1000 years before Christ, King David’s army captured the hilltop fortress of the Jebusites and converted it into “the city of David.” He repaired the supporting terraces (“millo”), fortifying the city to make Jerusalem Israel’s capital (2 Samuel 5:1-12 || 1 Chronicles 11:4-9). There Solomon built the temple on Mount Zion (1 Kings 5–7 || 2 Chronicles 3–7).
700 years before Christ, the Assyrian Empire conquered the entire country, except Jerusalem. King Hezekiah prepared for the siege by strengthening Jerusalem’s walls and building a tunnel to bring water into the city (2 Kings 20:20 || 2 Chronicles 32:30). Ultimately, they were saved by a miraculous intervention of God (2 Kings 19 || Isaiah 37 || 2 Chronicles 32).
In 586 BC, the Babylonian Empire captured Jerusalem, destroying the temple, ending the reign of Davidic kings, and taking the people into exile (2 Kings 25 || 2 Chronicles 35 || Jeremiah 52). Writing from Babylon, Ezekiel promised that God would resurrect his dead nation (Ezekiel 37) and re-establish the Davidic kingship (Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24,25). They would build a new temple (Ezekiel 40-48) where God would live among his people (Ezekiel 48:35).
In 515 BC, a second temple was built on the same site. Starting in 19 BC, King Herod refurbished this temple. It was ultimately destroyed by the Roman invasion of AD 70, just as Jesus had predicted (Luke 21:6, 20 || Matthew 24:2 || Mark 13:2). There is no more need for sacrifices to be offered.
The Davidic kingship was never literally restored. Israel today is not a kingdom: it’s a democracy. The Knesset is its parliament. So, what was all Jesus’ talk about the kingdom of God? This phrase formed the centre of Jesus’ mission, his preaching, his parables, his healings, his prayers, and the mission he gave his followers. Apparently it’s important: he told his disciples to see it first (Matthew 6:33). So what is it? And how do we seek it?
Books (originally scrolls) have always been important to the Jewish people. They recorded what God said to them. They hand-copied the books of the Tanakh. The Jewish Scriptures are what we call the Old Testament, but arranged differently:
- Law (Torah): Genesis – Deuteronomy
- Prophets (Nevi’im): Joshua – Kings, and Isaiah – Malachi
- Writings (Kethuvim): Chronicles – Song of Songs, Ruth, Lam., Daniel
The oldest surviving scrolls were dated around AD 900. Then, at Qumran near the Dead Sea, we found scrolls buried around AD 70 — fragments from over 900 scrolls. They include every book of the Tanakh except Esther, as well as others:
- commentaries (pesher)
- retellings of the Bible story (e.g. Jubilees)
- apocalypses and pseudepigraphal books (e.g. Enoch)
- rules for the community that lived there (probably the Essene sect)
- hymns, calendars, rituals, liturgies, etc.
We will see some of these Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum.
Throughout the millennia, Jewish people have suffered terribly. The Holocaust Museum confronts you with the reality of the systemic evil perpetrated by those who want to rule without reference to God as sovereign. Is suffering meaningless? Or can it be redemptive? After visiting, consider reading Isaiah 53. This whole section of Isaiah from chapters 50 – 55 is about Israel as the “servant of the Lord” (Isaiah 41:8-9; 42:1, 19; 43:10; 44:1-2, 21, 26; 45:4; 49:3-7). But eventually the servant becomes a representative of God’s people, suffering on their behalf (Isaiah 50:10; 52:13; 53:2, 11).