Category Archives: Bible Lands

Dust storms afflict Egypt, Palestine, and Israel

Almost four years ago I wrote a post about the strong East winds of the Middle East, also calling attention to the winds from the south. Several bloggers have called attention to a recent occurrence of the winds affecting Egypt, Palestine, and Israel in particular. I thought it would be appropriate to reprint some of that earlier material here with an update.

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Almost everyone who has visited Israel has learned of the West winds that make their way through the depressions around the Sea of Galilee and create storms on the Sea. Unless you travel in the “transitional season” or in the (dry) summer season you may not have learned about the East wind. This wind is called the sirocco. In Egypt it is known as the khamsin, and in Israel as the sharav.

Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1974 ed., pp. 51-53), explains these winds. He says they occur in the transitional seasons from early April to mid-June, and from mid-September to the end of October. Baly says,

It is this intense dryness and the fine dust in the air which are so exhausting, for other hot days, though troublesome, do not have the same effect. People with a heart condition, nervous complaints, or sinus trouble are particularly affected, but even the mildest-tempered person is apt to become irritable and to snap at other people for no apparent reason. Tourists find the sirocco especially frustrating, for not only does travel become fatiguing, but the fine yellowish dust which fills the air drains it of all color, blots out all but the immediate vicinity, and makes photography a mockery.

Here is how Larry Haverstock described his day walking the Jesus Trail in an Email to me.

No blog last night because of the storm. I woke to high winds from the east which dusted up the air so badly that photos were mostly useless. Worst part was that it was directly against me and really HOT. Pushing against 20+ mph winds really took the steam out of me. By the end of the day I was utterly exhausted.  Drank my full 3 litres and had good dinners and breakfasts, but energy levels are still very low.

The photo below is one of the aerial shots Larry and I made a week earlier. It was made while flying over the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the view to the west. You can see Mount Arbel and the Wadi Hamam below. The Via Maris runs in this valley which is also called the Valley of the Doves. You will notice two lines of mountains further west.

I am rather sure that this is the route Larry was walking. Larry lived in Washington state for many years. I think he is not bothered by the sudden rains, but the intense heat and strong wind from the east may be another matter. I want you to think about the fact that all of the biblical characters from the Patriarchs to Jesus and His disciples encountered conditions similar to these (and worse).

Aerial view of Arbel, Wadi Hamam, and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Arbel, Wadi Hamam, and the Via Maris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Baly cites several biblical references to the east and south winds that bring in the hot air and the dust storms. He says, “Where the mountains come close to the sea a strong sirocco pours down the slopes like a flood, at 60 miles an hour or more, stirring the sea into a fury.”

By the east wind you shattered the ships of Tarshish. (Psalm 48:7 ESV)

In the prophecy against Tyre, Ezekiel says,

“Your rowers have brought you out into the high seas. The east wind has wrecked you in the heart of the seas. (Ezekiel 27:26 ESV)

Notice Elihu’s comments to Job about the south wind.

Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,  you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind?  (Job 37:16-17 ESV)

Jesus also observed the effect of the south wind:

And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. (Luke 12:55 ESV)

Do you remember Jonah’s problems after enjoying the shade of his plant?

When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8 ESV)

Baly calls attention to the effect of the spring siroccos on the crops.

The spring siroccos destroy the winter grass and may damage the crops if they come too soon, and hence they appear constantly in the Bible as a symbol of the impermanence of riches or of human life.

Note these additional references in your own study: Psalm 103:16; Isaiah 40:6-8; Hosea 13:15; Ezekiel 17:10; James 1:11. In a recent post Barry Britnell (Exploring Bible Lands) add Deuteronomy 28:15-24 here.

Larry Haverstock’s own description which he later wrote here in his blog is included here. (There are some great pictures of his descent from Mount Arbel.)

It was while making this first effort of the morning that I encountered my nemesis for the rest of the day.  It was only 10 o’clock but already a hot wind was blowing in my face.  What I couldn’t know at that moment was that as I climbed the western slope the mountain was acting as a shield so that I wouldn’t feel the brunt of this wind until I summited.  As soon as I stepped out upon the actual heights of Arbel I knew I was in for an unusual day.

The view was phenomenal and despite the dust in the air I got the following shot of the Plain of Gennesaret.  This is the Northwest corner of the Sea.  Just out of sight on the waterfront to the right are the ruins of ancient Magdala from whence one very famous Mary came.  All the rest of the shoreline is the area in which Jesus spent a tremendous amount of time, preached some of His very most famous sermons, worked many miracles, and made His home in Capernaum which is along the shore as it turns the corner and heads off to the right in the distance.  Much food for thought when you stand in this place.

Unfortunately, the wind was howling and dangerous here.  I don’t have a weather report, but guess it was in the vicinity of 40 miles an hour since I was actually being pushed off balance and forced to take a step now and then to keep from falling over.  It did give me pause, but I was determined to take the shorter, harder, steeper trail down, so I spent about 20 minutes re-rigging my equipment.  Fearing the monopod “sword” might jam itself on the rocks somehow I removed it from the under arm position and strapped it vertically to the back of the pack.  Then, using the extra leather chin strap rope I’d brought along for emergency, I took off my hat and lashed it on the back of the pack too.  This hat had a very wide and stiff brim which had helped shield my face from the gale on the way up, but was now a liability, capable of catching the wind and pulling me off balance, so I stowed it.  Then I took the pack’s belly straps and lengthened them so that rather than directly clutching my stomach, they came out and over the front pack so that I could tightly restrain it from swinging.  Having thus reduced my exposure to the wind I started down.

It was now man against mountain, rather than nonchalant tourist with a camera time.…

Shortly afterwards I called attention to the comparative photos that Dr. Carl G. Rasmussen has included in his Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, and on his Holy Land Photos website here. These photos provide a vivid contrast that the dust storms make.

In today’s Weekend Roundup at Bible Places Blog, Todd Bolen calls attention to the current article in The Jerusalem Post here, and the 25 or so outstanding large photos from Egypt, Palestine, and Israel in London’s Daily Mail here. Be sure to look at these photos.

I have experienced a delayed flight in Egypt due to the sand storms, and the scorching hot wind with dust in Israel, but nothing like these photos reveal.

Florida College Annual Lectureship 2015

Many of our readers attend the annual Florida College Lectureship. The theme for the February 2-5, 2015 lectureship is “Light Shall Shine Out of Darkness.

I am scheduled to present an illustrated lecture on “The Roman Imperial Cult in Palestine” Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. in Puckett Auditorium. It would be my pleasure to see some of our readers in the audience.

The complete lectureship program is available here.

Florida College Press has recently published two of my out-of-print books. Revised editions of Biblical Authority and The Finger of God are back on the shelf.

Two revised books by Ferrell Jenkins now available.

Two revised books by Ferrell Jenkins now available.

The bookstore manager asked me to do a book signing Thursday between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Love to see you there.

Other books in print include:

  • Studies in the Book of Revelation
  • The Early Church
  • The Theme of the Bible
  • God’s Eternal Purpose (Ephesians)
  • Better Things (Hebrews)

Several books that I have edited or have a chapter are listed if you search with my name at the Florida College Bookstore site here.

 

 

 

Flying over Beit She’an, Bethshan, Beth-shan

The Israelis call it Beit She’an, but English Bible readers will know it as Bethshan. The town is mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament. The English Standard Version uses both Beth-shan and Beth-shean to identify this town. Other English versions use a variety of spellings including Bethshan.

From atop the ancient tell, called Tell el-Husn or Tel Beth She’an, one has an impressive view of the area. Occupational levels date back at least to 3000 B.C. Artifacts from Canaan, Egypt, Anatolia, north Syria, and Mesopotamia have been uncovered from the mound.

The photo below was made from the air with a view northeast. A small portion of the Harrod Valley, with some fish ponds, is visible in the top of the photo. The River Harod flows to the east of the tel hidden by the line of trees.

Tel Husn (Bethshan) is visible in the bottom of the image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Husn (Bethshan) is visible in the bottom of the image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For many Bible students the first event that comes to mind is the defeat of King Saul at the hands of the Philistines. After his death on nearby Mount Gilboa, Saul’s body was taken to Beth-shean and fastened to the wall of the city (1 Samuel 31).

During the Greek period the city was named Scythopolis (city of the Scythians) and expanded to the foot of the tell.

In 63 B.C. the Romans, under the general Pompey, made the city part of the Decapolis (a league of ten cities; Matthew 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:21). This was the only city of the Decapolis west of the Jordan River. The city was populated by gentiles, Jews and Samaritans.

The main street of the Byzantine city. The tel of ancient Bethshan is visible at the end of the street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The main street of the Byzantine city. The tel of ancient Bethshan is visible at the end of the columned street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The city grew to its largest size during the Byzantine period as a “Christian” city. It came under Muslim control in A.D. 636, and was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 749.

Some of the earthquake damage at Bethshan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some of the earthquake damage at Bethshan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The destroyed Byzantine city lies between the theater and the mound. That’s a lot of history in one small place.

A miscellany of topics

In the past few weeks I have been occupied trying to get some out-of-print material ready for reprint. Occasionally I read something that I think should be shared. Take a look at these.

Ephesus Museum Open. Carl Rasmussen reports on his HolyLandPhotos’Blog that the Ephesus Museum in Seljuk is open after being closed for renovation.

Gentile References in Matthew. Charles Savelle presents a list of “Gentile References in Matthew” at BibleX.

Bible Places Blog. Todd Bolen’s Weekend Roundups have been extremely helpful the past couple of weeks. See here for the most current one.

The Fallow Deer. Shmuel Browns writes about how the Fallow Deer was reintroduced into Israel from Iran. Fascinating story with photos here. Browns does not say where he made his photos, but mentions that some of the deer were taken to Neot Kadumim. When Leon Mauldin and I visited Neot Kedumim in 2005 the deer there were young. I note that they are not as gray as those in Shmuel’s photos. Perhaps the age accounts for the difference.

Young fallow deer at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Young fallow deer at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Using Maps in Bible Study. Wayne Stiles writes about “The Value of Using Maps in Your Bible Study” here.

Mount Gilboa. The Times of Israel carries an article here with beautiful photos, of the Gilboa Mountains and the wildflowers growing there in the winter and spring.

A poppy and a bee at the Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A poppy and a bee at the Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Responding to Newsweek. Darrell L. Bock has two more responses here to the Newsweek article on The Bible.

How Many Saviors? Amazon has Ronald Nash’s Is Jesus the Only Savior? available in Kindle format for $1.99 for a limited time. This book can be very helpful in this time of emphasis on pluralism and inclusivism.

The Exodus. Last Friday I heard Gretchen Carlson’s interview with filmmaker Tim Mahoney on Fox News. It was the first I had heard of the film Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. The film is debuting Monday, January 19 at select theaters nationwide.

A wide variety of scholars are interviewed in the film, including Charles Aling, Manfred Bietak, John Bimson, Israel Finkelstein, James K. Hoffmeier, David Rohl (who has advanced a revised chronology ancient Egypt and Palestine),
Bryant Wood, and others.

For info on the film and places it will be shown see Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus. Here is the trailer.

A few nice photos are available for download.

From Patterns of Evidence.

From Patterns of Evidence.

You are on your own to see/hear and evaluate.

Added Note (Jan. 19, 2015). Todd Bolen calls attention to a review of the film by Larry Largent. This review confirms my suspicions that the flim was an effort to push a revised chronology. Take a look at this review at Biblical Remains.

NASA photos of Israel and Middle East

NASA has posted several excellent photos made by Barry Wilmore from the International Space Station on Facebook. The photos were made on Christmas day, 2014. See how many landmarks you can identify. Click on the photo for a larger image. Do you see Tyre?

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The photo below shows portions (or all) of (L to R) Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey (including Euphrates River), and Iraq. Great photo.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Get out your Bible atlases and study these photos.

Our tax dollars put to good use, I would say.

Frankincense and Myrrh in the Bible

Frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together in the Song of Solomon and in the account of the visit of the magi from the east to see Jesus. Several significant things can be learned from these Biblical verses.

Look first at Song of Solomon 3:6.

“What is this coming up from the wilderness Like columns of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all scented powders of the merchant? (Song of Solomon 3:6 NAU)

  • Myrrh and frankincense are associated with the wilderness (desert; Hebrew, midbar).
  • Perhaps incense used in sacrifice or offering, “like columns of smoke.”
  • Associated with perfume and scented or fragrant powders.
  • Something traveling merchants would bring from the wilderness.

Song of Solomon 4:13-14 provides more insights.

“Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates With choice fruits, henna with nard plants,  Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, With all the trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices. (Song of Solomon 4:13-14 NAU)

  • Associated with trees, and classified with spices.
The wilderness of Zin near Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wilderness of Zin near Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reference in the New Testament is in the account of the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-11).

  • Frankincense and myrrh are in the category with gold, and offered as gifts to one who is considered a king and is being worshiped.
  • The magi have come from east of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
  • Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are considered treasures.

All of these tips harmonize with what is known about frankincense and myrrh. The plants or trees from which these come are known to grow in the desert regions. They are not native to Biblical Israel. Traveling merchants from Arabia traveled long distances across the desert, making stops at Petra, Avdat, and other places on their way to Gaza and other Mediterranean ports where the products could be shipped throughout the Mediterranean world.

The photo below was made at Avdat (Ovdat), a Nabatean site in the Negev. The city was especially significant in the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Avdat was stop number 62 on the famous Incense Route. It is now part of Israel’s National Park system, and a World Heritage Site. A display at the ticket office and shop explains about the Incense Route and shows some of the goods that were transported across the desert.

The header we are using for this blog, showing a caravan crossing the desert, was made at Avdat.

Frankincense and Myrrh on the Spice Route at Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Frankincense and Myrrh on the Spice Route at Avdat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This post is a revision of one posted December 14, 2011.

Index of articles on Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1700 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Other places near Bethlehem. Most of the links below are related to Herod the Great and the fortress he built near Bethlehem. I see that I have normally used the spelling Herodium, but sometime Herodion.

Historical Connections to Modern Christmas Celebrations. These post are post-biblical, historical references to customs associated with Christmas.

When other posts on this subject are written I will try to remember to update the list.