Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ZION: The Old Testament (Deuteronomy to 2 Chronicles)

The Old Testament (Deuteronomy to 2 Chronicles)

Deuteronomy 4:47-49

Moses exhorts the children of Israel to obey God in this chapter, prophesies concerning their scattering when they worship false gods, "the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor smell." He then promises Israel that all who seek God with all their heart and soul shall find him. It would be well to also review Deuteronomy 8 where Moses issues what might be called the eleventh commandment – “Thou shalt remember.” (See Deuteronomy 8:2; 11-20. The appeal of the prophets to the people is, “Don’t forget how you got here,” but the sad tale is always the same with Israel – they always forget despite the prophetic warnings).

He prophesies concerning the latter day gathering and then specifies the territory to be occupied by the Israelites in the verses we quote here. Mount Hermon, 9,400 feet in height, referred to here as "mount Sion" is one of two possibilities for the location of the transfiguration of Christ, and marks the northern boundary of the land referred to as Zion. The spelling "Sion" is the Greek Septuagint translation, occurring throughout the New Testament. President Kimball favored Mt. Tabor as the site of the transfiguration. He said:

Near Bethlehem, Israel
21 October 1979
Brothers and sisters. . . we have had some marvelous experiences this day. . . . We went first to Mt. Tabor and there we climbed to the top. I felt very sure that this was the spot where Jesus had taken his three disciples – Peter, James, and John – to this "high mountain apart" and there had given certain blessings. I felt a very warm spirit as twenty or more of us gathered together there. And I believe they all felt about the same. In the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, Peter said, "Lord, it is good to be here." And he said, "Let us make three chapels, one for thee, two for thy servants [Moses and Elias]." I felt that was the place. I know there has been some disputation and difference of feeling about it since there are some other possible places, but I have always felt this.  (“President Spencer W. Kimball as Extemporaneous Speaker,” BYU Studies, vol. 25 (1985), Number 4 - Fall 1985, 159).

Elders Bruce R. McConkie (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1:402.  He reasoned: “But more probably the site of the transfiguration was Mt. Hermon, a nine thousand foot eminence north of Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had been the week before. Mt. Hermon is north of Galilee, and the record shows that after Jesus departed from the mount he then went through Galilee. [Mark 9:30]”) and Elder James E. Talmage (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 348.  He explained: “Mt. Hermon is generally regarded as the place. Hermon stands near the northerly limits of Palestine, just beyond Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus is known to have been a week before the Transfiguration. Mark (9:30) distinctly tells us that after His descent from the mount, Jesus and the apostles departed and went through Galilee. Weight of evidence is in favor of Hermon as the Mount of Transfiguration, though nothing that may be called decisive is known in the matter.") favored Mt. Hermon as the site of the transfiguration, largely based upon deductive reasoning.  Their statements predate President Kimball’s impressions.  These are the words of the scripture concerning Mt. Hermon:

And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,
And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.

From Moses to our day in modern Israel, no one seems to have understood the difficulty Israel had in rejecting all the forms and allurements of idolatry better than President Spencer W. Kimball. He said:

Faith seems difficult. Few men have ever knowingly and deliberately chosen to reject God and his blessings. Rather, we learn from the scriptures that because the exercise of faith has always appeared to be more difficult than relying on things more immediately at hand, carnal man has tended to transfer his trust in God to material things. Therefore, in all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the "arm of flesh" and in "gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know" (Daniel 5:23) -- that is, in idols. This I find to be a dominant theme in the Old Testament. Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn't also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.  (See TSWK, 76).

As we dig deeper and deeper into the reasons Zion is always so difficult to establish in every dispensation, idolatry is seems to be an effective tool Satan deploys among the saints of every dispensation.

2 Samuel 5:3-10

We come now to the establishment of King David's reign at Jerusalem, a type and shadow of the Savior's kingly rule over the House of Israel. For these reasons the passage is noteworthy: David was 30 years old when he began his reign as king; Christ was 30 years old when his ministry began. David ruled 33 years in Jerusalem, having established Israel's headquarters by revelation in that capitol city; the Savior lived 33 years, his ministry lasting 42 months in and around Jerusalem. In the last days two witnesses (referred to symbolically as "candlesticks" or "olive trees") will also minister among the Jews in and around Jerusalem for 42 months, or "a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (see Revelation 11:3-13) in preparation for the Second Coming. (See Isaiah 51:19-20; Zechariah 4:11-14; 2 Nephi 8:18-20; D&C 77:15).

This reference is the revelation to David to establish the capitol and move the portable tabernacle of Moses (then located in Hebron) to its permanent home at Jerusalem. Prior to Hebron the location of the portable temple in the wilderness was Gilgal. (See Joshua 5. The kingdom was established for the first time at Gilgal on the other side of Jordan, where the ark of the covenant crossed the Jordan River with twelve high priests in a miraculous parting of the waters, similar to what happened at the Red Sea. All the males were circumcised to renew the covenant after their wanderings in the wilderness were completed. The location of the ark of the covenant then moved to Hebron. Today a Jewish synagogue in Hebron marks the traditional burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob).  The imagery and usage of the word Zion in this context is in harmony with the Hebrew roots we examined at the beginning of this section. Zion and Jerusalem forever thereafter became inextricably linked together. Jerusalem is also called the city of David:

So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: [we should observe that whenever the translators who assembled the KJV came to the Hebrew word "Yehovah" in the manuscript texts, they rendered the translation as "LORD" large capital "L," small capitals "ORD." Joseph Smith did not make any distinction in his translation, rendering the word simply "Lord"] and they anointed David king over Israel.
David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.
In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither.
Nevertheless, David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.
So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward.
And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.

1 Kings 8:1

We have in this passage as clear a definition of the place of Zion as can be found in scripture. Zion is defined as the city of David, which is Jerusalem:

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.

2 Kings 19:20-21

Hezekiah has gone to the prophet Isaiah in this passage to seek his counsel concerning the threats of the king of Assyria against Israel and Jerusalem. Although it was not always the case with ancient Israel, on this occasion the Lord promised deliverance for Jerusalem, referred to here as "the virgin the daughter of Zion," again identifying Jerusalem as Zion. We will see this definition over and over in the Old Testament, as demonstrated at the introduction to this section. Jerusalem is the capitol of Zion.

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.
This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.

2 Kings 19:30-31

This passage is a prophecy of Isaiah concerning the remnant of Judah that shall escape the destruction of Jerusalem in the days of the Babylonian captivity. We know from The Book of Mormon that this remnant is Lehi's seed, and that Judah will return to Jerusalem in the last days to sink their roots downward and bear fruit upward.

And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.
For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.

1 Chronicles 11:3-9

This reference is the equivalent of 2 Samuel 5:3-10, so only the verse containing the word Zion has been quoted below:

And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, Thou shalt no come hither. Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David.

2 Chronicles 5:2

This passage is the same as 1 Kings 8:1, which specifies the location of Israel's headquarters:

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.

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