The purpose of this article is to look at the history of one of the oldest cities in the world and to study more deeply the Biblical account and symbolism of it. By no means is this an exhaustive history of the city and the “7 eras” I utilize in this article are somewhat arbitrary and simply a way of summarizing the history and meaning of the city in a practical and easy to read way.
Jerusalem, also known to history as “Jebus” and “Salem” , is situated in the Judean mountains between the Mediterranean and Dead seas. It is thought to be the city of “Rusalim” mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts dated from the 19th century B.C. and is mentioned specifically as “Jerusalem” in some of the extra-biblical documents discovered in 1961 in Khirbet Beit Lei . These date back to the 6th or 7th century B.C.
You can find each article by clicking on the links below. Enjoy and God bless!
The 7 Eras will include:
Abraham, Melchizedek and Moriah ( posted below)
Joshua and the Tribe of Benjamin
King David and King Solomon
Ezra, Nehemiah and the Maccabees
Jesus and His Disciples
From the NT till Modern Times
The New Jerusalem, Heaven's city
Era 1 - Abraham, Melchizedek and Moriah
In Genesis 14 we see Abraham meeting with a somewhat mysterious figure named Melchizedek who is called a priest of El Elyon ( The Most High God) and “The King of Salem” . This is long before the Aaronic priesthood was initiated so, not unlike Job, he seems to be a man who , though outside of the line of Abraham, was in close communion with God.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.”
Melchizedek literally means “King of Righteousness” and he is, here, also given the title King of Salem. Salem, of course means peace in Hebrew. However it is understood that this is more than a metaphorical title as “Salem” , both historically and Biblically, refers to the city of Jerusalem (See Psalm 76:2).
There is some debate as to whether Melchizedek refers to a literal historical figure or to an occurrence of “Christophany” ( where there is a pre-Bethlehem appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament). However most Christians ( including Evangelicals) believe this was a historical figure from the context of Scripture appearances and the fact that he is named as such by Josephus, the secular Jewish historian.
At the very least, Melchizedek was a magnificent antitype of Jesus Christ ( see Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews chapters 5 through 7) and is related to the first mention of Jerusalem in the Bible – apparently a place of righteousness and peace.
We also read the story of the testing of Abraham’s faith and the near offering of Isaac, his son.
“Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2
We see that Abraham knew God had a bigger plan afoot and Isaac would live – even if it meant the resurrection of his son ( Gen 22:5). However, it is important – as it often is in Scripture – to understand the geography of the story. In his book ‘Behold the Land”, J.B. Nicholson Jr. gives us tremendous insight into the place called “Moriah” – one that will be foundational to our understanding of Jerusalem’s significance.
“In fact, Moriah is a ridge with three peaks: The southern peak ( the threshing floor of Ornan) where the temple was built for the Jews (*by Solomon, ** II Chronicles 3:1) , and where the Dome of the Rock now stands; the central peak , where the Antonia fortress was built for the Romans; and the northern peak, where the Jews and the Romans united to execute the Son of God.”
Nicholson speculates that the northern peak makes the most sense as the location of where Abraham offered Isaac. Other commentators on the topic believe the term "Moriah" was used of Solomon's Temple Mount to symbolically, rather than literally, associate it with Abraham's trial (IVP Bible Background Commentary).
|A Sketch Map of Jerusalem and area|
* The term Zion is also used of the Temple Mount and, while we do not know all the details for certain, there is obviously some cross over between the terms "Moriah" and "Zion". GotQuestions.org states the following:
"The first mention of Zion in the Bible is 2 Samuel 5:7: “David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.” Zion was originally an ancient Jebusite fortress in the city of Jerusalem. After David’s conquest of the fortress, Jerusalem became a possession of Israel. The royal palace was built there, and Zion/Jerusalem became the seat of power in Israel’s kingdom..
When Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, the meaning of Zion expanded further to include the temple area (Psalm 2:6; 48:2, 11–12; 132:13). This is the meaning found in the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:6, “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.” In the Old Testament Zion is used as a name for the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 40:9), the land of Judah (Jeremiah 31:12), and the nation of Israel as a whole (Zechariah 9:13)."
Wikipedia reminds us that: "The term Mount Zion has been historically associated with the Temple Mount, but its meaning has shifted and it is now used as the name of ancient Jerusalem's so-called western hill. In a wider sense, the term is also used for the entire Land of Israel."