Many of us think of the cornerstone of a building as a marble or bronze
plaque somewhere near the outside corner of a building. It will contain the
name of the organization using the building and perhaps a note about the donor,
The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery describes the cornerstone this
The cornerstone is the principal stone around which construction in antiquity was achieved. In the lexicon of biblical images of architecture, no image is more evocative than the cornerstone, the focal point of a building, the thing on which it most depends for structural integrity. Thus early in the catalog of God’s acts of creation in Job 38:6, the divine voice from the whirlwind asks regarding the world, “Who laid its cornerstone?” (Ryken, Leland et al. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. 2000: 166. Print).
There are repeated references to Jesus as the cornerstone rejected by the builders.
Paul explains that Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the church which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).
This concept is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (1 Peter 2:6; Psalm 118.22; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11, et al.
The Louw-Nida Lexicon says the Greek word used in these texts refers to “The cornerstone or capstone of a building, essential to its construction – ‘cornerstone, important stone.” I notice that several sources use the term capstone. I have seen these capstones at the top center of an arch used in the construction of an entry arch to a large building. Without the capstone the arch would soon fall.
One of the largest cornerstones of the Temple Mount enclosure wall.This is the area of Robinson’s Arch.
Wiemers describes the large cornerstone pictured above:
A very large corner stone with margin and boss, located on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. This southwest corner has some of the largest ashlar stones of the entire Temple Mount complex, measuring 39 feet 4 inches long by 7 feet 10 inches wide and 43 inches high. The large stone shown here is called the master course stone and weighs about 80 tons. All these stones form a strong corner as they alternate back and forth as headers and stretchers all the way up. The larger stones helped stabilize the smaller stones stacked below. (Wiemers, Galyn. Jerusalem History, Archaeology and Apologetic Proof of Scripture. Waukee, Iowa, Last Hope Books and Publications, 2010, p. 105.)
We noted earlier that several sources suggest the Greek word for cornerstone could also describe a capstone. I have seen several of these capstones used in arches. The next photo shows an example from Patara (Acts 21:1; now in Turkey). It is a triple-arched gate. For more information see Wilson, Biblical Turkey. The capstone may be seen above each of the arches, but is especially noticeable above the center arch. These capstones are not just for beauty; they are essential to hold the arch together.
The gate was built “around AD 100 during the reign of Trajan” (Wilson, Biblical Turkey).
During his preaching journeys, the apostle Paul used several of the famous Roman roads. On the way to Rome as a prisoner he traveled the Appian Way (Latin Via Appia).
There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him. (Acts 28:14-16 ESV)
he new high dam at Aswan was constructed at a time when the Soviet Union was providing technical, economic and military support to Egypt. I remember staying in a hotel in Egypt in 1973 filled with Soviet tourists. In the following years we saw none of them. Lake Nasser stretches south for more than 300 miles. Many of the Nubians who lived in this area had to be resettled by the Egyptian government.
Aswan is the location of the first cataract of the Nile River. This made it an ideal location for the Aswan Dam which was built between 1898 and 1902. This created a small lake south of the dam, but it was nothing to compare with Lake Nasser which has been formed as a result of the building of the new high dam at Aswan between 1960 and 1971.
Some scholars identify the Arabic name Aswan with the Syene of Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6. It may be identified with the Sinim of Isaiah 49:12.
After Jerusalem, Corinth is one of the best-known cities mentioned in the New Testament. The apostle Paul visited Corinth on his second preaching tour (Acts 18). At the “judgment seat” (Greek, bema) in the agora Paul stood before the proconsul Gallio. Based on the inscription now exhibited in the museum at Delphi we think that Paul entered Corinth in the fall of A.D. 51, and left in the spring of A.D. 53.
Since my last visit to Corinth some reconstruction has been made on the Bema and our photo below is published courtesy of Charles Savelle of BibleX.
Corinth is located about two miles south of the narrow isthmus which forms the land bridge, and controlled access, between the main land mass of Greece and the Peloponnese. The isthmus is less than five miles wide. Small ships were dragged across the isthmus on the paved road now called the diolkos; larger ships unloaded their cargo which was carried across and reloaded. This avoided the long 200-mile journey around the Peloponnese. Nero abandoned his attempts to dig a canal across the isthmus (A. D. 67). Some scholars think the road only allowed the “occasional movement of military ships, conveyance of building materials from the southern to northern Corinthia, small-scale portaging of luxury goods, and [served as] the principal road from the Corinthian Gulf to the pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia” (Pettegrew,CorinthianMatters.comblog). The canal one sees today was constructed in 1881–1893.
Corinth “was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth about two miles from the Gulf. It lay at the foot of Acrocorinth, an acropolis which rises precipitously to 1,886 ft.…” and was easily defended in ancient times (Rupprecht 960).
Corinth had two good ports. Lechaion, to the west, on the Gulf of Corinth (an arm of the Ionian Sea), and Cenchrea, to the east, on the Saronic Gulf (an arm of the Aegean Sea).
Another important community near Corinth was Isthmia. The biennial Isthmian games, second in importance to the Olympic games, were held there in honor of Poseidon at the isthmus of Corinth. Some scholars think Paul may have been present for one of these events while he was at Corinth. He frequently used athletic illustrations in his letters. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 as an example.
Over the years since the beginning of this blog I have posted several articles about Corinth. I suggest you put the name Corinth in the Search Box for a list of these posts. I think of this blog as a mini-dictionary of Bible lands and customs. I hope you will find it useful in your study of the Bible. Share it with you friends and suggest that they join our mailing list.
Our photo today shows an important site in the history of the tribe of Benjamin. The Valley of Lebonah is where the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin caught the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21:16-25).
The biblical text provides detailed information about the location of this event.
So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” (Judges 21:19 ESV).
Our photo today was made from the hill on the west side of the valley of Lebonah. In the distance you will see Tel Shiloh on top of the natural hill.
The apostle Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5).
The tabernacle stood at Shiloh for 300 years. Archaeological excavations are now being conducted by the Associates for Biblical Research under the direction of Dr. Scott Stripling. For more details on the next season of excavation see here.
The Sahara, an Arabic word for desert stretches all the way across northern Africa. I have been able to visit deep into Morocco and in most parts of Egypt. The desert is impressive, but it is not a place one would wish to get lost.
Camels are suited to desert travel because they can drink large amounts of water and travel long distances between watering holes of one sort or another.
Along the Nile River one may see a few areas of greenery but much of the area is desert. Portions of it are covered by sand.
The story of Gideon and his 300 men includes information about the Midianites and Amalekites who had entered the promised land from the East.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance (Judges 7:12 ESV).
My first photo for today was made along the Nile River at the point of the first cataract near Aswan.
I rode a camel on very few occasions during my fifty-plus years of traveling in the Middle East. Having been brought up in the rural south in the 40s and 50s of the last century I heard and read the expression “I would walk a mile for a camel” I developed my own saying: “I would walk a mile to avoid a camel.”
Tirzah is used in the Bible as the name of one of the daughters of Zelopehad. She and her sisters were married into the clans of the people of Manasseh the son of Joseph (Numbers 36:11; Joshua 12:24). The man in Song of Songs (or Solomon) tells his lady “You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners” (6:4 ESV). The context, including Jerusalem, indicates he is comparing her to a beautiful city.
In today’s post we consider the name Tirzah as the name of a place.
Joshua captured the king of Tirzah during the conquest of the promised land (Joshua 12:24; 17:3).
Earlier when Abraham was at Shechem, the LORD promised him and his descendants the land of Canaan (modern Nablus) (Genesis 12:1-9).
About 931 BC after the death of Solomon Jeroboam rebelled and became king over Israel (the northern kingdom) at Shechem (1 Kings 11). Later the capital was moved to Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17).
R. K. Harrison describes the importance of Tirzah in the kingdom of Israel: “perhaps as the result of increasing political and economic relationships with Syria. Tirzah was the capital of Israel during the time of Baasha (1 Kings 15:21,33) and Elah (1 Kings 16:8-9). The seven-day reign of Zimri ended when he burned the palace over himself at Tirzah was being besieged by Omri (1 Kings 16:17-18). After ruling from Tirzah for six years, Omri moved the capital of Israel to Samaria (1 Kings 16:23-24) , probably because of his economic and political alignment with Phoenicia. Menahem, a resident of Tirzah, was able to overthrow Shallum (752 B.C.) toward the close of the northern kingdom’s existence and to usurp the throne, ruling for almost eleven years.
The location of Tirzah is not certain. W. F. Albright identified it with Tel el Farah, a mound located about seven miles NE of Shechem (at modern Nablus). Roland De Vaux was associated with the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem and conducted nine seasons of archaeological excavations at Tel el Farah between 1946 and 1960. Most of the tel is currently covered by an orchard.
Tel el Farah north (likely Tirzah) should not be confused with Tel el-Farah south (likely Besor). See our article about a visit there a few years ago here. Google Earth Pro includes one photo from the south site with the information about the north site. It is easy to make this mistake.
If you wish to look up the site on Google Earth Pro or the maps you will need to search for Tel Fara North. Remember also that the site is in Palestine.
David is known as a shepherd in the Bible. We are informed that he made regular trips back and forth from the Elah Valley where his older brothers were engaged in a battle with the Philistines to Bethlehem to feed his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17). Later, the LORD called David to shepherd His people. It is a fact that shepherds were and are honored people in the villages of the Bible world.
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.'” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”– thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. (2 Samuel 5:1-7 ESV)
Traveling in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and other countries of the Bible world we see numerous examples that illustrate the Bible teaching and examples.
The photo below has been scanned from a slide made in 1982 in the Wadi Farah (or Faria) near the Biblical site of Tirza (now known as Tel Farah North).
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.
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.
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.
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.
… 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)
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