Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jerusalem: Olympian City Becomes Righteous Too

According to the Bible, there was nothing special about Jerusalem’s beginnings. As Ezekiel put it, Thus says the [Lord Yahweh] to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite (16:3).

Its history was nothing special for centuries. Even at the conclusion of the conquest of Canaan by Israel around 1445 BC, the people of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this day.

From its beginnings and for centuries, Jerusalem was just an Olympian city like any other.

It was the fault of David, king of Israel (r. 1055-1015 BC), that this changed.

At the beginning of his rule, David governed from the city of Hebron. From there he led an attack on Jerusalem, took it, then made it his capital. Once he got settled in Jerusalem, and exercised firm control of his enemies all around, David wanted to build a temple (or house) for Yahweh in Jerusalem and put the Ark of the Covenant into it (2 Samuel 7:1-3).

This ark was a wooden box, overlaid with gold, which contained the stone tablets on which Yahweh had written the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai in 1491 BC. It had traveled with the people of Israel since that time and had been kept in the highly portable Tent of Meeting. David now intended to give it its first permanent stationary house.

The idea had never occurred to Yahweh and he didn’t like it now. Yahweh had Nathan the prophet say to David, Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” (2 Samuel 7:7).

Still, Yahweh loved David and David loved Yahweh. So Yahweh agreed to David’s idea but with a twist. Did David want to build a house in Jerusalem for Yahweh? Yahweh would first build a house or dynasty there for David. Yahweh would guarantee that David’s descendants would rule there. Then Yahweh would allow a descendant of the House of David to build a permanent stationary house for him in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:8-17).

David’s son Solomon ruled from Jerusalem for 40 years (1015-975 BC) following the death of his father. It was Solomon whom Yahweh enabled to build a house for him in the city. Solomon’s men completed it around 1005.

Upon its completion, Yahweh chose to fill that house with his presence: And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of [Yahweh], so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of [Yahweh] filled the house of [Yahweh] (1 Kings 8:10-11).

With Yahweh's presence in that house in that city, Jerusalem stopped being nothing but an Olympian city like all the rest. With Yahweh’s presence, Jerusalem, without ceasing to be an Olympian city, also became a righteous city: a city chosen by Yahweh to serve as a witness to his presence.

David’s desire started it but Yahweh’s free decision made it so.

(Today we continue to reflect on Jacques Ellul's The Meaning of the City [Eerdmans, pp. 94-6]. Today's biblical quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version).

 Copyright © 2014 by Steven Farsaci.
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