Heket, the Goddess of Childbirth

February 8, 2018

Among the fascinating artifacts displayed in the British Museum is this andesite porphyry statue devoted to the frog goddess Heket. In Egyptian mythology, the “frog goddess Heket, at one time regarded as the consort of the creator god Khnum, acted as the divine midwife and was said to attend royal births” (Oakes & Gahlin, Ancient Egypt, p.347).

The frog goddess Heket. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The accompanying museum placard states, “The frog goddess Heket watched over childbirth, a connection forged by the myriad tadpoles visible on the Nile banks . . . [this is] one of the few sizable animal sculptures surviving from the Early Dynastic period.” That would be c. 3100 BC.

When I photographed this display last month I was reminded of the ten plagues which brought Egypt to its knees (Exodus 7-12). Though some try to explain these events as the result of natural phenomena, the Bible is clear as to the Lord’s involvement and intention. These were divine acts of judgment not only designed to humble the mighty Pharaoh, but also to demonstrate that YHWH was the true God; these were judgments against the gods of Egypt. Note the following biblical texts:

Exodus 6:6- “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.

Exodus 12:12- “against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.”

Numbers 33:4- ” Also on their [the Egyptians] gods the LORD had executed judgments.”

Psalm 78:45- “He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them, And frogs, which destroyed them.”

Gods and goddesses such as Heket had no power at all. The true God brought the hoards of frogs, and when He was ready He destroyed them (Ex. 8:2ff).

Initially when Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh with the request, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness,'” Pharaoh arrogantly responded, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go. (Ex. 5:1-2). The ten plagues were his Ten Lesson Course. Pharaoh, and all of Egypt, would come to know that the LORD is God, the God of all the earth.

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Mt. Sinai Region, a Panaroma

January 28, 2018

I took this shot of the Sinai region while walking up toward Mt. Sinai, looking at the area below, to give a feel for the geography of this part of the biblical world.

Rugged Region of Mt. Sinai. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Sinai Peninsula today is within Egyptian territory. You can see traditional Mt. Sinai itself in this photo, in upper right.

Mt. Sinai, upper right. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Jerusalem, SW Temple Mount Panaroma

January 26, 2018

A panoramic view looking toward the SW corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Panorama of Jerusalem, SW corner of Temple Mount. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

At the base of the ancient wall on your left (western side) you can see stones lying in place. These were from the Herodian Temple of Jesus day, falling down to their present position in the 70 AD Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Though seemingly small in our photo, some of these broken stones weight tons.

The view straight across shows southern side of temple mount. The distant view at right center is the Mount of Olives, across from the Kidron Valley (which cannot be seen from this view.

This photo is from Spring, 2017.

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Gush Halav, Israel and its Pauline Connection

January 18, 2018

Gush Halav (Arabic Jish) is located in Upper Galilee, on the northeastern slopes of Mount Meron, seven kilometers north-west of Safed (Tsfat). One of the interesting sites there is the remains of a synagogue (Roman period).

Remains of Gush Halav Synagogue, Upper Galilee, Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There is some credible evidence of Paul’s family having lived at Gush Halav. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor wrote under the title “Paul’s Galilean Ancestors” the following:

Commenting on Philemon vv. 23–4 Jerome of Bethlehem (342–420) wrote, “They say that the parents of the Apostle Paul were from Gischala, [Gush Halav] a region of Judaea and that, when the whole province was devastated by the hand of Rome and the Jews scattered throughout the world, they were moved to Tarsus a town of Cilicia; the adolescent Paul inherited the personal status of his parents.” “Judaea” is used here to mean the whole of Palestine (Luke 23: 5). The likelihood that Jerome, or any earlier Christian, invented the association of Paul’s family with Gischala is remote. The town is not mentioned in the Bible. It had no connection with Benjamin, the tribe to which Paul belonged (Phil. 3: 5). It had no associations with the Galilean ministry of Jesus. And there is no evidence that it had Christian inhabitants in the Byzantine period. The Romans took control of Palestine in 63 BC, and subsequently there were a number of occasions (61, 55, 52, 4 BC, AD 6) when Jews from various parts of the country were enslaved and deported. The most probable in the case of Paul is 4 BC. (The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, p. 297).

When Ferrell Jenkins and I visited this location in May 2017, cattle were freely roaming the grounds.

One of many cows at Gush Halav. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Ram Caught in a Thicket, from Ur of the Chaldeans

January 15, 2018

In 1927 the archaeologist Leonard Woolley uncovered spectacular finds in southern Mesopotamia, in the ancient city he had identified as Ur, home of Abraham. The treasury of his finds included this figure, known as “The Ram in the Thicket.”

Ram in the Thicket. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This statuette is composed of gold, silver, copper, lapis, shell and coral. Two of these were in what is called “the Great Death Pit.” The other is housed in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

This figure is illustrative of the ram which Abraham offered at Moriah, in the stead of Isaac his son (Gen. 22:13). This figure here is actually a male goat.

Interestingly, this artifact predates Abraham by a few centuries.

Fant and Reddish suggest that

. . . the discoveries at Ur are a significant indication of an amazing level of cultural sophistication in an early period in the locale identified as the birthplace of the father of the Hebrews. If Abraham and his family came from Ur, a city of such considerable cultural advancement, to the tents of the land of Canaan, it further dramatizes the biblical story of his sacrificial following lowing of the promises of an unknown God. (Clyde E. Fant; Mitchell G. Reddish. Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums, Kindle Locations 580-581. Kindle Edition.)


A Diadem, British Museum

January 10, 2018

References to the diadem in the book of Revelation include 12:3, 13:1, and 19:2.

Gold Diadem. Made in southern Italy, 250-200 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

“The diadem is the sign of royal status. Rev 12:3: the dragon had “seven diadems” on his seven heads; 13:1: the beast had “ten diadems” on his ten horns; 19:12: the rider of the white horse had “many diadems” on his head.” (Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 298).

This is one of the literally thousands of interesting artifacts in the British Museum, so many of which can be used in the context of biblical teaching/illustrations, etc.

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Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III & Jehu, Israel’s King

January 9, 2018

Among the many artifacts we photographed today was the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (r. 858-824 BC). This Assyrian king forced Jehu, King of Israel (r. 841-814 BC) to pay tribute. This is one of those many exciting finds where the Bible and other historical records intersect! The Black Obelisk includes a pictograph/cuneiform record of this very important historical event. The  reads:

The inscription reads: I received the tribute of Jehu of the House of Omri silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden goblet, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff of the king’s hand, (and) javelins (7).”  All 14 of the Israelites pictured are bearded, with long hair and pointed caps. Each wears a belted tunic with fringe at the bottom.  In addition, each of the 13 porters wears a mantle or cloak over the tunic, which extends over the shoulders and is fringed or tasseled down the front on both sides.  Jehu is not wearing the outer garment, possibly as a sign of humiliation before Shalmaneser.  (NIV Arch. Bible).

This is detailed on one of the four sides, second panel down:

Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk. This panel shows King Jehu paying tribute to the Assyrian King. The year was 841 BC. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a photo of the 4-sided stone in its entirety, with our facing the side that mentions Jehu:

Shalmaneser’s Prism. The Black Obelisk. British Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Todd Bolen has an article on the Obelisk here.

You can read of Jehu in the Bible in 2 Kings 9-10.

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