Monthly Archives: August 2011

Traveling in Israel

Last evening I arrived in Israel with Leon Mauldin. We made our way from the Ben Gurion Airport at Lod in the Plain of Sharon up to Jerusalem in the mountains of Judah.

There is always a bit of jet lag to deal with. I got a good night of sleep on the flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv, but didn’t do so well the first night at the hotel. Nonetheless, after a late start and securing a data card for the air card we spent a good bit of time in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:7).

We have determined for this trip that we will concentrate on places we have not seen before, or where we think we need new photos for use in teaching.

Our first major stop was 4.2 km west of Mata on Highway 375. I am not sure of the date of this unusual stretch of Roman Road, but I think most of the Roman roads date to the late first century or the second century A.D.

These steps would have made the trip up into the mountains of Judea easier for both man and beast.

Roman Road 4.2 km west of Mata on Hwy 375. South side of road. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Incidentally, this road is only a short distance from the Valley of Elah.

Later we photographed three significant archaeological mounds (tel or tell, depending on the languages), and saw several others.

  • Tel Goded (Tell ej-Judeideh is thought my many to be Moresheth-Gath, the home of Micah the prophet (Micah 1:1, 14).
  • Tel Burna is thought by the current excavators to be Libnah (2 Kings 19:8).
  • Tel Zayit is thought by the current excavators to be Libnah.

Yes, you read that correctly. More at a later time, perhaps.

Most of our time was spent searching for the correct field road to get close enough to Tel Batash, the site of Timnah, for a photograph. We succeeded! We remember Timnah because Samson got into trouble with a woman of Philistia there (Judges 14).

Be assured that this is fun as well as educational. Who knows what excitement awaits us tomorrow.

Monday meandering — August 29

Looking for a beautiful photo of the Cedars of Lebanon. Try one of these by Mark Connolly, posted by Carl Rasmussen on the HolyLandPhotos’Blog here. I understand that the oldest of the cedars are located at an elevation of about 6,500 feet above sea level at the village of Bchareé  in Mount Lebanon. The cedars are beautiful at any time of the year, but these snow photos are especially beautiful. I have seen them twice, but only with a little bit of snow. Note just two of the significant references to the cedars in the Bible.

  • Hiram of Tyre floated cedar from Lebanon to Joppa for Solomon’s Temple (966 B.C.; 2 Chronicles 2:16).
  • Cedars were floated to Joppa for the rebuilding of the temple (520-516 B.C.; Ezra 3:7).

Gordon Franz sent me an advance notice of an article you may read on his Life and Land blog. He is coining a new phrase be included in his Cracked Pot Archaeology category. It is a sub discipline of pseudo-archaeology called “Apostolic” Archaeology.

The practitioners of this discipline are usually adventurers, sometimes treasure hunters, and generally with neither field training in archaeological methodology nor academic credentials in Near East archaeology, but perhaps a superficial knowledge of the Bible. They claim to have discovered objects or places of great Biblical importance and declare it to be whatever they want it to be. They usually try to justify their pronouncements with a Bible verse. Their declarations are made as if they were speaking ex cathedra (i.e., with authority).

Read more here. We will be on the alert for more of Gordon’s exposés.

Dr. Claude Mariottini writes about what it is like to go back to teaching after the summer break. He comments on the plague of Email here.

In addition, with the advent of computers, we also had the birth of emails, that modern plague that invades one’s life day and night.  With the growth of technology, now one can check emails at the office or at home.  In addition, email follows you on your iPad and on your smart phone.  Emails are everywhere.

Last month my wife and I went on a vacation.  When I returned to the office, I had to process hundreds of emails.  I have an email at school, one at home, and another for the blog.  Just to process all the emails that had accumulated over a two-week period, it took me almost two days.  Maybe, some of us are luddites at heart, yearning for the good old days that never existed.

There is more good stuff there. I suggest you read it.

Which reminds me. I get more questions by Email, comments, and messages on FB, than I am able to answer. I want to answer most of them, but it is difficult to get to them. Hope you understand.

Evidence suggests Qarqur (Qarqar) continued when other civilizations saw a period of collapse

Archaeologists from the University of Arkansas “have found evidence for the continuity of civilization across a time period when civilizations throughout the Middle East and elsewhere were collapsing. Their work occurred at Tell Qarqur, an important archeological site in the Orontes River Valley in northwestern Syria.” (I typically use the Anglicized spelling Qarqar.)

“This new evidence shows the survival of a city through this tumultuous period about 4,000 to 4,200 years ago,” said Jesse Casana, associate professor of anthropology. “Our discovery offers a rare glimpse of what cultures were during this transitional time and challenges ideas about the reasons for the collapse in the first place.”

The end of the third millennium B.C. — roughly 2200 to 2000 B.C. — is often described as a dark age because this period experienced the collapse of many major states, including the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, Old Kingdom Egypt and the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. Major cities and small towns across the Middle East that had been occupied for centuries were suddenly abandoned, leaving a gap in the archaeological and historical record.

Read the full news release here. Several photos from the album may be seen at Live Science here.

Matt McGowan, science and research communications officer at the University of Arkansas, has kindly granted permission for us to use this photo. It shows Tell Qarqur from the east. Qarqur is located in the Orontes River Valley in northwestern Syria.

Qarqur from the east. Photo by Prof. Casana, courtesy University of Arkansas.
Qarqur from the east. Photo by Prof. Casana, courtesy University of Arkansas.

You will see an archaeological trench cut in the side of the tell. This allows the excavators to go down to bedrock and get a slice of every civilization that occupied the site.

Notice a portion of a second mound on the right of the image. I had the opportunity to visit the area in 2002 during early May. At that time the fields were wet and the tells were green.

Tell Qarqar. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May, 2002.

Tell Qarqar. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May, 2002.

The Assyrian Empire ruled the ancient near east from the battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.) till the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.) when they were defeated by the Babylonians. Nineveh had fallen seven years earlier. This was the time of the Divided Kingdom period in Israelite history, and Assyria had contact with a numerous biblical kings. Ahab, for example, fought against the Assyrians at Qarqar. Qarqar is north of Hammath (Hama). Both are on the Orontes River.

For a photo of the other side of the tell now being excavated, click here.

Finds from the excavation are said to be displayed in a museum at Hama. In light of the recent unrest in Syria, I suspect there won’t be many visitors there for a while.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Logos Community Pricing — some great bargains

If you use Logos (or Libronix) Bible Software you probably already know about Community Pricing. Logos takes on some older works and produces them in the Logos format only when there is sufficient interest to pay. Some may take a year; other may never make it to production.

Todd Bolen is hoping that more people will make a bid on the 16-volume collection of William M. Ramsay before the deal closes on Friday. At this time you can get the entire collection for $20. More orders might even push the price down. Info here. Even Ramsay’s less valuable works are worth $1.25.

See earlier posts about Sir William Ramsay here and here.

While you are at the Logos web site take a look at Travels through Bible Lands Collection (15 volumes). It is expected to sell for $20, but is still gathering interest.

Also take a look at the following books or sets:

  • Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (21 vols.)
  • A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels (2 vols.), Hastings.
  • A Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.), Hastings.
  • Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (21 vols.), including 16 volumes by Meyer.

I have bids on all of these. Every bid moves us closer to being able to use these works with our Libronix/Logos Bible Software. These books are all old and some material is  out of date, but there is much of value.

Don’t have any Logos software? You can buy from Logos, or you can get started with some really great bargains from Rejoice Christian Software. (I have no stock in either company.) You can buy the Essential IVP Reference Collection 3.0 for $89.95. Start here. This offer is good through Aug. 30. Check for other specials. The Baker New Testament Commentary is available for $80. That is the set by Hendriksen and Kistemaker.

Short video on Masada

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has prepared a short video on Masada. The narrator presents a brief history of the fortress of Masada while beautiful scenes of the site are shown.

Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) provides a link to the video with an article about Masada here. (A direct link to the video on You Tube is here.) Elad Benari, author of the article, describes Masada in these words:

The top level had four bedrooms and a semicircular balcony, from which there was a spectacular view of the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, and the Moab Mountains. A sophisticated and hidden staircase led to a middle level in which a large hall was built, surrounded by a veranda whose poles were placed at the edge of the cliff. The staircase went down to the bottom level, in which a large hall surrounded by vestibules was established. The walls of the hall were decorated with spectacular frescoes. A private bathhouse was built adjacent to the hall for the occupants of the northern palace.

At the peak were 29 large warehouses, each one 27 meters long. Excavations of the site found hundreds of pottery vessels in which huge amounts of food were stored. Thus, using a rare combination of natural conditions and human endeavors, Masada became a cliff that was almost impossible to conquer.

The great halls of the palaces were unsuitable for housing families, and thus became headquarters and public buildings.

The building near the north wall, which served as a stable in the days of Herod, was later turned into a synagogue. This is one of the Jewish people’s most ancient synagogues, known to be in use during the period of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, an unusual occurrence as synagogues became the accepted place to pray only after the destruction of the second Temple.

Our photo shows some of the large warehouses at the fortress. The Dead Sea and the mountains of Edom are visible in the left background.

Warehouses at Masada with the Dead Dea visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Warehouses at Masada with the Dead Sea visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is possible that David visited the site of Masada long before it was turned into a fortress by King Herod. Gordon Franz has examined evidence for this suggestion at his Life and Land blog here.

One of the verses examined is Psalm 18:2 in which the term for fortress is the Hebrew metsudah (our English masada)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psa 18:1-2 ESV)

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

“Known but mostly unknown”

The late Paul W. Lapp is well known among students of archaeology for his 1963 article saying that the archaeology of Palestine (West Bank and Israel) is “known but mostly unknown.” Lapp died in a swimming accident in Cyprus in April, 1970) a few months prior to his 40th birthday.

Lapp’s article in Biblical Archaeologist (Vol. 26) begins this way:

Palestine (West Bank Jordan and Israel today) is perhaps the most excavated land in the world. Certainly the archaeological history of no country is better known. Since the beginning of archaeological work in Palestine at Tell el-Ḥesī in 1890 there have been few periods when there were not several expeditions in the field.

He continues by asking,

How Much Do We Know?

With some knowledge of the scope of archaeological activity in Palestine visitors in Jerusalem frequently ask: Are there still new sites to dig? Are there still exciting finds to be made in Palestine? One might go on to ask: Isn’t our knowledge of biblical times fairly complete? Don’t we have a picture of daily life at the time of Jesus which can be modified only in detail by future discoveries? The confidence with which archaeological conclusions are frequently drawn and the long books devoted to daily life in Palestine at the time of Jesus might suggest an affirmative answer.

My viewpoint here is that such a tiny fraction of the archaeological material has been excavated, and such a small fraction of that satisfactorily published, that even the most assured archaeological conclusions must still be considered far from final. This does not mean that all archaeological conclusions must be basically vague and noncommittal. Our knowledge of Palestinian archaeology has been built step by step, from the best hypothesis explaining evidence available at an early stage of exploration to the best hypothesis to explain evidence currently at hand. Without the discipline of continuous updating of hypotheses as new evidence comes to light chaos would prevail. The nonspecialist would find it much more difficult to judge among interpretations than is now the case. All that is stressed here is that in view of the vast amount of unknown material, archaeologists will be forced to modify or reformulate many, if not all, their hypotheses regarding the development of Palestine as the flood of new evidence continues to grow. Palestinian archaeology may be past infancy but has hardly gotten beyond childhood.

I have no current figures about the percentage of known sites that have been excavated. Often in speaking about the archaeology of Israel and the West Bank I say that the surface has hardly been scratched.

What got me to thinking about Lapp’s article was this aerial photo of Tel Dan that I made in May. Prof. Avraham Biran began the excavations at Tel Dan in 1966 and worked at the site for more than 30 years. Others have continued the work. If you have been to Tel Dan you will recognize the three main areas that have received attention (1) the Middle Bronze city gate, (2) the Iron Age gate complex, and (3) the High Place (bama). Would you agree that there may still be some work to be done at the site?

Aerial view of Tel Dan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. 2011.

Aerial view of Tel Dan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. 2011.

Is there still much archaeological work to be done? Is it still mostly unknown? Are you kidding? Extend this thought to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Turkey, et al.  This is why we must sometimes be satisfied with a limited amount of evidence.

Got to go. Today is Grandson Day prior to school beginning tomorrow.

Video on Jerusalem

Prof. Aren Maeir shares this video on Jerusalem: Filmed in 3D. We probably have a few readers who do not regularly visit his Tel es-Safi/Gath blog. Lots of good stuff there.

Jerusalem | Filmed in Imax 3D from JerusalemGiantScreen on Vimeo.

Mount Hermon from the Damascus Road

Mount Hermon is the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. The mountain is about 20 miles long and has three peaks. At 9,232 feet above sea level it is the highest mountain of Canaan, or Roman Syria, named in the Bible. The mountain now is shared by the countries of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. The photo below shows mount Hermon from the east, a few miles south of Damascus toward Quneitra. This is roughly the route of the famous Damascus Road taken by Paul as he went from Jerusalem to Damascus. This photo was made the middle of May, 2002. There was more snow on the west side of the mountain in Lebanon than you see here.

View of Mount Hermon from the East. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2002.

View of Mount Hermon from the East. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2002.

The first biblical reference to Mount Hermon is found in Moses’ account of the Israelite conquest of transjordan (Deuteronomy 3:8). He says that Israel took the land from the hand of two Amorite kings “from the valley of Arnon to Mount Hermon.” The Sidonians, of ancient Phoenicia, called the mountain Sirion, and the Amorites called it Senir (Deuteronomy 3:9). The half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the area of Bashan which is south of Mount Hermon (1 Chronicles 5:23). The Mountain of Bashan is probably a reference to Mount Hermon (Psalm 68:15). Hermon is mentioned in four references in the poetic books of the Old Testament (Psalm 42:6; 89:12; 133:3; Song of Solomon 4:8).

The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them. The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. (Psalm 89:11-12 ESV)

This post is a slightly revised post from 2009, but the photo is a new one digitized from a slide made in 2002.

Damascus is important in biblical history

Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities mentioned in the Bible. It is mentioned no less than 60 times. Syria is mentioned a few times more.

Abraham went north of Damascus to rescue lot from the Mesopotamian kings (Genesis 14). He named (or considered?) Eliezer of Damascus as his heir (Genesis 15:2). I think it is most likely that Abraham, and the other patriarchs, traveled through Damascus on their way to the promised land.

The city continued to be important in biblical history during the time of the United and Divided Kingdoms of Israel and even to New Testament times (think conversion of Saul, Acts 9).

This photo was made from my hotel window in Damascus. The view is to the west (left side of photo) and north (right side of photo).  Damascus is built against the Anti-Lebanon mountains on the west. The desert on the east of the city stretches to the Euphrates River. Note two of the ever present photos of the young president Asad and his father on the building at the bottom of the photo.

Damascus. View west and north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Damascus. View west and north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2002.

Mount Hermon is in the Anti-Lebanon range a few miles south of Damascus.

Hama, Syria = Hamath of the Bible

The city of Hama has been in the news quite a bit lately as the unrest of the citizens has been put down by the Syrian government. This is not something new to that city.

In 1982 Hama was the scene of the bloodiest episode of Syria’s modern history. (Footprint Syria & Lebanon Handbook 215).

At that time the protest was against the father of current president Bashar al-Asad. Estimates of the number killed range from 10,000 to 25,000.

Perhaps many Bible students read or see/hear the news about Syria today and fail to realize that this city is the site of an important city in the history of Israel. Hama is at the site of Biblical Hamath  (2 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 8:4).

He [Jeroboam] restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25 ESV)

Our photo shows the tell or mound of Hamath situated on the left bank of the Orontes River as we approach from the north.

Citadel Mound of Hamath on the left bank of the Orontes River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Citadel Mound of Hamath on the left bank of the Orontes River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The work of Danish archaeologists at Hamath between 1931 and 1938 revealed occupation from the 6th millennium B.C. to the Middle Ages (Marie-Louise Buhl, Anchor Bible Dictionary). German archaeologists have been working in Hama recently, but I do not know whether it involves the tell.

The next photo shows a small portion of the tell with the Orontes River below. It was raining when we visited Hama in 2002.

Hamath on the Orontes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hamath on the Orontes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

King Toi of Hamath is mentioned twice in the Bible (2 Samuel 8:9-10; 1 Chronicles 18:9-10). One scholar recently equated biblical King Toi with a King Tatais whose name is known from inscriptions. See here.

Current news becomes much more interesting and meaningful once we know the history of a place.