Palestinian women pray inside the Dome of the Rock at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount during Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City on November 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ammar Awad *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-DIG-MORIAH, originally transmitted on April 10, 2015.

Digging under Mount Moriah with TV's 'Dig'

(RNS) Archaic prayers, hidden keys and secret religious orders -- such are the elements of the latest episode of the USA Network’s biblical conspiracy action series “Dig.”

Add in a modern re-enactment of one of the most harrowing stories in the Hebrew Bible, and the result is a swirling, baffling stew of religious themes and imagery.

This is your spoiler alert! Read on if you are up to date on "Dig" or a glutton for punishment.

“It’s all about the End of Days, the Second Coming, Armageddon, the Rapture,” Debbie (Lauren Ambrose) says in what is the clearest explanation by any character of what is going on in “Dig” to date. “In order to bring about the Second Coming, the Temple in Jerusalem needs to be rebuilt.”

Here’s a quick summary of some of the religion references in this week’s episode:

A scene from DIG "Pilot" Episode 101. Photo by Ronen Akerman/USA Network

A scene from the "Dig" pilot Episode 101. Photo by Ronen Akerman/USA Network


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Jehoshaphat

Gregory Donaldson, an inmate in a mental institution suffering from “Jerusalem syndrome” (see below), is seen writing this name in the dust of a windowsill.

In Hebrew,  Jehoshaphat means “Yahweh judges.” The Valley of Jehoshaphat is the place Yahweh -- the unpronounceable Hebrew word for God -- will gather the people and “sit to judge all the nations on every side." As if that weren't scary enough, the Valley of Jehoshaphat is sometimes called the “valley of destruction.” The characters in "Dig" have already been to the field of Armageddon; if they end up in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, it's not going to be for a party.

Jerusalem syndrome is a real mental illness sparked by a heightened sense of religious excitement some tourists experience in the Holy Land. Sufferers say they hear voices, claim to be the Messiah or self-inflict crucifixion-style nail marks on their hands and feet. Jerusalem Syndrome may explain why Donaldson carved a strange symbol on his chest -- a kind of T inside a box -- that pops up repeatedly on the show.

“Order of Moriah”

Peter Connelly (Jason Isaacs) wants to know what's up with the secret “Order of Moriah.” A big clue is that Mount Moriah is where the Bible says Solomon built the Jewish Temple -- the one the apparent bad guys want to rebuild.

Today, Mount Moriah is better known as the Temple Mount, and it is topped not by a Jewish temple, but by the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, two of Islam’s most sacred sites. It is the most hotly contested piece of land in the world.

More important, Mount Moriah is the site of the “Foundation Stone,” the rock where Abraham tied his son Isaac in the biblical story of the binding of Isaac. Muslims believe the same stone is the one from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

"Then he withheld Abraham's hand"

"God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to teach him obedience," says a "Dig" character known as the Essene. "But then he withheld Abraham’s hand to teach him about love."

In  the Genesis story, God asks Abraham to make a "burnt offering" of his son at Mount Moriah. Abraham ties Isaac to the altar before he is stopped by an angel who says, "'Now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son."

Jews, Christians and Muslims see the story as a parable of true faith, of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, among many other things. In "Dig," the Essene re-enacts this story and takes the role of Abraham as he threatens to sacrifice a tied-up Avram (Guy Selnik), but, as Abraham did for Isaac, the Essene lets Avram go.

Palestinian women pray inside the Dome of the Rock at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount during Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City on November 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ammar Awad *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-DIG-MORIAH, originally transmitted on April 10, 2015.

Palestinian women pray inside the Dome of the Rock at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount during Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City on Nov. 14, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ammar Awad
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-DIG-MORIAH, originally transmitted on April 10, 2015.


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Well of Souls

Josh (Zen McGrath) says he's been taught that every star represents a soul that lives in the "Well of Souls" under the Temple in Jerusalem. "Is that a lie too?" he asks.

Yes and no, Josh. There really is a "Well of Souls" under the Temple Mount. It is a cavelike chamber under the Foundation Stone, and Muslims go down a staircase to pray there. But it also refers to a depression in the cave's floor that some believe is hollow and leads to a chamber under all of the buildings on Temple Mount.

Jewish tradition dating to the Middle Ages states that the Well of Souls covers a great abyss that holds all the waters of Noah's flood. Islamic tradition says the Well of Souls covers the center of the world and that all the waters of Paradise run underneath it.

That's where two characters are standing at the end of this episode -- and why they can hear the Muslim call to prayer coming from above their heads.

As to whether the Well of Souls actually contains any souls, that's above this reporter's pay grade.

YS/MG END WINSTON

Comments

  1. The temple in Jerusalem does not need to be rebuilt since Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17) with the sacrificial death of his perfect body for all imperfect mankind (Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 9:11:-24).

    His kingdom or heavenly government, of which he is King, has been established in the heavens. It will soon commence its millennial rule over mankind (Isaiah 11:1-9) on earth and bring grand blessings to meek ones of all nations (Revelation 21:3,4).

  2. I used to compare Bible Maps with Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. After all, ‘Adam’-kind was made of ‘adamah’-earth according to Genesis.
    When I got around to investigating the strangely mirrored ‘Dead Sea’ and ‘West Bank’ shapes I found that they worked well as ‘parables’ of newborn babies and of brain hemispheres. Around 2003 I stumbled across new brain research discoveries that link the functions of ancient Jerusalem very closely with the functions of the formerly ‘unmapped’ part of the brain that handles morality. It is said to be the ‘center of all human behavior’. ‘Mirror Neurons’ are located there on a ‘temple mount’. These fascinating neurons enable us to ‘hero worship’, to be changed in character by beholding and empathizing. This brain lobe is perfect, then, for the ‘Throne of a God’ in each human individual. Jerusalem, then, was always intended to be a parable of an actual free moral state as a ‘teacher of peace’, not merely an enforced…

  3. Can anyone translate the cleansing prayer from this episode?

  4. Abraham failed Gods test when he brought Isaac to be sacrificed. God wanted Abraham to challenge him like he did when God warned Anraham about destroying Sodom and Gmora. God was upset that Abraham was ready to accept a God that would demand child sacrifice, even though ironically this is what Abraham fought against (a rampant practice in the pagan cultures of his time). This is why after this incident God never talks to Abraham again (an angel comes to stop Abraham instead of God) and Sarah dies.

  5. The scriptures prophesize that the Temple will be rebuilt and made into a house of worship
    For all the nations. Gentiles will
    Come to Jerusalem to study Torah with Jews. The nation of Israel will be God’s prophets and will be a light unto the nations. We are witnessing the beginning of all this with the in-gathering of exiles and the blooming of the land.

  6. Author

    Patrick – your question about translating the prayer. I, of course, do not speak Hebrew. And until the other night’s episode I wondered if the Essene were speaking Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic. I still don’t know – and this only TV fiction not a documentary, of course – but since Avram understood what the Essene was saying, the implication is it was Hebrew. Know anyone who speak Hebrew? Or Google “Dead Sea Scrolls” and either “prayer” or “cleansing prayer”???

  7. Well Yoshua, you have managed to get it perfectly wrong. Now that takes some doing. So, Abraham failed God’s test did he? What, do you make this stuff up as you go along? What scriptures are you reading? In Torah, and throughout scripture God makes it very clear that Abraham demonstrated His love for God above anything or anyone else. And God blessed him for it. You are a false teacher and are misleading the people. You should stop! What we all need, Jews as well as Gentiles, is God’s forgiveness that comes through faith in Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus Christ. He died for our sins. He is the One to which the story of Abraham and Isaac points us. God spared Abraham’s son but did NOT spare His own Son but rather, allowed Him to be offered up as The Lamb without spot or blemish to atone for our sins so that we might have peace with God The Father through faith in Him. May many come to know God’s peace through Yeshua, The Lamb of God. Shalom

  8. Excellent discovery of the many analogous structures to be uncovered! Long before I had a doctorate in neuroscience (concerning mirror neurons), I found many relationships with the brain and Jerusalem. There are 12 gates to the city just like the 12 mind gates or pairs of cranial nerves….the Menorah is designed like a neuron….the 9 months for the Jewish feasts follow the stages of cognitive development.in the embryo.. just a few examples. I am working on a book revealing many more of these parallels.

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