The city of David - the core of ancient Jerusalem


 For thousands of years Jerusalem was a subject of men's strife, wars and fanatical zeal. Every ambitious ruler in the past desired to own it. 

When I have just arrived in Jerusalem 22 years ago, I have been working at the small guest house run by the Anglican Church's CMJ Ministry. The guest house is situated in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. While working there I have found out about endless arguments and courts between the current British owners of this piece of "Holy Ground" and the previous ones, Armenians. Both sides thought the area where the Anglican church and the Guest house were situated to be the Mount Zion. But the real Zion remained hidden, unnoticed by numerous "owners" of the Holy Land. Most of it was hidden underground. All this may remind you of the epic "Dream Works" movie "The Matrix". In it the only free human city Zion also laid underground, close to the core of the earth...

Only in the 19th century the ancient city founded by king David was discovered. It is known that Jerusalem was conquered by king David approximately in 1004 BCE.  Back then it was a small fortress called Zion. It surrounded and protected the only source of water in the city - Gihon spring. And the spring is still there, hewn into the channel during different periods of history.

The area was called the fortress of Zion in the Old Testament  and was inhabited by a Canaanite tribe of Jebusites, hence it's name the city of Jebus. And since the period of king David's reign it became a spiritual and political capital of the people of Israel, a city where later the Temple was built...

city of david

Jerusalem is a holy city in Judaism and  in two other major religions Christianity and Islam. But so it happened that the heart of the ancient city where the great kings and prophets of the past had lived was covered by debris and forgotten by the generations. Until it was again discovered as though by God's providence. Incredible and totally unexpected archaeological discoveries were found there during numerous excavations and now presented before general public.

A special fund called "The City of David foundation" was established for the purposes of scientific survey and exploration of the site. Many famous archaeologists conducted excavations there, among them Professor Ronny Reich and Shukron, D-r Eilat Mazar and others. The results of their discoveries are exhibited in the Archaeological park called "The City Of David".

ancient jerusalem

Iron Age

Ancient Jerusalem was located between Kidron Valley and Terapeon Valley. The Temple Mount, then called Mount Moriah was higher then the rest of the area. Mount Moriah is believed to be the same place of which the story of binding of Isaac tells in the book of Genesis 22:

"God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham! And he said, "Here I am."

Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

And Jerusalem also might have been the city of the high priest and king Melchizedek, as it is described in chapter 14 of the book Genesis:

"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.
 And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all."
This is the first mention of Jerusalem in the Bible. Outside the Bible Jerusalem is mentioned in Egyptian sources. 19-18 century execration shards mention the city Ur Shalimum and El Amarna correspondence of the 14th century speaks of Jerusalem as well. El Amarna texts tell about Habiru tribe that was about to conquer Canaanite cities of the future land of Israel.
The Bible tells that king David was the first  to conquer the city for the Israelite and to turn it into a capital of the kingdom. He chose Jerusalem perhaps because of the few reasons. Firstly, it did belong to none of the Israeli tribes and thus their unnecessary competition was prevented. (It was, though, situated in the boundaries of Benjamin's tribe). Secondly, Jerusalem was chosen because of the special geographical and topographical location providing it with more security. It stood on the ancient trade roots and had well protected water source. And most importantly, Jerusalem already acquired the glory of the religious center of the whole area. 
King David had brought  from Hebron and set on top of the sacred mountain the most sacred object of the people of Israel - The Arch of the Covenant. His son Solomon, approximately in 957 BC, had built the first in the history Temple for one God, Creator of the Universe.


After Solomon's death, his kingdom was divided into two as a result of the fight for the throne.

Jerusalem remained the capital of Judea but the tribes of Israel had formed another political center in Samaria. These kingdoms grew weak and became an easy prey of stronger empires such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia.

 The kingdom of Israel had fallen in 8th century BC to Assyria. The Holy Scripture tells us:

"Now it came to pass in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it. 
And at the end of three years they took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is, the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken''. (2 Kings 18:9-11)

Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria."

Before that many refuges flew to Jerusalem and as a result the city grew to the west. King Hezekiah fortified the city and secured the main water source, Gihon spring. Hezekiah channeled it into the underground tunnel and thus hid it from the enemies who threatened to capture Jerusalem.

"Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh from Lachish, with a great army against Jerusalem, to King Hezekiah. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they had come up, they went and stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, which was on the highway to the Fuller's Field." (2 Kings 18:17)

 Unfortunately later Judea fell and was captured by the Babylonians in the 6-th century BC and Jerusalem was pillaged and burned in 586 BC.

return to zion

In, approximately, 444 BCE Nehemiah rebuilt the destroyed walls of the holy city. Then, during the Hasmonean period the city expanded and regained again the title of the capital of Judea.

But in the time of Great revolt against the occupation of the Roman Empire, the city and the Temple were totally destroyed.

Another Jewish revolt in the 2nd century was finally crushed by the mighty emperor Hadrian and since then Jewish people were expelled from the city and their country.

Rediscovery of the city of david

The location of Jerusalem from David and Solomon's times was forgotten over the hundreds of years.  But then British explorer captain Charles Warren arrived in Jerusalem in 1867. He was heading the survey of Palestine Exploration Fund. 

He was the first to discover the Biblical area called Ophel and later the City of David itself. A little bit later, a young man found by chance famous Siloam's inscription, telling the story of how Hezekiah the king of Judea built a channel to protect a water source from the Assyrian army. The story is recorded in the Bible. In 1909-11, Parker's expedition had discovered remains of ancient fortifications that surrounded the area of City of David. That was another proof of the argument that  City of David was the heart of ancient Jerusalem. In 1913 -14 Ronald Weill had found the ancient chamber tombs in the area, their age is dating roughly to the Iron age, the time of the kings of Israel. 

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