Ancient Near East
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Sometimes we ascribe to ancient people a different nature from us, as if they were wholly other than the people we are and know. But we all share the same human nature, made in Godís image, fallen though we are, and the people of ancient Jerusalem wanted the same things that we want for ourselves today.
They longed for security and protection, so the city had a massive wall around it. People had to survive and make a living out of the industries available; there were agrarian vocations such as farming, & raising animals. There were fisherman, ship builders, woodworkers, trades in metals, pottery and crafts. There was a merchant class ready to buy and sell anything near or far, and money lenders who lived off of interest payments. They married, and raised children with hopes and dreams, there was a religious life, built through the synagogues and the Temple. Most people were poor and lived in the lower city, a small minority including the King and the High Priest lived the wealthy life in the upper city
The priesthood made their living by representing God. They controlled the mainstay of religious life, the Holy Temple. Great damage can be done to the hearts of people, when those in authority hijack a Divine mandate, and steer it into a self serving direction. The Temple was mandated by God. It was the outgrowth of the original Tabernacle in the wilderness that God commanded Moses to build. (Exo. 25:9) Itís functioning provided for the mediation between Israel and God through itís vicarious removal of sin through the animal sacrifices performed by the priests, the Levites. God gave the Law to Moses, but He provided mercy through the blood sacrifices for forgiveness, pre-figuring the final sacrifice of the Son of God. All of the national holy days such as Passover and Yom Kippur provided for the cleansing of individuals and the nation of sin. The priests, who were employed to provide that forgiveness, were to be provided for, (2 Chron. 31:4) and like today, many scribes and teachers of the law were of modest means and studied hard to bring education to the people, but there was a priestly class who figured out how to become exceedingly rich, almost beyond measure, through the imposition of Temple taxes on these sacrifices, and by other means.
The self righteous Pharisees, the so called orthodox and fundamentalists of the day, gained pride and standing by heaping more and more guilt upon the seekers of God with their powerful command of scripture. (Mat. 23: 4) Caiphas and Annas controlled the Temple, making immense wealth off of that guilt as the seekers of God came to Godís provision to remove sin, King Herod was rich off the backs of the people with his taxes, building his massive structures as monuments to himself, and keeping the Priesthood content by building them the Temple. Rome employed an army of tax collectors, and used itís force to keep this entire political order stable. The system was air tight, until the Messiah greatly upset Jerusalem city life. He cleansed the Temple money changers twice - directly challenging the High Priests (John 2:13; Mat. 21:12) He pulled down the self righteousness of the Bible teachers (Mat. 23), He circumvented all existing corrupt authority, and went directly to the needy people themselves, healing their wounds, forgiving their sins, searching for the lost and shepherding them with mercy and the heart of God, as foretold by the Prophet Ezekiel. (Eze. 34)
For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
The seekers and needers of God could be saved by the Messiahís direct intervention, but the city and itís system was so completely corrupt, and so misrepresented the God who originally established it as His own dwelling place, that Jesus Himself prophesied over it in a deeply moving climatic moment
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, `BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!' "
The City today is still the center of religious, political and military controversy, as the headlines testify. Yet Scripture says that God will have His way with this City, it belongs to Him, and one day, soon and very soon, He Himself will return to take it back.
First by a special outpouring of His Holy Spirit
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. "In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. "The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.
Second by coming to the City again Himself, to the very place that He ascended from almost 2000 years ago.
Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! Ö And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.
(Zech. 14:1-5, 9)
When one considers that the prophet Zechariah in the Old Testament wrote these words in the 6th century BC, they take on great weight. Jerusalem belongs to the Lord, and as these last days blossom and bloom, it will continue to be a sign and a wonder to the world.
City of David (Tomb)
"Whoever has not seen Jerusalem in its splendor has never seen a fine city."? Babylonian Talmud (Succah, 51b)
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Primary Sources for the Study of First Century Jerusalem: Josephus, The Mishnah, The New Testament, Pliny.
The Jerusalem of Herod the Great
The Jerusalem Jesus knew nowhere near resembled the city David conquered in the tenth century BC. At that time, it had been a small, isolated hill fortress, valued more for its location than its size or splendor. Yet from that time on it was known as the City of David, and the kings of David's dynasty, especially his son Solomon, had enlarged and beautified it.
In the sixth century BC, the army of Nebuchadnezzar leveled Jerusalem and drove its citizens into exile. During the long years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews in exiles' prayers and longings focused on the distant Holy City. But the city rebuilt by the Jews who returned a century later was far inferior to its former splendor. It was, ironically, the hated tyrant Herod the Great who restored Jerusalem to its former grandeur.
In the 33 years of his reign (37-4 B.C.), Herod transformed the city as had no other ruler since Solomon. Building palaces and citadels, a theatre and an amphitheatre, viaducts (bridges) and public monuments. These ambitious building projects, some completed long after his death, were part of the king's single-minded campaign to increase his capital's importance in the eyes of the Roman Empire.
No visitor seeing Jerusalem for the first time could fail to be impressed by its visual splendor. The long, difficult ascent from Jericho to the Holy City ended as the traveler rounded the Mount of Olives, and suddenly caught sight of a vista like few others in the world. Across the Kidron Valley, set among the surrounding hills, was Jerusalem, "the perfection of beauty," in the words of Lamentations, "the joy of all the world."
The view from the Mount of Olives was dominated by the gleaming, gold-embellished Temple which was located in the most holy spot in the Jewish world and really God's world. This was the Lord's earthly dwelling place, He mediated His throne here and raised up a people to perform rituals and ceremonies here that would foreshadow the coming of His Messiah kinsman redeemer who would be the lamb of God, slain for the sins of the whole world.
The Temple stood high above the old City of David, at the center of a gigantic white stone platform.
To the south of the temple was THE LOWER CITY, a group of limestone houses, yellow-brown colored from years of sun and wind. Narrow, unpaved streets and houses that sloped downward toward the Tyropean Valley, which ran through the center of Jerusalem.
Rising upward to the west was THE UPPER CITY, or Zion, where the white marble villas and palaces of the very rich stood out like patches of snow. Two large arched passageways spanned the valley, crossing from the Upper City to the temple.
A high, thick, gray stone wall encircled Jerusalem. It had been damaged, repaired and enlarged over the centuries, and in Jesus' day it was about 4 miles in circumference, bringing about 25,000 people into an area about a square mile. At intervals along the wall were massive gateways. Just inside each gate was a customs station, where publicans collected taxes on all goods entering or leaving the city.
? Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)