Certainly, no other city is more associated with the Biblical narrative as the city of Jerusalem. Although the location is alluded to throughout the Old Testament, Jerusalem gained prominence when King David conquered the city around 1,000 BC. He established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant to the site. David’s son, Solomon, further solidified the city’s status by building the Temple in Jerusalem, establishing a permanent center of worship for the Israelites.
The United Kingdom did not last long. After the death of Solomon, the Northern tribes broke away, leaving Jerusalem the capital of the Southern Kingdom. In the following centuries, Jerusalem was sacked several times, including once by Egypt and the Pharoah Sheshonk I. King Hezekiah fortified the city’s walls and built a tunnel, redirecting water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam within the city’s walls. In 701 BC, the Northern Kings capitulated to Sennacherib of Assyria, but the Southern Kingdom, along with Jerusalem, was miraculously spared. When Babylon became the dominant force in the region, Jerusalem was again sacked. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and exiled most of the inhabitants to Babylon. Exile lasted about 50 years until Cyrus the Great of Persia allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls and its temple.
The region fell under control of Alexander the Great in 331 BC, then under the control of the Greek generals who divvied up the empire after his death. Antiochus the Great ruled the Seleucid empire in198 BC, guaranteeing the Jews in Jerusalem the right to continue worshipping in the Temple. But then thirty years later, his son Antiochus IV robbed and desecrated the Temple, sparking the Maccabean revolt. The ensuing Hasmonaean dynasty ruled in Jerusalem until Roman power reached the region. In 63 BC, the Roman general Pompey marched into Jerusalem and the city became a territory of the Roman Empire.
Shiloah Inscription found in Hezekiah’s Tunnel
Much of the New Testament takes place amidst the tensions of Jewish zeal for independence from Rome and those who remained in power through submission to Rome. These tensions boiled over in 70 AD, during the Jewish revolt. The result was the destruction of the city and its temple, essentially ending any hope of independence from the Roman Empire.
Jerusalem In The Bible
No city is more intertwined throughout the Biblical narrative than the city of Jerusalem. In essence, to read about Jerusalem in the Bible is to simply read the Bible.
In Genesis 22, the patriarch Abraham was commanded by God to go to the land Moriah and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed and God spared Isaac. Mount Moriah would mark the future site of the city of Jerusalem, marking it out as a sacred place.
In 2 Samuel 5, David leads troops against the Jebusites and captured the fortress, calling it the city of David. He then moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem.
After the death of King David, his son Solomon builds the Temple in Jerusalem, providing a permanent structure for God’s presence among the people. This is recorded in 1 Kings 5.
The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple at the hands of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar is detailed in 2 Kings 25.
The book of Ezra recounts the proclamation of the Persian king Cyrus the Great, allowing exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city, including its temple, while Nehemiah relates the rebuilding of the city’s walls.
In the New Testament, the Gospels record the ministry of Jesus, culminating in his journey to the holy city, where he would be crucified and rise from the grave. Even during the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, Jerusalem is never far from memory, and is often the terminus of his journeys.
Even in the book of Revelation, the city serves as a symbol of the epicenter of God’s kingdom, with the New Jerusalem presiding over the new heavens and the new earth. From the first book of the Bible to the last, the story of the Bible cannot be told without the holy city of Jerusalem.
Take A Photo Tour
In January of 2008, JR and David were able to travel to Egypt and Israel. What follows are our observations after spending time in the city of Jerusalem.
Day 1 – Arrival into Jerusalem by way of Eilat and the Dead Sea.
Tour of the Western Wall Tunnel – This was an unexpected treat. We got into the city early evening and went to the Western Wall. As we were standing around a tour group said they had a few extra spots and wanted to know if we’d like to join their group. It was led by a practicing Jew from the United States (I wish I had written down his name) who was intimately knowledgeable about Jewish history and the transformation of the Temple Mount over the centuries.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher – The traditional site of the crucifixion and the location of Jesus’ tomb.
The Garden Tomb – Golgotha. This is a more recent site that is also believed to be Jesus’ tomb. It’s interesting because the carved beds where the bodies would lay were chiseled out beforehand according to the height of the person being buried. One of the beds in this tomb was hurriedly ‘lengthened’ because it was too short. This, many believe, is the result of Jesus being buried in ‘borrowed tomb’ that was originally chiseled for someone much shorter, but had to be added to accommodate the taller body of Jesus.
The Western Wall in Jerusalem
Day 2 – Bethlehem
Church of the Nativity – Traditional site of Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem.
Dome of the Rock – Muslim controlled Temple Mount. We weren’t able to enter the famous mosque since we weren’t practicing Muslims, but we were able to look inside open doors. Very beautiful and ornate.
Western Wall – We actually went and prayed at the Western Wall. This is the only visible section of the old Temple. Every crack and crevasse was filled with little paper prayers that people have inserted over the years.
Citadel Wall Tour – We got a chance to take a short tour of the citadel wall. It gave a great view of the Old City and many of the city gates.
Gethsemane – Traditional site of the garden where Jesus prayed before the crucifixion. It was a beautiful green space with extremely old olive trees. Some of the trunks were probably 10+ feet in circumference while still only being about 8 to 10 feet tall.
Day 3 – City of David
Pool of Siloam – Excavated and rebuilt Byzantine pool where Jesus healed the blind man.
Hezekiah’s Tunnel – My favorite location on this trip! The tunnel was rediscovered in 1865 when an archeologist read Chronicles where it mentions that Hezekiah built a tunnel from the Spring of Gihon to the Pool of Siloam. Being that they knew where both water sources were, he did additional excavation and found the original tunnel. It goes for about a mile and still has water running in it to this day! About half way through there is an inscription carved into the wall describing how workers dug from both directions and met in the middle. Absolutely fascinating process that was accomplished centuries before modern tools and equipment.
Walking Hezekiah’s Tunnel
The Via Dolorosa
Day 4 – Old Jerusalem
The City Quarters – the city is divided up into 4 quarters – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian. It’s interesting to see the differences each section took on.
Oskar Schindler’s grave – Famous German and Nazi party member who saved over a thousand Jews during the Holocaust. On his gravesite were hundreds of stones, which is a common memorial that people leave when visiting a grave site.
Via Dolorosa Walk – The “Way of Suffering” is a route through the Old City of Jerusalem that is believed to be the path Jesus walked to his crucifixion. It was actually being symbolically walked while we were there. Several priests and rabbis were leading a crowd through the streets praying in Hebrew.
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