Category Archives: Archaeology

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.

Has the seal of Isaiah the prophet been found?

The discovery of a bulla (seal impression) possibly bearing the name of the prophet Isaiah is announced by Eilat Mazar in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (44:2, March/April; May/June 2018). I am not sure if this article is available to non-members of the BAS Library, but you may try this link.

This discovery was made nearly 10 years ago in the Ophel area south of the Temple Mount. Mazar announced the discovery of a bulla bearing the inscription “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah” in 2015, and we reported it here with a nice photograph of the seal impression.

Now, imagine the excitement when the researchers found the name Isaiah on a bulla. Mazar says that Isaiah was a common name, but with the possibility that this particular Isaiah is called the prophet, that is super exciting.

Just one problem. One, or possibly two letters, are missing from the word for prophet. A National Geographic article by Kristin Romey explains,

The seal is impressed in Old Hebrew script with the name Yesha‘yah[u] (the Hebrew name of Isaiah), followed by the word nvy.

Because the seal is damaged at the end of the word nvy, Mazar suggests that our reading may be incomplete. If nvy was originally followed by the Hebrew letter aleph, the result would be the word “prophet,” rendering the reading of the seal as “Belonging to Isaiah the prophet.”

Drawing by Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie of the Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Illustration: Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie/© Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

Drawing by Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie of the Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Illustration: Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie/© Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

Could this last word on the bulla be the name of the Novi family, or the name of a town (Nob, is suggested)?

The discovery of the bulla with the name of Isaiah just ten feet from the one bearing the name of Hezekiah is significant. Mazar is quoted as saying,

The names of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah are mentioned in one breath 14 of the 29 times the name of Isaiah is recalled (2 Kings 19–20; Isaiah 37–39). No other figure was closer to King Hezekiah than the prophet Isaiah. (TOI)

The Trumpet has published a well-done YouTube 13 minute video that will be of interest to some readers. The article in The Trumpet contains photos and drawings of the bulla.

The article in today’s The Times of Israel contains several good photos here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer, et al.

“I will make your enemies your footstool” – # 2

In the previous post we discussed the common motif found in the Ancient Near East showing a monarch with his foot on the neck of a subdued enemy. We discussed how this helps us visualize certain Biblical texts.

Here I wish to add an illustration from the Roman world shortly after New Testament times. In the statue below we see the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) with his foot on the neck of an enemy.

Hadrian has his foot on the neck of an enemy. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hadrian has his foot on the neck of an enemy. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This statue is displayed in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. It is made of marble and is said to have come from Hierapitna, Crete.

The photo below is a closeup of the captive with the Emperor’s foot on his neck.

Closeup of Hadrian with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Closeup of Hadrian with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the New Testament, Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 to show that Jesus is now seated on the throne of David at the right hand of God (Acts 2:35).

The apostle Paul understood this. He said of Jesus,

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:25 ESV)

The last enemy is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The illustrations here and in the previous post are suitable for use in PowerPoint presentations for sermons and Bible classes. We only ask that you leave our credit line intact so others will know how to reach our material.

“I will make your enemies your footstool”

A common motif found in Ancient Near East reliefs shows a monarch placing his foot on his enemy. One illustration of this is the large relief showing the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (reigned 745-727 B.C.) with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Tiglath-Pileser III is known as Pul in the Bible.

Pul the king of Assyria came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold on the royal power. (2 Kings 15:19 ESV)

So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day. (1 Chronicles 5:26 ESV)

The Assyrian relief below is displayed in the British Museum.

Tiglath-Pileser III Subjugates an Enemy. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Tiglath-Pileser III Subjugates an Enemy. Note the spear held above the body of the enemy. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Here is a closeup of what we are seeking to illustrate.

Tiglath-Pileser III Puts His Foot on the Neck of an Enemy. BM. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tiglath-Pileser III Puts His Foot on the Neck of an Enemy. BM. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several biblical passages come to mind in this connection.

And when they brought those kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near; put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks. (Joshua 10:24 ESV)

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1 ESV)

Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 to show that Jesus is now seated on the throne of David at the right hand of God (Acts 2:35).

And Paul says,

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:25 ESV)

The last enemy is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Note: This post is a repeat of one we published October 21, 2011, but we have exchanged the photos for more recent ones.

In the next post we plan to show an illustration from the Roman world.

Seal impression mentioning “governor of the city” discovered near Temple Mount

The Israel Antiquities Authority began the year with a great announcement yesterday. Many tourists to the Western Wall may have seen a covered area on the western side of the Western Wall Plaza. Here the archaeologists uncovered a 7th century B.C. four-room house. In it there was a seal impression which they refer to as a docket (also called a bulla) showing two men and a Hebrew inscription bearing the words translated as “governor of the city.”

Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, excavator of the site located in the northwestern part of the western Wall Plaza, on behalf of the IAA, believes that “the sealing had been attached to an important transport and served as some sort of logo, or as a tiny souvenir, which was sent on behalf of the governor of the city.”

Seal impression showing two men and bearing the inscription "governon of the city." IAA photo by Clara Amit.

Seventh century B.C. seal impression showing two men and bearing the inscription “governor of the city.” IAA photo by Clara Amit.

Prof. Tallay Ornan of the Hebrew University, and Prof. Benjamin Sass of Tel Aviv University, studied the sealing and describe it thus: “above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment. In the register beneath the double line is an inscription in ancient Hebrew: לשרער, with no spacing between the words and no definite article. It denotes לשר העיר, i.e., “belonging to the governor of the city.” Prof. Ornan and Prof. Sass add, that “the title ‘governor of the city’ is known from the Bible and from extra-biblical documents, referring to an official appointed by the king. Governors of Jerusalem are mentioned twice in the Bible: in 2 Kings [23:8], Joshua is the governor of the city in the days of Hezekiah, and in 2 Chronicles [34:8], Maaseiah is the governor of the city in the days of Josiah.

The original seal that made this impression may have belonged to one of these men, or to some other person not named in Scripture.

This discovery is another in a long list of those illustrating the historical setting and accuracy of the Bible.

Todd Bolen reported on this discovery, including a different photo of the seal impression, and several interesting links here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Gadara described as a town “without a soul.”

Ancient Gadara has been described by a former Jordanian villager who once lived there as a town “without a soul.”  The reason for his description is explained by Sunny Fitzgerald in a recent issue of BBC Travel.

In the 1960s, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities declared Gadara an archaeological site; it’s now awaiting consideration for Unesco World Heritage status.

The local citizens were moved from the ancient site, but they still visit it for the beautiful scenes of the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk valley below Umm Qais.

View of the Sea of Galilee in the late afternoon from Umm Qais (Gadara). Notice the slight red sky showing through the haze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Sea of Galilee in the late afternoon from Umm Qais (Gadara). Notice the slight red sky showing through the haze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fitzgerald’s illustrated article is a fascinating one that I highly recommend that you read it.

Umm Qais (a common spelling; also Umm Qeis and Um Qays) is the site of Gadara, one of the cities of the Greco-Roman Decapolis. The late Mendel Nun discovered 16 ancient ports around the Sea of Galilee, including one for the city of Gadara. The port is located at Tel Samra on the southeast corner of the Sea of Galilee at the modern Ha-on Holiday Village (Mendel Nun. “Ports of Galilee.” Biblical Archaeology Review 25:04; July/Aug 1999).

From Umm Qais (Gadara) one has a great view of the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River valley. We are told that Jesus visited the region of Decapolis.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. (Mark 7:31 ESV)

The Gospel of Matthew informs us about the healing by Jesus of two demon-possessed men in the country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28). Mark puts this event in the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). Luke adds that they “sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee” (Luke 8:26).

Umm Qais is made of the local basalt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman theater at Umm Qais is made of the local basalt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The term Decapolis was used to describe a group of ten cities established by the Greeks. Many of them claimed to have been founded by Alexander the Great. The number of cities may have been ten at some time, but the exact number varies from list to list. The cities include Abila [Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, Luke 3:1], Gadara [Umm Qeis], Gerasa [Jerash], Hippos, Philadelphia [Amman], Scythopolis [Beth-shan], Pella, et al. These cities are located mostly south of the Sea of Galilee, and all except Scythopolis are east of the Jordan River. Damascus is included in some lists. In the first century A.D. they were part of the Roman province of Syria.

HT: Agade

Was this pillar intended for the Temple?

In the Jerusalem area we have evidence of numerous quarries from which stones and pillars (columns) were taken for the Biblical Temple and other buildings. Much of the area now covered by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including Golgotha, was once a quarry. In a series of post we discussed the so-called Solomon’s Quarries here and here.

It is also known that an area now referred to as the Russian Compound was a quarry in Biblical times. This is the location of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the central police station and the law courts.

The area lies on the northwest corner of the Old City of Jerusalem, and us bounded on the south by Jaffa Road and the Street of the Prophets on the north. It is often referred to as the area of the Assyrian Camp, referencing the occasion when Sennacherib, king of Assyria from 704 to 681 B.C., sent two of his commanders with “a great army from Lachish to Jerusalem” (2 Kings 18:17).

The Taylor Prism reports that Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem like a caged bird. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Taylor Prism reports that Hezekiah was shut up in Jerusalem like a caged bird. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Taylor Prism, found at Nineveh, and now displayed in the British Museum, claims that Hezekiah did not submit to his y0ke, but was “shut up in Jerusalem” like a caged bird.

Only one column remains visible in the quarry of the Russian Compound. It is 12.15 meters (almost 40  feet) long and has a mean diameter of about 1.75 meters (5.74 feet). It is greater at the base than at the head.

Pillar left in the quarry at the Russian Compound, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pillar left in the quarry at the Russian Compound. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Blue Guide Jerusalem says,

[The 19th century French scholar] Clermont-Ganneau suggested that the size agreed with that of the columns of the Royal Portico of the Temple of Herod the Great (1 C BC), and may have been one of the engaged columns placed adjacent to the wall.

Our photo below shows a model of the Temple precinct built by Herod the Great with work continuing for many years (John 2:20) . The view is from the northeast. The three people viewing the model are standing at the southwest corner of the Temple precinct. The Royal Stoa is to their right on the south side of the model. They appear to be standing at the location of Robinson’s Arch, the stairway that provided entrance to the Royal Stoa.

The Herodian Temple in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Herodian Temple in the Second Temple Model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Though we have here a pillar or column rather than a stone, I think we have a nice reminder of the prophecy of Psalm 118:22.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22 ESV)

Jesus made reference to this text in His teaching (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17). The Apostle Peter cited the same text and applied it to Jesus.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:11 ESV).

See also his extended discussion in 1 Peter 2:4-10, and think seriously about the consequences of rejecting the LORD’S chosen stone.