Category Archives: Jordan

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).

Gibeah of Saul

Gibeah in 1980-81. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Gibeah of Saul. Scanned from a 1980 or 1981 slide. View from the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gibeah from the east. The town in the foreground is the Israeli town of Pisgat Ze'ev Mizrah. Photo: ferrelljenkns.blog.

This is a modern view of Tall al Ful (formerly called Tell el-Ful) from the west side town of Pisgat Ze’ev Mizrah. Notice the structure on top of the mound. Explanation below.

It is not uncommon in the Palestinian territory for houses to be built along the slopes of a tell if not the top. See this next picture as an example of the encroachment.

Construction in progress on the mound of ancient Gibeah. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Construction underway that encroaches on the mound of ancient Gibeah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Israel’s first king was a man of the tribe of Benjamin named Saul. The Bible records that he was from Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:26). More than once the text refers to the town as “Gibeah of Saul” (1 Samuel 11:4; Isaiah 10:29).

Location of Gibeah of Saul

Gibeah of Saul in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Made with BibleMapper 5.

Gibeah was located about three miles north of Jerusalem on a main road leading north at an elevation of more than 2700 feet, about 300 feet higher than Jerusalem. It was a city of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Samuel 14:16) and is presently called Tal al-Ful (hill of beans) by the Arabs. William F. Albright excavated Gibeah during 1922 and 1933. From the time of King Saul, in the second half of the 11th century B.C., Albright found “a corner tower and part of the adjacent wall” (Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, p. 120). The southwest tower of the fortress had three rooms and the indication was that the whole structure was at least two stories high. Some modern scholars have called this identification in question.

Reconstructed citadel excavated by Albright at Tall al-Ful.

King Hussein of Jordan was in the process of building a palace on top of this impressive mound when Israel occupied the territory in June, 1967. The unfinished structure can still be seen.

The unfinished summer royal palace of King Hussein of Jordan. Photo: Todd Bolen, Pictorial Library of Bible Places.

And finally, here is another view made from Pisgat Ze’ev.

Gibeah of Saul. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Gibeah (Tall al-Ful) View from Pisgat Ze’ev to the east of the mound. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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).

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 35 – Roman Milestone

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.

Milestone at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

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.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 29 – the Siq and Treasury at Petra

When I began this series I stated that there was no significance to the order of the photos. Of all the photos I have made and of those recently published I suspect this one would be very near the top. What most tourists see at Petra has little to do with anything in the Bible. The carvings we see there were made mostly by the Nabateans.

The Nabateans have been described as “one of the most gifted and vigorous peoples in the Near East of Jesus’ time” (Wright, Biblical Archaeology 229). They exacted high tolls from the caravans which passed their way. The greatest king of the Nabateans was Aretas IV (9 B.C. to A.D. 40). His rule extended as far north as Damascus during the last part of his reign; this was at the time Paul escaped from Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32).

I recall the impression walking through the Siq and then the first glimpse of the Treasury carved into the stone. That first trip was 1967, and I have been back several times, the most recent in 2018. I hope you will enjoy this photo made in 2006.

Traveling through the siq at Petra and the first glance of the Treasury. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins 2006.

 

 

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 28 – Moses as Shepherd

Shepherds were highly significant in the ancient near eastern culture. It is no wonder that many of the outstanding characters of the Old Testament are called shepherds.

The LORD frequently chose shepherds to be the leaders of His people. Consider David (Psalm 78:70-72) and Moses (Exodus 3:1) as examples. Moses understood that there should be someone to lead Israel after his death. He made a recommendation to the LORD, saying,

Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17 ESV)

The LORD chose Joshua the son of Nun to fill that role.

Previously I have mentioned that Leon Mauldin and I spent a week visiting biblical and other historical sites in Jordan in 2018. One day as we were returning to our hotel from our travel we went past Mount Nebo, a site we had visited a day or two earlier. A short distance from Mount Nebo, the place from which Moses viewed the promised land, we came upon an impressive scene. There was a shepherd standing near the road while his sheep were eating whatever available grass there was on the rocky hillside. Leon was driving. I said, “Slow down; there’s Moses.” Obviously I knew better but you can have a look for yourself.

A shepherd watches his sheep near Mount Nebo in Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One nice thing about traveling in the Middle East today is that most photos do not have to be staged. You are welcome to use this image in your teaching if you wish. It is sized to fit a PowerPoint presentation.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 27 – Living in Tents

When I see tents in the Middle East I do not think of going camping. I think of the biblical patriarchs who moved about from place to place taking their tents with them.

Sheperd's tent near Heshbon, Jordan. ferrelljenkins.blog.

A shepherd’s tent near Heshbon, Jordan, at dusk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The book of Genesis recounts the movement of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as they traveled in Mesopotamia and the Levant. Notice these references:

From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. (Genesis 12:8-9 ESV)

The Book of Hebrews recounts events in the life of those who lived by faith.

By faith he [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:9-10 ESV)

Our photo above was made at dusk when the shepherds were gathering their sheep into the sheepfold. I noticed this nicely decorated tent nearby. I see the lady of the tent sitting on the ground. There is a little child dressed in red partially visible in the tent. Notice to the right of the woman there is a screen covering for the bed. Luxury accommodations compared to some.

While viewing this photo read Genesis 18, the account of the announcement that Sarah would have a child, and see if it doesn’t become more real to you.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto # 26 – Shepherds by Night

Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus mentions the shepherds “out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:7-8 ESV)

I have made many photos of shepherds and sheep over the years, but not many at night. However, in 2006 I visited with some shepherds at Heshbon, Jordan, one afternoon. I inquired about what they did with the sheep at night and decided to return about sundown to make some photos. The photo shown here has been lightened some to allow you to see the sheep in the sheepfold.

A shepherd watches his flock by night at Heshbon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A shepherd watches his flock by night at Heshbon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Just to the right of the center of the photo you should be able to see one of the shepherds with his back to the sheepfold. Click on the photo for a larger image suitable for use in teaching.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #20

Today’s foto has not been a favorite very long. Just this afternoon at the close of a wonderful day along the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. The story below.

Ewe and lamp grazing on the side of a cliff on Highway 1. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Ewe and lamb grazing along the side of Route 1 from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This area is just a few miles east of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have been traveling privately on what I call a personal study tour. I have invited numerous people to join me from time to time. They are always knowledgeable, having traveled at least a few times before. This year I invited Luke Chandler to join me. Luke made his first trip to Israel on one of my tours. He is now an accomplished leader, and he has brought people to participate in excavations at various sites. We are neighbors. We both have a genuine interest in Israel as it pertains to the Bible. Luke left for home last Friday and I plan to leave Wednesday.

Now here is the story behind today’s photograph.

I spent much of the day traveling and stopping for fotos along the Dead Sea today. I visited the ancient synagogue at En Gedi, and then went to Kasser Al-Yahud, the traditional place where John baptized Jesus (Matthew 3). If we were  in Jordan, and we were only yards away, we would call it Bethany Beyond the Jordan (John 1:28).

On my way back to Jerusalem I noticed sheep along the STEEP hillside on the north side of Highway 1 that runs from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I was surprised to see a wide lane along the highway for cars with problems to park. There were long periods between groups of cars. I pulled over and made this photo from the car. Then I got out and made more of the flock.

So this foto is a favorite because of the subject and because of the unusual situation. Yes, the side of the road is close to a 90 degree angle.

I thought about parents and children. The lamb seems to have no fear of being on the hillside. The lesson we can learn is that children often learn fear or calmness from what they see in their parents.

Great Resource for Teaching Acts

The new Photo Companion to the Bible, produced by Todd Bolen and BiblePlaces.com, is a wonderful resource for those who teach the Bible. The first set in this series of material was on the book of Ruth. Next came the Gospels. And now we have the book of Acts.

There are more than 4000 images in this set on Acts. The images for each of the 28 chapters are included in a PowerPoint presentation with annotations explaining the image selection and background.

I could say much more about the value of this collection of material, but I suggest you go immediately to the detailed information here. You will see samples of the work and ordering information. For a limited time you can get this material at a special sale price.