The Name. The name "Jerusalem" occurs 806 times in the Bible, 660 times in the Old Testament and 146 times in the New Testament; additional references to the city occur 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 of David." Steep slopes on each side of the hill provided a defensible site, and a spring at the foot of the hill provided necessary water. The earliest probable occurrence of the name appears in the Execration Texts of Egypt (nineteenth to eighteenth centuries b.c.) as Rusalimum. The Amarna Letters from Late Bronze Age Egypt (fourteenth century b.c.), written in the Akkadian language, include the name Urusalim. In Assyrian and Babylonian texts relating to the kingdom of Judah, Ursalimmu or a similar 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 name consists of two elements: yrw and salem [el'v]. yrwmay signify "foundation" or "city, " while salem [el'v] is the name 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 certain sanctity adhered to the city long before David acquired it.
Jerusalem in the Old Testament. Salem. The first occurrence of Jerusalem is in Joshua 10:1, but an allusion to Jerusalem appears in Genesis 14:18 with the reference to Melchizedek, king of Salem. Poetic parallel construction in Psalm 76:2 ( Heb 76:3 ) equates Salem with Zion. Theologically, the Canaanite city of Shalem has become the biblical city of Shalom, Peace. Prophetically, Isaiah spoke of the Prince of Peace (Shalom) who would reign 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 as Jebus, 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 also renamed the city Aelia Capitolina, but in both cases the older name revived.
City of David. Second Samuel recounts David's conquest of Jebus, exploiting the secret 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 of David" ( 5:9 ).His subsequent construction of a palace made Jerusalem a royal city. His decision to rule from Jerusalem elevated a city, poorly situated for either trade or military activity, to capital status. The politically neutral city, belonging to neither the northern nor southern tribes, also became his personal property.
David transformed Jerusalem into the religious center of his kingdom by bringing into it the ark of the covenant ( 2 Sam 6:1-19 ).Although David was not allowed to construct a temple, the arrival of the ark forever linked Jerusalem with the cult of Yahweh. Solomon, David's son, enhanced the religious dimension of the city by constructing the temple of the Lord, symbolizing the presence of Yahweh in Jerusalem and Israel. David began the process of establishing the royal and religious nature of Jerusalem, but it was Solomon who transformed the former Jebusite stronghold into a truly capital and national cultic center. The royal and covenantal functions of Jerusalem are linked in Psalm 2:6, where God announces that "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."
Jerusalem is imbued with an eternal nature in several passages in the Old Testament. As Yahweh's spokesman, Nathan promised David a dynasty that would rule in perpetuity ( 2 Sam 7:15 ). This promise 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 ), the promise was conditional ( 1 Kings 9:6-9 ).
The Bible is full of references to the tension confronting the prophets and people of Jerusalem over the "eternal" nature of the city and the conditions. Isaiah, for example, understood that the Lord would shield Jerusalem ( 31:5 ), but he was also aware that certain conditions did apply ( 1:19-20 ; 7:9 b). Although painfully aware of the transgressions of the city ( 1:21-23 ), he nevertheless retained a hopeful vision for its future ( 2:3 ). Micah, Isaiah's contemporary, held similar views ( 3:12 ; 5:1-4 ). The prophets knew that the destruction of the city was imminent, for the cult had become corrupt and Jerusalem, the home of the covenant, would have to pay the price. The people's belief in the mere presence of the cult as a talisman against harm was not enough to save them from the discipline of destruction.
The idea that Jerusalem was inviolable persisted, however, no doubt strengthened in part 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, his contemporary, early on dismissed Jehoiakim as a despot worthy of the "burial of a donkey" ( Jer22:19 ). Jeremiah had supported the reforms of Josiah, but in the end the people were too hardened to change. They were convinced that the indestructible city and temple of the Lord would protect them in spite of their depravity ( Jer 7:4 ). When Jeremiah denied this and predicted the destruction of the temple, a century-old echo of Micah, it nearly cost him his life. Jerusalem did not change and the doom of exile was the result.
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 as Jerusalem 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 of the Great King, " the Lord ( Psalm 48:2 ; Matt 5:35 ). The demise of the kingdom of Judah brought the political rule of the Davidic dynasty to a close; thereafter the rule of the Davidic house was perceived in messianic and eschatological terms. Upon the return of the Jews from the exile to the ruins of Jerusalem, they rebuilt the temple but not the palace. The true sovereignty of God was spiritual rather than political.
Zion. "Zion" is likely derived from a Semitic root related to a fortified tower atop a mountain. Its earliest appearance in the Bible equates the stronghold 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 of the 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 may have prompted the shift of name.
The name "Zion" is seldom used in historical passages, but it occurs frequently in poetic and prophetic compositions as a synonym for all Jerusalem. In time Zion 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 these expressions the city has been personified. The extension of a place name to refer to its inhabitants recognizes that the character of a city is determined more by the traits of its population than by its buildings.
A visitor to modern Jerusalem will be shown the western hill rather than the City of David as Mount Zion. Through changing usage over the centuries the name has migrated to the west, but archaeology has shown that the original site was identical with the City of David. No matter where the name rests geographically, Zion's true significance is in the heavens 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 ). The rare use of the name, however, belies its theological significance. Abraham was instructed by God to take his son to the land of Moriah and there to offer him as a sacrifice. The place was three days' journey from Beersheba. The Chronicler, writing in the postexilic period, has connected the place of the offering of Isaac with not only Jerusalem but specifically with the Temple Mount. This is the earliest evidence for this connection which 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 to the 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 a substitutionary 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 of the references to mountain (Heb. har) in the Old Testament. The concept of a sacred mountain as the abode of deities was common in the ancient Near East. At Ugarit on the North Syrian coast, Mount Zaphon to the north was the sacred mountain. The most active of the gods of Ugarit was called Baal-Zaphon. Psalm 48:3 ( Heb 48:2 ), refers to Jerusalem as "the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King." 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. In the last days "Many peoples will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord'" ( 2:3 ). The word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem; nations will convert weapons into agricultural implements and men will not learn war anymore. Then Jerusalem shall become the city of peace indeed.
Ariel. "Ariel" occurs five times as the name of David's city only in Isaiah 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 slight emendation, "the city of God." Another emendation would yield "the mountain of God, " congruent with similar references noted above.
Postexilic Jerusalem. The restoration of the Jewish people to Jerusalem was decreed 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 dominated the 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 temple was accelerated through the prodding of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah; the structure was completed and dedicated in 516 b.c. The city's walls were rebuilt under Nehemiah's leadership (ca. 445 b.c.). Ezra instituted religious reforms based on the "Book of the Law of Moses, " probably the Pentateuch, which he brought back with him from Babylon ( 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, a city 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 affected Jerusalem and its people, weakening religious devotion and practices particularly among the priestly ruling elite (cf. 1 Macc. 1:14). The Syrian Seleucid dynasty wrested control of Jerusalem from the Egyptians in 198 b.c. Finally, after Antiochus IV desecrated the temple 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 attained political independence and became a dynasty of priest-kings who ruled until Herod the Great 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. His reconstruction of the temple and the expansion of its platform made it the crown jewel of Jerusalem. At the same time, the Dead Sea Scroll community who deemed the Jerusalem temple despised by God, contemplated a New Jerusalem, completely rebuilt as a Holy City and with a new temple as its centerpiece (Temple Scroll). Herodian Jerusalem survived until the war with Rome in 66-70 a.d.; the city then suffered siege and destruction. It is in the context of Jerusalem before the destruction occurred that New Testament references are set.
Jesus and Jerusalem. In the Synoptic Gospels Jerusalem is first mentioned in connection with the birth stories of Jesus: Zechariah's vision in the temple ( Luke 1:5-23 ), the visit 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 in fact New Testament references to Jerusalem are predominantly in Luke-Acts. Jesus is tempted by Satan at the highest point of the temple just prior to the start of his ministry in Galilee ( 4:9-13 ). Further, Luke records the "travel account" (9:51-19:27) in which Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem and the inevitable events that were to take place there for, as Jesus observed, "surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!" ( 13:33 ). Jerusalem and the temple symbolized the covenant between God and his people, but the covenant relationship was askew. Luke records Jesus' tears and sorrow over Jerusalem and his prophecy of its destruction ( 19:41-44 ).
Jewish messianism had long anticipated the return of a Davidic king to the city. The arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, described in Luke 19, was perceived as a royal procession by followers and adversaries alike. Jesus saw that the temple had become a 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 the fulfillment of this role through his death upon the cross was to take place outside the city, Jerusalem provided the backdrop for his Passion. Luke records many of the activities of that last week: the Last Supper, the arraignment before the high priest, Peter's denial, the trial before Pilate all took place within Jerusalem. And some postresurrection appearances of Jesus took place in Jerusalem ( 24:33-49 ) where his disciples were to await the coming of the Holy Spirit ( 24:49 ). Luke's Gospel closes with the call of Jesus to preach in his name to all nations "beginning at Jerusalem" ( 24:49 ).
Matthew recalls the sanctity of Jerusalem as the "holy city" ( 4:5 ), and Jesus refers 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 ). New Testament references to Zion mainly recall Old Testament passages; however, the heavenly Jerusalem 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, he notes the "massive stones" of the temple ( 13:1 ). All three Synoptic Gospels record the splitting of the curtain in the Jerusalem temple during the crucifixion. The Holy of Holies, the former center of covenant, was opened by this event to the new covenant with Christ.
The Synoptics are largely silent concerning any visits by Jesus to Jerusalem between childhood and his last week, but the Gospel of John supplements the record in this respect. 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 he healed the blind man at the pool of Siloam (chap. 9). The healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida is also recorded in John (chap. 5).
Paul and Jerusalem. Acts 1:4 notes that the apostles were to wait for the promised 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 mainstream Judaism. The city was central to the early Christian community, and its leaders frequented the temple as a place of prayer. In Jerusalem Paul received his commission to preach to the Gentiles ( 22:17-21 ).Paul remained in contact with the temple, praying ( 22:17 ) and seeking purification there ( 24:18 ).Paul expected Gentile Christians to identify with Jerusalem and to develop a sense of kinship with the Jerusalem church. He actively encouraged outlying churches to send support to the "poor among the saints at Jerusalem" ( Rom 15:26 ).
The Heavenly Jerusalem. New Testament Christians held the view that there was a city with foundations whose architect and builder was God ( Heb 11:10 ).Further, this was a heavenly Jerusalem "Mount Zion, the city of the living God" ( 12:22 ).The population would consist of those whose names are written in heaven. The eschatological view of Jerusalem that developed among Christians, aside from that of Judaism (cf. Isa60:14 ), looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise of the kingdom in the establishment of a New Jerusalem that would come "down out of heaven from God" ( Rev 21:2 ). This city is described in contrast to the city allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, that is, the earthly 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 urban scene, and that city is the New Jerusalem. For Christians, the identification of earthly Jerusalem 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 and Muslims, for it has retained through the centuries its role as the center of the three monotheistic religions.
Keith N. Schoville
See also New Jerusalem
Bibliography. M. Barker, The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple 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 Old Testament; P. W. L. Walker, Jerusalem: Past and Present in the Purposes of God.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
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[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
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[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 InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Jerusalem'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".