Category Archives: Photography

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.

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An Iron Age pitcher in the Hecht Museum

The Hecht Museum is located in one of the major buildings of the University of Haifa. They have a wonderful teaching collection with some unique items. Many of the artifacts, however, are unprovenanced. This means they come from an unknown source. There is a big controversy among scholars about the publication and display of these items.

In my judgment it is better to display them with the information that is known than to store them in an inaccessible basement or warehouse.

According to the information with the museum display this is a pitcher, with a spout, red burnished, 10th century B.C., Israel Iron Age.

Iron Age pitcher. Displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Iron Age pitcher. Displayed in the Hecht Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Then I set cups and pitchers full of wine in front of the members of the Rechabite community and said to them, “Have some wine.” (Jeremiah 35:5 NET)

Guys, I suggest you don’t show this to your wife. She may want one for her china cabinet.

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.

Improved look of the Holy Sepulchre edicule

The dome of the Holy Sepulcher (Sepulchre) is easily recognizable to all visitors of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the larger of two gray domes seen in the photo below. The smaller dome marks the traditional site of Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine after his mother Helena visited Jerusalem. Murphy-O’Connor dates the dedication of the building to September 17, 335.

The aerial photo below shows Jaffa Gate at the bottom center. The Citadel is in the bottom right. The traditional Holy Sepulchre (larger gray dome) and the site of Calvary (smaller gray dome) are visible in the upper left corner of the photo. Evidence leads us to conclude that the Holy Sepulchre was outside the city wall at the time of Jesus. The Old City is now enclosed by a 16th century A.D. Ottoman (Turkish) wall.

Aerial view of Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Jaffa Gate area. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An edicule or small building within the church is said to cover the tomb in which Jesus was laid after the crucifixion, that is, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60). The photo below shows some of the metal scaffolding used to secure the structure in recent years.

For years it was known that the structure needed to be repaired. Finally, someone donated $1.3 million dollars to be sure the work could begin.

A view of the edicule with scaffolding to hold it up prior to the recent reconstruction work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the edicule with scaffolding to hold it up prior to the recent reconstruction work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below is the photo I made in late April, 2017.

A view of the edicule in late April, 2017, after the refurbishing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the edicule in late April, 2017, after the refurbishing. Multitudes line up daily to have an opportunity to go inside for a moment. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Only a few people saw the area of the original tomb during the renovation. Again the original tomb is covered by stone. The Franciscan Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem has a model to show what the original tomb looked like.

Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cross section model of the tomb at the Holy Sepulchre in the Franciscan Museum, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, the late Catholic scholar, asks the question, “Is this the place where Christ died and was buried?” He answers, “Yes, very probably.”

But Murphy-O’Connor also describes vividly the situation one finds today.

One expects the central shrine of Christendom to stand out in majestic isolation, but anonymous buildings cling to it like barnacles. One looks for numinous light, but it is dark and cramped. One hopes for peace, but the ear is assailed by a cacophony of warring chants. One desires holiness, only to encounter a jealous possessiveness: the six groups of occupants—Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians—watch one another suspiciously for any infringement of rights. The frailty of humanity is nowhere more apparent than here; it epitomizes the human condition. The empty who come to be filled will leave desolate, those who permit the church to question them may begin to understand why hundreds of thousands thought it worthwhile to risk death or slavery in order to pray here. (The Holy Land, 5th Ed., p. 49).

Our faith in the resurrected Christ does not depend on the actual tomb in which He was placed after being taken down from the cross. It depends rather on the testimony of those reliable witnesses who saw Him after the resurrection. Luke reports that eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4). Here is what he says the women who went to the tomb on the first day of the week were told when they found the empty tomb.

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:6-7 ESV)

Where had Mary and Joseph stopped when they missed Jesus?

After his presentation in the Temple, there is no record of Jesus returning to Jerusalem until he is 12 years of age.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.  (Luke 2:41-42 ESV)

When the Feast of the Passover ended, his parents began the return to Nazareth. We can easily imagine that a large caravan of people were traveling together on this trip that would take several days. Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem spending time among the teachers, “listening to them and asking them questions.” Because Mary and Joseph had relatives and acquaintances in the caravan they assumed that Jesus was among them until the end of the first day.

Keener provides some background on caravan travel.

Caravans, which afforded protection from robbers, were common on pilgrimages for the feasts in Jerusalem. Traveling with a caravan, in which neighbors from their town would watch the community children together, Mary and Joseph might assume that the near-adult Jesus was with companions, especially if by now they had younger children to attend to. If we assume a pace of twenty miles per day (though perhaps slower, depending on transportation and the children), Nazareth would be a little over three days’ journey along the shortest route. (Keener, C. S., The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament)

Where did Mary and Joseph stop at the end of that first day of travel? We can not be certain of the route taken from Jerusalem to Nazareth. Travel from Galilee to Jerusalem was often through Perea on the eastern side of the Jordan Valley. We later find Jesus traveling north along the central mountain range through Samaria (John 4).

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tradition identifies the stop at el-Bireh (El Bira). Tradition has it that the first day’s stop after leaving Jerusalem was at a place now known as El Bira (or Bireh) east of Ramallah. El Bira is an Arab town. There is a spring and ruins of a medieval church. The Hachette World Guides: The Middle East (1966) says that the tradition associating this event with El Bireh dates to the 16th century. Eugene Hoade says it is probable that this church was built in 1146 “in memory of” the event mentioned in Luke 2. (Guide to the Holy Land). The apse of the church is visible in the photo below. The Hachette World Guide says the building was destroyed in 1915 and the stones were used for building bridges along the mountain route.

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of medieval church beneath a Mosque in El Bireh. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This site is only about 8 miles north of Jerusalem, but with a large caravan including women and children it is possible that a short distance was covered the first day. It was necessary to stop where water and various food supplies were available (John 4:6-8; Luke 9:51-53).

View of the ruins of the church at El Bireh. The apse is visible in the foreground. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the ruins of the church at El Bireh. The apse is visible in the foreground. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Is this Beeroth? Since the time of explorer Edward Robinson (1867), some scholars have identified El Bireh with the Old Testament Gibeonite city of Beeroth. The word Beeroth indicates the presence of a well. Biblical references include Joshua 9:17, 18:25, Ezra 2:25, and Nehemiah 7:29. Beeroth was considered part of the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 4:2).

The late David Dorsey, after surveying the scholarship on the matter, says,

At present, therefore, the site of biblical Beeroth remains a matter of dispute. The most likely candidate would still seem to be the one originally proposed by Robinson, i.e., el-Bireh. (The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary)

Where did Philip baptize the Ethiopian eunuch?

Note of Correction

In the comments below by Outremer (Tom Powers) you will see that I made a mistake in equating Ein Yael and Ein El-Haniyeh. I could see a difference in my photos and the site pictured in the video or the drawings in Thomson, The Land and the Book, but I thought the passing of time might have made the difference. I also misunderstood the statement by Vamosh that the spring was “just past the entrance to the Ein Yael Living Museum.” I understood it to mean that the spring was in that park.

Well, this is embarrassing. Under some circumstances I could delete the post, but about 2500 individuals receive an Email every time I post.

Tom’s comments also involve political matters that I understand, but for the purpose of this blog prefer not to go into. I write primarily for a group of Christians who study the Bible, but who have little knowledge of the Bible lands and customs. This blog tries to bridge that gap. Of course, I am always delighted when others find the material useful.

One of the “Must see” places for my next visit to Israel is to see Ein El-Haniyeh!

— The Original Article —

One of the “Must see” places I had on my list during the last visit to Israel was a site called Philip’s Fountain or Philip’s Spring. Miriam Feinberg Vamosh describes the location.

The spring is located about one mile southwest of the entrance to the Rephaim Valley portion of Jerusalem Park, just past the entrance to the Ein Yael Living Museum. The Rephaim Valley is mentioned frequently in the Bible, as one of the borders of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:5) and the scene of a battle between David and the Philistines (2 Sam. 5:17–22). (www.haaretz.com, tourist tip #302; the page is no longer available online)

The entrance to Ein Yael, there the spring and pool is located. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The entrance to Ein Yael, where the spring and pool are located. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Just before we entered the park, as well as from the park, we had some nice views of the Rephaim Valley. The northeastern end of the valley (on our left) ends at approximately the northern end of the Valley of Hinnom.

A view of the Rephaim Valley from near the entry of Ein Yael park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the Rephaim Valley from near the entry of Ein Yael park. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vamosh continues,

The New Testament site of Philip’s Spring, known in Arabic as Ein El-Haniyeh is here as well, in this southern portion of the park. It is located at the foot of the Palestinian village of Walajeh, whose people have been tilling the ancient terraces in this area for generations.

She says Christian pilgrims have been coming to Ein el-Haniyeh to recall the story recorded in Luke’s history of the early church. In Acts 8:26-39 we learn that Philip, one of the seven [deacons] who had been chosen to care for the needy disciples in Jerusalem later went to Samaria to preach (Acts 8:5). After what many preachers call a successful “work” in Samaria he was returning to Jerusalem.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. (Act 8:26 ESV)

Whether the road itself ran through a deserted area, or the destination was at that time deserted is a matter of discussion among scholars.

The spring begins from the hillside above the Rephaim Valley. Today the water is diverted to for use in the park, but you can see a channel through which some of it flows to a nearby pool. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The spring begins from the hillside above the Rephaim Valley. Today the water is diverted for use in the park, but you can see a channel through which some of it flows to a nearby pool. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is true that the Rephaim Valley was used as one of the main entries to Jerusalem from the coastal area, but was this where the court official of the Ethiopian queen said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Act 8:36 ESV).

Our next photo show an old pool where water from the spring is collected. Some goldfish can be seen in the far end of the pool. In spite of a nearby “Swimming is Prohibited” sign in three languages, the rope hanging over the pool indicates that boys still use it was for swimming on occasion.

Some identify the pool here as Philip's Fountain, the site where Philip immersed the Ethiopian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some identify the pool here as Philip’s Fountain, the site where Philip immersed the Ethiopian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A nice YouTube video here shows the site prior to the development of the park, with a cameo appearance by Shimon Gibson. In it you may see the pool in its original state.

William M. Thomson, in his The Land and the Book, mentions this site and says that it was identified “by monkish legend St. Philip’s Fountain, where he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.” Thomson includes a drawing of ruins resembling a church at the site (The Land and the Book, 1882, pp. 55-56). This is the volume covering Southern Palestine and Jerusalem.

In a following post we will take a look at another site called Philip’s Fountain.

New discovery at Machaerus where John was imprisoned

All four of the Gospels make some reference to the imprisonment of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3,10; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:20; John 3:24). This must have been a significant and traumatic event for both the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus.

Mark, the shortest gospel,  gives the most complete account of why Herod Antipas arrested and executed John. See Mark 6:17-32.

Josephus, the late first century Jewish historian, includes a long section about John in Antiquities 18:116-119. Perhaps another time we will take a closer look at all of it. For now, I am concerned with the place of execution.

Accordingly he was sent as prisoner, out of Herod’s [Antipas] suspicious temper, to Machaerus [or spell it Macherus], the citadel I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him. (Antiquities 18:119)

Josephus also records that Herod’s wife, the daughter of Aretas IV, king of Petra (the Nabateans), learned of his plan to divorce her and marry Herodias. Without telling Antipas that she knew, she asked for permission to be sent to Machaerus.I suspect that Herod was glad to get her out-of-town. She was no dummy. She had made arrangements for her father’s army to bring her safely [from Machaerus] to Arabia [perhaps Petra]. This event led to a war between the armies of Aretas and Herod Antipas. Herod’s army was destroyed. See Antiquities 18:109-115 for the full story.

After several years of archaeological work at Machaerus, the Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus announces discovery of a large mikveh (ritual bath and immersion pool). The best report that I have seen is by Philippe Bohstrom in Haaretz here. He says,

The bath is the biggest of its kind ever found in Jordan. It boasts 12 steps and a reserve pool containing water to fill the pool when its water ran low.

Beyond its sheer dimensions, the architecture closely resembles mikvehs discovered in Qumran, on the other side of the Dead Sea, in Israel,  that had previously been considered to be unique.

The king-size mikveh was found three meters below the royal courtyard, where it had been hidden under 2,000 years of sand and dust. It had originally been equipped with a vaulted stone ceiling.

Large mikveh in Herod's palace at Machaerus, Jordan. Photo courtesy of Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus.

Large mikveh in Herod’s palace at Machaerus, Jordan. Photo courtesy of Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus.

The director of the Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus is Dr. Győző Vörös.

The location of the fortress is stunning. Herod the Great built it overlooking the Dead Sea from the east, as he had built a palace and fortress at Masada on the west side of the sea.

This photo gives some idea of the terrain. The citadel is located about 2300 feet above sea level. This would make it about 3600 feet above the Dead Sea.

Two columns stand on the top of Machaerus, where once the great palace of Herod the Great was located. Photo courtesty of the Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus.

A few columns stand on the top of Machaerus, where once the great palace of Herod the Great was located. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus.

According to an article in The Jordan Times here,

The excavation team is employing theoretical architectural reconstruction as its first step towards the restoration and presentation of the monument. Through this process, archaeologists were able to reach new findings. 

Simulation of Herod's palace-fortress at Machaerus. Photo courtestsy of the Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus.

Simulation of Herod’s palace-fortress at Machaerus. Photo courtesy of the Hungarian Archaeological Mission to Machaerus.

Here is a brief summary about Machaerus.

  • Built by Alexander Jannaeus (102-75 B.C.).
  • Rebuilt by Herod the Great. This fortress is the eastern parallel to Masada.
  • Assigned to Herod Antipas at the death of Herod the Great (4 B.C.).
  • Destroyed by the Romans (A.D. 57).
  • Occupied by Jewish rebels (A.D. 66).
  • Captured by the Romans (A.D. 71).

The photos I have used here have been sized suitable for presentations. These, and others, are found in a higher resolution in the Haaretz article.

If you could use some nice photos of Machaerus to illustrate Bible lessons, I suggest you check out those by David Padfield here. Todd Bolen, at Bible Places Blog, had already posted a photo of the newly excavated Machaerus mikveh last November.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer