Paul Traveled through Troas

October 26, 2018

Troas is referenced several times in Scripture, beginning in Acts 16:8, where Paul (2nd Missionary Journey) received a vision of a man pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (v.9). Paul would make use of the harbor at Troas on several occasions in his travels in preaching the gospel message.

It is hard to overstate the pervasiveness of idolatry in the biblical world. It was literally everywhere. The ruins of a Roman temple, thought to be constructed during the reign of Augustus, may be seen at the agora. A head of the wine god Dionysos was found at the site. The info sign (written in Turkish and German) indicates that the remains uncovered here bear witness to the glorious temple facilities. A Roman aqueduct flows under the temple.

Pagan temple at Troas. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Paul used the harbor here at Troas going and coming on his 3rd Journey (2 Cor. 2:12; Acts 20:6).

Paul made reference to Troas in his final letter, shortly before his death, writing to Timothy, “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.” (2 Tim. 4:13).


Gamla in the Galilee

October 23, 2018

Gamla was a Jewish village in the time of Jesus, though not mentioned in the Bible. It was located on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, in the southern Golan Heights. Archaeologists have determined that the date of occupation of this settlement goes back to the Early Bronze Age, pre-dating Abraham by some centuries. Our photo here shows Gamla at center. In distance, far right you can see the Sea of Galilee.

Gamla, looking west. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Three years before the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, Gamla was the site of a grisly battle during the time of the first Jewish Revolt; Gamla fell to the Romans on October 20, AD 67, with Roman forces led by Vespasian (soon to become emperor) and his son Titus (who also succeeded his father as emperor). Josephus gives the number of Jewish casualties at Gamla as totaling 9,000. 4,000 were killed by the Romans, while 5,000 jumped to their death–“while the Romans slew but four thousand, whereas the number of those that had thrown themselves down was found to be five thousand” (Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1987). The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged, p. 668).

At center of our photo here you can see the ancient synagogue. Additionally, excavations have uncovered four mikva’ot for the ritual baths.

Synagogue at Gamla. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Gamla was known for its production of olive oil.

Olive press at Gamla. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Danny Syon gives the following information in Biblical Archaeology Review:

To understand the battle at Gamla, we must first understand the topography that provides its breathtaking setting. Gamla is located on the Golan Heights, on a narrow, pointy spur high above the Sea of Galilee. It is enclosed on all sides by steep ravines, except to the east, where it is connected by a slim saddle to the plateau above. Huge boulders on top of the hill make the spur resemble a gigantic reclining camel with a hump, which doubtless led early settlers in about 150 B.C.E. to name the site Gamla—“camel” in Aramaic.

The early houses of these settlers stood on top of the hill, where the inhabitants could easily look to the east—the only direction from which friend or foe would approach. All other directions were well protected by nature.

It was important for the Romans to destroy Gamla because it was the central Zealot stronghold east of the Sea of Galilee. The Zealots were among the most radical of the Jewish groups supporting the revolt. Moreover, since Gamla was near the main road connecting Israel to the great Jewish centers in Babylon, it was the natural entry point for any help the Zealots hoped for from their brethren in Mesopotamia. For this reason, too, it was important for the Romans to destroy Gamla at the outset.

The Jewish revolt was no small matter for Rome. If the Jews could revolt, the allegiance of no province could be counted on. The Romans sent some of their best legions to Palestine to quell the rebellion. Leading the Roman troops were Vespasian and his son Titus, both of whom would later become emperors—in large part on the basis of their victories over the Jews. The Roman legions landed at the seaport of Acco. Vespasian decided that the best way to break the resistance would be to take the rear first—the Galilee and the Golan—and only then to proceed on to the heart of the rebellion—Judea and its capital, Jerusalem. The Romans marched through the Galilee, systematically taking city after city and village after village, continuing on toward Gamla. . .

Gamla is one of very few places in the Roman empire where a battle site was abandoned and never resettled. This enables us to gather unprecedented information on strategy, tactics and troop deployment, of both Roman and Jewish forces. So far over 1,000 basalt ballista stones and 1,600 iron arrowheads have been found, an incredible number in comparison with other sites. The number of arrowheads is especially surprising because after the battle the Romans would have collected spent arrows for reuse. The concentration of ballista stones and arrowheads was especially great in and around the breach in the wall. Clearly an artillery barrage took place here. (BAR 18:01 Jan/Feb 1992)

 


Joash Repairs the Temple, 2 Chronicles 24

September 28, 2018

When Judah’s King Ahaziah was killed (841 BC, Theile), his mother, described as “the wicked Athaliah” (2 Chron. 24:7) usurped the throne and reigned 6 years. She did the unthinkable: she killed all of Ahaziah’s sons–her own grandchildren! Of course, she was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and she certainly and consistently played the part.

Little known to her, the High Priest Jehoiada and his wife Jehoshabeath (Ahaziah’s sister) saved the one-year-old baby Joash, and kept him hidden for six years (2 Chron 22:10-12).

2 Chronicles 23 tells how Jehoiada led the priests, Levites, and people of Judah in crowning Joash as the rightful heir to the throne of David. At the same time, Athaliah was executed.

Joash reigned 40 years (835-796 BC). The historian says, “And Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chron. 24:1-2). The Priest Jehoiada was no doubt a great mentor to the young Joash. Faithfulness on the part of Joash was seen during the rest of Jehoiada the Priest’s life.

Great emphasis is given on the work of restoring the temple in Jerusalem (v.4), the house of God, “to repair the house of the LORD” (v.12).

Painting of Solomon’s Temple. Semitic Museum, Boston. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The text goes on to say, “So the workmen labored, and the repair work progressed in their hands, and they restored the house of God according to its specifications and strengthened it” (v.13, NASB). The NIV translates, “The men in charge of the work were diligent, and the repairs progressed under them. They rebuilt the temple of God according to its original design and reinforced it.” All of this sounds so encouraging.

But as Martin Selman states,

Joash’s story is one of the saddest in Chronicles. It describes a king who deliberately turned his back on God after he had received personal experience of God’s mercy and had initiated a religious reformation. (2 Chronicles, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Kindle Locations 3609-3610).

Here is what happened as soon as Jehoiada died:

But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them. 18 They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols; so wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them to bring them back to the LORD; though they testified against them, they would not listen. 20 Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus God has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you.'” 21 So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May the LORD see and avenge! (2 Chron. 24:17-22).

What becomes apparent is that whereas King Joash did so much good, and seemed to be so strong, that when his real source of strength, Jehoiada, was removed, then what appeared to be faith and strength crumbled, showing his goodness to be only outward and superficial. Lesson: each one has to make the faith his own! (2 Tim. 1:5). 


The Theodotos Synagogue Inscription in Jerusalem

September 18, 2018

An interesting artifact displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is the dedicatory inscription, written in Greek, from the synagogue of Theodotos in Jerusalem. This inscription, made of limestone, was discovered in 1913 by Raymond Weill during excavations in the City of David.  Fant and Reddish note: “If its pre-70 C.E. dating is accurate, then this discovery provides solid evidence of a synagogue building in Jerusalem that was built during the end of the first century B.C.E. or early part of the first century C.E. (Lost Treasures of the Bible, Kindle Locations 4613-4614).

Theodotus built the synagogue “for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments.”

Hundreds of synagogues stood in ancient Jerusalem before their destruction by Titus’s Roman forces in 70 A.D.; in one of them hung the following Greek inscription, carved prominently into the 25-by-17-inch limestone slab shown above: “Theodotus son of Vettenus, priest and synagogue leader, son of a synagogue leader, grandson of a synagogue leader, rebuilt this synagogue for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments, and the hostelry, rooms and baths, for the lodging of those who have need from abroad. It was established by his forefathers, the elders and Simonides.” The fact that the language of the inscription is Greek, not Hebrew, and its allusion to “those who have need from abroad,” suggest that this synagogue was used by Jews from the Diaspora, and that it housed large numbers of visiting pilgrims. Some scholars have identified it with the Synagogue of the Freedmen (former slaves in the Roman Empire), mentioned in Acts 6:9 (Shanks, BAR 29:4 July/Aug 2003).

The Theodotus Synagogue Inscription. Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The term archisynagogos, “ruler of the synagogue,” is significant. Regarding this title held by Theodotus  and his grandfather, Fant & Reddish note:

Not only did Theodotus hold this office in the synagogue, but according to the inscription so did his father and his grandfather. If the traditional dating of the inscription is correct, then Theodotus’s grandfather would have been archisynagogos sometime during the first century B.C.E. This is the earliest known use of this title for the person who served as the leader of the Jewish synagogue, pre-dating by approximately fifty years other examples of a similar use of this term. (Treasures 4615-4616).

This term archisunagogos is found in the following passages in Acts:

  • ESV Acts 13:15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.”
  • Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
  • Acts 18:17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

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Libnah and Edom Revolted against Judah’s King Jehoram

September 11, 2018

2 Chronicles tells the story of Judah’s King Jehoram, who did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (unlike his father, good King Jehoshaphat). Things began to fall apart politically, as Edom to Judah’s south, and Libnah, to the west revolted:

In his days Edom revolted against the rule of Judah and set up a king over themselves. Then Jehoram crossed over with his commanders and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck down the Edomites who were surrounding him and the commanders of the chariots. So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time against his rule, because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers (21:8-10).

Note the reason for the revolt: “because he [Jehoram] had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.”

Excavations have been conducted for many years at Tel Burna, believed by many to be the site of Libnah.

Tel Burna, proposed site of Libnah. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project has a website here.

Another nearby site which has also been proposed is that of Tel Zayit, the excavated under the direction of Ron Tappy of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Tel-Zayit, another proposed site for Libnah. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Both of these sites, located in the Judean Shephelah, are Iron Age Israelite cities and are good candidates for biblical Libnah; further excavation and research hopefully will be more definitive. See map here below which indicates the proposed location of Libnah (Tel Burna). Libnah was located on the western edge of Judah, just southeast of the Philistine city of Gath (Tel es-Safi), placing it near the Judean/Philistine border.

Google map shows Tel Burna, proposed site of Libnah, SE of Gath (Tel es-Safi).

The well-known city of Petra (of the Nabateans) was within the territory of Old Testament Edom.

Edom also rebelled against Judah’s King Jehoram. This view is in the vicinity of Petra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Territory of Edom, south of Judah. Map by Scott Richardson.

Among the interesting things said about King Jehoram:

  • Judah increasingly follows the apostate lead of Israel, with its Baal worship introduced by Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18; cf. 1 Kings 16:31).
  • Jehoram of Judah is the brother-in-law of King Jehoram (or Joram) of Israel. The king of Israel was Ahab’s son; Jehoram of Judah is Ahab’s son-in-law, having married Athaliah the daughter of Ahab.
  • Once Jehoram was established as king, he killed all his brothers with the sword (2 Chron. 21:4). He had six brothers.
  • Though Judah’s leaders might be unfaithful, YAHWEH would be faithful to the covenant that He had made with David (2 Chron. 21:7). During this time, the Messianic lineage/hope would be hanging by the thread of one life for three successive generations, but God intervened to make sure there was a “lamp” burning.
  • In contrast to his good father Jehoshaphat, Jehoram constructed “high places” for the worship of pagan gods in the mountains of Judah by which he “led Judah astray” (2 Chron. 21:10).
  • Jehoram received a letter from the prophet Elijah (2 Chron. 21:12-15); Elijah was alive for at least part of Jehoram’s reign (cf. 2 Kings 1:17). The letter took the form of a prophetic judgment, inditing him for the sins of idolatry and fratricide. Great calamity as well as a painful death by an incurable intestinal disease was to come.
  • Philistine and Arabian raiders invaded Judah and took all of Jehoram’s sons, except Ahaziah (2 Chron. 21:17). We learn subsequently that all of these sons were killed (2 Chron. 22:1). Also they took away Jehoram’s wives, except for Athaliah.
  • In 2 Chronicles 21 Jehoram’s story concludes with three negatives: At his death the people did not make the customary funeral fire to honor him (v.19); when he died no one regretted his passing (v.20); he was not buried in the tombs of the kings (v.20). How sad!

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Nain, in Galilee, where Jesus Raised the Dead

August 4, 2018

I love to read the account of the time Jesus went to the Galilean city of Nain, raising a young man from the dead. How the widowed mother must have rejoiced!

Luke narrates as follows:

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” (Lk. 7:11-16).

This tiny village is still remembered as the site where this resurrection occurred. A Franciscan church commemorates the event. (It is reported that the church is seldom open. The key is held by the Franciscans on Mount Tabor.)

Franciscan Church at Nain, the city where Jesus resurrected the widow’s son, Lk. 7:11-17. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to show who He was/is. The limited occasions recorded when He raised the dead give proof that He is Life, He is the source of Life. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). And yet such occasions show the very real compassion of Jesus as well. The compassion He had during His ministry on earth He continues to have at this present time.

Ferrell Jenkins and I had the opportunity to make a quick stop at Nain during our study tour in Israel in March, 2018.

Nain in Galilee. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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“They Let Go the Anchors”

August 1, 2018

Acts 27 is tells the exciting (and scary)  narrative of Paul’s (along with 276 passengers on the ship, v.37) voyage in the storm, shipwrecking at Malta in the Mediterranean en route to Rome. As they approached land, Luke writes, “Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak” (v.29). Then when it was day and they could see land, “And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach” (v.40). There was no loss of life, and the group wintered at what turned out to be Malta (28:1ff.).

At En Gev on the Sea of Galilee I photographed some anchors which can serve as good illustrations of the Acts 27 text.

Anchors displayed at Ein Gev, Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

House of the Anchors. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Such artifacts are useful in helping to visualize the text and may be used in PPT or printed as handouts.

Anchor at Ein Gev, Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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