Overview – First Century Jerusalem
The etymology of the name
is not certain; it is apparently of Semitic origin. An Egyptian notice from the
third quarter of the nineteenth century B.C. mentions Urusalimum. The Assyrians
called it Ursalimmu. Modern scholars take these names to mean
"founded by the god Shalem,"
a god of the Amorites (Jerusalem is said to have been founded by Amorites and
Hittites; (Ezek 16:3,45).
In time, however,
the second part of the name became associated with shalom ("peace") in Hebrew
minds, and Jerusalem came to mean
"city of peace."
Romans and Greeks called it
To the Arabs it is
The first city of
Palestine, and the "holy city" for three great world religions: Christianity,
Judaism, and Islam.
Jerusalem's Names (Jerusalem means
"The City of Peace")
1. Salem was the first recorded name of Jerusalem revealed
in the Scriptures. Jeru means city and the word "Salem" comes from the Hebrew
'Shalom" and means "Peace" but it means much more than peace, shalom has a
connotation of wholeness, contentment, blessing, prosperity, and lack of
aggression. Genesis 14 reveals that Melchizedek was the king of Salem when
Abraham met him and paid him tithes from his spoils of the war against the kings
of the east. David said, " In Salem is the tabernacle and his dwelling place in
Zion " (Ps. 76:2).
2. Jebus was the second name and also mentioned in the
Bible. It was an old name of Jerusalem derived from the Jebusites who dwelt
there during the time of king David. During this period the city was really
Mount Zion, the chief hill (Judg. 19: 10; 1 Chron. 11:4, 5). Note: Even though
the Jebusites referred to Jerusalem as Jebus, the Tell El Amarna Tablets shed
light on the etymology of the very ancient name using the name "Urusaliyim" for
3. Jerusalem was a combination of Jebus and Salem and was
first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 10:1, where Adoni-zedek, king of
Jerusalem, made an alliance with other kings against Joshua of Israel.
4. The City of David was the next name of Jerusalem mentioned in
Scripture. Once David became king over Israel he conquered the Jebusites and
stormed their fortress on Mount Zion (1 Sam. 5:5-9).Jerusalem became his home
and the capital of his kingdom. Jerusalem became the City of David.
5. Aelia Capitoiina was the next name given to Jerusalem.
In 135 AD after the Roman had destroyed and buried the city they rebuilt a
portion of the city and erected a temple to Jupiter on Mount Moriah and forbid
access ti any Jew to enter Jerusalem. The Emperor Hadrian gave Jerusalem the
name "Aelia Capitoiina" and the Moslems retained this name until the time of the
6. El Khuds is the name given by the Mohammedans, and it
is known by this name at the present time.
7. Jerusalem regained its name with the creation of the
State and Country of Israel despite the fact that the Muslims control the Temple
Jerusalem is located 14 miles west of the Dead Sea, 33 miles east of the
Mediterranean. Bethlehem lies about 5 miles to the southeast. The city is
situated on an uneven rocky plateau at an elevation of 2,550 feet. It is 3,800
feet above the level of the Dead Sea. It is poetically called "beautiful in
elevation, the joy of the whole earth" (Ps 48:2). Its location has helped to
give it prestige and protection.
Jerusalem stands at
a point where three steep-sided little ravines join to form one valley. They are
the Kidron, Tyropoeon, and Hinnom valleys. The Kidron runs north and south and
lies on the east of the city. Between it and the Tyropoeon Valley (also
north-south) a long, narrow spur extends southward; on this stood the Jebusite
town conquered by David. Then a western hill (now known as Zion) stands between
the Tyropoeon and the Hinnom, which runs north and south and then curves in an
easterly direction to join the other two valleys. To the east of the Kidron
rises the Mount of Olives.
Jerusalem – David’s Time
Jerusalem – Solomon’s Time
Jerusalem – Hezekiah’s Time
Jerusalem – Jesus’s Time
Jerusalem – Today
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
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.
Commerce of the Lower City
Once past one of
the gates, you would face a maze of dusty streets and alleyways, running uphill
and down in every direction. As you made your way toward the temple, you would
hear sounds of voices, the clatter of hooves and odors of cooking food. Along
the Small Market street in the Lower City, you would pass open-air shops where
Jerusalem's craftsmen sat at work: the city's weavers, dyers, potters, bakers,
tailors, carpenters and metalworkers. Farther along you would enter the colorful
bazaar, where merchants sold fruits and vegetables, dried fish, sacrificial
animals, clothes, perfumes and jewelry.
The market street
was always crowded and busy, especially on Mondays and Thursdays, the main
market days, when citizens and visitors came there to buy goods or souvenirs.
Perishable goods were on sale every day. Only on the Sabbath was the street
empty and quiet.
After traveling you
could stop to rest at one of Jerusalem's many taverns or restaurants. There you
could select from a menu offering fresh or salted fish, fried locusts,
vegetables, soup, pastry and fruit. You could drink local wine or imported beer.
The farmers of
Jerusalem, like their rural cousins, went out each morning to tend their crops.
Most of them worked in the rich olive groves that covered the surrounding
hillsides and provided the city's only major export.
numerous craftsmen had for a long time been organized into professional groups
and most of them worked in public shops. The members of each group lived in a
cluster of houses in a particular section of the city and they usually had their
own synagogue. In Jesus' time, there were at least 480 synagogues in Jerusalem.
Pomp of the Upper City
Most of Jerusalem's
working people lived in the crowded, noisy precincts of the Lower City. Their
one- and two-story houses stood packed closely together. In contrast, the broad
fashionable avenues of the Upper City were laid out in an orderly grid pattern
like the elegant cities of Greece and Rome. This part of Jerusalem was the home
of the rich and powerful Jewish families and high-ranking Roman officials.
from the rest of the population, they lived in spacious white marble mansions
and palaces built around courtyards with elaborate gardens and pools. The
magnificent royal palace of Herod the Great- later used by the Roman governor of
Judea during his visits to Jerusalem-was situated in the uppermost northwest
corner of the city.
Directly in front
of the palace stood the Upper Market, with its Roman-style arcades along three
sides and an open court for market booths in the center. Here were the shops of
the dealers in luxury goods: the distillers of expensive oils and perfumes; the
master tailors and silk merchants; the goldsmiths and silversmiths; the dealers
in ivory, incense and precious stones. Household slaves went there to buy
expensive imported foods for their masters' banquet tables.
Not far away was
the PALACE OF THE HIGH PRIEST. (The high priest at the time of Jesus' ministry
in Jerusalem, Caiaphas, did not live there but in another section of the Upper
City. Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin probably took place in one of the large
halls of his palace). Herod the Great had also built a THEATRE in the Upper
City. It was a large, open-air auditorium with semicircular rows of seats
ascending from a central stage. Wealthy Jews came there to watch the best of
Greek and Roman drama. Most traditional Jews, however, scorned this and other
outgrowths of Greco-Roman culture as immoral.
Jerusalem During the Feasts
During these times
the enormous crowd of pilgrims into the Holy City inflated its population of
25,000 to at least four or five times that number. This brought an important
stimulus to the city's economy. Besides creating a huge demand for food, lodging
and sacrificial animals, the incoming Jews were required to spend a tenth of
their annual income (after taxes) within Jerusalem. This "second tithe" was in
addition to the tithe they had to pay directly to the temple.
Many pilgrims found
lodging in one of Jerusalem's inns or in private homes. Some of the foreign
Jewish communities had built shelters for their citizens to use when they
visited the Holy City. The Essenes and Pharisees also provided lodging for
fellow members. But the vast majority stayed in tents outside the city or in
private homes in the villages of Bethphage or Bethany, where Jesus and his
disciples stayed during his last months of ministry.
and the excitement of the festivals frequently led to outbreaks of violence and
anti-Roman rebellion. On more than one occasion the huge mass of pilgrims had
been stirred up by zealous nationalists or would-be Messiahs. For this reason,
the Roman governor made a point of being present during these occasions, and
extra soldiers were stationed at strategic locations throughout the city.
large crowds of pilgrims three times a year, the temple provided a constant
demand for supplies from local merchants. Its requirements provided the backbone
of the city's economy, and some had become extremely rich by monopolizing the
supplying of certain items. The wealthy family of Garmo, for example, had the
exclusive right to bake the offertory loaves of bread for the temple. Other
merchants wove the priestly vestments, supplied incense, carried wood for the
altar fires and fashioned the sacred ornaments and golden vessels.