G A L I L E E
It’s bittersweet to reach the point in a trip where you’ve seen so many tels that you have trouble separating them from one another. I mean it’s great because that means you’ve seen a crap ton of history, but it also means that they start to lose their uniqueness. Also, Turkish coffee has an extremely bitter aftertaste- I wouldn’t recommend drinking it unless you absolutely have to. It doesn’t matter how much milk or sugar you add, just like Jesus, that taste conquers all. Learned my lesson this morning, haha.
The morning schedule was the same as any other day, plus the crazy coffee. Breakfast at 6:30. On the bus by 7. Stop briefly to by pita for the day before proceeding to our site. Oh, and prayer of course. I should’ve asked for prayer over my tongue after that coffee. Also, I’m done griping about my poor choice of morning beverage.
H A Z O R
I’m not sure if I was excited about Hazor because of its history or the fact that it was one of the locations on my marking maps that I was consistently able to found in less than two seconds. It was probably a mixture of the two things. Here we saw our third of Solomon’s six chambered gates. 1 Kings 9:15 says, “And this is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon drafted to build the house of the Lord and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jeusalem and
All of which we have seen in the past three weeks.
At Hazor we oriented ourselves with the map, and went over some statistics about the once existent city. Here’s a few juicy details on Hazor that I’m sure you’ve been waiting your entire life to know: it was the biggest Canaanite city in the Late Bronze Age, being the size of Nineveh at its peak. It was key in the Tihn Route, controlling the amount of tin that entered The Land Between (Bronze is made up of copper and tin, and we’re in the Late Bronze Age). Since tin came primarily from Afghanistan (to the East) and England (to the North; would have come east across Europe, and then south to Israel), Hazor’s gates faced north and east, in the expectation of trade. With this they also faced Assyria and potential invasion.
Here we worked through Joshua’s northern campaign and his defeat of the cities under the rule of Jabin. I’ll spare you the details, but basically we applied what we’ve been learning about the passes of Mount Carmel and other such geological and geographical information to the battle, and so bringing it to life. Just like everything else we’re doing in this course!
D A N
The next stop was Dan, and now we can officially say that we’ve been “from Dan to Beersheba,” a common Old Testament phrase used for stating a distance (1 Samuel 3:20, Judges 20:1, 1 Kings 4:25, etc). For more information on the origin of Dan, you can read in Judges 17 and 18. Here we saw Abraham’s gate, the oldest arched gate in the world (3,080 years old) excepting the one that stands at Ashkelon. After this we made our way to the city gate of the time, where we basically went over the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Ancient Israel Judicial System.
This discussion was very interesting, so I’m going to share some of my favorite parts of the discussion with you. One of the first statements made about the justice system of ancient Israel was just how different it was from the one we’re accustomed to. In the American justice looks something like reimbursement, prison time, or maybe the chair. It very much holds to the ideology, “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”. The final decision is made in a private room of jurors alone, so that their decision isn’t influenced by data outside of what was stated in the courtroom. It’s private.
If you were to rewind a few thousand years and place yourself in Israel, you would find that the two approaches to handling justice couldn’t be more different. Justice was administered at the city gate, the literal doorway to the city. People were constantly coming and going. There was shopping in this area, and we all know just how loud that can be. The area was public.
These physical differences already create a pretty stark contrast: private versus public; quiet versus booming; separate versus central. However the biggest disparity between these systems of justice are ultimately the end goals. One demands restitution in one form or another, while the other is working with the mindset of creating equilibrium and ultimately keeping everyone alive.
That may explain some wonky passages of justice prescribed in Deuteronomy, such as,
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, he will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Uhh, even with the whole “equilibrium” spin on the Israelites cognitive logic, this passage still seems less than fair, and definitely contradicts the said goal of, “keeping everyone alive”. So what’s going on here? Keeping in mind that the members of a town are all dependent upon one another, and how each resource goes through its own ups and downs (the man shepherd may not be suffering when the farmer is), how do we approach this? Is it better for the whole community to continuously trim the weeds from its garden, or just uproot the problem itself? Like Vern said, “Is it not better to have one man die than have everyone else perish?”
That explanation doesn’t necessarily make this any easier to grasp, especially when it goes so far against the grind of our culture. Passages like Numbers 22:28-29, where if a man rapes a virgin and is caught, he must pay 50 shekels to her father and then marry her and never divorce her, seem the farthest thing from just. But when it’s understood that a woman’s protection and provision pass from a father to a husband to a son, this mandate seems less putrid. If such a law wasn’t in place, should a young woman be violated, how could she take care of herself? That woman is no longer considered marriage material because they believed in that time that they wouldn’t know what man the children came from. Knowing this beyond the shadow of a doubt was extremely important to the Israelites at this time for inheritance reasons.
So if the woman can’t marry, and her violator doesn’t out of the goodness of his heart stay with her, she’s in limbo. She has no husband or hope of ever getting one. Subsequently she has no son. No protection, no provision, not anything. Unless there’s a law enforced that says you have to marry the girl. Vern made the point that it may be the man that is being punished in this situation, not the woman.
Is this law ideal? Is the situation fun for anyone? Absolutely not. But does it meet the goal of creating equilibrium and keeping everyone alive? I’d say yes.
T E L O F S A C R E D P R E C I N C T
Our next stop was about a seven minute walk from Dan’s city gate. There we saw a holy place that Jeroboam built as a preventative measure to keep the Israelites from returning to Jerusalem and ultimately Rehoboam. At this holy place he installed a golden calf, so it would be logical to think that the golden calf was what was being worshipped and YHWH had been forsaken. Vern however introduces a different interpretation of this; here’s how he defends it:
1. 1 Kings 12:28 says, “So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, ‘You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
2. This sounds almost identical to what Aaron did and said to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.
3. It’s plausible that the idol is actually a holder for the deity, not the deity itself. In these instances it has been suggested that perhaps the deity was invisible.
4. For Jeroboam to instigate a brand new religion when he was already nervous about keeping control of his new kingdom would be ludicrous. Israel was used to YHWH, and their religion wasn’t separate, but rather, socioeconomic. The people would have had a cow about worshiping golden calves, and no doubt his hold on the northern kingdom would have weakened and potentially resulted in a total loss of power.
Vern is suggesting that Jeroboam didn’t creating a new religion, but instead that he set the Israelites on a course that was veering one or two degrees off of what was right. He built a new temple, instilled a new priesthood, and erected a deity-holder that wasn’t the Ark of the Covenant. It wasn’t a catastrophic change, but it was enough to start the drift from YHWH in northern Israel. 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Jeroboam took matters into his own hands, and ultimately led the northern kingdom onto a path that took them further and further from God that they were never able to bounce back from. When I was dwelling on how just a few seemingly insignificant acts of disobedience could result in an entire kingdom’s religious failure, the Lord posed a question:
Alex, in what areas of your life are you being a Jeroboam?
Oh my goodness. He’s done it again. Yet another,
What areas of my life am I okay with having a lukewarm mentality? And why am I okay with it? Where are these seemingly harmless but straying decisions going to lead my heart? Much like the Israelites, I find myself struggling with the question, “How do I live in the world, while not being of it?” After a lot of thought and prayer, I’m tentatively concluding that the Lord wants from me what He wanted from Saul- complete and unquestioning obedience. I want my heart to be laid before Him, so that when He says to jump my response isn’t, “Why?” but rather, “How high?”
Lord, take this stubborn vessel and steer it straight to your kingdom. Your kingdom come, Your will be done.
C A E S A R E A P H I L I P P I
If you follow the Huleh Basin north of the Sea of Galilee, you will eventually come upon a town called Caesarea Philippi. Its commonly known as the place where Jesus asked His disciples who the people said the Son of Man was, and then who the disciples say He was. Peter answered without missing a beat, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
To which the Lord responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter," and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Here are some tidbits that aren’t quite so well known about the location. It’s also commonly known as Panias, because Pan worship took place here, a deity that is part goat and plays the flute. I like to think of him as Mr. Tumnus. The country tends to look Narnia-ish at times anyways. Any who, Tumnus/Pan is supposedly a god of nature and fertility of Greek origin. Part of what encourages the belief in this deity is the fact that Mt. Hermon, which is just north of Caesarea Philippi, receives 70 inches of rainfall per year, and the Dannites, who are zealous for all of the wrong things in life, are just down the road. The combination of having a consistently lush area and pagan neighbors doesn’t make for the best life decisions in regard to idols.
You will recall that Jesus says Peter is the rock on which He will build His church. This Caesarea Philippi area is made of Cenomanian limestone, a rock that provides water, farmable soil, and shelter. The town is located in the region of Gaulanitis, which just so happens to have a population of both Jews and Gentiles. So why here? Why did Jesus have to come up here instead of staying at home in Capernaum?
Could Jesus be teaching through more than just His words here? Pair his statement that Peter will be the rock on which He will build His church with the fact that they are in an area of both Jews and Gentiles that is made of Cenomanian Limestone, the rock that gives you everything you need to survive.
Perhaps Jesus is indirectly telling Peter that the Lord will give him everything he needs and will need to survive. Perhaps Jesus is saying that His church will be made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and that He doesn’t want them separate. Maybe He’s telling Peter how crucial having a strong foundation is in a church. Who knows? But it’s fun to speculate.
Following this lecture we went on a 45 minute hike where we were able to truly soak up Caesarea Philippi. Well-watered enough to grow Jack’s beanstalk, the plant s were all plenty green, the water plenty loud, and the ground plenty muddy. From views of mountains to waterfalls, it was a satisfactory hike.
T E L N E A R M O U N T H E R M O N
For the life of me, I can’t remember the gosh darn name of this Tel. Something Har-Bon, but I don’t want to misinform you. This tel gave a stunning view of Mt. Hermon, had full on snowman complete with a carrot nose, AND an adorable coffee shop. I’m not exactly sure what we talked about up here- it was pretty cold and I didn’t take notes- sorry Vern!
The day ended with sipping a Belgian Mocha and photographing a stunning sunset. And of course laughter. And a sherut ride to our hotel.