Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, February 24th, 2024
the First Week of Lent
There are 36 days til Easter!
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

Jerusalem (je-ru'sa-lĕm). The religious and political capital of Israel; called also "the Holy City," Nehemiah 11:1; "City of the Great King," Psalms 48:2 : "City of David" and "Zion." 1 Kings 8:1; 2 Kings 14:20. Jewish writers held that it was the same as Salem. Genesis 14:18; Psalms 76:2. The first notice of it as Jerusalem is in Joshua 10:1. It was a boundary mark between Benjamin and Judah. Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Joshua 18:28, where it is called Ha-jebusi, that is, the Jebusite—In A. V. Jebusi—and in Judges 19:10-11, "Jebus, which is Jerusalem," because it was then a city inhabited by Jebusites. Jerusalem is in latitude 31° 47' north, and in longitude 35° 18' east from Greenwich, or about the latitude of Savannah, Ga. It is 35 miles east from the Mediterranean sea, and 18 miles west of the north end of the Dead sea. It stands on four peaks of the mountain ridge of Western Palestine, at a general elevation of about 2600 feet above the sea, the English survey placing the height of Moriah at 2440 feet, Mount Zion 2550 feet, Mount of Olives 2665 feet. The hill on which the temple stood is 2440 feet high, "dropping abruptly," Bays Selah Merrill, "at the northeast corner 100 feet, at the southeast corner 250 feet, at the southwest corner 140 feet, and on the west side about 100 feet, while toward the north, beyond what afterward became the temple area, the ridge rose gradually about 100 feet, its highest point being at the spot now known as Jeremiah's Grotto. Excluding the extension of the ridge to Jeremiah's Grotto, the horizontal area thus bounded is the same as the present Haram Area. Zion was 100 feet higher than the temple mount, and the distance across from summit to summit was less than one-third of a mile; but the descent to the bottom of the ravine separating the two was 100 feet on the side of the temple mount, and 200 feet on the side of Zion. Olivet is 90 feet higher than the highest point of Jerusalem, 143 feet higher than Mount Zion, and 243 feet higher than the temple mount. But the distance from the highest point of Jerusalem to the top of Olivet is scarcely more than a mile. Thus Olivet overlooks Jerusalem, and from its summit the best view of the city is obtained." "In several respects," says Dean Stanley, "its situation is singular among the cities of Palestine. Its elevation is remarkable; occasioned, not from its being on the summit of one of the numerous hills of Judæa, like most of the towns and villages, but because it is on the edge of one of the highest table-lands of the country. Hebron, indeed, is higher still by some hundred feet, and from the south, accordingly (even from Bethlehem), the approach to Jerusalem is by a slight descent. But from any other side the ascent is perpetual; and to the traveller approaching the city from the east or west it must always have presented the appearance, beyond any other capital of the then known world—we may say beyond any important city that has ever existed on the earth—of a mountain city; breathing, as compared with the sultry plains of Jordan, a mountain air; enthroned, as compared with Jericho or Damascus, Gaza, or Tyre, on a mountain fastness." Sinai and Palestine, 170, 1. The elevation of Jerusalem is a subject of constant reference and exultation by the Jewish writers. Their fervid poetry abounds with allusions to its height, to the ascent thither of the tribes from all parts of the country. It was the habitation of Jehovah, from which "He looked upon all the inhabitants of the world," Psalms 33:14; its kings were "higher than the kings of the earth." Psalms 89:27. Jerusalem, if not actually in the centre of Palestine, was yet virtually so. This central position as expressed in the words of Ezekiel 5:5, "I nave set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations and countries round about her," led in later ages to a definite belief that the city was actually in the centre of the earth.

Roads.—There were 3 main approaches to the city: 1. From the Jordan valley by Jericho and the Mount of Olives. This was the route commonly taken from the north and east of the country—as from Galilee by our Lord, Luke 17:11; Luke 18:35; Luke 19:1; Luke 19:29; Luke 19:37, etc., from Damascus by Pompey, to Mahanaim by David. 2 Samuel 15:1-37; 2 Samuel 16:1-23. It was also the route from places in the central districts of the country, as Samaria. 2 Chronicles 28:15. The latter part of the approach, over the Mount of Olives, as generally followed at the present day, is identical with what it was, at least in one memorable instance, in the time of Christ. 2. From the great maritime plain of Philistia and Sharon. This road led by the two Bethhorons up to the high ground at Gibeon, whence it turned south, and came to Jerusalem by Ramah and Gibeah, and over the ridge north of the city. 3. There was also the route from Hebron, Bethlehem, and Solomon's pools on the south.

To the four hills, Zion, Ophel, Acra, and Moriah, in the ancient city may be added the hill of Goath, and Bezetha, the new town. The precise topography of the city has long been in dispute, and while recent explorations have added much to our knowledge of the city, many points are yet unsettled. The western hill was called Mount Zion, and it is also clear that Zion and the city of David were identical. "David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David." "And David dwelt in the castle, therefore they called it the city of David. And he built the city round about, even from Millo round about, and Joab repaired the rest of the city." 2 Samuel 5:7-9; 1 Chronicles 11:5-8. Mount Moriah was the eastern hill, 2 Chronicles 3:1, and the site of the temple. It was situated in the southwest angle of the area, now known as the Haram area, and was, Josephus tells us, an exact square of a stadium, or 600 Greek feet, on each side. At the northwest angle of the temple was the Antonia, a tower or fortress. North of the side of the temple is the building now known to Christians as the Mosque of Omar, but by Moslems it is called the Dome of the Rock. Ophel was the southern continuation of the eastern bill, which gradually came to a point at the junction of the valleys Tyropœon and Jehoshaphat. Bezetha, "the New City," noticed by Josephus, was separated from Moriah by an artificial ditch, and overlooked the valley of Kidron on the east; this hill was enclosed within the walls of Herod Agrippa. Lastly, Acra lay westward of Moriah and northward of Zion, and formed the "Lower City" in the time of Josephus.

Gates.— The following list of gates, named In the Bible and Josephus, are given by Smith: 1. Gate of Ephraim. 2 Chronicles 25:23; Nehemiah 8:16; Nehemiah 12:39. This is probably the same as the 2. Gate of Benjamin. Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 37:13; Zechariah 14:10. If so, it was 400 cubits distant from the 3. Corner gate. 2 Chronicles 25:23; 2 Chronicles 26:9; Jeremiah 31:38; Zechariah 14:10. 4 Gate of Joshua, governor of the city. 2 Kings 23:8. 5. Gate between the two walls. 2 Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 39:4. 6. Horse gate. Nehemiah 3:28; 2 Chronicles 23:15; Jeremiah 31:40. 7. Ravine gate, R. V., valley gate, i.e., opening on ravine of Hinnom. 2 Chronicles 26:9; Nehemiah 2:13; Nehemiah 2:15; Nehemiah 3:13. 8. Fish gate. 2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 12:39. 9. Dung gate. Nehemiah 2:13; Nehemiah 3:1-32; Nehemiah 13:10. Sheep gate. Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39. 11. East gate. Nehemiah 3:29. 12. Miphkad. R. V., "Hammiplikod." Nehemiah 3:31. 13. Fountain gate (Siloam?). Nehemiah 12:37. 14. Water gate. Nehemiah 12:37. 15. Old gate. Nehemiah 12:39. 16. Prison gate. Nehemiah 12:39. 17. Gate Harsith (perhaps the Sun), A. V., East gate. Jeremiah 19:2. 18. First gate. Zechariah 14:10. 19. Gate Gennath (gardens). Joseph. B. J. v. 4, 34. 20. Essenes' gate. Joseph. B. J. 4, § 2. To these should be added the following gates of the temple: Gate Sur. 2 Kings 11:6. Called also Gate of foundation. 2 Chronicles 23:5. Gate of the guard, or behind the guard. 2 Kings 11:6; 2 Kings 11:19; called the High gate, R. V., "upper gate." 2 Chronicles 23:20; 2 Chronicles 27:3; 2 Kings 15:35. Gate Shallecheth. 1 Chronicles 26:16. It is impossible to say which or how many of these names designate different gates. The chief gates of Jerusalem, now are four: the Damascus gate on the north, the Jaffa gate on the west, David or Zion gate on the south, and St. Stephen's gate on the east. The Mohammedans have other names for these gates. Only during the past six centuries have traditions connected the martyr Stephen with the present St. Stephen's gate; before that they were located to the north about the Damascus gate. The small door in the gate, to admit persons to enter after the gate was locked at night, is in the Jaffa sate, but it was built only 30 years ago. There is no evidence that there was such a door in our Lord's time, and to use it, as illustrating "the needle's eye," Luke 8:25, is without warrant from ancient history.

Walls.— According to Josephus, the first or old wall began on the north at the tower called Hippicus, the ruins now called Kasi-Jalud at the northwest angle of the present city, and, extending to the Xystus, joined the council house, and ended at the west cloister of the temple. The second wall began at the gate Gennath, in the old wall, probably near the Hippicus, and passed round the northern quarter of the city, enclosing the great valley of the Tyropœon, which leads up to the Damascus gate; and then, proceeding southward, joined the fortress Antonia. The points described by Josephus in the course of this wall have not been identified, and have given rise to sharp disputes, as the course of this wall goes far towards deciding the true site of Calvary. John 19:20; Luke 23:33. The third wall was built by King Herod Agrippa; and was intended to enclose the suburbs on the northern sides of the city, which before this had been left exposed.

Extent.—After describing the walls, Josephus adds that the whole circumference of the city was 33 stadia, or nearly four English miles, which is as near as may be the extent indicated by the localities. He then adds that the number of towers in the old wall was 60, the middle wall 40, and the new wall 99. Jerusalem of today as walled in would require about an hour to walk around it. The walls, measuring straight from point to point, are about 12,000 feet in length; the north wall being 3930 feet, the east wall 2754 feet, the south wall 3245 feet, and the west wall 2086 feet. The area in the present city is about 210 acres. The ancient city included the southern slopes of Zion and Ophel, which in modern times have been under cultivation, thus fulfilling the prediction, "Zion shall be ploughed like a field." Jeremiah 26:18.

The Pools of Gihon, Siloam, Hezekiah, Bethesda, En-rogel, etc., will be noticed under their proper titles.

The king's garden, Nehemiah 3:15, was probably outside the city at the south, as Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36, was eastward at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Of the various so-called streets, as the "east street," R.V., "the broad place on the east," 2 Chronicles 29:4; the "street of the city," i.e., the city of David, R. V., "broad place at the gate of the city," 2 Chronicles 32:6; the "street," R. V., "broad place facing the water gate," Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 8:3, or, according to the parallel account in 1 Esdras 9:38, the "broad place of the temple towards the east;" the "street of the house of God," Ezra 10:9, R. V., "broad place;" the "street," R. V., "broad place of the gate of Ephraim," Nehemiah 8:16; and the "open place of the first gate toward the east" could not have been "streets," in our sense of the word, but rather open spaces found in eastern towns near the inside of the gates. Streets, properly so called, there were, however, Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 11:13, etc.; but the name of only one, "the bakers' street," Jeremiah 37:21, is preserved to us.

History.—Only a brief notice of its history can be given. We catch our earliest glimpse of Jerusalem in Joshua 10:1, and in Judges 1:1-36. which describes how the "children of Judah smote it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire;" and almost the latest mention of it in the New Testament is contained in the solemn warnings in which Christ foretold how Jerusalem should be "compassed with armies," Luke 21:20, and the "abomination of desolation" be seen standing in the Holy Place, Matthew 24:15. In the 15 centuries which elapsed between those two periods, the city was besieged no fewer than 17 times; twice it was razed to the ground; and on two other occasions its walls were levelled. In this respect it stands without a parallel in any city, ancient or modern. David captured the city, b.c. 1046, and made it his capital, fortified and enlarged it. 2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 6:2-16; 1 Kings 11:36. Solomon adorned the city with beautiful buildings, including the temple, but made no additions to its walls. 1 Kings 7:2-7; 1 Kings 8:1-66; 1 Kings 10:7; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12. The city was taken by the Philistines and Arabians in the reign of Jehoram, b.c. 886, and by the Israelites in the reign of Amaziah, b.c. 826. The books of Kings and of Chronicles give the history of Jerusalem under the monarchy. It was thrice taken by Nebuchadnezzar, in the years b.c. 607, 597, and 586, in the last of which it was utterly destroyed. Its restoration commenced under Cyrus, b.c. 536, and was completed under Artaxerxes I., who issued commissions for this purpose to Ezra, b.c. 457, and Nehemiah, b.c. 445. Nehemiah 4:7-22; Nehemiah 6:1-16. In b.c. 332 it was captured by Alexander the Great, and again under Antiochus Epiphanes, b.c. 170. Under the Maccabees Jerusalem became independent and retained its position until its capture by the Romans under Pompey, b.c. 63. The temple was subsequently plundered by Crassus, b.c. 54, and the city by the Parthians, b.c. 40. Herod took up his residence there, and restored the temple with great magnificence. It was taken and destroyed by the Romans under Titus, when it had held out nearly five months, a.d. 70, fulfilling Christ's prophecy, Matthew 24:1-51. Hadrian restored it as a Roman colony, a.d. 135. The emperor Constantine erected a church on the supposed site of the holy sepulchre, a.d. 336, and Justinian added several churches and hospitals, about a.d. 532. It was taken by the Persians under Chosroes II. in a.d. 614. In a.d. 637 the patriarch Sophronius surrendered to the khalif Omar, and the Holy City passed into the hands of the Fatimite dynasty. About 1084 it was bestowed upon Ortok, whose severity to the Christians became the proximate cause of the Crusades. It was taken by the Crusaders in 1099, and for 88 years Jerusalem remained in the hands of the Christians. In 1187 it was retaken by Saladin after a siege of several weeks. In 1277 Jerusalem was nominally annexed to the kingdom of Sicily. In 1517 it passed under the sway of the Ottoman sultan Selim I., whose successor, Suliman, built the present walls of the city in 1542. Mohammed Ali, the pasha of Egypt, took possession of it in 1832; and in 1840, after the bombardment of Acre, it was again restored to the sultan and has since remained in the hands of the Turks. A steam railway was opened from Jaffa (Joppa) to Jerusalem in October, 1892.

Population.— It is estimated that modern Jerusalem has from 50,000 to 75,000 inhabitants, of whom 12,000 are Mohammedans, 8000 Christians, and 25,000 to 30,000 (Conder says 40,000) Jews, nearly 30,000 depending largely for their living upon benevolent gifts from religious brethren elsewhere. The population of Jerusalem in ancient times probably did not exceed 75,000 at any period of Bible history.

Recent Explorations.— Besieged 17 times, twice destroyed, ancient Jerusalem is now buried under 80 feet of earth and rubbish. Of the explorations and present condition of the city, Selah Merrill, United States consul at Jerusalem (in Jackson's concise Dictionary), says: "One would suppose that in a place like Jerusalem, which has always teen a centre of special interest, there would be many remains of antiquity and a large number of historical sites whose genuineness no person would question. The truth is just the contrary of this. Very many things are doubtless buried which will, from time to time, be brought to light, as has been the case during the past 25 years. Thanks to recent excavations, certain points and objects have been recovered which "may be accepted as authentic beyond dispute. Thus we have the actual site of the Herodian temple, together with portions of the wall which supported its area, also the remains of a bridge of the same period which led from the temple to Mount Zion. We have the point of the native rock over which the altar was built, and from this are able to determine the site of the Holy of Holies. We can point to the spot where the castle of Antonia stood, and thus fix the eastern terminus of the 'second wall.'" Near the Jaffa gate Dr. Merrill "discovered, in 1885, a section of this wall, whose position has been so long in dispute. One hundred and twenty feet of it were exposed, consisting of one, two, and in a single place of three layers of massive stones, and from this the position of the Gennath Gate can be determined within a few yards. The lower portion of the so-called 'Castle of David' belongs to the time of Herod, if not to an earlier period. In the northwest corner of the city the foundations of one of the great towers of ancient Jerusalem have been uncovered, and massive work of the same age is found at the Damascus Gate. Under the mosque El Aksa are the columns of the Double Gate and the Porch belonging to it, through which our Lord must have often entered the temple. There is no question about the valleys Hinnom, Jehoshaphat, and the Tyropœan, or the pool of Siloam. The rock-cut conduit, leading for 1700 feet under Ophel, connecting the Pool of Siloam with the Virgin's Fountain, in which the Siloam inscription was discovered in 1880, dates from the time of the Hebrew kings. North of the city we have the tomb of Helena, the mother of Izates, built in the last century before Christ; and there are a few other objects, as the Tomb of Absalom and that of Jehoshaphat, which certainly belong to ancient times, but whose exact date cannot be determined." The old Pool of Bethesda was lately discovered by Conrad Schick, under the Church of St. Anne. Beyond these, our knowledge of the various places in ancient Jerusalem, noticed in the Bible and Josephus, is indefinite if not chaotic. Jerusalem is not a centre of trade, and it has few manufactures or business by which wealth can be acquired. Moneychangers are numerous because people from many other countries are found there, most of whom bring with them coin that is not current in the city. Shopkeepers are seldom able to make change themselves, and it is understood that the purchaser must come prepared to pay the exact amount of his purchase. Upward of 40 different languages and dialects are spoken in Jerusalem. Society is of a low order. The people are slow to adapt themselves to new conditions. There is, however, reason to hope for improvement under better religious and educational influences, and under a wise and helpful government.

In Scripture and Prophecy. Jerusalem is named 799 times in the Bible, and many times alluded to in sacred history and prophecy. Its strength and beauty are noticed, Psalms 48:2; Psalms 48:11-13; Psalms 122:2-5; its peace is prayed for, Psalms 51:18; Psalms 122:6-8; its glory noticed, Psalms 87:1-6. The siege and desolation of the city for sins were predicted, Isaiah 29:1-3; Isaiah 27:10; Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 21:10; especially its destruction by the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 13:9; Jeremiah 13:18; Jeremiah 34:22; Ezekiel 24:2; Amos 2:5. These predictions were literally fulfilled. See 1 Kings 14:25-26; Jeremiah 51:50-51; Lamentations 2:13; Lamentations 5:11-22. Its preservation and restoration at times promised and performed, 2 Kings 19:10; 2 Chronicles 32:9-20; Isaiah 37:17; Isaiah 37:20; Isaiah 37:33-35; Psalms 69:35, where it is called Zion: compare Isaiah 11:9-10; Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:38-40; Zechariah 8:3-5. Again its destruction by the Romans was predicted, Zechariah 14:2; Luke 19:41-44; and Luke 21:9-10; Luke 21:20; Luke 21:24; and Josephus' description of the siege and destruction of the city under Titus (Wars, Bk. vi.) shows how terrible was the fulfillment of this prophecy of Christ. It is still the "Sacred City," however, to the Jew, the Christian, and the Moslem, hallowed by the footsteps and sufferings of the Son of God.

Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Jerusalem'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​rpd/​j/jerusalem.html. 1893.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile