Hebrews – Chapter Twelve XXXVIII

by Ed Urzi

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22).

Hebrews 12:22 introduces us to a theme that will serve as a subject of discussion over the next few verses. That subject involves a comparison between the Old Covenant (represented by Mount Sinai) and the New Covenant (represented by Mount Zion). To begin our look at this important topic, we can start with a definition of “Mount Zion” in a Biblical context…

“ZION [ZIE un] — the city of David and the city of God. The designation of Zion underwent a distinct progression in its usage throughout the Bible.

The first mention of Zion in the Bible is in 2Sa_5:7: ‘David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David).’ Zion, therefore, was the name of the ancient Jebusite fortress situated on the southeast hill of Jerusalem at the junction of the Kidron Valley and the Tyropoeon Valley. The name came to stand not only for the fortress but also for the hill on which the fortress stood. After David captured ‘the stronghold of Zion’ by defeating the Jebusites, he called Zion ‘the City of David’ (1Ki_8:1; 1Ch_11:5; 2Ch_5:2).

When Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah (a hill distinct and separate from Mount Zion), and moved the ark of the covenant there, the word ‘Zion’ expanded in meaning to include also the Temple and the Temple area (Psa_2:6; Psa_48:2, Psa_48:11-12; Psa_132:13). It was only a short step until Zion was used as a name for the city of Jerusalem, the land of Judah, and the people of Israel as a whole (Isa_40:9; Jer_31:12). The prophet Zechariah spoke of the sons of Zion (Zec_9:13). By this time the word ‘Zion’ had come to mean the entire nation of Israel.

The most important use of the word ‘Zion’ is in a religious or theological sense. Zion is used figuratively of Israel as the people of God (Isa_60:14). The spiritual meaning of Zion is continued in the New Testament, where it is given the Christian meaning of God’s spiritual kingdom, the church of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb_12:22; Rev_14:1; Sion, KJV).” (1)

Here in Hebrews 12:22, our author makes a comparison between Mount Zion and Mount Sinai to highlight the spiritual differences between them. While Mount Sinai featured “…blackness and darkness and tempest” (Hebrews 12:18), we’ll soon find that our survey of Mount Zion reveals something very different.

(1) “Zion” Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, General Editor Ronald F. Youngblood