Herod’s Pool at Caesarea

March 30, 2011

Herod the Great truly left his footprint all over the land of Israel. His palace at Caesarea has been excavated. On the south side of the palace was the swimming pool, as seen in our photo.

Herod's pool at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

BAR says the pool “. . .  was once the centerpiece of Herod’s palace, the nearly Olympic-sized swimming pool. The rectangular pool measures 115 feet long, 59 feet wide and at least 8 feet deep. Water channels leading into the pool from the shore have led excavators to surmise that the pool, though surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean, had been filled by fresh water. If they are correct, the pool is further indication that Herod thrived on building in the face of natural obstacles” (BAR 19:03 May/June 1993).

Earlier this month we were able to see some of the mosaics that adorned the pool.


Mosaics at Herod's Pool. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Until recently these mosaics were covered with tarp and gravel.

Mosaics at Herod's Pool. Photo by Leon Mauldin.




Away in a Manger

March 29, 2011

When you read of the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, what imagery comes to your mind? At different sites in Israel you can see still see mangers such as this one at Caesarea:

Manger at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


It is staggering to the imagination to think of the Creator who made the universe and all things in it, becoming flesh!  Eternal Deity became human! Born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary, a feeding trough was His bassinet.

As Deity (only), the Eternal Word could not die. He had to become flesh in order to be a substitute offering for the sins of the world (John 1:29; Heb. 2:10-18).

It’s also interesting to consider who first heard the news that Jesus was born. It wasn’t Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the Roman world. Nor was it the High Priest, or the Sanhedrin. It wasn’t someone rich or famous. The first to hear were shepherds, unnamed shepherds, just common people (Luke 2:8-20). Aren’t you glad that God cares about common people?

It is impossible that we should praise Him too much for His love and provisions. The plan of the Father for Jesus to come into our world for His redemptive work is referred to by such terms as “eternal counsel and foreknowledge,” and “before the foundation of the world” (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:20; Eph. 3:11).

Here is a manger we photographed at Megiddo. Hopefully today’s photos will help you to visualize the kind of setting the shepherds saw on that night they would never forget. This photo was taken the same day as the photo above (Caesarea Maritima). You can tell it had been raining earlier.

Manger at Megiddo. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

On a personal note, we have a new grand-baby born Sun. PM, a boy, making a total of 6 grandchildren for my wife and me. We are thankful to God for His many blessings.


Jokneam in Carmel

March 24, 2011

Sometimes people ask what is my favorite place to see in Israel. I don’t know the answer to that. But one of my favorites is Mt. Carmel, not only because of Elijah’s victory over the Baal prophets which took place there (1 Kings 18), but also because of the view from there. From Mt. Carmel you can see the Jezreel Valley, trace the flow of the Kishon River, see Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 7), the pass to Gilead, Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31), the central hill country of Samaria, and the Mediterranean coast! Also you can see the ruins of Jokneam, one of the city states named in the conquest listing of Joshua 12:21.

Jokneam in Carmel, listed in Joshua 12:22. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The tel of Jokneam is in the center of our photo. The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land has the following info re: Jokneam:


A city whose ruler was among the 31 Canaanite kings defeated by Joshua (Josh. 12:22), one of the Levitical cities of the family of Merari (Josh. 21:34).

One of the most important Canaanite city-states, it appears in the list of conquests made by Tuthmosis III; it was possibly conquered later by Tiglath-Pileser III. The site was also settled in the Roman period, when Eusebius knew it as Kammona, ‘a large village in the Great Plain, 6 miles to the north of Legio, on the way to Ptolemais (Acco)’. Identified with Tel Qaimin, an exceptionally large mound at the entrance to Wadi Milh, one of the important passes leading into the Jezreel Valley.

Since 1977 excavations have been carried out at Tel Yokneam under the direction of A. Ben-Tor on behalf of the Hebrew University, as part of a regional research project of the western part of the Jezreel Valley. This mound is outstanding by virtue of its continuous occupation. The following periods were found to be represented at the site: Ottoman, Mameluke, Crusader, early Arab, Byzantine, Roman, Hellenistic, Persian, Iron Age and Late Bronze Age. On the surface were also found potsherds of the Middle Bronze and Early Bronze Ages.

One is benefited by seeing not only the well-known sites, but also the more obscure! Note that the above entry states that Jokneam was one of Canaan’s most important city states.

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Boaring at Beitin

March 22, 2011

Most scholars today identify Old Testament Bethel as the Arab village of Beitin about 11 mi north of Jerusalem. Edward Robinson was the first to identify it in the 1830’s, equating the modern Arabic name of Beitin with Bethel.  This identification was also accepted by W. F. Alblright, who believed that the identification was maintained by the Biblical and patristic (church fathers) evidence. We were fortunate to see Beitin last week during our tour of Israel.

Beitin, proposed site for biblical Bethel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beitin is on the hill in the distance. In the Bible, Bethel received its name as a result of God appearing to Jacob there (formerly Luz), and giving him the Abrahamic promises–(1) to make of him a great nation (2) to give his descendants the land of Canaan (3) through his Seed would all families of the earth be blessed. Jacob named the site Bethel, which means “house of God” (Gen. 28:11-19).

The identity of this site as Bethel is questioned by others (David Livingston, of ABR, Associates for Biblical Research). One of the exciting things about archaeology is that relevant discoveries continue to be made.

Hopefully more info will be forthcoming; perhaps excavations will uncover an inscription, a boundary stone, or some other evidence that will be helpful in making a more certain identification. It the meantime we saw the site that has been identified as biblical Bethel. More excavations are needed!

Here is another shot from a different location.

Beitin. Possible site for biblical Bethel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

While at the above location some of our tour members noticed some movement in the distance on the side of the hill. It turned out to be wild boars. There were in fact several of them. Keith Welch zoomed in and made this shot:

Wild Boars at Bethel. Photo by Keith Welch.

Of course swine were listed among unclean animals during the Old Testament period, animals which could not be eaten (Lev. 11:7).

There was an article in the 6/12/09 IsraelNationalNews.com on the problem of wild hogs in Israel. The article, “PA Blames Israel for Wild Boars,” is authored by Maayana Miskin.

Palestinian Authority media outlets continue to blame Israel for problems caused by wild boars in Samaria, despite Israeli efforts to cull the animals. On Thursday, PA farmers near Ariel complained that “Israeli settlers” had engineered a wild boar attack that destroyed agricultural produce.

The farmers’ claims were repeated by the head of the regional PA farmers’ union, who accused Israelis living in Ariel and nearby towns of planning the attacks. The union head did not explain how Israelis allegedly trained the pigs to destroy only Arab crops.

Arab residents of Samaria have made several similar claims over the past three years. The claims have been backed up by PA armed forces, whose officers have been quoted as confirming to PA media that Israel is behind wild boar attacks.

Media outlets have also lent credence to the claims, with the PA-based Ma’an news agency stating, “The wild boars are being released by Israeli settlers in order to destroy the plants and crops of Palestinians.”

The claims of malicious Israeli control of the wild animals have continued this year despite Israel’s efforts to cull the wild boar population in areas under its control. The Nature and Parks Authority has worked to control the boars since May of this year, due to damage caused by boars in the Haifa district.

Israel is unable to cull the boar population in Arab villages in Samaria, as those areas are entirely under PA control.

More to come. Click on photos for higher resolution.

The Pilate Inscription at Caesarea

March 21, 2011

We arrived safely home Saturday from our Israel tour. It was a great trip and a wonderful opportunity for all of our group to learn more about the geographical setting of the events of Scripture. I agree with James Houston’s observation in his entry, “The Geographical Setting of the Bible”:

The geography of the Bible is relevant to biblical study because the acts of God with men are dealt with in a particular geographical setting and a specific historical context. (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1:, p. 83).

We plan to continue to post some photos from this trip. Today’s photo is that of the “Pilate Inscription,” discovered at Caesarea in 1961.

Pilate Inscription at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

One of the most sensational discoveries at Caesarea was this inscribed stone mentioning Pontius Pilate. Found in a step of the theater, it was originally part of a nearby temple honoring the emperor Tiberius. The stone was moved to the theater to repair a step after the temple fell into disuse. The Latin reads: “Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius” (BAR 08:03 May/June 1982).

John 18 records Pilate’s questioning of Jesus at his “trial:”

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Pilate really did not want to crucify Jesus. His purpose in scourging Jesus was to satisfy the Jewish leaders and thereby avoid putting Jesus to death (John 19:1-6), but he underestimated their determination. John 19 continues,

7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

The display in Caesarea is a replica. The original is in the Israel Museum. Click on image for higher resolution.

From Dan to Beersheba

March 17, 2011

Tonight as I write this we are in Beersheba, so we have traveled the biblical “from Dan to Beersheba” that is referenced so many times in Scripture (1 Sam. 3:20, etc.), having been to Dan earlier last week.

Last evening we spent the night at the Dead Sea at En Boqeq, but the internet was down when I was attempting to use it. Yesterday AM before leaving Jerusalem we visited the Wailing Wall. This wall was not part of the temple itself, but was the retaining wall for the temple and the structures on the temple mount.

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jerusalem is defined by three valleys: the Kidron, Tyropean and Hinnom. In the above photo we are standing in the Tyropean Valley.

The first several courses of larger stones starting from bottom are Herodian. Jews come here to mourn the destruction of the temple, among other reasons.

Just south of the wailing wall, excavations have reached down to first century street level. There you can see the stones that have been uncovered that were part of the temple buildings, hurled down into the valley during the AD 70 destruction. This photo shows the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that not 0ne stone would be left upon another, that would not be cast down (Matt. 24:2). He said that this would occur during that generation (v.34).

Temple Stones from AD 70 Destruction. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

After leaving Jerusalem, we went to see Anathoth. This was the site of the city which was home to Jeremiah.

Anathoth, home of prophet Jeremiah. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We also went to Old Testament Jericho. While there I took a group photo.

Group Photo at OT Jericho. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We’ve learned a lot on this journey. We are truly blessed.

This morning upon leaving En Boqeq we went to Masada.

Leon Mauldin at Zoar.

En route to Masada we stopped at Zoar for the view. The brook drains down to the Dead Sea. It is not clear if there is any connection between  this location and the Zoar mentioned in Gen. 19:22ff., in connection with the narrative of lot and the destruction of Sodom and its surrounding cities. The mountains just south of this area are called the Mountains of Sodom.

Masada was a Herodian fortress. It was here that the Zealots fled after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The Romans laid siege to Masada, and in AD 73 broke through the wall. They found the Jews inside chose death by their own hands rather than be captured by the Romans.

Tomorrow is a full schedule of sites from Tel Sheva (Beersheba) working our way up to Joppa, and from then to TLV for our departing flight home, the Lord willing.  Thanks again for following our travels, and for the many kind notes & prayers.

Click on photos for higher resolution.

Gordon’s Calvary

March 15, 2011

Today was a walking tour of Jerusalem, and beginning at Herod’s Gate included the sites of the Old City such as the Via Dolorosa, the Cardo, as well as the Temple Model, and finally Calvary.

Dr. W. Harold Mare discussed the merits of Calvary as the actual location of Jesus’ crucifixion in Bible and Spade:

Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb are located a short distance north of the present Damascus Gate, just east of Nablus Road. In 1885 General Charles Gordon, following the proposal made by Otto Thenius of Dresden in 1842, argued that a rocky hill there, 250 yards northeast of the Damascus Gate, was Calvary. The identification was based on several arguments: It was presumed to be a Jewish place of stoning, it lay outside the city wall, and what looked like the face of a skull could be seen in the rocky hillside.
As to location, Gordon’s Calvary fits the biblical requirements of being outside the gate. Although the side of the hill looks like the face of a skull, this may be due to man-made cuttings in the hill. The biblical reference to Calvary as the place of a skull (Matthew 24:33, etc.), may mean that it was shaped like a skull, or simply that skulls of crucified criminals could be found there.

Gordon’s Calvary. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The nearby rock-hewn Garden Tomb, though aesthetically satisfying, is not of the first century A.D. It contains a Byzantine (fourth to sixth centuries A.D.) trough-type burial place, and two Byzantine crosses were found painted on one wall (Vol.3, no. 2).

Garden Tomb at Calvary. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


Mare went on to say, “The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, besides being outside the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, has other supportive evidence” (ibid). We will plan to write more re: this on a future post.

I do like the truth engraved on the door of the garden tomb:

Thanks again for following our travels. Tomorrow we are to leave Jerusalem and visit sites southward to the Dead Sea.

Click on images for higher resolution.

Gibeon, El-Jib

March 14, 2011

Today’s biblical sites included Gibeon. Gibeon is the Canaanite city whose residents (the Hivites Josh. 9:7) pretended to be a long distance away from the land of Canaan, as they approached Joshua and the men of Israel in the days of the Conquest. They brought old dry, moldy bread and wore worn out clothes, and said the bread was fresh when they left, and their garments had worn out along the way. The text says, “Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord” (Josh 9:14).

Later the Israelites found out they had been deceived. They honored their covenant with the Gibeonites, but made them wood cutters and water carriers for the house of God (v.23).

Because the Gibeonites had made a treaty with Israel, a coalition of kings to the south, led by the king of the Jebusites (ancient Jerusalem), attached. They sent to Joshua for help, and he responded, defeating these southern kings. Needed extra daylight to make the victory complete, Joshua prayed to the Lord, and the day was lengthened, giving the necessary time to defeat Israel’s enemies. “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge upon their enemies” (Josh. 10:12-13).

Our photo today shows the tel of Gibeon, which is the Arab village of El-Jib. This photo was taken from Nabi Samwil.

Tel of Gibeon. Modern Arab El-Jib. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


When the land was distributed, Gibeon became part of the tribal territory of Benjamin (Josh. 18:25), and was designated as a Levitical city (Josh. 21:17).

Click image for higher resolution.

Capernaum, Jesus’ Home During Galilean Ministry

March 13, 2011

Last evening we arrived in Jerusalem, but I did not post last night as I was having internet problems.

Before leaving Galilee yesterday morning we visited Capernaum. Capernaum means “town of Nahum” (New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p.209), and is called “the most important city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 245). Though Jesus’ home town was Nazareth, Capernaum was where He lived during the Galilean ministry. Note the wording of the NET in Matt. 4:13, “While in Galilee, he moved from Nazareth to make his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.” To that compare Mark 2:1: “Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home,” with its parallel in Matt. 9:1, which says Jesus came “to His own city.”

The impressive remains of a beautiful white limestone synagogue can be seen at Capernaum. While these ruins are post 1st century, excavations below these remains show evidence of an earlier synagogue, built of black basalt stones, which hasbeen determined to be of AD 1st century usage.

Synagogue at Capernaum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


Capernaum was among three cities Jesus publicly rebuked for their unbelief manifested in their refusal to repent at the preaching of Jesus. The inhabitants of Capernaum had received much, but believed litt.e There is a biblical principle here: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Lk. 12:48).

While at Capernaum I took a group shot as our guide Elie was giving info re: the site.

Group shot at Capernaum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.


Thanks for following our travels. It is a joy to do biblical studies on location.

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Caesarea Philippi

March 11, 2011

Today’s photo shows the Banias River, at Caesarea Philippi. One of the largest springs in the world, and one of the major sources of the Jordan River.

Banias River at Caesarea Philippi. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It was in this vicinity that we have the setting for the text of Matt. 16:13-19

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Whatever else we know, it is imperative and vital that we get the correct answer to the questions Jesus asked. The purpose of the gospel records is to show us who Jesus is. No other answer will do. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!

You can see there was a very nice, full flow of water at Banias. Our group also saw the Senir River, as well as the Dan River. These converge further south to form the upper Jordan.

In the distance you can see the grotto of Pan, where this pagan deity was worshipped. The ruins of many idolatrous sites can be seen here, actually side by side, one right after another as you continue to move to your right from the grotto. You are at the base of Mt. Hermon.

It’s just after 3:00 AM as I’m presently writing. Today we are to visit Capernaum, one of the cities where Jesus did most of His miracles. Also Beth Shean, where the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung after their death at Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31). We are to make our way down the Jordan Valley on to Jerusalem as the day progresses, the Lord willing.

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