The Garden of Eden as Blueprint for the Temple

March 15 2017

In the book of Genesis, God places Adam in the garden so that he may “work and guard it”—two verbs that the Torah uses repeatedly in describing the duties of the priests in the Tabernacle. Drawing on this and other parallels, Leen Ritmeyer—an expert on the architecture of ancient Jerusalem—argues that the First and Second Temples themselves were modeled on the Garden of Eden. He makes particular use of the Temples’ layout, where one enters from the east and progresses through the outer and inner courtyards, into the Holy (which was generally only entered by priests), and from there to the Holy of Holies (which could be entered by the high priest only on certain occasions) at the westernmost part of the complex:

After Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, cherubim with a flaming sword that turned in all directions were placed to the east of the garden to prevent their return. In Hebrew, the word “placed” (yashken), used in Genesis 3:24, is closely related to the word for Tabernacle, which is mishkan in Hebrew. [The use of this word] appears to indicate that the cherubim were made to dwell in a tent-sanctuary or tabernacle that was erected to the east of the Garden of Eden. Although little else is known about this sanctuary, the text would seem to be describing a proto-Tabernacle [that] would serve as a model for future meeting places between God and man.

The location of the sanctuary at the east side of the garden can be compared to that of the Holy of the later sanctuaries of Israel. The forbidden paradise lay therefore to the west of the guarded entrance to the Garden of Eden. . . . Anyone wanting to visit this dwelling place would have had to approach it from the east and face west. This direction of approaching a holy place from the east has been preserved in the Tabernacle and the Temple constructions, the entrances of which all faced east, while the Holy of Holies is in the west.

The principle of approaching God by sacrifice would also have been established in this place. The [flaming] sword of the cherubim may have been used, not only to preserve the way to the Tree of Life by keeping humans out, but also for killing sacrifices and [using] the flame for igniting the wood.

The cherubim then also serve as a parallel to the images of cherubim beaten into the cover of the ark that sits in the Holy of Holies.

Read more at Ritmeyer

More about: Garden of Eden, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Tabernacle, Temple

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount