Monthly Archives: September 2008

I can’t get to my computer!

It was not possible to get much computer work done yesterday. Our almost-four-year-old grandson was here Sunday night and Monday. You can see from this photo that he took over the computer for his games. Not really. We had lot’s of fun doing a variety of things.

Drew takes over the study.

Drew takes over the study.

I am reminded of Psalm 128.

A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!
2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!
6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel! (ESV)

More on Damascus and Paul

It has been my pleasure to visit Damascus several times since 1967. David McClister, a colleague from the Biblical Studies department at Florida College, and I visited the city in May, 2002. We tried to identify the traditional places associated with Saul’s stay in the vicinity. Southwest of the city, within sight of Mount Hermon, and on the road toward Jerusalem, there is a Greek Orthodox chapel marking the site where Jesus spoke to Saul. We drove as far south toward Quneitra in the Golan Heights as the military would allow. We can not be sure that the chapel marks the exact spot, but we know it was nearby.

Off Straight street one can visit the house of Ananias. All we can say with certainty is that this is another of those uncertain traditional places. Luke tells us that Ananias went to the house of Judas where Paul was staying.

An ancient wall still surrounds much of the old city. A modern chapel is built into the wall to indicate the place where Paul was let down through a window when a plot was made to kill him (Acts 9:25; 2 Cor 11:32-33).

Saul (Paul) in Damascus

Damascus is first mentioned in the Bible at the time of Abraham (Gen. 14:15; 15:2-3). As the capital of Syria, the city had much contact with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

All of the New Testament references to Damascus are related to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9; 22; 26; 2 Cor. 11:32; Gal. 1:17). Saul had participated in the stoning of Stephen and was active in the persecution of the disciples of Christ in Jerusalem. He asked the high priest for authority to go to Damascus and seek out men and women who belonged to the Way and bring them bound to Jerusalem.

The Lord appeared to Saul as he approached Damascus and told him to go into the city where he would be told what he must do (Acts 9:6). Saul stayed at a house on the street called Straight. Ananias came to him and told him to arise and be baptized so that his sins might be washed away (Acts 22:16; 9:18). Saul stayed with the disciples for several days and immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues as the Son of God (9:20).

The street called Straight (Acts 9:11), the ancient Via Recta of the Roman city, now lies about 20 feet below the present street which runs the length of the old city, east to west. At the east end of the street a Roman gate has been elevated to the present level and partially restored. A small monumental arch can be seen near the middle of the street.

The photo below is one I made on Straight Street in 2002. This is not the main shopping street in the old city, but is historically significant.

The street called straight in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The street called straight in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Rivers of Damascus

Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram (Syria). The biblical text says he was “esteemed and respected by his master” because of the victories he had given the country. Great people often have great problems as well as great acclaim. Naaman was a leper. The term leper is used throughout the Old Testament of a serious skin disease without a cure. Read the full account in 2 Kings 5:1-18.

A young girl who had been taken captive from Israel during one of the raids made by the Arameans was serving as an attendant to Naaman’s wife. She knew of the prophet [Elisha] in Samaria and was confident he could cure Naaman of his leprosy.

When Elisha send a messenger to Naaman to tell him to “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times” the commander was furious. He said,

Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (2 Kings 5:12 ESV)

These rivers, Abana and Pharpar, flow from the Anti-Lebanon range eastward into the desert. Here is a photo that I made of the Nahr Barada river a short distance west of Damascus (on the outskirts of the city). The river continues to flow through the city of Damascus. The Nahr Barada is often identified with the Abana of the Bible.

The Abanah River near Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Abanah River near Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Naamam was cured of his leprosy only after he dipped in the Jordan seven times. We should not elevate our judgment (opinion) to the point that we can argue with the Lord about what ought to be done. He is the Creator; we are the creature.

More on Herod’s Tomb

A month ago I wrote about visiting the Herodium here.

Todd Bolen has provided some new information about continuing work at the Herodium here. I sent him a couple of photos showing some construction I saw August 23. He has included one of those photos in an update of his post. The Bible Places Blog is one that I read almost every day. I’m disappointed when Todd has not had time to update the blog. (But I understand.)

Even though I have multiple thousands of photos from Israel, I still use photos from Todd’s Pictorial Library of Bible Lands regularly. Every person who teaches the Bible and uses presentation software should have his collection. See for details. Photos like this help to make Bible lessons come to life.

The Roman city of Volubilis

Students of the New Testament probably realize that the Roman Empire was vast. Did you know that there are ruins of a large Roman city in Morocco in north eastern Africa? Twice I have taken tours to Volubilis, about 20 miles from Meknes. Most of the ruins in the city date from the second and third centuries A.D. I have a slide from a 1980 tour with the name of the first century emperor Claudius (A,D, 51-54) on it. This was the time of Paul’s journeys (Acts 18:2).

This photo shows the Triumphal Arch dedicated to the Emperor Caracalla and his mother in A.D. 217. The Roman Basilica is visible on the right.

Roman ruins of Volubilis in Morocco. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman ruins of Volubilis in Morocco. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Volubilis has been added to the list of World Heritage Sites because “this site is an exceptionally well preserved example of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire.”

Aswan, Egypt

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.

The new high dam 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.

Kitchener’s Island, shown below, was given to Lord Horatio Kitchener for his service in the Sudan Campaign. It now is owned by the state and is the site of a beautiful botanical garden. The Mausoleum of the Aga Khan is visible on the top of the hill in the photo below.

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.

Kitchener's Island at Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Nile River at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mount Carmel – site of a great conflict

Mount Carmel is not just a protrusion into the Mediterranean Sea as some sketch maps might suggest. It is a range about 14 1/2 miles long by 5 miles wide, consisting largely of limestone. The elevation of Mount Carmel is about 1500 feet above sea level. From the western promontory one can overlook the city and port of Haifa. The Roman general Vespasian, who later became emperor, offered sacrifices on Mount Carmel before the war against the Jews (A.D. 66-70) (Hoade, Guide to the Holy Land, 665).

Mount Carmel is best known to Bible students as the place where the prophet Elijah contended with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40). The traditional site for this event is shown at Muhraka on the eastern end of Mount Carmel. This photo was made near Muhraka.

View of part of Mount Carmel near Muraka. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of part of Mount Carmel near Muraka. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Professor Avraham Biran

Dr. David Ilan, Director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology, announced the passing of Professor Avraham Biran. Jack Sasson reports to the academic community the passing of Prof. Avraham Biran.

It is my sad duty to inform you that Prof. Avraham Biran passed away last night.  He was one month shy of his 99th birthday.

Avraham Biran, a third generation Israeli, received his Ph.D. at Johns  Hopkins University under William Foxwell Albright and was Thayer Fellow in the American Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, 1935-37. Formerly Director of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, he served as Director of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1974-2003. He participated in the excavations of the  Uiversity of Pennsylvania in Iraq, at Tepe Gawra near Mosul, and at Hafaje near Baghdad. He accompanied Nelson Glueck in his epoch-making discoveries at the head of the Gulf of Eilat. Professor Biran directed the excavations of Anathoth, Tel Zippor, Ira, Aroer, the synagogue of Yesud Hama’alah, and the longest ongoing excavations in Israel at Tel Dan (under his direction from 1966 to 1999).

It was my pleasure on several occasions to hear Prof. Biran at professional meetings. I remember hearing him tell of the discovery of the House of David inscription. He always spoke with such enthusiasm; it was contagious. The last year I saw him at one of these annual meetings I was walking across the street from my hotel to the conference center. There was Prof. Biran. I spoke to him and more or less helped him across the street. 

The tremendous work done at Tel Dan seemed to me to be a testimony to his continuing work there. It takes a long time to do a lot of good things, especially archaeology.

The significant discoveries at Dan are too numerous to mention just now. In 1979 a complete Middle Bronze city gate (19th/18th century B.C.) was found at Dan (ancient Laish). This gate illustrates that the city was strongly fortified at the time Abraham rescued Lot (Genesis 14:14). I made this photo of the preserved gate on August 31.

The Middle Bronze age city gate at Dan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Middle Bronze age city gate at Dan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Azekah was an important fortified city of Judah

The biblical site of Azekah is identified with Tell ez-Zekariyeh which overlooks the Valley of Elah. Azekah is a town of the Shephelah and is mentioned seven times in the Bible. Here is a summary of the information:

  • Azekah is mentioned in the account of Joshua’s long day (Joshua 10:10-11).
  • It was assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:35).
  • The Philistines camped at Ephes-Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah, at the time of the conflict between David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1).
  • It was one of the fortified cities of Rehoboam, king of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:9).
  • Upon return from Babylonian captivity some of the Jews settled in Azekah and its villages (Nehemiah 11:30).

Jeremiah states that only Lachish and Azekah remained of the fortified cities of Judah at the time of the Babylonian captivity of Judah in 586 B.C. (Jeremiah 34:7). This indicates that Jeremiah wrote shortly before Lachish Letter # 4 was written. The last portion of the letter reads this way:

And let (my lord) know that we are watching for the signals of Lachish, according to all the indications which my lord hath given, for we cannot see Azekah. (The Ancient Near East an Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 322)
Here is a photograph of Azekah from the Valley of Elah.
Tel Azekah overlooks the Valley of Elah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Azekah overlooks the Valley of Elah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A photograph of the Valley of Elah made from atop Tel Azekah may be seen here. An excavation conducted by Bliss and Macalister in 1898-99 showed that Azekah was occupied from Canaanite times. (The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeoogy, 83).