Jerusalem: Center of Conflict, Center of Peace

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Jerusalem

Center of Conflict, Center of Peace

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Jerusalem has been synonymous with conflict, sieges, wars and battles almost from its very first mention in the Bible. It is now the capital of the state of Israel, whose very existence has been threatened by wars and conflicts with the surrounding nations. Today the Palestinians desperately want to take control of East Jerusalem—which includes the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the old City of David.

Factional divisions within also trouble Israel. Secular Jews dream of an inclusive, utopian homeland based on diplomacy. The ultranationalist Jews stand on expansionist territorial claims and rely on military domination as the key to survival.

3,500 years of conflict

The 50-plus years of contemporary conflict since Israel's modern founding actually extend far back into ancient history. There we discover a climate of trouble and violence reminiscent of present-day troubles in the Holy Land.

Although very early Jerusalem is mentioned in the ancient Tell el-Amarna tablets, the first biblical reference is found in Genesis 14:18-20 Genesis 14:18-20 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
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. Melchizedek, king of Salem (identified as Jerusalem in Psalms 76:1-2 Psalms 76:1-2 1 In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. 2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.
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), greeted the patriarch Abraham after he had won a decisive battle, with God's help, against regional kings. Abraham had gallantly rescued his nephew Lot, who had been taken captive.

This is the only time that Jerusalem itself is mentioned in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible—though Moriah, a mountain just to the north of the original city, is mentioned in Genesis 22:2 Genesis 22:2And he said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.
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.

Yet this historic city—now sacred to the three major monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and also regrettably often the site of horrendous violence—is destined to far outdistance all other cities in world importance. Jerusalem is destined to become the glorious global capital city of peace and truth to which all countries on earth will look.

God has had His eyes on Jerusalem since the time Melchizedek, the King of Peace (Hebrews 7:2 Hebrews 7:2To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
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), met Abraham—and perhaps even long before. (To understand the true identity of Melchizedek, please request or download our free booklet Who Is God? )

Judah and Jerusalem: an intertwined biblical history

To understand our current dilemmas, a strong sense of Bible history is supremely important! It is an accurate guide, especially in understanding this long-troubled region.

A relationship between the Jews (the tribe of Judah) and Jerusalem began early in the history of ancient Israel. Joshua, Moses' successor, defeated the king of Jerusalem in the course of conquering the Promised Land (Joshua 10:1-10 Joshua 10:1-10 1 Now it came to pass, when Adonizedec king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; 2 That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty. 3 Why Adonizedec king of Jerusalem, sent to Hoham king of Hebron, and to Piram king of Jarmuth, and to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 Come up to me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it has made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel. 5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it. 6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not your hand from your servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us. 7 So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the LORD said to Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into your hand; there shall not a man of them stand before you. 9 Joshua therefore came to them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night. 10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goes up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and to Makkedah.
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). The ancient Amorites had occupied the city. It was part of the territory to be inherited by the 12 tribes of Israel (Joshua 12:7-10 Joshua 12:7-10 7 And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even to the mount Halak, that goes up to Seir; which Joshua gave to the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions; 8 In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: 9 The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one; 10 The king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one;
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).

Later we find the Jebusites, apparently a Canaanite tribe, still occupying Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8 Joshua 15:8And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom to the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward:
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). The Scripture states: “As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day” (Joshua 15:63 Joshua 15:63As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.
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).

The Bible also clearly states that the tribe of Benjamin was to inherit Jerusalem (Joshua 18:21 Joshua 18:21Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz,
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, 28). Putting together all of these passages in Joshua (and later in Judges), plainly the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became closely associated with Jerusalem. Eventually they would ally together to form the southern kingdom of Judah. Remember that the apostle Paul was a Benjamite.

The Jews conquer much of Canaan

After the death of Joshua the Israelites asked God which of the 12 tribes should lead in fighting the pagan Canaanites (Judges 1:1 Judges 1:1Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?
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).

Notice God's immediate reply: “And the Lord said, 'Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand'” (verse 2). The tribe of Judah was specially chosen by the Creator Himself to fulfill both His immediate and long-range purposes in conquering the land of the ungodly Canaanites. According to the inspired Word of Holy Scripture, this choice was distinctly God's and not man's.

Verses 17-18 record Judah's victories over the various Canaanite enclaves, including Gaza, most notably in the more mountainous areas. However, hilly hard-to-conquer Jerusalem (then called Jebus and inhabited by the Jebusites) somehow escaped the victorious hand of Judah, just as it did in the days of Joshua (Joshua 15:8 Joshua 15:8And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom to the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward:
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).

Benjamin also had failed to conquer Jerusalem. Judges 1:21 Judges 1:21And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.
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tells us that “the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day [the time the book was written].” So for a considerable time the city apparently remained a Jebusite stronghold in the midst of Israelite territory.

Courageous King David finally conquers Jerusalem

Conquering this almost-impregnable stronghold would be left to King David of Israel, a descendant of Judah and a royal ancestor of Jesus Christ through Jesus' mother Mary.

The biblical record briefly summarizes David's conquest some 3,000 years ago: “In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 5:5 2 Samuel 5:5In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
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).

A key passage then states that “David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David)” (verse 7). Renamed Jerusalem (meaning “City of Peace”) by the king, it would also be known as the City of David.

One key factor to always keep in mind is that God Himself chose David to be king over Israel in place of Saul and his descendants (1 Samuel 15:22-28 1 Samuel 15:22-28 22 And Samuel said, Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king. 24 And Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and your words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, I pray you, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD. 26 And Samuel said to Saul, I will not return with you: for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel. 27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold on the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. 28 And Samuel said to him, The LORD has rent the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, that is better than you.
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; 16:1-13). The Creator directly intervened in the affairs of the nation. He was the behind-the-scenes Author of the conquest of Jerusalem.

After the 40-year reign of David, his son and successor Solomon allowed blatant idolatry to afflict Israel—especially in the later years of his rule. As a divine punishment, God decided to divide the nation after Solomon's death.

God chose Jerusalem

In announcing His intentions to Solomon beforehand, the Creator stated: “… I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son [Rehoboam] for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:13 1 Kings 11:13However, I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to your son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.
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).

Later in the same chapter a slightly expanded repetition states that Solomon's son Rehoboam would retain one tribe “for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel” (verse 32). Clearly it was the Creator who used David and his descendants to accomplish His overall purpose in this holy city. God personally chose Jerusalem!

The Bible is a divinely inspired book that reveals God's dealings with and purposes for humanity. It records His major interventions in the past and His future plans that ultimately will bless all mankind. More than one passage of Scripture tells us that the Creator owns the whole earth. It all belongs to Him.

The destiny of Jerusalem

Even while firmly challenging the chosen city for her many sins, God said: “This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her” (Ezekiel 5:5 Ezekiel 5:5Thus said the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the middle of the nations and countries that are round about her.
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). Located between Europe, Asia and Africa, for over three millennia Jerusalem has seen many invaders. Here lies the crossroads of mankind.

This crucial passage, however, isn't just referring to mundane geopolitics. It also alludes to what we might call “sacred geography”—to be fulfilled during Christ's coming millennial reign and even more so on beyond that period.

But for the present and the foreseeable future, the local and regional inhabitants, surrounding nations and even faraway countries including the United States are continuing to fulfill, in part, a disturbing prophecy in Zechariah:

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:2-3 Zechariah 12:2-3 2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. 3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
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).

Just as this prophecy foretold, the unpleasant regional and even international fallout from involvement in Jerusalem's affairs has been considerable.

This passage in Zechariah also applies on one level to the modern nation of Israel (more accurately Judah), custodians of the ancient city. It has developed a huge siege mentality during the 56 years of its existence as a state.

Why? In addition to enduring endless skirmishes and frequent terrorism since its founding, Israel has fought at least four major wars: 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. Again and again, the surrounding Arab nations have periodically threatened—and attempted—to drive it into the Mediterranean Sea. Only in recent times has there been any alleviation of such “final solutions.”

As noted author Conor Cruise O'Brien observed: “Does Israel have the right to exist? The State of Israel has lived since its birth—and even before its birth—under the pressure of that question. And that question was preceded by another question: Do the Jews have a right to exist?” ( The Siege, 1986, p. 25).

In 1936 British Zionist pioneer Chaim Weizmann put it bluntly when he asked the Peel Commission: “Do we have the right to exist?” (ibid., p. 196).

That it would be necessary to even pose such questions says something about our so-called advanced, civilized world today. The only truly hopeful consolation is a pervasive and permanent peace prophesied to come to the Holy Land—and not by human efforts.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”

King David penned at least a third of the Psalms and possibly more like half. One of his most touching includes a plea for peace for the city of peace. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces'” (Psalms 122:6-7 Psalms 122:6-7 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love you. 7 Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.
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).

This solemn prayer, penned by David some 3,000 years ago, is destined to be answered in previously undreamed proportions. The Hebrew prophet Zechariah adds: “Thus says the Lord: 'I will return to Zion [referring to Christ's second coming], and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain'” (Zechariah 8:3 Zechariah 8:3Thus said the LORD; I am returned to Zion, and will dwell in the middle of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
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).

Other prophecies tell us that Jerusalem's destiny is to become a center of peace for all nations on earth. Nations will send representatives to her even from faraway places to learn and take God's ways back to their peoples. As Isaiah 2:1-3 Isaiah 2:1-3 1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, 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 to it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
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says: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.”

In Bible prophecy, “mountains” and “hills” are often used to refer to governments, nations or kingdoms. This prophecy tells us that the government of Jesus Christ will be established and rule over all the nations on earth.

Then Isaiah continues: “Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Under the reign of the Messiah, war, weaponry, military forces and even military academies will be consigned to the distant past (verse 4). Peace with justice will be administered to all peoples from Jerusalem.

But in no way do these sure biblical prophecies represent conditions in the Holy Land today—a region plagued by corruption, bombings, terrorist acts, kidnappings and murders. Watch the news on television or simply read your daily newspaper.

Yet these millennial prophecies assure us that “old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing” (Zechariah 8:4-5 Zechariah 8:4-5 4 Thus said the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. 5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
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). Both old and young alike will at last be safe from harm's way during Christ's coming 1,000-year rule. Suicide bombers will have passed into the dim recesses of history.

The Bible pictures a majestic, millennial future with a relaxed and peaceful life in the golden city. This is Jerusalem's destiny, foretold centuries ago.

Looking beyond: The New Jerusalem

Jerusalem is far more than just a physical city. It is symbolic of an entire nation. Human frontiers and borders tend to blur when they touch the infinite. Jerusalem has a spiritual dimension that extends into eternity.

The New Testament Church is called “Jerusalem above … the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26 Galatians 4:26But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
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). The patriarchs, prophets and kings of Hebrews 11 never received God's ultimate promises during their human lifetimes. Neither will true Christians today.

Yet these promises of God are absolutely sure! In faith the patriarch Abraham “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10 Hebrews 11:10For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
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). The Creator is the divine architect of the New Jerusalem. All men and women of faith have envisioned the fulfillment of God's promises, “having seen them afar off” (verse 13). They know that God “has prepared a city for them” (verse 16).

In His message to one of the seven churches of Revelation, Jesus Christ referred to “the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven” (Revelation 3:12 Revelation 3:12Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name.
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). Then the dwelling place of God will be with spirit-transformed men and women in a transformed world (Revelation 21:3 Revelation 21:3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
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). Death, sorrow, pain and suffering will have passed into history as the ultimate new world order takes shape on a brand-new earth (verses 4-5).

In summary, this is the true message of the enduring presence of Jerusalem in the world. In spite of today's terrible conflicts, it remains a city like no other, one with an awesome future that is unique. This is one reason Jerusalem is mentioned some 850 times in the Bible. It is the symbolic cornerstone of crucial prophetic messages promising permanent peace to all of mankind— forever. GN

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