Monthly Archives: September 2015

Joab and Uriah travel from Jerusalem to Rabbah

Last evening I was looking at the biblical account of David’s battles against the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10-11).

In the spring of the year, at the time when kings normally conduct wars, David sent out Joab with his officers and the entire Israelite army. They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1 NET)

You probably know the rest of the story. David is attracted to Bathsheba, commits adultery, learns Bathsheba is pregnant, calls Uriah home in hope that he will spend the night with Bathsheba. Uriah acted in the true warrior way by not enjoying the benefits of the marriage bed while his companions were camping in the open field. David sent Uriah back to the battle with a letter to Joab to put Uriah in the forefront of the battle.

Have you thought about the journey made by Uriah and the other Israelite soldiers as they traveled from Jerusalem to Rabbah and back? You know where Jerusalem is located. It is situated on the eastern side of the water parting ridge of Israel at an elevation of about 2400 feet above sea level. Numerous times we have discussed the journey from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley. See here and here.

The distance from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is not more than 20 miles. The elevation drops from about 2600 feet at the Mount of Olives to (currently) about 1384 feet below sea level at the surface of the Dead Sea. The point of crossing at the Jordan River would be a little higher. From there one must go up into the Transjordan Tableland to reach Rabbah. The general elevation of the Transjordan Tableland is about 3000 feet above sea level. Amman is about 2500 feet above sea level. That makes this a difficult route of travel.

Rabbah (Rabbath), the capital of ancient Ammon, is the site we now know as Amman, capital of Jordan. During the Hellenistic period the city was renamed Philadelphia.

The total distance from Jerusalem to Rabbah is about 40 miles as the crow flies. Men rarely travel like crows. The distance by road is longer and more difficult.

The photo I wish to share today was made in early April. It was made along a road a little east of the Jordan Valley and the Plains of Moab. From here you can see the terrain David’s men, including Joab and Uriah, had to travel on their way from Jerusalem to Rabbah. Modern Amman is located in the mountains we see on the horizon.

View looking east toward Amman. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View looking east toward Amman. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Learning routes of travel is one of the most important values in visiting the Bible lands. I hope this photo will help you with your study of the biblical account.

Reprint from 12/2/10.

“A dry and weary land where there is no water”

The title to Psalm 63 states that it is “a Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.”

David says his soul thirsts for God; his flesh faints for God, “as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

In my experience, most travelers who see the wilderness of Judah for the first time are surprised that it is a dry, barren, rugged wasteland. Perhaps our photos in this post will allow you to see the vividness of David’s illustration.

The first photo was made a few miles east of Jerusalem in the vicinity of Michmash. You can see some dry grass left over from the winter rains. David would have passed through territory like this when he fled from Jerusalem during the rebellion of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15).

A view of the wilderness of Judah from near Michmash. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the wilderness of Judah from near Michmash. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo was made much further south between Arad and the southern end of the Dead Sea. It was territory more like this where David hid when he was fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 23, et al.).

A view in the wilderness between Arad and the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view in the wilderness between Arad and the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is indeed a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Even where there might be some water, such as Wadi Qelt, the wilderness can be foreboding.

The wilderness of Judah with a view of Wadi Qelt visible. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness of Judah with a view of Wadi Qelt visible. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Philistines introduced new plants to the coastal plain

One of my neighbors came to the USA from an Asian country spelled with five letters beginning with “I”. After he moved in, some strange plants that I had not seen in our part of the world began to grow. Perhaps he got then at  Exotic Plants R Us, but I doubt it.

Maybe you have had the same experience. Apparently the same thing happened to ancient Israel. Typical plants known to the Biblical Israelites include wheat, barley, grapes, olives, pomegranate, date, and fig.

Sign in the Ashkelon National Park indicating one of the groups that inhabited the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign in the Ashkelon National Park indicating one of the groups that inhabited the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What happened when the Philistines moved in? A recent article by Frumin, Maeir, Horwitz, and Weiss in Scientific Reports provides an answer. The authors describe their approach.

Here we propose a novel research approach aiming to study the different anthropogenic impacts on an ecosystem resulting from the advent of an extinct historical culture, the Philistines–one of the so-called “Sea Peoples”–that appeared in the southern Levantine littoral, after ca. 1,200 BCE. Until quite recently, the accepted view was that the Philistines originated from a single region, most likely somewhere in the Aegean. Recent research has revised this view and shown that in fact, the Philistine culture is comprised of migrants of multiple foreign origins, including the Aegean, who, when arriving in Canaan, intermingled with local Canaanites. The non-Levantine origin of a substantial portion of the Philistine culture is evidenced by their distinctive architecture, ceramic ware, technologies and ritual activities that point to their diverse and multifaceted origins with different components resembling Aegean, Cypriot, Anatolian, Egyptian and even Southeast European cultures.

The article is chocked-full of maps and diagrams which I will leave for you to explore at your leisure. What really caught my attention was the introduction of new species of plants by the Philistines. The three plants were,

  1. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), found at Aphek in the early Iron Age.
  2. Sycamore (Ficus sycomorus) found at Ashkelon in the late Iron Age.
  3. Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) found at Ashkelon in the late Iron Age.

Cumin and sycamore came from the Eastern Mediterranean, but opium came from west Europe.

Let’s take a look at a few Biblical references to cumin and sycamore.

Cumin is mentioned by the prophet Isaiah in the 8th century B.C. (28:25, 27), and then by Jesus in the first century A.D.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 ESV)

Cummin for sale at Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cummin for sale at Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sycamore is mentioned in connection with Solomon who wanted to make cedars as plentiful in Jerusalem as the sycamores were in the Shephelah.

And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. (1 Kings 10:27 ESV)

Amos of Tekoah claimed to be one who took care of the sycamore fig trees.

Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. (Amos 7:14 ESV)

And there is the well known story of Zacchaeus who climbed up into a sycamore tree at Jericho in order to see Jesus as He passed by.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

Sycamore figs at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sycamore figs at Ashkelon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The opium poppy is not mentioned in the Bible and is not currently grown in Israel. Turkey is one of three countries where it is grown for medicinal purposes . I have seen small fields of it in several places in Turkey.

Opium poppies are grown for medicinal purposes in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Opium poppies are grown for medicinal purposes in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The link to the full article by Frumin, Maeir, et al. is here. Near the top there is a link to the PDF file. An informative article by Nir Hasson appeared in Haaretz here earlier this week.

Archaeology does not consist solely of stone walls and broken pottery. It also includes uncovering and identifying the tiniest of seed.

HT: Thanks to Aren Maeir, director of the excavation at Gath for the original article. Check out his blog.