(Je·ruʹsa·lem) [Possession (Foundation) of Twofold Peace].
The capital city of the ancient nation of Israel from the year 1070 B.C.E. onward. Following the division of the nation into two kingdoms (997 B.C.E.), Jerusalem continued as the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah. Throughout the Scriptures there are more than 800 references to Jerusalem.
Name. The earliest recorded name of the city is “Salem.” (Ge 14:18) Whereas some try to associate the meaning of the name Jerusalem with that of a West Semitic god named Shalem, the apostle Paul shows that “Peace” is the true meaning of the latter half of the name. (Heb 7:2) The Hebrew spelling of this latter half suggests a dual form, hence “Twofold Peace.” In Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) texts the city was called Urusalim (or Ur-sa-li-im-mu). On this basis some scholars give the meaning of the name as “City of Peace.” But the Hebrew form, which logically ought to govern, apparently means “Possession (Foundation) of Twofold Peace.”
Many other expressions and titles were used in the Scriptures to refer to the city. The psalmist on one occasion uses the earlier name, “Salem.” (Ps 76:2) Other appellations were: “city of Jehovah” (Isa 60:14), “town of the grand King” (Ps 48:2; compare Mt 5:35), “City of Righteousness” and “Faithful Town” (Isa 1:26), “Zion” (Isa 33:20), and “holy city” (Ne 11:1; Isa 48:2; 52:1; Mt 4:5). The name “el Quds,” meaning “the Holy [City],” is still the popular name for it in Arabic. The name shown on present-day maps of Israel is Yerushalayim.
Location. Comparatively remote from principal international trade routes, Jerusalem lay on the edge of an arid wilderness (the Wilderness of Judah), its water supplies being limited. Nevertheless, two internal trade routes did intersect near the city. One ran in a N-S direction along the top of the plateau forming the “backbone” of ancient Palestine, and this route linked together such cities as Dothan, Shechem, Bethel, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Beer-sheba. The second route ran in an E-W direction from Rabbah (modern ʽAmman), cut through torrent valleys to the Jordan River basin, ascended the steep Judean slopes, and then wound down the western slopes to the Mediterranean Coast and the seaport town of Joppa. Additionally, Jerusalem was centrally located for the whole area of the Promised Land, hence appropriate for a state administration center.
Lying about 55 km (34 mi) inland from the Mediterranean Sea and some 25 km (16 mi) due W of the northern end of the Dead Sea, Jerusalem rests among the hills of the central mountain range. (Compare Ps 125:2.) Its altitude of about 750 m (2,500 ft) above sea level made it one of the highest capital cities in the world at that time. Its “loftiness” is mentioned in the Scriptures, and travelers had to ‘go up’ from the coastal plains to reach the city. (Ps 48:2; 122:3, 4) The climate is pleasant, with cool nights, an average annual temperature of 17° C. (63° F.), and an average annual rainfall of about 63 cm (25 in.), the rain falling mainly between November and April.
Despite its height, Jerusalem does not stand up above the surrounding terrain. The traveler gets a full view of the city only when quite close. To the E, the Mount of Olives rises about 800 m (2,620 ft). North of it, Mount Scopus reaches about 820 m (2,690 ft), and the encircling hills on the S and W rise as high as 835 m (2,740 ft). These elevations give a view of the situation in relation to the Temple Mount (c. 740 m [2,430 ft]).
In times of war, this situation would seem to constitute a serious disadvantage. Any drawback, however, was compensated for by the city’s being surrounded on three sides by steep-walled valleys: the torrent valley of Kidron on the east and the Valley of Hinnom on the south and west. A central valley, apparently referred to by Josephus as the Tyropoeon Valley (or “the Valley of the Cheesemakers”), bisected the city area into eastern and western hills or spurs. (The Jewish War, V, 136, 140 [iv, 1]) This central valley has filled in considerably throughout the centuries, but a visitor still must make a rather sharp descent to a central hollow and then climb up the other side when crossing the city. There is evidence that, in addition to the N-S central valley, two smaller E-W valleys, or depressions, further divided the hills, one cutting across the eastern hill and the other across the western.
The steep valley walls seem to have been incorporated into the city’s defensive wall system in all periods. The only side of the city lacking in natural defense was that on the N, and here the walls were made especially strong. When attacking the city in 70 C.E., General Titus, according to Josephus, was faced with three successive walls on that side.
Water Supply. Jerusalem’s inhabitants suffered from serious food shortages in siege, but evidently had no great water problem. For, in spite of its nearness to the arid Judean Wilderness, the city had access to a constant supply of fresh water and had adequate storage facilities within the city walls.
Two springs, En-rogel and Gihon, were located near the city. The first lay a little S of the junction of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys. While a valuable source of water, its position made it inaccessible during times of attack or siege. The Gihon spring lay on the W side of the Kidron Valley, alongside what came to be called the City of David. Though outside the city walls, it was close enough that a tunnel could be excavated connecting to a shaft, enabling the city’s inhabitants to draw water without going outside the protective walls. This was done early in the city’s history, according to the archaeological evidence. In 1961 and 1962, excavations revealed a substantial early wall, situated below the upper end, or entrance, of the tunnel, hence enclosing it. It is thought to be the wall of the old Jebusite city.
Over the years, additional tunnels and canals were formed to channel Gihon’s waters. One channel ran from the mouth of the cave of the Gihon spring down the valley and around the end of the SE hill to a pool located at the junction of the Hinnom Valley with the central or Tyropoeon Valley. According to what has been found, it was in the form of a trench, covered with flat stones, and tunneled through the hillside at points. Openings at intervals allowed for water to be drawn off for irrigation of the valley terraces below. The canal’s gradient of about 4 or 5 millimeters per meter (less than 0.2 in. per yd) produced a slow gentle flow, reminding one of “the waters of the Shiloah that are going gently.” (Isa 8:6) It is suggested that this canal, unprotected and vulnerable, was constructed during Solomon’s reign, when peace and security were predominant.
Jerusalem’s homes and buildings were evidently equipped with underground cisterns, supplementing the supply of water from springs. Rainwater collected from the roofs was stored therein, kept clean and cool. The temple area seems to have had particularly large cisterns, archaeologists claiming to have plotted 37 cisterns there with a total capacity of about 38,000 kl (10,000,000 gal), one cistern alone estimated as capable of holding 7,600 kl (2,000,000 gal).
Over the centuries a number of aqueducts, or conduits, were built, in order to provide water for Jerusalem. Tradition ascribes to Solomon the construction of a conduit from the “Pools of Solomon” (three reservoirs SW of Bethlehem) to the temple enclosure at Jerusalem. At Ecclesiastes 2:6, Solomon says: “I made pools of water for myself, to irrigate with them the forest.” Such a large undertaking as the building of the pools could well have included the building of a conduit for the larger supply of water that would be needed at Jerusalem after the temple services were instituted. However, there is no evidence, other than tradition, to support the Solomonic origin of a conduit from the Pools of Solomon to Jerusalem. A number of aqueducts can still be traced. One conduit constructed to carry water from springs in the Wadi el-ʽArrub 20 km (12 mi) SSW of Jerusalem to the Pools of Solomon is possibly the one alluded to by Josephus, who says that it was constructed by Pontius Pilate with temple treasury funds. (Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, 60 [iii, 2]; The Jewish War, II, 175 [ix, 4]) Of the two aqueducts leading from the Pools of Solomon to Jerusalem, the lower one is the older, possibly dating from the time of Herod or of the Hasmonaeans. This aqueduct passed under the village of Bethlehem and ran on to the Temple Mount over “Wilson’s Arch.”
Archaeological Research. Though much research and excavation have been carried out, few concrete facts have been determined as to the city of Bible times. Various factors have restricted investigation or limited its value. Jerusalem has had almost continuous occupation in the Common Era, thus severely reducing the area available for excavation. Then, too, the city was destroyed a number of times, with new cities built on top of the ruins and often made, in part, from material of those ruins. The piling up of debris and rubble, in some places about 30 m (100 ft) deep, has obscured the early contours of the site and made the interpretation of the excavated evidence a precarious task. Some wall sections, pools, water tunnels, and ancient tombs have been unearthed, but very little written material. Principal archaeological discoveries have come from the SE hill, which now lies outside the city walls.
The main sources of information regarding the ancient city, therefore, remain the Bible and the description of the first-century city given by Jewish historian Josephus.
Early History. The first historical mention of the city comes in the decade between 1943 and 1933 B.C.E., when Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek took place. Melchizedek was “king of Salem” and “priest of the Most High God.” (Ge 14:17-20) However, the origins of the city and of the population that composed it are as wrapped in obscurity as is the origin of its king-priest Melchizedek.—Compare Heb 7:1-3.
Apparently another event in Abraham’s life involved the vicinity of Jerusalem. Abraham was commanded to offer up his son Isaac on “one of the mountains” in “the land of Moriah.” The temple built by Solomon was erected on “Mount Moriah” on a site that previously had been a threshing floor. (Ge 22:2; 2Ch 3:1) Thus, the Bible apparently links the place of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice with the mountainous region around Jerusalem. (See MORIAH.) Whether Melchizedek was still living then is not revealed; but Salem likely remained friendly territory for Abraham.
The Amarna Tablets, written by Canaanite rulers to their Egyptian overlord, include seven letters from the king or governor of Jerusalem (Urusalim). These letters were written prior to the Israelite conquest of Canaan. Thus, Jerusalem, in the approximately 465-year period between Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedek and the Israelite conquest, had become the possession of pagan Hamitic Canaanites and was under the domination of the Hamitic Egyptian Empire.
The account of Joshua’s sweeping conquest of Canaan lists Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, among the confederate kings attacking Gibeon. His name (meaning “(My) Lord Is Righteousness”) closely parallels that of Jerusalem’s earlier King Melchizedek (“King of Righteousness”), but Adoni-zedek was no worshiper of the Most High God, Jehovah.—Jos 10:1-5, 23, 26; 12:7, 8, 10.
In the allotting of tribal territories, Jerusalem was on the boundary between Judah and Benjamin, the specific border running along the Valley of Hinnom. This would place at least what comprised the later “City of David,” situated on the ridge between the Kidron and Tyropoeon valleys, within the territory of Benjamin. Apparently the Canaanite city had additional settlements, or “suburbs,” however, and part of the settled area may have overlapped into Judah’s territory to the W and S of the Valley of Hinnom. Judah is credited with the initial capture of Jerusalem at Judges 1:8, but after the invading forces moved on, the Jebusite inhabitants apparently remained (or returned) in sufficient force to form a later pocket of resistance that neither Judah nor Benjamin could break. Thus, of both Judah and Benjamin it is said that the ‘Jebusites continued dwelling with them in Jerusalem.’ (Jos 15:63; Jg 1:21) This situation continued for some four centuries, and the city was at times referred to as “Jebus,” “a city of foreigners.”—Jg 19:10-12; 1Ch 11:4, 5.
During the United Kingdom. King Saul’s headquarters were at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. King David’s capital city was first at Hebron in Judah, about 30 km (19 mi) SSW of Jerusalem. After ruling there a total of seven and a half years (2Sa 5:5), he determined to transfer the capital to Jerusalem. This was by divine direction (2Ch 6:4-6), Jehovah having spoken centuries earlier of the ‘site where He would choose to place his name.’—De 12:5; 26:2; compare 2Ch 7:12.
It seems that the Jebusites at that time had their city on the southern end of the eastern spur. They were confident of the impregnability of their fortress city, with its natural defenses of steep valley walls on three sides and, probably, special fortifications on the north. It was known as “the place difficult to approach” (1Ch 11:7), and the Jebusites taunted David that even ‘the blind and the lame of the city’ could hold off his attacks. But David conquered the city, his attack being spearheaded by Joab, who evidently gained entry into the city by means of “the water tunnel.” (2Sa 5:6-9; 1Ch 11:4-8) Scholars are not entirely certain of the meaning of the Hebrew term here rendered “water tunnel,” but generally accept this or similar terms (“water shaft,” RS, AT; “gutter,” JP) as the most likely meaning. The brief account does not state just how the city’s defenses were breached. Since the discovery of the tunnel and shaft leading to the Gihon spring, the popular view is that Joab led men up this vertical shaft, through the sloping tunnel and into the city in a surprise attack. (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 951) By whatever means, the city was taken and David moved his capital there (1070 B.C.E.). The Jebusite stronghold now came to be known as “the City of David,” also called “Zion.”—2Sa 5:7.
David began a building program within the area, apparently also improving the city’s defenses. (2Sa 5:9-11; 1Ch 11:8) “The Mound” (Heb., ham·Mil·lohʼʹ) referred to here (2Sa 5:9) and in later accounts (1Ki 9:15, 24; 11:27) was some geographic or structural feature of the city, well known then but unidentifiable today. When David later transferred the sacred “ark of Jehovah” from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem, the city became the religious, as well as administrative, center of the nation.—2Sa 6:11, 12, 17; see BURIAL, BURIAL PLACES; DAVID, CITY OF; MOUND.
There is no record of Jerusalem’s being attacked by enemy forces during David’s reign, as he carried the battle to his foes. (Compare 2Sa 5:17-25; 8:1-14; 11:1.) On one occasion, however, David saw fit to abandon the city before the advance of rebel forces led by his own son, Absalom. The king’s retreat may have been to avoid having blood shed in civil war at this place where Jehovah’s name rested. (2Sa 15:13-17) Whatever the motive for the retreat, it led to the fulfillment of the inspired prophecy spoken by Nathan. (2Sa 12:11; 16:15-23) David did not allow the ark of the covenant to be evacuated with him but ordered the faithful priests to return it to the city, God’s chosen location. (2Sa 15:23-29) The description of the initial part of David’s flight as recorded at 2 Samuel chapter 15 outlines well the geographic features of the area on the E of the city.
Toward the close of his rule, David began preparing construction materials for the temple. (1Ch 22:1, 2; compare 1Ki 6:7.) The hewn stones prepared may have been quarried in that area, for the bedrock of Jerusalem itself is easily cut and chiseled to size and shape, yet, upon exposure to the weather, hardens into durable and attractive building stones. There is evidence of an ancient quarry near the present Damascus Gate, vast quantities of rock having been cut out there in the course of time.
A further view of the layout of the terrain around Jerusalem, this time to the E and S, is given in the account of the anointing of Solomon by order of aged King David. Another son, Adonijah, was at the spring of En-rogel, plotting to seize the kingship, when Solomon was anointed at the spring of Gihon. The distance between the two points was short enough (c. 700 m; 2,300 ft) that Adonijah and his coconspirators heard the noise of the horn and celebrations at Gihon.—1Ki 1:5-9, 32-41.
Solomon’s reign saw considerable building (and perhaps rebuilding) done within the city and expansion of its limits. (1Ki 3:1; 9:15-19, 24; 11:27; compare Ec 2:3-6, 9.) The temple, his outstanding construction work, with its associated courtyards was built on Mount Moriah on the eastern ridge but N of “the City of David,” evidently in the area of the present-day Dome of the Rock. (2Ch 3:1; 1Ki 6:37, 38; 7:12) Other major buildings nearby were Solomon’s own house or palace, the cedarwood House of the Forest of Lebanon, the Porch of Pillars, and the judicial Porch of the Throne. (1Ki 7:1-8) This building complex was apparently situated S of the temple on the gradual slope running down toward “the City of David.”—MAP, Vol. 1, p. 752; PICTURE, Vol. 1, p. 748.
Divided Kingdom (997-607 B.C.E.). Jeroboam’s rebellion split the nation into two kingdoms, and Jerusalem was left as the capital of two tribes, Benjamin and Judah, under Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Levites and priests also moved to the city where Jehovah’s name rested, thereby strengthening Rehoboam’s kingship. (2Ch 11:1-17) Jerusalem was now no longer at the geographic center of the kingdom, being only a few miles from the border of the hostile northern ten-tribe kingdom. Within five years of Solomon’s death, the city experienced the first of a number of invasions. King Shishak of Egypt attacked the kingdom of Judah, doubtless viewing it as vulnerable in its reduced state. Because of national unfaithfulness, he succeeded in entering Jerusalem, carrying off temple treasures and other valuables. Only because of repentance was a measure of divine protection granted, preventing actual ruin to the city.—1Ki 14:25, 26; 2Ch 12:2-12.
During faithful King Asa’s reign, King Baasha of the northern kingdom made an unsuccessful attempt to build up strength on Judah’s northern frontier in order to seal it off and prevent communication with Jerusalem (and possibly expressions of loyalty to the Judean kingdom by any of his subjects). (1Ki 15:17-22) The continuance of pure worship under the rule of Asa’s son Jehoshaphat brought divine protection and great benefits to the city, including improved provisions for the handling of legal cases.—2Ch 19:8-11; 20:1, 22, 23, 27-30.
Throughout the remainder of Jerusalem’s history as the capital of the Judean kingdom, this pattern continued. True worship brought Jehovah’s blessing and protection; apostasy led to grave problems and vulnerability to attack. The reign of Jehoshaphat’s unfaithful son Jehoram (913-c. 907 B.C.E.) saw the city invaded and looted a second time by an Arab-Philistine combine, this despite the strong defense walls. (2Ch 21:12-17) In the next century the deflection from a righteous course by King Jehoash resulted in Syrian forces ‘beginning to invade Judah and Jerusalem,’ the context implying that they were successful in entering the city. (2Ch 24:20-25) During Amaziah’s apostasy the northern kingdom of Israel invaded Judah, and broke down about 178 m (584 ft) of the vital northern wall between the Corner Gate (in the NW corner) and the Ephraim Gate (to the E of the Corner Gate). (2Ch 25:22-24) It is possible that, at some point prior to this, the city had expanded across the central valley onto the western ridge.
King Uzziah (829-778 B.C.E.) made notable additions to the city’s defenses, fortifying the (NW) Corner Gate and the Valley Gate (at the SW corner) with towers, as well as a tower at “the Buttress” (“the Angle,” RS, JB; “the Turning,” JP), apparently some part of the eastern wall not far from the royal buildings, either those of David or of Solomon. (2Ch 26:9; Ne 3:24, 25) Uzziah also equipped the towers and corners with “engines of war,” perhaps mechanical catapults for shooting arrows and large stones. (2Ch 26:14, 15) His son Jotham continued the building program.—2Ch 27:3, 4.
Faithful King Hezekiah, ruling after his father, the apostate Ahaz, did cleansing and repair work in the temple area and arranged a great Passover celebration that drew worshipers to Jerusalem from all over the land, the northern kingdom included. (2Ch 29:1-5, 18, 19; 30:1, 10-26) This stimulus for true worship, however, was soon followed by attack from pagan quarters, mockers of the true God whose name rested on Jerusalem. In 732 B.C.E., eight years after Assyria’s conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel, Assyrian King Sennacherib made a scythelike sweep through Palestine, diverting some troops to threaten Jerusalem. (2Ch 32:1, 9) Hezekiah had readied the city for a siege. He stopped up the water sources outside the city to hide them and make things difficult for the enemy, strengthened the walls, and fortified them. (2Ch 32:2-5, 27-30) It would seem that “the conduit” for bringing water into the city from the spring of Gihon was already constructed at this time, possibly being a peacetime project. (2Ki 20:20; 2Ch 32:30) If, as believed, it was the conduit that includes the tunnel cut through the side of the Kidron Valley with its termination at the Pool of Siloam in the Tyropoeon Valley, then it was no minor project to be completed in a few days. (See ARCHAEOLOGY [Palestine and Syria]; GIHON No. 2.) At any rate, the city’s strength lay not in its defensive systems and supplies but in the protective power of Jehovah God, who said: “And I shall certainly defend this city to save it for my own sake and for the sake of David my servant.” (2Ki 19:32-34) The miraculous destruction of 185,000 Assyrian troops sent Sennacherib scurrying back to Assyria. (2Ki 19:35, 36) When the campaign account was recorded in the Assyrian annals, it boasted of Sennacherib’s shutting Hezekiah up inside Jerusalem like a ‘bird in a cage,’ but it made no claim of capturing the city.—See SENNACHERIB.
The reign of Manasseh (716-662 B.C.E.) brought further wall construction along the Kidron Valley. It also saw the nation drift farther from true worship. (2Ch 33:1-9, 14) His grandson Josiah temporarily reversed this decline, and during his rule the Valley of Hinnom, used by idolatrous persons for vile ceremonies, was “made unfit for worship,” likely desecrated by being made into a city garbage dump. (2Ki 23:10; 2Ch 33:6) “The Gate of the Ash-heaps” apparently opened out onto this valley. (Ne 3:13, 14; see GEHENNA; HINNOM, VALLEY OF.) During Josiah’s time “the second quarter” (“the new town,” JB) of the city receives initial mention. (2Ki 22:14; 2Ch 34:22) This “second quarter” is generally understood to be the section of the city lying W or NW of the temple area.—Zep 1:10.
After Josiah’s death, the situation deteriorated rapidly for Jerusalem, as four unfaithful kings followed each other in succession. In King Jehoiakim’s eighth year Judah came into vassalage to Babylon. Jehoiakim’s revolt three years later provoked a successful Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, after which the city’s treasures were looted and the then king, Jehoiachin, and other citizens were deported. (2Ki 24:1-16; 2Ch 36:5-10) Babylon’s appointee, King Zedekiah, tried to throw off the Babylonian yoke, and in his ninth year (609 B.C.E.) Jerusalem again came under siege. (2Ki 24:17-20; 25:1; 2Ch 36:11-14) An Egyptian military force sent to relieve Jerusalem succeeded in drawing off the besiegers only temporarily. (Jer 37:5-10) True to Jehovah’s prophecy through Jeremiah, the Babylonians returned and renewed the siege. (Jer 34:1, 21, 22; 52:5-11) Jeremiah spent the latter part of the siege imprisoned in “the Courtyard of the Guard” (Jer 32:2; 38:28), connected with “the King’s House.” (Ne 3:25) Finally, 18 months from the start of the siege with its accompanying starvation, disease, and death, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, in Zedekiah’s 11th year, and the city was taken.—2Ki 25:2-4; Jer 39:1-3.
Desolation and Restoration. The city walls were breached on Tammuz 9, 607 B.C.E. A month later, on Ab 10, Nebuchadnezzar’s agent, Nebuzaradan, entered the conquered city and began demolition work, burning the temple and other buildings and proceeding to pull down the city walls. Jerusalem’s king and most of her people were exiled to Babylon and her treasures were carried away as plunder.—2Ki 25:7-17; 2Ch 36:17-20; Jer 52:12-20; PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 326.
The statement by archaeologist Conder that “the history of the ruined city remains a blank until Cyrus” is true not only of Jerusalem but also of the entire realm of the kingdom of Judah. Unlike the Assyrians, the Babylonian king moved no replacement peoples into the conquered region. A period of 70 years of desolation set in, even as prophesied.—Jer 25:11; 2Ch 36:21.
In “the first year” (evidently as ruler over Babylon) of Cyrus the Persian (538 B.C.E.) the royal decree went forth freeing the exiled Jews to “go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel.” (Ezr 1:1-4) The people who made the long trip to Jerusalem, carrying temple treasures with them, included 42,360 Israelites, besides slaves and professional singers. They arrived in time to celebrate the Festival of Booths in Tishri (September-October) 537 B.C.E. (Ezr 2:64, 65; 3:1-4) Temple rebuilding got under way under Governor Zerubbabel’s direction and, after serious interference and the infiltration of some apathy among the returned Jews, was finally completed by March of 515 B.C.E. More exiles returned with priest-scribe Ezra in 468 B.C.E., bringing additional things “to beautify the house of Jehovah, which is in Jerusalem” (Ezr 7:27), this by authorization of King Artaxerxes (Longimanus). The treasures brought by them were evidently worth more than $43,000,000.—Ezr 8:25-27.
About a century and a half after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest, the walls and gates of the city were still broken down. Nehemiah obtained permission from Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem and remedy this situation. (Ne 2:1-8) The account that follows of Nehemiah’s nighttime survey and of his apportioning the construction work to different family groups is a major source of information about the layout of the city at that time, especially of its gates. (Ne 2:11-15; 3:1-32; see GATE, GATEWAY.) This rebuilding was in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy and established the year that marked the start of the 70 prophetic “weeks” involving the coming of the Messiah. (Da 9:24-27) Despite harassment, in the short space of 52 days, in the year 455 B.C.E., they ringed Jerusalem with a wall and gates.—Ne 4:1-23; 6:15; 7:1; see SEVENTY WEEKS (“The Going Forth of the Word”).
Jerusalem was now “wide and great, [but] there were few people inside it.” (Ne 7:4) Following the public reading of Scriptures and celebrations in “the public square that was before the Water Gate” on the E side of the city (Ne 3:26; 8:1-18), arrangements were made to build up the city’s population by bringing in one Israelite out of every ten to dwell there. This was done by casting lots, but additionally there were evidently volunteers. (Ne 11:1, 2) A spiritual cleansing work was done to put the city’s population on a sound foundation as regards true worship. (Ne 12:47–13:3) Nehemiah’s governorship lasted 12 years or more and embraced a trip to the Persian king’s court. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he found need for further cleansing. (Ne 13:4-31) With the vigorous rooting out of apostasy he effected, the record of the Hebrew Scriptures closes, sometime after the year 443 B.C.E.
Hellenic and Maccabean Control. The changeover from Medo-Persian to Greek control came in 332 B.C.E. when Alexander the Great marched through Judah. The Greek historians make no mention of Alexander’s entry into Jerusalem. Yet the city did come under Greek dominion, and it is reasonable to assume that it was not completely bypassed by Alexander. Josephus, in the first century C.E., records the Jewish tradition that, upon approaching Jerusalem, Alexander was met by the Jewish high priest and was shown the divinely inspired prophecies recorded by Daniel foretelling the lightning conquests by Greece. (Jewish Antiquities, XI, 326-338 [viii, 4, 5]; Da 8:5-7, 20, 21) Whatever the case, Jerusalem seems to have survived the change in control free of any damage.
Following Alexander’s death, Jerusalem and Judea came under the control of the Ptolemies, who ruled out of Egypt. In 198 B.C.E. Antiochus the Great, ruling in Syria, after taking the fortified city of Sidon, captured Jerusalem, and Judea became a dominion of the Seleucid Empire. (Compare Da 11:16.) Jerusalem lay under Seleucid rule for 30 years. Then, in the year 168 B.C.E., Syrian King Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), in his attempt to Hellenize completely the Jews, dedicated Jerusalem’s temple to Zeus (Jupiter) and profaned the altar by an unclean sacrifice. (1 Maccabees 1:57, 62; 2 Maccabees 6:1, 2, 5; PICTURES, Vol. 2, p. 335) This led to the Maccabean (or Hasmonaean) revolt. After a three-year struggle, Judas Maccabaeus gained control of the city and temple and rededicated Jehovah’s altar to true worship on the anniversary of its profanation, Chislev 25, 165 B.C.E.—1 Maccabees 4:52-54; 2 Maccabees 10:5; compare Joh 10:22.
The war against the Seleucid rulers had not ended. The Jews appealed to Rome for help and thus a new power came on the Jerusalem scene in about 160 B.C.E. (1 Maccabees 8:17, 18) Now Jerusalem began to come under the influence of the expanding Roman Empire. About 142 B.C.E., Simon Maccabaeus was able to make Jerusalem the capital of a region ostensibly free from subservience to or taxation by Gentile nations. Aristobulus I, Jerusalem’s high priest, even assumed the title of king in 104 B.C.E. He was not, however, of the Davidic line.
Jerusalem was no ‘city of peace’ during this period. Internal quarrels, fired by selfish ambitions and worsened by rival religious factions—Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, and others—gravely weakened the city. A violent quarrel between Aristobulus II and his brother Hyrcanus resulted in Rome’s being called on to arbitrate the dispute. Under General Pompey, Roman forces besieged Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. for three months in order to enter the city and settle the dispute. Twelve thousand Jews reportedly died, many at the hands of fellow Israelites.
It is in Josephus’ account of Pompey’s conquest that the archway across the Tyropoeon Valley is first mentioned. It served as a link between the eastern and western halves of the city and gave those on the western half direct access to the temple area.
The Idumean Antipater (II) was now installed as Roman governor for Judea, a Maccabean being left as high priest and local ethnarch in Jerusalem. Later, Antipater’s son Herod (the Great) was appointed by Rome as “king” over Judea. He did not get control of Jerusalem until 37 or 36 B.C.E., from which date his rule effectively began.
Under Herod the Great. Herod’s rule was marked by an ambitious building program, and the city enjoyed considerable prosperity. A theater, gymnasium, and hippodrome (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 535), as well as other public buildings, were added. Herod also built a well-fortified royal palace (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 538), evidently on the W side of the city S of the present-day Jaffa Gate, where archaeologists believe they have found the foundation of one of the towers. Another fortress, the Tower of Antonia, lay near the temple and was connected with it by a passageway. (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 535; Jewish Antiquities, XV, 424 [xi, 7]) The Roman garrison could thus gain quick access to the temple area, as likely occurred when soldiers rescued Paul from a mob there.—Ac 21:31, 32.
Herod’s greatest work, however, was the reconstruction of the temple and its building complex. Beginning in his 18th year (Jewish Antiquities, XV, 380 [xi, 1]), the holy house itself was completed in a year and a half, but the work on the adjoining buildings and courtyards went on long after his death. (Joh 2:20) The total area encompassed was about double that of the previous temple area. Part of the wall of the temple courtyard apparently still stands, known today as the Western Wall, or the Wailing Wall. Archaeologists date the lower courses of huge 0.9-m-high (3 ft) blocks as from Herod’s construction.
From 2 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. The Christian Greek Scriptures now carry forward the description of events involving Jerusalem. Jesus’ birth took place, not at Jerusalem, but at nearby Bethlehem, “David’s city.” (Lu 2:10, 11) Nevertheless, the astrologers’ later report about the birth of the “king of the Jews” caused Herod and “all Jerusalem along with him” to become agitated. (Mt 2:1-3) Shortly after issuing his infamous decree ordering the killing of Bethlehem’s babes, Herod died, evidently in the year 1 B.C.E. (See HEROD No. 1.) His son Archelaus inherited rulership over Jerusalem and Judea as well as other areas. Rome later removed Archelaus for misdemeanors; thereafter governors who were directly appointed by Rome ruled, as did Pontius Pilate during Jesus’ ministry.—Lu 3:1.
Jesus was taken to Jerusalem 40 days after birth and presented at the temple as Mary’s firstborn. Aged Simeon and Anna rejoiced at seeing the promised Messiah, and Anna spoke of him “to all those waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.” (Lu 2:21-38; compare Le 12:2-4.) How many other times he was taken to Jerusalem during his childhood years is not stated, only one visit, made when he was 12, being specifically recorded. He then engaged in a discussion with teachers in the temple area, thus being occupied in the ‘house of his Father,’ in the chosen city of his Father.—Lu 2:41-49.
After his baptism and during his three-and-a-half-year ministry Jesus periodically visited Jerusalem; he certainly was there for the three annual festivals, attendance at which was obligatory for all Jewish males. (Ex 23:14-17) Much of his time, however, was spent outside the capital, as he preached and taught in Galilee and other regions of the land.
Aside from the temple area, where Jesus frequently taught, few other specific points in the city are mentioned in connection with his ministry. The Pool of Bethzatha with its five colonnades (Joh 5:2) is thought to be the one that was unearthed just N of the temple area. (See BETHZATHA.) The first-century Pool of Siloam may well be a pool recently found in the lowest part of the Tyropoeon Valley, which receives its water from the spring of Gihon through a channel. (Joh 9:11; PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 950) It is with regard to Jesus’ final visit to Jerusalem that a more detailed picture is given.—MAP, Vol. 2, p. 742; PICTURES, Vol. 2, p. 743.
Six days prior to the Passover festival of 33 C.E., Jesus came to Bethany, on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. The next day, Nisan 9, as Jehovah’s anointed King, he approached the capital city, mounted on the colt of an ass, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. (Mt 21:1-9) Coming down the Mount of Olives, he paused to view the city and wept over it, graphically foretelling the coming siege and desolation it would undergo. (Lu 19:37-44) Upon his entering the city, likely through a gate in the eastern wall, the whole city was “set in commotion,” for news would spread quickly throughout the relatively small area.—Mt 21:10.
During the remaining time, in which he spent the days in Jerusalem and the nights in Bethany (Lu 21:37, 38), Jesus cleansed the temple area of commercialists (Mt 21:12, 13), as he had done some three years earlier. (Joh 2:13-16) On Nisan 11 he was with four of his disciples on the Mount of Olives, from which the city and its temple could be viewed, when he gave his great prophecy regarding Jerusalem’s coming destruction and “the conclusion of the system of things,” as well as of his presence. (Mt 24; Mr 13; Lu 21) On Nisan 13 Peter and John arranged for the Passover meal in an upper room in Jerusalem where, that evening (the start of Nisan 14), Jesus celebrated the meal with his apostles. After his discussion with them, they left the city, crossed “the winter torrent of Kidron,” and climbed the slopes of the Mount of Olives to the garden called Gethsemane. (Mt 26:36; Lu 22:39; Joh 18:1, 2) Gethsemane means “Oil Press,” and olive trees of great age are yet to be found on the slope. But the exact location of the garden is today a matter of conjecture.—See GETHSEMANE.
Arrested that night, Jesus was led back into Jerusalem to priests Annas and Caiaphas and to the Sanhedrin hall for trial. (Mt 26:57–27:1; Joh 18:13-27) From there, at dawn, he was taken to Pilate at “the governor’s palace” (Mt 27:2; Mr 15:1, 16) and then to Herod Antipas, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. (Lu 23:6, 7) Finally, he was returned to Pilate for final judgment at “The Stone Pavement,” called “Gabʹba·tha” in Hebrew.—Lu 23:11; Joh 19:13; see STONE PAVEMENT.
Golgotha, meaning “Skull [Place],” was the site of Jesus’ impalement. (Mt 27:33-35; Lu 23:33) Though it obviously lay outside the city walls, probably toward the N, the site cannot now be identified with certainty. (See GOLGOTHA.) The same is true of the site of Jesus’ burial.—PICTURES, Vol. 2, p. 948.
“The potter’s field to bury strangers,” purchased with the bribe money Judas threw back to the priests (Mt 27:5-7), is traditionally identified with a site on the S side of the Hinnom Valley near its junction with the Kidron. Many tombs are found in this area.—See AKELDAMA.
During the apostolic period. Following his resurrection, Jesus gave orders to his disciples not to leave Jerusalem at that time. (Lu 24:49; Ac 1:4) This was to be the starting point for preaching repentance for forgiveness of sins on the basis of Christ’s name. (Lu 24:46-48) Ten days after his ascension to heaven, the disciples, gathered together in an upper room, received the anointing by holy spirit. (Ac 1:13, 14; 2:1-4) Jerusalem was crowded with Jews and proselytes from all parts of the Roman Empire, in attendance at the Festival of Pentecost. The witnessing done by the spirit-filled Christians resulted in thousands becoming baptized disciples. With thousands bearing witness to their faith, it is no wonder the angry religious leaders cried: “Look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” (Ac 5:28) Miracles performed added power to the testimony, as, for example, the healing of the lame beggar at “the temple door that was called Beautiful,” likely the E gate of the Court of Women.—Ac 3:2, 6, 7.
Even after the witnessing began to spread out from Jerusalem to “Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth” (Ac 1:8), Jerusalem continued to be the location of the governing body of the Christian congregation. Persecution early caused ‘all except the apostles to be scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.’ (Ac 8:1; compare Ga 1:17-19; 2:1-9.) From Jerusalem, certain apostles and disciples were sent out to aid new groups of believers, as at Samaria. (Ac 8:14; 11:19-22, 27) Saul of Tarsus (Paul) soon found it advisable to cut short his first visit to Jerusalem as a Christian because of attempts to murder him. (Ac 9:26-30) But there were also periods of calm. (Ac 9:31) Here Peter reported to the Christian assembly about God’s acceptance of Gentile believers and here, too, the issue of circumcision and related matters were settled.—Ac 11:1-4, 18; 15:1, 2, 22-29; Ga 2:1, 2.
Jesus had called Jerusalem “the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her.” (Mt 23:37; compare vss 34-36.) Though many of her citizens showed faith in God’s Son, the city as a whole continued to follow the pattern of the past. For this, ‘her house was abandoned to her.’ (Mt 23:38) In 66 C.E. a Jewish revolt brought Roman forces under Cestius Gallus to the city, surrounding it and making a thrust right up to the temple walls. Suddenly Cestius Gallus withdrew for no apparent reason. This allowed Christians to put into action Jesus’ instructions: “Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of [Jerusalem] withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her.” (Lu 21:20-22) Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History (III, V, 3), states that the Christians fled from Jerusalem and the whole land of Judea to a city of Perea that was called Pella.
Jerusalem’s relief as a result of the Roman withdrawal was short-lived, as it had been when the Babylonians temporarily withdrew to deal with the Egyptians near the end of King Zedekiah’s reign. Under General Titus the Roman forces returned in 70 C.E. in increased numbers and laid siege to the city, now crowded with Passover celebrants. Siege banks were thrown up by the Romans, and a continuous wall or fence was erected around the entire city to prevent escape by day or night. This, too, fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy. (Lu 19:43) Within the city rival factions quarreled and fought, much of the food supply was destroyed, and those caught attempting to leave the city were slain as traitors. Josephus, the source of this information, relates that in time the famine became so grave that the people were reduced to eating wisps of hay and leather, even their own children. (Compare La 2:11, 12, 19, 20; De 28:56, 57.) Titus’ offers of peace were consistently rejected by the stubborn city leaders.
Eventually the walls were systematically breached by the Romans, and their troops invaded the city. (PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 752) Despite orders to the contrary, the temple was burned and gutted. According to Josephus, this took place on the anniversary of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the first temple centuries earlier. His account also states that the repository of the archives, housing the genealogical records of tribal and family descent and inheritance rights, was put to the fire. (The Jewish War, VI, 250, 251 [iv, 5]; II, 426-428 [xvii, 6]; VI, 354 [vi, 3]) Thus, the legal means for establishing the lineage of members of the Messianic tribe of Judah and the priestly tribe of Levi came to an end.
In just 4 months and 25 days, from April 3 to August 30, 70 C.E., the conquest had been effected. Thus, the tribulation, though intense, was remarkably short. The unreasoning attitude and actions of the Jews within the city doubtless contributed to this shortness. Though Josephus puts the number of dead at 1,100,000, there were survivors. Ninety-seven thousand captives were taken, many of whom were sent as slaves to Egypt or were killed by sword or beasts in the theaters of the Roman provinces. This, too, fulfilled divine prophecy.—De 28:68.
The entire city was demolished, with only the towers of Herod’s palace and a portion of the western wall left standing as evidence to later generations of the defensive strength that had availed nothing. Josephus remarks that, apart from these remnants, “the rest of the wall encompassing the city was so completely levelled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited.” (The Jewish War, VII, 3 [i, 1]) A relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome depicts Roman soldiers carrying off sacred vessels of the ruined temple.—Compare Mt 24:2; PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 752.
Later Periods. Jerusalem remained virtually desolate until about 130 C.E., when Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a new city, named Aelia Capitolina. This provoked a Jewish revolt by Bar Kokhba (132-135 C.E.), which succeeded for a time but was then crushed. Jews were not allowed in the Roman-built city for nearly two centuries. In the fourth century, Constantine the Great’s mother Helena visited Jerusalem and began the identification of the many so-called holy sites and shrines. Later the Muslims captured the city. Today there are two Islamic structures on the Temple Mount. Late in the seventh century Caliph ʽAbd al-Malik ibn Marwan built the Dome of the Rock on or near the temple site. Although also called a mosque, it is in reality a shrine. South of the Dome of the Rock is the el-Aqsa mosque, first constructed in the eighth century, but largely rebuilt in the eleventh century.
The City’s Significance. Jerusalem was far more than the capital of an earthly nation. It was the only city in all the earth upon which Jehovah God placed his name. (1Ki 11:36) After the ark of the covenant, associated with God’s presence, was transferred there, and even more so when the temple sanctuary, or house of God, was constructed there, Jerusalem became Jehovah’s figurative ‘residence,’ his “resting-place.” (Ps 78:68, 69; 132:13, 14; 135:21; compare 2Sa 7:1-7, 12, 13.) Because the kings of the Davidic line were God’s anointed, sitting upon “Jehovah’s throne” (1Ch 29:23; Ps 122:3-5), Jerusalem itself was also called “the throne of Jehovah”; and those tribes or nations turning to it in recognition of God’s sovereignty were, in effect, being congregated to the name of Jehovah. (Jer 3:17; Ps 122:1-4; Isa 27:13) Those hostile to or fighting against Jerusalem were, in actuality, opposing the expression of God’s sovereignty. This was certain to occur, in view of the prophetic statement at Genesis 3:15.
Jerusalem therefore represented the seat of the divinely constituted government or typical kingdom of God. From it went forth God’s law, his word, and his blessing. (Mic 4:2; Ps 128:5) Those working for Jerusalem’s peace and its good were therefore working for the success of God’s righteous purpose, the prospering of his will. (Ps 122:6-9) Though situated among Judah’s mountains and doubtless of impressive appearance, Jerusalem’s true loftiness and beauty came from the way in which Jehovah God had honored and glorified it, that it might serve as “a crown of beauty” for him.—Ps 48:1-3, 11-14; 50:2; Isa 62:1-7.
Since Jehovah’s praise and his will are effected primarily by his intelligent creatures, it was not the buildings forming the city that determined his continued use of the city but the people in it, rulers and ruled, priests and people. (Ps 102:18-22; Isa 26:1, 2) While these were faithful, honoring Jehovah’s name by their words and life course, he blessed and defended Jerusalem. (Ps 125:1, 2; Isa 31:4, 5) Jehovah’s disfavor soon came upon the people and their kings because of the apostate course the majority followed. For this reason Jehovah declared his purpose to reject the city that had borne his name. (2Ki 21:12-15; 23:27) He would remove “support and stay” from the city, resulting in its becoming filled with tyranny, with juvenile delinquency, with disrespect for men in honorable positions; Jerusalem would suffer abasement and severe humiliation. (Isa 3:1-8, 16-26) Even though Jehovah God restored the city 70 years after permitting its destruction by Babylon, making it again beautiful as the joyful center of true worship in the earth (Isa 52:1-9; 65:17-19), the people and their leaders reverted to their apostate course once more.
Jehovah preserved the city until the sending of his Son to earth. It had to be there for the Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled. (Isa 28:16; 52:7; Zec 9:9) Israel’s apostate course was climaxed in the impalement of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. (Compare Mt 21:33-41.) Taking place as it did at Jerusalem, instigated by the nation’s leaders with popular support, this made certain God’s complete and irreversible rejection of the city as representing him and bearing his name. (Compare Mt 16:21; Lu 13:33-35.) Neither Jesus nor his apostles foretold any restoration by God of earthly Jerusalem and its temple to come after the city’s divinely decreed destruction, which occurred in 70 C.E.
Yet the name Jerusalem continued to be used as symbolic of something greater than the earthly city. The apostle Paul, by divine inspiration, revealed that there is a “Jerusalem above,” which he speaks of as the “mother” of anointed Christians. (Ga 4:25, 26) This places the “Jerusalem above” in the position of a wife to Jehovah God the great Father and Life-Giver. When earthly Jerusalem was used as the chief city of God’s chosen nation, it, too, was spoken of as a woman, married to God, being tied to him by holy bonds in a covenant relationship. (Isa 51:17, 21, 22; 54:1, 5; 60:1, 14) It thus stood for, or was representative of, the entire congregation of God’s human servants. “Jerusalem above” must therefore represent the entire congregation of Jehovah’s loyal spirit servants.
New Jerusalem. In the inspired Revelation, the apostle John records information concerning the “new Jerusalem.” (Re 3:12) In vision John sees this “holy city” as “coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This is in relation to the vision he sees of “a new heaven and a new earth.” This “bride” was said to be “the Lamb’s wife.” (Re 21:1-3, 9-27) Other apostolic writings apply the same figure to the Christian congregation of anointed ones. (2Co 11:2; Eph 5:21-32) In Revelation chapter 14 “the Lamb” Christ Jesus is depicted as standing on Mount Zion, a name also associated with Jerusalem (compare 1Pe 2:6), and with him are 144,000 having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.—Re 14:1-5; see NEW JERUSALEM.
Unfaithful Jerusalem. Since much that is said concerning Jerusalem in the Scriptures is in condemnation of her, it is clear that only when faithful did Jerusalem symbolize the heavenly part of Jehovah’s organization and, at times, the true Christian congregation, “the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:16) When unfaithful, it was pictured as a prostitute and an adulterous woman; it became like the pagan Amorites and Hittites that once controlled the city. (Eze 16:3, 15, 30-42) As such, it could only represent apostates, those following a ‘prostitute’ course of infidelity to the God whose name they claim to bear.—Jas 4:4.
It can thus be seen that “Jerusalem” is used in a multiple sense, and the context must in each case be considered to gain correct understanding.—See APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS.
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JERUSALEM and VICINITY
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Bronze prutah minted during the Jewish war against Rome, proclaiming “Freedom of Zion”
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Bronze sestertius commemorating Roman conquest of Judea; front, Emperor Vespasian; reverse, “IVDAEA CAPTA” (Judea captured)