Category Archives: Turkey

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 27: women make a fire of dry boughs

The judgment upon Israel will become severe before the redemption comes. Here is one illustration of the bad conditions.

For the fortified city is solitary, a habitation deserted and forsaken, like the wilderness; there the calf grazes; there it lies down and strips its branches. When its boughs are dry, they are broken; women come and make a fire of them. For this is a people without discernment; therefore he who made them will not have compassion on them; he who formed them will show them no favor. (Isaiah 27:10-11 ESV)

Our photos were made at Haran, the home of Abraham and his family before they departed for the promised land (Genesis 11:31 – 12:5). Haran is a few miles north of the Syrian border in Southeastern Turkey. The beehive mud houses have been in use here for several hundred years. The first photo shows a woman bringing in dry branches to her house to use for building fires.

Woman carrying dry boughs at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Woman carrying dry boughs at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And the photo here shows a large supply of dried boughs and a large stack of dung cakes which will be used to make fires for cooking and heating.

Dry boughs gathered for fire at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dry boughs gathered for fire at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.


Reading the Blogs # 3

Michael J. Kruger (canon fodder) has written a review of each episode of the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed. He says the series has reminded him of two critical truths:

1. Our popular culture is prone to distort and misrepresent the teachings of the Bible. I was struck again by how sensationalistic and misleading popular-level programming can actually be when it comes to the Bible.  Although this series had some good moments, as a whole I was disappointed to see the History Channel offer the standard Da Vinci Code-style approach to the Bible.

2. The church must be equipped to respond to these sorts of critiques.  Given the high-profile nature of the History Channel (and similar style programming), the average person we are trying to reach is going to be exposed to this type of material.  And we need to be ready to offer some answers if we expect non-Christians to give the biblical message a hearing.

The six reviews cover a wide variety of topics of interest to many people.

  1. Lost in Transmission
  2. The Promised Land
  3. The Forbidden Scriptures
  4. The Real Jesus
  5. Mysterious Prophecies
  6. Sex and the Scriptures

Begin here on canon fodder for links to each of the reviews.

Kruger is President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological
Seminary, Charlotte. You will find much useful material on this blog.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Çatalhöyük. Polish archaeologists have discovered containers of barley, said to be 8,200 years old from the Neolithic period, at Çatalhöyük in Turkey.

The largest so far known in the Middle East amount of grain of the Neolithic period in a perfect state of preservation has been discovered by Polish archaeologists in Çatalhöyük, a famous archaeological site in Turkey. Çatalhöyük is one of the largest urban centers of first farmers and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

Read the report, with photo, here.

Preserving Tal Al Umayri in Jordan. Many archaeological sites are in danger of destruction. Tal Al Umayri, south of Amman, Jordan, is going to become an archaeological park. The site is on private property. Now the owners have agreed to give the land for the project. Details here.

New Museum in Petra, Jordan. The report here says,

According  to the Petra National Trust, it was visited by around 450,000 people in  2013, though this was a significant drop from 2010’s record number of 975,000 visitors. Officials hope the new museum will encourage tourists to spend more time in the ancient city. It will present the history of Petra and the Nabataeans, as well as house antiquities, but it is unclear what this means for the site’s two existing museums: the Petra Nabataean Museum, opened in 1994, and the Petra Archaeological Museum, opened in 1963.

HT: Steven Braman

The Roman Theater at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman Theater at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Old Testament Bibliography by Ray Clendenen. Here is the info from Charles Savelle at Bible X.

You can access Ray Clendenen’s recently revised 385-page Old Testament bibliography here. Note: you have to have an account with to access it but if you don’t already have an account,signing up is free.

A Dictionary of the Bible. This five-volume set is now on Community Pricing at Logos. A bid of $15.00 will secure a set in Logos digital format. Information is here.

A Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings.

A Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings. The work will be in digital format for use with Logos Bible Software.

It is true that this is an old work first published between 1893 and 1905, but it contains some excellent material. The five volumes contain 4,718 page. The projected price of $15 is less than you might pay for a paperback with one good idea in it.

I have owned the hardback set for many years and am anxious to include these volumes in my Logos 5. Logos needs some more orders to produce this set of books. Let’s pull together. Once the work is published in digital format the price will be $99.95.

Visualizing Isaiah 11: the River

Immediately upon looking at Isaiah 11 I think of the reference to the Messiah –  “a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” Look back to chapter 4 for an illustration for that.

I could show you individual photos of many of the animals mentioned in verses 6-7, but I do not have the wild and vicious with the tame and gentle. It doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom, but it is true in the kingdom of the Messiah. See, for example, Colossians 3:11 where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythians, salve, free. In Christ these distinctions are broken down.

Here I have chosen to concentrate on the promise of the return of a remnant from captivity, an event that took place initially in 536 B.C.

And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:15-16 ESV)

The Euphrates is the largest, longest and most important river of Western Asia. It is nearly 1800 miles long and was the northeastern boundary of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). The empires of Assyria and Babylon, the greatest enemies of Israel, were east of the Euphrates. The Old Testament prophets often put the Euphrates by metonymy for these countries to designate the place from which the punishment of God would come (Isaiah 7:20; 8:7; Jeremiah 46:10

The Euphrates was so significant in the history of Israel that the phrase “the River” is used frequently in the Old Testament to indicate the Euphrates.

View north of the Euphrates River at Berecik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Euphrates River, looking north, at Birecik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The LORD said that He would bring “the waters of the River, the king of Assyria and all his glory” like a flood to rise to the neck of His people (Isaiah 8:6-8). Now He promises to strike the River and allow His people to return from the exile in sandals. In fact, He says, “there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people” 11:16).

When Assyrian kings stated in their annals that they crossed the river Euphrates they mean that they went to war against nations west of the River.

Visualizing Isaiah: a booth in a vineyard

Because the events of the Bible took place in the Ancient Near East, we expect it to use illustrations from that world. Many of these cultural practices are different from those we know, but others are similar.

The prophet Isaiah describes what will happen to Jerusalem as a result of their sin.

And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. (Isaiah 1:8 ESV)

Almost everyone has seen a fruit or vegetable booth along a highway during the picking season. Months later we may see that same booth in disrepair. In Biblical times, watchtowers and temporary booths were set up in fields to provide a moment of shade for the workers.

Our photo today was made a few miles east of Sardis (Revelation 3:1) in modern Turkey. It is near a vineyard and set amidst another crop. One can easily image it still standing in disarray when the winter rains come.

A booth in the field, east of Sardis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A temporary booth in the field, east of Sardis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Judeans of the 8th century B.C. could easily visualize what Isaiah was describing, and those who were living when the city was destroyed by the Babylonians would see it as a fact.

Jeremiah’s lament over the city after 586 B.C. illustrates the point:

How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. (Lamentations 1:1 ESV)

Church History book available for Kindle

Do you have a good book on Church History? I have observed that many church members are generally ignorant of church history. A few months ago I learned that two books by Zondervan were to be available in Kindle format for $3.99 each. The second volume in the series was available, but there was some delay in getting the first volume online. Volume two is available today for $3.99. For how long I do not know.


Everett Ferguson’s Church History ,Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context: 1, is currently available for the Kindle for $3.99. The regular price for the Kindle edition is $44.99. This book begins with the historical setting for the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church. It ends at about 1300 A.D.

Ferguson is widely respected as a scholar in early church history. With a Ph.D. from Harvard, he is professor emeritus of Bible and distinguished scholar-in-residence at Abilene Christian University. He is author of several books on early Christianity.

An eBook like this could be helpful for travelers visiting the Bible lands. In Turkey, for example, one sees the development of the Church Councils. In Italy there is the rise of the papacy and Catholicism. The Crusades involved numerous countries, including Israel. Sections on monasticism and the rise of Islam can be helpful as well. Ferguson also covers the “Dark Ages” and sets the stage for the earliest Reformation efforts.

Our photo shows ruins of The Church of Mary, also called the Church Council Church, at Ephesus. In A.D. 431 the Council of Ephesus was conducted here.

Church Council Church at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Church of Mary (Church Council Church) at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Brooks Cochran

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.

The Lachish letters (ostraca)

The first major archaeological excavation at Tell ed-Duweir (= Tel Lachish) was called the Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Research Expedition, directed by James Leslie Starkey. During that expedition, in 1935 eighteen pieces of broken pottery with writing were found in a room outside the city gate. Three more pieces were found in 1938. J. A. Thompson explains the importance of the letters:

They represent correspondence between the military commander of Lachish, a certain Yoash, and outpost commanders, in the days when Nebuchadnezzar was closing in on Jerusalem. Most of these letters are poorly preserved, but six of them give useful information about the time. (The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology)

The room outside the gate where the "letters" were found. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The room outside the gate where the “letters” were found. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. These letters were written shortly before that time and were in the room at the time of the destruction of Lachish. Take a look at the biblical evidence. The prophet Jeremiah describes a time when only the Judean cities of Lachish and Azekah were left.

when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah, for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained. (Jeremiah 34:7 ESV)

Lachish Letter #4 indicates that only Lachish was left at the time of writing.

“And let (my lord) know that we are watching for *[fire] signals of Lachish, according to all the indications which my lord hath given, for we cannot see Azekah” (Pritchard, The Ancient Near East).

Letter #3 mentions a prophet.

And as for the letter of Tobiah, servant of the king, which came to Shallum son of Jaddua through the prophet, saying, ‘Beware!, thy servant hath sent it to my lord. (Pritchard, The Ancient Near East)

D. Winton Thomas says that this is “the first occurrence in non-Biblical texts of the common Hebrew word for prophet (nabi).”

One of the Lachish letters displayed in the British Museum.

Lachish Ostracon II displayed in the British Museum. The word “Yahweh” [yhwh] is used as the first word (on right) of line 2 in this letter.

The prophet Jeremiah may not be the prophet mentioned in Letter #3, but he was a prophet in Judah at the same time, and he wrote about the same situation. Notice Jeremiah 34:6-7 again.

Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah, for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained. (Jeremiah 34:6-7 ESV)

This example provides wonderful corroborating evidence for the historical trustworthiness of the writing of Jeremiah.

Snow in Israel

Today I have been reading of snow in Lebanon and Israel. There are reports that a foot of snow has fallen in Jerusalem in the past day. Todd Bolen links to the Jerusalem Post (with photos) and other snow links here.

My friend Elie just sent a photo of his back yard. This is in Bar Giyora, a town on Hwy. 375 between Bethlehem and the Valley of Elah. The town is located in the hill country of Judea.

Snow in the mountains of Judea. Photo by EMB, 12/14/13.

Snow in the mountains of Judea. Photo by EMB, 12/14/13.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

Here is a photo of the general area along Hwy. 375 with a view east toward the central mountain ridge (without snow).

Judean Hills. View east to central mountain range from Hwy. 375. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Judean Hills. View east to central mountain range from Hwy. 375. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the Facebook page of Jerusalem University College you will find several nice photos of the snow in Jerusalem. Check here.

Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible

Frequently we have mentioned and recommended the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible by Carl G. Rasmussen. Every Bible student needs at least one or two good atlases to assist them in their study of the Scriptures.

Last month I attended some annual professional meetings in Baltimore and was pleased to see that Zondervan already had copies of the new Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible. One of the sales reps gave me a copy for review here.

At first appearance, the ZEAB has a beautiful cover of stiff, durable paper. It is a convenient 9 1/8″ x 7 3/8″ in size. The content is basically the same as the larger hard back edition. There has been some editing of the text to condense the book from 303 pages to 159 pages.

There are two major sections to the book: Geographical Section and Historical Section. The Geographical Section includes an Introduction to the Middle East as a Whole, and discusses the geography of Israel and Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, and Mesopotamia.

The Historical Section covers the entire Bible from the Pre-Patriarchal Period to the Seven Churches of Revelation, with an additional chapter on Jerusalem, in 17 chapters.

The maps are superbly drawn and easy to read. A timeline accompanies each chapter. Rasmussen is noted for his Holy Land Photos web site. The photos are beautiful and helpful in illustrating the content.

This book has been prepared by a teacher, and I consider that a plus. In addition to his work at Bethel University, Carl continues to serve as an adjunct professor at Jerusalem University College. He has spent 16 years of his adult life in the Bible lands. His  Holy Land Photos’ Blog provides helpful, up-to-date, information about both familiar and unfamiliar places mentioned in the Bible. He has also led numerous tours through Bible lands.

This Atlas sells for $16.99. I see that Amazon has the Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible for $12.97. A Kindle version is about $3 less.

Either version is ideal for a person to take with them to Bible class, or on a tour of Bible lands.

The larger Zondervan Atlas of the Bible still remains indispensable for the serious student. I am trying to say you should have both books.

Carl has assisted me on several occasions in locating some of those hidden, out-of-the-way, places that most visitors to the Bible lands never see. I am pleased to commend this new edition of his book.