Editorial - The Uniqueness Of Jerusalem

by Joseph Hunting

Many cities are much larger, and some more beautiful, but none have a history that is more evocative than Jerusalem. Its past extends back over four millennia. It is a city of paradoxes. Jerusalem means "city of peace", yet no other city on earth has been more fought over with such ferocity over such a long period. And certainly no other city has captured the undying devotion of the Hebrew people as has Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a city that is unique. It is "the city of the great King" (Psalm 48:2) for "the LORD has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His habitation" (Psalm 132:13).

It was on Mount Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice to God that Solomon erected his magnificent Temple. No other building, before or since, has had such wealth poured into its construction. And the method of the Temple's construction was also unique. Every stone, regardless of its function, was cut to its exact dimensions prior to being laid in position. The Temple was built of stones dressed at the quarry: "There was no sound of hammer, chisel, or any other iron tool while the house was being built" (I Kings 6:7).

Solomon's magnificent Temple was totally destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. Its successor was commenced some 70 years later by Zerubbabel. Herod the Great enlarged and beautified the second Temple over a period of 46 years. When completed it was one of the wonders of the then world. Herod's Temple was destroyed on 9 Av, 70 A.D., the anniversary of its previous destruction!

In the 7th century A.D. a wooden structure was erected as a mosque on the Temple Mount. This was later demolished and the present shrine known as the Dome of the Rock was erected. Although the Temple Mount is sacred to Jewish people the very Orthodox deny themselves access lest they unwittingly defile the spot where the Holy of Holies was once located. Professor Asher Kaufman of the Racah Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has produced evidence that both Temples were located about 100 metres north of the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Tablets may well mark the site of the Holy of Holies.

So much for Jerusalem's past history. Its present role on the world's stage has been making headlines. It began with the rebirth of Israel in 1948 when fierce battles were fought over the Holy City between the newborn state and Jordan. Israel won the war of Independence, but lost Jerusalem. For nineteen years it was under Jordanian control and Jews were denied access to all their sacred and holy places. Worse still, the Jordanians destroyed and desecrated the synagogues in the Old City. Many were used as rubbish dumps or latrines until the desecration of its holy places of worship was total.

In June 1967 one of the greatest miracles in Israel's long history happened when on the third day of the amazing Six Day War Jerusalem was liberated.

The Psalmist exhorts us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (122:6), and not without good reason, for Zechariah prophesied that the Lord would "make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem" (12:2). In the light of the current peace negotiations involving Israel and her Arab neighbours, Zechariah's concluding prophecy in chapter 14 throws the spotlight on Jerusalem's final redemption with the city's deliverance when "the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle ... And the LORD shall be king over all the earth. In that day it shall be -- the LORD is one, and His name one" (14:3,9).