Category Archives: Old Testament

Agreement of Book and Land – # 1

The Scripture and photo below of a perennial stream from En Prat illustrates perfectly the person described in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 ESV)

Trees planted by the river. ferrelljenkins.blog.

En Prat where Wadi Kelt begins to flow down past Jericho and to the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #24

Gibeon, modern El Jib, is mentioned more that three dozen times in the Old Testament. This is where the Lord appeared to Solomon, the newly appointed king of Israel, and told him to “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon asked for wisdom.

And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:7-9 ESV)

The photo below was made looking north from Nebi Samwil. It shows Tel Jib, believed to be the site of Biblical Gibeon, and the Benjamin plateau. Archaeological excavations have been carried out on the eastern (right) side of the mound. It is currently difficult to visit the site because it in the the Palestinian territory and the route is difficult to navigate. This view is quite beautiful and I happened to catch the weather just right.

Gibeon and the Benjamin Plateau.. Photo: ferrelljenkin.blog.

View north from Nebi Samwil of Gibeon and the Benjamin plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For information on the pool of Gibeon which is mentioned twice in the Bible go here.

Not Ziklag, says other archaeologists

Did you read the press release published yesterday about the locating of Ziklag at Tel al-Rai? Perhaps you did not read down to my closing comments. I said,

Certainly there will be much discussion among scholars, some of whom will suggest other possible locations …

Before I continue I think I should say that Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University did not start out trying to locate Ziklag, but he and the others working with him began to see that the evidence they were uncovering seemed to suggest the location of Ziklag.

I first met Garfinkel through Luke Chandler, a former student and friend, who had worked with him in the excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel Lachish, and now Tel al-Rai. Professor Garfinkel has presented two lectures at Florida College where I taught for 25 years. Luke and I made a personal study trip to Israel in March/April this year and visited Yossi, as he is affectionately called by friends. He took us down to Dr. Eilat Mazar’s office and introduced us to her, showed us around the archaeology lab at Hebrew University, took us to lunch at the faculty lounge, and visited the campus of HU and the botanical garden with us. I have provided aerial photos to Yosi for his lectures on Lachish. Our visit at HU was educational and pleasant.

Luke Chandler, Yosef Garfinkel, Eilat Mazar and Ferrell Jenkins in the archaeology lab at Hebrew University. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Luke Chandler, Yosef Garfinkel, Eilat Mazar and Ferrell Jenkins in the archaeology lab at Hebrew University. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Well, today’s newspaper gives attention to the views of Prof. Aren Maeir, and Prof. Israel Finkelstein in response. Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University,  has been directing the excavations at Tel es-Safi/Gath for more than two decades, and Finkelstein, a professor at Tel Aviv University, is known as one of the most outspoken proponents of the so-called “minimalist” school. He is known for his work at various archaeological sites.

I refer you to the well-written article of Amanda Borschel-Dan in today’s The Times of Israel for that story.

My article today is neither to defend nor dismiss Tel al-Rai = Ziklag. I have known for years that there have been numerous suggestions for the identity of Ziklag. In fact, back in 2009 Leon Mauldin and I visited Tel Halif, north and slightly east of Beersheba,  and Tel Sera, northwest of Beersheba, because we knew they had been suggested as Ziklag.

The late Professor Anson F. Rainey held that Ziklag should be identified with Tell esh-Shariah, now known as Tel Sera. His four pages (147-150) in The Sacred Bridge would be equivalent to 12 or more pages in many publications.

Leon and I spent a long time driving through fields along the banks of Nahal Gerar till we located Tel Sera.

Tel Sera, identified as Ziklag by Anson Rainey. Photo: FerrellJenkins.blog.

Tel Sera, identified as Ziklag by Anson Rainey. This late afternoon view is to the north. Nahal Gerar, or one of its tributaries, is hidden between the field and the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Archaeologists work with a hypothesis as long as they think it can be sustained, but when new information comes along they move with it.

We may never know the exact location of Ziklag, but I know enough about the Bible to believe that the account of David at Gath, Ziklag, and Jerusalem is one I can hold to.

Researchers claim to have found Biblical Ziklag

It’s that time of the year. Archaeological digs are closing down for the season and the directors of the digs want you to know what they have uncovered. You probably have not heard of Khirbet a-Ra‘i or Tel a-Ra‘i but you know that the Bible reports that David was given the site of Ziklag by Achish, King of Gath.

So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months. (1 Samuel 27:6-7 ESV)

Here is the complete Israel Antiquities Authority news release from earlier today with a few of the nice photos provided by the IAA.

—  “ —

Researchers from the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney: “We Have Found Biblical Ziklag”

Aerial photo of Tel Arai. Photo by Emil Aljem, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The site, from the time of King David, was discovered near Kiryat Gat *
According to the Biblical narrative, David found refuge in Ziklag while fleeing
from King Saul. From there he went to Hebron to be anointed as King *
Dozens of complete pottery vessels were found at the site, 3,000 years old
How was Biblical Ziklag found? Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, believe they have discovered the Philistine town near Kiryat Gat, immortalized in the Biblical narrative. Ziklag is mentioned multiple times in the Bible in relation to David (in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel). According to the Biblical narrative, Achish, King of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and from there David also departed to be anointed King in Hebron. According to scripture, Ziklag was also the scene of a dramatic event, in which the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned the town taking women and children captive.

The excavation, which began in 2015 at the site of Khirbet a-Ra‘i in the Judaean foothills – between Kiryat Gat and Lachish, has proceeded in cooperation with Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dr. Kyle Keimer and Dr. Gil Davis of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The excavation was funded by Joey Silver of Jerusalem, Aron Levy of New Jersey, and the Roth Family and Isaac Wakil both of Sydney. The excavation has been ongoing for seven seasons with large areas being exposed – approximately 1,000 sq.m., leading to this new identification for Ziklag.

Walls from Tel a-Rai. Photo Israel Antiquities Authority.

Massive walls from Tel a-Rai. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

The name Ziklag is unusual in the lexicon of names in the Land of Israel, since it is not local Canaanite-Semitic. It is a Philistine name, given to the town by an alien population of immigrants from the Aegean. Twelve different suggestions to identify Ziklag have been put forward, such as Tel Halif near Kibbutz Lahav, Tel Sera in the Western Negev, Tel Sheva, and others. However, according to the researchers, none of these sites produced continuous settlement which included both a Philistine settlement and a settlement from the era of King David. At Khirbet a-Ra‘i, however, features from both these populations have been found.

Evidence of a settlement from the Philistine era has been found there, from the 12-11th centuries BC. Spacious, massive stone structures have been uncovered
containing finds typical of the Philistine civilization. Additional finds are foundation deposits, including bowls and an oil lamp – offerings laid beneath the
floors of the buildings out of a belief that these would bring good fortune in the
construction. Stone and metal tools were also found. Similar finds from this era were discovered in the past in excavations in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath–the cities of the Lords of the Philistines.

Showing Tel a-Rai excavation in Israel.

A young lady cleans around one of the jars found in the excavation at Tel a-Rai this year. Photo courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority.

Above the remains of the Philistine settlement was a rural settlement from the time of King David, from the early 10th century BC. This settlement came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings. Nearly one hundred complete pottery vessels were found in the various rooms. These vessels are identical to those found in the contemporary fortified Judaean city of Khirbet Qeiyafa—identified as biblical Sha‘arayim—in the Judaean foothills. Carbon 14 tests date the site at Khirbet a-Ra‘i to the time of King David.

The great range of complete vessels is testimony to the interesting everyday life during the reign of King David. Large quantities of storage jars were found during the excavation- medium and large-which were used for storing oil and wine. Jugs and bowls were also found decorated in the style known as “red slipped and hand burnished,” typical to the period of King David.

Following a regional archaeological study in the Judaean foothills managed by Professors Garfinkel and Ganor, a picture of the region’s settlement in the early Monarchic era is emerging: the two sites – Ziklag and Sha‘arayim-are situated on the western frontier of the kingdom. They are both perched atop prominent hills, overlooking main routes passing between the Land of the Philistines and Judea: Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley sits opposite Philistine Gath, and Khirbet a-Ra‘i, sits opposite Ashkelon. This geographic description is echoed in King David’s Lament, in which he mourns the death of King Saul and Jonathan in their battle against the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon.”

—  ” —

Various newspapers, especially those in Israel, have covered this notice today. Certainly there will be much discussion among scholars, some of whom will suggest other possible locations, but all within a reasonable distance, for Ziklag. Perhaps I will be able to add some additional information in the next few days.

Luke Chandler and other friends participated in the dig at Tel a-Rai during the past few weeks.

HT: Joseph Lauer and others.

Sealing a document in Bible times

This text in the book of the prophet Jeremiah describes the importance of documents and seals in Judah in the sixth century B.C.

Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me:  Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. “And I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions and the open copy. ( Jeremiah 32:6-11 ESV. Continue reading in Jeremiah for the full story.)

Important documents were rolled and then tied with string. A small amount of damp clay was placed on the string and the person would impress his seal into the clay. When the impression dried it made a permanent copy of the seal. This was called a bulla (plural is bullae). Both seals and bulla of various biblical characters have been discovered in Israel.

The photo below  is of a display at the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa.

Sealed document at Hecht Museum. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Seal document and ancient bullae display at Hecht Museum, University of Haifa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

You can find more information about seals and sealing by putting the word seal in the Search Box. Click on the photo for a larger image suitable for use in teaching.

Olive installation at Neot Kedumim

For millennia olives have been so important in Israel and the West Bank that we see ancient crushing installations at various places we visit. Some of the presses are in small museums. I was impressed with the installation in the park at Neot Kedumim. At a distance it had an idyllic look.

Olive tree, crushing stone, and press at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrellJenkins.blog.

Olive tree, crushing stone, and press at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is possible that some families had their own setup for producing olive oil. First, there was an olive tree, certainly large enough to produce a lot of olives, then a crushing stone that could be rolled over the olives by a person or pulled by an animal. It was also essential that they have a press. In this case the press was of the screw type. The crushed olives were placed in bags and then pressed.

Lucas P. Grimsley explains the importance of various agricultural products, including olive oil, produced in Palestine.

By NT times, Palestine was a part of the Greco-Roman world, and it played an important role in Rome’s trade network in the east. Ancient records indicate that Palestine primarily imported luxury goods (wine from Italy, beer from Media, baskets from Egypt, sandals from Laodicea), in addition to natural resources such as wood and metal. Exports continued to be primarily agricultural (olive oil, wheat, honey, figs). Despite the difference in goods, the trade balance was generally in favor of Palestine.
Specific references to trade are limited in the NT, but they attest to the fact that trade was a part of  everyday life. (Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, Vol. IV: 299-300).

Below is a photo of the same type olive press. It is one of several types of presses displayed at the Ein Dor Museum of Archaeology.

Olive Press at Ein Dor Archaeological Museum. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

An olive press displayed at Ein Dor Museum of Archaeology. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

While browsing the recent Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity I came across this survey of the olive and its importance in Bible times.

The olive is one of the first trees mentioned in the Bible ( Gen 8: 1 1 ), in the passage in which the dove returns to Noah with an olive branch. The olive (Heb. zayit; Olea europaea) is the best-known and one of the most important trees of the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East. Olives were highly valued, and the harvesting and pressing out of olives was a significant part of the life of rural families. The pulp contains about 40 percent oil, which was used for lamps, cooking, and medicinal purposes, as well as
anointing in religious ceremonies. The psalmist proclaims that he is like an olive tree because he trusts in God’s unfailing love (Ps 52:8). (GCT, Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, Vol. 4, p. 309.)

Over the years we have posted several times about olives and the olive trees. Check our index page on the subject here.

Cedar and Hyssop

At Neot Kedumim the sign identifying the Cedar also mentions Hyssop which is growing among the trees.

You may click on the image for a larger one. Here is a copy of the text:

Cedar and Hyssop

The Cedrus Libani (cedar of Lebanon) is an impressive tree towering to great heights. It is the symbol of pride and prestige in Scripture. In contrast, the hyssop is a symbol of modesty and humility for it requires little water and soil and grows even in the smallest cracks in stone. Yet it has much to offer: food, spice, medicine and even kindling.

In Leviticus 14:4 we are told that a person cured of Leprosy must hold a ceremony in which he brings the High Priest cedar and hyssop.

This act is explained as follows: the leper was proud like the cedar and God humbled him like the hyssop that is crushed by all [for spice] (Midrash Hagadol Metzora 14:4). A common Hebrew proverb describing leadership problems in another example: “If fire consumes the cedars what shall avail the hyssop that grows on the rock?” (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 25b).

This hyssop is identified as Majorana syriaca or Organum syriacum. Frenkley says it is “a grayish shrub with thin woody branches” (see previous article here for the reference). She says,

It can survive with very little soil and water, sometimes growing out of the smallest cracks in stone, as though literally “out of the rock.” The hyssop is one of the most important edible plants of the Middle East, highly valued for its fragrance and flavor. It is used as a spice, as food, as a medicinal plant, and its dry branches make excellent kindling. Unassuming in size and color, useful in so many ways, the hyssop came to symbolize modesty and humility—in direct contrast to the haughty and glamorous cedar of Lebanon.

Hyssop at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Hyssop growing near Cedar trees at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hyssop is mentioned 12 times in the Bible and no less than seven of these times in association with cedar wood.

  • The Israelites in Egypt were to use hyssop branches dipped in blood to place it on the lentil and doorposts of their houses (Exodus 12:22).
  • The Mosaic law commanded that the offering for the cleansed leper included two clean birds, cedar wood and scarlet yarn and hyssop” (Leviticus 14: 1-9).
  • King Solomon  spoke of both the cedar of Lebanon and the hyssop that grows in the wall (1 Kings 4:33).
  • Solomon imported cedar for his building projects in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:7-10). He also planted cedars in abundance in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:27). Cedar was a symbol of power; something kings could be proud of (Jeremiah 22:15).

At Neot Kedumim Hyssop is planted among the rocks and under the cedar trees. The tall, stately cedars stand in stark contrast to the lowly hyssop growing in the rocks.