The Mount of Olives
In prophecy and as referenced in the Old Testament and New Testament

View from Mount of Olives looking toward temple mount and Jerusalem
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The Mount of Olives lies to the east of Jerusalem and the temple mount, separated by the Kidron valley. Beyond the Mount of Olives lies the Judean wilderness toward the Dead Sea.

Another view from Mount of Olives looking toward temple mount and Jerusalem
Notice the Jewish tombs the cover the Mount of Olives

The first reference to this location, at directly least by name, is found in Second Samuel at the time of Absalom's rebellion against king David. Scriptures note that before the temple was built, people used to worship God at a high place located at its' summit.

2 Samuel 15:30-32 But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David prayed, "O Lord, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness." 32 When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. (NIV)

Years later, following the building of the temple, in Solomon's day, Solomon rebuilt this high place in honor pagan gods.

1 Kings 11:4-8 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. 7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. (NIV) [See also 2 Kings 23:13]

Zechariah 14:4 specifically references the Mount of Olives in regards to future prophecy. Here we are told that the Lord, himself, will stand on the Mount of Olives and that the mountain will be split in two. Our Lord (Jesus) stood on this mountain, but it was not torn in two, so most look to a still future fulfillment of this prophecy at his second coming. (Others have taken the rending of the mountain to be figurative, as did Calvin).

Zechariah 14:1-9 A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. 2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. 7 It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime - a day known to the Lord. When evening comes, there will be light. 8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. 9 The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name. (NIV)

Even many modern Jews, who still look for their not-yet-come Messiah (having failed to recognize Jesus), hold that this Messiah will come first to the Mount of Olives before heading to the temple. For this reason they consider it a great (and expensive) honor to be buried on the Mount of Olives, believing that those interred on this mount will be raised to life first.

Read an article on "whitewashed tombs"

View of tombs on the Mount of Olives looking across the Kidron Valley
Notice the monument with the pyramid shaped roof in the valley, called Absalom's tomb...
this tomb from the first temple period was not really that of Absalom

The Messiah (Christ), who has already come, spent time on the Mount of Olives a number of times. This was a virtually a necessity as it was on a primary route between Galilee and Jerusalem. Bethany and Bethphage, are noted by Scriptures as being on the Mount of Olives. Bethphage was so close to Jerusalem it was considered to be a suburb; Bethany was further away, yet near enough to stay there at night when needing to be in Jerusalem during the day.

Matthew 21:17-18 And he [Jesus] left them and went out of the city [Jerusalem] to Bethany, where he spent the night. 18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city [Jerusalem], he was hungry. (NIV)

Mark 11:11-12 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. 12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. (NIV)

John 11:18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem

In a few instances we are specifically told where Jesus stayed while at Bethany - namely the homes of welcoming friends and followers.

Mark 14:3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (NIV)

John 11:1-3 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." (NIV) [John 11:7 & 18 assures that the text is speaking of the Bethany located near Jerusalem in Judea]

John 12:1-3 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany , where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (NIV)

In the triumphal procession (celebrated as Palm Sunday), Jesus came not in the form of Roman triumphal processions - as a military conqueror - but rather as a peaceful king. Donkeys were only used for civil processions, horses for military. Jesus using a borrowed donkey clearly displayed that He was poor, unlike the usual kings of men. What a contrast, and demeaning state, for the One who is the King of Glory! (Psalms 24:7-10)

View from the mount of Olives, with snow covering the ground.
One of the rare times it snows in Jerusalem


John 12:12-16 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. (NIV)

Matthew 21:1-11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" 11 The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." (NIV)

Luke 19:35-44 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" 40 "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." (NIV)

Ornately decorated "Church of All Nations" at the foot of the Mount of Olives
Shrine marking the supposed location of Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane

Illustration in the church showing Jesus in prayer.


The night Jesus was betrayed; He left the city and went to the Mount of Olives. Luke notes that this was his usual practice. If it wasn't to Bethany, further away, it appears that the destination was the Garden of Gethsemane located at the foot of the Mount on the Jerusalem side.

Luke 22:39-44 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (NIV)

Matthew 26:30-41 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." 33 Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." 34 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." 35 But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same. 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (NIV) [Also Mark 14:26-36]

Following Jesus' arrest and subsequent crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, Scriptures notes a final occurrence on the Mount of Olives. This was the place Jesus had chosen to give final instruction to his disciples before ascending into heaven.

Acts 1:6-14 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (NIV)

The words of the angels (that Jesus will return again in the same way) point to the blessed hope of the church - the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! While only a few blessed individuals saw Him leave, Scriptures are clear that every eye will see His return...

Revelation 1:7 Look, he [Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (NIV)

View of part of the temple mount as seen from the Mount of Olives
Dome of the Rock (Muslim) to left, Eastern Gate (sealed) on right
An even older eastern gate is slightly to the left and partially buried

Eastern Gate on the Mount of Olives Side

Our final thought on the Mount of Olives comes from Ezekiel's ancient visions. Ezekiel first saw the glory of the Lord depart from the temple, an event from his day. Later he saw (as a prophetically anticipated future event) the glorious return of the same. God's glory had departed from the temple via the eastern side and out over the Mount of Olives, the return was in the reverse, entering through the eastern gate.

Ezekiel 11:16-23 "Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.' 17 "Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.' 18 "They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord." 22 Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. 23 The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. (NIV)

Ezekiel 43:1-5 Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, 2 and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. 3 The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. 4 The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east. 5 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. (NIV)

The glory of the Lord will return...

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (NIV)


Inside of the sealed Eastern Gate
View from the temple mount.

The space inside the Eastern Gate is now used as an Islamic school

Showing that the Mount of Olives has been used as a burial location even in the first century
this tomb is filled with ossuaries (bones boxes) as used at the time of Jesus.

More ossuaries. Not only are some Jewish, but some are believed to be those of Christians

Sign at site of ancient tombs.