Tag Archives: Syria

Ferrell’s Favorite Fotos #19

Riblah served as a base of operation for the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho and the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The city is located on a broad plain about 50 miles south of Hamath (modern Hama in Syria), on the main road between Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Orontes River flows past the site on the west side. On a modern map you will locate Riblah in Syria immediately north of the border with Lebanon.

There is little more than a “country store” at the village today, but the name Riblah is preserved as Ribleh, Syria.

  • Pharaoh Necho imprisoned Jehoahaz, king of Judah, at Riblah. He later took him to Egypt where he died. The date was about 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:31-34).
  • Zedekiah, puppet king of Judah, tried to escape capture by the Babylonians. He fled Jerusalem but was captured on the plains of Jericho and brought to Riblah. There Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him. His sons were slaughtered in his sight and he was bound with brass fetters and taken to Babylon. The date was 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:5-7; see also Jeremiah 39:5-6; 52:9-10).
  • The officials of Zedekiah were taken to Riblah where they were put to death (2 Kings 25:19-21; see also Jeremiah 52:26-27).

In 2002 David McClister, a colleague at Florida College, and I spent several days visiting sites in Syria. Riblah was the most difficult to locate. Most folks, after seeing the site, would probably say, “What’s the big deal?”  Even though Riblah is mentioned only these few times in the Old Testament, it’s location makes it important in all movement between the south (Egypt and Israel) and Mesopotamia.

The ancient mount of Riblah, once headquarters of Babyonian king Nebuchadnezzar. FerrellJenkins.blog.

The ancient mount of Riblah, once headquarters of Babyonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Slide scan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 2002.

This post is a repeat, but I thought the favorite photo needed more explanation than most of the images I am using.

Ferrell’s Favorite Fotos #4

Of the places David McClister and I tried to locate in Syria in 2002, this was the most difficult.

The Syrian village of Ribleh. Site of the ancient town of Riblah where Nebuchadnezzar set up his headquarters, and where he killed the sons of Jechoniah in his presence, put out his eyes, bound him, and took him to Babylon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

The Syrian village of Ribleh. Site of the ancient town of Riblah where Nebuchadnezzar set up his headquarters, and where he killed the sons of Zedekiah in his presence, put out his eyes, bound him, and took him to Babylon. Scanned slide photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

See the Index of articles about Babylon, including a few references to Riblah, here.

Zedekiah, puppet king of Judah, tried to escape capture by the Babylonians. He fled Jerusalem but was captured on the plains of Jericho and brought to Riblah. There Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him. His sons were slaughtered in his sight and he was bound with brass fetters and taken to Babylon. The date was 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:5-7; see also Jeremiah 39:5-6; 52:9-10).

Transporting cedars for the temple

The cedars grew in the high mountains of the Lebanon range, the north-south range along the Mediterranean coast.

Cedars also grow in the Amanus mountains north of Antakya, Turkey (Antioch of Syria in Acts 11 and 13). I have seen a small number of cedars still growing in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey. In Lebanon, the most famous of the trees are growing in the high mountains about 100 miles north of Beirut near the town of Besharre, but there are also some growing southeast of Beirut at Barouk.

(A geographical note for those who may not know. If we go east we have the Bekah Valley and then the Anti-Lebanon range of mountains. The Lebanon range continues south and becomes the mountains of upper and lower Galilee, and the mountains of Samaria and Judea. The Bekah Valley continues south to become the Hula Valley, passing through the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, passing through the Dead Sea, the Arabah, etc. The Anti-Lebanon mountain range continues south through the Golan Heights, the Mountains of Gilead, and the trans-Jordan plateau or highlands.)

Browsing in Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, I noted numerous reference to ancient rulers cutting cedars and transporting them to built projects in their home country.

Gudea of Lagash (2141-2122 B.C.) calls the Amanus Mountains “the Cedar Mountain.” He says “he formed into rafts cedar logs 60 cubits long, cedar logs 50 cubits long (and) KU-wood logs 25 cubits long and brought them (thus) out of the mountain.”

Tiglath-Pileser I, King of Assyria (1114-1076 B.C.), says he went to the Lebanon mountains and cut cedar beams for a temple.

Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (883-859 B.C.),  says, “I ascended the mountains of the Amamus … and cut down (there) logs of cedars” and other trees.

Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria (858-824 B.C.), claims that he ascended the mountain Amanus and cut cedar and pine timber.

Esarhaddon, king of Assyria (680-649 B.C.), claims he made 22 kings of the Hatti transport material for his palace: “big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (La-na-na) mountains which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber….” Sirara was one of the towns of southern Mesopotamia. Esarhaddon left his image and an inscription on the cliffs above Dog River in Lebanon.

Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.), refers to the Lebanon as the “[Cedar] Mountain, the luxurious forest of Marduk, the smell of which is sweet.” He says no other god has desired and no other king has felled the trees. He says Marduk desired the cedars “as a fitting adornment for the palace of the ruler of heaven and earth.”

The Neo-Babylonian king claims to have rid the country (Lebanon) of a foreign enemy and returned scattered inhabitants to their settlements. In order to transport cedars to Babylon, he explains some of his projects.

What no former king had done (I achieved): I cut through steep mountains, I split rocks, opened passages and (thus) I constructed a straight road for the (transport of the) cedars. I made the Arahtu flo[at] (down) and carry to Marduk, my king, mighty cedars, high and strong, of precious beauty and of excellent dark quality, the abundant yield of the Lebanon, as (if they be) reed stalks (carried by) the river. Within Babylon [I stored] mulberry wood. I made the inhabitants of the Lebanon live in safety together and let nobody disturb them. In order that nobody might do any harm [to them] I ere[cted there] a stela (showing) me (as) everlasting king (of this region) and built … I, myself, … established.…

The Arahtu was a canal built by Nebuchadnezzar near Babylon that was used in the transportation of the cedars. Some of the kings speak of building roads for the transportation of the cedars.

In 1971 I was able to make a photo of the inscription left by Nebuchadnezzar at Dog River north of Beirut. Some more recent travelers have found this covered by vines. Click on the photo for a larger image and you will get a better view of some of the cuneiform writing.

Nebuchadnezzar's inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Nebuchadnezzar’s inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. On the left bank on the rock cliffs there are reliefs and inscriptions by Ramses II of Egypt, and Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III (?) and Esarhaddon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hiram, king of Tyre, promised Solomon that he would transport cedars by sea to Joppa.

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)

The parallel text in 1 Kings 5:9 says,

My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon, and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct. And I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it. And you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” (1 Kings 5:9 ESV)

The comment in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament explains:

Transport of the logs along the Palestinian coast south would have involved either tying them together into rafts, which required staying very close to shore for fear of storms breaking them up, or loading them on ships. Assyrian reliefs show Phoenician ships both loaded with logs and towing them.

This photograph illustrates the comment above, but the biblical text indicates that the logs cut for Solomon were made into rafts.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lebanon had two famous rivers, both of which had their source in the Bekah valley. The Orontes River flowed north past Kadesh, Hamath, and other cities and then turned west to flow past Antioch into the Mediterranean at Seleucia.

The Leontes River (also known as the Letani), flowed through the Lebanon mountains and into the Mediterranean a few miles north of Tyre. Since we know of other rulers floating the timbers on rivers, I have thought that perhaps some of those going to Jerusalem may have been moved from the southern forests by means of the Leontes, then tied into rafts near the coast for the trip to Joppa.

The Litani river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Leontes (= Litani) river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

The distance from the mouth of the Leontes River to Joppa is about 95 miles (152 km). Our photos below is an aerial view of Joppa and its modern harbor.

Aerial view of Joppa, showing the modern harbor. ferrelljenkins.blog.

The modern harbor at Joppa. We know that the tel (a green mound with some paths on it) you see in the left bottom quarter of the photo was inhabited by Egyptians as early as the 15th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (1990) says,

Some scholars believe that the port referred to is that of Tell Qasile, east of Jaffa.

If that is so, the logs would be floated up the Yarkon River a short distance to Tell Qasile which is a little northeast of Joppa, close enough to be considered Joppa.

From Joppa the logs were transported by Solomon’s men across the plain of Sharon and up into the mountains of Judea. Quite a project without trucks or trains. In addition to the temple, the Bible records that Solomon built “the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (I Kings 7:2).

Our final photograph shows some stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile which is located on the grounds of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. I notice that these are larger than anchors found at the Sea of Galilee. These would be more suitable for use on a river such as the Yarkon.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Thomson on the pesky sparrows in Syria

William M. Thomson writes of the pesky sparrows in Syria.

No traveler in Syria will need an introduction to the sparrow on the house-top. They are a tame, troublesome, vivacious, and impertinent generation, and nestle just where they are not wanted. They stop up the stoves-pipes and water-gutters with their rubbish, build nests in the windows and under the beams in the roof, and would stuff your hat full of stubble if they found it hanging in a place to suit them. They are extremely pertinacious in asserting their right of possession, and have not the least reverence for any place or thing. David alludes to these characteristics of the sparrow in the eighty-fourth Psalm, when he complains that they had appropriated even the altars of God for their nests [Psalm 84:3]. Concerning himself, he says, “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top” [Psalm 102:7]. When one of them has lost its mate—a matter of every-day occurrence—he will sit on the house-top alone, and lament by the hour his sad bereavement. As these birds are not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for “two farthings;” and when we see the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without his notice, will surely take care of us, who “are of more value than many sparrows.” [Matthew 10:29, 31; Luke 12:6-7] (Thomson, William M. The Land and the Book. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886. Vol. 2, p.59.

The photo below shows one of the many varieties of sparrows found in the Middle East.

Two sparrows at Ein Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Two sparrows at Ein Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The first verse mentioned by Thomson illustrates the nuisance of the sparrow, making a nest even at the altars of the LORD.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. (Psalm 84:3 ESV)

The next speaks of the lonely sparrow.

I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. (Psalm 102:7 ESV)

The last reference speaks of the custom of buying sparrows.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Keener, Craig S.)  explains this custom.

Sparrows were one of the cheapest items sold for poor people’s food in the marketplace, the cheapest of all birds. Two were here purchased for an assarion, a small copper coin of little value (less than an hour’s work); Luke 12:6 seems to indicate that they were even cheaper if purchased in larger quantities. This is a standard Jewish “how much more” argument: If God cares for something as cheap as sparrows, how much more does he care for people!

The Lord’s use of simple examples from nature and everyday life to illustrate great truths provides an example for all who teach.

Aleppo National Museum – #4

See our previous articles on Aleppo here, here, here, and here.

The Ebla tablets were discovered by an Italian team of excavators at Tell Mardikh in Syria (about 30 miles S of Aleppo) in 1975. More than 17,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered, dating to the mid-third millennium B.C. when Ebla was the capital of a great Canaanite empire. Scholars state that there are important affinities between the Eblaite language and biblical Hebrew, both being members of the Northwest Semitic family.

Pottery from Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pottery from Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is my understanding that the Aleppo National Museum became the main repository of the Ebla tablets. In a major controversy between the archaeologist (Paolo Matthiae) and the epigrapher (Giovanni Pettinato), the Museum took the side of Professor Matthiae.

The controversy between these two scholars played out in scholarly and popular archaeological journals in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

We have posted several articles about Ebla in previous years. You need only put the word Ebla in the Search box to locate those.

A large eagle caught our attention. David and I were of the opinion that it belonged to the Roman period, but one of the guards we spoke with insisted that it belonged to the Hellenistic period.

An eagle possible from the Hellenistic Period in the Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An eagle possibly from the Hellenistic Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statues and busts of Asclepios are fairly common throughout the ancient Greek world. Asclepios was known as a god of medicine in the Greek religion. I do not know where this bust was discovered.

Bust of the god Asclepios. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of the god Asclepios. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though the quality of the photos leaves much to be desired, I am hopeful that these photos and brief descriptions will be of benefit to those who have not been, and may never get to see the Aleppo National Museum.

This concludes the series on Aleppo.

Aleppo National Museum – #3

See our previous articles on Aleppo here, here, and here.

We have one more nice Neo-Hittite piece displayed in the courtyard of the Aleppo National Museum. It shows genii with the symbols of the sun and the moon. These symbols are typical on Neo-Hittite and Assyrian reliefs.

Neo-Hittite genii with image of sun and moon on a basalt block in the courtyard of the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Neo-Hittite genii with image of sun and moon on a block in the courtyard of the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrian. The museum has one stele depicting Esarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib and his successor as king of Assyria (680-559 B.C.; 2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38; Ezra 4:2). I am not certain about the identity of the rulers who are bowing before Esarhaddon, but I suspect this represents the same persons as the much better stele in the Berlin museum. The stele there depicts the king holding ropes leading to the lips of Tirhakah of Egypt and Ethiopia [Cush] (in ANET, 293, he is referred to as king of Nubia) and Ba’alu of Tyre. If so, then the bowing figure with Negroid features was an ally of Hezekiah against the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:9. The Berlin stele comes from Zinjirli and was discovered in 1888.

First, here is the Aleppo stele.

A broken relief showing Esarhaddon with two captured rulers, one on bended knee, before him. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A broken relief showing Esarhaddon with two captured rulers, one on bended knee, before him. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And here is the Berlin stele (VA 2708).

Stele of Esarhaddon displayed in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. VA 2708. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stele of Esarhaddon displayed in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. VA 2708. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have the impression that the stele displayed in Aleppo may be one made by a beginner and was never finished. Notice the lack of proportion in the legs of the kneeling figure, and the absence of clear decorations at the top.

One final post on the Museum coming next.

Aleppo National Museum – #2

See our previous post on Aleppo here. Our #1 on the Aleppo National Museum is here.

In the first post on Aleppo I posted a photo of the Hittite Storm god Teshub standing on the back of a bull. I should have mentioned at the time that a large temple of the storm god from the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages has been excavated underneath Islamic buildings at the Aleppo Citadel. A well illustrated article by Kay Kohlmeyer states,

The storm god, first venerated as Hadda, then as Addu, Teshub, Tarhunta, and Hadad, played a supra-regional role in the ancient Near East, which explains the enormous size of his temple at Aleppo and the brilliance of its relief decoration. (Near Eastern Archaeology 72;4 (2009).

A statue of Hadad of poor quality is also displayed in the museum.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several other Neo-Hittite artifacts in the Aleppo National Museum. This first I am showing is a basalt lion with a slight wing relief. This is likely part of a pair that stood along an entrance to some building. Here you will notice that the lion is represented as having five legs. This allows the passerby to see at least four legs from almost any direction. We have become familiar with the huge winged bulls from Assyria that are made in the same fashion. I do not have the original source of the lion, but there are numerous Neo-Hittite sites  to the north of Aleppo in Syria and Turkey.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next image is a fascinating one from the palace of Karara at Tell Halaf. It shows a composite creature of basalt consisting of the head of a man with the feet and wings of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion.

Composite creatures were common during the Hittite, Assyrian, and Babylonian periods of Old Testament history, and many of them have been found in the extended region. They provide us some insight into the background of apocalyptic literature. We find these creatures especially in the Old Testament books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, and in the New Testament book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). See a previous post, “Apocalyptic imagery is not strange,” here.

The composite creature here brought to my mind the events of the sounding of the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9:1-11.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am adding an additional image that I was able to enhance to show a little better sharpness.

aleppo-museum-composite-creature-fjenkins051302_09en

 1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. (Revelation 9:1-11 ESV)

Knowing that such imagery was common in the ancient Near East should assist us in our understanding of the nature of apocalyptic literature of the Bible.