David's Tomb cenotaph370.
(photo credit: BiblePlaces.com)
Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.
of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building
on Jerusalem’s Western Hill. In this one small structure, events of
history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s
In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.Mount Zion—A misnomer that stuck
I exited the Zion Gate on the Western Hill in order to approach the building. The Zion Gate also takes the Arabic name, Bab Nabi Daud
“Gate of the Prophet David.” Byzantines in the fifth century really
confused the names of this area. They mistook the Western Hill for
biblical “Mount Zion,” and so the hill, the gate, and the “Tower of
David,” all have wrong names that have stuck.
I made my way south
beside the beautiful, century-old Dormition Abbey. Its massive white
stones and cone-shaped dome dwarfed the small building with a minaret
and cupola. In this building lies the “Tomb of David,” another
regrettable misnomer. David’s tomb actually rests somewhere in the City
of David (1 Kings 2:10; Nehemiah 3:16; Acts 2:29).
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I entered the small room, I saw Jews praying before a cenotaph (tomb
marker or monument) that lay draped in dark purple velvet with the Star
of David embroidered on it in gold thread. On top of the cenotaph sat
silver crowns and arks of Torah scrolls from synagogues throughout the
world—Jewish relics salvaged from the Holocaust. Because Jews couldn’t
enter the Old City prior to the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, many
Jews prayed here instead. Many still do.
Here Byzantines honored
both David and James as the Jewish and Christian founders of Jerusalem.
James’ church is located in the Armenian Quarter, but David’s tomb is
commemorated at this location—where the “Church of Mount Sion” was.
Archeological remains date back to the second century, a time when it
would have been difficult and risky for Christians to congregate in this
place—unless they had a good reason. It must have been an important
place in the first century.
According to Biblical Archaeology Review
Christians since the first century have venerated this site as the
place where Jesus celebrated the Passover and Last Supper with His
disciples (see Biblical Archaeology Review
, 16:03, May/June 1990).
the archaeology and tradition bear true, this is the place where Jesus
promised that the New Covenant would begin by the shedding of His blood
(Luke 22:20). The Hebrew prophets anticipated a promised “New Covenant”
would write the Law on the hearts of God’s people through the giving of
the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34).Shavuot, David, Jesus, and us
for this reason, the King James Version of Scripture translates Acts
2:1 with the words: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come . . .”
It was on the feast of Shavuot in Jerusalem that the Holy Spirit came
upon God’s people—just as the prophets had promised.
bears the name “Feast of Weeks,” because it comes seven weeks after the
feast of Passover. The name “Pentecost” also identifies the holiday
since the celebration occurs “five weeks” after Passover (Leviticus
23:15-16). By the first century, however, Shavuot had an additional
meaning as a time to remember the giving of the Mosaic Law (perhaps as a
result of Exodus 19:1). For whatever reason, the holiday came to be
associated with a renewed commitment to God’s Law.
the Upper Room that day, I paused again at the “Tomb of David.” I
reflected on how the New Covenant provides the final means for answering
David’s prayer for forgiveness and the permanence of the Holy Spirit at
Shavuot. In fact, this mercy provides the biblical motivation by which
we live a life of renewed commitment to God’s Word (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter
1:3).Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.
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