Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Come up in the morning to Mount Sinai”

After the original tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God were broken, Moses was told to be ready and “come up in the morning to Mount Sinai.”

Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. (Exodus 34:2 ESV)

The Christian martyr Stephen reminded his audience that Moses received living oracles on Mount Sinai.

He received living oracles to give to us. (Acts 7:38 ESV)

Perhaps this is one of the reasons so many persons put forth the effort to approach the top of a mountain presumed to be Mount Sinai.

We began telling you about Michael’s trek to the top of the mountain on the morning of January 26, 2011. As he approached the top of the 7,519 feet high Jebel Musa he recorded several instances of snow.

Snow near summit of Jebel Musa, Jan. 26, 2011. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Snow near summit of Jebel Musa, Jan. 26, 2011. Photo by Michael Lusk.

One can never be sure about weather conditions. Reader Beverly Sansom left this comment yesterday:

Yes, we climbed the same mountain in mid-March 2011. Our view of the sunrise was but a sliver due to clouds, but the mountain grandeur was breathtaking. At the top were other Christians singing “How Great Thou Art” in a foreign language. We joined in!

Michael had a good morning from the perspective of a photographer. Here is one of his sunrise photos.

Sunrise from top of Jebel Musa - Traditional Mount Sinai

Sunrise from top of Jebel Musa, January 26, 2011. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Thanks to Michael for sharing these photos with our readers.

Jebel Musa — the traditonal Mount Sinai

If you have followed this blog for several months you may recall that I had a group leaving Egypt the evening before the Egyptian Revolution began on January 25, 2011. Five members of our party had made arrangements to visit the Sinai peninsula, including a visit to Jebel Musa, the traditional Mount Sinai, following the tour.

The group of five left for Sinai on the morning of January 25 with no knowledge of the situation in Cairo. After one night at Saint Catherine and a visit to Saint Catherine’s Monastery three of the tours members (a couple from Indiana and a single man from Florida) returned to Cairo. The couple went directly to the airport and departed that evening. I am not sure that they had any indication of a problem in Cairo. The younger man had made arrangements to visit Abu Simbel and some other places in Egypt that we had not visited during the tour. My wife and I continued through the Sinai to Taba and crossed into to Israel at Eilat.

The single man, Michael Lusk, was the only member of our party to climb to the top of Jebel Musa. Michael was anxious to get up early and make the two and one half hour climb to the top in time for the sunrise. I don’t recall the temperature that morning, but it was cool at the hotel during the night and early morning. When I climbed the mountain in April of 1986 I wore jeans over pajamas, an undershirt covered by a T-shirt, a flannel shirt, and the thick jacket. By the way, Michael made it out of Egypt on the last Delta flight to leave after the Revolution began. He left his hotel early due to the curfew and spent all night in the airport awaiting the flight.

When I asked Michael, a former student, if he would allow me to run a few of his photos here, he was pleased to do so. This first photo shows Jebel Musa (the Mountain of Moses), traditional Mount Sinai. A small building can be seen on top of the mountain just to the right of center. There has been a small chapel on the summit of the mountain since the 4th century A.D. A church was built here by Emperor Justinian (early 6th century A.D.) and a new chapel was built on the ruins in 1934.

It was here, according to the 1500 year old tradition, that Moses met the LORD and received the Ten Commandments.

The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. (Exodus 19:20 NAU)

This photo would have been made on the return from the top. Note the camel and rider in the bottom right of the photo.

Jebel Musa, traditional Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Jebel Musa, traditional Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

The next photo shows one of the camel drivers (leaders) waiting for someone to hire him to take them back to the monastery. It is possible to hire the camel to take you up the winding slope to where the 3,000 granite steps begin. Notice also his heavy clothing for the cold January nights.

A camel waiting to take a tired walker back to the monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

A camel waiting to take a tired walker back to the monastery. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Seven hundred and fifty steps below the summit one comes to a site called Elijah’s Basin. This, according to the tradition, is where the prophet Elijah came when he fled from the wrath of Jezebel after the defeat of the prophets of Baal. Here, the prophet received instructions from the LORD to return and complete his work.

So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:8 NAU)

Elijah's Basin on Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

Elijah's Basin on Mount Sinai. Photo by Michael Lusk.

This photo shows the morning light beginning to illuminate portions of the mountain peaks. In the basin you will see some snow. I think the red (orange) glow may be caused by the light striking the area.

In a future post we will share, thanks to Michael, the sunrise from the summit.

David played the harp for Saul and for the LORD

As a young man David became well known in the royal household and was called upon to play the harp (Hebrew kinnor; often English lyre) for King Saul.

So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him. (1 Samuel 16:23 NAU)

The statue in our photo is near the “Tomb of David” and the room of the Last Supper on the traditional Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Statue of King David playing the harp (Mount Zion, Jerusalem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of King David playing the harp (Jerusalem). Photo by F. Jenkins.

David called upon the harp and lyre to awake. He said, “I will awaken the dawn!.”

A Song, a Psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul. Awake, harp and lyre; I will awaken the dawn! I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples, And I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens, And Your truth reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, And Your glory above all the earth. That Your beloved may be delivered, Save with Your right hand, and answer me! (Psalm 108:1-6 NAU)

David was later described as “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1).

The water system at Gezer

Water is necessary for life. Much has been learned about the provisions made for water in the cities of the biblical world. We know about the tunnels dug to bring water into the city at Hazor, Megiddo, Gibeon and Jerusalem, and about the well at Lachish.

For many years we have known about the water tunnel at Gezer. Now, as a result of the current Gezer Water System Expedition, new information is coming to light about the water system there. This project is a joint effort of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

I appreciate this comment by Dan Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and Archaeology at NOBTS:

“The research at Gezer is important to Baptists because of our commitment to understand the Bible within its historical context,” Warner said. “Any information we can gain to give better insights into the cultures of the biblical world helps us interpret the Bible.

“Most think of the Canaanites as an old, rustic culture — not so,” Warner noted. “Digging the water system took great technical and hydraulic skill. This was a very advanced and sophisticated culture that had pronounced impact in biblical times.”

A news release from NOBTS says,

It is believed the Canaanites cut the massive tunnel around the time of Abraham using flint tools. Measuring nearly 13 feet wide by 24 feet high at the opening and stretching 150 feet into the ground at a 38 degree slope, the Gezer tunnel is the largest ancient water system ever unearthed.

Late in the last week of the 2011 dig, the NOBTS team found the natural cave at the end of the massive rock-hewn water system — the prime objective of this season’s dig. It is believed that the system’s original water source is located in or near the opening of the cave.

Two reports on the recent work may be read here. Here is one of the photos available with the reports.

Gezer Water System

Excavating the Gezer Water System. Photo by Art Beaulieu. Courtesy BP & NOBTS.

The photo below is an aerial shot that I made in December, 2009. This shows the massive Canaanite wall and the entrance to the water system to the right of center in the photo. The path goes down into the shaft that is now being excavated.

Aerial view of the Canaanite Wall and Water System at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Canaanite Wall and Water System at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We included an aerial photo of Tel Gezer suitable for use in presentations here. From that same post we summarized the biblical information about Gezer.

  • The king of Gezer fought against Joshua and the Israelites during the conquest (Joshua 10:33; 12:12).
  • Gezer was allotted to Ephraim (Joshua 16:3).
  • Gezer became a city of the Levites (Joshua 21:21). It was designated as a city of refuge (1 Chronicles 6:67).
  • Israel failed to drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer (Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29).
  • By the time of David the Philistine seem to be living at Gezer (2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 14:16; 20:4).
  • Pharaoh, king of Egypt, captured Gezer, burned it, and gave it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife (1 Kings 9:16).
  • Solomon (re)built the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer (1 Kings 9:15-17).

The excavators are looking for volunteers for the 2012 season. This provides a good chance to do the kind of work you hire someone else to do at home. 🙂

Update: I failed to call attention to the web site of the Center for Archaeological Research at NOBTS here, and Can You Dig It? archaeology blog here. Under PHOTOS you will find a large gallery of photos and videos of the recent excavation.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Pardon the absence

Since returning from Israel we have been trying to catch up, preparing for some lectures on Daily Life in Bible Times at the Church of Christ in Centreville, Virginia, and now trying to catch up from that and get ready for the next series.

I am still working on sorting the photos that have been made in Egypt and Israel this year.

Thanks for continuing to follow the blog.

A special offer for Baker N.T. Commentary

Baker N.T. Commentary

Baker N.T. Commentary

Rejoice Christian Software makes some of the best offers on software of any seller that I know about. From now until September 22 they are offering the 12 volume Baker New Testament Commentary software program for the incredibly low price of $49.95. I think you will pay $2.95 for shipping in the USA. This means that for $53 you will have the software program covering all 27 books of the New Testament. These book are written by Presbyterian scholars William Hendriksen and Simon Kistemaker.

Read more about the commentary set here. Note that the price there is $79.95 (already a bargain), but you must go to this link to get the $49.95 price.

The Libronix software program needed to access the books is included.

Even if you have a few of the print volumes you can give them to someone who refuses to use a computer and still have a great deal for yourself.

I do not own stock in this company, and I already have the set on my computer. The deal is so good I am tempted to order again. 🙂

Be sure you sign up for the RCS newsletters.

The fig and the sycamore fig

A friend (he really is) on Facebook left this comment about yesterday’s post.

is the fig of the Bible the same as what we call figs? They used a fig dresser; we don’t.

He seems to be thinking of the fig mentioned in Amos 7:14.

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. (Amos 7:14 ESV)

Other English versions use the terms grower, tender, or took care of. Amos tended the sycamore fig — the ficus sycomorus.

The question results from some confusion in translating the various biblical words into English. According to Fauna and Flora of the Bible, the fig we showed yesterday is the ficus carica. The fig mentioned in Amos 7:14 is the ficus sycomorus.

The sycamore fig growing in the lowlands at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sycamore fig growing in the lowlands at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The description of the ficus sycomorus in Fauna and Flora of the Bible says,

The sycamore tree belongs to the Nettle family, like the mulberry and fig trees. It grows in many places in Palestine, especially in the plain, from Gaza to Jaffa and Haifa, and in the Jericho valley.…

The leaves are evergreen and heart-shaped, and the fruit looks like figs, but its taste is unpleasant. However, it was eaten by poor people, and Amos (7:14) was a gatherer of sycamore fruit. The Hb. [Hebrew] verb may indicate the way the sycamore fruits were eaten, so that the proper translation may not be ‘gatherer of sycamore fruit’, or ‘cultivator’, but ‘one who nips (with a nail or with iron) the fruits to make them edible’.

See more about the Sycamore fig and Zaccheus here.

The fig tree

When the children of Israel came to the end of the period of Wilderness Wandering, the LORD reminded them of the wonderful land into which He was bringing them.

“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (Deuteronomy 8:7-9 NAU)

The fig is the first fruit tree specifically named in the Bible. Adam and Eve used the leaves of the fig tree to make coverings (loincloths) for themselves when they learned their condition before God.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7 NAU)

During the past two weeks we noticed ripe figs in several places in Israel and the West Bank. The photo below of the ripe figs was taken at Tel Balata (= Shechem).

Ripe figs at Shechem, Early September. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ripe figs at Shechem, Early September. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t underestimate the donkey

Yesterday when our driver was trying to locate the way to el-Jib (= Gibeon) we passed an area in the territory of Benjamin where someone, presumably a Bedouin, had two tents, some small fields, a truck, and a donkey tethered out front.

Donkey and Bedouin Tents Near Gibeon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Donkey and Bedouin Tents Near Gibeon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are many biblical references to the donkey. I will list just one for now. The importance of the donkey is seen in the Ten Commandments. The neighbor’s donkey is not to be coveted. Most urban dwellers of today would never think of doing that. But in Bible times the donkey was used in the fields, carried heavy loads, provided transportation for the owner, and supplied fertilizer for some crops.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17 ESV)

Today was a slow day — finalizing some matters and packing to return home. Resting a little, too.  Ready to begin the long flight back home in a short time. Did I complete the “bucket list” for this trip? Not quite. Probably completed about 80% of it. Well that leaves some places to begin with for the next trip. Like my friend Larry often says, “Life is good!”

A day in the West Bank

There was a time that it was easy to visit sites in the Palestinian West Bank. That is no longer true. Car rental companies will not permit their cars to be taken into the West Bank. We hired a driver and vehicle (4WD) to take us several places. I think we were fortunate to obtain the services of a tourist bus driver who happened to have a day free. Even for him going into the West Bank was not easy.

First it is necessary to choose the appropriate border crossing. Then instead of taking what formerly was the most direct route drivers must go in circles to avoid running into the fence (or wall). This is especially true near Jerusalem.

Our first stop was Gibeon (Joshua 9-10). The last time I was there to see the excavations by James Pritchard of the University of Pennsylvania I drove directly to the ruins. This time it was extremely difficult to reach the same ruins. We were successful in our efforts and got some good photos that we hope to share later.

We also stopped at Shiloh where the tabernacle was set up after the ancient Israelites entered Canaan  (Joshua 18:1). A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority was excavation in three different areas low on the tel in areas mostly from the Islamic and Byzantine period.

Next we went to Mount Gerizim to visit the Samaritans Museum. Husney W. Cohen, a priest and director of the Museum, was kind to show us around and explain the Samaritan viewpoint about several biblical events. Samaritans believe the temple was to be built on Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem. They think Abraham offered Isaac on the mountain. They accept only the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Old Testament. In this photo you see Cohen, myself, and Leon Mauldin with the ancient scroll. This scrolls look to be much newer, or better preserved, than the old one I photographed many years ago (here).

wSamaritan Scroll at Mount Gerizim

Samaritan Scroll at Mount Gerizim. Husney W. Cohen, Ferrell Jenkins, Leon Mauldin.

I understood Husney W. Cohen to say that he was third in line to become the High Priest of the Samaritans.

We had hoped to visit the archaeological work on Mount Gerizim, but it was closed due to some construction.

We made a short stop at Jacob’s well (John 4). Then we visited the new Tel Balata Archaeological Park. Tel Balata is the site of biblical Shechem (Genesis 12:1). While in Nablus we also made a short stop at the traditional Tomb of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).

We left the central mountain rain through Wadi Farah (now called Wadi Tirza by the Israelis.   We were short on time and did not try to stop at Tirza (1 Kings 15:33). The springs that once flowed through the valley are now practically dry. I understand this is because the water is being piped away by Israel for use by the settlements.

We stopped at Jericho and made a visit to Tell es-Samarat (the site of Herod’s hippodrome) and Herod;s Palace (Matthew 2). New signs have been erected to point to these places, but the roads to them are terrible. The sites are in terrible condition and there are no explanatory signs.

In the future we hope to show some photo of some of these places.