Jerusalem During the Period of Conquest and Settlement (part II) ֠To Which Tribe Does Jerusalem Belong?

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #21:

Jerusalem During the Period of Conquest and Settlement (part II) –

To Which Tribe Does Jerusalem Belong?

 

By Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

Having discussed, in the previous shiur, the status of Jerusalem and of the Temple from the time of Yehoshua up until the reign of Shaul, let us now explore the issue of the city's tribal affiliation. We shall examine the matter in light of the relevant verses and a detailed description of the Yehuda-Binyamin border.

 

A.        Sources

We learn about the city's tribal attachment from the following verses:

-                   At the end of the description of Yehuda's inheritance, we read: "But the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Yehuda were unable to drive out, so the Jebusites dwelled with the children of Yehuda in Jerusalem to this day" (Yehoshua 15:63)

-                   At the beginning of the list of the cities included in the inheritance of Binyamin, the text mentions "the Jebusites – which is Jerusalem" (Ibid. 18:28)

-                   Shoftim 1:21: "And the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Binyamin did not drive out, so the Jebusites dwelled with the children of Binyamin in Jerusalem to this day."

-                   Ibid. 8: "The children of Yehuda waged war against Jerusalem, and captured it, and smote it by the sword, and destroyed the city with fire."

-                   The description of the Binyamin-Yehuda border appears in two places: Yehoshua 15 describes the northern border of Yehuda from east to west, while chapter 18 describes its southern border, from west to east. Generally, the border passes from the Jericho region in the east towards Jerusalem in a westerly direction, continuing on to the vicinity of Kiryat Ye'arim, and from there towards the sea.

 

In Yehoshua 15:7-9 we read: "… and the border passed towards the waters of Ein-Shemesh, ending up at Ein-Rogel. Then the border ascended by the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, to the south side of the Jebusites, which is Jerusalem, and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Ben-Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the Valley of Refaim northwards. And the border was drawn from the top of the mountain to the fountain of the water of Neftoah."

 

In 18:15-17 we are told:

 

"… and the border went out towards the fountain of the waters of Neftoach, and the border went down to the edge of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, which is in the Valley of Refaim on the north, and descended to the Valley of Hinnom, to the south side of the Jebusites, and went down to Ein-Rogel. And it was drawn to the north, and went out to Ein-Shemesh."

 

The above are all the sources related to the tribal "ownership" of Jerusalem. In this shiur we shall analyze them according to their literal meaning, and in the next shiur we shall address the matter through the perspective of rabbinical commentary.

 

B. Analysis of the Sources

 

The fact that Jerusalem is counted among the cities of Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:27) would seem to prove clearly that it is considered part of Binyamin. This impression is reinforced by the verse from chapter 1 of Shoftim, whose context includes a list of several places that were not completely conquered by various tribes (Menasheh, Ephraim, Zevulun, Asher, Naftali, Dan). The explicit record of the fact that the children of Binyamin did not drive out the Jebusites who dwelled in Jerusalem proves, then, that the city is an integral part of that tribe's inheritance.

 

However, two other sources appear to attribute Jerusalem to the Tribe of Yehuda. In Yehoshua 15:63 we read, "The Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Binyamin were not able to drive out." The parallel verse concerning the children of Binyamin reads, "Did not drive out" – suggesting that the site lay within their boundaries and that they should therefore have conquered it (in the same way as the other places mentioned in relation to the other tribes). But regarding the children of Yehuda we read, "WERE NOT ABLE to drive out" [1]: this indicates only the lack of ability; it does not necessarily mean that the site was theirs. Still, the appearance of this verse at the end of the description of the inheritance of Yehuda – as well as the explicit mention of the fact that the children of Yehuda were not able to conquer the city – do seem to indicate a connection between the city and this tribe. The source in Shoftim 1:8 would likewise seem to suggest that the city lies within the territory of Yehuda; were this not the case, why would they conquer it?! [2]

 

The sources that we have discussed so far, then, indicate contradictory conclusions. It seems that both Binyamin and Yehuda have a connection to Jerusalem. Let us now examine the matter in light of the description of the border.

 

C. Binyamin-Yehuda Border in the Jerusalem Region [3]

 

The description of the route of the border around the Jerusalem region is much more detailed than it is elsewhere. Let us follow the route as set out in Yehoshua 15 as the northern border of Yehuda – i.e., east to west [4].

 

1. Ein-Shemesh

The first point that is mentioned in the border route around Jerusalem is a fountain named Ein-Shemesh. Two possibilities are proposed for its identification: one opinion focuses southward, pointing to Ein-Chud near the village of Al-Azariya. The problem with this opinion is that we read in Yehoshua 18:15 that the fountain of Ein-Rogel emerges from the border NORTHWARD to Ein-Shemesh. If we adopt the accepted identification of Ein-Rogel – just south of where Nachal Kidron meets with the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, at a point known as Bir Ayub, then Ein-Chud cannot be the right place. The other opinion therefore looks further north and identifies Ein-Shemesh as Ein-Ruabi, to the east of Chirbat Alamit (near Almon and Anatot today). From the point of view of the area of the tribes, the most important difference between the two opinions concerns the ownership of the Mount of Olives range: according to the southern view, it falls into the inheritance of Binyamin; according to the northern view, it belongs to Yehuda.

 

If we accept the northern view – which seems to be supported by the literal text – we discover an interesting phenomenon: the border route could have continued from around Ein-Ruabi directly westwards, via Nachal Tzofim (to the north of Ramat Eshkol today), on the way to the "waters of Neftoah" – which is Lifta. But the route is a winding one. It descends from Ein-Ruabi for a short distance southward, to Ein-Rogel and the Ben-Hinnom Valley, then turns back north-westward to the waters of Neftoach. This meandering would appear to represent a considerable "effort" to include Jerusalem within the borders of Binyamin.

 

2. The southern side of the Jebusites

 

From Ein-Rogel, the border continues westward, ascending via the Ben-Hinnom Valley on the south side of the Jebusites, which is Jerusalem. My revered teacher, Prof. Yehuda Elitzur z"l [4], identified this "side of the Jebusites" as today's Mount Zion. The textual indication is towards the southern side of it – right above the Ben-Hinnom Valley.

 

3.  "To the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Ben-Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of Refaim northwards" (see map no. 2)

 

From the side of the Jebusites, the border ascends once again to "the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Ben Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the Valley of Refaim northwards." From there it continues westward, towards the waters of Neftoach – identified as the fountain at Lifta. The mountain at the end of the Valley of Refaim northwards is generally identified as being in the region of the hill where Mishkenot Sha'ananim and the King David Hotel stand today. According to this view, from Ein-Rogel the border continues westward slightly above the Ben-Hinnom Valley, on the south of Mount Zion, and from there it turns north-west. This view would appear to sit well with the literal text and with the other sites that we have identified thus far.

 

However, some opinions question this interpretation and propose a different border route, based on a different understanding of the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Ben-Hinnom. The expression "al penei" (translated here as "before") is usually used to indicate an easterly direction. The Ben-Hinnom Valley has two parts, each with a different alignment: the western segment is aligned north-south (from the Jaffa Gate environs to the Cinemateque today), and south-eastern segment, aligned east-west (from the Cinemateque to Kfar ha-Shiloach). In light of the literal meaning of the words "al penei," the alternative view maintains that "the top of the mountain which faces the Ben-Hinnom Valley" actually means "the top of the mountain that is to the east of the western segment of the Ben-Hinnom Valley" – i.e., inside the Old City, more or less where the Jewish Quarter stands today. According to this view, the route of the border is as follows:

 

·  From Ein-Rogel, the border climbs north-west, towards the summit of the Jewish Quarter, which is "the top of the mountain facing Ben-Hinnom."

·  From there is proceeds westward, crossing the Ben-Hinnom Valley and climbing towards where the King David Hotel stands today (the "top of the mountain facing Ben-Hinnom" according to the first view. The end of the verse – "which is at the end of the Valley of Refaim to the north" – may mean, "to the place which is at the end of the valley…."

 

According to this view, the entire area to the north of this line belongs to the Tribe of Binyamin, while the region to the south of it – i.e., the western hill (the Jewish and Armenian Quarters and Mount Zion) – belongs to Yehuda.

 

This latter view raises several difficulties. Firstly, borders generally pass along very clear topographical lines. The range of hills above the Ben-Hinnom Valley – the border according to the first view – certainly fits this description, but the route proposed by the second view, passing through the middle of the range, does not. Moreover, it is also difficult to accept in terms of the literal text. Thus far we have examined the verses from Yehoshua 15, which describe the route of the border from east to west. But the text in Yehoshua 18, going in the opposite direction, raises two problems related to the second view:

 

a.         According to this view, the border does not pass through the Ben-Hinnom Valley at all, in its continuation from Ein-Rogel – but the text mentions this explicitly (Yehoshua 18:16).

b.         We mentioned above the rather forced proposal that according to this view, the conclusion of the verse – "which is at the end of the Valley of Refaim to the north" – is not part of the description of the mountain facing the Ben-Hinnom Valley, but rather a truncated verse that refers to the next "station" along the border, and that what is means is "to the place which is at the end of the Valley of Refaim to the north." In other words, the region of the King David Hotel today is itself the "top of the mountain which is before the Ben-Hinnom Valley," according to the accepted view. But this interpretation is possible only on the basis of Yehoshua 15. In Yehoshua 18, where the border is traced from west to east, this proposal is impossible; we can only theorize that "which is at the end of the Valley of Refaim to the north" is part of the description of "the mountain which is before the Valley of Ben-Hinnom" – the region of the Old City, according to that view. This conclusion ends up being no less forced. In short, the second view faces us with two equally unattractive exegetical options.

 

In light of these difficulties we tend to accept the first view, but we still need to answer the claim by proponents of the second view, that "before" usually means "to the east." In truth, although in many places this is indeed an accurate interpretation of the expression, there are also places where it means "above" or "facing." A good example is to be found in Shoftim 16:3, where the text recounts how Shimshon grasped the doors of the gateway to the city of Gaza, and their two doorposts, and took them up "to the top of the mountain facing Hebron." It is illogical to understand this verse as teaching us that, on his journey from Gaza, Shimshon passed Hebron and went on to some or other mountain on the east side of it. It sounds far more plausible that somewhere in between Gaza and Hebron, Shimshon ascended a mountain that rose up over Hebron and looked out over the city [5]. The same applies in our case: "The top of the mountain which is before the Valley of Hinnom" means the top of the mountain facing, or above, the Valley of Hinnom. We may add that according to this interpretation, it is possible that the word "to the west" is describing not the direction of the border, but rather the location of the top of the mountain relative to the Valley of Hinnom.

 

In light of all of the above, we side with the first view – which is much simpler and clearer, both in terms of being reconciled with the literal text and in topographical terms, and which asserts that the entire city (western and eastern hill alike) falls within the boundaries of Binyamin. This is in contrast to the second view, which divides the two hills between the two tribes: the entire eastern hill, the City of David and Mount Moriah, fall within the boundaries of Binyamin, while the western hill belongs to Yehuda.

 

We may summarize, then, and assert that the impression that arises from the sources is that Jerusalem basically belongs to Binyamin. This conclusion is based on the description of the borders, as well as in Yehoshua 18:27 and in Shoftim 1:21. At the same time, in two places (Yehoshua 15:63 and Shoftim 1:8 [6]) the text describes a connection between the city and Yehuda. By noting the connection of both tribes to Jerusalem the text may be hinting at the future, and the fact that this city should rightfully belong to all of Am Yisrael, represented in this case by Yehuda and Binyamin – sons of Leah and Rachel respectively [7]. In any event, most of the Rishonim explain, one way or another, that the city belongs to both Yehuda and Binyamin (with the various opinions divided as to the exact share of each tribe and at which point each tribe conquered its share).

 

D. To Which Tribe Does Jerusalem Belong: The Contradiction in the Text

 

There would appear to be a contradiction between two verses. In Yehoshua 15:63 we read: "But the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Yehuda were unable to drive out, so the Jebusites dwelled with the children of Yehuda in Jerusalem to this day," while Shoftim 1:21 tells us: "And the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Binyamin did not drive out, so the Jebusites dwelled with the children of Binyamin in Jerusalem to this day." We discussed the first part of these respective verses above; let us now dwell on the second part: with which tribe did the Jebusites dwell in Jerusalem, with Yehuda or with Binyamin? How are we to presence of both tribes in Jerusalem? There are several possibilities:

 

1.            We may posit that the expression "dwelled with" does not necessarily mean living in the same place, but rather that it may mean living close by. In other words, Jerusalem was an altogether pagan city; Binyamin dwelled to the north and Yehuda to the south, and thus the Jebusites lived close to both of them; they "dwelled with" both Binyamin and Yehuda.

2.            Perhaps Yehuda's connection with Jerusalem arose from its definition as a border town. The nature of such towns is that they are not treated in the same way as the heartland, and there is less motivation to settle there. This reality lends itself to a certain blurring of the border. In other words, since Binyamin did not conquer Jerusalem, the children of Yehuda settled it, for it lay on their northern border [8].

3.            Midrash Tadshe proposes an original and interesting solution [9]:

 

"To Binyamin he said; God's beloved…" (Devarim 33:12): In one source we read, "But the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Yehuda were unable to drive out" (Yehoshua 15:63), while a different source teaches, "And the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Binyamin did not drive out" (Shoftim 1:21): If [this situation] concerned the children of Binyamin, why is Yehuda mentioned? Conversely, if it concerned the children of Yehuda, why does the text mention the children of Binyamin? The explanation is that originally Jerusalem was two towns – an upper and a lower. The upper city fell into the inheritance of Yehuda, and the lower – into the inheritance of Binyamin, as it is written, "Tzela of Elef, and the Jebusites – which is Jerusalem"  - this was the inheritance of Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:28). After the death of Yehoshua, the children of Yehuda arose and conquered their portion, and burned the city with fire, leaving it a desolation. But the lower Jerusalem, which belonged to Binyamin's inheritance, was not conquered by Binyamin; it stood up until the time of David, as it is written, "The Jebusites, who lived in Jerusalem, were not conquered by the children of Binyamin" – this refers to the lower city, as it is written (Ibid.): "The man would not stay over the night; he went up to where he faced Yevus, which is Jerusalem… We will not turn in to a pagan city" (Shoftim 19:10). This is the city that David conquered in the eighth year of his reign, as it is written, "The king and his men went to Jerusalem" (II Shemuel 5:6), "And the inhabitants of Yevus said…" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 11:5).

 

In this city lived Aravna the Jebusite. When David conquered it he began to rebuild the upper Jerusalem, and he constructed a wall around the upper and lower parts, such that both together became Jerusalem, as it is written, "He built up the city round about…" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 11:8). There David ruled for thirty-three years, until the Temple was built. In that same Jerusalem David built the altar on the threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite, by Divine order, so as to stop the plague, as it is written, "God's angel said to Gad…" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 21:18).

 

In the lower Jerusalem, which was on the border of Binyamin, the Temple was built in the days of Shelomo, in fulfillment of what had been promised – "To Binyamin he said, God's beloved…" (Devarim 33:12). Mount Moriah is Jerusalem, as it is written, "Shelomo began to build the Temple in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah…" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 3:1)."

 

It must be borne in mind that this later Midrash displays a familiarity with sources from the Second Temple period, and especially with Flavius Josephus [10]. Indeed, it employs terms characteristic of that period: the "upper city" and the "lower city." The Midrash proposes that the tribal affiliation of Jerusalem be divided based on the two hills: the eastern (lower) hill, with the City of David and Mount Moriah, belongs to Binyamin, while the western (upper) hill belongs to Yehuda. This solves all the difficulties that we have raised thus far. While Yehuda conquered their portion (the western hill) – Binyamin did not conquer theirs (the eastern hill), and it remained a Jebusite city until it was conquered by David, who built a wall surrounding both hills, thereby unifying the upper and lower city as the united Jerusalem.

 

This solution obviously also accords with the Binyamin-Yehuda border proposed by the second (problematic!) view that we quoted above, but it does not sit well with the literal text, which clearly consigns all of Jerusalem to Binyamin.

 

4. My rabbi and teacher, Prof. Elitzur z"l [11] suggested a solution based on the fact that sometimes the name Jerusalem is used to refer not to the city, but rather to the "land (kingdom) of Jerusalem" [12]. From the letters of Al-Amarna [13] we know of considerable correspondence dispatched by the King of Jerusalem, Avdichafeh. This literature helps us to define the borders of the kingdom of Jerusalem, which stretched westward as far as Shoresh and southward as far as Tekoa.

 

Elitzur posits that we may demonstrate that while the distance between one city and the next in Yehoshua 15 generally does not exceed 2-4km, in the description of the southern pat of the inheritance there is a stretch of 15km with no cities listed, and in the west we find only Ekron, Ashdod and Gaza (Ibid. 45:47). This empty space, which exists also in the list of the Levite cities (Yehoshua 19 lists no Levite cities between Anatot and Hebron), represents, to his view, the land of Jerusalem, which was not conquered. This area matches the information that we may glean from the letters of Al-Amarna, as well as from an interesting list of settlements that appears in the Septuagint, at the end of Yehoshua 15 (this list does not appear in the original biblical text), including Tekoa, Efrat – which is Bethlehem, Pe'or, Eitam, Kolon, Titam, Shoresh, Kerem Galim, Beitar, and Menucha. These settlements are spread from the north of the Hebron mountains to west of Jerusalem (see map no. 3); this represents the kingdom of Jerusalem which the children of Yehuda did not manage to conquer in Sefer Yehoshua, and therefore its cities are omitted from the lists there.

 

In light of the above we must ascertain when the text is referring to Jerusalem the city, and when it refers to the land/kingdom of Jerusalem. Elitzur suggests, for example, that in Yehoshua 1:8, the verse, "The children of Yehuda fought against Jerusalem," refers to the kingdom of Jerusalem, while later on it makes explicit reference to the city: "They captured it and smote it by the sword, and burned the city [i.e., the city of Jerusalem] with fire" [14].

 

As to our discussion: in Yehoshua 15:63, "But the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Yehuda were unable to drive out" refers to the kingdom of Jerusalem, while Shoftim 1:21 – "the Jebusites, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Binyamin did not drive out" refers to the city of Jerusalem. This leads us to an interesting conclusion: the city of Jerusalem belongs to the tribe of Binyamin, while the kingdom of Jerusalem belongs to Yehuda. The division of the tribal inheritances divides the Jebusite kingdom of Jerusalem between the two tribes: the city to Binyamin, the rest of that kingdom to Yehuda.

 

Summary

 

Our examination of the biblical sources, focusing on the various areas and the description of the Yehuda-Binyamin border, appears to demonstrate quite clearly that the city belongs to Binyamin, but that Yehuda also has a connection with it. We proposed four different approaches to reconciling the issue of the city's tribal affiliation.

 

In the next shiur we shall conclude our discussion of the border by examining rabbinical sources, and we shall attempt to address the question of why Jerusalem was not conquered up until the time of King David.

 

Notes:

[1] We may suggest that the conquest of Jerusalem by the Tribe of Yehuda would represent the starting point of this tribe's campaign of conquest, starting right on its northern border (where Jerusalem sits) and continuing southward. This would not necessarily mean that Jerusalem belonged to the Tribe of Yehuda.

[2] See map no. 1.

[3] To identify the places named in the description of the border's route, see J. Kali, "Nachalot Shivtei Yisrael," Bialik Institute, Jerusalem 5727, pp. 103-104; Da'at Mikra commentary on Yehoshua ad loc.

[4] Sefer Yehoshua, explained by Y. Elitzur and Y.A. Zaidman, Reuven Mass Publishers, Jerusalem; p. 64.

[5] My thanks to Rav Yoel Elitzur, my teacher, for showing me this example.

[6] See map no. 1.

[7] It would seem that this is the sole example of the same city belonging to two tribes. We read, concerning Shekhem, that "the bones of Yosef… they buried in Shekhem, in the portion of the field which Yaakov had bought from the sons of Hamor, father of Shekhem, for a hundred kesita, and they became an inheritance for the children of Yosef" (Yehoshua 24:32). In other words, the portion of the FIELD – the burial place of Yosef – belongs to Ephraim and Menasheh, the sons of Yosef, equally. But this status is shared by no city other than Jerusalem.

[8] We may point to comparable phenomena in modern history. For example, the establishment of a bloc of Jewish settlements, such as Gush Etzion, precisely on the border between different Turkish administrative regions.

[9] "Beit ha-Midrash," Jellineck, 3rd ed. Jerusalem 5727, chapter 22. Among the Rishonim there are other similar views.

[10] Antiquities of the Jews V 2,2.

[11] A summary of his view on this matter appears in his book, "Yisrael ve-haMikra," published by Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, 5760, pp. 71-72.

[12] The phenomenon of royal cities – a central city surrounded by scattered settlements (Vayikra 25:31) – was common during this period in Canaan.

[13] N. Ne'eman, "Te'udot Me-Arkhi'onei Allah ve-Al-Amarna," Jerusalem 5737.

[14] Without reference to our discussion, this interpretation does solve a difficulty in the verse itself.

 

Translated by Kaeren Fish