Monthly Archives: December 2008

Top archaeological discoveries of 2008

Todd Bolen has posted his “Top 8 of 2008: Archaeological Discoveries Related to the Bible” at the BiblePlaces Blog. Take a look.

Ashkelon and the Seacoast

This has been a busy month for me. It was the month of two cataract surgeries, but I won’t be able to get the needed glasses for reading until about the second week of January. With each surgery it takes about two days to get over the dilation and do any serious reading and computer work.

I want to share a photo of the beach and Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon. The city is in the news this week due to the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Ashkelon is the closest Israeli town to the Gaza Strip.

The Sea at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The LORD spoke against the Philistine cities through the prophet Jeremiah (ch. 47). These verses caught my attention.

How long will you cry out, ‘Oh, sword of the LORD, how long will it be before you stop killing? Go back into your sheath! Stay there and rest!’ But how can it rest when I, the LORD, have given it orders? I have ordered it to attack the people of Ashkelon and the seacoast. (Jeremiah 47:6-7 NET)

Jesus lived in Nazareth

This photo of two children was made at the Nazareth Village (a nice place to visit).

Children at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Children at the Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

All four Gospels and the book of Acts make a reference to Nazareth as the place where Jesus lived in his early years. This one from the Gospel of Luke is set at a time when Jesus was about 12 years of age (Luke 2:42), and before He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52 ESV)

Satellite imagery reveals Egyptian ruins

CNN has a report on the use of satellites to help unearth ancient Egyptian ruins. Read the full article here. The report features the work of Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In our society we tear down anything that is a decade or more old in order to build a new structure. Except, of course, for our historical districts. It wasn’t that way in the ancient world. If a structure was destroyed or ravaged, the conquerors might build a new one in the same place. They would build over and utilize any walls still standing.

Building in ancient Egypt was along the Nile River and in the Delta. Much of what shows as Egypt on a modern map is not currently habitable. Eighty two million people live in this small space, according to the CNN report. When I took my first group to Egypt in 1967 we were told that the population was 40 million. Even then it seemed crowded; now it is terrible.

Here are a few comments about Parcak’s work:

In this field, Parcak is a pioneer. Her work in Egypt has yielded hundreds of finds in regions of the Middle Egypt and the eastern Nile River Delta.

Parcak conducted surveys and expeditions in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt in 2003 and 2004 that confirmed 132 sites that were initially suggested by satellite images. Eighty-three of those sites had never been visited or recorded.

In the past two years, she has found hundreds more, she said, leading her to amend an earlier conclusion that Egyptologists have found only the tip of the iceberg.

“My estimate of 1/100th of 1 percent of all sites found is on the high side,” Parcak said.

And here are some comments made by Parcak about the value of the satellite images:

“We can see patterns in settlements that correspond to the [historical] texts,” Parcak said, “such as if foreign invasions affected the occupation of ancient sites.

“We can see where the Romans built over what the Egyptians had built, and where the Coptic Christians built over what the Romans had built.

“It’s an incredible continuity of occupation and reuse.”

The flooding and meanders of the Nile over the millennia dictated where and how ancient Egyptians lived, and the profusion of new data has built a more precise picture of how that worked.

“Surveys give us information about broader ancient settlement patterns, such as patterns of city growth and collapse over time, that excavations do not,” said Parcak, author of a forthcoming book titled “Satellite Remote Sensing and Archaeology.”

In every town along the Nile in Upper Egypt (the south) buildings crowd the river. This scene is from Edfu.

Shops at Edfu in Upper Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shops at Edfu in Upper Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Fifth Gospel

Early in the month we noted a few things about the late Bargil Pixner and his book on the Fifth Gospel here.

We have more comments on these post coming from friends via personal Email than via the Comments feature. These are always appreciated, either way. This helpful note came from Linda Rowlett.

I bought the book The Fifth Gospel when we were in Israel. Last night I saw an hour long film on PBS about it showing lots of the places we saw as well as some new things. It had [Bargil] Pixner explaining some of his ideas. If you have not seen it there is a trailer you can view at this site. It was wonderful to see so much around Galilee again and brought back lots of good memories of our trip and that beautiful area. His explanations about the land, the sea, the fishing, etc. were really interesting.

See the brief trailer here. I checked the PBS web site and found no reference to this program. It may have been a local presentation in Linda’s area.

Our photo shows a modern fisherman casting a net in the vicinity of Tabgha. The dark colored building, made of local basalt,  on the shore is designated by Roman Catholics as the Church of the Primary (more about that later).

A modern fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A modern fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. (John 21:6)

The Wise Woman of Abel-Beth-Maacah

No sooner had King David put down the rebellion of his son Abaslom when a Benjamite by the name of Sheba led a rebellion against him. The men of Israel rebelled against David and followed Sheba, but the men of Judah remained loyal to the king.

Realizing that Sheba was a greater threat than Absalom had been, David called on Abishai to take servants (warriors) and capture Sheba. Joab’s men when out from Jerusalem to capture Sheba. This pursuit took Joab’s men all the way to the north of the Israelite territory, to a town named Abel-Beth-Maacah. Some English versions use Abel Beth Maacah, or a similar variant. In modern Israel this town is almost on the border with Lebanon between Kiryat Shmona and Metulla.

Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth Maacah and all the Berite region. When they had assembled, they too joined him. So Joab’s men came and laid siege against him in Abel of Beth Maacah. They prepared a siege ramp outside the city which stood against its outer rampart. As all of Joab’s soldiers were trying to break through the wall so that it would collapse, a wise woman called out from the city, “Listen up! Listen up! Tell Joab, ‘Come near so that I may speak to you.” (2 Samuel 20-14-16 NET)

Our photo, looking east, shows the massive mound thought to be the site of Abel-Beth-Maacah. This photo was made the last day of August. The dry tell stands out distincting from the surrounding orchards. Apples are grown in this area. On a clear day one would be able to see the Beka Valley and Mount Hermon beyond the tel.

Abel-Beth-Maacah in northern Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Abel-Beth-Maacah in northern Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The wise woman reasons with Joab. She tells him that this town formerly was a place where people would ask for advice to end a dispute. She said,

I represent the peaceful and the faithful in Israel. You are attempting to destroy an important city in Israel. Why should you swallow up the LORD’s inheritance? (2 Samuel 20:19 NET)

Joab agreed that he would not destroy the city if she would hand over Sheba. She agreed to throw the head of Sheba over the wall. She did what she promised and the destruction was averted. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

Abel-beth-Maacah is mentioned in at least two other passages.

  1. The city was conquered by Ben-hadad, king of Aram [Syria] (1 Kings 15:20).
  2. The city was captured by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, in the days of Pekah of Israel.

BiblePlaces Newsletter

Todd Bolen’s BiblePlaces Newletter for December is now available. It includes a wonderful aerial photo of the Elah Valley. The main feature is a series of (Google) satellite photos of Jerusalem with the natural features (hills, valleys, springs, quarters of the city, etc.) identified. If you teach any lesson dealing with the city of Jerusalem you need these PowerPoint slides.

You should subscribe to the BiblePlaces Newsletter, but if you have not yet done so you may access the current issue here. The subscription link is at the bottom of the page.

The photo below shows one of the modern gates of Jerusalem. It is labeled Stephen’s Gate on one of the slides mentioned above. Murphy-O’Connor says that Suliman called it the Bab el-Ghor (the Jordan Valley Gate). In Hebrew it is called the Lions’ Gate, but you may notice that the animals to the left of the gate are panthers. Murphy-O’Connor says this was “the heraldic emblem of the Mamluk sultan Baybar (1260-77). This is the only gate of the Old City on the east side that is currently open.

Lions Gate or St. Stephen Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lions' Gate or St. Stephen's Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.