Eastern Gate

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Eastern Gate

 

Location

 

1. The Eastern Gate is located on the eastern side of the Temple Mount and faces the Mount of Olives.

 

2. It is an important gate because it plays a central role in Scripture and prophecy.

 

3. The current Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by a wall containing eight major gates.

 

  • Lions Gate (Stephen’s Gate)

  • Eastern Gate (Golden Gate, Shushan Gate)

  • Dung Gate

  • Zion Gate

  • Jaffa Gate

  • New Gate

  • Damascus Gate

  • Herod’s Gate

 

4. The Eastern Gate is unique in that it is sealed shut.

 

5. It is the oldest gate in Old City Jerusalem.

Historical Background

 

1. The original Eastern Gate was built by Solomon (960 BC), or at a later date, by Hezekiah (715 BC). The ancient posts located inside the gate today, along with the stones beside the gate of the Eastern Wall, date back to these time periods and would affirm its early existence and location at its present-day site.

 

2. It is very likely that Nehemiah rebuilt the Eastern Gate when he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in around 444 BC. Some believe the original gate was then named the Eastern Gate by Nehemiah at this time.

3. Herod the Great then rebuilt the Eastern Gate in around 19 BC and added a stairway, or rebuilt an existing one that led up to the gate. This stairway ran alongside the Eastern Wall. In the 1860s, Charles Warren discovered an outer wall that enclosed the stairway leading up to the Eastern Gate that Herod had built. 

4. The best evidence suggests that the gate was then rebuilt during the Umayyad period (661–750 AD), on the foundations of the earlier gate dating to the time of Solomon or Hezekiah. Part of the gate from this time period has been preserved.

 

As mentioned above, the remains of two massive ancient gateposts are preserved inside this gate. These gateposts are situated in the same line as the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount. They also line up with the lower massive stone masonry on both sides of the Golden Gate. The gateposts, along with the masonry sections of the Eastern Wall, suggest they are all part of the same construction. The upper part of the southern gatepost is level with the top of the ancient stone masonry that can be seen south of the Golden Gate. The gatepost in the northern part of the gate is one stone course higher and is located just one stone course lower than the surface of the Temple Mount. These two ancient gateposts belong to the gate dating back to the First Temple period, which is most likely the Shushan Gate that is mentioned in Mishnah Middot 1.3. This gate was the only gate in the Eastern Wall at that time.

 

5. The current gate that is seen today was rebuilt by Suleiman in around 1541 AD and was built on the foundations of the earlier gates. The Eastern Gate’s outer facade today consists of two blocked-up gateways decorated with detailed carved relief arches.

 

6. The original gate was thought to have been discovered in 1969 by Dr. James Fleming and was believed to be east of the current Eastern Gate a bit and about 8 feet (2.5 m) lower. However, after significant research and archaeological work was done and analyzed, it appears what Dr. Fleming found were arches of a stairway that led up to the Eastern Gate that Herod the Great built. Again, inside the gate are ancient posts that date back to the First Temple period. These reveal that the level of the current Eastern Gate is relatively the same as it has always been.

The bedrock beneath the Eastern Gate rises sharply upwards from the Kidron Valley to the Temple Mount, so this would make it very unlikely that the original gate was beneath the current one as the bedrock would be in the way and prevent this.

Moreover, the stones of the arch that Dr. Fleming discovered are Herodian, which are much later than the original Eastern Gate, making it unlikely the arch that was discovered was part of the top of the Eastern Gate. Again, reputable archaeologists now believe that what Dr. Fleming discovered was one of the arches of the stairway leading up to the Eastern Gate. Herod built this stairway, so the stone type that was found would match this time era as well.

However, it should be noted that what Dr. Fleming discovered does provide more evidence that the Eastern Gate’s current location is accurate.

 

7. The Eastern Gate gives the most direct access to the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.

 

8. The Eastern Gate is unique in that it is completely sealed shut. Some commentators see the Eastern Gate’s obstruction as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

 

It was closed by the Muslims in 810 AD, reopened in 1102 AD by the Crusaders, and then walled up by Saladin after regaining Jerusalem in 1187 AD. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman rebuilt it together with the city walls and again walled it up in 1541 AD, and it has stayed that way until today.

 

It’s believed that the closing of the Eastern Gate was to prevent the Jewish Messiah from gaining entrance to the temple on the Temple Mount.

 

Muslims also put a cemetery directly in front of the gate as an extra layer of precaution, believing that the Messiah, being a good Jew, would not walk through it and become unclean in doing so. However, whatever Christ touches becomes clean, so that presents no problem.

 

9. Jewish tradition states that the Messiah will pass through the Eastern Gate when He comes to rule. For Christians, Christ already did this at His first coming and will do it again at His second coming.

 

Ezekiel 44:1–3: Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. 2 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore, it shall remain shut. 3 Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”

 

10. Though it is formally called the Eastern Gate, it is also known as the Golden Gate, the Gate of Eternal Life, the Mercy Gate, the Shushan Gate, and sometimes as the Beautiful Gate. Scripture says in Acts 3:1–10 that the Beautiful Gate was one of the temple gates. This would make the Nicanor Gate the best candidate for being the Beautiful Gate.

 

11. Some believe the Eastern Gate was in direct alignment with the gate into the outer court, inner court, and main entrance doors of the temple. This belief comes from a misunderstanding of a writing in Middot 2.4 (which is part of the Jewish Mishnah) that says: “All the walls there were high, save only the eastern wall because the [High] priest that burns the [Red] heifer and stands on top of the Mount of Olives should be able to look directly into the entrance of the sanctuary when the blood is sprinkled.”  

 

However, the view from the top of the Mount of Olives through the Eastern Gate would only allow one to see into the ground because the gate was lower than the temple. So, this presents an impossibility as you cannot look from a higher elevation through a lower gate and then see something that is higher than that gate. Therefore, a line of vision from the top of the Mount of Olives through the Eastern Gate makes it impossible to see anything on the Temple Mount, let alone the temple.

 

Therefore, it appears that what was meant in the writing of Middot 2.4 referred to the Nicanor Gate. This was an outer gate of the temple complex. From the top of the Mt. of Olives, one could easily look directly through the Nicanor Gate and see the sanctuary.

 

Therefore, the Eastern Gate was not in alignment with the temple as some suggest. The original temple has very strong evidence that it was on the exact location where the Dome of the Rock stands today.

 

12. Some also believe that during the time of Christ, according to the Mishnah (collection of Jewish oral laws), a bridge (causeway) led out of the Temple Mount eastward over the Kidron Valley, extending as far as the Mount of Olives. The Hebrew word for causeway is Kevesh, usually translated as “ramp,” not as “bridge.” It is very unlikely there was a major causeway spanning the Kidron Valley as it would have been massive in size, extremely difficult to build, and expensive. This causeway mentioned most likely refers to the stairway leading up to the Eastern Gate that ran along the eastern wall. However, if there would have been a causeway or bridge that did exist, it would have been on a small scale.

 

13. It should also be mentioned that the archaeological evidence supporting the Eastern Gate as being authentic provides strong evidence that the original temple was located on the current Temple Mount. Additionally, the ancient stones of the Eastern Wall dating back to the first temple period validate the temple’s location as well.

Places of Interest

 

1. Eastern Gate
2. Ancient Gate Posts
3. Ancient Stone Masonry
4. Eastern Wall

5. Stairway Leading Up to the Eastern Gate

6. Outer Wall Encompassing the Stairway
7. Temple Mount
8. Nicanor Gate
9. Original Location of the Temple
10. Inner and Outer Courts of the Temple
11. Mount of Olives
12. Other Gates of Old City Jerusalem

The Eastern Gate in the Bible

 

1. It is the likely gate the ashes of the Red Heifer sacrifice were carried through and then deposited in a clean place outside the city (Num. 19:1–10).

 

2. The glory of the Lord left the temple because of Israel’s disobedience.
Ezekiel 10:18–19: Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

 

Ezekiel 11:23: And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city [Mount of Olives].

 

3. The glory of the Lord will return to the temple at Christ’s second coming.
Ezekiel 43:1–5: Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. 2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. 3 And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. 4 As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, 5 the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

 

Zechariah 14:4: On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.

 

4. When Jesus entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday (Triumphal Entry), He most likely used the Eastern Gate.
Luke 19:37–38: As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

 

Luke 19:45–46: And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

 

5. It is the gate that Jesus would have entered and exited through repeatedly as He taught in the temple and then retreated to the Mount of Olives to rest and sleep.
Luke 21:37–38: And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

 

6. The Beautiful Gate (most likely the Nicanor Gate) was where Peter and John healed a lame man.
Acts 3:1–10: Now Peter and John went up together to the Temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms from those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

Faith Lesson from the Eastern Gate

 

1. The Eastern Gate has seen many prophecies fulfilled.

 

2. There are still more prophecies it will witness.

 

3. Prophecy proves the Bible is accurate and that we can place our full confidence in it.

 

4. If all past prophecies have been fulfilled, we can rest assured that what is still prophesied will also come to pass.

 

5. Do we fully believe the prophecies in the Bible and are we living in such a way that proves it?
 

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