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The word ‘Zion,’ although a place name that dates back millennia, is often seen in today’s, whether as the name of a college basketball star or as a place in The Matrix trilogy, and it has many other usages as well. But its meaning is anchored in its usage in the Word of God, and to better understand the word, it is helpful to refer to a Bible Dictionary, such as the one published by Archibald Alexander in 1829.
At 546 pages long, Alexander’s A Pocket Dictionary of the Holy Bible may not be named appropriately according to our way of thinking, but it is a valuable tool for the student of Scripture.
Turning to p. 545, we read the following (in slightly modernized English):
ZION, or Sion; (1.) A top or part of Mount Hermon, or an arrangement of hills near to it, Psal. 133.3. (2.) Cellarius, Lightfoot, and others, think the other famed Mount Zion was to the north of the ancient Jebus; Reland has offered a variety of arguments to prove that it was on the south of it. We think the south part of Jerusalem stood on Mount Zion, and that the king’s palace stood on the north side of it, and the temple on Mount Moriah, to the north-east of it, 2 Sam. 5.1 1 Kings 8.1. Psal. 68.2; but as Mount Moriah was but at the end of it, it was sometimes called Zion; and even the temple and its courts are so called, Psal. 65.1 84.7; and the worshippers at the temple, if not the whole inhabitants of Jerusalem, are called Zion, Psalm 97.8. In allusion hereto, the church, whether Jewish or Christian, or heaven, is called Zion: how graciously was she chosen of God for his residence! how firm is her foundation, and how delightful her prospect! how solemn and sweet the fellowship with and worship of God therein! Psal. 102.13. Isa. 2.3. Heb. 12.22. Rev. 14.1. Isa. 51.11.
Whether reading those portions of the New Testament that speak of Zion, or whether we are singing the “Songs of Zion” — that is, the Psalms — it is helpful to comprehend the source of the word ‘Zion’ as well as its usage in Scripture. And, as Alexander reminds us, how sweet that word is to we who inhabit the place where God dwells with his people today, meaning, the church.
While we are taking note of what this gifted theologian and scholar has to say about Zion, let us also remember that he was born on April 17, 1772 - 247 years ago. Happy birthday to Archibald Alexander!