By Elizabeth Prata
Great Cities of the Bible #1: Damascus
Great Cities of the Bible #2: Babylon
Great Cities of the Bible #3: Rome
Great Cities of the Bible #4: Jerusalem
It all begins and ends with Jerusalem.
Actually let’s back up a bit. It all begins and ends with God.
Before the foundation of the world, God determined in His mind and His heart to select a people for Himself to have fellowship with. (Ephesians 1:4). He began with Adam and Eve, then made covenants through Noah, Abraham, David, and the entire People Israel. He revealed His extended operations and dealings with man by grafting in the Gentiles (all the world) to His promises of Redemption and grace through faith with any person who repents to Jesus, God’s Son.
Through all this Jerusalem has remained for almost the entire period the central city of God. Earlier named Salem, when we meet King Melchizedek of Salem, this city of Jerusalem is the true eternal city, not Rome as man has dubbed that ancient urban center.
Jerusalem! It is the eternal city, (Psalm 46:4, Revelation 3:12) God’s city where He has set His name, (1 Kings 11:36, 2 Chronicles 12:13) and is the city in which Immanuel (Matthew 1:23) will dwell in all His glory, (Zechariah 8:3) calling it Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There. (Ezekiel 48:35). It is the nickname He uses when he calls His people. (Zechariah 3:2). When Jesus returns, “Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of Yahweh of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.'” Says Zechariah 8:3.
It is a place that figures solely as the most important land, city, and people in the history of the earth. All of history is dwindling down to one focal point: Jerusalem. So let’s take a look at this incredible place.
In all of history, there’s never been a distinct people group who dwelled outside of a national homeland for thousands of years yet retained their identity like the Jewish people have. There has never been a people on earth restored to their homeland after dozens of generations. There has never been a case where generations upon generations who forgot their own language and let it die, had it restored to the entire nation. No people, that is, except for God’s people in God’s land and in God’s city- Jerusalem. This is God’s hand.
This tiny nation is mighty in many ways, because her very existence has generated hate and war since her birth. Just existing provokes the entire world into hating her. Allowing her to make her own sovereign decisions as a nation inflames the world (satan).
Ancient maps placed Jerusalem in the center of the page. They knew that Jerusalem is God’s city and is the fulcrum of history, the axle of the wheel, and the center of the world stage. In the Jewish tradition, the Ark in the Temple in Jerusalem, through which God dealt with his people through the High Priest, it is the Foundation marking the “navel of world”. Ezekiel 5:5, “This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations.”
We read a similar reference in Ezekiel 38:2, “to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth.”
And what of this land? What is it like? It is wonderful! From deserts of the southern Negev to the snow-capped mountains to the north, to the 270 miles of coastline along the Mediterranean and to the frontier at the east, it is a diverse land.
Jerusalem itself is about 2500 feet in elevation. It sits on a plateau within the mountains, which includes the Mount of Olives, and Mount Scopus. Valleys surround the city. We read in the Psalms some “Psalms of Ascent” because when Jews made the annual trek to the City for Passover, they climbed to the old City. They were ascending.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So Yahweh surrounds His people From now until forever. (Psalm 125:2).
And many mountains do surround the city, almost like a rampart. Some count the peaks numbering 7, and refer to the Revelation 17:9 verse describing a city of seven mountains upon which the harlot sits as Jerusalem, not Rome.
1. Mount Scopus,
2. Mount of Olives
3. Mount of Corruption
4. Mount Ophel
5. Mount Zion/Moriah (AKA the Temple Mount)
6. New Mount Zion
7. the Roman Antonia Fortress peak
The Kidron Valley runs to the east of Old Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives is actually separated from it. Along the southern side of old Jerusalem is the Valley of Hinnom, a steep ravine where hell or Gehenna is mentioned and the trash heaps blazed night and day. In biblical times, lush forests surrounded the city, forests of almond, pine, and olive. These forests are gone now. Due to the steep incline, farmers used a terracing system to keep the soil in place and those can still be seen today.
I’d mentioned that Jerusalem was the primary city for the Israelites for “most” of their life, but in the early years of the Israelite kingdom, the Ark of the Covenant was sometimes moved around to several sanctuaries, especially those of Shechem and Shiloh. Shiloh was the capital for almost 400 years, before the first temple was built. Jeremiah 7:12a says
“But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the beginning,
After King David’s capture of Jerusalem, the Ark was moved to Jerusalem. Its presence there signified the presence of the LORD within the Holy of Holies. Sadly, the people’s idolatry, bloodshed, and disobedience meant that eventually the glory would depart from the Temple (Ezekiel 9-10). This happened in advance of the Babylonian sacking of the temple. In fact, God’s glory would never again occupy a temple or a building on earth.
Today the glorious temple is mostly gone. Only the grounds and the Western Wall (a retaining wall) are left of the original building. Atop the grounds lies the Dome of the Rock, the 3rd most holy site in Islam. Will there be a third temple? Some believe so, that the events of Ezekiel 37 indicate a future restoration of the temple with Jesus bodily present and with His people:
And the nations will know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.
Jerusalem today is a bustling city, the intersection of three religions- Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. One day the ‘City of Truth’ will know only 1 true religion, and its inhabitants will worship Yahweh properly. What a day that will be!
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