Monthly Archives: September 2013

Looting and vandalism in Petra

Looting and vandalism of historic or archaeological sites is nothing new. We have reported on vandalism in Israel, but especially in the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq.

Heritage Daily has an article here on looting and vandalism at Petra. Petra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Archaeologists from Brown University have been working in Petra since 2009. They have been able to photograph excavated area each year. Now they report on signs of recent vandalism. The article says,

The damage caused by looting is nothing new and some of the more iconic buildings at Petra bear witness to this. A giant urn carved above the entrance to the Monastery bears the marks of hundreds of gunshots. The local Bedouin tribesmen living in and among the ancient ruins say the damage was caused when local men would open fire with rifles, seeking the loot thought to be inside the urn which is actually made of solid stone.

Heritage Daily has established from sources at Brown University that they are lobbing for additional security at the site and robust investigation to target the individuals concerned. However lack of funds for the Petra Archaeological Park and the isolated rugged area is hindering this work.

There is a considerable amount of natural wear over the centuries. In some cases we must imagine how the stones looked when they were carved by the Nabateans who lived in the area.

Nabatean Djinn blocks at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nabatean Djinn blocks at Petra. Some sources refer to these as god-blocks.Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have noticed erosion in the structures cut from the beautiful sandstone at Petra since my first visit in 1967. Some of this may have been caused by those who fill little bottles with the various colors of sand to sell to the tourists.

Natural erosion is evidence in these structures cut from the beautiful sandstone structures of Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Natural erosion is evidenced in these structures cut from the beautiful sandstone structures of Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This territory was once inhabited by the Biblical Edomites, but the structures we see today were carved from stone by the Nabateans who inhabited the area from about the fourth century B.C. to the early second century A.D.

One of the most famous Nabatean rulers was Aretas IV (about 9 B.C. to A.D. 40). It was during his reign, which extended at far north as Damascus, when Paul escaped Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32-33). See here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Google is 15

Google search is celebrating a 15th birthday with an interactive heading. Take a look at This has proven to be a powerful tool which I use several times each day.

You can go back in history and see what a Google search results page looked like when the program was launched. Search for Google in 1998.

Fifteen. Does this mean Google will be able to get a learner’s permit?

Anyone out there remember when we searched at CERN?

Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber

The cedar from Lebanon was brought by sea to Joppa for the building of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 2:16). But that port was not adequate to meet Israel’s needs. Scripture informs us that Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber.

King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon. And they went to Ophir and brought from there gold, 420 talents, and they brought it to King Solomon. (1Kings 9:26-28 ESV)

Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and Eloth on the shore of the sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent to him by the hand of his servants ships and servants familiar with the sea, and they went to Ophir together with the servants of Solomon and brought from there 450 talents of gold and brought it to King Solomon. (2 Chronicles 8:17-18 ESV)

Ezion-geber is said to be near Eloth (Elat, Elath, in some English versions). We pointed out in the previous post that Nelson Glueck thought he had located Ezion-geber at Tell el-Kheleifeh and that it was the same as Eloth. In 1962 Beno Rothenberg demonstrated that the installation at Tell el-Kheleifeh could not have been for copper smelting. In 1965 Glueck wrote an article in which he agreed with Rothenberg. This means that Tell el-Kheleifeh may not be Ezion-geber.

The north end of the Gulf of Eilat.Aqabah. The view is to the east and the city of Aqabah, Jordan. Tell el-Kheleifeh is only a few blocks north of the shore. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The north end of the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah. The view is to the east and the city of Aqabah, Jordan. Tell el-Kheleifeh is only a short distance north of the shore in Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Alexander Flinder says the coastline at Tell el-Kheleifeh is a “sandy beach, with shallow water – totally unsuitable for small craft, let alone for a substantial merchant fleet” (“Is This Solomon’s Seaport?” BAR, July/August 1989, p. 38). Flinder has suggested that Ezion-geber may have been on a small island in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah called Jezirat Faraun (Pharaoh’s Island). It is located about seven miles south of modern Eilat, but now under Egyptian control. Flinder’s study shows that there has been an artificial harbor at this location in several historical periods and that it was characteristic of other known Phoenician ports. See the complete article for more details and photos.

Pharaoh's Island in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pharaoh’s Island in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Meir Lubetski, ABD, says,

Unique were the underwater archaeological findings which established the existence of an artificial enclosed harbor bordering a sizable natural anchorage, with jetties built out into the water to influence currents opposite the island on the shore of the mainland.

I can only point to a suggestion regarding the identity of Ezion-geber with Eloth (Elath). Kenneth A. Kitchen (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., 1996, p. 305). says the two places were,

  • Separate stations during the Israelite wandering (Numbers 33:35-36; Deuteronomy 2:8).
  • Ezion-geber appears to be mentioned alone in the 10th-9th centuries, and is the point from which Solomon sent ships.
  • Jehoshaphat’s planned expedition from Ezion-geber was wrecked (1 King 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36-37).
  • King Uzziah of Judah captured Elath/Eloth from Edom and rebuilt it in the 8th century (2 Kings 14:22).
  • Ahaz lost the port to the Edomites (2 Kings 16:6).
View of Pharaoh's Island from the west. The view looks east across the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah. The land in the distance is Saudi Arabia, the Biblical land of Midian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of Pharaoh’s Island from the west. The view looks east across the Gulf of Eilat/Aqabah to Saudi Arabia, the Biblical land of Midian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The map at shows the places we have discussed in this and the previous post. Notice the location of Ezion-geber is indicating, with a question mark, the location of Pharaoh’s Island.

Map of Ezion-geber, Elath, and Timnah.

Map of Ezion-geber, Elath, and Timnah.

Copper production in the time of Solomon

The “promised land” was described to the Israelites as “a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:9). Copper was mined in the Arabah of Israel as far back as the 13th-12th century B.C. Copper is still mined at Timna about 25 miles north of Eilat (close to Ezion-geber). Belgian engineers made a survey proving the presence of 100,000 tons of metallic copper. Iron ore has been found in the Negev and in eastern Upper Galilee (Vilnay, The Israel Guide, 17).

The Bible does not say that Solomon had copper mines at Ezion-geber, but the presence of mining facilities dating to the 10th century B.C. indicates that this may have been one of the reasons why the King built a port and had a navy stationed there (1 Kings 9:26-28). Ezion-geber was more than 220 miles from Jerusalem. The copper provided a good medium of exchange for gold, spices, and other items that Israel needed.

These massive pillars at Timna have been associated with Solomon for a long time. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pillars of Solomon. These massive pillars at Timna have been associated with Solomon for a long time. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 1938, Nelson Glueck, reported that he had found a copper-refining plant at Tell el-Kheleifeh, which he identified as Ezion-geber, on the north shore of the Gulf of Aqabah (the Israelis call it the Gulf of Eilat). This site is now within Jordanian territory. Glueck identified the copper-refining plant as King Solomon’s copper mines, and explained that the apertures in the buildings served as flueholes. Through them, he thought, “the strong winds from the north-northwest entered into the furnace rooms of this structure,” which he called a “smelter, to furnish a natural draft to fan the flames.”

It is true that copper smelting was done in the Arabah in the time of Solomon, but Glueck later changed his mind about the building he had formerly identified as the refining plant. In 1962 Beno Rothenberg demonstrated that the installation at Tell el-Kheleifeh could not have been for copper smelting.

Glueck was convinced by the findings of Rothenberg that the apertures in the building “resulted from the decay and or burning of wooden beams laid across the width of the walls for bonding or anchoring purposes.” This does not affect any statement of the Bible, but it does mean that the old argument about the copper refining plant found in the Arabah is no longer valid. Glueck’s identification of Tell el-Kheleifeh with Ezion-geber is no longer accepted. We plan to follow this post with one on Solomon’s seaport.

A recent excavation and study, including archaeometric dating (of Site 30 of the southern Arabah) conducted by Erez Ben-Yosef, et al. has provided a new chronological framework for Iron Age copper production at Timna (Israel). Ben-Yosef says the study,

resulted in a new chronological framework for Iron Age copper production in this region. The main period of copper smelting in the southern Arabah was during the 10th century B.C.E., and the extent of New Kingdom Egyptian control over copper production in Timna was more limited than previously believed. (“A New Chronological Framework for Iron Age Copper Production at Timna (Israel).” BASOR 367 (2012), p. 65.

Egyptians welcome visitors to Timna Park. It is true that Egyptians worked in the area during the 13th-12th centuries B.C., but Ben-Yosef says their control over the copper production “was more limited than previously believed.”

Entrance to the Timna Park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Egyptians welcome visitors to the Timna Park. Perhaps some Israelites should be added. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other post having to do with copper may be read here, here, and here.

This paragraph provides documentation for some of the material mentioned above. For more information one may check the following books or articles by Nelson Glueck: “The First Campaign at Tell el-Kheleifeh,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Oct., 1938; The Other Side of the Jordan, 1940; Rivers in the Desert, 1949; the change was announced in “Ezion-geber,” The Biblical Archaeologist, Sept., 1965.

Chester Beatty papyri digitized by CSNTM

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) announces that they have filmed the Chester Beatty papyri. Here is the press release signed by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director of CSNTM:

The Chester Beatty papyri, published in the 1930s and 1950s, are some of the oldest and most important biblical manuscripts known to exist. Housed at the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) in Dublin, they have attracted countless visitors every year. It is safe to say that the only Greek biblical manuscripts that might receive more visitors are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, both on display at the British Library.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is pleased to announce that a six-person team, in a four-week expedition during July–August 2013, digitized all the Greek biblical papyri at the Chester Beatty Library. The CBL has granted permission to CSNTM to post the images on their website (, which will happen before the end of the year.

The New Testament papyri at the CBL include the oldest manuscript of Paul’s letters (dated c. AD 200), the oldest manuscript of Mark’s Gospel and portions of the other Gospels and Acts (third century), and the oldest manuscript of Revelation (third century). One or two of the Old Testament papyri are as old as the second century AD.

Using state-of-the-art digital equipment, CSNTM photographed each manuscript against white and black backgrounds. The result was stunning. Each image is over 120 megabytes. The photographs reveal some text that has not been seen before.

Besides the papyri, CSNTM also digitized all of the Greek New Testament manuscripts at the CBL as well as several others, including some early apocryphal texts. The total number of images came to more than 5100.

CSNTM is grateful to the CBL for the privilege of digitizing these priceless treasures. The staff were extremely competent and a joy to work with. Kudos to Dr. Fionnuala Croke, Director of CBL, for such a superb staff! This kind of collaboration is needed both for the preservation of biblical manuscripts and their accessibility by scholars.

Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Larry Hurtado tells a little more about the background of this project here. If you wish to see the quality made possible by the CSNTM, see these pages from a 3rd century papyri at the University of Pennsylvania here.

Catching up on the news

For the past few weeks I have been marking items to mention on this blog, but I have gotten behind due to a speaking engagement all last week and some other things. Take a look at those that interest you.

Excavation Reports

James Tabor reports on the 2013 Mt. Zion dig season. The team thinks they may have uncovered a Second Temple period priestly mansion. They found a bathroom with a tub adjecent to a “large below-ground ritual cleansing pool (mikveh) — only the fourth bathroom to be found in Israel from the Second Temple period, with two of the others found in palaces of Herod the Great at Jericho and Masada.” To read more click here.

DK sent me a link to an article in The Huffington Post here. The headline is typical media: “Bathtub Unearthed In Jerusalem May Have Belonged To One Of Jesus’ Enemies.” (Or not!) The first line of the story asks, “Have researchers uncovered the bathtub of one of Jesus’ persecutors?” At least wait until they build a structure over the excavation and begin charging admission. There are several nice photos at the bottom of the article.

Abel Beth Maacah (Abel-Beth-Maacah) is in the north of Israel nearly to the border with Lebanon. Excavations under the direction of Robert Mullins and Nava Panitz-Cohen. The team is looking for Abel’s Aramean (Syrian) connection, and to Phoenician connections. The report reminiscences,

A modern illustration of the proximity of Tel Abel Beth Maacah to the Phoenician coast can be found in an exhibit in the local museum at nearby Metulla. An advertisement from the 1930’s invites one to spend their summer vacation in lovely, cool Metulla. According to the ad, the easiest way to get there from Tel Aviv is to take a boat to Tyre and then a carriage from there to Metulla, 35 kilometers away! We dream of the day when we too can take such a ride.

For our previous posts on Abel Beth Maacah, along with Biblical references, see here, here, and here. The brief excavation report, with numerous photos, is in the The Ancient Near East Today here.

North end of Tell Abel-Beth-Maacah with Mount Hermon to the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

North end of Tell Abel-Beth-Maacah with Mount Hermon in the background to the east across the Beqa Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first excavations ever have begun at the ancient city of Derbe. Derbe was visited by Paul and Barnabas on the first preaching journey (Acts 14:20-21). Paul returned with Silas on the second journey (Acts 16:1). We look forward to future reports from Derbe.

See the announcement in Hurriyet Daily News here. HT: HolyLandPhotos Blog.

And More…

The American School of Oriental Research (ASOR Blog) publishes a monthly publication called The Ancient Near East Today. You may sign up for this (currently) free newsletter. In addition to the report on Abel Beth Maacah, I found the illustrated article about “Digging through Data at the Oriental Institute” extremely fascinating. Take a look at the photo of Dr. James H. Breasted breaking ground for the Oriental Institue, and the iconic photo from about 1975 of the famous card catalog and research area. My late friend Dr. James Hodges worked here for several years while completing his doctorate. The article goes on to show the changes wrought by the digital age.

Oriental Institute Research Area about 1975.

Oriental Institute Research Area about 1975.

Leon Mauldin has a good article on “Physical Features of the Land of Israel” here. A helpful map is included with the article. After discussing the geographical features of the land, Leon reminds us,

These factors helped determine where people lived, what crops could be grown where, and what land was good for cattle, etc. No place on earth has as much variety as the Bible land.

Trying to drive a bargain

In Israel many of the national parks have metal sculptures that I find fascinating. The one below at Avedat, a Nabatean city located on the ancient spice route, is of a peddler trying to sell his wares to a couple of buyers.

The buyer tries to talk down the peddler. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The buyer tries to talk down the peddler. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I was reminded of one of the wise sayings of Solomon.

 “Bad, bad,” says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts. (Proverbs 20:14 ESV)

Bargaining is one of the most difficult things for many Americans who travel to the Bible lands to do. Americans are accustomed to prices being fixed. Some, however, really like a good bargain.

Egypt was a broken staff of reed

Last week, in preparation for a lesson I was presenting, I studied Ezekiel’s proclamation against Egypt. He says that Egypt has been a “staff of reed” to the house of Israel. Notice these verses from chapter 29.

Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD. “Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel,  when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.  (Ezekiel 29:6-7 ESV)

The prophet Isaiah spoke directly to Israel with the same lesson.

Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. (Isaiah 36:6 ESV)

Reeds are common along the banks of the Nile and the canals that take water to the fields needing it. The photo below shows a broken reed.

A broken reed does not make a good walking stick. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A broken reed does not make a good walking stick. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is a great lesson in this for each of us to avoid leaning on promises and systems of thought that will not hold us up in time of need.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The Persian horned viper (serpent)

In the previous post we wrote about the serpents in the wilderness. Our photo today shows a Persian horned viper that we saw at the Hai Bar Reserve north of Eilat.

The Persian horned viper at Hai Bar Reserve. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Persian horned viper at the Hai Bar Reserve. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Persian Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus)

This venomous snake of the viper family has a thick and clumsy body that can reach a maximum length of 90 cm. A ground-dweller, it prefers sandy areas, especially in desert wadies in a rocky landscape. The Persian horned viper is mainly nocturnal. Above each eye is a small protrusion in the form of a horn, made of scales.

This snake feeds on rodents, birds, and even animal carcasses. The young feed on lizards. It emits a warning sound by blowing through its mouth.

Distribution in Israel: in the Negev, between Dimona, Sede Boker and Yotvata. it is common in Makhtesh Ramon and its nearby wadies.

Global distribution: from the deserts of Pakisan to Sinai. It is interesting that the snake has a pit at the opening of its nostril. it is not known whether the pit is part of a valve system to protect the nostril from dust or whether it conceals a special sensory organ.

In Jacob’s last words describing his sons, he speaks of Dan:

Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. (Genesis 49:17 ESV)

The Hebrew lexicon by Holladay says the word viper in this verse means a “horned snake.” BDB and TWOT likewise. The NAU version is the only popular one that I check regularly that includes the word horned.

For information about the Palestinian Viper (Vipera palestinae) see here.

Serpents in the wilderness

Tel Arad is located in the Negev about 20 miles east of Beersheba, and five miles west of the town of Arad.

The biblical account informs us that the king of Arad fought against Israel and took some as captives.

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. (Numbers 21:1).

There is a little park on the west side of modern Arad decorated with wooden sculptures. I assume that the creatures depicted may be typical of the desert region.

Sculptures in the park at Arad, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sculptures in the park at Arad, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When I see the sculpture of the serpent on the pole I think of the incident in the wilderness when the Israelites spoke against God and against Moses,

Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. (Numbers 21:6 ESV)

The LORD provided a remedy for those who repented of their sin.

7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:7-9 ESV)