Temptation #2


Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written: 'He will give his angels charge of you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.‘” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

Matthew 4:5

The second temptation of Jesus seems simple and straightforward on the surface, or is it?  Scriptures point out that the devil took Jesus and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple.  Here's the first interesting point. What was considered a pinnacle in the time of Christ?  Modern readers tend to think Satan put Jesus at the top of a sharp steeple structure similar to steeples on medieval or modern churches. However the Greek pterugion is translated as a little wing, like a battlement.  Wings, or parapets, in the ancient middle east were generally flat, roof type surfaces with a balustrade around it to keep people from falling off.  Second, where was the pinnacle of the temple?  There are three potential spots scholars have considered for the pinnacle of the temple.

  1. 1.      The number one contender would be the southwest corner of the temple mount.  The southwest corner would be visible from a large portion of the city itself. It overlooked the old city of David.
  2. 2.      Second would be the southeast corner of the temple mount which was a staggering 400 cubits (600 feet) drop to the Kedron valley below (Josephus Ant.xv. 11,5). The southeast point is the highest point overlooking the Kidron Valley below (and outside the walls of Jerusalem).
  3. 3.      Third, the temple proper which was over 100 feet tall

Southwest corner of the Temple                  Southeast corner of the temple






The Temple Proper






Here is the third dilemma.  What was the enticement Satan was aiming at here? Remember his temptation is as follows:

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written: 'He will give his angels charge of you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.‘”

Again, it seems straight forward, but is it?  There are two basic answers:


Answer number one

  1. 1.      Satan has taken Jesus to a tremendous height (scary) and says "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  After all it has been written that the angels of heaven will catch you, lest you strike your foot against a stone!

Some scholars seem to think that the tremendous height here was meant to intimidate Jesus. And for that reason, they believe that Satan set Jesus at the southeast corner of the temple, which incidentally, loomed over the Kidron valley.  The drop from the southeast corner of the temple was about 500 to six hundred feet straight down.   When Herod the great built the second temple, he had to create a vast, level area to accommodate the temple complex  To accomplish this, he  had his engineers add stones to the side of the Kidron valley on top of the blocks from Solomon's temple. Each stone was a rectangle around three feet wide, three feet tall and about six feet long.  It required about 43 flights of these stones to level out the temple area.  Which is about 129  feet just in the stone base.  On top of that was built Solomon's porch, which was another 75 feet high that comes to about 204 feet.  Then there was the drop into the Kidron valley. Josephus the Jewish historian, stated that the southeast corner of the temple was 400 cubits high (600 feet), a staggering drop.  The wailing wall currently displays about 19 flights of these massive stones.  Archeologist's, however believe there are 23 more flights of stone beneath the dirt, below the wailing wall.

            The wailing wall in Jerusalem was a part of that foundation that King Herod built.









Standing at the edge of such edge of such a drop would be daunting for almost anyone.  The wind tugging at your clothes, while the great void dropping before you seemingbto suck you downward, would have indeed been a terrifying. 


But, again we have to ask, "What was the sin Satan was aiming at?"

These scholars explain that in the first temptation, the Devil was insinuating that God would not provide for Jesus needs (food/provisions).  And, that in the second, they say he was trying to get Jesus to take advantage of God's provision, "the angels will catch you and bear you up in their hands."

  • ·         Was this an attack of Pride?
  • ·         Was Satan trying to get Jesus to abuse His power?

But the question is, why the temple?  If height was part of the intimidation, the devil could have taken Jesus to any number of high cliffs or mountain tops.  So again, why the temple?  And that, I believe, is the heart of the question.

In the first temptation of  Jesus we saw that a smart general strikes on multiple levels.  This temptation would only strike one, maybe two levels.  If you were Satan, wouldn't you use this opportunity to strike at as many levels as possible.  I would! 

So the answer lies in the fact that Satan  took Jesus to the temple. 


Answer Number Two:


If Satan had taken Jesus to the Southeastern corner, very few people would have seen Him jump, if anyone at all. Hmmmm, something to think about. Remember, Satan the former Lucifer, is one of the smartest most, cunning angels ever created.   With that in mind, I believe there was a specific reason Satan took Jesus to the temple for this temptation.  And, the answer lies in Jewish tradition.  The biblical scholar, Alfred Edersheim, had this to say about this tradition:

Our Rabbis give this tradition: In the hour when King Messiah cometh, He standeth upon the roof of the Sanctuary, and proclaims to Israel, saying, Ye poor (suffering), the time of your redemption draweth nigh. And if ye believe, rejoice in My Light, which is risen upon you . . . . . Is. lx.1. . . . . upon you only . . . . Is. lx.2. . . . . In that hour will the Holy One, blessed be His Name, make the Light of the Messiah and of Israel to shine forth; and all shall come to the Light of the King Messiah and of Israel, as it is written ..... Is. lx.3. . . . . And they shall come and lick the dust from under the feet of the King Messiah, as it is written, Is. xlix.23. . . . . . And all shall come and fall on their faces before Messiah and before Israel, and say, We will be servants to Him and to Israel. And every one in Israel shall have 2,800 servants, as it is written, Zech. viii.23.' One more quotation from the same Commentary: In that hour, the Holy One, blessed be His Name, exalts the Messiah to the heaven of heavens, and spreads over Him of the splendor of His glory because of the nations of the world, because of the wicked Persians. They say to Him, Ephraim, Messiah, our Righteousness, execute judgment upon them, and do to them what Thy soul desireth.'[1]

To simplify what Edersheim wrote, the Jews believed that when King Messiah appeared (then and now) He would appear in the temple in a dramatic fashion!  Not only would Messiah appear, He would appear on the roof of the sanctuary shouting "You poor and suffering, your redemption has arrived!"

WOW!!!  Can you imagine?  The Jews had been waiting for generations going back to Adam for the Messiah.  Can you imagine a more dramatic entrance onto Israel's stage?  This adds a whole new dimension to this temptation. Both the devil and Jesus would have known of this tradition because it was a popular interpretation of Messianic prophecy of that day.

Now for the placement.  We have two options:

The temple itself:

The temple proper was approximately 104 inches tall and stood over the court of the priest and the court of women. Again, an impressive height and a place easily seen by hundreds of worshipers priests and Levites.

The southwest corner: 

On the Southwest corner of the temple is what has become called as the Robinson arch.  The Robinson arch was actually part of a wide pathway that led pilgrims from the street level, up through a staircase, across over the street, then into the south-western entrance of the temple mount. This was one of the three bridges that led into the temple.

The arch that once existed at this place connected the staircase to the base on the wall, as indicated on the illustration with a yellow circle. The base is 36.08 feet above the level of the street. The diameter of the arch was 43.64 feet. Under this arch, at a total height of 62.32feet, passed a paved street which was lined with stores. The walls of the temple were higher than the entrance - they raised to a staggering height of around one hundred feet high.  An impressive height, though not as steep as the near 600 foot plunge of the southeastern corner.


However, the eastern portion of the Robinson gates were used for entry to the Temple, while its western gates were used as the  exit,  illustrated in the figure on the right.

The monumental staircase was more narrow on the eastern (entry) side. The reason may have been since the entrance to the Holy temple was regulated, and the visitors had to present a certificate that they were purified after visiting a Mikveh (baptismal) before entering God's place.



Therefore, if someone were to jump from the Southwester wing of the temple, he would be seen by a large multitude of people either entering or exiting the temple.  So, if Satan placed Jesus on either the southwest corner of the temple or the temple itself, Jesus would have been seen by hundreds if not thousands of people!  Use your imagination. What would have happened if Jesus had suddenly thrown Himself off of either the Southwest corner or the temple itself shouting, " You poor and suffering your redemption has arrived!"  He would have been seen by hundreds of pilgrims,  priest's and Levites traveling up to the temple.  Talk about your Biblical special effects!  Picture  Jesus gently floating down from an impossible height, His clothes softly billowing, only to land safely on the ground.  The people back then would have dropped to their knees in awe.  In a matter of heartbeat's ,word of this incredible miracle would have spread throughout the temple, then out to the city of Jerusalem.  Within moments,  the entire city would have flocked to the temple in mass to see Jesus.  This incredible news would flash like summer lightning throughout  the entire land of Israel, who in turn would also rush to Jerusalem.  In a matter of days Jesus would have been established and proclaimed Messiah and king. 

This temptation struck at a mind boggling level:

  • ·         Attack of Pride?
  • ·         Trying to get Jesus to abuse His power?
  • Offering a demonic shortcut to Jesus to announce Himself as Messiah and King.

The devil was offering a staggering short cut.  The unspoken implications shouted out, "Forget God's plan! Here's your opportunity to gain your kingdom in one easy, dramatic step!" Jesus however, knew the devils enticing shortcut would have unraveled God's itinerary for Jesus ministry in a multitude of ways. Rebuking the devil, Jesus said, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.


16Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.

So what exactly happened at Massah? After being delivered from slavery out of Egypt, Israel had rejected the promised land by their lack of faith.  As a result, the entire nation was being led through the desert by God from one place to the next as a period of trial and testing.  Eventually, they stopped at a place that was dry and dusty with no water for them to drink.  In bitterness they start arguing with Moses complaining against God, telling him to give them water, to which Moses responds by saying, "Why do you put the LORD to the test?" The word "Massah" means "testing." God was testing the Israelites to see if they would follow His ways or not follow His ways in their journey through the wilderness.  The Israelites, showing their true colors, tested God, challenging Him to see whether He would really provide for them - as if parting the Red Sea and providing manna and quail had not been enough!  And God did provide water.  But, who do you think planted the idea of testing God in the hearts of the people?  You got it, Satan.

Jesus answer to Satan.  God will provide!  You will not tempt me with this short cut, I will gain my Kingdom through the Fathers plan!  Ba Boom, a victorious counter punch.

[1] The life and times of Jesus the Messiah; Alfred Edersheim  pg 204


Be the first to respond!

Refecting Christ's Light



Both of these books available on




© 2019 Chuck & Mary Pearce. All Rights Reserved. Powered by HostBaby.