Monthly Archives: September 2011

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.

Travel in the Plain of Acco and the Plain of Sharon

We saw most of what we had intended today, but due to a late start from Tiberias it was a long day. We got to Jerusalem a little late, went immediately to the dining room, and then made it to our room about 9:30 p.m.

We drove from Tiberias to Acco (Akko, Acre), a city of the biblical tribe of Asher, is mentioned in Judges 1:31. The city was known as Ptolemais in New Testament times. Paul stopped at Ptolemais and stayed with the brethren for a day on the return from his third journey (Acts 21:7).

We continued north along the Plain of Acco past Achziv (English versions use Achzib) (Joshus 19:29) to the Ladder of Tyre. More explanation latter. This natural formation has served as a natural boundary for centuries.

In the late afternoon we stopped in the Plain of Sharon, a few miles north of Caesarea, at the town of Beit Hananya to see a portion aqueduct that carried water to Caesarea. This portion of the aqueduct was constructed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the early second century A.D.

For a photo I want to share Tel Hannathon, the site of a town once belonging to the tribe of Zebulon.

The border circled around it on the north to Hannathon, and it ended at the valley of Iphtahel. (Joshua 19:14 NAU)

Tel Hannathon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Hannathon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hannathon is one of those places mentioned in the Bible that is simply passed over by most readers and teachers. The city was a real place in Bible times, occupied by real people who really did the things recorded in Scripture. Don’t let the details pass you by. Sometimes they can be highly significant.

We have an exciting day planned for tomorrow with a driver who will go with us to visit sites in the West Bank. Most of the rental car companies in Israel do not allow their cars to be driven in the West Bank.

Roman temples and hard to reach cities

Today was a busy day and one of the most productive of this trip. Several of the places we visited are difficult to reach today, but at the time of their glory they were on main routes of travel.

Our first stop was at Omrit in northern Israel, about 4 miles SW of Banias. Two temples have been found here. One of them dates to the late first century B.C. Some scholars suggest that this is the Temple of Augustus built by Herod the Great.

Omrit is not mentioned in the Bible, but may prove to be significant in accounts of the ministry of Jesus. It was located in the region known as Ituraea. Philip, the son of Herod the Great, was “tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis” (Luke 3:1).

Though not new to us, we stopped for a while to make some photos at Hazor.

Next stop was for lunch at McDonald’s.

We stopped at Khirbet (or Horbat) Amudim, site of an ancient synagogue. Our main interest was in seeing the area of travel between Cana and the towns around the Sea of Galilee.

A stop at Hannathon allowed us to get a photo of the tel. This site is mentioned as being in the territory of Zebulon in Joshua 19:14.

Yodfat (or Jotapata) is important because it is where Josephus led Jewish rebels against the invading Romans in 66 A.D.

The photo below is of one of the beautiful valleys around Yodfat.

Fertile valley below Yodfat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fertile valley below Yodfat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

With the help of a local farmer we were led to an overlook where we could see Khirbet Kana (Cana), likely the site of the events of John 2. We had too little time left to make the full walk to the site. Always a reason for another visit.

We arrived back at the hotel in Tiberias about 7 p.m. In coming weeks we hope to share some of the new photos. with our readers.

A beautiful day in Galilee

Sunrises on the Sea of Galilee can be extremely beautiful. I know that I have posted several photos of the sunrise, but I wanted to share another one from this morning.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins - 09-04-11

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins - 09-04-11

Much of the ministry of Jesus was conducted on and around the Sea of Galilee. One of the important events recorded in Scripture is the calling of disciples.

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. (Mark 1:16 ESV)

We went to Nazareth this morning to worship with the church there. Afterwards we spent a good bit of time in Mash’had, a small Arab town between Nazareth and the traditional site of Cana,  trying to locate the tell where the ancient city of Gath Hepher, the home of the prophet Jonah,  is thought to be located. Hopefully we will be able to tell you more about that experience later.

In May I wrote about locating and walking on a portion of the Roman Road near Golani Junction here. I wanted to share this experience with Leon, so we returned there.

There were some other things, but this will be enough for today.

It is hot at this time of the year, and especially when tramping around over hill and vale.

Somthing new, something old in Israel

No, we did not attend a wedding today. Leon and I are trying to see some places we have missed before. I have traveled here more than Leon, so I don’t like passing up a place he hasn’t visited.

As we left Jerusalem this morning we missed a turn and ended up in one of the new Israeli suburbs called Pisgat Ze’ev Ma’arav (West). This suburb is on the east side of Tell el-Ful (Hill of Beans in Arabic), identified as biblical Gibeah. In an effort to find our way back to the main street to get on the highway to go to the Jordan Valley I saw a side of Tell el-Ful that I had not seen before. I had always seen the tell from the West, but now I was was looking at the East side.

How does one recognize Tell el-Ful? Beans no longer grow on the mound. Prior to the 1967 war, when the Old City of Jerusalem and the area under consideration was in Jordan, the late King Hussein of Jordan was beginning to build a palace on the top of the tell. The uncompleted structure still stands there as a silent monument to a failed plan.

The view from the east is impressive. The tell can be seen framed between the new buildings of Pisgat Ze’ev Ma’arav (West). I was beginning to fume a bit about missing the road I intended to take until I saw Tel el-Ful (Gibeah).

Gibeah of Saul (Tel el-Ful) from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gibeah of Saul (Tel el-Ful) from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several biblical references mention Gibeah as the home of Saul. In fact the city is even called Gibeah of Saul in 2 Samuel 21:6, and Gibeah of Benjamin in 1 Samuel 13:2. Saul was the first king of Israel from about 1050 to 1010 B.C.

William F. Albright excavated Tell el-Ful and found evidence of a fortress. Many think this would have been the palace of King Saul. An iron plowshare was also found in the excavation.

There is a nice photo by Eli Berckovitz of the skeleton structure of King Hussein on Wikipedia here.

We visited some new places, too. But it is late, and those will have to wait.