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zion Summary and Overview

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zion in Easton's Bible Dictionary

sunny; height, one of the eminences on which Jerusalem was built. It was surrounded on all sides, except the north, by deep valleys, that of the Tyropoeon (q.v.) separating it from Moriah (q.v.), which it surpasses in height by 105 feet. It was the south-eastern hill of Jerusalem. When David took it from the Jebusites (Josh. 15:63; 2 Sam. 5:7) he built on it a citadel and a palace, and it became "the city of David" (1 Kings 8:1; 2 Kings 19:21, 31; 1 Chr. 11:5). In the later books of the Old Testament this name was sometimes used (Ps. 87:2; 149:2; Isa. 33:14; Joel 2:1) to denote Jerusalem in general, and sometimes God's chosen Israel (Ps. 51:18; 87:5). In the New Testament (see SION T0003448) it is used sometimes to denote the Church of God (Heb. 12:22), and sometimes the heavenly city (Rev. 14:1).

zion in Smith's Bible Dictionary


zion in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

ZI'ON , and SI'ON (dry, sunny mount). "Zion" is sometimes used to denote the whole of Jerusalem, but in its literal and restricted meaning it was the south-western hill of Jerusalem. This hill was surrounded on every side but the north with deep valleys having precipitous sides. To the east was the valley of the Tyropoeon, separating Zion from Moriah, the temple-mount, and from Ophel. On the south and west was the deep valley of Hinnom, called on the west the "valley of Gihon." Upon the north only is the boundary of Zion indefinite. Some authorities think it extended to the tower of David, near the Damascus-gate, and suppose the Tyropoeon valley to have ended here. Others would extend Zion farther northward toward the Jaffa-gate. Zion was the higher hill, being 105 feet above Moriah and 2539 feet above the level of the Mediterranean. It was in the shape of a parallelogram. The valleys were originally much deeper than at present, so that Zion was really compassed on three sides by precipices. It was also guarded by a strong wall. Scripture History. - The hill is first mentioned as a stronghold of the Jebusites. Josh 15:63. It remained in their possession until captured by David, who made it "the city of David," the capital of his kingdom. He built there a citadel, his own palace, houses for the people, and a place for the ark of God. 2 Sam 5:7; 1 Kgs 8:1; 2 Kgs 19:21, 2 Kgs 19:31; 1 Chr 11:5; 2 Chr 5:2. The foregoing six passages are all in the historical books of the O.T. in which the name of Zion appears. But in the prophetical and poetical books it occurs no less than one hundred and forty-eight times - viz., in Psalms, 38 times; Canticles, 1; Isaiah, 47; Jeremiah, 17; Lamentations, 15; Joel, 7; Amos, 2; Obadiah, 2; Micah, 9; Zephaniah, 2; Zechariah, 8. In the N.T. it occurs seven times as "Sion," making the total number of times the name occurs one hundred and sixty-one. It was in the later books no longer confined to the south-western hill, but denoted sometimes Jerusalem in general, Ps 149:2; Ps 87:2; Isa 33:14; Joel 2:2, etc.; sometimes God's chosen people, Ps 51:18; Ps 87:5, etc.; sometimes the Church, Heb 12:22, etc.; and sometimes the heavenly city. Rev 14:1 , etc. Hence, Zion has passed into its present common use in religious literature to denote the aspirations and hopes of God's children. Josephus does not use the word "Zion," but speaks of that quarter of the city as the "city of David," "the upper city," and the "upper market-place." It was then the aristocratic quarter of the city, and contained the mansions of the great. At the north-west corner stood the magnificent palace erected by Herod the Great and afterward called "Praetorium," the residence of the Roman procurator. Mark 15:16. On the north of this were three famous towers or fortresses, of which one is now the "tower of David." Present Condition. - Less than one-half of the ancient hill of Zion is enclosed within the wall of modern Jerusalem. In this part are now the Armenian convent with its extensive grounds, synagogues of the Ashkenasim, St. James' church of the Armenians, the English Protestant church and school, the tower of David, etc. The only building outside the walls is the mosque and tomb of David, supposed to contain the tombs of David, Solomon, and other kings of Judah. In the upper part is the traditional "upper room" in which the Lord's Supper was instituted and the disciples waited for the descent of the Holy Ghost. Upon the slope of the hill are several cemeteries of different Christian denominations and nationalities, including the American and English. A part of the hill is cultivated, and thus the traveller is frequently reminded of the traveler, "Zion shall be ploughed like a field." Jer 26:18; Mic 3:12. The hill sinks into the valley of Hinnom in steep terraced slopes covered with grain-fields, vineyards, and olive trees. The excavations of the British Ordnance Survey brought to light many interesting facts in regard to the original levels, the ancient walls, etc., etc. see Jerusalem. Conder notes the fact that the name "Zion" has not been recovered, and says: "According to Gesenius, it means 'sunny,' and the proper equivalent in Arabic or Syriac, according to this same authority, is Sahyun. It is a remarkable fact that about 1 3/4 miles west of the Jaffagate there exists a valley having exactly this name, Wady Sahyun. . . . This discovery may perhaps lead students to consider the name 'Zion' as a name of a district rather than that of a particular mountain, but it would not accord with the scriptural representations of Zion."

zion in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

(See JERUSALEM.) Lieut. Conder (Israel Exploration Quarterly Statement, Oct. 1877, p. 178) takes Zion for a district name, like "Mount Ephraim." It means sunny mountain. Hezekiah brought his aqueduct (2 Chronicles 22:30; 2 Chronicles 33:14) from Gihon, the Virgin's fountain, to the western side of the city of David (which is thus Ophel). Zion was the city of David (2 Samuel 5:9; 1 Chronicles 11:7; 1 Chronicles 11:2 Chronicles 5); even the temple was sometimes said to be on Zion (1 Maccabees 4:5:2); so was Millo (2 Chronicles 32:36-39). The name thus appears to have had a somewhat wide application; but it mainly applies to the eastern of the two main hills on which Jerusalem latterly was built. W. F. Birch (Israel Exploration Quarterly Statement, July 1878, p. 129) remarks that ancient Jerusalem stood on a rocky plateau enclosed on three sides by two ravines, the king's dale on the W. and S., the brook Kedron on the E. Another ravine, the valley of Hinnom, cleft the space thus enclosed. Between the "brook" and "valley" was the ridge on the southern end of which stood at the beginning of David's reign the hereto impregnable fortress of Jebus (afterward called Zion). In the valley W. of the ridge lay the rest of the city, once captured by the Israelites, but now occupied by the Jebusites. On its eastern side near the" brook" was an intermittent fountain, called then Enrogel, once Gihon in the "brook," afterward Siloah, now the fountain of the Virgin. The inducement to build on the southern part of this ridge rather than on the northern part, or on the higher hill on the W., was the water supply from the fountain at its base. Moreover some Hittite, Amorite, or Melchizedek himself, engineered a subterranean watercourse extending from the fountain for 70 ft., and then by a vertical rock-cut shaft ascending 50 ft. into the heart of the city, so that in a siege the inhabitants might have a supply of water without risk to themselves, and without the knowledge of the besiegers. So secure did the Jebusites seem, that they defied David, as if "the lame and the blind" would suffice to defend the fortress (2 Samuel 5:6). David promised that whoever should first get up the tsinor , "gutter," as the subterranean aqueduct was called, should be commander in chief. Joab ventured and won. How David heard of the secret passage, and how Joab accomplished the feat, is not recorded; but Capt. Warren (3000 years subsequently) found the ascent of the tsinor so hard (Jerusalem Recovered, p. 244-247) that the conviction is forced on one that Joab, who was as cunning as he was valiant, must have had some accomplice among the Jebusites to help him in his perilous enterprise, just as occurred at Jericho and at Bethel (Joshua 2; Judges 2:22-26). In subsequent years Araunah, a Jebusite of rank, owned the threshing area and lands just outside the city of David, and sold them at an enormous price to David for an altar and site of the temple. If he was the traitor to the Jebusites, by whose help Joab entered the city, we can understand the otherwise strange fact that he was left in possession of such valuable property in such a situation (2 Samuel 24:18-24). Josephus' testimony rather favors this conjecture (Ant. J. 7:3, Section 1-3): "Araunah was a wealthy man among the Jebusites, but was not slain by David in the siege because of the goodwill he bore to the Hebrew, and a particular benignity and affection which he had to the king himself" (Ant. J. 7:13, Section 4). "He was by his lineage a Jebusite, but a particular friend of David, and for that cause it was that when he overthrew the city he did him no harm." (See TEMPLE .)