Haran of the Patriarchs

HaranMap23On a recent trip to Turkey we had a chance to revisit and rephotograph the seldom-visited biblical site of Haran.

Haran (also Harran) is located 28 mi. [45 km.] south-southeast of Sanliurfa in an open plain area. The name means “cross roads.” It was located on the route that led from Nineveh in the east to the ford on the Euphrates River at Carchemish 55 mi. [90 km.] to the west.


Conical roofed “beehive” houses at the “modern” site of Haran
They are said to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter

Haran is mentioned 11 times in the Old Testament. Abram settled here for a period of time on his way from Ur to the Land of Canaan (Genesis 11 and 12). Isaac’s wife Rebecca was from the area. Jacob lived here with Laban for 20 years after fleeing from his brother Esau (Genesis 29). Here he married Leah and Rachel, and all of his children, except Benjamin, were born here!


The plain/countryside south of the site of Haran
It was in this area that Abram and his entourage settled for over a year

The city is mentioned in cuneiform texts as far back as 2000 B.C. It was a center of the worship of the moon god Sin – who was also worshiped at Ur. It appears frequently in cuneiform documents and was the last capital of the Assyrian Empire until being captured in 609 B.C. by the Babylonians. In 53 B.C. Crassus, a prominent Roman, was killed here and his troops annihilated. In A.D. 217 the Roman emperor Caracalla was murder here.


View looking west-northwest at the eastern exterior wall
and 108 ft. high minaret of the “Grand Mosque” at Haran
This is the oldest mosque in Turkey — it was constructed between AD 744–750

To view a total of 15 high-resolution images of Haran Click Here.

Amazing “Open House” in Jerusalem

On Sept 18 and 19 there were 119 difficult-to-get-into places in Jerusalem that opened their doors to the public.

Just reading the descriptions of these places is very fascinating!

Under the Western Wall (Hasmonean)
The Kishle (just inside Jaffa Gate — Palace of Herod)
Beneath the Jaffa Gate
The Jerusalem Train Tunnel
and over 100+

The listing of openings can be found here:  Jerusalem Open House

Ancient Timber on Temple Mount?

In recent years there have been several articles and news items that argue that some of the timbers that were discarded after the remodeling of the el-Aqsa Mosque on the Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem are quite ancient—possibly even from the Temple that Herod built (the Second Temple) around 15 B.C.


Wooden debris—including timbers—stored just west of the Golden Gate on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
Photo June 2009 — Click on image to enlarge and/or download

I thought I would share one of my pictures of such debris from a pile that was located just west of the interior of Golden Gate (to view exterior Click Here).  Note especially the notched  beams on the far side of the pile.

On of the more recent articles is that of Peretz Reuven, “Wooden Beams from Herod’s Temple Mount: Do They Still Exist?”Biblical Archaeological Review 39, no. 3 (May/June 2013): 40–47.

Monday on the Mount — Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 12

Although Jerusalem is not actually mentioned in the first five books of the Bible, there are certainly strong hints of “things to come.”  For example, after crossing the Reed Sea, Moses and all Israel celebrated the Lord’s work by singing a song that included the following:

Exodus 15:11  “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you—majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?  . . .
13 “In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling . . .
17  You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance
the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.  18  The LORD will reign
for ever and ever.”

From this passage it is clear that the Lord is leading His people to the Land of Canaan, to the mountain of His inheritance, His dwelling, His sanctuary!  Ultimately this will be the Temple on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem—but some 400 years later!  Note that the destination is the “Land of Canaan”—that had been promised to the descendants of the Patriarchs.

After 40 years in the wilderness, just before entering the Land of Canaan, in/near the Plains of Moab, Moses preached his last sermons.  This seems to be in anticipation of crossing the Jordan River into Canaan, the occupation of Jerusalem, and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  In conjunction with describing that the Israelites should not worship at just “any” sanctuary but only the place where the Lord chooses to place His Name, the instructions include:

Deuteronomy 12:2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods.  . . .   5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go;  6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices . . .  7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.
. . .   9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you.  10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.  11 Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD.  12 And there rejoice before the LORD your God . . .  13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please.  14 Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you. . .
17 You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts.
18 Instead, you are to eat them [offerings] in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will choose . . . and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to.  19 Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
20  When the LORD your God has enlarged your territory as he promised you . . .  21 If the place where the LORD your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want.

Next Monday: Crossing the Jordan, entering Canaan, settling in the land.


An example of a Canaanite Worship Center found by Yadin at Hazor — Note the basalt standing stones, the seated man, the crouched lion, and the slab to receive offerings — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Nebi Samwil — Can I see the Dome of the Rock from Here?

Nebi Samwil is the highest and most prominent landmark located 5 mi. [8 km.] northwest of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Although not on the route of typical tours, serious tours may indeed stop there, for the view from there is terrific in all directions.  In the past we have been able to ascend to the roof of the mosque to view the country side, but even without this, the views from the foot of the mosque are still very good.

NebiSamwil01Where else can you get a view of the Central Benjamin Plateau (which is one of the busiest areas in the Historical Books of the Old Testament)?   Besides viewing Gibeon and Ramallah to the north, Gibeah to the east, the modern city of Jerusalem is spread out in all its glory to the south.  To the southeast the three towers on the Mount of Olives are clearly visible in the distance.  But students invariably ask, can we see the Temple Mount from here?

We have peered through binoculars in all kinds of weather trying to find the Gold Dome of the “Dome of the Rock” that now stands where the First and Second Temples stood.  On very very rare occasions someone has said, oh, there it is!  But it has never been that clear!#$@!


Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Well, sorting though some of my photos taken from Nebi Samwil I thought I would see if the Golden Dome of the Rock appeared in any of them.  Voilà!  It does!  Note that Nebi Samwil is at 2906 ft. above sea level while the Dome of the Rock is at 2437 ft.  And that the City of David (= the Old Ancient Core) is to the south of the Dome and decreases in elevation as one goes south.


Here is a full image of the above photo — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

More on the Biblical significance of Nebi Samwil in a future post (next Wednesday?).

Domus Galilaeae — Near Korazin

Visitors to Israel will often stop at the Second Temple/Talmudic site of Korazin (Chorazin: Matt 11:21; Luke 10:13) where an impressive basalt synagogue has been partially reconstructed.  To the west of Korazin, on the south side of route 8277 is beautiful is a Roman Catholic retreat center known as Domus Galilaeae.  It opened in 2000 and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.  It is generally not open to visitors so I thought I would share a few of my images of the place.


View from the patio of Domus Galilaeae of Jesus teaching his disciples
In the background is the Sea of Galilee — 3 mi. distant

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Monday on the Mount of Olives — What is the Point of the Book of Exodus?

What is the point of the Book of Exodus?  What is the most important event contained in the book?

Early in the book, when Moses complained to God that He was not acting on behalf of Israel, God graciously responded:

Ex. 6:1    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them  [the Israelites]  go . . . .

Ex. 6:2     God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD.  3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.  4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens . . . and I have remembered my covenant.

Ex. 6:6     “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out . . . I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God . . .  8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”

Certainly the above passage clearly links the events of the Exodus with the Promise that God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But quick, what is the most important event found in the book of Exodus?  The Burning Bush incident?  The 10 Plagues?  The first Passover?  The Crossing of the Reed Sea?  The giving of the Law at Mount Sinai?  I believe that the answer is found after you plow through 13 (boring?) chapters describing the details of how the Tabernacle was supposed to be constructed.


A modern reconstruction of the Tabernacle, Courtyard, and Sacrificial Altar — This life-size replica was built under the supervision of Dr. Randall Smith — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

I believe, in spite of all the highlights, that the book of Exodus climaxes with the construction of the Tabernacle (chapter 40) and God coming to reside with His people.

Ex. 40:34     . . . the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory (כָּבוֹד kâvôd)of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory (כָּבוֹד kâvôd) of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

What in fact is the glory (כָּבוֹד kâvôd) of the LORD”?  The basic meaning of the Hebrew word for glory has to do with “heaviness, and weight“—not luminosity as many think (see C.S. Lewis below).  In other words, the heavy, weighty, all encompassing, presence of the True and Living God came to “dwell” in the Tabernacle!  God was now dwelling with His people!

And what do we find in Leviticus?  We find specific instructions as to where the priests, the Levites, and all the Israelites were to camp around the Tabernacle (Leviticus 2–3).  Putting this together, God was now dwelling with His people who were arranged around His “Tabernacle/Dwelling” to live their lives in His Presence!  Now what were they supposed to do?  They were to live their lives in the Presence (kâvôd) of God, worshiping and obeying Him.  This is exactly what God had intended for humanity in Eden!!  All the potential for returning to God’s original “Edenic” intention is here!

Take Away:  God’s Presence is enthroned above the ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle.  God’s People are gathered around it.  God is Providing for his people (think manna and water).  God is Protecting His people (think Reed Sea and going before them in the cloud and pillar of fire).  God is Ruling His people (think commandments).  And God has provide a way for Restoration/Atonement when His people sin (think altar for sacrifices).  Question: In what way are these items related to Jerusalem during the days of the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple)?

Next Monday — more from the Pentateuch/Torah as we consider the biblical theology of Jerusalem.

As an aside, please note that God did NOT “liberate” random slaves to merely become “liberated”!  The Israelites were not liberated to become capitalists.  Not liberated to become socialists.  Not liberated to become Marxists.  But “liberated” to become the People of the True and Living God, people who worship only Him (Deut 6:4) and who live their lives in His Presence in worshipful obedience!

C. S. Lewis‘ 1942 sermon “The Weight of Glory” is correctly titled but in the sermon he says/writes “Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity.”  See conveniently his book The Weight of Glory.  BUT “Means to me” is not a criterion to seek the meaning of a word—Hebrew lexical studies (in context) win out!  Although not the exclusive meaning of kâvôd, you will be pleasantly surprised when you substitute “the heavy, weighty Presence of God” for kâvôd “glory” in many places.

For the pivotal importance of Exodus 5:22–6:8 see Martens, Elmer A. God’s Design — a Focus on Old Testament Theology. Baker: Grand Rapids, 1981.