Monthly Archives: January 2010

Topping 300,000 and the BiblioBlog rankings

On Friday evening, January 22, at 11:24 p.m. (EST) I checked the counter on this blog. The total number of visitors registered since May, 2007, was 300,004. Today the count has topped 305,000.

The first post on Ferrell’s Travel Blog was May 2, 2007, in anticipation of a tour to central Turkey. The intention was to keep the families of the tour members informed about what we were doing. A total of 575 persons visited the blog that month. In December, 2009, we averaged 593 hits each day. This month the average will be near 630 per day.

One friend (SC) who has been a reader since the first month wrote about a week ago,

I just checked your WordPress for today’s message – lo and behold – you have gone over 300,000 reads! Congratulations! (I can’t remember when you started this service, but obviously we all love it – please keep it up!)

I am thankful for the loyal followers, and for everyone who drops by from time to time. Originally I had no plan to make this blog a near-daily project. I plan to continue as long as I enjoy doing it and think it is a good expenditure of my time.

My wife keeps telling me that the title, Ferrell’s Travel Blog, causes people to think that the blog is just about my travels. Had I envisioned the future back in May, 2007, I suppose I would have chosen a different name. The ratings now are too high to make a change!

Almost every day I am tempted to comment on a number of things, but I usually resist and keep the focus on the Bible Lands, biblical archaeology, and Bible-related places and events.

What is a BiblioBlog?

What is a BiblioBlog? I suppose it is a blog that in some way deals with the Bible.

The Alexa Ranking for the third week for the month of January shows Ferrell’s Travel Blog to be number 11 out of more than 358 BiblioBlogs. Normally these rankings are published monthly. Our blog has been in the top 20 several times, and as high as 5 for the month of July, 2009. We are thankful to our loyal readers who find the material we publish to be useful.

Jeremy Thompson of Free Old Testament Audio has volunteered to post these rankings on a monthly basis, but he is trying some new things and decided to make a weekly posting. The full list of BiblioBlogs is here. The list is somewhat arbitrary and it may not show the ranking of some significant blogs, but it interesting to follow.

My blog has never been intended as part of a competition, but I enjoy seeing it move up in the rankings. I see every visitor as someone who is potentially informed and/or edified by what he/she reads.

Thanks to WordPress

Thanks to the kind folks at WordPress who make possible this opportunity. I hope they are making lot’s of money (from others!).  If you have something worth saying get a blog. WordPress is a good place to begin.

The land of Gennesaret

The Sea of Galilee is called the “lake Gennesaret” by Luke (Luke 5:1). The area on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee is called the “land at Gennesaret.” In the view below we see the land of Gennesaret and the Via Maris. The route here leads to the Beit Netofa Valley and the sites of (Khirbet) Cana, Sepphoris, Nazareth, and Yodfat (Jotapata). Yodfat was fortified by Josephus during the Jewish revolt against Rome. Josephus, commander of the Jewish rebels, surrendered to the Roman Emperor Vespasian at Yodfat.

The land of Gennesaret and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The land of Gennesaret and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many of the miracles of Jesus were performed in this area.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured. (Matthew 14:34-36 NAU)

Fishing ban on the Sea of Galilee

Arutz Sheva reports a two year ban on fishing in the Sea of Galilee and its tributaries.

Minister of Agriculture Shalom Simchon has announced a ban on all fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) for two years. The ban also extends to the part of the Jordan River that empties into the Sea of Galilee, and to all the other rivers that empty into the famous lake.

The authority to ban fishing is within the Minister of Agriculture’s authority according to the official Fishing Order, and the ban is set to take effect on March 1, 2010, extending until February 28, 2012. Minister Simchon has asked the Finance Ministry to allot NIS 15 million for enforcing the ban and compensating the fishermen who will be hurt by it.

Simchon explained that according to Agriculture Ministry statistics, the quantity of fish in the Sea of Galilee has plummeted in the past decade, and especially in the last two years, by tens of percentage points annually. It has now reached  a critical level, he said, and these statistics mean that the sea may be facing an ecological disaster in which all its fish would die out.

Simchon added that the ban on fishing is necessary, because it is both in the public’s interest and that of the fishermen that the Sea of Galilee be kept from turning into a fishless sea. However, the Ministry of Agriculture said that it realized that the fishermen would be bound to protest the move.

Read the full account here.

A fisherman readies to cast his net into an area near Taghba where warm water springs flow into the Sea of Galilee. For a photo of the net in the air click here. Commercial fishermen use large draw nets.

Fisherman readies to cast his net into the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fisherman readies to cast his net into the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. (Matthew 4:18 ESV)

We wrote about the water level of the lake with photos to illustrate the low level here.

HT: Bible Places Blog.

William G. Dever on Solomon and the Revisionists

Benjamin Hawkins reports on a recent lecture  by William G. Dever at the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. The headline says, “Scholar counters attacks on existence of Solomon’s kingdom.”

Contesting the views of revisionist scholars, world-renowned archaeologist William G. Dever defended the existence of an Israelite state in Palestine during the 10th century B.C., the biblical era of Solomon’s reign.

Dever, a leading figure in biblical archaeology for nearly half a century, was the guest speaker for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Biblical Archaeology Lecture sponsored by the seminary’s Charles D. Tandy Archaeology Museum and Tandy Institute of Archaeology.

“Tonight, I want to talk about the age of Solomon, but before I do that, I want to set it up by telling you something about a school of European biblical scholarship,” Dever said. “These people call themselves revisionists because they are rewriting the history of ancient Israel, but when they finish, there is no history. They call themselves revisionists. I call them nihilists.”

According to Dever, the revisionist scholars deny that an Israelite united monarchy, like the biblical kingdom that flourished under Solomon, ever existed. Dever contested this claim, arguing that the archaeological evidence confirms the existence of a centralized Israelite state in 10th century Palestine.

According to a “wonderful, detailed description” in 1 Kings 9:15-17, the Egyptian pharaoh attacked and destroyed the city of Gezer, Dever said. The pharaoh then gave the city as a dowry to his daughter when she married Solomon. The passage then states that Solomon fortified or refortified four sites: Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer and Jerusalem.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had archaeological evidence from those sites for an early stage? Well, we do,” Dever said. “And what do you suppose the revisionists make of this evidence? They just ignore it, because it is inconvenient for their theories.”

Dever reported that excavations, especially at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, have uncovered “monumental architecture” that cannot be explained without reference to a centralized government. The architecture of each of these cities is adapted to topography for strategic military advantage, but all the cities show the same structural patterns, such as six-chambered gates, double or casemate fortification systems, similar palace structures and Phoenician masonry (according to 1 Kings, Solomon utilized Phoenician craftsmen in his building projects).

These architectural structures can be dated to the 10th century B.C., Dever said, with reference to stratigraphy, ceramic typology and ancient Egyptian chronology. This process is aided by the discovery of destruction levels, filled with rubble and showing evidence of fires “so fierce that it melted the limestone and it flowed down like lava.” According to Dever, the destruction can be attributed to the military invasions of the Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonq, that is, the biblical Shishak (1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12).

“At one time, there stood a monumental Egyptian inscription at the site of Megiddo celebrating the destruction by Shishak,” Dever said. Shishak was the first pharaoh in the 22nd Egyptian dynasty, and archaeological evidence shows that he raided Palestine in the late 10th century B.C. Amid the rubble of destruction, archaeologists also have discovered the hand-burnished pottery characteristic of the 10th century. According to Dever, this implies that the monumental architecture that Shishak and his army destroyed “must have been built a generation or so earlier — and that places us precisely in the middle of the reign of Solomon.”

Here is another of the aerial photos I made of Gezer in December. This one shows what many archaeologists have called the Solomonic Gate at the bottom of the photo. The new excavation under the direction of Steve Ortiz is Field A. Click for a larger image.

Solomonic Gate and Field A at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2009.

Solomonic Gate and Field A at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2009.

Dever explains why there isn’t evidence from the 10th century B.C. in Jerusalem.

“Of course, the revisionists argue that, ‘Well, you’ve never found anything from the 10th century, nothing monumental in Jerusalem.’ That’s true, because we never were able to excavate [in Jerusalem],” Dever said. Jerusalem was the fourth city that Solomon refortified, and it was the center of his kingdom. Despite the lack of access to the archaeological evidence that lies below modern Jerusalem, Dever argued that biblical descriptions of Solomon’s Temple resemble other 10th-century temples in the Middle East.

“All the descriptions in the Hebrew Bible,” Dever said, “make good sense in the light of what we know about ancient architecture.”

Revisionist scholars also contend that a centralized state could not have existed in 10th century Israel because literacy was not widespread, and the knowledge of reading and writing is necessary for the administration of a kingdom. Archaeological evidence like the Gezer calendar, however, has shown that even in rural areas young boys were learning to read during the 10th century and earlier, Dever said.

Encouraging Southwestern to remain involved in biblical archaeology, Dever said the seminary’s ongoing excavations at Tel Gezer would play an important role in affirming the existence of a united Israelite monarchy in 10th-century Palestine. Southwestern Seminary has led excavations at Tel Gezer under the supervision of Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds, since 2006.

While Dever affirmed the importance of ministerial training in his Nov. 3 lecture, he encouraged students to study archaeology and urged Southwestern to train biblical archaeologists who can challenge the skeptics in the field. Biblical archaeology, especially in the United States, is in “disarray,” he said. Many academic programs are floundering, and some have been shut down or replaced by academic programs emphasizing modern Middle Eastern studies.

“I always say to my Israeli colleagues, ‘The archaeology of Israel is too important to be left to you alone. This is our Holy Land, too.’ So we have to be involved, even though the Israelis dominate the field,” Dever said. “You have a unique opportunity at this particular juncture in time. Step in. There is not a lot of competition. Step in, and do something significant.”

Underscoring the need for rigorous academic training, Dever said, “Don’t ever apologize for your faith, or for the Bible, or for the Western tradition, or for being an American. Fight, and make sure you have the facts on your side.”

To learn more about Southwestern Seminary’s involvement in biblical archaeology, visit or here.

One may not always agree with Dever, but one can not say that he did not make his point clearly. The gezerproject web site is out of date. I would like to see it updated soon.

The full report may be read here. © Copyright 2010 Baptist Press.

Worship of Bastet extended to the Ptolemaic Period

Fox News reported here recently on the discovery of a Greek temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet.

Egyptian archaeologists unearthed the remains of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Egyptian cat goddess Bastet in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the antiquities department said Tuesday.

The mission, led by Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, discovered the remains of a temple of Queen Berenike, the wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt between 246 and 222 B.C., in the Kom al Dikka area in Alexandria.

“The discovered remains are 196 feet tall and 49 feet in width,” antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said in a statement. He said the temple was “subjected to destruction during later eras when it was used as a quarry, which led to the disappearance of many of its stone blocks.”

A group of 600 Ptolemaic statues were also unearthed during the routine excavations, including a large collection of icons depicting Bastet, goddess of protection and motherhood.

The discovery in Kom al Dikka is the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the goddess Bastet, Abdel Maqsoud was quoted as saying in the statement.

“It indicates that the worship of the goddess Bastet continued in Egypt after the decline of the ancient Egyptian era,” he said.

The Ptolemaic period marks the Greek rule of Egypt from 305 B.C. until the Roman conquest in 30 B.C.

Alexandria became the capital city of Ptolemaic Egypt and thrived as the center of Greek culture and trade.

Bastet. Discovered at Alexandria. AP photo.

Image of Bastet, the cat goddess of Egypt, discovered at Alexandria. AP.

Egypt was noted for the worship of numerous gods. The plagues of Egypt were a judgment against “all the gods of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12). Later, in the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD again warned of judgment upon the gods of  Egypt (Jeremiah 43:12-13).

Every time I read Paul’s discussion about the condition of the Gentiles I think of the gods of ancient Egypt.

Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:22-23 NAU)

Bubastis in ancient Egypt was especially devoted to Bastet. The ruins of the city are now surrounded by the city of Zagazig in the Eastern Delta. It was mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel under the name Pi-beseth (Ezekiel 30:17).

Prof. Christian Tietze and a team of Egyptian archaeologists have been working at Tell Basta (Bubastis).

Prof. Christian Tietze and Ferrell Jenkins at Tell Basta, Egypt, 2005.

Prof. Christian Tietze and Ferrell Jenkins at Tell Basta, Egypt, 2005.

The new discovery from Alexandria in the Ptolemaic period shows that the worship of Bastet continued, and was more wide spread than commonly thought.

Jerusalem at 3800 feet altitude

In the last post about the aerial photos (January 18) we showed the mountains of Judea as we approached the central mountain ridge. Today’s photo shows the Old City of Jerusalem from about 3800 feet above sea level. The city itself is about 2400 to 2500 feet above (Mediterranean) sea level. The view is looking southeast across the Wilderness of Judea to the mountains of Moab in the Transjordan tableland.

Old City of Jerusalem - view toward SE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Old City of Jerusalem - view toward SE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this photo one can see the proximity of Jerusalem to the Wilderness of Judea. The distance from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is not more than 20 miles. The elevation drops from about 2600 at the Mount of Olives to (currently) about 1384 feet below sea level at the surface of the Dead Sea. The Transjordan Tableland is about 3000 above sea level.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 125:2 NAU)

No honor among thieves

A headline in Haaretz says, Burglars swipe artifacts from ‘Antiquities Thieves’ exhibit.

Yanir Yagna writes:

In a display of what might be called ironic chutzpah, burglars broke into an Ashdod museum this week and stole silver coins from the Hellenistic period and other archaeological finds that were part of an exhibit called “Antiquities Thieves in Israel.”

The exhibit, at the Korin Maman Museum, displayed artifacts that the Israel Antiquities Authority had previously recovered from antiquities thieves. Now it seems the authority will have to begin its hunt all over again.

The burglars neutralized the alarm system Tuesday night and stole a bronze spear, two gold earrings, some pottery and the silver coins, which feature the image of Alexander the Great.

“It’s one of the weirdest things that ever happened here,” said a museum employee. “Someone actually went and stole the robbers display.”

The full report is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Deadly flash floods in the Negev

Todd Bolen has been teaching in Israel for the past two or three weeks. He reports on heavy rains in the Negev that resulted in flooding in the area. Read the full report here.

Sometimes individuals fail to realize the force of the water and drive their vehicles into it. This often results in danger, and even death.

Nearly two years ago I wrote about Rivers in the Desert with photos showing a wadi after a night of rain. Read that article here. One of the photos I made the morning after a heavy rain in the mountains of Judea is included below. This photo show the normally dry Wadi Kelt (Qilt) at Jericho.

Wadi Kelt (Qilt) at Jericho after rain in the mountains of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi Kelt at Jericho after rain in the mountains of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Planning for earthquakes in Eastern Turkey

Last week I wrote about references to earthquakes in the Bible. In 2007 I traveled in Eastern Turkey, in the Biblical land of Ararat (Urartu) (2 Kings 19:37). Along the road between Van and Batman we saw a group of men adding a room to a house.

Notice that the house is built of field stones. Above the window there is a lintel of wood. To the right side of the window you may also see a long piece of wood. I will come back to that later. Notice the roof. It is made of timber, straw, and mud.

House between Van and Batman in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

House between Van and Batman in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo below shows one of the men working on the roof of the new room. Notice the mud roof of the existing room.  The worker is preparing a piece of timber with a simple hand tool similar to those used three to four thousand years ago.

Adding a new room in the land of Ararat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Adding a new room in the land of Ararat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here we see part of the new wall. Notice the field stone filled with smaller stones. A wooden lintel is used over the window. That might not be unusual to us. Look below the window. The timber is not only under the window, but also extends several feet to the right.

Preparing for an earthquake in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Preparing for an earthquake in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My friends and I spoke only a few words in Turkish. The men building the house spoke no English. I pointed to the wood below the window and did my imitation of the shaking of an earthquake. This evoked a good smile from one of the Turkish men. He nodded to indicate that I had the right idea. The wood helps to absorb the shock of an earthquake.

In our modern housing we use rebar to strengthen our buildings. This, along with metal ties help reinforce our buildings to resist the damage from hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. If an earthquake similar to the one in Haiti had hit southern California there likely would have been little loss of life. The buildings in Haiti were made of concrete blocks without any reinforcement. Ancient people knew they had to find ways to cushion the shock. The people of Eastern Turkey have learned the same.

In principle, Jesus taught the same thing about building.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:24-29 ESV)

Are you building on the rock?

The Mountains of Judea

This photo shows the mountainous terrain southwest of Jerusalem. Our camera is pointed east and, in the left of the photo, we can see the tall buildings of Jerusalem along the central mountain range.

Judean Mountains SW of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Judean Mountains SW of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Throughout the Bible the writers speak of going UP to Jerusalem. This is because of the elevation of Jerusalem in the central mountain range, also called the water-parting route, that runs north to south in the country.

The timber for the temple was shipped from Lebanon to Joppa on rafts, then taken up to Jerusalem.

And we will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 2:16 ESV)

In our series of aerial photos we have moved eastward from the coastal plain, to the shephelah (lowland; 2 Chronicles 26:10), to the mountains. This understanding of the topography of the country of Israel helps in understanding many biblical accounts.