Mount Scopus in the North East of Jerusalem overlooks the Kidron Valley. The Kidron Valley begins at Mount Scopus and stretches all the way down south and then turns east, 21 miles and spills at the Dead Sea. From Mount Scopus one sees the Old City of Jerusalem and the Golden Dome on which Abraham bound his son Isaac in fulfillment of God’s command to sacrifice his only son on the rock. It was here that King Solomon’s temple (960 BC) which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the second temple built by the exiles and destroyed by the Romans once stood.
The Kidron valley was a kind of an Eastern border between Jerusalem and the wilderness. Jewish law does not permit the burial of the dead within the city but only outside. It is for this reason the Mount of Olives was the necropolis or the city of the dead.
In the Book of Samuel we read that the young shepherd from the city of David (the original city of David was Bethlehem) had to deal with many challenges after he becomes king, one of them being the rebellion of his son, Absalom. When Absalom came back from Hebron, he wanted to seize the kingdom from his father David. David was merciful and even though he could have killed his son, he chooses to flee (2 Samuel 15) through the Kidron valley into the wilderness. The people of Israel advised David to take the arc of the covenant with him but he chose to keep it in the city because he believe that the arc of the covenant is not his but God’s.
The Kidron valley and the Mount of Olives is a necropolis (city of the dead). The rock that one sees is limestone or chalkstone and is very soft. If is for this reason that this place became an easy place to cut into the rock in order to bury people. At the time of Jesus only four per cent of the population could afford to have a tomb carved out of the rock. Owning a personal tomb was an expensive affair. It is for this reason that commoners were buried in the ground, as we do today. The tombs that we see today in the Kidron Valley are without the large stones that would have been rolled over the tomb.
The Kidron Valley (also called the valley of Jehoshaphat = God will judge) is mentioned often in the Bible, in Joel 3. It is here that the nations who oppressed Israel will be judged and it is here that the dead will first rise at the end time and be judged. Traditionally, the Messiah will walk through the Mount of Olives into the Kidron valley and into the Golden Gate and the dead will rise and follow him.
Fr Warner D’Souza