As part of its ongoing intifada against Israel, radical Islam is fighting fiercely on the intellectual battlefront as well—especially regarding Israel’s historical ties to Jerusalem.
According to a new book by Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Yasser Arafat preposterously claimed to President Clinton at the 2000 Camp David summit that Solomon’s temple was not in Jerusalem (The Fight for Jerusalem). Two years later, in a newspaper interview, Arafat further advanced the myth, claiming that Solomon’s temple wasn’t even in Palestine.
According to Gold, temple denial “quickly became a new Palestinian dogma that was even repeated, with the firmest conviction, by Western-educated Palestinian officials who are assiduously courted by the international media” (ibid., emphasis mine throughout).
In an article titled “Reclaiming Biblical Jerusalem,” Rachel Ginsberg wrote about the territorial gains Palestinian propaganda has also made in the field of academia. “For a growing number of academics and intellectuals, King David and his united kingdom of Judah and Israel, which has served for 3,000 years as an integral symbol of the Jewish nation, is simply a piece of fiction. The biblical account of history has been dismissed as unreliable by a cadre of scholars, some of whom have an overtly political agenda, arguing that the traditional account was resurrected by the Zionists to justify dispossessing Palestinian Arabs” (Aish.com, Nov. 6, 2005).
This revisionist history has even been accepted by certain Israeli scholars, Ginsberg noted: “Israel Finkelstein, chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology, began championing a theory several years ago that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a powerful, unified monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are essentially false. … He concluded that David and Solomon, if they existed at all, were merely ‘hill-country chieftains’ and Jerusalem a poor, small tribal village. He claims that the myth of King David was the creation of a cult of priests trying to create for themselves a glorious history.”
This trend toward historical revisionism is what makes the most recent excavations of Dr. Eilat Mazar so controversial. Since 2005, she and her team of archaeologists have been unearthing a massive stone structure from the original Jerusalem, called the City of David in the Bible (read our article “King David’s Palace Found?” here). Mazar believes she has found King David’s place of residence—the royal palace. Because of her discovery, Gold wrote in his book, “The ‘minimalists’ had suffered yet another blow. Jerusalem, under the united monarchy of David and Solomon, could no longer be credibly characterized as a minor village” (op. cit.).
Since October of last year, our very own Herbert W. Armstrong College has had the honor of jointly participating with Dr. Mazar’s crew on the Jerusalem dig. Three of our volunteer students returned from the site in March. We plan to increase our involvement in Jerusalem over the summer.
Here we will look at the City of David—past, present and future—and show you how Herbert W. Armstrong College, in a very practical, hands-on way, is helping to prepare Jerusalem for the coming of the Messiah!
The City of David
Before King David established Israel’s capital in Jerusalem, the city was a Jebusite stronghold (Joshua 15:8). When David became king in the 10th century B.C.E, he detested the thought of an enemy fortress retaining its location right in the middle of Israel’s territory. And so, after seven years of ruling from Hebron, David’s army attacked the Jebusite city.
The Jebusites were so certain they could defend against David’s attack that they taunted the young king—saying even the blind and lame could defend the city (2 Samuel 5:6). David challenged his military generals, saying whoever captured the stronghold would be given command of the armies in the field. So Joab proceeded to lead a sneak attack by climbing up into the fortified city through a water conduit, resulting in its capture (verses 7-8). “So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him” (verses 9-10).
And so the kingdom of Israel under David’s reign became an incredibly powerful empire, according to the Bible. But revisionist historians claim this account overstates the significance of David’s reign. For some, the biblical version is little more than a fable.
The Bible says the king of Tyre built David a palace after he had conquered the Jebusite fortress and turned it into the City of David—or Jerusalem (verse 11). “But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the [strong]hold”—or, the fortress (verse 17). This verse had a profound impact on Eilat Mazar’s mind while she prepared for the dig.
“The Bible says that David heard about it and ‘descended to the fortress,’” Ginsberg wrote in her article, “implying that he went down from his palace, which was higher up on the mountain than the citadel/city.” She then quoted Dr. Mazar: “I always asked myself: Down from where? It must have been from his palace on top of the hill, outside the original Jebusite city.” Many archaeologists had assumed that David’s palace must have been located within the walled city. But why would the king of Israel build his royal palace inside the cramped city walls of the old Jebusite fortress, Mazar wondered? The old city was only about 9 square acres in size. Relying on the history recorded in 2 Samuel 5:17, however, it made sense. Once David heard about the Philistines’ approach, he left his palace at the peak of Mount Zion and “went down” to the stronghold—entered the walled city, in other words.
So Mazar started digging immediately north of the City of David, right at the top of Mount Zion. And after just one season of digging, she discovered a massive wall, up to 10 feet wide in some places, and running 100 feet in length, east to west.
This scenario makes sense even looking at Jerusalem today. Just north of Mount Zion is Mount Moriah, where Solomon, David’s son, built the first temple, located on what is called the Temple Mount today. So when David captured the Jebusite stronghold and made it Israel’s capital, he later expanded the city northward, building his own palace adjacent to the walled city, at the top of Mount Zion. Then, to the mount just north of there, Solomon constructed a magnificent house for God. And that’s about how Jerusalem remained for the next four centuries.
During the first phase of the dig in 2005, Dr. Mazar found a bulla, or clay disc used to seal scrolls, with the inscription “Yehuchal” on it. This is the name of the Judean prince mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 (Jehucal), indicating that Judean royalty ruled from the palace David built for more than four centuries—right up to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 585 B.C.E.
“For me, finding the bulla was tremendous,” Mazar explained. “Yehuchal was no longer just some name in a biblical account that I might not even have been sure was true. He was a real person. We now have his business card. The account is a real account. It is very rare to find such precise evidence for a narrative in the Bible. … Today the scholarly approach to Tanakh [the Bible] is that it’s not true unless you can prove it true. Maybe we should do a little reverse. Why don’t we say it’s true unless we can prove otherwise?”
How refreshing—a scholar who operates on the assumption that what the Bible says is actually true.
Jerusalem in “Heaps”
In ancient Israel, God had placed His name in Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:1-4). But after evil kings introduced all sorts of abominable practices within the temple, God promised to cast off this city and the temple (2 Kings 23:27). And, of course, that is exactly what happened. About 130 years after Israel’s captivity at the hands of the Assyrians, God caused the Jews also to be driven out of their land into captivity and slavery.
God prophesied through His servant Jeremiah, “And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant” (Jeremiah 9:11). The Hebrew word for “heaps” in this verse means heap after heap of ruins—or waves of ruins. The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem was so thorough that very little remained of the ancient city. (See also Jeremiah 26:18 and Micah 3:12.)
Seventy years after Jerusalem was destroyed, about 50,000 Jews returned in order to rebuild the ruined city. This history is recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. This time, the city of Jerusalem and the second temple weren’t nearly as impressive as the first ones. Nevertheless, this rebuilt city remained intact for about 300 years—until the second century B.C.E. during the Maccabean Revolt.
During that period, the Syrians had gained control of much of Judah—and the Jews, led by Simon of the Maccabean brothers, set out to remove the Syrians entirely from the region. According to Jewish historian Josephus, the last Syrian stronghold to fall during the Maccabean Wars was the citadel fortress on top of Mount Zion. Simon cut off supply lines into the city in order to starve its inhabitants into submission.
“He [Simon] also took the citadel of Jerusalem by siege,” Josephus relates, “and cast it down to the ground, that it might not be any more a place of refuge to their enemies when they took it, to do them a mischief, as it had been till now. And when he had done this, he thought it their best way, and most for their advantage, to level the very mountain itself upon which the citadel happened to stand, that so the temple might be higher than it.” Simon convinced the Jews of the necessity of the project, and the people went to work. “[S]o they all set themselves to the work, and leveled the mountain, and in that work spent both day and night without intermission, which cost them three whole years before it was removed, and brought to an entire level with the plain of the rest of the city. After which the temple was the highest of all the buildings, now the citadel, as well as the mountain whereon it stood, were demolished” (Antiquities of the Jews, xiii, vi, 7).
And so, to this day, there appears to be one mountain—where the Temple Mount is located (Mount Moriah)—and the topography slopes downward from there, heading south. This history covered by Josephus is important for a couple reasons. First, after Mount Zion was leveled off, it was essentially left desolate for generations to come as Jerusalem construction and expansion essentially pushed northward and westward. As Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “It is significant that few buildings now stand on the multiple-acre area of the original Jerusalem, now being excavated”—referring to an excavation of the area his organization was part of in 1969 (Plain Truth, April 1969). Second, by removing the top of Mount Zion, Simon and the Jews essentially spent three whole years getting rid of the heaps that God had prophesied to send upon the ancient city.
With that in mind, consider this comment from Ginsberg: “What most amazed Mazar was how close the building is to the surface—just 1 to 2 meters underground. ‘The cynics kept saying, there will be so many layers, so many remnants of other cultures, it’s not worth digging, it’s too far down. I was shocked at how easy it was to uncover it, and how well-preserved it was, as if it were just waiting 3,000 years for us to find it,’ Mazar said.”
Dr. Mazar conveyed this same amazement to me when I spoke with her in Jerusalem last year. “We only dug down a couple meters,” she said, “and we went back 3,000 years in time!”
Ginsberg also wrote about the trouble Dr. Mazar had in getting this project up and running. “More than 10 years ago, Mazar proposed a solid thesis as to the location of the palace, and argued her position in a piece published in Biblical Archaeological Review. … Despite her sound hypothesis and impeccable credentials, she couldn’t find any financial backers, as if no one in the academic world really wanted to find David’s palace. It would just be too politically complicated. It’s no wonder, when even mainstream archaeologists are inclined to play down finds which might be considered too highly charged with biblical or historical accuracy. …
“Despite the seeming indifference from the academic world, Mazar’s proposal finally found a sponsor in the Shalem Center, an academic center in Jerusalem that recently established an institute for archaeological studies, and was funded by Roger Hertog, an American Jewish investment banker who told the New York Times that he fronted the dig because he wants to encourage scientific support for the Bible as a reflection of Jewish history.”
So Dr. Mazar was all ready to proceed with the project in 1995, but had to wait 10 years until she could find someone to fund the project. The ancient ruins from the Davidic Empire were waiting under just a couple meters of dirt. Perhaps God delayed the project just long enough for Herbert W. Armstrong College to become a partner.
When I first met with Dr. Mazar last August to see if she would be interested in using our volunteers, she told us the plan was to begin phase two of the dig in September but said there had already been numerous delays. When I called her two days later, she was extremely excited. Apparently, plans to begin phase two were suddenly progressing rapidly.
In January, while visiting our three volunteers on the job in Jerusalem, I met with Dr. Mazar again; this time she said that after phase two ended in March, a third phase would begin soon after, without delay. This summer schedule for the dig worked out perfectly for our expanded involvement, since class will be out of session at Herbert W. Armstrong College.
This is an incredible opportunity for Herbert W. Armstrong College—but not merely because of the history that is being uncovered. The most important aspect of this archaeological project has to do with the future of that city.
God Shall Yet Choose Jerusalem
We have already noted certain prophecies where God said He would pile “heaps” upon Jerusalem—which He did. But God has also prophesied to “choose Jerusalem again”(Zechariah 2:12; see also Zechariah 1:17).
Notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote to co-workers in 1968, when he sent Ambassador College students to volunteer at the Temple Mount excavations in Jerusalem, under the direction of Benjamin Mazar, Eilat’s grandfather. He said God had commissioned His people to “clean up the filth and rubble in that area that was the original Jerusalem and City of David (actually several acres of ground—this is a major operation of excavation)” (Dec. 10, 1968).
And why is this important? Mr. Armstrong asked. Because God “has said He will yet choose Jerusalem, and make it the capital city of the whole World Tomorrow!” The Messiah, he said, is coming “in all the supernatural power and glory to rule the world. His throne will be there … Where was David’s throne? It was on this very spot where we are now cleaning up and hauling off the rubble of century after century of accumulation! And even David is to be resurrected! That is the spot we are cleaning up! So there is a physical preparing, as well as spiritual, in preparing the way for Messiah’s coming! Further, God says we are to shout, with amplified power, to the cities of Judah the glad message that the Messiah is soon coming. This is leading to the opportunity to do this (Isaiah 40:1-11).”
Mr. Armstrong said they were cleaning up the “very spot” where David’s throne was located, but actually they weren’t—they were just a little ways north of that spot, on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount). He did indicate a desire for the volunteers to work their way down toward the City of David, but they never made it that far.
God left that for us to do.
And as Mr. Armstrong indicated in that letter, this all leads into the wonderful World to Come when the Messiah will rule this Earth (Jeremiah 3:16-17) from the throne of David: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “How remarkable that this scriptural prediction says plainly that the messianic future world ruler—long, long looked for by many if not most Jews—is to reign on the throne of David!” (Plain Truth, op. cit.).
City on a Hill
This new site has often referred to the very next prophesied event to occur in Jerusalem—the division of the city between Jews and Arabs, referred to in Zechariah 14:1-2, and how that event will lead directly to the coming of the Messiah to this Earth. “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (verses 3-4). The Mount of Olives is across the Valley of Jehoshaphat, directly east of the Temple Mount and Mount Zion.
Verse 5 continues, “And ye shall flee to the valley [or through the valley] of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says the mountains mentioned here could be referring to the two mounts—Mount Moriah and Mount Zion.
Notice verse 10: “All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses.” Here is how Lange’s Commentary explains this verse: “The whole land is to be leveled to a plain in order that Jerusalem may be elevated, and then the holy city is to be restored to its former grandeur. … In consequence of this depression of all the surrounding country, Jerusalem becomes high.”
In other words, the Jerusalem excavations will continue right on into the world to come. “The capital seated on her hills shines conspicuous as the only elevation in a very wide region,” says Lange. “And it shall come to pass in the last days,” the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2).
How wonderful are the prophecies of God! Yes, there is a great spiritual preparing going on in preparation for the Messiah’s coming (see Amos 9:11-12). But as Mr. Armstrong brought out in his 1968 letter, there is also a physical preparing for the Messiah’s appearance.
“If the spot of the original throne of David is, in fact, to be the coming seat of world government, then all that accumulated debris of century after century must be cleared off before that event can occur! Exciting?” Mr. Armstrong asked (Plain Truth, op. cit.).
“Beyond words to describe, it is!