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.

The Plain of Bethsaida and the feeding of the five thousand

The Biblical text indicates that the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand took place in the vicinity of Bethsaida. Bethsaida is the town associated with the miracle in both the Gospel of Mark (6:30-46) and the Gospel of Luke (9:10-17). Both accounts make it clear that the miracle was not in the town, but in a “desolate place.”

Once we have an understanding of the region around Bethsaida we will be able to understand more clearly the events surrounding the miracle.

I am not discussing the specific identity of Bethsaida. Is it the site of Et Tell now being excavated under the direction of Prof. Rami Arav? Or is it the site of el-Araj as suggested by the late Mendel Nun? Or could it be, as numerous scholars have suggested through the years, that there is a Bethsaida of Galilee (perhaps associated with el-Araj on the shore of the Sea of Galilee) and another Bethsaida Julias (Et Tell) about 1½ miles north of the sea shore? See the concise comment by Rasmussen in Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (Rev. ed), p. 278).

R. Steven Notley discusses the location question in more detail in The Sacred Bridge (356-359). [Yes, I am aware of the writings of Arav, Freund, and Strickert, as well as the exchanges in Near Eastern Archaeology.]

Our first photo shows the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. The flat, green area is the Plain of Bethsaida.

The plain of Bethsaida taken from the hills above Capernaum and east of Chorazin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the Plain of Bethsaida taken from the hills above Capernaum and east of Chorazin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The aerial photo below shows most of the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River runs from north to south near the center of the photo. The Plain of Bethsaida is seen to the left (east). Capernaum is situated on the shore of Galilee to the right (west). Our view of the Plain of Bethsaida may not be complete but it provides enough of the region to enlighten our understanding of the Biblical text.

Bethsaida Plain, Jordan Valley, and the Sea of Galilee. Aerial photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bethsaida Plain, Jordan Valley, and the Sea of Galilee. Aerial photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I understand that the Jordan River was the boundary between the rule of Herod Antipas from Tiberias and that of Herod Philip from Bethsaida Julius.

Arson suspected at Tabgha, Church of Multiplication

Haaretz reports (here, premium edition) this morning the suspected arson at the Church of the Multiplication on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee at Heptapegon (= Tabgha). A storage room and offices were damaged in the fire.

The church is claimed by Catholics to be the site of the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes by Jesus (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6). Egeria described the site in her fourth century travel diary and claimed it to be the site of the feeding of the multitudes. Some also claim that this is the site of Dalmanutha (Mark 8:10).

I am among those who are uncertain that the area of Tabgha is the site of Dalmanutha, and rather certain that this is not the site of the feeding of the Five Thousand. It is, however, a beautiful location where one can study and meditate about the Biblical miracle.

Our photo shows the location of the property associated with the Church of the Multiplication. Perhaps even more significant is the clarity of this view as it shows the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights.

A view of the area of Tabgha from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view of the area of Tabgha from the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are many ancient mosaics in the floor of the church. The most famous one is the mosaic of the loaves and fishes.

The mosaic of the loaves and fishes at Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The mosaic of the loaves and fishes at Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Archaeological Store Rooms Damaged. In a related matter, two days ago The Times of Israel reports (here) the arson of storerooms containing 4,000 year-old artifacts from an emergency excavation at Tel Kishon near Mount Tabor.

Bronze age tools and artifacts damaged in the fire. Photo: Israel Antiquites Authority

Bronze age tools and artifacts damaged in the fire. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

When we destroy that of which we are ignorant we reflect lack of appreciation of any history. It happens all over the world. If we destroy that with which we disagree, what will happen when someone disagrees with us?

Jesus spoke about that when Simon Peter tried to defend Him with a sword.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

The new look at Magdala

Magdala was high on my list of places to revisit to see the changes taking place.

The town of Magdala is not mentioned in the Bible, but Mary Magdalene is mentioned a total of 12 times in the four gospels. This place may have been her birthplace or her home. A few late manuscripts mention Magdala (Matthew 15:39 KJV), but earlier manuscripts read Magadan. Magdala is located about 4 miles north of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Josephus had his headquarters at Magdala during the first Jewish Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70). He was able to get a group of at least 230 boats to go from Magdala to Tiberias (Jewish Wars 2.635-637). Vespasian attacked the town from the sea and destroyed it.

We first learned of the new excavation planned for Magdala in early 2008 (here). Then in September, 2009, we were able to report the discovery of a Second Temple period synagogue (here). For several years the area was not open to the public. Since that time great improvements have been made and the site is now open without an admission charge (but this may change).

A view west toward Mount Arbel. The synagogue is immediately to the right (north) in this photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view west toward Mount Arbel. The synagogue is immediately to the right (north) of this photo. Travelers going from Nazareth to Capernaum on the Via Maris would pass, or even stop at, Magdala. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the synagogue reading room.

The Migdal synagogue reading room with the (suggested) reading table. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Migdal synagogue reading room with the (suggested) reading table. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An IAA report on the excavation (which we cited here) reports,

The main hall of synagogue is c. 120 square meters in area and its stone benches, which served as seats for the worshippers, were built up against the walls of the hall. Its floor was made of mosaic and its walls were treated with colored plaster (frescos).

An example of the reading room fresco. Photo Ferrell Jenkins.

An example of the reading room fresco. Photo Ferrell Jenkins.

The IAA report continues,

A square stone, the top and four sides of which are adorned with reliefs, was discovered in the hall. The stone is engraved with a seven-branched menorah set atop a pedestal with a triangular base, which is flanked on either side by an amphora (jars).

The Migdal synagogue reading table. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A replica of the Migdal synagogue reading table. There are two replicas at the site and another at the Notre Dame Hotel in Jerusalem. I have been told that the original is now in the Rockefeller Museum, but I do not know if it is on display. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Did Jesus visit this synagogue? At this point we can not say for sure, but it is possible.

Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23 NET)

I think Magdala will become one of the most popular stops for Bible Study groups as they visit the Galilee area.

Alpine Europe tour group photo

We had a wonderful group of tour members on our recent Alpine Europe tour of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland (and we stopped in tiny Lichtenstein, too). Most of these individuals had traveled with us before to a wide variety of places. For one lady it was her 13th tour, and I think for one couple it was their 15th tour with us.

Aside from having all tour details per-arranged, the thing that makes a tour like this special is the association with new and former friends. We have been truly blessed to travel with folks like this for the past 49 years. Most of our tours have been to what we call the Bible Lands – Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. On some of the earlier tours we visited Crete, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. But we have made tours to many other parts of the world, including one tour around the world.

On each tour we usually locate a photographer who makes and prints photos and sells them to the group. On this tour we made our own photo. I am sure that friends of these tour members will enjoy seeing it.

We gathered on the steps of the Wieskirche along the Romantic Road between Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein in Germany.

Alpine Europe Group Photo at Wieskirche along the Romantic Road.

Alpine Europe Group Photo at Wieskirche along the Romantic Road.

Our tour included persons from AL, CA, FL, IA, IN, KS, NM, SC, and TX.

For those who understand, this was a tour of men and angells.

Click on the photo for a larger image.

Capernaum has a new look

On our recent visit to Israel we visited some places we have been many times because of changes we expected to see. Capernaum was beginning to undergo some renovations when we were there in 2013.

If first impressions are important, then Capernaum is now making a good first impression with the new entrance sign. You will observe that the ticket booth also has a new look. Since this is a private site, owned by the Franciscans, there is a small entry fee.

Capernaum (Capharnaum). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The new entrance to Capernaum (Capharnaum). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Instead of immediately moving into a crowded area to look at some of the architectural fragments excavated at the site, you have this beautiful plaza facing the Sea of Galilee. My photo can not do justice to the beauty of this site.

The new plaza at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The new plaza at Capernaum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There were numerous bus loads of tourist visiting the site. I just waited for a larger group to move before making the picture. I did not see many American groups but the hotels were full of Asians, Africans, Hispanics, and some Australians, British, and Canadians.

The architectural fragments uncovered in excavations have been moved to the north of the entrance (and the plaza). Rails have been installed to allow ease of access, and yet to protect the objects. This makes it easy to get nice closeups of certain artifacts.

Display of architectural fragments and other artifacts. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Display of architectural fragments and other artifacts. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Photos of the reconstructed synagogue at Capernaum were recently posted here.

Capernaum was located on the frontier between the territory of Herod Antipas and that of Herod Philip. The city became important in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Notice just a few events that make it so significant.

  • Jesus settled here, making Capernaum His “own city” (Mark 1:232-34).
  • Many of the miracles of Jesus were performed here (Mark 1:21-28).
  • Matthew worked as a tax collector at Capernaum (Matthew 9:9).
  • Peter lived here (Matthew 8:14).

Capernaum was one of three cities of the area denounced by Jesus  on account of their failure to believe.

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. (Matthew 11:20-22 ESV)