Category Archives: Archaeology

The six water jugs at Cana of Galilee

A friend recently sent me a small photo and a few questions about the water jugs at Cana of Galilee (John 2).

Attached is a photo of a reproduction of what I suppose is a wine jug. It is about 30” tall and 20” handle tip to tip. I bought it a couple of months ago at an estate sale. The seller told us tongue in cheek that it may be the very one from which Jesus turned water into wine. I told him that, in spite of how old I might look and the fact that I had not attended the wedding, I could assure him it was NOT the same one!

An old jug

Is this like the jugs that held water at Cana of Galilee?

“My questions for you, Ferrell, are…

  • Is this a similar appearance and size of those of the First Century?
  • Is this type of jug sold in Israel as a souvenir?
  • I paid $30 for the jug and, of course, had no shipping. Did I get a bargain? I’m going to use it as a feature in my garden.”

The Gospel text says,

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. (John 2:6 ESV)

The fact that the text says each jug would hold between twenty and thirty gallons indicate a larger jar than the one my friend bought. I have visited many museums, large and small, in Israel, as well as numerous antiquities shops, and do not recall seeing a jug like the one she bought.

Fortunately some of the jugs of the type mentioned in John 2 have been found in Jerusalem, Qumran, and other places. Notice the photo below from the Israel Museum. These are the jugs found in what we now call the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Replicas are displayed in the Wohl Archaeological Museum at the place called the Herodian Mansion where they were found.

Large jars for water of purification in the Israel Museum.

These stone jars, along with stone tables, now displayed in the Israel Museum come from the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem from the Herodian Period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A replica of one of these jars is displayed in the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa. The sign explains the purpose of the jars and the way they were made.

Sign explaning the large stone jars used for purification. Hecht Museum.

This sign explains the type of jars we are showing here. Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Hecht Museum is a great teaching museum. In the model house shown below you will see several of the stone jars used for the water of purification. This model reminds me a bit of the Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

Model house from first century displayed at Hecht Museum, University of Haifa, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The third question should have been asked prior to purchase. I have dealt with this question many times during my tours. Individuals come to me and say, “He is asking $___ for this item. Is that a good price?” I learned to say to tour members prior to visiting the first few shops that I will not be able to answer that question in the shop. If they purchased and then asked me if they got a good deal here is how I answered. If you like it and can afford it and are happy with it you got a good deal.

One other point should be made. The type of jar used for shipping and storing wine is known as an amphora. Imported jars such as this were also excavated in the Jewish Quarter.

An amphora fromthe Hellenistic Period. This one is displayed at the Hecht Museum, University of Haifa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An amphora from the Hellenistic period displayed at the Hecht Museum, University of Haifa ,Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The pointed bottoms were placed in sand to hold them erect for filling and transportation. Many pictures and drawings of amphora can be found here.

Addendum: Leon Mauldin sent the photo below showing the author standing beside the model and a replica of one of the water jars.

Ferrell Jenkins at the Hecht Museum, Haifa, Israel.

Ferrell Jenkins standing beside the model and one of the water jar replicas. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Todd Bolen tells the backstory of BiblePlaces Photos

This morning I was pleased to receive the BiblePlaces Newsletter (Vol 19, #1). In it Todd Bolen reminds us that “twenty years ago this month, BiblePlaces.com was born.” He provides us with a brief history of the development of his Photo Collections.

The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands – 18 volumes.

If you have ever used the images in The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (now 18 volumes), The Photo Companion to the Bible, or one of the other resources developed under Bolen’s leadership, you know how valuable the material can be in teaching the Bible.

Bolen observes that he bought one of the set of 100 slides that used to be hawked by the guides on tours of Israel. My experience was much the same. Indeed, even if the photos were good but the quality of the duplication was not good.

I trust I have said enough to prompt you to read the current BiblePlaces Newletter here.

No free lunch, but a Free Powerpoint Presentation of Galilee: Then and Now is available (link at bottom of the Newsletter). Better than a lunch, I would say. I have traveled to Israel for the past 53 years and am aware of the numerous changes that have taken place in that time. In this slide presentation you will see changes back further with photos from the Historic Views of the Holy Land.

Thank you  Todd Bolen for this wonderful service you have provided to all teachers and preachers of the Bible.

Three more Photo Companion volumes

The BiblePlaces Newsletter announces today the availability of three more volumes in the Photo Companion to the Bible series. Go there for detailed info on the volumes on Joshua, Judges, and Romans. A free chapter from each volume is available for download.

Photo Companion of Joshua

The Photo Companion volume of Joshua.

This is an impressive project and I am surprised at the speed with which these volumes are being produced. These make 11 books of the Bible already covered.

The Joshua volume has 3,100 slides with information about each of the slides. I believe there is at least one slide for each verse in the book.  Joshua sells for $99, Judges for $99, and Romans for $69. This weekend all three volumes are on sale for $99. Do you have any idea how much time and money it would cost you to visit the Bible World, make all of these photos, be able to write accurate information about each photo, put them into PowerPoint presentations – a total of  7,500 slides? Well, it did take years and years.

Don’t let this special pass you by. Order this weekend and save. You can take a look at a few samples before you order, and Todd Bolen and BiblePlaces always want you to be satisfied with your purchase.

One warning I have not seen in any of the reviews that I have read is that you should not think you will use all of these photos in your class. I would select those that best aid my presentation and discussion of the biblical text.

Complete information is available on the Bible Places Newsletter here.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 31 – “midnight train to Ur”

In the early years of my tours I gradually added the places I wanted to go in the Bible world that I thought were important in Bible study. By the third tour in 1970 I included Iraq. Our group took a flight from Beirut, Lebanon, to Baghdad, Iraq, for a few days in the country. The visit concentrated on seeing the ancient sites of Ur, Babylon and Nineveh.

We had a view of one of the branches or canals of the Euphrates at Babylon. Perhaps my first certain view of the famous river was at Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

How did we move around in the historic area? From Baghdad on the Tigris river we traveled by bus to Hillah for a visit of the ruins of ancient Babylon long before Saddam Hussein made an effort to rebuilt the city. After the visit we had dinner and then waited until about 10 p.m. to take the night train to Ur Junction near Nasiriyah. There our sleeper car was sidetracked and we had the day to visit the site suggested by Sir Leonard Wooley as Ur of Chaldeans. That identification was generally accepted at the time, but more recently some have argued that biblical Ur should be identified with Urfa, or the general area, in northern Mesopotamia now in modern Turkey.

When we returned from visiting Ur we had some time along the Euphrates River before our train to Baghdad came. I recall this view of the Euphrates at dusk to be one of my best memories of the trip.

This photo was made at dusk along the Euphrates at Nasiriyah, Iraq, May 13, 1970. The men are pulling a boat. Slide by Ferrell Jenkins. (Originally I used the word Nile. Maybe I was thinking of the other end of the Fertile Crescent. Thanks to my traveling buddy Leon for noting this mistake. I definitely need a good secretary.)

When the Basra-Baghdad train arrived our sleeper car was picked up and we were in Baghdad by morning.

This is our sleeper car waiting at Nasiriyah for our train to Baghdad. My 11-year-old son, Ferrell Jr., is standing at the left of the photo. This photo was taken May 13, 1970.

One of the ladies in our group, Marilyn Hardage,  was known as an outstanding student and teacher. She was making copious notes as we had already visited Rome, Athens, Cairo, Lebanon, and Damascus. Perhaps as an oversight her notebook was left on the train. Do you suppose someday Marilyn’s notebook will be discovered?

Our group visited Ctesiphon near the Tigris River at Baghdad. In this photo some of the tours members are seen in a Bedouin or tribal tent. Marilyn is the lady in black and white. George, our local guide, is enjoying the hookah pipe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins May 12, 1970.

David leaves 200 men at the Brook Besor

In addition to the tours I led between 1967 and 2016 I have made numerous personal study trips with a variety of friends beginning as early as 1984. The largest number of those trips have been made with Leon Mauldin. On these trips we visit places that are difficult to reach by bus or take an unusual amount of time to reach — too time consuming for a group looking to see all they can in a typical 10-12 day tour.

In September, 2011, Leon and I spent some time in the south of Israel. One of the fascinating places we visited was the Brook Besor. Israelis call it Nahal Besor. Various English versions of the Bible use the terms Brook, brook or Wadi to describe the stream. For anyone who might wish to visit the area I will explain how we got there.

Using the modern maps at your disposal locate Beersheba (Be’er Sheva), then take highway 25 NW to highway 241 and turn left. Our first photo was made on the north side of highway 241 after we crossed the Besor.

Brook Besor on the north side of highway 241. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Brook Besor on the north side of highway 241. Notice the typical dry terrain of the Negev in the background. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Water is flowing somewhere among these reeds and during the winter rains we may be sure that the water is visible. Notice the dry terrain in the distance.

A short distance from the location of this photo, on the south side of the highway we saw this impressive mound. It is easy to reach, at least in dry weather, using the road across the fields.

Tel Sharuhen on the banks of Nahal Besor. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Tel Sharuhen on the banks of Nahal Besor. Most of the reeds like those we have shown in the photo above are on the opposite side of the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Arab name for this archaeological mound is Tell el-Farah (South) to distinguish it from Tell el-Farah (North), the site of biblical Tirza near Shechem (1 Kings 15:33).

The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (1990) entry begins with this description of the Tell el-Farah (South).

The site is some 14 miles south of Gaza and 16 miles west of Beer-Sheba, near the ancient Via Maris (Roads) connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia. W.M.F. Petrie identified Tell el-Farah with Beth-Pelet (Josh. 15:27; Authorized Version: ‘Beth-Palet’), but W.F. Albright’s identification with Sharuhen (Josh. 19:6) is now accepted by most scholars. Apart from the biblical reference, Sharuhen appears three times in Egyptian sources of the New Empire: in the description of the Hyksos expulsion from Egypt, when Amosi besieged the Hyksos for three years at Sharuhen; in the records of the first campaign of Tuthmosis III; and in those of the campaign of Pharaoh Sheshonq.

Sharuhen is mentioned only once in the Bible as a city of the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1-8; see especially verse 6).

This area looks rather hidden from society, but it was on two major international highways in biblical times.

Leon and I were looking for the possible site where David left 200 men who were too exhausted to make the trek to chase those who had burned Ziklag and taken several captives including two wives of David (1 Samuel 30; see especially verses 9, 10, and 21). I can easily envision this area being the place of the crossing of the Besor.

Ferrell Jenkins at Tel Sharuhen. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Brook Besor on the north side of Tel Sharuhen. This picture including Ferrell Jenkins was apparently made by Leon Mauldin. You have a nice view of the Brook Besor. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

From the south side of the tel we took the steps (lower left corner of the photo) to the top.

Approach to Tel Shuarhen from the south. View of Brook Besor. Photo ferrelljenkins.blog.

Approach to Tel Sharuhen from the south. View of Brook Besor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The following signs in Hebrew and English identify the site as Tel Sharuhen.

Sign identifying Tel Sharuhen. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A nice sign identifying the tel as Tel Sharuhen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I was delighted when I saw these signs were  new.

Sign identifying Tel Sharuhen. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Sign in Hebrew and English identifying the mound as Tel Sharuhen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are also signs at the site identifying Tel Sharuhen as part of the ANZAC Trail. This trail was made famous in 1917 when a light horse brigade of mostly Australian and New Zealand aboriginals defeated the Germans in the region.

The Anzac Trail of 1917. Tel Sharuhen is marked as number 6.

For those with further interest in the historic battle of 1917 I suggest two links. This link in the Times of Israel tells about the centennial retracing the route of the battle by descendants of the Aboriginal ANZAC soldiers in 2017.

More general information about the ANZAC Trail, including directions and a PDF of the map above, may be read here.

The seven photos in this post are sized suitable for use in a PowerPoint presentation for teaching.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #24

Gibeon, modern El Jib, is mentioned more that three dozen times in the Old Testament. This is where the Lord appeared to Solomon, the newly appointed king of Israel, and told him to “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon asked for wisdom.

And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:7-9 ESV)

The photo below was made looking north from Nebi Samwil. It shows Tel Jib, believed to be the site of Biblical Gibeon, and the Benjamin plateau. Archaeological excavations have been carried out on the eastern (right) side of the mound. It is currently difficult to visit the site because it in the the Palestinian territory and the route is difficult to navigate. This view is quite beautiful and I happened to catch the weather just right.

Gibeon and the Benjamin Plateau.. Photo: ferrelljenkin.blog.

View north from Nebi Samwil of Gibeon and the Benjamin plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For information on the pool of Gibeon which is mentioned twice in the Bible go here.

Not Ziklag, says other archaeologists

Did you read the press release published yesterday about the locating of Ziklag at Tel al-Rai? Perhaps you did not read down to my closing comments. I said,

Certainly there will be much discussion among scholars, some of whom will suggest other possible locations …

Before I continue I think I should say that Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University did not start out trying to locate Ziklag, but he and the others working with him began to see that the evidence they were uncovering seemed to suggest the location of Ziklag.

I first met Garfinkel through Luke Chandler, a former student and friend, who had worked with him in the excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel Lachish, and now Tel al-Rai. Professor Garfinkel has presented two lectures at Florida College where I taught for 25 years. Luke and I made a personal study trip to Israel in March/April this year and visited Yossi, as he is affectionately called by friends. He took us down to Dr. Eilat Mazar’s office and introduced us to her, showed us around the archaeology lab at Hebrew University, took us to lunch at the faculty lounge, and visited the campus of HU and the botanical garden with us. I have provided aerial photos to Yosi for his lectures on Lachish. Our visit at HU was educational and pleasant.

Luke Chandler, Yosef Garfinkel, Eilat Mazar and Ferrell Jenkins in the archaeology lab at Hebrew University. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Luke Chandler, Yosef Garfinkel, Eilat Mazar and Ferrell Jenkins in the archaeology lab at Hebrew University. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Well, today’s newspaper gives attention to the views of Prof. Aren Maeir, and Prof. Israel Finkelstein in response. Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University,  has been directing the excavations at Tel es-Safi/Gath for more than two decades, and Finkelstein, a professor at Tel Aviv University, is known as one of the most outspoken proponents of the so-called “minimalist” school. He is known for his work at various archaeological sites.

I refer you to the well-written article of Amanda Borschel-Dan in today’s The Times of Israel for that story.

My article today is neither to defend nor dismiss Tel al-Rai = Ziklag. I have known for years that there have been numerous suggestions for the identity of Ziklag. In fact, back in 2009 Leon Mauldin and I visited Tel Halif, north and slightly east of Beersheba,  and Tel Sera, northwest of Beersheba, because we knew they had been suggested as Ziklag.

The late Professor Anson F. Rainey held that Ziklag should be identified with Tell esh-Shariah, now known as Tel Sera. His four pages (147-150) in The Sacred Bridge would be equivalent to 12 or more pages in many publications.

Leon and I spent a long time driving through fields along the banks of Nahal Gerar till we located Tel Sera.

Tel Sera, identified as Ziklag by Anson Rainey. Photo: FerrellJenkins.blog.

Tel Sera, identified as Ziklag by Anson Rainey. This late afternoon view is to the north. Nahal Gerar, or one of its tributaries, is hidden between the field and the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Archaeologists work with a hypothesis as long as they think it can be sustained, but when new information comes along they move with it.

We may never know the exact location of Ziklag, but I know enough about the Bible to believe that the account of David at Gath, Ziklag, and Jerusalem is one I can hold to.