Monthly Archives: September 2022

Streams in the Negev (Negeb; South)

Nelson Glueck (pronounced Glick), wrote Rivers in the Desert, a History of the Negev, in 1959. This book is still fascinating to read. You may find a few words in the following quotation that are rarely heard in our daily conversations. A wadi is a dry river (Nahal) or creek bed that is filled with water during the rain seasons in Israel.

Read Glueck’s description of the…

Terraces built across wadi beds to brake and exact tribute from the occasional winter and spring freshets, cisterns and reservoirs dug and plastered watertight to be filled from their meed [a now-archaic word meaning deserved share or reward] against the certainty of many a rainless day, and all the other devices perfected or invented by the Nabataeans and utilized and even expanded in instances by their immediate successors, could never accomplish for the countryside at large the miracles of rebirth that: a single rainfall over a wide area was able to perform. The grass and flowers fairly spring up after the first shower or storm, and the grim desert becomes a colorful garden overnight. It is as if a magic wand had been passed over the face of the earth. Flocks of birds suddenly make their appearance then, to sing and to swoop about in happy flight, and bands of gazelles and ibexes graze and cavort through the lush green. Camels and goats and sheep and their young wax fat. They drink their fill at pools of water collected in hollows, making it unnecessary for months on end to find other supplies for them. Springs flow more strongly, wells rise to their highest levels and the underground water is replenished in the wadi beds, there to remain long after the flowers have faded and the grass has withered and gone. Sturdy shrubs remain green all summer long because their roots tap the subsurface moisture. This is particularly true where the wadis are wide and shallow and terraced, with the result that the rain waters tend to sink into the ground. Otherwise, if unhindered, they race down narrow gullies and dry stream beds, stripping off the covering soil and gouging out for themselves ever deeper canyons. (Nelson Glueck. Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev.  Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev. New York: Norton, 1968; 92-93.)

I can’t begin to show you photos of every element mentioned by Glueck in this paragraph, but I will show you a couple of photos from the Wadi Zin in the Negev. First, here is a map from the from the wonderful collection on David P. Barrett’s Bible Mapper Blog.

Our first photo is a view of Wadi Zin a few miles south of Avdat in the Negev of Israel.

Wadi Zin in the Negev of Israel.

You will see evidence here of water having been at high levels. Various shrubs grow where the water remains the longest.

The next photo shows how the swift water cuts it way through the rocks.

The Wadi Zin.

Renewed excavations at Ebla, a pre-patriarchal site

A recent report here says that after years of devastation during the war in Syria the site of Ebla will once again be excavated.

My only visit to Ebla was in 2002 when my fellow-professor David McClister and I spent three weeks in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. This means I do not have hi-res photos, except for a few slides that I have had digitized, but I am delighted to have any photos. At the site I picked up a small booklet, Tell Mardikh — Ebla, written by Faja Haj Muhammad that gives a short presentation of the history and remains of the kingdom of ancient Ebla. I will share a couple of photos with some brief info from that book.

The first photo provides a view of the archaeological mound or tell.

Scanned slide made of the tell at Ebla in May, 2002.

The Royal Archives. In 1975 the excavators discovered a square room west of the Administrative Wing, on the wall, filled with 17,000 clay tablets. The large square tablets had been on shelves. The small round ones were found in baskets on the floor.

This photo was made May 11, 2002 as a slide. It has been digitized and now enhanced a little.

… the texts were placed according to their subject, and different subjects corresponded to different shapes of tablet.

… There are administrative, economical, historical, judicial, religious texts. The writing is cuneiform. The language is a local language, now called by scholars (Eblaite), which belongs to the same family as Akkadian of Mesopotamia.

The Western Palace and the Archive are dated to the first golden age of Ebla, 2400–2250 B.C. This is long before the time of Abraham who lived north of Ebla at Haran in Padan Aram for a time. Haran is about 150 miles north of Ebla.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  (Genesis 12:4 ESV)

Isaac took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram to be his wife (Genesis 25:20). Jacob spent more than two decades in the same area. Most of the children of Jacob (= Israel) were born in the region.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. (Genesis 35:9 ESV)

Shearing Sheep in Bible Times

An Illustration from the life of David

The wool from one sheep at shearing time. This photo was made in Syria near the ancient site of Kadesh where the famous battle between the Egyptians and the Hittites took place.

David is well known as a shepherd. An interesting episode from his life is recorded in 1 Samuel 25.

4 David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
5 So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name.
6 And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.
7 I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. (1 Sam. 25:4-7 ESV)

A common expression among the Jews was that goats were kept for milk, hens for eggs, and sheep for wool. The wool could be converted into clothing for the family. I have seen Bedouin milking sheep.

Shepherd family living in tents in northwest Syria. Note the woman milking the sheep from the rear.

The wool was converted to yarn, primarily by the women of the village, to be used in the making of clothing for the family.

This yarn has been dyed to be used for making clothing by the women at Nazareth Village.

The good shepherd

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2 ESV). Shepherds bring their sheep to green pastures at Azekah. Photo made March 10, 2022.

The Stadium at Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper, reported a few years ago here on plans to reconstruct the ancient stadium in Laodicea. Laodicea is known to Bible students from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

For I bear him [Epaphras] witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:13-16 ESV)

Laodicea is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, five miles from the modern Turkish town of Denizli, and near the popular resort of Pamukkale.

When I first began traveling to visit the sites of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation, all we could see at Laodicea was the form of the stadium and ruins of a nymphaeum (a fountain house). If we walked across the mound to the north we could see the location of two theaters. That was about it.

In recent years tourists have seen many new excavations and reconstructions on the north side of the tell, but few walked through the weeds to get to the stadium.

Originally the stadium was an enclosed structure used for gladiatorial games. An inscription tells that a wealthy family dedicated it to Emperor Vespasian (A.D. 69-79) and Emperor Titus (A.D. 79-81). It is said to be the biggest stadium in Anatolia.

Vespasian and Titus are known for their war with the Jews beginning in A.D. 66, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The stadium at Laodicea in May, 2008. The view is to the east with Mount Cadmus in sight. Colossae is located in that area.

In August of 2021 there is no green left in the area. The view here is to the southwest.

Through the years of leading tours to the Bible lands I have observed that some travelers see the land at a particular time of the year and conclude that the land looks like that all years. Big mistake.