Category Archives: Bible Lands

The French and archaeology

Media commentators have spoken of the long relationship between France and the United States of America. We may disagree vigorously with various French policies, but in times like this we join in deep concern for the attack on freedom and human life that Paris has recently experienced.

Notre Dame and the River Seine. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notre Dame and the River Seine. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have visited France on several occasions. When I have that opportunity I always try to visit the Louvre Museum at least twice during my stay. French archaeologists have worked throughout the Middle East and brought many of the artifacts to Paris for display.

When I first became aware of those little books on Biblical archaeology by Prof. André Parrot, I purchased used copies of everyone I could locate. Parrot was for a time Curator-in-Chief of the French National Museums, Professor at the Ecole du Louvre, and director of the Mari Archaeology Expedition. Mari is in Syria.

The Louvre displays numerous items from Syria. How many of you have traveled in Syria and visited the archaeological sites and the wonderful museums? Not so many, I suppose. But many have visited the Louvre in Paris and seen some of the greatest discoveries of the ancient world.

The photo below shows the display from Ugarit (Ras Shamra), a city on the Mediterranean coast of Syria a few miles north of Latakia. The excavations were conducted by French archaeologists Claude F. A. Schaeffer. Baal is portrayed as the Canaanite god of grain, weather, and war. This, and the Ugaritic documents displayed in the Louvre, provided much background information for those who study the Bible.

Stele of Baal from Ugarit (Ras Shamra). Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stele of Baal from Ugarit (Ras Shamra). Displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The great archaeological work by the French is much appreciated. Time would fail me to tell of all of the French archaeologists who have contributed to our knowledge.

Tithing anise and overlooking weighty matters

Jesus used illustrations His hearers understood from their daily activities. In announcing woes on the religious leaders of His time, he spoke of spices that were used in cooking.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices– mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law– justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23 NIV)

Instead of dill, the KJV and NKJV versions have used the term anise.

The Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible has a brief explanation about anise.

The term anise mentioned in Matthew 23:23 is derived from the Greek word It refers either to the dill or to the true anise. Both plants are similar and of the same plant family. Both grow about 91 cm. (3 ft.) high with clusters of yellow flowers. The seeds, leaves, and stem are used for medicine and cooking, and were a part of the ancient temple tithe. (Jesus denounced the Jews of His day for carefully obeying small laws, such as the spice tithe, and forgetting the more important ones.) Anise was cultivated in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean countries, and still grows there today. (Packer and Tenney, Eds. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 249.)

Many of the stores in the Old City of Jerusalem and other cities in Israel and the West Bank sell spices. The photo of anise (dill) below was made at Jericho.

A salesman at Jericho shows anise. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A salesman at Jericho shows anise. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Imagine counting out one of every 10 seed but overlooking justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus told the experts in the law and the religious leaders,

You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

I think there is a lesson here for many of us today.

Sheepfolds are still in use in the Bible World

Recently we had a request from a person publishing a Bible class book for a photo of a sheepfold. We did not have exactly what the person requested but we did satisfy their need. At the time I commented that I had seen sheepfolds of all sorts in various parts of the Bible World. Tonight I was looking through some photos made in the Tarus mountains of Turkey. The location is a few miles south of Karaman, Turkey. These shepherds move about from place to place in order to find food for their animals.

The sheepfold in this photo is on the left side of the valley.

Shepherds and sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds and sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A short distance away is a different sheepfold. If you click on the photo, in the larger image you will see at least two dogs keeping watch and a woman milking a sheep.

A sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Scenes such as these remind us of the Biblical patriarchs who moved about from place to place with their flocks. Abraham and Lot provide an example.

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, (Genesis 13:5 ESV)

There are several biblical references to the sheepfold, or the fold of the sheep (Jeremiah 50:6; Micah 2:12; John 10:1, 16). Jesus used an illustration involving the sheepfold:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 ESV)

Jesus rides a donkey from Bethphage to Jerusalem

Bethphage is mentioned in the New Testament in only one incident from the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 21:1, Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29).

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,   saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'”  So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”  And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”  And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. (Luke 19:28-35 ESV)

John records the event but does not mention Bethphage (John 12:12ff.).

The exact site of Bethphage is not known, but it certainly was not far from Kefr et Tur, the place of Byzantine traditions. The present Franciscan chapel was built there in 1883.

Franciscan chapel at Bethphage. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Franciscan chapel at Bethphage. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman road from Jericho to Jerusalem went over the Mount of Olives between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. Before reaching the top of the mountain a spur or bypass turned south to Bethphage and Bethany.

A colt at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A colt at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In a 1975 article in Biblical Archaeologist (Vol. 38, No. 1), John Wilkinson wrote about “The Way from Jerusalem to Jericho.” He and his party tried to trace out known remnants of the old Roman road between the two cities. This 12½ mile trip from Jericho up to Jerusalem took 7 hours and forty-nine minutes.

Index of articles about Peter’s Epistles

Pontus and Peter’s Epistles. [Amasus, Amisos, Samsun, Black Sea coast]

Persecution of Christians in Pontus. [Pliny, Sinope, Sinop, Pontus, Bithynia, Pontus]

Black Sea coastal town of Sinop.

Sinop is the northernmost city of Asia Minor (now Turkey).

Some famous Sinopeans. [Diogenes the Cynic, Serapis]

More famous Sinopeans. [Aquila (2nd century), Marcion, Phocas (Phokas), Sinop Gospels]

The Halys (Kizilirmak) River.

The delivery of Peter’s Epistles.

The Samsun Archaeological Museum.

Hidden treasure. [Samsun, Turkey]

Visiting the Black Sea coast of Turkey. [Samsun, Sinop, Pontus, Aquila]

The Bosphorus – “a liquid line”.

Selected Related Posts Pertaining to Peter’s Epistles

Cappadocia was home to early Christians.

Cappadocian sunrise.

The Bosphorus. [Bythinia]

Elaborate hairstyles in New Testament times.

Watch out for camels

This post is not intended as a summary of information about camels in the Bible. It is just calling attention to the terrain and kind of signs one sees in Israel’s Negev (Negeb). The NKJV uses the directional term South.

Abraham and Isaac lived in the Negev. When Abraham was old he sent his most trusted servant back to Padan Aram, where Abraham had lived before coming to Canaan, to get a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). After arrangements were made for Rebekah to return with the servant to Canaan, the Biblical account reads as follows,

Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way. Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. (Genesis 24:61-67 ESV)

Camel warning sign in the Negeb (Negev). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Camel warning sign in the Negeb (Negev). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Absalom, rebel son of king David, caught his head in a great oak tree

While David was at Mahanaim, his son Absalom and those of Israel who were aligned with him camped in the land of Gilead (2 Samuel 17:26-27). David remained at the gate of the city while his men went out to fight the rebels. The Biblical account says,

So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword. And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  (2 Samuel 18:6-9 ESV)

Even though many trees have been used by various invaders over the centuries, some forests of oaks may still be seen in both Cisjordan (territory west of the Jordan River) and Transjordan (territory east of the Jordan River). The photos below were made in a grove of trees growing the Golan Heights a short distance south of the junction of Highways 98 and 99 south of Mas’ada.

These trees may be much smaller than the “great oak” in which Absalom caught his head, but they could be quite dangerous to a person trying to make a fast getaway on a mule.

Oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here are the leaves of this variety of tree.

Close view of oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The leaves of oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And the large acorns it grows.

Acorns on the oaks of Bashan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acorns on the oaks of Bashan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The oaks of Bashan are mentioned by the prophets of Israel several times (Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 27:6; Zechariah 11:2).

The technical name for the oak shown here is Querqcus ithaburensis, and is known as the Tabor oak. Dr. David Darom, in Beautiful Plants of the Bible, say this about the tree,

The Tabor oak, being a large deciduous tree that dominates its surroundings, was often associated with ritual and religious customs. Tabor oak forests once covered large areas of the northern Coastal Plain, the Lower Galilee, the Hulah Valley and
the slopes of the Golan. Most of the trees were cut down during the ages so their excellent wood could be used in buildings, furniture and boats. (p. 44)

William M. Thomson, back in 1880, described a walk in one of the “grand old forests” near the Crocodile River between Caesarea and Dor.

I had a delightful ramble early the next morning in those grand old forests, and then understood perfectly how Absalom could be caught by the thick branches of an oak. The strong arms of these trees spread out so near the ground that one cannot walk erect beneath them; and on a frightened mule, such a head of hair as that vain but wicked son polled every year would certainly become inextricably entangled: and it is interesting to know that the region east of the Jordan, that “wood of Ephraim” where the battle was fought, is still covered with thick oaks, tangled bushes, and thorny creepers growing over ragged rocks, and ruinous precipices, down which the rebel army plunged in wild dismay, horses and men crushing each other to death in remediless ruin. Thus twenty thousand men perished in that fatal wood, which “devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.” (The Land and the Book or Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery, of the Holy Land: Southern Palestine and Jerusalem. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880. Print.)

To be precisely Biblical, it was Absalom’s head that caught in the oak, but the excessive hair might have contributed to his misfortune.

Absalom was killed by Joab and his armor-bearers (2 Samuel 18:14-15). Balwin comments on Absalom’s ignominious end:

All that remains is to bury there and then in the forest the body of the rebel, his grave marked only by a huge cairn of field stones, which would in a relatively short time cease to be identifiable. It was an ignominious end. (Baldwin, Joyce G. 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 8. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Print. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.)