By December 4, 2008 Read More →

The City of David 1000-961, Teddy Kollek and Moshe Pearlman, Jerusalem: Sacred City of Mankind, Steimatzky Ltd., Jerusalem, 1991.

Pool of SiloamIt was David who completed the unification of the settled tribes of Israel started by Saul. It was he who finally shattered the power of the Philistines. It was he who, by a judicious combination of diplomatic alliances and the waging of a series of successful campaigns against threatening neighbors, firmly secured his frontiers. He was king of a united Israel that was now, as it was not in Saul’s day, in command of the entire country.

But not quite. There was still a hostile site that had not been reduced—Jerusalem, and David resolved to take it.


By taking Jerusalem, David wiped out the last alien enclave in the hill-country of the Hebrews and reduced the one hostile fortress that stood between the two portions of the Israelite kingdom. Moreover, Jerusalem, while not commanding the trunk road which ran through them, was not far from it, and finally, the city lay near the head of one of the passes which led up from Philistine territory. The capture of Jerusalem was thus as necessary to Israel’s independence of the Philistines as it was to the unification of the northern and southern Israelite tribes.

These and other reasons were also behind the spectacular move which David now took, and which was to have so long and great an impact on history—making Jerusalem the capital of Israel. He could not remain in Hebron. It was too far south, and too closely associated with the southern tribes alone, and for a similar reason he could not choose a northern site. His capital had to lie between the two. Jerusalem fulfilled this requirement. It had not been conquered previously, so it was not part of the settled territory of any of the tribes, and this very neutrality gave it an additional advantage.

It was from this capital that David ruled an increasingly vigorous kingdom, perhaps the most powerful State lying between the temporarily weakened rival empires, the Egyptians in the south and, now, the Babylonians in the north. Subduing the Philistines gave him complete control of the Mediterranean coastal plain. Capture of Damascus brought his dominions up to the Euphrates. Conquest of the eastern and southern territories gave him an outlet to the Red Sea, through the Gulf of Aqaba. His son and successor, Solomon, was to reap the full benefits of these military and political achievements.

And it was to this capital that David brought the Ark of the Law, to give it a permanent resting place. This symbol of his people’s God, the mobile shrine and sanctuary, had accompanied the Israelites throughout their wanderings, had been carried by them into battle. Never had it had a permanent home, a special site with which it was associated. It had been captured a generation before by the Philistines, and after its rescue, had lain in Kirjath-jearim (near today’s Abu Ghosh), some ten miles to the west of Jerusalem. David now “brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it.” (II Samuel, VI.) Thus was the most sacred national and religious symbol of Israel brought to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was now not only the political and military capital of the country. It became, and was to remain for all time, the religious centre of the nation.

The Bible describes some of the structures in the city erected by David. He built himself a residence of stone and cedar, with the aid of Phoenician workmen, for he had concluded an alliance with Hiram of Tyre—today’s Lebanon. He also built barracks for his garrison and accommodations for the members of his family, the priests and the royal officials, as well as a royal tomb for himself and his dynasty.

There has long been speculation as to the nature of these buildings and their exact location—the location, indeed, not just of David’s buildings but of his entire city. The best modern opinion, however, puts the City of David to the south of today’s Old City, due south of the Temple compound which Solomon was to build. Recent archaeological excavations show that its northern wall was some 650 feet south of today’s southern wall. Its southern boundary was the pool of Shiloah (Siloam).


“It is easy to exaggerate,” says George Adam Smith, “David’s share in the making of Jerusalem. Her full influence and sacredness were a Divine achievement, which required the ages for its consummation. The Prophets and the Deuteronomic legislation were perhaps the greatest factors in the development of the City; much of her glory, which the later literature throws back upon David, is only the reflection of their work. Nevertheless, it was his choice of her which started everything; which brought history to her walls and planted within them that which made her holy. The Man, whose individual will and policy seem essential to the career of every great city, Jerusalem found in David. He made her the capital of a kingdom; he brought to her the shrine of Israel’s God; he gave her a new population…But besides thus standing behind the City and providing the first impetus to her career, the figure of David stands out among the early features of her life more conspicuous than any of them…Of all the actors on that stage…there is none who moves more clearly, whether under the stress of the great passions of through the details of conduct and conversation…The drama of Jerusalem is never more vivid than while David is its hero.”

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