The Battle for Jerusalem
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“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 … earth be gathered together against it” (Zechariah 12:3).
On December 6, President Donald Trump announced the “beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” His statement included a recap of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act enacted by the U.S. Congress, urging the federal government to “relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that that city is Israel’s capital.” For over 20 years, every American president exercised a waiver in the law to postpone the move for six months at a time. With his decision enacting the law, President Trump said, “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital.”
President Trump acknowledged that this decision was not about the dispute over borders. Nevertheless, the United Nations General Assembly voted on December 21 to repudiate his declaration. That vote carries no power, but it demonstrates the political sensitivity surrounding Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem has known … thirty-six wars … been reduced to ashes seventeen times, [and] has risen eighteen. She has been sanctified by blood and martyrdom. She knew the hoofbeat of Assyrian war chariots, chilled to the besieging battering machines of Rome, heard the hissing arcs of Saladin’s sabers … the rattle of crusader mail … and the tattoo of Israeli paratroop gunfire. She has seen more passion and love and … human savagery than any other place in the world” (Leon Uris, author of Exodus).
A century ago, on November 2, 1917, the Balfour declaration changed the profile of the Middle East. Its crucial paragraph contained just 67 words and laid the foundation for modern Israel. It provided a gateway for restoring Jerusalem to the Jewish people.
The United Nations partitioned Palestine into two states on November 29, 1947, one Arab and one Jewish. The British evacuation six months later enabled the Israeli government to declare independence. It was 2,500 years since Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians. David Ben-Gurion, head of the provisional government of Israel, read a Declaration of Independence aloud on a live radio broadcast two hours before midnight on May 14, 1948. Israel would become an independent state at one second after midnight. Within hours, the new nation was surrounded by armies of the Arab League. Possessing only three tanks and without air force fighter planes or bombers, Israeli soldiers held off 74 Arab bombers. One percent of the 600,000 Israeli population was lost.
The war ended on November 28 after several false armistices. Israel now possessed more land than its original partition. The most sacred city in the world was divided into two parts, one Jewish and one Arab, under the armistice agreement signed April 3, 1949.
Two years later in July 1951, King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated by a lone Arab gunman while attending prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem erupted in violence. This began a long period of fighting between Arabs and Arabs, and Arabs and Jews. As hostilities intensified, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad asked Egyptian president Gamal Nasser to sign a three-way treaty with Jordan. Nasser agreed and expelled a ten-year-old UN military contingent from the Sinai Peninsula.
Not long after, Israeli Intelligence learned of an imminent attack by the new trilateral alliance. It initiated a preemptive air strike on June 5, 1967, against Egyptian military bases. Joshua conquered Jericho in seven days, but Israel took just six to turn back the forces of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Israeli fighters captured the Sinai Peninsula (later returned to Egypt), the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the Jordan River, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. When soldiers reached remains of the Western Wall of the Temple compound, they burst into tears and began to pray. Rabbis blew the shofar. The Temple site was again in Jewish hands.
Jerusalem First Becomes Israel’s Capital
“Thus saith … Jehovah: This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations, and countries are round about her” (Ezekiel 5:5 RVIC). When God wanted King David to unite the 12 tribes, He chose Jerusalem for the administrative center on the border between Benjamin and Judah. Before this, Biblical references to Jerusalem are scarce. Letters found in Tel-Amarna from the 14th century BC were signed by the “King of Urusalim.” However, the city is never mentioned in the records of Egyptian raiding parties. After the death of Joshua, the children of Judah set Jerusalem on fire (Judges 1:8).
In Judges 19:10-14, a Levite traveling north from Bethlehem declined to rest in the “city of the Jebusites,” because it was not of the “sons of Israel.” When David united Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-2), he left Hebron to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites. “David captured … Zion … David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo [citadel] and inward” (2 Samuel 5:7, 9 NAS). Jerusalem became Israel’s capital.
The Threshing Floor of the Lord
As a man of war, David was forbidden to build a temple for worship, the task falling to his son Solomon (2 Chronicles 3:1). The altar and a temple was to be built on the “threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:18, 22:1). David purchased this after an angel instructed him to erect an altar there (1 Chronicles 21:18-27). In 2 Samuel 24:18-25 the owner’s name is Araunah. Though Ornan (Araunah) offered the threshing floor freely, David insisted on buying it “for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for Jehovah, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing. So David gave Ornan 600 shekels of gold … for the site” (1 Chronicles 21:24, 25 NAS). Title to the land was transferred to Israel.
The Temple Mount is a prominent high place, overlooking the City of David, and visible from anywhere in the city. Even today, from the City of David, the Temple Mount draws the eyes upward.
The biblical threshing floor is rich in meaning, both historically and prophetically. Sheaves of grain would be opened up and the stalks spread across the threshing floor. Pairs of donkeys, oxen, or horses would be walked round and round, often dragging a
heavy threshing board, tearing the ears of grain from the stalks and loosening the grain from the husks. After this threshing, the broken stalks and grain were thrown up into the air with a wooden winnowing fork or a winnowing fan. The chaff would be blown away by the wind, the short torn straw would fall away, and the heavier grain would fall at the winnower’s feet. The grain could be further cleansed by sieving. John the Baptist associated the process with Jesus’ Judgment on Israel (Matthew 3:12), and the symbolism applies also to Christendom in Revelation 14:14-19.
The prophet Micah describes the final battle of the Gospel Age as occurring on a threshing floor, likely the same battle described by Ezekiel 38 as occurring against Israel and Jerusalem: “Many nations have been assembled against you Who say, ‘Let her be polluted, and let our eyes gloat over Zion.’ But they do not know the thoughts of Jehovah, and they do not understand His purpose; for he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor. Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion, For your horn I will make iron and your hoofs I will make bronze, that you may pulverize many peoples [and] … devote … their unjust gain and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth” (Micah
4:11-13 NAS). Habakkuk uses similar language to describe the aftermath of this battle: “Thou didst march through the land in indignation; Thou didst thresh the nations in anger” (Habakkuk 3:12).
Today, a once unimportant city has become an area of intense controversy. Although David conquered the city of Jerusalem and purchased the Temple Mount for the Jewish people, nations of earth today deny its rightful owner. However, Jehovah will make known His will concerning this most holy place. His presence was felt there for over a thousand years. He will elevate the controversy to a battle where he will deal with the sins of all nations, and then he will use it as a place of learning for His kingdom on earth. “And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, 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 Jehovah from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Let us pray for that Kingdom, and for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalms 122:6).