Category Archives: Turkey

The 2016 excavations at Gath

Tell es-Safi/Gath. Prof. Aren Maeir continues to report almost daily about progress in the excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Staff and volunteers are working in at least five areas and Maeir continues to give a brief summary of finds of the dig with multiple photos here. The photos are not labeled, but if you know something about the site you may be able to determine which area is pictured.

Since the announcement at the close of last season (2015) about a possible Iron Age gate, and the teaser post with 1 Samuel 21:13 as a title, I have been following this. I am not expecting they will find David’s spittle or a hair from his beard, but as a believer of the Biblical account I do draw a connection between the text and the factual reality that seems to be coming to light on the tell.

Below is an aerial photo published last year showing the gate area of Gath. For a larger photo go to the Gath website here.

Aerial general view of area D fortifications at Gath.

Aerial general view of area D fortifications at Gath.

Area D, with the gate and fortifications, is located below the parking area visible in the lower right quarter of the photo.

Aerial view of Gath showing the area where the gate has been uncovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Gath showing the area where the gate has been uncovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier this year when my group visited the site in April, some of the tour members enjoyed examining the stone walls. I am looking forward to seeing new photos at the end of this season (in about a week). It only takes a short time after the rains for new growth to begin to cover the excavations.

Members of my group looking at the walls uncovered in 2015. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Members of my group looking at the walls uncovered in 2015. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

David’s relationship with the Philistines is fascinating. At the Valley of Elah, a few miles away, he killed the giant Goliath who was from Gath (1 Samuel 17), but later, when fleeing from King Saul he sought refuge from Achish king of Gath. It was at that time that David “pretended to be insane” at the gate of Gath.

 10 And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath.  11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”  12 And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.  13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard.  14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me?  15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:10-15 ESV).

Read here for my more detailed post about Gath and the possible gate from last year.

Thanks to Aren Maeir for the good updates and photos from Gath. Follow his blog to read more about it.

“It is the Land of Honey” – Tel Rehov discoveries on display at Eretz Israel Museum

Tel Rehov is located about three miles south of Beth-Shean (Beth-Shan) on the east side of Highway 90. Rehov is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is known from Pharaoh Shishak’s city list on the wall of the temple of Amun in the Karnak Temple at Luxor, Egypt. This campaign is also mentioned in the pages of the Bible (1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chronicles 12:2-9).

Tel Rehov was occupied during the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The city may be one of those not captured by Israel when they entered the Land under the leadership of Joshua.

The men of Manasseh did not conquer Beth Shan, Taanach, or their surrounding towns. Nor did they conquer the people living in Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo or their surrounding towns. The Canaanites managed to remain in those areas. Whenever Israel was strong militarily, they forced the Canaanites to do hard labor, but they never totally conquered them. (Judges 1:27-28 NET; cf. Joshua 17:12)

The city was destroyed by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C. as they made their steady trek south.

Archaeological excavations were conducted at Tel Rehov from 1997 to 2012 under the direction of Prof. Amihai Mazar and Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For information and photos see the excavation website here.

View east of Tel Rehov in the Beth Shean Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Rehov in the Beth-Shean Valley to the east of Highway 90. The mountains of Gilead are visible in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next view takes us to the top of the mound. From there we see the Jordan Valley and a nice view of the Gilead mountains in modern Jordan.

View east from atop Tel Rehov. We see the Jordan Valley and the Gilead mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View east from atop the north end of Tel Rehov. We see the Jordan Valley and the Gilead mountains in the distance. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Many artifacts, including numerous household and cult objects, were uncovered at Tel Rehov. Perhaps the most unusual find was an industrial apiary. The small photo below from the excavation web site shows some of the beehives made of clay.

 Apiary at Tel Rehov, the eastern row of hives © Copyright - The Beth-Valley Archaeological Project, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

Apiary at Tel Rehov, the eastern row of hives. © Copyright – The Beth-Shean Valley Archaeological Project, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

From January 12 to October 31, 2016, items from Tel Rehov are exhibited at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv under the title It Is the Land of Honey. I had the opportunity to visit this exhibition in April. The Museum website provides detailed information about the exhibition and a few small photos here.

The houses at Tel Rehov during Iron Age IIA differed from the typical houses found in known Israelite cities. According to the Museum website,

A salient feature of the Iron Age IIA city was the exclusive use of mudbrick to construct all buildings, incorporating wooden beams in walls and floors. Each building was unique in its architectural plan, and did not resemble any of the common blueprints of the Iron Age II, such as four-room houses or pillared buildings.

The photo below shows one of the clay beehives. A reconstruction of a honeycomb is visible on the right. Some of the bees found in the hives were determined to be from Anatolia, modern central Turkey. This adds one more piece of evidence showing how interconnected the nations of the ancient Middle East were. Some of the bees found in charred honeycombs are in the petri dishes in the front right of the photo. The lid of the beehive, with a hole in the center, is to the left of the hive. Click on the photo for a larger image.

One of the beehives from the Tel Rehov apiary. Eretz Israel exhibit. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the beehives from the Tel Rehov apiary. Eretz Israel exhibition. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The exhibition includes a large display of items from Tel Rehov. I will list just a few.

  • Several four horned altars made of clay.
  • A wide variety of household pottery, including an oven of the period.
  • One of the mud bricks of which the houses were constructed.
  • A reconstructed loom with weights found during the dig. Several others items from the “House of Elisha” are on display. The ostracon with the name of Elisha written on it in red ink is not displayed, but there is information about it in the exhibition book. There were several altars in this house.
  • A storage jar had the name Nimshi inscribed on it – the name identical to that of King Jehu’s grandfather (1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 9:2).
  • Some iron blades, arrow heads, and possibly a sickle.
  • Some typical Canaanite clay fertility goddesses.
  • Stamped jar handles unique to Tel Rehov.
Horned altar and chalices from Tel Rehov. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tower shaped horned altar and chalices from Tel Rehov found in the area of the apiary. This altar is listed as being on loan from the Israel Museum in the exhibition book. If you miss the exhibition in Tel Aviv, perhaps you can see it later in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Museum has produced a nice 256-page book in Hebrew and English about Tel Rehov and the exhibition. I don’t see it listed at Amazon, but if you visit the exhibition you will probably wish to purchase a copy at the Museum shop.

Mazar and Panitz-Cohen published a brief article, with several photos of Tel Rehov artifacts, under the title “To What God? Altars and a House Shrine from Tel Rehov Puzzle Archaeologists” in the July/August 2008 Biblical Archaeology Review.

Pigeon Valley and Uçhisar in Cappadocia

Both here and on social media a large number of readers showed an interest in our recent post about the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia here. I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures in the vicinity of Pigeon Valley. Three well-fed pigeons are standing guard over the entrance to the sign pointing to the trail for those who wish to hike in the valley.

Pigeon Valley sign in Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pigeon Valley sign in Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hundreds of pigeons make their way through the valley to the delight of the bus loads of tourists and hikers who stop by.

Pigeons flying in Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pigeons flying in Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From Pigeon Valley one has a great view of the natural fortress of Uçhisar. Click on the photo for a larger image. You will be able to see the modern houses built among those dug from the natural formations of the area.

Uchisar in Cappadocia from Pigeon Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Uchisar in Cappadocia from Pigeon Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Peter addressed his two epistles to Christians living in Cappadocia (1 Peter 1:1).

The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

The New Testament mentions Cappadocia only twice.

  1. Devout Jews from Cappadocia were present in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:9).
  2. Peter’s letters were addressed to Christians living in Cappadocia (1 Pet. 1:1).

In the centuries after New Testament times many Christians settled in this volcanic region of perhaps 50,000 cones, now part of Turkey.

John Freely describes Cappadocia in these words:

“Most of this part of Cappadocia is covered with a deep layer of tufa, a soft stone of solidified mud, ash and lava which once poured down from the now extinct volcanoes on Hasan Dagi and Ericiyes Dagi, the two great mountain peaks of Cappadocia. In the eons since then the rivers of the region have scoured canyons, gorges, valleys and gulleys through the soft and porous stone, and the elements have eroded it into fantastic crags, folds, turrets, pyramids, spires, needles, stalagmites, and cones, creating a vast outdoor display of stone sculptures in an incredible variety of shapes and colours” (The Companion Guide to Turkey, 238).

Our first photo today shows an area of Cappadocia known as Pasabagi Valley where the fairy chimneys may be seen in abundance.

Fairy Chimneys in Pasabagi Valley, Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fairy Chimneys in Pasabagi Valley, Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The second photo is from the same area, but shows cones.

Fairy Chimneys in Pasabagi Valley, Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fairy Chimneys in Pasabagi Valley, Cappadocia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The real story about Saint Nicholas on Amazon Prime

You have read on this blog and other places about the Saint Nicholas of Myra, a town on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Recently I learned of the video featuring Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Adam English now available free for those who have access to Amazon Prime. The 55-minute video is high quality.

The video provides information about the priest by the name of Nicholas and his work in and around Myra. As Bishop of Myra, Nicholas defended the doctrine of the trinity at the Council of Nicea (Nicaea) in A.D. 325. There is a strong claim that he is buried in Bari, Italy.

I think you might enjoy the film and learn something about Church History in the process.

If you have Amazon Prime you can search for Saint Nicholas: the Real Story, or use this link: Saint Nicholas: the Real Story.

The town of Myra is known to students of the New Testament as a place where the apostle Paul transferred ships while he was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar (Acts 27:5). My most recent post about the city is available here.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Modern statue of Saint Nicholas at Myra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Index of articles on Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus.  Our total number of posts has now grown to more than 1800 and this makes it difficult to locate a post you may need. This index is prepared to assist you in your study of the birth of Jesus in ancient Bethlehem. Most, if not all, of the posts include at least one photo illustrating the lesson.

Fountain at Franciscian Custody Shepherd's Field near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd's Field near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheep at fountain of Franciscan custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Other places near Bethlehem. Most of the links below are related to Herod the Great and the fortress he built near Bethlehem. I see that I have normally used the spelling Herodium, but sometime Herodion.

Historical Connections to Modern Christmas Celebrations. These post are post-biblical, historical references to customs associated with Christmas.

When other posts on this subject are written I will try to remember to update the list.

Note: This post is a repeat from Dec. 12, 2014

Lesbos, Syrian refugees, and “Come before winter”

A recent evening news report on the Syrian refugees trying to reach some semblance of safety in Europe shows the dangers they face trying to get from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Some of the heavily loaded rafts and small boats have overturned in the rough sea. Why is that? It is because of the approach of winter. Keep that thought in mind and we will return to it.

Our first photo shows the ruins of the temple of Athena at Assos. The Aegean island of Lesbos is visible across the strait.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the temple of Apollo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of Lesbos across the strait from Assos and the ruins of the temple of Athena. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The apostle Paul undoubtedly saw the temple of Athena when he traveled the approximate 20 miles from Alexandria Troas to Assos by land. His companions had traveled by boat from Troas to Assos. The historical account reads this way:

But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. (Acts 20:13-14 ESV)

The island across the strait is Lesbos. Follow the island coastline south and you will come to the town of Mitylene.

The island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit: biblos.com.

The Greek island of Lesbos is close to modern Turkey. Credit: biblos.com.

Now, back to the danger of the sea in winter. There is a valid reason why Paul would encourage Timothy, after picking up his cloak and parchments at Troas [see the map] to come to him in Rome “before winter.”

Do your best to come before winter.  (2 Timothy 4:21 ESV)

Paul, having experienced his own shipwreck on the way to Rome, knew of the danger of traveling too late in the year. We are told that there were 276 persons aboard the ship that wrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37).

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Model of ship like Paul would have used on his voyage to Rome. Rali Museum, Caesarea, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ships that regularly cruise the Aegean Sea are only about half the size of those we are accustomed to in the Caribbean. They sail from April through mid-November. After that the sea is too rough.

Imagine the horror of taking one’s family out on the sea in a small raft during the winter season?