The Many Names of Jerusalem
The Midrash says there are 70 names of Jerusalem – and that's in Jewish sources alone. The vagaries of Jerusalem history have added a few more along the way. Yet for a city whose roots go back over 5,000 years, some names have remained remarkably consistent.
Here are just a few of the names of Jerusalem:
- Salem/Shalem (Gen 14:18) – in Genesis, Shalem was the city ruled by Melchizedek in the days of Abraham.
- Moriah (Gen 22:2) – the name of the Temple Mount, it is also the place where Abraham bound his son Isaac.
- Jebus (Judges 19:10) – the name of a fortress atop the Temple Mount that surrounded a large threshing floor in the days of King David. King David conquered the area from the Jebusites and bought the threshing floor from its owner as the site of the future Temple.
- Yerushalayim – is the most common name of the city in the Bible and the one still used by Jews and Israelis today. The Midrash says the word derives from yireh (see), from the name Abraham used for it – G-d sees – and salem, which means whole, or peace, and was the name of Mechizedek’s city.
Variations of the name Yerushalayim appear in the archaeological record as well:
- Rushalimum - Egyptian documents mention the city by this name around 2000-1800 BCE.
- Urusalim – is the name given to Jerusalem in the Egyptian Amarna letters, which date back to between 1388-1332 BCE.
- Ursalimmu – is how Sennacherib referred to the city in his letters concerning King Hezekiah in 701 BCE.
The first archaeological find of the name Yerushalayim written in Hebrew was discovered near the town of Lachish in a burial cave dating from the 6th century BCE.
The Greeks called it Hierosolyma. This was more than a simple transliteration of the Hebrew name, hiero means holy.
During Roman times, the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina. Fortunately, Jerusalem was eventually rid of the Roman occupation and reverted to its real name of Yerushalayim.
More Biblical Names of Jerusalem
In addition to the historical names, there exist many poetic names for Jerusalem in the Bible:
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