The Cornerstone

When the first Temple was constructed, it was built by a remarkable set of circumstances.[1] The traditions of the Elders of Israel, describe an extraordinary event. When the stones for the first Temple were being cut, they were numbered and shipped to the site where the Temple would be assembled. The Cornerstone inadvertently arrived at the temple mount without a number being assigned to it. The workers at the Temple site didn’t know where this strangely cut stone was supposed to be placed. It had an unusual shape, so the workers assumed that it was sent to the construction site by mistake. The builders cast the foundation stone over the side of the temple mount retaining wall and let it roll into the weeds below.[2] As the work continues, many of the workers would stumble over this important stone, not realizing what it was for.

Later on, when it was time to install the Chief Cornerstone in its place, this important stone could not be found.

Realizing that the stone that the builders had rejected was in fact the Chief Cornerstone, they remembered that they had cast this precious stone aside. The builders went down into the weeds and brought the Cornerstone back to the temple site, and placed it where it belonged.

The Messiah will be known as “The Cornerstone.”

Zechariah 10:4 From him comes the cornerstone, From him the tent peg, From him the battle bow, From him every ruler together.

New Testament Fulfillment:

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? ”

Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Several Old Testament Prophets speak of the Messiah as:

The Cornerstone: A foundation, the starting place
The Tent Peg: A Ruler (Isaiah 22:23-24)
The Battle Bow: A warrior (Psalms 45:5)

The description of the Messiah as the “Chief Cornerstone,” is well established throughout the Old Testament. Including Zechariah 10:4, there are four instances where the Messiah is called the Cornerstone: Psalms 118:22-23, Isaiah 8:14, and Isaiah 28:16.

The Messiah shall be the “Chief Cornerstone,” while rejected by Israel.

Psalms 118:22-23 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.

The Messiah shall be a stumbling stone for the religious leaders of Israel.

Isaiah 8:14 He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The Messiah will be the “Precious Cornerstone” of Israel, yet He will be rejected.

Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.”

Chief Cornerstone:

Peter demonstrates his great knowledge of the Scriptures, as he quotes from the Psalms and Isaiah, presenting his case that Jesus is the Cornerstone predicted by the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.

1 Peter 2:6-8 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious (Isaiah 28:16), And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” (Psalm 118:22-23) and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” (Isaiah 8:14) They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

The Book of Acts Chapter 4, records an event where Peter and the other disciples began to teach the people in Jerusalem about Jesus. Many were responding to their message and believing in Jesus as the Messiah. The high priest and several others began to question where these men received their authority to do such things.

Acts 4:6-7 …Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

Peter stood up to address these leaders of Israel and informed them that his authority came from the One, to whom all the Old Testament prophets were written for, “the Chief Cornerstone.”

Acts 4:10-12 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

In ancient history, the cornerstone was the joining of two walls—tying them together. The Cornerstone was the visible corner of the foundation of a building and the starting point for all future building on the foundation. This single stone was the most costly because of its beauty and strength. It was also the largest, most solid and carefully constructed stone. To cast aside the cornerstone would be to resist any future building on that foundation. The Cornerstone was the place where the building was joined together and also the place where it rested.

Peter describes Jesus as the “precious cornerstone” that was to come; the Messiah. He is the starting place from where everything, including the heavens and the earth, begins.

Peter attributes this foundation stone of the temple to the purpose and nature of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. The leaders in Israel thought Him odd, and they could find no place for Jesus. They rejected, and cast Him aside. This became an amazing fulfillment of the precise set of circumstance that occurred in the building of the first temple: The Chief Cornerstone was not recognized; it was rejected and cast aside.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem is a section of the retaining wall that supported the foundation of the former Temples which were built on this site.

[3]
Close-up of the Western Wall in Jerusalem

[4]
A view of the Western Wall from a distance

This foundation wall that remains today was the place where the temple once stood, where Jesus went in and threw out the money changers. This is the location where Mary and Joseph came and found Jesus at twelve years of age—teaching the leaders in the Temple, and asking them questions. The depiction below is a recreation of Herod’s Temple that was standing, at the time Jesus lived and carried out His ministry here on earth.

Depiction of Herod’s Temple
[5]
Blue outline showing the location of the current Western Wall

[6]
Recreation of Herod’s Temple

This great western wall, when it was originally built, was made of massive stones that were cut at a quarry near the temple grounds.

So massive in weight were these stones that the wall exerts over half a million pounds per square inch. If the builders had constructed the wall on top of the soil alone, the weight of that wall, that acted as the foundation for the temple, would have sunk into the soil—causing the entire structure to collapse. In order to ensure its stability, the Foundation Wall had to be resting on solid bedrock.

In December of 1869, two men: Wilson and Warren, dug a shaft near the southern corner of the Temple mount. They were curious just how deep the wall structure went underground. To their amazement, the wall foundation went down into the soil, eighty feet below the ground level of the western wall.

[7]

As Warren descended into the shaft, at the bottom of the massive retaining wall—some 80 feet below the surface of the soil, he was astonished to find that some of the stones contained red Phoenician lettering.

The writing on these massive blocks were the numbers that indicated where each stone should be placed, as it was quarried out of solid rock. Each number corresponded to a master blueprint that determined where every stone in the temple would be located.

[8]

The prophetic word that Peter is quoting from, in 1 Peter Chapter 2, was taken from Isaiah Chapter 28, written more than 700 years before Jesus was born, 600 years before the temple was ever built.

1 Peter 26-8 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

Isaiah said that when the Messiah came to Israel, He would be “A Stone of stumbling and a Rock of Offense…” In other words, the people who meet Jesus would stumble over Him, even though He would later be found as the Cornerstone of everything in their lives. The Cornerstone in the Temple was the most important stone, as it held all the rest of the Temple together. Without the Cornerstone, there would be no Temple.

This is an interesting illustration as the New Testament makes a similar claim regarding the importance of Jesus to the entire body of believers who make up the building of God.

Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

As I briefly described above, the cornerstone—unlike all the other stones—came from the quarry without a number, so that the builders did not know where to place it. Each Stone had to be so precisely cut, so that they would fit together perfectly without the use of any mortar; each stone interlocking with the others.

The stones that were used in the construction of the temple were shaped out of solid rock, quarried underground. Archeologists now believe that they have found Solomon’s Quarry near the site of the present Temple Grounds (picture below).

[9]
This photo shows how each stone fits together precisely

[10]
This picture is taken from the floor of the quarry near the temple mount that shows the outline of a stone that has not yet been removed from the solid rock which it is being cut from.

It was the “Chief Cornerstone” that held all the other stones of the Temple together, just as Isaiah had predicted. This is the same stone that Peter makes reference to in his description of the Cornerstone in 1 Peter 26-8 (above).

[11]

In this amazing story—regarding the construction of the temple that was in existence when Jesus arrived, we understand that He was the object of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the cornerstone that was not recognized when He came—stumbled over and cast aside.

Sadly, today people are still stumbling over Jesus and casting Him aside. Yet, He is the most important and crucial foundation for all of life. To miss Him is to forfeit the purpose for which we were all created and the future of all that is to come.


[1] The traditions of the elders regarding David’s account of the construction of the first Temple in Psalms 118:22-23
[2] Psalms 118:22-23 The stone which the builders rejected…
[3] Used by permission: By Wayne McLean ( jgritz) (Own work) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
[4] Used by Permission: Walt McIndoo http://www.ebibleteacher.com/sites/default/files/images/1/westwall2.jpg?1310095965
[5] Photo by Rob Robinson
[6] Used by permission, http://www.ebibleteacher.com/images.html
[7] Public Domain, In December of 1869, Two men, Wilson and Warren dug a mine shaft near the southern corner of the Temple mount.
[8] Public Domain, from the Wilson and Warren Expedition.
[9] Gilabrand at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
[10] Used by permission: Hershel Shanks/Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington, DC; http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org April 4, 2013
[11] Graphic Image by Rob Robinson