Experiencing the City of David, the site of ancient Jerusalem, the ‘place where it all began’, is maybe my favorite site to guide as a Tour Guide. This is the best place to walk through the pages of the Bible (Old Testament) & bring it to life, hand in hand, with the archaeological findings that we see on the ground.
For starters, though, let’s take the name Jerusalem. When was the first time that this name was written somewhere?
Dating back to 3,800 years ago, Ursalum (Jerusalem), is mentioned in the Execration Texts. These were found in Egypt. In those times, if the local ruler of a town didn’t pay taxes (protection money) to the stronger ruler in the region, then the stronger rule would break pottery. On this pottery would be names of the towns with the disobeying rulers. If the Ursalum ruler didn’t pay the Egyptian lord, he would then break the Ursalum pottery. This would bring about the downfall of the city (Voodoo style worshiping).
The next time that Jerusalem will be mentioned is going to be in the El Amarna letters, dating back to 3,300 years ago. In this case, the local Jerusalemite ruler is paying his taxes to the Egyptian Pharaoh. The letters describe the local ruler asking the Egyptians to send him soldiers & archers, as he’s being attacked by the ‘Apiru & Chabiiru’ (unclear who they really are). We don’t know what the end result was.
When jumping forward to the time of King David, 3,000 years ago, and his conquering of Jerusalem, we can ask a question- What were the variables that were taken into consideration when choosing a site to build a city? What’s importat?
There are 4 important variables:
1- Protection. You want to be on the high ground. When we tour together in the City of David during your upcoming trip, I’ll show you how the city is high above the valleys surrounding it on 3 of its sides. It’s vulnurable side, though, is from the north. Ancient Jerusalem/City of David is sitting on a slope that’s sliding down from the top of a hill that’s north of it. This leaves the city open to the enemies attack from there.
2- Main road. You want your town to be sitting on the main travel route, for business purposes. Ancient Jerusalem was sitting about 1 mile east of the main road. Not convenient for business.
3- Water. This is the most important resource in the city, for obvious reasons. Ancient Jerusalem does have a spring, the Gihon spring. This spring, though, has enough water for the inhabitants of this city. We’re talking about a city who’s size is 12 acres, with roughly 2,000 inhabitants. If King David is planning on turning this into a larger city, or a place of gathering for pilgrims coming up to the future Temple, then the Gihon spring is not enough.
4- Fertile land. The land around ancient Jerusalem, predominantly limestone, is quite fertile.
We can see that conquering Jerusalem, on a strategic level, may not have been the wisest thing for King David. He might have been better off going to a different hill. If that’s the case, why did he choose the Jerusalem hill upon whiche the Jebosides (an ancient Caananite people) resided?
There can be many answers, and I’ll give 2 here. Political & traditional.
Politics- The Hebrews back then lived in a tribal way of life. The Bible (Old Testament) tells us that there were 12 tribes, and gives us detailed descriptions of where there borders were. The border of Benjamin ran right to the north of ancient Jerusalem, while the city itself sat within the borders of the tribe of Judah. The future 1st Temple, which will later be built by King Solomon, son of King David, actually saw the border of these 2 tribes running through it. It’s important to understand that Benjamin & Judah are rival tribes. The first king of Israel, King Saul, came from Benjamin. After he was killed by the Philistines, King David of the tribe of Judah emerged. This led to a tough Benjamin/Judah Yankees-Red Sox rivalry (sorry, couldn’t help myself..). Now in order to try and unite these 2 tribes, along with the rest of the tribes of Israel, King David chose this site to be his capitol. It is to here that he will later bring the Ark of Covenant & Tablets. He will also lay the foundations for his son, Solomon, to build the 1st Temple.
Tradition- The book of Genesis tells us the story of the binding of Isaac by Abraham, which takes place on Mount Moriah, that is actually the top of the slope upon which ancient Jerusalem resides. Did King David know this tradition? Does this also lead him to here? I can hear the song ‘Tradition’ sung by Tevia from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ playing in my ears..