Category Archives: Jerusalem

David and Jerusalem

After being crowned King of Judah and then eventually of Israel (the northern tribes) in Hebron, David moved to conquer Jerusalem.  Evidently it was his “general” Joab who with his men who surprised the Jebusites inside of the city by gaining access via the sinnor—usually translated “water system” (2 Samuel 5:1-12 and 1 Chronicles 11:4–9).  Previously I described this system and included pictures of the recently (ca. January of 2014) opened to the public system that dated back to the 18th century B.C.

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The “step–stone structure” is located on the eastern slope of the City of David. It evidently dates back to ca. 1100 B.C. and many believe on top of it was a Jebusite fort and/or palace. It is about 80ft. high! — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

 

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Hebron is the “natural” capital of the south (Judah) while “Shechem” is the “natural” capital of the northern tribes. Note the “neutral” position of Jerusalem.

By moving his capital from Hebron (in Judah) to Jerusalem David accomplished a number of things.

  1. Because he captured it, Jerusalem became his personal possession (not that of any particular tribe).
  2. Because Jerusalem was located between the northern and southern tribes it was in a sense a “neutral” city.  If the capital had remained in Hebron the northern tribes might of accused him of favoring the Judeans (his own tribe) and if he moved the capital to Shechem his own tribe of Judah would have been offended.
  3. By capturing Jebus, a pagan city and population that was located in the heartland of Israel was eliminated.
  4. By bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 13) he began the process that led to its becoming the religious capital of Israel.
  5. And finally, its position in the Hill Country, not on the Coastal Plain to the west, meant that his capital was not on the normal military route through the Land of Canaan.

The topography of the “Old Ancient Core” of Jerusalem (ca. 15 acres in size) is that of a “bump in the bottom of a bowl.”

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The “City of David” a.k.a. “the Old Ancient Core” is in the center/bottom of the photo. The Kidron Valley is on the right (east) of it. Note how the Mount of Olives is higher to the east, how Mount Scopus is higher behind it (to the north), and how the western hill rises to the left. This picture was taken from a higher hill to the south.

In light of the above, note:

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 125:2 (NIV)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? [not the princes of Judah or Israel]  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1–2 (NIV)

See also Psalms 2, 46, 48,  87, 122, 132 among many others!

Next Monday—Solomon builds the Temple.

Monday on the Mount — Entering and Settling the Land of Canaan

DLRLTB10_400The books of Joshua and Judges describe Israel’s entrance into and settlement in the Land of Canaan.  As Israel, led by priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, crossed into the Land of Canaan, they were entering the Land promised to their ancestors and to which the Lord was guiding them:

13 “In your unfailing love you [the Lord] will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling . . .
17  You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance
the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.  18  The LORD will reign for ever and ever.”

This movement was more than a group of people merely moving into a land and conquering it, as often happened in the ancient world.  These were God’s people moving into The Land the He had promised them.  I previously wrote that part of the “Patriarchal Promise” was

that the descendants of Abraham would occupy the Land of Canaan.  See Genesis 12:7; 13:15–17; 15:18; 17:8—about 12 times in Genesis and especially Numbers 34.  From a earlier post.

This was the land where God would place His Name (= His Presence; Deuteronomy 12), the land where they would gather around His sanctuary, and potentially where they could live their lives in “worshipful obedience” in His Presence.  In a very real way, this could potentially be considered a movement back to Edenic conditions where humanity had been purposefully placed (by God)  in the Garden of Eden to live their lives in His Presence in “worshipful obedience”  (Genesis 3:15).

540_ShilohAs part of Israel’s movement into, and settlement in, the Land of Canaan Jerusalem was conquered (Joshua 12:10; Judges 1:7-8, 21; 19:10), but not settled by them—that would not happen until the days of David.  Instead, the Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh, 20 mi. to the north of Jerusalem, on the way to Shechem, and it was to there that the tribes went up to worship—remember Eli the priest, Elkanah the father of Samuel the prophet (1 Samuel 1:3), etc

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View looking north from the summit of Shiloh down on to a rectangular open area (about the size of the courtyard of the Tabernacle) where many believe the Tabernacle was actually set up (under excavation at the time the photo was taken — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Next Monday — David Conquers Jerusalem.

Amazing “Open House” in Jerusalem

On Sept 18 and 19 there were 119 difficult-to-get-into places in Jerusalem that opened their doors to the public.

Just reading the descriptions of these places is very fascinating!

Under the Western Wall (Hasmonean)
The Kishle (just inside Jaffa Gate — Palace of Herod)
Beneath the Jaffa Gate
The Jerusalem Train Tunnel
and over 100+

The listing of openings can be found here:  Jerusalem Open House

Monday on the Mount — Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 12

Although Jerusalem is not actually mentioned in the first five books of the Bible, there are certainly strong hints of “things to come.”  For example, after crossing the Reed Sea, Moses and all Israel celebrated the Lord’s work by singing a song that included the following:

Exodus 15:11  “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you—majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?  . . .
13 “In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling . . .
17  You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance
the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.  18  The LORD will reign
for ever and ever.”

From this passage it is clear that the Lord is leading His people to the Land of Canaan, to the mountain of His inheritance, His dwelling, His sanctuary!  Ultimately this will be the Temple on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem—but some 400 years later!  Note that the destination is the “Land of Canaan”—that had been promised to the descendants of the Patriarchs.

After 40 years in the wilderness, just before entering the Land of Canaan, in/near the Plains of Moab, Moses preached his last sermons.  This seems to be in anticipation of crossing the Jordan River into Canaan, the occupation of Jerusalem, and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  In conjunction with describing that the Israelites should not worship at just “any” sanctuary but only the place where the Lord chooses to place His Name, the instructions include:

Deuteronomy 12:2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods.  . . .   5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go;  6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices . . .  7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.
. . .   9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you.  10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.  11 Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.  12 And there rejoice before the LORD your God . . .  13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please.  14 Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you. . .
17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts.
18 Instead, you are to eat them [offerings] in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose . . . and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to.  19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
20  When the LORD your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you . . .  21 If the place where the LORD your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want.

Next Monday: Crossing the Jordan, entering Canaan, settling in the land.


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An example of a Canaanite Worship Center found by Yadin at Hazor — Note the basalt standing stones, the seated man, the crouched lion, and the slab to receive offerings — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Jason’s Tomb (2nd Temple Period)

Jason’s tomb is a beautiful funeral monument from the late Hellenistic – early Roman period. It was the tomb of a high priestly family that was forced out of Jerusalem in 172 B.C. (2 Maccabees 5:5-10) by their rival, Menelaus. It was constructed in the second century B.C. and was in use until A.D. 30 (about the time of the crucifixion of Jesus).  This tomb was discovered in 1956 and is located in west Jerusalem—in Rehavia. It consists of several courtyards and a “pyramid-shaped” roof.

Entrance to Jason’s Tomb

Continue reading

MoM — Introduction (MoM = Monday on the Mount)

One of my favorite passages about Jerusalem is found in Psalm 132:

For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling:
“This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it—
I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor will I satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her saints will ever sing for joy.

“Here I will make a horn grow for David
and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
I will clothe his enemies with shame,
but the crown on his head will be resplendent.” (NIV)

For the ancient Israelite/Judean this passage must have given them much comfort in the face of ancient enemies who confronted them.  But how is a “modern,” especially a Christian who takes the word of God seriously, to interpret such a passage.  In this series we will explore the theological significance of passages such as this both to the ancients and to moderns.


Each Monday I would like to mention those authors who have helped me along the way—especially in regard to biblical theology.

Especially important was Walter C. Kaiser Jr. who was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the late 1960′s  and early 1970′s when I was there.  His early work, Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) that treats the “promise theme,” has had a great influence on the thinking of many, including myself —the revised version is called The Promise-Plan of God.  I will return to his work in many places, but especially with regard to the “Patriarchal Promise” (Genesis 12:1-3; etc.).


Next week I will treat Genesis 2:15.

 

Mondays on the Mount of Olives

Since 1973 I have been working with academic groups in Israel.  Often the first 4 or 5 days in Israel are spent in and around the city of Jerusalem visiting sites associated with biblical events and the whole gamut of the history of Jerusalem and its surroundings.  At the end of this sequence I like to visit the top of the Mount of Olives—early, before the tourist buses arrive.  This gives us a chance to sit and enjoy the early sunlight as it illumines “Jerusalem of Gold.”  At this time the students review and identify what they know about Jerusalem and its surrounds—sweeping from Nebi Samwil in the northwest, south through the Old City to Har Gilo in the southwest (see partially the photo in the header above!).  Pride of place certainly goes to the walls of the Old City, the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and now(!) the Hurva Synagogue—not to mention the Dormition Abbey and Mount Zion.

After reviewing the “stones” and the history of Jerusalem I like to take about 20(!) minutes to reflect on the “theology of Jerusalem” as it is presented in the Bible (my favorite deaf mute vendor patiently waits until I am finished—and I promote his wares!).  I begin in Genesis 2:15 and end in Revelation 22—yes, all of it 2o minutes!  This reflection is based upon a summary of a class that I taught to university students for 15+ years entitled “Jerusalem: Earthly City Heavenly Symbol.”  It was one of the most popular classes that I taught.  I have been amazed at how much of the Bible can be tied into the City of Jerusalem!

At one point I had hoped to write a book on this topic but I have never had the time to do all of the relevant scholarly research for such a project.  And indeed over the years others have approached this topic in somewhat similar but different ways.

Because of the importance of a “a biblical theology of Jerusalem,” and its usefulness to those I have shared it with in the past, I invite you to join me every Monday for “Mondays on the Mount of Olives.”