Category Archives: Bible Study

The good shepherd

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2 ESV). Shepherds bring their sheep to green pastures at Azekah. Photo made March 10, 2022.

The Stadium at Laodicea

Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper, reported a few years ago here on plans to reconstruct the ancient stadium in Laodicea. Laodicea is known to Bible students from the book of Revelation (1:11; 3:14-22), and from Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.

For I bear him [Epaphras] witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:13-16 ESV)

Laodicea is located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, five miles from the modern Turkish town of Denizli, and near the popular resort of Pamukkale.

When I first began traveling to visit the sites of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation, all we could see at Laodicea was the form of the stadium and ruins of a nymphaeum (a fountain house). If we walked across the mound to the north we could see the location of two theaters. That was about it.

In recent years tourists have seen many new excavations and reconstructions on the north side of the tell, but few walked through the weeds to get to the stadium.

Originally the stadium was an enclosed structure used for gladiatorial games. An inscription tells that a wealthy family dedicated it to Emperor Vespasian (A.D. 69-79) and Emperor Titus (A.D. 79-81). It is said to be the biggest stadium in Anatolia.

Vespasian and Titus are known for their war with the Jews beginning in A.D. 66, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The stadium at Laodicea in May, 2008. The view is to the east with Mount Cadmus in sight. Colossae is located in that area.

In August of 2021 there is no green left in the area. The view here is to the southwest.

Through the years of leading tours to the Bible lands I have observed that some travelers see the land at a particular time of the year and conclude that the land looks like that all years. Big mistake.

The Stadium in New Testament Times

Aphrodisias, located in southwest Turkey, was an ancient city of Caria in Asia Minor. It is not mentioned in the Bible, but is close to the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. Robert F. Tannenbaum, an ancient historian, describes the location of the city this way:

A quiet, fertile valley folded into the Mediterranean hills, clear streams, tall poplars, ancient ruins more than 1,400 years old—a picture of pastoral quiet. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 1986)

BibleMapper_Aphrodisiash

The map above is cropped from the set of BibleMapper maps now available at
https://biblemapper.com/blog//. Aphrodisias is clearly marked.

The site has been excavated since 1966, beginning under the direction of Kenan Erim of New York University. Marble was readily available at a nearby quarry and the excavation has brought to light a multitude of marble inscriptions and statues from the Roman period including a statue of the Emperor Domitian. Buildings include a theater, an agora, a bath, temples, and a well-preserved stadium.

Louw-Nida describes a stadium as an “open, oval area (frequently including a racetrack) around which was built an enclosed series of tiers of seats for those who came to watch the spectacles – arena, stadium.” When Paul spoke of running the race in 1 Corinthians 9:24, he used the Greek term stadion. The term was also used as a measure of distance and is found in John 6:19. It was about one-eighth of a Roman mile. Most large Greek and Roman cities had a stadium. The figure of the stadium is in mind in Hebrews 12:1-2, where a host of witnesses watch as we run the race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

The stadium at Aphrodisias is the best preserved I have seen and I wanted to share with you the photo I made in 2012. Picture yourself in the stadium.

Aphrodisias

The Beauty of the Bible Land

Israel, and the other lands of the Bible, have a unique beauty at any time of the year. The transitional period we call Spring is especially beautiful in Israel. Our recent trip in March illustrates this. Most of the year the Judean wilderness is barren, but after the winter rains it is covered in light green vegetation. This photo shows the Wadi Og a few miles east of the Mount of Olives.

Wadi Og in the Wilderness of Judea.

At En-Gedi (or Engedi) we saw one of the Ibex roaming for a bite of grass here and there. King Saul learned that David was in the wilderness of En-Gedi and tried to capture him there (1 Samuel 24:1).

Wild goats (Hebrew ya’el) are mentioned in a few Old Testament passages (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18; Prov. 5:19). This animal is often identified with the Ibex.

At Engedi we also saw this beautiful scene of a broom tree on the shore of the Dead Sea. The Broom tree is a shrub that grows large enough to provide shade for the traveler as it did for Elijah when he fled from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:4-5).

A small, lonely broom tree on the shores of the Dead Sea at the time of a stormy sunset. The mountains of Moab, in Jordan, are visible across the sea. After water, shade is the most important thing for the traveler in the desert.

In the Spring of the year, after the winter rains, beautiful flowers of the field are to be seen throughout the land. Jesus made reference to these flowers: “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29 ESV)

While we may never be certain about a particular flower the Anemone certainly provides a wonderful illustration. The photo below was made on Mount Gilboa, but I made numerous photos of the flowers of the field throughout the land.

Anemones growing on Mount Gilboa.

Personal Study in Israel

Once again, Leon Mauldin and I made one of our personal study trips to Israel in March this year. It was cooler than we typically expect for the time of year. We saw some beautiful scenery and spent a considerable amount of time studying the weather. We had rain, snow and hail. It was much cooler that typical for the time of year.

When we make these personal trips we do not visit the sites that need to be on the itinerary of every first-time visitor. We try to visit places we have never been, or it has been a long time since a visit, or we know that there have been some changes at the site. Many of these sites are not accessible by tour buses.

One of the places Leon had not visited, and it had been about half a century since I was there, was Taanach (or Tanach). There are only seven references to the city in the Bible (Joshua 12:21; 17:11; 21:25; Judges 1:27; 5:19; 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Chronicles 7:29).

Deborah and Barak led the Israelites in victory in the vicinity of Taanach (Judges 5:19).

“The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver.” (Judges 5:19 ESV).

Taanach is on the south side of the Jezreel Valley and is about five miles southeast of Megiddo.

View of Tel Tanaach looking north in March, 2022. If you were standing on top of the tel you would have a wonderful view of the Jezreel Valley.

A major archaeological excavation took place here between 1902 and 1904 under the direction of E. Sellin. He was assisted by G. Schumacher. A second excavation was conducted by Paul Lapp in 1963 and 1966.

My previous visit was in May, 1973. At that time my photo was made from the opposite side of the tel with my back to the Jezreel Valley. At that time it was very easy to reach Tanaach, but today the suburbs of Jenin reach almost all the way there. Tel Tanaach is within the Palestinian territory and this makes it more difficult for many to visit the site. We hired a driver for the day but he had never been to any of the places we wanted to visit. That’s the way it is for personal study trips.

This slide was made in June, 1973. I have many slides that have been in a slide file chest and stored in an air conditioned room since they were made. I am sometimes impressed by the quality. The wheat had been cut shortly before my photo was made.

Many of the artifacts, including an impressive incense altar, dug by the first expedition are now in the Archeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. They are stored in the Palestine Room, a room that is rarely open to the public.

Some of the artifacts from Tanaach now displayed in the Palestine Room of the Archaeological Museum, Istanbul, Turkey.

Source for some details: Stern, Ephraim, editor. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 4, Israel Exploration Society & Carta, Jerusalem, 1993, pp. 1428-33, 5 vols.

Beginning a New Journey

The closing days of June found me embarking on a new journey with Paulette Crider (nee Minton), a lady I first met in 1997 when she attended the church where I was preaching. At the time we both were married and there was no thought of a relationship developing. After the passing years these conditions changed for both of us and we found ourselves lonely for a Christian companion and seated not far from each other in the same church assembly.

After a short period of getting better acquainted we met with our children and told them what we had in mind. A few weeks later we met in their presence and in the presence of Don Truex, a longtime minister friend, his wife, and daughter, and took the vows to become husband and wife until death takes one of us.

Later the same day Don announced our wedding to the church with these words.

“It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.” I quoted those words from an English poet earlier today in the marriage ceremony for Ferrell Jenkins & Paulette Crider. We’re so happy for these two who have blessed so many lives, for so many years, and now begin their new life-adventure together.”

Here are a few photos that were made by our friend Heather.

Ferrell and Paulette Jenkins after the exchange of vows – June 27, 2022.
The wedding party of family members.
Vickie, Ferrell, Paulette, Don
Sorry friends. There was no cake left.

Photo Companion to 1-2 Kings

Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces.com announces today the publication of the newest in the series of Photo Companion volumes — the volumes on First and Second Kings. He says that these volumes contain more photos per chapter than any volume previously published.

There is a special today offering both volumes for $79. For full details see his BiblePlaces Newsletter here. If you subscribe for the free BiblePlaces Newsletter you will receive updates on new publications and get a few free photos along the way.

The Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

It was a cool day in Jerusalem on March 19, 2022, but the sun was britht. This is reflected in the clarity of this photograph. (If you would like to see the photo larger just right click and select open page in new tab.)

Damascus Gate is the main one of three gates on the north side of the Old City wall in Jerusalem. The gate we see was built over a gate from the early second century when the city was rebuilt by the Romans, and likely over the earlier gate from New Testament times.

The gate is called Damascus because this formerly was the way one would depart Jerusalem to head for the city of Damascus. Paul may have used an earlier gate when he made his way to Damascus to locate and bind followers of Christ and bring them to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9, 22, 26).

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove

A dove at the Pool of Bethesda (click on the Dove for a larger image.)

This morning I spent some time in the Old City of Jerusalem visiting the Temple Mount, and the Pool of Bethesda. The pool of Bethesda is known to Bible students from the account of Jesus’ healing a lame man, recorded in John 5. Few biblical sites have firmer archaeological evidence. I enjoyed listening to three or four tour groups singing beautiful hymns in the Church of St. Anne, The acoustics are exceptionally good there.

I made some new photos of the excavations of the ancient pool and the Byzantine building that was constructed over them (there are actually two pools). Something new that caught my eye was a beautiful dove perched near where I was standing.

In Psalm 55 David uses the imagery of the dove to describe his desire to be rid of his problems.

Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
8 I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
(Ps. 55:1-8 ESV)

Who among us has not at times cried out this same way to be relieved of the problems that overwhelm us? David did indeed flee to the wilderness far away from the comforts of his home, but the ultimate resting place was in the LORD. We also can find that shelter in the Lord.







Mount Hermon: Highest Named Mountain in the Bible Lands

Mount Hermon is an impressive mountain situated in the Anti Lebanon range and is now divided between three Middle Eastern countries: Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. The mountain can be seen from each of these countries. I am thankful that my travels have allowed me to have some view of the mountain from each of the countries. On the current study trip Leon Mauldin and I were able to go up to the area of the ski trails in Israel. It was beginning to snow that day and I understand that the area was again covered with snow.

Ferrell Jenkins on Mount Hermon. ferrelljenkins.blog.
This area of Mount Hermon in Israel is 1020 meters (3,456 feet) in elevation. Leon Mauldin took the shot of the author with the fresh snow in the background. Snow continued to fall and we were told the next morning that there was a nice blanket of snow on the mountain. Mount Hermon

We are informed in the Bible that Mount Hermon was the northern boundary of the land promised to the descendants of Abraham; those with whom He made a covenant at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 3:8; Joshua 12:1-2; 1 Chronicles 5:23).

The mountain rises to a height of  9,232 feet above sea level, The melting snow provides the water of the significant rivers of Israel that join to become the Jordan River.

Psalm 133 is described as a Song of Ascents of David and reads,

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.  (ESV)

Psalm 89:12 mentions both Hermon and Tabor:

“The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.” (ESV)

Mount Hermon is of interest to Christians because it may have been the mount of transfiguration spoken of in Matthew 17. Verse 1 specifically says that Jesus took certain of his disciples into a “high mountain.” Mount Tabor is the traditional mountain of Transfiguration but it is not the only plausible site.

Lange’s work is old but the reasoning here is good. I present it for your consideration.

“Since the fourth century tradition has fixed on Mount Tabor, in Galilee, as the locality of this event. See the description of it in Schubert and others. This opinion is, however, evidently untenable. Not only was Mount Tabor inhabited to its summit at the time (see Robinson), but it seems exceedingly improbable that Jesus would have so suddenly left His retreat in the highlands of Gaulonitis, and transferred the scene of one of His most secret revelations to Galilee, where He was everywhere persecuted. Besides, ver. 22 implies that the change of residence to Galilee took place at a later period, while in Mark 9:30 it is distinctly stated, that after these events Jesus had secretly passed through Galilee. “The highest mountain-top in Gaulonitis was Mount Hermon. Accordingly, some fix upon Hermon itself as the scene of this event; others on Mount panius, near Cæsarea Philippi. But from the description of the mountain, and the statement in ver. 9, that “they came down” from its height, it seems likely to have been Hermon. (Lange, John Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

(Lange, John Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Mount Bental is a military park about Israel’s war with Syria. In the distance to the north is Mount Hermonl The photo was made about mid-afternoon, March 14, 2022l. Mount Hermon is considered by many scholoars as the place of the transfiguration of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 17.

The next day day we visited Mount Bental. It is located in the Golan Heights but is a national park maintained by Israel. It serves as an honor to the military who fought there during the war with Syria. From there we could see the snow on Mount Hermon. Note that the top of the mountain is nearly three times higher than the location of our first picture.