Monthly Archives: June 2010

Walking through the sewers of first century Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced September 10, 2007 the discovery of a channel that is thought to run from the Temple Mount to the Pool of Siloam, or further.

In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the City of David in order to expose the main road of Jerusalem from the time of the Second Temple period, the city’s main drainage channel was discovered. According to the writings of Josephus Flavius, the residents of the city fled to this channel at the time of the revolt in order to hide from the Romans.

In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is jointly carrying out with the Elad Association in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park, approximately 70 meters of Jerusalem’s main drainage channel from the time of the Second Temple period have been exposed so far. The channel is located along the route from the Temple Mount to the Shiloah Pool. The channel, which passes beneath the main road of the city and apparently continues to Nahal Kidron on its way to the Dead Sea, drained the rainfall of ancient Jerusalem; the Jewish quarter, the western region of the City of David and the Temple Mount.

The complete report may be read here.

Old news, you say. Here is what is new. My group had the opportunity May 7, 2010, to walk through the channel. Twice before I had walked along a portion of the steps leading uphill from the Pool of Siloam, but this was my first time to walk in through the channel (sewer). It was the first time my local guide had walked through the channel.

Ronnie Reich and Eli Shukron, the excavators, are quoted as saying,

“There is evidence in the writings of Josephus Flavius, the historian who described the revolt, the conquest and the destruction of Jerusalem, that numerous people took shelter in the channel and even lived in it for a period until they succeeded to flee the city through its southern end.”

In some of the media reports this comment includes a reference to The Jewish War. I admit to not being a great Josephus scholar, but I have been unable to locate a specific reference like this in Josephus. He does speak of the citizens of Jerusalem hiding in subterranean caverns of the temple (under the platform, I assume) (5:102), and he mentions secret passages (JW 5:497). If a reader has located the reference to the channel I would be pleased to have it. This does sound like a reasonable suggestion.

This first photo was made closer to the Pool of Siloam.

Roman Period Sewer in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Period Sewer in Jerusalem. Photo: F. Jenkins.

The next one is closer to the northern end of the current excavation. I would say this is a about half way from the Pool to the Temple Mount. At this point the  channel begins to have the smell of a sewer.

Roman Period Sewer in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Period Sewer in Jerusalem. Photo: F. Jenkins.

The current channel exits on the west side of the street.

This photo was made as I walked up toward the Temple Mount. You can see the southern wall of the Temple Mount. The building on the right, past the flags, is the entrance to the City of David operated by the Ir David Foundation.

View north toward Temple Mount. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View north toward Temple Mount. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the view to the south toward the Pool of Siloam, and eventually the point at which the Tyropean, Hinnom, and Kidron valleys come together.

View south toward Pool of Siloam. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View south toward Pool of Siloam. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Update: Be sure to read the comment by Tom Powers in which he mentions other possible references from Josephus. You may also find Tom’s articles helpful. See his blog here.

How? When we were looking at the mural showing a reconstruction of the Pool of Siloam, our guide (Elie) started to go back the way we entered. An elderly gentlemen who was selling booklets said we could now go through the channel. Fortunately he was correct!

Samaritans want Mount Gerizim site opened to public

The Samaritians want the archaeological site at the peak of Mount Gerizim opened to the public.

At the peak of Mount Gerizim in the West Bank is a fenced-off archeological site, where a dig conducted under the auspices of the Israel Defense Forces Civil Administration recently uncovered a well-preserved 2,000-year-old city, once home to 10,000 people.

Although the site is off-limits to the public, the dig has revealed streets flanked by houses as well as a city center, all of which make it a potentially important tourist destination. The Civil Administration made a decision in May to keep the site closed to visitors, for the time being.

Mount Gerizim is a holy site to the Samaritan community, an ancient sect closely related to Judaism. According to Samaritan tradition, the mountain is the site of the ancient Tabernacle. The archaeological excavations at the site were undertaken in 1982, and continued for 22 years at an investment of tens of millions of shekels, revealing new finds on a daily basis.

Benny Katzover, who served for many years as head of the Samaria Regional Council, said the excavations began in an effort to find what the Samarians regard as their Holy Temple. Katzover said the ancient historian Joseph Flavius [Josephus] explained that, following disputes with the Jews, the Samaritans moved their spiritual center to Mount Gerizim, near what is now the West Bank city of Nablus, and built their temple on a scope identical to the one in Jerusalem.

“The finds,” he said, “reveal a high standard of living, including baths and ceramic tile and heating and mosaics… You can see that it was the capital of a whole kingdom.”

The article, in its entirety, may be read here.

Last December I visited Mount Gerizim. A fence surrounds the archaeological site and makes it impossible to get photos of specific areas. Here is a photo I made from the fence.

Archaeological Excavations on Mount Gerizim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Archaeological Excavations on Mount Gerizim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From another point it is possible to see Nablus below in the valley between Gerizim and Ebal. Click for a larger image.

View of Nablus from Mount Gerizim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Nablus from Mount Gerizim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The blessings of the Law of Moses were read from the slopes of Mount Gerizim as the Israelites assembled in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.

33 And all Israel, sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them. (Joshua 8:33-35 ESV)

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Tel Kassis (Qassis or Qashish) slideshow

Discovery News has posted a nice slide show with narration by Edwin van den Brink here. He comments on the items found in the recent emergency dig at Tel Kassis and speaks of the end of the Canaanite culture in a fierce conflagration.

Dr. Edwin van der Brink show an incense stand. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Edwin van den Brink shows an incense stand. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

The commentary in Discovery News says,

Most likely, the priests buried the temple’s furniture in order to protect the items from destruction during an incursion of the ancient Egyptians.

That is not a bad idea. Several Canaanite cities were burned by fire when the Israelites came into the country under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 6:24; 7:15; 7:25; 8:8; 8:19; 11:11). We are not able with the info available to say that Israel destroyed Tel Kassis (Helkath), but I am pointing out that this would cause a cultural break.

Many cities were not destroyed at the time. In fact, the LORD told Israel that he would give them “great and good cities” which they did not build (Deuteronomy 6:10).

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

3,500 year old discovery at Tell Kassis (Qassis)

The Israel Antiquities Authority reports here today on the discovery of more than 100 ancient cultic vessels in a natural hollow in the bedrock next to the Tishbi (Yokneam) junction

In an excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting along the route of the northern gas pipeline planned by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company

A natural hollow in the bedrock that was exposed in archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the installation of the northern gas pipeline by the Israel Natural Gas Lines Company, at the foot of Tel Qashish (Tell el Qassis [or Tell Kassis]), did not cease to provide ancient surprises. For two weeks archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority excavated the contents of the rock-hollow and removed from it more than 100 intact cultic vessels and other extraordinary items that are c. 3,500 years old. Again and again, every time the excavators thought they reached the bottom of the cavity a new and fascinating layer of complete vessels was discovered beneath the one that was previously dismantled.

In the past the ancients would descend into the rock-hollow by way of two broad, hewn steps. Inside the cavity whole vessels were found piled one atop the other and other vessels were broken by those that had been placed upon them. Among the finds that were recovered: a cultic vessel that was used for burning incense, a sculpted face of a woman that was part of a cultic cup used in dedicating a libation to a god, goblets and bowls with high bases and tableware that was intended for eating and drinking. Other vessels that were found had been brought from Mycenae in Greece, including a storage vessel for precious oils – evidence of the ancient trade relations that existed with Greece.

According to archaeologists Uzi Ad and Dr. Edwin van den Brink, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, this is an extremely rare discovery. Until now no such pits as these have been found from 3,500 years ago. It is also extraordinary to find scores of vessels that are in such a good state of preservation. In most excavations fragments of pottery vessels are found, whereas here the vessels were removed from the rock-hollow intact. Each object was removed with the greatest of care, was drawn and documented and revealed beneath it a wealth of other finds. The vessels are numbered and their precise location in the heap is recorded for future research. According to the archaeologists, it is obvious that considerable time and thought were invested in the placement of the vessels in the rock-hollow, as evidence by the different kinds of vessels that were buried separately.

Archaeologists van den Brink and Ad have various theories regarding the purpose of the rock-hollow. “In this period, before the Bible, the children of Israel were still in Egypt or the desert, and it would appear that the vessels were used in a pagan cult that worshiped idols. During this period it was customary that each city had a temple of its own where special cultic vessels were used”.

At the end of the Late Bronze Age (the Canaanite period) the region was vanquished, including Tel Qashish, which was destroyed by a fierce conflagration, along with nearby Tel Yoqneʽam.  Therefore, one of the theories is that the vessels were buried in order to protect them from the impending destruction.

Another possibility is that the cultic vessels that were employed in the rituals practiced in the temple were buried after they were no longer used. Since these artifacts were part of the ritual ceremonies a special place was allocated for them and unlike other vessels they were not discarded in the garbage.

Cultic Verssels at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Cultic Verssels at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

The next photo shows a cultic cup with the face of a woman.

Cultic Cup discovered at Tell Kishbi. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Cultic Cup discovered at Tell Kassis. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Those who have visited the site of Murakah on Mount Carmel have seen this tell and the Kishon River in the Jezreel Valley. The photo below shows the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley. The tell is in the center of the photo at the bottom. You can make out the line of the Kishon River below the tell. The dark areas in the photo are shadows of passing clouds. Click for a larger image.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo is a cropped portion of the previous photo. The tell is clearly visible.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon River from Mount Carmel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis and the Kishon River from Mount Carmel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Kassis (or Tell el-Qasis) is thought by some scholars to be the Biblical Helkath. Helkath was a town belonging to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:25), and one of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:31). This area is also associated with the battle of Deborah and Barak against the Canaanites (Judges 4-5). After the contest on Mount Carmel, Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed at the Brook Kishon.

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. (1 Kings 18:40 ESV)

Rotem, the young lady who is webmaster for Bible Walks, lives only a few kilometers from the site. She has included many great photos of the mound and of the recent emergency excavations here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The first cataract of the Nile

Aswan is the location of the first cataract of the Nile River. This made it an ideal location for the Aswan Dam which was built between 1898 and 1902. This created a small lake south of the dam, but it was nothing to compare with Lake Nasser which has been formed as a result of the building of the new high dam at Aswan between 1960 and 1971.

The new high dam was constructed at a time when the Soviet Union was providing technical, economic and military support to Egypt. I remember staying in a hotel in Egypt in 1973 filled with Soviet tourists. In the years following we saw none of them. Lake Nasser stretches south for more than 300 miles. Many of the Nubians who lived in this area were resettled by the Egyptian government.

Our photo was made below the new high dam from a Nubian settlement. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The first cataract of the Nile at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first cataract of the Nile at Aswan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some scholars identify the Arabic name Aswan with the Syene of Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6. It may be identified with the Sinim of Isaiah 49:12.

I am against you and your waterways. I will turn the land of Egypt into an utter desolate ruin from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border with Ethiopia. (Ezekiel 29:10 NET)

The Hebrew word translated Ethiopia (or Cush) in some English versions is Kush (Cush).

Look, they come from far away! Look, some come from the north and west, and others from the land of Sinim! (Isaiah 49:12 NET)

The Text Critical note in the NET Bible explains,

The MT reads “Sinim” here; the Dead Sea Scrolls read “Syene,” a location in Egypt associated with modern Aswan. A number of recent translations adopt this reading: “Syene” (NAB, NRSV); “Aswan” (NIV); “Egypt” (NLT).

Goshen and the Great Bitter Lake

The land of Goshen is fascinating because it is much different from the Egypt that so many of us studied in elementary school. Instead of sand, river, and pyramids, Goshen is a flat agricultural region in the eastern Nile Delta.

Perhaps Goshen is most fascinating as the long-time home of the sons of Israel. Joseph told his brothers,

You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. (Genesis 45:10 ESV)

The photo below  shows reeds (bulrushes) growing on the banks of the Great Bitter Lake. This is the largest of a chain of lakes through which the Suez Canal runs. I have used a Photoshop plug-in called Topaz Adjust to turn this photo into a sketch that more resembles a photo made at night. If you think it might be useful in a lesson, you may click on the photo for a larger image.

Reeds (bulrushes) growing in the Great Bitter Lake. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Sketch of Reeds (bulrushes) growing in the Great Bitter Lake. Photo by F. Jenkins.

There are several good suggestions for the place of the exodus recorded in Exodus 14. This vicinity may be the sea described in Exodus 14:9.

Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Other scholars suggest a location associated with Lake Timsa which is a few miles to the north.

Sadat of Egypt died in the pursuit of peace

My schedule is full, but I ran across this photo that I thought I would share. Anwar El Sadat was the third president of Egypt in modern times. He served from 1970 until his assassination October 6, 1981. Sadat made peace with Israel on March 26, 1979.

This photo shows the beautiful monument to Sadat that stands across the street from the viewing stands where he was assassinated.

Sadat Monument in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sadat Monument in Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.