Category Archives: Old Testament

Babylonian and Roman destruction of the Temple

Many of the Jewish people recently observed 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.).

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 Mohammed 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 from the Temple Mount to the street below in A.D. 70. 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.

Chickens in Israel commercialized during Hellenistic Period

For the first few decades of my preaching I ate fried chicken in lots of homes. There were numerous jokes about preachers and chicken. One was that the family of five were told by the head of the house to bow their heads while thanks was being given. Just as he was about to say Amen there was a loud cry of pain. When they looked, the preacher had five forks in his hand.

In the days before frozen meat, or even refrigeration, it was easy enough to make a last-minute decision to invite the visiting minister home without having anything prepared to eat. The woman of the house would send one of the kids to the yard to select a plump fryer. It did not take very long to get that chicken plucked, cut, rolled in flour and fried. It was good.

When I opened the digital headlines from The Jerusalem Post (here) this morning I read an article reporting that chickens were first commercialized in Israel 2,300 years ago. A little later in the day I received reports from Joseph Lauer. First the NPR report (here), and then other sources.

To summarize. Researchers at the University of Haifa have been studying more than a thousand chicken bones excavated at Maresha (= Mareshah), a site in the Shephelah of Israel, from the Hellenistic period (400 to 200 B.C.). Lee Perry-Gal is quoted by NPR:

“The site is located on a trade route between Jerusalem and Egypt,” says Lee Perry-Gal, a doctoral student in the department of archaeology at the University of Haifa. As a result, it was a meeting place of cultures, “like New York City.”

Lee Perry-Gal examining chicken bones from Hellenistic Maresha.

Lee Perry-Gal examining chicken bones from Hellenistic Maresha.

Another photo provided by the folks at Haifa shows chicken bones in an ancient cooking pot.

Cooking pot with chicken wing bones from the excavation.

Cooking pot with chicken wing bones from the excavation.

If you have more technical interest in this story you should see the abstract on the PNAS website here. The article may be downloaded for a fee.

When I began to look at Biblical references to chickens, I was a little surprised at the paucity of references in the Old Testament

There is only one reference to the rooster in the Old Testament (Proverbs 30:31), but the New Testament contains at least a dozen references. Most of them are about Peter’s denial of Jesus.

A rooster at the Greek Orthodox property at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A rooster at the Greek Orthodox property at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus says He wanted to gather the children (used of all the people) of Jerusalem together “the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37; cf. Luke 13:34 NAU).

If there was no widespread production of chickens in Israel until the Hellenistic period, what did the prophets eat?

The Temple Mount – a Carta Guide Book

The writings and drawings of Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer have brought to life many of the archaeological sites of the Bible Lands. They may know more about the Temple Mount that anyone else I know.

Now they have put that knowledge, accented by their fabulous drawings, in Jerusalem -The Temple Mount, a guide to the Temple Mount published by Carta in Israel.

One never knows in advance whether the Temple Mount will be open to visitors. Whether you see it or not, this book of 160 pages provides helpful information for the Bible student in his/her studies.

Jerusalem - The Temple Mount

Jerusalem – The Temple Mount

This book sells for $25. That is the Amazon price, but if you have Prime the shipping will be free. You will find Jerusalem -The Temple Mount a helpful resource.

I have not received a review copy of this book, but I receive a very small commission from Amazon if you order through my site.

We keep a link to Ritmeyer Archaeological Design here.

World Heritage sites in Israel

The Sunday issue of The Jerusalem Post reports here that the Beit She’arim tombs in Western Galilee have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Beit She’arim, located in the Western Galilee about 20 km. southeast of Haifa, contains a necropolis filled with a series of catacombs built as early as the 2nd century C.E. The site served as the primary burial place outside Jerusalem following the failed second Jewish revolt against the Romans and boast “a treasury of artworks and inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew,” the World Heritage Committee said.

“Beit She’arim bears unique testimony to ancient Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, who is credited with Jewish renewal after 135 C.E.,” the committee added.

Beit She’arim is not a biblical site, but it illustrates the strength of Judaism in Galilee following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, and the failed Bar Kochba revolt in A.D. 135.

Facade of the "Sarcophagi Cave" at Beit She'arim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Facade of the “Sarcophagi Cave” at Beit She’arim. Excavators recovered 135 sarcophagi from this cave, according to Azaria Alon in Israel National Parks & Nature Reserves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nine Israeli cities are now included on the World Heritage List.

…Masada; the Old City of Acre; the White City of Tel Aviv; the biblical tels of Megiddo, Hatzor [Hazor], and Beersheba; the incense route of desert cities in the Negev; Baha’i holy places in Haifa and the Western Galilee; and mostly recently, Beit Guvrin National Park

Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Al-Maghtas), the traditional place where John the Baptist worked, was also added to the World Heritage List this year.

These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:28 ESV)

I have visited Bethany Beyond the Jordan four times since 2002, and have seen the various church buildings multiply. In May, when we visited the Jordan River on the Israeli side, we were traveling by car and were able to stop for photos almost anywhere we wished. As we left Qasr el-Yahud and began to ascend from the Jordan River valley (the Zor), we turned to see a nice photo of the Jordanian side and a glimpse of most of the new religious buildings. The buses are parked on the Israeli side and the river is not visible. The two prominent buildings seen near the middle of the photo are near the bank of the Jordan River on the Jordanian side.

Baptism site on the Jordan River. View east to Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Baptism site on the Jordan River. View east to Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The last photo will provide some perspective. It was made from the Israeli side of the River with a view east toward the Jordanian side. You can see the two prominent religious building mention in the photo above.

View from Israeli side of the River to the Jordanian side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

View from Israeli side of the River to the Jordanian side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Petra is also on the World Heritage Site list in Jordan.

How many of these sites in Israel and Jordan have you visited?

Joseph was sold at Dothan

Dothan (Tell Dothan) is located about 11 miles north of Samaria on the east side of the modern highway. The impressive mound rises nearly 200 feet above the plain. The top of the Tell covers about 10 acres and the slopes cover almost 15 more.

Our first photo shows the view of Dothan to the east of the main highway. The mound is located in the region of Samaria in the fertile Dothan Valley.

A view of the west side of Tel Dotan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the west side of Tell Dothan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Biblical Events at Dothan

The best known Biblical event at Dothan is the selling of Joseph. The seventeen-year-old went from the Valley of Hebron where he lived with his father Jacob to Dothan searching for his brothers. Motivated by envy they put him into one of the pits, later sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites, from Gilead, on their way to Egypt (Gen. 37:16-28). Joseph P. Free said in 1975:

“Shepherds still come from southern Palestine to the region of Dothan to water and pasture their flocks, as they did 4000 years ago in the days of Jospeh’s brother. Some doubt has been expressed (Kraeling) on the Biblical record of shepherds traveling out of ‘the vale of Hebron’ eighty miles or more to the Dothan area. One spring week-end we counted ninety flocks on the road from Jerusalem to the Dothan area; many came from the region between Hebron and Jerusalem” (ZPEB  2:160).

Dothan was in Jordan at the time of Free’s work; it is now in the Palestinian West Bank. This is one factor that has complicated any continued excavations.

The next photo is one I made in 1979. On the west side of the main highway, across from Tell Dothan there was a cistern that was used by the shepherds to water their flocks. I was looking carefully to locate the cistern again, but discovered that a strip of small stores had been built in the area.

Joseph’s brothers put him in a dry pit. The term pit may be used of a cistern, or a pit of some other sort. From the first time I saw this cistern I was reminded of the episode of Joseph.

A cistern in the Dothan Valley in 1979. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A cistern in the Dothan Valley in 1979. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Next is a photo that I made of shepherds tending their flocks in the Valley of Dothan in 1979.

Shepherds watching their flock in the Valley of Dothan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds tending their flock in the Valley of Dothan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pictorial Library of the Bible Lands includes some nice photos of Dothan, including an aerial shot and a different picture of a well near the Tell.

Ben-hadad and Elisha. A lesser known event at Dothan is that of Syrian king Ben-hadad who surrounded the city seeking to capture the prophet Elisha. Instead, the Syrians were struck blind by the Lord and led to Samaria by Elisha (2 Kings 6:11-23).

Archaeological Excavations
Excavations were conducted from 1953 to 1962 by Joseph and Ruby Free (Wheaton Archaeological Expedition). You may read Free’s own brief account of the excavations in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible 2:157-60.

The excavations revealed that Tell Dothan was occupied as early as 3000 B.C. Bowls and juglets were discovered from the Middle Bronze Age (2000 – 1500 B.C.), showing that the city was occupied during the patriarchal period. Upper levels of the excavation provided evidence of the city from the 9th century B.C., the time of Ben-Hadad and Elisha.

I decided to follow the example of Master in Dothan: Remains from the Tell (1953-1964) in using the term Tell rather than Tel as shown on Israeli maps.

Visiting ancient Samaria again

On our recent personal study tour in Israel I decided to see if we could travel south from Nazareth through the West Bank along the central mountain ridge of the country. There is always something worthwhile to see whether taking the central mountain route, the Jordan Valley, or the coastal plain (a longer route). The security guy at the border saw our passports and waved us through.

Everything went well except for the condition of the road in the vicinity of Jenin. I have been through here many times during a bus tour, but the main highway is not clearly marked and is in bad repair in many places. Many speed humps have been added all the way to Samaria.

We were able to get some nice photos of Tel Dotan (Dothan) on the way to Sebastia (Biblical Samaria).

My last visit to Samaria was in September, 2013. For several years the road leading from the main road (= Hwy. 60) to the site has been in bad repair. Our bus driver took his bus through the crooked, narrow streets of Sebastia to get to the site of ancient Samaria. That left everyone leaning in toward the aisle.

This photo shows the condition of the road in 2012. In some places it was much worse.

The road along the base of the tel at Samaria in 2012. Several Roman columns stand along the route of the ancient street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The road along the base of the tel at Samaria in 2012. Several Roman columns stand along the route of the ancient street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The owners of the Samaria Restaurant said the condition of the road changed regularly. He and I drove from the Restaurant (and the Roman Forum) along the road and then called the driver to say that he would be able to make it. Once when I was there rocks were piled in the road, and a portion of it was broken up.

Our driver was able to negotiate the road with finesse. I was waiting at the Hellenistic Towers to see if he could make it.

Tourist bus leaving Samaria by the old Roman street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourist bus leaving Samaria by the old Roman street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When we reached the entrance to Samaria this year we were surprised to see a newly paved road. What an improvement. Is this a sign of things to come?

The newly paved Roman street (2015) leading to the Roman Forum where one begins a tour of the ancient ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The newly paved Roman street (2015) leading to the Roman Forum where one begins a tour of the ancient ruins. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Even though Samaria is in the West Bank it is one of Israel’s National Parks.

The site is not in good condition, but could become a wonderful destination with some cleaning up and a financial investment in the site. Our photo below shows the 3rd century Roman theater which, according to Murphy-O’Connor, “may rest on an older Herodian one” (The Holy Land). Above the theater there are ruins of an Israelite wall and a Hellenistic wall. On the far left of the theater’s top row of seats you may notice three courses of a late 4th century Hellenistic tower.

The Roman theater at Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman theater at Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What becomes of Samaria is not as much a practical question as it is a political one. Tours could easily make a full day tour from Jerusalem, or on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, visiting Samaria, Mount Gerizim, Jacob’s Well, Shechem, Shiloh, and a few other stops.

There are only a few tourist shops at Samaria because few tourist come. Over the years I have made friends with Mahmud Ghazal and his family at the Samaria Restaurant. They have a nice shop and an excellent restaurant. We have eaten lunch there several times and always enjoyed it. If you have an opportunity to visit Samaria you should plan to be there at noon so you can enjoy a great lunch. (And, important to tour groups, the toilets are clean.) Mahmud is a graduate of UAB. Yes, Alabama readers, that UAB. If he had known I was coming I am sure he would have worn his Roll Tide crimson shirt.

Elizabeth and I with the friendly and helpful owners of The Samaria Restaurant. Photo by David Padfield.

Elizabeth and I with the friendly and helpful owners of the Samaria Restaurant. Photo by David Padfield.

The restaurant is located at the foot of the ancient tel beside the ruins of the Roman Forum.

The Samaria Restaurant is located beside the Roman Forum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Samaria Restaurant is located beside the Roman Forum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The hill of Samaria was bought by Omri, king of Israel (885/84–880 B.C.), to serve as the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:23-24). The city was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.

By New Testament times Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great who had also erected one of his temples to the Emperor Augustus. Philip, one of the seven servants appointed by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5), later went to Samaria to preach Christ.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:5 ESV)

As a result of the work initiated by Philip, Samaria was visited by the apostles Peter and John (Acts 8:14).

Samaria (Sebastia) has a long post-biblical tradition associated with the burial of John the Baptist.

If you try to make arrangements with a travel agency, driver or guide in Jerusalem to take you to Samaria, most of them will think you want to go to Nablus to see Jacob’s Well. You must specify that you want to include Sebastia. This is not an area where the traveler with little experience should try alone.

Response about Pentecost Post

It has happened twice that I have been in Jerusalem during Pentecost. I wrote a little note here about the experience of being in Jerusalem as a non-Jew during Pentecost. It was similar to one I had written several years earlier here.

A couple of Israeli readers took exception to some of the things I wrote and made their views known in the comments. I am compelled to make a response to some of the questions and issues raised. You will need to read the comments in order to understand my response.

Modern Interpretation of Pentecost. I have been in Jerusalem twice on Pentecost and I have never seen anyone doing what Leviticus 23:15-22 describes.

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.
16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.
17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.
18 And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
19 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
21 And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:15-22 ESV).

Does it need to be said that these offerings were to be made at the tabernacle, or later the temple? Anything short of that has to be a new interpretation.

Count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath [of Passover week]. The seventh Sabbath is the 49th day. The 50th day is the first day of the week, known in the New Testament as the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10).

Neither in Leviticus 23 nor Deuteronomy 16:9-12 is there anything about the Feast of Weeks “celebrating the gift of the Torah.”

Sabbath + Pentecost “amounts to a two-day holiday.” My USA readers probably had no problem with this. When a national holiday comes on Monday, those who do not work on Saturday frequently say they have a three-day holiday. We know that each day is separate and only one is the national holiday. Sorry that I did not make this clearer for other readers. I know that I did not have any hot food at the hotel for two days.

“What you call the Lord’s Supper” was taken once a year. I do my best to speak where the Bible speaks (1 Peter 4:11). The terms/phrases used in the New Testament to describe this meal are Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:211), Communion (1 Corinthians 10:16), and Breaking of bread (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16). There is no evidence that the early Christians observed this meal only once a year. The Lord’s Supper was observed on the Lord’s Day. Did ancient Jews only keep the Sabbath once a year?

The earliest Christians were Jews. Full agreement. The book of Acts makes this abundantly clear. They were slow to recognize Gentiles as children of God. We see this discussed in some detail in Acts 15, and the books of Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews.

Law of Moses or Apostolic Doctrine? Those Jews who accepted the gospel of Christ on that Pentecost when it was first preached in its fullness did not continue in the teaching of Moses. The biblical text says,

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

Interesting, isn’t it? That these Jews from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5) should come to Jerusalem following the teaching of Moses, and that about 3,000 of them would begin following the teaching of the Apostles, is one of the most surprising things in Scripture.

My statement, “It would be wonderful to see the gospel freely preached again in this city as it was on that first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of Jesus nearly two thousand years ago” has nothing to do with censorship. I understand that the preaching on Pentecost was in fulfillment of Isaiah 2.

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)

The early Christians gradually drifted away from the original teaching of the New Testament. As a Christian who seeks to follow the teaching of Christ and His apostles, I can, and do, make this statement in my own hometown.

Lack of knowledge and anti-Semitism. It is popular these days to accuse one with whom we disagree of being racist, sexist, homophobic, intolerant, or anti-Semitic. While I grant that I may have a lack of knowledge on this subject, the charge of anti-Semitism is absurd.

I have devoted my entire adult life to serving and teaching the message of Jesus Christ. Here are just a few things I believe regarding Him.

  • He is the Divine Word who was made flesh, the son of David, the son of Abraham (John 1:1-14; Matthew 1:1).
  • This same one who was descended from David according to the flesh “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4)
  • He said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).
  • This very people “crucified and killed” him by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).

Paul, who called himself “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5), used the illustration of the olive tree to say that some of the natural branches have been broken off and that the Gentiles have been grafted in (Romans 11:17). He also said:

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (Romans 11:23)

A little church in Nazareth has a beautiful olive tree with a couple of grafts on it in their front yard. I think this may have been intentional on their part to recognize their place in the Lord’s great plan of salvation.

An olive tree in Nazareth with a graft. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An olive tree in Nazareth with a graft. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If believing these things makes me anti-Semitic, then I suppose I must acknowledge it, but I think it teaches that some of the Jews accepted Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), and that others did not.

Simon Peter’s sermon to Jews on Pentecost, and his sermon at the house of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, illustrate that the Lord’s requirements for salvation are now the same (Acts 2; Acts 10-11).

One final word. This does not mean that the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is cast aside. I understand the Old Testament to be foundational for a proper understanding of the New Testament (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). These inspired texts say that the Old Testament is for our learning, not for our law. The New Testament is the complete and final revelation of God to man (Ephesians 3:1-5).

It may come as a surprise to some non-Christians that the churches with whom I am associated generally have more classes, for both children and adults, in the Old Testament than in the New Testament at any given class period.

It is comforting to me to understand that in Christ Jesus I am a seed of Abraham and an heir of the great promise of Genesis 12:

… I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3 ESV)

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29 ESV)

Other posts about the importance of Pentecost may be found at the following links.

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