Category Archives: Daily Life

Jerusalem — The Neighborhood of Silwan — The Royal Steward’s Tomb

One of the least visited places in Jerusalem is the portion of the village of Silwan that is located on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives—opposite the “City of David.”

The village itself is built over 50 tombs from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. This necropolis – “city of the dead”  – was investigated by David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay between 1968 and 1971. Travel to this area is very difficult (= impossible) for the inhabitants of Silwan are normally very hostile to outsiders.

The two most famous tombs from this necropolis are “the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” and the “Tomb of the Royal Steward.”

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
Note the door on the left — this important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken

Unfortunately the second most important tomb from the First Temple Period is located in this village.  This tomb was discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1870. It had two Hebrew inscriptions – one above the door and the other to the right of it. Both were carved out and sent to the British Museum where they are still housed.  The largest inscription was over the door (note the large “gash” there).

IJOTIT07 Nahman Avigad translated the larger inscription as “This is [the sepulcher of . . . ] yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and no gold here but [his bones] and the bones of his amah with him. Cursed be the man who will open this!”

In the text the phrase “who is over the house” refers to a very important personage in the Judean government (about second to the king). His name, according to the inscription, was “. . . yahu.” Unfortunately the first part of his name is missing but many believe that the person who was buried here was none other than Shebna [yahu], the Royal Steward, whom Isaiah condemned for ‘hewing a tomb for himself on high’ – SEE Isaiah 22:15-17!

The amah (a female) mentioned in the inscription may also have been a very high functionary in the Judean government.

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The main inscription was above the “modern” door
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
This important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken 

For a popular description of this necropolis see: Shanks, Hershel. “The Tombs of Silwan.” Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 20, no. 3 (May/June, 1994):38-51

You also may be interested in viewing the First Temple Tombs found on the grounds of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem – Click Here.

Dust Storms in Israel (Hamsin, Sirocco, Sharav)

For recent followers – an “oldie but goodie!” — since Israel has been experiencing sharav conditions recently.

In the lands the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea the period from early–May to mid–June is a transitional season from the wet winter months to the dry summer ones. At times the wind blows in from the desert (from the east), and not from the Mediterranean Sea (from the west—which is normal). At those times the humidity drops drastically and a fine dust that permeates everything fills the air. These dry dusty events are called a hamsin, a sirocco, or a sharav.

Jerusalem — Hamsin/Dust Storm — 10:30 AM 11 May 2007

Under these conditions the green grass rapidly turns brown and the wild flowers die.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:7–8 (NIV)

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Jason’s Tomb (2nd Temple Period)

Jason’s tomb is a beautiful funeral monument from the late Hellenistic – early Roman period. It was the tomb of a high priestly family that was forced out of Jerusalem in 172 B.C. (2 Maccabees 5:5-10) by their rival, Menelaus. It was constructed in the second century B.C. and was in use until A.D. 30 (about the time of the crucifixion of Jesus).  This tomb was discovered in 1956 and is located in west Jerusalem—in Rehavia. It consists of several courtyards and a “pyramid-shaped” roof.

Entrance to Jason’s Tomb

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Jewish Presence at Hierapolis (Menorahs)

The important city of Hierapolis is mentioned only once in the New Testament.

Epaphras, who is one of you . . . is working had for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
(Colossians 4:12-13; NIV)

Epaphras evidently founded the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis that are located in the Lycus Valley—possibly during the long stay of Paul at Ephesus.  For a variety of reasons we would expect some type of Jewish presence in these cities.

Although actual synagogues have not been found (Colossae had not been excavated) a variety of menoroth (menorahs; seven branch candlesticks) have been found engraved on tombs, a sarcophagus, and a column indicating a Jewish presence in the area.

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Tomb 163d Dating to the First Century A.D.
Note the menorah (seven branch candelabra) located
to the left and above the green plant
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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The family tomb on which the menorah is engraved
The remains of 31 individuals were found in the tomb
Click on the Image to Enlarge/Download

To view Tomb 148b with its very faint menorah and lulav Click Here.

Carl Rasmussen Copyright and Contact

Marble lid of a Jewish sarcophagus with a menorah
and a faint Greek inscription
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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Turkish Hospitality — Near Zincirli

ZincirliLast spring (2013) Mary and I were traveling in a rented car trying to find Zincirli.  As we were heading south on a back road in a broad valley I spotted what I thought was wool from recently sheared sheep “airing” on the roof of a house in a small Turkish village.  I thought that this might make an interesting “cultural” shot, so I doubled back, parked the car and got out with my camera to take a few pictures.

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Drying/Airing What? — On the Roof Top
Note the Two Women and the Man — who where shouting at us
Click on Image to Enlarge

Before I could shoot more than three or four photos the women on the roof of the house began shouting at me and I thought—oops, I am now in trouble (poor cultural sensitivity?!—usually I am able to stay in the background)!  To top it off, a man came bursting out of the door running at me!

Well, my Turkish is very close to non-existent, and his English was not-existent.  But through some frantic gestures, he indicated they wanted us to come in.  I was not sure why—and a bit fearful.  Well, he kept insisting so Mary and I followed him through the doorway into the lower level of the structure—basically a small stable.  After we ascended the stair case we burst out on to the open air roof where three women, and several children greeted us with big smiles!

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Part of a Turkish Family in a Village Near Zincirli
Turkish Hospitality at Its Best
Click on Image to Enlarge

We found out that what they had hanging on the roof was the interior (stuffing) of their bedding.  After the long winter they were airing it out and fluffing it up!

I they wanted to serve us a full meal, which we declined, but of course they insisted we stay for çay (tea)!  We had a great time smiling and gesturing.  We showed them pictures of our children and they showed us pictures of theirs (on their mobile phone)!

What can I say, but these folk were just so friendly and so nice—to two strange strangers!  And they sent us off with proper directions to Zincirli (that was not marked to well on the map that we had!#$%@!

To view photos of Zincirli and very important artifacts from there, Click Here (without obligation or cost)—including the very important Kulamuwa Inscription written in North Phoenician.

Football/Soccer on the Temple Mount (Haram esh–Sharif)?

The folk over at HaAretez newspaper have published an article on how more Jews are more frequently visiting the most sacred site for Jews—the Temple Mount—the place where the First and Second Temples stood.

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Muslim School Children Playing Football/Soccer on the Haram esh–Sharif
Using the Mihrab (that directs worshipers towards Mecca during prayer) as a Goal
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

It mentions that in recent weeks the police “…the police prevented Palestinian children from playing soccer on the mount….”

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Muslim man praying facing towards Mecca on the Haram esh–Sharif
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Haram esh–Sharif is the third most sacred site for Muslims—after Mecca and Medina—and here, it is said, that Mohamed made his night journey to the “distant place.”

For more images of “Daily Life” on the Haram esh-Sharif (aka, Temple Mount) Click Here.

Jesus In the Land

Many of you who have stumbled on to this blog will have visited Israel and will have visited sites associated with the ministry of Jesus.

A great read and bargain at $15.94

I have read many books relating the ministry of Jesus to the Land, but THE one that stands out in my mind is Peter Walker’s In the Steps of Jesus.  This book combines Walker’s keen insights and commentary with maps, pictures and diagrams of places associated with Jesus.  He includes much information that is not readily available elsewhere and provides helpful “call outs” on a variety of topics.  Walker writes in such a way so as to make a place “come alive.”

This 215 page lavishly illustrated book would make a great read in preparation for Advent/Christmas and is available at amazon for the amazingly low price of only $15.94

Click Here to examine.

Cedars of Lebanon

In the Bible, “cedar” is mention 76 times.  This strong, fragrant, long-lasting, prized wood came from the trees that were grown in Lebanon.  Cedar was used for paneling, columns and beams in palace, temples and other elite buildings in the ancient world.  They are slow-growing trees and can reach heights of 120 ft. [35 m.] and circumferences of 36 ft. [10 m.].

Cedar of Lebanon Near Bchareé (Lebanon)

Cedars were used by Solomon in constructing buildings in Jerusalem and indeed, they were used all over the Near East for the construction of large buildings from ancient to relatively recent times.).  For example it is said of Solomon that he “… made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the Shephelah” (1 Kings 10:27).

Grove of Cedar Trees Near Bchareé Lebanon

Today there are only several thousand Cedars of Lebanon in existence.  The cedars pictured here are from a grove in the area of the Lebanese village of Bchareé that is located at an elevation of 6,500 ft. [2,000 m.] in Mount Lebanon.

Twenty thousand hectares [49,000 acres) of the area has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

To view additional images of cedars and a map locating Bchareé Click Here.  Images courtesy of Mark Connally.

What Did the Ancient Israelites Look Like?

About 13 years ago the brilliant Anson Rainey suggested that Shasu pastoralists were depicted on a well-known relief of the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (1209 BC) featured on one of the walls of the temples at Karnak in southern Egypt.

Merneptah Crushing His Shasu Foes (1209 BC)

At least four Shasu are pictured as being trodden under by legs of the horse of Merneptah.  Note their headdresses and pointed beards.

He furthered noted that the Shasu pastoralists were active east of the Jordan River—from whence the Israelites entered Canaan—and that the Israelites may have been a sub set of these Shasu (reference below).  Even if one does not follow Rainey in all of the details it would seem that the relief of Merneptah is about as close as we can get to a “photograph” of Israelites (or their cousins) from the Early Iron Age (1200–1000 BC)!

Rainey, Anson F. “Shasu or Habiru — Who Were the Early Israelites?” Biblical Archaeology Review vol. 34, no. 6 (November/ December 2008): 51–55 and additional references there.

Astounding Neolithic Site — Göbekli Tepe

This past week I posted 17 images of Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”)—a Neolithic site located about 9 mi. north of Sanliurfa in south–central Turkey that I visited this past spring.  This 22 acre site was functional from roughly 9,600 BC to 8,200 BC and is being excavated by Klaus Schmidt.

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View of the major excavated area at Göbekli Tepe
Click on image to Enlarge

It was a religious center constructed by and used by foragers (not farmers!).  The excavated portions consist mainly of rings of well-carved standing limestone pillars—the tallest 18 ft. high.

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Detail of one of the rings of standing stones
Click on image to Enlarge

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Note the variety of animals on the carved stone
Click on image to Enlarge

Images of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and boars are carved on them in low bas-relief.  In posting my images I was amazed to think about how during the Neolithic Period (ca. 9,000 B.C.) these people, using only flints and stone tools(!!), were able to quarry stones that were 18 ft. high and weighed 16 tons!  How did they transported these stones to the site of Göbekli Tepe?  How did they carve and smooth the surfaces of these stones and leave images in bas-relief(!) on them??

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One of the large (almost 18 ft. tall) standing stones —note the carving on its side and base
Click on image to Enlarge

How these pillars were carved, transported, and erected—in 9,600 BC—is very mysterious!

Schmidt believes that it was a worship center for foragers, for he has not found any walls, houses, hearths, or signs of agriculture.

The finds at the site are beginning to revolutionize the understanding of the transition from Natufian culture to the Neolithic age.

The worship center is actually almost 1,600 earlier than Kathleen Kenyon’s famous Neolithic Tower at Jericho.