A Biblical History of Jerusalem

References to the city of Jerusalem appear throughout the entire Hebrew and Messianic Scriptures. Through the ages it has been called by many names: Salem, Mount Moriah, Adonai Urah, Jebus, Jerusalem, Zion, the City of David, and Ariel (Lion of God). God has declared that this is the place He will establish His Name and will dwell there forever (1 Kings 9:3).

This is a city rich in history, tradition and culture. It is also one of the main focal points of the United Nations and the world. This article will show the history of Jerusalem as it is presented in the Scriptures: without interpretation or speculation. The aspect of prophecy will not be addressed as this is not a part of the literal history of Jerusalem. To understand the periods of time, all dates are taken from known historical events, except in the time of Abraham.

The Beginning

The Scriptural history of Jerusalem begins when Abraham meets "Melek Tzedek", king of Salem - around 2110 BC/BCE (Genesis 14:17-20). This is following Abraham's defeat of Chedorlaomer after he had captured Abraham's nephew, Lot. A peculiar aspect of this meeting is that Abraham had bread and wine with "Melek Tzedek" and then gave him a tenth of all he had. The Scriptures reveal that "Melek Tzedek" is a priest of the God Most High.

Several years later (approx. 2082 BC/BCE), following a command from God, Abraham took Isaac, his only begotten son, to Mount Moriah in order to offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord (Genesis 22:1-18). Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). As he was about to kill Isaac, the Lord intervened and supernaturally provided a sacrifice in the place of Isaac. Abraham called that place of sacrifice, "The Place Where God Will Be Seen" (Genesis 22:14). This is usually wrongfully interpreted as "The Lord Will Provide" or "The Lord Who Provides" since God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac. However, the Hebrew word no Hebrew fonts means "will be seen" (future tense). By this we can see that the Lord had already chosen Jerusalem as the place where He would establish Himself.

Around 1405 BC/BCE, "The sons of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it" (Judges 1:8). It was the dividing line between Judah and Benjamin, on Benjamin's side. It is said that the sons of Benjamin could not drive out the Jebusites so they lived together (Judges 1:21).

David and Solomon

David conquered Jerusalem by defeating the Jebusites in 1052 BC/BCE (1 Chronicles 11:4-9). It is interesting to note that, in the middle of a war with the Philistines (Palestinians), David, upon being anointed king over Israel, turned to Jerusalem in order to take the city as capital of his kingdom. He ignored the Philistines (Palestinians) until Jerusalem was secured and established. He reigned there thirty-three years and built Jerusalem into a great city.

David desired to bring the ark of God into Jerusalem. His first attempt, however, was a disaster (1 Chronicles 13:1-14). It was not transported according to Torah and, as a result, cost the life of one of David's men. Eventually, David did bring the ark into Jerusalem the proper way (1 Chronicles 15:1-16:6).

David wanted to build a house for God, but God told him that He would establish for David, a house, a throne, and a kingdom, forever (2 Samuel 7:1-17). But because of the blood on David's hands, God did not allow him to build the house (1 Chronicles 22:8). However, David did make preparations for his son, Solomon, to build it (1 Chronicles 22:2-5, 14-16).

The Adversary (Hebrew: Ha'Satan) maneuvered David into taking a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21). This would put David's trust in his men, rather than God. Even Joab recognized this and tried to dissuade David from taking the census. Nevertheless, David prevailed and the census was taken. God was displeased and gave David a choice in his punishment: three years of famine, three months of attack by his enemies, or three days of pestilence in Israel. David, not wanting to feel the ruthlessness of man, told God he wanted to fall into the hands of the Lord. So God sent a pestilence on Israel and 70,000 men died. God then sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. However, when the angel was standing over the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite, with his sword lifted to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord felt sorry and stopped him. David, as well as Ornan, saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth with his sword drawn over Jerusalem. Davis asked God to stop His wrath against Israel as it was he who ordered the census, not the people of Israel. The angel of the Lord told David, through the prophet Gad, to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan. David bought the threshing floor from Ornan and built an altar on it. He then offered burnt offerings as well as peace offerings. These were acceptable to the Lord because He sent fire from heaven and consumed the burnt offering. As the angel of the Lord put his sword back into his sheath, David offered a sacrifice to the Lord on the altar. David declared that "This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel" (1 Chronicles 22:1). The threshing floor of Ornan is the exact same place where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed - Mount Moriah.

After David's death, Solomon (in 1015 BC/BCE) began to "build a house for the Name of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 2:1). It took seven years and 183,300 men to build it (1 Kings 5:13-16;6:38). It measured nearly 90 feet in length, 30 feet in width and 45 feet in height (1 Kings 6:2). The Holy of Holies occupied one-third of the interior space and the Holy Place, two-thirds. The complete details are described in 1 Kings 6 & 7. When it was completed, the Glory of God filled the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1).

However, because Solomon went after other gods due to the influence of his pagan wives, God turned His wrath against Solomon's kingdom, tearing it into two smaller kingdoms.

The Divided Kingdom

Israel was divided after Solomon's death (979 BC/BCE). The kingdom of Israel was in the north, while Judah was in the south.

Jerusalem was the capital of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). It was to be ruled by a succession of twenty kings from 979 BC/BCE to 586 BC/BCE. Their reigns lasted from as short as three months (Jehoahaz and Jehoiachim) to as long as fifty-five years (Manasseh). The bleak history of the declines of Judah is told in 1 Kings 12:1-2, Kings 25:30, and 2 Chronicles 10:1-36:21.

Jerusalem was entirely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC/BCE. The city, as well as the Temple, were completely leveled and the articles of the Temple and its treasures were carried off to Babylon. The inhabitants that were not killed were also taken to Babylon. Jerusalem was to lie desolate for seventy years in order that the land might enjoy its Sabbaths (2 Chronicles 36:17-21/Leviticus 26:34).

The Rebuilding of Jerusalem

In 539 BC/BCE, Cyrus, king of Persia issued a proclamation to rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem (Ezra1:1-4). A total of 42,360 people returned to Jerusalem and Judah to help rebuild the Temple, not including male and female servants and the singers. All gave according to their ability, in order to finance the work.

In the first year, during the month of Tishri, Jeshua and Zerubbabel led a group to build the altar in order to offer sacrifices in accordance with Torah. During this time, they celebrated Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) and the other festivals of the Lord.

After gathering all the materials, they began the work on the Temple in the second year, in the month of Iyar. It was finally completed in 516 BC/BCE on the third day of Adar - a total of twenty-three years.

Seventy-one years later (445 BC/BCE) Nehemiah heard of the condition of Jerusalem. He lived in Susa and was the cup-bearer of king Artaxerxes. Nehemiah asked king Artaxerxes to allow him to return to rebuild the city. The king granted his request and Nehemiah set out for Jerusalem. The account of the rebuilding, along with details regarding the opposition to the work, is given in the book of Nehemiah.

A Holy Sacrifice

There is no Biblical account of Jerusalem from 445 BC/BCE until the time of the Jesus.  In 26 AD/CE, Jesus entered Jerusalem at Passover. He drove out the moneychangers and merchants inside the Temple. Three years later, in Jerusalem, He was offered up as a sacrifice in order that all mankind would be justified before the Father. He wept over the city, even though His death was only days away. Then, on a hill overlooking the city, He was nailed to a cross like a common criminal although He had committed no crime. The city that had killed its prophets had just killed its Savior.

The Church in Jerusalem

In the book of Acts, we see the establishment of the Church in Jerusalem. It was used as a base of operations from which the apostles worked; returning to report what they had accomplished in their travels.


It is plain to see that Jerusalem has played, and will continue to play, an important part in God's deliverance of the earth. It is plain enough that we should seek His guidance and direction concerning this, His Holy City, and our involvement in it.

Source: Lee Underwood



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