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The Plural Nature of ‘Jerusalem’

Written by Elizabeth Avallone. Posted in

What are the implications of the plural form of the word Jerusalem? In the Hebrew language there is a small class of nouns which are spelled in the plural form but represent a singular idea. The most common examples are 'mayim' – 'water'; 'shamayim' – 'sky' or 'heaven'; 'panim' – 'face'; 'chayyim' – 'life'; 'elohim' – 'God'. 'Jerusalem' is also in this group. When these nouns are modified by an adjective, the adjective agrees with the noun and so also takes the plural form.

A common explanation of this phenomenon is that these nouns are given the plural form because some aspect of the nature of their substance is immense. However, these special nouns actually convey the idea of multiplicity rather than plurality – instead of describing a group of things, these words denote one thing which has many aspects or facets.

'Water' is a good illustration. It has three observable states, liquid, gas, and solid. In its liquid state it has no form and readily spreads to fill whatever container it is in. In its gaseous form it is constantly moving. In its solid form it floats on the surface of its liquid form! Consider the complex expressions of the human face; a face reflects a life as it passes through many stages toward maturity, through seasons of great joy and devastating sorrow, great wealth and great poverty of body, mind and spirit. Think about the ever-changing sky. 'Elohim' is the ultimate example of singular multiplicity as the Scriptures abundantly testify. Are there multiples of 'Jerusalem'?

763 verses in the Bible contain the word 'Jerusalem'. I pulled out verses that defined Jerusalem as God's 'holy mountain'. This verse places God's holy mountain Jerusalem parallel with the 'house of the LORD'.

A1“Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD,

            on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels,

         to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD,

A2“just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering

           in a clean vessel

          to the house of the LORD.” Is 66:20

Do we take this verse literally or figuratively? The apostles Peter and Paul say that the house of the LORD is built with living stones.

         “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable     to  God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

        “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Eph 2:19-22

Consider these other 'holy mountain Jerusalem' verses.

“It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.” Is 27:13

“O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people (are) a reproach to all those around us.” Dan 9:16

“Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will pass through it no more.” Joel 3:17

“Thus says the LORD, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the Holy Mountain.'” Zec 8:3

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem (for) rejoicing and her people (for) gladness.

I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

No longer will there be in it an infant (who lives but a few) days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be (thought) accursed.

They will build houses and inhabit; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and another inhabit, they will not plant and another eat; for as the lifetime of a tree, the days of My people, and My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

They will not labor in vain, or bear (children) for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by the Lord, and their descendants with them.

It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord. Is. 65:17-25

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ...” Rev 21:10

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