Crammed with houses and punctured with archaeological digs, the original area of Jerusalem looks much different today than it did three thousand years ago when King David conquered it.
But you can still get a sense of its drama.
Let me show you.
Jebus becomes Jerusalem, the City of David
After Israel crowned David king of all twelve tribes, he moved his capital city from Hebron—located in his own tribe of Judah—to Jerusalem in the tribe of Benjamin.
Jerusalem took a number of other names throughout history. In fact, the account of David conquering Jerusalem mentions three other names in one verse—Jebus, Zion, and the City of David (1 Chronicles 11:5).
Moving the capital to Jerusalem showed remarkable wisdom on David’s part.
A city yet unconquered by the Hebrews meant that Jerusalem represented neutral territory.
Even though it sat in Benjamin, no tribe would have felt necessarily proud or jilted.
The City of David Visitor’s Center features a 3-D film—very well done—that provides a helpful overview of the city’s history.
Watch it here:
The Steep Slopes—David’s Strength and Weakness
The best way to view the area is to ascend the stairs just inside the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and stand atop the observation platform.
Today, this part of Jerusalem retains the name, “The City of David,” and offers an archeological connection to the monarch.
At the summit of what is called “Area G,” a stepped-stone structure represents one of the largest Iron Age constructions ever excavated, dating from the 12th Century BC.
Many archeologists believe it likely supported the palace of King David, the ruins of which are partially visible after descending some stairs.
In 1838 Edward Robinson discovered Hezekiah’s Tunnel—a marvelous find and one of the few archaeological discoveries visitors can interact with. The related Siloam Inscription was discovered later in 1880.
Modern archaeological excavations began in the late 1970s and continue today under the capable eyes of Ronny Reich and Eli Shukrun. If you’d like a good overview of the site’s archaeology, pick up Reich’s excellent volume, Excavating the City of David.
Two relatively recent finds are nothing short of thrilling.
In 2004, Reich and Shukrun found the first-century Pool of Siloam (known as the lower pool).
They also recently discovered a road—the Siloam street—that led from this major water source up to the Temple Mount. First-century Jews would have used this road during their pilgrim feasts—most notably during Sukkot.
Not surprisingly, a number of archaeologists today express their doubts that the entire City of David ever was included in the original Jerusalem.
But the conspicuous location of the Gihon Spring seems a hard fact to sidestep. Moreover, the discovery of Warren’s Shaft by Charles Warren in 1867 and the fortifications around the nearby Spring House reveal that the locals clearly made use of the spring in David’s day.
It seems far more likely that this small area of land was the same place David conquered.
The map below shows the location of the Gihon Spring to the City of David.