Monthly Archives: May 2011

Apollonoia (Tel Arsuf) and the Plain of Sharon

Apollonia is not mentioned in the Bible, but the site is significant in understanding the land of the Bible. The coastal plain from Tel Aviv north to Haifa is known as the Plain of Sharon. The pasture lands of Sharon were allotted to the tribe of Gad (1 Chronicles 5:16). The plain seems to be mentioned in the account of the healing of Aeneas by Peter at Lydda (the area of modern Lod). Word spread quickly to the residents of Lydda and Sharon.

There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed.  And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.  And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:33-35 ESV)

The city at Tel Arsuf was established by the Phoenicians and dedicated to Reshef, the Canaanite god of fire. The Greeks equated Reshef with Apollo and called the city Apollonia (Alon, Israel National Parks & Nature Reserves, 286).

Apollonia was important to the Crusaders near the close of the 12th century and the decades to follow when the Crusaders “established part of their kingdom in the coastal area of the Holy Land, without Jerusalem” (Alon, 287). The fortress and walls from 1241 A.D. are now part of the National Park.

Our first photo shows the coastal plain of Sharon. Notice especially the kurkar ridge along the coast. Israel highway 2 may be seen a short distance inland. You will see Apollonia on the ridge overlooking the sea.

Aerial View of Apollonia and the Plain of Sharon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The second photo shows an aerial close up of the site of Tel Arsuf or Apollonia. This site is being damaged by the sea.

Aerial view of the Crusader fortress of Apollonia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Crusader fortress of Apollonia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ha’aretz English Language Edition Magazine reports on an exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, of the “Last Supper at Apollonia.”

Apollonia Final Supper of the Crusaders. Photo: Ha'aretz.

Apollonia Final Supper of the Crusaders exhibition. Photo: Ha'aretz, Leonid Pedrol.

The exhibition offers a first-time look at a collection of Crusader kitchen utensils. The Mameluke siege of the Crusader fortress began in late March 1265. Inhabitants of the area fled to the fortress.

During the few and far-between peaceful times in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the fortress, built a generation earlier and leased to the Order of the Hospitallers just four years before its fall, was home to about 50 knights and their servants. At the start of the siege, which would go on for many bloody weeks, nearly 2,000 people were crammed into the fortress

Ronit Vered, author of the article, describes the siege.

During the five-week siege, more than 2,700 heavy boulders brought in from the Samaria hills were catapulted at the fortress walls. Some 1,200 iron-tipped arrows were fired at the defenders, and arrows wrapped in cloth and dipped in a flammable material were launched at the drawbridge and the heavy door, which was made of wood and bronze plates. The archers of the Order of the Hospitallers returned fire and even launched clay grenades filled with fiery materials at their enemies, but they had no defense against the tunnels dug by the Mamluks to undermine the wall’s foundations. On Thursday, April 29, the Mamluk fighters seized control of parts of the Arsur wall and raised their flag over it.

The Crusaders lost almost 1,000 men in the battle. Prof. Israel Roll led an excavation of the site in 1999. A cache of Crusader kitchen utensils were found. These are now exhibited for the first time at the Eretz Israel Museum.

The complete fascinating article may be read here. Larger images are available for those who may find them useful. Just click on the image above.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The Mediterranean coast along the Plain of Sharon

Today I am sharing a photo of the Mediterranean Sea made from the kurkar ridge of the Plain of Sharon at Netanya, Israel.

The Mediterranean Sea from the kurkar ridge at Netanya, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Mediterranean Sea from the kurkar ridge at Netanya, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Biblical Israel was given the Great Sea as the western border of the promised land.

For the western border, you shall have the Great Sea and its coast. This shall be your western border. (Numbers 34:6 ESV)

In other texts the Mediterranean is simply called the western sea (Deuteronomy 11:24).

Memorial Day 2011

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. (Memorial Day History)

When I was a kid, growing up in the American South, the day we now call Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. Families went to the local cemeteries to clean up the grave sites of relatives and leave fresh flowers. If it was known that there were no family members left in the community, those graves also were cleaned. I don’t recall when I first began to hear, or think, that the day was intended to honor those fallen in war.

Like many holidays, the original purpose has changed. Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Christmas, Easter, and other holidays, have become times for picnics, trips, vacations, and assorted non-related practices. Every holiday has become a time for stores to have sales.

I like the idea of Memorial Day. I am pleased to join in the remembrance of troops fallen in battle, and all of the dead who have played a significant role in my life.

I have chosen a photograph that I made at the Gettysburg National Military Park of the monument erected to the men of Florida who fought in the American Civil War.

Gettysburg monument to Floridians who fought in the Civil War. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Gettysburg monument to Floridians who fought in the Civil War. Photo: F. Jenkins.

On July 2 and 3, 1863, the 700 Floridians of Perry’s Brigade suffered 445 casualties. The monument reads this way:

Like all Floridians who participated in the Civil War, they fought with courage and devotion for the ideals in which they believed by their n0ble example of bravery and endurance. They enable us to meet with confidence any sacrifice which confronts us as Americans.

The photo below is another I made on the battlefield. It has been converted to a pencil drawing using a program called Topaz Adjust.

The Gettysburg Battlefield. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Gettysburg Battlefield. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1 CSB)

The first portion of this post has been repeated from a year ago.

The sheep of His pasture

The photo we are sharing today is typical of the beautiful scenes in the Shephelah (lowland) of Israel in the spring (Obadiah 1:19). After the grain has been harvested the sheep are led by their shepherd into the fields to graze. The photo today shows the fields and hills between the Valley of Elah and Beit Guvrin to the east of Highway 38. This is near the entry to the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve and Horbat Midras.

Sheep grazing in the Shephelah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep grazing in the Shephelah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Numerous biblical references come to mind. Note what the Psalmist said about the role of man in relation to the animals.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  (Psalm 8:6-9 ESV)

Or, the reference to God’s people as the sheep of His pasture.

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13-1; cf. 100:3 ESV)

Or, perhaps the most familiar of all:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1 ESV)

A hi-res photo suitable for use in teaching is available by clicking on the image. You can make your own caption across the sky or the grain field.

Archaeologist Sarah Parcak discovers lost pyramids and other antiquities in Egypt

UAB News (University of Alabama at Birmingham) announces a significant discovery by one of their professors.

Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., an Egyptologist and assistant professor of archaeology at UAB, used infra-red satellite imaging to discover 17 lost pyramids as well as more than 1,000 tombs and 3,100 ancient settlements.

Dr. Sarah Parcak, UAB, discusses her recent discoveries in Egypt.

Dr. Sarah Parcak, UAB, discusses her recent discoveries in Egypt.

The discovery will be revealed in a BBC documentary next Monday. A different program will be aired on the Discovery Channel later this summer.

At Tanis … Parcak discovered an ancient network of streets and houses, which are completely invisible from the ground.

More information is available in the UAB News here.

Dr. Parcak is well known for her archaeological work and is a member of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Tourists pose beside ancient monuments at Tanis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourists pose beside ancient monuments at Tanis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here we see tourists posing beside the ancient monuments at Tanis. Imagine the complex of houses and streets that may be hidden under the tons of accumulated dirt.

Tanis, modern site of San el-Hagar,  is thought by some Egyptologists to correspond to the Zoan mentioned in several Old Testament references (Numbers 13:22; Psalm 78:12, 43). Kenneth Kitchen says the reference to Hebron being built seven years before Zoan

may indicate a refounding of Zoan in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000-1800 B.C.), or more probably by the Hyksos kings in the 16th century B.C., whose N capital Avaris Zoan may possible be.” (The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd Ed., 1271)

The Cardo Maximus in Jerusalem

Reconstructing the Jerusalem of the time of Jesus and the Apostles is not as easy as one might think. We have little bits of evidence here and there in basements. I am thinking of the evidence of the pre-70 A.D. ruins such as the Burnt House and the Herodian Mansion. We also have the Herodian Temple Precinct walls, the Temple Mount steps and the street in the Tyropoeon Valley. (This is not intended as a complete list. Just suggestive.)

Some Roman ruins in Jerusalem date to the period after the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 A.D. One impressive site in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City is the Cardo. The Cardo Maximus was the main north-south street running from one end of the city to the other. An east-west street was called the Decumanus Maximus.

The Emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem and named it Aelia Capitolina. The photo below shows a portion of the Cardo of that city. We see paving stones and columns that ran along the length of the street. A mural has been placed at one portion of the street to illustrate typical life in the city at that time.

The Roman Cardo in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Cardo in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are reminded of one of the many references Jesus made to the marketplace (Greek, agora).

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces (Mark 12:38 ESV)

Hadrian was Roman Emperor from 117-138 A.D. Streets, arches, and gates were erected in his honor all over the Roman Empire during his reign. The photo below shows the head of a marble statue in the British Museum showing Hadrian in Greek dress. The statue comes from the Temple of Apollo at Cyrene in northern Africa (modern Libya).

Hadrian in Greek Dress. Temple of Apollo, Cyrene. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hadrian in Greek Dress. Temple of Apollo, Cyrene. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A larger image of the Cardo scene suitable for use in teaching is available by clicking on the photo.

The Golden Age of Ebla — before the biblical Patriarchs

My only visit to Ebla was in 2002. This means I do not have hi-res photos, except for a few slides that I have had digitized, but I am delighted to have any photos. At the site I picked up a small booklet, Tell Mardikh — Ebla, written by Faja Haj Muhammad that gives a short presentation of the history and remains of the kingdom of ancient Ebla. I will share a couple of photos with some brief info from that book.

The first photo shows the reconstruction of the Palace of the Crown Prince (Palace Q or Western Palace). This palace, built of mud brick, is “located in the lower town, west of the Acropolis.” In the portion of the palace shown here you will see “a well preserved room, used for the grinding of cereals, in order to prepare bread for hundreds of persons.”

Ebla Western Palace Reconstruction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ebla Western Palace Reconstruction. Note the grinding stones. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Royal Archives. In 1975 the excavators discovered a square room west of the Administrative Wing, on the wall, filled with 17,000 clay tablets. The large square tablets had been on shelves. The small round one were found in baskets on the floor.

… the texts were placed according to their subject, and different subjects corresponded to different shapes of tablet.

… There are administrative, economical, historical, judicial, religious texts. The writing is cuneiform. The language is a local language, now called by scholars (Eblaite), which belongs to the same family as Akkadian of Mesopotamia.

Ebla Archives Room. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ebla Archives Room. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Western Palace and the Archive are dated to the first golden age of Ebla, 2400–2250 B.C. This is long before the time of Abraham who lived north of Ebla at Haran in Padan Aram for a time. Haran is about 150 miles north of Ebla.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  (Genesis 12:4 ESV)

Isaac took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram to be his wife (Genesis 25:20). Jacob spent more than two decades in the same area. Most of the children of Jacob (= Israel) were born in the region.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. (Genesis 35:9 ESV)

When did Abraham live? I don’t want to begin a fight, but I will note several dates suggested by scholars for Abraham.

  • Between 2000 and 1700 B.C. A large number of scholars such as Glueck, Albright, and Wright took this position.
  • 14th Century B.C. This was the view of Cyrus Gordon. (Too late for me.)
  • Born 2165 B.C. The view of John Davis in his excellent book, Paradise to Prison. Davis understands Galatians 3:17 to begin with the arrival of Abraham in Egypt.
  • Born 1950 B.C. This view says Galatians 3:17 is dated from the entrance to Canaan (Genesis 12:4). My inclinations are here.

Now you have something to work on. My only point here is to show that Ebla was a powerful, thriving, economic power long before Abraham. Ebla flourished again in Middle Bronze I-II (1850-1600 B.C.). It is possible that Isaac and Jacob knew of the city.

Ebla and the Ebla Tablets

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. They date 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.

Ebla - Tell Mardikh - Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. May, 2002.

Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May 2002.

Numerous articles have appeared in the popular press and in scholarly journals stating that the names of Sodom and Gomorrah appear in the Ebla tablets. At one point it was even being said that all five cities of the plain (Gen. 14), and perhaps the name of one of the kings, were mentioned in the tablets. Much controversy has surrounded this discussion. Infighting between the excavator (Paolo Matthiae), the epigrapher (Giovanni Pettinato), and other scholars, along with some political implications, clouded the whole issue.

The late Mitchell Dahood (died 1982), an expert in Ugaritic literature, claimed that the cities of Sodom and Zeboim “may have counterparts” in the Ebla tablets (Giovanni Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, 287). Pettinato was the first to read and interpret tablets from the Ebla archives and the first to identify the Northwest Semitic language in which they are written. Paolo Matthiae, the archaeologist, says the rumors that there is proof of the historical accuracy of the Bible patriarchs, references to Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. “are tales without foundation” (Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered, 11). One scholar states, “the initial enthusiasm about the light the tablets would shed on the early stages of biblical culture is now mostly seen as exaggerated. Clearly, no biblical personages can be identified in the tablets … ” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, [1985] 235). Dahood, in the Afterword of Pettinato’s book, commented on the pessimism of one university professor with this classic put down:

How a savant can determine how relevant to the Bible a new discovery may be before the tablets have been published must remain a mystery. (Pettinato, The Archives of Ebla, 273).

Dahood says that the people of Ebla spoke a dialect of Canaanite and that their principal god was Dagan the Canaanite or the Lord of Canaan. This indicates that Canaan extended much further north than previously thought (Pettinato, 272). Dahood cites several biblical passages in which he believes a parallel exists between the Hebrew and Eblaite words (271-321). Numerous names in Genesis find parallel in the Ebla tablets. I had the opportunity to hear Dahood speak on this subject at a professional meeting in Dallas years ago.

Ebla Tablet at Bible Land Museum Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins shortly after the BLMJ opened and photos were permitted.

An Ebla Tablet. BLMJ. Originally the museum allowed photos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At this point scholars are not agreed on the proper reading of some of the Eblaite words. Perhaps in time we will know more about this. For the present we must wait patiently. Numerous articles about Ebla have appeared in Biblical Archaeologist and Biblical Archaeology Review, as well as other journals.

Word comes regarding the death of Professor Giovanni Pettinato at the age of 77. Details here. HT: Bible Places Blog.

Fields white for harvest

Many biblical accounts contain information not easily understood without some knowledge of the history and culture of the time. Such is true in the account of Jesus traveling through Samaria in John 4. You probably recall that He met the woman of Samaria when she came to the well to draw water.

While His disciples were in the city buying food Jesus taught the Samaritan woman. She then went into the city and began to tell the men that she had met this man who knew her intimate life.

When the disciples returned to Jesus He said,

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (John 4:35 ESV)

This is one of those statements with a literal meaning as well as a spiritual one. What did he mean by four months? Four months separate the sowing and the harvesting. Barley harvest could begin around April 15. Wheat harvesting begins six weeks later in late May or early June. In May the fields would be white unto harvest. This helps to date the episode in John 4 to December or January, depending on whether the crop was barley or wheat.

When Jesus said the fields were white for harvest He was speaking of a spiritual harvest. The disciples did not know that He and the woman had already sowed the seed. They would reap the harvest. It is not inappropriate to see the harvesting in the two days Jesus stayed there teaching (John 4:39-43), or in the later events of Acts 8:39-43.

The photo below was made from En-Dor, looking north to Mount Tabor. The wheat fields are almost ready for harvesting.

Wheat ready for harvest at En-Dor near Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wheat ready for harvest at En-Dor near Mount Tabor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Under some light the fields even have a white appearance, as you see in the photo below.

Wheat ready for harvest near En-Dor and Mount Tabor. May 13. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wheat white for harvest. May 13. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These little tips, scattered here and there in Scripture, reveal much about the daily life and culture of Bible times.

The khamsin (hamsin) before and after

Yesterday we wrote about the effect of the east wind on Larry’s hike along the Jesus Trail. Here is a brief followup that should be helpful.

Dr. Carl G. Rasmussen, author of Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, also maintains the Holy Land Photos website. He has a series of photos showing the effect of the khamsin (which he spells without the silent k, as hamsin), and the same view with normal visibility. To see these fascinating photos, with additional descriptive info, click here.

Carl now has 3230 photos of 322 biblical sites available on his website. The photos are available for free download in various sizes. Perhaps the most helpful feature to teachers and preachers is that they are available PowerPoint ready. He also discusses “The Transitional Seasons”, with the same beautiful photos, in the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (rev. ed.) pages 30-31.

Click Zondervan Atlas of the Bible to order this book for $25.20 (free shipping). This is a savings of 37%.