O Jerusalem

President Trump has recently acknowledged Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, and promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That upset a lot of Palestinians, and others.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

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The view of Jerusalem Christ would have seen as He lamented, only He would have seen the Temple instead of the Dome of the Rock

Back in the late 1980’s, the United States leased a 10 acre plot in the city from the Israel Land Authority, but in the 90’s the Islamic Waqf (Land Authority) claimed that they have owned the property for 200 years, and still do. Regardless of that claim, Reagan secured a 100 year lease on the fairly small plot in 1989 and the U.S. has toyed with a move ever since. But what’s the big deal – I mean who cares, right? Obviously, the people throwing rocks and rolling burning tires and pulling their guns over Trump’s announcement care. But why? Well, that’s a long story – millenniums long – but I’m going to abridge it here, just for kicks.

Let’s start with Abraham. Abraham moved from his hometown of Ur, or Uz, somewhere in the Syria area, to Canaan, which was already inhabited, (Gen. 12:6) and which would someday be called “the Promised Land,” as God promised it to Abraham. For what it’s worth, he probably traveled through Aleppo (recently in the news) on his journey. He settled in the hill country of Hebron (south of Dead Sea) after Lot chose the Dead Sea area north of that. After fighting some “Kings” of the area (tribal leaders) for rights to land, Abraham met Melchizadek, the King of Salem, (area around Mount Moriah) and made friends.

God had promised Abraham a crazy big family and a crazy big place for them to live. (Gen. 13:14…) Abraham and Sarai, his wife, weren’t getting pregnant as expected so he took Hagar their Egyptian servant as a wife and had a boy: Ishmael. An angel visited Hagar just before the birth and explained that her descendants would be “too numerous to count,” kind of like Abraham’s.  The angel also explained that Ishmael would be hostile with everyone, and everyone likewise with him, and that he would live to the east of his brothers. (Iraq, Iran, Syria…) (Gen 16:10-12) Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born. (Gen16:16)

After Ishmael was born, God chats with Abraham again, in Gen. 17:18-27, and explains that Isaac would be born of Sarah, and that both Ishmael and Isaac would be the father of a great nation but the covenant (the family and the land) would run through Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. (Gen 21:5) In Chapter 22 of Genesis, God tests Abraham by calling him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, (vs.2) on Mount Moriah. (Gen. 22:2) This is the part where Muslims (Ismael’s family) and Jews (Isaac’s family) disagree. Ishmael’s descendants believe it was Ishmael who was called to be sacrificed, as he was the only one who was ever Abraham’s only son. They maintain that the word Isaac is a typo by ancient scribes. For what it’s worth, here’s what the two words look like in the original language. img_2076  Ishmael has what looks like 7 characters, only two of which are the same as those on Isaac, while Isaac only has four characters. Not so easy to mistake as to be given to typos by scribes. Just sayin’.img_2075

The point is that Genesis records two children born of Abraham: Ishmael first, and Isaac second. Where the modern Bible, or even the Jewish Torah, says that Isaac was the son of the covenant, Ishmael’s descendants claim this is an error. And where the Bible says Ishmael would be hostile and live to the East, we see this played out in history. In Gen. 21:14 et. seq. the story is told of Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert, God hearing them cry, and an angel promising to make a great nation of Ishmael. To this day the families of Ishmael and Isaac fight over the inheritance of Abraham: the area around Mount Moriah.

But then Isaac had Jacob and Esau. Jacob had twelve sons, as did Ishmael, btw, (Gen. 25:12 et seq.) Ishmael’s descendants settled in the area east from Egypt into Assyrria, and we know the story of Jacob’s family ending up in Egypt as slaves. Jacob is renamed “Israel” in Gen. 35:10. Who carried Joseph off to Egypt to sell as a slave? A caravan of Ishmaelites! (Gen 37:25) Esau’s descendants settled southeast of the Dead Sea and came to be called Edomites. (Gen 36:6 et seq)

Israel is a family of millions in slavery in Egypt; Esau’s family has been growing likewise, back in Canaan still, and Ishmael’s family is growing at a similar rate to Israel, but in the area east of Egypt and throughout Assyria (This includes the areas of Palestine and Israel today.)

Skip ahead – quite a long time. Moses comes on the scene in Egypt and by God’s hand gets “his people” out of Egypt and headed back to Canaan – the “Promised Land.” You know this part – they wander for generations and finally come up to the edge of father Abraham’s old stomping grounds. Moses can see it from the top of a mountain.

Remember those times in Sunday School class when the Bible would list all the “ites” that were the bad guys that Israel (the family – the good guys) was supposed to vanquish? You know – these are the words that you would kind of cough your way through rather than trying to pronounce because you knew you would get it wrong and there would always be that one smart guy who would correct you on the pronunciation, like he lived there or something. Ammonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Amorites, Gergashites, Farfegnugenites, etc. Well one of those was the Jebusites. (Gen. 10:16) Those guys were called Jebusites because they lived in Jebus, which happened to be the area around Mount Moriah!

Jebus and several other towns, Jericho being the first, was in the “Promised Land.” God told the family (Israel) to go down into the valley from Mt. Nebo (That’s where Moses looked out over the promised land but then died and was buried – He could see Jericho clearly from that mountain) and His angel would wipe out the inhabitants before them. (Exodus 23:20-33) That worked wonderfully at Jericho – you know: the horns and the walls fell – but the Family did not obey the directions given in Exodus 23. God had warned them about the consequences of disobedience in Deuteronomy 28, but they were probably eating their falafel and pitas instead of listening. So sometimes God went ahead of them and sometimes not – sometimes they destroyed everything and sometimes not. For the old timers who had read their history books, destroying everyone must have been a challenging thought, as many of the promised land inhabitants were kin – through Esau or Ishmael. By the time they had covered the Promised Land, thousands of the previous inhabitants were gone, thousands were slaves, and thousands were still living there by virtue of treaties. Not what God instructed! One of the cities was Jebus, in the hill country.

Jebus became Jerusalem. (Josh 18:28) When the promised land was divided up among the 12 tribes of the now huge family, it was part of Benjamin’s inheritance. But the Jebusites were not completely gone, as Israel had not defeated them. (Joshua 15:63) They lived around the area of Mount Moriah along with the “Benjaminites.” So now let’s understand that even back then, the land that we now know as Palestine and Israel was inhabited by Israelites and many other “ites,” some of which were Jebusites.

Years later, the prophet Samuel (remember he was the boy who heard God’s voice while he was in training with Eli? – 1 Sam 3) anointed David to be King. David was the son of Jesse, of the tribe of Benjamin, and he lived around Bethlehem, shepherding on the same hillsides where Ruth and Boaz hooked up.

David, the warrior king, managed to take Jebus, or Jerusalem, where no one before him could. Thus it was named the City of David. (2 Sam. 5:6-7) He built his city on the south side of Mount Moriah. Having established his kingdom, David decided he wanted to measure his strength with a census. This angered God, as it was His strength, not David’s, that sustained Israel, and He sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 21:15) Just as the angel was standing on top of Mount Moriah (as legend has it), at the threshing floor of “Araunah” (2 Sam. 24:17) or “Ornan” (1 Chr. 21:15) – the Jebusite – with his sword pointing out over Jerusalem, God relented and did not destroy the city.

After dodging this divine disaster, David bought the threshing floor from the Jebusite. The Jebusite wanted to give it to the King, but David insisted  on buying it for fair market value. (1 Chr. 21:24) For what it is worth, a threshing floor is a big flat rock area where a farmer can separate his grain from the stalk. It would look like this – a big flat rock.

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This threshing floor is reputed to be the same big flat rock upon which Abraham bound Isaac (or Ishmael, depending on what you believe). The top of Mount Moriah.

David bought it so that he could place the Ark of the Covenant there, and ultimately, the Jewish Temple. What’s funny to me is that he bought it. He could have taken it from the possibly pagan Jebusite based on God’s old directives to take the promised land. But he didn’t. “I will not take what is yours for the Lord,” he said, at 1 Chr. 21:24. That was King David himself, on Mount Moriah – Jerusalem.

That is the hill on which Solomon built the Temple and that is the spot that became the Holy of Holies. That’s why Jerusalem is so important to the Jews.

But this is also why this spot is so holy to the Muslims, and why they built the Dome of the Rock. That’s the rock. In addition to the above, the Muslims believe Muhammed was taken from Mecca to “the furthest Mosque,” (Surah al-Isra, Quran) from which he ascended to heaven to meet Allah. They claim this rock to be the location of “the furthest Mosque.”

Given the above, Muslims and Jews have been fighting over rights to this real estate since, well, shortly after Abraham and Melchizadek actually made friends there. It’s a family feud.

But sadly, people forget that it’s all one family, and as prophesied, nations and their governments have grown out of the family divisions. If we followed the example of father Abraham, the common denominator, or even King David, the good faith purchaser, we would bargain our way to peace, but I know we have thousands of years of grudges in the way prohibiting that. God Himself has directed its destruction, occupancy, and restoration many times over during and since biblical times.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gen. 12:3

So should the U.S. stand with Israel, to the point of recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, against the wishes of the Palestinians? First, I think we should distinguish the modern Nation of Israel from the Family of Israel. The verse above was directed to the family, as the Covenant. In the 21st century, the Nation of Israel encompasses everyone who is born there, by its own laws: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Jebusites, Edomites (Esau) – you get it. So blessing or cursing the modern nation is not equal to doing likewise with the children of the Covenant – the Family.

Secondly, if King David and the Jebusite could work out a sale, years, centuries, after the call to conquer, why should the U.S. now take sides between Palestine and Israel, rather than being available to mediate?

These are just my thoughts on an ancient family feud. As I see it, I’m not part of the family, except by adoption, whereas the people fighting are largely descendants of ancient inhabitants or blood relatives of Abraham, so I’ll stay out of it unless invited in.

For a view of Jerusalem from a Muslim woman, read Nadia Harhash’s blog. For more, from an author and political expert, read Joel Rosenberg’s blog entry.

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