It is believed that the city of Jerusalem dates back to 2300 BC when it was inhabited (under another name) by the Amorites and then the Hittites. It was then abandoned but is later referred to as Salem in the time of the King and Priest Melchizedek (a contemporary of the patriarch Abraham), in Genesis 26.
Sometime after Melchizedek’s death, Salem was conquered by the Jebusites who renamed the fortification Jebus. It was during the time of Joshua’s conquest of the land, under the control of King Adonizedek, that we read the first account in the Bible of the name Jerusalem (Joshua 10:1). It had been predicted as far back as the time of Moses that the Lord God was going to establish His name there in that place (Deuteronomy 12:5-7,11). It was also the site of the offering up of Isaac as a sacrifice by his father Abraham on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:2).
After the defeat of King Adonizedek, Jerusalem reverted back to its previous name of Jebus (meaning “trodden down”) and remained in the hands of the Jebusites for 400 years until the time of King David.
During the reign of King Saul, David took Goliath’s head after defeating him and buried it in Jebus in a site to be known as the place of the skull (Golgotha) which was later to be the site of the crucifixion of Jesus.
After the coronation of David as king over Israel, the city was taken by Joab (later to become David’s captain) with God’s assistance (2 Samuel 5:6-12) and Jebus then became Jerusalem, a name that has remained until this day. Also from that day it was called “the city of David” and played a great role in establishing the true worship of God with the Ark of God and a new temple constructed there during the reign of King Solomon.
Following the dividing of the kingdom in the time of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, ten tribes constituted the kingdom of Israel to the north and two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, formed the kingdom of Judah in the south. Jerusalem continued to play an important role as Judah’s seat of worship and capital.
Various kings, some righteous and many evil, sat upon the throne of Judah for some 340 years until the reign of King Zedekiah. During his reign, the Babylonians successfully attacked the city and took almost all the Jews of the land into captivity to Babylon where they remained for some 70 years. The city lay in ruins for that 70 year period. However, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, during the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, the people returned and rebuilt the city and temple.
Illustration by Romeyn de Hooghe (Map of Jersualem 1660-1700), Public Domain via wikimedia commons.