Tag Archives: West Bank

Jesus used the camel in His illustrations

Camels are first mentioned in the Bible in the time of Abraham (Genesis 12:16), and they are prominently mentioned in other Old Testament stories such as the account of  Genesis 24. John the Baptist is noted for wearing a garment made of camel’s hair (Matthew 3:4).

A mother camel and her young calf in Palestine (or West Bank). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A mother camel and her young calf in Palestine (or West Bank). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus used the camel to illustrate His teaching. He said,

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24 ESV)

and, to the Scribes and Pharisees He said,

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:24 ESV)

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The shepherd and the sheepfold

We still see scenes in the Bible world today of shepherds, sheep, and sheepfolds. The scene pictured below was made in the Jordan Valley in late August, a time that is extremely dry in the area.

Bedouin camp and sheepfold in the Jordan Valley in late August. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bedouin tent and sheepfold in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Scenes such as these remind us of the Biblical patriarchs who moved about from place to place with their flocks. Abraham and Lot provide an example.

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, (Genesis 13:5 ESV)

There are several biblical references to the sheepfold, or the fold of the sheep (Jeremiah 50:6; Micah 2:12; John 10:1, 16). Jesus used an illustration involving the sheepfold:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 ESV)

Did Philip baptize the Ethiopian at ’Ain ed-Dirweh?

Note: This post replaces one from June 22 which was taken down when I learned that I had incorrectly equated two obscure places that should not have been. You will need to read this entire post to get the correct story.

Though the Bible does not specify a place, scholars and religious leaders like to point out possible places where significant events transpired. Such has been true of the place where Philip baptized the government official from Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-39).

One reader asked if this really matters. Those of us who believe in the accuracy of the Bible look for the land and the Book to agree. I think in this instance we have several possible places where the baptism could have taken place.

Ain el-Haniyeh (see here) in the Rephaim Valley is not the only place suggested as the location of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. In fact, Baedeker’s Palestine and Syria, 4th ed., 1906, says,

The tradition that Ain el-Haniyeh was the spring in which Philip baptized the Eunuch of Ethiopia (Acts viii. 36) dates from 1483, before which the scene of that event was placed near Hebron.

The place near Hebron is known as ’Ain ed-Dirweh. My only visit there was in 1979, but it has been associated with Philip’s work since the early Christian centuries. After visiting Bethlehem, The Bordeaux Pilgrim (A.D. 333) went to “Bethasora” (footnote: Bethzur, Beit Sur) where, he says,

There is the fountain in which Philip baptized the eunuch

Baedeker says,

… we reach the spring of ‘Ain ed-Dirweh, above which are a Mohammedan house and a praying-place. In the time of Eusebius [of Caesarea; c. 265 – c. 339] the spring in which Philip baptized the eunuch was pointed out here (comp. p. 93), and it is so marked on the mosaic map of Madeba. The traces of an ancient Christian church were formerly visible.

The Madaba Map (also spelled Madeba or Medeba), dated between about A.D. 560 and 565, provides a glimpse into the understanding of the Christians of that time about the location of certain biblical events.

Here I cite the information from the Franciscan Cyberspot’s The Madaba Mosaic Map web site. The map shows “a conventional church” and a “disk circled in black with a yellow centre. It is the basin related to the inscription.”

The inscription, above the letters OYDA (ouda, in Iouda = Judah), is translated as follows:

The (church) of Saint Philip, where they say that the eunuch Candaces was baptized.

Go to the Discussion page here and read the comments by various scholars who have examined the matter. I note that some (e.g. Avi-Yonah) suggest that the makers of the map are expressing doubt about the place of the event in the 6th century A.D. by writing “where they say.”

The portion of the Madaba Map (late 6th century A.D.) showing Bethsora [Bethzur) in Judah). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The portion of the Madaba Map (late 6th century A.D.) showing Bethsora and the place where it was said that Philip baptized the eunuch of Candace. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To the left of the church building you will see the Greek for the word BETHSURA. This site is often identified with the Beth-zur of Joshua 15:58. Eusebius referred to it as Bethsoro. The Survey of Western Palestine has Bt. Sur. These two places, Bethsura and ’Ain edh-Dhirweh, are essentially the same.

Portion of Survey of Western Palestine map. Courtesty of BiblePlaces.com.

Portion of Survey of Western Palestine map showing Bt. Sur and ‘Ain edh Dhirweh. Courtesty of BiblePlaces.com.

The famous Matson Photograph Collection includes at least two photos of Ein el-Dirweh. The first one was made between 1934 and 1939.

Ein el-Dirweh, Philips Fountain at it looked between 1934 and 1939. Matson Photographic Collection now in the Library of Congress.

Ein el-Dirweh, Philips Fountain as it looked between 1934 and 1939. Matson Photographic Collection now in the Library of Congress.

In the next photo we see those who have brought containers to get water for their homes. Notice on the top step where containers are placed there are two water skins being used to collect water. These photos can be enlarged by clicking on them, and even larger images are available on the web site. Go to https://www.loc.gov/ and search for Philips fountain.

Ein el-Direh, Philips Fountain, at it looked between 1934 and 1939. Matson Photographic Collection, now in the Library of Congress.

Ein el-Dirweh, Philips Fountain, at it looked between 1934 and 1939. Matson Photographic Collection, now in the Library of Congress.

And finally, here is a photo I made in 1979. At the time there was very little water in the pool, but it seemed to be a good place for boys to stop on their way home. The site was so unimpressive to me that I never returned.

Philips Fountain between Bethlehem and Hebron in 1979. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Philips Fountain between Bethlehem and Hebron in 1979. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We still do not know the answer to the question, “Where did Philip baptize the Ethiopian Eunuch?,” but this is an older tradition than the site at Ain el-Haniyeh.

Rasmussen, in his Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, says,

The site of this event is difficult to locate precisely, but since the Ethiopian was riding in a chariot it seems that he must have been traveling on a developed road. It may be that he was traveling on the road that led from Bethlehem to the Valley of Elah, the route that David had taken when he carried supplies to his brothers (1 Sam 17) and the one that the Romans eventually paved and marked with milestones. This road led south from the Valley of Elah through the low rolling hills of the Shephelah to Betogabris and continued from there west to Gaza. (p. 217)

On a modern Israeli road from Bethlehem to the Valley of Elah this would be highway 375.

Notley cites Eusebius, but thinks it is unlikely that Philip continued as far south as Beth-zur. He says,

Southwest of Bethlehem the ancient route divides. The watershed route continues to Beth-zur and Hebron, while a western spur follows the Hushah ridge and descends into the Elah Valley (Wadi es-Samt). The Romans paved this descent and evidence of these efforts can still be seen in steps cut into the Judean hills. (Rainey and Notley. The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World, p. 371).

The photo here shows the steps along the road cut into the rock near the Elah Valley. Just a personal thought. I think one might prefer to get out of a chariot and walk down the steps instead of remaining in the chariot.

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Road 4.2 km W of Mata on Hwy 375. S of Hwy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notley thinks the baptism may have taken place at one of the numerous springs in the Elah Valley before Philip and the Ethiopian separated to take different routes, Philip to Azotus and the Ethiopian to Gaza and beyond.

And there are other suggestions, but I will leave those for your own study.

A note about spelling. One difficulty in searching for information about some of these ancient places is the various spellings we find. Even in this article I have used ’Ayn ed-Dirweh and Ein el-Dirweh. The Franciscan website uses ’Ayn al-Dhirwah and ’Ain Dhirwe. Hachetts’s The Middle East uses Ain Dirweh. Vilnay uses Ein Dirwa. The Survey of Western Palestine uses ’Ain edh Dhirweh. And on and on it goes.

Sources. There are helpful ways you can access the old, detailed maps included in the Survey of Western Palestine. (1) Buy your own digitized set from Life in the Holy Land. (2) Use the information collected on Ancient Locations here.

Thanks to Tom Powers for many helpful hints in the production of this post. Some of his work may be accessed at his View From Jerusalem website. I keep a link to it at the site listed below under Blogs.

At the BiblicalStudies.info Scholarly page, under Map of Bible Lands, I keep a list of various maps that are helpful.

Sheaves in the field

Joseph had a dream in which he was elevated above his brothers. It involved something common in an agrarian society — binding sheaves in the field.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. (Genesis 37:5-8 ESV)

The following photos were made in the region of Samaria, and near the ancient city of Samaria. The first shows sheaves that have been gathered in the field.

Sheaves in the field near Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheaves in the field near Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo is a cropped closeup in which you can see the strings binding some of the sheaves.

Closeup to show the string around the sheaf of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Closeup to show the string around some of the sheaves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Possibly the best known instance of sheaves in the Bible is the story of the young Moabite woman named Ruth. She requested permission to pick up what was left after the reapers went through the field of Boaz.

She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.
(Ruth 2:7-8 ESV)

And that’s how the story of King David begins…

Entrepreneurs take advantage of the Biblical stories. This store, which I did not visit, is located in the vicinity of the traditional Shepherd’s fields near Bethlehem. The salesmen are just waiting for the next bus load of tourists.

Boaz Field store in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Boaz Field souvenir store near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Since childhood I have loved to sing Knowles Shaw’s spiritual song, “Bringing in the Sheaves.” By the time of my childhood we already had a mechanized way of baling the hay, but the lesson was easy to understand.

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.

NASA photos of Israel and Middle East

NASA has posted several excellent photos made by Barry Wilmore from the International Space Station on Facebook. The photos were made on Christmas day, 2014. See how many landmarks you can identify. Click on the photo for a larger image. Do you see Tyre?

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The photo below shows portions (or all) of (L to R) Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey (including Euphrates River), and Iraq. Great photo.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Get out your Bible atlases and study these photos.

Our tax dollars put to good use, I would say.