Category Archives: Books

Why did Abraham go to Hebron?

A reader sent an Email complimenting the blog and asking for help in answering a question.

“When lot and Abraham parted, lot went down to the dead Sea, while Abraham went up to Hebron. Do you know why he went to Hebron? It seems like such a key question I ought to know the answer to, but [so] far it has evaded me!”

Not sure that I will be able to satisfy the curiosity of the reader, but perhaps these comments will help.

Let’s begin with a survey of Abraham’s early time in the land of Canaan. (All of the references are to the book of Genesis unless otherwise indicated.) I suggest that you follow along in your Bible atlas.

View west to the Shechem valley between Mount Gerizim (left) and Mount Ebal (right). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View west to the Shechem valley between Mount Gerizim (left) and Mount Ebal (right). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

  • First stop at Shechem (Genesis 12:6).
  • Later he settled between Bethel and Ai (12:8).
  • Took a trip to Egypt and then returned to the Negev before going back between Bethel and Ai (12:10; 13:1, 3). There was not available land to accommodate the herds of both Abraham and Lot (13:6).
  • Important fact. The Canaanite and Perizites were in the land. Abraham and Lot were strangers and had to move to empty spaces, or perhaps negotiate grazing rights. Lot chose to go to the well-watered Jordan Valley as far as Sodom (13:10).
  • The LORD spoke to Abraham. “The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward,  for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted'” (13:14-16 ESV).
  • The LORD instructed Abraham: “Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (13:17 ESV).
  • “So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (13:18 ESV).
  • Abram later rescued Lot at Dan, and continued to chase the eastern armies north of Damascus (14:14).
  • A statement of the extent of the promised land is given in 15:18.
  • Abram later lived in Beersheba (21:31).
A beautiful, fertile valley along the central mountain range between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A beautiful, fertile valley along the central mountain range between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Answer. The trip to Hebron was simply part of the overall plan to walk the land that the LORD was to give to Abraham’s descendants.

It is important to notice that the Canaanite towns visited by Abraham lie along the central mountain range. Rasmussen identifies this range,

The second major longitudinal zone is the central mountain range, which runs from Galilee in the north to the Negev Highlands in the south. (Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Rev. Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Print.)

The central mountain range is sometimes identified today as the Patriarchs Way or Route.

Patriarchs Route between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Patriarchs Route between Bethlehem and Hebron. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From time to time I have cited The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament because it provides succinct comments related to the cultural background of biblical events.

The city of Hebron is located in the Judean hill country (c. 3,300 feet above sea level) approximately nineteen miles southeast of Jerusalem and twenty-three miles east of Beersheba. Ancient roadways converge on this site coming east from Lachish and connecting with the road north to Jerusalem, indicating its importance and continuous settlement. Its springs and wells provide ample water for olive and grape production and would have supported a mixed agricultural-pastoral economy such as that described in Genesis 23. Hebron is said to have been founded “seven years before Zoan” (Avaris in Egypt), dating it to the seventeenth century B.C. (see comment on Num 13:22). The construction of an altar here, as at Bethel, transforms this into an important religious site, and its subsequent use as a burial place for the ancestors established its political importance (reflected in the Davidic narrative—2 Sam 2:1–7; 15:7–12). (Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. Print.)

The cave of Machpelah, burial place of Abraham and Sarah, and others from the patriarchal period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The cave of Machpelah, burial place of Abraham and Sarah, and others from the patriarchal period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Understanding the land helps one better understand the biblical text.

Leichty: “We have forty thousand of these things here”

The Agade list reports the passing Monday night of Dr. Erle Verdun Leichty (1933-2016), Emeritus Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Assyriology) at the University of Pennsylvania.

The announcement says,

In 2006, a number of colleagues and students banded together to produce “If a Man Builds a Joyful House. Assyriological Studies in Honor of Erle Verdun Leichty” (Brill). This volume is available for download at <>. In it, his Penn colleague Barry Eichler tells about “Cuneiform Studies at Penn: From Hilprecht to Leichty,” where can also be found details on Leichty’s fine career and contributions.

I did not know Dr. Leichty, but did have a chance meeting with him at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 2004. I was looking for a particular ancient document and inquired of the staff. They could not provide the answer but said that Dr. Leichty might be able to help me. When I arrived at the research area where the cuneiform tablets were kept, Dr. Leichty cheerfully left the work he was doing and spent some time with me. He said the document was not in their collection. He told me about the dictionary he was working on.

Dr. Erle Leichty showing the cuneiform tablets at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Erle Leichty showing the cuneiform tablets at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What impressed me that day was that Erle Leichty cheerfully took time to answer a question from an unknown. As I was leaving the research lab we passed the cabinets where some of the cuneiform tablets were stored. He pulled open one of the drawers and picked up one of the tablets. He said, “We have forty thousand of these things here.”

I have forgotten what document I was looking for, but I have not forgotten that pleasant meeting with Erle Leichty. That was a nice day.

Meeting Professor Carl Rasmussen in Jerusalem

holylandphotos, aka Prof. Carl Rasmussen, left a helpful comment on our recent post, “A crown of thorns and a reed.”

Great article! Some of your readers might be interested in the “crown of thorns” that I have posted on my web site.

He left a link to a beautiful example of a crown of thorns posted at holylandphotos here. This photo, along with those we posted, will certainly enrich any lesson on the subject.

And this gives me the opportunity of share a Jerusalem experience from this spring.

Our group had just finished a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. We exited through Dung Gate on the south-east corner of the Old City to meet our bus. I got on the bus and sat down as a good example to my tour members who are sometimes distracted by peddlers. A man stuck his head in the front door of the bus and said, “I’m Carl Rasmussen.”

It was the first time Carl and I had met in person, but we had exchanged several emails and assisted each other in locating some significant places in the Bible world over the past few years. Carl was on his first outing with a new class of students at the Jerusalem University College. We didn’t have much time to talk, but enough to pose for a photo beside the south wall of the Old City.

Carl Rasmussen and Ferrell Jenkins in Jerusalem. April 5, 2016.

Carl Rasmussen and Ferrell Jenkins in Jerusalem. April 5, 2016.

Prof. Carl Rasmussen is known for his academic teaching, his tours, and his Bible atlas, his Holy Land Photos’ blog, and his large collection of photos at holylandphotos.

We have called attention to the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible several times. I recommend this book for home study, and the Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible to use when traveling to Bible lands, or to take to Bible class. I see that Kindle currently has this book for $12.96.

The Holy Land Photos site now has a database of more than 4700 photos available for use by teachers.

I have developed friendships with several individuals who are recognized for their interest and knowledge in Bible lands as a result of this blog. A wonderful side benefit to this work.

Tristram’s Grackle and other Grackles

Today’s The New York Times has an article in the Science section about “The Grackle’s Secret to Success” here, including a short video of the experiments. It seems that many parts of earth have their own variety of Grackle. And some of them are causing lots of problems for cattle and dairy farms.  The particular bird causing problems for the USA is the great-tailed bird, native to Central America.

Over the past century or so the bird has spread north and its range is still expanding, particularly in the West, where it haunts cattle feed lots and big dairy farms.

Looks like we need a bird wall. Anyway, the article says the birds look smart, but the experiments that were conducted with the birds seemed to prove otherwise.

In the desert areas of Israel and Jordan the Grackle is known as Tristram’s Grackle, named for Henry B. Tristram who wrote The Natural History of the Bible in 1868, and numerous other books about the Bible Lands. I am intrigued by the bird every time I visit Masada, along the shore of the Dead Sea. This black bird with some distinctive orange feathers is known as Tristram’s Grackle, or Tristram’s Starling, and is easy to photograph. They like to pose.

Tristram's Grackle at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tristram’s Grackle at Masada. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other photos of the bird may be seen here and here. The photo in the last entry reminds me of the experiments mentioned in the NYTimes article.

“It is the Land of Honey” – Tel Rehov discoveries on display at Eretz Israel Museum

Tel Rehov is located about three miles south of Beth-Shean (Beth-Shan) on the east side of Highway 90. Rehov is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is known from Pharaoh Shishak’s city list on the wall of the temple of Amun in the Karnak Temple at Luxor, Egypt. This campaign is also mentioned in the pages of the Bible (1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chronicles 12:2-9).

Tel Rehov was occupied during the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The city may be one of those not captured by Israel when they entered the Land under the leadership of Joshua.

The men of Manasseh did not conquer Beth Shan, Taanach, or their surrounding towns. Nor did they conquer the people living in Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo or their surrounding towns. The Canaanites managed to remain in those areas. Whenever Israel was strong militarily, they forced the Canaanites to do hard labor, but they never totally conquered them. (Judges 1:27-28 NET; cf. Joshua 17:12)

The city was destroyed by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C. as they made their steady trek south.

Archaeological excavations were conducted at Tel Rehov from 1997 to 2012 under the direction of Prof. Amihai Mazar and Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For information and photos see the excavation website here.

View east of Tel Rehov in the Beth Shean Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Rehov in the Beth-Shean Valley to the east of Highway 90. The mountains of Gilead are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next view takes us to the top of the mound. From there we see the Jordan Valley and a nice view of the Gilead mountains in modern Jordan.

View east from atop Tel Rehov. We see the Jordan Valley and the Gilead mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View east from atop the north end of Tel Rehov. We see the Jordan Valley and the Gilead mountains in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many artifacts, including numerous household and cult objects, were uncovered at Tel Rehov. Perhaps the most unusual find was an industrial apiary. The small photo below from the excavation web site shows some of the beehives made of clay.

 Apiary at Tel Rehov, the eastern row of hives © Copyright - The Beth-Valley Archaeological Project, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

Apiary at Tel Rehov, the eastern row of hives. © Copyright – The Beth-Shean Valley Archaeological Project, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

From January 12 to October 31, 2016, items from Tel Rehov are exhibited at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv under the title It Is the Land of Honey. I had the opportunity to visit this exhibition in April. The Museum website provides detailed information about the exhibition and a few small photos here.

The houses at Tel Rehov during Iron Age IIA differed from the typical houses found in known Israelite cities. According to the Museum website,

A salient feature of the Iron Age IIA city was the exclusive use of mudbrick to construct all buildings, incorporating wooden beams in walls and floors. Each building was unique in its architectural plan, and did not resemble any of the common blueprints of the Iron Age II, such as four-room houses or pillared buildings.

The photo below shows one of the clay beehives. A reconstruction of a honeycomb is visible on the right. Some of the bees found in the hives were determined to be from Anatolia, modern central Turkey. This adds one more piece of evidence showing how interconnected the nations of the ancient Middle East were. Some of the bees found in charred honeycombs are in the petri dishes in the front right of the photo. The lid of the beehive, with a hole in the center, is to the left of the hive. Click on the photo for a larger image.

One of the beehives from the Tel Rehov apiary. Eretz Israel exhibit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the beehives from the Tel Rehov apiary. Eretz Israel exhibition. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The exhibition includes a large display of items from Tel Rehov. I will list just a few.

  • Several four horned altars made of clay.
  • A wide variety of household pottery, including an oven of the period.
  • One of the mud bricks of which the houses were constructed.
  • A reconstructed loom with weights found during the dig. Several others items from the “House of Elisha” are on display. The ostracon with the name of Elisha written on it in red ink is not displayed, but there is information about it in the exhibition book. There were several altars in this house.
  • A storage jar had the name Nimshi inscribed on it – the name identical to that of King Jehu’s grandfather (1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 9:2).
  • Some iron blades, arrow heads, and possibly a sickle.
  • Some typical Canaanite clay fertility goddesses.
  • Stamped jar handles unique to Tel Rehov.
Horned altar and chalices from Tel Rehov. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tower shaped horned altar and chalices from Tel Rehov found in the area of the apiary. This altar is listed as being on loan from the Israel Museum in the exhibition book. If you miss the exhibition in Tel Aviv, perhaps you can see it later in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Museum has produced a nice 256-page book in Hebrew and English about Tel Rehov and the exhibition. I don’t see it listed at Amazon, but if you visit the exhibition you will probably wish to purchase a copy at the Museum shop.

Mazar and Panitz-Cohen published a brief article, with several photos of Tel Rehov artifacts, under the title “To What God? Altars and a House Shrine from Tel Rehov Puzzle Archaeologists” in the July/August 2008 Biblical Archaeology Review.

Jesus went among the villages teaching

Jesus left the shores of the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum to return to Nazareth to teach the people there.

 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?  (Matthew 13:53-54 ESV)

When he left Nazareth He “went about among the villages teaching” (Mark 6:6).

When I see the scene depicted at Nazareth Village of the stone house, the olive trees, and the dusty path, I recall the visits Jesus and His disciples made throughout Galilee.

A dirt path and one of the houses at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A dirt path and one of the houses at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lois Tverberg, in her excellent book Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, has written a helpful work about Jesus and His teaching drawing on the Jewish concept of the rabbi and his disciples.

The way Jesus taught his first disciples was not unique but part of a wider tradition in Judaism that began a few centuries before his time. Jesus didn’t hand his disciples a textbook or give them a course syllabus. He asked each one of them to follow him— literally, to “walk after” him. He invited them to trek the byways at his side, living life beside him to learn from him as they journeyed. His disciples would engage in life’s activities along with him, observing his responses and imitating how he lived by God’s Word.

Out of this unusual teaching method arose a well-known saying: you should learn from a rabbi by “covering yourself in his dust.” You should follow so closely behind him as he traveled from town to town teaching that billows of sandy granules would cling to your clothes. As you walked after your rabbi, your heart would change. This will be our task in this book, to stroll through Jesus’ ancient world at his side, listening to his words with the ears of a disciple. (Walking in the Dust of the Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, p. 28)

There must have been a buzz of excitement when Jesus and His disciples walked the dusty paths of Nazareth, and indeed, of all Galilee.

When Jesus came to Nazareth He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and participated in the study.

Synagogue reconstruction at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Synagogue reconstruction at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lee Levine of Hebrew University summarizes the archaeological evidence for known first century synagogues.

Solid archaeological evidence for the first-century synagogue is attested at eight sites in Judea: Masada, Herodium, Jerusalem (the Theodotos inscription from the City of David), Qiryat Sefer, and Modi’in (both in western Judea), with a possible additional site at Horvat ‘Etri, south of Bet Shemesh. In the Galilee, it is found at Gamla, Migdal, and quite probably Khirbet Qana, with considerably less certain remains from Capernaum, Chorazin, and at a second site in Migdal. (Lee I. Levine, “The Synagogues of Galilee” in Fiensy and Strange, Galilee in the late second temple and mishnaic periods, Vol. I. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. 129-150.)

The New Testament writers mention other synagogues such as the one at Nazareth.

It is unfortunate that the residents of Nazareth did not want to get dusty. Are you dusty from following Jesus?

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.