Sepphoris (Zippori), Capital of the Galilee

May 2, 2017

The Tetrarch Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, chose Sepphoris as his capital in Galilee (BC 4). (Later he would build Tiberias and move his capital there, 20 AD).

Much excavation, beginning in 1931, has been done in Sepphoris. In the house of Dionysus several mosaics were found, including this one featuring a woman often referred to as “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.”

The “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.” Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Sepphoris is only about an hour’s walk away from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. This was one of the sites I wanted to see on this current trip to Israel.

One of the main streets of Sepphoris. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Hippos, a City of the Decapolis

May 1, 2017

Matthew tells us that during Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, “great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan (4:25, ESV).

I had the opportunity today to visit Hippos, one of the ten cities of the Decapolis.

Hippos, one of the cities of the Decapolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In the foreground you can see the ancient ruins of a temple. If you look carefully to the left center you can get a glimpse of the Sea of Galilee.

Though Jesus would later go to the Decapolis (Mark 5, Mark 7), the text in Matthew is saying that people from all the areas listed, including the Decapolis, traveled to Galilee to see and hear Jesus when He was engaged in the Galilean Ministry.

The cities of the Decapolis are ordinarily listed as follows:

  1. Gerasa (Jerash) in Jordan.
  2. Scythopolis (Beth-Shean) in Israel, the only city west of the Jordan River.
  3. Hippos (or Sussita) in Israel (Golan Heights).
  4. Gadara (Umm Qais) in Jordan.
  5. Pella (West of Irbid) in Jordan.
  6. Philadelphia, modern-day Amman, the capital of Jordan.
  7. Capitolias, also Dion, today Beit Ras in Jordan.
  8. Canatha (Qanawat) in Syria.
  9. Raphana in Jordan.
  10. Damascus, the capital of modern Syria.

The city of Hippos (Sussita) was the central city of the Golan during the Hellenistic and Roman/Byzantine periods. It is located on a diamond (or horse) shaped mountain which rises 350M above the Sea of Galilee. Recent excavations revealed the impressive plan and structures of the city. During the Byzantine period there were eight churches, indicating its importance for Christians. The city was devastated by a massive earthquake in 749 AD which left it in ruins since then. (http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Hippos.html)

The Decapolis. Ten cities given autonomy by Rome. BibleAtlas.org.

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Fields White unto Harvest

April 30, 2017

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee, and went through Samaria. It was at the well at Sychar (today’s Nablus) that Jesus had a conversation with a woman who had come to the well to draw water. Jesus skillfully led her from a starting point of a request for a drink of water, step by step, to the point of faith in Him as Messiah! (John 4:1-26).

Field of wheat in the Galilee. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

When the disciples returned, having gone into the city to buy food, this interesting conversation took place:

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (John 4:27-38, ESV).

Today I photographed this field of wheat in the Galilee, near the Horns of Hattin. Jesus used the image of fields that were ready for harvest to illustrate lost souls that will be receptive to the call of the Gospel, with its hope and promises!

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“Ye Kine of Bashan” (Amos 4:1)

April 29, 2017

The fearless prophet Amos was sent by Yahweh to the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of the Divided Kingdom. He cried out against the idolatry there. In this prosperous (albeit short-lived) time when Jeroboam II reigned (8th century BC), Amos also rebuked the luxury-loving women in Israel who cared nothing about God and His will: “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.” (Amos 4:1, KJV).

Cattle in Bashan, Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The word kine as used in the KJV is old English; it is archaic plural for “cow.” The ESV renders the text, “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!'”

The women were not left in doubt as to the meaning of the imagery–they were behaving with no more concern for spiritual matters than a bunch of fat cows!

The background for Amos’ reference to cows of Bashan takes us back to Numbers 21, when Israel conquered the land of Og of Bashan, north and east of the Jordan (as well as the land of Sihon, to the south of Bashan). Then Numbers 32 tells how two and one half tribes (Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 tribe of Manasseh) asked that they might settle on the eastern side of the Jordan. That request was granted (conditioned upon the men of war helping with the conquest of Canaan). The reason given for the request: these lands “were ideal for cattle” (v.1, NET).

Land of Bashan, good for cattle. BibleAtlas.org.

The women Amos addressed did not live in Bashan, east of the Jordan. The text refers to their being in Samaria, which was the capital of Israel. But they were acting like cattle in that place which was so noted for its cattle.

Today I was in what was the OT land of Bashan when I photographed these cattle. I was put in mind of our text in Amos.

I do not know how the women in Israel responded to the preaching of Amos. We do know that the nation as a whole did not listen, and God would soon allow the Assyrians to destroy the northern kingdom. One can hope that at least some individuals may have responded appropriately and repented. Though they may have felt insulted, in reality Amos was their friend, their best friend.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).


The Jordan River

April 28, 2017

Today after leaving Jerusalem I made a stop at the Jordan before heading up the Rift Valley for the Galilee. This location is thought by many to be the area in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John.

Jordan River. Traditional location of Jesus’ baptism. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We had a safe late afternoon arrival at Tiberias, situated on the Sea of Galilee. While having dinner, Zachary Shavin, who is presently directing a tour, came by to visit a while and “talk shop.” Zack served as our guide for my Israel tour in November. His website is www.landofisraeltours.com

Leon Mauldin and Zachary Shavin.

To view my previous posts about the Jordan River, go up to search box and enter “Jordan.”

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Jesus Walked through Bethphage

April 27, 2017

In the Final Week of Jesus’ ministry, Bethany and Bethphage (cities located on the slope of the Mount of Olives) are mentioned. It was from here that Jesus arranged for the donkey on which He would ride triumphantly into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1ff.). That final week would find Jesus walking back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem.

Fig close up at Bethphage. Photo © Leon Mauldin.

An interesting event happened in this area at this time:

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matt. 21:17-19).

Unlike our photo above, that fig tree in our text received a curse because though it had a pretense of leaves, it was barren; there was no fruit. This was a great object lesson for Jesus’ disciples.

Here is a view of the terrain at Bethphage, with Bethany behind, and the Mount of Olives continuing to rise ahead.

Bethphage. Jesus passed through this area during His Final Week of ministry. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

I was glad to have the opportunity to visit Bethphage yesterday. There are also several ancient tombs located there.

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King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem (Traditional)

April 26, 2017

David was described as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1) and authored about half of the collection of the 150 psalms.

Sculpture of David near site of traditional tomb in Jerusalem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Approximately 2,000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter said, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (v.29, ESV).

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the traditional tomb of David in Jerusalem.

Sign designating David’s Tomb. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This location is said to be a pilgrimage for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Inside is a massive cenotaph where visitors pay respect.

Inside David’s Tomb in Jerusalem. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The adjoining room is dedicated to reading/study.

Adjoining reading room. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Another text referencing David’s death is Acts 13:36: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (ESV).

We mentioned this is the “traditional site” of David’s tomb:

In the 10th century a belief that David’s tomb was on the present Mount Zion began to develop among Christian pilgrims, who celebrated David’s memory along with that of St James, the first bishop of Jerusalem.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present Tomb of David with its large stone cenotaph. However, three of the walls of the room where the cenotaph stands are much older — apparently from a synagogue-church used by first-century Judaeo-Christians, which became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims. (http://www.seetheholyland.net/tomb-of-king-david/)

The real point of the two passages cited in Acts above is that David, having served God’s purpose, died, was buried, and his body experienced decay. He was not the subject of those prophecies he uttered that spoke of a coming resurrection–he was speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, which is at the very heart of the Gospel message. Apart from the resurrection of Jesus there IS no Gospel!

In the first century in Jerusalem Peter said the actual tomb of David could be seen. David had died, his flesh went through the normal decaying process. I like the old English translation of Acts 2:24 in the KJV, “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Where David’s earthly remains are today at this point is not of primary importance to one’s faith or salvation. But the point was that it was certain that he could not be the object of those Messianic passages that foretold the resurrection–only Jesus could and did fulfill those resurrection prophecies!

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