Jerusalem

Jerusalem [N] [T] [E] [H] [S]

The Name. The name "Jerusalem" occurs 806 times in the Bible, 660 timesin the Old Testament and 146 times in the New Testament; additional references to the cityoccur as synonyms.

Jerusalem was established as a Canaanite city by the Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000-3100b.c.), occupying the southeast hill that currently bears the name "City ofDavid." Steep slopes on each side of the hill provided a defensible site, and aspring at the foot of the hill provided necessary water. The earliest probable occurrenceof the name appears in the Execration Texts of Egypt (nineteenth to eighteenth centuriesb.c.) as Rusalimum. The Amarna Letters from Late Bronze Age Egypt (fourteenthcentury b.c.), written in the Akkadian language, include the name Urusalim. InAssyrian and Babylonian texts relating to the kingdom of Judah, Ursalimmu or asimilar form appears.

The archaeological investigation of Jerusalem is hampered by continued occupation;thus, even though no evidence exists for the sanctity of the site in Canaanite thought,human nature supports the assumption that the city had a religious center. The nameconsists of two elements: yrw and salem [el'v]. yrwmay signify "foundation" or "city, " while salem [el'v] is thename of a deity. The name means either "the foundation of (the god) Shalem," the patron-god of the city, or "the city of Shalem." Thus, a certainsanctity adhered to the city long before David acquired it.

Jerusalem in the Old Testament. Salem. The first occurrence of Jerusalem is inJoshua 10:1, but an allusion to Jerusalem appears in Genesis 14:18 with the reference toMelchizedek, king of Salem. Poetic parallel construction in Psalm 76:2 ( Heb 76:3 ) equatesSalem with Zion. Theologically, the Canaanite city of Shalem has become the biblical cityof Shalom, Peace. Prophetically, Isaiah spoke of the Prince of Peace (Shalom) who wouldreign on David's throne (in Jerusalem), a reference full of messianic portent ( Isa 9:6 ).

Jebus. At the time of the Israelite occupation of Canaan, Jerusalem was known asJebus, a shortened expression for "City of the Jebusites." References in Joshua,Judges, and 1 Chronicles note that Jebus is another name for Jerusalem. The Romans alsorenamed the city Aelia Capitolina, but in both cases the older name revived.

City of David. Second Samuel recounts David's conquest of Jebus, exploiting thesecret watershaft from the spring Gihon outside the city wall to its exit within the city.From that time on David "took up residence in the fortress, and called it the City ofDavid" ( 5:9 ).His subsequent construction of a palace made Jerusalem a royal city. His decision to rulefrom Jerusalem elevated a city, poorly situated for either trade or military activity, tocapital status. The politically neutral city, belonging to neither the northern norsouthern tribes, also became his personal property.

David transformed Jerusalem into the religious center of his kingdom by bringing intoit the ark of the covenant ( 2 Sam 6:1-19 ).Although David was not allowed to construct a temple, the arrival of the ark foreverlinked Jerusalem with the cult of Yahweh. Solomon, David's son, enhanced the religiousdimension of the city by constructing the temple of the Lord, symbolizing the presence ofYahweh in Jerusalem and Israel. David began the process of establishing the royal andreligious nature of Jerusalem, but it was Solomon who transformed the former Jebusitestronghold into a truly capital and national cultic center. The royal and covenantalfunctions of Jerusalem are linked in Psalm 2:6, where God announces that "I haveinstalled my King on Zion, my holy hill."

Jerusalem is imbued with an eternal nature in several passages in the Old Testament. AsYahweh's spokesman, Nathan promised David a dynasty that would rule in perpetuity ( 2 Sam 7:15 ). Thispromise was extended to Jerusalem because of its function as the royal city. In addition,Solomon described the temple as the place for God to "dwell forever" ( 1 Kings 8:13 ).While both kingship and covenant were to be centered in Jerusalem forever (cf. Psalms 132 ), thepromise was conditional ( 1 Kings 9:6-9 ).

The Bible is full of references to the tension confronting the prophets and people ofJerusalem over the "eternal" nature of the city and the conditions. Isaiah, forexample, understood that the Lord would shield Jerusalem ( 31:5 ), but he wasalso aware that certain conditions did apply ( 1:19-20 ; 7:9 b). Althoughpainfully aware of the transgressions of the city ( 1:21-23 ), henevertheless retained a hopeful vision for its future ( 2:3 ). Micah,Isaiah's contemporary, held similar views ( 3:12 ; 5:1-4 ). Theprophets knew that the destruction of the city was imminent, for the cult had becomecorrupt and Jerusalem, the home of the covenant, would have to pay the price. The people'sbelief in the mere presence of the cult as a talisman against harm was not enough to savethem from the discipline of destruction.

The idea that Jerusalem was inviolable persisted, however, no doubt strengthened inpart by the deliverance of the city from the siege of Sennacherib ( 2 Kings 19:20-36 ).Nearly a century later, following the apostasy of Manasseh and the reforms of Josiah,Jehoiakim ascended the throne of David in Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah, hiscontemporary, early on dismissed Jehoiakim as a despot worthy of the "burial of adonkey" ( Jer22:19 ). Jeremiah had supported the reforms of Josiah, but in the end the people weretoo hardened to change. They were convinced that the indestructible city and temple of theLord would protect them in spite of their depravity ( Jer 7:4 ). WhenJeremiah denied this and predicted the destruction of the temple, a century-old echo ofMicah, it nearly cost him his life. Jerusalem did not change and the doom of exile was theresult.

The Babylonian exile provided the environment for the transformation of Jerusalem,which lay desolate in ruins, into a spiritual symbol for the Jews. As important asJerusalem had been as a royal center for the kingdom of Israel and, after Solomon's death,for the kingdom of Judah, through the ages its importance has been as "the city ofthe Great King, " the Lord ( Psalm 48:2 ; Matt 5:35 ). Thedemise of the kingdom of Judah brought the political rule of the Davidic dynasty to aclose; thereafter the rule of the Davidic house was perceived in messianic andeschatological terms. Upon the return of the Jews from the exile to the ruins ofJerusalem, they rebuilt the temple but not the palace. The true sovereignty of God wasspiritual rather than political.

Zion. "Zion" is likely derived from a Semitic root related to afortified tower atop a mountain. Its earliest appearance in the Bible equates thestronghold of Zion with the City of David ( 2 Sam 5:7 ). Zion,then, was the fortified hill of Jebus conquered by David.

Zion was originally a geographic term for the City of David, but with the extension ofthe city northward to incorporate the Temple Mount, Zion came also to signify the dwellingplace of Yahweh ( Psalm9:11 ; [ 9:12 ]).The move of the ark of the covenant from the tent in the city to the temple proper mayhave prompted the shift of name.

The name "Zion" is seldom used in historical passages, but it occursfrequently in poetic and prophetic compositions as a synonym for all Jerusalem. In timeZion took on figurative as well as geographical connotations. Jerusalem is called the"Daughter of Zion ( Isa 1:8 ) and the"Virgin Daughter of Zion" ( 2 Kings 19:21 ).Jerusalem's inhabitants are called "sons of Zion" ( Lam 4:2 ), the"women of Zion" ( Isa 3:16 ), and the"elders of the Daughter of Zion" ( Lam 2:10 ). In theseexpressions the city has been personified. The extension of a place name to refer to itsinhabitants recognizes that the character of a city is determined more by the traits ofits population than by its buildings.

A visitor to modern Jerusalem will be shown the western hill rather than the City ofDavid as Mount Zion. Through changing usage over the centuries the name has migrated tothe west, but archaeology has shown that the original site was identical with the City ofDavid. No matter where the name rests geographically, Zion's true significance is in theheavens where God's dwelling will be with his people ( Rev 21:3-4 ).

Moriah. Moriah occurs only twice in the Bible ( Gen 22:2 ; 2 Chron 3:1 ). Therare use of the name, however, belies its theological significance. Abraham was instructedby God to take his son to the land of Moriah and there to offer him as a sacrifice. Theplace was three days' journey from Beersheba. The Chronicler, writing in the postexilicperiod, has connected the place of the offering of Isaac with not only Jerusalem butspecifically with the Temple Mount. This is the earliest evidence for this connectionwhich is also attested in Josephus (Ant. 1.13.1f [222-27]; 7.13.4 [329-34]), Bk. Jub.18:13, rabbinic literature, and Islamic thought (although with Ishmael as Abraham's son).This connection enhanced the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and contributed tothe basis for the Islamic name for the city, El-Quds, "The Holy (City)."

After Abraham was prevented from slaying Isaac, and the ram was provided as asubstitutionary sacrificial victim, Abraham called the name of the place Yahweh-jireh,"The Lord sees." Even so, the name never attained common usage.

The connection of Jerusalem with the sacred mountain of Yahweh is implicit in many ofthe references to mountain (Heb. har) in the Old Testament. The concept of a sacredmountain as the abode of deities was common in the ancient Near East. At Ugarit on theNorth Syrian coast, Mount Zaphon to the north was the sacred mountain. The most active ofthe gods of Ugarit was called Baal-Zaphon. Psalm 48:3 ( Heb 48:2 ), refersto Jerusalem as "the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the GreatKing." The poet has drawn on Canaanite imagery to enhance praise of the Lord.

Isaiah saw that ultimately the mountain of the Lord would be the goal of nations. Inthe last days "Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to themountain of the Lord'" ( 2:3 ). The word ofthe Lord will go out from Jerusalem; nations will convert weapons into agriculturalimplements and men will not learn war anymore. Then Jerusalem shall become the city ofpeace indeed.

Ariel. "Ariel" occurs five times as the name of David's city only inIsaiah 29. The meaning of the name is obscure. Perhaps it means "the hearth of God," compared to Ezekiel 43:15, or the "lion of God, " or, by a slightemendation, "the city of God." Another emendation would yield "the mountainof God, " congruent with similar references noted above.

Postexilic Jerusalem. The restoration of the Jewish people to Jerusalem wasdecreed by the Persian ruler Cyrus following his conquest of Babylon in 539 b.c.Sheshbazzar, a prince of Davidic descent, led the first group of exiles back in 538 b.c.,but there is no hint of the renewal of the monarchy. Persian political policy dominatedthe returnees. During this time a meager attempt at rebuilding the temple was undertaken.A second group of returnees arrived with Zerubbabel around 520 b.c. and work on the templewas accelerated through the prodding of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah; the structurewas completed and dedicated in 516 b.c. The city's walls were rebuilt under Nehemiah'sleadership (ca. 445 b.c.). Ezra instituted religious reforms based on the "Book ofthe Law of Moses, " probably the Pentateuch, which he brought back with him fromBabylon ( Neh 8:1 ).With this, the cult of Yahweh was fully reestablished in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in the New Testament. New Testament Jerusalem is Herodian Jerusalem, acity four centuries beyond the time of Ezra-Nehemiah. In those four hundred years,Jerusalem witnessed the demise of the Persian Empire and the domination of the Greeks.Under the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, the attractive influence of Greek culture affectedJerusalem and its people, weakening religious devotion and practices particularly amongthe priestly ruling elite (cf. 1 Macc. 1:14). The Syrian Seleucid dynasty wrested controlof Jerusalem from the Egyptians in 198 b.c. Finally, after Antiochus IV desecrated thetemple by sacrificing a hog on the altar, devout Jews led by the Hasmonean family(Maccabees) rose in rebellion to reclaim Jerusalem in 164 b.c. The Hasmoneans attainedpolitical independence and became a dynasty of priest-kings who ruled until Herod theGreat became king of Judea.

The Romans ended independent Jewish rule in 63 b.c. They place Herod on the throne in37 b.c., and he began the greatest building program Jerusalem had known. He constructed anew city wall, a theater and amphitheater, athletic fields, and a new palace. Hisreconstruction of the temple and the expansion of its platform made it the crown jewel ofJerusalem. At the same time, the Dead Sea Scroll community who deemed the Jerusalem templedespised by God, contemplated a New Jerusalem, completely rebuilt as a Holy City and witha new temple as its centerpiece (Temple Scroll). Herodian Jerusalem survived until the warwith Rome in 66-70 a.d.; the city then suffered siege and destruction. It is in thecontext of Jerusalem before the destruction occurred that New Testament references areset.

Jesus and Jerusalem. In the Synoptic Gospels Jerusalem is first mentioned inconnection with the birth stories of Jesus: Zechariah's vision in the temple ( Luke 1:5-23 ), thevisit of the Magi ( Matt2:1-12 ), and the presentation of the infant Jesus ( Luke 2:22-38 ).Luke records the visit of Jesus to the temple at age twelve ( 2:41-50 ), and infact New Testament references to Jerusalem are predominantly in Luke-Acts. Jesus istempted by Satan at the highest point of the temple just prior to the start of hisministry in Galilee ( 4:9-13 ). Further,Luke records the "travel account" (9:51-19:27) in which Jesus sets his facetoward Jerusalem and the inevitable events that were to take place there for, as Jesusobserved, "surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!" ( 13:33 ). Jerusalemand the temple symbolized the covenant between God and his people, but the covenantrelationship was askew. Luke records Jesus' tears and sorrow over Jerusalem and hisprophecy of its destruction ( 19:41-44 ).

Jewish messianism had long anticipated the return of a Davidic king to the city. Thearrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, described in Luke 19, was perceived as aroyal procession by followers and adversaries alike. Jesus saw that the temple had becomea commercial establishment rather than a center of spirituality. By "cleansing"the temple he reaffirmed its place of honor.

Jesus' role was to put humanity back in line with the will of God. Although thefulfillment of this role through his death upon the cross was to take place outside thecity, Jerusalem provided the backdrop for his Passion. Luke records many of the activitiesof that last week: the Last Supper, the arraignment before the high priest, Peter'sdenial, the trial before Pilate all took place within Jerusalem. And some postresurrectionappearances of Jesus took place in Jerusalem ( 24:33-49 ) wherehis disciples were to await the coming of the Holy Spirit ( 24:49 ). Luke'sGospel closes with the call of Jesus to preach in his name to all nations "beginningat Jerusalem" ( 24:49 ).

Matthew recalls the sanctity of Jerusalem as the "holy city" ( 4:5 ), and Jesusrefers to it as "the city of the Great King" ( 5:35 ). The name"Zion" in Matthew refers to fulfilled prophecy ( 21:5 ; cf. Rom 11:26 ). NewTestament references to Zion mainly recall Old Testament passages; however, the heavenlyJerusalem is identified as Zion in Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 14:1.

Mark's references to Jerusalem are set mainly in the Passion narrative; however, henotes the "massive stones" of the temple ( 13:1 ). All threeSynoptic Gospels record the splitting of the curtain in the Jerusalem temple during thecrucifixion. The Holy of Holies, the former center of covenant, was opened by this eventto the new covenant with Christ.

The Synoptics are largely silent concerning any visits by Jesus to Jerusalem betweenchildhood and his last week, but the Gospel of John supplements the record in thisrespect. According to John, Jesus cleansed the temple early in his ministry, following the"first sign" at Cana ( John 2:13-16 ).Jesus also attended the Feast of Tabernacles and taught in the temple ( 7:14 ). And hehealed the blind man at the pool of Siloam (chap. 9). The healing of the lame man at thepool of Bethsaida is also recorded in John (chap. 5).

Paul and Jerusalem. Acts 1:4 notes that the apostles were to wait for thepromised gift of the Father in Jerusalem, and the gospel began to be preached there (chap.2). In Jerusalem Stephen delineated the differences between Christianity and mainstreamJudaism. The city was central to the early Christian community, and its leaders frequentedthe temple as a place of prayer. In Jerusalem Paul received his commission to preach tothe Gentiles ( 22:17-21 ).Paul remained in contact with the temple, praying ( 22:17 ) and seekingpurification there ( 24:18 ).Paul expected Gentile Christians to identify with Jerusalem and to develop a sense ofkinship with the Jerusalem church. He actively encouraged outlying churches to sendsupport to the "poor among the saints at Jerusalem" ( Rom 15:26 ).

The Heavenly Jerusalem. New Testament Christians held the view that there was acity with foundations whose architect and builder was God ( Heb 11:10 ).Further, this was a heavenly Jerusalem "Mount Zion, … the city of the livingGod" ( 12:22 ).The population would consist of those whose names are written in heaven. Theeschatological view of Jerusalem that developed among Christians, aside from that ofJudaism (cf. Isa60:14 ), looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise of the kingdom in theestablishment of a New Jerusalem that would come "down out of heaven from God" ( Rev 21:2 ). This cityis described in contrast to the city allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, that is, theearthly Jerusalem, "where also their Lord was crucified" ( Rev 11:8 ).

The Bible begins with a bucolic setting in the Garden of Eden; it closes on an urbanscene, and that city is the New Jerusalem. For Christians, the identification of earthlyJerusalem as the dwelling place of God, which figures so frequently in the Old Testament,has been transformed into a heavenly Jerusalem, the true sanctuary of the Lord (cf. Gal 4:26 ; Heb 12:22-29 ).Nevertheless, Christians have always been drawn to the earthly Jerusalem, as have Jews andMuslims, for it has retained through the centuries its role as the center of the threemonotheistic religions.

Keith N. Schoville

See also NewJerusalem

Bibliography. M. Barker, The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of theTemple in Jerusalem; G. A. Barrois, IDB, 4:959-60; M. Burrows, IDB, 2:843-66;R. E. Clements, Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem; P. J. King, ABD, 4:747-66;W. H. Mare, ABD, 6:1096-97; idem, The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area; B.C. Ollenburger, Zion the City of the Great King; J. Simons, Jerusalem in the OldTestament; P. W. L. Walker, Jerusalem: Past and Present in the Purposes of God.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.


[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[H] indicates this entry was also found in Hitchcock's Bible Names
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Jerusalem'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.