Category Archives: Jordan

Some recommended resources

Sale Deadline on The Book of Ruth collection

If you received the BiblePlaces Newsletter for April  a few days ago you already know about the new volume in the Photo Companion of the Bible series. This one is on The Book of Ruth. I received a complimentary advance copy and found some of this material to be helpful on the recent study trip to Jordan. I am confident that anyone studying or teaching the book of Ruth will find the material helpful. You can download the recent BiblePlaces Newsletter filled with much helpful information here.

Available through April 22 for $20.

There are 350 images in PowerPoint to illustrate the four chapters of the Book of Ruth. The collection is on sale until midnight April 22 for $20. Bolen says, “Shipping is free in the US and satisfaction is guaranteed.” Go here for ordering information. Take a look at the four volume set on the Gospels.

Appian Media Producing New Series

Our friends at Appian Media have already produced a wonderful set of high-quality videos entitled Following the Messiah. They will soon be returning to Israel to film a new series dealing what many of us call the Biblical period of the United Kingdom. The series will be called Searching for a King.

Appian Media Searching for a King

Filming for this series begins very soon.

Appian Media provides membership access to their material, and they are seeking donations to assist in the work. See details here. Some videos are available for viewing on the website.

A New Video on Lachish

Lachish: The Epic Unearthed, a 48 minute video about the history and excavations of the biblical city of Lachish has been produced by Dr. Robert Henry and Rachel Martin. Henry summarizes the film:

This documentary brings you into the exciting world of Biblical Archaeology as it reveals the history of one of the largest Old Testament cities and tells the story of the volunteers who dig it up. This epic story reveals the turbulent warfare of the first temple period of Biblical history, the discoveries that expand the Biblical narrative and the impact this experience had on the people who came to Israel to dig. Watch as these determined volunteers unearth a Biblical land mark that hasn’t been touched in over two thousand five hundred years.

The video features comments by Prof. Yosef Garfinkle and Prof. Michael Hasel, directors of the fourth excavation at Lachish, as well as interviews with some of those working on the dig including my friend Luke Chandler.

Some viewers will be unfamiliar with the pronunciation of such sites as Lachish and Azekah. Instead of Lake-ish and ah-ZECK-ah, you will hear LAH-KISH and AZ-e-kah, pronunciations more common in Israel.

I am thankful to have provided a few of my aerial photographs for the video. Henry and Martin encourage you to use this video in your teaching and for personal study free of charge.

Walking the Bible Lands with Dr. Wayne Stiles

Wayne Stiles, whose web site we have mentioned several times, is now developing a video series called Walking the Bible Lands. This is old hat for Wayne who had been traveling to the Bible lands, teaching and writing about them for many years.

Wayne’s new material is available on a membership arrangement. Detailed information is available at his Walking the Bible Lands website here. You will find some samples there.

Traveling through the Wilderness of Zin

Yesterday we traveled from Eilat to Jerusalem with stops at Mitzpe Ramon, Avedat, and Ein Avedat.

The ancient Israelites wandered in the wilderness of Zin (Numbers 33:36), an area that included Kadesh Barnea and was the southern boundary for the tribe of Judah.

The land allotted to the tribe of Judah by its clans reached to the border of Edom, to the Wilderness of Zin in the Negev far to the south. (Joshua 15:1 NET)

We enjoyed a burger at the McDonald’s at Avedat, an important town along the Nabatean spice route between Petra and Gaza. Having been at Petra a few days earlier made this stop especially interesting.

We walked to the cold water pool at Ein Avedat. As we drove to that area we stopped to make some photos of the wadi. Most wadis have less greenery, but this one receives some water from the spring. During the rainy season water would be rushing through it in abundance.

This photo shows a wadi in the wilderness of Zin at Ein Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo shows a wadi in the wilderness of Zin at Ein Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Scenes such as this must have been especially refreshing to the ancient Israelites.

 

Traveling in Jordan again

For the past week I have been traveling in Jordan with long-time traveling friend Leon Mauldin on a personal study trip. We enjoy these trips going to places that  we miss during regular tours. That is because some of the places are difficult to reach and would have little interest to the first-time traveler to the Bible Lands. It sometimes takes us half a day to locate a place and visit it.

The tourist folks in Jordan like to call their country “the other Holy Land.” Not only did Jesus visit this area but it was often the area of travel for the patriarchs, prophets, and kings of ancient Israel.

Today we visited the Jabbok River a few miles east of the Valley Road (Roman Perea) and Deir Allah. This is thought by some to be the place where Jacob met his brother Esau on the return from Padan Aram. See Genesis 32 for the full story). This photo will give you some idea of the terrain and the small river, now called the Zarka.

The Jabbok River east of the River Jordan. Near here Jacob a life-changing encounter with the LORD. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jabbok River east of the River Jordan. Near here Jacob had a life-changing encounter with the LORD. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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.

Gadara described as a town “without a soul.”

Ancient Gadara has been described by a former Jordanian villager who once lived there as a town “without a soul.”  The reason for his description is explained by Sunny Fitzgerald in a recent issue of BBC Travel.

In the 1960s, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities declared Gadara an archaeological site; it’s now awaiting consideration for Unesco World Heritage status.

The local citizens were moved from the ancient site, but they still visit it for the beautiful scenes of the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk valley below Umm Qais.

View of the Sea of Galilee in the late afternoon from Umm Qais (Gadara). Notice the slight red sky showing through the haze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Sea of Galilee in the late afternoon from Umm Qais (Gadara). Notice the slight red sky showing through the haze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fitzgerald’s illustrated article is a fascinating one that I highly recommend that you read it.

Umm Qais (a common spelling; also Umm Qeis and Um Qays) is the site of Gadara, one of the cities of the Greco-Roman Decapolis. The late Mendel Nun discovered 16 ancient ports around the Sea of Galilee, including one for the city of Gadara. The port is located at Tel Samra on the southeast corner of the Sea of Galilee at the modern Ha-on Holiday Village (Mendel Nun. “Ports of Galilee.” Biblical Archaeology Review 25:04; July/Aug 1999).

From Umm Qais (Gadara) one has a great view of the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River valley. We are told that Jesus visited the region of Decapolis.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. (Mark 7:31 ESV)

The Gospel of Matthew informs us about the healing by Jesus of two demon-possessed men in the country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28). Mark puts this event in the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). Luke adds that they “sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee” (Luke 8:26).

Umm Qais is made of the local basalt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman theater at Umm Qais is made of the local basalt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The term Decapolis was used to describe a group of ten cities established by the Greeks. Many of them claimed to have been founded by Alexander the Great. The number of cities may have been ten at some time, but the exact number varies from list to list. The cities include Abila [Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, Luke 3:1], Gadara [Umm Qeis], Gerasa [Jerash], Hippos, Philadelphia [Amman], Scythopolis [Beth-shan], Pella, et al. These cities are located mostly south of the Sea of Galilee, and all except Scythopolis are east of the Jordan River. Damascus is included in some lists. In the first century A.D. they were part of the Roman province of Syria.

HT: Agade

Jerusalem from the west

Earlier this week I was browsing through some of my aerial photos of Jerusalem and came across this one that I thought would be informative to good Bible students.

The photo is made while flying over the new (western) city of Jerusalem, some of which is shown in the bottom half of the photo. About mid-way of the photo (from bottom to top) you can see the entire Old (walled) City of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, where the biblical Temple once stood, is almost in the center of the photo (sightly left of center).

The Kidron valley is lost at this angle and the new tombs on the Mount of Olive seem to touch the Old City.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the west. This photo shows the new (west) city of Jerusalem, the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the wilderness of Judea, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab (Transjordan plateau). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jerusalem from the west. This photo shows the new (west) city of Jerusalem, the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the wilderness of Judea, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab (Transjordan plateau). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Continuing east you will see a portion of the Wilderness of Judea, then the Dead Sea. At the extreme left of the Dead Sea a portion of the Jordan Valley is visible.

Beyond the Dead Sea the mountains of Moab are visible in the Transjordan Plateau.

The same photo labeled to identify the places discussed.

The same photo labeled to identify the places discussed.

— Postscript —

Leon Mauldin and I have made numerous personal study trips to the Bible Lands in addition to the tours we have led. We have included flights to photograph these places from the air. I think you will enjoy Leon’s blog. It was a coincident that just as I finished my article showing Jerusalem to Moab, I received Leon’s blog showing the rooftops of the Old City and the Mount of Olives.

The Nabateans of Petra and their successors

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).

The Nabateans are still remembered for their numerous carvings we see at Petra in Jordan.

The theater at Petra, dating to the first century A.D., is carved from solid rock. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman theater at Petra, dating to the first or early second century A.D., is carved almost entirely from solid rock. Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman emperor Trajan conquered Petra in A.D. 106 and converted it into the province of Arabia. The Romans continued the rock sculpturing of the Nabataeans but added a theater, a street with colonnades, etc. Some have speculated, on the basis of Galatians 1:17, that Paul spent time at Petra after his conversion to Christ.