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Formerly Salem (Gen. 14:18; Ps. 76:2), a Jebusite city until it was captured by David (2 Sam. 5:6–9); for its earlier history see Josh. 10:1–5, 23; 12:10; 15:8; 18:16, 28; Judg. 1:7–8; 19:10; 1 Sam. 17:54. It lay on the frontier line between Judah and Benjamin and was chosen by David to be his capital. Until then it had been merely a mountain fortress, about 2600 feet above sea level, surrounded by deep valleys on all sides except the north. On the east was the Valley of the Kidron, dividing the Temple Mountain from the Mount of Olives; on the west and south was the Valley of Hinnom. The plateau on which the city stands was originally divided by another valley, called by Josephus the Tyropaean Valley, now in great part filled up with debris. (See map of Jerusalem in the Map Section.)

All authorities agree in placing the temple on the eastern hill, but there has been much dispute as to the position of Zion. (See Zion.) David fortified the city, the chief feature in the fortifications being a tower called the Millo. It may have protected the city on the north, the only side on which it had not the defense of precipitous ravines. During David’s reign the city was little more than a fortress, the king occupying a wooden palace, and the ark still dwelling “in curtains.” During the reign of Solomon much was done toward beautifying the city, the chief buildings erected being the temple (see Temple of Solomon) and the king’s palace, to which was given the name of “the house of the forest of Lebanon.”

After the division of the kingdoms Jerusalem remained the capital of Judah. It was frequently attacked by invading armies (1 Kgs. 14:25; 2 Kgs. 14:13; 16:5; 18–19; 24:10; 25). Under Hezekiah it was made the one center of religious worship, and the “high places” were abolished. After the return it was gradually rebuilt (Ezra 1; 3; 5; Neh. 3–4; see also Temple of Zerubbabel) but was captured and partly destroyed by Ptolemy Ⅰ in 320 B.C. and by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C. The city grew under the Maccabees, and during the reign of John Hyrcanus the fortress, known in later days as the Castle Antonia, was rebuilt on the temple area. It was again captured in 65 B.C. by Pompey, who forced an entrance on the Sabbath. Herod rebuilt the walls and the temple, beautifying the city at great expense, but in A.D. 70 it was entirely destroyed by the Romans under Titus. During these later years of its history the Holy City was regarded with intense affection by all Jews, and the words of one of the Psalms of the captivity, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning” (Ps. 137:5), express a feeling that has outlasted 25 centuries of trial and 18 continuous centuries of alienation (see also Ps. 122). See also Jebus; Salem.