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JEBUS (jē'bŭs, Heb. yevûs). The name by which Jerusalem was known while occupied by the Jebusites (Josh.15.63; Judg.19.10; 1Chr.11.4). Small in area compared with the size of Jerusalem in Solomon’s time, Jebus was taken from the Jebusites by David and made the capital of Israel (2Sam.5.1-2Sam.5.9). Its citadel was the stronghold of Zion (1Chr.11.5).


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.

Jebusites among peoples to be dispossessed by Israel.

Jebusites not conquered by Israelites until David’s reign.

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).


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.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

In Jud 19:10,11, "Jebus (the same is Jerusalem)"; 1Ch 11:4,5, "Jerusalem (the same is Jebus)." It was once thought that this was the first name of Jerusalem, as indeed might be suggested by the Biblical references, but it is now known from the Tell el-Amarna Letters that Urusa-lem was a name used centuries before the time of David (see JERUSALEM, I). It would appear probable that the name "Jebus" was evolved by the Hebrews as an alternate name, and possibly they may have imagined an earlier name, for Jerusalem from JEBUSITE (which see), the name of the local tribe who owned the district in the first centuries of Israel’s occupation of Canaan.

To what race the Jebusites belonged is doubtful. Their name does not seem Semitic, and they do not make their appearance till after the patriarchal period.

The original name of Jerusalem was Babylonian, Uru-Salim, "the city of Salim," shortened into Salem in Ge 14:18 and in the inscriptions of the Egyptian kings Ramses II and Ramses III. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters (1400 BC) Jerusalem is still known as Uru-Salim, and its king bears a Hittite name, implying that it was at the time in the possession of the Hittites. His enemies, however, were closing around him, and one of the tablets shows that the city was eventually captured and its king slain. These enemies would seem to have been the Jebusites, since it is after this period that the name "Jebus" makes its appearance for the first time in the Old Testament (Jud 19:10,11).

The Jebusite king at the time of the conquest was Adoni-zedek, who met his death at Beth-boron (Jos 10:1 ; in Jos 10:5 the word "Amorite" is used in its Babylonian sense to denote the inhabitants of Canaan generally). The Jebusites were a mountain tribe (Nu 13:29; Jos 11:3). Their capital "Jebus" was taken by the men of Judah and burned with fire (Jud 18), but they regained possession of, and held, the fortress till the time of David (2Sa 5:6 ).

When Jerusalem was taken by David, the lives and property of its Jebusite inhabitants were spared, and they continued to inhabit the temple-hill, David and his followers settling in the new City of David on Mt. Zion (Jos 15:8,63; Jud 1:21; 19:11). And as Araunah is called "king" (2Sa 24:23), we may conclude that their last ruler also had been lowed to live. His name is non-Sem, and the various spellings of it (compare 1Ch 21:15, "Ornan") indicate that the Hebrew writers had some difficulty in pronouncing it. The Jebusites seem ultimately to have blended with the Israelite population.