Tag Archives: Mesopotamia

No camels during the Patriarchal Age?

That’s what they are saying. It is a popular theme of those who want to put Bible believers in their place. Camels are mentioned repeatedly in Genesis 12-37, a section of Scripture set during the Middle Bronze Age (about 2100–1550 B.C.). Many of the well-known Bible characters of the Patriarchal Age are mentioned as riding camels.

A few days ago I was beginning to locate my sources to respond to the recent article in the New York Times, and in Time. While I was working on Visualizing Isaiah, Todd Bolen came out with two great articles on the subject. I include these links for the two people who read my blog but do not read the Bible Places Blog.

First, you should read the post about the Domestication of the Camel.

Then read.

Both are these posts are well documented with scholarly links you can track down to your own satisfaction. Don’t be unprepared the next time this subject comes up.

Camels at Abel-meholah, possibly the home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Camels at Abel-meholah, possible home of the prophet Elisha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ties between Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, and Egypt

Folks who study the Bible have understood that the people of the ancient near east traveled through Canaan as they made their way from Mesopotamia to Egypt, and back.

Several discoveries illustrating the contact between these ancient lands have recently been made. We commented on discoveries at Tell el-Da’ba in Egypt showing contacts between Babylon and Egypt here.

Word has come of a Syrian-German expedition “working in the Katana Kingdom ruins at Tel el-Mesherfeh archaeological site in Homs.”

Prof. Peter Pfalzner said the archeological finds in the site during the past two days indicate that Katana Kingdom enjoyed influence and important international and trade ties.

He added the finds reveal the existence of cultural relations between Katana Kingdom and the Pharaohs and Mesopotamia, in addition to trade relations with Mediterranean countries

The news report, which may be read here, continues,

Pfalzner underlined the importance of Katana kingdom during the Middle Bronze Age in the 2nd Millennium BC, adding that the royal palace in it was one of the greatest in Syria. He also noted that the archeological sites in Syria are filled with treasures waiting to be uncovered.

The Middle Bronze Age (about 2100 to 1550 B.C.) is the period of the biblical Patriarchs. Assume for a moment that Abraham and his family came from Ur in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), rather than from northern Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:28 — 12:5). The map from Bible Atlas shows some of the places we will mention below.

Map showing Hamath and Kedesh. BibleAtlas.org.

Map showing Hamath and Kedesh. Courtesy of BibleAtlas.org.

The route taken by Abraham from Haran to Shechem in Canaan would most likely take him through the Syrian towns we know as Aleppo, Ebla, Hama and Homs. Homs would be at approximately the point referred to in the Bible as the entrance of Hamath (= modern Hama; 1 Kings 8:65). Several of these references indicate that Israel’s territory extended that far north during certain historical periods (2 Kings 14:25; Amos 6:14).

A few miles south of Homs are two significant sites illustrating the movement of ancient kingdoms. Tell Nebi Mend is the site of the battle of Kadesh where Rameses II and the Hittites fought. Another site nearby is Riblah where Nebuchadnezzar made his headquarters when he destroyed Jerusalem.

Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:6-7 ESV)

Here is a photo I made of Tell Nebi Bend. The Orontes River is to our back in this photo, and the valley of the battle of Kadesh is on the opposite side of the tell. There were a few houses of a modern village on the tell, but most of them were empty.

Kadesh - Tell Nebi Mend in Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tell Nebi Mend (=Kadesh) in Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible informs us that 4 kings of the east engaged the 5 kings of the region of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 14).

And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). (Genesis 14:3 ESV)

The new information we are learning shows that such movement was not all that uncommon.

HT: Joseph Lauer

The Semitic Museum at Harvard

Friday afternoon I went with two of my former students, friends, and fellow-preachers to visit the Semitic Museum at Harvard. Tim Reeves preaches in Providence, RI. He offered to take Leon Mauldin and me to our hotel in Boston. I suggested going by the Museum before going to the hotel so Tim could visit also. I have been at the Museum before, but not since the new exhibit has been on view.

The Houses of Ancient Israel: Domestic, Royal, Divine is the featured exhibit at the Semitic Museum now. This exhibit traces the development and importance of the house in ancient Israel, from the family dwelling to the house of the king, and the house of the Lord (the temple). Here is a photo of the typical pillared “four-room” Israelite house that was common during the periods of the United and Divided Kingdoms.

Typical Iron Age (1200-586 B.C.) Israelite house. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical Iron Age (1200-586 B.C.) Israelite house. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

It would take several pages of writing to explain all of the items on display in the house. Their use could be illustrated with a variety of Bible verses. The research back of this house has been presented by Phillip J. King and Lawrence E. Stager in Life in Biblical Israel (Knox/Westminster, 2001). I highly recommend this book to all Bible teachers.

This is the only Museum I know about with displays of tablets from ancient Nuzi. About 4000 tablets in the Hurrian language were discovered by archaeologists in the early part of the twentieth century. Ancient Nuzi was not an important urban center, but these tablets reveal much about economic and domestic life from a period beginning about 2400 B.C. and continuing several centuries. It has been pointed out that several events associated with the biblical patriarchs, mentioned in the Book of Genesis, can better be illustrated  through an understanding of these documents.

Three Nuzi tablets at the Semitic Museum at Harvard. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Three Nuzi tablets at the Semitic Museum at Harvard. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For more information about the Semitic Museum at Harvard University check the web page here.

Biblical Sites in Eastern Turkey

For the past two weeks I have been working on a presentation for a class at the Florida College Annual Lectures (February 5, 2008 at 9 a.m. in Puckett Auditorium). I plan to make a similar presentation at the Citrus Park Church of Christ, 5105 W. Ehrlich Road, Tampa, FL, Sunday evening January 27 at 5 p.m. If you live in the Tampa Bay area I would be pleased to have you present for this lesson.

I have visited biblical sites all over Turkey for many years. Two personal study trips have been made to the eastern part of the country, one in 1995, and another in June, 2007. Check the June archives for those blogs.

Our presentation will cover the land of Urartu (biblical Ararat), Mount Ararat, Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Harran, Carchemish, and a few other places. We will be looking at the biblical, historical, and geographical information that makes these places important in Bible history.

Here is a photo of Mount Ararat from June, 2007. The mountain is located near the Turkish border with Iran and Armenia, and many think it was the landing place of Noah’s ark (Genesis 6-9).

Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins