Category Archives: Egypt

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.

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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

Bal’ama is thought to be Biblical Ibleam

We always wanted to travel through the hill country of Samaria (Manasseh and Ephraim) on our tours, but there were many years that this was not possible due to the political situation. When travel was possible we drove (from the north) through Jenin, the plain of Dothan, Samaria, Shechem (Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, Jacob’s Well), and other sites as time permitted. If we could not travel along the central mountain range we drove through the Jordan Valley.

Sometime when traveling through Jenin, our guide would mention that there is a tel (tell, archaeological mound) on the south side of the city, but we never saw it. Traveling in a bus normally provides a better view because one is sitting higher, but I now understand why we did not see this tel. The excavation report explains that the spring entrance at road level became visible only after the 1996-1997 road work. The road runs through the Wadi Bal’ama.

The site on the south side of Jenin is known as Khirbet Bal’ama, or Khirbet Belameh. Several 19th and 20th century archaeologists identified this site with Biblical Ibleam.

Ibleam was a Canaanite town in the territory given to the Israelite tribe of Manasseh. As the Israelites settled in the land, there were Canaanite cities that they failed to capture. One of them was Ibleam (Joshua 17:11). The Biblical text says,

Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. (Judges 1:27 ESV)

Thutmose III was the ruler of Egypt (1504-1450 B.C.) during the 18th Dynasty. Some scholars place the beginning of his rule at 1490 and others at 1479.

Thutmose III at the Temple of Amum at Karnak. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seated statue of Thutmose III at the Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Thutmose made a military excursion into Canaan and left a record of it on the walls of the Karnak Temple. Our photo shows a few of the bound rulers of various cities. I don’t have a translation of the cartouches and do not know if Bal’ama is shown in this photo, but it is included somewhere on the walls of Karnak.

Part of the city list left by Thutmose III at Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Part of the city list left by Thutmose III at Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My interest in Bal’ama was renewed when I read A.D. Riddle’s article in the Bible Places Blog here. Last April, 2016, I had this site in mind when we were able to drive through the West Bank from Galilee to Jerusalem. As we drove south of Jenin I caught a glimpse of the new sign marking the entrance to Bal’ama Tunnel. Note that the sign is in Arabic and English. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this sign was there in 2015 when I drove through Jenin, but I may have been looking to the east of the highway.

Bal'ama is marked as Bal'ama Tunnel on the west side of the road from Jenin to Dothan, Samaria, and Nablus (Shechem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bal’ama is marked as Bal’ama Tunnel on the west side of the road from Jenin to Dothan, Samaria, and Nablus (Shechem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are two information signs posted at the site of Khirbet Bal’ama. The first reads,

Khirbet Bal’ama is a Canaanite fortified city that occupied a strategic position controlling the historic route of Wadi Bal’ama which connects the Arraba Plain with Marj Ibn Amer (“Jarzeel [Jezreel] Valley”). In the ancient record, the site is identified with the name “Ibleam“, and was mentioned in the Egyptian Royal Archive in the 15th century B.C. With reference to the classical records, Bal’ama was known as “Belemoth”, and was mentioned as a major town during the Bronze Age and beginnings of the Iron Age. It was inhabited during the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic periods, also during the crusader/Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Excavations at the site carried out by a Joint Palestinian-Dutch team between 1998 and 2000, revealed the water system and parts of a city walls dating back to the Bronze Age at the western perimeter of the site, ruins for houses dating back to the second Iron Age, a winery from the Roman period and remnants of a tower on top of the hill dating back to the crusader/Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. A cemetery on the southern top of the hill adjacent to Khirbet Bal’ama was discovered as well.

Khirbet Bal’ama is visible to the right of the new building on the slope. There are two entrances to the tunnel; one at street level and another at the level of the platform on the slope.

The site of Khirbet Bal'ama south of Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Khirbet Bal’ama south of Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Riddle includes some nice photos of the site, but we can add one with the entrance to the tunnel system open.

Entrance to the tunnel at Khirbet Bal'ama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to the tunnel at Khirbet Bal’ama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another sign on the entrance plaza describes the water tunnel system.

The water tunnel is located at the eastern foot of Khirbet Bal’ama. It was first described by Victor Guerin in 1874 and then by G. Schumacher [who had earlier excavated at Megiddo] in 1910. The rock-cut tunnel was dug to give access to the water source at the foot of the hill. It was designed primarily to be used in times of war and siege. The Bal’ama water tunnel system is one of the major systems in Palestine, like other systems found in Jerusalem, Tel el-Muteselim (Megiddo), Tel el-Qadah (Hazor) and Tell el-Jazari (Gezer). The tunnel consists of three parts, namely the archway at the lowest entrance, the rock-cut tunnel going upward to the west, and the upper stone-built narrow passage. The discovered tunnel is 115 metres in length; 105 metres of it is rock-cut and includes 57 stairs. Archaeological objects were found, such as pottery vessels, glass objects, coins, and some inscriptions.

And we can add a photo of the actual lower water tunnel. Riddle says,

The tunnel was apparently constructed in the Iron Age, though this is based largely on inference rather than clear, direct evidence

Beginning of the Bal'ama Tunnel on the east side of the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beginning of the Bal’ama Tunnel on the eastern (northeast, Riddle) side of the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Due to lunch plans at Samaria and other sites on our schedule for the day we were not able to walk through the tunnel. Always a reason to return.

Riddle cites two excavation reports. He says the first may be difficult to access in the United States, but I am pleased to say that both documents are now available on Academia under the name of Hamdan Taha. This is for those who have a more technical interest in the site.

Taha, Hamdan and Gerrit van der Kooij. The Water Tunnel System at Khirbet Bal’ama. Archaeological Project Report of the 1996–2000 Excavations and Surveys, volume II. Ramallah: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage. 2007.

Taha, Hamdan. “Excavation of the Water Tunnel at Khirbet Belameh, 1996-1997.” in Proceedings of the First International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Rome, May 18th-23rd 1998. 2000: 1587-1613.

New Book: The World’s Oldest Alphabet

Carta Jerusalem is sending me a review copy of this book when it is published next month. It is somewhat technical, but there are readers of our blog who have an interest in the subject.

The World’s Oldest Alphabet

Hebrew as the Language of the Proto-Consonantal Script
By Douglas Petrovich

From the Introduction by Eugene H. Merrill,
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies (Emeritus)
Dallas Theological Seminary:

“. . . The breakthrough as to the question of the origins of the alphabet represented in this volume is the fruit of the author’s intensive and extensive research and fastidious attention to detail. His acclaimed expertise in epigraphy, paleography, lexicography, and comparative linguistics and literature has led him to the conviction that of all options one can currently advance as to the ultimate origins of the alphabet, the identification of proto-Hebrew is the very best candidate. . . .”

New book Douglas Petrovich.

Carta is offering 25% off until January 31st only.

For about 150 years, scholars have attempted to identify the language of the world’s first alphabetic script, and to translate some of the inscriptions that use it. Until now, their attempts have accomplished little more than identifying most of the pictographic letters and translating a few of the Semitic words. With the publication of The World’s Oldest Alphabet, a new day has dawned. All of the disputed letters have been resolved, while the language has been identified conclusively as Hebrew, allowing for the translation of 16 inscriptions that date from 1842 to 1446 BC. It is the author’s reading that these inscriptions expressly name three biblical figures (Asenath, Ahisamach, and Moses) and greatly illuminate the earliest Israelite history in a way that no other book has achieved, apart from the Bible.

 About the Author:

Douglas Petrovich (Ph.D., M.A., Th.M., M.Div.) teaches Ancient Egypt at Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Canada). He formerly was the academic dean and a professor at Novosibirsk Biblical-Theological Seminary (Russia), as well as at Shepherds Theological Seminary (U.S.A.), where he taught all levels of biblical Hebrew. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, with a major in Syro-Palestinian archaeology, a first minor in ancient Egyptian language, and a second minor in ancient Near Eastern religions. His research interests include biblical history and exegesis, Egyptology, and ancient Near Eastern history (including archaeology, epigraphy, chronology, and iconography).

Petrovich has done extensive work in the area pertaining to the exodus and conquest. I have heard him speak on this subject at the annual meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society, and now I look forward to studying the book.

Click here for sample pages

Carta is offering 25% OFF UNTIL JANUARY 31st ONLY when you order from their online store. Use Vocher Code: 25-off
Order now and guarantee your copy

My Thoughts on the Nile in 2009

This is a re-post from USA Inauguration Day in 2009.

Shortly before sunset, January 20, 2009, I made a few photos of the Nile River looking toward the west bank of the river. I thought I would share this one with you.

Sunset on the Nile, January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunset on the Nile, January 20, 2009. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are anchored on the Nile a few miles south of Luxor. From my cabin on the Tu Ya cruise boat I am watching the Al Jazeera Network live coverage of the inauguration ceremonies in Washington. The choice of the majority of voters on November 2 was not my choice, but I must say that I am proud at this moment to be an American.

The American ideal of freedom and justice for all is a noble one. Surely there are times when this ideal is not met, but it remains the dream that holds us together, many as one. The diversity of our nation is a testimony to the vitality of that dream.

The inaugural ceremony is the same whether watching it live in Washington, on Al Jezeera in Egypt, or on CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, or one of the other networks in the United States. Well, maybe. The thing that makes the difference is the commentary afterwards and the news chosen to run underneath the live event.

Harbor of Pharaoh Cheops reported found on Red Sea

Philippe Bohstrom has a fascinating article this morning in HaAretz about the discovery of a harbor on the Red Sea and an archive of papyri dating to the time of Pharaoh Cheops (about 2500 B.C.).

The oldest known harbor in the world has been discovered by archaeologists diving off the Red Sea site of Wadi el-Jarf. The site was found near a huge archive of papyri – which is also the oldest known to date, and which describe how the harbor was built and used by the great King Cheops to import materials to build his flagship monument, the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The monumental harbor discovered under the waves at Wadi el-Jarf has been dated to 4600 years ago, right in Cheops’ time.

Cheops, also known by his Egyptian name Khufu, reigned from 2580 to 2550 B.C.E. He had the harbor erected 180 kilometers south of Suez, in the foothills of the desert mountains.

Many have been fascinated by the Great Pyramid (or Pyramid of Cheops – or Khufu), dating to about 2500 B.C. Perhaps we are not surprised to learn of this impressive shipping enterprise on the Red Sea.

The Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) at Giza. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) at Giza. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I encourage you to check Bohstrom’s article here with numerous photos and a map to locate the discovery on the Red Sea.

Again, I would remind our readers that the Pyramids of Giza were built long before the time of Abraham, and the later Israelites.

Traditions about Abraham at Şanliurfa, Turkey – Part 2

Without deciding the issue of the location of the Ur of the Chaldeans of Genesis 11:28 and 31 (also Genesis 15:7 and Nehemiah 9:7), we understand from the Old Testament that Abraham lived for a time at Haran about 25 miles south of Şanliurfa in southeastern Anatolia (modern Turkey).

Local Muslim tradition in Urfa claims that Abraham was born in a cave in the city, and legend says he was hidden by his mother in the cave for 15 months.

In the first photograph you see the Mosque associated with the cave of Abraham and the Citadel (Kale) which is thought to date to the Hellenistic period.

To the left of the courtyard is an entrance to the cave in which it is claimed that Abraham was born.

Citadel, mosque, cave. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Citadel, mosque, and cave in Urfa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Men and women have separate entrances to the cave.

Men and women lined up to enter through separate doors. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Men and women enter through separate doors. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There appears to be a spring in the cave. Men are able to see further into the cave and have the opportunity to drink from the water using one of the cups that are provided. I do not know about the arrangement for the women.

Men worship in the Cave of Abraham at Urfa. Photo by Ferrell

Men worship in the Cave of Abraham at Urfa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sign at the cave explains the tradition. It seems not to have been written by native English speakers, but I think you will be able to make out the meaning.

Sign at the cave of Abraham. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign at the cave of Abraham. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is my copy of the sign without corrections.

Mevlid means “holly nativity/birth”. It’s believed that Abraham was born in this cave, there fore it is named as Mevlid-i Halil Cave. According to the legend, when the oracles of King Nimrud told him that there would be born a son who would destroy and end his dynasty and his religion, Nimrud ordered that all the sons would be born that year should be killed strictly. Within the year, Nuna, who was the mother of Abraham, noticed that she was pregnant. For a while she hid her pregnancy. When the date of birth arrived, she sheltered in this cave and gave birth to Abraham inside here. After the birth, she came here every day secretly and nursed her son. Meanwhile according to the legend, it’s believed that Abraham was also miracally nursed by a gazelle by the order of God and within the 15 months he passed in the cave, it’s believed that he grew up to the age of 15.

I understand the last sentence to say that Abraham grew to age 15 in just 15 months! The legend seems to mix a bit of the story of the birth and infancy of Moses who was hidden among the reeds along the Nile River for three months by his parents (Exodus 2:2-4; Hebrews 11:23) with the murder of the innocents by the hands of Herod the Great in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16).

Like Christians and Jews, Muslims have a multitude of traditions and legends that have grown up around Biblical and Quranic characters.

Read Part 1 about Abraham and Şanliurfa here.