Category Archives: Revelation

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.

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The Altar of Zeus in the Pergamum Museum

The Pergamum Museum in Berlin gets its name from the reconstructed altar of Zeus from Pergamum (Bergama) in western Turkey. I noted earlier that this fabulous reconstruction is now closed for refurbishing. When we visited the Museum in mid-August, 2014, some scaffolding was already in place.

The Pergamum Altar in the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Pergamum Altar in the Pergamum Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The altar of Zeus was built by Eumenes II (197–159 B.C.) to commemorate the victory of Attalus I over the invading Gauls. This is the most important and largest building from the Hellenistic age. The unique discovery of the Altar is told by Dr. Henry Koch:

Carl Humaan

Carl Humaan

“A German engineer named Carl Humann had been authorized to build a road from Pergamon to the Aegean Sea. While he was supervising the work he noticed that marble statues and torsos were being carted from the ruins of the city and brought to the limekiln to be burnt into lime. It is to be feared that many a valuable statue was thus reduced to limestone. One day Humann also observed, how a peasant was hauling a marble slab adorned with statues and figures to the limekiln. He halted the peasant, asked him, how much he wanted for the slab, paid the price and immediately had the slab sent to the curators of the Berlin Museum in Germany. He offered the peasant more money, if he could procure additional slabs for him. The peasant gladly consented. For him it was lucrative business; for the curators it was a precious find.

Alexander Conze, a curator in Berlin, discerned the great value of the find. He recalled having read that a Roman writer named Ampelius living in the second century after Christ had written a Book of Wonders (Liber Memorialis). Among the wonders he also had mentioned the Altar of Zeus in Pergamum. This was a valuable clue for Conze. Humann was at once requested to obtain as many slabs a possible. Permission was also requested of the Turkish Government to have the slabs sent to Berlin and that excavations could be started at once. Permission was granted and the excavations were carried out from 1879-1885. Fortunately most of the ruins of the Temple had not as yet been found or touched. The curators in Berlin could piece them all together and thus the priceless Altar of Zeus could be assembled” (Koch, The Christian News, Nov. 22, 1976).

The Altar of Zeus was re-assembled in more than twenty years of museum work and is now housed in the special Pergamum Museum in Berlin. A trip to see this fabulous piece of architecture is recommended. The marble frieze depicts the mythological battle between gods and giants. The photo below shows a small portion of a scene.

A portion of the Zeus Altar marble frieze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A portion of the Zeus Altar marble frieze. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Only the foundations of the altar can be seen at Pergamum. The Turkish government has requested the return of the Zeus Altar and has been putting pressure on Germany. See one report here.

Site of the Zeus Altar at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Site of the Zeus Altar at Pergamum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the Lord’s letter to the church at Pergamum, He says,

I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Revelation 2:13 ESV)

Some scholars think the reference to Satan’s throne in this text is a reference to the Zeus altar at Pergamum, but there are other suggestions. Kistemaker summarizes some popular views suggested by Colin Hemer:

  • To a traveler coming from the east, the acropolis [of Pergamum] had the appearance of a throne.
  • The altar of Zeus Sōtēr seemed to be a throne.
  • Asclepius Sōtēr was identified with the serpent.
  • Pergamum was the center of emperor worship.

Or, it might be a combination of these elements.

You will probably need to wait two or more years before you can see the Zeus Altar in the Pergamum Museum.

Some Museums in Turkey

My Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey is compete. Yesterday most of the tour members returned home. A few had other plans of travel before returning.

There are some wonderful museums in Turkey, but many of them are undergoing restoration at this time.

We missed seeing the main section of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara due to restoration. A nice,  small section containing mostly classical materials was open, but the great collection of Hittite materials (our reason for going there) was closed. According to an article in the Harriyet Daily News it reopened last Friday.

The Archaeological Museum in Antakya (Antioch of Syria, Acts 11, 13) was almost bare. Only a few of the lesser quality mosaics were on the walls. A new museum will open soon. I had told the group that we would see some good Hittite materials there, but they had already been moved. Incidentally, the Church of St. Peter and the Simon Stylites Monastery were also closed for renovation.

We did better at the fabulous museum in Antalya (Attalia of Acts 14:25). The Roman period statuary from Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25) is housed there.

In Istanbul we were able to visit the Ancient Orient section of the Archaeological Museum. The museum containing material from the classical world was closed. An excellent selection of materials was housed in a small area of the Museum.  The third floor, where artifacts from Palestine are housed was closed. Our appeal for entry failed.  There is where some very famous pieces are housed − the Siloam Tunnel inscription, the Gezer Calendar, the Herodian Temple inscription forbidding gentiles from entering the Temple, et al.

The Ancient Orient building houses a large number of bulls, dragons, and oxen from the procession street of ancient Babylon. I think it is second only to the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. There are excellent Hittite materials, including the oldest treaty between nations. It is the treaty between the Hittites and Pharaoh Ramses of Egypt after the battle of Kadesh on the Orontes. There are several pieces from the Assyrians, and a clay cylinder from the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

Here is a picture of one of the basalt Hittite column bases from Sinjerli. It is a double sphinx, dating to the 8th century B.C., that came from the entrance to Palace III.

Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Front view of Hittite column base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below is the side view of this column base. Note that the figure of a lion shows a human head and wings of a bird. This provides a good illustration for the apocalyptic imagery in Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

Side view of Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Side view of Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These are the Hittites with whom the ancient Israelites had dealings. Solomon imported horses and chariots from Egypt and Kue and exported them to the Hittites (1 Kings 10:29). See 2 Kings 7:6 for another reference to these people in the days of the prophet Elisha.

All things considered, maybe it didn’t turn out so bad after all.

Grab ’em today – books in Kindle format

Neil Lightfoot’s How We Got the Bible, revised and expanded 3rd edition, is available today only for $1.99 in Kindle format.

This book is a wonderful beginning resource to help one understand how the Bible came to be in English. Today only. Learn about manuscripts, transmission of the text, the Canon, and other important topics.

Ray Summer’s Worthy Is the Lamb, commentary on the Book of Revelation, is available for a limited time for $2.99 in Kindle format. Summers discusses the historical background of the book of Revelation, methods of interpretation, and a commentary section. (HT: Brooks Cochran)

Evidence of Cinnamon in use 3000 years ago

Live Science reports (here) on the investigation of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel showing that cinnamon was stored in them. The flasks date back to about 1000 years B.C. Ten of the 27 flasks contain “cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.” Tel Dor is the only site named in the report.

At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.

This discovery “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” researchers write in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry. Although cinnamon can be purchased today at any grocery or bulk food store, 3,000 years ago, people in the Levant would have needed to take part in trade that extended beyond the edge of the known world in order to acquire it, something this discovery suggests they were willing to do.

This trade may go back ever further into antiquity and involve other goods and parts of the Middle East. The researchers note, for example, that black pepper from India has been found in the mummy of Ramesses II, a pharaoh of Egypt who lived more than 3,200 years ago.

Cinnamon displayed on the Spice Route at Avedat. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cinnamon and pepper displayed on the ancient Spice Route at Avedat.

Cinnamon is mentioned only four times in the Bible.

  • Cinnamon was used in the anointing oil for the tabernacle (Exodus 30:23).
  • The adulterous woman tells the young man that she has perfumed her bed with cinnamon and other spices (Proverbs 7:17).
  • Cinnamon is used in the sexual/sensuous context of Song of Solomon 4:14.
  • Cinnamon is one of the spices imported by Babylon (the ancient Roman Empire) in Revelation 18:13.

Much archaeological work goes on in the library and in the lab.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Acts 19 — Photo Illustrations

Ephesus is one of the most excavated sites from the Biblical world. Teams of Austrian archaeologists have worked at the site since 1895.

Items of interest at Ephesus include the single standing column of the Temple of Diana (Artemis), the harbor which is now silted up, the great theater which seated nearly 25,000 (Acts 19:29), the Marble street, the Library of Celsus, the Agora, the Temple of Hadrian, the Temple of Domitian (or the Flavian Emperors), and much more.

The first instance of believers baptized into Christ at Ephesus is recorded in Acts 19. Many changes took place in the church between the time when Paul spent nearly three years in the city, and the time when John lived there. There are two letters in the New Testament addressed to the church at Ephesus. The first is the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. The other is the letter included in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1-7).

Yamauchi comments on the size of Ephesus in the first century:

“In the New Testament era it was probably the fourth greatest city in the world (after Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch) with a population of about 250,000” (Archaeology of New Testament Cities, 79).

The photo below shows the site of the Temple of Artemis (Diana). Notice the stork standing on top of the sole standing column. Click on the photo for a larger image.

The site of the Artemis temple at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ruins of the famous temple were discovered in 1869 by J. T. Wood, an English engineer.  Pausanias, the second century A.D. geographer, said the “temple of Diana surpassed every structure raised by human hands.” The temple was four times as large as the Parthenon. The platform of the temple was 239 feet wide by 418 feet long. The temple itself was 180 feet wide by 377 feet long, and the roof was supported by more than 100 sixty-foot columns. The temple served as a bank and a place of asylum for criminals. The earliest stage of the temple was built about 600 B.C. The Hellenistic temple which Paul and John saw was destroyed in A.D. 262.

Smyrna — a city that came back to life

Our group arose early this morning in Istanbul in order to make our flight to Izmir. Izmir is a beautiful city on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It is known as the location of the Biblical city of Smyrna.

Smyrna is mentioned only twice in the New Testament as the location of one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation (1:11; 2:8-11).

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:8-11 NAU)

The earliest city of Smyrna was founded in the first half of the third millennium B.C. at Bayrakli, a few miles from the present city of Izmir. In 600 B.C. the city was captured and utterly destroyed by King Alyattes of Lydia. During the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. the city was insignificant.

All of this changed after the time of Alexander the Great when a new city was founded on the slopes of Mount Pagos.

Our visit today included Mount Pagos. From there we had a magnificent view of the city and the harbor. We also visited the Roman Agora, and two archaeological museums.

This photo shows the great arches in the lower level of the three story civic agora dating to the second century A.D., and a powerful spring of water that was discovered only a few years ago.

Lower level of the agora of Smyrna and a powerful spring. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.