The southeast corner of the (expanded) Har Habayis is built on the lowest point of the bedrock, so in order to help stabilize it, the lower rows of stone are set back from the ones under them more than in the other walls, they are set back between 7.6-10.1 cm (3-4 in), and in one case 15.2 cm (6 in). Higher up (around seven rows under the master course), however, they are set back very little, only a quarter or a third of an inch (around 7 mm). On some of the lowest stones of this corner there are letters and symbols on the stones, either painted with red paint or engraved. The margins of some of these lower stones are very irregular, with some having huge margins on one side, and very small or no margins on the other, it seems that they used unperfect stones for here, since they were below street level, and would never be seen anyway.
When the stones for the Har Habayis were quarried, the masons left small square projections of about 12 cm (4 in), on either side of the stone. These projections had ropes placed around them, and were used to lift and transport the stones. When the stones were put into the Har Habayis walls, these projections were usually cut off, however sometimes they were left, and you can still see stones in the southern edge of the eastern wall which have these projections.
Above ground by this corner there are the remains of an arch, similar to Robinson's arch, and on top of that there are remains of a double gateway that led into Shlomo's stables. This arch, which is located 0.6 m (2 ft) to the north of the seam, is 7 m (23 ft) long, and is made of two stones. The bottom of this arch fragment is at an elevation of 723 m (2,372 ft) above sea level. Under this are three impost stones, the bosses of the southern two are eroded, however the smaller, northern one's boss is still pretty well preserved, and projects from the wall around 46 cm (18 in). The double gate on top of the arch, which is now blocked up, is 6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) wide, including the pier in between them. The doorsill is at the same level as Shlomo's stables, showing that this door was used to go inside it. This arch evidently supported a staircase leading up to the gate, similar to Robinson's arch. However, Warren was unable to find any remains of a pier for this arch, which leads us to say that after the Churban it was either dismantled and used for other buildings, or it fell down to the bottom of Nachal Kidron.
The lowest stone course in the southeast corner, course g, is 1.11 m (3 ft 8 in) high, it is mostly sunk into the bedrock, and is 12.4 (41 ft) long, at which point the bedrock rises abruptly. The second course, course f, is 1.3 m (4 ft 3.5 in) high, and extends to the north for the same distance as the lower course, at which point, as mentioned, the rock rises abruptly. On the south side it extends to the west 2.5 m (8 ft 3.5 in), and is bedded in the rock, and completely covered at its western end. The second, third, and fourth stones in the row (going from the south to the north,) have peculiar margins: the second stone has a 21 cm (8.5 in) margin on the top, while the lower one is only 4.1 cm (1 5/8 in), it has normal side margins, and has letters carved into the middle. The third stone has no upper margin, and the lower margin is 42.5 cm (16.75 in). It has normal side margins, and has letters painted on it with red paint. The fourth stone has an upper margin of 31.7 cm (12.5 in), but no lower margins, the side margins are normal. The remaining stones of this course have regular margins, but the fifth stone has a red circle painted on its top left corner.
The third course, course e, is 128 cm (4 ft 2.5 in) high, and extends 19.5 m (64 ft) to the north; it is set back 11.4 cm (4.5 in) from the course under it. The corner stone has no upper margin, and a 11.4 cm (4.5 in) margin on bottom. There are two letters/symbols on this stone course, one letter in red paint on the corner stone, on its top left corner, and another letter engraved on the bottom left of the sixth stone of this course. The fourth course, course d, is 110.5 cm (3 ft 7.5 in) high and is 23.1 m (76 ft) long; it is set back 6.3 cm (2.5 in) from the course under it. There are no letters or symbols on any of the stones in this course.
The fifth course, course c, is 1.11 m (3 ft 8 in) high and 24.3 m (80 ft) long; it is set back 11.4 cm (4.5 in). The second, fifth, sixth, and tenth stones, as well as the southern side of the corner stone, have letters painted on them with red paint. The eleventh stone, which has two letters/symbols carved into it, projects about 0.3 cm (1/8 in) too much, and about half of its surface has been worked over again. The thirteenth stone, which is 16.4 m (54 ft) from the corner, has no marginal drafts.
The sixth course, course b, is 1.06 m (3 ft 6 in) tall; the seventh course, course a, is 1.21 m (4 ft) tall; and the eight course, course Z, is 1.37 m (4 ft 6 in) high. The ninth course, course Y, is 1.21 m (4 ft) high, although 19.5 meters (64 ft 3 in) north of the corner, the course gets 15.2 cm (6 in) shorter, and the tenth course is set into it. The tenth course, course X, is 1.11 m (3 ft 8 in) high, although as already mentioned, at 19.5 meters (64 ft 3 in) north of the corner, the height of the course increases to 1.27 m (4 ft 2 in), as the course under it gets 15.2 cm (6 in) shorter. This course is set back from the one under it 15.8 cm (6.25 in) for the southernmost 27.3 meters (89 ft 9 in). After this, the setback is increased to 24.1 cm (9.5 in), although the course on top of this, course W, projects 5 cm (2 in) over this part of course X.
Starting from around course a, the courses go all the way to the seam, at which point they stop, and the older wall starts, the courses of which have different levels. For example, when course X stops, the course of the old wall starts 55.8 cm (1 ft 10 in) higher than the bottom of course X.
As we mentioned, there are numerous letters and symbols painted or inscribed on the stones of this corner, as well as by the northeast corner of Har Habayis. Warren writes about the letters as follows: "The incised characters are cut with a tool to a depth of 3 inch (7.5 cm). The painted characters, in some instances 12 inches (30 cm) high, appear to have been put on with a brush. The paint used is red, probably vermilion, and easily rubbed off with a wet finger. There are a few red splashes here and there, as if the paint had dropped from the brush. The general impression from an inspection of the characters is that they...were painted on before the stones were laid in their places...On some of the stones there are no characters visible; on others, the whole of the surface within the draft is occupied by characters." (The Survey of Western Palestine, Jerusalem, pp 151-152).
Warren consulted Mr. Emanuel Oscar Menachem Deutsch, an expert on semitic languages, about these characters. Mr. Deutsch examined these characters; and concluded as follows: "1. The signs cut or painted were on the stones when they were first laid in their present position. 2. They do not represent any inscription. 3. They are Phoenician. I consider them to be partly letters, partly numerals, and partly special masons' or quarry signs. Some of them were recognizable at once as well-known Phoenician characters; others hitherto unknown in Phoenician epigraphy I had the rare satisfaction of being able to identify on undoubtedly Phoenician structures in Syria." (The Survey of Western Palestine, Jerusalem, pp 152).
However, recently Ronny Reich and Yuval Baruch have come up with a different theory for some of these letters. They say that these cannot be masonic marks, because if they were, they would be found on many stones of the Har Habayis walls, not just by the two eastern corners. They identify some of the letters as follows: The two letters on the southern face of the cornerstone of course c are clearly kufs (ק), two upside-down letters, a kuf and a ches (ח), on the second stone of course f, another upside down ches on the sixth stone of course e, and another two kufs, as well as a tav (ת), on a stone by the northeast corner. They say (based on the Mishnah, Ma'aser Sheni 4:11), that the Kuf stands for Korban, and the tav for terumah, both being used here to mean a donation to the Mikdash treasury. The ches they say stands for Cherem, also a term used to refer to donations to the Mikdash treasury, for the upkeep of the Beis Hamikdash (Erchin 8:6). Based on this, they say these stones were put down as part of a "laying of the cornerstone" (הנחת אבן הפינה) ceremony, to officially start off the expansion of Har Habayis. When these stones were placed, some were accidently placed upside down.
(We know from Josephus (wars 5:5:1) that the expansion of the Har Habayis started in the north, so that explains the stone by the northeast corner; and to explain the southeastern corner's stones, based on this theory, we have to say that this corner was also built in the beginning, for some reason or other, maybe because it was deeper, or maybe by the official ceremony, they marked both new edges of the eastern wall.)
Conder, Claude Reignier, and Warren, Charles. The Survey of Western Palestine: Jerusalem. London, 1884.
Koren, Zalman Menachem. Beit HaMikdash: The Temple and the Holy Mount. United States: Shaar Press/ Mesorah Publications, in conjunction with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, 2009.
Reich R., Baruch, Y. 2016, THE MEANING OF THE INSCRIBED STONES AT THE CORNERS OF THE HERODIAN TEMPLE MOUNT, Revue Biblique, 123/1 (2016)' PP. 118-124
Ritmeyer, Leen. The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel: Carta, 2006.
Ritmeyer, Leen. “Quarrying and Transporting Stones for Herod’s Temple Mount,” Biblical Archaeology Review 15.6 (1989): 46–48.
Warren, Charles. Plans, elevations, sections, etc. shewing the results of the excavations at Jerusalem, 1867-70: executed for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, London 1884
Leave a Reply.
I have added 16 new pictures of the First Beis Hamikdash.
My name is Mendel Lewis.
This year is a Hakhel year. To learn about this special year, and what we should do about it, visit the following links:
The Year of Hakhel - Celebrating Jewish Unity - 5783 -- A Year of Unity (chabad.org)
Shnas Hakhel - Home
Hahkel Nation 5783 (hakhelnation.com)
Hashem said to Yechezkel, "Its reading in the Torah is as great as its building. Go and say it to them, and they will occupy themselves to read the form of it in the Torah. And in reward for its reading, that they occupy themselves to read about it, I count it for them as if they were occupied with the building of it. (Tanchuma tzav 14)