Category Archives: Book Review

Timnah – where Samson met his first love

Perhaps the most memorable event of Timnah recorded in the Bible is that of the affair between Samson and a Philistine woman.

Samson went down to Timnah, where a Philistine girl caught his eye. (Judges 14:1 NET)

Delilah, the most famous of Samson’s three wives, is said to have lived in the Sorek Valley, but Timnah is not specifically named (Judges 16:4).

The LORD had commanded Israel not to become involved in mixed marriages with the people of the land (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). But Samson had the misfortune of living too close to the border of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. And he lacked the determination to abide by the commands of the LORD.

There were other significant events associated with Timnah. Here is a brief list.

  • Judah went up to Timnah to his sheep shearers, at which time he mistook Tamar, his own widowed daughter-in-law, for a prostitute. She conceived and bore twin sons (Genesis 38:12-30).
  • Timnah is mentioned as being a town of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:10, 57).
  • A little later the territory had transferred to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:40-46).
  • By the time of King Ahaz (735-715 B.C., McKinny), Timnah was in the hands of the Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18).

Timnah is identified with Tel Batash in the Sorek Valley, about 4 miles northwest of Beth-Shemesh. Ekron (Tel Miqne) is about 3½ miles west of Timnah. The Sorek River flows past both cities on its way to the Mediterranean.

Tel Batash was excavated by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for three seasons (1977-79). Between 1981-89, the site was excavated under the direction of George L. Kelm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Amihai Mazar of Hebrew University. The site was occupied from the Middle Bronze IIB (18th or 17th centuries B.C.), through the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In Iron Age I, Timnah was a Philistine city.

Kelm and Mazar wrote Timnah A Biblical City in the Sorek Valley (Eisenbrauns 1995) to provide a report of their excavations.

Map showing Timnah. Credit: BibleHub.com.

Map showing Timnah. Credit: BibleHub.com.

Timnah is off the beaten track and very few people visit it. Easy routes to the site have been blocked by the farmers in the Valley. Leon Mauldin and I searched for, and eventually located, Timnah in the rich alluvial Sorek Valley in 2011. Unlike Lachish, Mareshah, Gath, or Azekah the tel is unimpressive.

Timnah, beyond the brook Sorek, in August, 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Timnah, on the southern bank of the Sorek, in August, 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 2013 our friends Trent and Rebekah Dutton were trying to locate Timnah when they saw two shade tents and the Israel Antiquities Authority flag on a small rise in the fields. The IAA was doing some work at the site and explained to them the restoration work they were doing. Here is a photo the Dutton’s shared of the reconstructed Oil Press from the 7th century B.C. See Kelm and Mazar, pp. 150-152, for the way this looked at the time of the dig. An architect’s (Leen Ritmeyer) drawing of the installation is found on page 87. Some finds are intentionally covered by the excavators at the end of a season or the completion of a dig. This appears to be one such example.

The Oil Press installation at Timnah. Photo by Trent & Rebekah Dutton.

The Oil Press installation at Timnah. Photo by Trent & Rebekah Dutton.

Earlier this month Leon and I had the opportunity to fly over the Sorek Valley. I don’t think our pilot had ever seen the site before, but our previous experience on the ground, Google earth, and the excavation report allowed us to locate it from the air.

Aerial view of Timnah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Timnah and the Sorek (April, 2016). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think the little white building covers the Oil Press installation. After a quarter of a century the excavated areas are now covered with natural growth.

It is a long story, but this is where Samson met his first Philistine wife, and maybe another. There is always a danger when one lives too close to the border.

If you do not already have Brad Gray’s Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong, now might be time to take a look at our earlier review.

My late friend and colleague, James Hodges, served as an Area Supervisor at Timnah in 1977.

Books for self and others #3 – books by David E. Graves

David E. Graves sent me two of his recent books. The first to mention is Biblical Archaeology: An Introduction with Recent Discoveries that Support the Reliability of the Bible. I like the subtitle: An Introduction with Recent Discoveries that Support the Reliability of the Bible. This is a large paperback of 375 pages, published in 2014.

  1. Introduction to Biblical Archaeology
  2. Archaeology and Biblical Manuscripts
  3. Genesis
  4. Exodus and Conquest
  5. United and Divided Monarchy
  6. The Gospels
  7. Acts and Epistles
  8. Revelation

Graves, Biblical ArchaeologyBiblical Archaeology includes more than 140 charts, maps and photographs (all in black and white), a glossary, extensive bibliography and index.

Dr. Graves holds a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, has been involved in teaching the Bible and archaeology for more than 30 years. He has participated in archaeological digs for several years.

This book will not please the person who wants a slick paper, large print book filled with color photos. It will be extremely helpful to the person who would like to have a thorough survey of Biblical Archaeology.

Key Themes of the New Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes is a 2014 paperback of 441 pages. Here are the chapters:

  1. Kinds of Literature
  2. Birth and Early Years of Jesus
  3. Ministry of Jesus
  4. The Death of Jesus
  5. Resurrection and Ascension
  6. The Founding of the Church
  7. The Formation of the Church
  8. The Development of the Church
  9. The Future of the Church
  10. Conclusion

This book covers so comprehensive that one is bound to disagree with a point here and there. Points that I observed gave me opportunity to think and expand my thinking. The book is available in Kindle format for about half the price. Graves also has a similar book dealing with the Old Testament themes.

David maintains Deus Artefacta, a blog about issues like those discussed in these books.

I provided five photos for this book, and two for the book on archaeology.

Books for self and others # 2 – four from Carta Jerusalem

Recently I received two packages of books from Shay Hausman, president & CEO of Carta Jerusalem. Each package included two books I needed or wanted. Far back I have called attention to some of the excellent Carta publications. I will make a list to those posts at the bottom of this one.

R. Steven Notley wrote the New Testament portion of The Sacred Bridge, an excellent book too comprehensive and expensive for the average non-trained Bible student. The material was published in an abridged edition without all of the scholarly notes in a work entitled Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible.

Now Carta has published some of the New Testament material is a new format. This book by R. Steven Notley is entitled In the Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land (The Carta New Testament Atlas). The book of 9 chapters plus preface and index covers the ministry of Jesus from His Birth to the Resurrection and Ascension. It has lavish drawings, photos, and maps to assist the Bible student. And it has print large enough for older readers to enjoy. (Just ask me!) Those who have visited the proposed site of Bethsaida may already know that Notley has taken exception to the identification of the site of et-Tell with the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44). In this new work you will be able to examine his evidence and draw your own conclusions.  I am pleased to recommend this excellent paperback.

Notley, In the Master's Steps.

Notley, In the Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land.

The second new book by R. Steven Notley is Jerusalem: City of the Great King. This book of 112 pages has 10 chapters. The work begins with the Pre-Herodian History and develops the history of the city with the greater portion of the material being devoted to Jerusalem at the time of Christ. A short section that caught my attention deals with “The Myth of an Essene Quarter.”

I saw Prof. Notley browsing the book exhibits at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Having met him at a previous annual meeting I spoke. He pulled a copy of this next book from his briefcase and showed it to me. When I asked if this was mostly the content of the larger atlas he said that they were criticized for not including enough material on Jerusalem. This book, he said, was to remedy that situation. He stated that there are more books to come.

This book is a good one for most anyone studying portions of the Bible with their setting in Jerusalem. It is especially helpful for those studying the ministry of Jesus.

Notely, Jerusalem City of the Great King

Notely, Jerusalem City of the Great King

The next book is smaller, being only 40 pages. Understanding the Boat from the Time of Jesus: Galilean Seafaring is written by Shelley Wachsmann. Those who have seen the Roman-era boat uncovered from the Sea of Galilee in 1986 will revel in the story told by Wachsmann who directed the excavation of the 2000 year old fishing boat. The story of this discovery, the excavation, and preparation of this boat for display at Nof Ginnosar is a fascinating one.

Understanding the Boat from the Time of Jesus

Understanding the Boat from the Time of Jesus

Understanding the Alphabet

Understanding the Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final of these four books is Understanding the Alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Ada Yardeni. This is a valuable book for those interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Hebrew Bible, and the Hebrew language. It occurs to me that anyone involved in calligraphy might find the book interesting. The book is filled with illustrations showing how to draw the alphabet of various scrolls and inscriptions.

Earlier references to Carta Jerusalem books.

Ritmeyer, The Temple Mount – a Carta Guide Book

Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible

The links I have provided go to Amazon. The books are not as easily located in the United States as some other books, but you may be able to locate them elsewhere.

Anson Rainey, Ferrell Jenkins, and R. Steven Notley at SBL in 2006.

Anson Rainey (1930-2011), Ferrell Jenkins, and R. Steven Notley at SBL in 2006.

As mentioned above, these books were sent to me by the publisher. The comments represent my own opinion. Books purchased from Amazon through these links will net me a few cents per book. Nothing I think of as substantial. Happy reading.

Books for self and others — # 1

When you read good books and when you give good books to others, especially those who teach the Bible, you are doing a favor for several persons at one time.

During the past six months I have received several good books sent to me by authors or publishers who would like you to know about their publication. Normally I might have gotten to these publications much sooner, but due to two episodes of major disruptions to our home life I have gotten behind. One was the flooding of the house from a water line break resulting in disruption for three months. The other was due to a large fallen Laurel Oak limb that did considerable damage. We had two huge dying trees that had to be taken out. Add to that some family health issues and you will know my excuse for this delay.

Rather than writing a long review of each book I will list each with a few comments.

Make your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong

The first book is Brad Gray’s Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong. Gray is a teaching pastor in Holland, Michigan, who has lived in Israel and traveled extensively in the Bible lands. I met him in Jerusalem back in May. This paperback of 194 pages deals with the four chapter of Judges (13-16) telling the story of Samson. Everyone who goes to Bible classes and church knows about Samson, but you will get a new understanding and appreciation of the episodes recorded here when you let Brad Gray explain the setting of the events.

Brad Gray, Make Your Mark.

Brad Gray, Make Your Mark.

The author’s acquaintance with the Bible lands, the relevant archaeological discoveries, and his engaging writing will help bring this section of Scripture to life.

Samson got a lot of things wrong, but author Gray says you can avoid his mistakes and get these things right in your life. This book is recommended for anyone teaching the book of Judges or anyone grappling with the serious issues of life.

Make Your Mark is published by Faith Words, which seems to be a division of Hachette (New York, Boston, Nashville), and is available in print and Kindle format.

This book was sent to be by the publisher at the request of the author. The comments here are my own.

The Temple Mount – a Carta Guide Book

The writings and drawings of Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer have brought to life many of the archaeological sites of the Bible Lands. They may know more about the Temple Mount that anyone else I know.

Now they have put that knowledge, accented by their fabulous drawings, in Jerusalem -The Temple Mount, a guide to the Temple Mount published by Carta in Israel.

One never knows in advance whether the Temple Mount will be open to visitors. Whether you see it or not, this book of 160 pages provides helpful information for the Bible student in his/her studies.

Jerusalem - The Temple Mount

Jerusalem – The Temple Mount

This book sells for $25. That is the Amazon price, but if you have Prime the shipping will be free. You will find Jerusalem -The Temple Mount a helpful resource.

I have not received a review copy of this book, but I receive a very small commission from Amazon if you order through my site.

We keep a link to Ritmeyer Archaeological Design here.

Bock Responds to the Newsweek attack

Newsweek on The Bible

Newsweek on The Bible

It almost always happens around Christmas and Easter. The print and film media launches a critical attack on the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity. This time it is Newsweek, in an article called “The Bible So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” (here) by Kurt Eichenwald.

Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, is writing a response to Newsweek’s take on the Bible. Part I deals with the Base Biblical Text, answering the question “Do we really know what we have?”

This response is available on bock’s blog here. Pass this along to your friends.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Halley’s Bible Handbook on sale today

Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version is available for a limited time in Kindle format for $3.99. This is the completely revised and expanded 25th edition of this famous book. I notice that the sections on archaeology and geography have been revised by Carl G. Rasmussen.

This is one of the first books I owned. It can be helpful to everyone, especially those who do not have access to a larger library. It is the sort of book you can take with you to Bible classes to be able to have a little information about a lot of topics.