The Expansion and Portability of Zion
By Ernest L. Martin, PH. D., August 2000
The city limits of Jerusalem can be extended to include Damascus, Syria. This statement may at first seem absurd and even illogical, but biblical teaching (as understood by early Jewish Rabbis and even by modern biblical interpreters) not only states that this evaluation is true, the Bible even demands that people acknowledge something akin to this in Zechariah 9:1. This may appear to be a strange conclusion because Damascus is located some 130 air miles north and east of present day Jerusalem. Nonetheless, I will show in this research study that Jerusalem can legally (from Godís point of view) become a much larger city than the "Jerusalem" we observe at the present over which the Israel and the Palestinians are now contending.
The interpretation, however, goes further than that. Since the Bible teaches that God dwells figuratively on earth in His divine House called the Temple (first built by Solomon, rebuilt by Zerubbabel and then enlarged extensively by King Herod), the statement in Zechariah 9:1 also means that the physical and spiritual parameters associated with the holiness of the Temple of God could be extended to the geographical environment of Damascus. It all depends on whether God decrees the expansion. And God does! The Bible states that God will dwell (find a resting place) in the northern city of Damascus and His abode will occur before the Second Advent of Christ back to this earth. We have the express statement in the prophetic teaching of Zechariah 9:1 (which is clear in the Hebrew) that the City of Damascus is destined to become a city in which the God of heaven and earth will one day reside.
We have Jewish documents composed around the ninth to twelfth centuries of our era that reveal the Jewish authorities beginning particularly at that time to mention Zechariah 9:1 as a section of divine Scripture which denotes that the city limits of Jerusalem could be extended to include the City of Damascus. In the Midrash Rabbah Song of Songs, we read: "Rabbi Johanan said: ĎJerusalem will in the time to come extend as far as the gates of Damascus, as it says, The burden of the word of the Lord. In the Land of Hadrach, [and in Damascus shall be His resting-place]í (Zech.9:1)" (see page 286 of the Midrash, Soncino edition). The Midrash gives further information. In this discussion among the Rabbis in this early medieval period, they relate: "Is Damascus His resting-place? Is His resting-place any other than the Temple? as it says, This [Jerusalem] is My resting-place for ever (Psalm 132:14)? He [Rabbi Johanan] replied: ĎJerusalem will one day expand on all sides until it reaches the gates of Damascus, and the Exiles will come and rest under it, to fulfill what is written, Damascus shall be His resting-place; as if to say, As far as Damascus is His resting-place" (ibid., p. 287).
It was especially in the ninth to eleventh centuries (just before the Crusades) that the Jewish authorities began to discuss this "Damascus Residence" of God in a serious and urgent manner. This was because of great difficulties that were then occurring to the Jewish people in Jerusalem, which made the Holy City a very precarious place to live and to function as Jews. There had been such a deterioration in political matters (as well as the waters of the Gihon Spring over which the former Temples were built had turned bitter and even septic) that the Jews began to wonder if it were time for God to abandon His former desire to reside only in the central part of Jerusalem (that is, on the original Temple Mount) and that He would move to another area. The prophecy of Zechariah 9:1 had the plain teaching that God would one day, before the establishment of the Messianic Age, have His dwelling place in Damascus. This was scriptural authority for believing this.
It is interesting that the Jerusalem Academy (which was the headquarters in Palestine for the Jewish people) in 1077 C.E. definitely decided to move the Academy (NOT back to Tiberias but) to Damascus. As a result, the Jewish authorities abandoned the City of Jerusalem altogether just before the advent of the Crusaders (they had enough intelligence to know that Jerusalem was going to be the center of conflict and political upheaval). So, when the Crusaders took control of the city in 1099 C.E., the European nationals did not permit a single Jewish person for the next 50 years (according to the records) to enter the gates of Jerusalem.
When the Jews were finally able to return in the mid-twelfth century, we find recorded in the account of Benjamin of Tudela (the Jewish traveler who was one of the first Jews to re-enter the Holy City) a very different attitude had arisen regarding the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. By this time, even some of the Jewish authorities began to jettison the proper area of the former Temples (over and near the Gihon Spring on the southeast ridge) and they deemed it permissible to focus on the Dome of the Rock as the holy site in Jerusalem. Jews had never done this before. They did this because of a change in attitude in Jewish minds regarding their interpretations regarding Jerusalem, the Temple and matters concerning the whereabouts of Zion in various biblical contexts. The Jews were willing (erroneously) to adopt the opinion of Gentile Christians and Muslims and to look toward the Dome of the Rock as the site of the Holy of Holies. Actually, they began to regard the whole of the City of Jerusalem as being spiritual "Zion," and that the Temple could be placed anywhere within the area and be reckoned a proper Temple site. They acknowledged that if the Messiah (when he would arrive) would desire the Temple back in its former site, that he would have the power and the will to accomplish the task. So, as early as the year 1077 C.E., the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem simply left the Holy City to the Gentiles and went to Damascus to await the start of the prophecy of Zechariah 9 through 14 which relates spectacular events leading up to the End of the Age and the coming of the Messiah.
Let us first understand one thing clearly. These six chapters (Zechariah 9 through 14) were written by the prophet Jeremiah (though they are found in Zechariah 9 through 14 ó see Matthew 27:9 for the identity of the writer of these chapters). This single prophecy begins with the remarkable statement that God would find a "resting place" in Damascus. The language that Zechariah uses suggests that God would manifest Himself in Damascus like He once did at the Tabernacle or in the Temple at Jerusalem. This would require a demonstration of the legitimacy of His move. He would somehow have to reveal to mankind His Shekinah (His "Glory") in Damascus to signal His presence in that area. Indeed, the prophecy stated that "the eyes of humanity" (all people in the entire world) would recognize His concentration to the City of Damascus. But why would God move His presence to Damascus? Such a desire to exalt Damascus seems almost inexplicable at first. A part of the problem in understanding it (for us modern interpreters in our western societies) is because the King James Version gives an awkward rendition of the Hebrew in the first verse of the prophecy. Let me translate from the Hebrew what it actually states: "An Oracle. A word of Yahweh against the Land of Hadrach. And Damascus [shall be] a resting place for Him [a place of repose or domicile for Yahweh], for on Yahweh [shall be] the eyes of humanity [that is, all humans on earth will turn their eyes toward Yahweh in Damascus] and all of the Tribes of Israel [shall also turn their eyes toward Yahweh in Damascus]."
Most people who love the Scriptures and its teachings are amazed (even shocked) to learn that God would ever take up a particular presence in Damascus, and that He would do so before the Messianic Age begins. This brings us to our time today. Why would God want to have His "presence" in Damascus? It is easy to read in the Bible how Jerusalem was once selected by God to contain His "House" (or "Home," called the "Temple") where His Shekinah would reside, but why would God desire to express His presence in the same fashion in Damascus? There are some scriptures that show Godís favoritism for Damascus. For one thing, God reveals that He has a special love for the city. God has always held the City of Damascus to be for Him a "city of joy." Look at Jeremiah 49:24,25. These verses speak of a judgment on Damascus (like those judgments on Jerusalem and the cities of Israel), but God also admitted that He considered Damascus to be "the City of Praise [Renown]" and "the City of My Joy." To discover the reason for this "praise and joy" that God has for Damascus, we should look at the prophecy that Jeremiah wrote in Zechariah 9 through 14.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a Prophetic Report in my series on the Temple Update titled: "The Damascus Phase of End-Time Prophecy" to explain what the whole of the prophetic message entailed for us who live at this End of the Age. These six chapters (Zechariah 9 to 14) can be called the "Damascus Prophecy." The essential thing to recognize is the fact that this divine oracle was directed to what is called "The Land of Hadrach." As I have explained in previous research articles over the past few years (which information can be found on this Web Site on the Internet by clicking our "Search" button), the "Land of Hadrach" answers to the lands of the Middle East that were promised to Abraham and his progeny. If one applies the name as a geographical term, it means the "Area of the Fertile Crescent." In analyzing the context of Zechariah, it can be seen that the Land of Hadrach extends from Egypt in the southwest to the head of the Persian Gulf in the southeast, and it also includes the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. This land is even described in Zechariah 9:10 as being "from sea even to sea [that is, in a west to east direction it means from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean], and from the River even unto the ends of the earth [that is, in a north to south direction it means from the Euphrates River to the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula]." This is the exact landmass that Solomon in his day understood to mean the "Land of Promise" (Psalm 72:8).
This "Land of Promise" was the territory that God intended to be inherited by Abraham and his children The reason the City of Damascus was selected to head the prophecy in Zechariah 9 in a geographical sense is because Abraham stated in Genesis 15:2 that if Isaac had not been born to be his heir, a righteous Gentile named "Eliezer of Damascus" would have become the one to inherit all his property and all the lands promised to Abraham. In Greek, "Eliezer" means "Lazarus." This personage is the same "Lazarus" who was mentioned in Christís parable of "Lazarus and the Rich Man" ó see my book "101 Bible Secrets" for the intriguing story behind this man "Lazarus." Had Abrahamís legitimate and actual son Isaac not been born nor lived to manhood, it would have been this "Eliezer" (Lazarus) and his descendants who would have inherited this vast territory known as the "Land of Promise" (or, in biblical terms, The Land of Hadrach with their capital at Damascus).
Most people in the Middle East recognize this extent of land that the Bible promised to Abraham and his seed. The indigenous population in the area feels that the modern people of Israel wish to control and to benefit from the whole of this land area. It is interesting that the Israeli national flag in symbolic form denotes this area called Hadrach (the Land of Promise). Note that the Israeli flag has two horizontal blue lines across the top and bottom of the flag with the Star of David in the middle (the six pointed or double triune star) that in modern time has come to designated Judah (or, the Jews). The first blue line of the Israeli flag (as understood by many heraldic interpreters in the Middle East) represents the Euphrates River and the lower (or bottom) blue line answers to the eastern arm of the former Nile River that once separated the Land of Promise from Egypt. In a word, all of Palestine, Israel, the Levant and the Arabian and Sinai peninsulas represent this Land of Hadrach otherwise known as the "Land of Promise." This is the proper interpretation of the biblical name Hadrach (although the etymological meaning remains obscure and it is even unrecognized in a geographical sense by most modern commentators). The name Hadrach has given prophetic interpreters difficulties in application because there is no town or district anywhere near Damascus of which we have a provable and unvarnished record that could answer to it.
However, the context of Zechariah 9 to 14 establishes the identity of the name Hadrach. The "Land of Promise" (Hadrach) is the area of the earth in which God desires most to live (symbolically) than in any other. That is the land in which God chooses to reside when He is on earth (again, symbolically or otherwise). And though Jerusalem is Godís chief site for sanctification, there are other areas within the "Land of Promise" that God has His divine eyes upon for joy and praise, and Damascus is one of them. Indeed, if Isaac had not been born, it could just have well been Damascus (which is designated as the capital of the region) that would have been Godís chief city, not Jerusalem. And without controversy, Damascus, Syria will become (or has been in the past) a "resting-place" for God. I will soon show in this Temple Update that Damascus also figures in an important manner with a prime New Testament event that had profound influence on the development of Christianity. But let us first look at Damascus in its Old Testament setting. In the not-too-distant future, Damascus will emerge once again to prominence because Zechariah 9 through 14 shows its exaltation before the Messianic Age and before the Kingdom of God appears on earth. It could be said that if Jerusalem is a capital for Israel who live in the Land of Promise, then it is Damascus that should be the capital for Gentile peoples who live in the same area. We will soon look at this possibility.
We should keep our eyes on the present political scene in Damascus, Syria. We should all be aware from recent newscasts that a new and significant beginning has just occurred in Damascus that could well fit into the fulfillment of prophetic events mentioned in the Holy Scriptures that are immediately on the horizon. Some of the prophecies about Damascus in the Old Testament (with the city singled out for attention) have only been vaguely understood or shunted aside by modern prophetic interpreters. But in my judgment the time for the prophecies to be fulfilled in all their majestic wonder is not far away. As a matter of contemporary interest, the brand new ruler in Damascus (Bashar Assad) is quite a young man to have the responsibility of rule on his shoulders. At the same time (and in similar circumstances) a brand new and young ruler (King Abdullah) has come to the throne in the Kingdom of Jordan (which is a country directly abutting to Syria in the south). This combination of young rulers, in my view, is no accident as far as prophetic events are concerned. The fact is, a great change in political and social attitude is prophesied to take place in the Middle East (Zechariah 12:10ff). People in the world will begin to expect the Messianic Age to be on the horizon. One of the ingredients of that change in social and religious affairs will involve the attitude of our present young generations to the opinions of our older generations that are still with us. The prophecies show that a conflict in interests will develop between our young and the older generations.
The prophet Malachi predicted a specific social change would occur. He mentioned it at the end of his prophecy, which records events just before the time of the End. Malachi prophesied: "Behold, I [God] will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord: and he [this future "Elijah"] shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5,6). This prophesied "Elijah" is also to be a forerunner of (and the one who will introduce) the Messianic Age that is prophesied both in the Old and New Testaments. Christ Jesus made this very clear in Matthew 17:11. "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things." Those "all things" to be reinstated on earth from the past are referred to by the apostle Peter in Acts 3:19-21: "And He shall send Jesus Christ, which was before preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the time of the restitution of ALL THINGS [the restoring of ALL THINGS that the "Elijah" will do before Christís Second Advent], which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." This "restoring" or this "turning" and "reinstating" of things (meaning a change in social and religious themes) will involve the admittance of the opinions of the young over the beliefs and traditions of the elder generations on earth. The young are destined to assume rulership over a lot of the governments and educational institutions and facilities of the world. They will be successful. They will govern our world better than our oldsters have done. For one thing, they will look for every opportunity to bring peace and prosperity to this world, rather than perpetuating the traditional social, political and religious customs and traditions (beliefs that perpetuate hatreds) that have divided the world in the past. And they will succeed in their efforts that their elders found impossible to resolve. See Zechariah 12:10 through 13:6 where a type of this principle is shown.
The main thrust of Malachiís prophecy is that the "Elijah" is destined to come before the Day of the Lord. He will "restore all things" and that this will occur when the fathersí hearts will turn toward their children, and the childrenís hearts will turn toward their fathers. This prophecy means that the present fathers will look to their children for proper answers (and they will get them from their children who will be more educated and more wise than they). Also, the children will look to their fathers (in this case, their ancient "fathers" of the Holy Scriptures such as Abraham Jacob, Moses, David, Malachi, John the Baptist, the apostles and to the real teachings of Christ Jesus). The children (young adults) will begin to teach their modern day fathers what the ancient fathers of mankind taught in the Holy Scriptures. This means that there will soon be a great revolution in understanding the real teachings of the Holy Scriptures (Daniel 12:4,9). God will bless this effort of teaching knowledge and understanding to the world. God will begin to work with the "young" who will principally do the work in teaching the "old" what the truths of God really are.
Amazingly, this is precisely what Christ Jesus did when he selected his apostles to do the work of changing the attitude of the world to accept the divine truths of the Gospel. He, himself, was just over 30 years of age when he began his official ministry. The twelve apostles were just a bit younger than he (according to all traditional evidence). And, remember that John the Baptist who was chosen to lead the way in first teaching about the coming Kingdom of God, was only six months older than Jesus. Remember also that the apostle Paul was just about 30 when he was called to lead the Christian teaching. And Paul selected Timothy when he was 17 years of age to administer the ekklesia in Ephesus. Other New Testament personalities such as Titus, Barnabas, Silas and Luke were all of a similar young age as Paul when they began their ministries. And besides that, even in Old Testament times we have the witness of Jeremiah the prophet who was selected by God to change the whole attitude of the world when he was 17 years of age. Ezekiel the prophet was slightly younger than Jeremiah and they prophesied at the same time. Even Isaiah the prophet started prophesying about 760 B.C.E. and was martyred about 698 B.C.E. This shows that Isaiah must have been about 15 to 20 years of age when he began his prophetic career. So, when Malachi prophesied that the time was coming when the young would teach the old just before the arrival of the Messianic age, we have many examples in the Holy Scriptures to show that God has applied that very procedure at times of world crises in the past. We should look for the same thing today, because that is precisely what is prophesied to occur.
So, keep your eyes on King Abdullah (the new young ruler of the Kingdom of Jordan) and also Bashar Assad (the new young ruler of Syria at his capital of Damascus). Remember, Damascus is to play a decisive role at the time God intervenes directly in world affairs. This will not be an obscure kind of dwelling for God in Damascus. The whole world is destined to acknowledge it. All people will begin to view God as having had (or, as having) a "residence" at or around the City of Damascus. The attention of the world should return to what happened (or, happens) at and near Damascus. There is even more reason to keep our eyes on Jerusalem and the Palestinian authorities in this regard. Get ready for the main prophetic events of the Scripture to start their fulfillment. We are on the verge of religious revolution. It is just on the horizon. All things are soon to be restored and reinstated. Even the Temple that Solomon once built (and rebuilt by Zerubbabel and then by Herod) will also become important and people will want to rebuild it again in the area of Jerusalem. We are soon to witness some exciting times.
Just before the period of the Crusades, the Jewish authorities began to view matters concerning the Temple, Jerusalem and Zion in a different perspective than they had been accustomed to in previous ages. In fact, the physical Temple of God became almost irrelevant to the Jews by the twelfth century. The non-importance of the physical Temple being rebuilt before the time of the Messiah was because of a series of historical events that occurred that changed the attitude of the Jewish authorities regarding the status of Jerusalem and also of the Temple. In a word, the authorities decided to abandon Jerusalem and the need for a physical Temple. They began to show little attention to the sites. They simply put the matter in the hands of the Messiah who would come with his army to rescue the Jews and bring them from exile into the Land of Canaan which they were prophesied to inherit along with other Abrahamic peoples.
So, just before the Crusades, Jews began to focus on a future prophetic period of the Messiah when Jerusalem and the Temple would indeed be rebuilt in all its sanctity with its physical and spiritual security. But before that could happen, and as a stroke of incentive to abandon Jerusalem, when the waters of the Gihon Spring around which the former Temples were built turned bitter and undrinkable just before 1077 C.E., this meant to the Jewish authorities that there was in Jerusalem no longer a fit symbol able to represent the pure and life-giving "waters of salvation" that were needed to emanate from the precincts of Godís House. The exact thing had happened in the brief period just before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C.E. The prophet Jeremiah said that the earlier Jews forsook "the fountain of living waters" (the Gihon Spring, which was a symbol for Godís "waters of salvation") and they preferred and made cisterns to give themselves water to drink (Jeremiah 2:13). The early Jews said: "See that it [the Gihon Spring] is evil and bitter" (Jeremiah 2:19). They began to crave for the waters of the Euphrates and Nile rather than the bitter waters of the Gihon which were once pure (Jeremiah 2:18). This condition happened in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. But almost 1700 years later (in 1077 C.E.), when the waters of the Gihon Spring again had turned bitter and undrinkable, this was one of the reasons why the Jewish authorities (as I explained in my book "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot") simply took up stakes and moved the Jewish Academy from Jerusalem to Damascus. They felt at the time that God was abandoning Jerusalem and preparing the historical scene to introduce His Messiah and the Kingdom of God. And, within 22 years, the Europeans in the First Crusade changed the whole political and religious character of Jerusalem. The Jews sat on the sideline and watched. The Jews had no part in these political maneuverings. The Jewish Academy simply remained in Damascus to await the commencement of an End-Time prophecy that they thought they would soon witness. They could read that the prophecy of Zechariah 9 to 14 would start with God dwelling in Damascus of Syria before He would redeem Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple at its former spot in Jerusalem.
The prophecy of Zechariah 9 to 14 begins with God determining to show His presence in Damascus. Jews have long known of this significant prophetic account. In the eleventh century, the Jewish authorities began to interpret Zechariah 9:1 as showing an extension of the city limits of Jerusalem to Damascus. This opinion was galvanized by a remarkable archaeological discovery that took place in Palestine somewhere around the ninth to tenth centuries. The discovery was as exciting to the people of this early medieval period as was the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls in our past generation. It was the rescuing (apparently from a cave) of an ancient manuscript that was written by early Jewish people who called themselves the people of the Damascus Covenant. It was the same text as that found among some manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls in our own times. The manuscript is called the "Damascus Document." Several specimens have been found in the last fifty years. But as early as the ninth century of our era one of those texts was discovered and it began to circulate among some Jewish scholars in Palestine and Egypt. It was finally deposited in a synagogue room in Egypt in the twelfth century (called a Genizah that was built to house discarded manuscripts). The later Jews did not consider this particular document to contain what they affirmed to be orthodox teaching in some sections of its text (which was written in an older Hebrew than they were used to) so they finally discarded it. They put it aside from public view about the twelfth century. Professor Schechter of Cambridge University, however, at the end of the nineteenth century, discovered that document. It was the first of what we called today "The Dead Sea Scrolls." It is a copy of a few other documents having the same text that were deposited among other literary selections in the caves near the Dead Sea and discovered from 1947 to recent times. Scholars even today call the documents that contain this identical text the "Damascus Documents." This is because these early writers considered themselves to be Jews of Damascus.
This brings us to an important question. What is significant about the teachings of this manuscript having its origins even before the time of Christ? Its main thrust is to show a very different attitude of certain Jews to the role of the Temple at Jerusalem. It diminishes the need for a literal and physical Temple. They began to believe (like the apostle Paul later taught in the New Testament) that the whole community of Jews who adhered to the principles of their own Jewish sect could be reckoned collectively as "the Temple of God." They took up the position echoed by many other Jews that "The Most High dwelleth not in Temples made with [human] hands" (see, for example, Acts 7:48; 17:24). They came to believe that the Spirit of God was actually designed by God to dwell in individual humans, and that collectively the community of righteous people could accurately be called the real "Temple of God." In this view (which was that of the apostle Paul and New Testament teaching), the people of the "Damascus Document" felt they did not need a physical Temple of God to nurture them. They believed that wherever the People of God were, that is where the "Temple" was because it was the righteous people who had the Holy Spirit in them. Thus, to them the residence of the Spirit was not limited to a physical Temple in Jerusalem. So, if the People of God lived in (or had their headquarters in) the City of Damascus (let us say), then it had to be reckoned that God dwelt in Damascus. And why pick the City of Damascus. Because the Scripture stated that God would one day show His divine presence in Damascus as recorded in Zechariah 9:1. It is because of this verse that many of the people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls called themselves the people of the "Damascus Covenant."
This single prophecy of Zechariah 9 through 14 begins with that remarkable statement that God would at the End of the Age show His presence in Damascus. In former times after the period of Solomon, the place where God had His House of residence on earth was in Jerusalem. For all official purposes God had only a single "House" on earth. That "House" is (or was) the Temple at Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:1-8). That became the only place on earth that God acknowledged for His covenant people, the Israelites. As a matter of fact, Jerusalem is still Godís favorite place (symbolically) to reside on earth. Look at Godís appraisal of Jerusalem (which He calls "Zion"): "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the City of our God, in the Mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion [the chief joy for all the earth and for God Himself is Jerusalem], on the sides of the north, the City of the Great King [God Himself or His elected human representative]. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings [of the whole earth] were assembled [before Mount Zion], they passed by together [in political union and harmony in obeisance to God]" (Psalm 48:1-5). "For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it [above all other areas] for His habitation" (Psalm 132:13). God not only desires living in Jerusalem (when the people are in harmony with Him), but He loves all of Jerusalem and He considers every one of those seven hills of Jerusalem as being seven "Zions" and He calls all of them "the Mountains [plural] of Zion" (Psalm 133:3).
But in Zechariah 9:1 there is recorded the precise statement from God Himself that He would also be showing His divine presence (His Shekinah "Glory") in the City of Damascus in a period before the redemption of Jerusalem (as shown in the rest of Zechariah chapters 9 through 14). Since it was official biblical teaching that since the time of King David the only place on earth that God would reckon to be His "House" where He would live would be on Mount Zion, and since Mount Zion was located in Jerusalem, it could only mean (according to some Rabbinic interpretations) that Jerusalem (or, "Zion") had to have its city limits expanded to include Damascus. The authority to make such an expansion of the City of Jerusalem and its precincts was well understood by the Jewish authorities even in the time of Herod and Jesus. This could be accomplished by convening a special meeting of the Sanhedrin at their second area of residence on the Mount of Olives at a village called Bethphage (the same village where Jesus told the disciples to fetch a donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem just before his trial and crucifixion). This special court of the Sanhedrin located on the Mount of Olives is mentioned in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 14a,b; Sotah 44b; 45a).
The village of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives was a most important religious center for the Jewish authorities in the period of Jesus and the apostles. It was a walled village that was the only area outside the walls and camp of Jerusalem that was considered by the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of the nation) to be an official part of the City of Jerusalem. It was strategically placed near the summit of the Mount of Olives. In this village was one of the two seats of the great Sanhedrin of seventy-one members. The other and prime seat of the Sanhedrin was in the Temple at the Chamber of Hewn Stones located just to the south and east of the Altar of Burnt Offering. Yet the walled village of Bethphage positioned just east of the western summit of the Mount of Olives (a little to the east of the Miphkad Altar where the Red Heifer was burnt to ashes and the Day of Atonement sacrifices were burnt) was where the other seat of Sanhedrin was located. There were specific decisions of the Sanhedrin that were reserved for determination only at this official seat of the court in Bethphage. Those were official judgments affecting the limits of the camp of Israel around the city of Jerusalem (and this included where the Red Heifer could be burnt). This authority embraced what districts surrounding Jerusalem were to be reckoned as inside the city. This also included what were to be the dimensions of the Temple (whether enlarged or restricted). And this is where death sentences for rebellious leaders of the nation as shown in Deuteronomy 17:8-13 were validated (Sanhedrin 14a,b; Sotah 44b; 45a).
The reason that these types of decisions were to be made "outside the camp" at this special village on the east side of Jerusalem is because it was necessary that these judicial sentences be made "at the entrance" to Jerusalem (or if local decisions were made by lesser Sanhedrins associated with the various towns throughout Judaea, they were held in the gates or entrances to the towns). There were biblical reasons for this. This is where the well-known judgment areas known as "within your gates" come into play. Note Proverbs 31:23 which says, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders." Also: "Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates" (Zechariah 8:16). In the case of Jerusalem, which was the capital city of the nation, the principal gate to the city was on the eastern side just beyond the camp of the Israelites (that is, just "outside the camp"). Thus, the Sanhedrin had the village of Bethphage specifically built just to the east of the city limits of Jerusalem as they existed in the time of Jesus. [For more information on the importance of Bethphage in New Testament times, see my book "Secrets of Golgotha."] What the Jewish authorities understood is the fact that the Sanhedrin had the power to determine the boundaries of the Temple (and to alter the dimensions of its inner compartments) and also to set the city limits of the City of Jerusalem or Zion. These judicial decisions were made at Bethphage on the summit of the Mount of Olives. Even after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E., later Jews returned to the Mount of Olives for important judicial matters. From 638 to 1077 C.E., later Jews continued this official role of the Sanhedrin being situated on the Mount of Olives. And in the eleventh century, the Jewish authorities began interpreting Zechariah 9:1 as showing an extension of the city limits of Jerusalem to Damascus.
By having the biblical revelation state that the holiness of Jerusalem could find a residence in Damascus (Zechariah 9:1) and the discovery of the Damascus Document which testified to the same interpretation in earlier times by former Jewish authorities, a new focus regarding the status of sanctification came into prominence among several intellectuals among the Jews. Whereas in the time of Saadiah Gaon (leader of the Jews who lived from 882 to 942 C.E.), there was little or no emphasis placed by Rabbinic Jews to recognize a supreme holiness to all the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land of the Israelites) and to compare it to the holiness of Jerusalem. However, that all began to change by the eleventh century. First, the Karaite Jewish sect (who did not observe the laws of the Talmud) originally suggested that all Jews should move to Palestine and settle in "the Holy Land." This teaching even became sacrosanct with another important Rabbi. One of the greatest of the poetic Rabbis of the twelfth century (Judah Halevi, who died in 1141 C.E.) began a systematic teaching and taught a comprehensive philosophy that gave a unique status of sanctification to the whole Land of Israel, and not just to Jerusalem and to the Temple (see The Encyclopedia of Judaism, Neusner, Avery-Pick, Green, vol.I, pp.473-480). This is the first time that the term "Zionism" in an official sense came to mean that Jews should move to any part of the Land of Israel, and not simply to Jerusalem alone. Indeed, Judah Halevi in his poems (which were his philosophical means of promoting prime doctrines about the holiness of the Land of Israel) expanded the sanctity of Jerusalem and the Temple to include the whole of the Land of Israel. This was also the later interpretation that was used even by secular Jews in the nineteenth century to get Jews to migrate to Palestine. It was canonized by Jewish intellectuals as "Zionism." What this approach did was to lessen the importance of Jerusalem itself (and certainly it diminished the need for a Temple).
This is when Jerusalem and the Temple began to be put into the background of importance in Jewish theological belief. In the following generation, Maimonides perpetuated this lack of interest in the earthly Jerusalem and the Temple. As a matter of fact, to Maimonides the thought of any Jew living in pre-Messianic Judaism wanting to rebuild the Temple was utter silliness. The very thought of advocating a new Temple was anathema to him. This quest to reconstruct the Temple, to Maimonides, smacked of teaching anthropomorphic concepts of God (that is, that God has a literal body and that he has a "House" to live in). Maimonides ridiculed and denounced such teaching (even though that teaching was a cardinal doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and sanctioned by the former Rabbinic authorities). Maimonides went so far as to state (in his third of thirteen doctrines that he believed defined the central principles of beliefs in Judaism) that God had NO BODY SHAPE at all. The Temple symbolisms, however, clearly taught the bodily existence of God. In normal Rabbinic circles in the past, God was thought to have a body made of spiritual substance with shape and form, but not made of material earth that we have in abundance on our globe. Indeed, the whole of the Old Testament (and the New) taught that God certainly had (and has) shape and form and that He possesses a body (made out of "spirit substance").
Even the architectural design and rituals associated with the physical Temple strongly suggested that God had a body like those of us humans (Genesis 1:26). But Maimonides would have none of this teaching! He abhorred it! Indeed, in his own new type of Temple that he devised (as shown in section 3 and chapter 51 of his "The Guide of the Perplexed" ó which only vaguely resembled the dimensions of Godís Temple), Maimonides taught that "the ignoramuses who observe the commandments" (he means those who try to observe the Law of God without being philosophers like Aristotle) will only find themselves barely worthy of getting into the border areas of the "Sanctuary" that Maimonides had devised and certainly not within his Holy of Holies along with Aristotle and the other philosophers who rank much higher than the simple Rabbinic observers of the Law. Even Moses, to Maimonides, obtained entrance to his ideal "Temple" because Moses, according to Maimonides, actually believed in the philosophical principles that were akin to later Aristotelian beliefs. He felt that Moses wrote the Law (with its clear and consistent teachings of the anthropomorphic characteristics of God ó that is, that God had a body of spiritual substance that delineated shape and form) in an allegorical sense in order to satisfy the "ignoramuses" (the common people) of Israel and their material concepts of God. Of course, many Rabbis disagreed with Maimonides at the time, but he won out in the end. Today, almost the whole of Judaism accepts this nonsensical and anti-biblical teaching that God has no body like that of mankind. That belief blatantly violates the teaching of Genesis 1:26.
Indeed, I will show in a future article that the anti-anthropomorphic concept of God as conceived by Maimonides led him to promote everything in his power to wean intellectual Jews from any reliance on constructing a renewed physical Jerusalem or a physical Temple. Any advocation of such human concepts advancing the anthropomorphic nature and shape for God, Maimonides held in utter and thorough contempt and this included all the symbolic teaching of the physical Tabernacle or Temple. This is one of the reasons he showed no interest in telling Jews to return to Jerusalem or Palestine to renew the Jewish State or to rebuild the Temple. And though some Jewish intellectuals at the time rejected this new revolutionary teaching of Maimonides, it took about two or three generations for most Jewish theologians to go along with Maimonides in one way or another. In fact, all mainline Jewish authorities today follow Maimonides and ridicule the biblical teaching that God has a body with shape and form. This teaching, however, only came into mainline Judaism in the time of Maimonides. It was the adoption of this erroneous (and non-biblical doctrine) that first led the Jewish authorities from perpetuating the need to rebuild a Temple in Jerusalem or anywhere on earth. And within a hundred years, the Jews people lost all knowledge of where the true site of the Temples was in Jerusalem. One of the main factors in losing the whereabouts of the Temple was the desire in later Judaism (since the twelfth century C.E.) of getting rid of the notion that God has a real body. It made the teachings about the Temple to be irrelevant because the Temple is based on anthropomorphic ideas.
In spite of the fact that Maimonides did not account the Holy Land or the physical Temple as any longer important to Jews who live in this pre-Messianic Age, Maimonides still did not want to be buried in Egypt. He selected Tiberias in the Holy Land (the former site of the early Academy) for his burial place. This was, of course, within the central part of the Land of Israel, but nowhere near Jerusalem or the Temple site. Indeed, in both the period of Judah Halevi and that of Maimonides, the City of Jerusalem and the site of the Temple were in the control of the European Crusaders or the returned Muslims. The Temple and its site began to be non-essential to them. Jewish people in many cases simply stripped Jerusalem and the Temple site of their former holiness in their theological concepts, and they gave more attention to the whole Land of Israel rather than specifically on physical Jerusalem and on the former physical Temple. Their cry was: "Let the Messiah concentrate on Jerusalem and the Temple, but it is not of our concern." This approach has continued to be a prime belief of many Jewish people up and to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Since that time, there has been a movement to restore Jewish Jerusalem and also the Temple.
But back in the twelfth century, the thrust of attention by many Jews (and in a most decided manner) was the sanctification of the whole of the Land of Israel (and forget just Jerusalem and Temple). This was certainly the principle teaching of the Rabbi Judah Halevi. This is when it became popular to look on Damascus as being on the border of that Land. Yes, even Damascus began to be considered (because of the teaching of Zechariah 9:1) as a cardinal part of the Land of Israel by the eleventh century. So, the City Limits of Jerusalem by prophetic interpretation were quite literally moved north and eastward to include the City of Damascus. When the Academy at Jerusalem left Jerusalem in 1077 C.E., they simply moved the Academy to Damascus to await the End-Time events of Zechariah 9 to 14 that they thought at the time were beginning to occur. One of the principal reasons for this interpretation is because the Jews in that period could see in the writings of the Holy Scriptures that "Zion" could be reckoned to be elsewhere than in Jerusalem. Let us look at some of the biblical teachings that show this prime truth.
Though the Scripture states that all the mountains in the City of Jerusalem can be individually or collectively designated as "Zion" (Psalm 133:3), it is legally permissible to extend the city limits of Jerusalem to include other mountains that would bear the name "Zion." Zion can be moved or extended. The name can even be transported to other areas that would equally denote regions of holiness to God Himself. It should be remembered that the Tabernacle authorized in the time of Moses could move from place to place in its journeys throughout the Wilderness area. The holiness of the Tabernacle (the earlier, portable Temple) was centered in the fact that the Shekinah (the Glory of God ó the shining Light at night like that of the Sun and the cloud by day) was within and over the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. That "Glory" represented the Spirit of God in all its resplendence and majestic grandeur. That "Glory" was manifest on and around the Sapphire Stone that was situated above the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle and in Solomonís Temple (Ezekiel 1:26-28). Wherever that "Glory" was located on earth is where it was reckoned that "God dwelt." Not at all times did the "Glory" emanate from the interior of the Tabernacle or Temple. Moses saw God in His "Glory" in an intimate way on one splendid occasion even within the cleft of a rock located outside the camp of Israel and about a half mile east of the Holy of Holies of the official Tabernacle for Israel (Exodus 33:18-23). Even when the "Glory" was in the Temple, it did not shine in resplendence on all occasions (Ezekiel chapters 8 through 11). Yet, as long as the Shekinah (the "Glory") was reckoned to be resident within the Temple, the Temple itself was holy and sacrosanct as the official House of God on earth. The Temple was NOT made holy because of the stones, the precious things and the other furniture that were deposited in the Temple (nor was it made holy by the priests who ministered there). The Temple was made holy because it was sanctified by the attendance of the Shekinah (which represented the Spirit of God) residing in the Temple. It is important to understand this point. Let us see it demonstrated.
Just before God had the Babylonians to destroy the Temple in the sixth century before Christ, we have the prophet Ezekiel stating that he saw the Glory of God (called the Shekinah in later literature) remove itself from the Holy of Holies and progressively journey eastward within the Temple precincts until it reached the eastern gate. After pausing there for a limited time, it then continued its journey until it reached the summit of the Mount of Olives. (Read all of Ezekiel chapters 8 through 11 where this account is recorded.) In this prophecy in Ezekiel, when the Shekinah reached the summit of Olivet, it remained there until directed to go elsewhere. As a part of the prophecy, there was a promise made by God that "I will be to them as a little Sanctuary [a "little Temple" or by interpretation a "little Zion"] in the countries where they come [within the countries of Israelís exile]" (Ezekiel 11:16). God then said that the Shekinah during the Exile would reside as a "little Temple" among the exiled Israelites. This showed that the holiness of Zion would move from Jerusalem into areas of the Exile.
The Jewish authorities came to interpret the "little Temple" as being a congregation of Jewish men with the minimum number of ten. Recall that Jesus told his apostles: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). Of course, Jesus was referring to his apostles making decisions for the community of believers (the ekklesia ó translated "church" in most versions). The apostle Paul went even further. He called each individual Christian a singular "Temple" (simply because each had the Spirit of God in him or her) ó see Second Corinthians 6:16. Paul elaborated on this theme even more by showing that all of the individuals who have (or when living had) the Holy Spirit are reckoned collectively as the Temple of God with Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:18-22). So, it is reckoned in New Testament parlance that if a Christian enters into a church building, it is a "Temple" of God (a "little Temple") who is entering into the physical structure. When the Christian leaves that material or physical edifice, the "Temple" of God consequently leaves with the Christian who is a "Temple of God." The "church building" of itself is a non-sanctified spot (made simply of boards, rocks and plaster). It is not the "House of God" unless there are spirit-filled Christians standing or sitting inside its walls. If Christians are inside, then (and only then) is the church building sanctified and holy. Actually, in God's way of evaluation, the "Temple" goes in and out of the church building when Christians go in and out. [Most people believe the church building is the "House of God" (like a "Temple"), but it is the "Temple" (persons who have the Spirit of God) that enters the "church building" that makes it holy, NOT the other way around.] The early Jews in the second century before Christ who wrote the "Damascus Document" (that I referred to earlier in this research article) also believed the Community of Believers represents the true "Temple" of God, NOT the physical Temple in Jerusalem.
The prophet Ezekiel said that he saw the Shekinah "Glory" leave the Holy of Holies and position itself over the Mount of Olives. These circumstances involving the Shekinah and its removal from Jerusalem were tantamount to "Zion" progressively leaving the Holy of Holies in the Temple and making its way to the top of Olivet, and then migrating into the countries of Israelís exile to be a "little Temple" to them in those areas. This exact scene is also reflected in another prophecy which is recorded in Micah 4:10,11, though different words are used by Micah to describe it. Micah reckoned that "Zion" should be likened to a pregnant woman about ready to be delivered. In giving birth, she must go through some severe birth pangs. Micah said: "Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail; for now shalt thou go forth [she would start a journey even while pregnant and near birthing] out of the city [she would leave Jerusalem], and thou shalt dwell in the field [that is, outside the walls of Jerusalem where cattle, sheep and goats would live], and thou [at that time] shalt go even to Babylon; there [in Babylon] shalt thou be delivered [of a child]; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies." The term "Zion" and the place of the "Shekinah" are identical in these prophetic indications written in Ezekiel and Micah. God said through Ezekiel that God would then dwell among the Israelite exiles as a "little Temple." This could mean within a small group (the Jews felt at least 10 men) or even within individual persons (Ezekiel 11:16; II Corinthians 6:16). However, "Zion" would not remain in Babylon forever. Indeed, Jeremiah said the time of stay in Babylon was to be seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10; II Chronicles 36:21; Daniel 9:2; Zechariah 7:5). After that period of seventy years, "Zion" would move back to the Land of Israel.
That section of the prophecy of Micah shows that "Zion" would be moved "out of Jerusalem" and journey even into the area of Babylon but finally return to Israel. Note that she [Zion] would leave Jerusalem, the Land of Israel would be empty of Godís "Glory" and of Godís presence (His Shekinah). The first place that "Zion" was to retreat to a field just outside Jerusalem, then she was to be transported further north into Babylon where she would finally give birth to a child (the later priest named Zerubbabel who represented the nation of Israel when they left Babylon some decades later to return to Judah and Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity was symbolically called [and his name signified] "Born in Babylon"). But "Zion" was not to remain in Babylon. She was prophesied to come out of that northern area when Zerubbabel returned with the Jews to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel (Ezra chapter two). There was a further prophecy to this movement of "Zion" back to Judah. Note Zechariah 2:7: "Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon." Zion was told to deliver herself and to leave her place (or, places) of residence in Babylon. And remarkably the prophecy then relates that she would again be experiencing birth pangs and wanting to be delivered of a Man-Child. The context of Micah continues the prophecy on the history of "Zionís" journey by stating that this "Zion" would on its return to the Land of Israel establish herself in the village of Bethlehem Ephratah to be delivered of her Man-Child (Micah 5:2). Micah wrote that "Zion" would at this future time reside in Bethlehem and remain in that village "until the time that she [Zion] which travaileth [in birth] hath brought forth [a Man-Child ó as the context shows]: then the remnant of his brethren [of the newborn childís brethren then in Exile] shall return unto the children of Israel [now back in the Land of Israel]" (Micah 5:3).
But this does not end the story in Micahís prophecy. After this Man-Child would be born in Bethlehem, Micah then prophesied that he would "stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Lord his God; and they shall abide [the Lord and the Man-Child shall abide together]: for now shall he [the grown-up Man-Child born in Bethlehem shall extend his rule] unto the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4). This newborn Man-Child (once he would grow up) would abide with God Himself and then be recognized by the whole world ó "unto the ends of the earth." Those verses in the long prophecy in Micah lead us directly to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Isnít it interesting that after Jesus was prophesied to be born from "Zion" (after "Zion" had returned to Bethlehem) that in the New Testament record the Magi from the East (that is, from Babylon where "Zion" had been) also came with presents to do homage to the newborn child whose star they had followed from Babylon?
Then what happens to this "Zion" who gives birth to the Man-Child? The prophet Isaiah fills in the rest of the story of "Zionís" migrations. "O Zion, that bringeth good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain [emphasis mine, "Zion" moves to a high mountain]; O Jerusalem, that bringeth good tidings, lift up thy voice [on the high mountain] with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God" (Isaiah 40:9,10). The "high mountain" is the highest mountain in the area of Jerusalem (the Mount of Olives Ė where the Shekinah or "Zion" went in Ezekielís time ó and where we are told that it again retreated in 66 C.E. just before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.ó see my book "Secrets of Golgotha" for references). From the Mount of Olives all the cities of Judah shall hear the majestic refrain of salvation and redemption from the messianic personage who was born at Bethlehem. All will say: "Behold, your God." That newborn Man-Child would be named "Immanuel" (that is, "God With Us"). This is a manifestation of God entering into the world environment of mankind. See Isaiah 7:14; 8:8-10; 9:6,7. This is when "Zion" finally returns to the Mount of Olives where the Messianic Kingdom will be proclaimed. This is also what Zechariah 14 has to say at the end of the "Damascus Prophecy" written by Jeremiah that is found in Zechariah 9 through 14. Christ Jesus is then designated as having the rank of YHVH Himself (because his name is Immanuel ó "God With Us"). He will return to the earth at the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3,4). But before He arrives at Olivet, note carefully that Zechariah begins the prophecy with God first showing His presence (or His "Glory") in the area of Damascus. And then (after the series of events leading up to Zechariah 14), God again returns to the Mount of Olives and to Jerusalem to His dwelling place on earth.
Not only can "Zion" move from place to place on earth as God determines, you may be surprised to learn that "Zion" can also be expanded or even multiplied. Note that there were other "Zions" on earth that God honors and that He loves dearly. These are the special places on earth in which God (at one time or another) deemed it necessary to display His divine "Glory" (His "Shekinah"). One of those is Mount Sinai in the Sinai peninsula. God said that anyone who climbed to the top of Mount Sinai found himself "in the holy place" (Psalm 68:17). Godís "Glory" was also in Mount Carmel (where Elijah built an altar) as well as the area of Sharon (Isaiah 35:2). Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon are graced by Godís name (Psalm 89:12). There was even a "holy place" of God even on the Egyptian border that helped to identify where one of the boundaries of the Promised Land was delineated. The prophet Isaiah said that in that central area (north to south) of Egypt and at the beginning border with the "Land of Promise," there will be an altar (a holy place) and a pillar that illustrates "Godís presence" in that area to the east from Egypt (Isaiah 19:19). But again, and finally, there is also a "Zion" associated with Damascus. Just when and at what event was the "Glory" of God shown in Damascus that would fulfill the statement in Zechariah 9:1 that God would one day find His divine presence in Damascus?
Let us now look at Damascus in Syria. Damascus also had its own legitimate "holy mount." It was the highest of the mountains from the Euphrates in the north all the way to Egypt in the south and down to and including the center part of the Sinai Peninsula. That mountain under discussion was "Mount Hermon." It was the greatest of the sacred mountains of the Middle East. And you may be shocked to discover this, but even God Himself states dogmatically that Mount Hermon was the worldís first "Mount Zion," long before Jerusalem was thought of by King David and Solomon to be the "Mount Zion" of God for Israel and Judah. In plain language, God reckoned Mount Hermon to be the original Mount Zion. Note it: "Even unto Mount Zion; which is Hermon" (Deuteronomy 4:48).
This reference shows that Moses under divine inspiration called Hermon Godís holy "Mount Zion." Thatís right. Even Moses was well aware of the history of the world before his time that caused people of the earth to reckon Mount Hermon as the original "Mount Zion." The text is certain on this matter, but modern scholars who know little of the early history of the world have tried numerous ways to change the text into something that makes sense to them because (as they look at it) there was only ONE "Mount Zion" and that was in Jerusalem. But the scholars are wrong. There was always more than ONE mountain called "Mount Zion." Indeed, even every one of the seven different mountains that became the Jerusalem of Christís time was called a "Zion." There were officially (in Godís eyes) seven different mountains surrounding Jerusalem and each of them could be legitimately called a "Mount Zion" (and this included the highest of those mountains called the "Mount of Olives"). [The Jewish understanding that Jerusalem was built on "seven mountains" as Rome was built on "seven mountains" is recorded in The Book of Legends, p.371, and para.111]. In fact, that mountain called the Mount of Olives was the highest in Jerusalem. It was the loftiest of the seven "mountains of Zion." So, Jerusalem is biblically reckoned as being comprised of "the mountains [plural] of Zion" (Psalm 133:3). [I will also indicate in an article I am writing to appear two months from now, that Jerusalem was recognized by the Jewish authorities in a linguistic sense to be a DUAL city (one part of the city for the Israelites and another part for the Gentiles). This is because the word "Jerusalem" in Hebrew is DUAL in number. It is NOT singular or plural. There is a Jewish "Zion," and there is a Gentile "Zion." This DUALITY principle is a most important point to understand in regard to the negotiations that are proceeding among Israelis and Palestinians over the future status of Jerusalem, and I will show this significant fact in a new prophetic research article that I will publish in two more months.]
In the meantime, let us realize that the Holy Scriptures show in the clearest of ways that there are more than one, single "Zion." There are other "Mount Zions" other than the "seven Zions" of Jerusalem. We are told in Deuteronomy 4:48 that Mount Hermon was called "Mount Zion" (and Mount Hermon had the chronological priority of being the first in the history of the world to be designated Godís "Mount Zion"). Indeed, this gave "Hermon" a distinct superiority over Jerusalem because the Canaanite City of Jebus (the early Gentile name for Jerusalem) was NOT called "Mount Zion" until the time of David (which was at least a thousand years after the mountain of Damascus called "Mount Hermon" had been graced with the title of "Mount Zion" by no less than God Himself). And further, to signify the priority of Mount Hermon, God inspired the Psalmist in Psalm 133:3 to state that the sanctity of "the mountains of Zion" in the area of Jerusalem were holy and righteous (now hold on to your seats because most people are going to be shocked at what some have missed in reading the Bible that shows the superiority of Mount Hermon to the seven mountains of Jerusalem), because God stated that it was "THE DEW OF HERMON" that descended upon "the mountains of Zion" at Jerusalem that gave the mountains of Jerusalem their divine sanctification! Read the whole of Psalm 133:3. That Psalm reveals that the "dew of Hermon" makes the "Zions" of Jerusalem to be holy.
The teaching of Psalm 133 is not simply to remind the Israelite that the dew of Mount Hermon is "clean and fresh dew" (like you might find advertised on a bottle of spring water having its source at Mount Hermon). True, Mount Hermon being the highest of the mountains in the Middle East had "dew" of a high quality, but it was NOT the physical quality of the "dew" that God had in mind in Psalm 133:3. The teaching was a spiritual allegory showing the transference of sanctification (or the equation of holiness) from one mountain to another. God was allegorically referring to the cleansing power of Godís divine "dew" (and the vital nourishment of spiritual grace from that "dew") that came from the first "Mount Zion" in the history of the world. That "dew of Hermon" could also sanctify and make righteous the "mountains of Zion" at Jerusalem! Or, in even a more expanded sense, that "dew" from Mount Hermon could also sanctify and make righteous any mountain or place that God would select. And indeed, a very important event in the history of the world occurred on top of that Mount Hermon. Remember, in Matthew 17 there is recorded a primary event in New Testament history concerning Mount Hermon. That is the very place where God the Father with Moses and Elijah (in vision) assembled with Christ Jesus and his three top apostles (seven persons in all) for the glorious scene of the Transfiguration. This magnificent display was a remarkable epiphany of the divine Shekinah in all its glory and majesty. This was, in a sense, the New Testament "Mount Sinai." It was then the place for "Godís Temple" on earth. This is where the message of Christian salvation for all in the world had its beginning. And note: This all occurred on the first "Mount Zion" Ė it was on Mount Hermon. Thus, the "dew of Mount Hermon" can make any other place in the world as a sanctified spot because of the outstanding spiritual manifestations that took place on the summit of that mountain.
Let me be plain and to the point. The teaching of the New Testament unequivocally reveals why there were two areas in and around Damascus that should be rendered to be of utmost importance to all people in the world. The first is Mount Hermon. Remember, Mount Hermon is the mountain where the "Transfiguration of Christ" took place a year before his crucifixion (Matthew 17:1-13). That is the mountain (NOT Jerusalem) where even God the Father entered the environment of the world to commission His Son Jesus Christ to perform His final actions in redeeming the world to the Father. But that does not end the story. The second place is Damascus. Damascus itself was also destined to become the "dwelling-place" of God (like God dwelt and showed His presence in the Temple at Jerusalem or when He appeared at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Hermon). Remember, wherever the Shekinah (the "Glory") of God is displayed to people on earth, that very place becomes the holiest place on earth at the time. Let us not look at a most important event in the history of the development of Christianity. It was something that happened to the apostle Paul.
The area of Damascus is very significant to Christian teaching. Let us recall an important historical event. What New Testament account documents an event that occurred near the gates of Damascus (and concluded inside its walls) that was of extreme importance in the teaching of the full and mature Gospel to the world? It is two major chapters in the New Testament "Book of Acts." Those chapters are recorded to reveal a most significant event to show its powerful consequences in the future history of Christianity. This was the time when Saul of Tarsus approached the City of Damascus with decrees from the High Priest in Jerusalem to apprehend and to destroy Christian believers. On the very outskirts of Damascus a most unusual and awesome event took place. Near noon day, Christ Jesus Himself (in resplendent "Glory" and majesty) appeared to Saul and those with him as a great Light and told Saul that he was being commissioned to do a work for the God of Israel and for the Firstborn Son of God (Acts 9:1-22; 26:13-20). Saul then was blinded and led into the City of Damascus. After three days inside Damascus, Ananias met Saul and reconfirmed what Saul himself had seen of the appearance of the Shekinah "Glory." Saul then had scales fall off his eyes, and he first saw the LIGHT of the truth of Christianity AT DAMASCUS!
And what did Saul (later to be called Paul) do at the time ó or better yet, what HE DID NOT do? Paul DID NOT go immediately to the former Holy City of God (Jerusalem), but he went into Arabia to Mount Sinai ó a former "holy place" of God (Galatians 1:17 with 4:25). Paul then went back to Damascus and stayed in Damascus for three years before he ever went to Jerusalem. To Paul, Damascus and his "Damascus experience" were more important than anything that had occurred in Jerusalem since the crucifixion of Christ (Galatians 1:18). Indeed, the apostle Paul himself stated quite categorically that his own special commission (unlike the commission to the Jewish apostles at Jerusalem) had its origin with the "Damascus Dwelling" (or "Presence") of God, and NOT to any manifestation of God that had its origination in Jerusalem. Note what Paul told King Agrippa in Acts 26:19,20. Paul confirmed: "Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; but SHOWED FIRST UNTO THEM OF DAMASCUS, and [then] at Jerusalem [note that Jerusalem is mentioned later in this chronological account and also in the intended political emphasis], and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:19,20).
In this important event involving the appearance of the Shekinah ("Glory") of God, Damascus was spiritually superior to Jerusalem! And what did Zechariah 9:1 state? It prophesied that at one day God would show His special presence at Damascus. And, at the time of the Transfiguration of Christ (when even God the Father entered the earthís environment), it was on the summit of Mount Hermon (the first "Zion") which was the Mountain of Damascus, and also the locale where Saul (later named Paul) got his divine commission to teach the Gentiles. These two important events DID NOT take place in Jerusalem. They occurred in and near Damascus! So, Zechariah 9:1 has already been fulfilled in this one important manner. But, is Damascus soon to experience that "Glory" once more before the Messianic Age? When one surveys Zechariah 9:1 (along with the teaching in the next 6 chapters of Zechariah), it shows a definite End-Time environment.
Note this carefully. It is emphasized in the New Testament that Paulís special commission had nothing to do with Jerusalem or the Jerusalem apostles. It was a singular assignment by Christ Jesus for Paul to go to the tribes of Israel and to the Gentiles FROM DAMASCUS! Paul had his headquarters (and did his primary work of teaching the Gospel in a progressive sense) from his home base IN DAMASCUS for the first three years of his commission. And, from what we are told in Zechariah 9:1, what God commenced when He dwelt (or when His Shekinah was resident) IN THE CITY OF DAMASCUS, has a relevance that will reach into all areas of the globe. Notice that the original text of Zechariah 9:1 is addressed to people in all areas of the earth. Read it carefully. "An Oracle. A word of Yahweh against the Land of Hadrach [the Land of Promise]. And Damascus [shall be] a resting place for Him [a place of repose or domicile for Yahweh], for on Yahweh [shall be] the eyes of humanity [that is, all humans on earth will turn their eyes toward Yahweh in Damascus] and all of the Tribes of Israel [shall also turn their eyes toward Yahweh in Damascus]."
What this shows is a time when "all humans on earth" will look NOT only to Jerusalem as the Holy Place for End-Time events and the teaching of the final truths of God, but TO DAMASCUS! The world will concentrate on what happened (or, happens) IN DAMASCUS from the time that Christ Jesus appeared in His Glorious Light (in the divine Light of the Shekinah) on the road to Damascus. The apostle Paul knew himself of the importance of this "Damascus Phase" of prophecy that is recorded in Zechariah 9:1. That is the very reason that Paul stayed full three years in Damascus before he ever went up to the City of Jerusalem to meet the other apostles.
To those of us who depend on the mature teachings of Christ Jesus called "the Mystery," our headquarters IS NOT Jerusalem. It all began in the Gentile City of DAMASCUS ó in the City of "Eliezer" or (as the New Testament renders the name) "Lazarus." Paul knew this important point. That is why he said in Acts 26:20 that the Gospel that Paul taught had its primitive beginning (which finally resulted in the revelation of "the Mystery" recorded in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians) IN DAMASCUS. Paul said: "Whereupon, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but SHOWN FIRST unto those of Damascus." The people of Jerusalem (the earlier headquarters of Godís work on earth) got Paulís message of salvation that Christ Jesus gave specially to him THREE YEARS AFTER the people of Damascus. This surely must have been Zechariah 9:1 being fulfilled in the eyes of Paul. It was at the time that Saul (later, Paul) was converted to Christ Jesus and when he was given his commission to Israel and the rest of the world that God found Himself "dwelling in Damascus." But this does NOT end the prophecy. Soon, the whole world will acknowledge this "Damascus Phase" of Godís presence on earth. It is from Damascus (NOT Jerusalem) that all of us who understand "the Mystery" of God have the origination of our special and sublime inheritance.
In closing this "Temple Update," let me give this final observation and advice to all who love dearly and rely solely upon the Holy Scriptures as being the very Word of God. The prophecies are about to be fulfilled in all their majestic and awesome ways. We should get ready for some exciting times that are just on the horizon and in the final development stage. We should be aware of the long prophecy that I have been emphasizing for the past twenty-five years ó the prophecy of Zechariah 9 through 14. That divine proclamation is soon to have its literal fulfillment in the "Land of Hadrach" (the lands of the Fertile Crescent). The prophecy begins with a major event regarding the spiritual appearance of God dwelling in the City of Damascus (this will be some kind of new Shekinah appearance), and this will be followed by a series of events (the first of which is a tsunami or a gigantic tidal wave that will destroy all the eastern coastal area of the Mediterranean from Syria in the north to Gaza in the south, and it even will have an effect on Egypt). Then will occur other events leading up to the establishment in Jerusalem of a new Temple (this will be the partially built Temple referred to in the Book of Revelation chapter 11). After this period (which will last about 3 and Ĺ years), the world will then witness the appearance of God on the Mount of Olives (in the person of Christ Jesus). This event will occur at the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Though the building of physical Temples is in no way important to us in a spiritual sense who are Christians (and to those of us who understand our divine position in the eyes of God through the revelation of "the Mystery" taught by the apostle Paul in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians), such a construction of the new Temple is the center-point of all prophetic teaching in the Old and New Testaments and we should be aware of these important political and religious events for our own instruction (remember II Thessalonians 2:1-12). So, it is incumbent on each of us who is a Christian (each of us who has the Holy Spirit in him or her ó and who is even now reckoned to be a "Temple" of God) to be aware of these impending events and to teach them to the world. As a witness, God states that He will reveal these things to the world just before the Second Advent of Christ. Let us keep our eyes on political and religious affairs now occurring in the world. We are now on the threshold of that period of time known in the Holy Scriptures as the Time of the End. It will begin in a few short years ahead of us. So, let us keep our eyes open. "Behold, I have told you before" (Matthew 24:25).
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