OT Baal-hermon, Site of Banias/Caesarea Philippi?

December 23, 2016

1 Chronicles 5 gives a summary of the settlement of the eastern tribes of Israel: Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Verse 23 states, “Now the sons of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land; from Bashan to Baal-hermon and Senir and Mount Hermon they were numerous.”

The ISBE has an interesting suggestion: “The Baal-hermon of 1 Ch 5:23 lay somewhere E. of the Jordan, near to Mount Hermon. It may possibly be identical with Bāniās.”¹

Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Some scholars identify this with Old Testament Baal-hermon. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Some scholars identify this site with Old Testament Baal-hermon. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo features Banias, better known to most Bible students as Caesarea Philippi, because it was in this region that Peter made his great confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah, the Divine Son of God, and Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:13-20). On the lower left you can see the grotto of the god Pan, where idolatrous sacrifices were offered. To the right you can see niches carved into the face of the rock; these formerly contained idols. Banias/Caesarea Philippi is located at the foot of Mt. Hermon.

From here flows the Banias River, which merges with other sources to our south (about-face from perspective in photo).

Banias River, a major source of the Jordan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Banias River, a major source of the Jordan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We know that Banias/Caesarea Philippi was a site for pagan worship in the AD 1st century. There is evidence that this had been a center of idolatrous worship for centuries prior to Jesus’ ministry, reaching centuries back to Old Testament times.

Here are some further sources which suggest identification of Old Testament Baal-hermon with Banias/Caesarea Philippi (use of bold type for emphasis mine, LM):

Baal-hermon . . . probably the present Bânjas, at the foot of Hermon.”²

“Baal-Gad—lord of fortune, or troop of Baal, a Canaanite city in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Hermon, hence called Baal-hermon (Judge. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), near the source of the Jordan (Josh. 13:5; 11:17; 12:7). It was the most northern point to which Joshua’s conquests extended. It probably derived its name from the worship of Baal. Its modern representative is Banias

Caesarea Philippi—a city on the northeast of the marshy plain of el-Huleh, 120 miles north of Jerusalem, and 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, at the “upper source” of the Jordan, and near the base of Mount Hermon. It is mentioned in Matt. 16:13 and Mark 8:27 as the northern limit of our Lord’s public ministry. According to some its original name was Baal-Gad (Josh. 11:17), or Baal-Hermon (Judg. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), when it was a Canaanite sanctuary of Baal. It was afterwards called Panium or Paneas, from a deep cavern full of water near the town. This name was given to the cavern by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch because of its likeness to the grottos of Greece, which were always associated with the worship of their god Pan. Its modern name is Banias. Here Herod built a temple, which he dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This town was afterwards enlarged and embellished by Herod Philip, the tetrarch of Trachonitis, of whose territory it formed a part, and was called by him Caesarea Philippi, partly after his own name, and partly after that of the emperor Tiberius Caesar.4

 

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¹Orr, J., Nuelsen, J. L., Mullins, E. Y., & Evans, M. O. (Eds.). (1915). Baal-Hermon. In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 347). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

2 Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 3, p. 442). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

³Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

4 Ibid.

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Banias Falls, near Caesarea Philippi

April 11, 2016

Today’s travels in northern Israel took us to Lake Hula (migratory birds pass through here, to and from Africa-Turkey) and then past Abel-beth-maacah (see 1 Kings 15:20) to the border of Lebanon. We also saw the Senir River and Banias River, two of the main sources that converge to form the Jordan River. The Banias Spring emanates at Caesarea Philippi. Downstream from there are the Banias Falls.

Banias Falls near Caesarea Philippi. One of the major sources of the Jordan River.

Banias Falls near Caesarea Philippi. One of the major sources of the Jordan River.

Jesus was in this area during His “Retirement Ministry,” in that time-frame when He was trying to spend more private teaching/training time with the apostles for the great evangelistic work for which He had chosen them. Text–Matthew 16:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”


Jesus’ Promise at Caesarea Philippi

November 1, 2013

In our previous couple of posts we were looking at Caesarea Maritima, Herod’s capital city on the Mediterranean coast. Presently we are considering another Caesarea, up to the north at the foothills of Mt. Hermon, Caesarea Philippi. This area was ruled by Herod’s son Philip.

On-site Bible study can be a thrilling experience; to be able to walk in the steps of Jesus and various Bible characters is a wonderful opportunity. We had such an occasion in a visit a couple of weeks ago to Caesarea Philippi. It was in this region that Peter made his confession of the Christ, and Jesus promised to build His church.

Caesarea Philippi. Grotto of Pan, and Banias River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea Philippi. Grotto of Pan (center), and Banias River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The text does not specify that Jesus entered Caesarea Philippi, but that He came to the “region” (NKJV), “district” (NASB), “the area of” (NET) Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13). It is interesting that Luke does not mention the place, but states, “Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and his disciples were nearby, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?'” (Luke 9:18, NET). Matthew gives the more complete record:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:13-19 NASB).

A couple of observations:

1. This passage does not teach the primacy of Peter. What Jesus said here to Peter regarding his apostolic authority was said just two chapters later to all the apostles Matt. 18:1,18.

 2. Regarding the “binding” and “loosing:” the point is not that Peter or the other apostles would bind/loose something on earth and then God would bind/loose it in heaven. What they bound on earth was binding because God had bound it in heaven; what they loosed on earth had authority because God had loosed it in heaven. The rendering of the Christian Standard Bible (Holman) is, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven” (Matt.16:19). The apostles did not have inherent authority; they were the instruments through which God’s revealed will was made known.

3. Jesus was anticipating the events of Pentecost, Acts 2. It was at that time the Spirit descended upon the apostles, empowering as Jesus had promised, and salvation through the crucified and resurrected Messiah was proclaimed. This was the beginning of the church, and the establishment of the kingdom, the reign/rule of Christ.

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