Saturday, April 28, 2012




Jerusalem is said to have begun some 3,000 years ago, when David conquered a narrow hill south of today’s Old City, making it the capital and spiritual center of Israel.

The City of David, the ancient nucleus of Jerusalem, is located outside the walls of the present day Old City, on a narrow spur south of the Temple Mount, surrounded on all sides by valleys, near the Gihon Spring that was its liquid lifeline.

Settlement in the City of David began as early as prehistoric times, as attested by potsherds dating back more than 5,000 years to the Chalcolithic period. In the Early Bronze Age the village that stood here took on an urban aspect. It became a small but significant city in the Middle Bronze Age, the time of the Patriarchs, surrounded by walls and extending over about 50 dunams (approximately 12 acres). Jerusalem is believed to be Shalem, the city where, according to Genesis 14, the encounter took place between Abraham and King Melchizedek of Shalem.

According to Joshua and Judges, Jerusalem was not conquered by the Israelite tribes, and remained an enclave of a people called the Jebusites between Judah and Benjamin. David's rise to power and his political policies resulted in Jerusalem becoming the center of the Jewish people.

After David reigned for a short time in Hebron, he conquered Jerusalem in around 
1000 BCE , making it his capital and transforming it into a spiritual center by bringing the Ark of the Covenant there. David's son Solomon finished what his father started, building the Temple and a royal palace.

Despite David's and Solomon's efforts to make Jerusalem a unifying factor, the kingdom split and the city remained the
 capital of Judah  only. Judah's relations with its neighbors flourished, brining prosperity to the city, as well as foreign cultural influences. The House of David continued to rule for 500 years, but according to the Bible, the power of the city frequently waned.

In 586 BCE, the Babylonians conquered the city, destroying it after a lengthy siege. "…came Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem. And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem…(2 Kings 25:8).

The period of the Return to Zion (late 6th century BCE) say the renewal of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple.  As the city spread, the location of the original City of David was forgotten.  Toward the end of the Ottoman period, Jewish settlement on the hill was renewed when the Meyuhas family built their home there in 1873.  A few years later, in 1885, a large group of Yemenite Jews settled in the village of Kfar Hashiloah, which they established next to the Arab village of Silwan.

When archaeological exploration of Jerusalem began in the last 19th century, discoveries on the hill led to its identification as the ancient core of the city.  Scholars and archaeological expeditions from all over the world flocked to the site, which soon became the most excavated mount in the history of archaeology.

The large stone structure – the remains of David’s Palace?

2 Samuel 5, 11
And Hirma king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar-trees, and carpenters, and masons; and they built David a house.

In 2005 remains of what became known as the “Large stone structure” were discovered beneath ruins from the 2nd Temple and Byzantine periods.  Mainly visible in the excavation are the fieldstones that served as the foundation of this large structure; its upper stories have not survived.  Excavations in recent years under the direction of Eilat Mazar, have unearthed numerous finds associated with the structure, which she believes was constructed in the early 10th century BCE.  Based on clues from the Bible regarding the location of David’s house, and on stately architectural elements founds in a nearby landslide, it was suggested that this may have been King David’s palace.

2 bullae (clay impressions used for sealing documents) belonging to high-ranking officials in the court of King Zedekiah, the last King of Judah, were found in relation to the structure.

The royal quarter (Area G)

 The royal quarter (Area G)

Jeremiah 30,18
The city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the fortress in its proper place.

Many of the homes of ancient Jerusalem were built on this slope.  The nature of these dwellings and the remains found within them, show that during the 1st Temple period this was a residential quarter inhabited by notables and royal officials.  This quarter, together with the rest of Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.  In the first part of the 2nd Temple period, a new city wall was built at the top of this area, leaving the earlier ruins outside the city limits.

The impressive stepped structure uncovered at the top of this area served as part of a large retaining wall.  Scholars are divided as to the date of its construction.  Some contend it was built in the 13-12th centuries BCE as part of the foundation of the Canaanite Fortress of Zion, conquered by David, while others believe it supported David’s palace.

Below the steps is a house, which, according to potsherds found in the ruins, may have belonged to Ahiel.  The house is a typical 4-roomed 1st Temple period dwelling.  To the right of the building is a stone toilet seat, set over a pit.  The presence of a toilet near the dwelling reflects the elevated status of its residents.

To the right of the house is a room that was burnt and collapsed in the fire that consumed Jerusalem in 586 BCE, after it was conquered by the Babylonians.  The floor of the room was covered in a thick layer of ash, underneath which excavators found numerous arrowheads and the remains of wooden furniture.  The furniture, made of wood imported from Syria, is another sign of the elevated status of the inhabitants.

Remains of an archive, known as the “House of the Bullae”, were unearthed in the lower section of the site.  The building that housed the archive and its contents were destroyed in the fire, together with the entire quarter.  51 bullae, hardened and preserved by the fire, were discovered by archaeologist Yigal Shiloh during his excavations in 1978-1985.  The seal impressions bear the names of people from the 1st Temple period, including some known from the Bible, such as Gemariahu, an important official in the court of King Jehoiakim.

Nehemiah’s Wall

To the right of the stepped structure once stood a large stone tower (dismantled by the archeologists), which was built in Nehemiah’s time in the mid-5th century BCE.  The small section of wall that can be seen also becomes to this period.  Nehemiah is believed to have constructed the wall here at the top of the slope because piles of debris from the Babylonian destruction made it impossible to rebuild along the original line.

No comments:

Post a Comment