Monthly Archives: August 2011

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.

Roman sword & menorah engraving discovered

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday the discovery of a Roman sword still in a scabbard and a stone with the engraving of the temple menorah.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

An AP report with several enlargeable photos is available here.

I think this blog was the first one to report walking through the sewer more than 15 months ago. See here.

Two words are used for sword in the Greek New Testament. The more common word is machaira which describes a short, tongue-shaped sword or dagger. The term rhomphaia, which describes a long sword, is used only in Luke 2:35 outside the book of Revelation. It is used 6 times in Revelation. Probably all but one of these finds Christ as the bearer of the sword (1:16; 2:12; 2:16; 6:8; 19:15; 19:21). The book of Revelation has a setting in the Roman Empire outside of Palestine. The use of rhomphaia seems to be the appropriate term.

In one of the news reports about the recently found sword, archaeologist Elie Shukron is quoted as saying that the sword was the type used by Roman centurions, but that it was probably taken from the Roman garrison by one of the Jewish rebels (see here). This seems much more plausible to me.

G. K. Beale comments on the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus:

The Christians in Asia are to understand that Jesus will do battle in this manner not only against the evil nations (19:15) but also against all those among the churches who compromise their faith (2:16). The consensus is that this sword alludes to that of the Roman soldier, used in battle, further enhancing this idea. (The Book of Revelation in NIGTC, 212)

This photo was made at the RACE show (Roman Army and Chariot Experience) in the hippodrome at Jerash, Jordan. It shows the centurion wearing both swords.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two different swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible Places Blog; Joseph Lauer.

Monday meandering — August 8

St Cuthbert Gospel. © British Library Image.

St Cuthbert Gospel. Copyright British Library Image.

British Library launches a campaign to raise $14.3 million for a 1300 year old copy of the Gospel of John. St. Cuthbert’s Gospel is said to be Europe’s oldest book. The Latin book is also called the Stonyhurst Gospel.

Information about the small bound book may be read here. The British Library has a nice video about the book, including clear images, may be viewed here. (HT: Paleojudaica).

Latin works such as this one play an important role in the history of the English Bible.


Wood used in the Roman siege of Masada came from other areas, according to a study by scientists at the University of Haifa.

First, the researchers examined the amount of wood that exists today in the Judean Desert and in the wadi deltas in the vicinity of Masada, and thereby were able to estimate the amount and types of wood that the desert could supply. Next, they calculated the amount of timber and firewood that would have been needed for the inhabitants of Masada, from 150 BCE, when it was a small fortress, through the Herodian period, when the fortress as we know it was constructed, and up to the siege, which ended in 73 CE. According to the researchers, in those times, timber was mostly used for construction, heating and cooking. Based on accepted evaluations of wood consumption for these purposes in traditional societies, on the conservatively estimated number of Masada inhabitants in each time period, the harsh climatic conditions in the desert and Masada’s topography, the researchers were able to conclude that by the time the Romans arrived at Masada and began their siege (73 CE), the entire area was void of timber and firewood, due to 2,220 years of massive exploitation of the immediate environment up to that point. The Romans would have had no choice but to import wood from other areas for their weapon machinery, ramparts and basic living requirements.

The brief report may be read here. (HT: Joseph Lauer)


C. S. Lewis and the Devil. John A. Murray has a fascinating article on “C. S. Lewis and the Devil” in The Wall Street Journal. Read the complete article here. Here is a small excerpt.

As Lewis explained, “There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. . . . The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God. . . . Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael.”

In his original preface written from Magdalen College at Oxford on July 5, 1941, Lewis warned of what he called “the two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.” One error “is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Lewis concluded that the devils “are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Dr. David McClister, Bible professor at Florida College, visited Oxford during his summer break. He shares one of his photos of Lewis’s study at the Kilns.

C. S. Lewis Study at the Kilns. Photo by David McClister.

C. S. Lewis Study at the Kilns. Photo by David McClister.

No wonder Lewis accomplished so much. No phone. No computer. If you are a fan of any of Lewis’s work, you might enjoy our earlier photos and info here.

HT: Bible X.

The wilderness — a dry and weary land

Wilderness of Judea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A scene in the Wilderness of Judah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

The plain of Acco from Haifa north

Please refer to yesterday’s post about the plain of Acco. In the photo below we begin over Mount Carmel and look north toward Acco, and east toward the mountains of upper Galilee. The city of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is below. This photo had to be made without the window of the plane being opened and lacks a little of the sharpness I like. I think it does illustrate the narrow “plain” as it stretches along the Mediterranean coast.

View of Plain of Acco from above Mount Carmel and Haifa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Plain of Acco from above Mount Carmel and Haifa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo looks southwest over the southern portion of the plain. Notice the narrow strip of city buildings and the beautiful farm land. The land extending out into the Sea is that little hump that teachers learn to draw when they sketch the coastal outline of Israel. Don’t overlook that there is more to Mount Carmel. It extends from the northwest to the southeast for about 14 ½ miles.

Southwest view of the Plain of Acco. Mount Carmel is in distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Southwest view of the Plain of Acco. Mount Carmel is in distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The next photo is much the same except that it was made a few miles inland. A tell (archaeological mound) is seen on the plain of Acco. This site is known as Afek (Aphek) of the tribe of Asher (Joshua 12:18; 19:30). Don’t confuse this with Afek (Aphek) in the account of Israel losing the ark of the covenant to the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). More about that another time.

Afek of Galilee with southwest view of Plain of Acco toward Haifa. Photo: F. Jenkins.

Afek of Galilee with southwest view of Plain of Acco toward Haifa. Photo: F. Jenkins.

Now that we have discussed the plain of Acco, we suggest you refer to our posts mentioning the plain of Sharon (here), and the plain of Philistia (here).