What is interesting about these cities: Naples, Oslo, Paris, Quebec City, Rome, Stockholm, and Tokyo? No, it’s not the alphabetic sequence; that’s just me messing with you. Here’s a clue: Jerusalem is probably the only city that doesn’t fit that pattern. What other great city older than two hundred years is not built on either a river or the coast?
That so many cities were built on water is no surprise. To this day, the majority of the world’s goods and commodities still travel by ship. Cities grow and thrive where trade occurs, and rivers and oceans have always been the arteries of trade. The mystery is how Jerusalem grew and thrived. It was never on a trading route like other inland cities such as those on the old Silk Road. Because of its elevation, trading caravans would have taken flatter routes to the Mediterranean. Thus it never had the large markets or “shuks” of cities like Baghdad and Beirut.
Yet, after more than two thousand years, Jerusalem’s vitality and endurance continue undiminished. On May 28, 1948, the Jordanian army expelled every Jew from Jerusalem’s original old city and destroyed their homes. In order to ensure that Jews would never return to Jerusalem, the Jordanians destroyed every synagogue and violated the cemetery by building their army latrines over the ancient grave stones. On June 7th, 1967, the Jews recaptured Jerusalem.
To honor that miraculous moment, I am speaking at the Dallas City Hall in Texas on Tuesday, June 6th at 4pm. If you’re in the neighborhood please join us at that rally to recognize the miracle that is Jerusalem. But that wasn’t the first time that Jews conquered their city from their enemies.
Nearly three thousand years earlier, King David conquered the city from the Jebusites. Let’s take a careful look at two separate accounts of that victory.
The king and his men went to Jerusalem to the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land; who spoke to David, saying, You will not enter here unless you remove the blind and the lame….Nevertheless David took the fortress of Zion; the city of David. David said on that day, whoever climbs up to the aqueduct, and strikes the Jebusites, along with the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain. Therefore the saying, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.
(II Samuel 5:6-8)
Here’s a much later account in Chronicles:
David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; the Jebusites were the inhabitants of the land…(they) said to David, You will not enter here but David conquered the fortress of Zion, which is the city of David…and said, Whoever first strikes the Jebusites
shall be chief and captain.
(I Chronicles 11:4-6)
Many mistakenly assume Scriptural is merely repetitive but careful scrutiny reveals the differences between the two accounts and what they teach us.
For instance, in story #1 we find “The king and his men” whereas later, in story #2 we read “David and all Israel.” Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that initially, people doubted whether it was possible to take Jerusalem. Thus they viewed David as just a nameless king who had only some of the people with him, namely “his men.” Later, however, with the hindsight of the Book of Chronicles, he was lovingly referred to as “David” and surprise, surprise, the way they remembered it, “all Israel” had been with him.
Another difference between the two accounts which reveals the secret of David’s victory is the “blind and the lame” mentioned in Samuel. Who were these blind and lame that David hated and who had to be removed before anything else could happen? How could the good and compassionate King David hate handicapped people? Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that these were the idols worshipped by the pagan Jebusites.
As King David himself wrote while describing idols in the Book of Psalms:
…they have eyes, but they cannot see…they have feet, but they cannot walk…
David won the people by conquering Jerusalem and he conquered Jerusalem by recognizing that Jerusalem’s vulnerability lay in her worship of idols not in her weak fortifications. Destroy the idols and Jerusalem is won. The great secret of Jerusalem’s vitality and endurance is the city’s connection to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those who serve God own the city; those that don’t will surrender it. This was always true and will always be true. Jerusalem doesn’t follow ordinary natural laws that govern all other cities.
Jerusalem originated with Abraham’s deep commitment to God and endures not by people coming to trade but by people coming to drink from her springs of spiritual sustenance and religious rejuvenation. This is the main reason that Susan and I try to work there for a month each year.
…for from Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.