"The mount called the mount of Olives, lying over against the city, is distant five furlongs." But Luke saith, Acts 1:12, "Then they returned from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath-day's journey." But now a sabbath-day's journey contained eight furlongs, or a whole mile. Neither yet, for all this, doth Luke fight against Josephus. For this last measures the space to the first foundation of Olivet; the other, to that place of Olivet, where our Saviour ascended. The first foot of the mount was distant five furlongs from the city; but Christ, being about to ascend, went up the mountain three furlongs farther.
The mount had its name from the Olive-trees, however other trees grew in it; and that, because the number of these perhaps was greater, and the fruit better. Among other trees, two cedars are mentioned, or rather two monsters of cedars. "Two cedars (they say) were in the mount of Olivet, under one of which were four shops, where all things needful for purifications were sold: out of the other, they fetched, every month, forty seahs" (certain measures) "of pigeons, whence all the women to be purified were supplied."
It is a dream like that story, that, beneath this mountain, all the dead are to be raised. "When the dead shall live again (say they), mount Olivet is to be rent in two, and all the dead of Israel shall come out thence; yea, those righteous persons, who died in captivity, shall be rolled under the earth, and shall come forth under the mount of Olivet."
There was a place in the mount, directly opposite against the east gate of the Temple, to which the priest, that was to burn the red cow, went along a foot-bridge laid upon arches, as it was said before. And when he sprinkled its blood there, he directly levelled his eyes at the Holy of Holies.
Those signal flames also, accustomed to be waved up and down on the top of this mount in token of the new moon now stated, are worthy of mention. The custom and manner is thus described: "Formerly, they held up flames; but when the Cutheans spoiled this, it was decreed, that they should send messengers." The Gloss is this; "They held up the flames presently after the time of the new moon was stated: and there was no need to send messengers to those, that were afar off in captivity, to give them notice of the time; for those flames gave notice: and the Cutheans sometime held up flames in an undue time, and so deceived Israel."
The text goes forward: "How did they hold up the flames? They took long staves of cedar, and canes, and fat-wood, and the coarse part of the flax, and bound these together with a thread. And one, going up to the mount, put fire to it, and shakes the flame up and down, this way and that way, until he sees another doing so in a second mountain, and another so in a third mountain. But whence did they lift up these flames first? From the mount of Olivet to Sartaba; from Sartaba to Gryphena; from Gryphena to Hauran; from Hauran to Beth Baltin. And he who held up the flame in Beth Baltin, departed not thence, but waved his flame up and down, this way and that way, until he saw the whole captivity abounding in flames. The Gemarists inquire, what 'from Beth Baltin' means? This is Biram. What the captivity means? Rabh Joseph saith, This is Pombeditha. What means abounding in flames? There is a tradition, that every one taking a torch in his hand, goes up upon his house," &c.
The Jews believe, the Messias shall converse very much in this mountain: which is agreeable to truth and reason. For when they think his primary seat shall be at Jerusalem, they cannot but believe some such thing of that mount. R. Janna saith, "The Divine Majesty stood three years and a half in mount Olivet, and preached, saying, 'Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near.'"
And now let us from this mountain look back upon the city. Imagine yourself sitting in that place, where the priest stood, while he burnt the red cow, directly over against the east gate of the Temple. Between the mount and the city you might see a valley running between, compassing Sion on the right hand, and Jerusalem on the left: the Gate of Waters against you, leading to the Temple; on the left hand, Ophla and the Horse-gate. From thence, as we have said, was the beginning of the valley of Hinnom, which, at length, bowed towards the south side of the city. In that place, near the wall, was the Fullers' field; which whether it was so called from wood framed together, where fullers dried their cloth; or 'from a fuller's monument,' of which Josephus writes, -- we do not dispute.
From the Horse-gate, westward, runs out the valley Kedron, in which is a brook, whence the valley takes its name -- embracing Sion also on the north, and spreading abroad itself in a more spacious breadth.
"Below the city, there was a place" (we do not dare to mark it out) "which was called Motza: hither they came down" (in the feast of Tabernacles) "and cropped off thence long boughs of willow" (it may be, from the banks of the brook Kedron); "and, going away, placed them near the sides of the altar, -- bended after that manner, that their heads might bow over the top of the altar," &c.
It is no marvel, if there were a multitude of gardens without the city, when there were none within. Among them "a garden of Jerusalem is famed, wherein figs grew, which were sold for three or four assarii each: and yet neither the Truma, nor the Tenth, was ever taken of them."
Josephus hath these words, "The gardening was all compassed about from the wall with trenches; and every thing was divided with crooked gardens, and many walls."