Monthly Archives: April 2009

Shebna – Presumptuous Steward

The May/June issue of Biblical Archaeology Review carries an article by Robert Deutsch about how an artifact bought on the antiquities market helped to solve a 42-year-old excavation puzzle.

Back in 1870 Charles Clermont-Ganneau excavated a tomb on a cliff overlooking the Kidron Valley in Silwan, but he was unable to read the inscription over the tomb. He cut the inscription from the rock and sent it to the British Museum.

In 1953 Nahman Avigad translated the inscription:

This is [the sepulcher of...] -yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and gold here but [his bones] and the bones of his slave-wife with him. Cursed be the man who will open this.

Numerous scholars have identified this Shebna with the person by the same name who was the secretary and head steward of King Hezekiah. This was the view taken by Avigad in 1953.

Inscription from the tomb of Shebna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in the British Museum.

Inscription from the tomb of Shebna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in the British Museum.

The LORD spoke out against the arrogance of Shebna through the prophet Isaiah.

Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? (Isaiah 22:15-16 ESV)

Avigad says that Shebna’s sepulcher “stands in the midst of the necropolis where persons of rank and high distinction were laid to rest” (Israel Exploration Journal 3 (1953): 152)

Deutsch picks up on this discovery and continues with the saga of a bulla [impression of a seal] found at Lachish in the 1960s. One of the small pieces of clay had the name of Shebnayahu on it. The bulla was broken and the archaeologists were uncertain whether one of the words read son of the king or servant of the king.

Deutsch says,

The puzzle remained unsolved for 42 years. Aharoni has long since passed away. Then in 2007, another bulla stamped with the same seal surfaced on the Jerusalem antiquities market. A simple examination leaves no doubt that it is an impression of the same seal as the Lachish bulla. It, too, is broken off at the right edge. But on this bulla, part of an additional letter to the right of ha-melekh, “the king,” has survived: a dalet! The word before ha-melekh ended in a dalet. The word was eved, “servant.” The seal that made this impression belonged to “the servant of the king”!

You may read Deutsch’s full article with photos and drawings online here.

Churning produces butter

One of the new things I noticed in a visit to Petra last year was the Bedouin actors demonstrating various aspects of daily life. Many of these customs are similar to those we read about in the Bible. This photo shows a man using an animal skin as a churn.

Using an animal skin for producing butter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Using an animal skin for producing butter. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The writer of Proverbs speaks of churning in giving advice about those who stir up strife.

If you have been foolish in exalting yourself Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:32-33 NAS)

When the three men came to the Patriarch Abraham to announce the birth of Isaac, Abraham showed hospitality to them. He provided water so they could wash their feet. He told Sarah to prepare bread. He took a young calf from the herd and had the servants prepare it. Then the text says,

He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. (Genesis 18:8 NAS)

Read Genesis 18 for the complete account.

The carpenter in New Testament times

Jesus is called a carpenter in Mark 6:3. In Matthew’s account He is called the carpenter’s son. The study note in the NET Bible suggests that this was probably a derogatory term. Those who used the term thought of Him as “a common laborer like themselves.”

Lane says the term carpenter (Greek tekton) “commonly designates a worker in any hard material: wood, metal or stone, and so comes to mean a builder.”

Louw-Nida says,

There is every reason to believe that in biblical times one who was regarded as a tekton would be skilled in the use of wood and stone and possibly even metal.

A carpenter’s shop is exhibited at Nazareth Village. It is correct in showing tools for stone cutting as well as wood working.

Carpenter shop at The Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carpenter shop at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A place called Fair Havens

Last year I wrote here about a visit to Fair Havens on the island of Crete. I have been thinking about the rugged beauty of that place and decided to share a different photo with you. This one emphasizes the mountains surrounding the harbor of Fair Havens. The white Greek Orthodox chapel adds to the beauty of the area today.

Mountains surrounding Fair Havens in Crete. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mountains surrounding Fair Havens in Crete. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Crete is associated with Paul’s voyage to Rome. The biblical account is found in Acts 27:7-15. Note verses 7 and 8.

When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

The ship sailed under the shelter of Crete and came to Kali Limenes (Fair Havens) near the city of Lasea. Because Fair Havens was not a suitable harbor for wintering, the pilot and captain of the ship decided to sail on in hopes of reaching “Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest,” and spend the winter there. Because of a severe wind, called Euraquilo, which came down from the land, they were driven by the wind and eventually wrecked on the island of Malta.

The Nile canals

The prophet Ezekiel  foretold the fall of Egypt at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Ezekiel 30:10). Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Neco at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.

The prophet said,

“Moreover, I will make the Nile canals dry And sell the land into the hands of evil men. And I will make the land desolate And all that is in it, By the hand of strangers; I the LORD have spoken.” (Ezekiel 30:12 NAS)

Over a period of time the branches of the Nile in Lower Egypt (the Nile Delta) dried up. The course of the Pelusiac branch is known, but much of it is replaced by a canal running northeast from the area of Cairo to the Suez Canal.

This photo shows a man fishing with a net in the Pelusiac branch which runs through the biblical land of Goshen (Genesis 45:10).

Fishing in the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fishing in the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A land of fig trees

The land promised to the descendants of Abraham is described in Deuteronomy 8:8 as,

a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey.

Figs at the Temple Mount excavation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Figs at the Temple Mount excavation. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Figs were important because they could be eaten when ripe, or prepared as fig cakes and eaten later. In the account of David avenging the destruction of Ziklag, an Egyptian was found in the field and brought to David. He was given bread and water. The text says,

They gave him a piece of fig cake and two clusters of raisins, and he ate; then his spirit revived. For he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. (1 Samuel 30:12 NAS)

I am not sure how the fig cakes were prepared and preserved. Today it is common to see dried figs in Israel. The photo shows dried figs purchased in the Palestinian Authority territory at Jericho.

Dried figs from Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dried figs from Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

They were fishermen

The first disciples called by Jesus were fishermen. In the previous post we indicated the significance of fishing on the Sea of Galilee. The best time to see fishermen on the Sea is early in the morning. The photo below was made early one morning where the Jordan River exits from the Sea of Galilee. These fishermen have been fishing with nets and have brought in a nice catch.

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee bringing in the catch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee bringing in the catch. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This reminds us of the call Jesus gave to the disciples one day in ancient Galilee.

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:18-20 NAS)