Category Archives: Bible Places

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.

Aleppo National Museum – #4

See our previous articles on Aleppo here, here, here, and here.

The Ebla tablets were discovered by an Italian team of excavators at Tell Mardikh in Syria (about 30 miles S of Aleppo) in 1975. More than 17,000 cuneiform tablets were discovered, dating to the mid-third millennium B.C. when Ebla was the capital of a great Canaanite empire. Scholars state that there are important affinities between the Eblaite language and biblical Hebrew, both being members of the Northwest Semitic family.

Pottery from Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pottery from Tell Mardikh (Ebla) in Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is my understanding that the Aleppo National Museum became the main repository of the Ebla tablets. In a major controversy between the archaeologist (Paolo Matthiae) and the epigrapher (Giovanni Pettinato), the Museum took the side of Professor Matthiae.

The controversy between these two scholars played out in scholarly and popular archaeological journals in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

We have posted several articles about Ebla in previous years. You need only put the word Ebla in the Search box to locate those.

A large eagle caught our attention. David and I were of the opinion that it belonged to the Roman period, but one of the guards we spoke with insisted that it belonged to the Hellenistic period.

An eagle possible from the Hellenistic Period in the Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An eagle possibly from the Hellenistic Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statues and busts of Asclepios are fairly common throughout the ancient Greek world. Asclepios was known as a god of medicine in the Greek religion. I do not know where this bust was discovered.

Bust of the god Asclepios. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of the god Asclepios. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though the quality of the photos leaves much to be desired, I am hopeful that these photos and brief descriptions will be of benefit to those who have not been, and may never get to see the Aleppo National Museum.

This concludes the series on Aleppo.

Chalk bowl with name of Hyrcanus discovered in Jerusalem

Today’s post is a News Release issued by the Israel Antiquities Authority

In the archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Givʽati Parking Lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

“Hyrcanus” was a common name at that time, as well as the name of two of the leaders of the Hasmonean dynasty

According to researchers, “This is one of the earliest examples of the appearance of chalk vessels in Jerusalem. In the past, these vessels were widely used mainly by Jews because they ensured ritual purity”.

Who was “Hyrcanus” whose name is engraved in Hebrew on a stone bowl from Jerusalem 2,100 years ago? In 2015 a fragment of a bowl fashioned from chalk (a type of limestone) was unearthed in the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavation in the Givʽati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. The vessel was published today and immediately aroused the curiosity of researchers.

According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University, “This is one of the earliest examples of chalk vessels to appear in Jerusalem. These stone vessels were extensively used by Jews because they were considered vessels that cannot become ritually unclean”.

The bowl was discovered during an archaeological excavation beneath the foundations of a miqwe dating to the Hasmonean period, which was part of a complex of water installations that were used for ritual bathing. The Givʽati parking site in the City of David is among the largest excavation areas opened so far in Jerusalem. The excavations at the site, sponsored by the ʽIr David Foundation, have so far uncovered a wealth of artifacts from different periods. Of these, those that arouse special interest are the objects with traces of writing on them, especially when they can be deciphered and read.

A fragment of the chalk bowl from the Hasmonean period, which is engraved with the name “Hyrcanus”. Photo credit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

A fragment of the chalk bowl from the Hasmonean period, which is engraved with the name “Hyrcanus”. Photo credit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Was Hyrcanus, whose name is engraved on the bowl, a high-ranking person, or perhaps simply an ordinary citizen during the Hasmonean period? According to the researchers, it is difficult to ascertain. Since there are few vessels in the archaeological record of this period which are engraved with names, it is not known whether this type of engraving was a routine act or a special tribute. “The name Hyrcanus was fairly common in the Hasmonean period,” say Dr. Ben-Ami and Prof. Eshel. “We know of two personages from this period who had this name: John Hyrcanus, who was the grandson of Matityahu the Hasmonean and ruled Judea from 135–104 BCE, and John Hyrcanus II, who was the son of Alexander Jannaeus and Salome Alexandra; however, it is not possible to determine if the bowl belonged specifically to either of them”.

About a year ago remains of the Greek (Seleucid) Akra were exposed in the Givʽati parking lot at the City of David. This was the famous fortress built by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in order to control the city and monitor the activity in the Temple, which was eventually conquered by the Hasmoneans. Interestingly, the bowl was found a short distance from where the remains of the Akra were revealed.

The Givati Parking Lot excavation. Photo: Asaf Peretz. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Givati Parking Lot excavation. Photo: Asaf Peretz. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

HT: Joseph Lauer and the Israeli newspapers

Aleppo

Aleppo (pronounced ə-leʹpō in the revised ISBE).

A single word. What does it mean to you? An ancient city of Syria. The largest city of Syria prior to the recent war. A place of warfare. A place of untold suffering and killing. A humanitarian crisis. A symbol of failure for numerous governments and world bodies.

Or, a place you are pleased to have visited in better days?

In 2002, a year after I retired from teaching, I asked one of my former colleagues at Florida College to join me for three weeks traveling in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, a trip I labeled LeSyJo for my files. David McClister agreed to do that. I had been to most of the sites that we wished to visit several times before beginning in 1967, and I had crossed the Anti-Lebanon mountains to visit Damascus a few times. But this time we wanted to see several major historical sites in Syria.

Our itinerary in Syria included Damascus, Hama (Hamath), Homs, Riblah, Latakia, Ras Shamra (Ugarit), Qarqar, Ebla, Aleppo, and an excursion to the Euphrates River NE of Aleppo. South of Damascus we traveled the road “from Damascus” past Mount Hermon as close to the border with Israel as possible. On the way to Jordan we stopped by Bosra for a visit. We wanted to visit Palmyra, Mari, and a few other places, but our schedule did not permit it.

David and I both had reasonably nice 35mm cameras, but I was carrying a Casio QV3000EX 4 million megapixel camera. What else could anyone want? Unfortunately these original images are only 1024 x 768 pixels. They do fairly well for a visual presentation, but very disappointing if one wants to use them in a publication. As technology has improved cameras we could wish to return and make new, more, and better photos. I think that not many readers will have had the opportunity to travel to Aleppo, so I will share a few photos from the Aleppo National Museum.

Aleppo is not mentioned by name in the Bible, but it was likely visited by Abraham (Genesis 12:4), Jacob (Genesis 25:20ff.; 35:22-27), and other Old Testament characters who traveled from Paddan-aram to the land of Canaan.

Aleppo, once named Halab, was famous as “a sacred city of the weather/storm god—Teshub or Tarhuns to Hurrians or Hittites, Hadad or Baal to the Aramaens” (K. A. Kitchen, New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology). Alalakh was a major satellite-city of Aleppo in the second millennium, according to Kitchen.

Rasmussen places Aleppo on a major international highway.

One of the major international routes ran approximately 1,770 miles from Ur in southern Mesopotamia to Thebes in southern Egypt. Along the way it passed through great urban centers such as Babylon, Mari, Tadmor, Aleppo, Ebla, Damascus, Hazor, and Gaza. It does not appear that this route as a whole had a name, but it was made up of shorter segments that ran from city to city, and in all probability these shorter stretches had special names (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.)

In 2002 the use of the Internet was still outlawed in Syria. We had learned that there were a few Internet cafes that we might use. One in Damascus was operated by a Syrian man who lived in the USA, but was back visiting family. In many places we had to log in long distance through Beirut in order to send and receive Email. Some hotels would allow Internet access via AOL, and others via a service called Excite. When we arrived in Aleppo I wrote this note to my wife:

Also visited Ebla and came to Aleppo. Hotel is a 4-star, not 5-star as last night. [These would not be by American standards.] Last night [in Latakia] we were in a new floor of the hotel overlooking [the Mediterranean]. This hotel is in center of city. Aleppo reminds me more of Turkey than Damascus does. Hotel personnel are helpful and friendly. I am not able to go to AOL, or Excite to get mail. A backroom manager type allowed me to use the hotel email to write.

Our hotel was the Amir Palace. Two men went with us to our room. I recall it as being rather small — not a place one would wish to spend a lot of time. The men showed us how to turn on the TV. There was not much in English, but one of the men pointed out, with a smile, that we could watch news on Al Jazeera.

Amir Palace Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, May, 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Amir Palace Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, May, 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After dinner, David offered to buy me a candy bar at a little kiosk across from the hotel. We walked over in great anticipation, but soon learned that none of the candy bars were sweet. Spoiled Americans!

The next day I included this note in my brief email back home:

This morning we went to the Aleppo National Museum which was directly across the street from the hotel. Spent about 1 ½ hours there. Even though photos are not permitted I was able to get several good ones.

There are numerous items in the museum and adjoining yard from Tell Halaf, the ancient site of Gozan located northeast of Aleppo near the Turkish border. (Do not confuse Tell Halaf with Tel Halif in southern Israel.) Tell Halaf is identified with the city of Gozan to which Israelites were deported by the Assyrians (1 Chronicles 5:26).

To enter the Aleppo National Museum one must walk past three basalt caryatids in the likeness of Hadad from Tell Halaf. The central one is standing on the back of a bull and the others are standing on the back of lions.

Entrance to Aleppo National Museum in 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Aleppo National Museum in 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the courtyard there were at least two images of Teshub, the neo-Hittite storm god from Tell Ahmar.

Teshub, the neo-Hittite storm god, standing on a bull. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Teshub, the neo-Hittite storm god, standing on a bull. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Aleppo National Museum, established in 1931, suffered severe damage to the building in 2016, but SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) reports in July “that the archaeological collections in the museum suffered little damages.”

I have several photos prepared for another post (or two?) to help you get some idea about the treasures in this museum.

The greatest tragedy in the recent crisis in Aleppo is the inhumanity of man and the loss of life. But the destruction of many historical treasures in Syria is a loss for all of us.

The great lesson of the book of Daniel is that the LORD rules in the kingdoms of men, even when evil men think they are in charge. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, was driven from the great city he had built and made to live like an ox until he learned  “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32 ESV)

Recall the admonition of Peter when he cut off the ear of one of those who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus – Index of articles

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1800 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.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

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.

This photo was made on the side of the Herodion where remnants of the tomb of Herod the Great has been located. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo was made on the side of the Herodion where remnants of the tomb of Herod the Great have been located. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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.

Roman soldiers in the region of Decapolis

The RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, is a must if you have the opportunity to visit the area. RACE stands for Roman Army and Chariot Experience. You will see actors in authentic dress as armed legionaries, gladiators, and a short chariot race. The show takes place in the Roman hippodrome of Jerash. The view of the city ruins in the vicinity make this a wonderful setting for the performance. Full details may be found here. I have seen the program three times. On the last visit, earlier this year, I thought the performers showed less discipline and the show was not quite as good as on my previous visits.

Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis (after Damascus) in New Testament times. People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).

The photo shows the Roman soldiers of the 6th Legion from the time of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). A visit to this show provides several good photographs to illustrate New Testament times.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Repeat from October 8, 2010.