Jebus, Jebusi, Jebusites

JEBUS, JEBUSI, JEBUSITES jĕ’ bəs, jĕb’ yəsī, jĕb’ yə sīts (יְב֔וּס, to be trodden, trampled down; יְבוּסִ֥י, Jebusite). Jerusalem as the established name for an important city goes far back into the history of the land of Canaan, as is known from mention of it in connection with early Biblical incidents and from the occurrence of Ur-salimmu, e.g., in the Amarna Letters. However, “Jebus” displaced the name of Jerusalem in some circles (Judg 19:10). During several centuries before the time of David it was known as the place of the “Jebusites,” hence as “Jebus.” It was a case of the “Jebusites” giving their place of abode their name, rather than the place giving its name to its people. “Jebusites” remained in “Jebus” until David conquered the city, made it his capital, and restored its name to Jerusalem.



3. Defeated by David, Jebus becomes Jerusalem. David’s rise to power as ruler over all Israel included the ousting of the “Jebusites” out of “Jebus” (or Jerusalem). Successful in ousting them, David then made the conquered city his political and religious center. Interestingly, this city became and has remained a most significant religious center in the history of man—a sacred city for Christians, Jews, and Moslems.

David devised a cunning strategy to wrest Jerusalem from the taunting, jeering “Jebusites” (see 2 Sam 5:6-10). The usual explanation is that David made use of an underground tunnel that was part of a water system the Canaanites had built to bring water from a point outside the city to a reservoir located within the city. This system, as well as another one similar to it built by Hezekiah (see 2 Kings 20:20), has been discovered and explored by archeologists. Knowledge about this water system provides a basis for understanding that David could have discovered the concealed source of water outside the city and then followed the tunnel bringing the water to the reservoir within the city. Thus presumably by surprise he was able to get up “the water shaft” (RSV, 2 Sam 5:8; “gutter,” KJV) to attack and to defeat the “Jebusites.” William F. Albright, however, has offered the plausible explanation that the word ṩinnôr rendered “water-shaft” can just as well be rendered “scaling-hook.” Thus he would understand that David successfully attacked the “Jebusites” by storming and scaling the wall, rather than by using the underground water system. After capturing the city, David purchased a rocky hilltop from Araunah the “Jebusite” (2 Sam 24:18, 25; 1 Chron 21:15, 18-28), a place used as a threshing floor on which he envisioned a “house” for the Ark of the Covenant.

References to the “Jebusites” after the time of David are infrequent: in lists as in earlier sources in Ezra (9:1) and in Nehemiah (9:8); and in a prophetic oracle to make the point that Ekron stood under the judgment of God, her fate to be like that of the “Jebusites” (Zech 9:7).

Bibliography W. F. Albright, “The Old Testament and Archaeology,” Old Testament Commentary (1948), 149; J. Simons, Jerusalem in the Old Testament (1952), 60, 61, 246, 247; M. F. Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament (1954), 92, 93, 206-209; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1962), 127-129.