Although there are many more mountains mentioned in the Bible, this will be my last article on the subject. This does not mean that the others are less important but rather there is less information about them or they have become lost over time. Mount Zion, on the other hand, has three different locations.
Traditionally, Mount Zion is a hill in Jerusalem just outside of the Old City. Also known as Har Tsiyyon (Hebrew) and Jabal Sahyoun, it reaches a height of 2,510 feet and belongs to the Judean mountain range. The term “Zion” was first used in the Hebrew Bible as another name for the City of David and later used as an alternative name for Temple Mount.
It is not certain what the term “Zion” means, however, some scholars suggest it is similar to the Hebrew word for castle. This may help to explain why the location of Mount Zion has moved. Rather than being a physical mountain, Mount Zion is a time-honoured name for the focal point of Jerusalem, which shifts to the most appropriate place at the given time. For example, the first Mount Zion was the Jebusite city on the lower section of Jerusalem’s Eastern Hill, also known as the City of David. When the First Temple was erected on the top of the Eastern Hill, which is generally known as Temple Mount, the name Mount Zion migrated there too. The references to Mount Zion in the Book of Psalms are believed to be about this location:
Today’s Mount Zion is located on the Western Hill of Jerusalem, which the Jerusalemites have deemed a worthier location for the lost Palace of King David since the first century AD. Nebuchadnezzar II had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC, which eradicated a lot of historical memories. Although the city was rebuilt to the best of everyone’s abilities, the Romans destroyed it again in 70 AD. By now, no one could identify where the original Mount Zion had been (the locations have been discovered by archaeologists in more recent years), however, the historian Josephus wrote that he believed the location to be on the Western Hill since they were higher and longer than the Eastern.
After the Roman period of rule had ended, a synagogue was built at the entrance to what was believed to be David’s Tomb, where he may have brought the Ark of the Covenant before the construction of the First Temple.
There is, however, a fourth unknown location of Mount Zion. In the Bible, particularly in the books of Isaiah and Revelation, Mount Zion represents the Kingdom of God: the heavenly Jerusalem.
Apart from the modern landscape of the present-day mountain and Table Mount (see the article on Mount Moriah), there is little else known about Mount Zion. Since 1967, the mountain/hill has belonged to Israel and in 1964 a winding path leading up to Mount Zion was paved in honour of a visit from Pope Paul VI.
There are a handful of important sites for pilgrims and religious communities on Mount Zion including the Abbey of the Dormition, the aforementioned King David’s Tomb, and the Room of the Last Supper. Despite its name, archaeologists do not believe David’s Tomb to be his actual burial place, although some people treat it in this manner. Likewise, the Room of the Last Supper may not be the actual location of the Passover meal and some archaeologists believe the building may have once been a synagogue. Nonetheless, Christians treat the site as the Cenacle or Upper Room mentioned in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. As well as the Last Supper, it is thought that other events from the New Testament took place here. These include Jesus washing the disciple’s feet (Luke 2), the appearance of Jesus to the disciples after the resurrection (Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20), the gathering of the disciples after the Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1), the election of Matthias as an apostle (Acts 1), and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).
The first museum opened in memory of the Holocaust can be found on Mount Zion. The Ministry of Religion inaugurated the Chamber of the Holocaust on 30th December 1949. Whilst small and cave-like, the museum contains ten rooms and many passages on which tombstone-like plaques record the 2,000 Jewish communities destroyed during the Holocaust.
Two Christian cemeteries can be found on Mount Zion, one Catholic and one Protestant. A handful of notable names can be found here, for example, Oskar Schindler, a “Righteous General” who saved the lives of 1200 Jews during the Holocaust. The Protestant cemetery is also the resting place of many soldiers who fought in the First World War and people killed in the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946.
I hope these studies about the important mountains in the Bible have been useful. They should help you to place and visualise many Biblical locations and help you make sense of some of the event in the Old and New Testaments. There are, of course, many more mountains that you could explore, so, just for fun here is a list of some of the other mountains listed in the Bible. If you are interested, perhaps you could look them up and see what you can find out.
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon