Valley of Beracah

March 24, 2017

Jehoshaphat (873-848 BC) was the fourth king of the southern kingdom of Judah during the Divided Kingdom period. His war with the combined forces of the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites is described in 2 Chronicles 20. It was reported to the king that a great multitude was encamped at En-gedi (v.2), located on the western shore of the Dead Sea.

This good king prayed to God for deliverance (vv.4-13). God answered by a prophet named Jahaziel: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you” (v.17, ESV).

Encouraged by this word, the text narrates what happened next: “And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed'” (v.20).

God overruled on Israel’s behalf:

And when they [Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah] began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another (vv.22-23).

All that remained was for Israel to gather the spoil: “When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much” (v.25).

The site where this occurred is known as the Valley of Beracah (meaning: Valley of Blessing).

Valley of Beracah, near Tekoa. Facing east toward the Dead Sea, and Edom & Moab. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The text reads, “On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day” (v.26).

Photos such as this are helpful in visualizing the setting of the historical events narrated in Scripture. Click on photo for larger view.

Back in 2010 Ferrell Jenkins did a post on the Valley of Beracah. He and I visited this site in Dec. 2009.


Ye Are the Light of the World

March 14, 2017

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus told His disciples:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (5:14-16, ESV).

Oil Lamp in Nazareth. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jesus, ever the Master Teacher, often used similes and metaphors to create vivid word pictures as he communicated spiritual and eternal truths. Jesus’s disciples are those men and women who have been illuminated by the Light of the World. They hear His voice and follow Him. They have the qualities enumerated in the “beatitudes” which is in the immediate context of our text above (Matt. 5:3-12). As such Jesus’ disciples are light in a world of darkness, pointing others to the way of Jesus and His Word, and ultimately the path to heaven.

Click photo for larger view.


Dothan, Where Joseph Was Sold by His Brothers

March 11, 2017

The rivalry and jealousy that existed between Jacob’s wives (four) and sons (twelve) provides proof that polygamy was something God tolerated during the Old Testament period. It does not reflect His will as seen in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:1-6). But God overruled for good to accomplish His will, and through Jacob’s wives and children the 12 tribes of Israel originated, as set forth in Genesis.

The book of Genesis does not fabricate a narrative that portrays the patriarch in an idealistic light. Rather their sins and foibles are included. Genesis 37 relates how Joseph’s envious brothers sold him to a traders in a caravan who were en route to Egypt, where they sold Joseph into slavery. The location where that occurred was Dothan in Canaan, on the international trade route which connected Mesopotamia to Egypt. We had the occasion to see Dothan in November ’16.

Tel Dothan, where Joseph was sold by his brothers. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is the account in Genesis:

13 And Israel [Jacob] said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; cast him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”- that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and cast him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. 29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33 And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34 Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.

Truly envy is as rottenness of the bones (Prov. 14:30).

Click photo for larger view.


Nain of Galilee, where Jesus Raised the Dead

March 6, 2017

I love to read the account of the time Jesus went to the Galilean city of Nain, raising a young man from the dead. How the widowed mother must have rejoiced!

Luke narrates as follows:

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” (Lk. 7:11-16).

Nain in Galilee. BibleAtlas.com.

Nain in Galilee. BibleAtlas.com.

The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to show who He was/is. The limited occasions recorded when He raised the dead give proof that He is Life, He is the source of Life. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). And yet such occasions show the very real compassion of Jesus as well. The compassion He had during His ministry on earth He continues to have at this present time.

We had the opportunity to make a quick stop at Nain during our tour to Israel last November ’16.

Nain, where Jesus raised the dead. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Nain, where Jesus raised the dead. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

By the way, the mountain in the background is the Hill of Moreh, mentioned in connection with the account of Gideon and his 300 men (Judges 7). Click photo for larger view.


Wailing Wall at Jerusalem at Night

February 10, 2017

Jerusalem is defined by three valleys: the Kidron, Tyropean and Hinnom. In the photo below we are standing in the Tyropean Valley. Jews come here to mourn the destruction of the temple, among other reasons. This wall was not part of the temple itself, but was the retaining wall for the temple and the structures on the temple mount. Some of the courses of larger stones starting from bottom are Herodian, and weigh several tons each.

In Jerusalem, "Wailing Wall" at night. This was part of the retaining wall that supported the temple complex. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In Jerusalem, “Wailing Wall” at night. This was part of the retaining wall that supported the temple complex. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I’ve visited this very special location on numerous occasions, but this past November I had the occasion to take some night-time photos.

Click image for larger view.


Crossing the Kidron

February 6, 2017

John 14-16 records Jesus’ Final Discourse with the disciples prior to the events of Gethsemane. At John 14:31 we read, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” The discourse continues and then John 17 records Jesus’ high-priestly prayer. Then John 18:1 states, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.”

In his classic A Harmony of the Gospels, A.T. Robertson notes on John 14:31, “Apparently they leave the Upper Room” and entitles the section continuing in John 15 and 16, “The Discourse on the Way to Gethsemane,” with the subtitle, “Possibly on the Street.”

Kidron Valley. Jerusalem/temple mount on left and in distance. Jesus crossed the Kidron going from Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Kidron Valley. Jerusalem/temple mount on left and in distance. Jesus crossed the Kidron going from Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It is possible that Jesus and His disciples rose up immediately at John 14:31, and that the continued discourse and prayer of chapters 15-17 occurred en route from the Upper Room on the way to Gethsemane. Others suggest that the short time required for Jesus’ teaching of chapters 15-16 and the prayer of chapter 17 can better fit within that Upper Room setting. That would not be unlike our saying, I [we] need to be going now, and yet a few more minutes of conversation take place before the actual departure.

J.W. McGarvey observes, “Some think that Jesus then left the room, and that the next three chapters of John’s Gospel contain matters spoken on the way to Gethsemane. But it is likely that the words of these chapters were spoken in the upper room after they had risen from the table and prepared to depart, and that John 18:1 marks the leaving of the upper room as well as the crossing of the Kidron”(The Four-Fold Gospel.667).

Lenski goes into a bit more detail in his remarks:

Nevertheless … arise, let us be going hence” ends the Passover feast. No destination is indicated, yet the disciples know that Jesus intends to meet “the world’s ruler” and thus once more do the Father’s ἐντολή. The asyndeton ἐγείρεσθε ἄγωμεν is idiomatic, as is also the combination of the present imperative with the hortative present subjunctive. The action of arising from the couches on which the company had dined is merely preliminary to the action of leaving the place and going elsewhere. Those who regard “Arise,” etc., as a separate sentence incline to the opinion that Jesus left the upper room at this point, spoke the next three chapters somewhere on the way to the Kidron, crossed this at 18:1, and then went on to Gethsemane. When we note that the bidding to arise and to leave is only the conclusion of a longer sentence, that 15:1, etc., indicates no change of place, and that ἐξῆλθεν in 18:1 reads as though Jesus did not leave the upper room until that moment, we are led to conclude that after the company arose from their couches they lingered in the upper room until Jesus finished speaking the next three chapters. This delay consumed only a short time. We cannot think that the next three chapters were spoken while the company was in motion, and John nowhere indicates that they halted at some spot along the way (Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel.1023–1024).

William Hendriksen notes:

Why not assign to these words their most natural meaning, and interpret them as actually amounting to a command that the disciples get up from their couches, coupled with an exhortation meaning, “And let us go away from here, that is, from this Upper Room; hence, from this house”? That still would not imply that the little company now immediately rushes out of the house! How often does it not happen even among us Westerners that between the exhortation, “Now let us be going,” and the actual departure there is a period of ten minutes? During that ten minutes a great deal can be said. Now, the following must be borne in mind:
a. In this very context Jesus clearly implies that there are still certain things which he wishes to say to the disciples (14:30).
b. Speaking calmly and deliberately, without any attempt to rush himself, Jesus may have uttered the contents of chapters 15, 16, and 17 within a period of ten minutes! When a company has been together for several hours, what is ten minutes? . . .

Accordingly, we shall proceed upon the assumption that the contents of chapters 14–17 comprise a unit, and that all of this was spoken that night in the Upper Room (Exposition of the Gospel According to John, Vol. 2.290–291).

In 2012 I posted an aerial photo of the Kidron here.


The Garden of Gethsemane

February 1, 2017

“When Jesus had spoken these words [Farewell Discourse/Prayer, John 14-18], He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples” (John 18:1, NASB). Matthew’s record states, “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.'”

Ancient olive trees on the Mt. of Olives. The Garden of Gethsemane was in this area. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Ancient olive trees on the Mt. of Olives. The Garden of Gethsemane was in this area. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The meaning of Gethsemane is “olive press,” and therefore not a “garden” in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather an olive grove that contained an olive press. Though we cannot know the exact spot where Jesus went for prayer that awful night before His crucifixion, it would be situated on the Mount of Olives just east of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley.

It would be here that Jesus went with His disciples (minus Judas; see John 13:30) to pray. “They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.'” (Mark 14:32, NASB). We get somewhat of a glimpse of the horrible terror of that night as Luke writes, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (22:44, NASB). He submitted willingly to the Father’s will, because there was no other way that God could be both Just and our Justifier (Romans 3:21-26).

So it was then at the site of Gethsemane that Jesus was betrayed by His disciple Judas, was arrested and from there led away to a series of trials before the Jews and the Romans, and then crucified. But then on the third day “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:4, NASB). Hallelujah, What a Savior!