Jerusalem is an ancient city. It was first noted in the Bible as Salem the city-kingdom of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20) and later Jebus (1 Chron. 11:4-5, 7-8). It was also acknowledged in Egyptian documents from the 20th and 19th c. B. C. From those records we learn that the earliest building took place there next to the Gihon Spring (the city’s water source). By the 18th century B. C. it became necessary to build Jerusalem’s first fortified wall whose remnants can still be seen today.
David made Jerusalem his capitol after conquering it (2 Sam. 5:7-9) and it then became known as “The City of David”. It appears to be an odd choice for a capitol at first glance. Located in the semi-barren Judean Hills (in David’s day but not now!), holding nothing in material value and having a limited water source, Jerusalem would not be a good choice in our minds. But scholars have noted that those characteristics actually made Jerusalem an excellent choice since it lay within David’s tribal allotment, had no material appeal to fight over, and was politically in a good position in relation to the other tribes. During his reign David modified the layout of the city but his greatest addition to Jerusalem was bringing the Ark of the Covenant to reside there (1 Chron. 15:1-12, 16, 25-29) placing it in a tent on land purchased from Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam. 24:15-25). Solomon ultimately made Jerusalem both the political and religious capitol of Israel when he built the Temple on the northern side of the palace complex and installed the Ark within it (1 Kin. 8:1-21).
Chaim Be’er wrote, “The Jerusalem stone, so resilient and supple, bows to the transient follies of humankind, bearing testimony like a hundred witnesses, and yet, remains silent”. Jerusalem has certainly seen its fair share of ruin and rebuilding. When Babylon destroyed it in 586 B. C. most of the inhabitants who were carried off into exile lamented it would never be seen again. But Cyrus, King of Persia, changed all that in 538 B. C. declaring that Jerusalem could be rebuilt for religious purposes (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezr. 1:1-11). However, it would be a lengthy process full of further wars and government upheavals before Jerusalem and the Temple returned to a glory similar to that of Solomon’s day. The man attributed to that status is Herod the Great, a voracious builder but unstable leader placed in authority by the Romans and despised by the people he was to govern. In spite of his unpopularity, his acclaim as an architect was famous. Sayings such as “Of the ten measures of beauty that descended on the world, Jerusalem took nine, and the rest of the entire world-one” and “ He who has not seen Herod’s Temple, has not seen a fine building in his life” sum up the view of his capabilities. Herod’s Jerusalem was the Jerusalem that Jesus knew and visited. It is also the “ancient” Jerusalem that is most evident to the traveler today, although remnants of the eras in between and beyond David and Jesus can be seen too.
Jerusalem continues to be the center of attention in the modern world. Today three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, view it as a central figure in their history, although it formerly did not hold that much importance to Islam. Although there are thousands of years between the writing of Ps. 122 and 2017, you can still see that Jerusalem is “built as a city that is compact together” (Ps. 122:3). In spite of its importance to the other religions who regard it highly, it is truly the heart of Judaism and the Jewish people. Not only did it hold this place in Biblical times, modern history has borne this out as well. In 1948 when Israel sprang back to life as a nation, her beloved city was divided by the hands of man. However in 1967, being nothing short of a miracle, it was reunited by Israel and has been hers ever since.
I don’t know if there is any other city on earth that can evoke the wide range of emotions that have been expressed over Jerusalem. Even Jesus was moved to tears when He thought about the gamut of events which occurred there and the prophets who tried to turn the hearts of its people back to the Lord (Lk. 19:28-44). While Jerusalem today seems to be a cacophony of political and religious strife, its future remains glorious (Is. 62; Rev. 21). So it is all the more reason for believers to pray for peace to be present there (Ps. 122:6-9) and for the fulfillment of God’s promises concerning it (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Jer. 3:17; Eze. 38-48; Zech. 12-14; Jl. 3; Mic. 4:7-8; Lk. 1:32-33). This week as you celebrate Palm Sunday, why not make those prayers a part of your worship?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 4/9/2017