Monthly Archives: January 2013

Herod the Great in the news

Herod is well known to students of the Bible. He is known especially as the king who was so frightened of losing his power that he ordered the death of the one who was born king of the Jews (Matthew 2).

Herod is also known from other historical records such as the Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews by Josephus.

We have learned much about Herod from the archaeological excavations at sites he is known to have built. We think of the Temple in Jerusalem with its platform and enclosure, the temples dedicated to Emperor Augustus at Caesarea Maritima, Samaria, and Caesarea Philippi (or Omrit), and the fortresses in several parts of the country, and the building at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

The Herodium has received much attention in recent years as a result of the archaeological excavation conducted by the late Prof. Ehud Netzer in his search for Herod’s tomb.

Aerial view of the Herodium with the area of Netzer's excavation visible.  Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Herodium with the area of Netzer’s excavation visible. All of this was covered by earth just a few years ago. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now we are informed that the tomb of Herod at the Herodium is to be rebuilt.

The glory of King Herod, the Judean king famous for renovating the Temple Mount and building Masada, will rise again — or at least his tomb will — Israel announced Monday. As part of a new plan, a replica of his tomb at Herodium, situated outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem, will tower to 83 feet and will be visible from Jerusalem.

Herodium, an impressive feat of ancient engineering, is a conical artificial mound built between 23 and 15 BCE that housed a fortified royal palace and tomb. Its walls rose over 200 feet high and it contained elegant courtyards and baths. It was the only one of Herod’s many famed construction projects that bore his name, and was destroyed in 70 CE during the Great Revolt against Rome.

To read this report from the Times of Israel in its entirety, click here.

It must be the year of Herod. The Israel Museum is reconstructing the tomb of Herod in the museum for an exhibition opening February 12, 2013. I am definitely looking forward to seeing this. Read more about it here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Being there is best

Reading and studying about the Bible lands is good, but being there is best. Last September as we traveled around at the end of the long dry season, even though I thought I had made it perfectly clear, one of the tour members asked, “Is it always this dry?” I tried to explain it again.

For a few tips on the rainy season in Israel, see here. For more information about what happens during the winter rains in Israel, see Rivers in the Desert here.

Somewhere I read a comment by a photographer that the best photo is the one when you have your camera. Lots of truth to that. But another idea is that the best photo is when you have your camera and something significant happens.

Brook of Elah after 3 days of rain. Photo: Carl Rasmussen.

Brook of Elah after 3 days of rain Jan. 9, 2013. Photo: Carl Rasmussen.

Well, Prof. Carl Rasmussen had his camera on January 9, and something significant had happened. He was in the Valley of Elah after three days of rain. The usually dry brook (nahal or wadi; 1 Samuel 17), of Elah was flowing with water. His photo shows Tel Azekah and the brook as it runs below it.

If you would like to see this beautiful photo in a large resolution, see here.

Here is a photo I made in August, 2008, showing the book  [brook] from the same position – dry as a bone. [see comments]

Brook of Elah below Azekah, August, 2008. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Brook of Elah below Azekah, August, 2008. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The land east of the Sea of Galilee

The land of Bashan is located east of the Sea of Galilee and the Hula Valley along the strip of land north of the Yarmuk River as far north as Mount Hermon. Bashan is mentioned no less than 60 times in the Hebrew Bible.

Og is designated as the king of Bashan about 20 times. Bashan is territory given to half of the Israelite tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:1). One of the cities of refuge was Golan in Bashan (Joshua 21:27).

Bashan was noted for its cattle, especially bulls (Psalm 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18). The prophet Amos calls the women of Samaria “cows of Bashan” (Amos 4:1). For sure, he was not a very popular prophet.

In recent history Bashan (Golan) was controlled by Syria, but was annexed by Israel in 1981.

The photo below was made one afternoon as I approached the Sea of Galilee from the north. The view is to the southeast. The visible plateau on the east side of the Sea of Galilee is the southern part of the Golan Heights, the ancient land of Bashan.

The Sea of Galilee from the north. View toward Bashan in the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Sea of Galilee from the north. View toward Bashan in the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In New Testament times the same territory, immediately east of the Sea of Galileee, and possibly a little south, was known as the land of the Gadarenes (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26,37, KJV, NKJV), or the land of the Gergesenes in most modern English versions. These texts record the episode of the healing by Jesus of a man possessed with an unclean spirit. The unclean spirits entered into a herd of swine (pigs) and ran down the steep cliffs, visible in our photo, into the sea (Mark 5:11-13).

Ophel Excavation 2012

Amir Kohen Klonymus, Area A supervisor of the Ophel Excavation, shows a few of the items found in a fire pit at the Ophel Excavation in December. You may find it difficult to understand his English, but stay with the 11 minute video, past the family visit of some sponsors of the dig, to the summation by Prof. Eilat Mazar.
I think anyone who has seen any part of the excavation areas on the south side of the Temple Mount will enjoy this video.

This video and others are available on the blog of The Key to David’s City here.

The photo below shows a portion of the Ophel Excavation.

Ophel Excavations - View East. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ophel Excavations – View East. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jothan, king of Judah (740-732 B.C.), is said to have built extensively in the area known as Ophel.

He built the Upper Gate to the LORD’s temple and did a lot of work on the wall in the area known as Ophel. (2 Chronicles 27:3 NET)

HT: Jack Sasson

The significance of Gaza

After my first tour to the Bible Lands, including Rome, Greece (Athens and Corinth), Egypt, Lebanon, Syria (Damascus), Jordan, and Israel, in April/May, 1967, I decided to make a second tour the following year. For many years, I always added some new places on each tour. In 1968 I added Beersheba and Gaza. The Gaza Strip (named such because of the long, narrow size of the small entity) had been under Egyptian control for several decades until June, 1967.

There was not much to see at Gaza. By the time we visited in 1968, Gaza was under Israeli control. We drove to the coast where there were only a few houses and some small fishing boats. This is one of the few slides that I have to illustrate the visit to Gaza.

Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea in May, 1968. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea in May, 1968. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.

  • Gaza was the southwestern boundary of the Canaanites in the table of Nations (Genesis 10:19).
  • The original inhabitants of Gaza were replaced by the Caphtorim, likely the ancestors of the Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23).
  • Joshua defeated Canaanites “even as far as Gaza” (Joshua 10:41).
  • Joshua eliminated the Anakites except in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:21-22). We recognized these cities as later belonging to the Philistines.
  • Gaza is listed as belonging to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:47; Judges 1:18).
  • The Midianites oppressed Israel, “as far as Gaza”, for seven years (Judges 6:4).
  • Samson had contact with the inhabitants of Gaza (Judges 16).
  • Gaza is listed as one of the five Philistine cities in the time of the Israelite Judges (1 Samuel 6:17).
  • Solomon controlled territory as far southwest as Gaza (1 Kings 4:24).
  • Hezekiah defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory (2 Kings 18:8).
  • Jeremiah makes reference to Gaza being conquered by Pharaoh (Jeremiah 47:1).
  • The prophets of Judah pronounced judgments upon Gaza (Amos 1:6-7; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:5).

The only New Testament reference to Gaza is in Acts 8:26. Philip the evangelist was instructed to go south on the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza. English translators struggle with the issue of whether the city was desert, or the road leading to the city ran through a desert area. (I will leave that for some other time.)

The first display one sees as he enters the archaeology wing of the Israel Museum is that of the anthropoid coffins from Deir el-Balah, a site south of Gaza city. The coffins, excavated by Trude Dothan in 1972, bear evidence of Egyptian influence. They date to the 13th century B.C.
Anthropoid Coffins from Deir el-Balah in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Anthropoid Coffins from Deir el-Balah in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

2012 in review, according to WordPress

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. We have readers in 204 countries.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 410,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 7 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year to Each Reader.