Aleppo National Museum – #1

See our previous post on Aleppo here.

In this post we will continue to look at some of the interesting artifacts displayed in the Aleppo National Museum at the time of our visit in 2002.

The Amorites. The Amorites are described as “the inhabitants of the land west of the Euphrates River, which included Canaan, Phoènicia, and Syria” (Youngblood, Bruce, and Harrison, Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary 1995).

Here is a summary of information about the Amorites from the same article.

  • Amorites were one of the major tribes, or national groups, living in Canaan. The Old Testament frequently uses “Amorites” as a synonym for Canaanites in general. The Book of Genesis cites Canaan as the ancestor of the Amorites (Gen. 10:16).
  • Before 2000 B.C. the Amorites lived in the wilderness regions of what today is western Saudi Arabia and southern Syria.… Beginning about 2000 B.C., they migrated eastward to Babylonia in large numbers. There they captured major cities and regions from the native Mesopotamians. “Abram” is an Amorite name, and Abraham himself may have been an Amorite.
  • Throughout Old Testament times, other Amorites remained in Syria, Phoenicia, and the desert regions to the south (Joshua 13:4). A significant number, however, settled in the land of Canaan itself, eventually occupying large areas both east and west of the Jordan River (Judges 11:19–22). These Amorites spoke a dialect that was closely related to Canaanite and Hebrew. Occasionally, the Amorites were identified as a Canaanite tribe (Genesis 10:16). At other times they were called the people of Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:27).
  • During the invasion of Canaan, Joshua and the Israelites defeated Amorite kings Sihon and Og, rulers east of the Jordan River (Joshua 12:1-6).
  • Various cities west of the Jordan—Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon—also were called “Amorite” cities (Joshua 10:5), even though Jerusalem was also known as a Jebusite city.
  • While conquering Canaan, the Israelites frequently fought with the Amorites. After the Israelites prevailed, the Amorites who had not been killed remained in Canaan and became servants to the Israelites (1 Kings 9:20–21).
  • Much of our knowledge about the Amorites and their culture comes from clay tablets discovered at Mari, a major Amorite city situated on the Euphrates River in western Mesopotamia. [Numerous artifacts from Mari are displayed in the Damascus National Museum.]

A significant text in Ezekiel 16:3 says to the Israelites of Judea,

… Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. (ESV)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary Old Testament suggests that when the land was conquered, the Israelites were supposed to have purified the land “of its idolatrous traditions (Deut. 7:1-5), but instead the people became just like the nations  they were supposed to displace.”

The Amorite Spring Goddess from the 18th century B.C. When I walked in the door of the Museum and saw the impressive statue of an Amorite Spring Goddess I recalled the work of French Archaeologist André Parrot and his comments about the Gushing Vases of Mesopotamia that are displayed in the Louvre.

Amorite Spring Goddess displayed near the main entry of the Aleppo Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Amorite Spring Goddess from the 18th century B.C. displayed near the main entry of the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In his book Land of Christ, Parrot calls attention to the statement of Jesus in John 7:37-38.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”  (John 7:37-38 ESV)

Parrot says this passage,

“is an extraordinary and impressive reminiscence of Mesopotamian iconography: monuments from the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st millennia often have representation of male or female deities holding waist-high, in both hands, a vase from which water flows. Rivers literally flow from the heart of the personage represented. Two scholars, Rudolph Bultmann and Millar Burrows, have made the same comparison. They do not explain it, nor do we, but it is nonetheless striking” (page 102).

In our next post on this subject we will show some of the Hittite artifacts.

Chalk bowl with name of Hyrcanus discovered in Jerusalem

Today’s post is a News Release issued by the Israel Antiquities Authority

In the archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Givʽati Parking Lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

“Hyrcanus” was a common name at that time, as well as the name of two of the leaders of the Hasmonean dynasty

According to researchers, “This is one of the earliest examples of the appearance of chalk vessels in Jerusalem. In the past, these vessels were widely used mainly by Jews because they ensured ritual purity”.

Who was “Hyrcanus” whose name is engraved in Hebrew on a stone bowl from Jerusalem 2,100 years ago? In 2015 a fragment of a bowl fashioned from chalk (a type of limestone) was unearthed in the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavation in the Givʽati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. The vessel was published today and immediately aroused the curiosity of researchers.

According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University, “This is one of the earliest examples of chalk vessels to appear in Jerusalem. These stone vessels were extensively used by Jews because they were considered vessels that cannot become ritually unclean”.

The bowl was discovered during an archaeological excavation beneath the foundations of a miqwe dating to the Hasmonean period, which was part of a complex of water installations that were used for ritual bathing. The Givʽati parking site in the City of David is among the largest excavation areas opened so far in Jerusalem. The excavations at the site, sponsored by the ʽIr David Foundation, have so far uncovered a wealth of artifacts from different periods. Of these, those that arouse special interest are the objects with traces of writing on them, especially when they can be deciphered and read.

A fragment of the chalk bowl from the Hasmonean period, which is engraved with the name “Hyrcanus”. Photo credit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

A fragment of the chalk bowl from the Hasmonean period, which is engraved with the name “Hyrcanus”. Photo credit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Was Hyrcanus, whose name is engraved on the bowl, a high-ranking person, or perhaps simply an ordinary citizen during the Hasmonean period? According to the researchers, it is difficult to ascertain. Since there are few vessels in the archaeological record of this period which are engraved with names, it is not known whether this type of engraving was a routine act or a special tribute. “The name Hyrcanus was fairly common in the Hasmonean period,” say Dr. Ben-Ami and Prof. Eshel. “We know of two personages from this period who had this name: John Hyrcanus, who was the grandson of Matityahu the Hasmonean and ruled Judea from 135–104 BCE, and John Hyrcanus II, who was the son of Alexander Jannaeus and Salome Alexandra; however, it is not possible to determine if the bowl belonged specifically to either of them”.

About a year ago remains of the Greek (Seleucid) Akra were exposed in the Givʽati parking lot at the City of David. This was the famous fortress built by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in order to control the city and monitor the activity in the Temple, which was eventually conquered by the Hasmoneans. Interestingly, the bowl was found a short distance from where the remains of the Akra were revealed.

The Givati Parking Lot excavation. Photo: Asaf Peretz. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Givati Parking Lot excavation. Photo: Asaf Peretz. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

HT: Joseph Lauer and the Israeli newspapers


Aleppo (pronounced ə-leʹpō in the revised ISBE).

A single word. What does it mean to you? An ancient city of Syria. The largest city of Syria prior to the recent war. A place of warfare. A place of untold suffering and killing. A humanitarian crisis. A symbol of failure for numerous governments and world bodies.

Or, a place you are pleased to have visited in better days?

In 2002, a year after I retired from teaching, I asked one of my former colleagues at Florida College to join me for three weeks traveling in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, a trip I labeled LeSyJo for my files. David McClister agreed to do that. I had been to most of the sites that we wished to visit several times before beginning in 1967, and I had crossed the Anti-Lebanon mountains to visit Damascus a few times. But this time we wanted to see several major historical sites in Syria.

Our itinerary in Syria included Damascus, Hama (Hamath), Homs, Riblah, Latakia, Ras Shamra (Ugarit), Qarqar, Ebla, Aleppo, and an excursion to the Euphrates River NE of Aleppo. South of Damascus we traveled the road “from Damascus” past Mount Hermon as close to the border with Israel as possible. On the way to Jordan we stopped by Bosra for a visit. We wanted to visit Palmyra, Mari, and a few other places, but our schedule did not permit it.

David and I both had reasonably nice 35mm cameras, but I was carrying a Casio QV3000EX 4 million megapixel camera. What else could anyone want? Unfortunately these original images are only 1024 x 768 pixels. They do fairly well for a visual presentation, but very disappointing if one wants to use them in a publication. As technology has improved cameras we could wish to return and make new, more, and better photos. I think that not many readers will have had the opportunity to travel to Aleppo, so I will share a few photos from the Aleppo National Museum.

Aleppo is not mentioned by name in the Bible, but it was likely visited by Abraham (Genesis 12:4), Jacob (Genesis 25:20ff.; 35:22-27), and other Old Testament characters who traveled from Paddan-aram to the land of Canaan.

Aleppo, once named Halab, was famous as “a sacred city of the weather/storm god—Teshub or Tarhuns to Hurrians or Hittites, Hadad or Baal to the Aramaens” (K. A. Kitchen, New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology). Alalakh was a major satellite-city of Aleppo in the second millennium, according to Kitchen.

Rasmussen places Aleppo on a major international highway.

One of the major international routes ran approximately 1,770 miles from Ur in southern Mesopotamia to Thebes in southern Egypt. Along the way it passed through great urban centers such as Babylon, Mari, Tadmor, Aleppo, Ebla, Damascus, Hazor, and Gaza. It does not appear that this route as a whole had a name, but it was made up of shorter segments that ran from city to city, and in all probability these shorter stretches had special names (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.)

In 2002 the use of the Internet was still outlawed in Syria. We had learned that there were a few Internet cafes that we might use. One in Damascus was operated by a Syrian man who lived in the USA, but was back visiting family. In many places we had to log in long distance through Beirut in order to send and receive Email. Some hotels would allow Internet access via AOL, and others via a service called Excite. When we arrived in Aleppo I wrote this note to my wife:

Also visited Ebla and came to Aleppo. Hotel is a 4-star, not 5-star as last night. [These would not be by American standards.] Last night [in Latakia] we were in a new floor of the hotel overlooking [the Mediterranean]. This hotel is in center of city. Aleppo reminds me more of Turkey than Damascus does. Hotel personnel are helpful and friendly. I am not able to go to AOL, or Excite to get mail. A backroom manager type allowed me to use the hotel email to write.

Our hotel was the Amir Palace. Two men went with us to our room. I recall it as being rather small — not a place one would wish to spend a lot of time. The men showed us how to turn on the TV. There was not much in English, but one of the men pointed out, with a smile, that we could watch news on Al Jazeera.

Amir Palace Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, May, 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Amir Palace Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, May, 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After dinner, David offered to buy me a candy bar at a little kiosk across from the hotel. We walked over in great anticipation, but soon learned that none of the candy bars were sweet. Spoiled Americans!

The next day I included this note in my brief email back home:

This morning we went to the Aleppo National Museum which was directly across the street from the hotel. Spent about 1 ½ hours there. Even though photos are not permitted I was able to get several good ones.

There are numerous items in the museum and adjoining yard from Tell Halaf, the ancient site of Gozan located northeast of Aleppo near the Turkish border. (Do not confuse Tell Halaf with Tel Halif in southern Israel.) Tell Halaf is identified with the city of Gozan to which Israelites were deported by the Assyrians (1 Chronicles 5:26).

To enter the Aleppo National Museum one must walk past three basalt caryatids in the likeness of Hadad from Tell Halaf. The central one is standing on the back of a bull and the others are standing on the back of lions.

Entrance to Aleppo National Museum in 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Aleppo National Museum in 2002. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the courtyard there were at least two images of Teshub, the neo-Hittite storm god from Tell Ahmar.

Teshub, the neo-Hittite storm god, standing on a bull. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Teshub, the neo-Hittite storm god, standing on a bull. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Aleppo National Museum, established in 1931, suffered severe damage to the building in 2016, but SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) reports in July “that the archaeological collections in the museum suffered little damages.”

I have several photos prepared for another post (or two?) to help you get some idea about the treasures in this museum.

The greatest tragedy in the recent crisis in Aleppo is the inhumanity of man and the loss of life. But the destruction of many historical treasures in Syria is a loss for all of us.

The great lesson of the book of Daniel is that the LORD rules in the kingdoms of men, even when evil men think they are in charge. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, was driven from the great city he had built and made to live like an ox until he learned  “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32 ESV)

Recall the admonition of Peter when he cut off the ear of one of those who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden.

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)

Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus – Index of articles

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 Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

Fountain at Franciscan Custody Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem.

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

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.

This photo was made on the side of the Herodion where remnants of the tomb of Herod the Great has been located. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo was made on the side of the Herodion where remnants of the tomb of Herod the Great have been located. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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.

Roman soldiers in the region of Decapolis

The RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, is a must if you have the opportunity to visit the area. RACE stands for Roman Army and Chariot Experience. You will see actors in authentic dress as armed legionaries, gladiators, and a short chariot race. The show takes place in the Roman hippodrome of Jerash. The view of the city ruins in the vicinity make this a wonderful setting for the performance. Full details may be found here. I have seen the program three times. On the last visit, earlier this year, I thought the performers showed less discipline and the show was not quite as good as on my previous visits.

Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis (after Damascus) in New Testament times. People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).

The photo shows the Roman soldiers of the 6th Legion from the time of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). A visit to this show provides several good photographs to illustrate New Testament times.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Repeat from October 8, 2010.

Roman inscription of formerly unknown governor of Judea discovered

Phillippe Bohstrom has written a fascinating and informative article about the discovery of a Roman inscription mentioning the province of Judea and a previously unknown Roman governor.

This Marcus Paccius ruled Judea before the Bar Kochba Revolt (about A.D. 135).

There were nearly 20 Roman prefects or governors during the first century A.D., but we learn only the names of Pontius Pilate (the trial of Jesus), Felix (Acts 23-24), and Festus (Acts 25-26) in the New Testament.

Haifa University underwater archaeologists found this inscription off the coast of Dor.

The newly found inscription, carved on the stone in Greek, is missing a part, but is thought to have originally read: “The City of Dor honors Marcus Paccius, son of Publius, Silvanus Quintus Coredius Gallus Gargilius Antiquus, governor of the province of Judea, as well as […] of the province of Syria, and patron of the city of Dor.”

The inscription is now on display in the Haifa University Library.

Stone inscription with the name of Marcus Paccius, governor of the province of Judea and Syria. Photo by Jenny Carmel in HaAretz.

Stone inscription with the name of Marcus Paccius, governor of the province of Judea and Syria. Photo by Jenny Carmel in HaAretz.

Read Bohstrom’s article with photos here.

Our photo below shows the area around ancient Dor.

Aerial view of Dor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Dor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For a list of Old Testament reference to Dor click here.

Harbor of Pharaoh Cheops reported found on Red Sea

Philippe Bohstrom has a fascinating article this morning in HaAretz about the discovery of a harbor on the Red Sea and an archive of papyri dating to the time of Pharaoh Cheops (about 2500 B.C.).

The oldest known harbor in the world has been discovered by archaeologists diving off the Red Sea site of Wadi el-Jarf. The site was found near a huge archive of papyri – which is also the oldest known to date, and which describe how the harbor was built and used by the great King Cheops to import materials to build his flagship monument, the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The monumental harbor discovered under the waves at Wadi el-Jarf has been dated to 4600 years ago, right in Cheops’ time.

Cheops, also known by his Egyptian name Khufu, reigned from 2580 to 2550 B.C.E. He had the harbor erected 180 kilometers south of Suez, in the foothills of the desert mountains.

Many have been fascinated by the Great Pyramid (or Pyramid of Cheops – or Khufu), dating to about 2500 B.C. Perhaps we are not surprised to learn of this impressive shipping enterprise on the Red Sea.

The Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) at Giza. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) at Giza. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I encourage you to check Bohstrom’s article here with numerous photos and a map to locate the discovery on the Red Sea.

Again, I would remind our readers that the Pyramids of Giza were built long before the time of Abraham, and the later Israelites.