Model of Jerusalem in Jesus’ Day

To wrap up day 5 of our tour, we stopped at a museum and saw an amazing 1:50 scale model of the city of Jerusalem during the first temple period. This is how the city would have looked during Jesus’ day. I will include a few pictures, and describe a few key points from the pictures here.

Model of Jerusalem

Temple Mount Esplanade

This is the view of the city from the south. The large “building” to the right is actually the esplanade of the Temple Mount. It is 15 sq acres in size, having been extended far beyond its original size by Herod the Great. He created the massive retaining walls you see here, by stacking stones weighing from 5,000 to 800,000 lbs on top of each other offset inward by one inch per layer. And I’d say a layer is about 6-8 feet. The 800k lb stones we saw up close were probably 8 feet tall, 25 feet long, and who knows how deep. I think our guide told us, but I don’t remember. He then leveled off the top of Mount Moriah and filled in the man-made pits created by building the huge retaining walls. But not before using Roman arches to build massive foundations so that he could have store rooms under the royal colonnade and other buildings he intended to construct atop the temple mount. It was unbelievable.

Kidron Valley

The valley to the right is the Kidron Valley, separating Mount Moriah (on which the temple mount is built) and the Mount of Olives (to the right off screen).

David’s City

See the two walls fairly close together running top to bottom (north to south) in the picture. The area between these walls is considered David’s city, the original size of Jerusalem in David’s time.

Pool of Siloam

In John 9, Jesus restores the site of a man born blind by having him wash himself in the Pool of Siloam. The square pool in the bottom left corner of this picture, just outside the SW-most corner of the wall of David’s city, is the Pool of Siloam. The pool was evidently fed by an underground aqueduct running under the Kidron Valley from a spring on the Mount of Olives. Hard to believe, but that’s what they told us.

Model of Jerusalem

River of Gehenna

To the west of the “back” wall of David’s city, behind the Pool of Siloam, flowing south out of the city is the River of Gehenna. Why it’s called that when it’s in the Tyropaeion Valley, I don’t know. Where it originates, I don’t know. Why the pool of Siloam is fed by an underground man-made channel and not this stream, I don’t know. So, it looks like I have some research to do. But for now (while I have very little Internet connectivity), that’s what I know.

Two Socioeconomic Classes

Observe the great majority of the city – from the rear wall of David’s city all the way to the far west wall. Rows and rows of houses, but in two styles. The houses nearest to you (in the south) are the lower of two socioeconomic classes. These are servants and laborers (shockingly, much of the work for Herod the Great’s expansion projects was accomplished by paid, skilled labor, not by slaves – some slaves, but mostly paid workers). The larger structures with red roofs, which occupy the northern side of the city, are for the richer upper class.

Model of Jerusalem

Wealthy Suburbs

First, this is a better, up-close view of the northern side of the city and the homes and shops of the upper class.

Unknown Structure

I can’t remember for the life of me what this monument / structure is. I’ll figure it out and update.

The Wailing Wall

Notice the high retaining walls of the Temple Mount esplanade in the background. You’re looking at the southern wall and about half of the western wall at that time. What is now called the wailing wall is a small section of the western retaining wall. The exposed section to which pilgrims now have access is in the middle of what you see of the western wall in this picture, both horizontally and vertically. The section is about 75 yards long north-to-south. It’s in the middle of the wall top-to-bottom, because centuries of layers have filled in the base of the retaining wall.

The Royal Colonnade

On top of the Temple Mount on the south end (to the right in this picture) where the Al-Aqsa mosque now stands is the royal colonnade. This was built by Herod the Great on top of great Roman arch foundations that served as storehouses. These were shops and guest quarters for visitors to Herod’s kingdom. The Temple Mount was an all-around amazing place to visit, which was Herod’s goal. Our guide emphasized over and over again that he was somewhat of a Megalomaniac.

The Temple

To the left of the image, in the middle of the Temple Mount esplanade, is the 2nd temple. More on that below.

Model of Jerusalem


A picture of as much of the model as I could fit in … to demonstrate just how big Jerusalem at that time really was. It’s hard to see in this picture, but there were actually four sets of walls: the retaining wall of the Temple Mount esplanade, the inner wall, the outer wall, and the walls surrounding David’s city. Seems absolutely huge, in my world.

It’s good to be the king

It’s not really obvious from this picture, but if you look to the far left side of the image, near the westernmost wall of the city, you’ll see three tall buildings that stand above all the homes and shops around them. These are buildings that Herod the Great had built (essentially) to show off. They are places his mistresses might like or that foreigners could stay. They’re the kind of thing you do when you have seemingly infinite resources to build and if you run out of those you just conscript some more slave labor. I guess it’s good to be the king!

Model of Jerusalem

The Royal Colonnade

This is the best shot of the model Temple Mount that I got. It shows another (better) look at the Colonnade.

The Temple of the Second Temple Period

In the center of the Temple Mount from north to south is the temple of the 2nd temple period. The first temple (Solomon’s temple) was destroyed long ago from the perspective of this model. Ezra and company rebuilt it in the 1st century BC, and Herod the Great expanded it dramatically. These images depict the temple after Herod had done much of his work on it (which was a never ending project, evidently), and is the way Jesus would have known it. I’ll describe the temple in more detail with the next picture.

The Eastern or Golden Gate

The eastern gate, called the “Golden Gate”, is located at the base of the Temple Mount retaining wall on the east side closest to the camera. This is the gate through which Scripture foretells that the Messiah will enter the city of Jerusalem (see Zechariah 14:4 for the prophecy).

Antonia’s Fortress

The northwest corner (the upper right in the picture) of the esplanade is dominated by Antonia’s fortress. This is where Jesus was tried before Pontius Pilate. He was severely abused and soldiers cast lots there for His clothing. He was then marched out of the fortress on the road leading north from the Temple Mount – you can see the road heading to the right from the Temple Mount on the extreme right side of the picture – and crucified there at the main junction of roads leading east-west to the Mediterranean and north-south from Damascus to Egypt.

Model of Jerusalem

The Fenced Area

In the picture, there is a fenced area to the south of the temple (left of the picture). I don’t remember who was restricted to this external area; I’ll have to look that up and update.

The Outer Court

This is the courtyard nearest the front of the photograph (the east side of the temple) was for gentiles, women, lepers, unclean Jews, etc.

The Inner Court

Only priests and cleansed Jewish men could enter the inner court behind the outer court. And the Holy of Holies, all the way to the back of the picture against the west wall, was exclusively accessible by the High Priest, only once a year, and only after extensive cleansing rituals / sacrifices. Even then, he would go in with a rope tied around his waist, so that if God struck him dead, the priests could pull him out of the inner sanctuary.

About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Jesus, the long awaited King. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long, difficult, joyful adventure, learning to swim with the current of God's sovereign love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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7 Responses to Model of Jerusalem in Jesus’ Day

  1. Jace says:

    Hey Jeff, I did some checking.. I think the esplanade is about 35acres…


  2. Anna says:

    Hello Jeff,
    I’m writing you, becaue I’m searching for information about the first temple period in Jerusalem. I’m very glad, I found your interesting homepage and I really love your photos of the model. Does it really show Jerusalem during the first temple period? Or during a later period?
    I searched all over the internet to find a picture or a video about how Jerusalem looked at about 700BC, but I wasn’t able to find one. In the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem they have such a model, but the picture of it on the museum’s website isn’t very detailed. So, that’s my question: Do you have any detailed pictures about Jerusalem during the first temple period? That would really help me a lot!
    Thanky very much in advance!
    Greetings from germany!


  3. Hi Jeff
    Thank you for this great information and the wonderful photos. I’d like to suggest that the reason the Pool of Siloam was fed by a tunnel leading from the spring of Gihon rather than the River of Gehenna was to keep the water source within the city walls, so that in the event of a siege, the city’s water supply could not be cut off.
    Thank you again – this really brings the city of Jesus’ day to life!


  4. David Matthews says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I am wanting to go to Israel.
    Where should I stay and what are the best tours to take
    to track the steps of Jesus?
    I’m new to this so any helpful advise would be great.
    Also when is the best time to go so that it’s not overly crowded.
    I would like to take tours but also have some alone time with the Lord.
    What do you suggest?
    Thanks so much.
    God Bless


  5. Jeff Block says:


    Thanks for your questions. I wish I could help you, but you’re definitely assuming I know more than I do. I was there once, and documented a lot of what I saw, but that’s it. I’m afraid you’re going to have to expand your search far beyond me and my blog to find answers to questions like that. Hope you find them, though!


  6. Jeff Block says:


    I do not have any such pictures. I’m sorry. Like I said to David, you’re pretty much seeing what I saw and reading what I learned. Beyond the scope of these posts, I really have very little information. Sorry, gang.

    I would commend you to people like Ray Vander Laan ( and Gary Frazier (, who have forgotten more about Israel than I’ll ever know.

    Hope this helps.


  7. Nomad Nina says:

    Thanks great ppost


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