Category Archives: Culture

Bringing in the sheaves

From the time I was a child I recall the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” by Knowles Shaw. I see it was written in 1874, already an old song when I first sang it. I really miss the old songs. Some song leaders seem to forget that it is the repetition of songs that allows the children to learn them – just like they recall all of the TV jingles. Here are the words, now in public domain.

  1. Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
    Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
    Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

    • Refrain:
      Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
      We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
      Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
      We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
  2. Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
    Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
    By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
  3. Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
    Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
    When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
    We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

The meaning is clear. We continue to do kind deeds when times are good and when they are bad. Eventually “we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”

What are sheaves, and what is the basis of this encouraging song?

Perhaps the author recalled young Joseph’s dream of binding sheaves in the field when his sheaf stood upright and the sheaves of the brothers gathered around it and bowed down (Genesis 37:7).

Or, maybe it was the experience of Ruth gathering the left over grain among the sheaves in the field of Boaz at Bethlehem (Ruth 2:7, 15).

It seems that Shaw knew the words of Psalm 126:6.

He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:6 ESV)

Toward the end of May last year, in the vicinity of Samaria, we saw sheaves in the field ready to be brought in for storage and use for the remainder of the year.

Sheaves in the field near ancient Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheaves in the field near ancient Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If you click on this photo and look carefully at the larger image you will see that the sheaves have been bound to hold them together.

Sheaves bound in the field, ready to be taken from the fields. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheaves bound in the field, ready to be taken from the fields. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I fear that many of our folks today just dismiss the older songs that have themes they don’t readily understand. If we use this as an excuse, it is a reflection on our knowledge of the Bible. Perhaps its time to learn.

Bertha Spafford Vester explains how the early American Colony residents of Jerusalem made a living by engaging in various projects from weaving cloth to growing wheat. She recounts an interesting story about cutting grain and binding sheaves.

Our Swedish and American farmers had tilled these bits of ground so well that there was evidence of excellent crops. Some Orthodox Jews came to inspect the wheat and offered us a higher than usual price for it to make matzoth (unleavened bread) for their Feast of the Passover on condition that we harvested it under their supervision. We agreed.

We had no machinery; it was harvested by hand. One stipulation they made was that we should not begin work until the sun had risen and dried any moisture from dew fallen during the night. After breakfast we all went out to work in the field, our Jewish overseers keeping watch. As our custom was when working, washing dishes, or over the washtub, or at any other task, we sang hymns. So now we started in the harvest field. Singing helped the work, which went with a swing. But we were not allowed to sing by these Orthodox Jews. Peradventure a bit of moisture might fall from our mouths and cause fermentation. It would no longer be unleavened. So we gathered the sheaves silently. (Our Jerusalem, 190-191)

Are you sowing seeds of kindness?

HT: Timeless Truths for lyrics info.

Turning from idols to serve the living God

Recently I was browsing through photos made in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Thessalonica), Greece, in 2008. I was impressed with the images of various gods and goddesses that were known in the city in the first century A.D. There were statues and busts of Egyptian gods such as Isis, Serapis, and Harpokrates/Horus. Greek gods and goddesses such as Dionysus, Hades, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, and the mother of the gods often associated with Kybele (Cybele) were known. And there were others.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Athena. Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Immediately my mind was drawn to Paul’s commendation of the saints at Thessalonica in the middle of the first century A.D.

 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 ESV)

But there were other “gods” known to the Thessalonians. The deified Alexander, considered a son of Zeus, was represented in the museum. Another significant form of idolatry was the Cult of the Emperor of Rome. A sign associated with one display says,

The cult of the emperor was both an instrument of imperial policy propaganda and a means for the transmission of Roman culture. The image of the emperor gives a concrete form to the abstract idea of the Empire. Whether a full-length statue or a bust, it makes his presence felt everywhere: in outdoor and indoor spaces, in fora, in villas, and in libraries.

Here is a statue of Octavian Augustus, the first emperor of Rome (27 B.C. – A.D. 14). Augustus was emperor at the time of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1).

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Augustus, Archaeology Museum of Thessaloniki. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, and other emperors were represented in the museum displays.

An interesting temporary exhibition was about the discovery of an important archaeological site known as Kalindoia. The site is located about 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Thessalonica. Paul traveled a few miles north of Kalindoia when he went from Philippi, via Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). Below is the drawing of the chamber of the imperial cult. A temple for imperial worship was located here from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Artist conception of the chamber of the Imperial Cult. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign associated with this drawing states that there were pedestals for statues here. “One of them was the statue of Emperor Octavian Augustus.” The Cult of the Emperor was especially pervasive in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and may have some bearing on understanding the man of lawlessness (sin) in 2 Thessalonians 2. It is certainly helpful in understanding the background of the book of Revelation.

But that’s not all. Another sign mentions the eponymous local heroes such as war heroes, deified mythological figures, or the heroized dead “were also worshipped.”

The gospel of Christ has power to touch the hearts of men and inform them about the difference between idols made of “gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man,” and the God who does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17:29 ESV).

Canaanite citadel exposed in Nahariya

Announcement was made this week of the discovery of a Canaanite citadel in the middle of the Israeli northern coastal town of Nahariya. The Israel Antiquities Authority and the University of Haifa announced an agreement that would allow construction on a high-rise apartment building to continue with the inclusion of the Canaanite ruins to remain in the basement.

An aerial photograph of the excavation. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An aerial photograph of the excavation. Photographic credit: Guy Fitoussi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The IAA announcement reads,

In an agreement reached between the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Mr. Israel Hasson, and the director of the Kochav Company, Ltd., Mr. Danny Kochav, remains of a 3,400 year old citadel that were recently uncovered in an archaeological excavation will be integrated in an apartment high-rise that the Kochav Company is building on Balfour Street in Nahariya, close to the beach.

The large excavation, which the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted together with youth groups, including students from the Shchakim High School in Nahariya, was carried out as part of a project by the Kochav Company to build a residential high-rise with underground parking. Given the extraordinary nature and quality of the finds, the Israel Antiquities Authority sought a solution that would allow the conservation of some of the remains for the benefit of the public. Thus, with the assistance of Architect Alex Shpol, planner for the Interior Ministry’s regional committee for planning and construction, it was decided that part of the citadel would be preserved in the building’s basement level where it will be displayed for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors.

According to Nimrod Getzov, Yair Amitzur and Dr. Ron Be’eri, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It seems that the citadel which we uncovered was used as an administrative center that served the mariners who sailed along the Mediterranean coast 3,400 years ago. There was probably a dock alongside the citadel. Numerous artifacts were discovered in its rooms, including ceramic figurines in form of humans and animals, bronze weapons and imported pottery vessels that attest to the extensive commercial and cultural relations that existed at that time with Cyprus and the rest of the lands in the Mediterranean basin”.

The fortress was destroyed at least four times by an intense conflagration, and each time it was rebuilt. An abundance of cereal, legumes and grape seeds were found in the burnt layers, which are indicative of the provisions the sailors would purchase.

Nahariya is not mentioned in the Bible by name. The city is located along the Mediterranean coast of the Plain of Acco about 5 or 6 miles north of Acco (Acre). This territory was allotted to the Israelite tribe of Asher, but they were not able to maintain control over the Canaanites in the region.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, (Judges 1:31 ESV)

The book of Judges describes the territory of Asher as being along the seashore.

Asher remained on the seacoast, he stayed by his harbors. (Judges 5:17 NET)

Aerial view of the plain of Acco, territory of the Biblical tribe of Asher ran from Haifa (Mount Carmel) north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of the plain of Acco, territory of the Biblical tribe of Asher ran from Haifa (Mount Carmel) north. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the far north of this photo you will see a small horizontal white line extending into the sea. That is known as the Ladder of Tyre. The cluster of buildings between Acco and the Ladder of Tyre is Nahariya.

During earlier excavations at Nahariya a Cannanite temple with a mold for making images of the goddess Asherah had been uncovered. Beginning with Ahab, numerous kings of Israel were responsible for worshiping Asherah. I suggest you use a Bible concordance to locate all the reference to Asherah, Asherim, Asheroth, and Ashtoreth.

Solomon also worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 23:13).

Female figurines dating to the Late Bronze Age. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Female figurines dating to the Late Bronze Age. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The IAA news release simply says that the recent discoveries at Nahariya date to 3400 years ago, i.e., about 1400 B.C. This period is known as the Late Bronze Age (about 1550 to 1200 B.C.). Bible students will recognize this as the period of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. The bronze arrowhead is a good reminder of the conflict in the land at that time.

An arrowhead made of bronze. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An arrowhead made of bronze. Photographic credit: Eran Gilvarg, courtesy of the IAA.

I find these photos so fascinating that I want to share more of them with you.

Photograph of the work being conducted at the site. Photo: IAA.

Photograph of the work being conducted at the site. Photo: IAA.

Imported pottery from Cyprus and Greece was found at the site.

Fragments of decorated pottery vessels imported from Cyprus and Greece 3,400 years ago. Photo: IAA.

Fragments of decorated pottery vessels imported from Cyprus and Greece 3,400 years ago. Photo: IAA.

A stamped jar handle is dated to the Middle Bronze Age (about 2100 to 1550 B.C.). I look forward to some insight into the reading of the impression.

A stamped jar handle dating to the Middle Bronze Age. Photo: IAA.

A stamped jar handle dating to the Middle Bronze Age. Photo: IAA.

We never know what may be dug up tomorrow.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Jesus in Jerusalem during Hanukkah

The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,  and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (John 10:22-23 ESV)

BDAG translates the Greek term egkainia as “festival of rededication.” The feast is also known as Hanukkah and the Feast of Lights.

What is the Feast of Dedication? This feast, observed on the 25th of Kislev (roughly our December), had its origin in the period between the testaments. The desecration of the temple by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes took place in 168 B.C. The climax of the Maccabean revolt was the removal of all evidences of pagan worship from the temple. An eight-day feast of dedication was observed in 165 B.C., and continued to be observed annually by the Jews.

"Antiokhos IV" by Jniemenmaa (talk) 08:46, 20 July 2009 (UTC), own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antiokhos_IV.jpg#/media/File:Antiokhos_IV.jpg

“Antiokhos IV” by Jniemenmaa (talk) 08:46, 20 July 2009 (UTC), own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antiokhos_IV.jpg#/media/File:Antiokhos_IV.jpg

At Modin, a village north-west of Jerusalem, on the way from Jerusalem to Lod, the Syrians tried to force an old priest by the name of Mattathias to offer a pagan sacrifice. The priest refused but another Jew volunteered to offer the sacrifice. Mattathias killed his fellow Jew and the Syrian officer. As word spread, Mattathias became a national hero. He was of the family of Hasmon (or Asmoneus). Thus began the Hasmoneans.

Archaeologists working  with the Israel Antiquities Authority have been searching for the tomb of the Maccabeans at Modin in recent years. See the report here.

Another mosaic uncovered at Lod

In the Old Testament Lod is listed as a town of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:12), but it seems significant only after the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile (Nehemiah 11:25; Ezra 2:33).

In the New Testament the town is known as Lydda and the place where the Apostle Peter preached and healed a paralytic named Aeneas (Acts 9:31-35).

In modern times Lod is the location of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

You might enjoy this account by the Israel Antiquities Authority about the discovery of another impressive mosaic in Lod.

While building the visitor center for the Lod Mosaic, which was exposed in the past and is considered one of the most spectacular in the country, another impressive mosaic was discovered at the site

This week the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Lod municipality, invites the public for a unique opportunity to come see the new mosaic

An impressive mosaic revealed in archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Lod will be open for the first time this week, specifically for visits by the public, in cooperation with the Lod municipality.

In June–November 2014 a team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority directed a large excavation in the Neve Yerek neighborhood of Lod, in an area where a breathtaking mosaic that served as the living room floor in a villa some 1,700 years ago was previously exposed. The aim of the excavation was to prepare the ground for construction of a visitor center, to which the beautiful mosaic will be returned when it completes a series of exhibitions in museums around the world. Important artifacts were discovered in the new excavation, the most notable of which is another colorful mosaic (11 × 13 m) that was the courtyard pavement of the magnificent villa that had the famous mosaic in its living room.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fish. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fish. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

According to Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods. At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramla after the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time”.

The northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the Israel Antiquities Authority was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90. The mosaic, which was discovered and excavated at that time by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage etc. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fanimals. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fanimals. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

The southern part of the complex was exposed in the current excavations. Among other things, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas–covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns. According to Dr. Gorzalczany, “The eastern part of the complex could not be completely exposed because it extends beneath modern buildings in the neighborhood”. The scenes in this mosaic depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds. Dr. Gorzalczany added, “The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability”. Numerous fragments of frescoes (wall paintings prepared on wet plaster) reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period. In light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa will also be incorporated in the visitor center.

Archaeologists Hagit Torgë, Uzi ‘Ad, Eriola Jakoel and Yossi Elisha of the Israel Antiquities Authority participated in the excavation.

According to the press release: “Visiting hours: Tuesday–Wednesday, November 17–18: 8:00 to 16:00. Friday, November 20: 8:00 to 13:00. Driving directions: Come to Ha-Halutz Street in Lod, by way of Ginnaton Junction.”

HT: Joseph Lauer

Tithing anise and overlooking weighty matters

Jesus used illustrations His hearers understood from their daily activities. In announcing woes on the religious leaders of His time, he spoke of spices that were used in cooking.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices– mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law– justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23 NIV)

Instead of dill, the KJV and NKJV versions have used the term anise.

The Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible has a brief explanation about anise.

The term anise mentioned in Matthew 23:23 is derived from the Greek word It refers either to the dill or to the true anise. Both plants are similar and of the same plant family. Both grow about 91 cm. (3 ft.) high with clusters of yellow flowers. The seeds, leaves, and stem are used for medicine and cooking, and were a part of the ancient temple tithe. (Jesus denounced the Jews of His day for carefully obeying small laws, such as the spice tithe, and forgetting the more important ones.) Anise was cultivated in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean countries, and still grows there today. (Packer and Tenney, Eds. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 249.)

Many of the stores in the Old City of Jerusalem and other cities in Israel and the West Bank sell spices. The photo of anise (dill) below was made at Jericho.

A salesman at Jericho shows anise. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A salesman at Jericho shows anise. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Imagine counting out one of every 10 seed but overlooking justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus told the experts in the law and the religious leaders,

You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

I think there is a lesson here for many of us today.

Sheepfolds are still in use in the Bible World

Recently we had a request from a person publishing a Bible class book for a photo of a sheepfold. We did not have exactly what the person requested but we did satisfy their need. At the time I commented that I had seen sheepfolds of all sorts in various parts of the Bible World. Tonight I was looking through some photos made in the Tarus mountains of Turkey. The location is a few miles south of Karaman, Turkey. These shepherds move about from place to place in order to find food for their animals.

The sheepfold in this photo is on the left side of the valley.

Shepherds and sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds and sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A short distance away is a different sheepfold. If you click on the photo, in the larger image you will see at least two dogs keeping watch and a woman milking a sheep.

A sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sheepfold near Karaman, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Scenes such as these remind us of the Biblical patriarchs who moved about from place to place with their flocks. Abraham and Lot provide an example.

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, (Genesis 13:5 ESV)

There are several biblical references to the sheepfold, or the fold of the sheep (Jeremiah 50:6; Micah 2:12; John 10:1, 16). Jesus used an illustration involving the sheepfold:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 ESV)