Category Archives: Old Testament

The Valley of Aijalon (Ayalon) and Joshua’s Long Day

The events of Joshua 9 and 10 are likely well-known to all readers of this page. After the Israelites entered Canaan and captured Jericho and Ai, the inhabitants of Gibeon acted craftily to deceive the Israelites into making an alliance with them. Even though Israel had been deceived they kept their end of the bargain when the Gibeonites were threatened. Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, headed up a group of Amorite kings to fight against Gibeon.

The LORD helped Israel by sending large hailstones upon the enemy. Joshua spoke to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon” (Joshua 10:12). Gibeon sits on the central mountain range about 6 miles north, and slightly west, of Jerusalem. As one makes the descent from Gibeon westward toward the coastal plain he goes through the valley of Aijalon.

When we travel on the modern highway from Jerusalem down to the Ben Gurion Airport we cross over the valley of Aijalon. Our photo of the valley is made below traditional Emmaus (Nicopolis) looking northwest. The terrain shows the Shephelah, or as many English versions indicate, the lowland. To the right is the way up to Gibeon. To the left one continues past the towns of Aijalon and Gezer down to the coastal plain.

Aijalon Valley from the Latrun Interchange on Highway 1. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aijalon Valley from the Latrun Interchange on Highway 1. 2005 Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In April I flew over the Aijalon Valley in approximately the same area. This perspective provides a better view of the valley. We were avoiding the afternoon storm clouds on our way from Jerusalem to the Sde Dov Airport at Tel Aviv.

Aerial view of Aijalon (Ayalon) Valley. The view is to the north. The bridge is for the yet-to-open Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Aijalon (Ayalon) Valley. The view is to the north. The bridge is for the yet-to-open Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

Three east-west valleys divide the Shephelah and provide access between the plain and the mountains. To the north is the valley of Aijalon. Further south is the valley of Sorek, and then the valley of Elah. Significant battles took place in the valley of Aijalon and the valley of Elah.

The town of Aijalon which overlooks the valley was allotted to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:42), but Dan moved to the northern part of the country and Aijalon was considered one of the cities of Judah and Benjamin (2 Chronicles 11:5-12). In the days of King Ahaz the city had fallen under Philistine control (2 Chronicles 28:16-20).

Have scientists discovered Joshua’s long day?

In 1969 an article began to be circulated in church bulletins, and later by Email, claiming that scientists had found evidence of the missing day of Joshua 10. Harry Rimmer had reported a similar story in The Harmony of Science and Scripture in 1936. There is no truth to this claim. I have an article written in response to it available at BibleWorld.com. An article by Dr. Bryant Wood is available at the ABR web site here.

This article is a revised reprint from 2009

Timnah – where Samson met his first love

Perhaps the most memorable event of Timnah recorded in the Bible is that of the affair between Samson and a Philistine woman.

Samson went down to Timnah, where a Philistine girl caught his eye. (Judges 14:1 NET)

Delilah, the most famous of Samson’s three wives, is said to have lived in the Sorek Valley, but Timnah is not specifically named (Judges 16:4).

The LORD had commanded Israel not to become involved in mixed marriages with the people of the land (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). But Samson had the misfortune of living too close to the border of Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. And he lacked the determination to abide by the commands of the LORD.

There were other significant events associated with Timnah. Here is a brief list.

  • Judah went up to Timnah to his sheep shearers, at which time he mistook Tamar, his own widowed daughter-in-law, for a prostitute. She conceived and bore twin sons (Genesis 38:12-30).
  • Timnah is mentioned as being a town of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:10, 57).
  • A little later the territory had transferred to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:40-46).
  • By the time of King Ahaz (735-715 B.C., McKinny), Timnah was in the hands of the Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18).

Timnah is identified with Tel Batash in the Sorek Valley, about 4 miles northwest of Beth-Shemesh. Ekron (Tel Miqne) is about 3½ miles west of Timnah. The Sorek River flows past both cities on its way to the Mediterranean.

Tel Batash was excavated by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for three seasons (1977-79). Between 1981-89, the site was excavated under the direction of George L. Kelm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Amihai Mazar of Hebrew University. The site was occupied from the Middle Bronze IIB (18th or 17th centuries B.C.), through the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In Iron Age I, Timnah was a Philistine city.

Kelm and Mazar wrote Timnah A Biblical City in the Sorek Valley (Eisenbrauns 1995) to provide a report of their excavations.

Map showing Timnah. Credit: BibleHub.com.

Map showing Timnah. Credit: BibleHub.com.

Timnah is off the beaten track and very few people visit it. Easy routes to the site have been blocked by the farmers in the Valley. Leon Mauldin and I searched for, and eventually located, Timnah in the rich alluvial Sorek Valley in 2011. Unlike Lachish, Mareshah, Gath, or Azekah the tel is unimpressive.

Timnah, beyond the brook Sorek, in August, 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Timnah, on the southern bank of the Sorek, in August, 2011. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 2013 our friends Trent and Rebekah Dutton were trying to locate Timnah when they saw two shade tents and the Israel Antiquities Authority flag on a small rise in the fields. The IAA was doing some work at the site and explained to them the restoration work they were doing. Here is a photo the Dutton’s shared of the reconstructed Oil Press from the 7th century B.C. See Kelm and Mazar, pp. 150-152, for the way this looked at the time of the dig. An architect’s (Leen Ritmeyer) drawing of the installation is found on page 87. Some finds are intentionally covered by the excavators at the end of a season or the completion of a dig. This appears to be one such example.

The Oil Press installation at Timnah. Photo by Trent & Rebekah Dutton.

The Oil Press installation at Timnah. Photo by Trent & Rebekah Dutton.

Earlier this month Leon and I had the opportunity to fly over the Sorek Valley. I don’t think our pilot had ever seen the site before, but our previous experience on the ground, Google earth, and the excavation report allowed us to locate it from the air.

Aerial view of Timnah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Timnah and the Sorek (April, 2016). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think the little white building covers the Oil Press installation. After a quarter of a century the excavated areas are now covered with natural growth.

It is a long story, but this is where Samson met his first Philistine wife, and maybe another. There is always a danger when one lives too close to the border.

If you do not already have Brad Gray’s Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong, now might be time to take a look at our earlier review.

My late friend and colleague, James Hodges, served as an Area Supervisor at Timnah in 1977.

The shepherd and his sheep

When my traveling friend Leon and I left Jerusalem last Saturday the temperature reached a high of about 82 degrees. On the way to Tiberias we began to notice that the sky was hazy; it was filled with sand coming up from the south. This wind is known as the hamsin. The sand could be seen on the cars.

This morning we noticed that the sunrise would not be visible over the Sea of Galilee. When I checked the weather online, I found that a slow-moving storm was bringing flash floods (from the west) throughout the Mid-East. The weather yesterday in Galilee was hot, but this morning it was chilly – in the low 50s.

As we drove south through the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem we had periods of rain, and periods of beautiful sky and brilliant colors. As we approached Jericho we even had rain falling in the wilderness. This is a rare event.

The light rain settled the dust and made the landscape more photogenic. Here is a photo I made of a shepherd leading his sheep in the wilderness. Notice the heavy clouds to the East.

When we arrived in Jerusalem about 5 p.m. the temperature was 58 degrees.

A shepherd leads his sheep in the wilderness. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A shepherd leads his sheep in the wilderness. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The analogy of shepherd and sheep is used throughout the Bible. Psalm 23 is familiar even to many non-religious people.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4 ESV)

A glimpse of the River Jordan

The Jordan River is shy, rarely revealing very much of itself. As we travel in the Jordan Valley from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea we only see the river on a few occasions. Even then we only see short distances.

The photo below is one I made yesterday about 12 km. south of the Sea of Galilee. You can see the dirt road on the Israeli side of the border and the River in Jordan.

The Jordan River flowing into Jordan for a short distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jordan River flowing into Jordan for a short distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bible students enjoy visiting the Jordan River for several reasons.

  • The ancient Israelites crossed the Jordan to enter the land that had been promised to the seed of Abraham (Joshua 3).
  • Elijah and Elisha crossed the river (2 Kings 2).
  • John baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:6ff.; Mark 1:5-9; John 1:28; 10:40).
  • Jesus was baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13).
  • Naaman, the Aramean [Syrian] military commander, dipped in the Jordan at a site further south (2 Kings 5).

I have been unable to post very much while traveling in Israel, but the mother of my favorite grandson said I should be posting more. She knows how to get things done.

Roman road from Elah valley to Bethlehem

Portions of roads from the Roman period are found throughout Israel, and we have posted about several of them.

One interesting Roman road is the stepped road leading from the Valley of Elah up to Bethlehem. This photo was made 4.2 km west of Mata on Highway 375. I am not sure of the date of this unusual stretch of Roman Road, but I think most of the Roman roads date to the late first century or the second century A.D.

These steps would have made the trip up into, and down from, the mountains of Judea easier for both man and beast. This is likely the same route, centuries before the Romans controlled the area, taken by David as he went from Bethlehem to take some special provisions to his brothers on the firing line in the Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17:15-22). Note especially verse 15:

… but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. (1 Samuel 17:15 ESV)

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When David was in the cave at Adullam he wished for a drink of water from “the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate.”  The Biblical text records that three of his mighty men, without the knowledge of David, made their way to Bethlehem to bring him some of that water (2 Samuel 23:15-17). David refused to drink the water and poured it out to the LORD. I think the three mighty men would have used this same route.

The Dead Sea: what is deader than dead?

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, has a fabulous article about the Dead Sea which they call “Israel’s endangered natural wonder.” This report consists of an article, photographs, aerial footage, and an animated map showing how the Dead Sea is drying up. The article is by Nir Hasson. Use this link to access all of the material.

In 1972 the Dead Sea was about 1301 feet below sea level. This year it is more than 1407 feet below sea level. Water that once flowed all the way from Mount Hermon and the streams of both Cis-Jordan and Trans-Jordan is now being used to provide water for the population and agricultural interests.

In my photo below you will see a few of the sinkholes that have been formed in recent years. According to Hasson there were 220 sinkholes along the shore in 1996, but in 2015 the count had risen to 5,548. The water of the Sea once covered all of the area below where I was standing to make the photo.

Sinkholes along the western shore of the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sinkholes along the western shore of the Dead Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Previously we have called attention to the photos of the sinkholes by Shmuel Browns, Israel Tour Guide. This would be a good time to take a look at them if you have not done so before. Go here.

The Dead Sea is called the Salt Sea in the Old Testament (Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:3, 12; Deuteronomy 3:17, et al.

Jerusalem is older than we thought

The first time the word Jerusalem appears in the Bible is in Joshua 10:1, about 1400 B.C., but we understand that the reference to Salem in Genesis 14:18 is an early reference to Jerusalem. Abraham paid tithes to the priest-king Melchizedek.

New archaeological discoveries in the Jerusalem area attest to a well-established settlement as early as the 5th millennium BC, according to a news release Wednesday from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Excavation director Ronit Lupo of the Israel Antiquities Authority next to the remains of the ancient house. Photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Excavation director Ronit Lupo of the Israel Antiquities Authority next to the remains of the ancient house. Photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Here is the news release:

An important discovery was recently unearthed in north Jerusalem when archaeological excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the laying of a road in the Shuʻfat neighborhood [Shuʻfat is a short distance south of the site of Gibeah] – initiated and financed by Moriah, the Jerusalem Development Company – revealed the remains of an ancient settlement from the Chalcolithic period, approximately 7,000 years ago (fifth millennium BCE).

During the Chalcolithic period, man started using tools made of copper (chalcos in Greek) for the first time while continuing to use tools made of stone (lithos), hence the name given to the period. According to Dr. Omri Barzilai, Head of the IAA’s Prehistory Branch, “The Chalcolithic period is known in the Negev, the coastal plain, the Galilee and the Golan, but is almost completely absent in the Judean Hills and Jerusalem. Although in recent years we have discovered a few traces of Chalcolithic settlements, such as those at Abu Gosh, Motza Junction, and the Holyland compound in Jerusalem, they have been extremely sparse. Now, for the first time, we have discovered significant remains from 7,000 years ago.”

Basalt bowl. Photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Basalt bowl. Photo credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavation exposed two dwelling houses with well-preserved remains and floors containing various installations as well as pottery vessels, flint tools, and a basalt bowl, all typical of the period. The construction phases and signs of their maintenance show that the buildings were used for a considerable time.

According to Ronit Lupo, director of excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority: “On completion of the excavations at Shuʻfat, it is quite evident that there was a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times. Thousands of years later, the buildings uncovered are of a standard that would not fall short of Jerusalem’s architecture. This discovery represents a highly significant addition to our research of the city and the vicinity. Apart from the pottery, the fascinating flint finds attest to the livelihood of the local population in prehistoric times: Small sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops, chisels and polished axes for building, borers and awls, and even a bead made of carnelian (a gemstone), indicating that jewelry was either made or imported. The grinding tools, mortars and pestles, like the basalt bowl, attest to technological skills as well as to the kinds of crafts practiced in the local community. We also recovered a few bones of sheep/goat and possibly cattle; these will be analyzed further in the Israel Antiquities Authority laboratories, permitting us to recreate the dietary habits of the people who lived here 7,000 years ago and enhancing our understanding of the settlement’s economy.”

7,000-year-old bead. Photo credit: Ronit Lupo, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

7,000-year-old bead. Photo credit: Ronit Lupo, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

HT: Joseph Lauer; the major Israeli newspapers.