Category Archives: Old Testament

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.

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

Index of articles on Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1800 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Fountain at Franciscian Custody Shepherd's Field near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd's Field near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Other places near Bethlehem. Most of the links below are related to Herod the Great and the fortress he built near Bethlehem. I see that I have normally used the spelling Herodium, but sometime Herodion.

Historical Connections to Modern Christmas Celebrations. These post are post-biblical, historical references to customs associated with Christmas.

When other posts on this subject are written I will try to remember to update the list.

Note: This post is a repeat from Dec. 12, 2014

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.

Seal impression of King Hezekiah discovered in Jerusalem

First seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king ever exposed in situ in a scientific archaeological excavation

Bulla (seal impression) of King Hezekiah, king of Judah, discovered at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

Bulla (seal impression) of King Hezekiah, king of Judah, discovered at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount. (Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor)

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem released this highly significant information today.

Discovery brings to life the Biblical narratives about King Hezekiah and the activity conducted during his lifetime in Jerusalem’s 1st Temple Period Royal Quarter

Jerusalem, December 2, 2015 — The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar, have unearthed an impression of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727–698 BCE).

Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a 3 mm thick soft bulla (piece of inscribed clay) measuring 13 X 12 mm. Around the impression is the depression left by the frame of the ring in which the seal was set.

The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script:

“לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה”

“Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah”

and a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward,
flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life.

The bulla originally sealed a document written on a papyrus rolled and tied with thin cords, which left their mark on the reverse of the bulla. This bulla came to light, together with many pottery sherds and other finds such as figurines and seals, in Area A of the excavations (2009 season), supervised by Hagai Cohen-Klonymus.

The bulla was discovered in a refuse dump dated to the time of King Hezekiah or shortly after, and originated in the Royal Building that stood next to it and appears to have been used to store foodstuffs. This building, one of a series of structures that also included a gatehouse and towers, was constructed in the second half of the 10th century BCE (the time of King Solomon) as part of the fortifications of the Ophel — the new governmental quarter that was built in the area that connects the City of David with the Temple Mount.

The bulla was found together with 33 additional bullae imprinted from other seals, some bearing Hebrew names, their reverse showing marks of coarse fabric and thick cords that probably sealed sacks containing foodstuffs.

Dr.  Eilat Mazar said: “Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah’s name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, some with a winged scarab (dung beetle) symbol and others with a winged sun, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation.”

A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs excavations on the City of David’s summit and in the Ophel to the south of the Temple Mount’s southern wall. Among her many archaeological finds over the years, in 2013 she revealed to the world an ancient golden treasure discovered at the Ophel (see http://new.huji.ac.il/en/article/18251).

A video about this discovery is available online at http://www.keytodavidscity.com.

The renewed Ophel excavations (2009-2013), and the processing of the finds as well as the preservation and preparation of the excavated area for tourists by the Israel Antiquities Authority were made possible through funding provided by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman (New York).The excavation site is situated within the Ophel Archaeological Park, which is part of the National Park Around the Walls of Jerusalem under the auspices of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The seal impression was found during the wet-sifting of earth layers from the excavation in the Emek-Zurim wet-sifting facility, directed by Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Zachi Dvira, under the auspices of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation. The bulla was discovered by Efrat Greenwald, a member of the Ophel expedition, who supervised the wet-sifting of the excavation material. Reut Ben-Aryeh, who prepared the Hebrew bullae from the Ophel excavations for publication, was the first to identify it as a seal impression of King Hezekiah. Students and alumni of Herbert W. Armstrong College from Edmond, Oklahoma participated in the excavation.

King Hezekiah is described favorably in the Bible (2 Kings, Isaiah, 2 Chronicles) as well as in the chronicles of the Assyrian kings— Sargon II and his son Sennacherib—who ruled during his time. Hezekiah is depicted as both a resourceful and daring king, who centralized power in his hands. Although he was an Assyrian vassal, he successfully maintained the independent standing of the Judean Kingdom and its capital Jerusalem, which he enhanced economically, religiously, and diplomatically.

The Bible relates of Hezekiah that “there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him” (2 Kings 18:5).

The symbols on the seal impression from the Ophel suggest that they were made late in his life, when both the Royal administrative authority and the King’s personal symbols changed from the winged scarab (dung beetle)—the symbol of power and rule that had been familiar throughout the Ancient Near East, to that of the winged sun—a motif that proclaimed God’s protection, which gave the regime its legitimacy and power, also widespread throughout the Ancient Near East and used by the Assyrian Kings.

This change most likely reflected both the Assyrian influence and Hezekiah’s desire to emphasize his political sovereignty, and Hezekiah’s own profound awareness of the powerful patronage given his reign by the God of Israel. While the changed Royal administrative symbol imprinted on the King’s jars used the motif of a sun with wings extended to the sides, Hezekiah’s personal changed symbol had a sun with sheltering wings turned down and a life-symbol at the end of each wing. This special addition of the symbol of life may support the assumption that the change on the King’s personal seal was made after Hezekiah had recovered from the life-threatening illness of shehin (II Kings 20:1-8), when the life-symbol became especially significant for him (ca. 704 BCE).

The discovery of King Hezekiah’s Royal Seal impression in the Ophel excavations vividly brings to life the Biblical narratives about King Hezekiah and the activity conducted during his lifetime in Jerusalem’s Royal Quarter.

The full research about King Hezekiah’s bulla is included in the first volume of the Ophel Excavations 2009–2013 Final Reports, published today with the support of the David Berg Foundation.

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Shiva)

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Shiva)

The Institute of Archaeology, the birthplace of Israeli archaeology, is an independent research and teaching unit within the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Humanities. Academic programs include studies for B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in prehistoric, biblical, and classical archaeology, Civilizations of the Ancient Near East and Computerized Archaeology. In addition to its role as a teaching and training institution, the Institute is involved in major archaeological endeavors and interdisciplinary research programs. Its excavations at major prehistoric and historic sites have shaped many of the current paradigms in Israeli archaeology and contributed to a better understanding of past human behavior. For more information, visit http://archaeology.huji.ac.il.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Thanks to Dov Smith, Assistant Spokesman–International, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

You may read entire the Press Release here.