Category Archives: Culture

The Holiest Druze Site in Israel

On the road that leads to the top of the Arbel Cliffs, on the west side of Lake Galilee, there is a turn off that leads to the most sacred Druze site in Israel.  I have known about it for many years but only a month ago was I able to visit it for the first time.

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View from the Nabi Shu’ayb complex looking northeast. The Arbel Cliffs and the Sea of Galilee are visible in the distance.

This site is located on the lower northeastern slope of the Horns of Hattin and commemorates Nabi Shu’ayb (=”the prophet Shu’ayb” = Jethro).   The identification of Shu’ayb with Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses is a Muslim and Druze tradition.

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View of the entrance ways into the main room that houses the “tomb” of Nabi Shu’ayb.

In the picture above, note the man on the left who is putting on a gray cape that covers him from head to calf.  Of course, one removes their shoes before entering the room.  As a non-Druze I was not permitted to enter the tomb area via the main doorway, but had to enter and exit via a side door—I was escorted by a Druze elder.  I was not permitted to take pictures within the room.

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View of a courtyard with a fountain that is located west of main room that houses the “tomb” of Nabi Shu’ayb. No one used the fountain while I was visiting the site.

Since 1948 this shrine has been under Druze control (= holy property [wakf]).  It was rebuilt in the late 20th century and is a place of pilgrimage for Israeli Druze.  On April 25th, the Druze community has an annual meeting (celebration) here.  Usually new Druze soldiers in the Israeli army swear loyalty to the state at this site.

This is one of 4 or 5 places where Shu’ayb is said to be buried.  The main tomb of Shu’ayb is in Jordan and there are several candidates in Sinai.

To view 9 images of this sacred site Click Here.

For a quick overview of the Druze Religion Click Here.

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Marriage and Bottles on the Chimneys?

After visiting Hierapolis in Turkey (Colossians 4:13) we typically travel east down the Meander Valley to Didyma, Miletus and Priene.  Sometimes we have taken a back road that leads through the small village of Sigla.  Here they have the custom of placing bottles on the top of their chimneys to announce that there is a daughter in the family who is available for marriage!

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Bottles on the chimneys announcing the availability of marriageable daughter in the small village of Sigla!

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Another house in the village of Sigla — note the bottles on the two chimneys!

Artemis of Ephesus

In the July/August 2016 edition of The Biblical Archaeology Review there is a survey article entitled “Archaeology Gives New Reality to Paul’s Ephesus Riot” by James R. Edwards.  The article deals with the riot that is described in Acts 19:23–41.

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The BAR article is very informative, but it is to be noted that the recent book by Gary Hoag Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy: Fresh Insights from Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus is not mentioned.  Hoag’s book is considered as a “game changer” that goes into the details of how Artemis was worshiped at Ephesus AND it deals with some very problematic passages in 1 Timothy (2::9–15; 3:1–3; 6:1–2a; 6:2b–10; 6:17–19)!

The book is expensive and will be of interest to scholars—but it is also accessible to an informed layperson.  For a great overview of the content of the book and some of its conclusions see the review by Lucy Peppiatt that was posted by Scot McKnight.

I was particularly interested in how actual data related to the site of Ephesus helps in interpreting the following:

1Tim. 2:9     I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,  10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

1Tim. 2:11     A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (NIV)

I totally agree that the book is a “game changer” and for starters, commend Peppiatt’s review as a starting place.

Pigeons Pooping in/on the Second Temple?

Recently there has been some interesting discussion on how much of the temple was covered by gold plating—see for example Leen Ritmeyer Here (plus reference to The Biblical Archaeological Review)

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The “Golden Vine” as presented in Avi–Yonah’s model of the temple (= a “minimalist” view as to the amount of gold used). Note on the top of the temple the “golden spikes” to prevent birds from alighting and “pooping” in the Temple precincts. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Ritmeyer discusses the various views regarding the ‘gold plating’ of the temple and the magnitude of the vine, he is more of a “maximalist” than Avi–Yonah.  He also cites the following from Josephus:

From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon them and polluting the roof. (War 5.207–226 and also Ant. 15.391-395)

Please see image above.

In March of 2014, when visiting Capernaum, I noticed that the Franciscans had tried the same technique to ward off the pigeons.

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Note the two pigeons contentedly nesting among the spikes(!) above the light on the left! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It looked to me like the Franciscans were trying the old “Second Temple technique” to deter the two nesting pigeons—unsuccessfully!  Hmmmm . . . .

Not very Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist ;-)!

Wild Boar (pigs!) at Caesarea Philippi (Banias, Israel) — with 3 photos

On a recent trip to Israel our student group was preparing our lunch at the picnic grounds on the site of Banias (NT Caesarea Philippi—think Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ/Messiah—Matthew 16:16 and gospel parallels).  Looking up from our lunch, much to my surprise I saw a herd of about 15 wild boar near another picnic table close to us (adults plus young ones)!!  During my 15 years in Israel I had never seen a wild boar in the wild and here we were IN a Jewish national park and there they were!

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Two Adult Wild Boar near a Picnic Table at Caesarea Philippi Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

When we tried to approach them (bad move) they made aggressive moves towards us—in fact some of the students had to run away!  Their aggressiveness was evidently known to the Psalmist who wrote that God’s people were like a fertile vineyard that had been ravaged by animals, including boars—depicting how foreign nations had ravaged Israel.

Boars from the forest ravage it [the fertile vineyard]
and the creatures of the field feed on it.
(Psalm 80:13 NIV)

In the New Testament there is a reference to not throwing “your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces“!!

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Two Adult Wild Boar and 5 Piglets Foraging in the Picnic Grounds at Banias (= NT Caesarea Philippi) Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Pigs (domesticated boars) and boars are mentioned 22 times in the Bible.  They were unclean, and not to be eaten by the ancient Israelites (Lev 22:7; Deut 14:8).  In the New Testament there is the famous story about Jesus casting demons into “a herd of swine” that rushed down a steep bank into the sea [of Galilee] (Matt 8:28-34; Mark 8:28–34; Luke 8:26–37) and also of the “Prodigal Son” who resorted to eating the pods that the [domesticated] pigs were eating—in a distant country (Luke 15:11–32).

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Two Adult Wild Boar Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”
(Proverbs 11:22 NIV)

I am told by expert guide Ofer Drori that there are plenty of the creatures in the Golan, Galilee, and Mount Carmel.  Possibly they multiply rapidly because both Jews and Muslims are forbidden to eat them.

Photos courtesy of:  Lorna Davis, Brady Bobbink and Joe Kirkland.

Blue/Purple Fringes — Techelet Dye Discovered

In recent days there have been a plethora of reports on a one day conference recently held in Jerusalem entitled “100 Years to Tekhelet Research”—honoring the anniversary of Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog’s doctoral dissertation, The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel have appeared.

One very useful article, “Hidden secrets of Techelet holy blue dye discovered in Israel,” by Miriam Kresh, was published by the “Green Prophet” on December 31.  It includes pictures of the “tassels” (tsitsit), the murex shell, a Roman coin depicting a murex shell, a page from the 1913 dissertation of Rabbi Isaac Herzog, conference participants, and the laboratory production of the dye.  The Israel Antiquities Authority also has an announcement on the topic.

The purple dye was extracted (at great cost) from the murex shells that are found along the coast of Israel and Lebanon.

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A murex shell found on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem — indicating that a dying industry was located in the vicinity
From an article in the “Green Prophet:

This purple dye (tekhelet, variously spelled), is mentioned at least 49 times in the Hebrew Bible.  It was used for a variety of purposes—especially for priestly garments.   However, each male Israelite was to include strands of this blue/purple woven into the “tassels” of their garment—indicating their special status in relationship to the divine.

Num. 15:37   The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying,  38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.  39 “And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot,  40 in order that you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God.  41 “I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.” (NASB)

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Photo of the modern production of Techelet from an article on the “Green Prophet”