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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Olives

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The Mount of Olives was situated to the east of Jerusalem, and divided from the city only by the brook Kidron, and by the valley of Jehoshaphat, which stretches out from the north to the south. It was upon this mount that Solomon built temples to the gods of the Ammonites, 1 Kings 11:7 , and the Moabites, out of complaisance to his wives of those nations. Hence it is that the Mount of Olives is called the mountain of corruption, 2 Kings 23:13 . The Mount of Olives forms part of a ridge of limestone hills, extending to the north and the south-west. Pococke describes it as having four summits. On the lowest and most northerly of these, which, he tells us, is called Sulman Tashy, the stone of Solomon, there is a large domed sepulchre, and several other Mohammedan tombs. The ascent to this point, which is to the north-east of the city, he describes as very gradual, through pleasant corn fields, planted with olive trees. The second summit is that which overlooks the city: the path to it rises from the ruined gardens of Gethsemane, which occupy part of the valley. About half way up the ascent is a ruined monastery, built, as the monks tell us, on the spot where our Saviour wept over Jerusalem. From this point, the spectator enjoys, perhaps, the best view of the holy city. On reaching the summit, an extensive view is obtained toward the east, embracing the fertile plain of Jericho, watered by the Jordan, and the Dead Sea, enclosed by mountains of considerable grandeur. Here there is a small village, surrounded by some tolerable corn land. This summit is not relatively high, and would more properly be termed a hill than a mountain: it is not above two miles distant from Jerusalem. At a short distance from the summit is shown the supposed print of our Saviour's left foot; Chateaubriand says the mark of the right was once visible, and Bernard de Breidenbach saw it in 1483! This is the spot fixed upon by the mother of Constantine, as that from which our Lord ascended, and over which she accordingly erected a church and monastery, the ruins of which still remain. Pococke describes the building which was standing in his time, as a small Gothic chapel, round within, and octagonal without, and tells us that it was converted into a mosque. The Turks, for a stipulated sum, permit the Christian pilgrims to take an impression of the foot print in wax or plaster, to carry home. "Twice," says Dr. Richardson, "I visited this memorable spot; and each time it was crowded with devout pilgrims, taking casts of the holy vestige. They had to purchase permission of the Turks; but, had it not been in the possession of the Turks, they would have had to purchase it from the more mercenary and not less merciless Romans or Greeks." On ascension eve, the Christians come and encamp in the court, and that night they perform the offices of the ascension. Here, however, as with regard to Calvary and almost all the supposed sacred places, superstition has blindly followed the blind. That this is not the place of the ascension, is certain from the words of St. Luke, who says that our Lord led out his disciples "as far as Bethany, and lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up to heaven," Acts 1. Bethany is a small village to the east of the Mount of Olives, on the road to Jericho, not farther from Jerusalem than the pinnacle of the hill. There are two roads to it; one passes over the Mount of Olives; the other, which is the shorter and easier, winds round the eastern end, having the greater part of the hill on the north or left hand, and on the right the elevation called by some writers the Mount of Offence, which is, however, very little above the valley of Jehoshaphat. The village of Bethany is small and poor, and the cultivation of the soil is much neglected; but it is a pleasant and somewhat romantic spot, sheltered by Mount Olivet on the north, and abounding with trees and long grass. The inhabitants are Arabs.

The olive is still found growing in patches at the foot of the mount to which it gives its name; and "as a spontaneous produce, uninterruptedly resulting from the original growth of this part of the mountain, it is impossible," says Dr. E. D. Clarke, "to view even these trees with indifference." Titus cut down all the wood in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem; but there would seem to have been constantly springing up a succession of these hardy trees. "It is truly a curious and interesting fact," adds the learned traveller, "that, during a period of little more than two thousand years, Hebrews, Assyrians, Romans, Moslems, and Christians, have been successively in possession of the rocky mountains of Palestine; yet, the olive still vindicates its paternal soil, and is found, at this day, upon the same spot which was called by the Hebrew writers Mount Olivet and the Mount of Olives, eleven centuries before the Christian era," 2 Samuel 15:30 ; Zechariah 14:4 .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Olives'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/o/olives.html. 1831-2.

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