A City Rises Up the Hill

Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Jerusalem, Israel

Exodus 26 describes the desert Tabernacle structure. Its dimensions can be calculated based upon the description. “Make upright frames of acacia wood for the tabernacle. Each frame is to be ten cubits long and a cubit and a half wide, with two projections set parallel to each other. Make all the frames of the tabernacle in this way. Make twenty frames for the south side of the tabernacle and make forty silver bases to go under them, two bases for each frame, one under each projection. For the other side, the north side of the tabernacle, make twenty frames and forty silver bases, two under each frame. Make six frames for the far end, that is, the west end of the tabernacle, and make two frames for the corners at the far end. At these two corners they must be double from the bottom all the way to the top and fitted into a single ring; both shall be like that. So there will be eight frames and sixteen silver bases, two under each frame.”

The Bible is very exact about the dimensions of the Tabernacle, but archaeologists are less certain about the exact dimensions of the Iron IIA city of Jerusalem.

In the Bible, King David established Jerusalem as his capital. In 2 Samuel 5, “The Jebusites said to David, You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off. They thought, David cannot get in here. Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, which is the City of David.” Later, in 1 Kings 6-7, Solomon expanded the city by building a temple and a palace for himself.

One of the challenges of matching the archaeology to the biblical account is that in the Iron IIA period, Jerusalem appears to be at best a small town. There may be reasons for this. Capitals might start out small and nomadic dwellers in the vicinity may not show up in the archaeology.

In the Iron IIA period, Jerusalem appears to have grown in size. A hectare is the equivalent of 10,000 square meters, and equal to nearly 2.5 acres. The early Iron IIA site of Jerusalem appears to have covered 5 hectares, and an expansion to include a temple up the hill would grow the city to a size of 12 hectares.

A city of 12 hectares could be home to up to 2,000 people. This is sizeable enough to be a center for a tribal confederation, but still considerably smaller than other large centers in Canaan and smaller than other ancient Near Eastern capitals. Canaanite cities such as Hazor and Megiddo were larger than Iron IIA Jerusalem, and Babylon at its peak encompassed over 1000 hectares.

Still, if the Iron IIA can be said to have been in the 10th century BCE, than the development and the expansion of the city could be said to have been the work of Kings David and Solomon.

The image above is of Jerusalem, facing west. The City of David is on the hill to the south of the Jerusalem’s Old City wall. The Iron IIA city would expand from the City of David up the hill towards the Temple Mount.