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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Posted in Archaeology, Bible Lands, Bible Places, Bible Study, Book of Acts, Book Review, Israel, Jordan, New Testament, Photography, Travel, Turkey
The apostle Paul speaks of pressing on toward the goal.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philipians 3:12-14 ESV)
Many writers take this as an analogy based on runners in a race. Since reading the comments by classicist E. M. Blaiklock in Cities of the New Testament, I am inclined to think that Paul is speaking of the chariot races that were common in the Roman empire. Read more here.
The chariot race, part of the Roman Army Chariot Experience at Jerash, Jordan. Jerash was one of the cities of the Decapolis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.