Jerusalem – What Is the Messiah Connection?
Jerusalem, an ancient, world-famous city with no natural wealth or strategic value – no harbor, no navigable waterway, no major trade routes, militarily isolated with valleys on all four sides, not even a natural water source within its walls – an improbable city in the desert.[i] Could Jerusalem play a role in weighing the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah?
Happenings of great religious significance began at the place about 1000 years before the future city would ever come to be called Jerusalem. Its entire existence is based almost solely on its religious heritage. A 2000-year history leading up to the era of Jesus of Nazareth produced a legacy of kings, births, deaths, prophecies, angels, sacrifices, blessings, wars, exile and restoration.
One day God instructed Abram to move from Haran in Canaan to an unnamed location. By faith, he and his family resettled in a strange land near Salem.[ii] During these years, God blessed Abram, changed his name to Abraham and promised he would become the father of a great nation.[iii] His miraculous-born son, Isaac, would be the first step in fulfilling God’s promise.
Isaac would pass on his father Abraham’s blessing to his own son, Jacob whose name was changed by God to Israel.[iv] Many years later Israel, along with his 11 sons and their families, moved to Egypt under the protection of his long lost son, Joseph, who had become the second most powerful man next only to Pharaoh.
Over the next 400 years, the 12 tribes of the Children of Israel became slaves of Egypt. Meanwhile back in Canaan during the absence of the clan of Israel, the Jebusites occupied Salem coming to be known as Jebus.[v]
Fleeing Egypt through the Red Sea, the Hebrews arrived at Mt. Sinai. Five big promises in the Law given to Moses atop Mt. Sinai were tied to the place. All required a city – a new homeland for the city; the throne for a king; a permanent place for His Name to dwell; a permanent place to observe the Feasts; and the place of the judgment seat of Israel.
God just didn’t yet say exactly where the place would be.[vi]As a visual sign of His promise, God sent an angel in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to lead them to the place that He had chosen.
First fulfillment of the five big promises was a return to the land of Abraham, “The Promised Land,” when the Hebrews crossed the Jordan River. Hinting at the city location of the place, God twice called out the occupants of Salem – the Jebusites:[vii]
EX 23::20, 23 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.… “For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites…”(NASB)
EX 33:1-2 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’” I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.” (NASB)
A kingdom would become the second of the five big promises tied to the place.[viii] God predicted to Moses the Hebrews would one day want a king to rule them like the other nations and when that time came, He would choose the king from among their own people.
As predicted, centuries later the people wanted a king to lead them like the other nations. Instead of God choosing their king, the Hebrews chose their own first king, Saul, by casting lots.[ix]
As time would bear out, the people’s choice failed. Saul did not seek God’s guidance and it would cost the lives of himself and his three sons on the battlefield. With Saul’s failed kingship and death, Israel accepted God’s choice for a new king, David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem.[x]
Promise of a kingdom for Israel had only been partially fulfilled. David was a king without a place for his throne and he had an eye on Jebus still occupied by the Jebusites. Up to this point, every attempt by the fledgling nation of Israel to defeat the Jebusites had been unsuccessful.[xi]
David had become famous as a skilled warrior and giant slayer while serving in King Saul’s army. As King, David gathered the people of Israel from the surrounding areas to form a large army, went to war with Jebus and took the city.
Salem – Jebus – was now called the City of David. Soon thereafter, encompassing Mount Zion and Mount Moriah, it became known as the City of Jerusalem.[xii] A city with no logical reason for existence, Jerusalem became the capital of Israel, the throne of King David fulfilling three of God’s promises.
Fourth and fifth promises were fulfilled within Jerusalem with the building of the Temple on Mt. Moriah, the place where the Passover was only to be celebrated at its appointed time. The Chamber of Hewn Stone, part of the Temple, became the place of the highest court in the land, the judgement seat of Israel. There, final judgments were made to enforce God’s Law for criminal offenses that included capital death cases.
An interwoven trail of blessings, testing of faith, much drama, prophecies made and fulfilled over the course of a millennia, all climaxed with the glory days of Jerusalem under King David. Splendor would be short lived – the end of David’s reign marked the beginning of the nation’s deterioration. The downhill slide eventually spiraled out of control to the point all would be eventually lost when Jerusalem with its Temple was destroyed and its select inhabitants were exiled to Babylon.
A millennium after its height of glory during David’s reign, a comeback for Jerusalem came under King Herod. Jesus of Nazareth appeared on the scene, born in the same place as David, Bethlehem, and in the royal lineage of King David.
Six prophecies by three prophets predicted the Messiah would come from the House of David.[xiii] Was the timing of the arrival of Jesus; born in the same town as David in Bethlehem and in the royal lineage of King David; all a mere coincidence culminating with Jesus being placed on trial in Jerusalem and crucified … or was it God’s plan for Jesus as the Messiah?
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[i]“Jerusalem .” New World Encyclopedia. “Jerusalem Archaeological Sites: Biblical Water Systems.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2014.
[ii] Genesis 11-15. “Historical Timeline.” The Biblical Zionist. 2009. <http://www.biblicalzionist.com/timeline.htm> Uittenbogaard, Arie. “Salem meaning | Salem etymology.” <http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Salem.html#.U5SQqCjyTih> Josephus. Wars of the Jews. Book VI, Chapter X.
[iii] Genesis 17.
[iv] Genesis 32, 35.
[v] I Chronicles 11; Judges 1, 19; Joshua 15; Psalms 76.
[vi] Exodus 23, 33; Deuteronomy 12, 17.
[vii] Ryrie Study Bible. Ed. Ryrie Charles C. “Laws relating to conquests” ref. Ex. 23:20-33.
[viii] Deuteronomy 17.
[ix] I Samuel 10.
[x] I Chronicles 11.
[xi] I Chronicles 11.
[xii] I Chronicles 17. Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, Book VII, Chapter III.1-2.
[xiii] Isaiah 9; 11. Jeremiah 23; 33. Zechariah 3; 6.