Streams in the Negev (Negeb; South)

Nelson Glueck (pronounced Glick), wrote Rivers in the Desert, a History of the Negev, in 1959. This book is still fascinating to read. You may find a few words in the following quotation that are rarely heard in our daily conversations. A wadi is a dry river (Nahal) or creek bed that is filled with water during the rain seasons in Israel.

Read Glueck’s description of the…

Terraces built across wadi beds to brake and exact tribute from the occasional winter and spring freshets, cisterns and reservoirs dug and plastered watertight to be filled from their meed [a now-archaic word meaning deserved share or reward] against the certainty of many a rainless day, and all the other devices perfected or invented by the Nabataeans and utilized and even expanded in instances by their immediate successors, could never accomplish for the countryside at large the miracles of rebirth that: a single rainfall over a wide area was able to perform. The grass and flowers fairly spring up after the first shower or storm, and the grim desert becomes a colorful garden overnight. It is as if a magic wand had been passed over the face of the earth. Flocks of birds suddenly make their appearance then, to sing and to swoop about in happy flight, and bands of gazelles and ibexes graze and cavort through the lush green. Camels and goats and sheep and their young wax fat. They drink their fill at pools of water collected in hollows, making it unnecessary for months on end to find other supplies for them. Springs flow more strongly, wells rise to their highest levels and the underground water is replenished in the wadi beds, there to remain long after the flowers have faded and the grass has withered and gone. Sturdy shrubs remain green all summer long because their roots tap the subsurface moisture. This is particularly true where the wadis are wide and shallow and terraced, with the result that the rain waters tend to sink into the ground. Otherwise, if unhindered, they race down narrow gullies and dry stream beds, stripping off the covering soil and gouging out for themselves ever deeper canyons. (Nelson Glueck. Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev.  Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev. New York: Norton, 1968; 92-93.)

I can’t begin to show you photos of every element mentioned by Glueck in this paragraph, but I will show you a couple of photos from the Wadi Zin in the Negev. First, here is a map from the from the wonderful collection on David P. Barrett’s Bible Mapper Blog.

Our first photo is a view of Wadi Zin a few miles south of Avdat in the Negev of Israel.

Wadi Zin in the Negev of Israel.

You will see evidence here of water having been at high levels. Various shrubs grow where the water remains the longest.

The next photo shows how the swift water cuts it way through the rocks.

The Wadi Zin.

Renewed excavations at Ebla, a pre-patriarchal site

A recent report here says that after years of devastation during the war in Syria the site of Ebla will once again be excavated.

My only visit to Ebla was in 2002 when my fellow-professor David McClister and I spent three weeks in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. This means I do not have hi-res photos, except for a few slides that I have had digitized, but I am delighted to have any photos. At the site I picked up a small booklet, Tell Mardikh — Ebla, written by Faja Haj Muhammad that gives a short presentation of the history and remains of the kingdom of ancient Ebla. I will share a couple of photos with some brief info from that book.

The first photo provides a view of the archaeological mound or tell.

Scanned slide made of the tell at Ebla in May, 2002.

The Royal Archives. In 1975 the excavators discovered a square room west of the Administrative Wing, on the wall, filled with 17,000 clay tablets. The large square tablets had been on shelves. The small round ones were found in baskets on the floor.

This photo was made May 11, 2002 as a slide. It has been digitized and now enhanced a little.

… the texts were placed according to their subject, and different subjects corresponded to different shapes of tablet.

… There are administrative, economical, historical, judicial, religious texts. The writing is cuneiform. The language is a local language, now called by scholars (Eblaite), which belongs to the same family as Akkadian of Mesopotamia.

The Western Palace and the Archive are dated to the first golden age of Ebla, 2400–2250 B.C. This is long before the time of Abraham who lived north of Ebla at Haran in Padan Aram for a time. Haran is about 150 miles north of Ebla.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  (Genesis 12:4 ESV)

Isaac took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram to be his wife (Genesis 25:20). Jacob spent more than two decades in the same area. Most of the children of Jacob (= Israel) were born in the region.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. (Genesis 35:9 ESV)

Shearing Sheep in Bible Times

An Illustration from the life of David

The wool from one sheep at shearing time. This photo was made in Syria near the ancient site of Kadesh where the famous battle between the Egyptians and the Hittites took place.

David is well known as a shepherd. An interesting episode from his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 25.

4 David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
5 So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name.
6 And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.
7 I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. (1 Sam. 25:4-7 ESV)

A common expression among the Jews was that goats were kept for milk, hens for eggs, and sheep for wool. The wool could be converted into clothing for the family. I have seen Bedouin milking sheep.

Shepherd family living in tents in northwest Syria. Note the woman milking the sheep from the rear.

The wool was converted to yarn, primarily by the women of the village, to be used in the making of clothing for the family.

This yarn has been dyed to be used for making clothing by the women at Nazareth Village.

The good shepherd

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2 ESV). Shepherds bring their sheep to green pastures at Azekah. Photo made March 10, 2022.

The Stadium at Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper, reported a few years ago here on plans to reconstruct the ancient stadium in Laodicea. Laodicea is known to Bible students from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

For I bear him [Epaphras] witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:13-16 ESV)

Laodicea is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, five miles from the modern Turkish town of Denizli, and near the popular resort of Pamukkale.

When I first began traveling to visit the sites of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation, all we could see at Laodicea was the form of the stadium and ruins of a nymphaeum (a fountain house). If we walked across the mound to the north we could see the location of two theaters. That was about it.

In recent years tourists have seen many new excavations and reconstructions on the north side of the tell, but few walked through the weeds to get to the stadium.

Originally the stadium was an enclosed structure used for gladiatorial games. An inscription tells that a wealthy family dedicated it to Emperor Vespasian (A.D. 69-79) and Emperor Titus (A.D. 79-81). It is said to be the biggest stadium in Anatolia.

Vespasian and Titus are known for their war with the Jews beginning in A.D. 66, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The stadium at Laodicea in May, 2008. The view is to the east with Mount Cadmus in sight. Colossae is located in that area.

In August of 2021 there is no green left in the area. The view here is to the southwest.

Through the years of leading tours to the Bible lands I have observed that some travelers see the land at a particular time of the year and conclude that the land looks like that all years. Big mistake.

The Stadium in New Testament Times

Aphrodisias, located in southwest Turkey, was an ancient city of Caria in Asia Minor. It is not mentioned in the Bible, but is close to the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. Robert F. Tannenbaum, an ancient historian, describes the location of the city this way:

A quiet, fertile valley folded into the Mediterranean hills, clear streams, tall poplars, ancient ruins more than 1,400 years old—a picture of pastoral quiet. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 1986)

BibleMapper_Aphrodisiash

The map above is cropped from the set of BibleMapper maps now available at
https://biblemapper.com/blog//. Aphrodisias is clearly marked.

The site has been excavated since 1966, beginning under the direction of Kenan Erim of New York University. Marble was readily available at a nearby quarry and the excavation has brought to light a multitude of marble inscriptions and statues from the Roman period including a statue of the Emperor Domitian. Buildings include a theater, an agora, a bath, temples, and a well-preserved stadium.

Louw-Nida describes a stadium as an “open, oval area (frequently including a racetrack) around which was built an enclosed series of tiers of seats for those who came to watch the spectacles – arena, stadium.” When Paul spoke of running the race in 1 Corinthians 9:24, he used the Greek term stadion. The term was also used as a measure of distance and is found in John 6:19. It was about one-eighth of a Roman mile. Most large Greek and Roman cities had a stadium. The figure of the stadium is in mind in Hebrews 12:1-2, where a host of witnesses watch as we run the race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

The stadium at Aphrodisias is the best preserved I have seen and I wanted to share with you the photo I made in 2012. Picture yourself in the stadium.

Aphrodisias

The Beauty of the Bible Land

Israel, and the other lands of the Bible, have a unique beauty at any time of the year. The transitional period we call Spring is especially beautiful in Israel. Our recent trip in March illustrates this. Most of the year the Judean wilderness is barren, but after the winter rains it is covered in light green vegetation. This photo shows the Wadi Og a few miles east of the Mount of Olives.

Wadi Og in the Wilderness of Judea.

At En-Gedi (or Engedi) we saw one of the Ibex roaming for a bite of grass here and there. King Saul learned that David was in the wilderness of En-Gedi and tried to capture him there (1 Samuel 24:1).

Wild goats (Hebrew ya’el) are mentioned in a few Old Testament passages (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18; Prov. 5:19). This animal is often identified with the Ibex.

At Engedi we also saw this beautiful scene of a broom tree on the shore of the Dead Sea. The Broom tree is a shrub that grows large enough to provide shade for the traveler as it did for Elijah when he fled from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:4-5).

A small, lonely broom tree on the shores of the Dead Sea at the time of a stormy sunset. The mountains of Moab, in Jordan, are visible across the sea. After water, shade is the most important thing for the traveler in the desert.

In the Spring of the year, after the winter rains, beautiful flowers of the field are to be seen throughout the land. Jesus made reference to these flowers: “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29 ESV)

While we may never be certain about a particular flower the Anemone certainly provides a wonderful illustration. The photo below was made on Mount Gilboa, but I made numerous photos of the flowers of the field throughout the land.

Anemones growing on Mount Gilboa.

Personal Study in Israel

Once again, Leon Mauldin and I made one of our personal study trips to Israel in March this year. It was cooler than we typically expect for the time of year. We saw some beautiful scenery and spent a considerable amount of time studying the weather. We had rain, snow and hail. It was much cooler that typical for the time of year.

When we make these personal trips we do not visit the sites that need to be on the itinerary of every first-time visitor. We try to visit places we have never been, or it has been a long time since a visit, or we know that there have been some changes at the site. Many of these sites are not accessible by tour buses.

One of the places Leon had not visited, and it had been about half a century since I was there, was Taanach (or Tanach). There are only seven references to the city in the Bible (Joshua 12:21; 17:11; 21:25; Judges 1:27; 5:19; 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Chronicles 7:29).

Deborah and Barak led the Israelites in victory in the vicinity of Taanach (Judges 5:19).

“The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver.” (Judges 5:19 ESV).

Taanach is on the south side of the Jezreel Valley and is about five miles southeast of Megiddo.

View of Tel Tanaach looking north in March, 2022. If you were standing on top of the tel you would have a wonderful view of the Jezreel Valley.

A major archaeological excavation took place here between 1902 and 1904 under the direction of E. Sellin. He was assisted by G. Schumacher. A second excavation was conducted by Paul Lapp in 1963 and 1966.

My previous visit was in May, 1973. At that time my photo was made from the opposite side of the tel with my back to the Jezreel Valley. At that time it was very easy to reach Tanaach, but today the suburbs of Jenin reach almost all the way there. Tel Tanaach is within the Palestinian territory and this makes it more difficult for many to visit the site. We hired a driver for the day but he had never been to any of the places we wanted to visit. That’s the way it is for personal study trips.

This slide was made in June, 1973. I have many slides that have been in a slide file chest and stored in an air conditioned room since they were made. I am sometimes impressed by the quality. The wheat had been cut shortly before my photo was made.

Many of the artifacts, including an impressive incense altar, dug by the first expedition are now in the Archeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. They are stored in the Palestine Room, a room that is rarely open to the public.

Some of the artifacts from Tanaach now displayed in the Palestine Room of the Archaeological Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.

Source for some details: Stern, Ephraim, editor. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 4, Israel Exploration Society & Carta, Jerusalem, 1993, pp. 1428-33, 5 vols.

Thank you

Paulette and I appreciate every comment and “like” that has been left on either https://ferrelljenkins.blog or Facebook. We had a lot of fun with our friends at church in the weeks leading up to the marriage. So many wanted to know when we were getting married, who would be present, where we would go for the honeymoon, etc. We kept everyone in suspense and pulled it off without anyone decorating our vehicle or crashing the wedding.

We stayed at home the first night, then spent a few days in the Sarasota, FL, area. No need to go far when one already lives in a tourist paradise. We enjoyed visiting the mall, eating at some famous restaurants like Yoder’s Amish Restaurant and the Columbia at Saint Armands Circle. At the latter we enjoyed the famous Cuban sandwich with Spanish Bean soup followed by an order of flan.

Topping off a great meal with the Columbia’s famous flan.

We had a little setback last week when we both tested positive for the Covid virus. We both have been fully vaccinated and I have survived trips to both Turkey and Israel without any problem. We have tried to trace our activities and determine where we might have picked up the Covid. We think it was either at church or at one of our favorite eating places but there is no way to be certain.

Even though I think of this as a lite case of the virus it is a jolt to the body. Along with isolation we have been taking Paxlovid medication. I have one more dose today and Paulette has one more day to go. We are seeing improvements each day.

Don’t throw away your masks too soon.

Beginning a New Journey

The closing days of June found me embarking on a new journey with Paulette Crider (nee Minton), a lady I first met in 1997 when she attended the church where I was preaching. At the time we both were married and there was no thought of a relationship developing. After the passing years these conditions changed for both of us and we found ourselves lonely for a Christian companion and seated not far from each other in the same church assembly.

After a short period of getting better acquainted we met with our children and told them what we had in mind. A few weeks later we met in their presence and in the presence of Don Truex, a longtime minister friend, his wife, and daughter, and took the vows to become husband and wife until death takes one of us.

Later the same day Don announced our wedding to the church with these words.

“It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.” I quoted those words from an English poet earlier today in the marriage ceremony for Ferrell Jenkins & Paulette Crider. We’re so happy for these two who have blessed so many lives, for so many years, and now begin their new life-adventure together.”

Here are a few photos that were made by our friend Heather.

Ferrell and Paulette Jenkins after the exchange of vows – June 27, 2022.
The wedding party of family members.
Vickie, Ferrell, Paulette, Don
Sorry friends. There was no cake left.