Tag Archives: Aerial photography

Acts 2 — Photo Illustrations

Acts 2 is one of those highly significant chapters of the Bible. It is a pivotal point, or as the late James D. Bales called it in one of his books, “The Hub of the Bible.” The reason is because so many Old Testament prophecies looked forward to their fulfillment in the events of Acts 2 (e.g., Isaiah 2, Joel 2, Daniel 2), and because many New Testament texts look back to the beginning of the gospel in that chapter (e.g., Ephesians 2). In fact, Peter refers to the events of Pentecost as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15).

The prophet Isaiah said,

Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 NAU)

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus spoke of the establishment of the kingdom during the lifetime of some of those who heard him (Mark 1:14-15; 9:1).

Our aerial photo shows the enclosed Islamic sanctuary area that is commonly called the Haram es-Sherif. Benjamin Mazar says that this area is about 40 acres. He points out that Josephus and the Mishna give smaller dimensions, and says that they apparently refer to “the Soreg or sacred enclosure” (The Mountain of the Lord, 119-120). Other writers say the area is 36 acres in size. Certainly large enough for the crowds who came to Jerusalem for festivals such as the Passover and Pentecost.

Solomon’s temple stood on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). Centuries later Herod the Great built the large platform and enclosure walls. Stones from that wall can still be seen in many places around this vast enclosure. The picture shows the southern wall and the eastern wall (the long one). The Kidron Valley and a portion of the slope of the Mount of Olives is visible in the bottom of the photo.

Aerial view of the temple precinct from the time of Herod the Great. Today the area is occupied by Moslem shrines, Al Aksa Mosque and the Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the temple precinct from the time of Herod the Great. Today the area is occupied by Moslem shrines, Al Aksa Mosque and the Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Click on the photo for an image suitable for use in teaching.

The New Testament (Greek) makes a distinction between the entire temple precinct, courts and all (Greek, hieron), and the sanctuary where only the priests were allowed (Greek, naos). John 2:14-15 uses hieron. John 2:19-21 uses naos.

Hieron is the term used in Acts 2:46. The new converts met in the temple precinct. They most likely assembled in one of the large porticoes built around the inside of the enclosure wall (cf. Acts 3:11; 5:12).

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 NAU)

It also was within this precinct that the large crowd of devout Jews “from every nation under heaven” assembled on Pentecost. Here, Peter preached the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for the first time.

Additional Gezer boundary stone discovered

Eric Mitchell and Jason Zan report the discovery of a “previously undiscovered bilingual inscription” at Gezer, and the rediscovery of  an inscription lost for more than a century.

An archaeological survey led by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary of Fort Worth, Texas, discovered a previously undiscovered bilingual inscription this week at the ancient site of Tel Gezer, Israel. Gezer, a biblical city, was situated on the border between the Philistine and Israelite territories guarding the route to Jerusalem. The city was given as a dowry to the daughter of Pharaoh, who married king Solomon. Gezer is well known in the later Maccabean period for its boundary stones with inscriptions in both Hebrew and Greek. In addition to the new inscription, the Southwestern Seminary survey team rediscovered a previously known inscription that had been lost to the archaeological community for more than a century.

The boundary inscriptions demonstrate the period of conflict between the Seleucids and Maccabees. They show that the city had agricultural land around it and that the Jewish occupants were concerned over keeping their fields according to Jewish law. These discoveries are significant since the boundary stones have been frequently sought, but with long time frames between new discoveries. According to the scholarship of Ronnie Reich, of the University of Haifa, there are 12 known and published Gezer boundary stones dating to the Maccabean period. These bilingual inscriptions in outcrops of limestone bedrock ring the ancient city of Gezer on the South, East and Northeast. Many of these are two line inscriptions reading “Region of Gezer” on one line in Hebrew and “Belonging to Alkios” on the second line in Greek.

The article may be read in its entirety here.

According to the article, there are now 13 known boundary inscriptions from Gezer.

On my recent tour in the Steps of Paul and John, we visited the Istanbul Archaeological Museum where one of these boundary stones is displayed. It is turned so that the Greek letters “Alkio” are visible on the bottom. We would expect the missing letter to be the “s” or “u“. The line at the top, but upside down, is the Aramaic word for boundary or region, and the first letter of Gezer (GZR). Todd Bolen includes a photo here of one of the inscriptions still in place at Gezer.

Gezer Boundary Stone. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gezer Boundary Stone. Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Biblical references to Gezer include the following:

  • The king of Gezer fought against Joshua and the Israelites during the conquest (Joshua 10:33; 12:12).
  • Gezer was allotted to Ephraim (Joshua 16:3).
  • Gezer became a city of the Levites (Joshua 21:21). It was designated as a city of refuge (1 Chronicles 6:67).
  • Israel failed to drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer (Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29).
  • By the time of David the Philistine seem to be living at Gezer (2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 14:16; 20:4).
  • Pharaoh, king of Egypt, captured Gezer, burned it, and gave it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife (1 Kings 9:16).
  • Solomon (re)built the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer (1 Kings 9:15-17).

The following aerial photograph of Gezer was made in December, 2009.

Gezer Aerial View. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible Places Blog.

Peeking into the Great Rift Valley

The natural depression that runs from northern Syria, through Lebanon, Israel/Jordan, continuing into the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba, into eastern Africa, is known as the Great Rift. This rift has an important effect on travel and the life of the people of the area — perhaps more in ancient times than now.

This aerial view was made south of Lake Huleh, looking south toward the Sea of Galilee. You can see the Jordan River descending from north to south. Glueck calls this the Jordan Rift.

Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The elevation at Lake Huleh is 230 feet above sea level. By the time the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee, ten miles south, the elevation of about 700 feet below sea level. This is the area of most rapid descent.

Nelson Glueck describes this portion of the Jordan River.

…it tears out on a run that, for some distance, brooks no restraint. It tumbles and cascades almost continuously through a forbidding, black basalt gorge. Foaming and muddy, it bursts out of the ravine. Then, collecting itself somewhat, it wriggles its way for about another mile through a small plain and a delta of its own making into the clear waters of the Lake of Galilee. (The Jordan River, 35)

Royal theater box at the Herodium

Last week reports began to circulate about Herod’s royal theater box at the Herodium. Here are some excepts from the News Release published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Royal box uncovered at Herodium reveals further evidence of luxurious lifestyle of famed King of Judea

A “royal box” built at the upper level of King Herod’s private theater at Herodium (Herodion in Greek) has been fully exposed in recent excavations at the site, providing a further indication of the luxurious lifestyle favored by the famed Judean monarch.

The excavations, in the frame of Herodium’s National Park at the eastern edge of Gush Etzion, were conducted by Prof. Ehud Netzer under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.

The theater, first revealed during the years 2008-2009, is located halfway up the hill close to Herod’s mausoleum, whose exposure in 2007 aroused worldwide attention. The highly decorated, relatively small theater was built in approximately 15 B.C.E., which was the year of the visit to Judea of Marcus Agrippa, second in the hierarchy of the Roman Empire, said Prof. Netzer, who has been assisted in the excavations by Yakov Kalman, Roi Porath and Rachel Chachy.

The royal box (measuring eight by seven meters and about six meters high) is the central space among a group of rooms attached to the upper part of the theater’s structure. This impressive room doubtlessly hosted the king, his close friends and family members during performances in the theater and was fully open towards the stage.

Its back and side walls are adorned with an elaborate scheme of wall paintings and plaster moldings in a style that has not been seen thus far in Israel; yet, this style is known to have existed in Rome and Campania in Italy during those years. This work, therefore, was no doubt executed by Italian artists, perhaps sent by Marcus Agrippa, who a year before his visit to Judea met Herod on the famous Greek island of Lesbos said Netzer.

On the upper parts of the walls are the room’s highlights: a series of unique “windows” painted with outfolded shutters on either side and various naturalistic landscapes within. They include scenes of the countryside, the Nile River and a nautical scene featuring a large boat with sails. One can identify features of trees, animals and human beings. Some of these windows have survived intact on the walls, whereas others were found in fragments on the floor and are undergoing restoration in the Israel Museum’s laboratory.

Painted windows with shutters appear in the late Second Pompeian Style in Italy, and mainly depict unrealistic views like theater settings and still-life. The closest parallels for the windows at Herodium are known from the “Villa Imperiale” at Pompeii, dated to the early Third Style, 15 to 10 B.C.E.

The News Release may be read in its entirety here.

Joseph I. Lauer secured the available photos and has been kind enough to share them.

Herodium theater royal box. Photo by Gabi Laron, Hebrew University.

Herodium theater royal box. Photo by Gabi Laron, Hebrew University.

The Hebrew University report says,

The data accumulated during the excavation proves that the theater’s lifetime was very short, less than ten years. Slightly before Herod’s death, It was deliberately destroyed in order not to disrupt the conic shape of the artificial hill. During the construction of the artificial hill (as well as the famous monumental stairway which begins at the bottom of the hill), parts of the theater, including the “royal box,” were temporarily used by the builders, leaving their footsteps in the form of subdivision walls, cooking installations and graffiti.

Herodium royal box. Photo by Tal Rogovski, Hebrew University.

Herodium theater royal box. Photo by Tal Rogovski, Hebrew University.

I had the opportunity to make some aerial photos of the Herodium December 15, 2009. Shadows were on the north side of the Herodium, but the massive area of the excavation can be seen. Note especially the theater. I feel certain that the royal box described above is under the blue roof. Click on the image to for a larger photo.

Aerial photo of the Herodium. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial photo of the Herodium. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Herodium is located about four miles southeast of Bethlehem. When we think of these two places together we recall Herod’s frantic attempt to kill Jesus.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16 ESV)

All of the photos are suitable for use in teaching presentations.

Jaffa Gate and the Christian Quarter from the air

In the past few days we have called attention to the excavations being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. Archaeologists working in the area announced the discovery of an East-West road of the 4th century Byzantine city and the high-level aqueduct that brought water into the city in the second and third century.

The photo below shows Jaffa Gate and the Citadel from the air. Hezekiah’s Pool is visible just to the left (north) of the main street (David Street), almost in the center of the photo. The dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is visible on the upper left side of the photo. Most of the area shown in this photo is called the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

    Aerial view of the Christian Quarter of the Old City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Christian Quarter of the Old City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Click on the photo for a larger image.

The Mountains of Judea

This photo shows the mountainous terrain southwest of Jerusalem. Our camera is pointed east and, in the left of the photo, we can see the tall buildings of Jerusalem along the central mountain range.

Judean Mountains SW of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Judean Mountains SW of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Throughout the Bible the writers speak of going UP to Jerusalem. This is because of the elevation of Jerusalem in the central mountain range, also called the water-parting route, that runs north to south in the country.

The timber for the temple was shipped from Lebanon to Joppa on rafts, then taken up to Jerusalem.

And we will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 2:16 ESV)

In our series of aerial photos we have moved eastward from the coastal plain, to the shephelah (lowland; 2 Chronicles 26:10), to the mountains. This understanding of the topography of the country of Israel helps in understanding many biblical accounts.

Zorah and the tomb of Samson

Yesterday we noted the relation between the Sorek Valley and other cities associated with Samson, Zorah and Eshtaol. This photo shows Tel Zorah which is now surrounded by a nice forest.

Aerial view of Zorah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Tel Zorah near the Sorek Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To the left of the tel you will see the Sorek Valley in the haze. In a clearing on the tel you will see something blue. This is a “tomb” dedicated to Samson. In the photo below we have a better view of the “tomb.”

Aerial view of the "tomb of Samson" at Zorah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the "tomb of Samson" at Tel Zorah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have no idea when this “tomb” was erected, but I suspect it is fairly recent. The Bible recounts the death of Samson in one of the Philistine cities and his subsequent burial between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father.

Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years. (Judges 16:31 NAU)

High over Israel

A guide friend in Israel notified me that one of his neighbors was experienced in aerial photography, and asked if I would be interested in going up during the recent trip to Israel. I indicated an interest and we began to work on the details. The pilot, Yoav, had to get permission and clear us with Israeli security well in advance of the flight. The first day we scheduled was scrubbed due to bad weather coming in. The following day was sunny and fairly clear. Certainly it was one of the best weather days we had during the first two weeks of December.

We flew from the Sde Dov Airport. This is a small airport along the Mediterranean coast immediately north of the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv. Arkia Airlines operates here with flights to Eilat, Rosh Pina, and perhaps other places. When we arrived at the airport to meet our friend and the pilot we had to go through strict security even though we had sent all of our passport details in advance. Once that was completed we headed for the plane, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Our pilot was well aware of most of the places we wanted to visit. He would tell us to be ready in two minutes, or in 30 seconds, for the best photos. We flew over Gezer, Zorah, Beth Shemesh, the Zorek Valley, Lachish, Jerusalem, the Herodium, Aphek/Antipatris, and lots of terrain in between in two hours and six minutes. I made 1754 photos during that time, filling an 8 gig card and two 4 gig cards. Probably not a Guinness record, but a record for me.

Perhaps over the next few weeks I will be able to share a few of these photos with you. Let’s begin with the Coastal (or Maritime) Plain south of Tel Aviv/Joppa. This area is also referred to as the Plain of Philistia because the Philistines lived in the region in Old Testament times. The Philistine cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza were in the southern coastal plain.

The plain of Philistia may be as much as 20 miles wide as we move further south. This photo gives one some idea of the territory immediately south of Tel Aviv as we fly south east to Gezer. Our altitude here was 800 feet.

The Coastal Plain of Philistia, south of Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Coastal Plain of Philistia, south of Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This region is now an important part of Israel, but in Bible times few Israelites lived in the area.