Category Archives: Turkey

The solar eclipse of June 15, 763 B.C.

I watched the solar eclipse on TV. Now you might enjoy going to the link I mention below.

Carl Rasmussen has posted an interesting article on his HolyLandPhotos’Blog here about “A Solar Eclipse and Old Testament Chronology.” He says,

But did you know that the solar eclipse of June 15, 763 B.C. holds the key to the chronology of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)?

He continues to explain how we are able to know the date for certain Old Testament kings and events. We are all dependent on the work of scholars such as the late Edwin R. Thiele (1895-1986) and his The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.

How are we to convert the relative dates given in the Bible (e.g., “in the fourth year of…”) to absolute dates (e.g., 966 B.C.)?

The Assyrians kept records of their kings and various officials on these stone documents called limmus, but in one of them they recorded the eclipse of the sun that occurred June 15, 763 B.C. according to astronomical computation.

Limmu stelae from Asshur. Museum of the Ancient Orient, Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Limmu stelae from Asshur. Museum of the Ancient Orient, Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I confess to having made the above photo of the limmu stelae from Asshur, displayed in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul, Turkey, but failing to photograph the identifying sign.

Carl’s post and photo was enlightening to me. He explains about the limmu stelae and how Thiele used this material to develop a widely accepted Biblical Chronology. I urge you to read his article, and perhaps Thiele’s book. The book is available from Amazon and other sources.

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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.

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.

Flowers at Nicea (Iznik,Turkey)

This planter of beautiful flowers is one of several that adorn the entry to the Saint Sofia (Orhan) Mosque in Iznik, Turkey. Iznik is the site of Nicea (Nicaea), the location of the famous Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and the Second Council of Nicea in A.D. 787.

Flowers in front of Iznik Ayasofya Mosque. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Flowers in front of Iznik Ayasofya Mosque. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Mosque has a long, typical history. Originally the site was the location of a Roman temple. Then in the 4th century A.D. the church of Saint Sofia was erected. In A.D. 1331 the building became a mosque. This is a common occurrence in the Middle East.

The Kangal sheep dog of Anatolia

Shepherds in every part of the world have problems they must contend with as they care for their sheep. The Bible uses the analogy of the sheep and the wolves in several places. Jesus warned about the “hired hand” who would abandon the sheep.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10:12 ESV)

Within the past few years I have come across an interesting practice used by shepherds in Anatolia (Central Turkey), and only recently came across an article in a 2003 issue of Saudi Aramco World about the same shepherds. It begins this way,

There are grey wolves in Turkey, thousands of them. There are also bears, jackals, and—recorded just last year for the first time in a quarter century—Anatolian leopards. All are the enemies of sheep and goats. As predators, they live at the expense of the prey animals, the meat-eaters against the grass-eaters. But on Turkey’s Anatolian plateau, the prey have a strong friend, more than a match for any predator: the kangal dog.

On our last visit to the ancient Hittite city of Hattusas (modern Boghazkale) we saw a large number of sheep grazing over the ruins of the ancient city. Our guide said that the dogs we saw with the shepherds were a special breed of dog that were common in Anatolia, but he could not recall the name of the dogs. In fact, he said might be a slightly different breed from the one he was thinking about.

Shepherd at hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd at Hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The shepherds were pleased to show us the spiked collar. A wolf, or other wild animal, would go at the throat of the dog, but the spikes would be a strong deterrent. Notice also that the ears of this dog have been cropped. This, according to the article, is “intended to deprive wolves of a tooth-hold.” The author says,

Shepherds frequently dock their dogs’ ears, saving them the trouble of doctoring wounds when they tangle with a wolf. But the heavy spiked collar they wear, called a çengel, or hook, seems enough to keep even the most determined enemy from biting their heads.

Here is a close-up, and you may click on it for an even larger image, showing the spikes or hook.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds of biblical times carried a rod and a staff (Psalm 23:4). The rod could be used to ward off an attacking animal. The staff was used by the shepherd as he made his way up and down the hillsides, and to separate the sheep.

Source: Werner, Louis. “Shepherd’s Best Friend.” Saudi Aramco World July/Aug. 2003: 38-43.

Aleppo National Museum – #2

See our previous post on Aleppo here. Our #1 on the Aleppo National Museum is here.

In the first post on Aleppo I posted a photo of the Hittite Storm god Teshub standing on the back of a bull. I should have mentioned at the time that a large temple of the storm god from the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages has been excavated underneath Islamic buildings at the Aleppo Citadel. A well illustrated article by Kay Kohlmeyer states,

The storm god, first venerated as Hadda, then as Addu, Teshub, Tarhunta, and Hadad, played a supra-regional role in the ancient Near East, which explains the enormous size of his temple at Aleppo and the brilliance of its relief decoration. (Near Eastern Archaeology 72;4 (2009).

A statue of Hadad of poor quality is also displayed in the museum.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several other Neo-Hittite artifacts in the Aleppo National Museum. This first I am showing is a basalt lion with a slight wing relief. This is likely part of a pair that stood along an entrance to some building. Here you will notice that the lion is represented as having five legs. This allows the passerby to see at least four legs from almost any direction. We have become familiar with the huge winged bulls from Assyria that are made in the same fashion. I do not have the original source of the lion, but there are numerous Neo-Hittite sites  to the north of Aleppo in Syria and Turkey.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next image is a fascinating one from the palace of Karara at Tell Halaf. It shows a composite creature of basalt consisting of the head of a man with the feet and wings of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion.

Composite creatures were common during the Hittite, Assyrian, and Babylonian periods of Old Testament history, and many of them have been found in the extended region. They provide us some insight into the background of apocalyptic literature. We find these creatures especially in the Old Testament books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, and in the New Testament book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). See a previous post, “Apocalyptic imagery is not strange,” here.

The composite creature here brought to my mind the events of the sounding of the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9:1-11.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am adding an additional image that I was able to enhance to show a little better sharpness.

aleppo-museum-composite-creature-fjenkins051302_09en

 1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. (Revelation 9:1-11 ESV)

Knowing that such imagery was common in the ancient Near East should assist us in our understanding of the nature of apocalyptic literature of the Bible.

Under the jail – a visit to the Kishle

Read The Citadel of Jerusalem here.
Read Views from the Citadel of Jerusalem here.

After our visit to see Jerusalem from the roof of the Citadel we made our way through the recently cleared dry moat to the steps and pool from the time of Herod the Great. Our guide, David, used a variety of visual aids to explain where we were and how this might have looked in the time of Herod.

Herodian steps at the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herodian steps at the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From there David led us to the Kishle (Turkish word for Barracks, and many use it as Prison). The Tower of David web site has this brief explanation of the Kishle.

The site known as the “Kishle” is adjacent to the Citadel and Tower of David Museum complex. The structure was erected in 1834 by Ibrahim Pasha who governed the Land of Israel (Palestine) from Egypt.

When the Ottoman Turks regained the area in 1841, the “Kishle” continued to serve as a military compound. During the period of the British mandate, it was used as a police station and prison where some members of the Jewish underground were also incarcerated.

In an article in Archaeological Diggings, Caroline Shapiro (Nov. 2015) explains how this excavation came about.

The Kishle Building, as it is called, stands adjacent to the Tower of David, the ancient citadel that guards Jerusalem’s Old City at the Jaffa Gate entrance. It was built in 1860 as an Ottoman prison or army barracks. The prison was then used as such by the British during Mandate times and then left desolate until the Tower of David Museum decided to clean up the iron prison cells and create a new wing for the Education Department. It housed members of the pre-State underground, the Irgun, the evidence of which is scratched on the walls.

As with any digging in Jerusalem, the clearing up became an excavation and close to 3000 years of history was discovered under its floorboards. The excavations were carried out in 1999–2000 by Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District Archeologist, together with a team from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), but since then the building has been left untouched. Entrance to the Kishle is via the newly opened moat where visitors walk down the impressive Herodian steps leading down into a Hasmonian pool that would have been the lavish pool connected to King Herod’s palace. (These are the only excavations of King Herod’s Palace; huge foundation walls can be seen as well as an impressive water sewage system.)

The whole site has been dug down some 10 metres (33 ft) deep and about 50 metres (165 ft) long to reveal the various strata. With an arched, cross-vaulted Ottoman ceiling, it is a cavernous, silent cathedral of ancient stones that had been untouched by daylight for millennia.

This is our first view of the excavation as we enter the Kishle. I think it is not incorrect to say that ancient ruins will be found anywhere archaeologists dig in Jerusalem. Many sites of importance are in basements.

General view of the archaeological excavation of the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

General view of the archaeological excavation of the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the far right of the photo above, and below, you will see a stretch of wall from Herod’s palace.

Herodian ruins in the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herodian walls in the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The oldest ruins uncovered during the excavation belong to the 8th century B.C. Perhaps these ruins belong to the time of Hezekiah, King of Judah (729-686 B.C., McKinny).

Ruins from the 8th century B.C., possibly from the time of King Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins from the 8th century B.C., possibly from the time of King Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible describes the work Hezekiah did in response to the Assyrian threat.

He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. (2 Chronicles 32:5 ESV)

The Jewish Quarter Excavations began in 1969 under the direction of Professor Nahman Avigad of Hebrew University. Shapiro says he uncovered a 130-foot long section of stone wall that was 23 feet wide and probably 27 feet high. This is the wall we now call the Broad Wall (Nehemiah 3:8; 12:38).

The Broad Wall excavated by Avigad. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Broad Wall excavated by Avigad. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wall within the Kishle is even further to the west, on the top of the western ridge of the Old City.

Re’em Amit, the archaeologists in charge of the dig, argues that this is the palace of Herod the Great, and the location of the Praetorium where the trial of Jesus took place (John 19:13). When I first began to visit Jerusalem we thought the paved area in the Sisters of Zion was the Praetorium. We still visit the site if time permits because it is important in understanding the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, but we now know that the pavement there belongs to the second century A.D.

The Roman Prefect, such as Pilate, would make his residence in Herod’s Palace on his visits to Jerusalem from Caesarea. Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and Pontius Pilate, the governor [prefect] of Judea were both in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 3:1; 23:4-16). And they were both staying at the best “hotel” in town.

Herod's Palace in the Second Temple model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herod’s Palace in the Second Temple model at the Israel Museum. The Fortress of Antonio is visible at the top/right of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is not a new hypothesis, but it does provide new evidence to sustain the view. Shimon Gibson has written extensively on this for several years. Gibson, with an allusion to the writing of Josephus, says,

After the grandeur of the Jewish Temple, Herod’s palace was reportedly the most amazing building complex in Jerusalem. (Final Days of Jesus, 93)

Gibson has a essay on this subject in The World of Jesus and the Early Church, edited by Craig A. Evans. In both of these articles Gibson includes drawings of the area under consideration.

Visiting the Kishle:

The Tower of David is open with English guides Sundays to Thursdays at 11 a.m. At other times one may visit with an audio guide. Adult admission is 40 NIS (about $11).

The guided tour including the Kishle (From Herod’s Palace to British Prison) is available in English on Fridays at 10 a.m. for 45 NIS.

Dates, hours, and admission prices change from time to time. Check the Tower of David web site for current information.


Josephus Elaborates on the Palace

— “ —

176 Now as these towers were themselves on the north side of the wall, the king had a palace inwardly thereto adjoined, which exceeds all my ability to describe it;
177 for it was so very elaborate as to lack no cost nor skill in its construction, but was entirely walled about to the height of thirty cubits, and was adorned with towers at equal distances, and with large bedchambers, that would contain beds for a hundred guests a piece,
178 in which the variety of the stones is not to be expressed; for a large quantity of those who were rare of that kind were collected together. Their roofs were also wonderful, both for the length of the beams, and the splendour of their ornaments.
179 The number of the rooms was also very great, and the variety of the figures that was about them was prodigious; their furniture was complete, and the greatest part of the vessels that were put in them was of silver and gold.
180 There were besides many porticoes, one beyond another, all around, and in each of those porticoes elaborate pillars; yet were all the courts that were exposed to the air everywhere green.
181 There were, moreover, several groves of trees, and long walks through them, with deep canals and cisterns, that in various parts were filled with brazen statues, through which the water ran out. There were with this many dove courts {a} of tame pigeons about the canals.  (Jewish War 5:176-181 or 5.4)

— ” —


Selected Sources:

AP You Tube video featuring Re’em Amit, the Jerusalem District Archaeologist of  the IAA in charge of the excavations of the Kishle. In this video Amit seems to be explaining in English and someone else is translating in another language.

Rasmussen, Carl. Kishle Tour. Photos included.

Rotem, Itay (guide), Tower of David Museum. You Tube.

Shapiro, Caroline. “Doorway to the Past.” Archaeological Diggings, Nov. 2015.

Tower of David web site. Here you will find several links to popular articles about the new excavation.

Ziese, Mark. “The Barracks.”

________.  “What Lies Beneath.”  In both articles Ziese includes some historic photos bringing to mind the use of the Kishle during the British period.