Monday, November 26 2018
This is Jerusalem
It was a time after Abram had been called by God to come out of Ur of the Chaldeans in the scroll of Genesis (Chapter 11ff). He had made a covenant relationship with God and journeyed to Egypt, where he let his wife Sarai be taken by a Pharaoh. God delivers her back into the arms of Abram and their house increases greatly. They are forced to deliver his nephew Lot from the hands of an alliance of rogue kings who had captured him in the land near Sodom. Then, Abram meets a man in Sheveh, which is (“the King’s Valley”). His name is Melchizedek, and he is a priest of El Elyon (“God Most High”), the king of the city of Salem (“Peace”). They break bread and drink wine in communion to the name of El Elyon. This is about 1980 BC, around 600 years before the Exodus, almost 900 years before the time of King David (1 Samuel 16ff).
David comes into the full reign of his kingship at 30 years of age (2 Samuel 5). 7 years later, he leads his men in a charge against the Jebusites who inhabited the city called, “Jerusalem,” which is the very same city that had been previously called “Sheveh,” of Melchizedek. The Jebusites were Canaanite people who were essentially mountaineers who had been living in the hill country. The city had formerly been called “Salem,” which literally means “peace.” “Jeru” means “city.” Therefore, Jerusalem is “City of Peace.” This is ironic, in the sense of the history of the city, because of the strife that it has been most associated with. This makes the 122nd Psalm applicable across centuries of time; “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Note the raw number of biblical references to the proper noun “Jerusalem” in the biblical text. This alone should alert one to the importance placed on the city by the Word of God in relation to His people. However, one should not be enamored beyond the point of intent. What made Jerusalem special was that it held the temple and in the temple was the Holy of Holies. Within the Holy of Holies was held the Ark of the Covenant and on the propitiation (mercy seat), which was the center of the lid between the cherubim figures, was where God said He would meet man once a year for Yom (“day”) Kippur (“Atonement”). Thus, what makes Jerusalem distinct is that God met man here for an extended period of time. Now He lives immediately within each Christian who is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
For the sake of brevity, only highlights will be covered in this article. To give an idea of how extensive writings are about the city, it is considered to be the most renowned city in the ancient East. It has more than 6,000 bibliographical references in literature. It is considered the “most holy city,” hosting 3 monotheistic religions. Wars, both subtle and direct, continue to be waged over who will control the city and particularly, the Temple Mount. Antiquities are difficult to excavate from the city site because the land has been occupied for over 6,000 years. To compound the archaeological issues, the city has been ravaged and rebuilt multiple times over the millennia. Each time, masonry would be looted from the city while other materials would be brought in from neighboring ruins to replace them.
The city has been called “Jebus,” “Shalem” and “Zion.” However, it was first mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts (18th – 19thC BC) as the name “Rušalimum.” It has also been called by the Akkadian name of “Urišalim” in the Armana letters (14thC BC). Abdi-Hiba, an Egyptian vassal who was ruling in Jerusalem during the reign of Pharaoh Amenophis IV (Akhenaten – 1340 BC) wrote declaring his loyalty to Egypt. Sennacherib (Assyrian – 701 BC) referred to the city as “Ursalimmu” when he surrounded King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18, 19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36, 37). Many scholars attribute the name of “Shalem” to the Semitic patron god, Shalem, which was mentioned in a mythological text from Ugarit. While this may unsettle Jews and Christians alike, it sets as a consideration to be an example of something that evil has attempted to adopt and mimic as an idol, only to regain its original meaning as God has deemed.
In historical comparisons to the population and size of the city, the Jebusites constituted approximately 1,000 people on 12 acres. The city of David expanded to 2,000 persons on 15 acres. However, the building of the Temple Mount during the reign of Solomon expanded the region to 32 acres and an approximate population of 5,000 residents. One of the largest expansions was under King Hezekiah when the Upper City was pushing the boundaries to 125 acres with 25,000 people. After the Babylonian captivity, during the time of Nehemiah, the city subsided to 30 acres with a population of 4,500. In the Hasmonean era, Jerusalem initially grew to 165 acres and 35,000 people and during Herod’s reign, an estimated 40,000 people lived in a 230-acre territory. But her growth did not stop there. Continuing through the Roman period, Jerusalem doubled in size to 450 acres with an estimated population of 80,000 or more. After the Muslim invasion, the numbers shrank to 55-60,000 residents. As of 2017, the city population sits at 901,302, with the metropolitan district at 1,253,900 and the land area is 252 square miles (48 miles – city alone).
Under the Davidic reign (1011-971 BC), the establishment of Jerusalem as the central capital was geographically strategic for the united kingdom of Israel. Furthermore, when David brings the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to Jerusalem, the city now becomes more than a political location. It became the merger of the Mosaic era to the Davidic, forming a unity of the religious and the legal rule of Israel.
When David’s son takes the throne (971-931 BC), the kingdom will ride on the wave that David drew them together upon. Though limited by God to build the Temple in Jerusalem, David prepared everything his son Solomon would need to construct the finest building ever seen. King Solomon also built some of the most comprehensive structural additions to the city in the palace complex, which was composed of residences, a justice hall, a throne room, and arsenal storage. The Temple took 7 years to finish and the palace complex, an additional 13 years. However, Solomon used forced labor among the people of Israel to accomplish this, among several other architectural endeavors. Seeds of rebellion were sown and upon the passing of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel divided into a lingering civil war. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, was the rightful heir to the throne, while Jeroboam, son of Nebat contested from the north. Thus became the divided kingdom of Judah and North Israel.
With the kingdom split, Jerusalem lost a portion of its significance in the nation as a whole. Nevertheless, it still drew considerable attention from enemy kingdoms and required continuous reinforcements to its fortifications. The city withstood invasions (some, temporarily) from numerous enemies, including Assyrian, Babylonian, and Greek armies (to name a few). Bear in mind though, that the vast majority of these enemies were sent by God as judgment on Israel for her rebellion against Him.
One of the kingdoms that subsequently took over Israel was Persia, who had defeated their previous captors, Babylon in 538 BC. Cyrus, king of Persia decreed for the walls and Temple to be rebuilt back in Jerusalem. However, it took the Jews over 20 years to complete the reconstruction of the temple proper. It was rededicated under King Darius I (of Persia – Ezra 6) in 515 BC.
Led by Alexander the Great, the Persians were conquered by the Greeks and Jerusalem was taken in 332 BC. Over the years, Jerusalem was thus changed into a Greek city-state by Antiochus IV and named “Antiochia.” After desecrating the Temple, the Jews led a rebellion under the Maccabeans and cleansed the Temple on December 25, 165 BC. This date is commemorated in the Jewish holiday known as “Hanukkah.” For almost a century (142-63 BC), the Jews would be politically, religiously, and economically independent during this period known as the Hasmonean reign. These were a dynasty of high priests and kings that had descended from the line of Mattathias, who had led the revolt that liberated Jerusalem. The Hasmoneans built a bridge over the Tyropoeon Valley that joined the Upper City (center of government) to the Temple Mount. At the apex of this period, John Hyrcanus and his son, Alexander Jannaeus, served as successive high priest and king of Judea. However, in 63 BC Pompey (the Great) ended the Hasmonean reign, though he kept Hyrcanus in place. While the Jews were celebrating the Sabbath, Pompey employed his battering rams and attacked the Temple Mount, entered the Holy of Holies, destroyed the city walls, and took residence in the Upper City. As a side note, though Pompey did not immediately die upon entering the Holy of Holies, he was later defeated in another battle and fled for his life into Egypt, where he was assassinated. From the time of Pompey’s invasion to the appointment of Herod the Great (37 BC), the Hasmoneans ruled under the jurisprudence of Rome.
During the Herodian period (37-4 BC), Jerusalem reached its apex of development and enjoyed abundant prosperity. Historically, the city was noted for its splendor, but it still had its socioeconomic disparities. The poorer classes were in the Lower City, where most of the markets were conducted. The more affluent lived in the Upper City, which included chief religious and political figures. Regional taxes and Herod’s construction projects were the primary sources of government income. Due to the intensity of the sheer number of Herod’s construction projects versus the intent of brevity for this particular article, most items will not be covered here. It is safe to say that all of Herod’s buildings and sites are still considered to be architectural wonders of beauty and artifice. The city walls were fortified with 164 towers of defense. It is disputed as to whether there were 2 or 3 city walls during this period. Nevertheless, any wall would have to be substantial to support the weight of the towers. Several other Romans contributed positive construction updates to Jerusalem. For example, Pontius Pilate (26-36 AD), prefect of Judea, installed a rather large upgrade to the water supply with the city’s first aqueduct from Solomon’s Pool.
The final tipping point that incited the First Jewish War (revolt) against Rome occurred because Roman prefect, Gessius Florus, stole money from the Temple treasury in 66 AD. By 70 AD, Titus led an attack and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple within (see “This is Masada”). Despite the destruction, Jerusalem managed to hang on and remain the central city of the nation of Israel. Emperor Hadrian visited the city in 129 AD, rebuilt it, and renamed it Aelia Capitolina, after his middle name. Through the Byzantine period (324-638 AD), much of the city was improved with sites dedicated to events in the life of Jesus. The invasion of the Islamic armies in 638 AD conquered Jerusalem and held the city until the Crusader period of 1099 AD. To the Muslims, Jerusalem is considered the third most holy city, behind Mecca and Medina. The city was recaptured from the Crusaders by Islamic invaders in 1187 AD. Christian and Jewish tolerance fluctuated through this period until 1517, when the Ottoman Turks took control of Jerusalem and ruled it from Istanbul (formerly Constantinople, until the Islamic conquest).
Presently, both Israeli and Palestinian governments claim Jerusalem as their capital. While peace is largely kept by the presence of the Israeli military, the tension remains present for the control of the area. The city was liberated by Israel in the War of 1948. However, revisionist history has been and is presently being taught that Israel is a recent invader, and that the region belongs to the Palestinians. Most recently, the United States, under the leadership and campaign promise of President Donald J. Trump, declared acknowledgment of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel and thus, relocating the US embassy back to the city. Prior, on August 20, 1980, the United Nations passed Resolution 478, which moved 22 of the 24 embassies in Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (see “This is Tel Aviv”). Anti-Israel countries have denounced the move by the United States.