The Ancient Local Hub Jerusalem

Credit:, Judah and the Dead Sea, Hebron

Numbers 18 highlights the centrality and importance of the Tabernacle shrine. It was a place where all the tribes would bring their offerings, yet was restricted to Aaron and his sons, assisted by members of the Levite tribe.

In the Bible, King David captured Jerusalem, and made it into his royal center. His son Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem as a national center of worship. While King David had earlier been based in Hebron and only transitioned to Jerusalem later, in the archaeological record Jerusalem appears to have been an earlier regional center.

The Middle Bronze Age II (MB II) period in the southern Levant falls into the 18th and 17th centuries BCE. This period is noted for an increase in the number of fortified cities and city-states. These city-states would typically have man made defenses around the city, but also be surrounded by smaller, unfortified villages. This layout is evident in Middle Bronze Age II cities such as Hazor in the Upper Galilee, Beth-She’an at the junction of the Jordan River and Jezreel Valleys, at Shechem in Samaria and at Hebron in the southern hill country. Jerusalem too appears to be at the center of this setup.

Jerusalem appears to have been a city by the MB II. The City of David, to the south of today’s Old City of Jerusalem, was the likely site of the ancient city. The city had the natural defenses of the Kidron Valley to the east and the Tyropoeon Valley along its western edge. Walls were an important part of cities’ defenses in this period, and the city also appears to have a fortified wall during the MB II period.

Excavations within the vicinity of modern day Jerusalem have revealed a number of smaller sites that date to the MB II period. One such site was found to the southwest of the City of David in Malha, the area today between the Malha mall and Teddy Stadium. Another MB II village was found at Pisgat Ze’ev, to the north of the City of David. South of Jerusalem, on a mound adjacent to the Palestinian village of Battir, archaeologists found a small site with Middle Bronze II fortifications. These details all point to Jerusalem having been a fortified city, with surrounding villages under its control, similar to other MB II cities.

The image above is of the Middle Bronze II wall at Hebron, part of that city’s fortification system.