Monthly Archives: February 2014

Grab ’em today – books in Kindle format

Neil Lightfoot’s How We Got the Bible, revised and expanded 3rd edition, is available today only for $1.99 in Kindle format.

This book is a wonderful beginning resource to help one understand how the Bible came to be in English. Today only. Learn about manuscripts, transmission of the text, the Canon, and other important topics.

Ray Summer’s Worthy Is the Lamb, commentary on the Book of Revelation, is available for a limited time for $2.99 in Kindle format. Summers discusses the historical background of the book of Revelation, methods of interpretation, and a commentary section. (HT: Brooks Cochran)

Visualizing Isaiah 19: “the idols of Egypt will tremble”

Isaiah 19 is a continuation of the announcement of the LORD’S judgment upon Egypt.

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. (Isaiah 19:1 ESV)

All over Egypt we see evidence of the ancient fallen power. This fallen statue of Ramses II at Memphis illustrates what happened.

Fallen colossal statue of Ramses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fallen colossal statue of Ramses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The princes (leaders) of Zoan, and other places in Egypt, are likened to pillars that were to be crushed. Columns, pillars, and statues are scattered over the ruins of ancient Zoan (Tanis) in the land of Goshen. In the photo below we see columns stacked up.

Fallen stonework piled together at Zoan (Tanis) in the Land of Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fallen stonework piled together at Zoan (Tanis) in Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed, and all who work for pay will be grieved. The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”? Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have made Egypt stagger. (Isaiah 19:10-13 ESV)

Visualizing Isaiah 18: “the rivers of Cush”

Israel and Judah found themselves positioned between the great political and military powers of the time: Assyria and Babylon to the north (or east) and Egypt to the south. In Isaiah 18 and 19, the prophet deals with the power to the south. Cush is likely more or less synonymous with Egypt for this purpose. The region is described as one of unrest.

Ah, land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush, (Isaiah 18:1 ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary comments on Cush, and explains the difference between Cush and modern Ethiopia.

Cush can refer to several different places in the Old Testament, though it most frequently is the designation for the area translations usually render “Ethiopia.” This is misleading, for the area Cush refers to is not modern Ethiopia (Abyssinia), but the area along the Nile just south of Egypt, ancient Nubia (in modern Sudan). The boundary between Egypt and Nubia in ancient times was usually either at the first or second cataract of the Nile. It is unlikely that Nubia ever extended much beyond the sixth cataract at Khartoum.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament comments on the term Cush (Ethiopia) as it is used in several Old Testament prophecies.

In several cases, especially in the prophets, Ethiopia is used in parallel construction as a synonym of Egypt (Isa 20:3-5; Ezek 30:4; Nah 3:9). This probably represents the dominance of Ethiopia (or, more precisely, Nubia) over Egypt between 750 and 663 B.C. Terhakah was a notable Nubian pharaoh who tried, unsuccessfully, to block Sennacherib’s westward expansion (2Kings 19:9 ; Isa 37:9). After 663 B. C. Egypt was independent of Nubia (Jer 46:9; Ezek 25:4, 5, 9).

Nubians now live in Sudan and southern Egypt near Aswan. Some of these people were displaced as a result of the building of the New High dam at Aswan and the formation of Lake Nasser. Some of the Nubians still live in Sudan. They are energetic people and good at selling their wares to the visiting tourists. At the first cataract of the Nile some Nubians have set up a small village with shops and camel rides for those brave enough to try. Notice the example below called Kush (Cush) House.

A Nubian village at Aswan, Egypt, highlights the connection with Cush. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nubian village at Aswan, Egypt, highlights connection with Cush. Photo: F. Jenkins.

One sign reads “Welcome to Taharka Kingdom.” Taharka ((English Bible: Tirhakah). A photo showing Tirhakah under the protection of the god Amun is available here.

Visualizing Isaiah 17: olives and altars

In the oracle concerning Damascus (Syria), Isaiah uses illustrations of the gleaning of grain and olives –plants common in that time.

Gleanings will be left in it, as when an olive tree is beaten– two or three berries in the top of the highest bough, four or five on the branches of a fruit tree, declares the LORD God of Israel. (Isaiah 17:6 ESV)

We could probably shake off several more of the olives from the limbs below and have a better illustration of what Isaiah says, but hopefully this will serve to illustrate the point.

Olives on a branch at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olives on a branch at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another thing Isaiah says is that Damascus would no longer look to the altars they had made with their own hands. These images, and the gods they represented, would fail.

He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. (Isaiah 17:8 ESV)

Altars of incense came in all sizes in those days, and many have been uncovered by archaeologists working at various sites. The altar below, now displayed in the Israel Museum, is from Megiddo.

Altar of Incense from Megiddo. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Horned altar of Incense from Megiddo. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 15-16: the fords of the Arnon in Moab

When the prophets of ancient Israel pointed out the coming judgment of God upon the Israelites they typically pointed out that their enemies had already, or were going to, face the same judgment. This applied not only to the major powers such as Assyrian, Babylon, or Egypt, but also smaller powers that lived closer. It included Syria (Damascus), the Philistines, Moab, Edom, and the Ammonites. When Judah is being addressed there will be also a reference to Israel (Ephraim, Samaria).

Chapter 15 begins “an oracle concerning Moab.” We have, in previous posts, mentioned many of the Moabite towns. I think you can use the search box and locate photos of Dibon, Nebo, Medeba (Madaba), Elealeh, and Kir-hareseth. Isaiah mentions the daughters of Moab fleeing across the Arnon.

Like fleeing birds, like a scattered nest, so are the daughters of Moab at the fords of the Arnon. (Isaiah 16:2 ESV)

We commonly think of the Arnon River (or gorge) serving as the dividing line between Moab (to the south) and Ammon (to the north). However, you will notice that most of the towns mentioned above are north of the Arnon. The boundary changed throughout Biblical history. At the time of Isaiah the boundary certainly includes cities north of the Arnon.

The Arnon River is shown on this map.

The Arnon River is shown on this map.

The Arnon is now known as the Wadi el-Mujib in Jordan. It was not an easy one to cross in ancient times.  The river served as a major barrier for north-south travel. A modern road runs through it today. The river flows from East to West where it empities into the Dead Sea. The locals now refer to this as the “Grand Canyon of Jordan.”

The Arnon gorge in Transjordan. View south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Arnon gorge in Transjordan. View south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From this point the river flows west about 13 miles till it reaches the Dead Sea. A modern road now runs along the Dead Sea, and a small dam has been constructed to help control the water when it fills the gorge.

The Arnon River immediately before flowing into the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Arnon River immediately before flowing into the Dead Sea. View east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 14: cedars of Lebanon rejoice over the fall of Babylon

Isaiah 14 continues to deal with the downfall of Babylon. In great poetic language we learn that the cedars of Lebanon will rejoice that there is no longer a woodcutter to come up against them.

The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’ (Isaiah 14:7-8 ESV)

The Assyrians came before the Babylonians to take advantage of the wonderful cedars of Lebanon. Sargon II left a frieze on the wall of his palace at Khorsabad showing timber being transported for use in the construction of Assyrian palaces.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The above frieze was produced at Khorsabad during the Neo-Assyrian period, about 713-706 B.C. The Louvre website has this explanation about procuring timber.

Timber was needed to build monumental palaces, but Assyria lacked quality building timber. Lebanon was famous for its cedar forests and from the end of the 2nd millennium, the Assyrian kings imported wood
from this region as the cuneiform inscriptions explain. The trees felled in the Lebanese mountains were carted from Sidon to a port south of  Tyre. The timber was loaded on ships that sailed north along the Phoenician coast, skirting Tyre then Ruad; it was no doubt unloaded at the mouth of the Orontes River. From there the timber could be transported to Assyria by river or road.

More information about the frieze is available at the Louvre website here.

Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria and Babylon between 681-669 B.C., says he made numerous kings,

transport under terrible difficulties, to Nineveh, the town (where I exercise) my rulership, as building material for my palace: big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (Lab-na-na) mountains, which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber… (ANET)

The Cedars of Lebanon grow at an altitude of more than 5000 feet above sea level in the northern Lebanon mountains. Only about 300 of the great trees remain near Besharre. In the photo below I show a cedar that has fallen during a storm and is now being cut for use in souvenirs. The trees are protected against indiscriminate cutting.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The little village at the Cedars is built around one of the larger remaining trees. You can see the cedar wood plaques displayed at the shops along the main road.

Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove of trees. Only small bands of snow could still be seen on the mountains in early May. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

No camels during the Patriarchal Age?

That’s what they are saying. It is a popular theme of those who want to put Bible believers in their place. Camels are mentioned repeatedly in Genesis 12-37, a section of Scripture set during the Middle Bronze Age (about 2100–1550 B.C.). Many of the well-known Bible characters of the Patriarchal Age are mentioned as riding camels.

A few days ago I was beginning to locate my sources to respond to the recent article in the New York Times, and in Time. While I was working on Visualizing Isaiah, Todd Bolen came out with two great articles on the subject. I include these links for the two people who read my blog but do not read the Bible Places Blog.

First, you should read the post about the Domestication of the Camel.

Then read.

Both are these posts are well documented with scholarly links you can track down to your own satisfaction. Don’t be unprepared the next time this subject comes up.

Camels at Abel-meholah, possibly the home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Camels at Abel-meholah, possible home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.