Monthly Archives: June 2009

Virtual Qumran Reconstruction

Dr. Robert R. Cargill announced here that images and a movie of Virtual Qumran are available for free download. To view the images go directly to These images will be helpful in any teaching about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cargill is Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project.

Virtual Qumran. North East View. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Virtual Qumran. North East View. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Here is a photo I made at the reconstructed ruins of Qumran.

View of proposed study room at Qumran. View NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of proposed study room at Qumran. View NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in the room reads,

The members of the Qumran Sect occupied themselves with studying the books of the Bible. Hundreds of pottery lamps were discovered in this room, validating the supposition that it was used for study during the night.

I am not sure this is a valid conclusion.

Qumran Potters Quarter. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Qumran Potters Quarter. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Check our earlier discussion of the Dead Sea Sect here.

Almond staff in the ark of the covenant

Three items from the period of the wilderness (desert) wandering of the children of Israel were considered significant enough to be included in the ark of the covenant.

Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (Hebrews 9:3-5 ESV)

The picture below, made at the model of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, shows a replica of the Ark of the Covenant with the contents mentioned by the writer of Hebrews. For more information about the model read here.

Replica of Ark of Covenant showing contents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Replica of the Ark of the Covenant showing contents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At Jerash in Jordan, young boys were selling small bags of green almonds. Not my preference, but apparently there is a market for them. “Jordan almonds” are famous for use at weddings. The fresh almond is bittersweet in taste, but the sugar coating adds sweetness. The “Jordan almonds” are still “Jordan almonds” even when they come from California!

Green almonds at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Green almonds at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerash is thought to be the site of Gerasa, one of the cities of the Decapolis (Matthew 4:25). Perhaps it is the city belonging to the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26,37).

Almonds – a symbol of watchfulness and old age

Almonds were also among the best products of the land sent by Jacob to the man in Egypt (Genesis 43:11). The Hebrew word for almond (seqedim) comes from the root sqd which means “to watch, wake.” King and Stager tell us that the name was given because,

its splendid white blossoms appear as early as the end of January, a true harbinger of spring. Jeremiah plays on sqd: “The word of Yahweh came to me [Jeremiah], saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree (saqed).’ Then Yahweh said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching (soqed) over my word to perform it” (Jer. 1:11-12). (Life in Biblical Israel, 105)

The photo below was made in early March near the north border of the Palestinian West Bank near Jenin. Notice that the falling blossoms turn the ground gray.

Almond trees blooming in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond trees blooming in the West Bank near Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other biblical references to the almond include the following:

  • The cups of the lampstand for the tabernacle were shaped like almond blossoms (Exodus 25:33).
  • Aaron’s rod sprouted and brought forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds (yummy; Numbers 17:8).
  • Used figuratively of the person growing older (“the almond tree blossoms,” Ecclesiastes 12:5). Matthew Henry says, “The old man’s hair has grown white, so that his head looks like an almond-tree in the blossom. The almond-tree blossoms before any other tree, and therefore fitly shows what haste old age makes in seizing upon men; it prevents their expectations and comes faster upon them than they thought of. Gray hairs are here and there upon them, and they perceive it not.”
Almond blossoms in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond blossoms in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio nuts among best products of the land

During the days of a severe famine in the land of Canaan, Israel (Jacob) agreed to allow his youngest son Benjamin to go to Egypt at the request of the man who was in charge of dispensing food. That man was Joseph, the son of Israel. Jacob agreed to allow Benjamin to go with his older brothers. He also told the boys to take some of “the best products of the land” including pistachio nuts.

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. (Genesis 43:11 NAU)

I began thinking about this post while studying John 12.

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NAU)

There are several significant words in this text: perfume (muron), pure (pistikos), and nard (vardos). The Greek word for pure (pistikos)  is difficult to define. Bauer-Danker says it is “variously interpreted, but evidently suggesting exceptional quality.” A comment by William Barclay caught my attention.

Oddly enough, no one really knows what that word means. There are four possibilities. It may come from the adjective pistos which means faithful or reliable, and so may mean genuine. It may come from the verb pinein which means to drink, and so may mean liquid. It may be a kind of trade name, and may have to be translated simply pistic nard. It may come from a word meaning the pistachio nut, and be a special kind of essence extracted from it. In any event it was a specially valuable kind of perfume.

Then I noticed the comments by Keil and Delitzsch on pictachio nuts (sic) in Genesis 43:11.

which are not mentioned anywhere else, are, according to the Samar. vers., the fruit of the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, – long angular nuts of the size of hazel-nuts, with an oily kernel of a pleasant flavour; it does not thrive in Palestine now [1875], but the nuts are imported from Aleppo.

Well, that led me to think of photos I made in a pistachio orchard near Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:2). This is about 65 miles from Aleppo.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think this is the only place I have seen pistachio’s growing on a tree. The practical comment by Matthew Henry is worth meditating on for a while.

Note, (1.) Providence dispenses its gifts variously. Some countries produce one commodity, others another, that commerce may be preserved. (2.) Honey and spice will never make up the want of bread-corn. The famine was sore in Canaan, and yet they had balm and myrrh, etc. We may live well enough upon plain food without dainties; but we cannot live upon dainties without plain food. Let us thank God that that which is most needful and useful is generally most cheap and common.

That sort of outlines the rambling of the mind back of this post. It is amazing what one may learn once he begins to track down leads. I still don’t know if pure (pistikos) has anything to do with pistachio nuts! Meditate.

Laodicea Photos

Laodicea is known to us from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. (Col 4:13-16 NAU)

Ben Witherington has posted several nice photos recently made at Laodicea. Take a look here. These photo are high resolution and may be reduced and enhanced a bit for use in class and sermon presentation. Ben concludes his post with these words:

There is much more to be said, but let this be said at this juncture.  The archaeological evidence at Laodicea simply confirms what the NT suggests about the city– it was large,  rich in the first century, a city materially on the rise, but sometimes prosperity has a deadening effect on spirituality as John of Patmos reminds.   The reconstruction of the city today is a work still in progress— but then, so are we. If even Laodicea warrants a visit from the Master who knocks and promises to enter and sup with them, despite all its sin and shortcomings, then there is still hope for us.

The photo below is one I took showing what was labeled “North Temple” at the time. I see on the new sign Ben includes among his photos the structure (# 15) is labeled “Corinth Temple and North Basilica.” The white area on the hillside across the Lycus River valley marks the limestone formations of Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13; modern Pamukkale).

Temple ruins at Laodicea. View north to Hierapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Temple ruins at Laodicea. View north to Hierapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Thanks, Ben. We look forward to more good material from Turkey.

We called attention to the water distribution system of Laodicea here.

HT: Brooks.

Leeks in the land of Goshen

Israel’s experience in the Sinai wilderness might be summarized by the two words complained and murmured. One such account is given in Numbers 11.

We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:5-6 ESV)

The Land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was located in the eastern Nile Delta along the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile. The land is flat and fertile, and their are canals with water. Because water is rare in the wilderness (or desert) crops are also rare.

From the wilderness, the great meals of fish and vegetables in Egypt looked good to the Israelites. The hard days of oppression were overlooked. (A lot like the bondage of sin!) I had an opportunity to be in some of the fields in Goshen. The farmers grow crops for the cattle, but they use the corners of the fields to grow vegetables for their own use. I saw leeks and cabbage.

Field in the land of Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Field in the land of Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The white object in the field is one of the pieces of the colossal statue of Rameses that we mentioned in an earlier post. Smoking is widespread in Egypt.

Remembering D-Day

The D Day Museum at Normandy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The D Day Museum at Normandy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Samaritans

Samaritan Priest with Samaritan Pentateuch Scroll. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Samaritan Priest with Samaritan Pentateuch Scroll. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

“Samaritans use modern means to keep ancient faith” is the title of an informative article about the modern Samaritans on Mount Gerizim at Reuters. A slide show of 10 good photos is included. I especially liked the one showing the priest in the museum with a painting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.

We recently wrote about the meeting of Jesus with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well here. We wrote about Jesus passing through Samaria here.

Todd Bolen’s article on the Samaritan Passover may be read here.

Years back I made black and white photos for use in publications. This one shows a Samaritan priest displaying a copy of the Samaritan Pentateuch. He said it was the oldest book in the world. Textual scholars think it is no older than the 12th century A.D.

A Reuter’s Blog here gives some additional information about how the reporters got to Mount Gerizim. Check the video at the bottom of the page.

HT: Joseph Lauer; Paleojudaica.

“A new beginning” in the Muslim world

United States President Obama calls for “a new beginning” in the Muslim world in Cairo today.

We watched the presidential inauguration on Al Jazeera in Egypt last January. The Egyptian men were all excited about this change in America. For a day or two afterward we would be greeted with big smiles and chants of  “Obama, Obama.” One camel driver told a member of our group, “I like Obama; he’s my color.”

The Obama party is making visits to the pyramids and the Mohammed Ali Mosque. Typical tourist things to do. See our comments about the Mosque and a photo of the exterior of the building here. Below is a photo I made inside the mosque using a tiny tripod (about 6 inches high) on the floor of the mosque. Tourist groups are sitting on the floor listening to the history of the mosque.

Interior of Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior of Mohammed Ali Mosque in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Understanding is good. Let’s hope that this “new beginning” allows freedom for those in the Muslim world who profess Christ.

The full text of President Obama’s speech is available from The Guardian.

“Our IAA which art in Israel”

Tourist confesses to taking a stone from an Israel Antiquities Excavation 12 years ago.

Twelve years after a stone disappeared from an Israel Antiquities Authority Excavation south of the Temple Mount, a tourist from New York confessed: “I Took It. My Conscience Bothers Me and I Am Asking for Forgiveness” The stone, which weighs 21 kilo, was returned to Jerusalem this week.

Here is part of the account released by the IAA in Jerusalem.

In 1997, a twenty one kilogram fragment of a marble column disappeared from one of the excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority was conducting south of the Temple Mount.

Several weeks ago, the IAA received an unexpected e-mail from a clergyman in the state of New York: “I am requesting forgiveness for a member of my congregation”, he writes. “The fellow confessed to me that twelve years ago he took a stone from Jerusalem and his conscience has bothered him ever since. I wish to return the stone to Israel and hope that you will forgive the man for his transgression”.
A letter from the fellow was attached to the heavy stone fragment, which arrived in Jerusalem in a wooden crate that was specially constructed for the flight back to Israel. “I came to Israel on an organized trip. As a student of archaeology, I was very excited when we visited an excavation south of the Temple Mount. I asked how I can purchase a stone from the excavation because I wanted a souvenir with which to pray for Jerusalem and was told it was not possible. On the last day of the trip our Israeli tour guide approached me and took the stone fragment from inside his coat. ‘Take it’, he said. ‘It’s a present from me’. I asked him how he obtained the stone and he replied, ‘It’s okay; don’t worry’. I was very happy and took the stone with me on my flight back to New York. Only later did I realize that he probably took the stone from the excavation without permission. For the past twelve years since then, rather than remind me of the prayer for Jerusalem, I am reminded of the mistake I made when I removed the stone from its proper place in Israel. I am asking for your forgiveness”.

Shay Bar Tura displays the package and the returned stone. Photo by IAA.

Shay Bar Tura displays the package and the returned stone. Photo by IAA.

Shay Bar Tura, Deputy Director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the IAA, stated,

It should be emphasized that any activity conducted at an antiquity site requires permission from the IAA. Taking archaeological artifacts from antiquities sites constitutes a severe criminal offense which is punishable by law with imprisonment”.

Who was the tour guide?

HT: Joe Lauer