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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Olives, Mount of
2. Situation and Extent
3. Old Testament Associations
(1) David's Escape from Absalom
(2) The Vision of Ezekiel
(3) The Vision of Zechariah
4. High Places
5. Olivet and Jesus
6. View of the City from Olivet
7. Churches and Ecclesiastical Traditions
Olivet comes to us through the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Oliverum , "an oliveyard."
Josephus frequently uses the expression "Mount of Olives" (e.g. Ant. , VII, ix, 2; XX, viii, 6;
To the natives of Palestine today it is usually known as
2. Situation and Extent:
The mountain ridge which lies East of Jerusalem leaves the central range near the valley of
The lofty ridge of Olivet is visible from far, a fact now emphasized by the high Russian tower which can be seen for many scores of miles on the East of the Jordan. The range presents, from such a point of view particularly, a succession of summits. Taking as the northern limit the dip which is crossed by the ancient Anathoth (
A further extension of the ridge as
The notices of the Mount of Olives in the Old Testament are, considering its nearness to Jerusalem, remarkably scanty.
3. Old Testament Associations:
(1) David's Escape from Absalom:
David fleeing before his rebellious son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:16 ) crossed the Kidron and "went up by the ascent of the mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered, and went barefoot: and all the people that were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went (2 Samuel 15:30 ).... And it came to pass, that, when David was come to the top of the ascent where he was wont to worship God, (m), behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head (2 Samuel 15:32 ). And when David was a little past the top of the ascent, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and a hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine" (2 Samuel 16:1 ).
It is highly probable that David's route to the wilderness was neither by the much-trodden Anathoth road nor over the summit of the mountain, but by the path running Northeast from the city, which runs between the Viri Galilaei hill and that supporting the German Sanatorium and descends into the wilderness by
(2) The Vision of Ezekiel:
Ezekiel in a vision (Ezekiel 11:23 ) saw the glory of Yahweh go up from the midst of the city and stand "upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city" (compare Ezekiel 43:2 ). In connection with this the Rabbi Janna records the tradition that the
(3) The Vision of Zechariah:
In Zechariah 14:4 the prophet sees Yahweh in that day stand upon the Mount of Olives, "and the Mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."
In addition to these direct references, Jewish tradition associates with this mount - this "mount of Corruption" - the rite of the red heifer (Numbers 19 ); and many authorities consider that this is also the mount referred to in Nehemiah 8:15 , whence the people are directed to fetch olive branches, branches of wild olive, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of thick trees to make their booths.
4. High Places:
It is hardly possible that a spot with such a wide outlook - especially the marvelous view over the Jordan valley and Dead Sea to the lands of Ammon and Moab - should have been neglected in the days when Semitic religion crowned such spots with their sanctuaries. There is Old Testament evidence that there was a "high place" here. In the account of David's flight mention is made of the spot on the summit "where he was wont to worship God" (2 Samuel 15:32 margin). This is certainly a reference to a sanctuary, and there are strong reasons for believing that this place may have been NOB (which see) (see 1 Samuel 21:1; 1 Samuel 22:9 , 1 Samuel 22:11 , 1 Samuel 22:19; Nehemiah 11:32; but especially Isaiah 10:32 ). This last reference seems to imply a site more commanding in its outlook over the ancient city than
5. Olivet and Jesus:
More important to us are the New Testament associations of this sacred spot. In those days the mountain must have been far different from its condition today. Titus in his siege of Jerusalem destroyed all the timber here as elsewhere in the environs, but before this the hillsides must have been clothed with verdure - oliveyards, fig orchards and palm groves, with myrtle and other shrubs. Here in the fresh breezes and among the thick foliage, Jesus, the country-bred Galilean, must gladly have taken Himself from the noise and closeness of the over-crowded city. It is to the Passion Week, with the exception of John 8:1 , that all the incidents belong which are expressly mentioned as occurring on the Mount of Olives; while there would be a special reason at this time in the densely packed city, it is probable that on other occasions also our Lord preferred to stay outside the walls. Bethany would indeed appear to have been His home in Judea, as Capernaum was in Galilee. Here we read of Him as staying with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42 ); again He comes to Bethany from the wilderness road from Jericho for the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11), and later He is at a feast, six days before the Passover (John 12:1 ), at the house of Simon (Matthew 26:6-12; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-9 ). The Mount of Olives is expressly mentioned in many of the events of the Passion Week. He approached Jerusalem, "unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives" (Mark 11:1; Matthew 21:1; Luke 19:29 ); over a shoulder of this mount - very probably by the route of the present Jericho carriage road
On the lower slopes of Olivet, in the
6. View of the City from Olivet:
The view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives must ever be one of the most striking impressions which any visitor to Jerusalem carries away with him. It has been described countless times. It is today a view but of ruin and departed glory compared with that over which Jesus wept. A modern writer with historic imagination has thus graphically sketched the salient features of that sight:
"We are standing on the road from Bethany as it breaks round the Mount of Olives and on looking northwest this is what we see.... There spreads a vast stone stage, almost rectangular, some 400 yards. North and South by 300 East and West, held up above Ophel and the Kidron valley by a high and massive wall, from 50 to 150 ft. and more in height, according to the levels of the rock from which it rises. Deep cloisters surround this platform on the inside of the walls... Every gate has its watch and other guards patrol the courts. The crowds, which pour through the south gates upon the platform for the most part keep to the right; the exceptions, turning westward, are excommunicated or in mourning. But the crowd are not all Israelites. Numbers of Gentiles mingle with them; there are costumes and colors from all lands. In the cloisters sit teachers with groups of disciples about them. On the open pavement stand the booths of hucksters and money-changers; and from the North sheep and bullocks are being driven toward the Inner Sanctuary. This lies not in the center of the great platform, but in the northwest corner. It is a separately fortified, oblong enclosure; its high walls with their 9 gates rising from a narrow terrace at a slight elevation above the platform and the terrace encompassed by a fence within which none but Israelites may pass... Upon its higher western end rises a house 'like a lion broad in front and narrow behind.' ...From the open porch of this house stone steps descend to a great block of an altar perpetually smoking with sacrifices.... Off the Northwest of the Outer Sanctuary a castle (the Antonia) dominates the whole with its 4 lofty towers. Beyond ... the Upper City rises in curved tiers like a theater, while all the lower slopes to the South are a crowded mass of houses, girded by the eastern wall of the city. Against that crowded background the sanctuary with its high house gleams white and fresh. But the front of the house, glittering with gold plates, is obscured by a column of smoke rising from the altar; and the Priests' Court about the latter is colored by the slaughterers and sacrifices - a splash of red, as our imagination takes it, in the center of the prevailing white. At intervals there are bursts of music; the singing of psalms, the clash of cymbals and a great blare of trumpets, at which the people in their court in the Inner Sanctuary fall down and worship" (extracts from G.A. Smith's Jerusalem , II, 518-20).
7. Churches and Ecclesiastical Traditions:
To the Bible student the New Testament is the best guide to Olivet; tradition and "sites" only bewilder him. Once the main hilltop was a mass of churches. There was the "Church of the Ascension" to mark the spot whereby tradition (contrary to the direct statement of Luke) states that the Ascension occurred; now the site is marked by a small octagonal chapel, built in 1834, which is in the hands of the Moslems. There a "footprint of Christ" is shown in the rock. A large basilica of Helena was built over the place where it was said that Christ taught His disciples. In 1869 the Princess de Latour d'Auvergne, learning that there was a Moslem tradition that this site was at a spot called
Mention has been made of the name Viri Galilaei or Galilee as given to the northern summit of the main mass of Olivet. The name "Mount Galilee" appears to have been first given to this hill early in the 4th century and in 1573
The Russian enclosure includes a chapel, a lofty tower - from which a magnificent view is obtainable - a hospice and a pleasant pine grove. Between the Russian buildings to the North and the Church of the Ascension lies the squalid village of
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Olives, Mount of'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/o/olives-mount-of.html. 1915.