Monthly Archives: January 2010

Earthquakes common in the Bible world

Earthquakes were, and are, common in the Bible world. Earthquakes are common in Iran (Persia), Turkey (Asia Minor), Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

The Great Rift runs all the way from northern Syria through Lebanon, Israel, the Arabah, and into eastern Africa. In Israel the area is called the Jordan Valley or the Dead Sea Rift, It is not surprising that earthquakes are mentioned frequently in the Bible. The prophet Amos dates his visions to “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). The earthquake he makes reference to must have been so memorable that everyone would know what he was talking about. Zechariah (14:5) also calls attention to this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Jesus, in predicting the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, said, “and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:7; see Luke 21:11).

About a year and a half ago I wrote about Philadelphia with special attention to the danger of earthquakes here. I suggest you read that post. The letter to the church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) makes an allusion to the events that occur after an earthquake. In the promise to the overcomers the Lord says “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore (v 12). In the case of earthquakes people stay outside for several days due to the fear of aftershocks. Those who overcome need not fear being toppled, as a pillar might be toppled in the earthquake.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. (Revelation 3:12 NAU)

The archaeological excavations of many Biblical cities throughout Asia Minor, and along the Great Rift, reveal evidence of earthquakes. Some of the gates were built with pieces of timber to absorb the shock from the tremors. The reconstructed gate at Megiddo illustrates this practice.

Megiddo Gate with view of Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Megiddo Gate with view of Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The same practice is reflected in Scripture in the account of the rebuilding of the temple according to the order of the Persian King Cyrus.

In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. (Ezra 6:3-4 ESV)

Pyramids built by free men?

A recent article in Haaretz, and several other sources, says new information indicates that the great pyramids of Egypt were built by free workers, rather than slaves.

Tombs discovered in recent years near the Great Pyramids in Egypt may reveal that the builders of the famed monuments were free workers, rather than slaves, as is commonly thought. The discovery of the tombs also showed that the workers received pay, food and lodging near the construction site, the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry said yesterday.

Egyptian archaeologists said they found evidence of settlements near the pyramids of Khufu and Khare, at Giza near Cairo.

Popular culture has long depicted slaves toiling away in the desert to build the mammoth pyramids only to meet a miserable death at the end of their efforts. The new tombs, which are approximately 4,100 years old, may dispel these myths.

“These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves,” Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist heading the Egyptian excavation team, said in a statement.

Hawass said evidence had been found showing that farmers in the Delta and Upper Egypt had sent 21 buffalo and 23 sheep to the plateau every day to feed about 10,000 builders.

The builders were rotated every three months and those who died on the job were buried in these tombs.

The full report is here.

The Giza Pyramids. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Giza Pyramids. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Biblical Paths.

Pieces of Cyrus cylinder found in British Museum

A report in PressTV, which appears to be an Iranian source, says:

Iranian inscription expert Abdolmajid Arfaei says the newly-found pieces of the Cyrus cylinder had been housed in the British Museum.

“The pieces have most probably been housed in the museum and only recently recognized as parts of the Cyrus cylinder,” Arfaei told ISNA.

The British Museum recently announced that some new parts of the cylinder’s broken pieces have been found, which might be a clue to some other documents sent by Cyrus the Great to other regions.

“If there are any new pieces, then they can provide more information about the contents of the cylinder,” Arfaei said.

When asked about the theory of Cyrus making 10 cylinders and sending to different territories, Arfaei said, “If there existed more than one cylinder, at least one of them should have been found by now.”

Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Hamid Baqaei announced on Saturday that the British Museum had invited an Iranian team to collaborate on studying the newly-found pieces.

The Cyrus the Great cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus II, king of Persia (559-530 BC) and is considered the world’s first charter of human rights.

The ancient cylinder was scheduled to be given to Iran on loan in September 2009; however, the British Museum backed out of the agreement, citing Iran’s post-election unrest.

Tehran had earlier said that it would cease cooperation with the British Museum until the cylinder is loaned to the National Museum of Iran.

Iran has assured the British side about the safety of the priceless artifact.

The Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cyrus was the Persian King who conquered Babylon and later allowed captives, such as the Jews, to return to their home and rebuild their temple.

In the first year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the promise he delivered through Jeremiah, the LORD moved King Cyrus of Persia to issue a written decree throughout his kingdom. It read: “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The LORD God of the heavens has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build for him a temple in Jerusalem in Judah. May the LORD your God energize you who belong to his people, so you may be able to go back there!” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 NET’ cf. Ezra 1:1-2)

HT: Dr. Claude Mariottini

Tirhakah (Taharqa) in the British Museum

In two previous posts we have mentioned the statue of Taharqa (English Bible: Tirhakah) recently discovered in Sudan. Tirhakah, king of Cush, is important in Bible study because he is mentioned in 2 Kings 19:9 (= Isaiah 37:9) as befriending Hezekiah, king of Judah.

The British Museum displays a beautiful granite statute of Tirhakah showing the king standing under the protection of the god Amun shown as a recumbent ram. The gray granite sculpture, dating to about 675 B.C., was found at Karnak. This granite is typical of the Aswan area.

Tirhakah under the protection of the god Amun. British Museum photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tirhakah under the protection of the god Amun. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tirhakah of Sudan (or Ethiopia, or Cush)?

Our post yesterday reported the discovery of a large statue of Taharqa  (English Bible: Tirhakah) deep in Sudan. Some English versions associate Tirhakah with Ethiopia (NET, NKJV). Other associate him with Cush (NAU, ESV, CSB). The Hebrew word here is Kush (or Cush).

Kenneth A. Kitchen clarifies the terminology:

The region S of Egypt, i.e. Nubia or N Sudan, the ‘Ethiopia’ of classical writers (not modern Abyssinia [Ethiopia]). The name Cush in both Hebrew and Assyrian derives from Egyptian Kš (earlier K’s, K’š), ‘Kush’. Originally the name of a district somewhere between the second and third cataracts of the Nile c. 2000 bc, ‘Kush’ became also a general term for Nubia among the Egyptians, which wider use Hebrews, Assyrians and others took over (G. Posener, in Kush 6, 1958, pp. 39–68). (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd Ed.)

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament comments on the term Cush (Ethiopia) as it is used in several Old Testament prophecies.

In several cases, especially in the prophets, Ethiopia is used in parallel construction as a synonym of Egypt (Isa 20:3-5; Ezek 30:4; Nah 3:9). This probably represents the dominance of Ethiopia (or, more precisely, Nubia) over Egypt between 750 and 663 B.C. Terhakah was a notable Nubian pharaoh who tried, unsuccessfully, to block Sennacherib’s westward expansion (2Kings 19:9 ; Isa 37:9). After 663 B. C. Egypt was independent of Nubia (Jer 46:9; Ezek 25:4, 5, 9).

About a year ago I visited a Nubian Village on the banks of the Nile River at the first cataract of the Nile at Aswan. The Nubians at the village originally lived south of Aswan in the ancient territory of Cush. When the new High Dam was built on the Nile the Nubians were moved to other settlements.

One of the interesting things I observed at the village was a shop of some sort called House of Kush (Cush). A sign on top of the building added “Welcome to Taharka Kingdom.” My point is to show the association between southern Egypt, Cush, and Tirhakah.

House of Kush (Cush) in Nubian Village at Aswan, Egypt. Photo by F. Jenkins.

House of Kush (Cush) in Nubian Village, Aswan, Egypt. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Statue of Tirhakah discovered in Sudan

Owen Jarus reports in The Independent the discovery of a massive statue of Pharaoh Taharqa [English Bible: Tirhakah] deep in Sudan.

No statue of a pharaoh has ever been found further south of Egypt than this one. At the height of his reign, King Taharqa controlled an empire stretching from Sudan to the Levant.

A massive, one ton, statue of Taharqa that was found deep in Sudan. Taharqa was a pharaoh of the 25th dynasty of Egypt and came to power ca. 690 BC, controlling an empire stretching from Sudan to the Levant. The pharaohs of this dynasty were from Nubia – a territory located in modern day Sudan and southern Egypt.

Taharqa statue. Photo: Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project.

Taharqa statue. Photo: Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project.

The Nubian pharaohs tried to incorporate Egyptian culture into their own. They built pyramids in Sudan – even though pyramid building in Egypt hadn’t been practised in nearly 800 years. Taharqa’s rule was a high water mark for the 25th dynasty. By the end of his reign a conflict with the Assyrians had forced him to retreat south, back into Nubia – where he died in 664 BC. Egypt became an Assyrian vassal – eventually gaining independence during the 26th dynasty. Taharqa’s successors were never able to retake Egypt.

In addition to Taharqa’s statue, those of two of his successors – Senkamanisken and Aspelta – were found alongside. These two rulers controlled territory in Sudan, but not Egypt.

. . .

While this is the furthest south that a pharaoh’s statue has been found, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Dangeil is the southern border of Taharqa’s empire. It’s possible that he controlled territory further up the Nile.

The statue of Taharqa is truly monumental. “It’s a symbol of royal power,” said Dr. Anderson, an indicator that Dangeil was an “important royal city.”

It’s made of granite and weighs more than one ton. It stood about 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) when it had its head. In ancient times it was smashed into several pieces on purpose. This was also done to the two other statues. It’s not known who did this or why. It happened “a long time after Taharqa,” said Anderson.

. . .

The largest piece of Taharqa’s statue is the torso and base. This part of the statue is so heavy that the archaeological team had to use 18 men to move it onto a truck.

“We had trouble moving him a couple hundred meters,” said Anderson. The move was “extremely well planned,” with the team spending eight to nine days figuring out how to accomplish it without the statue (or the movers) getting damaged.

The full account from The Independent may be read here. A longer article by Jarus, with several photos, may be found in Heritage Key.

After the Assyrian king Sennacherib captured Lachish, he headed for Jerusalem. On the way he heard that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia (Cush) had come out to fight against him.

The king heard that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was marching out to fight him. He again sent messengers to Hezekiah, ordering them: “Tell King Hezekiah of Judah this: ‘Don’t let your God in whom you trust mislead you when he says, “Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.” Certainly you have heard how the kings of Assyria have annihilated all lands. Do you really think you will be rescued? (2 Kings 19:9-11 NET; cf. Isaiah 37:9)

Hezekiah was king of Judah from 716/15 – 687/86 B.C. (Thiele). The events recorded in the Bible took place shortly before 700 B.C. Tirhakah evidently came to power before 690 B.C., was already a leading commander of the army, or there may be another solution to the problem.

HT: Biblical Paths.

Elah Fortress (Khirbet Qeiyafa) inscription deciphered

The following news release comes from the University of Haifa in Israel.

Most ancient Hebrew biblical inscription deciphered

‘It indicates that the kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE, and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.’

Prof. Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who deciphered the inscription: “It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research.”

A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David’s reign), and has shown that this is a Hebrew inscription. The discovery makes this the earliest known Hebrew writing. The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time.

The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley. The inscription was dated back to the 10th century BCE, which was the period of King David’s reign, but the question of the language used in this inscription remained unanswered, making it impossible to prove whether it was in fact Hebrew or another local language.

Prof. Galil’s deciphering of the ancient writing testifies to its being Hebrew, based on the use of verbs particular to the Hebrew language, and content specific to Hebrew culture and not adopted by any other cultures in the region. “This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans. It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah (“did”) and avad (“worked”), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah (“widow”) are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages. The content itself was also unfamiliar to all the cultures in the region besides the Hebrew society: The present inscription provides social elements similar to those found in the biblical prophecies and very different from prophecies written by other cultures postulating glorification of the gods and taking care of their physical needs,” Prof. Galil explains.

He adds that once this deciphering is received, the inscription will become the earliest Hebrew inscription to be found, testifying to Hebrew writing abilities as early as the 10th century BCE. This stands opposed to the dating of the composition of the Bible in current research, which would not have recognized the possibility that the Bible or parts of it could have been written during this ancient period.

Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription. Courtesy of the University of Haifa.

Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription. Courtesy of the University of Haifa.

Prof. Galil also notes that the inscription was discovered in a provincial town in Judea. He explains that if there were scribes in the periphery, it can be assumed that those inhabiting the central region and Jerusalem were even more proficient writers. “It can now be maintained that it was highly reasonable that during the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies such as the books of Judges and Samuel.” He adds that the complexity of the text discovered in Khirbet Qeiyafa, along with the impressive fortifications revealed at the site, refute the claims denying the existence of the Kingdom of Israel at that time.

The contents of the text express social sensitivity to the fragile position of weaker members of society. The inscription testifies to the presence of strangers within the Israeli society as far back as this ancient period, and calls to provide support for these strangers. It appeals to care for the widows and orphans and that the king – who at that time had the responsibility of curbing social inequality – be involved. This inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures (Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, Exodus 23:3, and others), but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text.

English translation of the deciphered text:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

Khirbet Qeiyafa overlooking the Elah Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Khirbet Qeiyafa overlooking the Elah Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer; Eurekalert!.

Comment by Ferrell Jenkins: Not everyone will agree with all of Prof. Galil’s conclusions, but there is much here for study and discussion.

Zorah and the tomb of Samson

Yesterday we noted the relation between the Sorek Valley and other cities associated with Samson, Zorah and Eshtaol. This photo shows Tel Zorah which is now surrounded by a nice forest.

Aerial view of Zorah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Tel Zorah near the Sorek Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To the left of the tel you will see the Sorek Valley in the haze. In a clearing on the tel you will see something blue. This is a “tomb” dedicated to Samson. In the photo below we have a better view of the “tomb.”

Aerial view of the "tomb of Samson" at Zorah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the "tomb of Samson" at Tel Zorah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have no idea when this “tomb” was erected, but I suspect it is fairly recent. The Bible recounts the death of Samson in one of the Philistine cities and his subsequent burial between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father.

Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years. (Judges 16:31 NAU)

2009 summary of tech tools for Bible study

At the Biblical Studies Info Page (under Scholarly/Blogs) I keep links to two sources specializing in technology and Bible study. These are Biblical Studies and Techological Tools and Tyndale Tech.

Mark Hoffman has posted a  2009 Review of Biblical Studies and Tech Tools here.

Over the Sorek Valley and Beth-shemesh

The Israelites took the ark of the covenant from the tabernacle at Shiloh to the battle field at Ebenezer when they were fighting with the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). The ark was captured by the Philistines and taken to Ashdod, then to Gath, and finally to Ekron before they decided to get rid of it. The ark was returned to Beth-shemesh (Beth Shemesh, Bethshemesh; 1 Samuel 4-6).

Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they raised their eyes and saw the ark and were glad to see it. The cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite and stood there where there was a large stone; and they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. (1 Samuel 6:13-14 NAU)

Our aerial photo today shows a portion of the Sorek Valley. The mound of Beth-shemesh, with its archaeological scarring,  is visible in the lower right corner of the photo. The view here is NE, toward the Judean Mountains. The Sorek River bed is visible curving its way along the far side of the valley.

The Sorek Valley is associated with the account of Samson and Delilah.

After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. (Judges 16:4 NAU)

Aerial view of Beth Shemesh and the Sorek Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2009.

Aerial view of Beth-shemesh and the Sorek Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2009.

The sites of Zorah and Eshtaol are located in the foothills of the Judean Mountains among the trees. These sites are associated with Samson.

Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. (Judges 13:24-25 NAU)

The Sorek Valley continues to the left for a few miles toward Timnah, where Samson married a Philistine woman and performed many of his exploits (Judges 14-15).