Saul, the first king of Israel, was killed in
battle against the Philistines, and David was chosen as his successor. One of David's first acts as king was
the conquest of Jerusalem.
He named it the "City
of David" and declared it the capital of his kingdom. The
choice of Jerusalem despite its numerous shortcomings - remoteness from trade
routes, chronic water shortage, unsuitable strategic location -
was apparently dictated by a geopolitical constraint. The city is situated
at the center of the three great territorial blocs that were allotted
to the twelve tribes of Israel,
and it borders on the territory of the Tribe of Benjamin - to which
King Saul had belonged - and on that of Judah, King David's tribe.
Thus the isolated Jebusite city, considered neutral in terms of the tribal division of
territory, was acceptable to the whole nation.
Beginning in the period of David's kingdom many
traditions concerning Mount
Moriah, which rose above biblical Jerusalem, became sanctified.
The most famous is the Binding of Isaac (the "akeidah") by Abraham,
the father of the Hebrew nation.
Having conquered Jerusalem ca. 1004 BCE and turned
it into the center of government, David radically altered its status
when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city. With this act
Jerusalem became simultaneously the political and the spiritual nexus
of the people of Israel.
David built an altar on the summit of Mount
Moriah, but for various reasons refrained from building the Temple,
leaving that task to his son Solomon.
The building of the Temple in Jerusalem brought
into being a new religious reality for the people of Israel: sacrifices could now be offered only at the Temple, and the biblical injunction
of the three pilgrimages - Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot - received concrete affirmation. With
ritual worship concentrated in Jerusalem, the city's population was
swollen enormously at fixed times each year, despite its pronounced
geographic remoteness. However, its drawbacks notwithstanding, the
huge population influx during the annual pilgrimage periods made
Jerusalem an important trade and commercial center.
Jerusalem served as the capital of a united
kingdom for only two generations. Already during the reign of King
Rehoboam, Solomon's son, the kingdom was split into two: Judah in the
south with Jerusalem as its capital, and Israel in the north with
different capitals at different times.
When the northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered
and laid waste by the Assyrians,
in 722 BCE, Jerusalem reassumed its paramount status
It was in Jerusalem that most of the great
prophets were active, articulating spiritual and ethical principles
that would transcend the city's narrow confines to become
pillars of human civilization. In the year 701 BCE, during the reign
of King Hezekiah,
Jerusalem was delivered from a siege laid by King Sennacherib of Assyria, an episode in
which moral support by the prophet Isaiah was crucial. Hezekiah
expanded the city and initiated major building projects, and under
him the city reached the zenith of its development in the First
In 586 BCE the city was captured by the Babylonians.
At the order of King Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem was put to the torch,
the Temple was razed, and the people were taken into exile. A small
number returned 50 years later.