Medieval City on a Hill?
Is New Jerusalem really a cube?
Does that make any sense?
In my opinion, a cubical New Jerusalem interpretation of the Biblical dimensions is a modernistic misinterpretation! This commonly occurs due to "functional fixedness" endemic to our scientific/materialistic society. The Bible is an ancient document steeped in the genre and tropes of the past, specifically written as a religious document. Therefore we must question our interpretation in light of the religious significance of its function.*Above Image from http:tourofheaven.com
Form, Fit, or Function?
New Jerusalem is embedded in the Biblical narrative, yet it is more-often overlooked or outright ignored. Why? Would it have anything to do with "Powers of the Air?" By modern common knowledge, we have little to go on. We never talk about New Jerusalem as it has been subsumed into a generic "Heaven" and ignored. Yet, if we do consider it, we have no firm guidelines. The three most common illustrations (above) are woefully ignorant of the Bible as an ancient text, which provides all the clues needed to understand our promised afterlife:
New Jerusalem is clearly is not a Borg-style cube city floating on clouds.
Nor is it a LOTR Elven Spired Neverland (above middle)
Or is it a hodgepodge medieval city crouching on a hill?
As to shape, most modern-day people read the measurments in Revelation and simply presume it is a monstrous cube (see left). How woefully forgetful they are of both geometry and Biblical studies! Middle-school history lessons teach common knowledge of ancient mega-structures: Pyramids and Ziggurats, which were certainly well-known to the Ancient Near-Eastern (ANE) peoples!
New Jerusalem: The Form
Jerusalem, "Mount Zion" as it is named in the Bible, is a "City on a Hill" (and still is today), as were almost all ancient cities using terrain-assisted protection. Each warlord, chieftain, or king's palace with their god's temple, were always at the highest point of the city. If their city was located within the ANE Fertile Crescent they built Ziggurats, a stepped pyramid with ramps or steps to a temple at the top. Ziggurats became artificial hilltop defenses. The priests and acolytes mostly lived on the lower levels of the ziggurat with the supporting city scattered around the base. And these were not tombs! Pyramids and Step-pyramids, by definition, are tombs, not temples. A ziggurat does not contain tombs. Sacrifices were made, but the remains removed from the temple and disposed of outside the city.
Ziggurats: The Form
Ziggurats are the equivalent of a city-mount in the middle of a flat desert; fortified and providing for a high temple in the middle. Regardless of paintings and drawing to the contrary (see below) they were rectangular or square in footprint, with as many steps, or levels, as they could afford to build to the limits of available technology and materials. Egypt had the manpower to move massive limestone blocks from the upper Nile regions, yet they used mudbrick for many of the other lesser edifices. Mesopotamia used baked mudbrick and bitumen tar mixed with sand for mortar. As a result, the strength of the material precludes building more than a handful of levels. The largest ziggurat is that of Ur (in modern Iraq), discovered by Leonard Woolley, which was restored in modern times by dictator Sadam Hussein.
The shape of New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation 11:3-19 (written in @96 CE using rod or reeds, and stadia) gives specific units of measure for the size of the city. Because of the many variations in ancient measurements, it is roughly 1,200 (1900km) to 1,500 miles (1900km) wide, high, and deep. This leads we moderns, oriented to cubical architecture, to assume a box form, like a giant skyscraper. However, ANE people would instantly think of pyramids, step-pyramids, and ziggurats from common knowledge, let alone Herodotus' travelogue in 440 BC, which he described using Pythagorean geometric notations.
Painting from Gustave Dore's Engraving:
The Tower of Babel, 1865
The Tower of Babel, 1865
New Jerusalem: The Fit
A Ziggurat's purpose was not just for the protection and pleasure of the rulers. The topmost portion was most often used as a temple. A well-researched anthropological theme is "god" is always "up." Pressed to its most extreme example of hubris is the Tower of Babel, which is a ziggurat built to reach god in heaven. To which elicited Elohim God's scrambling of languages; protecting the line of Shem from the combined evil of nations united under one language. (see "Eber" From Ray's Study).
Jerusalem was established by Elohim God as his chosen City and had established its sacred mission from the start. Its first reference is in Genesis 14; Melchizedek (Heb: Malḵi-ṣedeq מלכי־צדק) King of Peace) is the Priest/King of Salem, which became future Jerusalem (Heb: /dʒəˈruːsələm/; יְרוּשָׁלַיִם) YHWH's City of Peace.
Melchizedek brokers a payment of services between patriarch Abraham with surrounding Chieftains. Later Abraham takes his son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah, the highest spot near the small village of Salem across the valley. As a test of faith, Abraham is told by God to sacrifice his son to him. Abraham proceeds, only to have an Angel prevent the act. Abraham sacrifices a ram, caught in a thorn bush. Hence the first official sacrifice on the place to become the temple mount. the land becomes Holy Land to the line of Isaac.
Later, David, son of Jesse, became the King of Israel and formed the disparate twelve tribes of Israel into the United Kingdom. In a decades-long process, he subdued Salem which had, since Abraham's time, become a fortified fortress guarding the main hill road to the north. In 1006 BCE, under Elohim God's Spirit, David made it his capital and prepared to build a temple. Elohim forbid him to build it, so his son, Solomon completed the task. At that point, the City of Jerusalem had attained its Mt Zion Ziggurat-like functions, which lasted 410 years until 597BC.
Another famous ANE ziggurats is The Hanging Garden of Babylon. It was a palace with a garden including a temple for their gods. A ziggurat in form, its function harked back to the primordial Garden of Eden in whcih mankind "walked with Elohim God." High above the baked hardpan of the plains, cooler breezes blew. Plants and trees were watered by endless lines of slaves humping skins or treadmilling water to the top, thence trickling down channels to each step below providing lush fruits and gardens for the pleasures of the deified ruler and his god. There are the remains of hundreds of mudbrick ziggurats, large and small, dotted throughout the Fertile Crescent and into Turkey, Asia, and Africa.
New Jerusalem: The Function
Ziggurats serve as the "stepping stones" to heaven. In Genesis 28:10–17 we read of the Patriarch, Jacob, having a dream. Angels were going up and down the "ladder" to heaven. It is unfortunate that the KJV translated it as a ladder rather than a stairway. At the time of the KJV translation, no westerners had reported on ziggurats with their "Stairway to Heaven." To anyone in Jacob's time they would be certain to identify the stairway as belonging to a ziggurat, with servant Angels carrying food, drink, and votive offerings up, and blessings and gifts to those below.
The First Temple had massive stairs leading from Jerusalem proper up to the former threshing floor of Arunah. These stairs still exist today! From every place in Jerusalem, you can see the Temple Mount, even though its place has been usurped by the counterfeit Islamic Dome of the Rock.
New Jerusalem will be a temple in the old Ziggurat fashion because a Ziggurat, by definition, contains both the temple at the top and the dwellings of the priest who serve the temple. In our future as described in The Prophets and Revelation, all Messianic Jews will be "Levites," and all Christians "The Priesthood of Believers."
"...and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" Rev 1:6
Yeshua Jesus himself told Nathaniel, "You will see greater things than this.’ Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.’ ” (John 1:47-51, NLT).
Certainly, Yeshua was not just speaking metaphorically. Nathaniel knew of Jacob's account and had trod the Grand Stairs" to the Second Temple; the stairs were not just wordplay. It was what he knew when he heard the words and Stephen saw when he was martyred.
The World Reprised: Reclaiming the Purpose
So It Was in the Beginning, So Shall It be to the End
Elohim God tends to work in repeating patterns.
The End Times Clock is Ticking, Jerusalem Regains Its Title As Nation's Capital
Thus as Jerusalem, around 990BC, became the ancient capital of Israel, it did again on May 14th 1948; just as Isaiah, in chapter 66, prophesied 2400 years earlier. However, no modern nation acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel's capital until May 14th, 2018, when President Donald J Trump dedicated the US Embassy in Jerusalem, sealing the prophetic scriptures seventy years to the day after Israel's establishment. Thus the end-time Latter-Days began as per Yeshua Jesus words in his "latter-days" discourse in the Gospels.
New Jerusalem: in Elohim's Words:
Rev 21:1-27 (KJV)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (2) And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
(3) And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (4) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
(5) And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (6) And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. (7) He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (8) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
(9) And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. (10) And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, (11) Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; (12) And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: (13) On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. (14) And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
(15) And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. (16) And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. (17) And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. (18) And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. (19) And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; (20) The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. (21) And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
(22) And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (23) And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. (24) And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. (25) And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. (26) And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. (27) And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.