Category Archives: Places in Israel

Spring of Jezreel

On a recent trip to Israel I visited a site that I had viewed many times, but had not taken the time to visit.

The spring of Jezreel is situated in the large cluster of trees.

The Spring of Jezreel is located about 0.6 mi. northeast of the summit of biblical Zezreel.

This is a view of the pool and abandoned structure that was built during the days of the British Mandate (1922–1948). A channel directs water from the Spring of Jezreel into this pool. This powerful spring is located at the foot of Tel Jezreel (about 0.6 mi northeast of the summit of the tell).

According to the biblical text it was here that Saul mustered the Israelite troops in preparation for his fatefull battle with the Philistines.

“The Philistines gathered all their forces at Aphek, and Israel camped by the spring in Jezreel.”

Soon afterward, Saul and his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-shua were killed on nearby Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:2).

Naboth’s vineyards may have also been in the vicinity (1 Kings 21:1).

View of the channel that leads from the Spring of Jezreel to the pool that was built during the days of the British Mandate (1922–1948). In this photo, the water is flowing toward the viewer.

For more images from Jezreel, Click Here.

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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!#$@!

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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.

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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?).

The Best Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel — Khirbet Midras

As Easter approaches I thought I would share a few related blog posts that contain some images that some of you might find useful for Easter presentations.

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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.

Near Megiddo — A House Church from AD 230!

Virtually all tour groups will visit Tel Megiddo on the south side of the Jezreel Valley.  From the mound, I have often pointed out the Israeli prison located to the southeast of Megiddo.  Why?  See below!

View from Megiddo looking southeast toward the prison—located beyond the trees in the upper right part of the image.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The above view is from the top of Megiddo, looking over the dump of the archaeologists toward the junction where the Wadi Ara enters the Jezreel Valley.  The prison is located beyond the trees in the upper right of the image.

Why is this prison important?  Well, in 2005 the remnants of a village were found there including wonderfully preserved mosaics from a Christian “house church” that dates to AD 230!  OK.  There might be some earlier house churches in Israel, but none, to my knowledge, that have mosaics like these.

This discovery is clearly reported, with multiple clear images,  in Haaretz “A Jew, an Early Christian and a Roman Meet in Archaeological  Park to Be built on Evacuated Prison.”  Note the following image, from the article, that mentions “to God Jesus Christ!”

Inscription found in Roman-era prayer house in Othnay, inside Megiddo Prison compound: “The god-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial” Dr. Yotam Tepper . — from Haaretz article

There are many many implications of this discovery, please see the article (6 minute read).

King Herod’s Tomb at the Israel Museum

Besides the naval and nature paintings (secco—on dry plaster) at the Israel Museum that I mentioned in my previous post, fragments from the roof of Herod’s Tomb at the Herodium are also on display in the Israel Museum.

HerodiumTombFragmentsOn the left notice the concave roof and on the right one of the acroteria (urn).  For both of these, compare the style of “Absalom’s Tomb” in the Kidron Valley that is slightly earlier in date than Herod’s Tomb.

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“Absalom’s Pillar” (2 Samuel 18:18) in the Kidron Valley. Note especially the “hat” that is similar to the fragments found at the Herodium.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Note, this tomb is NOT from the days of David’s son Absalom (2 Sam 18:18), but was probably constructed in the first century B.C.  It is of mixed styles. The conical-shaped roof is Syrian style, while the columns on the lower portion are of the Greek Ionic style.  Behind, and to the left of, the “Pillar of Absalom,” is the so-called “Tomb of Jehoshaphat.” The grave markers scattered in the green grass are from the “modern” Jewish cemetery on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives.

model-of-herod-s-tombThis is the model of the reconstructed Tomb of Herod that is on location at the Herodium.  Note the “pilasters” (rectangular column–like protrusions) on the base portion and the five “acroteria” (urns) on the roof of it—see one of the originals above.  It is evident that those who made this reconstruction based it not only on the archaeological finds, but also on parallels like “Absalom’s Pillar” above and tombs found at Petra.

For permission to use any images please Check Here.

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The Treasury (Khasneh) at Petra. Note on the center top the “urn” (like that found at the Herodium) on the top of the tholos (circular structure at the top of the “temple/tomb”).  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Treasury” was probably constructed during the reign of the Nabatean ruler Aretas III Philhellene (82-62 B.C.).  Since Herod married a Nabatean woman it is probable that he was familiar with this structure—probably a temple and not actually a tomb.

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The “Monastery” (Deir; Arabic) at Petra—from slightly after the time of Herod the Great. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The Deir, or monastery, was probably built by the Nabatean ruler Malichus (40–70 A.D.)—thus slightly after the time of Herod.  In the upper center of the monument note the rounded tholos and the “urn” (like the one found at the Herodium) on the top of it.

It is also suggested that it dates to the time of King Rebal II in the early 2nd century A.D.  And because of its two side benches in the interior (and altar), that it was used for the meetings of religious associations.

In summary, the near parallel to the “tomb of Herod at the Herodium” is the “Pillar of Absalom” in the Kidron Valley, but its probable predecessor—known to Herod—was the “Treasury” at Petra, and its successor was the “Deir” at Petra.

Did Ehud Netzer discover the “real tomb” of King Herod?  There are significant researchers who think not.  Although Netzer found a significant mausoleum and fragments of sarcophagi, neither the size of the mausoleum and nor the sarcophagi are overwhelmingly impressive—that is fitting for a king of Herod’s ego/stature (see conveniently the summary of Shanks below—and more on the sarcophagus in the next post).

Shanks, Hershel. “Was Herod’s Tomb Really Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014): 40–48.

Herodium Display in Israel Museum

There is an impressive display in the Israel Museum where a number of wonderful finds from the Herodium are prominently displayed in the Second Temple Section.

These included two wall paintings from the Royal Box that was associated with the theater.

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Naval Battle A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It depicts a naval battle with two ships with sails billowing the wind. On the deck are soldiers armed with shield and spears.

“The painting may represent the victory at Actium and possibly the beginning of Augustus’s rule following the conquest of Egypt. The choice of theme supports the possibility that the royal Room was decorated in anticipation of the visit of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’s second–­in–­command, in 15 BCE, since he was the general responsible for the victory.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.

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Nature A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“In this painting the artist depicts a sea view along with a bull, trees, a temple, a palm tree, and a boat, recalling sacred scenes from the time of Augustus while also alluding to the conquest of Egypt.

“The walls of the Royal Room were decorated with wall paintings in the secco technique [painting on dry plaster] and stuccowork. They were divided vertically by stuccowork pilasters and decorated with painted ‘hanging pictures’ that were suspended by imaginary ‘strings’ and ‘nails.’ [See the picture above] The pictures imitate windows with open shutters affording views of imaginary landscapes.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.

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The Royal Box in the spring of 2014.

Royal Box A view of the interior of the “Royal Box” above the theater at the Herodium. Note the well–preserved paintings on the wall.

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

A few years ago on a 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.