Who occupied Jerusalem and when?



1000 BCE  The ancient city of Urusalim, meaning “Foundation of Shalem (God)” is conquered by David, King of Israel.  The Hebrews occupy Jerusalem.

975-926 BCE David’s son Solomon builds the Temple in Jerusalem.

922 BCE Solomon dies, and the Hebrew tribes occupying the northern part of Palestine secede, leaving the kingdom of Israel divided into the northern and southern kingdoms–Israel to the north and Judah to the south.

850 BCE Philistines & Arabians sack Jerusalem.

786 BCE King Joash of Israel (the northern kingdom) conquers the city.  The northern kingdom controls the city.

721 BCE Conquest of the tribes of the northern kingdom by Assyria. These tribes, the legendary Ten Lost Tribes of Israel disappear from history, leaving only the tribes of the southern kingdom.

612 BCE  Assyria yields to Babylon

604 BCE Jerusalem is despoiled and her king is deported to Babylon.

587/86 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon totally destroys the city and the Temple, and Jews are taken into captivity.

538 BCE  Persian King Cyrus II vanquishes the Babylonians and allows Jews to return to Jerusalem.

515  Temple is restored.

444 Nehemiah restores fortifications of Jerusalem.

333 BCE  Alexander the Great of Greece overthrows the Persians and the Hellenistic/Roman period begins.

40 BCE Herod the Great begins his 40-year reign during which the city reaches her peak of greatness.

70 CE Jerusalem besieged and almost totally destroyed by the Roman Titus.  The temple is reduced to rubbish.

130 CE The city is partially repopulated.

135 CE  Roman emperor Hadrian plants a new city on top of the rubbish of Jerusalem and names it after his family and Roman gods:  Aelia Capitolina.  A sanctuary to Jupiter is erected on the Temple Mount and other Roman deities are honored throughout the city.  Jews are prohibited from entering the city.

4th century CE  Under the influence of Constantine, Christianity becomes the official religion of Rome and the city returns to her original name Jerusalem.

Source:  Britannica online https://www.britannica.com/place/Jerusalem



God’s Patent Self-Expression

Both the Old and New Testament tell us a lot about God — who He is and (even more about) who He isn’t.  But if there’s not enough information through the written language, maybe we can look elsewhere to learn more.

Job, chapter 12, explains:

. . . But ask the animals, and they will teach you,                                                                                  or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;                                                                                      or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,                                                                                       or let the fish in the sea inform you.                                                                                             Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?

 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.                                   Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?                                                                    Is not wisdom found among the aged?                                                                                           Does not long life bring understanding?

To God belong wisdom and power;  counsel and understanding are his.                               What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;                                                                                           those he imprisons cannot be released.                                                                                                 If he holds back the waters there is drought;                                                                                       if he lets them loose, they devastate the land. . . .

How can anyone appreciate salvation whose eye nature has not trained about eternity and God’s omnipotence?

How can anyone appreciate the strength and hope of God who doesn’t recognize His majesty in nature?

How can anyone follow Him into unknown territories of life who hasn’t recognized His pathway that lies, in nature, like an open book?

The endless phenomena of nature—the art and science derived from it—are God’s letters patent to His people, giving each one who would recognize Him a certain right to know and understand His majesty.  Can anyone who doesn’t recognize God in nature’s phenomena possess the certain grace that He confers on those who do?

Palm Sunday–Some thoughts about how Jesus may have felt and what he saw from the Mt. of Olives on that day

“After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, . . . ”   Luke 19:28


On our trip to Israel in spring of 2019, Tra and I did get a chance to go to the Mt. of Olives, a hilly informal plot of land where ancient olive trees and stones are planted.  But we looked out across the Kidron Valley (as seen below) and saw what Jesus may have seen.

From the Mount of Olives Jesus and his disciples saw the great city of  Jerusalem, the City of David, Zion, the Eternal City.  The picture below is the 2019 version of Jerusalem as seen from the Mt. of Olives. The gold dome¹ covers the Jewish Temple Mount, the cornerstone of the temple that was standing when Jesus and his disciples looked over the city.

Mt of Olives
There we are (somewhere) standing at the overlook on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus and His disciples may have stood to view the Holy City.


What did Jesus feel when He saw the Eternal City that day?

Herod's Temple

He saw the ancient Jewish temple that King Herod the Great had re-built.²    He knew about the central structure, the “Holy of Holies,” in which hung the veil that would be “rent asunder” the moment He died on the cross.

Tower of David and old city walls

The Tower of David and the city walls built by Herod the Great, pictured here, 2019.

He saw Herod the Great’s magnificent renovations to the temple and the more magnificent palace dominating the city-scape. Herod was famous as Rome’s master builder.  But for  Jesus and his Jewish followers, this Herod was the same man responsible—just 33 years before—for the mass murder of all Jewish boys under 2-years old. It was Herod’s attempt to eliminate the baby who was Jesus, now a man who  was viewing the city from the Mt. of Olives.  How did Jesus and His disciples feel when they saw the palace of this mass-murderer in their Holy City?

Adjacent to the temple stood Antonia’s Fortress, another architectural masterpiece, Herod’s monument honoring the Roman leader Marc Antony.  This fortress is where the governor’s of Rome would stay the following weekend–the weekend of Christ’s crucifixion–because it was from Antonia’s Fortress that they would have a clear and up-close view of Golgotha.


¹The gold dome, now famously called “The Dome of the Rock,” was built by a Moslem caliph in the 7th century C.E.   For the Moslems, it commemorates the place from where Mohammed was lifted for his sacred Night Journey, a visit to Allah in heaven. No Jews or Christians are allowed in the “Dome of the Rock.”

²A model of the Temple, which would have stood where the Golden Dome is now seen.  The image comes from the Oxford Biblical Studies on-line. 


Transfiguration of Christ

The account  of the supernatural transformation of Christ is recorded in the synoptic gospels (Mark 9:2-8; Matt. 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36). There is no mention of the event in the gospel of John, but there is a reference at 2 Pet.  1:18.

In the context of the the Bible, the mention of Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) standing with Jesus at his transfiguration and the  cloud visible to the disciples as a symbol for the divine presence (Exod. 33:7-11) signify the relationship of this New Testament account to the ancient Jewish Old Testament account as told in Exodus 24:16.

To strengthen the connection of this New Testament event with the Old Testament, the three dwellings (or tents, booths) proposed by Peter to shade Jesus, Moses, and Elijah reference the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated annually by the Jews.   During this week-long event, in order to remember the wilderness experience of their ancestors, the Jews lived in booths or tents  like their ancestors were believed to have done in the wilderness (Lev. 23:42) and would do so again in the Messianic age.

Moses’s face once shone with the reflected glory of God (Exod. 34:29); on the mount, Jesus’s figure shone with its own glory, and his clothes were ‘dazzling white’.  The human life of Jesus was not merely a revelation to the disciples but also a promise of what all believers are destined to enjoy–the ultimate religious union of the human person with God, meaning not that a human being might become a god, or part of a god, but that the divine image might be finally and fully manifested in a created being whose life had been redeemed with the righteousness of Christ.¹

                                                                                                                                                                 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.                                                                       II Corinthians 3:18


¹”transfiguration.” In A Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. W. R. F. Browning. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. 02Mar2019<http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e1945&gt;.

Hannah’s trip to Shiloh Commentary 11/18/2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20 

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 

     In this period of Israel’s history, there were two kinds of sacrifice:  In one, the sacrificial animal was burned and totally consumed on the altar; in the other, the animal was offered in communion with other worshipers who would share its remains.  Elkanah’s offering was the latter.  

Continue reading “Hannah’s trip to Shiloh Commentary 11/18/2018”


From Ruth Chapter 1 in Sunday’s liturgy:  “But Ruth said, “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

         The short story of Ruth is celebrated by Jews and Christians alike as one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.  It is an important story of respect, loyalty and faithfulness between people–in spite of their differences in race and religion.
          In fact, it is the acceptance of these differences–the trust and reciprocal loyalty and kindness between Jew and non-Jew–that creates the primary role of the story in both the Jewish and Christian Bibles.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the union of Ruth the non-Jew and Boaz the Jew continues a synthesis of genealogy from Abraham the Jewish patriarch, to King David, to Jesus.
          In this story, an outsider, a Moabitess (a non-Jew), is a widow and marries the Jew Boaz from the tribe of Judah.  Their son Obed is the grandfather of David, the Jews’ greatest king, who, in turn, is the ancestor of Christianity’s Anointed One.  Ruth’s loyalty, her acceptance of and responsibility for family and faith has put Ruth as a central figure in the Judeo-Christian legacy.

Matthew 1:2-16

Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.  Judah begot Perez . . . begot . . . (5) Salmon begot Boaz by Rehab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king  . . . begot . . . begot . . .  begot . . . Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
Trivia question:  How many begots are there between Matthew 1:1 and Matthew 1:17?



THE NAME IS MENTIONED JUST TWICE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. The Canaanite king of the city of Salem (identified as Jerusalem) and priest of God Most High (El Elyon), Melchizedek met Abram when the latter was returning victorious from battle (Genesis 14:18-20).  In Genesis 14 verse 22, Abram says essentially: “‘Melchizedek calls his God ‘El Elyon’, I call my God Yahweh, but we worship the same God.’ No where in the Bible is there such a statement about a Canaanite God.”  (Broadman).

Later in Ps. 110.4, the Psalmist merges royal and priestly power by appropriating the order of Melchizedek, the king-priest.  Material from the Dead Sea Scrolls portrays Melchizedek as a heavenly being who will bring salvation (in fulfillment of Isa. 52.7-10 and 61.1-3) and judgment (in fulfillment of Ps. 7.7-8; 82.1-2) at the conclusion of the final jubilee (Lev. 25). (oxfordbiblicalstudies.com)

THE NAME AS USED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOK OF HEBREWS (Broadman):  The author of the letter to the Hebrews, citing Psalm 110.4, argues that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5.6, 10; 6.20; 7.17). This argument places the emphasis of the role of Christ as that of High Priest.

Paul’s theology emphasizes Christ as Saviour.  In his letters, Paul stresses the role of Jesus as Saviour:  that through His sacrificial death, Christ as Saviour redeemed mankind from the curse of the law and the power of the flesh, preventing eternal separation from a righteous God.

The theology in Hebrews does not differ regarding the role of Christ as Savior, but places emphasis on the role of Christ as High Priest.  As our High Priest, after we have accepted His miraculous salvation, Christ will take us into a remarkable knowledge of an unseen world where we can be in the very presence of God.





Hillel the Great

Pictured below is a statue of the Jewish rabbi Hillel the Great teaching a boy standing on one foot.  (Don’t know why the one foot.)  He died 10-15 years after the birth of Jesus.

Hillel was liberal and lenient in his interpretation of the oral law; and his followers, who were prominent after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, were distinguished from the more rigorous school of Shammai, a contemporary. Commentators on the Mark scripture for October 7, 2018 point to this contrast.  Read here:  The Question About Divorce

Hillel is famous for the dictum: ‘What you hate, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Torah, while all the rest is commentary.’


Hillel teaching a child standing on one foot

Mark reading for 9/23

The scriptures listed below are closely related in content and represent a series of discussions that occurred at different times and in different places between Jesus and His disciples.

Gospel reading for Sunday, 9/17– Mark 8:31-9:1

Gospel reading for Sunday, 9/23 — Mark 9:30-50

Gospel reading for Sunday,10/21 — Mark 10:32-45

Each discussion begins with a few verses about Jesus’ expected Passion.  In Mark 8, which was in last week’s liturgy, the group was on the road to Caesarea Philippi when Jesus told about His coming suffering and death.  This concept of a defeated Christ gave rise to a rebuke from Peter, and the scene ends with Christ’s famous command, “Get behind me, Satan!”  The second discussion was about Jesus’ suffering and death and is from Mark 9.  It appears in this Sunday’s liturgy  and occurs during the group’s travel through Galilee.  (See the full scripture on this blog’s menu item “Liturgical Readings and Slideshow”.) The third discussion, from Mark 10, which we’ll read in church on October 21, was held on the road into Jerusalem.

Interestingly, on each occurrence of these Passion conversations, Mark dedicates only a few verses to the event that changed the course of human history, while spending the  many verses that follow recording His lessons on discipleship, how we should spend our time in human history.

Joe’s Sermon, July 29, 2018


Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever.

The Epistle today is at the end of a prayer in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. Paul is speaking of the indwelling of God’s Spirit in all of us and how that Spirit can lead us to greater things than we can ask or imagine.

So often when we think of God we think of God as transcendent–out there or up there.  Paul is calling us to remember that God is also within us.  And that His Spirit is there to guide us and lead us in life.

Too often we feel God is distant from us.  Maybe we have pushed God out there because we fear His closeness and intimacy.

The truth that Paul is telling us is that God is ever present with us and that God loves us and wants to guide us and help us have fulfilling lives.

We often dwell on God as being a parent figure and we are God’s rebellious adolescents.  We relate to God as a judge rather than a lover of us.  That image of God is also why we relate to God as “out there.”

We cannot escape God’s presence if we recall that God is within each of us — in every one God has created.  Remember we are created in God’s image and God’s image is a God of love.

Jesus came into this world to help us understand how near to us God’s Spirit is.  Jesus is God incarnate — in the flesh.

Once we realize God is in us there is no limit to what we can do and be.  As Paul says:  Watch “Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine.”

This is why we need to get to know the power of God within us.  It means taking the time to become intimate with God ourselves.  God is our friend, not our parent.  God wants what is best for us.

Dag Hammershjold former leader of the UN once said — “Choose your limitations and surely enough they will be your limitations.”

We seem to live this way rather than realize the power of God to lead us to greater things than we can ask or imagine.

Let us heed what Paul’s is trying to tell us today.