What is the Wailing Wall?
Question: "What is the Wailing Wall?"
Answer: The Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall, is a 187-foot-high section of the ancient wall of Herod’s Temple, the second temple built on that spot. The Wailing Wall is on the western side of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Herod the Great constructed the oldest layers of the wall between 20 B.C and 19 B.C. as the second Jewish temple was being built. The wall extends for 1600 feet, but houses built against it obscure most of its length. Today the exposed portion of the Wailing Wall faces a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, which has been a venue for pilgrimage and prayer for Jews since the 16th century.
At least 17 layers of the wall are below the street level, but the massive lower stones, called ashlars, of the visible portion date to the time of Herod. These colossal limestone stones, each weighing between one to eight tons, were crafted with masterly precision so that they fit perfectly against each other without mortar. Some of the joints, however, have eroded, and orthodox Jews fill many of the chinks in the lower blocks with written prayers. The wall takes it name from the fact that, on a daily basis, many Jews gather at the wall to pray, chanting and swaying before the wall. They conduct daily and Sabbath prayers and celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
Each year on Tisha B’Av in August, the Jews keep a fast to commemorate the destruction of both of their Temples with worshipers reciting Lamentations and other dirges. The first Temple, Solomon’s Temple, was built during his reign, 970-930 B.C. and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Temple was reconstructed in 516 B.C., with a significant expansion in 19 B.C. by Herod. The Romans under Titus destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D. to crush the Jewish revolt that had been going on for four years.
The destruction of the second Temple in 70 A.D. by Titus was predicted in Ezekiel 21 and Moses also predicted its destruction and subsequent scattering of the Jews into distant lands (Deuteronomy 28:49-52). The Bible also predicted the restoration of the Jews to their native land (Ezekiel 36:24, 33-35). The nation of Israel was reestablished on May 15, 1948 by a United Nations resolution.
Although the Jewish people have been restored to their geographic and political nation, they have yet to be restored to their covenant relationship with God because they have rejected their Messiah, Jesus Christ. Several Old Testament prophets foretell the mourning or “wailing” of Israel: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them’” (Jeremiah 9:17). “Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the LORD has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath” (Jeremiah 7:29).
As a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, God substituted for the physical nation of Israel a new people in spirit. God’s people are not an ethnic group, but those who inwardly bear his Holy Spirit (Romans 2:28-29). In the age of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, those who receive forgiveness and salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus—whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 1:16)—become children of God, and thus are called the real “seed of Abraham” (Galatians 3:26-29).
Recommended Resources: Faith of Israel, 2d ed.: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament by William Dumbrell and Logos Bible Software.
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What is the Wailing Wall?