The “Horns of Moses”

June 14, 2018

One of the innumerable attractions in Rome which we were able to see last week was that of Michelangelo’s Moses, housed (among other artistic works/artifacts) in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli. The statue of Moses was sculpted by Italian High Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, who created this work in the years 1513-1515. This sculpture was originally commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II for his tomb.

Michelangelo’s Moses, in Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Moses is here depicted as seated, holding the two tablets of stone. Some suggest the intensity portrayed is meant to represent his holy anger when he cast down the stones upon being confronted with Israel’s idolatry.

But to the point of this post, Moses is seen here with two horns on his head. This is based on a rendering of Exodus 34:29 in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible in use during Michelangelo’s time. The English Standard Version renders the text, which speaks of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai after talking with God, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” The Latin Vulgate renders the Hebrew word qaran, “to shine” as “horned.” Hence the horns on Michelangelo’s Moses.

The NET Bible contains this translator note:

The word qaran is derived from the noun qeren in the sense of a “ray of light” (see Hab. 3:4). Something of the divine glory remained with Moses. The Greek translation of Aquila and the Latin Vulgate convey the idea that he had horns, the primary meaning of the word from which this word is derived. Some have tried to defend this, saying that the glory appeared like horns or that Moses covered his face with a mask adorned with horns. But in the text the subject of the verb is the skin of Moses’ face.

The statue stands 8 feet, 4 inches and is made of solid marble.

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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“Who Sent out the Wild Donkey Free?”

April 7, 2018

In the concluding chapters of the book of Job, God asks a series of rhetorical questions to help Job see the incomprehensible greatness of God. Many of these questions have to do with God’s creative power.

5 “Who sent out the wild donkey free? And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 To whom I gave the wilderness for a home And the salt land for his dwelling place? 7 “He scorns the tumult of the city, The shoutings of the driver he does not hear. 8 “He explores the mountains for his pasture And searches after every green thing. (Job 39:5-8, NASB).

Note the translation of the NKJV: “Who set the wild donkey free? Who loosed the bonds of the onager” (Job 39:5).

The onager, the wild donkey referenced in Job 39:5. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I had the opportunity this past week in Israel to visit the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, situated in the Southern Arabah, and photograph animals that are native to the Bible lands. This photo helps us visualize the animal (the onager) God was mentioning to Job in our above text.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible has the following info in its entry on “animals”:

The onager or Syrian wild ass (Equus hemionus hemihippus) is an intermediate between the true horse and the true ass. Its ears are longer than those of a horse but shorter than those of an ass. The front hooves are narrow; there are chestnuts (callouslike spots on the inside of the knees) on the front legs only, and the tail is short-haired for a long distance from its root so that it appears to be tufted.

The Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians) were able to domesticate the onager, which was eventually replaced by the horse. It was used to draw chariots in Ur; a number of onagers were buried with their vehicles in a royal grave that dates from about 2500 BC. Later the wild onager was a favorite hunter’s prize for Babylonian and Assyrian kings.

The onager was very common in the steppe lands near Israel where it was described as a freedom-loving desert animal (Jb 24:5; 39:5–8; Ps 104:11; Is 32:14; Jer 2:24; Hos 8:9). Ishmael was described as “a wild ass of a man” (Gn 16:12), one who could not adjust to domestic life. Nebuchadnezzar lived among the wild asses when he was mentally ill (Dn 5:21). Drought seems to have been responsible for the population decline of the onager in biblical times (Jer 14:6). The modern onager (Equus hemionus onager) is slightly larger than the Syrian wild ass which is extinct. (Vol. 1, p. 94).

As Job learned more of the greatness of the awesome God he faithfully served, his faith and trust grew in the most difficult of circumstances.

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At Biblical Elath, on the Red Sea

March 27, 2018

The past two days Ferrell Jenkins and I have explored various sites in the Arabah (see Deut. 1:1 & etc., NASB), using Elath (spellings vary) as our base. This evening I took a photo looking out to the Red Sea.

Looking out to the Red Sea from Elath. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It was in this area that King Solomon stationed a fleet of ships: “King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom” (1 Kings 9:26).  This was made possible through the cooperation of the Phoenicians. 2 Chronicles 8 records, “Then Solomon went to Ezion Geber and Elath on the seacoast, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent him ships by the hand of his servants, and servants who knew the sea. They went with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and acquired four hundred and fifty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon” (vv.17-18).

Note the location of Elath:

Location of Elath on the Red Sea. BibleAtlas.com.

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Beit Shan in Israel, where King Saul’s Body Was Fastened

March 25, 2018

A slight (and temporary) “wrong turn” today put us in position to get a different view of Beit Shan than what I’ve previously had. What is so significant about this site (among many other considerations) is that when King Saul and his sons died in battle (on nearby Mt. Gilboa) against the Philistines, they decapitated Saul and fastened his lifeless body and that of his sons for display on the city walls.

Tel Beit Shan, where the bodies of Saul & his sons were desecrated. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Your view to the left shows Trans-Jordan toward Jabesh-Gilead, from where brave Israelites came to take down the bodies. Read the text to see the story:

Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua the sons of Saul. 3 The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. 7 When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, with those who were beyond the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the cities and fled; then the Philistines came and lived in them. 8 It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (1 Sam. 31:1-13).

In Roman times Beth Shan became one of the cities of the Decapolis.

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The Spring of Jezreel in Israel

March 24, 2018

The Spring of Jezreel in Israel is mentioned in 1 Samuel 29 in connection with the closing episode of King Saul’s life. The text reads: “Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel” (1 Sam. 29:1). Ferrell Jenkins & I were able to visit this spring this morning.

Spring of Jezreel in Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Within site of this spring is the mountain of Gilboa, where Saul and three of his sons died as the army of Israel was defeated by the Philistines.

Location of Jezreel. BbleAtlas.org.

I have previously written on King Saul and the geographical setting of his death here.

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Zarethan (Tell es Sa’idiyeh) in the Jordan Valley

March 22, 2018

This morning we left  the Dead Sea, made our way to the border crossing at the King Hussein Bridge into Israel, and arrived after dark at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, with brief stops at Jerusalem and Caesarea on the way. We plan as time permits to share more photos/info from this past week in Jordan, as well as more to come in Israel.

For tonight I wanted to mention Zarethan in the Jordan Valley, of biblical significance in the Old Testament. When Solomon was building the temple and its vessels, some of the metal casting  (bronze) was done in the area of Zarethan.

Zarephan, mentioned in connection with casting bronze for use in Solomon’s temple. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

1 Kings 7:

40 Now Hiram made the basins and the shovels and the bowls. So Hiram finished doing all the work which he performed for King Solomon in the house of the LORD: 41 the two pillars and the two bowls of the capitals which were on the top of the two pillars, and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on the top of the pillars; 42 and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, two rows of pomegranates for each network to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on the tops of the pillars; 43 and the ten stands with the ten basins on the stands; 44 and the one sea and the twelve oxen under the sea; 45 and the pails and the shovels and the bowls; even all these utensils which Hiram made for King Solomon in the house of the LORD were of polished bronze. 46 In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan. (verses 40-46)

The British Museum website has some interesting info:

Tell es Sa’idiyeh, identified as the biblical city of Zarethan, lies at the heart of the central Jordan Valley. The huge, double occupation mound occupies a key strategic position, commanding the crossroads of two major trade routes, and dominating some of the richest and most fertile agricultural land east of the River Jordan.

Excavations undertaken since 1985, by a British Museum expedition under the direction of Jonathan N. Tubb, have revealed the great antiquity of the site’s occupational history, with settlement phases extending from the Early Islamic period of the seventh century AD, as far back at least as the Early Bronze Age of the third millennium BC. Excavations have shown that by about 2900 BC, Tell es-Sa’idiyeh was a large and prosperous city, with well constructed architecture and evidence for highly developed municipal planning. The most significant finding in this Early Bronze Age phase has been of a large palace complex on the lower tell, with areas set aside for olive oil production and storage, wine-making and textile preparation. All three of these activities were conducted on an industrial scale, clearly designed for international commerce. The pottery and other artifacts recovered from this early city display a level of refinement and sophistication unparalleled elsewhere in the Levant.

Equally remarkable discoveries relate to the city of the twelfth century BC, where excavations have uncovered evidence to suggest that Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, like Beth Shan or Gaza on the other side of the Jordan River, was a major centre for the Egyptian control of Canaan during the final years of its New Kingdom empire. Substantial architecture, including an elaborate water system and Egyptian-style public buildings have been found on the upper mound, and the same strong Egyptian component is also found in the contemporary cemetery which was cut into the long-abandoned and eroded ruins of the Early Bronze Age city on the lower mound. The expedition has excavated, to date, some 450 graves, many of which show unusual Egyptian features, both in terms of the grave-goods and burial customs. (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/tell_es-sa%E2%80%98idiyeh_excavations.aspx).

A couple of days ago I posted a sunset view of the Dead Sea; here is our view of the Dead Sea from the Jordan side looking across to Israel this morning.

Morning view of Dead Sea looking west. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Greetings from Jordan

March 20, 2018

Today’s travels/photography included the proposed site of Tel Heshbon (mentioned numerous times, Num. 21:25, etc.) and Madaba, famous for its large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Israel.

Here is today’s sunset view from Jordan, across the Dead Sea looking to Israel. The mountains of Moab are at our back.

Sunset at Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks for following our travels.

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