Category Archives: Bible Places

The water system at Megiddo

Ancient people built their villages and towns near water sources. If there was not a spring at the base of the hill where they settled they would need to dig a well, a shaft, or a tunnel to reach the water source.

Many visitors to Israel have made their way through the water system at Megiddo. Professor David Ussishkin, who is able to include Megiddo among his numerous excavations, says,

As mentioned before, there were two springs at Megiddo. The nearer one was located on the western side, at the bottom of the mound. There were two obvious difficulties in the use of the water by the inhabitants of the city. First, in order to obtain water for daily use, the inhabitants – and these were most probably the ladies – had to descend the steep slope down to the spring and then carry the water in jars back to their homes which were situated on the summit of the mound. Second, in time of siege, the spring remained outside the city-walls, and thus inhabitants could not reach it while the besieging army had easy access to the water. These difficulties were overcome by constructing a huge water system (Figs. 2.5; 2.22; 2.27). A vertical shaft was cut in the rock from the surface of the mound. Starting from the bottom of the shaft, a horizontal tunnel was cut in the rock till it reaches the spring. At the same time the approach to the spring from outside was blocked and hidden from view. The way to the spring now became easier and safer: one had to descend by rock-cut steps down the vertical shaft, and then walk through the horizontal tunnel to the spring.

In a later stage, the bottom of the horizontal tunnel was lowered, so that the water flowed by gravitation from the spring to the bottom of the vertical shaft. From here, the water could be raised with the aid of pulleys to the surface of the mound, saving a lot of work and energy.

Naturally, as time passed and the settlement was abandoned, the water system was filled with debris. The Chicago expedition [1933-1939] made a huge effort excavating and cleaning up the water system, restoring the steps in the vertical shaft, and preparing the place for visitors. The water system is now one of the major attractions for visitors to Megiddo.
Source: Ussishkin, David. On Biblical Jerusalem, Megiddo, Jezreel and Lachish. Hong Kong: Divinity School of Chung Chi College, Chinese University of Hong Kong. 2011: 66-67.

The sign at the entrance to the water system was in poor condition when I made my photo. I have made a drawing based on that sign showing the various elements of the system.

The Megiddo water system. Based on the sign at the site.

The Megiddo water system. Based on the sign at the site.

Our photos will take you through the water system step by step. The first photo shows a view of the entrance to the system from the top of the tel.

The shaft of the Megiddo water system from the top of the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The shaft of the Megiddo water system from the top of the tel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I see a variety of figures regarding the depth of the shaft and the length of the tunnel. The brochure distributed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority says the shaft is 36-meters-deep [119 feet]. (Download the brochure here.) There are more than 180 steps down to the tunnel.

The same brochure says,

The tunnel was cut on an incline so the water would flow to the bottom of the shaft and the inhabitants could draw water while standing at the top. The outer entrance to the spring was sealed with a massive stone wall, concealed with earth so that an enemy besieging the city would not discover its location.

Steps going down to the level of the tunnel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Steps going down to the level of the tunnel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The water flowed from the spring on the western side of the tel through a 70-meter-long [230 feet] tunnel. I have never seen the water in the tunnel, but I recall a few times when tours were not allowed to go through the tunnel due to high water.

The tunnel at Megiddo with a modern walk for ease of traversing the length. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The tunnel at Megiddo with a modern walk for ease of traversing the length. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Only a small amount of water was seen at the spring in this 2006 photo.

The spring at it was on April 02, 2006. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The spring at it was on April 02, 2006. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The aerial photo below shows the portion of the tel where the water system is located. You can see the opening of the shaft, and you can see there the tour buses are parked awaiting the tourists who have visited the tel and walked through the tunnel. A modern cut has been made to the modern steps leading to the spring.

Aerial view of the Megiddo water system. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the Megiddo water system. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next image is the same photo annotated to show the various parts of the system. Compare this with the drawing above.

Annotated aerial photo showing elements of the water system. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Annotated aerial photo showing elements of the water system. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo was made near the top of the steps that lead from the spring to the exit.

After exiting the tunnel, this is the view down the steps to the spring. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After exiting the tunnel, this is the view down the steps to the spring. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

During the early days of my visits I prepared a book about places we visited throughout the Bible Lands. In 1976 the book was published under the title The Book and the Land. In it I stated the understanding at the time that the water system dated to the 12th century B.C. (p. 63)

In the most recent tour guide (2016) I said,

A water system and tunnel which brought water from a spring outside the city is now thought to belong to the time of Ahab.

Chris McKinny gives the dates of Ahab’s reign as 874-863 B.C. in The Regnal Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

Not all of the smart people live in the 21st century A.D.

Now Available: Photo Companion to the Bible

If you received the Bible Places Newsletter today you already know about the Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels. For those who may not be subscribed to the Newsletter I wish to direct you to information about this new, highly significant resource.

This PowerPoint-based resource provides illustrations for almost every verse of the text. The advertisement describes the Photo Companion to the Bible this way:

More than 10,000 images illustrating Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with modern and historic photographs of ancient sites, museum artifacts, and cultural scenes.

Cover of the Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels.

Cover of the Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels.

You may already own the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands and the Historic Views of the Holy Land. This new resource has photos, including many new ones, organized by chapter and verse for each of the four gospels. In fact, each chapter is illustrated by 40 to 230 photographs. The entire set contains more than 10,000 images.

When I looked through Matthew 4 I was impressed with the large number of illustrations. This means the teacher or preacher will be able to use these PowerPoint images to enhance his or her presentation. The audience will see and understand things about the text that they have never quite understood before.

There is a brief YouTube video illustrating what the Photo Companion to the Bible is and how it works. There are two chapters available for free download.

BiblePlaces.com is offering a deep discount price from now through August 21. I urge you to take advantage of it.

This new resource has been created by a team of professors and scholars under the direction of Dr. Todd Bolen who lived and taught in Israel for a decade or more and has traveled extensively in the Bible Lands. He is now a professor at Master’s University in California.

I have heard very few sermons or classes that could not have been greatly improved by the proper use of these illustrations of Bible lands and customs.

During my years of teaching and preaching I often paid for my own resources, but the positive response from the audience made it worthwhile. I hope to learn that many of you will be ordering this set.

All the information you need to place an order may be found here.

To subscribe to the BiblePlaces Newsletter see here.

To see a copy of the August 14, 2017 BiblePlaces Newsletter click here.

The significance of Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley

From Tel Megiddo one has a good view of the Jezreel Valley. Our panorama is composed of three photos made from the same spot at Megiddo. The Jezreel Valley lies before us to the north (and slightly east). Nazareth is located in the mountains of lower Galilee. The valley continues east between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa to Beth-Shean, the Jordan Valley, and the mountains of Gilead. The valley was known by the Greek name Esdraelon in New Testament times.

It was almost inevitable that those traveling from Babylon, Assyria, the territory of the Hittites, or Syria to Egypt, would travel through the Valley of Jezreel. The site of Jezreel is between the Hill of Moreh and Mt. Gilboa. (More about this at another time.)

Panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For teaching purposes you may wish to use this annotated panoramic photograph. Click on the photos for the larger size suitable for Powerpoint.

Annotated panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Annotated panorama of Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The vicinity of the Valley of Megiddo (Jezreel/Esdraelon) was the scene of many significant historical battles. In The Battles of Armageddon Eric H. Cline lists 35 battles fought or still to come in the Jezreel Valley. Many of these battles have to do with the Romans versus the Jewish Resistance, the Muslims and the Crusaders, and a few 19th century battles. I am listing some of the more significant battles affecting Biblical history.

  • Thutmose III of Egypt fought Syrian forces – 1468 B.C.
  • Joshua defeated the King of Megiddo – Joshua 12:21.
  • Deborah and Barak defeated the Kings of Canaan – Judges 5:19.
  • Gideon defeated the Midianites – Judges 7.
  • Saul was defeated by the Philistines – 1 Samuel 28-31.
  • Ahaziah, king of Judah, died there – 2 Kings 9:27.
  • King Josiah was slain in a battle against Pharaoh Neco of Egypt – 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

Megiddo, the tell overlooking the valley, became typical of national grief and a symbol of decisive battles, similar to modern Waterloo, the Alamo, or Pearl Harbor. No wonder it provides the symbolism for the decisive battle in Revelation 16.  John’s Greek Har-Magedon becomes the English Armageddon.

The NAU transliterates harmagedon as Har-Magedon. Other English versions use something similar to the ESV.

And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Revelation 16:16 NAU)

And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16 ESV)

This valley has been significant even in modern times. Here are just a few of those battles laying the foundation for the modern State of Israel.

  • Napoleon advanced against the Turks in 1799.
  • General Allenby and the British defeated the German-Turkish coalition in 1918.
  • British officer Orde Wingate trained Jewish defense forces in this valley in the 1930s. Later leaders of the War of Independence (1948-1949), including Moshe Dayan and Yigal Alon, were trained by Wingate.

General Allenby read the historical survey about the importance of the valley in G. A. Smith’s Historical Geography prior to his battle against the German-Turkish coalition in 1918. In the later editions of his book Smith included that battle.

In a future post, perhaps later this week, I plan to discuss the water system at Megiddo.

The wild goat of the Bible identified as the Ibex

Wild goats (Hebrew ya’el) are mentioned in a few Old Testament passages (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18; Prov. 5:19). This animal is often identified with the Ibex.

The ibex, a type of wild goat, is still found in Southern Palestine, Sinai, Egypt and Arabia; it was known also in ancient times, as is evident from rock carvings. (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 46).

The wild goats are associated with En Gedi on the shore of the Dead Sea.

Now when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. (1 Samuel 24:1-2 NAU)

Our photo below was made at En Gedi.

Ibex at En Gedi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large Ibex at En Gedi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Psalmist says the high mountains are for the wild goats.

The high mountains are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the shephanim. (Psalm 104:18 NAU)

The final photo today shows an Ibex on the high rocks of the Negev near Ein Avedat, about 40 miles south of Beersheba. She has paused for her little one. Look carefully below the neck of the mother. Only the head of the kid is visible. Click on the photo for a larger, clearer image.

An Ibex in the Negev near Ein Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Ibex in the Negev near Ein Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What do you know about Tisha B’Av?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017, many of the Jewish people recently will observe Tisha B’Av. This phrase, strange to Christians, means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month Av, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar.

The most significant of these events are the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13), and the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.

In the past half century a considerable amount of evidence has come to light concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The temple destroyed in 586 B.C. had been constructed by King Solomon in about 966 B.C. It was rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile (530-516 B.C.).

In the previous post we published the Israel Antiquities Authority release about additional evidence of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem found in the City of David. Take a look at the additional photos there.

The structure in which shattered jugs were found, attesting to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Picture: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive.

The structure in which shattered jugs were found, attesting to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The darker area near the center of the photo shows the burn level when the city was destroyed. Picture: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive.

Herod the Great began about 19/20 B.C. to rebuild the temple. This work was still in progress during the ministry of Jesus.

Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 NET)

Christians take seriously the prophecy of Jesus.

Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts and walking away, his disciples came to show him the temple buildings. And he said to them, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!” (Matthew 24:1-2 NET)

There is no archaeological evidence of the temple building itself. The site where the temple once stood is now covered with paving stones and the Dome of the Rock which was constructed by the followers of Mohamed in the 7th century A.D.

The Dome of the Rock stands where Solomon’s Temple was built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Dome of the Rock stands where Solomon’s Temple was built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vivid evidence of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was discovered at the SW corner of the temple area in the Tyropean Valley. Some of the rubble can still be seen on the street which was probably built by Agrippa II in the 60s of the first century.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wayne Stiles recently wrote an article here on this topic with several excellent photos from the Burnt House in Jerusalem, a house burned during the Roman destruction in A.D. 70.

More evidence of Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced an important discovery in the Jerusalem Walls National Park today. Our photo below shows a portion of this park on the east slope of the city of David, overlooking the Kidron Valley. The view is north toward the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem Wall National Park on the east slope of the City of David. View North. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerusalem Wall National Park on the east slope of the City of David. View North. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I do not know the exact location of the new discovery, but this photo may give you some idea of the area.

Here is the IAA News Release.

— “ —

Evidence of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians has recently been unearthed in the City of David in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the Jerusalem Walls National Park, funded by the City of David Foundation (Elad). In the excavations – concentrated on the eastern slope of the City of David, structures dating to more than 2,600 years ago have been unearthed after having been covered over by collapsed layers of stone. Nestled within the collapse, many findings have surfaced: charred wood, grape seeds, pottery, fish scales and bones, and unique, rare artifacts. These findings depict the affluence and character of Jerusalem, capital of the Judean Kingdom, and are mesmerizing proof of the city’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians.

Shattered jugs, attesting to the destruction. Photo: Eliyahu Yani, courtesy of the City of David Archive.

Shattered jugs, attesting to the destruction. Photo: Eliyahu Yani, courtesy of the City of David Archive.

Among the excavation’s salient findings were dozens of storage jars which served to store both grain and liquids, several of which had stamped handles. Several of the seals discovered depict a rosette – a petalled rose. According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority excavation directors: “These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty. Classifying objects facilitated controlling, overseeing, collecting, marketing and storing crop yields. The rosette, in essence, replaced the ‘For the King’ seal used in the earlier administrative system.”

Jug handles with the rosette seal used by the administrative system at the end of the Judean Kingdom. Picture: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive

Jug handles with the rosette seal used by the administrative system at the end of the Judean Kingdom. Picture: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive.

The wealth of the Judean kingdom’s capital is also manifest in the ornamental artifacts surfacing in situ. One distinct and rare finding is a small ivory statue of a woman. The figure is naked, and her haircut or wig is Egyptian in style. The quality of its carving is high, and it attests to the high caliber of the artifacts’ artistic level and the skill par excellence of the artists during this era.

Ivory statue in the image of a woman. Picture: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Ivory statue in the image of a woman. Picture: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority excavation directors, “The excavation’s findings show that Jerusalem had extended beyond the line of  the city wall before its destruction. The row of structures exposed in the excavations is located outside beyond the city wall that would have constituted the eastern border of the city during this period. Throughout the Iron Age, Jerusalem underwent constant growth, expressed both in the construction of numerous city walls and the fact that the city later spread beyond them. Excavations carried out in the past in the area of the Jewish Quarter have shown how the growth of the population at the end of the 8th Century BCE led the annexation of the western area of Jerusalem. In the current excavation, we may suggest that following the westward expansion of the city, structures were built outside of the wall’s border on the east as well.”

— ” —

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Greek Orthodox church sells property. You may be surprised.

The Times of Israel ran an article Tuesday stating that,

The Roman Amphitheater and the hippodrome in the ancient Israeli coastal city of Caesarea have been sold off, in secret, to a mysterious overseas holding company by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Earlier we had read that the Greek Orthodox sold the land where about 1,500 owners of leased property in Jerusalem live.

The Greek Orthodox Church acquired some 4,500 dunams (1,110 acres) of real estate in the center of Jerusalem during the 19th century, primarily for agriculture. In the 1950s, just after Israel’s independence, it agreed to lease its land to the JNF for 99 years — with an option to extend. Even Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is built on Greek Orthodox-owned land.

Almost anyone who has made a tour to Israel has visited the theater at Caesarea Maritima. The theater was built originally by Herod the Great but was added to and modified in later centuries. The seating capacity in its final stage was about 4,000.

This aerial photo shows the position of the theater (facing west) toward the Mediterranean Sea.

Herodian theater at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The reconstructed theater at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t let the new seating fool you. Most of the seating has been restored since the excavation in the early 1960s. Beginning here, groups continue to the palace of the procurators, the hippodrome, and the Crusader fortress at Caesarea.

A tour group in the theater listens as the guide begins to tell them about the important of Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A tour group in the theater listens as the guide begins to tell them about the importance of Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An inscription bearing the name of Pontius Pilate was found at Caesarea Maritima June 15, 1961 during the excavation of the Roman theater. The stone on which the inscription is found had been reused in the theater. The photo below shows a replica of the inscription displayed in the building described by Murphy-O’Connor as the Palace of the Procurators. The original inscription is in the Israel Museum.

Pilate inscription displayed in the Palace area at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pilate inscription displayed in the Palace area at Caesarea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For more information about this inscription see here.

The two articles from The Times of Israel will provide much additional information. You may locate them here and here.