Monthly Archives: January 2010

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.

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.