I keep encountering quotes from the Bible about Zion, but I can’t work it out. Is Zion a specific mountain? So who is the “daughter of Zion”?


The Hebrew name Tzion (ציון), or “Zion” as it is commonly translated, appears at least 157 times in the Bible. These verses refer alternately to a “Mount Zion,”1 “the daughter of Zion,”2 “virgin daughter of Zion,”3 and many of them are just plain “Zion.”

Besides being popular in scriptural reference, Zion is described as being quite adored by the Almighty, such as in Psalms 78:68, “He chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which He loved,” and again in Psalms 87:2, “The L‑rd loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Where or What Is Zion?

The first few times that Zion is mentioned, the verse actually gives another piece of identification of the fortress of Zion: “It is the city of David” (II Samuel 5:7, I Kings 8:1), which is the area in Jerusalem where King David established his kingdom.

In other places, such as in the verse, “Mount Zion on which You dwelt,”4 the reference is to the presence of G‑d in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.5 The same is true of the verse in Isaiah 2:3: “For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the L‑rd from Jerusalem.” The idea of Torah coming from Zion is a reference to the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court, which held court in the Temple. Generally, however, Zion refers to the city of Jerusalem,6 (and is used in conjunction with Jerusalem), and the entire Land of Israel,7 and metonymically, to the Jewish people. Thus, G‑d tells the prophet Isaiah, “And I placed My words into your mouth . . . to say to Zion that you are My people.”8

The same is true of the expression “daughter of Zion,” which is a title of endearment that G‑d uses about Jerusalem and the Jewish people, the inhabitants of the land of Zion. Similarly, in Lamentations 4:2, the Jewish people are referred to as “the sons of Zion.”9

Inner Meaning

The Hebrew word for Zion, Tzion (ציון), can be translated as “indication” or “marking.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, explains that the Jewish people are called Tzion by virtue of their study of Jewish texts and fulfillment of G‑d’s commandments. This causes them to be distinguished, or marked, for their uniqueness. As it states in Jewish law, “When a physical object has a sign, a marking, should it be lost, the sign enables it to be returned to its owners.”

So too, the Jewish nation has its marking; thus they are not lost among the rest of the world, and always return to their Owner.10

See Why Do Jews Love Jerusalem? from our selection on Jerusalem.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson
Ask the Rabbi @ The Judaism