Bringing in the sheaves

From the time I was a child I recall the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” by Knowles Shaw. I see it was written in 1874, already an old song when I first sang it. I really miss the old songs. Some song leaders seem to forget that it is the repetition of songs that allows the children to learn them – just like they recall all of the TV jingles. Here are the words, now in public domain.

  1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
    Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
    Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

    • Refrain:
      Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
      We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
      Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
      We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
  2. Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
    Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
    By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
  3. Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
    Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
    When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

The meaning is clear. We continue to do kind deeds when times are good and when they are bad. Eventually “we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”

What are sheaves, and what is the basis of this encouraging song?

Perhaps the author recalled young Joseph’s dream of binding sheaves in the field when his sheaf stood upright and the sheaves of the brothers gathered around it and bowed down (Genesis 37:7).

Or, maybe it was the experience of Ruth gathering the left over grain among the sheaves in the field of Boaz at Bethlehem (Ruth 2:7, 15).

It seems that Shaw knew the words of Psalm 126:6.

He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:6 ESV)

Toward the end of May last year, in the vicinity of Samaria, we saw sheaves in the field ready to be brought in for storage and use for the remainder of the year.

Sheaves in the field near ancient Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheaves in the field near ancient Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If you click on this photo and look carefully at the larger image you will see that the sheaves have been bound to hold them together.

Sheaves bound in the field, ready to be taken from the fields. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheaves bound in the field, ready to be taken from the fields. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I fear that many of our folks today just dismiss the older songs that have themes they don’t readily understand. If we use this as an excuse, it is a reflection on our knowledge of the Bible. Perhaps its time to learn.

Bertha Spafford Vester explains how the early American Colony residents of Jerusalem made a living by engaging in various projects from weaving cloth to growing wheat. She recounts an interesting story about cutting grain and binding sheaves.

Our Swedish and American farmers had tilled these bits of ground so well that there was evidence of excellent crops. Some Orthodox Jews came to inspect the wheat and offered us a higher than usual price for it to make matzoth (unleavened bread) for their Feast of the Passover on condition that we harvested it under their supervision. We agreed.

We had no machinery; it was harvested by hand. One stipulation they made was that we should not begin work until the sun had risen and dried any moisture from dew fallen during the night. After breakfast we all went out to work in the field, our Jewish overseers keeping watch. As our custom was when working, washing dishes, or over the washtub, or at any other task, we sang hymns. So now we started in the harvest field. Singing helped the work, which went with a swing. But we were not allowed to sing by these Orthodox Jews. Peradventure a bit of moisture might fall from our mouths and cause fermentation. It would no longer be unleavened. So we gathered the sheaves silently. (Our Jerusalem, 190-191)

Are you sowing seeds of kindness?

HT: Timeless Truths for lyrics info.

Turning from idols to serve the living God

Recently I was browsing through photos made in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Thessalonica), Greece, in 2008. I was impressed with the images of various gods and goddesses that were known in the city in the first century A.D. There were statues and busts of Egyptian gods such as Isis, Serapis, and Harpokrates/Horus. Greek gods and goddesses such as Dionysus, Hades, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, and the mother of the gods often associated with Kybele (Cybele) were known. And there were others.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Immediately my mind was drawn to Paul’s commendation of the saints at Thessalonica in the middle of the first century A.D.

 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 ESV)

But there were other “gods” known to the Thessalonians. The deified Alexander, considered a son of Zeus, was represented in the museum. Another significant form of idolatry was the Cult of the Emperor of Rome. A sign associated with one display says,

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy propaganda and a means for the transmission of Roman culture. The image of the emperor gives a concrete form to the abstract idea of the Empire. Whether a full-length statue or a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere: in outdoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Here is a statue of Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (27 B.C. – A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1).

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, and other emperors were represented in the museum displays.

An interesting temporary exhibition was about the discovery of an important archaeological site known as Kalindoia. The site is located about 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Thessalonica. Paul traveled a few miles north of Kalindoia when he went from Philippi, via Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). Below is the drawing of the chamber of the imperial cult. A temple for imperial worship was located here from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign associated with this drawing states that there were pedestals for statues here. “One of them was the statue of Emperor Octavian Augustus.” The Cult of the Emperor was especially pervasive in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and may have some bearing on understanding the man of lawlessness (sin) in 2 Thessalonians 2. It is certainly helpful in understanding the background of the book of Revelation.

But that’s not all. Another sign mentions the eponymous local heroes such as war heroes, deified mythological figures, or the heroized dead “were also worshipped.”

The gospel of Christ has power to touch the hearts of men and inform them about the difference between idols made of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man,” and the God who does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17:29 ESV).

Unique Hadrian exhibit at the Israel Museum

The Roman Emperor Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) ruled the Empire from A.D. 117 to 138. Numerous statues of him are displayed in museums spread across the region. Most of them are made of stone, but there are three unique bronze statues of the Emperor. These are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem until June. They come from the Israel Museum, the Louvre, and the British Museum.

Ilan Ben Zion says that Hadrian,

…was venerated by contemporary Roman historians as one of the Five Good Emperors: a just ruler, a peacemaker and great architect of the empire. The wall he famously constructed along the border with Scotland bears his name to this day. But in Jewish memory, Hadrian is best known as a brutal dictator who crushed the Bar Kochba revolt in 135, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews, rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city, banned circumcision, and changed the name of Judaea to Palaestina. (The Times of Israel, Dec. 22, 2015)

I have seen all three of these pieces, but look forward to seeing them displayed together in the spring.

The most magnificent statue is the one of Hadrian discovered at Tel Shalem (Shalim) a few miles south of the Beth Shean (Beit She’an) in the Jordan Valley. Tel Shalem is thought to be the Salim mentioned in John 3:23.

Bronze statue of Hadrian discovered in a Roman army camp of the Sixth Roman Legion. He is portrayed as the supreme military commander. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bronze statue of Hadrian discovered in a Roman army camp of the Sixth Roman Legion at Tel Shalem. He is portrayed as the supreme military commander. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Only the head remains of the other two statues. The first of these was acquired by the Louvre in 1984.

Bust of Hadrian thought to have come from Egypt. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of Hadrian thought to have come from Egypt. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next bronze head comes from a larger than life-size statue that is thought to have stood in a public area of Roman London. It commemorates Hadrian’s visit to Britain in A.D. 122. It was found in the River Thames near London Bridge in 1834. This head is displayed in a room of Roman statues in the British Museum, but I have never known it to be open. I arranged to visit the room one time and have a photo but it is not as sharp as I prefer. This photo comes from Following Hadrian here. I refer you to that blog and Twitter feed for everything Hadrian.

Bronze Head of Hadrian. Following Hadrian.

Bronze head from a statue of the Emperor Hadrian, Romain Britain, British Museum
Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Richard Batey writes about Hadrian’s relation to Jerusalem:

Hadrian visited Jerusalem in A.D. 129–130 and rebuilt the city on the plan of a Roman military camp. On the Temple Mount he erected a temple dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus and nearby a second temple honoring the goddess Aphrodite. Hadrian renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, a designation that combined one of his names with Rome’s Capitoline triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Hadrian’s actions and policies provoked a second revolt by the Jews in A.D. 132. Led by Bar Kokhba, the Jewish troops succeeded in taking control of Jerusalem briefly but were soon (A.D. 135) crushed by the superior Roman army. After this decisive defeat it became a capital offense for a Jew to set foot in Jerusalem. (Batey, R. A. “Jerusalem.” Ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter. Dictionary of New Testament background: a compendium of contemporary biblical scholarship 2000 : 561. Print.)

Shmuel Browns, Israel Tour Guide, includes a beautiful photo of the Tel Shalem bust currently on display (outside the case?), and he presents another opinion about the rebuilding of the city. He also includes a list of some other things related to Hadrian that can be seen in and around Jerusalem. See his post here.

Information about the exhibit at the Israel Museum may be found here.

Canaanite citadel exposed in Nahariya

Announcement was made this week of the discovery of a Canaanite citadel in the middle of the Israeli northern coastal town of Nahariya. The Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Haifa announced an agreement that would allow construction on a high-rise apartment building to continue with the inclusion of the Canaanite ruins to remain in the basement.

An aerial photograph of the excavation. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An aerial photograph of the excavation. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The IAA announcement reads,

In an agreement reached between the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Mr. Israel Hasson, and the director of the Kochav Company, Ltd., Mr. Danny Kochav, remains of a 3,400 year old citadel that were recently uncovered in an archaeological excavation will be integrated in an apartment high-rise that the Kochav Company is building on Balfour Street in Nahariya, close to the beach.

The large excavation, which the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted together with youth groups, including students from the Shchakim High School in Nahariya, was carried out as part of a project by the Kochav Company to build a residential high-rise with underground parking. Given the extraordinary nature and quality of the finds, the Israel Antiquities Authority sought a solution that would allow the conservation of some of the remains for the benefit of the public. Thus, with the assistance of Architect Alex Shpol, planner for the Interior Ministry’s regional committee for planning and construction, it was decided that part of the citadel would be preserved in the building’s basement level where it will be displayed for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors.

According to Nimrod Getzov, Yair Amitzur and Dr. Ron Be’eri, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It seems that the citadel which we uncovered was used as an administrative center that served the mariners who sailed along the Mediterranean coast 3,400 years ago. There was probably a dock alongside the citadel. Numerous artifacts were discovered in its rooms, including ceramic figurines in form of humans and animals, bronze weapons and imported pottery vessels that attest to the extensive commercial and cultural relations that existed at that time with Cyprus and the rest of the lands in the Mediterranean basin”.

The fortress was destroyed at least four times by an intense conflagration, and each time it was rebuilt. An abundance of cereal, legumes and grape seeds were found in the burnt layers, which are indicative of the provisions the sailors would purchase.

Nahariya is not mentioned in the Bible by name. The city is located along the Mediterranean coast of the Plain of Acco about 5 or 6 miles north of Acco (Acre). This territory was allotted to the Israelite tribe of Asher, but they were not able to maintain control over the Canaanites in the region.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, (Judges 1:31 ESV)

The book of Judges describes the territory of Asher as being along the seashore.

Asher remained on the seacoast, he stayed by his harbors. (Judges 5:17 NET)

Aerial view of the plain of Acco, territory of the Biblical tribe of Asher ran from Haifa (Mount Carmel) north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the plain of Acco, territory of the Biblical tribe of Asher ran from Haifa (Mount Carmel) north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the far north of this photo you will see a small horizontal white line extending into the sea. That is known as the Ladder of Tyre. The cluster of buildings between Acco and the Ladder of Tyre is Nahariya.

During earlier excavations at Nahariya a Cannanite temple with a mold for making images of the goddess Asherah had been uncovered. Beginning with Ahab, numerous kings of Israel were responsible for worshiping Asherah. I suggest you use a Bible concordance to locate all the reference to Asherah, Asherim, Asheroth, and Ashtoreth.

Solomon also worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 23:13).

Female figurines dating to the Late Bronze Age. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Female figurines dating to the Late Bronze Age. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The IAA news release simply says that the recent discoveries at Nahariya date to 3400 years ago, i.e., about 1400 B.C. This period is known as the Late Bronze Age (about 1550 to 1200 B.C.). Bible students will recognize this as the period of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. The bronze arrowhead is a good reminder of the conflict in the land at that time.

An arrowhead made of bronze. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An arrowhead made of bronze. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the IAA.

I find these photos so fascinating that I want to share more of them with you.

Photograph of the work being conducted at the site. Photo: IAA.

Photograph of the work being conducted at the site. Photo: IAA.

Imported pottery from Cyprus and Greece was found at the site.

Fragments of decorated pottery vessels imported from Cyprus and Greece 3,400 years ago. Photo: IAA.

Fragments of decorated pottery vessels imported from Cyprus and Greece 3,400 years ago. Photo: IAA.

A stamped jar handle is dated to the Middle Bronze Age (about 2100 to 1550 B.C.). I look forward to some insight into the reading of the impression.

A stamped jar handle dating to the Middle Bronze Age. Photo: IAA.

A stamped jar handle dating to the Middle Bronze Age. Photo: IAA.

We never know what may be dug up tomorrow.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Ram statue discovered at Caesarea Maritima

The IAA announced last Thursday the discovery of the statue of a ram at Caesarea Maritima. The announcement says,

The statue … might have been part of the decoration of a Byzantine church from the sixth–seventh centuries CE at Caesarea. By the same token it could also be earlier, from the Roman period, and was incorporated in secondary use in the church structure.”

The photo below seems to have been made in a metal storage shed and provides some idea of the size of the ram whose front legs are missing.

Ram discovered at Caesarea. Photo: Vered Sarig, The Caesarea Development Corp.

Ram discovered at Caesarea. Photo: Vered Sarig, The Caesarea Development Corp.

In the next photo the ram looks much larger than it is because of the relationship to the camera.

Ram discovered at Caesarea. Photo: Vered Sarig, The Caesarea Development Corp.

Ram discovered at Caesarea. Photo: Vered Sarig, The Caesarea Development Corp.

The aerial photo below will help you put the discovery location in perspective. It shows the area of the Byzantine church that was built on the site about A.D. 525. Kenneth Holum of the University of Maryland announced in 1995 the discovery of Herod the Great’s enormous temple dedicated to the Roman Emperor Augustus underneath the ruins of the Byzantine church.

Aerial view of Caesarea Maritima showing area of the Byzantine church ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Caesarea Maritima showing the area of the Byzantine church ruins. The view also shows the Crusader wall. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When the Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus received sinners and ate with them, He told them a parable that we call the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7).

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  (Luke 15:4-7 ESV)

“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing.” This describes the work of good shepherds and a practice that was well known to those who heard Jesus. On another occasion Jesus called Himself the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14).

The motif of the good shepherd with the sheep on his shoulder became common in later Christian iconography. For some examples of Good Shepherd statues/statuettes from the Byzantine period see our post here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The real story about Saint Nicholas on Amazon Prime

You have read on this blog and other places about the Saint Nicholas of Myra, a town on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Recently I learned of the video featuring Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Adam English now available free for those who have access to Amazon Prime. The 55-minute video is high quality.

The video provides information about the priest by the name of Nicholas and his work in and around Myra. As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas defended the doctrine of the trinity at the Council of Nicea (Nicaea) in A.D. 325. There is a strong claim that he is buried in Bari, Italy.

I think you might enjoy the film and learn something about Church History in the process.

If you have Amazon Prime you can search for Saint Nicholas: the Real Story, or use this link: Saint Nicholas: the Real Story.

The town of Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where the apostle Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5). My most recent post about the city is available here.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Index of articles on Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1800 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Fountain at Franciscian Custody Shepherd's Field near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd's Field near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Other places near Bethlehem. Most of the links below are related to Herod the Great and the fortress he built near Bethlehem. I see that I have normally used the spelling Herodium, but sometime Herodion.

Historical Connections to Modern Christmas Celebrations. These post are post-biblical, historical references to customs associated with Christmas.

When other posts on this subject are written I will try to remember to update the list.

Note: This post is a repeat from Dec. 12, 2014