Monthly Archives: November 2018

Dibon and the Moabite (or Mesha) Stone

Dibon is mentioned in the account of the defeat of King Sihon (Numbers 21:30), and was later built by the sons of Gad (Numbers 32:34). It is located in the “plain of Medeba [Madaba]” (Joshua 13:9), and is associated with Heshbon (Joshua 13:17). Upon the return from Babylon some of the sons of Judah lived in Dibon (Nehemiah 11:25). Both Isaiah (15:2) and Jeremiah (48:18,22) speak of the judgment that is coming, or has come, upon Dibon.

The green hill in the foreground is the ancient site of Dibon. The view is to the east. The modern town of Dhiban, Jordan, is in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The green hill just above the center of the photo is the ancient site of Dibon. The view to the east shows the modern town of Dhiban, Jordan, in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dibon is known today at Dhiban in Jordan. The Moabites were the descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Gen. 19:37). They settled east of the southern portion of the Jordan River and the northern half of the Dead Sea. There were battles between Israel and Moab during the reigns of Saul and David, but David defeated Moab “and the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute” (2 Samuel 8:2). This payment of tribute evidently continued until after the death of Ahab; the Bible records at that time “the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel” (2 Kings 3:4ff.).

This photo shows some of the ruins on the summit of ancient Dibon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows some of the ruins on the summit of ancient Dibon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In about 835 BC Mesha, king of Moab, set up a stone to the Moabite god Chemosh (Kemosh) to commemorate his deliverance from the Israelite bondage. This stone, the only Moabite inscription of any significance, was found about 13 miles east of the Dead Sea at Dibon.  It was first discovered by Anglican missionary F. A. Klein in 1868. Klein copied a few words and sought to buy the stone for the Berlin museum for about $400. When the French scholar Clermont-Ganneau learned of the stone he sent an Arab to take a squeeze (a facsimile impression) and offered the natives more than $1,800 for it. The Arabs became suspicious and heated the stone and then poured cold water over it causing it to break into pieces. The natives then distributed the fragments among themselves as amulets and charms. At a later time Clermont-Ganneau was able to recover most of the broken pieces. The original stone of bluish black basalt, two feet wide and nearly four feet high, is now in the Louvre in Paris. Here are a few of the many resources reporting this information: Price, Sellers and Carlson, The Monuments and the Old Testament, 241; The Context of Scripture, Vol. II: 137-138; Jack P. Lewis, Early Explorers of Bible Lands, ch. 7 on Charles Clermont-Ganneau.

The inscription itself mentions David*, Omri, and his son (Ahab, or his grandson Jehoram). Finegan lists 14 places mentioned in the Moabite Stone which are also named in the Bible (Finegan, LAE, 189). The portion of the inscription which tells about the rebellion mentioned in 2 Kings 3:4ff. reads as follows:

Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Kemosh was angry with his land. And his son7 succeeded him, and he said — he too — “I will oppress Moab!” In my days did he say [so], but I looked down on him and on his house, and Israel has gone to ruin, yes, it has gone to ruin for ever! (K. A. D. Smelik in Context of Scripture, Vol. II: 137-138)

*André Lemaire argues, based on the recently cleaned squeeze of the Mesha Stela, that line 5 mentions the “house of Israel” and line 31 mentions the “house of David.” Both of these kingdoms are also mentioned in the stela discovered by Avraham Biran at Tel Dan. (“House of David” Restored in the Moabite Inscription, BAR 20:03 (May/June 1994). Lemaire’s translation of the inscription is included with the article.

The Mesha or Moabite Stone displayed in the Louvre, Paris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Mesha or Moabite Stone displayed in the Louvre, Paris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Was Philip martyred at Hierapolis/Pamukkale?

A recent article by an Italian journalist Giuseppe Mancini in al-Monitor caught my attention earlier this week. He says,

Hierapolis is the most popular archaelogical site in Turkey, with its peak of 2 million tourists in 2014 and a comparable number anticipated for 2018. In fact, most of them — largely Russians on day trips from Antalya — see only the natural features of the place: the white cascades of travertine created by thermal waters flowing downhill. The venue is better known in Turkish as Pamukkale, literally the “cotton castle,” whose light blue natural pools are featured in every tourism brochure.

Mancini discusses the archaeological work done by Italian scholars. In 2011 they were convinced that they had located the tomb of Philip the Apostle (Matthew 10:3). He laments that most of the tourists visit only a limited area of Pamukkale.

Few tourists walk the paved roads among the ruins or sit in the well-preserved theater. Fewer still are adventurous enough to climb the steep hill overlooking Pamukkale and Hierapolis — guides apparently advise against going there — where the Christian St. Philip the Apostle was killed, buried and venerated for many centuries.

I have observed the same thing and understand the reasons. (1) The tomb of Philip is an archaeological site. (2) It is a relatively long distance from the cascades, pools, and shops. (3) Tour groups are limited in time and (4) the greater number of tour members would not take time to visit a site like this. Let me show you.

You will be able to see the buildings dedicated to Philip right of the center of the photo on the top of the hill. First you get to walk on ruins of an ancient road.

After walking a rather long distance to the approach to the Martyrium of Philip, we come to this road. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After walking a rather long distance to the approach to the Martyrium of Philip, we pass through the Byzantine walls of Hierapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

But that is not all. Next you must climb these steps to a plateau near the tomb and complex of buildings.

Tradition associates this with Philip the Apostle, but some scholars think the reference is to Philip the Evangelist. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tradition associates these steps with the Martyrium of Philip the Apostle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When you think you have almost arrived, you see steep steps that must be climbed to the plateau where the Martyrium is located.

The final steps leading to the Martyrium of Philip. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The final steps leading to the Martyrium of Philip. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Then you come to the ruins of the church where pilgrims came to honor Philip.

The tomb of Philip is said to have been in this building. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pilgrims came to this building to honor Philip. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is another building of significance at the site. It is an octagonal building said to have been where Philip was martyred. Only the strongest portions of the building stand.

The Martyrium of Philip was built in the early 5th century A.D. on the site thought to be where Philip was martyred. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Martyrium of Philip was constructed in the early 5th century A.D. on the site thought to be where Philip was martyred. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fant and Reddish say,

The martyrium was apparently used neither as a church (no altar has been found) nor as a burial site (no tomb has been found) but rather served as a place for processions and special services in honor of the saint. (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, p. 215).

According to Fatih Cimok these building were destroyed by fire in the 6th century and never rebuilt (Biblical Anatolia, p 160).

A number of crosses are found at the site engraved on various stones. Cimok says,

Inscriptions speak of “the people of the Jews,” “the settlement of the Jews who dwell in Hierapolis,” and “The archives of the Jews.” (Ibid.)

Crosses on column bases in the Martyrium of Philip at Hierapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Crosses on column bases in the Martyrium of Philip at Hierapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is much more to see at Hierapolis, including a small but nice museum. Perhaps at a later time I will show you the Hellenistic Theater, the street and arch dedicated to Emperor Domitian, and some of the elaborate tombs. In fact, some have been discussed before. You may locate the posts by typing Hierapolis or Pamukkale in the Search Box.

Resources: In addition to sources cited here, I cited Mark Wilson’s Biblical Turkey in the previous post. These are wonderful resources to use in preparation for a trip to Turkey.

Visit Hierapolis at modern Pamukkale, Turkey

The city of Hierapolis (“holy city”) is one of the three cities of the Lycus River valley named in the New Testament.

For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:13 ESV).

Today Hierapolis is known as Pamukkale, Turkey. The name Pamukkale means “cotton castle” or “cotton fortress,” a name derived from the limestone formation at the site. Mellink describes the formation. He says the city,

… is famous for its continuing geological transformation. Hot mineral springs issue from the rock in the city, and the waters streaming down the cliffs have deposited limestone in large formations, the surface of which is made a gleaming white ‘frozen cascades’ (IDB II:601).

A view of the travertine formation that has formed as a result of the warm water running over the hillside. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the limestone cascade that has formed as a result of the warm water running over the hillside. The spring water at the source is a constant 30º celsus (95º for the rest of us). Click the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hierapolis was the home of Papias (c. A.D. 60 to c. A.D. 130), a disciple of the apostle John and a companion of Polycarp. Some traditions associate Philip with the city. All of the information at the site identify this as Philip, one of the apostles of Jesus (Matthew 10:3). Some scholars suggest the association was with Philip the evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:5; 21:8). Wilson briefly sorts through the confusion and concludes the better evidence indicates the apostle Philip (Biblical Turkey, 245).

In the 5th century A.D. a monument called the Martyrium of Philip was built to remember the disciple of the Lord from Palestine. In the next post we will show some photographs of the ruins of the monument.