Category Archives: Places in Israel

Magdala: the Chapel of the Encounter — Hemorrhaging Woman

In a recent visit to Magdala the students of the Jerusalem University College were graciously and expertly hosted by the excavator Arfan Najjar and Jennifer Ristine.

I like to visit Magdala for two reasons. One is to visit the antiquities of the First Century Synagogue and the Second is to reflect on the role of women among the first followers of Jesus.

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The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging woman.  Note how she touches the hem of Jesus’ garment.  (Mark 5:25–34)

The Encounter Chapel is first of all an archeological treasure: the floor is that of the original first century market place of the Magdala port.

A port market place is about as busy a spot in any town you can imagine – probably the main metro train station or airport in our terms – where people without any discrimination rub shoulders.
Since we have also discovered significant infrastructure for fish processing, it is most logical that fishermen of the Sea of Galilee, many known to us by on a first name basis, who wanted to sell their fish for export to Rome (documented by Flavius Josephus) would have gravitated to Magdala’s port, probably not unfamiliar to Jesus’ fishermen disciples. Jesus´ ease at sitting in their boats and mingling with large crowds helps us to see many people encountering him in this marketplace and he can engage the workers and the traders.

The large painting (titled “Encounter”) gives us a snapshot of the encounter of the hemorrhaging woman who tries to touch Jesus for healing (Mark 5: 25-29).

The Encounter Chapel, in the lower lever of Duc In Altum, is dedicated to Jesus’ encounter of all of us, as illustrated by the hemorrhaging woman. Located on the marketplace of the first century port, the Encounter Chapel is modeled after the structure of the Magdala First Century Synagogue with room for up to 120 people.

As you visit the Sea of Galilee and reflect on Jesus’ ministry in the area, I commend to you a visit to Magdala—about 1 to 1.5 hours so see it all.

70 FREE Aerial Views of Israel & Maps

Bill Schlegel, the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has made available to those who own his Atlas two wonderful teaching tools.

The first is a complete digital set of the maps that he produced for use in his Atlas.  One of the questions that I frequently receive is “where can I get maps that I can use in my PowerPoint presentations?”  Well, these certainly are useful for that purpose.

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View of Caesarea Maritima looking east. In the foreground, protruding out into the Mediterranean Sea is the Herodian Palace. Behind it to the right is the theater and behind it to the left is the Stadium/Hippodrome/Circus. Courtesy of Bill Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas.

Recently he has also made available 70 Aerial Photographs of sites of biblical significance.  They are also free to download (for owners of his Atlas).  They are of good resolution and will be useful for personal use and (again) in PowerPoint presentations.  Each image is 300-400 KB in size.  He took them in very clear weather using a drone.

Along with the 70  aerial photos is a pdf document with an entry for each of the images.  Each entry, after naming the image, provides a short synopsis of the biblical importance of the site.  Most of the images are of sites that most travelers to Israel will have visited, but there are also a few of  not–so–frequently visited places, such as: et–Tell, Maqatir, Dothan, Timnah,  Wadi Farah, and Tel Serah (Ziklag).

He has also produced numerous teaching/learning videos that I have previously noted.

William Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas can be purchased here.

The Best Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel — Khirbet Midras

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View Looking East at the Entrance to the First Century A.D. Tomb

View looking east at the entrance to the tomb. The rolling stone was 6 ft. [1.8 m.] in diameter and 1.3 ft [0.4 m.] thick. It was placed between two walls, each built of hewn stone. When discovered, it still rolled in its trough!

The tomb itself was in use during the Roman Period — up until A.D. 135.

In my estimation, it was the best example of a rolling stone tomb in the country of Israel. It seems to illustrate well passages from the Gospels which speak of Jesus’ tomb as being closed by a rolling stone. See especially Matthew 27:57-66; 28:1-2; Mark 15:42–47; 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–2, 10–11; and John 20:1, 11–18.

MidrasMap3Horvat Midras (Hebrew) or Khirbet Durusiya (Arabic) is located 19 mi. [30 km.] southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah. The ancient remains are spread over hundreds of dunams in the area. The site dates to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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View of the Courtyard of the “Rolling Stone Tomb” at Khirbet Midras—prior to its destruction

In 1976 part of the cemetery was excavated. Several tombs were uncovered, including, in my estimation, THE BEST ROLLING STONE TOMB in the country. Unfortunately in the late 1990’s the tomb site was totally destroyed by vandals!#%$@!!

BUT it has been reconstructed and is now visible in the Adullam Park!

To view 3 additional image of the tomb Click Here.

For images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher see: Calvary and Tomb.

Click to see images of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb.

Worship (illicit) at the City Gate

One of the not–to–frequently mentioned actions that the ancients practiced at city gates was  worship ([always?] illicit).

2 Kings 23:8     Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate. (NIV)

One of the best places to envision an example of one of these shrines is at a not–too–frequently visited place in Israel called et–Tell—probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom; see below for location).  One of the spectacular finds is a massive four–chamber Iron Age Gate.

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

View looking west into the entrance of the east gate of et–Tell.  Note the basalt paving stones and the two upright standing stones on each side of the gate.  On the right (north) side are three steps that led up to a “high place” (= worship center?).

GeshurStelaThe carved basalt stela found at the Iron Age Gate at et–Tell (probably biblical Geshur).  Note the bull headed figure that is place upon a tripod and wearing a sword.  It may be a representation of the storm god Hadad.  The stela dates to the 9th or 8th centuries BC.

high-place-detailView looking north at the High Place and stela located on the north side of the Iron Age gate that leads into the city.  On the left is one of the seven(!) stelae that were found in the gate area—this one is not inscribed.  Slightly to the right of center note the three steps that lead up to a high place that has a basin—carved black basalt—on the top platform.  Note the replica of a stela with the deity Hadad engraved on it.

GeshurEt-Tell is located about 2 miles north of the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee on the east side of the Upper Jordan River.  It is often identified with the New Testament city of Bethsaida but in fact the remains from the Old Testament period are much more significant and it is probably to be identified as biblical Geshur (home of Absalom).

More on sanctuaries at the city gate on Monday.

 

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”

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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.”

Defending the City at the City Gate

Often times the gate of an ancient city was located at a low point that was easily approached—via an incline ramp—from outside the city.

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View of the model of the six–chamber gate that was discovered at Megiddo. The initial excavators dated it to the days of King Solomon but today its dating is disputed—and some still prefer a Solomonic date.

Note how there are outer and inner gate houses—with a courtyard between them.  Also note how towers abound in the gate houses and associated structures.  As a city was being defended, the courtyard between the two gate houses could be viewed as a killing field whereby defenders could shoot down from their towers and wound and/or kill the attackers with arrows and/or spears.  Even if attackers were merely incapacitated, they would lie there bleeding and moaning and other attackers—in the deafening bloody chaos—would have to climb over their bodies in order to try to gain entrance to the city.  Of course they themselves were vulnerable to same the fate as their “colleagues.”  This must have had a detrimental effect on the second wave’s enthusiasm to attack the city!

In addition, as the attackers attempted to make their way through the inner gate, they would have to break down its outer door.  They would then be confronted with another killing field between the six chambers (three on each side) of the inner gate.  In this area, defenders could be positioned directly above the attackers—shooting arrows down on them.

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Model of the six–chamber gate (Solomonic) at Hazor. The dark green gate is located in the lower left portion of the image.  (Outside the citadel is to the upper left of the gate)  This particular gate has two projecting towers—one on each side.  A double (casemate) wall is attached to the gate (also dark green).

As for “doors”—there does not seem to be too much physical evidence for how the gates were “sealed/closed.”  However, we do know that in other structures that a pair of doors each swung on columns that could pivot in a socket.  More on this, next post.

For some brief comments on the dating to the six–chamber gate at Megiddo Click Here.  More on gates to follow.

Gezer

GezerMapOne of the most interesting archaeological sites in Israel is Tel Gezer.  Gezer is situated along the eastern branch of the International Highway (aka The Via Maris) and guards the entrance to the Central Hill Country (territory of Benjamin and Jerusalem and to the north Ephraim).  It is mentioned 14 times in the Old Testament and was of such importance that it was fortified by King Solomon.

Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the LORD’S temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.  (NIV; 1 Kings 9:15).

After discovering six-chamber gates at Megiddo and Hazor, that were dated to the days of Solomon, Yigal Yadin suggested that William Dever, in the 1960’s the excavator of Gezer, reopen R.A.S. Macalister’s so-called “Maccabean Palace” that looked like it might actually be another six-chamber gate—like those at Megiddo and Hazor (1 Kings 9:15).

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The six-chamber gate that is located on the south side of Tel Gezer.

View looking south at the area of the “Solomonic Gate” on the south side of the mound of Gezer.  The area at the bottom of the image is inside the ancient city, while the top half of the image is outside the city.

In the center of the image an ancient drain is visible that led water and waste out of the city — draining from bottom to top of the image.  The drain runs right through the center of the city gate — it was of course covered with paving stones in ancient times.

If you look carefully, you will notice that stone foundation walls on one side of the gate are matched by foundation walls on the other side of the gate.  There were actually three rooms on each side of the gate — yielding a total of six “rooms” in the gate area.  Traffic in and out the city traveled on a paved street, which was above the drain.

According to the initial thoughts of the excavator, Dr. William Dever, the gate dates to the period of King Solomon (970–931 B.C.).  From 1 Kings 9:15 note how Solomon fortified Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.

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William Dever (right) hosting Yohanan Aharoni (center) at Gezer in the spring of 1967 when we were digging at Gezer. This was the beginning of the re-investigation of the “Solomonic Gate.”

Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff are currently excavating structures to the west of the gate.  One of their goals is to attempt to clarify the dating of the six-chamber gate.