Category Archives: Bible Lands

“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.

The death of Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa

Many significant battles have taken place along the Jezreel Valley corridor. See here for more details. One of them was the death of Saul by his own choice in the battle against the Philistines. I have chosen a few phrases about Gilboa used by Zev Vilnay, Israel Guide. Vilnay’s guide was the one to have when I first began touring and I still check it frequently.

“Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!… “You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor fields of offerings! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.… “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided;…“How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! “Jonathan lies slain on your high places.…“How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” (selections from 2 Samuel 1:19-27 ESV)

So far as I know there is not a way to know the precise spot where Saul and Jonathan died, but this spot which provides a good lookout over the eastern Jezreel Valley is sometimes called Ketif Shaul or the Shoulder of Saul.

Mount Gilboa – Ketif Shaul = shoulder of Saul. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. For this image I used Landscape Pro filter in Topaz AI.

Click on the photo for a larger image. I am sure there are preachers who could “wax elephant” with the help of this photo. You are welcome to use it.

The Jordan River at Qasr el Yahud

From the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea is a distance of 65 miles but the Jordan river twists and turns for about 200 miles. The fall is about 590 feet (about 9 feet per mile). Nelson Glueck began his 1945 book, The River Jordan, by describing the river in beautiful terms.

THE JORDAN is a weird stream. It twists and tears its way swiftly downward in an almost incredibly sinuous manner from the sweet waters of the Lake of Galilee to the bitter wastes of the Sea of Salt or Dead Sea. Squirming frantically, burrowing madly, seeking wildly to escape its fate, the Jordan’s course from its crystal-clear beginnings to its literally dark and bitter end is a helpless race to a hopeless goal. Like Lot’s wife, it looks backward, but only inevitably to perish in the perdition of Bahr Lut, the “Sea of Lot,” as the Dead Sea is called by the Arabs. (p. 3)

At the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, a place called Qasr el Yahud, a few miles north of the Dead Sea, only very short stretches of the river are visible (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:28). The photo below shows one of the many curves in the river. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Jordan River at the site of the baptism of Jesus. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This photo was made at Qasr el Yahud, the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The prophet Jeremiah describes the heavy growth on the banks of the Jordan as the thicket of the Jordan (Jeremiah 12:5; 50:44). Perhaps the reading in the Net Bible, “the thick undergrowth along the Jordan River,” provides a clearer understanding. “Lions could suddenly appear from the bushes” (Jeremiah 49:19; Lalleman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries).

Rolling stone tombs #6 – a tomb near Megiddo

Several tombs of the type in which Jesus was buried have survived the centuries. This one was discovered during road construction a few years ago near the Jezreel Valley, not very far from Megiddo. This is my favorite photo of rolling stone tombs.

Rolling stone tomb near the Jezreel Valley and Megiddo. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This rolling stone tomb was discovered during road work. It is a beautiful example of a tomb of this type. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To locate this tomb in Google Earth Pro or Google Maps these these coordinates: 32 36 43.31 N, 35 08 17.01 E. It also worked on my Android phone to locate the site on the map and provide a photo of the tomb along the highway.

A sarcophagus from the Tomb of the Kings

One of the things we must learn when studying antiquities is that names (designations) may not be correct. To illustrate:

  • The Tomb of the Kings is not the tomb of the kings David and Solomon or any other of the kings of Israel.
  • The pools of Solomon were built long after the time of Solomon.
  • The pool of Hezekiah was not built by Hezekiah. (Be sure to see Tom Powers comment below. I will not go against Tom’s reasoning on this).

The tomb of the kings in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the American Colony Hotel and other newer hotels such as the Grand Court and the Olive Tree, belonged to Queen Mother Helena of Adiabene.

Here is how the facade of the tomb looked in 2008. The tomb was not open to the public but I made arrangements for our tour operator for my group to make a visit.

Tomb of the Kings, Jerusalem

The Tomb of the Kings at it appeared in 2008. The tomb has been closed most of the time since then. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A few photos have appeared in newspapers from various cities. Compare this one with the photo I made in 2008 and you will see some significant repairs. The indication is that this is now open to the public (when Covid-19 conditions permit).

Repaired Tomb of the Kings reopened in 2019.

Daily Hayom reports the reopening of the Tomb of the Kings. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The tomb belonged to Queen Mother Helena of Adiabene. She came to Jerusalem with her son, King Izates, as a convert to Judaism in A.D. 46. Adiabene was located in northern Mesopotamia east of the Tigris River. During the famine in Judea, mentioned in Acts 11:28-30, the queen sent to Egypt for grain and to Cyprus for dried figs (Josephus, Ant. 20.51). For more from Josephus check this post.

A large burial complex was dug north of Jerusalem for the burial of the Queen and her family. This is the tomb referred to in modern times as the Tomb of the Kings. It is a good place to see a rolling stone and a tomb hewn from solid rock. The property is under French control and was closed for many years in need of repairs to the facade.

The tomb was reopened in 2019 but I have not been able to visit since that time. When the tomb was originally excavated by Louis Felicien de Saulcy various artifacts including sarcophagi were taken back to Paris and are now displayed in the Louvre.

The following sarcophagus was identified by Saulcey as a princess of the lineage of David, the Queen Helena of Adiabene.

Possible sarcophagus of Queen Helena of Adiabene. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

This sarcophagus, now displayed in the Louvre, was thought by Saulcey to belong to Queen Helena of Adiabene. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Resources for days you must be inside

Some folks on social media are writing about being bored because of staying in during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not so with me. I love being in my study, but I do have limited time to do so due to other family considerations.

Yesterday we participated in some church streaming sites. Enjoyed all of Leon Mauldin’s lesson on YouTube from the Hanceville Church of Christ.

Also enjoyed the first of two lessons by Dr. Charles Savelle on Mark 15 under the title But Sunday’s Coming here.

Also enjoyed watching some of Searching for a King from AppianMedia.org. Enjoyed the interview with Dr. Scott Stripling at Shiloh and seeing Barry Britnell and Jeremy DeHut at work. This material may be available to you on Amazon Prime.

The brook of Elah during the dry season. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

I got separated from Elizabeth while exploring the brook of Elah during the dry season in August 2008, but we came up with a plan and have been back together ever since. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We also watched the lesson by Dr. Carl Rasmussen dealing with the United and Divided Kingdom periods in the Encountering the Holy Land series of videos. This morning a newsletter from Carl says that the complete set of these videos are available for 50% off through April 3rd. To access the DVD check Zondervan. To access the streaming resource see here. Atlases are also on sale at Zondervan. If you would like to sign up for Carl’s Holy Land Photos newsletter go here. The deep discount did not show on Amazon when I checked.

We have recently mentioned on Facebook that Dr. Wayne Stiles is offering three videos on The Week That Changed the World free of charge. Go to the Walking the Bible Lands web site here.