The Tabernacle at Shiloh

November 23, 2013

I had the occasion to visit Shiloh while in Israel last month. A special area of interest is the proposed site of the tabernacle.

Proposed site of Tabernacle at Shiloh. Photo by Greg Picogna.

Proposed site of Tabernacle at Shiloh. Photo by Greg Picogna.

The tabernacle stood here for about 400 years, from its installment during the Conquest (Josh. 18:1), to its destruction in the days of the Judges by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4), during the final days of Eli.

Site of Tabernacle at Shiloh. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Site of Tabernacle at Shiloh. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Todd Bolen reports that recent excavations have discovered an altar at Shiloh, and provides the link here.

We have previously posted several articles on Shiloh here and here and here.

At this point there are very few info signs on the site.

It is truly an exciting place to visit.

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Jesus Pays the Half Shekel Tax

November 13, 2013

In Matthew 17, an  unforgettable event transpired in the lives of Peter and Jesus:

When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” (Matt. 17:24-27).

In a very real sense, Jesus was uniquely the Son of God; His Father was/is the owner of the universe. A case could be made that as such, Jesus was exempt from paying the temple tax, a half shekel, an annual tax paid by every male Israelite. But to avoid causing an occasion of offense, Jesus paid the tax. Peter would never forget the day that he went to the sea (Sea of Galilee) and pulled in the fish that had a shekel in its mouth, payment for two.

I had the opportunity to photograph the temple tax in the Israel Museum a few weeks ago.

Half Shekel. Israel Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Half Shekel. Israel Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This is a Tyrian half-shekel, a silver coin dated about AD 47-48. The placard provides the following information:

Every Jewish male over the age of twenty was obligated to pay a yearly tax to the temple. The Tyrian half-shekel silver coin was used for this purpose. The funds raised were used for maintenance, the purchase of sacrifices, and, indirectly, as a means of conducting a census.  Because Tyrian coins were not particularly common, they needed to be purchased from money-changers in the Temple. The coin depicts the Tyrian god Hercules-Melqart on one side and an eagle standing on the bow of a boat on the other.

It is our desire that such photos and info help illuminate our reading of Scripture.

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Reflections on the Cities of Refuge

November 11, 2013

Our previous three posts have featured the three cities of refuge on the western side of Jordan: Kedesh, Shechem and Hebron. There were also three on the Transjordan, making a total of six. These were to serve as sanctuary to one who was guilty of accidental manslaughter, such as when an ax head flew off the handle, etc.

I was recently reading Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Deut. 19, pertaining to the cities of refuge and related matters. Wiersbe was tying in the OT city of refuge with the New Testament application made in Hebrews:

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:17-20)..

Really, the comparison is one of contrasts:

1. The OT resident of a city of refuge was not guilty of murder, though he had accidentally shed man’s blood. But all those who have fled to Christ for refuge ARE guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23).

2. The accidental man-slayer had to dwell in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. But now there is a High Priest who never dies, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Jacob’s well, referenced in John 4, is very near the ruins of ancient Shechem. It is housed inside a Greek Orthodox Church, the interior of which was completed in 2007. We were able to visit the church and the well while at Shechem last month.

Shechem Jacob's Well Greek Orthodox church interior. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Shechem Jacob’s Well Greek Orthodox church interior. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

A very cordial Greek Orthodox Priest was on duty during our visit there. Here is a view of the church from the outside:

Jacobs Well Greek Orthodox Church Outside. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jacobs Well Greek Orthodox Church Outside. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Hebron, Third City of Refuge

November 8, 2013

Our previous two posts have featured cities of refuge on the western side of Jordan, Kedesh and Shechem. Several passages discuss the cities of refuge, but the one that gives the most information is Numbers 35.

The cities of refuge were Levitical cities. Unlike the other tribes, which were assigned allotments of land for their inheritance, the Levites were given a total of 48 cities, 6 of which were the cities of refuge. “The cities you give the Levites will include six cities of refuge, which you must provide so that the one who kills someone may flee there; in addition to these, give 42 other cities” (Num. 35:6, CSB). Further Moses instructed, “Select three cities across the Jordan and three cities in the land of Canaan to be cities of refuge”(v.14).

The three cities of refuge in Canaan are set forth as follows, “So they designated Kedesh in the hill country of Naphtali in Galilee, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah” (Josh. 20:7, CSB).

Hebron has a lot of history pertaining to the patriarchs. Not only was it a dwelling place for many of them, it was also a burial-place (Gen. 23:16-20). Our photo here at Hebron was taken with the cave of Machpelah at our back.

Hebron, a city of refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hebron, a city of refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Other posts on Hebron may be viewed here and here.

For security reasons, Hebron is usually not included on tour to Israel.

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Shechem, a City of Refuge

November 6, 2013

See our yesterday’s post for a map showing all 6 cities of Refuge.

Another city of refuge was Shechem, a West Bank site known as Tel Balata.

This Old Testament city had an important history. It was here that Abraham (Abram) stood as a childless man (age 75), when God told him he would give to him (his descendants) the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:6-7).

It was here that Joshua assembled Israel with his farewell speech and uttered the famous works, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

It was very near here that Jesus sat down weary by Jacob’s well, and skillfully led a Samaritan from a point where her only interest was drawing up the water, to a point of faith in Him as Messiah (John 4).

Shechem, a City of Refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Shechem, a City of Refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

You can see the excavated ruins of the city. At center was the Temple of Baal-berith. At right you see a portion of Mt. Ebal, and at left is Mt. Gerizim. I took our group here Oct. 22, not only for them to see Shechem but also to have a good vantage point to take photos of the mount of cursing (Ebal) and Gerizim (blessing). See further on this in Josh. 8. Again, when cities of refuge were appointed in the days of the conquest, Shechem was the one for the central residents of the land west of the Jordan River.

For a previous post on Shechem see here and several other entries. Use search box and it will bring them all up.

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You can see the excavated ruins of Shechem. At

Kedesh, a City of Refuge

November 5, 2013

Moses instructed the Israelites that they were to appoint three “cities of refuge” once they crossed Jordan under the leadership of Moses (Deut. 19:2). The stated purpose of these (as well as the three cities on the other (eastern) side of Jordan, was to provide a safety net for one who had accidentally killed his neighbor (an example given in the text was when the ax head flew off the handle, resulting in a fatal wound).

The city to which you would flee would be the one closest to you. You would live there until the death of the High Priest. The following map shows all 6 cities of refuge.

Cities of Refuge. Map by Scott Richardson

Cities of Refuge. Map by Scott Richardson

The city of refuge to the north in Galilee  was Kedesh.

Kedesh in Galilee. One of the cities of Refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Kedesh in Galilee. One of the cities of Refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In center and to the left you can see the ruins of this ancient city.

A Canaanite city in Galilee, in the territory of Naphtali, whose ruler was one of the 31 kings vanquished by Joshua (Josh. 12:22). To distinguish it from other cities with the same name it was also referred to as Kedesh in Galilee in Mount Naphtali (Josh. 20:7). It was given to the Levites and was a city of refuge (Josh. 21:32). A name which may possibly refer to Kedesh appears in the lists of Tuthmosis III and in the El Amarna letters. It was conquered by Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria (2 Kgs. 15:29), who deported its inhabitants. In the Hellenistic period it is mentioned in the Zenon papyri. Josephus knew it in a different form as the name of a village in the territory of Tyre (Antiq. ii, 459; iv, 104–5). Titus pitched his camp in the vicinity of the village of Cydasa of the Tyrians, because ‘this was a strong inland village of the Tyrians, always at feud and strife with the Galileans’ (War iv, 104-f). Eusebius (Onom. 116:10) calls it ‘the city of Kydisos’, in the vicinity of Paneas, some 20 miles from Tyre. A Roman temple and a mausoleum of the same period were discovered there. Identified with Tell Qades, 12 miles north of Safed, where there are two ancient mounds, one of which was occupied from the 3rd millennium BC to the end of the Israelite period.

Since 1981 the Roman temple has been excavated by a team of Tel Aviv University under the direction of I. Roll. Little of the upper structure of the temple has survived. The entire compound was surrounded by a wall. The temple (60 feet by 54 feet) was built of exquisitely-dressed ashlars. Its eastern façade rose to a height of 33 feet. At the western wall of the shrine is an apse, apparently a later addition which may have held Jupiter’s statue. The triple doors of the temple are richly decorated. On the lintels are engraved Jupiter’s eagle, a wreath in which was a rosette, bunches of grapes, a vine trellis, acanthus leaves, a deer, and a man’s head. According to three Greek inscriptions, the temple was dedicated in AD 117/8 under Hadrian, and repairs were made in ad 214/5 and 280 (The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land).

Kedesh, the northern city of Reguge. Map by Scott Richardson.

Kedesh, the northern city of Reguge. Map by Scott Richardson.

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A View of the Sea of Galilee from Sea Level

November 2, 2013

I never tire of seeing the Sea of Galilee, as it was so intertwined with the ministry of Jesus. On the approach to Tiberius from the west, there is a nice pull-off area where a bus or other vehicle can safely get off the road and have a good view of the Sea. One is at sea level at this point at the pull-off.

Sea of Galilee from Sea Level. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Sea of Galilee from Sea Level. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Sea of Galilee is about 700 feet below sea level. It was considerably higher than on my last visit. In the distance you see what would have been the Decapolis during the ministry of Jesus.

I’ll never forget my first view of the Sea. All of my life I had read about it in the Bible, but to have the opportunity to see it was almost surreal. I wonder if on a much higher level, that’s the sort of thing God’s people will experience in heaven. We read about heaven, we believe the promises of God, but one day all the saved will be in heaven and see Him face to face. The precious things we read about will some day be seen and personally experienced. How I want to be among that number!

Recent posts on the Sea of Galilee may be seen here and here.

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Jesus’ Promise at Caesarea Philippi

November 1, 2013

In our previous couple of posts we were looking at Caesarea Maritima, Herod’s capital city on the Mediterranean coast. Presently we are considering another Caesarea, up to the north at the foothills of Mt. Hermon, Caesarea Philippi. This area was ruled by Herod’s son Philip.

On-site Bible study can be a thrilling experience; to be able to walk in the steps of Jesus and various Bible characters is a wonderful opportunity. We had such an occasion in a visit a couple of weeks ago to Caesarea Philippi. It was in this region that Peter made his confession of the Christ, and Jesus promised to build His church.

Caesarea Philippi. Grotto of Pan, and Banias River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea Philippi. Grotto of Pan (center), and Banias River. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The text does not specify that Jesus entered Caesarea Philippi, but that He came to the “region” (NKJV), “district” (NASB), “the area of” (NET) Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13). It is interesting that Luke does not mention the place, but states, “Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and his disciples were nearby, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?'” (Luke 9:18, NET). Matthew gives the more complete record:

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” (Matt. 16:13-19 NASB).

A couple of observations:

1. This passage does not teach the primacy of Peter. What Jesus said here to Peter regarding his apostolic authority was said just two chapters later to all the apostles Matt. 18:1,18.

 2. Regarding the “binding” and “loosing:” the point is not that Peter or the other apostles would bind/loose something on earth and then God would bind/loose it in heaven. What they bound on earth was binding because God had bound it in heaven; what they loosed on earth had authority because God had loosed it in heaven. The rendering of the Christian Standard Bible (Holman) is, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven” (Matt.16:19). The apostles did not have inherent authority; they were the instruments through which God’s revealed will was made known.

3. Jesus was anticipating the events of Pentecost, Acts 2. It was at that time the Spirit descended upon the apostles, empowering as Jesus had promised, and salvation through the crucified and resurrected Messiah was proclaimed. This was the beginning of the church, and the establishment of the kingdom, the reign/rule of Christ.

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