Jerusalem (Jeremiah 4)

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Illustration: Jerusalem today

Evidence for habitation of Jerusalem goes back to the Chalcolithic Age, but it appears that the city was first fortified during the Middle Bronze period. 1 Chronicles 11:4 suggests that the pre-Israelite city was also called Jebus. Even so, the name “Jerusalem”, r something like it, appears to be very ancient. An eighteenth century B.C. Egyptian execration text mentions a Rosh-Iamem, and this appears to have been Jerusalem. The 12-acre Jebusite city captured by David’s men was located south of what would become the temple mount and was bounded on the east by the Kidron Valley and the west by the Tyropoenon Valley. It was surrounded during the Late Bronze and Iron Age by walls that were hardly modified until Nehemiah’s time. The city was watered by the Gihon spring, located below a protective tower just outside the northern walls. En-Rogel, a spring outside the city to the south, also provided water.

Solomon expanded the city to 32 acres. The threshingfloor of Araunach, on a second hill just north of David’s city, served as a platform for the templ-palace complex built by Solomon and was enclosed within a new wall. The depression between the two hills was filled in between newly constructed retaining walls on the eastern and western sides; this area was perhaps known as the Ophel (“swelling”). Few, if any, traces remain of Solomon’s temple, Babylonisans. Zerubbabel’s temple, built on the same foundation, was later greatly improved and expanded by Herod, then destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque presently cover the temple mount.

Over the course of time the city expanded, with new towers, gates and conduits for water added. Uzziah strengthened the walls with two towers along the western wall and the temple mount (2 Chronicles 26:15). The Tower of Hananel, at the Northwestern corner of the temple mount, also existed during this period. Jotham constructed the upper gate of the temple (2 Kings 15:35).

The population increased from an influx of the northern refugees after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C., and the city grew to 125 acres. Hezekiah extended the walls to enclose a hill to the west, known as Mishneh (“second quarter”) and constructed a tunnel to ensure water flow from the Gihon spring to the Lower Pool (2 Chronicles 32:30), an earlier tunnel directed water to an “Old” or Upper Pool. These improvements helped preserve the city from Sennacherib’s siege og 701 B.C.

Manasseh constructed a second wall near the Gihon spring (2 Chronicles 33:14). Sixteen gates are named in descriptions of pre-exilic and fifth century B.C. Jerusalem and three others in descriptions of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem; others may have existed. Some are named for nearby roads or associated geographic features, while others reflect the activities of citizens (e.g. Fish Gate, Sheep Gate, Water Gate).

Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C., but the temple and walls were rebuilt during the Persian period following a half century without occupation. However, the newly inhabited area encompassed only the original Davidic and Solomonic quarters. An area of peace under the Ptolemies and then the Romans allowed Judea to prosper. Hasmonean Jerusalem expanded to 165 acres, then to 230 acres under Herod, who constructed a large, fortified palace along the western wall, protected by three towers in the Northwestern corner. Another fortress protected the temple complex to the north, but this area and lower city were the first to fall at the attack of the Romans under Titus in A.D. 70.

Jerusalem is sacred to Jews, Christians and Moslems and has been inhabited almost continuously since ancient timess. These factors have ensured that much has been preserved – but also much has been lost. As later generations rebuilt over ancient cities, archaeological evidence vanished forever. Members of one religion at times deliberately destroyed what was sacred to another. Also, modern archaeologists have a limited ability to dig in the city for the simple reason that it is currently inhabited. Thus, although Jerusalem is by far the most important city of the Bible, many questions remain unanswered.


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