Monthly Archives: April 2013

Rainy days in Galilee

We visited the area north of the Sea of Galilee today. Gentle rain was still falling when I first looked out at the Sea of Galilee this morning. By the time we reached Hazor the weather had cleared and we had a bright and sunny visit. A light rain fell at Dan, but at Caesarea Philippi there was a downpour like I have never seen during one of my tours.

After lunch there was clearing and we returned to the site for a more complete visit.

The right amount of rain is a wonderful blessing from the LORD. He promised His people that he would send the early rains and the late rain. The late rain comes about this time of year, and we are expecting more the next two days.

“It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. “He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.  (Deuteronomy 11:13-15 NAU)

The rain is a good thing to help correct a long-term drought that has afflicted Israel in recent years. Nowhere have we seen this more clearly than at the Sea of Galilee.

Here is a photo I made yesterday at Nof Ginosaur in the Biblical Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34). I walked out to the end of the pier that has been built to allow boats to drop off passengers.

Sea of Galilee at Nof Ginosaur, April 18, 2913. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Sea of Galilee at Nof Ginosaur, April 18, 2913. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

And here is the same area in September, 2012.

The Sea of Galilee at Nof Ginosar, September, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Sea of Galilee at Nof Ginosar, September, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kinneret Bot reports for April 18 that the Sea of Galilee is –209.94 meters below sea level. Americans typically translate that as –688.78 feet. A year ago the level was –693.44 feet (211.36 meters) bsl.

Touring Israel again

We completed our second full day of study in Israel today. The photo below shows our guide explaining the geographical/topographical features of the area around a site northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The site is known as et-Tell, and is identified by some as the New Testament site of Bethsaida, and perhaps the Old Testament site of Geshur.

Bethsaida is listed in the New Testament as the home of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21).

The land of Geshur was located in this same area. David married Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3). Absalom, the son of David and Maacah, spent three years in Geshur after he killed his half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:30-38; cf. 14:23, 32).

Tour group at "Bethsaida". Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tour group at et-Tell. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

While traveling I do not have time to elaborate on the arguments about the identity of this site with Bethsaida.

Don’t mess around with nature

Shmuel Browns has a nice article here on Agamon (Hula) Lake in northern Israel. Perhaps we all know that Lake Hula (Hulah; Huleh) is the small body of water about 10 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

Browns tells how the lake came to be drained a few decades back, and the reason for its reclamation. I was especially impressed with the number of “creatures” found in the area around the lake. And also of the number of species lost as a result of the draining of the lake.

Josephus refers to Lake Hula by the Roman name of Lake Semechonitis (Ant. 5.199; Jewish Wars 3:515; 4:3).

My earliest association for the site (about 60 years ago) was to identify it as the Waters of Merom (Joshua 11), because this is what Hurlbut suggested in A Bible Atlas. This identification is doubtful, and many modern atlases pass over the issue.

In the new Satellite Bible Atlas, Bill Schlegel says the Canaanites gathered at

…  the Waters of Merom, of uncertain location. The name is preserved at a spring and mountain in Upper Galilee. If this is its location, the Canaanite gathering there is the only significant event described in the Bible that occurred in Upper Galilee. (Map 3-7).

Shmuel shows you some good land photos, and I will show you an aerial photo I made of the reclaimed lake now known as Agamon (Hula) Lake.

Reclamation of Lake Hula. Aerial photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reclamation of Lake Hula. Aerial photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the late 1960s, I saw the former location of Lake Hula. By that time there was a line of trees standing where the shore had once been.

Fort Babylon in Old Cairo

Daily News Egypt carried a brief article about the Roman ruins in Old Cairo here. The article says,

The fort was built on the southern end of the old Pharaonic town Per-Hapi-On, or ‘The river house of On’. According to some historians the mispronunciation of the name by the Romans led to the name Fort Babylon but others claim it was named after a number of captives brought there from Babylonia during the time of Sesostris.

Roman Emperor Diocletian built the fort in 300 C.E. as the stronghold of three legions in charge of securing Egypt. The garrison of Fort Babylon vowed to secure ships on the Nile and a canal that passed through the town connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. This canal was first established by the Pharaohs, and was restored and enlarged by the Roman Emperor Trajan. The fort was renovated and fortified by the Roman Emperor Arcadius.

Our photo shows ruins of the Roman fort that was known as Fort Babylon in Roman times. At that time the Nile River flowed beside the Fort, but has since changed its course. New building of Old Cairo dwarf the old structure.

Roman Tower (Fort Babylon in Old Cairo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Tower (Fort Babylon in Old Cairo). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in front of the structure says that it was constructed by Diocletian (c. A.D. 300) to fortify the Roman harbor of Old Cairo built by Trajan (c. A.D. 110).

HT: Agade List

Mysterious structure in the Sea of Galilee

Scientists report the discovery of a mysterious structure in the Sea of Galilee on the SW “corner” near the site of Bet Yerah.

According to Live Science here, this structure is made of large basalt blocks. These volcanic stones are common in the region.

A giant “monumental” stone structure discovered beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled as to its purpose and even how long ago it was built.

The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of “unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders,” and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.

Rising nearly 32 feet (10 meters) high, it has a diameter of about 230 feet (70 meters). To put that in perspective, the outer stone circle of Stonehenge has a diameter just half that with its tallest stones not reaching that height.

You will need to check the Live Science report, or the original scholarly article from International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (Vol. 42: Issue 1; March 2013) here or here (pdf). There you will find a map, photos and drawings of the structure.

I stopped very near the spot of the structure to make some photos of ripe date palms a few years ago.

The Sea of Galilee near Bet Yerah. The view is to the east across this narrow southern end of the lake. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Sea of Galilee near Bet Yerah. The view is to the east across this narrow southern end of the lake. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Whatever this structure and it purpose, it seems to have existed long before any of the biblical activity recorded in the region.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Syrian archaeological site endangered — a look at Ebla

During the course of the bloody civil war in Syria we have heard of damage to various archaeological sites such as Aleppo and Palmyra. A recent article in The New York Times here includes a report specific to Tell Mardikh in northern Syria, about 30 miles SW of Aleppo.

The headline tells the story, “Grave Robbers and War Steal Syria’s History.” An excellent video illustrates what both of these factors (vandalism and war) are doing to destroy the ancient site.

Tell Mardikh, ancient Ebla, and one of the tablets discovered in 1975. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Mardikh, ancient Ebla, and one of the tablets discovered in 1975. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We have previously written about Ebla, and the Ebla tablets, here, and here.

More than 17,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered in 1975. They date to the mid-third millennium B.C. when Ebla was the capital of a great Canaanite empire. Scholars state that there are important affinities between the Eblaite language and biblical Hebrew, both being members of the Northwest Semitic family.

The first golden age of Ebla is dated to 2400–2250 B.C. This is long before the time of Abraham who lived north of Ebla at Haran in Padan Aram for a time. Haran is about 150 miles north of Ebla.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  (Genesis 12:4 ESV)

The death and destruction that has been going on in Syria is almost beyond comprehension. When we destroy our ancient history we become what Elton Trueblood called the Hippie generation, “a cut-flower generation.”

Ancient Sumerian site excavated

Mike Addelman, Press Officer of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester, has been kind enough to provide us with some photos of the recent excavation of Tell Kahiber.

Some of us might easily drive past the ancient mound without realizing that it was an ancient archaeological site. Prof. Stuart Campbell and Dr. Jane Moore, both of Manchester University, and independent archaeologist Robert Killick, first recognized important features of the tell on satellite images.

Early stages of excavation at ancient settlement mound of Tel Khaiber. Photo by Prof. Stuart Campbell, University of Manchester.

Early stages of excavation at ancient settlement mound of Tel Khaiber. Photo by Prof. Stuart Campbell, University of Manchester.

Tell Kahiber is located close to Tell Mugheir, thought by some scholars to be the biblical Ur of the Chaldeans, the home of Abraham (Genesis 11:28-31; 15:7). Historically we know this area to be Sumer. The following map from Bible Atlas shows the general area.

Area of ancient Sumer. BibleAtlas.org

Area of ancient Sumer. BibleAtlas.org

The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology points out,

There are no direct references to Sumer in the Bible, although it corresponds to the “land of Shinar” mentioned eight times in the OT.

Amraphel is designated as the king of Shinar (Genesus 14:1). Notice a couple of other references.

The beginning of his [Nimrod] kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (Genesis 10:10 ESV)

And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (Genesis 11:2 ESV)

One of the most striking finds thus far is a plaque, about 3½ inches high, showing a worshiper approaching a sacred place. He is depicted as wearing a long robe with fringe down the front opening. Images such as this one help us to think of the clothing that may have been worn by Abraham and his family.

One of the most striking finds to date is a clay plaque, 9cm high, showing a worshiper approaching a sacred place. Photo by Prof. Stuart Campbell, University of Manchester.

One of the most striking finds to date is a clay plaque showing a worshiper approaching a sacred place. Photo by Prof. Stuart Campbell, University of Manchester.

This information is being broadcast via several news outlets. You may read the press release from Manchester University here.

Photos worth 1000 words (or more)

Locusts

Shmuel Browns, Israel guide and photographer, has posted the best photo of a locust that I have seen. And the photos of flowers in the Judean Desert are something most tourists never get to see. Look here.

From the top of the Great Pyramid

Carl Rasmussen, at his HolyLandPhoto’s blog, calls attention to some photos made by some Russians from the top of one of the Great Pyramid of Giza here. There you will find links to the Mail Online (British) and English Russia.

I suppose I never wished to climb the Great Pyramid, but I had two men with me in 1978 who wanted to do so. In the photo below you might be able to make out two men (Jim Puterbaugh and Bob Lyman) to the right of the marker showing the original height of the structure. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Two climbers on top of the Great Pyramid in 1978. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Two climbers on top of the Great Pyramid in 1978. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Great Pyramid of Cheops (or Khufu) was constructed about 2500 B.C. No, not by the Israelites. That is even earlier than the biblical Patriarchs. It is said to contain more than 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each weighing an average of 2½ tons. The height was originally 479 feet, but now is 449½ feet.

It is April 1, but this is no joke.

Jerusalem Panorama

Look at this great high resolution panorama of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives here. Spend some time with it. (HT: Bible Places Blog.)