Flevit super illam (He wept over it); by Enrique Simonet, 1892

The Mount of Olives, sometimes referred to as “Olivet” in the KJV (2 Samuel 15:30; Acts 1:12) or “the mount facing Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:7), is a ridge running along the east side of Jerusalem, separated from the city walls by a ravine and the Brook Kidron. The Mount of Olives was the site of many events in the Bible and will be the site of a yet-future fulfillment of prophecy. (gotquestions.org)

ol´ivz , ( הר־הזּיתים , har ha – zēthı̄m ( Zechariah 14:4 ), מעלה־הזּיתים , ma‛ălēh ha –zēthı̄m , “the ascent of the mount of Olives” (2 Samuel 15:30 , the King James Version “the ascent of (mount) Olivet”); τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν ,  óros tṓn elaiṓn , “the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 21:1; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 26:30; Mark 11:1; Mark 13:3; Mark 14:26; Luke 19:37; Luke 22:39; John 8:1 ), τό ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον ἐλαιῶν ,  óros  kaloúmenon elaiṓn , “the mount that is called Olivet” (Luke 19:29; Luke 21:37), τοῦ ἐλαιῶνος , toú elaiṓnos (Acts 1:12, English Versions of the Bible “Olivet” literally, “olive garden”))

1. Names:

Josephus frequently uses the expression “Mount of Olives” (e.g. Ant. , VII, ix, 2; XX, viii, 6; BJ , V, ii, 3; xii, 2), but later Jewish writings give the name הר־המּשׁחה , har ha – mishḥāh , “Mount of Oil”; this occurs in some manuscripts in 2 Kings 23:13 , and the common reading הר־המּשׁחית , har ha –mashḥı̄th , “Mount of Corruption,” margin “destruction,” may possibly be a deliberate alteration (see below). In later ages the Mount was termed “the mountain of lights,” because here there used to be kindled at one time the first beacon light to announce throughout Jewry the appearance of the new moon.

To the natives of Palestine today it is usually known as Jebel eṭ Ṭûr (“mountain of the elevation,” or “tower”), or, less commonly, as Jebel Ṭûr ez zait (“mountain of the elevation of oil”). The name Jebel ez – zaitûn (“Mount of Olives”) is also well known. Early Arabic writers use the term Tûr Zait , “Mount of Oil.”

2. Old Testament Associations:

(1) David’s Escape from Absalom:

David fleeing before his rebellious son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:16 ) crossed the Kidron and “went up by the ascent of the mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered, and went barefoot: and all the people that were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went (2 Samuel 15:30 )…. And it came to pass, that, when David was come to the top of the ascent where he was wont to worship God, (m), behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head (2 Samuel 15:32 ). And when David was a little past the top of the ascent, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and a hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine” (2 Samuel 16:1 ).

It is highly probable that David’s route to the wilderness was neither by the much-trodden Anathoth road nor over the summit of the mountain, but by the path running Northeast from the city, which runs between the Viri Galilaei hill and that supporting the German Sanatorium and descends into the wilderness by Wādy er Rawâbi.

(2) The Vision of Ezekiel:

Ezekiel in a vision (Ezekiel 11:23 ) saw the glory of Yahweh go up from the midst of the city and stand “upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city” (compare Ezekiel 43:2 ). In connection with this the Rabbi Janna records the tradition that the shekhı̄nāh stood 3 1/2 years upon Olivet, and preached, saying, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” – a strange story to come from a Jewish source, suggesting some overt reference to Christ.

(3) The Vision of Zechariah:

In Zechariah 14:4 the prophet sees Yahweh in that day stand upon the Mount of Olives, “and the Mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

In addition to these direct references, Jewish tradition associates with this mount – this “mount of Corruption” – the rite of the red heifer (Numbers 19 ); and many authorities consider that this is also the mount referred to in Nehemiah 8:15 , whence the people are directed to fetch olive branches, branches of wild olive, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of thick trees to make their booths.

3. Olivet and Jesus:

More important to us are the New Testament associations of this sacred spot. In those days the mountain must have been far different from its condition today. Titus in his siege of Jerusalem destroyed all the timber here as elsewhere in the environs, but before this the hillsides must have been clothed with verdure – oliveyards, fig orchards and palm groves, with myrtle and other shrubs.

Here in the fresh breezes and among the thick foliage, Jesus, the country-bred Galilean, must gladly have taken Himself from the noise and closeness of the over-crowded city. It is to the Passion Week, with the exception of John 8:1 , that all the incidents belong which are expressly mentioned as occurring on the Mount of Olives;

While there would be a special reason at this time in the densely packed city, it is probable that on other occasions also our Lord preferred to stay outside the walls. Bethany would indeed appear to have been His home in Judea, as Capernaum was in Galilee.

Here we read of Him as staying with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42 ); again He comes to Bethany from the wilderness road from Jericho for the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11), and later He is at a feast, six days before the Passover (John 12:1 ), at the house of Simon (Matthew 26:6-12; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-9 ).

The Mount of Olives is expressly mentioned in many of the events of the Passion Week. He approached Jerusalem, “unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives” (Mark 11:1; Matthew 21:1; Luke 19:29 ); over a shoulder of this mount – very probably by the route of the present Jericho carriage road – He made His triumphal entry to the city (Mt 21; Mk 11; Lk 19), and on this road, when probably the full sight of the city first burst into view, He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). During all that week “every day he was teaching in the temple; and every night he went out, and lodged in the mount that is called Olivet” (Luke 21:37 ) – the special part of the mount being Bethany (Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11 ). It was on the road from Bethany that He gave the sign of the withering of the fruitless fig tree (Matthew 21:17-19; Mark 11:12-14 , Mark 11:20-24 ), and “as he sat on the mount of Olives” (Matthew 24:3 f; Mark 13:3 f) Jesus gave His memorable sermon with the doomed city lying below Him.

On the lower slopes of Olivet, in the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, Jesus endured His agony, the betrayal and arrest, while upon one of its higher points – not, as tradition has it, on the inhabited highest summit, but on the secluded eastern slopes “over against Bethany” (Luke 24:50-52 ) – He took leave of His disciples (compare Acts 1:12).

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