As a pastor, I find the experience of touring the Holy Land surreal. I especially enjoy walking through the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. Recently, someone asked me a question I’d like to explore in depth in this article, “how many times is Jerusalem mentioned in the bible?”
The Bible mentions Jerusalem about 806 times– 660 in the Old Testament and 146 in the New. There are also several allusions to the city of Jerusalem.
In this article, I’ll delve into the significance of Jerusalem in the Bible. I invite you to join me in exploring whether the Old Testament mentions Jerusalem and the instances it does. I’ll also look at if there are alternative names for Jerusalem, among other questions. Read on to learn more.
What is the significance of Jerusalem in the Bible?
Jerusalem is significant because it was a hotbed of biblical activity. We see it mentioned severally in the Old and New Testaments.
Significance in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was the capital city of Israel under King David. 2 Samuel 5:6-10 narrates how David and his men took Jerusalem from the Jebusites. He built a fort and his palace and renamed it the City of David. Furthermore, David elevated Jerusalem to the religious center of Israel by relocating the Ark of the Covenant into the city. Later, in 1 Kings 6-7, David’s son, Solomon, built the temple, which bolstered Jerusalem’s status as the religious capital of Israel.
Significance in the New Testament
Jerusalem, in the New Testament, was the site of key events in the life of Jesus Christ. His parents dedicated him at the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22), he performed several miracles in this city (John 5), he had his last supper here (Matthew 26:18), and Pilate tried and crucified him in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:33).
We also learn that Jerusalem was the site for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). The events of this day saw 3,000 people convert to Christianity. The church was born on this day.
Jerusalem was more than the birthplace of the church. It was the church’s headquarters. The apostles coordinated their mission activities from Jerusalem. For instance, the apostles held the first church council in Jerusalem to address the problem of whether gentile believers should adopt Jewish customs (Acts 15).
Significance in prophesy
Jerusalem features prominently in biblical prophesies regarding the restoration of Israel in the messianic age. In Joel 3:1, for instance, God promises the glorious restoration of Jerusalem and Judah. Daniel 9:27 identifies the temple in Jerusalem as where the antichrist will demand worship during the great tribulation. Ezekiel identifies the plains outside Jerusalem as the site of the great battle of Armageddon (Ezekiel 38-39). Finally, Revelation 11 prophesied the murder of the two witnesses during the great tribulation, only for God to raise them three and a half days later.
Is Jerusalem mentioned in the Old Testament?
Yes. The Old Testament mentions Jerusalem approximately 660 times. Jerusalem appears in a variety of contexts, such as the site of the promise of God to send a messiah (2 Samuel 7), as a site of prophecy (Daniel 9:27), and as a site of the judgment of God upon Israel (Jeremiah 25:8-11).
Instances of Jerusalem’s appearance in the Bible
As we mentioned earlier, the Bible mentions Jerusalem about 806 times. Here are ten such mentions:
- 2 Samuel 5:6-7 says King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it his capital city.
- 1 Kings 8:1 says King Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple he built in Jerusalem.
- Isaiah 2:3 says the prophet spoke of a time when all the nations would gather in Jerusalem to learn from God.
- Ezra 1:1-4 says Cyrus- the Persian King- issued a decree allowing the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
- Nehemiah 2:11-20 says Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls.
- Psalm 122:6 says the psalmist declared his love for Jerusalem and his desire for peace within the city.
- Matthew 21:1-11 says Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
- Acts 2:1-13 says the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost.
- Galatians 4:25-26 says the Apostle Paul referred to Jerusalem as “the Jerusalem above” and “the mother of us all,” contrasting the old and new covenants.
- Revelation 21:2-3 says the Apostle John saw a vision of the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven like a bride prepared for her husband.
When is Jerusalem first mentioned in the Bible?
The word Jerusalem first appears in the book of Joshua 10:1. Adoni-Zedek, King of Jerusalem, joined forces with the Kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to attack Gibeon, a former ally who joined forces with Israel. They feared that with Gibeon’s help, Israel would easily conquer them.
The Gibeonites sought help from Joshua. He marched his army to Gibeon and dispatched the Confederate forces that camped outside Gibeon. He killed the five kings and returned to his camp in Gilgal. This was the first time the word Jerusalem appeared in the Bible.
Where is the old city of Jerusalem mentioned in the Bible?
The old city as we know it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible. However, many significant events happened around this site. Here are three:
- The temple mount. This was the site for the first and second temples in Israel. Solomon built the first temple in the 10th century BCE (1 Kings 5-7). The Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BC (2 Kings 25) as part of God’s judgment for the pervasive sin in Israel. The second temple traces its history to the return of the Exiles. They constructed it in the 5th Century BCE. However, this temple underwent several renovations, the most famous under King Herod the Great (John 2:20). Unfortunately, the Romans in 70 CE marched into Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the temple.
- The pool of Bethesda. Christian scholars believe this pool of Bethesda was the same one Jesus healed the man who was lame for 38 years (John 5).
- The Golden Gate. The Golden Gate was on the eastern wall of Jerusalem. Scholars believe it could be the gate mentioned in Ezekiel 46:1-2 and the same one Jesus used during His triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-10)
What is another name for Jerusalem in the Bible?
Jerusalem has many names; the most famous was “The City of David.” This name first appears in 2 Samuel 5:7 after David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites. David built his palace and brought the Ark of Covenant into this city. He also declared it the capital city of Israel, thus elevating its status as an administrative and religious center of Israel.
Other names for Jerusalem were:
- Salem: First mentioned in Genesis 14:18 in connection to Melchizedek when he met Abram. We see this name reappear in Psalm 76:2.
- Zion: This was a favorite in the Psalms. It was the name David gave to the temple mount. However, over time, it came to represent the whole city (Psalm 48:1-2).
- The Holy City: this name speaks of Jerusalem as the religious capital of Israel. The city housed the Ark of Covenant and the temple. We see this reference in Nehemiah 11:1 and Isaiah 52:1.
- Ariel: This name means Lion of God or Altar. Isaiah used it to refer to Jerusalem as he declared God’s judgment over Israel (Isaiah 29:1-2).
What was Jerusalem called when Jesus was born?
Jerusalem was still called Jerusalem or Yerushalayim during the birth of Jesus. Yerushalayim means “the foundation of peace” or “the city of peace.” It wasn’t until 135 AD that the emperor Hadrian changed the name to Aelia Capitolina.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.