Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Home of Elisha

Abel Meholah (or Abel-meholah), NAS, ESV is a tell in the Jordan Valley, about 10 miles south of Beth-shean. It is mentioned only three times in the Bible. The Midianites, who were fleeing from Gideon’s army of 300, fled as far as the border of Abel Meholah (Judges 7:22).

Solomon (reigned 970-931 B.C.) set up administrative officers over Israel. Baana, the son of Ahilud, was over the fifth district that included Abel Meholah.

Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean that is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam (1 Kings 4:12, ESV).

Many of us likely would find Abel Meholah of interest as the home of Elisha the prophet. When Elijah met the LORD at Horeb, the mountain of God, he was told to do three things: (1) Anoint Hazael king over Aram [Syria]; (2) Anoint Jehu king over Israel; (3) Anoint Elisha from Abel Meholah to take his place as prophet. This took place around the middle of the 9th century B.C. See 1 Kings 19:11-16.

Elijah and Elisha were two of the more important oral prophets of Israel. Elijah was among the settlers of Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan (1 Kings 17:1).

The identification of Abel Meholah is uncertain. Two sites east of the Jordan River have been suggested. The biblical statements seem to favor a site on the west side of the Jordan. Four sites have been suggested. Check the Anchor Bible Dictionary for details and a bibliography. Our photo is of Tell Abu Sus. Future excavations may help settle this question. This is a beautiful example of a tell. Who knows what might be buried within it?

Abel Meholah in the Jordan Valley. Possible home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The popularity of inspirational religious tours

USA Today has an article about “Inspirational religious tours” about the variety of tours available to people who wish to follow the steps of this or that religious person. Here are some comments about Israel and Jordan that you might find interesting.

Kevin Wright says the volatile political situation in the Middle East can present challenges for religious-themed tour operations. “The perception of violence is always the number one challenge for tour operators and travel providers selling trips to the Holy Land,” he explains. “However, any violence that takes place in the Middle East is typically far removed from the traditional tourist sites. Hence, the biggest challenge for travel companies selling the Holy Land is overcoming the misperceptions of violence in tourist areas.”

Lately, that perception hasn’t slowed visitation to Israel and Jordan—both countries had record numbers of visitors last year. Israel hosted more than half a million Americans in 2007, an all-time high, (according to the country’s tourism commissioner), and Jordan’s Tourism Board said the country’s tourism revenues increased by more than 13% in 2007.

Is they have for millennia, the world’s holy sites continue to exert a powerful draw over the faithful and the curious. These days, with modern transportation and updated standards of travel, it’s getting easier to walk in the footsteps of the holy ones, with much less of that ancient travail.

Read the entire article here.

The tours I direct are study tours, but almost everyone who travels with us finds the tour inspirational. Most of those who travel with us do so in an effort to increase their understanding of the Bible. This view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives is inspirational to a lot of people.

Jerusalem From the Mount of Olives. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Day in Capernaum

I just ran across the third edition of A Day in Capernum by Franz Delitzsch. Yes, the Delitzsch of the famous Keil and Delitzsch 19th century commentaries on the Old Testament. The book was written in 1870, but the third edition was published in 1892. In the days before motorized vehicles, visitors had to travel by foot or horseback. This had a distinct value in allowing more time to meditate and understand the importance of the travel routes, etc. The writer visits some of the other places around the Sea of Galilee and tells how long it took to move from one place to another.

Works of this kind are of value because they reflect the scholarship and understanding of the time. You may read the work online, or download it in PDF from Google Book Search. Here is the directly link to A Day in Capernaum.

Google Book Search is a wonderful place to find many older works in their entirety. Some pages of many newer works are also availalbe.

Things have changed a lot at Capernaum since Delitzsch was there. We believe the foundation of the synagogue from the time of Jesus is known. The synagogue from the late 4th or early 5th century A.D. has been partially reconstructed mainly by the late archaeologist Stanislao Loffreda. The photo shows how it looks today.

Reconstructed Capernaum synagogue from 4th or 5th century A.D. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The most important thing about Capernaum is that Jesus came and settled in the city and that it was the scene of much of His ministry and miracles (Matthew 4:13; 11:23).

Gath or Not Gath?

There is some discussion over at the Tel es-Safi/Gath site about the correct identification of the photo from 1969 which I identified as Gath here.

Based on my recollection of the location of the tel, I think those who have identified it as Tel Erani are correct. Here is a comment I have left on the Tel es-Safi/Gath page.

Sorry to be the center of a controversy. I think this photo was made very near Qiryat Gat. I have only been in this area a few times and was having a hard time identifying this tel with the photos of Tell es-Safi. Todd is probably correct in saying this was still the identification given by a guide back in 1969.
I am away from home for a couple of days but what I have been able to locate on the Internet indicates that the photo is of Tel Erani.
My recollection is that this tel is on the north side of the road leading from Bet Guvrin and Lachish to Ashkelon.

My plans are to be back in Israel in a month, but I won’t have the opportunity to check these places. Maybe later in the year!

“Biblioblogger Extraordinaire”?

Jim West laments that he has only recently become aware of this blog and my web pages. He writes here:

He runs an awesome blog and a couple of awesome resources pages which are worth your checking out.

His title, “Ferrell Jenkins: Biblioblogger Extraordinaire” is a little much, but appreciated.

Jim writes more than anyone I know. Reminds me of what some used to say about the late Dr. James D. Bales of Harding University: “He has written more than he has read.” Just joking. Thanks, Jim.

Dr. West had the unfortunate experience recently of someone gaining access to his password and deleting his blog. I am glad he is back. He writes on a variety of subjects and I check his blog regularly. Agree or not, he will cause you to think. Check it here.

I have had a link to Jim’s Biblical Studies Resources for a long time.

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project

Prof. Aren Maeir, director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, asked permission to post my 1969 photo of the tell which we posted here. I was honored to do so. He has given us some directional info that I overlooked. He says that it is “of the northeastern portion” of the tell. He comments on the changes that have taken place since 1969.

Not only is the foto very nice, it is very interesting, since there are quite a few changes that can be seen on the tell since then. In particular, the intense 4X4 vehicle activity has taken a toll on the site, and a current view shows various parts that have been eroded away.

Maeir’s post includes a recent photo showing the northeastern part of the tell from another angle. Take a look here.

Back in 2005, I think, a pottery shard, inscribed with the Semitic letters AWLT and WLT, was found. Maeir says,

BOTH names that appear on the sherd (AWLT and WLT…) are etymologically very close to Goliath. All are quite similar to Indo-European, names such as Lydian Wylattes/Aylattes, which in the past have been etymologically compared to Goliath (way before this find).

I can’t resist posting a tiny photo here.

Goliath Inscription on Pottery from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

There is a wonderful high resolution photo of the shard online with other information. Read here.

The excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath this year will be July 6-August 1. Click here for some information about the dig if you have interest. This site, near the valley of Elah, provides a wonderful background for the conflict between the Philistines and the Israelites, between David and Goliath.

Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. (1 Samuel 17:4)

The Queen of Adiabene and a Rolling Stone

Queen Mother Helena of Adiabene came to Jerusalem with her son, King Izates, as a convert to Judaish in A.D. 46. Adiabene was located in northern Mesopotamia east of the Tigris River. During the famine in Judea, mentioned in Acts 11:28-30, the queen sent to Egypt for grain and to Cyprus for dried figs (Josephus, Ant. 20.51).

A recent excavation south of the Dung Gate, called the Givati garage area, has revealed a massive building which is being suggested as the palace of Queen Helena. So far there is no absolute proof that the Queen is to be identified with the structures, but it is a good suggestion. The reference in Josephus to the palace of the Queen in the lower city is helpful (Jewish Wars 6.355).

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority, December 3, 2007, says:

In the excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out with the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation, an impressive architectural complex is being uncovered that includes massive foundations; walls, some of which are preserved to a height in excess of five meters and built of stones that weigh hundreds of kilograms; halls that are preserved to a height of at least two stories; a basement level that was covered with vaults; remains of polychrome frescoes; water installations and ritual baths (miqve’ot).

This photo shows the excavation at the bottom and the south wall of the old city of Jerusalem at the top. The City of David is directly to the right of the excavation.

Skyview of the excavation thought to be a palace belonging to Queen Adiabene. Photo supplied by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The photo below shows details of one portion of the excavation.

Excavation thought to be palace of Queen Adiabene. Photo provided by Israel Antiquities Authority.

The excavation turned up stone vessels, pottery, and coins belonging to the end of the Herodian Temple [Israelis call this the Second Temple] period. This means prior to A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple. These coins bear images of, among other things, a vine leaf, a chalice, and an amphora with handles.

Coins found in the Givati excavation. Photo supplied by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A large burial complex was dug north of the city for the burial of the Queen and her family. This is the tomb referred to in modern times as the Tomb of the Kings. It is a good place to see a rolling stone and a tomb hewn from solid rock. The property is under French control and the last three or more times I have been there it has been closed, and I was unable to rouse anyone by ringing the bell.

Tomb of the Kings, Jerusalem. The tomb of Queen Adiabene. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
This rolling stone is of the same type that covered the tomb of Jesus. When Joseph of Arimathea was granted permission from Pilate to bury Jesus, the historical record says,
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:59-60)

Logos has ANET on pre-pub

Logos is the premier source for good books available for use on the computer. Now they have Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by James Pritchard, on pre-pub. When Logos puts a book on the pre-pub list it means that they offer it for a lower price to those who will agree to buy it when it is ready for distribution. Over the years I have secured several good works this way.

Take a look at the pre-publication special information. The price will be $59.95. I have signed up, and I hope that you will do the same. Amazon offers the print version for $115.00.

Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts.

Everyone who studies the Bible and the historical association with countries like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, needs this work. The print edition costs about twice as much as the Logos digital version. The ability to search the Logos version will be a distinct advantage.

This edition of 735 pages was first published in 1969. Cyril J. Barber, The Minister’s Library, describes the original publication in these words:

Popularly referred to as ANET. An indispensable aid in understanding the background and culture of the peoples in the Ancient Near East.

HT: BiblePlaces Blog

More on the Rapaihu seal and Gath

Jim West has published a letter from Robert Deutsch and a page from a published book by Deutsch and Lemaire, Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection, showing a seal that “probably belonged to the father of Rapayahu from Jerusalem.”

Read the entire letter and see the seal here.

Aren Maeir also notes a Tell es-Safi/Gath connection with the Rephaim here. He says,

Notice the name Rapaihu – basically it means the Rapa of Yahu. How does that connect to Gath and Safi?

Well, here it is: In the late 9th century BCE, Stratum A3, at Tell es-Safi/Gath (the level which we believe was destroyed by Hazael of Aram, a short 3-4 letter post-firing, incised inscription (as yet not fully published), was found on the body of storage jar, which has preliminarily been read as rpa’. This reading is reminiscent of the connection in the biblical narrative between the Rephaim and the Philistines in general, and the association of the enigmatic yldy hrph (roughly, “the offsprings of the rph) to several figures originating from the city of Gath (e.g., II Sam 21: 16-22).

Here is a photo I made of the tell of Gath in 1969 before the area was cluttered with power lines.

Tell Gath in 1969. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Philistine city of Gath provides us with the memorable statement of David when he mourned for Saul and Jonathan.

“Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, Or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, The daughters of the uncircumcised will exult” (2 Samuel 1:20 NASB).