Category Archives: Bible Study

Book on the resurrection available free today

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective. As a former atheist he rejected the claims of the resurrection, but after examination of the evidence he came to believe.

This book is available free in Kindle format today. Click on the book image for the link to the book.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Visualizing Isaiah 33: Lebanon, Sharon, Bashan and Golan

The fruitful land, the Lebanon range, the plain of Sharon, and the regions of Bashan and Carmel are used by Isaiah to describe what happens in Israel due to the Assyrian invasion.

Behold, their heroes cry in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways lie waste; the traveler ceases. Covenants are broken; cities are despised; there is no regard for man. The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves. (Isaiah 33:7-9 ESV; see similar language in 2:13)

Oaks in Bashan (Golan Heights). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Oaks in Bashan (Golan Heights). There is a nice stand of oaks east of Highway 98, south of Mas’ada near the border with Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Homer Hailey comments on this text,

The language is figurative, suggesting that the land reflects the spirit of the people whom the invaders are overrunning and devastating. Four ordinarily flourishing sections of the country are described: Lebanon, the mountain range to the north, noted for its majestic beauty and mighty cedar and fir trees, is confounded and withereth away; Sharon, the verdant and flower-rich plain extending south from Carmel until it melts into the Shephelah of western Judea, is like a desert; and Bashan, extending northwest from the Sea of Galilee, noted for its oak groves and rich grazing land, and Carmel, the verdant mountains or hill that juts into the Mediterranean Sea, shake off their leaves, so that the trees are bare. The picture is one of dejection, of both people and land (A Commentary on Isaiah With Emphasis on the Messianic Hope, 280).

When the redeemed return to Zion these once glorious and verdant regions shall once again be majestic.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2 ESV)

Mount Carmel near Murakah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mount Carmel near Murakah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For our most recent comments on the Cedars of Lebanon, see here.

Good reading for the weekend

Noah

There has been much discussion in the past few weeks about the Noah movie. In last Saturday’s roundup, Todd Bolen called attention to the blog of Dr. Brian Mattson. In a post entitled “Sympathy for the Devil” Mattson comments about the movie. He reminds us of the following important point: The Bible is not the text for this movie. Several writers, and speakers, have pointed out that about the only things in common between the Noah movie and the Noah/Flood story of the Bible are a man named Noah, an ark, and water.

Mattson claims and documents the philosophical background of the director of the movie in Gnosticism and Kabbalah. I am certain that many people will see the movie and have no awareness of that, just as many ready Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, and John’s epistles without understanding how they are responding to early Gnostic doctrines.

Here is the link to Mattson’s articles:

The Wife of Jesus, again.

It is almost Easter, so we can expect a rerun on various strange views about Jesus. I first called attention to this speculation about the wife of Jesus back in September, 2012, here. Todd Bolen recently commented on the same material that is now getting new attention. Here, he provides links to the article in the New York Times, and the Harvard Theological Review article by Dr. Karen King (available for download). The Times of Israel article is available here.

Papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus has a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

The GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus had a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

Bolen summarizes the pertinent material, showing that the document tells us nothing about 1st century events:

An initial radiocarbon analysis dated the fragment to 404–209 BC; a second analysis gave a mean date of AD 741. King concludes with a date in the 7th or 8th centuries AD. As far as being a reliable witness to 1st century events, it is not. The author notes that the fragment should be studied in light of the Muslim view that prophets were usually married.

In King’s reading, “The main point of the GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) fragment is simply to affirm that women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.”

Larry Hurtado has written three posts about the papyrus document. Begin here and then scroll back for the other two.

Wild Boar at Caesarea Philippi

Carl Rasmussen’s recent Israel student group encountered a herd of about 15 wild boar at Caesarea Philippi. He provides some nice photos to back up his claim, and discusses the various Biblical references about swine. Access the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog here.

Using Google Books

Rob Bradshaw is making many books and journals available in PDF format. I check his BiblicalStudies.org.uk site regularly for materials that might be helpful in my study. Recently he called attention to a short video by Tim Bulkeley on how to access Bible commentaries without a library. The helpful, brief video is here.

 

 

 

 

Wealthy Canaanite coffin discovered in Jezreel Valley

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of a “3,300 year old coffin” at Tel Shadud on the north side of the Jezreel Valley.

Part of a burial site dating to the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century BCE) was exposed in an excavation at the foot of Tel Shadud. According to the excavation directors, Dr. Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner and Dr. Ron Be’eri of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “During the excavation we discovered a unique and rare find: a cylindrical clay coffin with an anthropoidal lid (a cover fashioned in the image of a person) surrounded by a variety of pottery consisting mainly of storage vessels for food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones. As was the custom, it seems these were used as offerings for the gods, and were also meant to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife.” The skeleton of an adult was found inside the clay coffin and next to it were buried pottery, a bronze dagger, bronze bowl and hammered pieces of bronze. “Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally”, the researchers say, “We assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government”. Another possibility is that the coffin belonged to a wealthy individual who imitated Egyptian funerary customs. The researchers add that so far only several anthropoidal coffins have been uncovered in the country. The last ones discovered were found at Deir el-Balah some fifty years ago. According to the archaeologists, “An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin. It is obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite”.

Coffin lid from Tel Shadud. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Anthropoid coffin lid from Tel Shadud. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The graves of two men and two women who may have been members of his family were also located near the coffin. The discovery of the coffin at Tel Shadud is evidence of Egyptian control of the Jezreel Valley in the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century BCE). During the period when the pharaohs governed the country, Egyptian culture greatly influenced the local Canaanite upper class. Signs of Egyptian influence are occasionally discovered in different regions and this time they were revealed at Tel Shadud and in the special tomb of the wealthy Canaanite. A rare artifact that was found next to the skeleton is an Egyptian scarab seal, encased in gold and affixed to a ring. The scarab was used to seal documents and objects. The name of the crown of Pharaoh Seti I, who ruled ancient Egypt in the thirteenth century BCE, appears on the seal. Seti I was the father of Ramses II, identified by some scholars as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.§ Already in the first year of his reign (1294 BCE) a revolt broke out against Seti I in the Bet Shean Valley. Seti conquered that region and established Egyptian rule in Canaan. Seti’s name on the seal symbolizes power and protection, or the strength of the god Ra – the Sun God – one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. The winged Uraeus (cobra), protector of the pharaoh’s name or of the sovereign himself, is clearly visible on the seal. The reference to the pharaoh Seti on the scarab found in the coffin aided the archaeologists in dating the time of the burial to the thirteenth century BCE – similar to the burials that were exposed at Deir el-Balah and Bet She‘an, which were Egyptian administrative centers.

§ Other scholars date the exodus from Egypt about two centuries earlier than Ramses II.

Gold Scarab of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Gold Scarab of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Tel Shadud, often called Tel Sarid, is identified with the Biblical site of Sarid included within the territory of Zebulun.

The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans. And the territory of their inheritance reached as far as Sarid. Then their boundary goes up westward and on to Mareal and touches Dabbesheth, then the brook that is east of Jokneam. From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia. (Joshua 19:10-12 ESV)

The offspring of Abraham were given the land of the Canaanite.

You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. (Nehemiah 9:8 ESV)

The IAA news release, with more photos, is currently available here. See the report in Arutz Sheva, the Israel National News, here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, traveling in Israel.

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 32: like the shade of a great rock in a weary land

Isaiah again looks beyond the exile and the return to the time of the Messiah. In the kingdom of righteousness every person who wishes will be able to find a hiding place or shelter. This speaks of the spiritual blessings available.

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:1-2 ESV)

We have shown several instances of streams in the desert (begin here). Our photo below shows a “great rock” in the weary land of the wilderness (or desert) of Paran. These gigantic sandstone pillars are located in the Timna Valley about 15 miles north of Eilat. Ruins of an Egyptian temple and evidence of copper mining have been found in the area. I can tell you from personal experience that one feels very small standing among these vast pillars.

Solomon's Pillars at Timna in the desert of Paran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon’s Pillars at Timna in the desert of Paran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The rest and protection provided between these pillars reminds us of the wonderful Christian hymn “Rock of Ages.”

Visualizing Isaiah 31: Egypt relies on horses and chariots

A woe is announced on those who go to Egypt for help in the form of horses and chariots.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1 ESV)

The prophet explains that this would be a mistake for Israel.

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31:3 ESV)

The temple walls throughout Egypt are replete with reliefs of the Pharaohs riding in their chariots pulled by powerful horses. Their enemies are portrayed as tiny and trodden down. The photo below is on one of the large interior walls of the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. Various conquered enemies are portrayed on the walls of the temple.

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon had made this mistake earlier, but Israel failed to learn from it (1 Kings 10:26). Moses prohibited the kings of Israel from returning to Egypt to acquire horses.

“Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’(Deuteronomy 17:16 NAU)

 

Visualizing Isaiah 30: not a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to dip water out of the cistern

There were those in Israel who wanted to rely on Assyria and others who wanted to rely on Egypt. The prophet Isaiah urged that the LORD’S people wait on Him.

Trust in Egypt would be like dependence on a wall that was ready to collapse. The destruction would be as complete as “that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.” (Isaiah 30:12-14 ESV)

The Believer’s Bible Commentary has this comment on our text:

Let it be recorded for posterity that the treaty with Egypt (and all such misplaced trust) is a blatant rejection of the law of the Lord through His prophets. Judah will see that Egypt is a poor wall of defense. In fact the high wall will bulge and crash. It will be smashed as completely as an earthenware vessel, with no fragments big enough to use in minor chores.

During archaeological excavations thousands of broken pottery shards are recovered. The destruction (judgment) of the LORD would be so complete that there would not even be a piece large enough to use to move coals of fire from a hearth, or large enough to dip water from a cistern.

In the photo below, made at Ramat Rachel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, we see part of a pile of pottery shards recovered during the excavation of the site.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If enough large pieces of a pot or jar are found they may be restored. This can be seen in the photo below that was taken at the En-Dor archaeological museum.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jeremiah used a similar illustration during the Babylonian period (19:10-11).

Visualizing Isaiah 29: a book that is sealed

Sealed documents were common in Bible times. Isaiah had already used this figure in chapter 8:16. Here the same illustration is used to show that because of Israel’s blindness of heart, no one was able (or willing) to accept and understand the will of God (see 6:9-10).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”(Isaish 29:11-12 ESV)

The photo below was taken in the archaeological museum in Gaziantep, Turkey. It shows a rolled up document with three strings held by clay seals. It appears that the document is modern with three ancient seals, but it illustrates what Isaiah is writing about.

The illiterate man says, “I cannot read.” The man who is literate says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” The illiterate man does not try to find someone who can read, and the literate man does not find someone with authority to break the seal. Blindness, darkness, and spiritual insensitivity prevent either man from finding out what is in the document. No wonder Jesus cited Isaiah’s statement to explain why he used parables (Matthew 13:13-15).

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Walton, Matthews & Chavalas) has this explanatory note about sealed documents in Bible times.

Official documents were written on scrolls of papyrus or vellum and then, when stored or dispatched by messenger, were rolled up and sealed with string and an affixed seal (see 1 Kings 21:8; Jer 32:10–11). The seal, either a ring or signet, was impressed into either wax or a lump of clay known as a bulla (Job 38:14). Archaeologists have found many of these clay bullae with the names of Israelite officials.

I am aware of one ancient document with as many as seven seals. It is the Wadi ed-Daliyeh Aramaic papyrus document dating to the 4th century B.C. The seals are currently displayed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. This document provides an illustration for Revelation 5 and 6.

Visualizing Isaiah 28: the threshing sledge

Toward the end of Isaiah 28 several agricultural illustrations are used. Notice the references to the threshing sledge in verses 27 and 28.

Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. (Isaiah 28:27-28 ESV)

A threshing sledge was made of wood with sharp stones placed in the bottom. The sledge was pulled around and around over stalks of wheat or barley to cut the stalks into small pieces. The sledge was pulled by oxen or another animal. A young man, with perhaps some weights would be placed on top of the sledge to make it more efficient. The photo below shows an antique threshing sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey.

Threshing sledge with most of cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Threshing sledge with most of cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows another sledge with many of the stones still in place. Every time the sledge went over the grain the pieces became smaller.

A threshing sledge with most of the cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A threshing sledge with many of the cutting stones in place. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The entire process of threshing, winnowing, and sifting, is shown in the art by Balage at Archaeology Illustrated.

Araunah's threshing floor. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

Araunah’s threshing floor. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

 

Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament

Those who preach and teach might enjoy, and profit by, Preaching and Teaching From the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The 2003 book is $3.99 today in Kindle format. It is normally $22.00. Click on the book for more information.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.(Romans 15:4 ESV)

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.(1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)