The Third Jerusalem Temple (בית המקדש השלישי Beit haMikdash haShlishi, or: “The Third Holy Dwelling”) is the sacred place that according to the prophecies will be rebuilt in Jerusalem after the past destruction of the First and Second Temple. A “Place of Prayer for everyone”, the “Eternal Palace” and a “Permanent Dwelling of GOD” are just some of the titles attributed to the construction built according to the will of King Messiah David, who had received indications directly from GOD.
Ezekiel’s prophecy and the Temple’s reconstruction
In the twenty-fifth year of exile of the Jewish people on Babylonian land, GOD showed a vision of the future Temple to the prophet Ezekiel (Ez Cap. 40-48):
Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my Sanctuary is among them forever.
(Ezekiel 37, 28)
Based on prophecies like this one, the exegetes and believers of all ages have made their own ideas of how this Holy place will be realized. A reconstruction that for the Second Temple took place only partially based on the description in the book of Ezekiel because the prophetic description was reserved for the last Temple of Jerusalem, that is, the one that will remain forever. The Jewish oral tradition, the Midrash, reports that when GOD commanded Ezekiel to describe the size of the Temple to the Jewish people, the prophet asked:
“Master of the Universe, why are You telling me to go and tell Israel the form of the House; they are now in exile in the land of our enemies, is there anything they can do about it? Let them be, until they return from the exile. Then I will go and inform them.”
GOD answered: “Should the construction of My House be ignored because My children are in exile? The study of the design of the Holy Temple as detailed in the Torah can be equated to its actual construction. Go tell them to study the form of the Holy Temple. As a reward for their study and their occupation with it, I will consider it as if they actually built the Holy Temple.”
(Midrash Tanchuma, Tzav 14; Yalkut Shimoni on Ezechiele 43, 10–11)
From these words it is clear how important it is for every zealous believer not only to engage in the study of the past to understand the mistakes made and not repeat them, but also in planning in the present a better future for the faith. It is not important how long it has been since the last reconstruction, the relativity of time is now a widely understood concept, the promises of GOD are fulfilled only as events mature. After all, the centrality of this construction is eternal and not temporary, and this is clearly expressed in the verses of the first Book of Kings:
The LORD said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before Me; I have consecrated this Temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My Eyes and my Heart will always be there.
(1King 9, 3)
Obviously if LORD’s “sight” remains over time turned to this Holy place in Jerusalem, surely the current situation of conflict and ruins cannot please GOD. A Temple so disputed today among the Abrahamic faiths, in which every entry to the Holy House must remain constantly patrolled by the armed Israeli soldiers who deny free entry. This sad situation certainly does not represent what the Sanctuary has witnessed to the World for centuries and of this unfortunately we are all indiscriminately guilty. Anyone who has lived in Jerusalem or knows in deep the delicate balances and dynamics that rotate around the Temple Mount recognizes that that House that once represented the light and a guide for peace to the nations (as is testified by the etymology of the word Jeruselemme where the semitic three-letteral root s-l-m means “peace” “shalom”) today embodies the spiritual stasis and recession that the people of Jerusalem and the World are facing. But the good news is that in the very darkest moments of history and after having reached the bottom, the people of GOD re-emerge, managing to give themselves the necessary push to see the light again. The believers were and still are called to build and spread peace among people, this is the election of the people of GOD, just as in the times of the exodus. After having experienced the heavy yoke of slavery and oppression in the land of Egypt, following the Laws and pursuing the path of righteousness, witnesses recalled the past to build a present that denies oppression and injustice. But in the future those testimonies have not been properly remembered and, even if to date there have been many steps forward for civil rights and global peace, oppression and slavery still afflict the Nations, with Jerusalem not seeming at all immune from these plagues, becoming a stage of discord and disputes. But this as prophesied will not be forever, and one day the Temple will be restored, to promote and make peace prosper, starting from the Temple Mount and following, like water that descends of a slope, on Jerusalem and in the rest of the World. If we have faith, this is not utopia, but to achieve this we must at least commit ourselves from today in thinking about how this Temple can be rebuilt and managed in the best way possible for everyone who believes in the GOD of Abraham. As Maimonides affirms the design of the Messianic Temple, that is the last Temple, mentioned in the book of Ezekiel is not explicitly explained (Mishneh Torah, Hil. Beit HaBechirah 1, 4), but in any case to think about how it can be realized and the dynamics of its future “administration” is something that pleases GOD.The solutions can be countless, from a joint administration of Jews, Christians and Muslims to an incevee garrisoned by an external body, whatever reasonable solution creates a just compromise to achieve what we all need: to bring back to life the ancient glory of the Temple and allow access to all believers in the name of Peace. But we cannot expect this to be the responsibility of the authorities or the leaders of nations, because as we have seen over the past two thousand years, no one is in a position to shoulder this heavy burden personally. Nor can we shake off our responsibilities by affirming how we often hear on the streets of Jerusalem: “When the Messiah comes, he will think about rebuilding the Temple”, because when he manifests himself, the social and political situation will not be so different from that of two thousand years ago (Ecclesiastes 1, 9), where the only hope for the people and true great strength remains in the union and knowledge of the people and never in the power of individuals.
The Holy and the Holy of Holies
Regarding to the new construction of the Temple although many things remain to be established, one thing is certain, namely that the position of the Kodesh (Holy) and the Kodesh HaKodashim ( Holy of Holies) will remain the same as in the previous Temples, i.e. inside the Dome of the Rock. The Holy of Holies cannot be moved because there is the foundation stone of the world, the even shetiyyah which according to tradition is “in the center” of the world and was “the foundation” on which it was created. In this place there was, is and will always be the most sacred part of the Temple, the point of greatest “connection” with the Divine and today this area is inside the Dome of the Rock managed by Muslim jurisdiction, and remaining the most important place of worship for about 3.4 billion believers in the world (more than 50% of the entire population).
This place enriched by the dome entirely covered with a gold foil donated by the departed King Hussein of Jordan, was the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to some interpretations Shlomo Dov Goitein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was confident that the Dome of the Rock intended to compete with the many monuments of other important religious faiths because this structure “was unknown to Islam” until that time, instead we could read in these words a different, and more unitary and futuristic vision, stating that already in ancient times the Abrahamic faiths tended to conform itself, although maintaining their own doctrinal differences and interpretations of the Texts. And the greatest doctrinal disagreement between Christianity of the time and Judaism and Islam was precisely in the interpretation of the Unity of GOD and the kufic inscriptions of the end of the 7th century A.D. that decorate the interior walls of the dome report a series of verses of the Koran that mainly concern this Unity of GOD. The correct position of the Quranic verses has been interpreted in a homelitic sense, choosing carefully those with references to the relationship with the Christian “sister” faith.
And say: “Praise be to GOD, Who hath not taken unto Himself a son, and Who hath no partner in the Sovereignty”
(Quran 17, 111)
So the Umayyad inscriptions of the dome insist on the unicity of GOD (tawḥīd), because considered incompatible with the Trinitarian doctrine professed by a part of Christianity that at the time commanded Jerusalem. But today the situation is different, there are many Christians who do not recognize the dogma of the Trinity that clashes with that of the first Commandment, “You shall not take any other GOD except Me” recognizing Jesus as prophet and son of GOD (Psalm 82, 6) but not as CREATOR, and the Holy Spirit of GOD as GOD the FATHER himself manifest, and therefore doctrinally absolutely compatible with the uniqueness professed by Islam and Judaism.
A new element for construction: iron
Iron was not used in the construction of the first two Temples, as the verse says: “The Dwelling, when it was under construction, was built with finished stone in the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe (nor) any instrument of iron felt in the Dwelling while it was under construction”. (1 Kings 6, 7) And this because iron was mainly used to shape the weapons used to shorten the lives of men, while the purpose of the Temple was to “create peace” between man and GOD, and therefore between mankind, thus extending everyone’s life. It was therefore improper to build a structure that supports life with a material that is its antithesis.
However, as also the famous Rabbi of the past Lubavitcher explains in the Messianic era, when “swords will be changed into vomers” (Is 2, 4) and iron will be used only for good, this prohibition to use metal in the structure of the Temple will no longer apply.
The use of iron in the Third Temple will not only be a symptom of the peace that will reign, but is a symbol of the messianic era in general. [Sefer HaSichot 5752, p. 233.] The Hebrew word for iron is ברזל (barzel), which Arizal explains is the acronym for Jacob’s four wives, from whom the Jewish nation descends (Arizal, Sefer HaLikkutim, Genesis 49, 11) and this coincides with the explanation of the mystics who claim that in the age of redemption, women will be on a higher spiritual level than men.
A major attendance among peoples
The second to last verse of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah states:
From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.
(Isaiah 66, 23)
The Midrash explains that although during the eras of the first two Temples Jews made, as required by law, a pilgrimage to the Temple three times a year, in the Messianic era believers did so much more frequently. Even the Jewish tradition states “every first day of the month”, which probably metaphorically means that the pilgrimage to the Holy place will happen for every believer much more often than in the past. The Midrash goes on to say that although this was impossible during the first two Temples, in the era of the Third Temple we will have “clouds” that will transport us to Jerusalem and the Temple, allowing us to visit the Holy Temple more frequently (Yalkut Shimoni, end of Isaiah). It is almost impossible not to associate to these “clouds” the modern planes that in a few hours can connect believers to Gerusaelmme from every corner of the Planet.
Attempts to rebuild the Third Temple began before the Middle Ages. In 1990, rumors that Jewish extremists were planning to start rebuilding the temple sparked constant riots. Beginning in June 2008, the Temple Institute completed the reconstruction of the Kohen Gadol Hoshen (breastplate that contained the Urim and Tummim) and the Ephod, and in 2012 the menorah was exposed, covered with more than 9 pounds of pure gold and reportedly worth 2 million dollars. All of these objects are fodamentals for the orthodox doctrine and necessary in the Temple, clear signs that the preparation phase is at a much more advanced stage than many people believe.
A clear Biblical message comes from the story of what happened to Prince Zerobabel, a descendant of King David, who returned from Babylonian captivity to rule Jerusalem and was chosen by GOD to begin rebuilding the Temple. He was told by the prophet Zechariah that GOD himself would accomplish the work “not with force or power, but with my Spirit” and this divine revelation still resounds as loudly today as it did many centuries ago. All of us must understand that the LORD himself will carry out His plans. Zerubbabel was not told how GOD would fulfill His purposes, but His responsibility, just as it should be ours as believers, is to live by faith in GOD, to trust in the Word of the LORD and to work for peace, and this also involves understanding the dynamics around the Temple and planning for a better future for all, especially for our children.
We will fail if we try to use our strength and power in any situation involving GOD and spirituality. The times of swords and ignorance is making way for a time of knowledge and responsibility, that is why we must let ourselves go, have faith and let GOD take command in our lives, guiding us to the good of ourselves, our neighbor and ultimately the whole world, that is when all the promises of GOD will be fulfilled.
- Shlomo Dov Goitein; “The Historication background of the erection of the Dome of the Rock”, Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol. 70, No. 2, 1950
- G. Nolli, Gerusalemme, Santo Sepolcro e moschea di Omar, Novara, 1983.
- Slavik, Diane (2001). Cities through Time: Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Jerusalem. Geneva, Illinois: Runestone Press. p. 60. ISBN978-0-8225-3218-7.
- “Dome of the Rock”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- Islamic Awareness to see the kufic inscriptions decorating the Dome of the Rock