The Biblical Winepress

June 28, 2011

One of our readers asked about either artwork or archaeological dig of a winepress in order to help visualize the situation described in the account of Gideon: “The LORD’s angelic messenger came and sat down under the oak tree in Ophrah owned by Joash the Abiezrite. He arrived while Joash’s son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress so he could hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11, NET).

At Neot Kedumim there is a good example of a biblical winepress.

A Winepress at Neot Kedumim. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel, is located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This unique recreation of the physical setting of the Bible in all its depth and detail allows visitors to see life as it was lived by our ancestors 3,000 years ago. More than a “garden” showing various plants, Neot Kedumim embodies the panorama and power of the landscapes which shaped the values of the Bible and provided the rich vocabulary for expressing those values. (

There is also a winepress at Tel Qasile, which dates back to Roman times. Here is a diagram:

Diagram for winepress at Tel Qasile. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Here is a photo of the winepress:

Winepress at Tel Qasile. Dates back to Roman times. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Though this would be much later than the period of the Judges it is still helpful for illustration purposes.

Click on images for larger view.

Sinai Wilderness

June 22, 2011

The inspired writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews calls that letter “a word of exhortation” (13:22). Hebrew Christians were tiring of standing against opposition to their faith, and were in danger of leaving their commitment to Christ.

The approach in chapter 3 is to remind them of the children of God under the former dispensation, and how they had allowed great opportunities to enjoy the promises of God slip right through their hands:

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that forsakes the living God. 13 But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become partners with Christ, if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end. 15 As it says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For which ones heard and rebelled? Was it not all who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership? 17 And against whom was God provoked for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose dead bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear they would never enter into his rest, except those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they could not enter because of unbelief (Heb. 3:12-19, NET).

We would do well to remember that the warnings of God are always given for good reason.

When the writer spoke of the Israelites who left Egypt under Moses’ leadership only to rebel against God and refuse to obey, he said their “dead bodies fell in the wilderness.” This would be a reference to the wilderness of Sinai.

Sinai Wilderness. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Photos such as this give the setting of some of the territory Israel would have occupied during that period of 40 years when God was waiting for that unbelieving generation to die.

When you see palm trees such as these it is an indication that there is water.

Sinai Wilderness with Palm Trees. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on images for larger view.

David’s Mighty Men

June 14, 2011

It would seem that much of the material in 2 Sam. 23:8ff. is “appendix” kind of information, supplemental to the narrative that has preceded it. v. 13 reads, “Then three of the thirty chief men went down at harvest time and came to David at the cave of Adullam. And the troop of Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.” It would seem that this incident occurred early in David’s reign, and is to be identified with one of the two campaigns of Israel vs the Philistines recorded in 2 Sam. 5:17-25.

Looking out through entrance of a cave in Adulum Grove National Park. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At this time referenced in 2 Sam. 23, a garrison of Philistines was in Bethlehem (v.14). “And David said longingly, ‘Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!'” (v.15, ESV).

Bob Waldron writes, “David made an offhand remark how he would love a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem by the gate. He did not dream that anyone would take his wish as a command and go get water for him.”

But go they did. “So the three elite warriors broke through the Philistine forces and drew some water from the cistern in Bethlehem near the gate. They carried it back to David, but he refused to drink it. He poured it out as a drink offering to the LORD” (v.16, NET).

The word rendered “broke” is baqa, which means to cleave, divide; to break or lay open. Waldron writes,

They fought their way, killing every Philistine who tried to stop them, until they got to the well. Drawing the water, they fought their way out, and made their way back to David and gave him the drink of water he longed for. We admire the love of these three men for David, and their devotion to him that made his wish their command.

The 2 Sam. texts shows that David was so moved by the devotion of these men that “he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord” (v.16). Again, Waldron observes,

David felt that is would be sacrilege before the Lord to drink water purchased at the risk of his men’s lives. He felt that it was essentially the blood of his men since they had hazarded their lives to get him the water. The only thing he could do with the water that would be worthy of the price paid for it was to give it to the Lord, so he poured it out as a solemn drink offering to God.

Lesson: All these men cared about was David. It was enough to know what he wanted, and they were willing to die to make it happen. Is Jesus worthy of any less love and loyalty?

Our photo above looks out through the entrance of a cave at Adulum Grove National Park. Click on image for larger view. Quotes from my friend Bob Waldron are from his commentary on 1-2 Samuel in the Truth Commentary series.

Columbarium Caves

June 13, 2011

In the biblical lowlands of Judea, the Shephelah, there are numbers caves. Some of these were used for raising doves. The Midras ruins, where our photo below was taken, are located in the Adulum Grove Nature Reserve.

Columbarium at Midras Ruins, Adulum Grove National Park in Southern Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

On site there is a sign with the following info:

Columbarium means dovecote in Greek. Hundreds of caves of this type were found in the Judean lowlands, usually in the vicinity of ancient settlements. Dozens of small niches of various sizes, ranging in depth from 15 to 25 cm, were carved into the wall of the columbarium. Scholars believe that doves were raised in these niches for food, and to use their dung as fertilizer. The doves may also have been used for ritual purposes. The raising of doves was apparently a significant part of the economy of the Judean lowlands during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

This area would be the general context for 2 Sam. 23, an event during the life of David: “And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim”(v.13).


June 8, 2011

As I make use of photos of Bible places in teaching/preaching and writing, I tend to select shots of the biblical sites themselves without people (whenever possible). For example, this photo shows Beersheba of the Negev, home of the patriarchs and later designated as the southernmost border of Israel.

Beersheba, southernmost city of Israel. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Sometimes, however, it is helpful to have someone(s) in the photo to give a sense of scale and proportion.

Beersheba w/Mauldin in photo center. Gives sense of proportion. Photo by Sandy Parker.

While visiting Beersheba (Tel Sheva) in March ’11, we took a group shot. Hardhats are required for one to walk through Beersheba’s water system. This photo was taken at the city’s gate.

Beersheba. Group shot at City Gate. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Now I wouldn’t say that my group was hard-headed, but they were in fact hard-hatted 🙂

Click on images for larger view. Previous posts of Beersheba may be found here and here.

I am enjoying the meeting with the Kimberly church of Christ, speaking there each night at 7:30 through Fri.

Gods of Egypt: Imhotep

June 4, 2011

In previous posts we have noted that the plagues of Egypt in Exodus were judgments against the gods of Egypt (Exodus 6:6; 12:12). See here and here.

In the plagues God was showing that the false gods were impotent and that Yahweh alone was the true and living God.

In some of the plagues it is possible that more than one Egyptian god may have been targeted. Some scholars believe that Imhotep, the god of medicine, was shown to be powerless with such plagues as the boils.

Imhotep, god of medicine. Brooklyn Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Imhotep, the polymath and architect of genius employed by Djoser, was deified soon after his death. Imhotep and Amenophis-sa-Hapu, who was Amenophis III’s architect, became a popular pair of gods for the everyday cares of the man in the street, especially in the field of medicine. In common with Thoth, Imhotep became the special tutelary god of scribes and learned men. The Greeks equated him with Asclepius (Egypt, Phaidon, 403-404).

Tomorrow morning I am to begin a 6-Day meeting at Kimberly, north of Birmingham, AL.

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