Monthly Archives: May 2010

Samson and the Sorek Valley

Samson is often described as a man of great physical strength, but one lacking in moral character. After outwitting the Gazites and taking away the door of the gate of the city he became involved with a Philistine woman named Delilah.

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. (Judges 16:4 ESV)

The Sorek River flows east from the mountains of Judea through the Sorek Valley, past Beth-shemesh and Timnah. Today the brook is polluted, as you may be able to detect in the photo. At this point, near Beth-shemesh, there is a terrible odor associated with the area around the river. I think it comes from the chicken or turkey farms in the valley.

No longer a nice place to take a date.

The Sorek River in the Sorek Valley near Beth-shemesh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sorek River in the Sorek Valley near Beth-shemesh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman altar excavated at Ashkelon

It happens with regularity in Israel. Someone is building. The builder encounter ancient ruins. The Israel Antiquities Authority is called. (I wonder how many times they are not called.) Construction is halted while an emergency excavation is conducted. Amazing discoveries are often uncovered.

This time it happened at Ashkelon during construction of an Emergency Room at the Barzilai Hospital. Here is the account provided by the IAA.

The development work for the construction of a fortified emergency room at Barzilai Hospital, which is being conducted by a contractor carefully supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has unearthed a new and impressive find: a magnificent pagan altar dating to the Roman period (first-second centuries CE) made of granite and adorned with bulls’ heads and a laurel wreaths. The altar stood in the middle of the ancient burial field.

According to Dr. Yigal Israel, Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The discovery further corroborates the assertion that we are dealing with a pagan cemetery. It is an impressive find that has survived 2,000 years. The altar is c. 60 centimeters [24 inches] tall and it is decorated with bulls’ heads, from which dangle laurels wreaths. There is a strap in the middle of each floral wreath and bull’s head. The laurel wreaths are decorated with grape clusters and leaves. This kind of altar is known as an “incense altar”. Such altars usually stood in Roman temples and visitors to the temple used to burn incense in them, particularly myrrh and frankincense, while praying to their idols. We can still see the burnt marks on the altar that remain from the fire. The altar was probably donated by one of the families who brought it to the cemetery from the city of Ashkelon”.

Roman altar discovered at Ashkelon. Photo: IAA.

Roman altar discovered at Ashkelon. Photo: IAA.

More information is available from the IAA here.

The motif on this altar is common in the Greco-Roman world. The photo below shows a similar bull’s head on what appears to be part of an architectural frieze in the Augustan Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch.

From Augustan Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From Augustan Imperial Sanctuary at Pisidian Antioch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Archaeological Museum in Thessalonica exhibits an altar from the Roman Imperial age (35 B.C.) that, according to the inscription on it, was reused as a pedestal in the temple of Isis in the 2nd century A.D.

Roman Imperial Altar. Thessalonica, Greece, Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Imperial Altar. Thessalonica Museum. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

These stones showing garlanded animals remind me of what happened to Paul and Barnabas at Lystra in Lycaonia.

And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. (Acts 14:13 ESV)

HT: Joseph Lauer and numerous blogs. Note especially the comments on the current religious/political comments by Jim West and Aren Maeir about the Ashkelon altar at Zwinglius Redivivus.

Back in the USA

Our flight from Tel Aviv to Atlanta on Delta was on time. The flight was routed over Turkey, Europe, and the UK. It was exactly 13 hours in length.

Soon we will board the final leg of our journey that began April 28. Now we get back home and tend to the yard, leaking pipes, sorting photos, etc. Life is an exciting adventure.

Pentecost morning at Nebi Samwil

Last evening at sundown the Jews began to celebrate their modern interpretation of  Pentecost (Shavu’ot). Christians know this from the Old Testament scriptures as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9).

The church had it beginning with the preaching of the gospel in its fullness on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2).

When we noticed that the sky was clear with a few nice clouds, we decided to go to Nebi Samwil (Prophet Samuel), a site suggested as the location of Mizpah by some scholars. Others suggest Tell en-Nasbeh, a mound located at Al Bira in the West Bank. I will have to postpone commenting further due to the fact that my flight will soon be called.

Samuel, the last judge of Israel, called all of the people of Israel to Mizpah and judged them (1 Samuel 7:5-6). Samuel also anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel at Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:1). Mizpah became the headquarters of Gedaliah as governor of Judah after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem  (2 Kings 25:23).

Back to Pentecost. Pentecost is celebrated in much the same way as a sabbath. I said all of that to say, there was very little traffic this morning as we made our way to Nebi Samwil. This distant photo shows how clear the view was on the southern side of the ridge where Nebi Samwil sits. The view on the north side of the territory of Benjamin was not quite as clear, but it was still nice.

Nebi Samwil on the Ridge. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nebi Samwil on the Ridge. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The lady in the photo below is my lovely wife of more than 55 years. She has been with me on numerous tours to Israel, but she has made two trips when it was just the two of us. I must say that she is not that much into tells. A day or two ago I took her to Tell Jerusalem Mall, and that made up for a lot. 🙂  We have had a great time these past 9 days since our group returned home.

Elizabeth at Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Elizabeth at Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Thanks for sharing this trip with us. Please continue to read the travel blog on a regular basis. If there is some particular photo you would like to see let me know by leaving a comment.

A view of Capernaum

Looking back over the photos I have taken in the past three weeks, I noted this unusual one of Capernaum from the hill above, up toward the Mount of Beatitudes. This photos shows the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee with a portion of the plain of Bethsaida visible.

Capernaum became the Galilean center for the ministry of Jesus.

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, (Matthew 4:13 ESV)

Capernaum from the Hill Above. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Capernaum from the Hill Above. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On this afternoon, May 15, the sky was fairly clear. The eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is visible. Those are dried thistles in the foreground of the photo.

Tomorrow is our last day in Jerusalem. Perhaps we will be able to post something late in the day before departing for home.

Models can be valuable teaching aids

Model reconstructions can be helpful in teaching when the original is not available. Such is true of the temple of biblical times. Herod’s temple was a magnificent building, according to the disciples of Jesus.

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1 ESV)

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. (Matthew 24:1 ESV)

Using the hints from the New Testament, Josephus, and other Jewish sources, some scholars have made a model of the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple). For many years this model was located on the grounds of the Holyland Hotel, but recently has been moved to the grounds of the Israel Museum. Click for a larger image.

Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Watchtowers were used in vineyards (Isaiah 5:2; Luke 14:28; see here), and as lookout posts.

Then he who saw cried out: “Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed whole nights. (Isaiah 21:8 ESV)

The concept is used figuratively of the LORD’S care for His people.

for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. (Psalm 61:3 ESV)

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10 ESV)

Yesterday afternoon we stopped by Yad Hashmona in the Judean Hills near Abu Ghosh (Kiriath-jearim) to visit the Biblical Village. Yad Hashmona operates a guest house and guiding center. Some readers will recognize it as the site of the campus of Master’s College IBEX program.

The Biblical Village provides a wonderful site for teaching, and photos of the reconstructions should be helpful too.

Watchtower, Biblical Garden, Yad Hashmona. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Watchtower, Biblical Village, Yad Hashmona. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Actually I wrote about this to provide Todd his regular fix of Israel while he is in exile in Texas. 🙂

Acco, Akko, Acre, Tell el Fukhar

Saterday afternoon we drove from Tiberias to Akko. On my previous tour I failed to get any photos of the ancient tel of Acco (also spelled Akko and Acre). The mound is known as Tell el Fukhar (hill of clay pottery) in Arabic.

Excavations by Prof. Moshe Dothan between 1973-1985 demonstrated that the site was first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age (about 3000 B.C.).

Tel Akko (Acco, Acre). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Akko (Acco, Acre). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acco is mentioned only once in the Bible. The city is within the territory originally allotted to the tribe of Asher, but the tribe was unable to conquer it.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, (Judges 1:31 ESV)

After about 100 B.C. the coastal city was known as Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). Paul spent one day with the brethren here on the return from his third journey.