Faith Lesson by Ray Vander Laan: City of the Great King, Parts 1 and 2

[For new readers, my church is studying a series of DVDs by Ray Vander Laan, called “Faith Lessons,” published by Zondervan. As I prepare my notes each week, I post them here.]

The lesson is taught in Jerusalem. David made Jerusalem the political and spiritual capital of Israel.

RVL takes the viewers through a 1/50th scale model of the city as it existed in the First Century, as well as taking them to various locations throughout the city.

The city had several districts. David’s hill was on the eastern ridge. To west was the “lower city,” where the common people lived. On the top of the hill lived the wealthy. The market district was to the north. A new section was being built further to the north for wealthy Greeks and others.

The “city of David” was the oldest section, on a narrow ridge, comprising about 10 acres. This is where David had lived, and was immediately south of the temple mount, and so a traveler had to pass through the city of David to reach the temple.

The lower city held 20 to 30 thousand people, and likely held Herod’s hippodrome (horse track).

Hezekiah’s tunnel ran beneath the city to bring in fresh water.

The upper city was likely the most beautiful and impressive. Herod built his palace on the western side, overlooking the entire city.

The temple mount, Mt Moriah, was the central focus of the city. Herod expanded the temple mount to accomodate larger crowds. This resulting in massive retaining walls, as high as 200 feet on one side. He filled in the walls and built a massive, level surface. The top was 1200′ by 800′ — designed to hold massive crowds.

The tour group travels through a Hasmonean tunnel to study the construction, seeing the largest construction stones ever found  — 14′ x 45′ — 570 metric tons. And these fit together perfectly, despite having been carved offsite.

Herod added a colonnade, resulting in a huge, open mall area. These created the “royal porch” where the early church met.

The eastern gate is the Beautiful Gate or Golden Gate. This is where Peter and John healed a beggar, as described in Acts.

The colonnade is where animals were sold and money changed. This was in the court of the Gentiles. The Jewish tradition allowed this to happen only in the Gentile court, because this permitted disruption of Gentile prayers, whereas Jewish prayers could not be disturbed.

Mark 11:15-17 — focus of the passage is “house of prayer for all nations” from Isaiah 56. Jesus was offended at the insult to the Gentiles who came to the temple to pray to God. Of course, we also know that they were taking advantage of the people by overcharging. But there was nothing wrong with the trade itself. The Law of Moses permitted people traveling to Jerusalem to buy animals for sacrifice, as it was impractical to bring a bull in from a great distance. Money was changed so they no one used coins with graven images on them, as was typical of Roman coins.

The largest opposition to Jesus came from the temple authorities, who were largely Saduccees, who worked with the Romans. Thus, Jesus threatened their comfortable status quo.

The Balistrade separated Jews from Gentiles. This is arguably the “middle wall of partition” Paul describes as being torn down between Jews and Gentiles.

The court of the women was the limit to how close women could come. Temple services happened there. Hence, Christian worship was likely there. Men could be there, but they could approach more closely as well.

The Nazarite court was set aside for Nazarites.

A court was set up for lepers, to be present but separate from the healthy, and for lepers to present themselves to the priests to be declared clean.

The altar was in the court of the Israelites. Women were not allowed. Animals were offered there daily, day and night.

The temple itself was in the middle and among the most impressive buildings in the world. Columns were built based on the model for Solomon’s temple. They likely symbolized the feet of God.

The first inner room was the Holy Place, where the showbread and incense were.

Beyond that was a huge veil before the Holy of Holies — which was torn at Jesus’ crucifixion.

Part 2

The priests blew the shofar at a tower on the corner.

Robinson’s arch leads to stairs that descend to the city, used by pilgrims. There was another arch, Wilson’s arch, crossing over to the upper city.

Hundreds of thousands died when Rome destroyed the city.

Herod built a fortress on the northern end of the city, where he built several towers.The palace had gardens and fountains.

The wise men came from the east and met with Herod at his palace in Jerusalem. Herod Antipas was in Jerusalem for Passover at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. He was likely in his palace at that time, which would be where Herod questioned Jesus.

Caiaphas was the high priest, and considered wrongly appointed to the office by many Jews, including the Essenes.

The DVD shows a First Century mansion, likely belonging to a priestly family, perhaps even Caiaphas. The house is opulent with beautiful mosaics.

The city had several walls. The Second Wall was built by Herod and encompasses the north of the city. Herod Agrippa built the Third Wall shortly after Jesus’ death.

Herod built the Antonium, a fortress for the Roman garrison. This is likely where Jesus was tried before Pilate.

Jesus was both the scapegoat and the Passover lamb. The scapegoat was part of the temple ceremony for the Day of Atonement. Like the goat, he was driven outside the city.

Roman law required executions to be in public places. The Damascus Gate or Northern Gate was a very large, public gate, and it is likely the gate through which Jesus left the city to be crucified.

Friday of the crucifixion would have been crowded, as it was market day. The Jews had to buy food for the Sabbath meal on Friday night and couldn’t shop on Saturday, the Sabbath. It would have been crowded and smelled of food and spices.

The gate leads to a quarry where criminals were stoned. But Roman law required a public execution, so the quarry wasn’t the most likley location. It would have been on a busy street.

The temple mount was the most significant location. But now we are the temple of God, chosen to extend God’s kingdom to all nations.


Jerusalem is built on two mountain tops — Mount Moriah, where the temple sits, and Mount Zion. These were separated by a valley, which is now filled with debris from prior destructions, making them into a single surface.

Abraham offered Isaac on Mt. Moriah, and many think Jesus was crucified there, fulfilling the scripture,

So Abraham called the name of that place The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply