Monthly Archives: July 2010

Italy seeks sponsors for Colosseum repair

The news sources are reporting that Italian officials are seeking $32 million in funds to repair the crumbling Colosseum. This is in exchange for advertising rights. I have been trying to envision how it might look.

Thinking about how it would look with advertising.

This is how the Colosseum might look with advertising. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Magnitude 8 earthquake hits Gath

Tell es-Safi/Gath is a Philistine city currently being excavation under the direction of Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar Ilan University. The 2010 excavation season is over and we are learning more information about some of the discoveries this year.

The second image is of the very impressive collapse of a large brick wall that was found in Area F (near the summit of the tell). This wall, which appears to be over 20 m in length, was moved laterally about 2 meters, and then toppled. Based on the tight stratigraphic context, this can be dated to the mid-8th cent. BCE (above the 9th cent. destruction level, followed by level of wind-blown sediment, then the collapse and then 2, late 8th cent. levels). After discussing this with seismologists, it has been agreed upon that this in fact could have only have been caused by an earthquake, perhaps one of major force (ca. 8 on the Richter scale). Based on the dating of this event to the early/mid eighth century, it may very likely be evidence of the earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 (and perhaps also in Isaiah 6:4). Here is a picture of the collapse. Notice how bricks were moved off the stone foundation and then toppled over as a “deck of cards”.

Read the entire report, along with a hi-res image, here. Scroll back through the blog to see other discoveries this year.

tell-es-saf/Gath brick wall destroyed in earthquake

Brick wall at Gath destroyed by earthquake. Photo: Bar Ilan University.

The earthquake revealed here may be the one mentioned by the prophet Amos. The earthquake was so significant that the prophet dated the reception of his prophecy “two years before the earthquake.”

The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. (Amos 1:1 ESV)

After considering some of the evidence for the date of the work of Amos, Hubbard says,

“For Amos’ ministry, then, a date between 760 and 755 BC seems to have gained almost unanimous support among scholars. (Joel & Amos, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 90).

Philistine temple found at Tell es-Safi/Gath

We have commented several times about discoveries from the Tell es-Safi/Gath project. One reason for this is that Prof. Aren Maeir keeps us informed about significant developments  during the excavation season. He also posts good photos suitable for use in teaching.

Gath is important because of several significant biblical accounts.

  • The ark of the covenant was taken to this place by the Philistines – 1 Samuel 5:8.
  • It, along with Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron, was one of the five major cities of the Philistines – 1 Samuel 6:17.
  • Goliath was from Gath – 1 Samuel 17:4.

Prof. Maeir is now confident that he has found a Philistine temple. Let him tell the story:

The first [photo] is a working view of the structure which I believe we can now firmly claim to be a temple! The structure, which has at its center two large pillar bases, and some of the exterior walls, had various cult related objects found in its vicinity. In addition, a metallurgical working area was found right next to it. It should be noted that it is located right under a cultic “corner” of St. A3 (9th cent. BCE). Of interest of course is the similarity to the Philistine temple at Qasile, St. X, with the two pillars in the center of the structure. As noted in the past, this floor plan might be reflected in the Samson story, where the architectural imagery of an Iron Age Philistine temple with two pillars might have served as the background for narrative of Samson standing between two pillars etc. And just to make sure that this is not mis-understood: 1) This does not mean that this story occurred here (in the Bible it occurs in Gaza); 2) And this in itself is not proof that the story happened! Rather, this might reflect a cultural awareness on the part of the biblical story of what a Philistine temple of the early Iron Age might have looked like.

I am including a small photo from the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavation weblog. You may read the full report and find a hi-res photo here.

Tell es-Safi/Gath Philistine temple with pillar bases. Photo: Bar Ilan U.

The Philistine temple with pillar bases at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Photo: Bar Ilan University.

Perhaps, for the benefit of those who do not read much about archaeology, I should explain that the “St.” above refers to the stratum or layer in which the discovery was made. Stratum A3 is dated to the 9th century B.C.

The discovery of a Philistine temple is exciting because it may provide another illustration to help with a better understanding of the biblical account of Samson in the temple of Dagon at Gaza (Judges 16:23-31). Note these verses:

Samson took hold of the two middle pillars that supported the temple and he leaned against them, with his right hand on one and his left hand on the other. Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He pushed hard and the temple collapsed on the rulers and all the people in it. He killed many more people in his death than he had killed during his life. (Judges 16:29-30 NET)

We already have one illustration from Tel Qasile where three Philistine temples were found in the first excavation after the founding of the state of Israel. Tel Qasile is situated on the north side of the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv. These temple are said to belong to the 12th-11th centuries B.C. Here is a photo of a portion of the Philistine temple at Tel Qasile.

Philistine Temple at Tel Qasile - Eretz Israel Museum at Tel Aviv U.

Philistine Temple at Tel Qasile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This temple at Tel Qasile is located on the grounds of the Eretz Israel Museum at Tel Aviv University. More about Tel Qasile at a later time. A photo suitable for teaching is available here.

Jezreel Valley panorama

The header I am currently using is a panorama composed of three photos I made from the tell of Megiddo. The Jezreel Valley lies before us to the north (and slightly east). Nazareth is located in the mountains of lower Galilee. The valley continues east between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa to Beth-Shean, the Jordan Valley, and the mountains of Gilead. The valley was known by the Greek name Esdraelon in New Testament times.

Panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Click on the photo for a hi-res image of this great plain for use in teaching. If you prefer a photo without labels, click here.

The vicinity of the Valley of Megiddo (Jezreel/Esdraelon) was the scene of many significant historical battles.

  • Thutmose III of Egypt fought Syrian forces – 1468 B.C.
  • Joshua defeated the King of Megiddo – Joshua 12:21.
  • Deborah and Barak defeated the Kings of Canaan – Judges 5:19.
  • Gideon defeated the Midianites – Judges 7.
  • Saul was defeated by the Philistines – 1 Samuel 28-31.
  • Ahaziah, king of Judah, died there – 2 Kings 9:27.
  • King Josiah was slain in a battle against Pharaoh Neco of Egypt – 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

Megiddo, the tell overlooking the valley, became typical of national grief and a symbol of decisive battles, similar to modern Waterloo, the Alamo, or Pearl Harbor. No wonder it provides the symbolism for the decisive battle in Revelation 16.  John’s Greek Har-Magedon becomes the English Armageddon.

The NAU transliterates harmagedon as Har-Magedon. Other English versions use something similar to the ESV.

And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Revelation 16:16 NAU)

And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16 ESV)

This valley has been significant even in modern times.

  • Napoleon advanced against the Turks in 1799.
  • General Allenby and the British defeated the German-Turkish coalition in 1918.
  • British officer Orde Wingate trained Jewish defense forces in this valley in the 1930s. Later leaders of the War of Independence (1948-1949), including Moshe Dayan and Yigal Alon, were trained by Wingate.

General Allenby read the historical survey about the importance of the valley in G. A. Smith’s Historical Geography prior to his battle against the German-Turkish coalition in 1918. Smith included that battle in later editions of his book.

The Writing of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Writing of the Dead Sea Scrolls is scheduled for tonight on the National Geographic Channel. More information is available here.

This promises to be a better than usual program, featuring Dr. Robert R. Cargill and other well known scholars.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Hazor yields fragments of a law code

Two fragments of a cuneiform tablets containing portions of a law code have been recovered at Hazor, according to the excavators, Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor and Dr. Sharon Zuckerman. The report from Hebrew University says,

The text parallels portions of the famous Law Code of Hammurabi, and, to a certain extent even the Biblical “tooth for a tooth”. The team is presently working its way down towards a monumental structure dating to the Bronze Age, where more tablets are expected to be found.

A brief report with several photos may be read at Device Magazine.

Earlier this year I noticed that a teacher had brought her students to dig at Hazor. I think the area had been salted so they would be sure to find some nice shards of pottery. We sometimes say that archaeology is the national pastime in Israel. These kids are learning early.

Kids learning about archaeology at Hazor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kids learning about archaeology at Hazor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice the Hula Valley in the distance below the tell.

When Hazor was captured by Joshua and the Israelites it was a the head of all the kindgoms in the area.

And Joshua turned back at that time and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. (Joshua 11:10 ESV)

HT: Joseph I. Lauer; Bible Places Blog.

Passing through the grainfields

All three of the Synoptic Gospels record the incident of Jesus and His disciples passing through the grainfields on a Sabbath.

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-2 ESV)

I thought I would put together some photos to help you visualize what happened here. First, we have a photo of a wheat field below Mount Tabor. The photo is made looking north west from near the site of ancient En-dor. The area is famous as the home of the medium visited by King Saul (1 Samuel 28:7).

Wheat field below Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wheat field with view NW to Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now, imagine the disciples taking grain in their hands.

Picking heads of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Picking heads of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And then rubbing the heads to separate the grain from the chaff.

Rubbing grain to separate the head from the chaff. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rubbing grain to separate the head from the chaff. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The last two photos were made in the vicinity of Mount Nemrut in eastern Turkey. Larger images, suitable for use in teaching, are available by clicking on the photos.

The Gate at Dan

The late Avraham Biran worked for several decades at the city of Dan. In addition to locating the massive city walls, the high place, and the house of David inscription, he found a pedestal or rostrum within the gate where it is thought the king would sit when he visited Dan. Here is a view of the pedestal as we see it today. Note the standing stone to the left of the podium. Click on the photo for an image large enough for use in presentations.

Rostrum inside the gate at Dan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rostrum inside the gate at Dan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Prof. Carl Rasmussen has a photo showing a canopy built over the podium several years ago at Holy Land Photos. Just search for Dan, and you will also see some photos showing details of certain parts of the podium.

Balage Balogh has provided us with an illustration showing the way this area of the gate might have looked in biblical times. The illustration is based on information gleaned from the excavation at Dan. Take a look at other illustrations at Archaeology Illustrated. [At the moment this page is slow in loading. It is worth the wait.]

© Dan City Gate. Illustrated by Balage Balogh.

In several places in the Old Testament we have examples of the king sitting in the gate of a city. David sat in the gate at Jerusalem after the death of Absalom.

Then the king arose and took his seat in the gate. And the people were all told, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate.” And all the people came before the king. Now Israel had fled every man to his own home. (2 Samuel 19:8 ESV)

The officials of the king of Babylon sat in the middle gate at Jerusalem.

Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Nergal-sar-ezer, Samgar-nebu, Sar-sekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, with all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon. (Jeremiah 39:3 ESV)

Eli, the judge, had a seat at the gate of Shiloh.

As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years. (1 Samuel 4:18 ESV)

The king of Israel and the king of Judah sat at the entrance of the gate of Samaria.

Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. (1 King 22:10 ESV)

I trust the photo and illustration with make these biblical texts more vivid when you read them in the future.

The Explorations in Antiquity Center at LaGrange, Georgia, has a wonderful display of the various aspects of the city gate. We reported on the Center along with two reviews by David Padfield here, and here, and here. the Explorations in Antiquity web site may accessed here. The photo is provided by David Padfield.

The city gate at the Exploration in Antiquity Center. Photo by David Padfield.

The city gate at the Exploration in Antiquity Center. Photo by David Padfield.

Tired of watching the second hand on your watch?

Well, now your troubles are over. You can watch the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavation in progress each day (Monday through Friday) at 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Sunday through Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. That is Israel time, which is 7 hours ahead of Eastern time in the USA.

In the Eastern time zone in the USA the live video feed may be seen from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. (Monday-Friday) and 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. (Sunday-Thursday). Not the best times for the working American. But, what if it were the World Cup? Same response.

Well, I hope to catch the show beginning tonight at 11 p.m. I will get to watch those young college age volunteers wiping the matter from the corners of their eyes. This all reminds me of the conversations I have with my wife when I travel in Israel and she remains at home. I usually talk at 6 a.m., and she talks at 11 p.m. I say “Good Morning!” and she says “Goood Niighht…”.

Can’t make the show at all? Then go back to other exciting things like watching the second hand on your watch.

Seriously, this is a great thing. I suppose it is a first. Digging into the past streaming live. Dr. Aren Maeir, the director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath dig, keeps us updated on the progress of the dig.

Go to the Bar Ilan University web page and look for the banner about the streaming video here.

The direct URL to the feed is:

The dig blog may be read here.

Last December I made some aerial photographs above Tell es-Safi. Here is a photo showing a view to the southeast. This ancient Philistine city is located at the point where the coastal plain (to the west) meets the Shephelah (to the east). You should be able to make out the line of the Elah brook along the bottom and right of the photo.

Today we are trying to post these photos in a 1024 x 768 pixel size to make this more usable in PowerPoint presentations. Let us know if this is helpful. It require more time and attention, but we may be able to do this occasionally if you find it useful.

Tell es-Safi - Gath. Aerial SE view by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Tell es-Safi/Gath looking SE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Maeir posted an aerial view of the tell at the end of the 2009 season here. Our next photo is a close look at Areas E (left) and A (right). Both areas continue to be worked this season.

Tell es-Safi/Gath Areas E and A. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This site is important for those interested in the biblical history of Israel. Gath was one of the five cities of the Philistines, and the home of Goliath (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17; 17:4).

Better photos of “Jerusalem 1”

Last week we reported here the announcement of the discovery of a cuneiform fragment dating back to the 14th century B.C. The Hebrew University, Department of Media Relations, has been kind enough to supply me some nice hi-res photos of the cuneiform fragment and the scholars involved in the announcement. Click on each photo for a larger image.

"Jerusalem 1" - the Cuneiform Fragment from the Ophel Excavation.
The Cuneiform Fragment, called Jerusalem 1, from the Ophel Excavation. Photo: Hebrew University/Sasson Tiram.

The fragment found at the Ophel is believed to be contemporary with the some 380 tablets discovered in the 19th century at Amarna in Egypt in the archives of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), who lived in the 14th century B.C.E. The archives include tablets sent to Akhenaten by the kings who were subservient to him in Canaan and Syria and include details about the complex relationships between them, covering many facets of governance and society. Among these tablets are six that are addressed from Abdi-Heba, the Canaanite ruler of Jerusalem. The tablet fragment in Jerusalem is most likely part of a message that would have been sent from the king of Jerusalem, possibly Abdi-Heba, back to Egypt, said Mazar.

Examination of the material of the fragment by Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University, shows that it is from the soil of the Jerusalem area and not similar to materials from other areas, further testifying to the likelihood that it was part of a tablet from a royal archive in Jerusalem containing copies of tablets sent by the king of Jerusalem to Pharaoh Akhenaten in Egypt.

Mazar says this new discovery, providing solid evidence of the importance of Jerusalem during the Late Bronze Age (the second half of the second century B.C.E.), acts as a counterpoint to some who have used the lack of substantial archeological findings from that period until now to argue that Jerusalem was not a major center during that period. It also lends weight to the importance that accrued to the city in later times, leading up to its conquest by King David in the 10th century B.C.E., she said.

Dr. Eilat Mazar and Prof. Wayne Horowitz with the cuneiform fragment from the Ophel Excavation. Photo: Hebreew University/Sasson Tiram.

Dr. Eilat Mazar and Prof. Wayne Horowitz with the cuneiform fragment from the Ophel Excavation. Photo: Hebrew University/Sasson Tiram.

Note the statement of Dr. Mazar:

The tablet fragment in Jerusalem is most likely part of a message that would have been sent from the king of Jerusalem, possibly Abdi-Heba, back to Egypt, said Mazar.

Several blogs have pointed to the analysis by Professor Christopher Rollston. After an analysis of the fragment, Rollston suggests four possibilities regarding what “Jerusalem 1” could be:

  • Some sort of administrative text.
  • A legal text.
  • An international letter (or a letter from one official to another official in Jerusalem, or to a neighboring city).
  • A literary text of some sort.

He concludes,

Therefore, there are a number of possible options for this tablet.  And, thus, because there is such a dearth of actual preserved text on this tablet, I contend that it is best not to attempt to posit as probable this or that historical context, Sitz im Leben, or genre.  Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that it could be one of various things…e.g., an epistolary text, a legal text, an administrative text, a literary text.

You may read his reflections in their entirety here.