Monthly Archives: April 2014

Visualizing Isaiah 39: Hezekiah showed all his treasures

It seems to be a common human failing to reveal too much about ourselves, even to people we do not know very well. This is a mistake made by King Hezekiah when he was visited by Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon.

And Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. (2 Chronicles 32:27-29 ESV)

I would think that Hezekiah would have shown the Babylonian monarch his gold and silver treasures, but he may have shown him some of the storehouses where various significant goods were stored. We know that Lachish was a place for the storage of wheat and oil.

Three contiguous storehouse units to the right of the gate were excavated by archaeologists under the direction of Prof. Yohanan Aharoni at Beersheba. Aharoni says,

At Beer-sheba one found many storage vessels in every one of the two side chambers of each storehouse and also a Hebrew ostracon recording the shipment of quantities of a certain commodity (wine?) from two places near Beersheba, (El)tolad and (Beth-)Jamam (Joshua 15:26, 30; 19:4; 1 Chron. 4:29. (The Archaeology of the Land of Israel, p. 223)

These storehouses are dated to the 8th century B.C., the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah.

Storehouses at Beersheba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Storehouses at Beersheba. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seal from time of Sargon II found at Roman-era site

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reports on the discovery of a seal dating to the time of Sargon II, king of Assyria (722-705 B.C.), at a Roman-period site in northern Israel. This is a rather unusual find to have been uncovered at the site of Omrit. The excavators at the site believe it to be the site of a temple dedicated to the Emperor Augustus.

The seal, the older of the two artifacts, was found behind the wall of the earliest shrine, within a layer of filler between an internal and external wall. Archaeologists are unaware of how the seal ended up at the site, as the temple was built roughly 700 years before [this should read after] the seal was created. The layer of filler also contained small glass tools and other objects which were apparently taken out of the temple during construction.

Prof. Ziona Grossmark of Tel-Hai Academic College in northern Israel conducted research on the seal, along with Baruch Brendl from the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The seal depicts a battle between a winged figure and a bull standing on its hind legs,” says Grossmark, adding that “comparative research allows us to date it to the time of Sargon II, an Assyrian king who ruled between 722 and 705 B.C.E. and completed the conquest of ancient Israel. The seal was apparently brought to Israel by one of his subjects. What happened to the seal after that remains a mystery, but ancient seals like this one are very rare − only a few of this nature have been found in remains from the Roman period, mostly in graves and temples.”

According to Grossmark, “the seal was a means of identifying its owners, similar to a modern ID card. Seals were in use in the Galilee from the third millennium B.C.E. until about the fifth century B.C.E. They were used mostly during the period during which clay tablets were used for writing, until the introduction of papyrus or leather scrolls. Some say that in later periods, seals were still significant, but they were not used for their original purposes.”

The seal discovered was perfectly preserved, and is still in the process of research and cataloguing. Grossmark says that for archaeologists and historians, it is one of the most beautiful seals ever found.

You may access the Haaretz article by Eli Ashkenazi here. The article does not include a photo of the seal, but you may be able to see the seal by using this link.

Our photo below was made from Omrit with a view NW of the northern Hula Valley. Omrit is located about 2½ miles southwest of Banias (Caesarea Philippi).

View NW from Omrit of the northern Hula Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View NW from Omrit of the northern Hula Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

See our earlier discussions about Sargon II and Isaiah 20, here and here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Visualizing Isaiah 38: a cake of figs for medication

King Hezekiah was at the point of death, but the LORD heard his prayer and extended his life by 15 years. There are several visual illustrations in this chapter. I have selected the one in verse 21.

Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?” (Isaiah 38:21-22 ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament offers this comment on the use of fig cakes at 2 Kings 20:7:

Fig cakes may have been used as condiments and for medicinal purposes at Ugarit. Both later rabbinical Jewish and classical sources (e.g., Pliny the Elder) shared the belief that dried figs had medicinal value. Poultices were sometimes used for diagnosis rather than for medication. A day or two after the poultice was applied, it would be checked for either the skin’s reaction to the poultice or the poultice’s reaction to the skin. One medical text from Emar prescribes the use of figs and raisins for such a process. They helped determine how the patient should be treated and whether or not he would recover.

The photo below shows a freshly cut fig from Shechem.

A fresh fall fig from Shechem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A fresh fall fig from Shechem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows dried figs from Jericho.

Dried figs from Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dried figs from Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 37: Sennacherib’s assassins escape to the land of Ararat

After the LORD struck down 185,000 of the Assyrians who were camped outside Jerusalem, Sennacherib returned home and lived at Nineveh. In the final verse of this chapter we are told that his sons killed him and fled to the land of Ararat.

Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword. And after they escaped into the land of Ararat, Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. (Isaiah 37:37-38 ESV; see also 2 Kings 19:37)

The Biblical land of Ararat (Urartu) is located in modern eastern Turkey. We might think of the land of Urartu being centered in Lake Van. From Nineveh to Van is an air distance of about 150 miles. The map below is from the Wikipedia entry on the Urartu-Assyria War. Click the map to enlarge. Lake Van is 5737 feet above sea level.

Wikimedia Commons.

Map of the Urartu-Assyrian war in 743 B.C. Wikimedia Commons.

The entirety of the land of Urartu is mountainous. Our photo below shows the region between Van and Batman in Turkey. Note the snow-covered slopes in the distance.

A house in Turkey between Van and Batman. In ancient times the area was known as Urartu (Biblical Ararat). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A house in Turkey between Van and Batman. In ancient times the area was known as Urartu (Biblical Ararat). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Use our search box to look for more entries dealing with Urartu. Remember that the ark built by Noah came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4).

The photo below was taken in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara, Turkey. It shows (the metal legs of) some Urartian furniture. In the left bottom corner you should see some of the ivory pieces that decorated walls and furniture.

Urartian furniture displayed in the Anatolian Civilization Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Urartian furniture displayed in the Anatolian Civilization Museum. Photo: F. Jenkins.

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 36: Hezekiah and Sennacherib

Two significant historical characters are mentioned together in Isaiah 36. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria from 704–681 B.C., claims to have taken 46 cities of Judah in the days of Hezekiah. The biblical account says,

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. (2 Kings 18:13 ESV)

There are three known clay prisms in which Sennacherib mentions Hezekiah, king of Judah.

  1. The Taylor Prism, in the British Museum
  2. The Oriental Institute Prism in Chicago
  3. The Jerusalem Prism, in the Israel Museum

Sennacherib admits in the prism-account that Hezekiah did not submit to his yoke, but was “shut up in Jerusalem” like a caged bird.

The Jerusalem Prism, now displayed in the Israel Museum, is perhaps the least well-known of the three documents. Our photo shows that document displayed under the replica of the relief of the siege of Lachish.

The Jerusalem Prism mentioning Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jerusalem Prism mentioning Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The account in Isaiah 36 is rooted in history.

 

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 35: the desert shall rejoice

Isaiah prophesies the return of the redeemed to Zion, a promise that would be fulfilled with the return from the Babylonian exile. The illustration is one that would be vivid to those who lived on the ridge above the wilderness of Judah.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2 ESV)

Our aerial view  was made toward the east from a location a few miles south of Jerusalem. In the distance you will see the Dead Sea and the Transjordan plateau. At this point it is the Biblical land of Moab.

Aerial view east across the wilderness of Judah and the Dead Sea to the Transjordan Plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view east across the wilderness of Judah and the Dead Sea to the Transjordan Plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For illustrations of the streams in the desert, see here (Isaiah 35:5-7).

Saffron Crocus. The Illustrated Bible Treasury.

Saffron Crocus. The Illustrated Bible Treasury.

When I first began to travel, during the early days of the State of Israel, it was rather common for tour operators to include a phrase such as “See the desert blossom as a rose” in the tour brochure. The word rose came from the King James Version of Isaiah 35:1. The Hebrew term here is chabatstseleth. BDB defines it as a “meadow-saffron or crocus.”

Identifying plants and animals of Bible times is not easy. One common mistake is to find a plant of a certain name in our local language and identify it with one we read about in the Bible.

The point is rather simple. Places that were dry and barren would become watered and beautiful with the return of the redeemed.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 34: Judgment upon Edom

The judgment upon Edom is mentioned prominently in chapter 34 (verses 5, 6, 9; cf. the city of Bozrah, v. 6).

The most prominent place today within the ancient territory of Edom is Petra. Most people visit Petra to see the sculpted structures of the Nabateans. But the Nabateans came much later. The area was originally settled by the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob (Israel).

Our first photo, showing the desolate nature of the area, was made from a higher spot where several tourist hotels are located. To the right of center you will be able to see the parking lot and some of the buildings associated with the operation of the national park of Petra.

Petra is located within this ancient territory of Edom. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Petra is located within this ancient territory of Edom. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo was made inside Petra, but our attention is drawn to the large, high, steep-sided, flattop mountain named Umm el-Biyarah. From this vantage the ancient Edomites felt impregnable.

Umm el-Biyarah, the ancient stronghold of Esau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Umm el-Biyarah, the ancient stronghold of Esau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For those who wish to see a more comprehensive discussion about Edom, I call your attention to the succinct discussion by J. Alec Motyer in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.

Edom is presented as a case in point. Even though Esau himself had no capacity for sustained animosity (Gen. 33:4–16), it was with him that relations with Jacob were soured (Gen. 27:41) and by the time of Numbers 20:14–21 hostility had become an established pattern. Saul made war on Edom (1 Sam. 14:47). David became the only king to subdue and annex Edom (2 Sam. 8:14; cf. 1 Kgs 11:15–16). Edom rebelled against Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1–17, 23–25) and was still rebelling a century later (2 Kgs 8:20). Fifty years further on, there was still fighting (2 Kgs 14:7, 10), and at the fall of Jerusalem the bitter hostility of Edom became notorious (Ps. 137:7; Obad. 10–14). Consequently Amos’ accusation (1:11) of perpetual hatred is well founded. Jeremiah 49:7–22 shows that, even prior to Edom’s behaviour at Jerusalem’s fall, the idea of judgment on Edom was part of the prophetic worldview. Obadiah saw Edom as both a place and a symbol: meriting judgment in its own right but also picturing the judgment which would mark the Day of the Lord. He was not innovating: in Psalms 60:8; 83:6, Edom had already a symbolic place in the theme of hostility to Zion. Two factors make Edom specially fit to stand as a motif for the whole world in the final judgment: first, its ceaseless hostility to the Lord’s people, and secondly the fact that it was only to David that it ever really succumbed. Thus Ezekiel, foreseeing the coming David (34:23), moves immediately to the conquest of Edom (35:1–15). Isaiah stands in this same tradition by following his forecast of the King (ch. 33) with the rout of Edom in the final judgment (cf. 11:14; 63:1–6). Recollecting 29:22 and the establishing of the family of Jacob, the overthrow of Edom/Esau makes the End the exact fulfilment of the beginning (Gen. 25:23). The purposes of God according to election stand.