Category Archives: Bible Lands

Inauguration on the Nile, 2021

This is a re-post from USA Inauguration Day in 2009 and 2013.

Shortly before sunset, January 20, 2009, I made a few photos of the Nile River looking toward the west bank of the river. I thought I would share this one with you.

Sunset on the Nile during Inaguration. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Sunset during a Nile River cruise January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are anchored on the Nile a few miles south of Luxor. From my cabin on the Tu Ya cruise boat I am watching the Al Jazeera Network live coverage of the inauguration ceremonies in Washington. The choice of the majority of voters on November 2 was not my choice, but I must say that I am proud at this moment to be an American.

The American ideal of freedom and justice for all is a noble one. Surely there are times when this ideal is not met, but it remains the dream that holds us together, many as one. The diversity of our nation is a testimony to the vitality of that dream.

The inaugural ceremony is the same whether watching it live in Washington, on Al Jezeera in Egypt, or on CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or one of the other networks in the United States. Well, maybe. The thing that makes the difference is the commentary afterwards and the news chosen to run underneath the live event.

Added Note: I wish to call attention to a fine article by David Diestelkamp in the recent issue of Think under the title @notmyCaesar.

Problems faced by the Seven Churches # 4

The city of Thyatira, modern Akhisar, Turkey, is said to be the least important city among the seven mentioned in the book of Revelation. Yamauchi quotes Pliny the Elder’s statement about Thyatira in the Roman period as “a city of no first-rate dignity” (The Archaeology of New Testament Cities, 51). Thyatira was strategically situated on a main road that ran between Pergamum and Laodicea. Philadelphia also was on this road. Most travel was through the valleys. This road, which was part of “the imperial post road linking Italy-Greece-Asia Minor with Egypt, gave it commercial importance” (New International Dictionary of Church History, 974). The modern road between Izmir and Thyatira is good, but the road between Pergamum and Thyatira has not been among the best during my trips. See map here.

Inscriptions and coins show that Thyatira was noted for its many trade-guilds, roughly equivalent to our labor unions. “There are references to unions of clothiers, bakers, tanners, potters, linen-workers, wool-merchants, slave-traders, copper-smiths and dyers” (Hemer, “Unto the Angels of the Churches,” Bible History 11 (1975). 110). The Christians who lived there objected to the guilds because of the guild rites which required all members to eat a sacrificial meal and to honor a pagan deity. Immorality was often associated with the banquets.

One of the most prominent deities at Thyatira was Tyrimnos, an ancient sun god, but there was also a Artemis type temple whose goddess was called Boreitene. No temple to the Roman Emperor was ever built there. Cosmades says, “When the Romans took over the city, the emperor-worship cult was united with the dominant system” (Nothing Beside Remains, p. 56). Even without a temple to the Emperor at least four Christians of Thyatira (mid third century) were taken to Pergamum and martyred (Meinardus, St. John of Patmos and the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, p. 95).

The major excavated ruins of Thyatira cover a square block in the center of modern Akhisar, Turkey.

Thyatira rooftop view. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A rooftop view of Thyatira. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For years columns and arches of the ancient city have lain scattered across the square block in Akhisar. In October, 2020, Dr. Mark Wilson, author of Biblical Turkey who makes Turkey his home, was able to get his first photo of the restored stoa of Thyatira. I have only seen it in the ruins.

The recently reconstructed stoa of Thyatira. Photo by Dr. Mark Wilson. Used by permission.

There are numerous inscriptions strewn among the ruins of Thyatira that illustrate some aspects of this longest of the seven letters [edicts].

You may have noted that various statements about the glorified Christ in chapter 1 are used in the text of the individual edicts. One statement says, “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15 ESV). Roman coins from Thyatira highlight this statement.

Coin of ancient Thyatira, Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, 325. ferrelljenkins.blog

Hephaestus is portrayed as a metal worker making a helmet for Diana. Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 325.

The Lord tells the church at Sardis,

The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. (Rev. 3:5 NET

Thyatira inscription showing erasure of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This inscription shows the erasure (blotting or wiping out) of the name of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus II ) = Elagabalus, A.D. 218-222) on the fifth line from the top. This indicates he was of damnable memory. Note last line – oi gnapheis – the fullers – one of the important trade guilds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another inscription from Thyatira has the name of Domitian chiseled off on the fourth or fifth line. You will see the name of Titus Vespasian, the brother of Domitian on the top line.

Thyatira inscripton mentioning Titus and Vespasian, with name of Domitian chiselled off. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Inscription photographed at Thyatira in 2001. It has the name of Titus Vespasian on the top line, but the name of his brother Domitian (Roman Emperor A.D. 81-96) is erased. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The problems faced by the saints at Thyatira was much the same as those faced by the other churches. Idolatry, the worship of pagan gods, and Emperor worship was a problem they all faced to some degree. Eating meat sacrificed to idols and immorality was also a problem for many of the Christians. Compromise with these more common practices had already been mentioned in the letter to the church at Pergamum where the Old Testament character responsible for leading the saints to compromise was the Old Testament character Balaam. In the letter to the saints at Thyatira the person responsible was a woman who claimed to be a prophetess like Jezebel.

What do we know about the Old Testament Jezebel?

  • She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians, and a
    devotee to Baal.
  • She supported 450 prophets of Baal and 450 prophets of Asherah.
    It was these prophets of Baal with which Elijah contended on Mount
    Carmel (1 Kings 18).
  • She sought to kill the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).
  • She had Naboth murdered and confiscated his vineyard at Jezreel (1 Kings 21).

If you have read the Old Testament account you know that Jezebel came under the judgment of the LORD. Both this account and the one in Revelation illustrates the folly of making a concession to error and the practice of immorality.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the situation described in the book of Revelation fits perfectly with what we learn when we read the history of the area and visit the ruins of the ancient cities named in the book.

Problems faced by the Seven Churches # 2

In the first of this series we discussed the worship of Artemis and other gods that were prevalent at Ephesus. None of these problems are limited to a single group of Christians but I will often use one of the churches as an illustration.

The second problem faced by the Christians of Asia Minor was Emperor worship. It is common to hear a lot of talk about the persecution of the early Christians, but the term is not used in the Apocalypse. Instead we find the terms trial (Rev. 3:16) and suffer (Rev. 2:10) and tribulation (Rev. 1:9; 2:9,10,22; 7:14). The term tribulation implies pressure brought upon the Christians. We may think of this as persecution but let us not get hung up on that particular term. In my tour notebooks for this area I have included a chart showing the Ten Major Persecutions under the Roman Empire typically listed in works on church history. Here below is that simple list. Nero’s persecution seems to have been limited to Rome. By the time we reach Diocletian we see a more widespread situation. In A.D. 305 Diocletian ordered that all church buildings be burned along with all books and Bibles of the church.

1. Nero (A.D. 64–67).
2. Domitian (A.D. 81–96).
3. Trajan (A.D. 98–117).
4. Hadrian (A.D. 117–138).
5. Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161–180).
6. Septimus Severus (A.D. 193–211).
7. Maximinus the Thracian (A.D. 235–236).
8. Decius (A.D. 249–251).
9. Valerian (A.D. 257–260).
10. Diocletian (A.D. 303–311).

Major persecutions against Christians by the Roman Empire. ferrelljenkins.blog

Ten major persecutions against Christians by Roman emperors. Photo: Ferrelljenkins.blog.

If one understands the Babylon of the book of Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17-18) to be the Roman Empire then we see the “soon” of passages like 1:1, 3:11, et al. to include this entire period. Certainly the same or similar situations face Christians of all ages.

A bit of background of the situation in Asia Minor might be helpful to some readers. The next section comes from my Studies in the Book of Revelation which includes a chapter on Emperor Worship.

The Roman Empire was made up of many smaller nations. Rome accepted all of the “gods” and the Pantheon in Rome was erected so that all these “gods” could be worshiped. Later, the rulers were often worshiped by all citizens. The worship of kings was common in the eastern portion of the Roman empire. About three hundred years before Christ the Attalid Kingdom was set up in Asia Minor. These Attalid kings, many of them bearing the name Attalus, were worshiped as gods. At Pergamum one may see the ruins of the heroon, outside the citadel gate, which served as a sanctuary of the heroized kings.

Attalus III, who died in 133 BC, bequeathed all the movable assets of his empire to the Romans. “This was misinterpreted as meaning all his possessions, including his whole kingdom. Thus, the Romans inherited a country of 66,750 square miles with the most beautiful cities of Asia Minor” (Cosmades, Nothing Beside Remains, 36). This territory served as an excellent buffer between Rome and the Seleucid empire of Syria and later the Parthians. This explains how Rome came to have power in Asia Minor. Emperor worship was easily adopted by the people of this region.

Christians could not worship the emperor and were considered atheists by Empire standards. The Christians were not persecuted for serving Christ, but for not worshiping the emperor. The cities of Asia Minor vied for the honor of erecting a temple to the emperor. Pergamum won this honor as early as 29 B.C. (cf. Rev. 2:13). When the Christians were persecuted some of them were willing to serve the Emperor but others were willing to die. It cost something to be a Christian then. (Studies in the Book of Revelation, p. 5.)

⇒ This book is available from the Florida College Bookstore here. Search for the title of the book or the author’s name.)

One of the significant things to see during a visit to the ruins of ancient Ephesus is called Domitian Square. There we see the platform with steps leading to the top where the Temple of Domitian, or Temple of the Flavian Emperors once stood.

Domitian Square, Ephesus. Ferrelljenkins.blog.

Domitian Square at Ephesus. Some writers refer to this area where the temple stood as the temple of the Flavian Emperors. This would include Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. The temple stood on the platform above the arches. The steps to the right of center led to the temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large statue of the emperor stood on the platform. Several scholars hold the more recent view that the head discovered here is that of Titus.

Portions of the larger-than-life statue of Domitian (or Titus) from the temple in Ephesus. Ephesus Museum. Photo:  ferrelljenkins.blog.

Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) became a great center for Emperor worship. Out of the Pax Romana (the Roman peace) grew the worship of Dea Roma (the goddess Rome). Smyrna was the first city of Asia to erect a temple to the cult of the city of Rome in 195 B.C. In 26 B.C., during the early imperial period, eleven cities of Asia were competing for the right to build a temple of Tiberias and thus become the neokoros (temple warden) for the Roman Imperial cult. Rome decided in favor of Smyrna in recognition of her long loyalty (Tacitus Annals Iv. 55.56). Smyrna won the title of “First of Asia” (found on coins) and was thrice named “Temple Warden” (Cosmades, Thomas. Nothing Beside Remains, 1964. 26).

During the reign of the emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117), Ignatius of Antioch passed through Smyrna on his way to execution in Rome. While at Troas he wrote letters to several churches including The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smymaeans, and an epistle to Polycarp (The Ante-Nicene Fathers).

Polycarp, a leader in the church at Smyrna, was martyred by the Romans in about A.D. 156. He was arrested and ordered to say Lord Caesar” and to offer incense to the image of the Emperor Antonius Pius (A.D. 138–161). Upon refusing to do so, Polycarp was then asked to swear by the fortune of the emperor, to
deny Christ and to denounce the atheists (Christians). He was sentenced to death by burning because he would not comply with the wishes of the authorities. He is remembered for his offer to teach the
Roman soldiers, and for saying “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?” Yamauchi says about 10 other Christians were martyred in the city’s stadium at the same time (The Archaeology of New Testament Cities in Western Asia Minor, p. 61).

Persecution of Christians at Smyrna. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Polycarp of Smyrna was put to death during the reign of Antonius Pius in about A.D. 156. Powerpoint slide: ferrelljenkins.blog.

In Izmir, Turkey, the modern counterpart of ancient Smyrna, we find the Polycarp church. There a large piece of art illustrates what we know about his death.

Artist rendition of the martyrdom of Polycarp displayed in the Polycarp church in Izmir. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist rendition of the martyrdom of Polycarp in the city stadium displayed in the Polycarp church in Izmir. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The letter to the church at Pergamum names a Christian by the name of Antipas who was killed (Rev. 2:13). After the close of the New Testament we find other references to followers of Christ who were martyred at the hands of the Romans.

From the writings of Pliny, governor of Pontus, to the emperor Trajan we learn that the same procedure was practiced by the authorities before they killed Christians. See our article with more photos here.

Numerous illustrations could be used from other cities, but I will leave the subject here. The situation described in the book of Revelation fits perfectly with what we learn when we read the history of the area and visit the ruins of the ancient cities named in the book.

The term autokrator (= English, autokrat) is used of the Roman emperors on coins and inscriptions. Domitian styled himself Master and God. Two inscriptions found at Jerash, Jordan, in 1974 describe Domitian as son of the divine (theou) Vespasian. Domitian’s name is erased from both inscriptions as it is on many other inscriptions indicating that he  is of damnable memory. After the death of Domitian the Roman Senate issued a damnatio memoriae (of damnable memory) and his name was erased from many monuments throughout the Empire. I have examples of this from Ephesus, Smynra, Thyatira, and other places. (See Franz, Gordon. “The King and I: The Apostle John and Emperor Domitian.” Bible and Spade 12.2 (1999): 44. Print.

Above I mentions my Studies in the Book of Revelation. There I list several believers who were martyred during the reign of various Roman emperors (pp. 79-81).

Our lesson from all of this is to be loyal to Christ no matter what the threat may be.

The Suez Canal at Sunset

Promised posts on the book of Revelation have not been forgotten but other more pressing things have consumed my time.

This morning I ran across some photos I made of the Suez Canal and thought I would post one of them. This photo was made from the Asia side of the Suez Canal. The view is west toward Africa. At this point the Suez Canal cuts through Lake Timsah.

Ship in Suez Canal at sunset. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Ship passing through the Suez Canal where it crosses Lake Timsah at sunset. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Suez canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. After ten years of work the canal was completed in 1869.

Some scholars have suggested that the crossing by the Israelites as they left Egypt may have been in the area around Lake Timsah (through, south or north of it). Other suggestions include a site in the vicinity of Lake Ballah or the Great Bitter Lake for the crossing. We have several posts dealing with this subject. Search for Suez Canal, Great Bitter Lake, or the Exodus.

Read the biblical account in Exodus 13.

Locating the Seven Cities of Revelation 1-3

The Address Tells Us a Lot

“The book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches that are in Asia. In the Roman Empire the province of Asia comprised the territory in Asia Minor south of Bithynia, north of Lycia, west of Galatia, and east of the Aegean” (Pfeiffer 287). Separate letters are addressed to the seven churches of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. The “letters” actually take the form of Imperial edicts, opening “with the characteristic verb of declaration, legei [says]” (Horsley I:40; cf. Deissmann 375). These churches must be representative, for there were other churches in Asia: Troas (Acts 20:7); Colossae (Col. 1:2); Hierapolis (Col. 4:13). Beginning at Ephesus, the cities named formed a type of circuit or loop. If one begins at Ephesus and follows the route suggested in Revelation, the distance from Ephesus to Laodicea is about 256 miles. From Laodicea to Ephesus is almost 100 miles.” See source below.

The map showing Patmos and the area of Asia Minor where the Seven Churches of Revelation 1-3 were located in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4, 11). Take a look at the map. Begin with Ephesus, then move north to Smyrna, on to Pergamum. Then take the road southeast to Thyatira. Continue southeast to Sardis. From there continue east to Philadelphia, then southeast to Laodicea. If you wanted to complete the circuit you could travel west back to Ephesus. You could trace these same places on a modern map of Turkey, but the modern names of the cities must be followed: Selcuk, Izmir, Bergama, Akhisar, Sardes, Alasehir. Laodicea is located between Pamukale and Denizli. Most tours use the hotels at Kusadasi (near Ephesus) or Izmir, and Pamukale, working in and out from these cities.

This map showing the location of Patmos and the Seven Churches of Revelation was made in BibleMapper by Mark Hoffman.

The seven churches are said by the Lord to be “seven golden lampstands” (Rev. 1:20). We should not think of the Menorah, a seven-branched lamp. Instead we think of seven individual stands, each with a lamp on top. The church is to hold up or display the light. The example from Ephesus pictured below may give us insight into the imagery being used here.

Lamp on Stand, Ephesus Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When we read about the church in Jerusalem, Samaria, and other cities of the Levant we see a special set of problems related to the relationship between the new Christian movement and Judaism. When we move into the territory of Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome we see different problems and circumstances.

One reads Exodus in the light of the circumstances faced by the Israelites in Egypt. One reads Leviticus and Numbers in the light of the wilderness travel of the Israelites. The gospels are read with an understanding of the background of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. In Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome we read the Epistles and Revelation with an understanding of that background.

Source: The first paragraph is from: Jenkins, Ferrell. “Introduction to the Book of Revelation.” Overcoming with the Lamb: Lessons from the Book of Revelation. Ed. Ferrell Jenkins. Temple Terrace, FL: Florida College Bookstore, 1994. 19. Print. Florida College Annual Lectures.) This book is available from Logos in digital format.

“The stork in the heavens knows her time”

The stork is listed among the unclean birds in Leviticus 11:19 and Deuteronomy 14:18. The Psalmist says, “the stork has her home in the fir trees” (Psalm 104:17.

I have not seen a stork nest in a fir tree, but I have often seen them on the top of electric poles, chimneys, and ruined columns.

These storks are building a nest on the top of an old brick column at Kovanlik, Turkey. This photo was made yards away from the beginning of the Via Sebaste or Imperial Road that leads northeast across the mountains from the Pamphylian coastal plain to the Anatolian plateau. The approximate location is 37 10.4234N, 30 35.875E. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The prophet Jeremiah uses the faithfulness of the stork as it moves from one continent to another and then returns as an illustration of the faithfulness not seen in the people of the LORD.

Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV)

I have seen this played out repeatedly in my travels in Israel and Turkey. The storks fly from Europe and other northern climes to Africa in the fall of the year. The Great Rift provides the way for them to navigate through Syria and Israel/Jordan.

A stork heading north and a sunrise over the Golan Heights. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This is a composite photo showing a stork in the Jordan Valley and a sunrise over the Golan Heights. Photos by Ferrell Jenkins.

The prophet Zechariah also uses the wingspan of the stork as an illustration. In one of his visions he says,

Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. (Zechariah 5:9 ESV)

The Keren Kayemeth Leisrael JNF website provides good information about storks, and other birds, in the Hulah valley here. Here is another nice site with information about storks and some good photos.

HT: Dr. Mark Wilson, author of Biblical Turkey, who gave the directions of the Via Sebaste mentioned with the first photo to Leon Mauldin and me. An article by Mark R. Fairchild in BAR includes a map showing two possible routes from Perga in Pampylia to Pisidian Antioch. The caption with the map suggests the Via Sebaste as possibly being used by Paul, but Dr. Fairchild does not think Paul would have traveled that way. Nonetheless it is possible that Paul might have used this route in one direction or the other, more likely on the return. (Fairchild, Mark R. “Why Perga?” Biblical Archaeology Review 39.6 (2013): 53–59.)

The Wilderness of Judea – a Hard Way to Go

A portion of the Judean Wilderness is displayed in Green on this map, but it is a very dry area of the country. The walking trip from Jericho to Jerusalem takes at least 7 hours and 30 minutes. Made with BibleMapper.

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 3:3), and Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). Jesus spoke to the crowds about John this way:

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (Luke 7:24 ESV)

This is a fairly typical view of the Wilderness of Judea at sea level. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness (Greek eremos) of Judea is described this way in Bauer (BDAG):

Of the Judean wilderness, the stony, barren eastern declivity of the Judean mountains toward the Dead Sea and lower Jordan Valley.

Wilderness of Judea. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The wilderness of Judea a short distance west of Jericho. The shadows constantly change the appearance of the wilderness. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Hebrew word for this wilderness is midbar. Charles F. Pfeiffer said the wilderness of Judea,

is the region of rugged gorges and bad lands in the eastern part of Judah where the land slopes off toward the Jordan Valley. In ancient times this area was infested with wild animals. Except for a brief time during the spring rains the wilderness is arid. (Baker’s Bible Atlas, 201)

The Saint George monastery hangs along a cleft in the wilderness of Judea where the Wadi Kelt runs from near Jerusalem past Jericho. Notice the beautiful color shades here. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many people who read the Bible in English, without checking into the matter, think of the wilderness as being a place filled with wild growth and underbrush. Jesus’ question to the crowds indicates that no reeds are to be found in the wilderness. In this case a picture really is worth a thousand words. This shows one of the many changing views one might see in the wilderness. This one was made in the month of November and shows a view west toward Jerusalem.

The wilderness of Judea stretches from the eastern slope of the central mountain range to the Jordan River. Of course, it extends much farther south along the Dead Sea.

Jerash (Gerasa) in Jordan

Jerash is also called Gerasa and Jarash. It was founded by Alexander the Great about 332 B.C., but declined as an important city about 300 B.C. The ruins are seen today are principally from the second century A.D. Roman city. We can imagine what the city of the time of Jesus looked like.

Gerasa/Jerash

This map shows the relationship of Gerasa/Jerash to Galilee, the principal area of Jesus’ ministry. Photo prepared with BibleMapper v.5. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Jerash is located in a well-watered valley in the mountains of Gilead. The modern village is inhabited mostly by Circassians, who were brought there by the Turks in the last part of the 19th century.

Hadrian's Arch, Jerash, Jordan. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Triumphal Arch was constructed at the time of the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 129. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A German traveler named Seetzen rediscovered Gerash for the Western world in 1806. Excavations were begun in the 1920s. The main points of interest include the following: Triumphal Arch (built in 129 A.D. to celebrate Hadrian’s visit; Oval-shaped Forum (only one of its kind from the Roman period, from 1st century); Temple of Artemis (columns are 45 feet high with Corinthian capitals); Cathedral Church (ca. A.D. 350-375). Thirteen Byzantine churches have been excavated at Jerash.

Cardo from Roman city Jerash, Jordan. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A view of the cardo of Jerash in Jordan. Jerash was one of the cities of the Decapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee. Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis, after Damascus (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #38 – a thistle

Our favorite foto today was made near Tel Goded, also known as Tell el-Judeideh. This mound has been suggested as the site of Moresheth-gath, the home of the prophet Micah (1:14; see The Sacred Bridge, 170). This site is located on the Israel National Trail.

Tel Goded, also known as Tell el-Judeideh, may be the location of Moresheth-gath, the home of the prophet Micah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our photo was made near an underground spring, or possibly a cistern, just outside the lower right corner of the photo.

This map was created using BibleMapper 5. Moresheth-gath is located 5.9 miles from Lachish. The suggest site for Libnah is known today as Tel Burna.

Thorns and thistles are mentioned as a plant more or less worthless. As a result of man’s sin, the earth was to bring forth thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18-19). Jesus said that false prophets could be recognized by their fruits. He said, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16, ESV).

A large variety of thorns and thistles grow throughout the bible lands. During the rainy season many of them produce beautiful flowers, but later on they become a real problems to those who wish to walk through the fields. Peter may be drawing on this figure when he says, “Therefore, gird your minds for action”  (1 Peter 1:13 NAS). Just as a person of that time would gird up their flowing garment to keep it from hanging on the encroaching thistles along the path they were walking. We miss the imagery with our newer versions that say something like, “preparing your minds for action” (ESV).

William Barclay says,

He tells them to gird up the loins of their mind. This is a deliberately vivid phrase. In the east men wore long flowing robes which hindered fast progress or strenuous action. Round the waist they wore a broad belt or girdle; and when strenuous action was necessary they shortened the long robe by pulling it up within the belt in order to give them freedom of movement. The English equivalent of the phrase would be to roll up one’s sleeves or to take off one’s jacket. Peter is telling his people that they must be ready for the most strenuous mental endeavour. They must never be content with a flabby and unexamined faith; they must set to and think things out and think them through. It may be that they will have to discard some things. It may be that they will make mistakes. But what they are left with will be theirs in such a way that nothing and nobody can ever take it away from them. (Barclay, William, ed. The Letters of James and Peter. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976. Print. The Daily Study Bible Series.)

I looked through several books showing the plants of the bible lands as well as the Thorns and Thistles photos in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands. I think this is the Holy Milk Thistle, sometimes called Mary’s thistle.

Butterfly, thistle, insect near Tel Goded. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

A beautiful butterfly on a thistle near Tel Goded (T. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What makes this photo a favorite is not only that it is a thistle but that it also has a beautiful butterfly on it. If you look closely you may also see an insect, but you can’t miss the sharp thorns.

The comment by G. E. Post in the old Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, is interesting – even colorful.

There is probably no country on earth of the same extent which has so many plants with prickles and thorns as the Holy Land. One would be tempted to believe that this is a providential provision to protect them from the ravages of goats, asses, and camels, were it not that the mouths of these creatures are provided with a mucous membrane so tough that it seems impervious to thorns.

Illustrating Isaiah 1:18

In preparation of an article about Tel Sharuhen in the Negev of Israel I ran across several photos of sheep grazing in the area. I see this photo as a good illustration of Isaiah 1:18.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

Recently born lambs "as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). FerrellJenkins.blog.

Recently born lambs provide a stark contrast to the older sheep. See Isaiah 1:18. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.