In the IVP Bible Background Commentary Craig Keener says,
Roman soldiers had the legal right to impress the labor, work animal or substance of local residents (cf. Mk 15:21). Although impressment may not have happened often in Galilee, it happened elsewhere, and the fact that it could happen would be enough to raise the eyebrows of Jesus’ hearers at this example of nonresistance and even loving service to the oppressor. (Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print.)
Though the milestone pictured below has been moved to the current location at Bethany Beyond (or across) the Jordan (in Jordan, John 1:28), it provided a beautiful setting. Our picture looks west to the Jordan Valley. The various buildings you see in the left part of the photo are mostly church buildings on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River. On the other side we see the eastern slopes of the Judean Wilderness. Jericho is in that general vicinity.
Roman period milestone at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
In the sermon recorded in Matthew 5-7 Jesus taught His disciples about the attitude they should have toward the Roman authorities.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:41 ESV)
New Testament writers gave distances in their descriptions of travel from one city to another. Luke says that Emmaus was about seven miles from Jerusalem (Luke 24:13). John says that Bethany [not Beyond the Jordan] was about two miles from Jerusalem (John 11:18).
Milestones were common in Roman times and numerous ones have been found throughout the land of Israel. Most of them have now been moved to some of the small museums found throughout the land. The same is true of some in Jordan.
Most of the Roman roads for which we have remnants were built in the second half of the first century A.D. and in the second century. Certainly in many cases it is reasonable to think that these roads were built over dirt paths that already existed.
For documentation about the Roman Road System in Galilee see James F. Strange, “The Galilean Road System,” in Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods, vol. 1, Life, Culture, and Society (ed. David A. Fiensy and James Riley Strange; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), 263-71 . Maps of the major and minor roads of Galilee are found in the front of the same volume.
David Graves has imposed known Roman roads in the vicinity of Bethany Beyond the Jordan on a Google Earth map here.
See one of our earlier post about Roman Roads and Milestones here.
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