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Scripture Ref.RASV-1901
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O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

(It will be helpful for us to understand that Jerusalem has always been the most visible epicenter of the world’s religions. So then by following the history of Jerusalem, we may receive important insights into the historic relationships of the three major religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.)

History of Jerusalem (Encarta 96 Encyclopedia)

"The site of Jerusalem was occupied during the Stone Age; the aboriginal inhabitants were driven out in the period 5000 BC to 4000 BC by a people called in the Old Testament the Canaanites, who had advanced into the Bronze Age. The invaders, a mixed people among whom the Jebusites were dominant, came under Egyptian rule in the 15th century BC, during the conquests of King Thutmose III."

"Then, in about 1250 BC, the Hebrews began their conquest of Canaan, initially under their leader Joshua. So powerfully fortified was Jerusalem, however, that it did not fall until more than 200 years later, when David finally captured it some years after being anointed king of Israel (see 2 Samuel 5:6-9; 1 Chronicles 11:4-7)."

(At this very early point in Israel’s history, there already existed a great enmity between Israel and these coastal peoples. There is more than ample Old Testament documentation concerning this ongoing ethnic struggle between Israel and her neighbors.)

Holy City of the Jews

"According to the Old Testament, David decided to make Jerusalem his residence and the capital of his country. The new king brought the Ark of Jehovah to his capital from its obscurity at Qiryat Ye'crim (a holy place of the time, west of Jerusalem) and installed it in a new tabernacle (see 2 Samuel 6:1-17), built a royal palace and many other buildings, and strengthened the city's fortifications. David's son and successor, Solomon, continued the development of Jerusalem. He built a city wall and many buildings on a scale of magnificence previously unknown to Israel. Solomon's principal buildings were the Temple and a new royal palace, encircled by a wall. The palace, built on successive terraces, consisted of a house (constructed of cedar beams and pillars brought from the forests of Lebanon) that was about 28 m (92 ft) wide, 55 m (180 ft) long, and 17 m (56 ft) high; the throne hall; the palace proper, or royal apartments; and the prison (see 1 Kings 5-7; Nehemiah 3:25-27; Jeremiah 32:2). The courts and buildings of the Temple were constructed on a level above the palace. The main building of the Temple was considered of great beauty, but was comparatively small, being only 20 cubits wide and 60 cubits long (about 11 m wide and 33 m long), exclusive of the porch and the side chambers. The Temple was built of cedar and stone (see 1 Kings 6:3-6) and was surrounded by a court that contained the altar of burnt offerings and a "molten sea," or bronze water tank (see 1 Kings 7:9-12, 23-47)."

"Jerusalem continued to expand after Solomon's reign until the ten northern tribes of Israel seceded from the rule of the house of David, after which the importance of the city, now the capital of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, diminished greatly. Jerusalem was wracked for the next two centuries by costly sieges, incursions, and unsuccessful military undertakings. Not until the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah (reigned 783-742 BC) and his son Jotham (reigned 742-735 BC) did the city begin to regain its previous status (2 Chronicles 26, 27). Between this period and the rise of the powerful Maccabee family, about six centuries later, the history of Jerusalem is that of the Jews. Under the Maccabees, Jerusalem entered upon an era of unprecedented prosperity. It became the holy city of Judaism and the great pilgrim shrine of the Jewish world."

Roman Occupation

"Conquest by the Romans under the general and statesman Pompey the Great in 63 BC resulted in no serious material disaster to the city. Its greatest prosperity was attained under Herod the Great. Besides a complete reconstruction of the Temple on a scale that was truly magnificent, involving the expenditure of vast sums of money, he undertook the building of the Xystus, an open place surrounded by a gallery; his own great palace, on the western side of the city; and a hippodrome, theater, and large reservoir. In addition to these works, minor improvements were made, including the general strengthening of the city's fortifications. Less than a century later, however, during a Jewish rebellion against Roman authority, Titus, son of the Roman emperor Vespasian, captured and razed the city in AD 70; only a few remnants of the western fortifications remained. With this calamity, the history of ancient Jerusalem came to an end."

"The Roman emperor Hadrian visited the city, which was largely in ruins, about AD 130, and began its reconstruction. The rebellion of the Jews, led by Simon Bar Kokhba, against the Romans between the years 132 and 135 led the emperor to make the new city a pagan one and to prohibit all Jews from entering it. The new city was called Aelia Capitolina. The wall which encircled it was, in general, on the line of the old wall, except on the south, where it excluded a large portion of the former city."

A Christian City

"Little is known of the city from the time of Hadrian to that of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, (Edict of Milan AD 313) when Christianity became the religion of the empire. The population of Jerusalem was gradually supplemented by Christians, and pilgrims flocked to the city. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built at the order of Emperor Constantine the Great. Other buildings of like character were subsequently constructed, and Jerusalem became a Christian city. Among the noteworthy buildings belonging to this period are the Church of Saint Stephen, north of the city, built by the Byzantine empress Eudocia, who also rebuilt the ancient southern wall; and the great Church of Saint Mary on the Temple hill, which was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I.

The Christian city, after being captured by the Persians under King Khosrau II in 614, but recovered by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius in 628, was taken in 637 by the Muslims under the caliph Umar I (see Caliphate)."

("THE GREAT EVENTS by Famous Historians"—The National Alumni—1902. The Muslim conquest of Jerusalem—After a siege of four months Jerusalem capitulated, her defenders having no rest from the ceaseless assaults of the besiegers. Hard work still lay before the Saracens in Syria; but after the reduction of Aleppo, which cost several months’ siege, with great loss of lives to the invaders, they passed on to Antioch and other strongholds, until, one by one, all had been subdued; the surrender of Caesarea completing the great conquest and the subjection of Syria to the rule of the Caliph." P.248

In the Saracen’s conquest of Syria, we visit the end of one of their battle so as to gain some insight into these peoples—The Saracens cut off all their heads, then flayed them, and so carried them upon the points of their lances, presenting a most horrible spectacle to all that part of the country,.." p.253

It would appear that the Muslim’s violent tactics, like the other conquering armies of that early period in history, were intended to generate great fear among the local populations. This would fit nicely with the sword in one hand and the Qur’an in the other hand doctrine for advancing the Islamic religion. From the very beginning in the seventh century, Islam has been a religion of physical conquest.)

"A shrine, the Dome of the Rock, was erected over the rock believed to be the altar place of Solomon's Temple."

"The Christians were treated leniently by their Muslim conquerors, but when the Egyptian Fatimid caliphs became the rulers of Jerusalem, in 969, the situation became more precarious."

"The Seljuk Turks conquered the city in 1071, and their maltreatment of Christians and destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were among the causes of the Crusades."

(Some of my thoughts on the Christian Crusades—

After long and careful consideration, one would be hard pressed to believe that Jerusalem was ever supposed to be a Christian city. So for the consolation of the Christian Church, we offer Galatians 2: "25Now this Ha-gar is mount Si-nai in Arabia and answers to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children." So then from this clear instruction, the vision for the Christian Church should be a heavenly vision of freedom and not an earthly vision of bondage.

Nor would one find Jesus at the front of this crusading army that came so far to violently recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. We then find that these crusading armies were also guilty of the same atrocities, as those of the Saracen’s in their conquest of Syria some 462 years earlier.

Though one can understand the perceived religious significance that Christians find in the historic Jerusalem, one must also believe that their perception in this case is greatly misdirected. Once again, they should have remembered what Christ had previously told them—That His kingdom was not of this world. That single principle in itself should have deterred the Christian effort towards the establishment of any earthly rule. But we must also believe that as long as we humans are here on this earth, that as misguided as our efforts might be, we will probably continue to establish earthly ways and objects in our efforts to worship our Creator God.)

Consequently—In 1099 the Crusaders, under the French nobleman Godfrey of Bouillon, gained possession of the city and slaughtered many of its inhabitants. Jerusalem again became a Christian city and the capital of the so-called Latin Kingdom (see Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of), until its capture in 1187 by the Muslim leader Saladin [that] all but ended Christian rule."

Later History

"From the 13th century, when Jerusalem was captured by the Egyptian Mamelukes, through Ottoman rule, begun in 1517, the city's importance declined. During these centuries, however, many Jews, fleeing persecution in Europe, returned to Jerusalem; by the late 19th century they had become a majority of the population.

The city was taken by British forces in 1917, and from 1922 to 1948 it formed part of the British mandate of Palestine.

After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem was the site of some of the most bitter fighting between the Jews and the Arabs.

The United Nations General Assembly, in its original partition plan of November 29, 1947, proposed to establish Jerusalem and its environs as an international enclave. The objective was to ensure free access for all religious groups to the holy places of the city.

In the spring of 1948, however, the opposing armies of Israel and Jordan seized Jerusalem; Israel occupied the western portion of the city, containing the modern residential and business sections, and Jordan occupied the eastern portion, including the Old City. In addition, the Israeli forces held a corridor to Jerusalem extending from Tel Aviv-Jaffa on the coast. In the armistice signed on April 3, 1949 between Israel and Jordan, both sides recognized the other's holdings in Jerusalem.

In 1950 the New City was made the capital of Israel.

During the Six-Day War of June 1967, Israeli forces captured the Old City, and the Israeli Knesset unilaterally decreed the reunification of the entire city. This was reiterated by the Knesset in 1980, when the undivided city was declared the eternal capital of Israel.

Social cleavages between Israelis and Arabs persisted in the unified city of Jerusalem, and neighborhoods were constructed with buffers separating members of the two groups. By 1990 West Jerusalem was exclusively Jewish, and the population of East Jerusalem was evenly divided between Arabs and Jews. While Jewish sections of the city have been the target of government-supported development efforts, Arab areas have been largely neglected.

Jerusalem remained a disputed city into the 1990s, with Israel claiming authority over the city as a whole, and the Palestinians demanding the return of East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites. In September 1993, a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization called for a negotiated settlement on the future political status of Jerusalem. Due to its centrality and sensitivity, however, the topic of Jerusalem was largely set aside as negotiations on implementation of the peace accord continued throughout 1994 and early 1995."

(Then moving on into the 21st century, and understanding today’s political environment in the Middle East—especially Jerusalem, one could conclude that these "negotiations on implementation of the peace accord" have made little or no progress since the 1990s. Matter of fact, one might even say that the conditions in the Middle East have degraded considerably.

It would be very shortsighted on our part, to approach this difficult Middle East situation from the perspective of only its immediate problematic circumstances. That is, what you would be trying to do, is to resolve a problem that has a history of more than three millennia with a twenty-first century mentality. One could agree that the world can probably mandate the "negotiations on implementation of the peace accord" for this Middle East problem, but one cannot believe that their mandated peace accord can remove the enmity—the mutual hatred that has long exists between the Jews and the Arabs. Because it is this mutual hatred on both sides [especially that of the radical extremist groups] that has always fueled this continuing conflict.

If we ever hope to reach a lasting solution for this spiritually important region, the west as a moderator must seek out the counsel of the more moderate voices in the Middle East. Voices like King Abdullah of Jordan and Egypt’s President Mubarak: Two very important Islamic leaders, who appear to have overcome that historic enmity that has for millennia divided the Jews and the Arabs.

Then in one’s humble opinion, the Christian Church is essentially a non-player in these Middle East difficulties. Their only valuable contribution might be to help as a moderator in any negotiated peace process—as they appear to be doing.

Though this problem between the Jews and the Arabs is primarily seen as a cultural problem that is in need of a political solution, one needs to understand that there are some serious religious overtones that do exacerbate this longstanding enmity—and thus hindering the present peace process.

May God’s peace work within each of us to circumvent our natural enmity? And pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Sincerely

Aaron