Category Archives: Culture

Tomb complex discovered in Tiberias

Many interesting discoveries are made by construction workers who are preparing to build a new structure, built a new road, or install new water, sewer or gas lines. It happened this month in Tiberias. Here is a portion of the report from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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A fine and complex burial cave dating from the Roman period (c. 2000 years ago) came to light a couple of days ago in Tiberias. The cave was discovered in the course of development works carried out by the Tiberias Municipality for a new neighborhood in the northern part of the town. The contractor immediately informed the Israel Antiquities Authority when a mechanical digger exposed the cave entrance, and an antiquities inspector came to the site.

The tomb was exposed accidentally during preparation for construction of a housing project. Photo: Miki Peleg, IAA.

The tomb was exposed accidentally during preparation for construction of a housing project. Photo: Miki Peleg, IAA.

The rock-hewn cave comprised an entrance hall decorated with colored plaster, a central room with several burial niches, decorated ceramic and stone ossuaries, and a small inner chamber. Carved stone doors stood at the entrances into the rooms. In one of the chambers Greek inscriptions were engraved with the names of the interred. These inscriptions will be studied by specialists. The cave was probably robbed in antiquity.

According to Yair Amitsur, Antiquities Inspector of Tiberias and Eastern Lower Galilee in the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the cave must have served as a burial complex for a family who lived in the town of Tiberias or in one of the adjacent villages”.

This photo provides a wonderful view into the Roman period tomb with burial niches (kokim) and ossuaries. Photo: Miki Peleg, Israel Antiquities Authority.

This photo provides a wonderful view into the Roman period tomb with burial niches (kokhim) and ossuaries. Photo: Miki Peleg, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Two thousand years ago, in 18 CE, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and Governor of the Galilee, established the city of Tiberias and named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Over the centuries, Tiberias served as the capital of the Galilee, and was one of the largest cities in the country. The city extended from south of Hamei Tiberias, the hot springs, to the center of the modern town. In the Roman and Byzantine periods, several smaller villages grew up on the outskirts of the city, including Bet Maon, the home of Resh Lakish, Kofra, Beer Meziga and others. The cave must have been owned by a family from Tiberias, or from one of the surrounding villages, who chose to be interred north of Tiberias, overlooking the Lake of Galilee.

According to Amitsur, “The burial cave is a fascinating discovery since it is an almost unique find in this area. The high-quality rock-hewing, the complexity of the cave, the decorations, and the Greek inscriptions point to the cave belonging to a wealthy family, who lived in the area in the Roman period.”

The cave was blocked up in order to protect it, and it will be researched by experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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The kokhim-type tombs such as this were typically in use by Jews from the end of the second century B.C. to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament, citing V. Tzaferis on p. 204). There may be more recent evidence that would change this understanding, especially in Galilee.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Who is this bearded man from Abel Beth Maacah?

This small head was found at Abel Beth Maacah (also Abel-beth-Maacah, and spelled as one word) during the 2017 archaeological excavations. Announcement was made recently after the artifact was put on display in the Israel Museum.

Faience head of a king discovered at Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. Photo released by Azusa Pacific University.

Glazed ceramic head of a king discovered at Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel. Photo released by Azusa Pacific University.

According to Robert Mullins, Ph.D., lead archaeologist at Abel Beth Maacah and chair and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, the head measures 2.2 x 2 inches and has carefully executed features, including glossy black tresses combed back from a headband painted in yellow and black and a manicured beard. His almond-shaped eyes and pupils are lined in black and the pursed lips give him a look that is part pensive, part stern. The glazed surface is tinted light green due to the addition of copper to the quartz paste. Its elegant style indicates that the man was a distinguished personage, probably a king. By all appearances, the head appears to have broken off from the body of a figurine that stood 8-10 inches high.

“Despite the head’s small and innocuous appearance, it provides us with a unique opportunity to gaze into the eyes of a famous person from the past; a past enshrined in the Book of Ages,” said Mullins. “Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma.”

The News Release continues,

Details about the figurine head and its discovery were recently presented to the Israeli archaeological community at the 44th Annual Archaeological Congress at Ben Gurion University of the Negev by Dr. Naama Yahalom-Mack of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A more detailed article about the head and the current excavations at Abel Beth Maacah will appear in the June issue of the professional journal, Near Eastern Archaeology. The dig is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

This photo shows the north end of Abel Beth Maacah with Mount Hermon in the distance across the Beka Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows the northern end of Abel Beth Maacah with Mount Hermon in the distance across the Beka Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The biblical references to Abel Beth Maacah include the following episodes.

No sooner had King David put down the rebellion of his son Abaslom when a Benjamite by the name of Sheba led a rebellion against him. The men of Israel rebelled against David and followed Sheba, but the men of Judah remained loyal to the king.

Realizing that Sheba was a greater threat than Absalom had been, David called on Abishai to take servants (warriors) and capture Sheba. Joab’s men went out from Jerusalem to capture Sheba. This pursuit took Joab’s men all the way to the north of the Israelite territory, to a town named Abel-Beth-Maacah. Some English versions use Abel Beth Maacah, or a similar variant. In modern Israel this archaeological mound is almost on the border with Lebanon between Kiryat Shmona and Metulla.

The wise woman reasons with Joab. She tells him that this town formerly was a place where people would ask for advice to end a dispute. She said,

 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?” (2 Samuel 20:19 ESV)

Joab agreed that he would not destroy the city if she would hand over Sheba. She agreed to throw the head of Sheba over the wall. She did what she promised and the destruction was averted. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

Abel-beth-Maacah is mentioned in at least two other passages.

  1. The city was conquered by Ben-hadad, king of Aram [Syria] (1 Kings 15:20).
  2. The city was captured by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, in the days of Pekah of Israel.

A nice photo of the little head on display in the Israel Museum is included with an article by Ilan Ben Zion in The Times of Israel here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

The Arabah – Copper mining at Timna

The “promised land” was described to the Israelites as “a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:9). Copper was mined by Egyptians in the Arabah of Israel as far back as the 13th-12th century B.C. Recent research has demonstrated that copper was also mined there during the Iron Age

Until the the mid 1970s copper was still mined at Timna about 25 miles north of Eilat (close to Ezion-geber). (See the comment by Tom Powers on our introductory post here.)

The Timnah associated with Samson (Judges 14:1) is a different site near Beth-shemesh (Joshua 15:10), and the Sorek Valley (Judges 16:4).

The Bible does not say that Solomon had copper mines at Ezion-geber, but the presence of mining facilities dating to the 10th century B.C. indicates that this may have been one of the reasons why the King built a port and had a navy stationed there (1 Kings 9:26-28). Ezion-geber was more than 220 miles from Jerusalem. The copper provided a good medium of exchange for gold, spices, and other items that Israel needed.

Timnah Park is a beautiful place to visit. Incidentally, it is privately operated and charges an admission fee not covered by one of the tourist cards honored at  the national parks. Since my last visit in 2011, a nice Visitor Center has been erected. Here you can buy tickets, souvenirs, and snacks. There are cases with a few (mostly replica) artifacts from the ancient mining, also beautiful photos, maps and videos. I observed a “ranger” explaining the biking routes to a few travelers.

The Chudnow Visitor Center at the entrance to Timnah Valley which is humbly called "one of the world's most beautiful parks." Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Chudnow Visitor Center at the entrance to Timnah Valley which is humbly called “one of the world’s most beautiful parks.” Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The plaza outside the Visitor Center provides an opportunity to make souvenir photos, as I did. This gives one the sense of the ancient.

Leon Mauldin poses in an Egyptian chariot, but I see he doesn't have much horse power. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Leon Mauldin poses in an Egyptian chariot, but I see he doesn’t have any horse power.

The most famous formation in Timna Park if called Solomon’s Pillars.  We have no way to know if Solomon ever came this area. The leaflet distributed at the Visitor Center seems to not include information about the recent excavations. It says,

These sandstone pillars are a natural part of the cliff wall. They are a typical landscape formation that developed as a result of erosion along cracks in the hard red sandstone. They are named after King Solomon, due to a mistaken early theory that copper-mining and production were part of Solomon’s activities in this area.

Solomon's Pillars, one of the most beautiful formations in the park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pillars of Solomon. These massive pillars at Timna have been associated with Solomon for a long time.These “pillars”, formed by water, are one of the most beautiful formations in the park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When Egyptians worked at Timnah there was a cultic site associated with the Egyptian goddess Hathor. A sign at the site explains that it contains an Egyptian sacred chamer, a central niche, and cultic basins. According to the archaeologists who worked here there are also some local Semitic elements among the ruins: Cultic basins, rock-hewn altar, and standing stones.

The Hator Temple, named after the Egyptian goddess, was used as a cult site during the Egyptian period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Hator Temple, named after the Egyptian goddess, was used as a cult site during the Egyptian period, and afterward by local Midianites. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In Timna Valley there is one beautiful view after another. The formation below is appropriately called Spiral Hill, so named because it seems to climb to the top like a spiral staircase.

Spiral Hill in Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Spiral Hill in Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We have already seen the Acacia trees in the northern Araba, but there are some beautiful scenes in Timna Valley.

Another Acacia tree growing in one of the wadis of the Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another Acacia tree growing in one of the wadis of the Timna Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Four times before I have visited Timna. Two of these was since the construction of the life size reconstruction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. It is now included in the admission fee for Timna Park and evidently is open any time the park is open. It deserves a fuller discussion, but I am including this photo which I have enhanced in Photoshop, removing most of the autos, buses, modern roads, poles, and other obstructions. I hope you will enjoy it and perhaps use it in your teaching. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna Park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness at Timna Park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am leaving discussion of the Smelting Camp with its illustrations showing how the smelting of copper was done for another time.

Todd Bolen provides a brief summary of the archaeological work indicating that the peak copper production at Timna was in the 10th century B.C. here. Especially important is the link to the report in BASOR.

Leon Mauldin’s blog site is here.

Billy Graham and Temple Terrace, Florida

Word comes this morning about the death of renowned evangelist Billy Graham at the age of 99.

During the years when I actively participated in the annual professional meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature I was frequently asked if Florida College, Temple Terrace, FL, where I taught, was where Billy Graham went to college.

The answer was “Yes” and “No.” Graham attended Florida Bible Institute which was founded in 1940. The campus was already a historic location. In the pre-Depression years it had been the home of a well-known resort, including a hotel associated with the Palmer family of Chicago, and a beautiful golf course. I don’t know why, but Florida Bible Institute soon moved to New Port Richey, FL, and became known as Trinity College of Florida.

For a few years the property in Temple Terrace was unoccupied. During the War years the buildings were used to house soldiers from a nearby air base (where Busch Garden, Tampa, is now located). Florida Christian College (now Florida College) was founded as a private liberal arts college in 1946 on the same campus.

A few years ago several agencies interested in claiming an association with Billy Graham dedicated a little park on the banks of the Hillsborough River a few steps from Florida College in Temple Terrace. I thought some readers would enjoy seeing these photographs of the park. The marker is in the center of the photo.

Billy Graham Historical Marker in a small park on the Hillsborough River, Temple Terrace, FL. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Billy Graham Historical Marker in a small park on the Hillsborough River, Temple Terrace, FL. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo shows the marker and the Hillsborough River where, or near where, Graham is said to have practiced his early sermons.

The Graham historical marker on the banks of the Hillsborough River.

The Graham historical marker on the banks of the Hillsborough River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For those who wish to read the marker I have included this close up. You may click on the photo for a larger image.

Billy Graham Historical marker in Temple Terrace, F. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Billy Graham Historical marker in Temple Terrace, F. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even if one does not agree with Graham’s religious views, he/she must acknowledge the role he played in American religious life over the past four score years.

Clearing the landmines at Qasr al-Yahud baptism site

My first visit to the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus and the work of John the Baptist was in 1967 (see photo of the group here). After the Six Days War in June, 1967, it was not possible to visit the site until about 2011. My next visit to the site in Israel was in May, 2011. In the meanwhile I had already taken three groups to Jordan so we could visit the site, traditionally known there as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

In May, 2011, we had to stop at this gate and wait for someone from the military to come and open the gate for the bus to enter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In May, 2011, we had to stop at this gate and wait for someone from the military to come and open the gate for the bus to enter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The expression “beyond the Jordan” in John 1:28 distinguishes this Bethany from the Bethany on the east slopes of the Mount of Olives, the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (cf. John 11:1). Jesus was with John “beyond the Jordan” (3:26), and went away to this region prior to his final work in Judea (10:40). The Greek word for beyond is peran, from which comes the geographical term Perea. Perea was on the east side of the Jordan River.

The NKJV follows late manuscripts in the reading Bethabara. There are textual variants on this point, but the earliest and best reading is Bethany in John 1:28.

One reason for the long delay in opening the site in Israel was that it was in a military area. Much of the area had been filled with landmines and anti-tank mines after the 1967 war to prevent Jordanian tanks from crossing it.

Seven churches had been constructed in the area during the British Mandate period in the 1930s. A drone video included in the The Times of Israel article (link below) shows ruins of the Franciscan Compound, the Ethiopian Church, the Syrian Church, and the Romanian Church. Greek Orthodox pilgrims were already allowed to visit the baptism site to celebrate Epiphany.

Now, the HALO Trust fund has begun raising money to rid the area of mines. The TOI article says the Israel Defense Ministry contributed funds as well.

I call the Jordan a shy river that seldom shows itself. One can drive through the Jordan Valley from Tiberias to the Dead Sea and rarely get a glimpse of this famous River. That is because of the depth of the Jordan Valley and the growth along the banks of the River.

The River no longer floods the valley as it once did, and it is no longer as wide as it once was. This is because the water is now being used by both Israel and Jordan for agriculture and to provide drinking water for the growing population.

A view to the north of the Jordan River at Qasr al-Yahud. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the Jordan River to the north at Qasr al-Yahud. At this point the river is about 405 meters (1330 feet) below sea level. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As we leave the River we stop to look back across the Ghor (depression) to the Zor (the thicket, shown as the green line) where the River flows. This is the view slightly north of the baptism site.

This photo shows the east side of the Jordan River in the foreground, the Ghor (depression) of the Jordan River, the Zor (thicket), the land of Perea on the east side of the Jordan and the mountains of Ammon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows the west side of the Jordan River in the foreground, the Ghor (depression) of the Jordan River, the Zor (thicket), the land of Perea on the east side of the Jordan, and the mountains of Transjordan in the haze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Barb wire and signs warn the adventurous from wandering off the dirt road leading back to Highway 90.

This is one of the signs warning of the landmines. We also see these in certain area of the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is one of the signs warning of the landmines. We also see these in certain areas of the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here are links to two recent articles from Israeli papers that I have enjoyed.

  • “Christian Pilgrims From Across the World Come to Israel to Visit This Site. There’s Just one Problem: It’s Sitting in a Minefield” (Haaretz).
  • “Israel will soon clear 4,000 landmines at Qasr al-Yahud baptism site” (Times of Israel).

In spite of many environmental warnings about the impurity of the water in the Jordan River at this site many groups continue to baptize there.

“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.