Category Archives: Old Testament

Index to Olives and Olive Trees

The olive tree was one of the most important plants in Bible times, and it still is today throughout portions of Europe and the Middle East.

The wood of the olive tree was used in some of the furnishings of the temple (1 Kings 6:23-33).

Stump of an olive tree at Beit Jimal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stump of an olive tree at Beit Jamal (? En-Gannim). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wood from dead or destroyed olive trees is often turned into carvings and souvenirs such as this carving of the faithful spies (Caleb and Joshua; Numbers 14:30) that I secured in Bethlehem many years ago.

Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there. (Numbers 13:23-24 NAU)

Olive wood carving of the faithful spies. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olive wood carving of the faithful spies. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Index to Articles About the Olive Tree and Olives

Related minor posts about olives.

When I add other posts pertaining to olives I will try to remember to add them to this index.

Uruk (Erech) in the Pergamum Museum

The Pergamon Museum’s Ancient Near Eastern Department (Vorderasiatisches Museum) has a collection of artifacts from Uruk, now know as modern Warka in Iraq. German excavators began work at Uruk in November 1912. An English sign with the display of artifacts explains the significance of the city.

In the Old Testament, Uruk is mentioned under the name Erech, along with Babylon and other important ancient cities. But written references to Uruk extend much further into the past. The city plays a role in the Gilgamesh epic which can be traced back to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. The legendary Sumerian king Gilgamesh whose exploits are the subject of the poem is credited with building the wall that surrounded the city. A number of objects uncovered at Uruk before 1939 came to Berlin and the museum with the division of finds following on the excavations. Together with artifacts from Babylon and Assur, they document the material legacy of ancient oriental cultures.

Uruk was the major center for the worship of the goddess Inana/Ishtar. The first photo shows a portion from the façade of the Inanna Temple built by the Kassite ruler Kara-indash at Uruk about 1413 B.C. The museum explains,

Standing male and female deities alternate in the niches. Life-giving water pours forth onto the earth from the vessels in their hands. The hump-like symbols on the projecting elements of the niched façade and on the garments of the male divinities refer to the mountainous region where the Kassites originated. An inscription on the bricks names the Kassite ruler Kara-indash as the person who commissioned the structure.

Portion of the façade of the Inanna/Ishtar Temple at Warka (Uruk/Erech). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Portion of the façade of the Inanna/Ishtar Temple at Warka (Uruk/Erech). Display in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a reproduction of a limestone cult vessel from Uruk.

Stone cult vessel from Uruk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stone cult vessel from Uruk. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Museum explains the design on the vessel.

The limestone vase from the Eanna Temple precinct at Uruk is one of the most impressive works of pictorial art produced in the Uruk Period. The arrangement of the motifs reflects the Sumerian world view, with life-giving water flowing forth in the lowest zone to sustain the plant and animal world above. The representations continue with a procession of nude men bearing votive offerings for the goddess Inanna which culminates in the upper register.

The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology points out,

There are no direct references to Sumer in the Bible, although it corresponds to the “land of Shinar” mentioned eight times in the OT.

Amraphel is designated as the king of Shinar (Genesus 14:1). Notice a couple of other references.

The beginning of his [Nimrod] kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (Genesis 10:10 ESV)

And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (Genesis 11:2 ESV)

This map of southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) shows the location of Erech (Uruk) north of traditional Ur.

This map shows the location of Erech (Warka). Map: biblos.com.

This map shows the location of Erech (Warka in southern Iraq). Map: biblos.com.

Book on the origin of Israel available

Daniel I. Block’s book, Israel: Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention?, is available in Kindle format today for $2.99. The retail price of the hardback is $28.

The publisher (B&H) of the 2008 book describes it as

a collection of essays responding to the radical claims that Israel and its history actually began following the Babylonian exile, and that the history of Israel we read about in the Bible is a fictionalized account.

Contributors are leading Bible and archaeology scholars who bring extra-biblical evidence to bear for the historicity of the Old Testament and provide case studies of new work being done in the field of archaeology.

The book includes the following essays dealing with some of the current discussions in Biblical studies.

  • Israel – Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention? – Daniel I. Block
  • The Value and Limitations of the Bible and Archaeology – Alan R. Millard
  • Contextual Criticism as a Framework for Biblical Interpretation – John M. Monson
  • North-West Semitic Inscriptions and Biblical Interpretation – Joel Drinkard
  • From Joseph to David: Mari and Israelite Pastoral Traditions – Daniel E. Fleming
  • Major Geographical Issues in the Accounts of the Exodus – James K. Hoffmeier
  • Slavery and Slave Laws in Ancient Hatti and Israel – Harry A. Hoffner Jr.
  • Were the Israelites Really Canaanites? – Alan R. Millard
  • Syria and the Bible: The Luwian Connection – Richard S. Hess
  • David and Solomon’s Jemsalem: Do the Bible and Archaeology Disagree? – Alan R. Millard
  • Who Were Israel’s Transjordanian Neighbors and How Did They Differ? – Gerald L. Mattingly
  • Shalmaneser III and Israel – K. Lawson Younger Jr.
  • Did the Israelites Really Learn Their Monotheism in Babylon? - Simon J. Shenvin
  • Did Persian Zoroastrianism Influence Judaism? – Edwin M. Yamauchi
  • Interpreting the Bible as an Ancient Near Eastern Document – John H. Walton

Babylon’s Procession Street and Ishtar Gate

German archaeologists, under the direction of Robert Koldeway, excavated at ancient Babylon in Iraq, between 1899 and 1917. The Procession Street ran from the Ishtar Gate to the bridge over the Euphrates River. A 250 meter [820 feet] section of the street was excavated by the German expedition. Only a short section is reconstructed in the Museum in Berlin. The section here is 30 meters [98 feet] long and 8 meters [26 feet] wide. Original fragments were used in the reconstruction. The street was originally 20 to 24 meters [54-79 feet] wide. (See Fant & Reddish, Lost Treasures of the Bible, 199-205.)

The Procession Street from Babylon. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Procession Street from Babylon. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Ishtar Gate was constructed during the reign of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.). All of these lions, bulls, and dragons were excavated from the mound of ancient Babylon, and eventually taken to Berlin in 1926. Even under the Communist government of East Germany this gate was preserved. I saw it several times before the Berlin Wall came down.

The Babylon Ishtar Gate. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Babylon Ishtar Gate. Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Procession Street and Ishtar Gate are reconstructed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, but technically, this wing of the museum is called the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East).

Babylon was once the greatest city of the world when the Neo-Babylonian Empire reigned supreme in the Ancient Near East (626-539 B.C.). The prophet Daniel was active in Babylon from 605 B.C. until after the fall of the city to the Persians (The prophecy of Daniel).  I can not imagine that he failed to see this gate.

Nebuchadnezzar was a megalomaniac. His pride is evident in the statement recorded by the prophet Daniel.

The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4:30 NET Bible)

Byzantine compound discovered during construction

Many significant archaeological discoveries are made during construction. This can be private construction, road work, improvement of water or gas lines, or large construction projects.

The most recent announcement comes from the area of Beth Shemesh (Bet Shemesh, Beit Shemesh). The Israel Antiquities Authority released the following information Thursday.

An archaeological survey conducted on foot along the hills south of Bet Shemesh brought to light remarkable finds. During the survey blocked cisterns, a cave opening and the tops of several walls were visible on the surface. These clues to the world hidden underground resulted in an extensive archaeological excavation there that exposed prosperous life dating to the Byzantine period which was previously unknown.

The compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions: an industrial area and an activity and residential area. An unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area. A large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat. The finds revealed in the excavation indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood. The impressive size of the agricultural installations shows that these facilities were used for production on an industrial-scale rather than just for domestic use. In the residential portion of the compound several rooms were exposed, some of which had a mosaic pavement preserved in them. Part of a colorful mosaic was exposed in one room where there was apparently a staircase that led to a second floor that was not preserved. In the adjacent room another multi-colored mosaic was preserved that was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame. Two entire ovens used for baking were also exposed in the compound.

The directors of the excavation believe the site is a monastery from the Byzantine period. The photo below provides an aerial view of the complex.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Byzantine compound near Ramat Bet Shemesh. Photo: Griffin Aerial Photography, IAA.

Based on the driving instructions provided by the IAA, I can show you the general area. My photo was made from the top of Tel Azekah. The road below the tel runs across the Valley of Elah. In the distant left you will see a white area on the hill with high-rise apartments under construction. The discovery was made near this large construction area. Left of the construction, Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth, Joshua 10:3, 5, 23; 12:11; 15:35) rises above the trees. Khirbet Qeiyafa is on the hill in the right of the photo.

View from Azekah toward Bet Shemesh and Tell Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View from Azekah toward Ramat Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmuth (Jarmuth). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, made May 4, 2013.

The next photo is a zoom shot of the construction area in May, 2013, from Tel Azekah. Tel Yarmuth is just off the left of the photo, as well as the town of Ramat Bet Shemesh.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The construction area from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation has been concerned about this new community and its possible encroachment upon the site. Luke Chandler reported on the threat here.

 

Group claims world’s oldest pyramid “ruined” by restorers

According to a report in the International Business Times, activists in Egypt are angry with the Minister of Antiquities for re-hiring a company to restore the Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. The group says the firm “caused damage and major deterioration to the structure while trying to repair it.” The report may be read here.

Saqqara is significant because it is the location of the oldest freestanding stone building in the world. The architect of this structure was the vizier and physician Imhotep. Zoser reigned about 2600 B.C.

Hachette World Guide on Cairo, Alexandria and Environs, describes the pyramid in these terms:

The Step Pyramid is formed of six unequal sections and is not, in the strict sense, a pyramid tat all. The plan is not square, but oblong in the S-W sense, and the summit is formed by a terrace (also oblong) and not by a Pyramidion. The dimensions of the base are approximately 397 feet by 357 feet. The present height of the Pyramid is 193 feet. It would originally have been some 196 feet. The verticle slope of the steps is on an average of some 16°, the horizontal [slope is] 22°.

On my last visit to Egypt in January, 2011, I noticed scaffolding on all sides of the step pyramid.

The Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This pyramid, as well as the great pyramids of Giza, was built long before the time of the  biblical characters who visited Egypt — Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, et al.

HT: Jack Sasson

The Route of the Exodus and the Location of Mount Sinai

Over the past 48 years I have had the opportunity to visit almost all parts of the Bible World. I certainly have not solved all of the problems that are raised about locations of certain events, but I have tried to look at the major claims whether it is the location of Cana, the site for the baptism of Jesus, the place of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the location of Ararat, or the route of the exodus and the location of Mount Sinai, et al.

In this post I have pulled together a list of some things I have written about the route of the Exodus and the location of Mount Sinai. I hope you will find the posts helpful when you study this subject.

  • Pharaoh’s chariot wheels and other things that won’t float – Examining the claims of the late Ron Wyatt here.
  • Location of the Red Sea crossing and Mount Sinai here.
  • Location of Mount Sinai here.
  • Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber here.
  • Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai here. Sharm el-Sheikh is at the Straits of Tiran.
  • “Cracked Pot Archaeology” here.
  • Pseudo Archaeologists here.
  • Goshen and the Great Bitter Lake here.
  • Another day in Goshen here.

Below are a couple of photos that show the changing scenery that one sees in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Read some scholarly presentations on the subject. Such as these recent Bible atlases.

  • Beitzel, Barry J. The New Moody Atlas of the Bible, 106-114.
  • Currid, John D. and David P. Barrett. Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, 77-91.
  • Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, 100-105.
Wadi Feiran in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi Feiran in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Or books such as…

  • Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, chs. 8-9.

The Associates for Biblical Research includes several articles about the Exodus at their website here.

  • Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia? here.
  • Mount Sinai is Not Jebel Al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia here.

I am hopeful you will browse through this material and remember to examine it more closely the next time you study Exodus.