Monthly Archives: July 2011

Wall of Jerusalem breached by the Romans

Prof. Aren Maeir, director of the Tel es-Safi/Gath archaeological excavation, explains why some of his team is not working today.

Today, part of the team was not working in the field, since it is the Jewish fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE (and according to some traditions, during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 BCE as well). Others though were in the field and had a very good day.

Titus, Roman commander at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, was later Emperor (A.D. 79-81). Bust in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Titus, Roman commander at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, was later Emperor (A.D. 79-81). Bust in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Whatever the exact day of the event, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was a traumatic event. Christians, and perhaps others, understand it as a judgment upon the corrupt nation at that time (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). I use judgment in the sense of repeated judgments upon cities and nations as we see it used in the Old Testament prophets. We believe that Jesus predicted the destruction of the city of Jerusalem about 40 years prior the the actual destruction by the Romans.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. (Luke 21:20 ESV)

There is much archaeological evidence in Jerusalem of the Roman occupation of the city and of the destruction in A.D. 70. In the excavations conducted in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem following 1967, archaeologists uncovered evidence of the destruction and burning of the city. The Herodian Mansion and the Burnt House are two places that are especially interesting to Bible students who visit the Old City. Here is a photo of the exhibit at the Burnt House. The Burnt House is known to be the priestly House of Kathros.

The Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this photo you see furniture, stone vessels, and clear evidence of the burning of the building in A.D. 70. A larger image, suitable for use in teaching, is available by clicking on the photo.

Weaving exhibit at the Hecht Museum

Jim Joyner shares some photos of an exhibit at the Hecht Museum, University of Haifa, in Haifa, Israel. These photos show a reconstructed primitive vertical loom.

Weaving Loom with weights from Yodefat. Hecht Museum, Haifa. Photo by J. Joyner.

Weaving Loom with weights from Yodefat. Hecht Museum, Haifa. Photo by J. Joyner.

Yodefat (Jotapata, and various spellings) was the home of Josephus, commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee. The loom weights and whorls were excavated at Yodefat and Gamla. Most of the weights are made of clay, but a few are made of clay and lead.

Loom weights from Yodefat and Gamla. Hecht Museum, Haifa. Photo: J. Joyner.

Loom weights from Yodefat and Gamla. Hecht Museum, Haifa. Photo: J. Joyner.

Yodefat was one of the first towns to feel the terror of the Roman army in A.D. 66 when they entered Galilee. The map below from BibleAtlas.org marks the site of (Khirbet) Cana (not traditional Kerf Cana). Note Jotapata a few miles west of Cana.

Note location of Jotapata and (Khirbet) Cana. Map by BibleAtlas.org.

Note location of Jotapata and (Khirbet) Cana. Map by BibleAtlas.org.

For those who might have an interest in following up on the site of Jotapata (Yodefat, Yodfat), I suggest you begin at Bible Walks here. References to the account by Josephus in the Jewish Wars are also given.

Thanks, Jim.

Weaving in Bible times

In describing the work of spinning we quoted from the lavishly illustrated Life in Biblical Israel by King and Stager. Another good book dealing with this sort of material is Daily Life in Biblical Times by Oded Borowski. Borowski’s book is much smaller and has no photos. There are a few black and white diagrams.

Here is how Borowski explains weaving.

The term weaving refers to the production of fabric by interlacing two sets of yarn so that they cross each other at a right angle.… The large numbers of loom weights, spindle whorls, and other weaving tools in domestic contexts indicate that weaving was a major occupation among the Israelites. (page 31)

He says that two kinds of looms were in use. One was horizontal; the other was the upright warp-weighted loom. The large number of loom-weights that have been uncovered in excavations indicate that this was the more common method of weaving.

Weaving was considered a woman’s job. Note the description of the Worthy Woman (or Capable Wife, as some designate her) in Proverbs 31. In the previous post we wrote of the work of spinning.

She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. (Proverbs 31:19 NAU)

The same chapter also describes the materials she uses in her work of spinning and weaving.

She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. (Proverbs 31:13 NAU)

Demonstration of weaving at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Demonstration of weaving at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A display in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum shows loom weights and spinning tools uncovered at Gezer. I think these would be from the excavations conducted by Clermont-Ganneau between 1870-1873 or that conducted by Macalister between 1902 and 1905 when the Ottoman Empire ruled the land. Many artifacts from that period are in the Istanbul museum.

Tools Used in Weaving. From Gezer. Istanbul Arch. Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tools Used in Weaving. From Gezer. Istanbul Arch. Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The priestly garments were woven (Exodus 28:39). We recall that Jesus had a undergarment (chiton, tunic) that was seamless, woven in one piece.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. (John 19:23 NAU)

The distaff and the spindle

Most of the clothing in use during Bible times was made from flax or wool. The “worthy woman” or “capable wife” of Proverbs 31:13 “looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight.” The raw product must be spun in preparation for weaving.

She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. (Proverbs 31:19 NAU)

King and Stager describe the process of spinning:

Spinning is done by means of the distaff and spindle. The distaff (a large stick) holds on its cleft end the unspun flax or wool from which the thread is drawn. The hand-held spindle, which is used to this day, is the rotating rod or shaft on which the fibers are twisted to form thread and are then wound. The spindle may be weighted by pierced, circular objects known as spindle whorls, which have been recovered in large quantity at practically every excavation of Palestine. (Life in Biblical Israel, 152)

The following photo shows a young woman spinning wool at Nazareth Village.

Spinning dyed wool in preparation for weaving on the loom. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Spinning dyed wool in preparation for weaving on the loom. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Have you ever heard someone speak of the distaff or the “distaff side” in reference to a woman or women? Maybe not, unless you were born in the first half of the last century. I checked the Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary of 1913 for the use of the word distaff. At that time the first definition was “the staff for holding a bunch of flax, tow, or wool, from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand.” The dictionary also points out that the term was “used as a symbol of the holder of a distaff; hence, a woman; women, collectively.”

Moving back to 1828, Webster states that the term distaff was also used “figuratively, a woman, or the female sex.”

Some more recent dictionaries give the figurative meaning but some of these say the use is archaic.

Women who were skilled in this work prepared materials for the tabernacle during the wilderness wandering.

All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. All the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats’ hair. (Exodus 35:25-26 NAU)

Here is a basket of wool waiting to be spun.

Basket of wool ready to be spun. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Basket of wool ready to be spun. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Perhaps latter we will say a few things about weaving.

There is a time to dig

Most of the archaeological excavations in Israel take place during the summer months. There are several reasons why this is true: (1) college professors are in charge of the digs; (2) college students (slaves), who are out of school, pay to participate in the dig; (3) the dig will not be interrupted by rain. Of course, there are exceptions in certain parts of the country (around the Sea of Galilee, the Negev, etc.).

Numerous sites are excavated during June, July, or August. In previous times scholars waited until the annual professional meetings (November) to hear a report on the findings of the summer dig. Others waited a few more months for an article to appear in Biblical Archaeology Review. Now some information is reported daily by the director or others associated with the dig.

One of the most informative web sites is about the dig at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Prof. Aren Maeir does an excellent job of posting info and good photos of the dig as it progresses. You may follow these reports here.

Prof. Maeir was interviewed by telephone last evening on Fox News. Listen to the interview, which includes some photos, here. Aren describes the Philistines as a “sophisticated culture.”

This photo, which was made in May, shows Philistine soldiers holding the sign to the National Park of Tel es-Safi. Gath was the home of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:23).

Entrance to National Park at Tel es-Safi/Gath. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Philistine soldiers welcome visitors to Tel es-Safi/Gath. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project, under the direction of Itzhaq Shai and Joe Uziel, also does a good job of keeping us informed with photos and brief reports. The short season there is complete. Take a look here. The directors think “that the site is the best candidate for Biblical Libnah.” The Assyrians fought against Libnah after they left Lachish (2 Kings 19:8). Tel Burna is the site often pointed out by guides as Moresheth Gath, the home of the prophet Micah (Micah 1:14).

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee – May 4, 1968

On my second tour to Israel in 1968 my group stayed at the Guberman Hotel in Tiberias. My room mate and I set our alarm for Saturday, May 4, in time to go down the hill to get an unobstructed view of the Sea and the sunrise to the East. This slide was made on Agfachrome.

Sunrise at the Sea of Galilee. May 4, 1968.

Sunrise at the Sea of Galilee - May 4, 1968.

Over the years I have made numerous similar photos. I always think about Jesus meeting His disciples after the resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and eating breakfast with them.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”
6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”
11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.
14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:4-14 ESV)

A pretty picture for today

During the spring in Israel the fields and roadsides are filled with little flowers. They often grow among the stones of an ancient site. Our photo below was made May 8 at Khirbet Qeiyafa (the Elah Fortress) overlooking the Valley of Elah.

Flowers of the field at Khirbet Qeiyafa overlooking Elah Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Flowers of the field at Khirbet Qeiyafa overlooking Elah Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many readers will think of the statement of Jesus:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27 ESV)

The NET Bible uses the term flowers instead of lilies. A Translator’s Note says,

Traditionally, “lilies.” According to L&N [Louw-Nida] 3.32, “Though traditionally kri,non has been regarded as a type of lily, scholars have suggested several other possible types of flowers, including an anemone, a poppy, a gladiolus, and a rather inconspicuous type of daisy.” In view of the uncertainty, the more generic “flowers” has been used in the translation.

I observe that Bauer (Arndt-Gingrich-Danker) comments:

in this connection the principal opinions include the autumn crocus, Turk’s cap lily, anemone, or gladiolus, but the data do not permit certainty. Perh. Jesus had no definite flower in mind, but was thinking of all the wonderful blooms that adorn the fields of Galilee.

Enjoy the beauty and think of God’s care for you. A larger image is available by clicking on the photo.