Category Archives: Old Testament

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.

The wild goat of the Bible identified as the Ibex

Wild goats (Hebrew ya’el) are mentioned in a few Old Testament passages (1 Samuel 24:2; Job 39:1; Psalm 104:18; Prov. 5:19). This animal is often identified with the Ibex.

The ibex, a type of wild goat, is still found in Southern Palestine, Sinai, Egypt and Arabia; it was known also in ancient times, as is evident from rock carvings. (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 46).

The wild goats are associated with En Gedi on the shore of the Dead Sea.

Now when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. (1 Samuel 24:1-2 NAU)

Our photo below was made at En Gedi.

Ibex at En Gedi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large Ibex at En Gedi. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Psalmist says the high mountains are for the wild goats.

The high mountains are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the shephanim. (Psalm 104:18 NAU)

The final photo today shows an Ibex on the high rocks of the Negev near Ein Avedat, about 40 miles south of Beersheba. She has paused for her little one. Look carefully below the neck of the mother. Only the head of the kid is visible. Click on the photo for a larger, clearer image.

An Ibex in the Negev near Ein Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Ibex in the Negev near Ein Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What do you know about Tisha B’Av?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017, many of the Jewish people recently will observe Tisha B’Av. This phrase, strange to Christians, means the Fast of the Ninth. The observance “is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people” (Judaism 101). According to this source, five terrible events took place on or near the ninth day of the month Av, the fifth month of the Jewish calendar.

The most significant of these events are the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13), and the destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.

In the past half century a considerable amount of evidence has come to light concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The temple destroyed in 586 B.C. had been constructed by King Solomon in about 966 B.C. It was rebuilt by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile (530-516 B.C.).

In the previous post we published the Israel Antiquities Authority release about additional evidence of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem found in the City of David. Take a look at the additional photos there.

The structure in which shattered jugs were found, attesting to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Picture: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive.

The structure in which shattered jugs were found, attesting to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The darker area near the center of the photo shows the burn level when the city was destroyed. Picture: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive.

Herod the Great began about 19/20 B.C. to rebuild the temple. This work was still in progress during the ministry of Jesus.

Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” (John 2:20 NET)

Christians take seriously the prophecy of Jesus.

Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts and walking away, his disciples came to show him the temple buildings. And he said to them, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!” (Matthew 24:1-2 NET)

There is no archaeological evidence of the temple building itself. The site where the temple once stood is now covered with paving stones and the Dome of the Rock which was constructed by the followers of Mohamed in the 7th century A.D.

The Dome of the Rock stands where Solomon’s Temple was built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Dome of the Rock stands where Solomon’s Temple was built. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vivid evidence of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem was discovered at the SW corner of the temple area in the Tyropean Valley. Some of the rubble can still be seen on the street which was probably built by Agrippa II in the 60s of the first century.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stones that fell, or were pushed, from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction by the Romans. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wayne Stiles recently wrote an article here on this topic with several excellent photos from the Burnt House in Jerusalem, a house burned during the Roman destruction in A.D. 70.

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

The shepherd and the sheepfold

We still see scenes in the Bible world today of shepherds, sheep, and sheepfolds. The scene pictured below was made in the Jordan Valley in late August, a time that is extremely dry in the area.

Bedouin camp and sheepfold in the Jordan Valley in late August. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bedouin tent and sheepfold in the Jordan Valley. 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)

Camel caravans carry merchandise and people

Traveling in the Sinai Peninsula is an interesting experience. I recall flying into the Sinai twice, and traveling through the Peninsula by bus or car twice. Thoughts immediately turn to the Israelites traversing this wilderness, stopping at Mount Sinai to receive “the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel” gave to them (Ezra 7:6).

The caravan traveling here in the eastern Sinai is not carrying merchandise, but is on its way to the resort area of the Gulf of Eilat (or Aqaba). The camels seem to be ready with their saddles to entice the tourists to ride. The little camels are ready for the kids.

Camel caravan in the Eastern Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Camel caravan in the Eastern Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Several Biblical stories come to mind. Think of Rachel coming from Padan-Aram to southern Canaan to wed Isaac.

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel (Genesis 24:64 ESV)

Or of the sons of Jacob preparing to sell Joseph to a band of Ismaelites.

Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. (Genesis 37:25 ESV)

At Avedat in the Negev Highlands of Israel there is a display of the types of goods often transported across the Spice Route by the Nabateans.

Frankincense, Myrrh, and other spices were transported by camel caravans across the famous Spice Route. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Frankincense, Myrrh, Pepper, and other spices were transported by camel caravans across the famous Spice Route. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The stork in the Bible and the Bible Lands

Early in my travels to the Middle East I learned about the migration of the stork. They spend the winters in south-east Africa and then follow the great rift or depression through Israel, some going east to Asia and others going west to Europe. In the fall of the year they make their way back to Africa.

If you have traveled from Tiberias to Jericho by way of the Jordan valley you know that the valley is sometimes far below the highway. Once I saw a flock of storks traveling north through the valley. The stork, and other birds, spend some time in the Hulah valley north of the Sea of Galilee before continuing their trek.

Jeremiah seems to be describing the migratory habits of the stork.

Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV)

I have seen many storks in Turkey. They make their nests on chimneys (has to be summer!), on power poles, and on old columns. The Psalmist indicates that they also nest in the fir trees (Psalm 104:17). Our photo today was made near an old Roman road at Kovanlik, Turkey. It’s almost like they know to follow the roads through Asia to Europe.

A stork standing on her nest at Kovanlik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A stork standing on her nest at Kovanlik, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

According to the Mosaic law the stork was an unclean bird (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18). The prophet Zechariah uses the movement of the storks with their strong wings as an illustration (which I dare not try to interpret).

Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. (Zechariah 5:9 ESV)

The Keren Kayemeth Leisrael JNF website provides good information about storks, and other birds, in the Hulah valley here. Here is another nice site with information about storks and some good photos.