Mt. Moriah: The Firm Foundation of Solomon’s Temple

The Bible is so meta–interconnected, self-referential, delicately woven together like the most beautiful spiderweb you’ve ever seen glistening in the early light of dawn.

I came across one of those places in the Bible that connects all the dots in a single sentence yesterday in 2 Chronicles:

“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” -2 Chronicles 3:1

As the newly minted King Solomon gathers all of the gold, silver, timber, and stones to build the House of the LORD in Jerusalem, the author sends us back–far, far back–into the annals of biblical history with the two words: Mount Moriah. 

Abraham and Isaac.

Moriah is only mentioned one other place in the Old Testament, in the story of Abraham. In fact, what the author of 2 Chronicles wants us to realize is that Solomon is making ready to build the Temple on the very site where, more than a millenium before, Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice:

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.”  -Genesis 22:1-3

If you know the story, Abraham led his only begotten son Isaac upon the side this mountain in complete obedience to God’s command. As Isaac carried the wood for the altar on his own back, he wondered, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where the lamb for a burnt offering?” And in a moment of supreme faith, Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (22:7).

And he did. After Abraham built an altar, and arranged the wood, he bound his son and lifted his knife heavenward to slaughter him. At that very moment, the LORD sent an angel to stay his blade: “Abraham, Abraham!…Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

 “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” -Genesis 22:12-13

Mount Moriah is hallowed ground to the descendants of Abraham, but how is it that Solomon’s father David came to possess this plot of land in the first place?

David and the Angel of the Lord.

Our verse in 2 Chronicles points us back to 1 Chronicles when it mentions “the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The story goes that David took a census of the sons of Israel, which brought God’s wrath against the people:

 “And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” -1 Chronicles 21:15

As David lifted his eyes, suspended between earth and heaven was the angel of the Lord with sword drawn ready to strike Israel. Seeing the razor edge poised to plunge into the sheep, David offered himself as a substitute: “Please let your hand, O LORD my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people” (21:17).

The angel of the Lord then commanded David to build and altar and offer a sacrifice on that very plot of land: the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. David purchased the land, built an altar, and offered a sacrifice,

“…and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering.  [27]  Then the LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.” -1 Chronicles 21:26b-27

As David saw the sword return to its scabbard and the wrath of God relent against the people, he was struck with an idea:

Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the LORD God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” -1 Chronicles 22:1

A Firm Foundation.

The writer of 2 Chronicles brings these two stories together, Abraham and Isaac and David and Israel, in order to show us the perfect foundation for the House of the LORD. It was built on the mount where a substitute was provided. Where the blade of judgment was raised, then stayed. Where a Lamb would be offered in the place of a beloved son. Where a king would cry out, “Let your hand fall on me! Spare this people!”

This is the only foundation for a house of the LORD. It must be built upon substitutionary atonement. The only way that God can receive back his people, his only begotten, is through the willing offering of a shepherd for his sheep. Like King David, he must offer himself willingly before the wrath of God to save the people. Only then can the sword return to its sheath…

…and a Temple be built. Solomon’s Temple foreshadows the return of the Lord to dwell with his people in a new heavens and a new earth. That New Creation reality is made possible through the substitutionary sacrifice of the son of David, Jesus Christ. As he was suspended between earth and heaven, the sword of the Lord’s wrath was turned against him and his people were spared. The only begotten Son became the substitute so that the Father might have us back from off the altar. And even now, upon the foundation of his substitutionary atonement, he is building us into a new creation: the Temple of the LORD.

(photo credit)