Tag Archives: nature

The Hermon (Banias) River and Falls

Names changes are fairly common in modern Israel. Scholars in the recent past have referred to the river that flows from Banias as the Nahr (River) Banias (Nelson Glueck, The River Jordan, 1945, p. 17).

The Nahr (River) Banias is the easternmost source of the River Jordan. The source of the Banias is located at a site we know as Caesarea Philippi in the New Testament. It is well known to those who study the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 16:13-19). The earlier Greeks carved the name of Pan on the rock and called the place Paneas. Glueck says,

The latter is the name that has endured to this day. The Arabs call it Banias, because every p becomes a b in their pronunciation.

Here is one of the photos I made during a clearing on a rainy day in mid-April.

The site of Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority now call this area the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve (Banias). At the point where the springs now emerges from the ground, this sign can be seen.

Sign at Banias denoting it as the Hermon River Springs. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign at the source of the springs denoting them as the Hermon River Springs.

We shortly lose sight of the stream. About 2¼ miles southwest of the source, the stream emerges as the beautiful Banias (or Hermon) Waterfall.

The Banias (Hermon) Waterfall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Banias (Hermon) Waterfall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

As the river continues south, it soon merges with the other streams and becomes the famous Jordan River. I am rather certain in my mind that a decade or so ago this waterfall was identified as the Jordan River Fall. Technically, of course, it would still be the Banias or Hermon.

One can see why Israel would name the river the Hermon rather than call it by the Arab name Banias. But, it sometimes gets confusing — just like Bible translations of similar names.

The “wild goats” of the Old Testament

Wild goats (Hebrew ya’el) are mentioned in a few Old Testament passages (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18; Prov. 5:19). This animal is often identified with the Ibex.

The ibex, a type of wild goat, is still found in Southern Palestine, Sinai, Egypt and Arabia; it was known also in ancient times, as is evident from rock carvings. (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 46).

The wild goats are associated with En Gedi on the shore of the Dead Sea.

Now when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. (1 Samuel 24:1-2 NAU)

The Ibex may also be seen at En (Ein) Avdat (Avedat) and Mitzpe Ramon in Israel. The photo below shows one of the young Ibex on the run at En Avdat

Young Ibex on the run at En Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Young Ibex on the run at En Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo illustrates how well the Ibex blend in with the terrain in which they live.

Ibex at Avdat in the Wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ibex at En Avdat in the Wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The last photo shows the sure-footed Ibex seeking out the high places.

Ibex in the wilderness of Zin near En Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ibex in the wilderness of Zin near En Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reference to the hind or deer (Hebrew ayyalah) in Psalm 18:33 (Hebrew 18:34) indicates a different species, but the analogy is the same. Both Hebrew terms are used in Job 39;1.

He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, And sets me upon my high places. (Psalm 18:33 NAU)

He gives me the agility of a deer; he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain. (Psalm 18:33 NET)

If you would like to see another photo of the Ibex at En Gedi, click here.

Personal Note: A few friends who have missed the blog have contacted me to see if I had returned home and was doing o.k. The answer is yes, and yes. After being away for three weeks I needed some time to recoup, tend to personal matters, and get my photos organized. The subscription price remains the same. Thanks for your concern.

Morning has broken in Galilee

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t mess around with nature

Shmuel Browns has a nice article here on Agamon (Hula) Lake in northern Israel. Perhaps we all know that Lake Hula (Hulah; Huleh) is the small body of water about 10 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

Browns tells how the lake came to be drained a few decades back, and the reason for its reclamation. I was especially impressed with the number of “creatures” found in the area around the lake. And also of the number of species lost as a result of the draining of the lake.

Josephus refers to Lake Hula by the Roman name of Lake Semechonitis (Ant. 5.199; Jewish Wars 3:515; 4:3).

My earliest association for the site (about 60 years ago) was to identify it as the Waters of Merom (Joshua 11), because this is what Hurlbut suggested in A Bible Atlas. This identification is doubtful, and many modern atlases pass over the issue.

In the new Satellite Bible Atlas, Bill Schlegel says the Canaanites gathered at

…  the Waters of Merom, of uncertain location. The name is preserved at a spring and mountain in Upper Galilee. If this is its location, the Canaanite gathering there is the only significant event described in the Bible that occurred in Upper Galilee. (Map 3-7).

Shmuel shows you some good land photos, and I will show you an aerial photo I made of the reclaimed lake now known as Agamon (Hula) Lake.

Reclamation of Lake Hula. Aerial photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reclamation of Lake Hula. Aerial photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the late 1960s, I saw the former location of Lake Hula. By that time there was a line of trees standing where the shore had once been.

“You offspring of vipers…”

When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John the Baptist for baptism, John said,

”You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (Matthew 3:7 NET; cf. Luke 3:7)

Jesus used the same language of the Scribes and Pharisees.

You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33 NET; cf. 12:34)

The photo below shows the Palestinian Viper (behind tough plastic!) at the the Hai Bar Animal and Nature Reserve, north of Eilat, Israel.

Palestinian Viper at the HaiBar Reserve near Eilat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Palestinian Viper at the HaiBar Reserve near Eilat, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign at the Reserve gives some explanation about this poisonous viper.

Description of the Palestinian Viper at HaiBar Reserve.
Description of the Palestinian Viper at HaiBar Reserve.

A visit to Hai Bar is a wonderful experience. The kids will love it, too.

When purple is blue

The Mosaic law commanded the Israelites to put a blue cord on the corner tassels of their garments.

“Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. (Numbers 15:38 CSB)

“Dyeing To Be Holy” is the title of a feature article in The Jewish Daily Forward by Nathan Jeffay. The article says that the source of the dye used to obey the command of the law has been lost for more than 1,200 years.

Roman emperors from the first century BCE onward wanted tekhelet reserved as a status symbol for the governing classes, meaning that it became progressively more difficult for Jews to obtain it. This, together with other political and economic factors, meant that by the eighth century, Jews had lost the tradition of how to obtain the dye, and tzitzit became the all-white fringes that are familiar today.

But now, a Jerusalem-based not-for-profit organization, Ptil Tekhelet, claims to have rediscovered it. “This is the experience of a mitzvah’s renaissance,” said the man leading the group of Talmud-studying snorkelers, Mois Navon, a computer programmer, ordained rabbi and Ptil Tekhelet board member. “For a biblical commandment to be returned to the people is really something significant.”

In the past, rabbinic sources have stated that tekhelet comes from a snail called the hilazon. But hilazon isn’t a biological species name, just a rabbinic name. The mystery was figuring out the species to which they were referring.

The modern search for the answer began in earnest in the early 20th century, when Isaac Herzog, who went on to become the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, wrote a doctoral thesis in which he concluded that a snail called the Murex trunculus (the scientific name for hilazon) was the “most likely candidate” for the source of tekhelet.

Hilazon snail. Photo courtesy Ptil Tekhelet.

Hilazon snail. Photo courtesy Ptil Tekhelet.

The report continues,

Key to Herzog’s conclusion was the fact that archaeological digs uncovered large ancient dyeing facilities close to Haifa, and mounds of Murex trunculus broken open, apparently to access their dye.

But Herzog hit a snag. The snail’s dye was purplish blue, not the pure blue described in the Talmud. It took until the early 1980s for this riddle to be solved. In research unrelated to the search for the biblical dye, Otto Elsner, a professor at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, near Tel Aviv, noticed that on sunny days, Murex trunculus dye became more blue and less purple. It turned out that the missing link between Herzog’s experiments and biblical dyeing methods was ultraviolet light, which transforms the blue-purple colorant to unadulterated blue.

Read the full article here.

There are some dissenting comments with the article.

HT: Joseph Lauer

A pretty picture

While looking for a photo for use in a lesson for Sunday I noticed this photo that I made near Konya, Turkey. This is the site of biblical Iconium (Acts 13:51-14:5). I was lucky to catch the butterfly on a poppy (anemone). Enjoy.