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Transcript of Exploring Israel
A gift to Herod the Great from Augustus Caesar in 30BCE, Caesarea Maritima was constructed in only 12 years (22-20 BCE). Excavations of the site reveal various elements of this ancient Roman city including the theatre (bottom right), amphitheatre, hippodrome, palace, aqueduct (bottom left) and harbor facilities. While previous settlements were constructed on this site during Persian and Hellenistic rules, modern excavation displays later Byzantine and Crusader construction.
Accounts of Caesarea Maritima are given in the book of Acts, highlighting its significance in early Christianity. Caesarea is noted as the Apostle Phillip’s evangelism destination from Samaria (Acts 8:40) where he is later visited by Paul (Acts 21:8). Caesarea is additionally the location of the house of Cornelius where, upon visitation by Peter, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius’ household, and they were baptized by water; marking the initial spread of the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Lastly, Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years, being threatened by opposing Jews, where he went to trial before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa II, ultimately appealing to Rome. (Acts 23-26)
Note: Excavations of Caesarea Maritima’s theatre revealed the only inscription on stone which mentions Pontius Pilate (30 CE), confirming his title- previously only known from biblical accounts (replica, bottom center).
1. Caesarea Maritima
2. Bet She'Arim
5. Nazareth & I'billin
7. Capernaum, Ginosar, Tabgha
& The Mount of Beatitudes
10. Caesarea Philippi
11. Bet She'an
12. Tel Sebaste
15. En Gedi
18. Be'er Sheva
19. Bethlehem & Efrat
A stopping place for the Sanhedrin following the Second Jewish Revolt (132-135CE) Bet She’Arim, presently exists as a necropolis with a history that speaks to the origins of Rabbinic Judaism. The site was given to Yehuda ha-Nasi, the leader of the Sanhedrin from 135-217CE, by his childhood friend and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Yehuda ha-Nasi is revered as the redactor of the Mishnah which is the written compilation of the oral law, providing interpretation of the Torah. Bet She’Arim now exists as his burial place, as well as the burial place for his sons Rabbi Gamaliel, Rabbi Shimon, and student Rabbi Hanina (image behind text).
Although not mentioned in Biblical text, Bet She’Arim and the work of Yehuda ha-Nasi provide insight into the Pharisaic culture in existence during the time of Christ and the early church. While Jews wished to be buried on the Mount of Olives, such was not permitted due to Roman occupation and many Jews were buried in Bet She’Arim . This site therefore, additionally, sheds light on common burial practices and decorum (Images above) Decorations such as the Jewish Menorah (top left), insense shoval, shofar, and ark of the covenant can all be found on site.
Strategically placed overlooking the Via Maris and Jezreel Valley, at least twenty cities have been built on, what is presently, tel Megiddo, dating from the 4th Millennium BCE. With access to strategic trade and military routes, as well as fertile land, it is no wonder why this site was sought after, and consequently, why it was the site for many battles. Primarily under Canaanite and Israelite occupation, excavations of tel Megiddo give supporting evidence to construction and cultural practices which characterized both people groups. To provide example, Solomon’s use of a three chambered gate is displayed (bottom right), along with Omri’s water shaft and tunnel (bottom centre) while Canaanite altars speak to an understanding of their religious practices (bottom left).
Various conflicts which ensued at Megiddo are described throughout Biblical text. A encapsulating account of Joshua’s conquest includes victory over the Canaanite’s in Megiddo (Joshua 12:21), contrary to the lack of success by Manasseh, described in Joshua 17:11-13, and Judges 1:27. Judges 4-5 details the control of Megiddo by the Israelites under tribal confederacy and the miraculous defeat of Sisera’s army at the hands of Deborah and Barak. The fortification of the city under Solomon is described in 1 Kings 9:15, while the deaths of Jehu and Josiah in Megiddo, at the hands of King Ahaziah and Pharaoh Necho, are recorded respectively (2 Kings 9:27, 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35). Finally, Revelation 16:16 recounting a vision thought to be inspired by Zechariah 12:11, notes Megiddo as the site for apocalyptic battle. (Greek Translation: Armageddon)
With its name derived from being perched like a bird upon a mountaintop,Zippori is known as the “ornament of all Galilee.” Originally seized by Herod the Great in 47 BCE, the city was rebuilt by Herod Antipas after Roman destruction. Excavation of the site revealed the presence of Jewish culture during the time of Christ in Zippori. Ritual bath’s (mikvehs) are present throughout the site while a lack of statues, pagan temples, and pig bones additionally attest to the dominant Jewish presence. Although not mentioned in scripture, due to its proximity to Nazareth, Zippori is a probable site in which Jesus and his father would have sought employment. Additionally, the presence of a theatre in Zippori (top left) may provide understanding for Jesus’ use of the word hypokrites (stage actors).
Remnants of Roman mosaics speak to proceeding cultural influences in Zippori, in particular celebrating Dionysus, the god of wine. Byzantine construction and a Crusader fortress (middle left) additionally attest to the continuing history of the site. Finally, the modern story of Zippori is revealed upon descent from the tel, where a cactus garden and Muslim cemetery (bottom left) remind one of the Arab population of twelve thousand residents which was displaced following the Arab-Israeli War in 1948.
The significance of the town of Nazareth for Christianity stems from the annunciation of Christ’s birth to Mary by Gabriel, as recorded in Luke 1. During the time of Christ, what was a poor village of twelve to fifteen extended families, is now venerated, in particular by The Basilica of the Annunciation (bottom left). Consecrated in 1969 over an old crusader church, and over the home of the Holy Family during Christ’s childhood, the basilica is adorned with Madonnas from around the world (bottom middle). Matthew 2:19-23 gives a clear account of Nazareth as the place where Jesus lived with Mary and Joseph during his childhood years, leading others to call him a Nazarene. That the house under the basilica can be pinpointed with a degree of confidence stems from the continual worship of the Notsrim on site following Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Visitation of the Nazareth Village, a modern reconstruction of Nazareth from the time of Christ, provides attendees with a glimpse of what life would have been like during that time frame. In particular, the modern reconstruction of a synagogue in Nazareth (bottom right) gives reference to the account in Luke 4 where Jesus is rejected in his hometown after stating, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me…”
Thirty minutes outside of Nazareth lies the Arab town of I'billin which is the location of
the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (bottom centre) . Started in the 1980's under the directionof Elias Chacour, archbishop of Akko, Haifa and Nazareth for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the educational center aligns with Chacour's belief that education is the key to peace and justice, regardless of religion or political view. A meeting with Chacour emphasised his views that: God does not kill; God is love; and although one may be pro-Israeli it does not mean that they need to be anti-Palestinian.
Noted as completing the “gospel triangle” along with Capernaum and Korazim, Bethsaida, meaning House of the Fisherman, was a Jewish fishing village where Jesus spent much time during his early ministry. Due to an earthquake in 363 which dammed the Jordan River, Bethsaida currently is situated over a mile away from the Sea of Galilee on which it used to lie (image behind text). As indicated in John 1:44 and John 12:21, Bethsaida is the home of Philip, Peter, and Andrew, the disciples first called by Jesus. Bethsaida is additionally the location of the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10) (possible site bottom left) and is noted as a place where Jesus performed miracles (Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:13), including the healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22).
Excavations of Bethsaida have revealed the house of a winegrower, with a basalt-stone wine cellar, and the house of a wealthy fisherman (bottom center), holding anchors, lead weights, and fishhooks. While such findings speak to economic and employment opportunities for residents of Bethsaida, a temple dedicated to Caesar Augustus’ deceased wife Julia in 30CE, relating her to a fertility goddess, displays the Roman cultural influence on the village. Further excavations align the site of Bethsaida with the Old Testament capital of Geshur, Zer, the probable site to which Absalam fled after killing his brother Amnon, as noted in 2 Samuel 13. Indications of a sacrificial high place (bottom right), as well as of Assyrian destruction (2 Kings 15:29) are additionally on display.
As Bethsaida, the North-Western shore of the Sea of Galilee is home to multiple sites where Jesus engaged in ministry. While various sites prove to be historical, this region is also marked by various traditional sites which venerate biblical accounts despite lack of certainty regarding specific location. Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes fall into the category of traditional sites. The former is home to the Church of the Multiplication (top tight), a replica built over the site of a fifth-century church associated with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-44), as well as the Church of the Primacy of Peter (top middle), built in 1933 on the ruins of a fourth-century church to mark the account of Jesus’ appearance to Peter in John 21. Pertaining to the latter, a church designed by Antonia Barluzzi was built in 1938 over a fourth-century church, to mark the traditional site associated with the Sermon on the Mount, now known as the Mount of Beatitudes (top left).
While Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes mark traditional sites on the Sea of Galilee’s North-Western shore, Ginosar and Capernaum can be pinpointed as historical sites. Also known as Gennesaret, Ginosar is described in Mark 6:53 and Matthew 14:34, as a place where sick were brought to Jesus and healed. In 1986 this site gained recognition after finding what is known as the ‘Jesus boat,’ a boat dating between the first-century BCE and first century CE, which is on display in the Yigal Allon Center (middle left) Capernaum, on the other hand, is heavily documented throughout the ministry of Christ and is the location of Peter’s family home (Mark 1:29-31, 2:1)(behind text) where Jesus lived (Matthew 4:13), leading Matthew to record that it was Jesus’ “own town” (Matthew 9:1). Biblical accounts which take place in Capernaum include: the faith of the Centurion and healings at Peter’s house (Matthew 8, Luke 7, John 4), teaching on the temple tax (Matthew 17), Jesus curing a man possessed by the devil (Mark 1:21-28), the healing of the Paralyzed Man (Mark 2), Jesus' prediction of his death (Mark 9), and Jesus' preaching (Luke 4:31, John 6:59)
An octagonal church was built around this site of Peter’s house in the fifth-century which in 1990 was built over by a modern Catholic church. The historic accuracy of the house’s location is proven by evidence that the house became a public meeting place, possibly a domus ecclesia (house church) following the death and resurrection of Christ. While a limestone synagogue was built in Capercum in the fourth-century CE, the Basalt foundation would have been part of the construction of the synagogue where Jesus taught and healed. (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31, John 6:59)
Capernaum, Ginosar, Tabgha
& The Mount of Beatitudes
Originally the Canaanite city of Laish (or Leshem: Joshua 19:27), the city of Dan was inhabited by the respective tribe of Israel after being pushed out from their land by the Philistines. The conquest of Laish by the Danites is accounted in Judges 18 which additionally highlights the beginning of idol worship by the Israelites in that place. During the years of the divided kingdom, Jeroboam I erected shrine and golden calf in Dan and made the city his northern border. (1 Kings 12:29, 2 Kings 10:29, 2 Chronicles 13:8) In the 9th C King Asa of Judah and Ben-Hadad of Aram led a conquest over Dan (2 Chronicles 16:4) which was rebuilt by Omri and Ahab before its destruction by Tigleth Pileser in 732 BCE (2 Kings 15)
While the National Park of Dan is often considered the Garden of Eden for Israeli citizens, due to the Dan Spring (bottom left) which, in part, forms the Jordan River, excavations of the site display customary construction and culture of ancient civilizations. In particular, the gate of the Israelite city exhibits what would have been the “judgment seat” for the King (bottom centre) , an Israelite feature identified in passages such as 2 Samuel 15:2; 18:4 and 2 Kings 23:8, while the cultic shrine erected by Jeroboam I and steps to the high places (bottom right) venerating Baal or the Canaanite moon god have additionally been uncovered. Most notably, a Bronze Age Gate which Abraham and Sara could have conceivable passed through (Genesis 14:14)(behind text) and a tablet mentioning bet David (the House of David), the first inscription of the House of David outside of the biblical text, have been unearthed in this historical site.
The historical, geographical significance of Hazor lies in its positioning at the crossroads between Syria and Mesopotamia, the Mediteranean, and Canaan/Israel. Established as a Canaanite city in the Middle Bronze Age, with approximately thrity thousand inhabitants over 200 acres, the biblical relevance of Hazor is first established by Joshua who notes that Hazor is the head of all the Canaanite kingdoms during his time of conquest. (Joshua 11:10) Joshua 11 subsequently, however, further accounts of the Israelite destruction of Hazor and the victory of Joshua over King Jabin, the king of Hazor. A Canaanite shrine from the period of the judges with a matsevah acting as a symbol of male fertility, (top left) provides religious and culture insight regarding the civilization.
1 Kings 9:15 indicates the rebuilding of the wall of Hazor by Solomon using conscripted labor, (Solomonic Gate, top right) and by the ninth century the population of Hazor had reportedly doubled after having walls expanded by Ahab who additionally secured a water supply for the city by means of constructing a 130 foot aquifer. (top center) Traditional four room houses can additionally be seen at this site. Biblical accounts of Hazor also include the murder of Amnon by Absalom (2 Samuel 13), its destruction by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:19), and a warning from Jeremiah concerning imminent attack from Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 49).
Following the death of Alexander the Great, a battle between Seleucus, the ruler of Syria, and Ptolemy, the ruler of Egypt, took place in what is became known as Paneas (Caesarea Philippi). Seleucid victory in approximately 200 BCE led to the construction of a Panaeon, a temple constructed for the worship of the Greek god Pan, the god of nature (court of temple, centre right). Following the rise of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus would present this land to Herod the Great who built a temple opposite to the cave at the site, in dedication to Augustus. (Reconstruction, top right) Inherited by Herod Philip, Paneas became the capital of what is now the Golan heights, and was renamed Caesarea Philippi.
While the Old Testament refers to Caesarea Philippi as Baal Hermon, and as a settling place for the half-tribe of Manasseh (Judges 3:3, 1 Chronicles 5:23), the location, as Caesarea Philippi, is visited by Christ and his disciples, accounted in the New Testament. Mark 8:27, and Matthew 16:17-20, indicate Caesarea Philippi as the location where Christ asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am,” and where Christ reveals to Simon Peter that he would build his church and the gates of Hades would not overcome it, respectively. The cave adorning the cliff on site (bottom right) was the original source for a deep spring and used for pagan practices, which due to its depth was thought to be linked to the underworld and thus referred to as ‘the gates of Hades.” Thus, Christ’s statement to Peter may have contained significant contextual meaning, speaking against pagan worship.
Guarding the Jezreel Valley which passes between Galilee and Samaria, connecting the Via Maris with Syria and Mesopotamia, sits the site of Bet She’an. Originally used by the Egyptian empire as an administrative center during the Canaanite Period (12th-6th Centuries BCE), Bet She’an garnered historical significance for the Israelite people following the deaths of Jonathan and Saul on, neighboring Mount Gilboa (bottom centre) 1 Samuel 31 notes how the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were hung from the wall of Bet She’an following the Israelite struggle with the inhabiting Philistines on Mount Gilboa. (Also noted in 2 Samuel 21:12) 2 Samuel 1:27, additionally record David’s lament over the loss of his friend and mentor at this site, stating, “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!” Additional biblical passages which mention Bet She’an include Joshua 17, which notes Manasseh’s inability to drive the Canaanites from the city, and 1 Kings 4:12 which, debatably, speaks of Bet She’an as a district of Solomon.
Following the rise of the Roman Empire, Bet She’an became known as Scythopolis and was part of the Roman Decapolis, a group of ten Roman cities along the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire which were centers of Greek and Roman culture. The fact that the site was not strictly part of Galilee or Samaria may give reasoning for its absence in New Testament literature. The tel of Bet She’an indicates that at least fifteen cities have been built at the location, however ruins from the Roman and Byzantine period are displayed from current excavations (layers displayed, bottom left) The cardo maximus (bottom right) and decumanus lined with shops, markets, baths, theatres, a temple for Dionysus, and a nymphaeum (public fountain) have all been unearthed from excavations while toppled pillars give evidence of the cities destruction by an earthquake in 749 CE (behind text).
Tel Sebaste, is the site of ancient Samaria, founded by King Omri in 876 BCE as indicated in 1 Kings 16:24. Omri’s son Ahab continued to build on this site (1 Kings 16) which was influenced by the foreign religious practices of his wife Jezebel, practices criticized and denounced by the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 18) While 1 Kings 20 speaks to the attack of Samaria by Ben-Hadad of Aram, under Jereboam II (784-748 BCE), Samaria prospered as a powerful and oppressive aristocracy until Assyrian destruction in 722 BCE. The fall of Samaria was predicted by prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah, who each spoke against the oppressive nature of its rulers. (i.e. Amos 3:9, Hosea 7:1, 8:6, Micah 1, Isaiah 8:4). Other biblical accounts of Tel Sebaste from the period of the divided kingdom include the murder of Ahab’s family (2 Kings 10), the presence of Asherah poles in Samaria (2 Kings 13), and Josiah removing the high places (2 Kings 23).
In 30 BCE Augustus awarded the city to Herod the Great who renamed the site, Sebaste, in honor of Augustus. The base of a temple for Augustus (bottom left) and remains from a Herodian and Omride palace (bottom center), have been uncovered by excavation along with remnants of a later Byzantine church. Legend additionally connect this site to the beheading and resting place of John the Baptist as two of Herod the Great’s sons were murdered at this location (picture located in cave of Byzantine church, bottom right).
As the starting location of Israelite conquest into the Promised Land, the biblical significance of the city of Jericho cannot be overstated. Joshua 1-6 provides account of Joshua’s conquest into the Promised Land by means of Jericho, providing well-known narratives pertaining to Rahab and the Israelite Spies (Joshua 2), and the Israelite march around Jericho’s walls (Joshua 3-6). Prior to such conquest, Jericho is mentioned to give location reference for the Israelites before entering into the Promised Lane (Numbers 22,26, 31,33-36, Deuteronomy 32, 34) Following the initial Israelite conquest of Jericho, biblical accounts reference it’s rebuilding by Hiel of Bethel (1 Kings 16:34), as well as Elisha’s Spring in Jericho (traditional site, top right), where the water was healed, leading to his statement, “Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.” (2 Kings 2:19-22) The New Testament pinpoints Jericho as the site for Jesus’ healing of the blind (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46, Luke 18:25), as well as the site for Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
Located thirteen hundred feet below sea level and with city walls over ten thousand years old, Jericho is both the lowest and oldest city in the world. A city wall dating to 8000 BCE is known as the oldest human structure (top left), while evidence suggests that the city was the starting place for husbandry (the domestication of plants and animals). Significant pertaining to the science of archeology, Kathleen Kenyon made significant contributions to the field of stratigraphy in Jericho, dating layers of earth by civilization, (top centre) which uncovered at least twenty three civilizations on site.
While not mentioned in biblical literature, Qumran provides valuable insight pertaining to the Essenes, a Jewish sect during the time of Christ. Following the Jewish War for Independence (167-164 BCE) the Hasidim, supporters of the Maccabees, split into liberal and conservative factions. The conservative Essenes believed they should chose death over war on the Sabbath and due to perceived corruption in the Jewish temple members fled to Qumran to focus on pure living in 150 BCE. Essenes living in Qumran were ascetic, apocalyptic, and celibate (although burial sites contained women and children) and their daily activities included manual labor, ritual baths, ritual meals, and scholarly activity. Mikvehs (ritual baths)(behind text and bottom center) are located on site and a scriptorium (bottom right) along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the caves of Qumran, attest to their scholarly practice.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947 by Bedouins searching for lost sheep, contain Old Testament biblical books (except Esther), books from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, as well as commentaries and guidelines for the Essene community. The scrolls were thought to be stored in caves (cave 4, bottom left) as the result of Roman conquest of Qumran in 68 CE and of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The most intact scroll is the Isaiah scroll dating from the second Century BCE, now located in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum. As a biblical point of interest, a possibility exists of John the Baptist’s connection with the Qumran community due to his emphasis on baptism, the time he spent in the Judean wilderness, and his apocalyptic focus, believing- in line with the Essenes- that he was to, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3)
Located off the western shore of the Dead Sea, the oasis of En Gedi is, biblically, predominantly known as the location to which David fled from Saul, as indicated in 1 Samuel 23-24. The account in 1 Samuel 24 tells of David sparing the life of Saul in an effort to prove to Saul that he has no intention to harm him. (1 Samuel 24: 10) Other biblical references to En Gedi include the henna blossoms of En Gedi (Song of Songs 1:14), the image of restorative waters from the temple mount refreshing the waters of En Gedi (Ezekiel 47), and En Gedi being the location of various armies waging war against Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:2).
Entrance into the National Park at En Gedi displays the caves described in 1 Samuel along with David's Waterfall, (bottom right) while excavations have additionally unearthed a temple from the Chalcolithic-Copper Age (3000 BCE) (bottom left). The En Gedi Kibbutz, founded in 1953, provides accommodation for the area and contains a botanical garden home to more than 1000 varieties of flora, while providing access to the Dead Sea (bottom center).
Fortified by Alexander Jannaeus as part of the Hasmonean Kingdom in the first century BCE, Masada’s remote location and natural defenses were advantages for the fortress, built to protect the kingdom’s southern border. Located in the Judean desert on the Dead Sea between En Gedi and Sodom, Masada, was discovered and captured by Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BCE and became the home of one of his winter palaces (bottom left), accompanied by storehouses, a casemate wall, and cistern (bottom right). In 66 CE, during the first Roman revolt, the Sicarri sect of Jewish zealots overtook Masada, a sect to which Judas Iscariot had belonged. Occupation of Masada by the zealots is presently evident through observation of mikvehs and a synagogue on site.
While Masada is not mentioned in biblical text, the narrative of Masada, recorded by Josephus, provides insight regarding the values of the Sicarri sect and their relationship with the Roman Empire. Led by Eleazer ben Jair, following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Sicarri rebels retreated to Masada where they were surrounded by 8000 Roman troops between 73-74 CE. According to Josephus’ narrative, after months of building a ramp (bottom center) towards the western wall of Masada the Roman’s besieged the city only to find 960 members of the community already dead. While criticized for asserting an element of Jewish heroism, Josephus` account has been backed through the finding of lots which were drawn by the men who were chosen to kill the families and men of the city, an account which Josephus claimed was told to him by two women and five children who hid in the city`s cisterns. Before its designation as a national park, fifth Century Byzantine monks and modern Zionist youth movements have since resided on this site.
Initially established as a Bronze Age Canaanite city (2900-2700 BCE) (top center) Arad is first mentioned in the biblical text in Numbers 21:1-3 where the Canaanite king of Arad attacked the Israelite people who subsequently destroyed the city. The location of a Canaanite water reservoir is presently displayed on site where water would have been brought to the Canaanite citadel by means of pack animals as well as a replica of a traditional Aradian dwelling (top right). While the Canaanites in Arad initially stood as an obstacle for the Israelites entering the Promised Land (Numbers 33:40) Joshua 12:14 accounts Joshua`s conquest over the city. Israelite habitation of Arad began in the 11th Century BCE with David`s construction of an unwalled military outpost, protecting his southern border and road to Elat and Edom. This outpost was further fortified by Solomon in the 10th Century (behind text) where Solomon built a temple, resembling his temple in Jerusalem. Excavation of this temple reveals a central altar in line with Israel`s law code dictated in Exodus 20:25-26 and Deuteronomy 27:5-6, having no steps leading up to it.
The temple at Arad was put out of operation during the reign of Hezekiah in the 8th Century BCE and was filled with debris during Josiah`s reforms in the 7th Century BCE. Such reforms allowed no worship of Yahweh outside of Jerusalem. (2 Kings 18:22, 23:8) Observation of the temple not only reveals the central altar but also the holy of holies with an accompanying matsevah, standing stone (top left) It is believed that an additional standing stone would have been placed within the holy of holies to represent the two tablets of the law.
Parallel with Arad to the east, Be’er Sheva’s biblical significance is initially highlighted with reference to accounts in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 21:22-24, Abraham swore an oath with Abimelech at Be’er Sheba after arguing over the use of a well. (traditional site, bottom center) This narrative gives reason for the location’s name which means “Well of Swearing” or, alternatively, “Seven Wells.” The building of Isaac’s altar (Genesis 26:12-33) as well as Jacob’s vision before taking his family to Egypt (Genesis 46:1-7) additionally occur at this location. Other biblical references to Be’er Sheva include the judgment of the courrupt sons of Samuel (1 Samuel 8), as well as Amos’ condemnation of the northern Israelites for making pilgrimages to the temple at Be’er Sheva. (Amos 5:5, Amos 8:14)
Excavations of Be’er Sheva reveal a broken altar, (bottom left) which is likely due to the reforms of Hezekiah or Josiah in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE respectively. David made a fortress at Be’er Sheva, guarding the southern border of his kingdom, and although destroyed by Pharaoh Shishak in 925 BCE, Be’er Sheva became a prosperous Israelite city in the ninth and eighth centuries BCE. Other findings of the Be’er Sheva excavation include traditional four room houses, storerhouses (bottom right), and an in town water system, channeling water from the Wadi Hebron.
According to Old Testament Biblical accounts, Bethlehem is the hometown to many significant Biblical characters including Naomi (Ruth 1); Jesse (1 Samuel 16:1) and David (17:12). The narrative of David’s mighty warriors collecting water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem additionally highlights this location (2 Samuel 23, 1 Chronicles 11), while Micah 5:2 promises a ruler from Bethlehem stating, “out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” The New Testament, in line with the Old, speaks to the significance of Bethlehem, noting its location as the birthplace of Christ (Matthew 2, Luke 2, John 7).
Likely born in a cave/stable at the family home of Joseph, the present Basilica of the Nativity is built over a cave which has been designated as the site of Christ’s birth (bottom left). The specific location of the current Basilica has been venerated since the second and third centuries CE by Justin Martyr, Origen and Eusebius. The first church was dedicated over the site by Queen Helena in 339 CE, expanded by Justinian in 529 CE. Spared by the Persian invasion, the Basilica of the Nativity is presently the oldest church in Israel.
Visitation of Bethlehem allowed for time to be spent at the Bethlehem Bible College (bottom center) within the city as well as the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Efrat. Bethlehem Bible College was founded in 1979 with the mission of “preparing Christian servant-leaders for the churches and society within an Arab context.” A presentation by the tour director and instructor, Alaa Qasasfa, gave insight regarding the implications of the wall separating the West Bank in Bethlehem (bottom right), the negative effects of land grabbing and Jewish settlements, and misconceptions pertaining to Israeli-Palestinian hostility. Time spent in the Jewish settlement of Efrat (behind text) with Bob Lang, the head of the Religious Council in Efrat, alternatively spoke to the benefits of Jewish settlements in the West Bank for efforts to create a unified state, a goal which he believes will end Israeli-Palestinian conflict and promote democracy within the middle east.
June 30, 2014
Dr. Glen Wooden
Surrounded by the Kidron Valley to the East and Central Valley to the West, the city of Jerusalem, originally called Shalem, is, biblically, first mentioned in Genesis 14:18 which describes Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek. Early biblical accounts denote the possession of the city by the Jubusites which could not be overtaken by Joshua or Saul (i.e. Joshua 15) but was finally infiltrated by David through the waterworks from the Gihon Spring (2 Samuel 5). Named the city of David, the Ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem, establishing it as the governmental and religious center for the Israelite people (2 Samuel 5-6). While much of the City of David lies south of the Sixteenth-Century Ottomon Walls of Jerusalem (stepped stone structure in City of David, bottom left) , it is home to sites such as Hezekiah’s tunnel, an eighth-century tunnel constructed by Hezekiah to bring water into the city (2 Kings 20:20), and the Pool of Siloam (Nehemiah 3:155, Isaiah 22:9)(bottom centre) which is most notably mentioned in John 9 where Jesus heals a man who was born blind.
A signature vista of modern day Jerusalem includes the Dome of the Rock (behind text and bottom right), an Umayyad, Islamic mosque located on the Temple Mount, built from 688-691 CE. The Temple Mount, however, has significant biblical importance, initially as the site of Mount Moriah, where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22). After Jerusalem was captured from the Jebusites David built an altar on the Jebusite threshing floor on the Temple Mount (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles, 21), which is appropriately named, initially, due to the building of Solomon’s Temple in the tenth-century BCE. After Babylonian destruction of the Temple Mount in 586 BCE, the Second Temple was built in the late sixth-century BCE as recorded in the book of Ezra (i.e. Ezra 1:2) and renovations under Herod the Great in 20 BCE aptly led its reference as Herod’s Temple.
Herod’s renovation of the temple was accompanied by his expansion of the Temple Mount of which construction can be observed in the Archeological Park and Davidson Center, located on the current southern and western walls. Opened in 2001, the Center and Park highlight discoveries of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period including Herodian streets, mikvehs, and the Hulda Gate. The steps leading towards the Hulda gate (behind text) would likely have been those which Jesus entered the Temple Mount (i.e. Luke 2:41-51), and are speculated to be the location where Jesus taught in Jerusalem (i.e. Luke 19:47). The Western Wall (above), located in the Old City of Jerusalem, can additionally be traced back to Herodian construction, a remnant of Herod’s retaining wall after Roman destruction in 70 CE.
Various sites throughout and surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem have been venerated, marking the traditional and historical locations of the biblical narrative. Such includes the Mount of Olives, which appears in 2 Samuel 15 regarding David mourning Ahithopel’s participation in conspiracy, as well as in Zechariah 14:4 which pinpoints the Lord coming from this location. In line with the passage in Zechariah, Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives from Bethpage (John 12, Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 9), a location where he had previously frequented to withdraw in solitude (Luke21) or teach his disciples (Matthew24, Mark 13) Pater Noster, a French convent was erected to commemorate the teaching of Jesus on this site, in particular the Lord’s prayer which is displayed in various world languages. (behind tect) Built in 1955 CE, Dominus Flevit church, a Roman Catholic site, was additionally built on the Mount of Olives, marking the traditional space where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44) (bottome right).
Celebrating a historical site of the Biblical account, the Church of All Nations, located in the Garden of Gethsemane (bottom center), was built in 1924 over a 4th Century Byzantine basilica and 12th Century Crusader chapel. This church marks the site of Jesus’ prayer “not my will but yours,” as written in Luke 22, Matthew 26, and Mark 14. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (bottom left) additionally venerates a historical site, built over Golgotha and the tomb where Jesus was buried. (Matthew 27, Mark 15, John 19) Located outside the Garden Gate of Herod’s walls, worshippers have gathered at the site of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection since Jesus’ ascent. While Hadrian built a Roman temple over the site following the First Jewish Revolt, the Council of Nicea in 325 CE called for its destruction and a church was instituted at the location by Constantine in 326 CE. After being demolished by the Persians in 614 CE, the current church was rebuilt under the Byzantine Empire between 1012 and 1170 CE. The church is governed by six ancient Christian denominations: the Roman Catholics and Greek, Coptic, Armenian, Syrian, and Ethiopic Orthodox.