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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Olives, Mount of

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Ηar-hazzey-thim . E. of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 11:23), separated from it by "the valley of Jehoshaphat" (Zechariah 14:4). "The mount of the olive grove" (Εlaionos ), Acts 1:12. Arabic jebel es Ζeitun . In 2 Samuel 15:30 "the ascent of the olives" (Hebrew). "The mountain facing Jerusalem" (1 Kings 11:7); called "the hill of corruption" from Solomon's high places built to Chemosh and Moloch (2 Kings 23:13-14). The road by which David fled from Absalom across Kedron, and passed through trees to the summit, where was a consecrated spot (an old sanctuary to Εlohim , like Bethel) at which he worshipped God (2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 15:32). Turning the summit he passed Bahurim (2 Samuel 16:5), probably near Bethany, then through a "dry and weary (Hebrew hayeephim ) land where no water was," as he says Psalms 63:1; 2 Samuel 16:2; 2 Samuel 16:14 (the same Hebrew), 2 Samuel 17:2. In Psalm 42 he was beyond Jordan; in Psalm 63 he is in the wilderness on the near side of Jordan (2 Samuel 15:28; 2 Samuel 17:21-22).

Shimei, scrambling along the overhanging hill, flung down the stones and dust of the rough and parched descent. The range has four hills. Josiah defiled Solomon's idolatrous high places, breaking the "statues," cutting down the groves, and filling their places with men's bones. After the return from Babylon the olive, pine, palm, and myrtle branches for booths at the feast of tabernacles were thence procured (Nehemiah 8:15). The ridge runs N. and S., separating the city which lies on its western side from the wilderness reaching from the eastern side of Olivet to the Dead Sea. At the northern extremity the range bends to the W., leaving a mile of level space between it and the city wall; whereas on the E. the mountain approaches the wall, separated only by a narrow ravine, Kedron, to which the descent from the Golden gate, or the gate of Stephen, is steep, and the ascent from the valley bed up the hill equally so. The northern part, probably Nob, Mizpeh, and Scopus (so called from the view it commands of the city), is distinct historically, though geologically a continuation, from "the Mount of Olives."

So too the "mount of evil counsel" on the S. The Latin Christians call the northern part "Viri Galilaei ", being the presumed site of the angels' address to the disciples at the ascension, "ye men of Galilee," etc. (Acts 1:11). Olivet (Et Tur), the historical hill so called, separated from Scopus by a depression running across, is a limestone rounded hill, the whole length two miles; the height at the Church of the Ascension on the summit is 2,700 ft. above the Mediterranean, Zion is 2,537 ft. above, Moriah ("temple area" or Ηaram ) at 2,429 ft., the N.W. corner of the city at 2,581 ft. Thus it is considerably higher than the temple mountain, and even than the socalled Zion. S. of the mount of ascension, and almost a part of it, stands that of the tombs of the prophets; again, S. of that, the mount of offense. Of the three paths from the valley to the summit the first follows the natural shape of the ground, the line of depression Between the central and the northern hill. It was evidently David's route in fleeing.

It was also the Lord's route between Bethany and Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-37), and that whereby the apostles returned to Jerusalem after the ascension. The second path at 50 yards beyond Gethsemane strikes off directly up the steep to the village. The third turns S. to the tombs of the prophets, and then to the village. The reputed sites at the W. of the central mount are: the tomb of the Virgin, then successively up the hill, namely, an olive garden, cavern of Christ's prayer and agony, rock where the disciples slept, place of Jesus' capture, spot from whence the Virgin saw Stephen stoned, spot where her girdle dropped at her assumption, spot of Jesus' lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), tombs of the prophets, including Haggai and Zechariah (the Jews say; Matthew 23:29), place of the ascension, and church. (See GETHSEMANE.)

On the eastern side, descending from the ascension church to Bethany, are the field of the fruitless figtree, Bethphage, Bethany, Lazarus' house, Lazarus' tomb, stone on which Christ sat when Martha and Mary came to Him. Gethsemane is doubtless authentic. The empress Helena (A.D. 325) was the first who connected the ascension with Olivet (Eusebius Vit. Const. 3:43, Demonstr. Evang. 6:18); not that she fixed the precise spot but she erected a memorial ascension church with a glittering cross on this conspicuous site near the cave, the reputed place of Christ's teaching the disciples. The tradition was not an established one until more than 300 years later. The real place of ascension was Bethany, on the eastern slope, a mile beyond the traditional site (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:6-11). The "sabbath day's journey" (about six furlongs) specified for the information of Gentiles not knowing the locality in Acts 1 is from Olivet's main part and summit (or from Kefr et Tur, Bethphage according to Ganneau: see below), not from the place of actual ascension, Bethany, which is more than twice a sabbath day's journey.

So public a spot as the summit, visible for miles from all points, would ill suit the ascension of Him who after the resurrection showed Himself "not unto all the people but to witnesses chosen before of God" (Acts 10:41-42). The retired and wooded slopes of Bethany on the contrary were the fit scene of that crowning event. "The Mount of Olives" is similarly used in a general sense for Bethany (Luke 21:37, compare Matthew 21:17; Matthew 26:6). "Bethany" does not mean (as Alford says) the district of Bethany extending to the summit, but the village alone. The traditional site of the lamentation over Jerusalem is similarly unreal, for it can only be reached by a walk of hundreds of yards over the breast of the hill, the temple moreover and city being in full view all the time. The real site must have been a point on the road. from Bethany where the city bursts into view.

The Lord's triumphal entry was not by the steep short path of pedestrians over the summit, but the long easy route round the S. shoulder of the southernmost of the three divisions of Olivet; thence two views present themselves in succession; the first of the S.W. part of the city, namely, so called "Zion," the second, after an interval, of the temple buildings, answering to the two points of the history, the hosannas and the weeping of Jesus. Luke 19:37, "when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount," etc.; Luke 19:41-44, "when He was come near He beheld the city and wept over it." On the slope the multitude found the palm branches when going to meet the Lord (John 12:13). The catacomb called "the tombs of the prophets," on the hill S. of the central ascension hill and forming part of it with a slight depression between, is probably that cave where according to Eusebius Jesus taught mysteries to His disciples (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, 453).

The mount of offense (Βaten el Ηawa , Arabic, "bag of the wind") is the most southern portion of the range. The road in the hollow between it and the hill of "the tomb of the prophets" is the road from Bethany whereby Christ in triumph entered Jerusalem. The identification of "the hill of offense" with Solomon's "mount of corruption" (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13) is a late tradition of the 13th century. Stanley makes the northern hill (Viri Galilaei ) to be "the mount of corruption" (why so called is uncertain in that case) because the three sanctuaries were on the right side, i.e. S. of it, namely, on the other three summits. But 2 Kings 23:13 rather means the three high places were on the S. side of "the mount of corruption," i.e. the S. side or else peak of the Mount of Olives, which from Brocardus' time (13th century) has been called "the mount of offense" from the Vulgate translated of 2 Kings 23:13. The southern hill is lower and more rugged. The wady en Nar, continuing the Kedron valley eastward to the Dead Sea, is the southern boundary of the southern hill. Its bald surface contrasting with the vegetation of the other hills may have suggested the identification of it as the "mount of corruption."

On its steep western face is the dilapidated village of Silwan. (See SILOAM.) On a projecting part of its eastern side, overlooking Christ's triumphal route, are tanks and foundations, supposed by Barclay (City, etc., 66) to be the site of Bethphage; but the discovery of "an almost square block of masonry or rock, covered with paintings," not separated from the porous limestone rock of which it forms a part, on the strip to the N. of this road, shows that in the 11th century Christians identified Bethphage with that site. The block is 4 ft. 3 inches by 3 ft. 6 inches, and 3 ft. 10 inches high, and has on the S. side a representation of the raising of Lazarus, on the N. the disciples fetching the donkey; the supposition in the 11th century was that this was the stone on which our Saviour rested while the disciples were absent on their divine errand. Bethphage must have been, as this stone is, not on the road which Jesus was taking, namely, the narrow ridge to the Mount of Olives; otherwise He need not have sent disciples if He would have to pass it Himself; He said to them, "Go to the village over against you" (Matthew 21:2).

Ganneau identifies Bethphage with Kefr et Tur, "the village of the Mount of Olives," where exist ancient remains; he thinks it marked on the E. the sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, April 1878). The notion that the northern hill (Arabic Κarem es Serjad , "the vineyard of the sportsmen") was the scene of the angels' address to the apostles after the ascension first came into existence in the 16th century. Its first name in 1250 was "Galilee" (Perdiccas in Reland Pal., 52), either from its having been the lodging place of Galilaeans coming up to Jerusalem or from corruption of an ancient name, perhaps Geliloth, on Benjamin's southern boundary (Joshua 18:17). The place of the angels' address was from the 12th to the 16th century more appropriately assigned to a place in the Church of the Ascension, marked by two columns. Now it is only in the secluded slopes of the northern hill that venerable olives are seen spreading out into a wood; anciently the hills were covered with them. No date palms (from which Bethany took its name) are to be seen for miles.

Fig trees are found chiefly on the road side. Titus at the siege stripped the country all round of trees, to construct embankments for his engines. Rabbi Janna in the Midrash Tehillim (Lightfoot, 2:39) says that the shechinah ("divine presence"), after retiring from Jerusalem, dwelt three years and a half on Olivet, to see whether the Jews would repent; but when they would not, retired to its own place. Jesus realized this in His three years' and a half ministry. "The glory of Jehovah went up from the city and stood upon the mountain on its E. side." Its return into the house of Jehovah shall be "from the way of the E., by the gate whose prospect is toward the E." (Ezekiel 11:23; Ezekiel 43:2; Ezekiel 43:4). "His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the E., and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the E. and toward the W., and there shall be a very great valley, and half of the mount shall remove toward the N. and half of it toward the S." The place of His departure shall be the place of His return, the manner too shall be similar (Acts 1:11).

The direction shall be "as the lightning cometh out of the E." (Matthew 24:27). The scene of His agony shall be that of His glory, the earnest of which was His triumphal entry from Olivet (Matthew 21:1-10). It was His favorite resort (John 8:1). Ganneau (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement) identifies Scopus with Mecharif, where is a great well. The Mussulmen place little heaps of stones there as the point from which Jerusalem and the Sakhrah mosque are first observed in coming from Nablus. "Scopus" may comprise the whole chain from Mecharif to Olivet. Conder fixes on a site E. of the great northern road from Jerusalem to Nablus. Jerusalem is wholly hidden from view until the last ridge is reached, from which the road rapidly descends and passes to the Damascus gate; the grey northern wall and the mosque, etc., here burst on the view at a mile and a half distance, as Josephus describes.

Before the ridge is a plateau large enough to afford camping ground for the two Roman legions of Titus, and at the same time hidden from view of the city; it has also the military advantages of being directly upon the line of communication, of being difficult to approach from the front, and having good communication with the flanks and rear. Beyond the ridge, three furlongs to the N., the second camp, the fifth legion, could camp on a large plain stretching toward Tel el Ful, close to the great northern road. The name Εl Μesharif , or "the look out," Greek Scopos , is still constantly applied to the ridge. Josephus' "seven furlongs" from the center of the plateau reaches exactly to the large masonry discovered by Major Wilson, and supposed to be part of the third wall, proving Jerusalem extended northwards far beyond its present limits. This again discredits the popular site of the Holy Sepulchre.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Olives, Mount of'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/o/olives-mount-of.html. 1949.

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Sunday, January 19th, 2020
Second Sunday after Epiphany
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