Paul spent a night at Antipatris

The New Testament    site of Antipatris was known as Aphek in Old Testament times. It is the place where the Philistines were encamped when they took the ark of the covenant from the Israelites who had camped at nearby Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1).

Antipatris was built by Herod the Great and named in honor of his father Antipater.

Because Aphek/Antipatris sat on a major south-north and west-east routes, it was dominated by many nations. The dominant feature of the site today is the Turkish fort. Inside are the excavated ruins of buildings from Canaanite to Herodian/Roman times.

The 16th century Turkish fortress at Antipatris.
The 16th century Turkish fortress at Aphek-Antipatris, now an Israeli National Park.

Aphek/Antipatris is known by the modern name Ras el-Ain because it is located at the source of the Yarkon River which flows a few miles into the Mediterranean.

Ras al ein, the source of the Yarkon River at Aphek-Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Ras al ein, the source of the Yarkon River at Aphek-Antipatris.

When a plot was raised against Paul while he was in the Fortress of Antonia in Jerusalem, he was sent by night to Antipatris. The next day he was escorted to Caesarea Maritima. Luke records the event,

So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.  And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him.  When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. (Acts 23:31-33 ESV)

A small portion of the Roman cardo, the main East-West road has been uncovered.

From Jerusalem to Antipatris is about 30 miles. From there to Caesarea Maritima is an additional 27 miles.

Paul would remain in custody at Caesarea Maritima for two years. We probably realize that the wheels of power often turn slowly.

The map below is used courtesy of BibleMapper blog.

Map courtesy of BibleMapper.

Courtesy of BibleMapper blog.

“Every man under his vine and fig tree”

The expression used as our title may seen strange to modern man, but it was clearly understood in biblical times. Notice two biblical verses:

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4:4 ESV)

In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree. (Zechariah 3:10 ESV)

Commenting on Zechariah 3:10, Hailey says,

Under one’s vine and fig tree was a symbol of peace enjoyed in the midst of safety and security (1 Kings 4;24-25; Isaiah 36:16), promised by Jehovah through Micah in the kingdom of the Messiah (4:4).” (Hailey, Homer. A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Baker, 1972, p. 337).

The biblical record explains that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was the dominant power in the region.For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates. And he had peace on all sides around him. And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.  (1 Kings 4:24-25 ESV)

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, urged the people of Judea,

Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. (Isaiah 36:16-17 ESV)

We still see examples of people living under their own vine and fig trees in the Bible Lands today.

A small cottage at Seleucia (Acts 13:4) with a vine growing over it. The vine provides summer shade and fresh fruit for the owner. From here Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark sailed to Cyprus.
Near the cottage and vine there is a fig tree. You will see the promise of ripe figs in due time.

We might compare this to the modern expression, “We have a good job and have been able to buy a house and have enough to pay for the groceries.”

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Like Almond Blossoms

There is emphasis in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament that the biblical tabernacle and its furniture were made according to the pattern given by God (Exodus 25:9;

“And on the lampstand itself were four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes [bulbs, knops, cups] and flowers,” (Exodus 37:20; Hebrews 8:5 ESV).

Earlier this year I made some pictures of almond trees in bloom at a site overlooking the Lebonah valley, on the north side of Shiloh. It is, in my judgment, a thing of beauty.

An almond blossom at a site overlooking the Lebonah Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
An almond blossom at a site overlooking the Lebonah Valley north of Shiloh.

The Importance of the Cornerstone

Many of us think of the cornerstone of a building as a marble or bronze plaque somewhere near the outside corner of a building. It will contain the name of the organization using the building and perhaps a note about the donor, engineer, etc. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery describes the cornerstone this way:
The cornerstone is the principal stone around which construction in antiquity was achieved. In the lexicon of biblical images of architecture, no image is more evocative than the cornerstone, the focal point of a building, the thing on which it most depends for structural integrity. Thus early in the catalog of God’s acts of creation in Job 38:6, the divine voice from the whirlwind asks regarding the world, “Who laid its cornerstone?” (Ryken, Leland et al. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. 2000: 166. Print).
There are repeated references to Jesus as the cornerstone rejected by the builders. Paul explains that Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the church which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). This concept is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (1 Peter 2:6; Psalm 118.22; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11, et al. The Louw-Nida Lexicon says the Greek word used in these texts refers to “The cornerstone or capstone of a building, essential to its construction – ‘cornerstone, important stone.” I notice that several sources use the term capstone. I have seen these capstones at the top center of an arch used in the construction of an entry arch to a large building. Without the capstone the arch would soon fall.

One of the largest cornerstones of the Temple Mount enclosure wall. This is the area of Robinson’s Arch.

Wiemers describes the large cornerstone pictured above:
A very large corner stone with margin and boss, located on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. This southwest corner has some of the largest ashlar stones of the entire Temple Mount complex, measuring 39 feet 4 inches long by 7 feet 10 inches wide and 43 inches high. The large stone shown here is called the master course stone and weighs about 80 tons. All these stones form a strong corner as they alternate back and forth as headers and stretchers all the way up. The larger stones helped stabilize the smaller stones stacked below. (Wiemers, Galyn. Jerusalem History, Archaeology and Apologetic Proof of Scripture. Waukee, Iowa, Last Hope Books and Publications, 2010, p. 105.)
We noted earlier that several sources suggest the Greek word for cornerstone could also describe a capstone. I have seen several of these capstones used in arches. The next photo shows an example from Patara (Acts 21:1; now in Turkey). It is a triple-arched gate. For more information see Wilson, Biblical Turkey. The capstone may be seen above each of the arches, but is especially noticeable above the center arch. These capstones are not just for beauty; they are essential to hold the arch together.

The gate was built “around AD 100 during the reign of Trajan” (Wilson, Biblical Turkey).

The Appian Way

During his preaching journeys, the apostle Paul used several of the famous Roman roads. On the way to Rome as a prisoner he traveled the Appian Way (Latin Via Appia).

The Appian Way on the south side of Rome.

There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. (Acts 28:14-16 ESV)

Aswan and the First Cataract of the Nile

he new high dam at Aswan was constructed at a time when the Soviet Union was providing technical, economic and military support to Egypt. I remember staying in a hotel in Egypt in 1973 filled with Soviet tourists. In the following years we saw none of them. Lake Nasser stretches south for more than 300 miles. Many of the Nubians who lived in this area had to be resettled by the Egyptian government.

Aswan is the location of the first cataract of the Nile River. This made it an ideal location for the Aswan Dam which was built between 1898 and 1902. This created a small lake south of the dam, but it was nothing to compare with Lake Nasser which has been formed as a result of the building of the new high dam at Aswan between 1960 and 1971.

Some scholars identify the Arabic name Aswan with the Syene of Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6. It may be identified with the Sinim of Isaiah 49:12.

Corinth and Neighboring Cities

After Jerusalem, Corinth is one of the best-known cities mentioned in the New Testament. The apostle Paul visited Corinth on his second preaching tour (Acts 18). At the “judgment seat” (Greek, bema) in the agora Paul stood before the proconsul Gallio. Based on the inscription now exhibited in the museum at Delphi we think that Paul entered Corinth in the fall of A.D. 51, and left in the spring of A.D. 53.

The map is cropped from a larger map of the area around Corinth on the Bible Mapper Blog here.

Since my last visit to Corinth some reconstruction has been made on the Bema and our photo below is published courtesy of Charles Savelle of BibleX.

The Bema at Corinth with the Acrocorinth in the background.
The Bema where Paul stood before proconsul Gallio. The Acrocorinth looms over the city. Photo courtesy of Charles Savelle.

Corinth is located about two miles south of the narrow isthmus which forms the land bridge, and controlled access, between the main land mass of Greece and the Peloponnese. The isthmus is less than five miles wide. Small ships were dragged across the isthmus on the paved road now called the diolkos; larger ships unloaded their cargo which was carried across and reloaded. This avoided the long 200-mile journey around the Peloponnese. Nero abandoned his attempts to dig a canal across the isthmus (A. D. 67). Some scholars think the road only allowed the “occasional movement of military ships, conveyance of building materials from the southern to northern Corinthia, small-scale portaging of luxury goods, and [served as] the principal road from the Corinthian Gulf to the pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia” (Pettegrew, CorinthianMatters.com blog). The canal one sees today was constructed in 1881–1893.

Corinth “was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth about two miles from the Gulf. It lay at the foot of Acrocorinth, an acropolis which rises precipitously to 1,886 ft.…” and was easily defended in ancient times (Rupprecht 960).

Corinth had two good ports. Lechaion, to the west, on the Gulf of Corinth (an arm of the Ionian Sea), and Cenchrea, to the east, on the Saronic Gulf (an arm of the Aegean Sea).

The harbor of Cenchrea, home of Phoebe. From here Paul set sail for Judea.
The harbor of Cenchrea where Paul had his hair cut before departing for Jerusalem. Cenchrea was the home of Phoebe (Romans 16:1).

Another important community near Corinth was Isthmia. The biennial Isthmian games, second in importance to the Olympic games, were held there in honor of Poseidon at the isthmus of Corinth. Some scholars think Paul may have been present for one of these events while he was at Corinth. He frequently used athletic illustrations in his letters. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 as an example.

The location of the ancient Isthmian games of Greece.
Ruins of the ancient site of Isthmia. The Corinth canal is to the right of this image. View is to the North West.

Over the years since the beginning of this blog I have posted several articles about Corinth. I suggest you put the name Corinth in the Search Box for a list of these posts. I think of this blog as a mini-dictionary of Bible lands and customs. I hope you will find it useful in your study of the Bible. Share it with you friends and suggest that they join our mailing list.

The Valley of Lebonah –  Preserving a Tribe

Our photo today shows an important site in the history of the tribe of Benjamin. The Valley of Lebonah is where the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin caught the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21:16-25).

A view of the valley of Lebonah (left) and the natural hill on which Tel Shiloh can be seen on the top right.

The biblical text provides detailed information about the location of this event.

So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” (Judges 21:19 ESV).

Our photo today was made from the hill on the west side of the valley of Lebonah. In the distance you will see Tel Shiloh on top of the natural hill.

The apostle Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5).

The tabernacle stood at Shiloh for 300 years. Archaeological excavations are now being conducted by the Associates for Biblical Research under the direction of Dr. Scott Stripling. For more details on the next season of excavation see here.

Hierapolis – the Sacred Pool

Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament. The apostle Paul mentions Epaphras as a brother who has worked hard for the saints of the Lycus River valley.

For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (Col. 4:13 ESV)

Hierapolis is noted for its warm springs which attract visitors due to their beauty and healing benefits.

The places where one may walk on the limestone cascades, or wade, or swim in the warm water is limited. But there is one public pool. Most of the time it is crowded with tourists, but I caught a time when very few were in it.

Fant and Reddish explain the significance of the pool.

The pool has attracted visitors throughout its history. During the Roman period, columned porticoes surrounded the pool. As a result of earthquake damage, several of the columns and other architectural pieces tumbled into the pool, where they can still be seen today. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p. 212).

One of the springs at Hierapolis now flows over the ruins of an ancient temple.

Visitors generally disregard the signs which ask them to stay off the newly formed hillsides.

In modern times the warm water is channeled to turn the hillsides into cotton castles. The town is now known as Pamukkale, a word meaning cotton castle or cotton fortress.

Looking south you may be able to see some of the ruins of Laodicea about six miles away. Colossae is located about ten miles southeast (to the left of this image).

The Desert in Egypt

The Sahara, an Arabic word for desert stretches all the way across northern Africa. I have been able to visit deep into Morocco and in most parts of Egypt. The desert is impressive, but it is not a place one would wish to get lost.

Camels are suited to desert travel because they can drink large amounts of water and travel long distances between watering holes of one sort or another.

Along the Nile River one may see a few areas of greenery but much of the area is desert. Portions of it are covered by sand.

The story of Gideon and his 300 men includes information about the Midianites and Amalekites who had entered the promised land from the East.

And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (Judges 7:12 ESV).

My first photo for today was made along the Nile River at the point of the first cataract near Aswan.

This photo was made along the Nile River at the first cataract of the Nile near Aswan.
Part of a camel caravan in the eastern Sinai peninsula.
A shy young camel takes a peak at the bigger world under the protection of Mom. In this area the desert is more rocky than sandy.

I rode a camel on very few occasions during my fifty-plus years of traveling in the Middle East. Having been brought up in the rural south in the 40s and 50s of the last century I heard and read the expression “I would walk a mile for a camel” I developed my own saying: “I would walk a mile to avoid a camel.”