Thursday, December 31, 2009


Yesterday, I highlighted six passages (or quotes) from the introduction of Doug Wilson's 5 Cities that Ruled the World: How Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York Shaped Global History. I was naturally drawn to this book because (1) Doug Wilson has significantly and consistently influenced me through his teaching and prolific writing and because (2) those "5 cities" have indeed shaped not only global history, but me personally.

Wilson first engages Jerusalem and artfully (for the most part) navigates through the ancient and tumultuous history of the "City of Peace." "[Jerusalem] has known many masters--first the tribe of Melchizedek (unless he was a Jebusite), followed by the Jebusites, the nation of Israel under David, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, independence under the Hasmoneans, the pagan Romans, the Byzantine Christians, the Persians again for a few years, the Muslims, the crusaders, the Muslims again, the British, and an independent government of Israel in 1948, with the recapture of Jerusalem by the Jews in 1967" (3). He notes, "the constant strife in Jerusalem is not an interruption of its historical charm--that is Jerusalem's historical charm" (4).

Wilson begins his narrative with the "fascinating and terrifying story" (4) of Abraham as he ascends Mount Moriah (Gen. 22), where the Temple Mount now sits. Jerusalem is of course "one of the busiest intersections of history" (3). Wilson moves quickly from Father Abraham to King David and his son, Solomon to the waves of Jews forced into exile, first by the Assyrians then by the Babylonians. He defends the book's title: "Jerusalem is one of the cities that rule the world because of its gravitational pull on people who no longer live there. That remains the case today, and it was the case in the first exile of the Jews from their homeland" (15). He notes, "For centuries Jews have reminded themselves of their exile from Jerusalem at every wedding, at every funeral, and at every bar mitzvah" (36).

The first thirty pages of 5 Cities are a Tour de Force through the history of Jerusalem from Abraham (b. ca. 2000 BC) to Theodor Hertzl (d. 1904), "the father of modern Zionism" (33). Yet unfortunately the text, though interesting in content, reads more like a Britannica article at times. The reader is rewarded, however, with glimpses of Wilson's familiar humor throughout (e.g. "Once the Hamsmonean family became established rulers in Israel, a similar thing happened to them that happens to many rulers. About a century later, two brothers from this family got into a dispute over who should be on the throne, and it was not an example of, 'No really, you should have it'" (19).).

Wilson shares the story of a battered city that has been "the rope in a geopolitical tug-of-war" (39) for centuries. Yet he concludes hopeful: "The topography of Palestine, with Jerusalem in the center, has become the topography of our souls" (40). "When we come to the day of our death and we think about crossing Jordan, that metaphor indicates we are going west to Jerusalem" (40).

Jesus, the Christ, is the King of Peace, the King of Jerusalem. And our promised inheritance is an eternal and abundant life in that ancient City of David, the New Jerusalem. "Everyone in bondage to sin is in a form of exile. And what is repentance from drunkenness, lust, covetousness, anger, or hatred but a decision to go home to Jerusalem" (41)?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy (Ps. 137:5-6)!

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