Last update: Friday, December 14, 2012 03:45:14 PM

History of Jerusalem

Jerusalem has a long history of re-conquest. It has been ruled by the Jews, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, the Byzantine Empire, Suljuk Turks, Marmulkes, European Crusaders, Ottoman Empire, Britain, and (returning full circle) Israel. 
According to Genesis, God called Abram out of Mesopotamia to give him a land on the Eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea. Tradition holds that Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:2) was in the region of Jerusalem. As foretold in Genesis 15:12-17, there was 400 years of captivity in Egypt, after which the Hebrews returned to find the Jebusites in control. David conquered them and later purchased from a Jebusite (II Sam. 24) the space which his son Solomon would later build the first Temple. The nation split into the northern kingdom of Israel, which was taken captive by Assyria in 722 BC, and the Southern kingdom of Judah which was taken in 586 BC into Babylonian captivity for 70 years (as had been prophesied in 2 Chronicles 36:20-21). The Jewish scriptures explain how all these events were caused by God as punishments, or blessings, such as the miraculous escape that Jerusalem had in 687 BC when the King of Assyria, Sennacherib had locked up Hezekiah's Jerusalem "like a bird in a cage," only to see his 185,000 strong siege army mysteriously killed overnight. (2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37) The most enduring blessing was the when the restoration to the Jewish homeland was granted by King Cyrus of Persia under the prophet Ezra, and later, Nehemiah. 

Beginning in 63 BC, Jerusalem was first under Roman rule. The temple in Jerusalem was enlarged by Herod and ultimately finished in 63 AD. This was the temple where Jesus cast out the merchants (Matt.21:12-13) and predicted that "not one stone will be left upon another". In 66 AD, Florus, the Roman governor of Judea, stole money out of the temple treasury. (Ferguson pg. 335) He also sent soldiers after the Jews to stir them up into a revolt. If the Jews revolted, then he could conquer them and get their wealth and land. (Encyclopedia of the Bible) The Jews began the Great Revolt and Titus, the son of Vespasion, quelled the revolt. He set siege to Jerusalem and, to his dismay, the city was ruined and the temple was burnt in 70 AD. (Boon 

In 73, Masada, the outpost that had provided weapons to Jerusalem during the Great Revolt, was ultimately conquered only to find that hundreds of defenders had chosen suicide over slavery. (Encyclopedia of the Bible, volume 4, pg. 112). In 132 AD the next major Jerusalem catastrophe began. Jerusalem became a Roman colony, and an altar of Jupiter being put up in the desecrated the temple area. Simon Bar Kochba led the revolt against the Romans, and was able to help Israel hold power for three years before Hadrian stopped the revolt in a campaign that killed over half a million people. He replaced the term land of Israel with land of Palestine. ( Since Hadrian forbid Jews to enter or live in Jerusalem then Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus) were also forbidden. This left only Gentile Christians and Roman Pagans as residence of the city. Because of this Jerusalem became unimportant in government, or Church, hierarchy because the governor lived in Ceasarea. (Boon

After the Western Roman Empire fell, the eastern side, or the Byzantine Empire became the most important. Jerusalem thrived during the Byzantine period of 324-638. Constantine converted to Christianity, and made Christianity the state religion of his empire. This increased the interest in Jerusalem, and many pilgrimages took place. Notably were that of Constantine's 80 year old mother who confirmed several of the Holy sites that exist today, such as the empty tomb of Jesus. The bishop of Jerusalem became more important, and many significant churches were built including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Boon, For a brief period of time Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians, who had been fighting the Roman and Byzantine empire for a long time. They forced the Jews out of the city and ruined many Christian buildings. Then Heraclium attacked the Persians and recaptured Jerusalem in 629. (Wilber Collier's Encyclopedia)

After the Byzantine Empire, Muslim caliphs ruled Jerusalem. The Persian Empire was burnt out with their many wars and too weak to fight Islam. (Wilber, Persia: Ancient Civilization) The Muslims conquered parts of the Byzantine Empire in a similar way. The Byzantine Empire was spent from their counter-war against Persia. When Caliph Omar, a fanatic for Islam, (Williams Collier's Encyclopedia) took control of Jerusalem from the Eastern Roman Empire, he let the Jews back in.

Shortly after this time, the people of Iraq revolted reign of the fifth Ommaid caliph, 'Abd-al-malik, in Damascus and got possession of the Hijaz. As a result of these violent internal Islamic political struggles, his followers were forbidden to visit the haraman (i.e., Mecca and Medina), and in retailiation he resolved to make Jerusalem a center of pilgrimage. In 691 he identified the spot where Mohammad mysteriously made his overnight trip with the help of a flying horse (Koran, Sura. 17), and built an elaborate dome over the rock. He also began building the al-Aqsa mosque over the structure of the Chanuyot storehouse that had been used for the Jewish Temple that Herod had restored. Rows of ancient Corinthian columns were left integral to the structure. This political ploy of 'Abd-al-malik worked so effectively that if a Muslim couldn't make it to Mecca or Medina, Jerusalem became the next best spot. (Indinopulos Collier's Encyclopedia). 

After the Umayyads ruling from Damascus, were replaced at about 725 A.D. by the Abbasids, ruling from Baghdad, Jerusalem began to decline. Without the political need to emphasize Jerusalem, it shrank in size with an impoverished populace ruled from far away Baghdad. The only aid for Jerusalem came from Charlemagne who financially supported the Christian churches of Jerusalem, after the manner of the Apostle Paul who had raised relief for Jerusalem 800 years earlier.

By 983, when the Tunesian Fatimids establish a counter-caliphate in Cairo, Egypt and Jerusalem once again become a political pawn in the ancient power struggle between a Mesopotamia-based Abbasids empire and the Egypt-based Fatimids empire. (

Caliph al-Hakim ruined many Jewish and Christian buildings in Jerusalem, most notoriously ruining the church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1009, and increasing coercive measures for all non-Muslims to convert to Islam beginning in 1010. In the 1020s Jerusalem was nearly totally destroyed by the Caliph of Cairo, with the building small mosques on the top of the ruins of Christian churches.

In retaliation came the Crusade period of 1099-1244 to take back what Islam had ravaged. In the late 11th century, the Byzantine Empire had been hurt by the vicious Hakim, Christian pilgrimages were restricted, and the Seljuk Turks were now invading. Emperors begged for the Roman Empire to help them. Finally, Pope Urban II listened, gathered an army through promises of eternal rewards, and sent it to capture Jerusalem from the Muslims. In 1099 the army of Roman Catholic crusaders regained it in the slaughtered Muslims and Jews alike. For 88 years, Jerusalem became the capitol where Jews and Moslems were prohibited access, and The Dome of the Rock was turned into a Christian church under the erroneous belief that it had been Solomon's Temple.

Saladin, who became the sultan of Egypt, united the people to fight against the crusaders. In 1192 Saladin recaptured Jerusalem. In 1192, Richard the Lion Hearted after being deserted by two other leaders, tried to reconquer Jerusalem but only succeeded in making an agreement with Saladin that Christians could enter the city and take pilgrimages there. (Krueger, 1998 from Collierís Encyclopedia). A culminating tragedy to the successive wars of conquest and mismanagement in Jerusalem was when the Turkish Khawarism exterminated all 7,000 Christians of Jerusalem, except for 300 who escaped to the coast.

Next came the Mamluks who were Turkish slave generals that had conquered their masters, the Abbuybids, or descendants of Saladin. (Beinin, 1998 from Collierís Encyclopedia) The Mamluks had benefited from the invasions by the Mongols around the rest of Europe and Asia and in 1240 they came to take Jerusalem form the Mongols, defeating them in the Jezreel Valley. The population of Jerusalem was drained by the Khawarism, the Mongols, and now the Mamluks ruined it's economy by over-taxation. ( 

When the Black Death ravaged Europe, it also claimed Jerusalem in 1348 as one of it's victims. (Matthews, 1998 from Collierís Encyclopedia)

The Mamluks trade declined when Portugal rounded Africa and shut off the Red Sea. This caused there to be economic crisis and the Ottomans, under Selim, took control of Jerusalem in 1517. Next Sultan Suleiman, the sultan at the height of the Ottoman Empire, was in charge. He greatly benefited Jerusalem by rebuilding the walls, adding fountains, and adding tiling to the Dome of the Rock. ( 

Thus, in the 3000 year old history of Jerusalem, only from 638 to 1917, was Jerusalem controlled by different Islamic dynasties whose capitols were in the areas of Syria, Egypt or Turkey. The only exception was from 1099 to 1187 (or 1192) when Jerusalem was the capital of the victorious first Crusade. Muslim interest was largely elsewhere during the Middle Ages. For hundreds of years, there came majority populations of Christians, so much so that an Armenian Quarter was established in Jerusalem. The Muslim Ottomans, and then the British and Israelis, kept careful census records which showed the minority population of Muslims ranged from only 13 - 33% from 1844 to 1992. (

The Ottoman Empire began to decline and was finally defeated during World War I by Britain. Britain received a mandate from the UN to help Jerusalem get back on it's feet after World War I had reduced it to poverty. At first, Christian Zionists in British leadership were very supportive of a Jewish homeland and issued the Balfour Declaration. But over three decades, British politics began to favor the Arabs, and they refused Jews to escape the Nazi Holocaust by fleeing to Israel. This policy that led to the extermination of so many thousands of Jews brought about Jewish freedom fighters (aka, terrorists) who successfully brought about the end of the British mandate. At that time Palestine was home to Jews and Arabs and the word Palestinian had no unique connection with Arabs. For example, the Palestine Orchestra was made up of entirely Jews. 

For the re-establishment of Israel, the UN suggested that Jerusalem be an international city, with Palestine being divided between Arabs and Jews. Arabs rejected the UN plan and Jews declared Jerusalem to be the capitol of Israel. US President Truman, who thought of himself as Cyrus in supporting the Jews, gave political support in 1948, unlike the British who actually led the the Arab Jordanians in an attack against Israel, in what Israelis call the "War of Independence". Israel captured the New City, that part of Jerusalem that had increased in the1860s as Jewish refugees escaped from Russian pogroms. The Arabs kept the east side of the city, which contained the ancient Jewish quarter, and the holy sites of the western wall of the temple, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aqsa mosque. During Jordan's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the kingdom undertook an unsuccessful attempt to make Jerusalem a Muslim city by forcing out approximately 10,000 Christian inhabitants. (

In 1967, during the miraculous six day war, Israel united Jerusalem by capturing even their ancient Temple Mount area on which the Muslims had built Islamic structures. Within a few days, the Jews allowed Muslims control over the Temple Mount and established freedom of worship for all religions, in contrast to the previous two decades of Arab persecution that had prevented Christians and Jews from visiting holy sites. Before Israel took control of their ancient city, the Arabs took little interest in it. For example, the PLO's founding document (1964), the Palestinian National Covenant, did not mentioned Jerusalem at all. This disinterest comes as no surprise since the Koran also never mentions Jerusalem, unlike the hundreds of references in the Jewish scriptures. After the 1967 war, it became politically convenient for Arabs to make claims on Jerusalem. Egyptian born Yassir Arafat created a fictitious Canaanite king named Salem and taught that Canaanites built Solomon's Temple rather than Jews. The revisionist history made popular the idea that Jews were swallowed up in an ethnic blend and that the current claims of Jews are imposters descended from Khazar Turks. 

Israel continued to survive numerous and ongoing attacks as it is surrounded by aggressive nations and terrorist organizations. Jerusalem was legally the capitol of Israel in 1980. (Reich Collier's Encyclopedia) but under international pressure, the capitol was changed to Tel Aviv, leaving Jerusalem as still the most important city in Israel. About 1/3 of all United Nations deliberations are against Israel. All nations have policies that are against Israel, even the United States pressures Israel to give up its territory under the assumption that the Muslims will stop attacking. Still democratically elected Hamas of Gaza fires daily rockets into Israeli towns and Syrian backed Hezbolah initiates violence along the Lebanon border. Under this reality, the future of Jerusalem is debated toward given half of it to Muslims in the fantasy hope of peace. Meanwhile, Iran's president denies the Holocaust happened, denies Iran is developing a nuclear arsenal, and denies Israel's right to have a place on any map.

Ever since King David purchased the threshing floor to sacrifice to God, what became the Temple Mount has stood for over 3000 years. Jerusalem is a city that has endured numerous destructions and rebuildings. It has been conquered by people of three different religions, ruled by nine different peoples (, and has thrived under Israeli control. Jerusalem continues to experienced immigrations of Jews from around the world. The regathering of Israel after more than 1400 years of being scattered to the nations, is an astounding event. Considering the persecutions under Muslim rule, the Spanish Inquisition, Russian pogroms, ghettos and the Holocaust, it is an amazing faith that Jews hold in the promises of God to sustain them through all the horror of the ages. The Promised Land will endure as long as God's word is true.

Zechariah 12:1-3, 9
This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: 2 "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves... On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.


Quick Quiz:

Who destroyed the Temple in 70 AD?
a) Titus
b) Vespasian
c) Big Bird
d) Snuffleupagus
e) Yasir Arafat

When did the crusaders from the first crusade capture Jerusalem>
a) 1099
b) 1234
c) 1517
d) 1948
e) 2001

Was Jerusalem part of the Ottoman Empire?
a) no
b) maybe
c) yes, but only for 4 hours
d) yes, for 40 years
e) yes, for over 400 years

In what war did Israel capture all of Jerusalem, reuniting it after the Western side was ruled by Arabs?
a) The War of Independence
b) World War I
c) World War II
d) the Revolutionary War
e) The Six Day War

Answers: 1-a, 2-a, 3-e, 4-e