OT Baal-hermon, Site of Banias/Caesarea Philippi?

December 23, 2016

1 Chronicles 5 gives a summary of the settlement of the eastern tribes of Israel: Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Verse 23 states, “Now the sons of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land; from Bashan to Baal-hermon and Senir and Mount Hermon they were numerous.”

The ISBE has an interesting suggestion: “The Baal-hermon of 1 Ch 5:23 lay somewhere E. of the Jordan, near to Mount Hermon. It may possibly be identical with Bāniās.”¹

Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Some scholars identify this with Old Testament Baal-hermon. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Some scholars identify this site with Old Testament Baal-hermon. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo features Banias, better known to most Bible students as Caesarea Philippi, because it was in this region that Peter made his great confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah, the Divine Son of God, and Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:13-20). On the lower left you can see the grotto of the god Pan, where idolatrous sacrifices were offered. To the right you can see niches carved into the face of the rock; these formerly contained idols. Banias/Caesarea Philippi is located at the foot of Mt. Hermon.

From here flows the Banias River, which merges with other sources to our south (about-face from perspective in photo).

Banias River, a major source of the Jordan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Banias River, a major source of the Jordan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We know that Banias/Caesarea Philippi was a site for pagan worship in the AD 1st century. There is evidence that this had been a center of idolatrous worship for centuries prior to Jesus’ ministry, reaching centuries back to Old Testament times.

Here are some further sources which suggest identification of Old Testament Baal-hermon with Banias/Caesarea Philippi (use of bold type for emphasis mine, LM):

Baal-hermon . . . probably the present Bânjas, at the foot of Hermon.”²

“Baal-Gad—lord of fortune, or troop of Baal, a Canaanite city in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Hermon, hence called Baal-hermon (Judge. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), near the source of the Jordan (Josh. 13:5; 11:17; 12:7). It was the most northern point to which Joshua’s conquests extended. It probably derived its name from the worship of Baal. Its modern representative is Banias

Caesarea Philippi—a city on the northeast of the marshy plain of el-Huleh, 120 miles north of Jerusalem, and 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, at the “upper source” of the Jordan, and near the base of Mount Hermon. It is mentioned in Matt. 16:13 and Mark 8:27 as the northern limit of our Lord’s public ministry. According to some its original name was Baal-Gad (Josh. 11:17), or Baal-Hermon (Judg. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), when it was a Canaanite sanctuary of Baal. It was afterwards called Panium or Paneas, from a deep cavern full of water near the town. This name was given to the cavern by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch because of its likeness to the grottos of Greece, which were always associated with the worship of their god Pan. Its modern name is Banias. Here Herod built a temple, which he dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This town was afterwards enlarged and embellished by Herod Philip, the tetrarch of Trachonitis, of whose territory it formed a part, and was called by him Caesarea Philippi, partly after his own name, and partly after that of the emperor Tiberius Caesar.4


Click on photos for larger view.

¹Orr, J., Nuelsen, J. L., Mullins, E. Y., & Evans, M. O. (Eds.). (1915). Baal-Hermon. In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 347). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

2 Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 3, p. 442). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

³Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

4 Ibid.

Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls Were Discovered

December 21, 2016

“The Dead Sea Scrolls are undoubtedly the most important discovery found in Israel in the field of the Bible and history of Judaism and Christianity.”¹ Fragments of about 900 scrolls from the 2nd Temple period (some dating as early as 3rd century BC) were found in the Qumran caves (NW shore of Dead Sea), between 1947 and 1956. Every book of the Old Testament (except Esther) were represented in the finds, including one complete copy of Isaiah.

I had opportunity along with my group to visit this important archaeological site last month and photograph the caves.

Qumran Caves, on western side of the Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Qumran Caves, on western side of the Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I remember when studying archaeology under the late Dr. James Hodges that he said the main value of the Dead Sea Scrolls was in the discipline of apologetics. The scrolls were about 1,000 years older (!) than the previously available manuscripts with which translators had to work. The huge find of fragments provided abundant samples with which to compare our Hebrew manuscripts. The result was:

it may now be more confidently asserted than ever before that the modern Hebrew text faithfully represents the Hebrew text as originally written by the authors of the Old Testament. Dead Sea discoveries have enabled us to answer this question with much greater assurance than was possible before 1948.²

Dr. Hodges pointed out that no new translations had to be made as a result of the discovery of the scrolls; they confirmed the accuracy of transmission of what we already have.

Another contribution:

“As a result of Dead Sea Scroll discoveries, it is no longer possible to date portions or entire Old Testament books as late as some scholars used to do. It is impossible to date any biblical work or any extensive part of one later than the early second century B.C. Fragments of the Pentateuch and the prophets date from the second century B.C. Ecclesiastes, sometimes believed to have been composed in the second or first century B.C., appears in a Cave 4 manuscript dating from 175 to 150 B.C. A second-century B.C. Copy of the Psalms indicates that the collection of Psalms was fixed by Maccabean times. A manuscript of Daniel dating about 120 B.C. brings into question the alleged Maccabean date of its composition. Moreover, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not support the existence of a deutero- or trito-Isaiah, at least during the second century B.C. The complete Isaiah and the long fragment of Isaiah from Cave 1 (second century B.C.) treat the book as a unit.”³

Click photo for larger view.

(This post makes use of previous material I wrote for this blog last Dec. 2015).

Sources Quoted:

1 Yigael Yadin quoted by Hanan Eshel in Qumran: Scrolls∙Caves∙History (p.7)

2 See F. B. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (pp.61-69)

3 Bible and Spade (1978), 7(1), pp.12–14.

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