Scriptures

Jerusalem

Introduction

There is so much history that occurred in this city that affected not only the Jews but also the entire world. In reading the Bible we usually form some kind of images in our minds of the places and events we read about in the Bible.

This picture of Jerusalem is an attempt to give us the most accurate pictures of what Jerusalem looked like in the time of Christ. We do not know exactly how certain places in Jerusalem may have looked, but we do know the location of certain places. We can be certain about the walls, water system, palaces, even where certain houses were located.

We know the houses had flat roofs as people often slept on them in hot weather. Some were two stories. Our present knowledge is a result of the archaeological work that has taken place since the 1700s. Today archaeologist still continues to dig and gain new information.

This drawing of Jerusalem allows us to review some significant areas. You might imagine you are in a helicopter or aeroplane looking down upon the city as it was in Jesus’ time. We are approaching the southwest corner of the city. In the future when reading the Bible perhaps we can have a better visual image of what we are reading about that took place in Jerusalem.

Notice first of all Jerusalem was located on a mountain. In the Bible it is called Mount Zion. It was the highest point in Palestine. This is why we read in the Scriptures that people either went up to Jerusalem or they went down from Jerusalem.

Notice the steep cliffs that drop off from the edge of the city walls on the east, south and west. This was the last city captured by David and his soldiers. Because of the steep cliffs and walls, it made it very difficult to conquer.

The Jebusites who occupied Jerusalem taunted David that even blind men could prevent any army in its attempt to conquer Jerusalem. But David did capture it, but we do not know how. The scriptures do not tell us how it was done. There have been various speculations.

Over on the eastern side of Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives. As its name suggests there would have been olive trees. The Garden of Gethsemane was located at the foot of the mountain. Probably a secluded place which some think Jesus used to teach his disciples. A road faintly seen in the picture led from the top of the mountain down to bottom.

This was the road from Bethany. Jesus rode a donkey down this road once. He was cheered by the people and children. It has been called His ‘triumphal entry.’ There would have been a number of graves in this area since burials had to be outside the city walls.

To get to the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem you had to descend from the eastern gate called the ‘Golden Gate’ down across the Kidron valley. In this valley was a dry bed stream. On the south was the Valley of Hinnom. The Greek word for hell (Gehenna) comes from the name of this valley. The Jews threw their trash, refuse, and dead animals into this valley. A fire burned most of the time to burn the refuse. It left a terrible stench in the air. It became representative of the place of everlasting punishment (Hell).

Notice the walled city of David (immediately south of the temple) was very small compared to the city in the time of Christ. Next look at the Temple area. Originally that area was a threshing floor. David bought it for 600 shekels.

Later, Solomon would build the Temple there. David probably bought it in view of building a temple there but God would not allow him to do so because he was a man of blood.

Notice the pool of Siloam at the south end of the wall of the city of David. In the days of King Hezekiah, he anticipated an attack by the Assyrian army. Thus, he took a clear water spring that came out of the side of the cliff below the eastern wall to furnish water for the city. This was the only clear spring water in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

Before Jerusalem had received it water mainly by an aqueduct that brought water in from some distance. They dug a tunnel underneath the city of David letting water empty into a large pool called Siloam, 2 Kings 20:20. Now the city would have a water supply in the event of a siege or attack on the city. They concealed the spring by covering it with masonry.

Notice the long series of steps leading down to the pool of Saloam. Excavations indicate there were gardens in that area at one time. The source of the pool’s water was discovered by Robinson an archaeologist in 1867. The tunnel was 1750 feet long cut through solid rock. A group started at one end and a second group started from the other end. When they met they were only a few feet apart. Can still see pick marks going in both directions.

It is said each group could hear the other using their picks. An inscription just inside the entrance to the tunnel was found in 1880 that verified it was the source of water to Siloam. The tunnel served as a natural siphon. Jesus told a blind man to go wash his eyes in the pool, John 8:7. The blind man and Jesus must have been close to the pool at the time.

During Solomon’s time the city was greatly expanded. The area west of the City of David was at a lower level, almost a valley. The city was expanded westward. It became known as the ‘lower city’ whereas the city of David was known as the ‘upper city.’ You can see a newer wall as the city expanded westward.

As we move further westward, we see a newer section of houses. In the 1970’s the British did much excavating to find that the houses in this section were must finer, more like a Roman Villa. They were larger than those in the old city. Some had mosaic floors. This was probably due to Roman and Greek influence. Herod being very loyal to the Roman rulers may have had something to do with this. We can locate the place of his royal palace but we do not know what it looked like.

You detect two structures that no doubt were the result of the attempt of Herod to Hellenize the Jews. These are the Hippodrome and the theatre. An Amphitheatre was built outside the city. Herod was very much interested in bringing in Hellenistic (Greek) culture. In these places he held musical concerts and athletic events.

Also, you can see the location of the Hasmonean Palace. The Hasmoneans were the descendants of the famous Maccabees family, which fought for Jewish independence against Syria and eventually Rome. They became the official family of High Priests until Herod began to appoint who he wanted to be in that capacity. Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee) probably stayed in this palace while visiting in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ trials.

The drawing shows the houses of this area to be larger and more like the villa houses of the Romans. There seems to be no doubt that those who lived in that area were the wealthy Jews of that day. It is believed that both the High Priest Caiaphas and Annas lived in this secluded area of Jerusalem.

We also get a good view of the location of the Temple and its courts and surrounding buildings. On the south side you can see the Royal Porch which was highly decorated. It’s ceiling and roof was carved out of cedar. We suspect high officials among the Jews would have occupied this building. Perhaps the Sanhedrin assembled there for their meetings. Prominent rabbis may have taught in this building.

It is the colonnade porch along the eastern wall (Solomon’s Porch) that interests us more because it was here the church had its beginning and held daily meetings afterwards. This may be the place where Joseph and Mary found their son Jesus having discussions with some of the Jewish leaders and teachers.

The court of the Gentiles would have been on the south side of the Temple. The court of the women, which was not as large, would have been in the front of the Temple. The court of the priests was adjacent to and surrounding the Temple. The north court was the court of the Jews (Men).

Looking toward the Temple’s northwest corner we can be seen Antonia’s Fortress, which had been built by Herod the Great. Herod named it after his friend Mark Antony. Its walls were 60 feet high. The towers reached a height of 100 feet. Stairs connected the fortress to the temple area. Soldiers were stations here and kept a close watch on Jewish activity in the temple compound.

Roman soldiers rescued Paul from the mob of Jews who were about to kill him. He was put into protective custody in the fortress until he could be removed from the fortress to Caesarea on the seacoast. As it turned out it was done secretly.

An area we are extremely interested in is the Hill of Calvary just outside the Western Wall of the city. There have been other places suggested as being the place where the crucifixion took place. The British excavating in this area in the mid-1960’s but found no signs of any houses suggesting it had been a garden. We know that a garden was located near the sight of the crucifixion. A small hill exists in this area.

Just outside the eastern wall in the Kidron valley can be seen what appears to be two monuments. One of these has been labelled ‘Absalom’s Tomb.’ More recently the tomb of Herod the Great has been found but it had been plundered.

Keep in mind that New Testament Jerusalem was about 20 feet below the present level of the city. The city was destroyed several times. In rebuilding the city, they would build on top of the ruins. Excavations continue to find valuable information from the ruins buried beneath the city. When Peter spoke to the Jews on Pentecost, he mentioned the fact that David tomb was in their midst and its location was well know enough that they could visit the tomb as many people today visit the tombs of famous people.

David’s tomb later was plundered from which a large amount of gold was taken. Today, guides point out certain places as significance Bible places yet present day Jerusalem lies 20 feet above old Jerusalem.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Acts 1:8

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