Monthly Archives: May 2013

Jesus withdrew to Ephraim

The raising of Lazarus of Bethany brought much attention to Jesus and His ministry (John 11). According to John’s account, beginning in verse 45, many who saw the sign believed on Him. This caused the chief priests and Pharisees to convene a council. They were concerned about what the Romans might do if Jesus continued His work. Caiaphas, the high priest that year, told the council that it would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish. In fact, John says this was a prophecy that Jesus was going to die for the nation. The text says,

So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. (John 11:53 ESV)

Jesus had other plans. Jesus carefully orchestrated His death. From the beginning of His ministry He spoke of His hour. After the raising of Lazarus he withdrew to a place northwest of Jerusalem on the edge of the wilderness at Ephraim.

Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. (John 11:54 ESV)

Jesus would offer Himself as the sacrificial lamb at the time of the Passover. This took intricate planning.

Where is this place called Ephraim?

The identity of this place is complicated, partly because of the obscurity of the place and because of the change of names in the various languages that have prevailed in the territory over the centuries. Let’s try to work through some of the details.

Baal-hazor, where Absalom had sheep shearers, is said to be near Ephraim (2 Samuel 13:23).

The Ephron of 2 Chronicles 13:19 is often identified with Ephraim and the Ophrah of Joshua 18:23. Ophrah was in the tribal territory of Benjamin and near Bethel. Ophrah, which we are equating with Taybeh (tie-BAY), is only 4 miles north-east of Bethel and about 15 miles from Jerusalem.

What is the name of Ephraim today? Ephraim is often identified with a Christian Arab town in the West Bank Palestinian territory known as At-Taybe. On Highway 60 a sign points to Taybeh, the spelling I am using. Carta’s Israel Touring Atlas spells it Et-Tayibeh.

Checking the Maps. Taybeh should be reached easily from Highway 60 by taking Highway 449 east at Ofra, and then a smaller road to the village. This is not possible. Ofra is an Israeli settlement, and the road is blocked for those wishing to go to Taybeh. Instead, it is necessary to take Highway 457 east, then 458 north. At the intersection with 449 (east), take the small road to the left to reach Taybeh. Highway 449 leads to the Jordan Valley and Jericho. The paved road is only wide enough for one vehicle at places and is in bad repair.

Entering the Christian village of At Taybe. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

Entering the Christian village of At Tayba. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

Gustaf Dalman says,

This et-Tayibeh, whose ancient name was, according to the villagers’ own recollections, ‘Afra’… (Sacred Sites and Ways, 1935, page 217).

Yoel Elitzur, says there is a surviving tradition that Taybeh was known in the past as Afra. He cites the work of Lydia Einsler from 1893, and then says that he,

…personally heard myself in the village, from speakers of various ages and levels of education. (Ancient Places Names in the Holy Land, 2004, page 268).

Note the similarity in the pronunciation of Oprah, Ephron, Afra, and Ephraim.

A book I have enjoyed for several decades is Eugene Hoade’s Guide to the Holy Land, published by the Franciscan Printing Press in Jerusalem. There is no date in the book, but I have owned it for several decades. Google books lists this book of 823 pages as having been published in 1984.

Hoade says that Taybeh is 869 meters in elevation. This equates to 2851 feet, about 400 feet higher than Jerusalem. He says that Taybeh is,

a Christian village, those inhabitants claim that they have been Christian from the very beginning. There is a flourishing Latin parish (1860): the Rosary Sisters have the Girl’ School since 1908: there is a Greek Orthodox Church, under which is a mosaic. The Greek Catholics built the new church of St. George in 1964, and the Latins are in the process of building a new church, which has a beautiful mosaic in the apse, representing the people meeting Jesus. (page 545)

We drove to the top of the hill and the end of the village, turned around, and made a photo of what I think may be the Latin church and school.

The Latin Church at Taybeh. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

The Latin Church at Taybeh. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

The Greek Catholic (Melkite) church of St. George was built in 1964. On the hill behind this church may be found the ruins of a Byzantine church.

Greek Orthodox church at Taybeh. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

Greek-Melkite church at Taybeh. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

From the ridge on which Taybeh is built, the wilderness can be seen to the east. This is similar to the view that many of you have seen from the Mount of Olives, or from the Herodium, when you look to the east. The photo below shows the view east of Taybeh.

Wilderness to the east of Taybeh. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

Wilderness to the east of Taybeh. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

In reading about Taybeh, I have learned that all of the churches keep the Western Christmas and the Eastern Easter.

I have credited all of the photos to my traveling companion Dan Kingsley. Because we had little time to linger, we agreed that Dan would make the photos, sometimes from the car window, and we would share them. I have cropped and enhanced them as needed.

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Why did Moses have a staff in his hand?

Recently during a mid-week Bible study, a brother presented a short talk on the question the LORD asked Moses.

The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” (Exodus 4:2 ESV)

We are not surprised to find a staff in the hand of Moses. Earlier in the same context we have learn that Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1 ESV)

Shepherd with his sheep at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd with his sheep at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The staff and the rod (Psalm 23:4) were the tools of the shepherd of Bible times. Here is a brief comment about the rod and staff from the Florida College Annual Lectures of 1993.

“Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me” (vs. 4). Shepherding was a dangerous profession. There were wild animals, thieves and robbers, and some means for defense was needed. The shepherd would carry the rod and staff for the protection of his flock. The rod (Hebrew, shēbet) was a short club about 30 inches long made from an oak sapling. The bulging head was shaped out of the stem at the beginning of the root. It was especially used as a weapon against men and animals who might threaten the flock. The staff (Hebrew, mish’eneth) was a straight pole about six feet long. Mackie says,

“Its service was for mountain climbing, for striking troublesome goats and sheep, beating leaves from branches beyond the reach of his flock, and especially for leaning upon. As he stood clasping the top of his stick with both hands, and leaning his head against it, his conspicuous and well-known figure gave confidence to the sheep grazing around him among the rocks and bushes of the wilderness.” (Mackie 291)

Most of the shepherds that I have seen throughout the Middle East carry a short staff – one that comes about waist high.

Free Ebook for Kindle

How the Bible Came to Be is an Ebook short (about 60 pages) from The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook. It is available free today only (May 25). The link I am including is only good for the United States.

Here is a list of the subjects covered.

  • Inspiration
  • Production and Shaping of the Old Testament Canon
  • Writing, Copying, and Transmitting the New Testament Text
  • The Canon of the New Testament
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls
  • The Septuagint
  • Bible Translation and the English Bible
  • Translations for the World

Use this link.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Excavation of the Ophel continues

April 27 I was looking at the Ophel Excavations that are under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. When I saw the tarp, I decided I would make a photo in hopes of learning something new in the future. The future is now.

According to The Key to David’s City, a web site devoted to the work of Herbert W. Armstrong College in Jerusalem, Dr. Mazar officially reopened the excavations on April 22.

In this continuation of the second phase Dr. Mazar will continue uncovering what she believes is a royal complex belonging to King Solomon, dated to the 10th century B.C.E., located at the foot of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As she works to expose more of this massive structure, the excavation will continue “to follow the remains of the First Temple Period along the line of the City Wall,” she told us.

The Key to David’s City web site has posted several nice videos explaining some aspects of the archaeological work at the site. The Gallery includes some excellent photos.

My photo below shows the area of the new excavation.

New Ophel excavations. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Area of new Ophel excavations. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We called attention to the Ophel Excavations 2012 here.

Jothan, king of Judah (740-732 B.C.), is said to have built extensively in the area known as Ophel.

He built the Upper Gate to the LORD’s temple and did a lot of work on the wall in the area known as Ophel. (2 Chronicles 27:3 NET)

Churning to make butter

Churning Butter

Churning Butter

When I was a kid in the rural south, churning was done in a heavy duty ceramic pot. Butter was made by moving the stick (which had a sort of paddle attached) up and down.  I did not live in Colonial times, but the churn we used looked very much like the one shown in the picture to the left. Ours was a bit taller, I think.

The practice of churning to make butter has been around for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible.

For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NAU)

The ESV consistently uses the word pressing, from the Hebrew mits, three times in that verse.

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 ESV)

The NET Bible probably best conveys the meaning of the text by the use of churning, punching, and stirring up.

For as the churning of milk produces butter and as punching the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NET)

The photo below shows a pottery churn from Beersheba, now displayed in the Israel Museum. The sign associated with the churn says,

The churn, used for making butter from milk, first appeared in the Chalcolithic Period [6,500–5,500 years ago] and became an important symbol of the time. To speed up the churning process, a rope was tied to the handles, and the churn was rocked back and forth.

Chalcolithic pottery churn from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chalcolithic pottery churn from Beersheba. Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

During a visit to Petra, Jordan, in 2008, a group of people were portraying the costumes and activity of earlier Bedouin. Many of the customs portrayed are the same as those we read about in the Bible.

In the photo below the man is rocking a churn made from an animal skin.

Bedouin churning in an animal skin at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bedouin churning butter in an animal skin at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Finally, here is a photo that I made at Haran in southeastern Turkey, once the home of Abraham (Genesis 11:31 – 12:4), showing a churn made from an animal skin.

Churn made from animal skin at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Churn made from animal skin at Haran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The land of Gennesaret and the travel route west

The Sea of Galilee is called the “lake Gennesaret” by Luke (Luke 5:1). The area on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee is called the “land at Gennesaret.” In the view below we see the land of Gennesaret and the Via Maris. The travel route here leads to the Beit Netofa Valley and the sites of Khirbet Cana, Sepphoris, Nazareth, Yodfat (Jotapata), and Ptolemais (Akko). Yodfat was fortified by Josephus during the Jewish revolt against Rome. Josephus, commander of the Jewish rebels, surrendered to the Roman Emperor Vespasian at Yodfat.

Mount Arbel and the Plain of Genessaret. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mount Arbel and the Plain of Gennesaret. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many of the miracles of Jesus were performed in this area.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured. (Matthew 14:34-36 NAU)

A new tool for tour leaders

Near the end of January when I received my copy of The Satellite Bible Atlas, I decided that I would secure a copy for each member of my April tour group. Arrangements were made to have the books delivered to my tour operator in Jerusalem so that they would be available for use by the group at the beginning of the tour.

Ideally, it would be good for tour groups to meet together for classes prior to the tour. I have never been able to do this because my groups have come from many states, and sometimes a foreign country.

The first morning of touring I had the driver stop on the kurkar ridge along the Mediterranean Sea a few miles north of Netanya while we handed out the “surprise” books and explained them to the tour members. I asked them to turn to the maps that showed the area where we would be traveling that day. This procedure continued throughout the tour.

By the end of the tour the group members were talking about how the SBA would help them in their studies when they returned home.

On the last day of the tour we stopped by Yad HaShmona where Bill Schlegel works with the IBEX (Israel Bible Extension) program. Bill met our group and gave us a brief geographical orientation of the location and the importance of geography in the biblical story. From Yad HaShmona one can see the site of Kiriath-jearim (see here) to the east, and the coastal plain to the west. Todd Bolen includes a brief description of Yad HaShmona at BiblePlaces.com (here).

Bill Schlegel autographs a copy of The Satellite Bible Atlas for Ferrell Jenkins.

Bill Schlegel autographs a copy of The Satellite Bible Atlas for Ferrell Jenkins.

I can highly recommend the use of the SBA in connection with tours anywhere in Israel. Details about the publication, and how to order your own copy, may be found here.

The Satellite Bible Atlas is not to replace a standard Bible atlas such as the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible by Carl Rasmussen, or The New Moody Atlas of the Bible by Barry Beitzel. In fact, get all three. You will find each of them useful.