Walls of Jerusalem

The First Wall

This post is about the walls of Jerusalem, in particular the first wall. So after the Babylonian Captivity and the Persian conquest of Babylonia, Cyrus II of Persia allowed the Jews to return to the province of Judea and rebuild their Temple. It took to compete the walls till 516 BCE or 430 BCE. Then, the Persian King allowed Ezra and Nehemia to return and rebuild the city’s walls and govern Judea which was under under Persian rule.

Some More About Walls of Jerusalem

During the Second Temple Period, Jerusalem’s walls were extended and rehabilitated, developing what Josephus calls the First Wall. Herod the Great Added what Josephus called the Second Wall somewhere in the area between today’s Jaffa Gate and Temple Mt. Agrippa I (r. 41-44 CE). Later began the construction of another wall. Scholarly research calls it ‘the Third Wall,’ completed just at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War. Some remains of this wall are located today near the Mandelbaum Gate gas station.

Walls of Jerusalem: Jerusalem is Expanding to the Western Hill

During the Hasmonean Period, the settlement in Jerusalem grew; and expanded onto the western hill. The wall built by Hezekiah to fortify the western hill; which had lain in ruins since 586 BCE., was now repaired and rebuilt. Portions of this wall survive. Including inside the courtyard of the Citadel, a medieval and Ottoman Period fortified enclosure at the northwest corner of the western hill.

Archaeology of Biblical Jerusalem 

Archaeologists identify the Hasmonean wall with the First Wall described by Josephus. The stones in the wall are laid in alternating courses of headers and stretchers. Furthermore, they have drafted margins with rough, protruding bosses. This means that the four edges (margins) are cut back and smooth, whereas the central part (the boss) is unworked. These techniques are characteristic of monumental construction in the late Hellenistic period. For example, seen on the north side of the seam at the southeast corner of the Temple Mount.

In This Photo: The Model of Second Temple Jerusalem Showing the Walls of the City, On Display at the Israel Museum

When touring the City of David, you can see the eastern section of the First Wall and its two towers in Area G. In fact, the two towers were discovered by Macalister and Duncan during their archaeological excavations of this site in 1923. Erroneously they named this site the “Jebusite Bastion.” From the archaeological excavation carried out here by Kanyon and Shiloh. But it is now apparent that they are the remains of Hasmonean fortifications. Even Though, Hasmonean-style cut stones such as those from the northern or western section of this wall have not been found.

In This Photo: A Map of Jerusalem of the Late Second Temple Period, Illustrating the Walls of the City.

Walls of Jerusalem: Mentionings In the Book of Maccabees

The Book of Maccabees makes reference that restoration work was carried out on the walls of Jerusalem on a number of occasions by the Hasmonean rulers. In addition, we find the style of the building is not always identical. This leads researchers to the conclusion that certain sections were built at different times. Another chance to see the first wall is just outside Jaffa Gate. There, you can clearly see it’s a different style of construction than the one at the City of David. But without a doubt, it is dated to the same time.

Jerusalem Jewish Heritage Tour
In This Photo: The Western Wall

Moreover, It is one of the rare opportunities to see the first wall without getting lost in the Old City. Do you want to see more sections of the Walls of Jerusalem? So join one of my private tours! Then I like to show my guests all three of the different wall systems. In fact, there is one at the Cardo that is my favorite spot to show it. It is where two ancient walls meet each other.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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