From the outset, the western wall is not part of the temple of Herod’s walls. It is merely the platform on which the temple constructions were placed. The platform was constructed of considerable sized stones and noted as “Herodian Ashlars” by their characteristic square grooves on the edges. The precision to which these foundation stones were manufactured is staggering. A tunnel running along the base of the temple mount commencing from the northern end of the western wall plaza and ending near the sisters of Zion church gives further insight into the construction of this western wall. A very large stone is noted within this foundation, (See photos) and note how both parallel and accurate the butt joint is constructed, with no mortar! In addition note the mortice and tenon stone plugs used to hold the render on the outside of this wall. The foundation wall proved to be too smooth for the render to stick, so plugs were used to support this render.
So how does one understand the words of the Master who said that not one stone would remain on another that would not be thrown down? Matt 24:2
The stones were both the literal stones of the temple construction itself located on the summit of this platform construction and figurative description of the individuals within the nation:
Literal stones: As a result of the impregnation of gold into these stones, the roman soldiers scraped the metal from the faces of the stones, and then pushed them off the (remaining) platform to access the metallic fragments between the joints. [Note the photograph included with the stones in a heap after they were pushed by the Roman troops]
Figurative stones: Stones are used as a figure of building families, and in fact the hebrew for stones and sons are very similar: eben and ben. Throughout scripture there is a wide brush-stroke of this use within the language of everyday dialogue.
- Some of the most familiar must include the description of the promise by deity to build a house for David 2Sam 7:11 In this regard Yahweh would be the father of David’s son! 2Sam 7:14 and because of the immortal nature of deity, the consequence would be the building would last for ever 2Sam 7:16 God Himself is described as a rock! 2Sam 23:3 and although David’s house did not contain the same physical and moral qualities perfectly as the creator of the house, it was by gift made to last for ever, ordered in all things and sure 23:5 But the sons of Belial, (heb without profit) shall all of them.. be thrust away 23:6
- The Patriarchs throughout their sojourning would create altars.
- Altars later under mosaic times could be constructed only of stones that were unhewn by human hands, demonstrating the virtue of Yahweh himself as the father of sons of promise.
- In a parallelism: God would build Jerusalem (gather stones for building) and gather the scattered outcasts of Israel Ps 147:2
- When the Jewish nation marked their connection with God through natural lineage, God would through John the baptist declare that God was through (other) stones able to raise seed to Abraham Matt 3:9 The word “raise” is gk egiero, to resurrect! The casting out of these stones, the hewing of trees and the burning of chaff 3:9,10,12 are all equivalent expressions to the meting out of the wrath of God 3:7
- Christ is the head and corner stone, the stone that the (Jewish) builders rejected, but by God resurrected to become the author and perfector of a faithful house Heb 12:2; a feat that is marvelous in our eyes Ps 118:22,23
- The nation would build their own house on bad foundations. This would be the concept that their personal righteousness was to be attributed as valuable, and because of their righteousness their temple would never be destroyed. This was the thrust of false prophets, and their message the foundation on which walls would be built, the large breeches covered over with whitewash Ezek 13. This was seen later in the time of Christ when the Pharisees were like whitewashed sepulchres, but within were dead men’s bones, Matt 23:27-33. These foundations were to be tested, and the statements that they were active in building Yahweh’s house challenged Matt 7:21-27.
- The figures of the leprous house are contained within this judgment of Israel. When leprosy was identified within a building called hollow strakes, Roth has sunken places, that is within! styled lower than the wall or NEB “deeper than the surface” Lev 14:37 [or deeper than the skin 13:3] representing leprosy within a man’s heart 1Kings 8:37,38 The action taken by the priest “visiting” the house to inspect was first to remove the offending stones (figuratively the time of Nebuchadnezzar) and then to not leave one stone upon another! the stones carried forth out of the city Lev 14:45 so Israel taken captive into diaspora. This was the wickedness within the house Zech 5:8.
The western wall was also once called the “wailing wall” but subsequent to the reoccupation of Jerusalem in 1967 the wall has been called the western wall. There is a time of wailing yet to come when Rachel wails for her children for they are not! but God is to intervene to return Jacob from all his troubles.
The western wall clearly speaks to us of the need to build on the foundations laid in the Lord Jesus Christ. No other wall will sustain driving rain, hail and tempest. We look for a city whose builder and maker is God, an abiding house, and if we allow God to be our father, we will become “lively stones”