Zi'on (Heb. Tsiyon', צַיּוֹן, sunny [Gesen.] or fort [Fürst]; Sept. [usually] and New. Test. Σιών, Vulg. Sion; A. V. "Sion" in New. Test.), a prominent hill (הִי) of Jerusalem, being generally regarded as the south-westernmost and the highest of those on which the city was built. It included the most ancient part of the city with the citadel, and, as first occupied for a palace, was called the city of David (2Ch 5:2). Being the original site of the tabernacle pitched by David for the reception of the ark, it was also called the holy hill, or hill of the sanctuary (Ps 2:6). By the Hebrew prophets the name is often put for Jerusalem itself (Isa 8:18; Isa 10:24; Isa 30:19; Isa 33:14; Ps 48:2,11-12; comp. Ro 9:33; Ro 11:26; 1 Peter 2, 6; Re 14:1); also for its inhabitants, sometimes called sons or daughters of Zion (Isa 1:27; Isa 12:6; Isa 40; Isa 9; Isa 49; Isa 14; Isa 52; Isa 1; Ps 9:14; Ps 97:8; Zec 2:7,10; Zec 9:9,13; Zep 3:14,16; Joel 2, 23; Mt 21:5; Joh 12:15); and for the spiritual Sion, the church or city of the living. God (Heb 12:22,28; Ga 4:26; Re 3:12; Re 21:2,10).
There never has been any considerable doubt as to the identity of this hill. Josephus, indeed, singularly enough appears to ignore the name Zion; but he evidently calls the same hill the site of the Upper City. In modern times Fergusson has attempted to identify it with Mount Moriah (Jerusalem Revisited; the Temple, etc.), and Capt. Warren, with equal futility, has contended for its identity with Akra (The Temple or the Tomb [Lond. 1880]). The mistake of the latter has originated from not observing that Josephus uses ἄκρα, the summit in two senses: (a) the citadel on Mount Zion (Ant. 7:3,1, where it is clearly distinguished from "the lower city"), and (b) the hill Akria (ibid. 2, where it, is clearly distinguished from "the upper city"). SEE ACRA.
Of the several hills on which Jerusalem was built, Zion is the largest and, in many respects, the most interesting. It extends considerably farther south than the opposite ridge of Moriah and Ophel. The western and southern sides -rise abruptly' from the beds of the valley of Hinnom, and appear to have originally consisted of a series of rocky precipices rising one above another like stairs; — but now they are partially and in some places deeply covered with loose soil and the debris of buildings. The southern brow of Zion is bold and prominent; and its position, separated from other heights and surrounded by deep valleys, makes it seem loftier than any other point in-the city, though it is in reality lower than the ground at the north-west corner of the wall.. The elevation of the hill above the valley of Hinnom at the point where it bends eastward is 300 feet, and above the Kidron, at en- Rogel, 500 feet. On the south-east, Zion slopes down in a series of cultivated terraces steeply, though not abruptly, to the site of the "King's Gardens," where Hinnom, the Tyropoeoai, and the Kidron unite. Here and round to the south the declivities; are sprinkled with olive-trees, which grow luxuriantly among narrow strips of corn. The scene cannot but recall the words of Micah, "Zion shall be ploughed like a field" (Jer 26:18). On the east, the descent to the Tyropceon is at first gradual, but as we proceed northward to the modern wall it becomes steeper; and about 300 yards within the wall, directly facing the-south-west angle of the Haram, there is a precipice of rock from twenty to thirty feet high. The declivity is here encumbered with heaps of filth and rubbish, overgrown in places with prickly-pear. The Tyropoeon was anciently much deeper at this point than it is now; it has been filled up by the ruins of the bridge, the Temple walls, and the palaces of Zion to a depth of more than 130 feet. The best view of the eastern slopes of Zion and the southern section of the Tyropoeon is obtained from the top of the wall in descending from Zion Gate to the Dung Gate. From the descriptions and incidental notices of Josephus the following facts may be gathered that the "Upper City," built on Zion, was' surrounded by ravines; that it was separated from the "Lower City" (Aklca) by a valley called the Tyropoeon; that upon a crest of rock thirty cubits high on the northern brow of Zion stood three great towers — Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne; that the wall enclosing the Upper City on the north ran by these towers to a place called the Xystus and joined the western wall of the Temple area; that there was a gate in that western wall northward of this point of junction opening into Akra; that the Xystus was near to amid commanded by the western wall of the Temple area, though not united to it, and that the royal palace adjoined and overlooked the Xystus on the west, while it was also attached to-the great towers above mentioned; and, lastly, that both the Xystus and palace were connected at their southern end by a bridge with the Temple area (see Josephus, War, 5, 4; 6:6,2; 2, 16, 3;. Ant. 5, 1, 5). On the summit of Zion there is a level tract extending in length from the citadel to the Tomb of David, about 600 yards; and in breadth from the city wall to the eastern side of the Armenian convent about 250 yards. A much larger. space, however, was available for building purposes and was at one time occupied. Now not more than one half of this space is enclosed by the modern wall, while fully one third of that enclosed is taken up with the barrack-yards, the convent gardens and the waste ground at the city gate. All without the wall, with the exception of the cemeteries and the cluster of houses round the Tomb of David, is now cultivated in terraces and' thinly sprinkled with olive trees.
Zion was the first spot in Jerusalem occupied by buildings. Upon it stood the stronghold of the Jebusites, which so long defied the Israelites, and was at last captured by king David (Nu 13:29; Jos 15:63; Jude 1:21,2am 2av.). Upon it that monarch built his palace, and there for more than a thousand years the kings and princes of Israel lived and ruled (ver. 9 etc.). In Zion, too, was David buried, and fourteen of his successors on the throne were laid near him in the royal tomb (1Ki 2:10; 1Ki 11:43; 1Ki 14:8,31, etc.). Zion was the last spot that held out when the Romans under Titus captured the city. When the rest of Jerusalem was in ruins, when the enemy occupied the courts of the Temple, the remnant of the Jews from the walls of Zion. Haughtily refused the terms of the conqueror, and perished in thousands around and within the palaces of their princes.
The city which stood on Zion was called successively by several names. It was probably the Slem of Melchizedek (comp. Ge 14:18 Ninth Ps 76:2); then it became Jebus under the Jebusites, so called from a son of Canaan (Ge 10:16; 1Ch 11:4-5); then the "city of David" and Jerusalem (2Sa 5:7). Josephus, as above stated, calls it the "Upper City," adding that it was known also in his day as the "Upper Market." SEE JERUSALEM.