Abstract of Makom Kadosh: Jerusalem as Sacred Space by Rabbi Joshua Brumbach. For the full article, click here.
How is it that Jerusalem became an axis of sacred space, a locus of the divine presence on earth? It lacks a harbor, access to a trade route, even interesting topography! And yet it is considered one of the most holy cities. As Scripture reveals, Jerusalem is sacred because G-d willed it to be, through various associated hierophonies, or divine encounters.
Beginning in Genesis, the Jewish patriarch Abraham (then Avram) goes up the Shaveh Valley, where he meets Melchizedek, the King of Shalem (present-day Jerusalem) and a priest of the G-d Most High. (Genesis 14:17-20) Avram eats a covenant meal with him there, Melchizedek blesses Avram, and Avram gives Melchizedek a tithe of ten percent of all his possessions.
In Genesis 22, a passage known in Hebrew as the Akeida, G-d calls Abraham to take his son Isaac to Mt. Moriah, and build an altar there on top the mountain. He binds up his son Isaac, and lays him upon the wood on top the altar. As Abraham is about to slay his son, he is stopped by an angel of G-d. 2 Chronicles 3:1-2 later identifies Mt. Moriah as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In 2 Samuel 24, G-d sends a plague upon the people of Israel as punishment against King David. 70,000 people die. At the end of the specified time, an angel of G-d stands atop the threshing floor of Aravnah, in the home of a Jebusite whose city was captured by David, and later renamed “Jerusalem.” King David buys the site, builds an altar there, and offers sacrifices to G-d. G-d lifts the plague, and the site of King David’s altar is later identified by 2 Chronicles 3 as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Put on an ancient near eastern thinking cap (which understands space as neither fungible nor homogenous) and connect the dots. Jerusalem plays host to … the creation story in Genesis, godly figures like Melchizedek, the beloved Mt. Moriah of Abraham, and the place of G-d’s revelation to King David! Is it any wonder that the Temple Mount is now associated with the physical manifestation of G-d’s presence on earth??