In the Bible, Zion represents
various things, though first and foremost it is the name
of the holy hill of Jerusalem, one of
the hills on which the city was founded (hence Psalm 87:1,
His foundation is in the holy mountains).
Mount Zion became sacred when King David
brought the Ark of the Covenant to rest there. However the name
'Zion' was also used in a wider sense to refer to the
Temple, to Jerusalem, or even to the whole of Israel.
Zion was the pride and heritage of Israel, and the holy
dwelling place of God (Psalm 9:11). It is not difficult to imagine
therefore the great emotional significance Zion must have
held for the Jews who were exiled in Babylon
after the fall of Jerusalem (consider
Psalm 137:1, By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion).
Likewise, for African people exiled in America and the
Caribbean due to the slave trade, Africa obviously held a very similar
significance. And out of such heartfelt longing for
repatriation was born the modern movement of Rastafari,
in which Zion is therefore appropriately equated with
Africa (particularly Ethiopia - click here for biblical references
to Ethiopia). Africa is also seen in terms of
the Promised Land (Exodus
3:17), which for
the first Jamaican Rastafarians was reachable only by
crossing the Jordan River (Atlantic Ocean).
Today, as Rasta becomes increasingly widespread around
the globe, many of its followers are not of recent
African descent, but Africa still retains the identity of
Zion for all Rastafarians, since it is considered the cradle
of humankind and the true Garden of Eden
In Rastafari, Zion often even comes to represent the heavenly
kingdom itself, as it sometimes does in the New
Testament, for example, in Hebrews 12:22, But
ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable
company of angels. Therefore Zion is to be
seen primarily in a spiritual sense, as the celestial
Jerusalem of the book of Revelation (Rev. 21:2, And
I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from
God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her
husband). It is the kingdom of JAH, who is
everywhere, and so the geographical location of Zion
ceases to be relevant.
Songs to check out include 'Message From The King' by Prince Far I, 'Zion Hut' by IJahman, 'Rastaman Chant' (traditional, arranged by the
Wailers), and 'Exodus' by Bob Marley.
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