Today we visited Heshbon, Tell Al, Dibon, and Macherus. Tell Al is thought to be the biblical site of Elealeh, a site always mentioned (Numbers 32:3). Macherus is the site of a fortress built by Herod the Great overlooking the Dead Sea on the east side. It is sort of a companion site to Masada on the western side of the sea. According to Josephus this is where John the Baptist was put to death by the order of Herod Antipas.
He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. (Matthew 14:10).
As a photo for today I want to share a picture I made at Heshbon in the ancient land of Moab. When we arrived the shepherd was beginning to lead his sheep out to pasture. Note the large number of lambs among the flock. Another interesting observation is that the shepherd is behind the flock. This is a something we see often in this part of the world.
The LORD used this illustration many times to show His ooncern for His people. His appointed leaders were likened to shephers who would lead the flock. The text below speaks of the appointment of Joshua to take the place of Moses.
“May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17)
This will likely be the last post of the current trip until I am back in the comfort of my study. Prayers of the faithful are always appreciated.
Yesterday we were disappointed that we could not locate the road to the tell (Tell Dhahab west) that is thought (by some at least) to be the site of Penuel. Not wishing to be defeated, this morning I contacted the Department of Antiquities and inquired about how to reach the site from Deir Allah. I was given the mobile (cell in the USA) number for the Inspector for the area. When I called he said he would be delighted to assist.
When we arrived at Deir Allah (likely the site of biblical Succoth), we went to the Inspector’s office and visited a while. After tea, he went with us to the sites. Some of the road was very difficult, but we followed his pickup and made it in our rental car. This site is a few miles east of the Plains of the Jordan.
The photo above shows Tell Dhahab (West) on the left. I put a white dot on the impressive tell. You can see the Jabbok River below on the right. It was in terrain like this where Jacob crossed the Jabbok after wrestling with an angel.
So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. (Genesis 32:30-31)
Jeroboam fortified Penuel at the beginning of his reign as king of the northern kingdom of Israel (shortly after 931 B.C.).
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. (1 Kings 12:25).
For one who loves traveling in the land of the Bible as much as I do, this was an exciting day. Maybe even better than finding the Roman road north of Tarsus last summer. The bus could not have made it to this place.
Yesterday we spent a large part of the day in the Jordan Valley. This area was called Perea by the Romans. We typically divide the ministry of Jesus into the Early Judean, Galilean, Perean, and Later Judean. You probably will not find the word Perea in an English translation of the Bible. The Greek word peran is translated “beyond” in passages such as Matthew 19:1 and Mark 10:1.
We visited mostly Old Testament sites, but there is considerable disagreement among scholars about the precise identification of most of these sites. Here are some possible sites we saw: Abel-Shittim, Succoth, Zarethan (or Zaphon). We also visited Tell Mazar, and the area of Tell Dhahab (possible sites of Penuel, and nearby Mahanaim). There are no road signs to these places and the locals in the nearby villages provided little help. This is the vicinity where Jacob settled for a while on his trek from Padan-Aram to Shechem.
One of our most interesting stops was at Tell Kafrein. This site had not yet been identified, but a team of archaeologists from a Greek university were working there. We met the director and received a good tour of the site and of the pottery lab.
Today we will probably go to the area south of Amman, including Heshbon, Dibon, and other sites.
I just had word from Elizabeth that the group arrived safely at JFK in New York.
David, Lowell, and I had a good day here in Jordan. We saw the following sites: Ramoth Gilead, Pella, Deir Alla (possibly Succoth), and some other places.
As time permits I will try to post a few more photos. The smoke is so bad in the hotel lobby that I can’t take much more of it.
Jerash was one of the cities of the Decapolis during the time of Christ. Today we visited the ruins of that city. It is an impressive site, and I think I have worked through the problem I was having in uploading photos from here. At least I have discovered one way it can be done.
Here is a small photo of the Roman soldiers of the 6th Legion demonstrating the formation used in protecting the banner of the Legion.
Within the past two weeks the Olympic torch was lighted at Olympia, Greece, amid political disruption. Important games were held by the Greeks at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia. Isthmia is located just a few miles from ancient Corinth, near the modern Corinth Canal.
The Isthmian Games, conducted biennially in honor of Poseidon, were second in importance to the Olympics. Discoveries at Isthmia have included starting gates for the races. Professor Oscar Broneer, who excavated at Corinth, indicates that Greek athletics had become corrupt and degraded during Paul’s lifetime [like professional sports in too many places, perhaps?]. Broneer suggested that Paul was present during one of these athletic festivals (Biblical Archaeologist, Feb., 1962; Acts 18). Here is a photo from Isthmia.
Paul made many references to athletic contests, especially in the letter to the church at Corinth. There are references to the races, and to boxing in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The victor’s crown at the Isthmian Games was made of wilted celery! This makes Paul’s reference to a “corruptible crown” come to life, doesn’t it (1 Corinthians 9:25)?
Note of Explanation. You may wonder how I could upload photos of Isthmia but not of those taken in the past few days. This post was already uploaded from home a couple of weeks back. Since I am still limited here I wanted to share this with you. And, the next tour is Steps of Paul and John.
We had a wonderful evening at the Dead Sea, and a good day with a visit to the Roman city of Jerash. We also saw the RACE show. This is the Roman Army and Chariot Experience. I will try to post some photos later.
The group will be leaving the hotel about 11:15 p.m. to go to the airport for the first stretch of the flight home. I am sure that everyone would appreciate your prayers for a safe return to family and friends.
Please excuse group members if they seem a little excited about what they have seen, learned, and experienced in the past two weeks.
One of the highlights of a tour to Jordan is a visit to Mount Nebo. This site is most famous because Moses went up to this mountain and looked at the land the LORD has promised to the descendants of Abraham.
Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. (Deuteronomy 34:1-3)
The view from Mount Nebo yesterday was the clearest I recall seeing in a long time. In our photo the northern end of the Dead Sea is visible.
Sorry, but the signal is too weak to post the photo.
Thursday evening at the Dead Sea. We enjoyed the visit of Petra and the trip to the Dead Sea. Tonight we are at a hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. This is a beautiful location.
Hopefully I will be able to post photos soon.
Today we left Israel, crossed the border into Jordan, and made our way to Petra for the night. We visited a site now being identified as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Mount Nebo, Madaba, and then followed he Kings Highway and the Desert Highway to Petra. Here is the photo of the group. I know the photo is a little small, but if you know someone in the group you will probably be able to identify him/her. The photo is made from the Mount of Olives with the city of Jerusalem in the background.
Here are a few photos I intended to upload earlier. The first one is of the Hill of Moreh. Moreh overlooks the Jezreel Valley, and is where Gideon defeated the Midianites.
Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. (Judges 7:1)
And finally, for tonight, here is a photo made in the Iron Age tunnel at Megiddo. Scholars often attribute this tunnel to the time of Ahab, king of Israel about 850 B.C. Walls, water, and food were the three most important necessary things in an ancient city. This tunnel connected the city to the spring that was outside the city.
Tomorrow night we probably will not have Internet access from the hotel at the Dead Sea. Perhaps I will be able to post another photo tomorrow morning before visiting Petra.
Today we visited Masada, the Dead Sea, Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), and Jericho. Everything is going well on our tour. Tomorrow we cross the Jordan River and go into Jordan. Perhaps there we will have better success with the Internet connection.
This is not to say that it would be impossible to find a place in Jerusalem to upload photos. It is just that he connection in this good hotel does not seem adequate.