Hey guys, so there’s this city called Jerusalem that has been awfully important for the last few thousand years or so. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world, and it has traded hands many many times. In this video, we’re going to get a bird’s-eye view of this city’s history, which can hopefully put a few things in perspective for us as we continue to see Jerusalem as a vastly important city today. We’re obviously not going to be able to cover everything, so feel free to fill in the gaps in the comments. As for the rest of us, let’s jump in.
Alright, so according to the Bible, the Israelites first took Jerusalem from the Jebusites around 1,000 BC. It became the capital of the Kingdom of Israel and continued as the capital of the Kingdom of Judah after 930 BC when the Northern Kingdom split off to do their own thing. Not long after the Kingdom split, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak, who liked Jeroboam’s kingdom in the north, invaded Jerusalem in the south. Apparently, Jerusalem did not resist, and Shishak just went off with a bunch of the treasures from Solomon’s temple. He probably didn’t take the ark of the covenant with him, but that didn’t stop Steven Speilberg from making an awesome movie that hinges on this piece of history.
In 721 BC the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom but failed to take Jerusalem in the south. The Babylonians conquered the Assyrians, and then destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC, taking the inhabitants captive. Then, the Persians conquered the Babylonians in 539 BC and allowed the captive Jews to return to Jerusalem around 516 BC, where they rebuilt the temple. The Old Testament timeline ends around 400 BC with the Persians in charge and the New Testament begins 400 years later with the Romans in charge. A lot happened during those 400 years.
In the 330s BC, Jerusalem came under the control of the Greeks, after Alexander the Great conquered the Persians. When Alexander died, his empire was divided into 4 empires. Ptolemy and his Egyptian empire ruled the Holy Land for a bit until they were conquered by the Syrian Seleucids. In 167 BC the Maccabees, a prominent family in Jerusalem, led a successful revolt against the Seleucids and the Holy Land was finally once again independent for a while until the Romans incrementally took control between 63 and 37 BC. The Romans are in charge throughout the entire New Testament.
Around 66 AD, the Jews revolted against Rome. It was just complete chaos for a few years as different Jewish factions vied for power while trying to fend off the Romans at the same time. The conflict ended in 70 AD when Rome came in again, burned the second temple, and annihilated the city, leaving only a few walls standing. If you walk through Jerusalem today, you might see Jews praying next to the still-standing western wall of the temple mount. The wall is currently one of the holiest sites of Judaism — it’s believed to be the wall situated closest to where the Holy of Holies of the temple had been.
In 130 AD Rome began to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city, and some believe that a temple to Jupiter was built in place of the destroyed second temple on the temple mount. Not surprisingly, another Jewish insurrection ensued in 132 AD known as the Bar-Kokhba revolt. The Jews lost and were subsequently banned for a very long time from entering Jerusalem, except one day out of the year — the anniversary of the destruction of their temple.
Jerusalem lays low for the next couple of centuries but comes into the limelight once again in the early 300s AD after Emperor Constantine decides that Christianity actually makes a lot of sense. Jerusalem then became a largely Christianized city that rose in reputation and prominence until 614 AD when it was captured by the non-Christian Persians. It was recaptured by the Christian Byzantines 14 years later.
But Jerusalem soon came into the crosshairs of a new religious movement called Islam. Islamic forces laid siege to the city, which surrendered in about 638 AD. Several decades later, construction on the Dome of the Rock was completed — a Muslim shrine built where the second Jewish temple once stood and built around a patch of rock said to be where, according to tradition, the prophet Abraham nearly sacrificed his son, and later where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. The shrine still stands today.
So by this point in time, we’ve had Jews, Pagans, Christians, and Muslims all laying claim to Jerusalem. Arab Muslims controlled the city until 1099 when Christians took it back during what is known as the first crusade. Muslim forces took it back in 1187. That’s what this R-rated Orlando Bloom movie is based on. In retaliation, Christians launched another crusade but failed to retake Jerusalem. This is the Crusade going on during most Robin Hood movies.
Crusaders did capture Jerusalem in 1229, but lost it again a decade later, took it again in 1243, lost it to the Khawarezmi Turks the next year, who then lost it to Mamluke forces from Egypt in 1247. Under the Mamlukes, Jerusalem really diminished in grandeur and importance. Jerusalem’s next major milestone doesn’t come until 1517 when it was captured by another Muslim leader, Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire. The walls he rebuilt are still around today.
Fast forward to the 1900s. The Ottoman Empire was in decline and ended up entering World War I as an ally of Germany. That didn’t go well, so in 1917 Jerusalem ended up in the hands of the British. And this is where we’re going to stop. We’ve set the stage for our next episode which will explore what has been going on with Jerusalem since World War I, up to today.
Of course, there’s obviously a lot of history we didn’t get to in this episode but the point I wanted to make is this: Jerusalem has been through a lot. Many different peoples have lived and died there, and many different people have called that city home. A lot of the current conflict in the Palestine area has to do with events that have happened since World War I but looking back at the larger history of even just this city is insightful and can provide some interesting perspective. For more on this, check out the resources in the YouTube description. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a great day.
- Highly recommended book: “Jerusalem, The Eternal City” by David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew C. Skinner (1996).
- “Crusades” via History.com: https://bit.ly/30P3T4s
- “Pre-State Israel: Under Ottoman Rule (1517-1917) via Jewish Virtual Library: https://bit.ly/3H2zQ8y
- “History of Jerusalem: Timeline for the History of Jerusalem” via Jewish Virtual Library: https://bit.ly/3mkVBZk