Tel Lachish, where King Amaziah of Judah Was Killed

April 22, 2017

“From the time Amaziah turned from following the LORD, conspirators plotted against him in Jerusalem, so he fled to Lachish. But they sent assassins after him and they killed him there” (2 Chronicles 25:27, NET).

Tel Lachish at center. View is from the southwest. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo gives the geographical setting for the biblical text, which tells of the assassination of one of Judah’s kings during the “Divided Kingdom” period. Amaziah reigned 796-767 BC. He is described by one author as “a mediocre king who suffered the consequences of his compromises” (Shepherds Notes, The Kings of Judah, p.79).

Later the city of Lachish would be one of 46 fortified cities captured by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, in 701 BC. His siege-mound formed for that invasion can still be seen at the southwest corner of tel Lachish.

Click photo for larger view.

We previously wrote about Lachish here and here.


The Nile River in Egypt

April 5, 2017

The Nile River is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. It was truly the “lifeblood” of Egypt.

Nile River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

These folks in the two boats in the photo had either been fishing or were about to go, as they had fishing nets with them.

From Harper’s Bible Dictionary we have this info on the Nile:

the great river of Egypt flowing north from its sources in Lake Victoria in Uganda and in the highlands of Ethiopia, a distance of 4,037 miles, the entire length of the Sudan and Egypt, to the Mediterranean. The two major branches, the White Nile (from Lake Victoria) and the Blue Nile (from Ethiopia), merge at Khartoum, with one modest tributary somewhat farther to the north and none at all in Egypt itself. Beyond Khartoum the Nile flows through several cataracts, inhibiting navigation but not preventing it. The last cataract is at Aswan, the beginning of the Nile Valley proper. (Because the Nile flows from south to north, the southern Nile valley is referred to as Upper Egypt.) From here on the Nile flows north in a well-developed valley with cliffs on either side almost as far as Cairo, and the river becomes important for its overflow and the hydraulic irrigation of the adjoining floodplain. Within the Nile Valley the river is fairly constant at about six-tenths of a mile in width, whereas the valley varies from six to nine miles across (p.705).

The land of Egypt has great significance for the biblical narrative. God told Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, that He would make of him a great nation in Egypt (Gen. 46:3). As the book of Exodus opens, Israel is already a numerous people, and the new pharaoh of Egypt felt he had to take oppressive measures against them (Ex. 1).

While a young child, Jesus, along with Joseph and Mary, were told to leave Bethlehem (where Herod would seek to kill them), and flee to Egypt. “Now when they [the wise men from the East] had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (Matt. 2:13)

The Nile River makes life in Egypt possible, both in ancient as well as modern times.

I’ve previously written on the Nile here and here.

 


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.


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.


The Threshing Sledge

January 24, 2017

I am currently enjoying teaching 1 Chronicles in our Bible class in our local congregation. The record of David’s ill-advised census and its terrible consequences is found in 1 Chron. 21. An angel and a prophet were used by God to instruct David: “Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (v.18, ESV). David purchased the threshing floor at the “full price” from Ornan, “And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering” (v.26, ESV).

Ornan had made this offer: “See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all,” but David insisted that he pay “the full price” (v.24); David would not offer to the Lord “that which costs me nothing.”

Note that reference is made to the “threshing sledges for the wood.” The threshing sledge was pulled across the grain to separate the kernel from the chaff. In Aphrodisias, Turkey, I had the opportunity to photograph several threshing sledges.  This helps us to visualize what David used for wood for the burnt offerings in our Chronicles text.

Threshing Sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Threshing Sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Though the text is challenging, it seems that its placement in Chronicles is to show the usage God made of the event. The property David purchased for offering for atonement for sin would become the site for Solomon’s building the temple! “Then David said, ‘Here shall be the house of the LORD God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel'” (22:1).

Click photo for larger view.


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

 

Click on photos for larger view.

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.


Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls Were Discovered

December 21, 2016

“The Dead Sea Scrolls are undoubtedly the most important discovery found in Israel in the field of the Bible and history of Judaism and Christianity.”¹ Fragments of about 900 scrolls from the 2nd Temple period (some dating as early as 3rd century BC) were found in the Qumran caves (NW shore of Dead Sea), between 1947 and 1956. Every book of the Old Testament (except Esther) were represented in the finds, including one complete copy of Isaiah.

I had opportunity along with my group to visit this important archaeological site last month and photograph the caves.

Qumran Caves, on western side of the Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Qumran Caves, on western side of the Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I remember when studying archaeology under the late Dr. James Hodges that he said the main value of the Dead Sea Scrolls was in the discipline of apologetics. The scrolls were about 1,000 years older (!) than the previously available manuscripts with which translators had to work. The huge find of fragments provided abundant samples with which to compare our Hebrew manuscripts. The result was:

it may now be more confidently asserted than ever before that the modern Hebrew text faithfully represents the Hebrew text as originally written by the authors of the Old Testament. Dead Sea discoveries have enabled us to answer this question with much greater assurance than was possible before 1948.²

Dr. Hodges pointed out that no new translations had to be made as a result of the discovery of the scrolls; they confirmed the accuracy of transmission of what we already have.

Another contribution:

“As a result of Dead Sea Scroll discoveries, it is no longer possible to date portions or entire Old Testament books as late as some scholars used to do. It is impossible to date any biblical work or any extensive part of one later than the early second century B.C. Fragments of the Pentateuch and the prophets date from the second century B.C. Ecclesiastes, sometimes believed to have been composed in the second or first century B.C., appears in a Cave 4 manuscript dating from 175 to 150 B.C. A second-century B.C. Copy of the Psalms indicates that the collection of Psalms was fixed by Maccabean times. A manuscript of Daniel dating about 120 B.C. brings into question the alleged Maccabean date of its composition. Moreover, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not support the existence of a deutero- or trito-Isaiah, at least during the second century B.C. The complete Isaiah and the long fragment of Isaiah from Cave 1 (second century B.C.) treat the book as a unit.”³

Click photo for larger view.

(This post makes use of previous material I wrote for this blog last Dec. 2015).

Sources Quoted:

1 Yigael Yadin quoted by Hanan Eshel in Qumran: Scrolls∙Caves∙History (p.7)

2 See F. B. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (pp.61-69)

3 Bible and Spade (1978), 7(1), pp.12–14.