Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Acacia in the Sinai Wilderness

Most travelers to Israel have probably seen acacia trees growing along the shore of the Dead Sea. Fewer travelers have visited the Sinai Peninsula, now part of Egypt. The term acacia is used in most English versions of the Bible, but the King James version (1611) simply transliterated the Hebrew word shittim.

The Fauna and Flora of the Bible comments on the acacia:

The acacia is a member of the Mimosa family. Four different species are found in Palestine, the most common being the A. raddiana, which grows in the valleys around the Dead Sea. It is an evergreen tree, 3 to 5.5 m high, with spiny branches carrying yellow flowers; its wood is very useful for building purposes.

The acacia below is in the Wadi el-Tor in the Sinai Peninsula between the Gulf of Suez and Mount Sinai.

Acacia growing in Wadi el-Tor in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acacia growing in Wadi el-Tor in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the description of the construction of the tabernacle, the book of Exodus uses the word acacia 26 times from chapter 25 to chapter 38. When we see the smaller trees today we may wonder about finding enough wood for the tabernacle. At Ain Musa (Spring of Moses), the traditional place of Marah (Exodus 15:23), there are a few older large Acacia growing. Could it be possible that 3500 years ago there were many this size?

Large acacia at Ain Musa (Spring of Moses) on the east shore of the Gulf of Suez. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Large acacia at Ain Musa (Spring of Moses) on the east shore of the Gulf of Suez.

Seeking the history beneath Solomon’s city at Gezer

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has released information about the most recent season of archaeology at Tel Gezer here.

Aerial view of Tel Gezer toward the coastal plain, SW from the site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Southwest aerial view of Tel Gezer toward the coastal plain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This summary of the most recent season was written by Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff.

The excavations at Gezer are sponsored by the Tandy Institute of Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with several consortium schools. The excavations are directed by Steven Ortiz of the Tandy and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

In this, the sixth season of excavation, one goal was to remove a portion of the city wall built in the Iron IIA period (10th century BCE) in order to investigate a Late Bronze age destruction level (ca. 1400 BCE) that lay below it. To the surprise of the team, in the process of excavating the city wall, an earlier wall system dating to the Iron Age I (1200-1000 BCE) was discovered. This wall was one meter thick with several rooms attached to it. These rooms were filled by a massive destruction, nearly one meter in height,that included Canaanite storage jars, Philistine pottery and other items. A fragment of a Philistine figurine was also found this season. The biblical text record that the king of Gezer organized a Canaanite coalition against Joshua and David had a battle with the Philistines where he chased them “all the way to Gezer.” Perhaps the biblical accounts retain a memory of the importance of Gezer and its close relations to the Philistines during this period.

Beneath this city was an earlier city that was destroyed in a fierce conflagration. This city was functioning during the Egyptian 18th Dynasty’s rule over the southern Levant. Within the destruction debris were several pottery vessels along with a cache of cylinder seals and a large Egyptian scarab with the cartouche of Amenhotep III. This pharaoh was the father of the heretic King Akenaton and grandfather of the famous Tutankhamun (King Tut). This destruction corresponds to other destructions of other cities in the region, a reflection of the internecine warfare that was occurring between the Canaanite cites as reflected in the well-known Tell el-Amarna correspondence.

The archaeology of Solomon has been controversial, fueled by various theories over the dating of the archaeological record. The dating of the Gezer Iron Age Gate is at issue. The Gezer expedition is slowly stripping away layers of public and domestic structures of the 8th and 9th centuries BCE in order to reveal the 10th century city plan adjacent to the City Gate. This summer the tops of the 10th century walls began to poke out, making the archaeologists optimistic that in future seasons more of the Solomonic city will be exposed.

For more information see www.telgezer.com.

Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology at Southwestern Seminary, is co-director of the archaeological excavations at Tel Gezer, site of one of the famed cities of Solomon located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Photo by Matt Miller.

Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology at Southwestern Seminary, is co-director of the archaeological excavations at Tel Gezer, site of one of the famed cities of Solomon located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Photo by Matt Miller.

For earlier posts about Gezer, see the following: aerial photo with a view toward the hill country, boundary stones, and the water system.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Water gushed from the rock

This photo of granite rocks was made at Jebel Musa (traditional Mount Sinai) in the Sinai Peninsula. It reminded me of several Old Testament references to the rock from which the Lord provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness.

Granite rock on Mount Sinai (Jebel Musa). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Granite rock on Mount Sinai (Jebel Musa). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. (Psalm 105:41 ESV)

He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?” (Psalm 78:20 ESV)

You may be able to use this photo as an illustration in one of your Bible class lessons or sermons. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Almonds growing in the Jezreel Valley

The photo below shows almonds growing in the Jezreel Valley in late April.

Almonds growing in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almonds growing in the Jezreel Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

During the days of a severe famine in the land of Canaan, Israel (Jacob) agreed to allow his youngest son Benjamin to go to Egypt at the request of the man who was in charge of dispensing food. That man was Joseph, the son of Israel. Jacob agreed to allow Benjamin to go with his older brothers. He also told the boys to take some of “the best products of the land” including almonds.

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. (Genesis 43:11 ESV)

The Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel from the NW

This photograph of the Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel was made from highway 807.

Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel from the NW. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel from the NW. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From this point we can see the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Today we know it as the Golan Heights. In Old Testament times it was known as Bashan (Joshua 21:27). Golan was one of the cities of Refuge located in the area. In New Testament times this was the area of the Decapolis (Mark 7:31), and probably the country of the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28).

Below Mount Arbel runs the Via Maris, the main road leading from the Turan Valley to Capernaum. This road allowed travel and commerce between Capernaum, Magdala, and Tiberias with the cities of Nazareth, Cana, Sepphoris, and Jotapata.

Painting the eyes

Cosmetics and the painting of one’s eyes is nothing new. The photo below shows a Palm-column flask and kohl stick displayed in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The item is said to date between 1386 and 1212 B.C. Information with the item says,

The palm-column flask is one of the best represented types of glass vessels from the New Kingdom. It served as a container for the cosmetic kohl, or eyepaint, made of ground galena mixed with fat or resin and applied to the lids with the slender glass rod.

Palm-column flask and kohl stick. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Palm-column flask and kohl stick. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo” Ferrell Jenkins.

It was centuries later when Jehu came to see Jezebel at Jezreel. Jezebel, the widow of King Ahab, wanted to make a good appearances on Jehu.

When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window. (2 Kings 9:30 ESV)

Perhaps Jezebel did not know that she was preparing herself for her death.

Royal Ontario Museum exhibit showing an Egyptian woman painting her eyes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Royal Ontario Museum exhibit showing an Egyptian woman painting her eyes. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The prophets also spoke of this practice, but not in a complimentary way, in Jeremiah 4:30 and Ezekiel 23:40.

National Geographic’s Top 10 Museums and Galleries

National Geographic recently released a list of Top 10 Museums and Galleries here.

  1. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  2. Le Louvre, Paris, France
  3. The Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
  4. State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
  5. The British Museum, London, England
  6. The Prado, Madrid, Spain
  7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
  8. The Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Italy
  9. The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
  10. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Entrance to the Louvre at night. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to the Louvre at night. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit each of these museums at least once. While I enjoy the art, I am usually looking for artifacts that provide some background for the Bible. That would make a good list.

If I should be asked to suggest number 11, it would be the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany.