Category Archives: Daily Life

King David at the City Gate

It is well–known that in Old Testament times that the “elders” of a city often would congregate at the gate of their city for a variety of functions.  But it must not be forgotten that kings often made themselves available to their subjects and performed some of their duties there (see below).

One of the many interesting discoveries made by Avraham Biran was a podium and column base that was located at the gate of the northern city of Dan.

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View looking west at the (reconstructed) podium that Avraham Biran discovered at the city gate of Dan. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It is very possible that the king, or some other official, sat on this podium hearing legal cases (2 Sam 19:8). The decorated stone bases at the corners of the podium supported columns as the reconstruction illustrates.

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View looking west at the podium (prior to reconstruction [compare photo above!]) that Avraham Biran discovered at the city gate of Dan.

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This image has been posted courtesy of Balage Balogh. It may NOT be used on any other web sites, DVDs, or for any commercial purposes without the expressed written consent of Balage Balogh. His images can be viewed at http://www.archaeologyillustrated.com.

A realistic drawing of the Iron Age Gate area at Dan.   The view is from outside of the gate on to a plaza that is located between the outer and the inner portions of the gate.  On the far side of the plaza note the podium where the king could sit (red and white).  To the left of the podium is the archway of the inner gate.

The story of David fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom provides some insight into the king and the city gate.   As David’s troops were leaving the Transjordan city of Mahanaim:

2 Sam. 18:4     The  king [David] stood beside the gate while all the men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands.

It was in the city gate that David awaited word from the battlefield:

2 Sam. 18:24     While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone.  25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.

Notice also that the “watchman went up to the roof of the gateway”

six-chamber-gate-model

From a previous post, the 6–chamber gate at Megiddo.  Notice the towers and rooms above the inner city gate.

And after David heard the report of the death of his rebellious son Absalom

2 Sam. 18:33     The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Later during the Israelite and Judean monarchies Ahab and Jehoshaphat sat at the gate of Samaria (Ahab’s capital) where they were deciding whether or not to go up to battle the Arameans at Ramoth Gilead.

1 Kings 22:10     Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel [Ahab] and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them.

It was also while sitting at the Benjamin Gate in Jerusalem that Zedekiah, the last Judean king, received word that Jeremiah had been imprisoned in a cistern!

Jer. 38:7     But Ebed-melech, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate,  8 Ebed-melech went out of the palace and said to him,  9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”

Astounding Neolithic Site — Göbekli Tepe

For those interested, I have posted 17 images of Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”)—a Neolithic site located about 9 mi. north of Sanliurfa in south–central Turkey before the “protective covering” was constructed over the site.  This 22 acre site was functional from roughly 9,600 BC to 8,200 BC was 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.

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 ;-)!

Away in a Manger (feeding trough!)

Megiddo Manger

Feeding trough found at Megiddo on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley

The gospel of Luke contains specific details regarding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea.  One of the things mentioned in this narrative is that he was placed in a “manger” (Luke 2:7, 12, and 16).

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, … and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were shepherds … find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger … found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

The Greek word φαντη that is used here typically refers to a stone type trough that was used for feeding of animals—sometimes in the stalls within a dwelling.

This word is used once more in the Gospels (Luke 13:15) where it refers to a “stall” (NIV), actually a feeding trough, for a donkey—and it is clear from the context that this was within a house (Luke 13:10–17).

Megiddo Trough at Rockefeller Musem

Reconstructed Feeding Trough and Pillars from OT Megiddo

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall (φαντη; “manger“) and lead it out to give it water?

It appears that after the birth of Jesus, that he was actually placed in a feeding trough somewhat similar to the ones presented here if not ones that were carved into the stone floor of the “stable”—a far cry from the rickety wooden “mangers” of Christmas pageants.

For details on this topic see Kenneth E. Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes — Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008, pp. 28–32 as well at the various Greek lexicons.

As Christmas approaches, I thought I would repost a few “blogs” that are related to the celebration.

The Galilee Boat

One of the very interesting archaeological discoveries related to the days of Jesus is the 27 foot boat that was discovered on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee in 1986.  The “carcass” of this unique boat is now on display in the Alon Museum on the grounds of the Kibbutz Ginnosar.  This is the only 1st century boat that has been found on the Sea of Galilee.  Possible Jesus and/or his disciples used a craft such as this one (for example Matt 13:18, 23–27; Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25).

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The Galilee Boat on display at the Yigal Alon Museum on the grounds of Kibbutz Ginnosar. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A full scale version of this boat use to be visible at Kibbutz Ein Gev.  Unfortunately it is now wasting away on a trash heap.

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Full scale reconstruction of the Galilee Boat many years ago on the grounds of Kibbutz Ein Gev. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Dome of the Prophet

The Haram esh-Sharif (aka “Temple Mount”) is much in the news these days.  Last summer when visiting the site I saw, for the first time, a person actually praying in the “Dome of the Prophet” (Qubbat al–Nabi).

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View looking northeast at the “Dome of the Prophet” (= Qubbat al–Nabi). Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Dome of the Prophet” is located about 20 yards northwest of the Dome of the Rock.  This is a single person prayer area built in 1539 “to mark the site where Muhammad led the prophets in prayer before his ascension into Heaven.”

The large umbrellas in the background shaded worshipers during Friday Prayers during the month of Ramadan.

The capitals on these eight columns look very much like a capital that was on the debris pile east of the Dome of the Rock platform.

Photo: June 17, 2015.

Quote from Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer. Jerusalem — the Temple Mount — a Carta Guide Book. Jerusalem: Carta, 2015, p. 130.

Grass Growing On Roofs

Throughout biblical times the house roofs of the common folk were often made of layers of plaster and mud that were laid down over reed mats that in turn were placed over branches and logs.

Logs, Branches, Matting Exposed on a “Modern House”

Because of the mud roof, grass would grow there during the winter months.

Mud Roof With Grass Growing On It

These roofs were often rolled to help make them moisture resistant.

This grass, because of a meager root system, was the first to wither and dry up.  Note what is said of the wicked in Psalm 129:6:

May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow.

Stigers, H. G. “Roof.” Page 204 in volume 5 of The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by Moisés Silva. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.