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Schaff's Bible Dictionary

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What is Zion?
        , 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."

Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'zion' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". - Schaff's

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