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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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I. Situation. Jerusalem is the chief town of Palestine, situated in 31° 46′ 45″ N. lat. and 35° 13′ 25″ E. long. It stands on the summit of the ridge of the Judæan mountains, at an elevation of 2500 feet above the sea-level. The elevated plateau on which the city is built is intersected by deep valleys, defining and subdividing it.

1 . The defining valleys are: (1) the Wady en-Nâr , the Biblical Valley of the Kidron or of Jehoshaphat , which, starting some distance north of the city, runs at first (under the name of Wady el-Jôz ) in a S. E.direction; it then turns southward and deepens rapidly, separating the Jerusalem plateau from the ridge of the Mount of Olives on the east; finally, it meanders through the wild mountains of the Judæan desert, and finds its exit on the W. side of the Dead Sea. (2) A deep cleft now known as the Wady er-Rabâbi , and popularly identified with the Valley of the son of Hinnom , which commences on the west side of the city and runs down to and joins the Wady en-Nâr about half a mile south of the wall of the present city. In the fork of the great irregular Y which these two valleys form, the city is built.

2 . The chief intersecting valley is one identified with the Tyropœon of Josephus, which commences in some olive gardens north of the city (between the forks of the Y ), runs, ever deepening, right through the modern city, and finally enters the Wady en-Nâr , about 1 / 8 mils above the mouth of the Wady er-Rabâbi . There is also a smaller depression running axially across the city from West to East, intersecting the Tyropœon at right angles. These intersecting valleys are now almost completely filled up with the accumulated rubbish of about four thousand years, and betray themselves only by slight depressions in the surface of the ground.

3 . By these valleys the site of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters, each on its own hill. These hills are traditionally named Acra, Bezetha, Zion , and Ophel , in the N. W., N. E., S. W., and S. E.respectively; and Ophel is further subdivided (but without any natural line of division) into Ophel proper and Moriah , the latter being the northern and higher end. But it must be noticed carefully at the outset that around these names the fiercest discussions have raged, many of which are as yet not within sight of settlement.

4 . The site of Jerusalem is not well provided with water . The only natural source is an intermittent spring in the Kidron Valley, which is insufficient to supply the city’s needs. Cisterns have been excavated for rain-storage from the earliest times, and water has been led to the city by conduits from external sources, some of them far distant. Probably the oldest known conduit is a channel hewn in the rock, entering Jerusalem from the north. Another (the ‘low-level aqueduct’) is traditionally ascribed to Solomon: it brings water from reservoirs beyond Bethlehem; and a third (the ‘high-level aqueduct’) is of Roman date. Several conduits are mentioned in the OT: the ‘conduit of the upper pool, in the highway of the fuller’s field ’ ( Isaiah 7:3 ), which has not been identified; the conduit whereby Hezekiah ‘brought the waters of Gihon straight down on the west side of the city of David,’ also referred to as the ‘conduit’ whereby he ‘brought water into the city’ ( 2 Kings 20:20 , 2 Chronicles 32:30 ), is probably to be identified with the Siloam tunnel, famous for its (unfortunately undated) Old Hebrew inscription.

II. History

1. Primitive period . The origin of the city of Jerusalem is lost in obscurity, and probably, owing to the difficulties in the way of excavation, must continue to be matter of speculation. The first reference that may possibly be connected with the city is the incident of the mysterious ‘Melchizedek, king of Salem’ ( Genesis 14:18 ), who has been the centre of much futile speculation, due to a large extent to misunderstanding of the symbolic use of his name by the authors of Psalms 110:1-7 ( Psalms 110:4 ) and Hebrews (chs. 5 7). It is not even certain that the ‘ Salem ’ over which this contemporary of Hammurabi ruled is to be identified with Jerusalem (see Salem); there is no other ancient authority for this name being applied to the city. We do not touch solid ground till some eight or nine hundred years later, when, about 1450, we find ‘Abd-khiba, king of Urusalim , sending letters to his Egyptian over-lord, which were discovered with the Tell el-Amarna correspondence. The contents of these letters are the usual meagre record of mutual squabbles between the different village communities of Palestine, and to some extent they raise questions rather than answer them. Some theories that have been based on expressions used by ‘Abd-khiba, and supposed to illuminate the Melchizedek problem, are now regarded as of no value for that desirable end. The chief importance of the Tell el-Amarna correspondence, so far as Jerusalem is concerned, is the demonstration of the true antiquity of the name ‘Jerusalem.’

Where was the Jerusalem of ‘Abd-khiba situated? This question, which is bound up with the authenticity or otherwise of the traditional Zion , and affects such important topographical and archæological questions as the site of David’s tomb, is one of the most hotly contested of all the many problems of the kind which have to be considered by students of Jerusalem. In an article like the present it is impossible to enter into the details of the controversy and to discuss at length the arguments on both sides. But the majority of modern scholars are now coming to an agreement that the pre-Davidic Jerusalem was situated on the hill known as Ophel , the south-eastern of the four hills above enumerated, in the space intercepted between the TyropÅ“on and Kidron valleys. This is the hill under which is the only natural source of water in the whole area of Jerusalem the ‘ Virgin’s Fountain ,’ an intermittent spring of brackish water in the Kidron Valley and upon which is the principal accumulation of ancient débris , with ancient pottery fragments strewn over the surface. This hill was open for excavation till three or four years ago, though cumbered with vegetable gardens which would make digging expensive; but lately houses have commenced to be built on its surface. At the upper part of the hill, on this theory, we cannot doubt that the high place of the subjects of ‘Abd-khiba would be situated; and the tradition of the sanctity of this section of the city has lasted unchanged through all the varying occupations of the city Hebrew, Jewish, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and modern Mohammedan. Whether his be the ‘land of Moriah ’ of Genesis 22:2 is doubtful: it has been suggested that the name is here a copyist’s error for ‘land of Midian,’ which would be a more natural place for Jahweh worship in the days of Abraham than would the high place of the guardian numen of Jerusalem.

In certain Biblical passages (Joshua 18:28 [but see RV [Note: Revised Version.] ], Judges 19:10 , 1 Chronicles 11:4 ) an alternative name, Jebus , is given for the city; and its inhabitants are named Jebusites , mentioned in many enumerations with the rest of the Amorites ( Genesis 10:16 , Exodus 23:23 , Joshua 3:10 etc.), and specially assigned to this city in Judges 1:21 . Until the discovery of the Tell el-Amarna correspondence it was supposed that Jebus was the primitive name of the city, changed on the Israelite conquest to Jerusalem; but this has been rendered untenable, and it now seems probable that the name of Jebus is a mere derivative, of no authority, from the ethnic Jebusites , the meaning and etymology of which are still to seek.

Cf. art. Jebus.

At the Israelite immigration the king of Jerusalem was Adoni-zedek, who headed a coalition against Gibeon for having made terms with Joshua. This king is generally equated with the otherwise unknown Adoni-bezek, whose capture and mutilation are narrated in Judges 1:5-7 (see Moore’s Judges, ad loc .). The statement that Judah burnt Jerusalem ( Judges 1:8 ) is generally rejected as an interpolation; it remained a Jebusite city ( Judges 1:21; Judges 19:11 ) until its conquest by David. According to the cadastre of Joshua, it was theoretically just within the south border of the tribe of Benjamin ( Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Joshua 18:28 ).

2. David and Solomon . The city remained foreign to the Israelites ( Judges 19:11 ) until the end of the period of 7 1 /2 years which David reigned in Hebron, when he felt himself powerful enough to attack the Jebusite stronghold. The passage describing his capture of the city is 2 Samuel 5:4-10 , and few passages in the historical books of the Old Testament are more obscure, owing partly to textual corruption and partly to topographical allusions clear to the writer, but veiled in darkness for us. It appears that the Jebusites, trusting in the strength of their gates, threw taunts to the Israelite king that ‘the blind and the lame would be enough to keep him out’; and that David retorted by applying the term to the defenders of the city: ‘Go up the drain,’ he said to his followers, ‘and smite those blind and lame ones.’ He evidently recognized the impregnability of the defences themselves; but discovered and utilized a convenient drain, which led underground into the middle of the city. A similar drain was found in the excavation at Gezer, with a device in the middle to prevent its being used for this purpose. During the revolt of the fellahîn against Ibrahim Pasha in 1834, Jerusalem, once more besieged, was entered through a drain in the same way. It need hardly be said that David’s, ‘ gutter ’ has not yet been identified with certainty.

If the identification of the Jebusite city with Ophel be admitted, we cannot fail to identify it also with the ‘ city of David ,’ in which he dwelt ( 2 Samuel 5:9 ). But when we read further that David ‘built round about from Millo and inward’ we are perplexed by our total ignorance as to what Millo may have been, and where it may have been situated. The word is by the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] rendered Acra, and the same word is used by Josephus. The position of the Acra is a question as much disputed as the position of the Jebusite city, and it is one for which far less light can be obtained from an examination of the ground than in the case of the other problem mentioned. As soon as David had established himself in his new surroundings, his first care was to bring the ark of Jahweh into the city ( 2 Samuel 6:1-23 ), but his desire to erect a permanent building for its reception was frustrated by Nathan the prophet ( 2 Samuel 7:1-29 ). The site of the Temple was chosen, namely, the threshing-floor of Araunah ( 2 Samuel 24:16 ) or Ornan ( 1 Chronicles 21:15 ), one of the original Jebusite inhabitants, and preparations were made for its erection.

As soon as Solomon had come to the throne and quelled the abortive attempts of rivals, he commenced the work of building the Temple in the second month of the fourth year of his reign, and finished it in the eighth month of his eleventh year (1 Kings 6:1-38 ). His royal palace occupied thirteen years ( 1 Kings 7:1 ). These erections were not in the ‘city of David’ ( 1 Kings 9:24 ), which occupied the lower slopes of Ophel to the south, but on the summit of the same hill, where their place is now taken by the Mohammedan ‘Noble Sanctuary.’ Besides these works, whereby Jerusalem received a glory it had never possessed before, Solomon built Millo, whatever that may have been ( 1 Kings 9:24 ), and the wall of Jerusalem ( 1 Kings 9:15 ), and ‘closed up the breach of the city of David’ ( 1 Kings 11:27 ), the latter probably referring to an extension of the area of the city which involved the pulling down and rebuilding elsewhere of a section of the city walls.

3. The Kings of Judah . In the fifth year of Rehoboam, Jerusalem sustained the first siege it had suffered after David’s conquest, being beleaguered by Shishak, king of Egypt ( 1 Kings 14:25 ), who took away the treasures of the Temple and of the royal house. Rehoboam provided copper substitutes for the gold thus lost. The royal house was again pillaged by a coalition of Philistines and Arabs ( 2 Chronicles 21:16 ) in the time of Jehoram. Shortly afterwards took place the stirring events of the usurpation of Athaliah and her subsequent execution ( 2 Kings 11:1-21 ). Her successor Joash or Jehoash distinguished himself by his repair of the Temple ( 2 Kings 12:1-21 ); but he was obliged to buy off Hazael, king of Syria, and persuaded him to abandon his projected attack on the capital by a gift of the gold of the Temple ( 2 Kings 12:18 ). Soon afterwards, however, Jehoash of Israel came down upon Jerusalem, breached the wall, and looted the royal and sacred treasuries ( 2 Kings 14:14 ). This event taught the lesson of the weakness of the city, by which the powerful king Uzziah profited. In 2 Chronicles 26:9; 2 Chronicles 26:15 is the record of his fortifying the city with additional towers and ballistas; the work of strengthening the fortifications was continued by Jotham ( 2 Kings 15:35 , 2 Chronicles 27:3 ). Thanks probably to these precautions, an attack on Jerusalem by the kings of Syria and of Israel, in the next reign (Ahaz’s), proved abortive ( 2 Kings 16:5 ). Hezekiah still further prepared Jerusalem for the struggle which he foresaw from the advancing power of Assyria, and to him, as is generally believed, is due the engineering work now famous as the Siloam Tunnel , whereby water was conducted from the spring in the Kidron Valley outside the walls to the reservoir at the bottom of the TyropÅ“on inside them. By another gift from the apparently inexhaustible royal and sacred treasures, Hezekiah endeavoured to keep Sennacherib from an attack on the capital ( 2 Kings 18:13 ); but the attack, threatened by insulting words from the emissaries of Sennacherib, was finally averted by a mysterious calamity that befell the Assyrian army ( 2 Kings 19:35 ). By alliances with Egypt ( Isaiah 36:6 ) and Babylon (ch. 39) Hezekiah attempted to strengthen his position. Manasseh built an outer wall to the ‘city of David,’ and made other fortifications ( 2 Chronicles 33:14 ). In the reign of Josiah the Book of the Law was discovered, and the king devoted himself to the repairs of the Temple and the moral reformation which that discovery involved ( 2 Kings 22:1-20 ). The death of Josiah at Megiddo was disastrous for the kingdom of Judah, and he was succeeded by a series of petty kinglings, all of them puppets in the hands of the Egyptian or Babylonian monarchs. The fall of Jerusalem could not be long delayed. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captured and looted it, and carried away captive first Jehoiachin ( 2 Kings 24:12 ), and finally Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (ch. 25).

The aspect and area of the Jerusalem captured by Nebuchadnezzar must have been very different from that conquered about 420 years before by David. There is no direct evidence that David found houses at all on the hill now known as Zion; but the city must rapidly have grown under him and his wealthy successor; and in the time of the later Hebrew kings included no doubt the so-called Zion hill as well. That it also included the modern Acra is problematical, as we have no information as to the position of the north wall in preexilic times; and it is certain that the quite modern quarter commonly called Bezetha was not occupied. To the south a much larger area was built on than is included in modern Jerusalem: the ancient wall has been traced to the verge of the Wady er-Rabâbi . The destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the deportation of the people were complete: the city was left in ruins, and only the poorest of the people were left to carry on the work of agriculture.

4. The Return . When the last Semitic king of Babylon, Nabonidus, yielded to Cyrus, the representatives of the ancient kingdom of Judah were, through the favour of Cyrus, permitted to re-establish themselves in their old home and to rebuild the Temple. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are the record of the works then undertaken, the former being specially concerned with the restoration of the Temple and the religious observances, the latter with the reconstruction of the fortifications of the city.

The Book of Nehemiah contains the fullest account that we have of the fortifications of Jerusalem , and it has been the most carefully studied of any source of information on the subject. A paper by Prof. H. G. Mitchell on the ‘Wall of Jerusalem according to Nehemiah’ (in the JBL [Note: BL Journ. of Biblical Literature.] for 1903, p. 85) is a model of exhaustive treatment. Careful comparison is made therein between the statements of Nehemiah and the results of excavation. We cannot here go into all the arguments brought forward for the identifications, but they seem conclusive. Starting at the head of the Wady er-Rabâbi (Valley of Hinnom so-called), we find at the S. W. corner of the wall a rock-scarp which seems to have been prepared for a strong tower, identified with the tower of the furnaces ( Nehemiah 3:11 ). Then comes the Valley-gate , which has been found half-way down the valley ( Nehemiah 3:13 ). At the bottom of the valley, where it joined the Kidron, was the Dung-gate ( Nehemiah 3:15 ), outside of which was found what appears to have been a cess-pit. Turning northward, we find the Fountain-gate ( Nehemiah 3:13 ) in close proximity to the ‘made pool,’ i.e. the pool of Siloam at the foot of the TyropÅ“on Valley; and the Water-gate on Ophel, over the ‘Virgin’s Fountain.’ The gates on the north-east and north sides of the wall cannot be identified, as the course of that part has not been definitely determined. They seem to have been, in order, the Horse-gate the East-gate , the gate Hammiphkad (‘the appointed’?), after which came the corner of the wall. Then on the north side followed the Sheep-gate , the Fish-gate , and, somewhere on the north or north-west side, the Old-gate . Probably the Ephraim- and Corner-gates ( 2 Kings 14:13 ) were somewhere in this neighbourhood. Besides these gates, the Temple was provided with entrances, some of whose names are preserved; but their identification is an even more complex problem than that of the city-gates. Such were the gate Sur and the Gate of the guard ( 2 Kings 11:6 ), the Shallecheth-gate at the west ( 1 Chronicles 26:16 ), Parbar (26:18), and the East-gate ( Ezekiel 11:1 ). The Beautiful-gate , of Acts 3:10 was probably the same as the Nicanor-gate, between the Women’s and the Priests’ Court: it is alluded to in the epitaph of the donor, Nicanor, recently-discovered at Jerusalem.

5. From Alexander the Great to the Maccabees . By the battle of Issus (b.c. 333) Alexander the Great became master of Palestine; and the Persian suzerainty, under which the Jews had enjoyed protection and freedom to follow their own rites, came to an end. Alexander’s death was the signal for the long and complicated struggle between the Seleucids and the Ptolemys, between whom Jerusalem passed more than once. One result of the foreign influences thus brought to bear on the city was the establishment of institutions hitherto unknown, such as a gymnasium. This leaven of Greek customs, and, we cannot doubt, of Greek religion also, was disquieting to those concerned for the maintenance of Deuteronomic purity, and the unrest was fanned into revolt in 168, when Antiochus Epiphanes set himself to destroy the Jewish religion. The desecration of the Temple, and the attempt to force the Jews to sacrifice to pagan deities ( 1M Malachi 1:2 ), led to the rebellion headed by the Maccabæan family, wherein, after many vicissitudes, the short-lived Hasmonæan dynasty was established at Jerusalem. Internal dissensions wrecked the family. To settle a squabble as to the successor of Alexander Jannæus, the Roman power was called in. Pompey besieged Jerusalem, and profaned the Temple, which was later pillaged by Crassus; and in b.c. 47 the Hasmonæans were superseded by the Idumæan dynasty of the Herods, their founder Antipater being established as ruler of Palestine in recognition of his services to Julius Cæsar.

6. Herod the Great . Herod the Great and his brother Phasael succeeded their father in b.c. 43, and in 40 Herod became governor of Judæa. After a brief exile, owing to the usurpation of the Hasmonæan Antigonus, he returned, and commenced to rebuild Jerusalem on a scale of grandeur such as had never been known since Solomon. Among his works, which we can only catalogue here, were the royal palace; the three towers Hippicus, Phasaelus (named after his brother), and Antonia; a theatre; and, above all, the Temple. Of these structures nothing remains, so far as is known, of the palace or the theatre, or the Hippicus tower: the base of Phasaelus, commonly called David’s tower, is incorporated with the citadel; large fragments of the tower Antonia remain incorporated in the barracks and other buildings of the so-called Via Dolorosa, the street which leads through the city from the St. Stephen’s gate, north of the Temple enclosure: while of the Temple itself much remains in the substructures, and probably much more would be found were excavation possible. See Temple.

7. From the time of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem . The events in the life of Christ, in so far as they affect Jerusalem, are the only details of interest known to us for the years succeeding the death of Herod in b.c. 4. These we need not dwell upon here, but a word may fitly be spoken regarding the central problem of Jerusalem topography, the site of the Holy Sepulchre . The authenticity of the traditional site falls at once, if it lie inside the north wall of Jerusalem as it was in Christ’s time, for Christ suffered and was buried without the walls. But this is precisely what cannot be determined, as the line of the wall, wherever it may have been, is densely covered with houses; and it is very doubtful whether such fragments of wall as have from time to time been found in digging foundations have anything to do with each other, or with the city rampart. A priori it does not seem probable that the traditional site of the Holy Sepulchre should have been without the walls, for it assumes that these made a deep re-entrant angle for which the nature of the ground offers no justification, and which would be singularly foolish strategically. The identification of the site cannot with certainty be traced back earlier than Helena; and, though she visited Jerusalem as early as 326, yet it must not be forgotten that in endeavouring then to find the tomb of Christ, without documents to guide her, she was in as hopeless a position as a man who under similiar circumstances should at the present year endeavour to find the tomb of Shakespeare, if that happened to be unknown. Indeed, Helena was even worse off than the hypothetical investigator, for the population, and presumably the tradition, have been continuous in Stratford-on-Avon, which certainly was not the case with Jerusalem from a.d. 30 to 326. A fortiori these remarks apply to the rival sites that in more recent years have been suggested. The so-called ‘Gordon’s Calvary’ and similar fantastic identifications we can dismiss at once with the remark that the arguments in their favour are fatuous; that powerful arguments can be adduced against them; that they cannot even claim the minor distinction of having been hallowed by the devotion of sixteen centuries; and that, in short, they are entirely unworthy of the smallest consideration. The only documents nearly contemporary with the crucifixion and entombment are the Gospels, which supply no data sufficient for the identification of the scenes of these events. Except in the highly improbable event of an inscription being at some time found which shall identify them, we may rest in the certainty that the exact sites never have been, and never will be, identified.

In a.d. 35, Pontius Pilate was recalled; Agrippa (41 44 a.d.) built an outer wall, the line of which is not known with certainty, on the north side of the city, and under his rule Jerusalem grew and prospered. His son Agrippa built a palace, and in a.d. 64 finished the Temple courts. In 66 the Jews endeavoured to revolt against the Roman yoke, and brought on themselves the final destruction which was involved in the great siege and fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.

8. From the destruction of Jerusalem to the Arab conquest . The events following must be more briefly enumerated. In 134 the rebellion of the Jews under Bar Cochba was crushed by Hadrian, and the last traces of Judaism extinguished from the city, which was rebuilt as a pagan Roman town under the name of Ælia Capitolina. By 333 the Jews had acquired the right of visiting annually and lamenting over the pierced stone on which their altar had been erected. Under Constantine, Christianity was established, and the great flood of pilgrimage began. Julian in 362 attempted to rebuild the Temple; some natural phenomenon ingeniously explained as the explosion of a forgotten store of naphtha, such as was found some years ago in another part of the city prevented him. In 450 the Empress Eudocia retired to Jerusalem and repaired the walls; she built a church over the Pool of Siloam, which was discovered by excavation some years ago. In 532 Justinian erected important buildings, fragments of which remain incorporated with the mosque; but these and other Christian buildings were ruined in 614 by the destroying king Chosroës ii. A short breathing space was allowed the Christians after this storm, and then the young strength of Islam swept over them. In 637 Omar conquered Jerusalem after a four months’ siege.

9. From the Arab conquest to the present day . Under the comparatively easy rule of the Omeyyad Califs, Christians did not suffer severely; though excluded from the Temple area (where ‘Abd el-Melek built his beautiful dome in 688), they were free to use the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. This, however, could not last under the fanatical Fatimites, or the Seljuks who succeeded them; and the sufferings of the Christians led to that extraordinary series of piratical invasions, commonly called the Crusades, by which Palestine was harried for about a hundred years, and the undying tradition of which will retard indefinitely the final triumph of Christianity over the Arab race. The country was happily rid of the degraded and degrading Latin kingdom in 1187, when Jerusalem fell to Saladin. For a brief interval, from 1229 to 1244, the German Christians held the city by treaty; but in 1244 the Kharezmian massacre swallowed up the last relics of Christian occupation. In 1517 it was conquered by Sultan Selim i., and since then it has been a Turkish city. The present walls were erected by Suleiman the Magnificent (1542). In recent years the population has enormously increased, owing to the establishment of Jewish refugee colonies and various communities of European settlers; there has also been an extraordinary development of monastic life within and around the city.

R. A. S. Macalister.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Jerusalem'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​j/jerusalem.html. 1909.
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