As we study the Scriptures, we are increasingly attracted to the importance of the term “Zion.” This name gains a growing prophetic significance as we go through the story of the Bible. From its original meaning as a fortress hill in Jerusalem, Zion goes onward in the Old Testament to signify the high calling of God for His people. By the end of the New Testament, it reveals the center of heaven’s purposes and placement. What does all this mean for us? To gain an understanding of the vision of Zion, let us start at the beginning.
ZION, THE CITY OF KING DAVID
The first time the name “Zion” is found in the Bible is in 2 Samuel. There we read, “And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, ‘You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,’ thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’ …Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David… So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him,”2 Samuel 5:6-7 & 9-10.
When David first became the king of all Israel, he went up with his army to attack the Jebusites at Jerusalem. He wanted to establish a good capital for his nation, so David chose this city with a strong fortress that was just 8 kilometers north of his hometown, Bethlehem. The Jebusites had built a fortress there on a hill on the southeast side of Jerusalem called Mount Zion. The hill was probably named after this fortress, as the name “Zion”‘ is thought by many scholars as having come either from a Semitic word for “protect” or “fortress,” or else from a Hebrew root which means “to erect” or “a structure.”
Once David captured this fortress, it became his royal capital that he also named ‘The City of David.’ As he ruled from Zion, the Lord expanded David’s kingdom until he ruled over a great empire from the Euphrates River to the borders of Egypt.
ZION, THE PLACE OF WORSHIP AND GLORY
As well as being the City of David where the king ruled in great authority, this hill called Mount Zion also had another great significance in David’s time. Mount Zion was where David built a tabernacle and placed the Ark of the Covenant. We read, “David built houses for himself in the City of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it… So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it,”1 Chronicles 15:1 & 16:1.
The Ark of the Covenant was where God dwelt, spoke from, and revealed His glory to His people, Ex.25:22; Ps.80:1; & Lev.16:2. King David placed the ark in a tabernacle on Mount Zion, which he made as a place of worship where God dwelt in the midst of His people, 1 Chron.16:4-37; Ps.9:11.
When the ark was placed in this tabernacle, Zion then became famous for two reasons: both the throne of the king and the ark of God were there! The throne speaks of authority, while the ark speaks of worship and God’s glory. The significance of the throne and the ark in Zion continue on to have greater prophetic meaning as the Scriptures unfold.