Monthly Archives: April 2010

A good day in Israel

Our group had a wonderful day visiting Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, Megiddo, and Nazareth Village. I captured some nice photos, but am just too tired from the jet lag to work on them for posting. Maybe tomorrow.

Everyone in the group seems to be well and enjoying the experience. Tonight we are at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.

Safe arrival in Israel

Our group arrived safely in Israel at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv about 5:10 p.m. (7 hours ahead of EDT). After claiming all but 2 pieces of luggage for the entire group, we had time to go to Joppa for a short visit before sundown.

Later we drove north along the Plain of Sharon to Netanya where we are staying at a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. This provides a beautiful view of the sea, and the moon is full. I look forward to seeing the waves by day light.

Tomorrow we plan to visit Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, Mediggo, and the Nazareth Village before arriving at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.

Jane and Olen have been with me on several tours, and many of you have come to enjoy Jane’s blog. She reports on lots of interesting stuff that goes on behind the scene. I encourage you to follow her Journeys With Jane as we make this journey through Israel and Jordan. The URL is

Departing for Israel and Jordan

Shortly we will be departing Atlanta for Israel.

Nikon D90. Photo of the Jordan River by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ready to photograph scenes of the Bible World.

Thanks for following the blog. Hopefully you will find it interesting and helpful. After a few days in Israel we will cross the Jordan River into Jordan to visit important sites there. Then we will cross back into Israel for the conclusion of our tour.

The photo in the camera LCD screen is of the Jordan River at the traditional Bethany Beyond the Jordan from the Jordan side of the River.

These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:28 NAU)

Things are not always what they seem

Surely I will receive a few links from friends who want to inform me that certain discoveries have been made that should be mentioned on this page. Because I am busy getting ready to leave the country I do not have time to write in detail. Please take a look at the links I suggest for reliable information.

Noah’s Ark Found. Yes, it was reported on major news outlets. See the following links:

Bible Places Blog by Todd Bolen.

Ben Witherington. Be sure to see the Bill Cosby clip, too.

Giant Skeleton Found. Michael Hasel discusses the report of the discovery of skeleton’s of giants in the recent issue of DigSight here. There is also good info on the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation and ostracon.

Samaritan Passover is today

The Samaritans celebrate passover today, April 28, 2010. Lambs will be sacrificed and roasted in the pits seen here on Mount Gerizim.

Pits used by Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim at Passover. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pits used by Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim at Passover. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

See old photos at Life in the Holy Land here. Todd Bolen has some nice photos and explanations at Bible Places here, and another article here. A website provided by the Samaritans is available here.

Passover is a celebration that originated as the Israelites prepared to depart from Egypt.

And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exodus 12:26-27 ESV)

The Samaritans are a curiosity in the modern world. The men and boys wear a dress-like robe, while many of the women dress in modern fashions. We have written more about the Samaritans here.

Samaritan man and woman on Mount Gerizim. Photo by Ferrell  Jenkins.

Samaritan man and woman on Mount Gerizim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus paused in the valley below Mount Gerizim at Jacob’s well. He discussed the issue of worship in “this mountain” with the woman of Samaria (John 4:1-42).

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24 ESV)

Jodanian students work at Umm Qais

Jordanian students from the International Academy Amman spent a week excavating at Umm Qais. The full article may be read in The Jordan Times here.

Students from the International Academy in Amman work at Um Qais. Photo by Taylor Luck, Jordan Times.

Students from the International Academy in Amman work at Um Qais. Photo by Taylor Luck, Jordan Times.

Umm Qais (a common spelling) is the site of Gadara, one of the cities of the Decapolis. Mendel Nun discovered 16 ancient ports around the Sea of Galilee, including one for the city of Gadara. He describes Gadara:

Gadara, the most magnificent of the Hellenistic towns that circled the Sea of Galilee, was located on the heights of Gilead above the Yarmuk River. The marine suburb and the city’s harbor were located on the southeastern shore of the lake, at Tel Samra (now Ha-on Holiday Village). In form, Gadara’s harbor resembles that of Sussita—a closed basin with an opening to the south—but it is much larger and more luxurious. The central breakwater is 800 feet long and its base 15 feet wide. The promenade was 650 feet long, built with finely chiseled stones, only one of which remains. The 150-foot-wide basin covered an area of 3 acres.

This harbor is superior to the one at Sussita not only because of its size but also because of its facilities. At the center of the promenade are the remains of a tower. Ruins of a large structure—probably the building of the harbor administration—are scattered on the ground near the harbor gate.

Gadara’s maritime character is attested by its coins, which depicted ships of war for some 250 years. The city’s harbor at Tel Samra was almost certainly not only an anchorage for ships. Second-century coins from Gadara commemorate the Naumachia—naval battle games performed for the inhabitants of Gadara. Until recently, researchers assumed that these games took place on the Yarmuk River, which flows into the Jordan just south of the Sea of Galilee; but this does not seem likely, and no remains of a facility of this kind have been found at this site. The large harbor basin at Tel Samra, however, with its 1,600-foot-long combined promenade and breakwater, would surely have been more suitable to accommodate the throngs of spectators as they arrived. In addition, Gadara’s harbor must have been used by thousands of visitors to the famous baths at Hamat Gader, located 5 miles southeast of the sea. The ancient Roman road connecting Beth Shean and Sussita passed near Tel Samra, and the road to Hamat Gader branched off this road. (Mendel Nun. “Ports of Galilee.” Biblical Archaeology Review 25:04; July/Aug 1999)

From Umm Qais (Gadara) one has a great view of the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River valley. We are told that Jesus visited the region of Decapolis.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. (Mark 7:31 ESV)

The Gospel of Matthew informs us about the healing by Jesus of two demon-possessed men in the country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28). Mark puts this event in the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). Luke adds that they “sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee” (Luke 8:26).

The photo below was made in the late afternoon when citizens of the local Jordanian village came out to enjoy the view. The view across the Sea is not clear, but you can see the entire western coast line. In the right foreground you can see a bunker used by the Jordanians in recent wars in the region. The hill directly across from the bunker is the beginning of the Golan Heights. Prior to 1967 this was in Syria. The Yarmuk River flows into the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee. All of the significant rivers of Jordan that flow into the Jordan River have dams on them, thus decreasing the amount of water flowing into the Jordan.

Late afternoon view of the Sea of Galilee from Umm Qais. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo was made in 2002. It shows a portion of the nymphaeum (attractive water fountain) and the Yarmuk Valley.

The Sea of Galilee from Umm Qais (Gadara). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Sea of Galilee from Umm Qais (Gadara). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Todd Bolen posted a beautiful, clear photo that also shows the Yarmuk River valley and the nymphaeum here. Note that the nymphaeum had undergone some reconstruction when his photo was made.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Hoard of coins from time of Ptolemy III discovered

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced Thursday the discovery of a hoard of 383 bronze coins dating to the time of King Ptolemy III (ruled 246–222 B.C.). The well-preserved coins, found in the Fayoum about 50 miles southwest of Cairo, depict the Egyptian god Amun-Zeus on one side and the words Ptolemy and king in Greek on the other.

The Edfu Temple begun by Ptolemy III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Edfu Temple begun by Ptolemy III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The famous Alexandria Library was established in the 4th century B.C. by Ptolemy Soter I, or a few years later by his son. The Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek under the Ptolemaic rulers, beginning about 280 B.C. This Greek version was in common use in the first century. More than half of the quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament come from the Septuagint (Greek) version. For example, this is the version the man of Ethiopia was reading about the suffering servant:

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30 ESV)

Philip the evangelist began at that Scripture and preached Jesus to him.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer; various media reports.

Update: Todd Bolen has posted a beautiful photo here of Lake Qarun near the site of the discovery.

Palestine nineteen centuries ago

Alfred Edersheim wrote his Sketches of Jewish Social Life in 1876. He tells us how the land of Palestine looked after three and a half centuries of Ottoman Rule. If you have read after some of the older scholars you know they were fond of long paragraphs. A far cry from the single sentence paragraphs we see in newspapers today. It says a lot about the readers, I suppose. Anyway, I have divided the single paragraph into four for ease of reading.

Eighteen and a half centuries ago, and the land which now lies desolate—its bare, grey hills looking into ill-tilled or neglected valleys, its timber cut down, its olive- and vine-clad terraces crumbled into dust, its villages stricken with poverty and squalor, its thoroughfares insecure and deserted, its native population well-nigh gone, and with them its industry, wealth, and strength—presented a scene of beauty, richness, and busy life almost unsurpassed in the then known world.

Then, he tells us how the land was described eighteen centuries prior to his day:

The Rabbis never weary of its praises, whether their theme be the physical or the moral pre-eminence of Palestine. It happened, so writes one of the oldest Hebrew commentaries, that Rabbi Jonathan was sitting under a fig-tree, surrounded by his students. Of a sudden he noticed how the ripe fruit overhead, bursting for richness, dropped its luscious juice on the ground, while at a little distance the distended udder of a she-goat was no longer able to hold the milk. “Behold,” exclaimed the Rabbi, as the two streams mingled, “the literal fulfillment of the promise: ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’“ “The land of Israel is not lacking in any product whatever,” argued Rabbi Meir, “as it is written (Deuteronomy 8:9): ‘Thou shalt not lack anything in it.’“ Nor were such statements unwarranted; for Palestine combined every variety of climate, from the snows of Hermon and the cool of Lebanon to the genial warmth of the Lake of Galilee and the tropical heat of the Jordan valley. Accordingly not only the fruit trees, the grain, and garden produce known in our colder latitudes were found in the land, along with those of sunnier climes, but also the rare spices and perfumes of the hottest zones.

Fig growing at Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fig growing at the Banias River, Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Similarly, it is said, every kind of fish teemed in its waters, while birds of most gorgeous plumage filled the air with their song. Within such small compass the country must have been unequaled for charm and variety. On the eastern side of Jordan stretched wide plains, upland valleys, park-like forests, and almost boundless corn and pasture lands; on the western side were terraced hills, covered with olives and vines, delicious glens, in which sweet springs murmured, and fairy-like beauty and busy life, as around the Lake of Galilee.

In the distance stretched the wide sea, dotted with spreading sails; here was luxurious richness, as in the ancient possessions of Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim; and there, beyond these plains and valleys, the highland scenery of Judah, shelving down through the pasture tracts of the Negev, or South country, into the great and terrible wilderness. And over all, so long as God’s blessing lasted, were peace and plenty. Far as the eye could reach, browsed “the cattle on a thousand hills”; the pastures were “clothed with flocks, the valleys also covered over with corn”; and the land, “greatly enriched with the river of God,” seemed to “shout for joy,” and “also to sing.” Such a possession, heaven-given at the first and heaven-guarded throughout, might well kindle the deepest enthusiasm.

Jaffa Gate reopened today

The Jerusalem Post reports the reopening of Jaffa Gate after two months of renovation.

A large black cloth that has shrouded Jaffa Gate in both darkness and mystery over the past two months was removed Wednesday morning during a special ceremony to rededicate the famous Jerusalem landmark, revealing the extensive “face-lift” recently given to one of the Old City’s most important and well-known points of entry.

The gate’s freshly-cleaned Jerusalem stones, a completely refurbished white ceiling inside its entryway, and other aesthetic fruits of the renovation labor were immediately apparent after the cloth came down.

The complete report is available here.

Here is an aerial photo of the Jaffa Gate (in the bottom of the photo) and the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in December.

Aerial view of Jaffa Gate and the Christian Quarter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jaffa Gate and the Christian Quarter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Early farming sites uncovered in Syria

The Syrian Department of Archaeology and Museums reports excavations of some farming communities on the Euphrates River in northern Syria dating back to the 10th millennium B.C.

Assistant Director of the Syrian Department of Archaeology and Museums Thaer Yerte said excavations at the site revealed information about the communities that settled on the banks of the Euphrates, uncovering two different areas that include three communal buildings and dozens of circular houses built from limestone and paved with pebbles from the river.

The structures contained various flint tools such as blades, knives, sickles, arrow tips and hatchets, tools used for leatherwork and crafting straw mats, stone mills and pestles, pottery fragments and animal bones and horns, Yerte added.

He pointed out that the first communal building in the site contains a circular hole in the ground 15 meters deep with a diameter of 12 meters, with a clay terrace inside the building containing limestone blocks decorated with engravings of animals, geometrical shapes and the sun. The floor is made of clay tiles painted with lime, while the ceiling is supported by wooden pillars.

The second communal building is circular with a diameter of 7 meters, consisting of five chambers with a square stone support pillar in its center. It contained flint and stone tools, stone pottery, a flint figurine representing a mother goddess, a clay figurine representing a half-human half-animal creature, and ox horns.

The complete article may be read here.

The area in northern Syria and southeastern Turkey along the Euphrates River is known as Paddan-aram in the book of Genesis. This area served as home for several of the biblical patriarchs. See Genesis 25:20; 28:2,5-7; 31:18; 33:18; 35:9,26; 46:15).

Today’s photo of the Euphrates River was made in northern Syria about 25 miles south of the border with Turkey.

The Euphrates River in northern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Euphrates River in northern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.