floor, that he might therein build an altar to God, and offer a sacrifice. He replied, That he freely gave him both the threshing-floor, and the ploughs and the oxen for a burnt offering; and he besought God graciously to accept his sacrifice; (…); and when Araunah said he would do as he pleased, he bought the threshing-floor of him for fifty shekels; and when he had built an altar, he performed divine service, and brought a burnt offering, and offered peace-offerings also. (…). Now when king David saw that God had heard his prayer, and had graciously accepted of his sacrifices, he resolved to call that entire place The Altar of all the People, and to build a temple to God there;[4]

In the above passage, as in the previous one, the place allegedly named ‘Moriah’ by the Chronicler has been mentioned seven times; but has nowhere been mentioned with the name of ‘Moriah’. Amazingly, when King David himself prescribes a name for the place, he gives it the name of ‘The Altar of all the People’. Had it been the sacred place whose name had been ‘Moriah’ even before Abraham, having such a significant tradition attached to it as the sacrifice of Abraham’s ‘firstborn, and the only, and beloved son’, king David would definitely have known it and would certainly have used it for the place. He could never have dared to ignore the mention of this important name and could never have dared to change it with a second rate name as ‘The Altar of all the People’.

Another aspect of the proposition is also to be looked into. Abraham lived either at Hebron (Al-Khaleel of today), or at Mamre which is about three kilometer N. of Hebron. The pasture of his herds and flocks was at Beersheba, which is about twenty-five miles S of Hebron. The distance between Jerusalem and Hebron is not more than twenty miles. Abraham had set out for journey early in the morning, which shows his steadiness, eagerness, promptness, and sense of duty towards God. If he started his journey from Hebron, he had to travel twenty miles. If he started from Mamre, he had to travel only eighteen miles. If he started from Beersheba, he had to travel for about forty miles. Whatever the starting point of his journey be; as he was travelling on his donkey, and started the journey early in the morning, and undertook the journey earnestly;[5]it may have taken him merely a day or so to reach his destination, had it been in Jerusalem (which was between eighteen to about forty miles from his every possible place of residence). But the Bible asserts that even after three days’ journey he was still ‘afar off’ from the appointed place. It means, as ‘The New Jerome Bible Commentary’ has well observed, that the total journey might have taken him well-nigh seven days to reach his destination,[6]which could in no case have been Jerusalem, because the actual destination was at such a long distance as to require such a long time. One may not agree with the ‘New Jerome BC’, but nobody can deny the fact that after three consecutive days’[7]earnest journey they had not reached their destination and were still ‘afar off’ their destination. It rules out the idea of the ‘Moriah’ being situated at the hilltop at Jerusalem, which was almost one, or, at the most, two day’s journey. This ambiguity has also been noted by the scholars of the Bible.The Illustrated Bible Dic.explains:

The only other mention of the name occurs in 2 Ch. 3:1, where the site of Solomon’s Temple is said to be on mount Moriah, on the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite where God appeared to David (…). It should be noted that no reference is made here to Abraham in connection with this site. It has been objected that Jerusalem is not sufficiently distant from S Philistia to have required a 3 day’s journey to get there,[8]and that one of the characteristics of Jerusalem is that the Temple hill is not visible until the traveler is quite close, so that the correctness of the Biblical identification is called in question.[9]

Peake’s Com. on the Bible has also discussed the theme in a reasonable way. It asserts:

In v. 2 the scene of the episode is said to be a mountain ‘in the land of Moriah’, and it is possible that these words and the obscure phrase in v. 14, ‘in the Mount (i.e the Temple Mount) where Yahweh is seen.’ (where the Hebrew text has evidently suffered some corruption), may have been inserted by the Priestly editor to carry back the sanctity of the Temple site to the age of Abraham. But it is impossible that the Temple Mount at Jerusalem could have been the scene of the incident for various reasons.[10]

In the light of the above information, it can be asserted that the name of the hilltop on which the Solomon’s Temple was built, had been ‘the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite’, and not ‘Moriah’; and it had wrongly been ascribed to it by the Chronicler to attach sanctity and significance to the site of the ‘Temple’. The concept of some ‘Moriah’ at the site of the Solomon’s Temple is completely void of any ground reality and is merely a  fabrication. S. R. Driver observes in Hastings DBthat the location of ‘Moriah’ at Jerusalem is the idea of the Chronicler. He asserts that it is obviously a matter of doubtful nature. He rules out the possibility of Jerusalem being the place of Moriah due to the fact that it cannot be seen from a distance, whereas the Bible asserts, ‘Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.’His observations are being recorded hereunder:

What was originally denoted by this designation is very obscure. It is indeed evident that in 2Ch 3:1 the Temple hill is referred to; but this does not settle the sense of the expression ‘land of Moriah’ in Gn 22:2: the Chronicler may, in common with the later Jews, have supposed that that was the scene of the sacrifice of Isaac, and borrowed the expression from Gn 22:2—perhaps to suggest that the spot was chosen already by J” in the patriarchal age.(…). It is remarkable that, though it is here implied that it is well known to Abraham, the region is not mentioned elsewhere in the OT. It is difficult, under the circumstances, not to doubt the originality of the text;(…); Gerizim, moreover, is an elevation which a traveler approaching from the S. might ‘lift up his eyes’(22:4) and see conspicuously at a distance, which is not the case with Jerusalem.[11]

L. Reed and A. H. McNeile in their article on ‘Moriah’ in the Hastings’ Revised (One Volume) Dic. of Bibleassert that the tradition of identifying ‘Moriah’ with the site of the Solomon’s Temple is not traceable:

The Chronicler (2 Ch 3:1) leaves no doubt concerning the Jewish tradition that Mount Moriah was the Temple hill where Solomon built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem and the place of David’s theophany. Efforts to identify the source of this tradition have been unsuccessful.[12]

Michael Avi-Yonah observes in the Encyclopedia Judaica that the identification of Moriah with the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite at Jerusalem is farfetched and is aimed to attach importance to the Solomon’s Temple:

The assumption that Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac on the threshing floor of Jebus (Jerusalem), in full view of the Canaanite city, is farfetched; nor is the Temple Mount visible from afar, as it is hidden by the higher mountains around it. It seems more probable that the biblical story left the location of Moriah deliberately vague; the importance of the sacrifice of Isaac in the series of covenants between God and Israel made it natural [to the later redactors of the Bible]that at an early time this supreme act of faith was located on the site destined to become the most holy sanctuary of Israel, the Temple of Solomon, just as the Samaritans transferred the act to their holy mountain, Mt. Gerizim.[13]

International Standard Bible Encyclopediaobserves:

This land is mentioned only here [Gen. 22:2], and there is little to guide us in trying to identify it. A late writer (2 Chronicles 3:1) applies the name of Moriah to the mount on which Solomon’s Temple was built, possibly associating it with the sacrifice of Isaac. A similar association with this mountain may have been in the mind of the writer of Genesis 22 (see 22:14), who, of course, wrote long after the events described (Driver). (…). The description could hardly apply to Jerusalem in any case, as it could not be seen ‘afar off’ by  one approaching either from the South or the West. (…). With our present knowledge we must be content to leave the question open (W. Ewing).[14]

Itis only the book of Chronicles in the whole of the Bible, which designates ‘Moriah’ as the site for the Solomon’s Temple (II Chr. 3:1). Curiously, as already stated, the Chronicler, while narrating earlier the purchase of the site by David from Ornan the Jebusite in his I Chr. 21:15-28, does not mention the name of ‘Moriah’ for the place where the Solomon’s Temple was to be built later. He simply uses the ‘thresingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite’ as the name of the place throughout the narrative for a number of times. Had ‘Moriah’ been the name of the place, he must have used this name categorically. Actually the source of the Chronicler for this narrative is II Samuel and he retells the incident from II Sam. 24:16-25. There too the name ‘Moriah’ has nowhere been mentioned for the place, as can be appreciated from the following quotation:

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite. (17) And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.  (18) And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite. (19) And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded. (20) And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on towards him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. (21) And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed from the people.(22) And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer of what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. (23) All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee. (24) And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.[15](25) And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated[16]for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.[17]

Prior to the Chronicler, the details of the plan of the Temple, the stages and style of the construction with meticulous drawings, measurements and other details of the building, had been recorded in I Kings vi-viii and Ezekiel xl-xlvii. The word ‘Moriah’ has nowhere been used in both of these accounts. The Chronicler was not an eye-witness of the event. He wrote the details after the lapse of seven centuries of the event as elaborated later. He gave the name ‘Moriah’ to the place to sanctify the site of the Temple. Nobody else had ever used the word ‘Moriah’ for the site of the Temple before him. Afterwards, any one else who used the name ‘Moriah’ for the site of the Temple, copied it from the ‘Chronicles’. It was the sole source of all the later credulous writers of so called ‘histories’, who eagerly picked it up without undertaking any objective and analytical appraisal of the statement and its sources. This is not ‘history’.‘Wishful thinking and imaginative creativity’ may be good qualities for the writer of a piece of literature, but they are plainly a demerit for a sober and genuine historian and are bound to damage his credibility.

Instead of Moriah, the Bible locates the Temple at mount Zion at some places, but it is not a unanimous opinion.[18]

The sole place in the whole of the Bible where the site of the Solomon’s Temple has been attached to ‘Moriah’ is the book of Chronicles (II Ch. 3:1). It has been explained above that it was not based on any objective reality or historical facts. It was a ‘theological invention’ and was fabricated to attach reverence and importance to the ‘House of the Lord’.[19]

It is hoped that the reader of this chapter of the book and the relevant Appendix III at the end of the book would face no hardship in concluding that: 

(a)  The statement of the Solomon’s Temple having been built at ‘Moriah’ is a blatant forgery of the Chronicler; and

(b)  The status, canonicity, historicity, and credibility of the Chronicler is not above board.

The claim that ‘Moriah’ was the site of Solomon’s Temple is quite baseless, absurd and arbitrary; and the mention of Moriah in II Chronicles (3:1) should be considered as null and void, being a baseless invention of the Chronicler.

As the last four locations (according to the above categorization) claimed by the Bible scholars to be the spot of Abraham’s offering his ‘only son’ for sacrifice stand ruled out through ample argumentation, there remains only one site in the whole of the Bible (Gen. 22:2); which can be claimed as the genuine ‘Moriah’ where Abraham had offered his ‘only son’ for sacrifice. A detailed study on the subject is being undertaken in the next chapter.

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