Tag Archives: West Bank

Donkey sacrifice?

A rabbi and his student were arrested for trying to kill a donkey as a sacrifice for sins, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post here. The article says this took place “near the Tomb of Samuel the prophet which is located in the West Bank north of Jerusalem.” I assume the reference is to Nebi Samwil, the traditional burial place of the prophet Samuel. Nebi Samwil is easily accessible within Israel, but is located on the border of the West Bank. The site overlooks the Benjamin Plateau. You can see the Arab town of El Jib, biblical Gibeon, from Nebi Samwil.

The photo below shows Nebi Samwil from the south.

Nebi Samwil from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nebi Samwil from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A short distance north of Nebi Samwil, within the West Bank, some Bedouin have settled with their tents, donkeys, trucks, and satellite dishes.

Donkey north of Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Donkey north of Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Read more: “The donkey: beast of burden” here, and “Don’t underestimate the donkey” here.

The sacrificial system of the Mosaic law required grain, drink, or animal offerings. The prescribed animals include lambs (male, female), goats (male, female), bulls, pigeons, and turtledoves (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:3-8; 15:22-26, et al.). Donkeys are not among the animals accepted for sacrifice during the Mosaic period.

Christians believe what the writer of Hebrews says about these Mosaic sacrifices.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV)

We believe that Jesus, as the lamb of God (John 1:29), made a single offering for the sins of those who respond to Him.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26 ESV)

If we seek the forgiveness of the LORD Almighty we must comply with His requirements.

Visualizing Isaiah 12: wells of salvation

Isaiah describes the Messianic Age as one that will be characterized by many spiritual blessings. The pleasant waters of Shiloah had been rejected by God’s people, but in the time to come Judah would joyfully draw water from the wells of salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3 ESV)

The term mayan (wells) is often used in the Old Testament of springs, fountains, wells, or pools of water.

We might think of a well like the one where Jesus stopped at Sychar in Samaria.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:10-15 ESV)

Jacob's well in Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jacob’s well in Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Or, we might think of a spring like the beautiful one at the source of the Banias River at Caesarea Philippi. This spring and river becomes a major source of the Jordan River.

The source of the Banias River, source of the River Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The source of the Banias River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.


The Pools of Solomon

It is a fact that numerous structures in Israel are incorrectly identified. Earlier travelers may have asked where this or that biblical event took place. There was always someone willing to show them what they wanted to see. Some items that come to mind include the Tower of David and Solomon’s Stables in Jerusalem, Ahab’s Palace at Jezreel, and Solomon’s Pools southwest of Bethlehem.

In the earliest days of my tours we were able to visit Solomon’s Pools as we traveled between Bethlehem and Hebron. In more recent years the Pools have been in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank. This means going to Bethlehem and then making arrangement to visit the pools.

Solomon, who ruled about 970–931 B.C., is said to have developed vineyards, gardens, and pools.

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 ESV)

These pools do not belong to the time of Solomon. It may be legendary, but Josephus says that Solomon used to ride upon a chariot to a place called Etham (Etam). This area is described as “very pleasant in its fine gardens, and abounding in rivulets of water; he used to go there in the morning sitting high in his chariot” (Antiquities 8:186).

One of the earliest projects conducted by Amihai Mazar, in 1968, was a survey of the 70 kilometers of aqueducts. He wanted to see how accurate Conrad Schick has been in his 19th century surveys.

Several springs feed into the “pools of Solomon” from the south through two aqueducts. From the western pool a high level aqueduct carried water to the Upper City of Jerusalem. From the easternmost pool a low level aqueduct carried water to the Temple Mount.

One of the earliest projects conducted by Amihai Mazar, now Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University, in 1968 was a survey of 70 kilometers of aqueducts. He wanted to see how accurate Conrad Schick had been in his surveys in the 19th century. He says the pools,

must date to the Hasmonean period, perhaps to Alexander Jannaeus [126 B.C.–76 B.C.]. We don’t have any written sources, and there is no objective archaeological data for dating them. But we base our assumption on the fact that in the Mishnah the aqueducts are referred to and are very important for ritual purposes on the Temple Mount. (BAR, 10:3, May/June 1984).

Mazar’s study of “The Aqueducts of Jerusalem” is published in Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeology in the Holy City 1968–1974. 79-84.

Our first photo shows the highest of the pools which I am calling the western pool.

The western most pool. View east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The western pool. View east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The middle pool is shown here with a view to the northwest. You can see the higher hills in the break between the trees.

The middle pool. View west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The middle pool. View northwest. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The third pool (eastern) is shown below with a view toward the west.

The eastern pool. View west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The eastern pool. View west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A recent study of “Jerusalem’s Ancient Aqueduct System” by Tom Powers is available for download at his website here. This article can be helpful for those who wish to know more about the subject.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor has a few pages devoted to Solomon’s Pools, including the aqueduct system, in The Holy Land (483-486).

Within the past few weeks there has been some information, and some unfounded speculation, about a water system found at ‘Ain Joweizeh. Todd Bolen describes the location of the site:

The site is located 5.5 miles (9 km) southwest of the Old City of  Jerusalem, 3.5 miles (5.5 km) northwest of Bethlehem, and just down the slope to the west of Har Gilo.

Bolen has a good summary of what we know about this water system (“Royal Water System Excavated in Judean Hills”) in a recent post here.

BAR’s Bible History Daily includes photos of the Proto-Aeolic Capital associated with the recently discovered tunnel here.

Archaeological Conferences in Houston

The Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University will host an Archaeological Conference devoted to Khirbet el-Maqatir, proposed site for Biblical Ai, Saturday, February 8, 2014. Speakers include Dr. Bryant Wood, Dr. Eugene Merrill, Dr. Scott Stripling, and Dr. Leen Ritmeyer.

Information about the conference and registration details may be found here.

From January 21 – December 19, 2014, the Dunham Bible Museum will display a special exhibit, Khirbet el-Maqatir – History of a Biblical Site. This is in cooperation with the Associates for Biblical Research. Details here.

A scene in the eastern Sinai wilderness. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A scene in the eastern Sinai wilderness. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Lanier Theological Library announces a lecture by James Hoffmeier and Stephen Moshier dealing with the exodus and the location of Mount Sinai. The titles for the January 18th lecture are,

  • Moses Did Not Sleep Here!
  • A Critical Look at Some Sensational Exodus and Mt. Sinai Theories

Registration information is here. (HT: Bible Places Blog).

The lectures by Hoffmeier and Moshier are the climax of a two day Consultation on the Historicity and Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions in a Post Modern Age. Details here.

Speakers include Richard Hess, Steven Ortiz, Alan Millard, Richard Averbeck, Lawson Youngers, Jr., and others.

Hiking Abraham’s footsteps

The full title of this Haaretz article is “Hiking in Abraham’s footsteps, from Turkey to the Holy Land.” Sounds incredible at the moment. To hike this complete trail from Haran (Genesis 12:4) to Beersheba (Genesis 21:31) (not to mention the trip to Egypt) requires travel in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority (West Bank).

Among the leaders back of the concept is David Landis and his wife Anna Dintaman, developers of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. Their book, Hiking the Jesus Trail and Other Biblical Walks in the Galilee, is worthwhile even for those who do not plan to walk the trail.

Larry Haverstock walked the Jesus Trail in 2011. I see that Larry’s posts about the experience is still available on his blog. See the 3rd Journey. You will find some fascinating stories along with beautiful photos you may never see from a bus or car.

Larry Haverstock in the Zippori Forest north of Nazareth.

Larry Haverstock in the Zippori Forest north of Nazareth.

The link to the Haaretz article may be accessed here. In order to read the full article you must register for free access to 10 articles a month.

Don’t expect to walk the Abraham Path from Haran (in Turkey) to Beersheva [Beersheba], but you might be able to walk small portions of the trail everywhere except the part going through Syria.

There are many hiking trails in Israel, but most of these avoid contact with the Palestinian Authority. The new plan seeks to involve the local people in the development of facilities useful to hikers.

If you like hiking, or if you appreciate the geography of the Bible lands you will probably enjoy the article. Abraham Path has a nice web site with maps and photos here.

I don’t know what, if any, relationship there is between the Abraham  Path and the Patriarchs Way, a trail that is said to run from Beersheba to Nazareth. The defacing of the sign to eradicate the Arabic indicates one of the problems either trail might face. One often sees this sort of thing on signs pointing to Christian sites.

Sign pointing to Patriarchs Way off Hebron Road (Hwy. 60) south of Bethlehem . Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign pointing to Patriarchs Way off Hebron Road (Hwy. 60) south of Bethlehem . Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Walk the Land : A Journey on Foot through Israel, by Judith Galblum Pex, is a fascinating account of a couple who walked the Israel Trail from Eilat to Dan.

Visiting the shepherd’s fields near Bethlehem

After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Luke records that an announcement of His birth was made to shepherds in the field at night.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 ESV)

There was enough distance that the shepherds said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15 ESV)

We do not know the exact time of the birth of Jesus. We have a reasonable degree of certitude about the place of His birth, but places such as the field of the shepherds are not certain. As a result, traditions have risen about the place. Here I will mention three places that one can visit a short distance east of Bethlehem, near the wilderness of Judea. This area is known as Beit Sahour.

The first place is the Shepherd’s Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (a Roman Catholic site). The photo shows the modern church built over a cave.

The Shepherd's Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Shepherd’s Field of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Photo: F. Jenkins,

Under the church there is a large cave. These caves are not uncommon in the central mountain range. A display illustrating the birth of Jesus can be seen in the cave. One little note of interest. It is often pointed out that the manger of Luke 2:7 might be a feeding trough cut from stone. In this display the baby is placed in an ossuary! Notice the lid to the right.

Display in cave at Shepherd's Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Display in cave at Shepherd’s Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Outside one sees fields and olive groves.

Shepherd's fields at Beit Sahour. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Shepherd’s fields at Beit Sahour. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Not far away is the Shepherd’s Field of the YMCA. Some call it the Protestant Shepherd’s Field. There is a large cave on the property overlooking the fields of the region.

Caves at YMCA Shepherd's Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Caves at YMCA Shepherd’s Field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Greek Orthodox site features ruins of a Byzantine church dating from the 5-7th centuries.

Byzantine church ruins at the Greek Orthodox site of the Shepherd's field. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Byzantine church ruins at the Greek Orthodox site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carl Rasmussen wrote about the “3 Christmases in Bethlehem” here, and Mark Ziese wrote about the Milk Grotto here. We have written about the Church of the Nativity several times, including here.

Temple Mount, Pools, Jericho, Jordan River

Today was a great day for travel in and around Jerusalem. We started the day by visiting the Temple Mount. This is a place filled with Bible history relating to Abraham, David, Solomon, Jesus, and Peter (as well as all of the apostle). It is a place destroyed by the Babylonians (586 B.C.) and the Romans (A.D. 70).

The site has been under Islamic control since the 7th century.

We visited the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and the Pool of Siloam (John 9).

Yesterday, by the time we visited Masada, Qumran, and Jericho, it was too late to visit the baptismal site on the Jordan River, a site known as Qasr el-Yahud. This site on the Israel side is across from the Jordanian site identified as Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28).

We stopped in Jericho for lunch at the Temptations Restaurant. The restaurant is located on the south end of Tell es-Sultan, identified with Biblical Jericho (Joshua 3-6).

The restaurant has lots of parking space for tour buses and good food. That’s a good combination in the tourist industry. As I was leaving I noticed a sign with the wording “View of Jericho”, and thought I should check it out. It took a climb of 11 flights of stairs to reach the roof. It was worth it for the view which was exceptionally good in all directions.

The view to the north is of Tel es-Sultan. See below. You may notice some wires (cables) across the photo. These are for the cable car that goes up to the traditional Mount of Temptation (Matthew 4).

Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Afterwards we visited the Jordan River. On the way back to Jerusalem we stopped by the St. George Monastery in the wilderness of Judea. The monastery building appear to hang on the side of a cliff overlooking the Wadi Qilt. Quite a sight.

We stopped at the Inn of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) which now houses many mosaic floors from Jewish synagogues, Samaritan Synagogues, and Byzantine Churches, as well as a few other interesting artifacts.

It was a great day.

A pleasant stop in Samaria

It was still raining quite a bit in the north of the country yesterday, but we enjoyed some good visits. The morning was clear for the visit to Beth Shean (Beth-shan). We approached the overlook of the Jezreel Valley from Jezreel in a light drizzle.

From that spot one gets a view of Jezreel Valley, Mount Gilboa, the Hill of Moreh, and the spring below Jezreel. We discussed Gideon and the Midianites, the Ahab and Jezebel and their deaths, Naboth’s Vineyard, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the coming of Jehu. What a great visual backdrop this provided!

We were able to travel along the central mountain range through Samaria. This is not always possible when traveling in the country. The road up to the Hill of Samaria is in bad repair (what a shame), but our driver was able to negotiate the ruts and get us to the top.

I have eaten several times before at the Samaria Restaurant in Sebastia. It is located across from the Roman agora of ancient Samaria. The owner, Mahmud Ghazal is a pleasant person. He studied at the University of Alabama, with a degree from UAB. If you are able to go to Samaria I suggest you try this restaurant, and then visit his shop.

There is a nice wall exhibit in the restaurant showing some of the antiques from the area – from the not too distant past. Take a look.

Antiques at the Samaria Restaurant, Sebastia, Palestine. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Antiques at the Samaria Restaurant, Sebastia, Palestine. Most of these have to do with agricultural practices. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Most of these antiques have to do with agricultural practices that were common in Bible times. On the right you have a wooden plow with a metal plow point. On the left is a threshing sledge. On the right you see two winnowing forks and a sickle. I don’t have the time to list biblical references for all of these items. Many of them we have discussed before on this blog.

The rain let up long enough for us to have a good visit of the archaeological ruins of ancient Samaria.

We also stopped at Jacob’s Well, drove up on Mount Gerizim for a view of the area below. Then we continued to our hotel in Jerusalem.

Rain was forecast for Jerusalem today, so we went through the Wilderness of Judea and drove along the Dead Sea to Masada. There were large crowds at Masada. Some of them probably had the same idea we did and changed their plan to be in a dry place for the day.

Hopefully the skies will be clear tomorrow. We are having a great learning experience, and a great time, anyway.

“Rejoice and be glad” you are not in Jerusalem

U.S. President Barack H. Obama plans a visit to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, beginning Wednesday. Preparations are already under way. Arutz Sheva 7 reports here on the problems already evident.

In addition to the fact that Jerusalem is now one of the most difficult cities to navigate (my opinion based on 47 years of travel experience), the Passover is approaching. Jewish families must make many special preparations.

The President will be staying at the famous King David Hotel. If you planned to visit the Herodian Family Tomb behind the hotel, just forget it for a few days.

Over 5,000 police will be directly involved in providing security for Obama and his entourage, while hundreds of others will be helping out in indirect ways. For example, over 100 officers will be added to the police help line specifically to deal with issues called in by citizens relating to the Obama visit. Police will keep citizens updated on all aspects of the visit by phone and through social media.

Over 1,000 police alone will be deployed around the King David Hotel, where Obama will be staying, and will follow Obama around as he pays visits to people and institutions during his three day visit here.

Here is a photo of the King David Hotel from across the western part of the Hinnom Valley. It was taken either from the Protestant Cemetery, the Campus of Jerusalem University College, or a few meters to the north of that.

King David Hotel from the slope of Mount Zion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

King David Hotel from the slope of Mount Zion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Take a look at some of the traffic problems.

Already on Sunday, long before Obama arrives, traffic in Jerusalem was extremely choked, as police began setting up barricades, and many Jerusalemites took to the road to finish their Passover shopping while the roads are still open.

Among the roads to be closed sporadically during Obama’s visit will be Road 1, between Ben Gurion Airport and the entrance to Jerusalem, as well as main Jerusalem thoroughfares such as Herzl Boulevard and Derech Hevron [Hebron Road]. Police said they will make every effort to ensure that roads are closed only of absolutely necessary.

Several years ago I was in Jerusalem when President Clinton came to visit. Our hotel was far from the Old City, but policemen were stationed about a block apart. Nations normally enjoy these high level visits, but I am not sure this current one means very much, but it keeps Air Force One running. (O.K., you have a right to your opinion.)

HT: Barry Britnell

Herod the Great in the Israel Museum

Are you planning a visit to Jerusalem during the upcoming months? I suggest you visit the Israel Museum. There is much to see that is of importance to Bible students. We called attention to some of the archaeological artifacts several times.

We have written about the Herodium here, here, here, here, and here (and perhaps a few other places) in this blog.

View of the Herodium toward the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

View of the Herodium toward the east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The Israel Museum recently opened a new exhibition called Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey. The exhibition includes a reconstruction of the tomb and sarcophagus of the King from the Herodium. I suggest you begin by reading the article about the exhibition in The New York Times here.

Shmuel Browns, a tour guide in Israel, and a fellow-blogger, is quoted in the article. Please take a look at the beautiful photos and descriptions of the new exhibition by Browns.

Carl Rasmussen calls attention to the articles by Browns, and includes a nice photo of the large model of what Prof. Netzer thought the monumental tomb of Herod might have looked like here.

I’m looking forward to seeing this exhibition in a few weeks.