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  • Writer's pictureAnnemeet Hasidi-van Der Leij

History of Jerusalem, part 5. King David conquers Jebus (=Jerusalem)

After 7 years of rule from Hebron, King David conquers Jerusalem around the year 1004 BCE. I Kings 2:11 cites the length of the reign of King David:

"The days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem."

The Books of Kings states that at this point in history, Jerusalem was known as Jebus, and was ruled by a Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites. Why did King David conquer Jebus? It had been about 200 years since the Israelites had left Egypt to come to this land, and unity between the 12 tribes of Israel was still not a reality. Jebus was chosen by King David to be the capital mainly because the city, although part of the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, had not yet been conquered by the Israelites, and was not tied specifically to any of the twelve tribes. For David, this was of great significance, because this enabled him to conquer the city and use Jerusalem as the symbol for a united Israel. “ The King and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “ You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you of.” They thought, “ David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David.”

The size of Jerusalem at the time that King David conquered it was only about 60 dunams (=60.000 square meters). If you estimate that about 50 people lived on each dunam, Jerusalem had at that time only about 3000 inhabitants. The ‘City of David’, עיר דוד, is the oldest settled neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It is a narrow ridge running south from the Temple Mount.

It was a walled city and King David built his palace there and established his capital. The Gihon Spring was the main source of water for the City of David. This spring made human settlement possible in ancient Jerusalem. The spring was not only used for drinking water, but also for irrigation of gardens in the adjacent Kidron Valley which provided a food source for the ancient settlement. The Kidron Valley runs along the eastern wall of The Old City of Jerusalem, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It then continues east through the Judean Desert, towards the Dead Sea. After King David conquered the city, he collected 50 Shekel from each of the 12 tribes of Israel and went with the 600 Shekel to Aruna, the Jebusite, who owned the threshing floor on Mount Moriah. David wanted to buy from him the threshing floor. Aruna told him he could just take the threshing floor, without paying for it, because he had just conquered it together with the city; “ Aravna said to David, “ Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood”………………But the king replied to Aravna, “ no, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty Shekels of silver for them.” 2 Sam. 24: 22- 24.

In Samuel it says King David paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor, but In 1 Chron. 21: 25 it says;

“ So David paid Aravna six hundred Shekels of gold for the site.”

It was King David that determined that Mount Moriah, where Abraham went to sacrifice his son Itzhak, was the same place as the threshing floor of Aruna. Therefore he chose this place to bring the Holy Ark of the Covenant to and turned the city into the religious center of the whole of the People of Israel.

Who was Aruna? The Jebusites were a Canaanite tribe. The Bible identifies Aruna clearly as a Jebusite, an ethnic group that most scholars believe refers to the Hittites. In the Hittite language Aruna means

‘the lord,’ and is not a personal name but a title.

In the Hebrew Bible/ Tenach in 2 Samuel 24:23, Aruna is referred to as a king: הַכֹּ֗ל נָתַ֛ן אֲרַ֥וְנָה הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ לַמֶּ֑לֶךְ ס וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲרַ֙וְנָה֙ אֶל־הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ יִרְצֶֽךָ׃ “The king Aruna gives all this to the king.” Aruna also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.” In modern English translations ‘the king’ is referring to David both times and not to Aruna. Several Biblical scholars believe that he may have simply been the Jebusite king of Jerusalem at that time.

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