Monthly Archives: January 2017

Bal’ama is thought to be Biblical Ibleam

We always wanted to travel through the hill country of Samaria (Manasseh and Ephraim) on our tours, but there were many years that this was not possible due to the political situation. When travel was possible we drove (from the north) through Jenin, the plain of Dothan, Samaria, Shechem (Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, Jacob’s Well), and other sites as time permitted. If we could not travel along the central mountain range we drove through the Jordan Valley.

Sometime when traveling through Jenin, our guide would mention that there is a tel (tell, archaeological mound) on the south side of the city, but we never saw it. Traveling in a bus normally provides a better view because one is sitting higher, but I now understand why we did not see this tel. The excavation report explains that the spring entrance at road level became visible only after the 1996-1997 road work. The road runs through the Wadi Bal’ama.

The site on the south side of Jenin is known as Khirbet Bal’ama, or Khirbet Belameh. Several 19th and 20th century archaeologists identified this site with Biblical Ibleam.

Ibleam was a Canaanite town in the territory given to the Israelite tribe of Manasseh. As the Israelites settled in the land, there were Canaanite cities that they failed to capture. One of them was Ibleam (Joshua 17:11). The Biblical text says,

Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. (Judges 1:27 ESV)

Thutmose III was the ruler of Egypt (1504-1450 B.C.) during the 18th Dynasty. Some scholars place the beginning of his rule at 1490 and others at 1479.

Thutmose III at the Temple of Amum at Karnak. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seated statue of Thutmose III at the Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Thutmose made a military excursion into Canaan and left a record of it on the walls of the Karnak Temple. Our photo shows a few of the bound rulers of various cities. I don’t have a translation of the cartouches and do not know if Bal’ama is shown in this photo, but it is included somewhere on the walls of Karnak.

Part of the city list left by Thutmose III at Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Part of the city list left by Thutmose III at Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My interest in Bal’ama was renewed when I read A.D. Riddle’s article in the Bible Places Blog here. Last April, 2016, I had this site in mind when we were able to drive through the West Bank from Galilee to Jerusalem. As we drove south of Jenin I caught a glimpse of the new sign marking the entrance to Bal’ama Tunnel. Note that the sign is in Arabic and English. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this sign was there in 2015 when I drove through Jenin, but I may have been looking to the east of the highway.

Bal'ama is marked as Bal'ama Tunnel on the west side of the road from Jenin to Dothan, Samaria, and Nablus (Shechem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bal’ama is marked as Bal’ama Tunnel on the west side of the road from Jenin to Dothan, Samaria, and Nablus (Shechem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are two information signs posted at the site of Khirbet Bal’ama. The first reads,

Khirbet Bal’ama is a Canaanite fortified city that occupied a strategic position controlling the historic route of Wadi Bal’ama which connects the Arraba Plain with Marj Ibn Amer (“Jarzeel [Jezreel] Valley”). In the ancient record, the site is identified with the name “Ibleam“, and was mentioned in the Egyptian Royal Archive in the 15th century B.C. With reference to the classical records, Bal’ama was known as “Belemoth”, and was mentioned as a major town during the Bronze Age and beginnings of the Iron Age. It was inhabited during the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic periods, also during the crusader/Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Excavations at the site carried out by a Joint Palestinian-Dutch team between 1998 and 2000, revealed the water system and parts of a city walls dating back to the Bronze Age at the western perimeter of the site, ruins for houses dating back to the second Iron Age, a winery from the Roman period and remnants of a tower on top of the hill dating back to the crusader/Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. A cemetery on the southern top of the hill adjacent to Khirbet Bal’ama was discovered as well.

Khirbet Bal’ama is visible to the right of the new building on the slope. There are two entrances to the tunnel; one at street level and another at the level of the platform on the slope.

The site of Khirbet Bal'ama south of Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Khirbet Bal’ama south of Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Riddle includes some nice photos of the site, but we can add one with the entrance to the tunnel system open.

Entrance to the tunnel at Khirbet Bal'ama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to the tunnel at Khirbet Bal’ama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another sign on the entrance plaza describes the water tunnel system.

The water tunnel is located at the eastern foot of Khirbet Bal’ama. It was first described by Victor Guerin in 1874 and then by G. Schumacher [who had earlier excavated at Megiddo] in 1910. The rock-cut tunnel was dug to give access to the water source at the foot of the hill. It was designed primarily to be used in times of war and siege. The Bal’ama water tunnel system is one of the major systems in Palestine, like other systems found in Jerusalem, Tel el-Muteselim (Megiddo), Tel el-Qadah (Hazor) and Tell el-Jazari (Gezer). The tunnel consists of three parts, namely the archway at the lowest entrance, the rock-cut tunnel going upward to the west, and the upper stone-built narrow passage. The discovered tunnel is 115 metres in length; 105 metres of it is rock-cut and includes 57 stairs. Archaeological objects were found, such as pottery vessels, glass objects, coins, and some inscriptions.

And we can add a photo of the actual lower water tunnel. Riddle says,

The tunnel was apparently constructed in the Iron Age, though this is based largely on inference rather than clear, direct evidence

Beginning of the Bal'ama Tunnel on the east side of the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beginning of the Bal’ama Tunnel on the eastern (northeast, Riddle) side of the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Due to lunch plans at Samaria and other sites on our schedule for the day we were not able to walk through the tunnel. Always a reason to return.

Riddle cites two excavation reports. He says the first may be difficult to access in the United States, but I am pleased to say that both documents are now available on Academia under the name of Hamdan Taha. This is for those who have a more technical interest in the site.

Taha, Hamdan and Gerrit van der Kooij. The Water Tunnel System at Khirbet Bal’ama. Archaeological Project Report of the 1996–2000 Excavations and Surveys, volume II. Ramallah: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage. 2007.

Taha, Hamdan. “Excavation of the Water Tunnel at Khirbet Belameh, 1996-1997.” in Proceedings of the First International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Rome, May 18th-23rd 1998. 2000: 1587-1613.

Special offer on Carta Jerusalem resources

Yesterday I received a review copy of Jerusalem • Biblical Archaeology from Carta. This is a wonderful resource for anyone traveling to Jerusalem, or anyone interested in the archaeology of the Holy City.

The map of the Biblical Archaeological Sites of Jerusalem are printed on one side of this 2 ft. by 3 ft. map. Half of the other side is an enlargement of the archaeological sites in the Old City. The other half contains helpful information about sites on both sides of the map.

This map was prepared by Carta Jerusalem with the assistance of Yuval Baruch PhD, in collaboration with The Israel Antiquities Authority.

This is exactly the type map I like to use when rambling through Jerusalem.

And here is a special offer from Carta.

carta-jer-arch-map

This offer allows 20% off the list price of…

  • Leen Ritmeyer, The Quest (list price $60.00; sale price $48.00).
  • Dan Bahat, The Carta Jerusalem Atlas (list price $60.00; sale price $48.00).
  • Josephus, The Jewish War (list price $60.00; sale price $48.00). See Todd Bolen’s review of the book here.

These are all great books. And you get the map free when you buy one of them. Use the Search box for Jerusalem Archaeological Sites to locate the map.

This offer is good until January 31st ONLY! Use Voucher Code: 20-off

You can check the Carta Jerusalem website here for details of this special offer.

New Book: The World’s Oldest Alphabet

Carta Jerusalem is sending me a review copy of this book when it is published next month. It is somewhat technical, but there are readers of our blog who have an interest in the subject.

The World’s Oldest Alphabet

Hebrew as the Language of the Proto-Consonantal Script
By Douglas Petrovich

From the Introduction by Eugene H. Merrill,
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies (Emeritus)
Dallas Theological Seminary:

“. . . The breakthrough as to the question of the origins of the alphabet represented in this volume is the fruit of the author’s intensive and extensive research and fastidious attention to detail. His acclaimed expertise in epigraphy, paleography, lexicography, and comparative linguistics and literature has led him to the conviction that of all options one can currently advance as to the ultimate origins of the alphabet, the identification of proto-Hebrew is the very best candidate. . . .”

New book Douglas Petrovich.

Carta is offering 25% off until January 31st only.

For about 150 years, scholars have attempted to identify the language of the world’s first alphabetic script, and to translate some of the inscriptions that use it. Until now, their attempts have accomplished little more than identifying most of the pictographic letters and translating a few of the Semitic words. With the publication of The World’s Oldest Alphabet, a new day has dawned. All of the disputed letters have been resolved, while the language has been identified conclusively as Hebrew, allowing for the translation of 16 inscriptions that date from 1842 to 1446 BC. It is the author’s reading that these inscriptions expressly name three biblical figures (Asenath, Ahisamach, and Moses) and greatly illuminate the earliest Israelite history in a way that no other book has achieved, apart from the Bible.

 About the Author:

Douglas Petrovich (Ph.D., M.A., Th.M., M.Div.) teaches Ancient Egypt at Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Canada). He formerly was the academic dean and a professor at Novosibirsk Biblical-Theological Seminary (Russia), as well as at Shepherds Theological Seminary (U.S.A.), where he taught all levels of biblical Hebrew. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, with a major in Syro-Palestinian archaeology, a first minor in ancient Egyptian language, and a second minor in ancient Near Eastern religions. His research interests include biblical history and exegesis, Egyptology, and ancient Near Eastern history (including archaeology, epigraphy, chronology, and iconography).

Petrovich has done extensive work in the area pertaining to the exodus and conquest. I have heard him speak on this subject at the annual meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society, and now I look forward to studying the book.

Click here for sample pages

Carta is offering 25% OFF UNTIL JANUARY 31st ONLY when you order from their online store. Use Vocher Code: 25-off
Order now and guarantee your copy

My Thoughts on the Nile in 2009

This is a re-post from USA Inauguration Day in 2009.

Shortly before sunset, January 20, 2009, I made a few photos of the Nile River looking toward the west bank of the river. I thought I would share this one with you.

Sunset on the Nile, January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunset on the Nile, January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are anchored on the Nile a few miles south of Luxor. From my cabin on the Tu Ya cruise boat I am watching the Al Jazeera Network live coverage of the inauguration ceremonies in Washington. The choice of the majority of voters on November 2 was not my choice, but I must say that I am proud at this moment to be an American.

The American ideal of freedom and justice for all is a noble one. Surely there are times when this ideal is not met, but it remains the dream that holds us together, many as one. The diversity of our nation is a testimony to the vitality of that dream.

The inaugural ceremony is the same whether watching it live in Washington, on Al Jezeera in Egypt, or on CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or one of the other networks in the United States. Well, maybe. The thing that makes the difference is the commentary afterwards and the news chosen to run underneath the live event.

The Kangal sheep dog of Anatolia

Shepherds in every part of the world have problems they must contend with as they care for their sheep. The Bible uses the analogy of the sheep and the wolves in several places. Jesus warned about the “hired hand” who would abandon the sheep.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10:12 ESV)

Within the past few years I have come across an interesting practice used by shepherds in Anatolia (Central Turkey), and only recently came across an article in a 2003 issue of Saudi Aramco World about the same shepherds. It begins this way,

There are grey wolves in Turkey, thousands of them. There are also bears, jackals, and—recorded just last year for the first time in a quarter century—Anatolian leopards. All are the enemies of sheep and goats. As predators, they live at the expense of the prey animals, the meat-eaters against the grass-eaters. But on Turkey’s Anatolian plateau, the prey have a strong friend, more than a match for any predator: the kangal dog.

On our last visit to the ancient Hittite city of Hattusas (modern Boghazkale) we saw a large number of sheep grazing over the ruins of the ancient city. Our guide said that the dogs we saw with the shepherds were a special breed of dog that were common in Anatolia, but he could not recall the name of the dogs. In fact, he said might be a slightly different breed from the one he was thinking about.

Shepherd at hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd at Hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The shepherds were pleased to show us the spiked collar. A wolf, or other wild animal, would go at the throat of the dog, but the spikes would be a strong deterrent. Notice also that the ears of this dog have been cropped. This, according to the article, is “intended to deprive wolves of a tooth-hold.” The author says,

Shepherds frequently dock their dogs’ ears, saving them the trouble of doctoring wounds when they tangle with a wolf. But the heavy spiked collar they wear, called a çengel, or hook, seems enough to keep even the most determined enemy from biting their heads.

Here is a close-up, and you may click on it for an even larger image, showing the spikes or hook.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds of biblical times carried a rod and a staff (Psalm 23:4). The rod could be used to ward off an attacking animal. The staff was used by the shepherd as he made his way up and down the hillsides, and to separate the sheep.

Source: Werner, Louis. “Shepherd’s Best Friend.” Saudi Aramco World July/Aug. 2003: 38-43.

The Horns of Hattin and the battle of 1187

The Horns of Hattin is the name given to a saddle-shaped (or horn-shaped) extinct volcano located about five miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Several older writers, including Jesse L. Hurlbut, referred to this formation as the traditional Mount of the Beatitudes (A Bible Atlas [1910], 15). The hill is about 1200 feet above sea level. Few scholars hold this view today.

A view of the Horns of Hattin northwest of Highway 77. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the Horns of Hattin northwest of Highway 77. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below Hattin, on the edge of the Arbel Pass, there is a building believed by the Druze to be the burial site of Nebi Shu’eib (Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses; Exodus 3:1). The Druze gather here every spring for a festival.

One of the most important battles of history was fought at the Horns of Hattin on July 4, 1187. The Moslems, headed by Saladin, overpowered the Crusaders and captured most of Palestine including Jerusalem. Perhaps the most significant reason the Crusaders took their stand here was that they thought the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was spoken by Jesus on this hill.

I have never stood atop Hattin, but a friend of mine walked the Jesus Trail after our tour in 2011. Larry Haverstock shared some of his photos of the fascinating formation as he crossed it on his five-day trip from Nazareth to Capernaum.

This first photo shows ruins of a Roman road between Golani Junction and Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. The Jesus Trail followed this road. Larry’s friends will recognize his shadow  in the photo.

The Jesus Trail follows ruins of the Roman road from Golani Junction to Magdala. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

The Jesus Trail follows ruins of the Roman road from Golani Junction to Magdala. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

Following the road from the west one approaches the Horns of Hattin knowing that from the top there will be a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee and the area of the Galilean ministry of Jesus.

The Horns of Hattin from the west. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

The Horns of Hattin from the west. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

Approaching the top of the formation you will see the southern hump and some of the volcanic rubble from ages past.

View to the east, while walking the Jesus Trail from Nazareth. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

View to the east, while walking the Jesus Trail from Nazareth. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

The next photo made from Hattin shows Mount Arbel and portions of the Sea of Galilee. Larry writes and speaks vividly. I notified him that I would be posting this article today. He replied,

Can’t wait to see your Hattin article. I was up there all alone, not one other person in sight as far as the eyes could see from that amazing height. Could almost hear the echoing sounds of war reverberating across the centuries.

View of the Sea of Galilee from the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

View of the Sea of Galilee from the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

This photo provides a clear view of the depression to the north (left) of Mount Arbel through which the ancient road ran. The valley leading from the Horns of Hattin to the Sea of Galilee is known as Wadi Hamam. It is more commonly called the Arbel Pass, the Valley of the Robbers, or the Valley of the Pigeons. Some scholars say that the main trunk road from the Coastal Plain to Damascus came through this valley. It is common to hear this spoken of as the Via Maris (the way to the sea). This means that the main road from Nazareth, Sepphoris, and Cana to Capernaum ran through this valley. This is the way Jesus and His disciples traveled (Matthew 4:13; John 4:11-12). Other scholars suggest that the route from Capernaum to Nazareth ran to the north of the wadi and the rugged cliffs to the north.

From the Horns of Hattin one sees Mount Arbel, the Arbel Valley, the plain of Gennesaret and the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

From the Horns of Hattin one sees Mount Arbel, the Arbel Valley, the plain of Gennesaret and the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Larry Haverstock.

I have read several articles about the modern reenactment of the decisive 1187 battle between the Crusaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the followers of Saladin. Here are a few links for those who would like to read more.

  • Times of Israel 2016 article by Ilan Ben Zion here.
  • Times of Israel 2015 article by Oded Balilty here.
  • Daily Mail article with photos here.

Alon describes the day of the battle in 1187.

The engagement took place on a blistering-hot day and the Crusader soldiers encumbered by their heavy and clumsy armor in face of the light cavalry of their enemy. After a day-long battle, not one Crusader soldier remained alive on the battlefield. (Azaria Alon, Israel National Parks & Nature Reserves, 168.)

Numerous persons have included photos here and there on the Internet. I was impressed with some photos by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov and requested permission to share two or three of them with our readers. Ruslana graciously granted permission. The next three photos are by her. The first shows Crusader soldiers readying for battle. You can see other of her photos here.

History buffs reenact the crusaders as they ready to defend the formation known as the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov.

History buffs reenact the crusaders as they ready to defend the formation known as the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov.

This photo shows the heavy armor worn by some of the soldiers.

One of the soldier actors had his armor laid out to show what the Crusaders had to wear. History buffs reenact the crusaders as they ready to defend the formation known as the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov.

One of the soldier actors had his armor laid out to show what the Crusaders had to wear. History buffs reenact the crusaders as they ready to defend the formation known as the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov.

This photo shows soldiers as they approached the western slope of the Horns of Hattin.

This photo shows soldiers as they approached the western slope of the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov.

This photo shows soldiers as they approached the western slope of the Horns of Hattin. Photo by Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov.

The official web page for the Horns of Hattin project is here.

Did Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount here? Probably not.

Many thanks to Larry Haverstock and Ruslana Goldberg-Kanin Teishov for making this post much more interesting than it would have been without their photos. If you wish to follow Larry on the Jesus Trail you may begin here and then use his blog archive to locate the other posts.

Donation for Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem

Last April I had the opportunity to visit the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa. The archaeological artifact I wish to share today is an inscription from Jerusalem describing a donation by a “Paris son of Akeson of Rhodes” for Herod’s Temple.

Herod Temple Donation. Displayed in Hecht Museum, Haifa.

Herod Temple Donation. Displayed in Hecht Museum, Haifa.

The sign with the artifact provides this English translation of the fragment:

year 20 (Herod reign) during the time of the High
Priest (Simon son of Boethus)
Paris son of Akeson
of Rhodes
pavement (of the southern Temple Court?)
drachmas …

The following information is provided with the inscription:

This inscription was discovered among the debris in a palace pool of the Herodian period about 70 meters south of the plaza that runs along the southern wall of the Temple Mount. The inscription mentions the donation of Paris, son of Akeson, of Rhodes, probably toward the cost of paving the Temple’s open southern court (Azara). According to Josephus, this court was paved with a variety of stones. This pavement was constructed, as the inscription notes, during the period of the Temple’s reconstruction, in the twentieth year of Herod’s reign (21 BCE), at the time of the High Priest Simon, son of Boethus.

Herod the Great ruled as King of Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-19; Luke 1:5). Sources I use typically show the reign of Herod as king of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C. He served as Governor of Galilee as early as 47 B.C.

The inscription is displayed in the Hecht Museum by courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.