Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on earth. The first mention of it in the Holy Bible is in the book of Genesis, in connection with Melchizedek – a type of Christ, a priest, who was also the king of Salem. The 76th Psalm, which states: “God is known in Judah; in Israel his name is great. And his covert proves to be in Salem itself, and his dwelling place in Zion” – makes it plain that Salem is Jerusalem.
(Salem means “two-fold peace.” Ironically, though, according to Wikipedia during its storied history “Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.”)
Jerusalem, though, has many names – the city of Jehovah, the holy city, Zion and so on. Isaiah 29:1-2 refers to Jerusalem as “Ariel,” saying of it: “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the town where David encamped! Add year upon year, you people; let the festivals run the round. And I have to make things tight for Ariel, and there must come to be mourning and lamentation, and she must become to me as the altar hearth of God.”
When the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan they did not then dispossess the Jebusites of their stronghold. It was not until David became king many centuries later, when he brought his encampment against it, that Jerusalem was captured and eventually became the capitol city of Jehovah’s earthly kingdom. And David’s son, Solomon, erected a magnificent temple on the highest hill within the city called Zion. All the Israelite males were required to attend the annual festivals there.
Not only was it the official center for the worship of Jehovah but also upon his final visit to the holy city great crowds hailed Jesus as the messianic King, the son of David – the savior. And outside the walls of Jerusalem was also the place where Christ was sacrificed. Other anointed Christians were no doubt slain in Jerusalem as well, including prominent men such as Stephen and the apostle James. Having died faithful it was as if they were sacrificed on God’s altar hearth, which is apparently the meaning of “Ariel.”
Needless to say, Jerusalem and Zion have featured prominently in the outworking of Jehovah’s grand purpose, which is why they also have an important symbolic significance. For example, Paul referred to Christians as approaching a heavenly Mount Zion. Likewise, Revelation makes mention of a New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. This makes it plain that there are two Jerusalems – an earthly Jerusalem and a symbolic, heavenly Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the focus of many prophecies as well, prophecies that have to do with the coming of Christ. Appropriately, Christ himself uttered the most prominent prophecy concerning Jerusalem. Jesus foretold that during the conclusion of the global system of things hostile forces would surround Jerusalem and the holy place within its hallowed walls would ultimately come to desolation. Christians would be required to flee for their lives in response.
Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that in the grander fulfillment that will take place in a great tribulation, a catastrophe that will come upon the whole world, Jesus had something more in mind than the literal city of Jerusalem located in the Middle East. That is discernable from the fact that when explaining the events to come Jesus referred the reader to the prophecy of Daniel, which foretells that the holy place and sanctuary of God would be trampled upon by an enemy during the time of the end – the time of the end being when Christ returns and ultimately asserts his control over the world.
But since a Jewish temple has not existed in Jerusalem since the first century – when it was utterly obliterated by the Roman legions – it is apparent that the holy place and the city of Jerusalem represent something entirely different. But what?
“FROM THE DUST YOUR OWN SAYING WILL CHIRP”
First, it ought to be recognized that Ariel belongs to God. Even though God determined to make things tight for the city where David once encamped he also enters into judgment with the earthly agents that come against Ariel. Consider the next span of verses, which say: “And you must become low so that you will speak from the very earth, and as from the dust your saying will sound low. And like a spirit medium your voice must become even from the earth, and from the dust your own saying will chirp. And the crowd of those strange to you must become just like fine powder, and the crowd of the tyrants just like the chaff that is passing away. And it must occur in an instant, suddenly. From Jehovah of armies you will have attention with thunder and with quaking and with a great sound, storm wind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.”
The Assyrian and Babylonian armies that menaced Jerusalem on different occasions were certainly tyrannical. However, God did not go to war against them with thunder, quaking, storm wind and flames of fire. In the case of the Assyrians God merely dispatched an angel who slew Sennacherib’s army while they slept. And Nebuchadnezzar was given a free hand to raze Jerusalem and drag the Jews off in chains. God did not intervene. It is apparent that God’s response to the “crowd of the tyrants” is actually describing the war of Armageddon.
The prophecy of Zechariah, which was written after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem, similarly foretells that Jehovah will go to war against all the nations that make war on Jerusalem. To illustrate the point Zechariah 14:12 states: “And this is what will prove to be the scourge with which Jehovah will scourge all the peoples that will actually do military service against Jerusalem: There will be a rotting away of one’s flesh, while one is standing upon one’s feet; and one’s very eyes will rot away in their sockets, and one’s very tongue will rot away in one’s mouth.”
There are numerous other prophecies that use Zion and Jerusalem as a symbol of God’s possession. One more example is Joel: “And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun itself will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah. And it must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will prove to be the escaped ones, just as Jehovah has said, and in among the survivors, whom Jehovah is calling. For, look! in those days and in that time, when I shall bring back the captive ones of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also collect together all the nations and bring them down to the low plain of Jehoshaphat; and I will put myself on judgment with them there on account of my people and my inheritance Israel, whom they scattered among the nations; and they apportioned out my own land.”
Interestingly, on the day of Pentecost when Peter addressed the crowds who had gathered as a result of the miraculous wind that blew through Jerusalem he quoted from the passage of Joel above. And it is no coincidence that the birth of Christianity took place in the holy city, for Jesus had specifically instructed the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until the anointing spirit was poured out upon them. In that respect those freshly anointed Christians were literally gathered to the physical city of Jerusalem. But, of course, those events did not segue into the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah, as foretold in Joel. Clearly, there is a grander fulfillment.
Still, though, the question remains unanswered: What does Jerusalem typify, specifically in the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the enigmatic Ariel?
According to the Watchtower Society Ariel represents anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses! At least that is what was put to print more than a half century ago in an obscure Questions from Readers column, reproduced below:
This prophecy would therefore apply to spiritual Jerusalem as represented upon earth by the remnant. These words show that God’s earthly organization would come under attack and would be reduced to a very low state by the enemies of God’s kingdom. God’s people would be, as it were, crushed to the earth, at the time of Gog’s attack upon them, so that what utterance they made, what vocal sounds they made, would come up from low down in their abasement. It would be sound coming up from the very dust of the earth. It would be as if a spirit medium were talking with the vocal sound coming from the dust of the earth. However, the next verses show that God would turn his attention to his faithful people who had been brought so low and he would work miracles on their behalf to deliver them from the power of the enemy so that their enemies and oppressors would become like dust and chaff that are quickly blown away by a violent windstorm.
However, apparently that answer to a reader’s question was an anomaly – a rare moment of interpretive lucidity. Since then the Watchtower has avoided repeating that sober interpretation. Even in their supposedly in-depth commentary on Isaiah the Society’s editorial board adroitly glossed over the 29th chapter of Isaiah. But why would they do that? Well, considering that the remainder of the chapter is a stern rebuke of those who come under siege it is obvious that the leadership of the Watchtower do not wish to be cast in that light.
It is not that individuals within the Governing Body and the Watchtower’s corporate men are necessarily bad men. I certainly do not judge them. But remember, God addresses himself to “Ariel” and judges nations and institutions.
While on the one hand individuals within the leadership may humbly acknowledge their own personal imperfections and shortcomings, when it comes to the image of the Watchtower Society itself there is a concerted effort to cast the organization, particularly the institution of the Governing Body, as being virtually infallible; even if it means resorting to a dishonest accounting of the history of the Society and twisting the interpretations of Bible prophecies, as well as clinging to known falsehoods so as to not lose credibility by admitting error – the intent is to present the Organization as something worthy of reverence.
That reality becomes quickly manifest if any of Jehovah’s Witnesses question the Watchtower in any way. Doing so is considered an act of disloyalty to God akin to blaspheming Jehovah himself!
Indeed, it appears as though the Devil has slyly seduced Jehovah’s Witnesses into a form of false worship – call it organizational idolatry, Bethel’s golden calf. And as an idol the organization can do no wrong in the eyes of its admirers. In this way the man of lawlessness has brazenly sat down within the spiritual temple of God, elevating himself above other objects of reverence, such as exist in Christendom, “publicly showing himself to be a god” – as the apostle Paul prophesied.
This is why God is determined to silence that which has served as a spokesman for him. That is the meaning of the prophecy found in the 29th chapter of Isaiah. God is foretelling that his earthly channel will become muted, as if speaking a mere whisper from the dust, from the grave itself.
Other prophecies confirm this judgment. For example, Hosea 4:4-6 states: “And I will put your mother to silence. My people will certainly be silenced, because there is no knowledge.” Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be God’s people, do they not? And do not Jehovah’s Witnesses also adoringly refer to the organization as their mother?
“LINGER, YOU MEN, AND BE AMAZED”
Returning to the prophecy of Isaiah, God addresses himself to the leaders of his people, again as in the previous chapter 28 of Isaiah, highlighting their spiritually blind and inebriated condition, saying to them: “Linger, you men, and be amazed; blind yourselves, and be blinded. They have become intoxicated, but not with wine; they have moved unsteadily, but not because of intoxicating liquor. For upon you men Jehovah has poured a spirit of deep sleep; and he closes your eyes, the prophets, and he has covered even your heads, the visionaries. And for you men the vision of everything becomes like the words of the book that has been sealed up, which they give to someone knowing the writing, saying: ‘Read this out loud, please,’ and he has to say: ‘I am unable, for it is sealed up’; and the book must be given to someone that does not know writing, somebody saying: ‘Read this out loud, please,’ and he has to say: ‘I do not know writing at all.’”
The Watchtower Society claims to be the “prophet class” (so-called). Because it touts itself as the only agency capable of correctly interpreting the Bible’s many prophetic visions, such as Revelation, its leading men may be called “visionaries.” That being the case, the judgment expressed in Isaiah surely applies to them. God has “covered their heads” – effectively blinding them to the meaning of the prophecies. Whereas, as evidenced by the aforementioned cogent answer to a question from a reader of the Watchtower 50 years ago, “they have become intoxicated,” as the prophecy foretold, and are no longer capable of sober spiritual comprehension. More acutely, Jehovah’s judgment calls upon them to “blind yourselves,” which they have effectively done through their own sophistry.
To be sure, the Watchtower’s many contradictory commentaries on prophecy, which have been painstakingly laid bare on this site over the years, stand as an indelible testimony to the fact that Jehovah has closed their eyes and sealed up the visions to them. It is impossible for any mere mortal to cast light into their impenetrable denseness.
Jehovah’s Witnesses view the Watchtower Society as the embodiment of the “faithful and discreet slave.” In fact, at the Society’s 2012 Annual Meeting the Governing Body declared itself to be “the slave.” That being the case, the following words must apply specifically to them; namely, that their ‘wisdom must perish and the very understanding of their