We started out our day Friday walking to the City of David. This is confusing, so hang with me here…
David founded Jerusalem, taking the hill from the Jebusites and moving the capital from the Judean area of Hebron into a more central area not previously identified with any tribe.
He built a fantastic city which has remains (recently excavated) that we believe include his palace. They even found some clay seals which have some of the names of biblical authorities around David’s time. The clay–which would otherwise have disintegrated–was inadvertently “fired” by later conquerors of Jerusalem providing us some little bits of history thousands of years later. Pretty cool.
In that time, for defensive reasons, people like to build cities on top of hills. But most water sources were in the valleys. Which is why you would have daughters. Preferably, a bunch of them.
But even if you had girls to carry your water, there was another problem–a city without an internal water supply was not defensible at all. So, as we have seen at other places, the people came up with some truly ingenious ways of working through that issue. In this case, it included building a fortress around the water. It is not completely preserved, but parts of it have been excavated and they are incredible–especially considering the types of tools that would have been available to them at that time. Basically, bronze.
Jumping forward, years later, King Hezekiah would come up with yet another solution. He changed the city wall and dug an amazing tunnel through the mountain–600 yards to divert that water and bring it inside. The Bible recounts this story and the fact that they started on the two ends and managed to meet in the middle. It is almost unbelievable, but our eyes saw it and half of us had the fun of walking up the tunnel back into the city, ending near the pool of Siloam. The water is still cold–running as high as our thighs in some places.
Tell you what, things they built back they were built to last. No wonder Hezekiah liked to show off. Interestingly, the Syrians did come to attack Hezekiah, God struck them with blindness and they did not prevail at that time.
Some of the history is hard to picture even standing there on the spot because the cities have been built, destroyed, and rebuilt so many times over the thousands of years. Walls have been moved; buildings have changed purposes, etc. Until fairly recently, there was not a lot of effort to excavate or preserve much of anything in the City of David…the old, old Jerusalem. In fact, most of it is just an Arab neighborhood.
Of course, we know that the first temple site was also in the City of David (annexed to it, actually), not built by David, but by his son, Solomon. That temple was destroyed and later reconstructed by Ezra.
The next really impressive temple was actually built by Herod, not long before the days of Christ. It was really more of a political move for Herod and it served to both appease the Jews and provide for a center of commerce. At Jesus’ time, there was a new Jerusalem (now, the “Old City”) on the mountain above the City of David, and on it, Herod enclosed a huge site into a large table (now, the “Temple Mount”). The stones used to build this site are incredible. We saw one 6000 tons: is was 32 feet long and 15 feet deep. Curtis used the level app on its phone and we could see that 2000 years later, it was still perfectly level. The stones aren’t cemented together in any way—they don’t have to be I guess. Even now with our modern tools, a 6000 ton stone isn’t going much of anywhere.
As Jesus prophesied, the temple which stood there during his day was completely torn down and hundreds of years later, the Dome of the Rock was built there and the Muslims claim it now as a holy site. The temple mount remains, however, as an incredible tribute to Herod’s construction prowess. And, of course, it is still the site of much biblical history from Jesus as a young boy to his throwing out money changers just days before his death. The massive size of it also gives perspective on how many pilgrims would have traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in those days. Thousands from all over would have heard and known of Jesus and taken the stories back to their cities and villages.
Gilad thinks of Jesus as one man in a sea of similar ones who claimed to be a Messiah—some who were trouble makers and some who were crazy. Had it not been for his two incredible PR people—Peter and Paul—he doesn’t think he would have made much of a splash in history at all. (Of course, there is this little thing of the resurrection that set Jesus apart, but more on that tomorrow.)
He said, somewhat critically, although perhaps just as an observation, “You people see Jesus is everything. You read the Old Testament and you think everything points to Jesus.”
And he’s right.
And I’ve seen Jesus in Israel—from the City of David (his great great-great-great grandfather) to the stories we heard of recent Jewish history while watching Jewish boys playing in the streets of the Jewish quarter. The story is one of law and grace. Law which came through Moses and grace which came through Jesus Christ.
The Jewish people have a history that ties together the Old and New Testaments. The fact that they are still around at all after the wars, desolations, holocausts, dispersions, and drama that checkers their past screams of a God who chose them to be His people and who sent his Son as a Savior.