Biblical Nations - Jebusites


Key Scripture: Joshua 3:10

Figures: Melchizedek, Adoni-zedek, Araunah

As we continue digging through the people groups of the Bible, this week we learn about the second nation within Canaan that the Israelites encountered.  The Jebusites were the final group mentioned specifically by God to Abraham when describing the Promised Land, and were one of seven nations that He commanded the twelve tribes to destroy during their conquest.  Because they are listed last, it may be that they were numerically the smallest of the inhabitants.  Geographically, the Jebusites are only associated with the area immediately surrounding Jerusalem, and were known to live in the hill country for centuries.  Culturally, they have a complicated history, with religious beliefs that may have changed over time from a worship of God to pagan practices that included idolatry, immorality, and possibly even child sacrifice.

First mentioned in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, we know that the Jebusites were descended from Ham's son, Canaan.  Possibly a tribe of the Amorites, they established a foothold west of the Jordan River in a city they named Jebus.  If this is the same city as Salem, then Melchizedek was their king and a priest of God during the time of Abraham, which would cast a positive light on their leadership and spiritual direction.  By the time of Joshua, however, that was not the case.  After the destruction of the cities of Jericho and Ai, many of the inhabitants of Canaan joined forces to wage war against the invading Israelites.  Led by the Jebusite ruler Adoni-zedek, they first marched to destroy the city of Gibeon, which had tricked Joshua into forging a treaty.  Israel responded by coming to Gibeon's aid and routing their attackers.  During the battle God intervened with two natural wonders - the sun stood still in order to lengthen the day, and then caused large stones (hail?) to fall on the soldiers during their retreat.  All five kings who fought against Joshua's army were captured and executed, but despite Israel winning several engagements against the people of the hill country the city of Jerusalem remained in enemy hands throughout the time of the judges.

It wasn't until the time of King David that Jerusalem was finally taken.  After the civil war with Saul's son ended and his kingdom was guaranteed, David decided to conquer the Jebusites and use their position as his new capital city.  Joab, the son of David's sister Zeruiah, accepted the challenge to attack the city first and was rewarded by being named the army's chief commander.  The inhabitants were so confident in their stronghold that they told David that the blind and lame could repel his forces, but Israel surprised them by climbing into the city's water source.  We know that he did not destroy all of the Jebusites, however, because one of them would play an important role in determining where Solomon's Temple would be built.  When God sent a pestilence against the nation to punish David near the end of his reign, He stopped his angel on Mount Moriah which overlooked David's City.  The humbled king traveled to the spot where the destruction stopped and purchased the land from a man named Araunah (also translated "Ornan"), a Jebusite.  Setting up an altar and offering a sacrifice, David begged for God's mercy and forgiveness, and then determined that the spot was appropriate for the house of God to be constructed.  Solomon completed his father's work there and expanded Jerusalem, subjecting the Jebusites and other Gentile residents to forced labor for his building projects.  Other than a mention during the time of Ezra's rebuilding of Jerusalem, the Jebusites were effectively lost to history and were either assimilated into the Israelite community or eventually dwindled away into obscurity.  During the 20th century, some Palestinian leaders attempted to claim that they were descended from the Jebusites in an attempt to strengthen their historical claim on Jerusalem, but these assertions were generally discounted by historians and genealogists alike. 


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