Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Arabah (introduction)

Recently I was doing some reading in the late Denis Baly’s Geographical Companion to the Bible (1963) and decided to share his description of the Arabah (Arava in Israel).

The southern section of the Rift Valley is normally known as the Arabah, and it is, to the surprise of many people, almost as long as the section of the valley between the south end of the Dead Sea and the Lake of Galilee. A north-east-south-west upfold running across it raises the central part of the Arabah to 1,000 feet above sea-level, and then it sinks southwards again towards the Red Sea. Everywhere it is desert, save where occasional springs provide a welcome supply of water. However, historically it has had a double importance: as a trade route to the Red Sea and as a source of cooper. This is found in the dark-red Nubian sandstone which outcrops particularly on the eastern, or Edomite, side of the rift. The most important of these copper mines was at Punon (the modern Feinan), almost certainly the place where Moses raised the serpent in the wilderness (Num. 21:4-10; 33:42-43). On the western side the copper-bearing rock outcrops only in the extreme south, and is being mined today at Timna, where also it was obtained in ancient times. This is the place known to the modern tourist as “King Solomon’s Mines” (Deut. 8:9). (p. 57).

I propose in a series of posts to discuss briefly Lot’s Wife, views of the Arabah, the excavations at Tamar, Keturah, Timnah, and Eilat.

A short distance south of the southern end of the Dead Sea is a formation called Lot’s wife. While there is no historical reality to the formation being Lot’s wife it is an interesting natural formation that promotes the memory of Lot and his family. In the biblical description of the overthrow of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah we are told,

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26 ESV)

Lot's Wife, a natural formation south of the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lot’s Wife, a natural formation south of the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lot’s wife stands as a perfect illustration of those who turn back from doing the will of the Lord. Even Jesus called attention to this Old Testament event.

Remember Lot’s wife. (Luke 17:32 ESV)

In the next post we plan to show you some of the arid terrain as we continue south in the Arabah.

Sadly, I see that neither Logos nor Accordance have Denis Baly’s The Geography of the Bible or The Geographical Companion of the Bible available.

Along the Great Rift

As I began to think about a series of articles on the Arabah (or Aravah) in Israel I realized that I should begin with a general discussion of the rift valley or, as it is sometimes called, the Great Rift.

View south from the Amanus mountains in modern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View south from the Amanus mountains in modern Turkey. In this general area Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If we begin in the north, the great rift begins south of the Amanus Mountains in southern Turkey, near modern Antakya (biblical Antioch of Syria, Acts 11). Antioch was built on the Orontes River, a river that flows north from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley finally turning west and flowing into the Mediterranean. As it flows northward from its source into Syria it passes the site of Riblah (2 Kings 23:33; 25:6, et al.), and through Lebo-hamath (or the entrance of Hamath, as many English version read; 2 Kings 14:25). Hamath is located at the site of modern Hama, Syria. From there the Orontes flows north in the rift valley of Syria till it approaches the Amanus Mountains.

Going back to the Bekaa Valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains, we look to the south. The rift enters Israel near Dan. Abel-beth-Maacah  (1 Kings 15) overlooks the rift from the west. Those who have traveled north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel likely have some idea about the great depression or rift in that region.

This aerial view of the Jordan valley north of the Sea of Galilee illustrates perfectly the Great Rift. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This aerial view of the Jordan valley north of the Sea of Galilee illustrates perfectly the Great Rift. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Running south from Israel’s northern border with Lebanon continues to the Hulah Valley, then through the Sea of Galilee where it is about 700 feet below sea level. From there it continues south in the Jordan Valley until it reaches the Dead Sea at  more than 1300 feet below sea level.

I plan to begin a series of articles dealing with the portion of the Great Rift that runs from the south end of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Eilat (or Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan). In Israel, the rift runs from Dan to Eilat (or Elath). From Eilat the depression continues south through the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba to the Red Sea and into eastern Africa. On our recent study trip Leon Mauldin and I traveled the entire length of the rift from Dan to Eilat.

One can easily find articles and maps explaining the great rift on the Internet, as well as explanations in many good Bible atlases. Describing the Rift Valley in Israel, Carl Rasmussen says,

This depression is part of the Rift Valley system that extends for 3,700 miles from southern Turkey into Africa. North of Israel the system continues in a northeasterly direction into the Lebanese Beqa; to the south it runs through the Red Sea and down into Africa.

In Israel proper, this depression runs from Dan in the north to the southern tip of the Dead Sea, a distance of 150 miles, and then continues south-southwest as far as Elath, a distance of 110 miles. The various sections of the Rift Valley are diverse in character; a considerable amount of rain falls in the northern section (24 in. at Dan), whereas in the south the rainfall is negligible (2 in. at the south end of the Dead Sea). The valley receives runoff water from the mountains to the west and east along its entire length. (Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Print.)

The Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba enters the Red Sea proper at Sharm el Shekh near the tip of the Sinai. Back when the Sinai was under Israeli control I had the opportunity to visit the site. At the time Sharm el Shekh was only a place with a few cabins and a place for the adventurous to park their small trailers. It later became a popular Egyptian resort with expensive hotels. In recent years tourism has suffered due to terrorism in the vicinity.

Rusted-out gun left from the Israeli-Egyptian war in 1967. Photo made in 1973 by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rusted-out gun left from the Egyptian closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping in 1967. Tiran island can be seen about three or four miles to the east. Photo made in 1973 by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 1967 Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to ships delivering goods to Israel. This is generally thought to be the act that precipitated the June War of 1967.

As I began to study about the Great Rift  for the past several days I realized that I have visited all of the major area from north to south along this rift from the Amanus Mountains of Turkey through Syria, Lebanon, and Israel until it reaches the Red Sea at the tip of the Sinai peninsula.

An understanding of this rift helps the Bible student better understand many events of the Scripture.

Some recommended resources

Sale Deadline on The Book of Ruth collection

If you received the BiblePlaces Newsletter for April  a few days ago you already know about the new volume in the Photo Companion of the Bible series. This one is on The Book of Ruth. I received a complimentary advance copy and found some of this material to be helpful on the recent study trip to Jordan. I am confident that anyone studying or teaching the book of Ruth will find the material helpful. You can download the recent BiblePlaces Newsletter filled with much helpful information here.

Available through April 22 for $20.

There are 350 images in PowerPoint to illustrate the four chapters of the Book of Ruth. The collection is on sale until midnight April 22 for $20. Bolen says, “Shipping is free in the US and satisfaction is guaranteed.” Go here for ordering information. Take a look at the four volume set on the Gospels.

Appian Media Producing New Series

Our friends at Appian Media have already produced a wonderful set of high-quality videos entitled Following the Messiah. They will soon be returning to Israel to film a new series dealing what many of us call the Biblical period of the United Kingdom. The series will be called Searching for a King.

Appian Media Searching for a King

Filming for this series begins very soon.

Appian Media provides membership access to their material, and they are seeking donations to assist in the work. See details here. Some videos are available for viewing on the website.

A New Video on Lachish

Lachish: The Epic Unearthed, a 48 minute video about the history and excavations of the biblical city of Lachish has been produced by Dr. Robert Henry and Rachel Martin. Henry summarizes the film:

This documentary brings you into the exciting world of Biblical Archaeology as it reveals the history of one of the largest Old Testament cities and tells the story of the volunteers who dig it up. This epic story reveals the turbulent warfare of the first temple period of Biblical history, the discoveries that expand the Biblical narrative and the impact this experience had on the people who came to Israel to dig. Watch as these determined volunteers unearth a Biblical land mark that hasn’t been touched in over two thousand five hundred years.

The video features comments by Prof. Yosef Garfinkle and Prof. Michael Hasel, directors of the fourth excavation at Lachish, as well as interviews with some of those working on the dig including my friend Luke Chandler.

Some viewers will be unfamiliar with the pronunciation of such sites as Lachish and Azekah. Instead of Lake-ish and ah-ZECK-ah, you will hear LAH-KISH and AZ-e-kah, pronunciations more common in Israel.

I am thankful to have provided a few of my aerial photographs for the video. Henry and Martin encourage you to use this video in your teaching and for personal study free of charge.

Walking the Bible Lands with Dr. Wayne Stiles

Wayne Stiles, whose web site we have mentioned several times, is now developing a video series called Walking the Bible Lands. This is old hat for Wayne who had been traveling to the Bible lands, teaching and writing about them for many years.

Wayne’s new material is available on a membership arrangement. Detailed information is available at his Walking the Bible Lands website here. You will find some samples there.

Welcome to

The change is so subtle that you probably didn’t even notice that the address bar or location line now reads

Anyone who can spell Will Ferrell and Florence Foster Jenkins can handle ferrelljenkins.

Our first post was dated May 2, 2007. This is now our 1984th post. Admittedly some of the posts are insignificant  (like this one). But I think that many of the posts continue to be helpful to Bible students and teachers who are searching for information, and photos, of Bible lands and customs.

You may ask, “Why did you change the domain, and if it is important why did you not do it sooner.” Here are a few reasons. This blog has been hosted free of charge by WordPress all these years. For a long time there were no advertisements appearing with the blog, but lately that has changed. I can’t blame WordPress. The company wants to make a profit. To do so they sell services including ads for the blogs they host. Sometimes these ads showed up in the right column. Others showed up at the bottom of a post. I noticed them especially when searching for a particular subject such as Bethlehem or shepherds (just examples). Some ads were innocuous, but others promoted viewpoints that I do not hold or approve.

WordPress has been peppering me with Emails advertising new URL’s. The hundreds of photos that have appeared here and the tremendous cost to procure them have been covered exclusively by me. It is true that I do license a few photos for various publishers, but this would not pay for my flight from Tampa to New York, let along to Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, or Greece, to mention a few of the places we have traveled to study and make photos.

It takes a lot of travel and work to prepare Ferrell’s Travel Blog.

No complaint. I consider this work part of my service to the LORD and His servants who want to enhance their understanding of the Bible.

Those who have followed the blog for any length of time have undoubtedly noticed that my posts have been few and far between in the past two or three years. This is due to some health issues in my family. Often I prepare photos for presentation but never get around to writing the information to accompany them. Not promising, but I do hope to do better in the months to come.

Many thanks to our faithful readers. Will you do me a favor? Send an Email to a few friends and encourage them to follow this blog. This means they will be notified each time we post something. The blank to fill in to be added to the list is near the top of the right column.

By the way, if you have a link or bookmark to the old URL it will still work, but change it for future use.