Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem

September 13, 2019

Luke 2 narrates the night of the Savior’s birth, when the good news was first announced to Bethlehem-area shepherds:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:8-18, NKJV).

Sign indicating location of Shepherd’s Field east side of Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

When one visits Bethlehem there is the opportunity to see the area designated as “Shepherd’s Field,” the Franciscan site located  on the east side of Bethlehem. This helps us to visualize where the shepherds would have been that night when the angel informed them of Jesus’ birth in our text above.

Shepherds’ Fields, Bethlehem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

On most other occasions when I’ve been here the fields were brown and dry. This past March 2019 they were green.

Our group gathered in a nearby cave.

Cave at Shepherds’ Field. Mauldin Group, 2019. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here we discussed the occasion of Jesus’ birth, and also took advantage of the natural acoustics to sing. Visiting Bethlehem gave us the opportunity to contemplate the wonderful plan of God, that Eternal Deity, the Eternal Word, became man! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

I’ve previously posted on Bethlehem: click here, here and here. Ferrell Jenkins provides a listing of articles he has written on Bethlehem. Click here 

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The Hearing Ear

May 16, 2019

Solomon said, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made them both” (Pro. 20:12). The NLT reads, “Ears to hear and eyes to see–both are gifts from the LORD.” Much is said in the Bible about using one’s ears to hear, to truly listen, and in particular to hear God’s word; to hear words of wisdom.

Here are some selected texts, for example, from the Proverbs:

2:1 My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you,

3:3 My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands;

4:1 Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding;

7:24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth:

8:6 Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things;

8:32 ” Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.

13:1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

18:1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.

19:20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.

23:22 Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.

At Corinth, Greece, there is a museum on site with artifacts from the area. Included are some “offerings” to the healing god Asclepius (spelling varies) which were left at the god’s temple there at Corinth. The idea was that if one had been healed of his/her affliction they would then bring an offering in the form of that body part which had been restored.

Votive offering, an ear. On site museum at Corinth Greece. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Sign explaining the display. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

A fragment on display contains the name of the god. Greek letters transliterate, ASKL.

Sherd with Greek spelling of Asclepius. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

But it wasn’t Asclepius who made the ear, neither could he heal it. I’m put in mind of Paul’s referencing the former lives of the Galatians in their idolatry before they came to know the true God: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8).

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Touring Israel

March 21, 2019

Between time constraints and uncooperative internet service we’ve not been able to do a lot of posting regarding our current tour of Israel and Jordan. ((We have been able to posts several photos on FB w/the WiFi on the motor-coach.) Yesterday some sites in Israel we visited included Qumran, Masada, En Gedi, the Dead Sea, and Jericho, before returning to Jerusalem.

Qumran Caves. Here the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Looking down at Roman Ramp at Masada. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

While we were at En-Gedi we saw some young girls demonstrating the way to wash clothes in biblical times. This was in the water flowing down from the lower falls.

Washing clothes the old fashioned way at En-Gedi,Israel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Today was a walking tour of Jerusalem, and the City of David. More to come!

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In Moab Land

March 5, 2019

In March 2018 Ferrell Jenkins & I spent several days in Jordan on a personal study tour, including several sites in what historically was biblical Moab. As was the origin of Ammon, the sad story of the Moab’s descent from Lot’s incestuous union with his daughter (oldest) is narrated in Genesis 19:30-38. The territory of Moab was located east of the Dead Sea between the wadis Arnon and Zered.

Physical features of the land. Note the Arnon and Zered, and the land of Moab. Map by Scott Richardson.

One of the sites we visited was Madaba, which today is best known for its large Byzantine-era mosaic map of the Holy Land, located in the St. George Church. A short distance away we found a spot for lunch.

Dining in Moab. Note sign in upper left: “Moab Land Hotel.” Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Madaba is mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:6 (biblical spelling is Medeba).

The Moabites “normally inhabited the area on the Transjordan plateau between Wadi Arnon on the north and Wadi Zered on the south, though they often pushed north of Wadi Arnon.” (Alexander, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ezekiel, 6:866).

I wanted to share a few photos of the Wadi Arnon mentioned above. The Arnon was a natural boundary. In the days of the Conquest, when the land was allotted to the tribes of Israel, the southern border of the tribe of Reuben was the Arnon.

The Arnon Valley. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Arnon Valley as we look west.

Arnon Valley looking westward. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Arnon Valley looking east. I think you will agree that a flat map does not do it justice!

Arnon Valley looking East. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Her House Leads Down to Death

January 22, 2019

The book of Proverbs is especially written for young people, to impart wisdom as decisions are being made that will impact the rest of their lives, as well as for eternity. The structure of Proverbs 2 is that of the godly father addressing his son (2:1). After his urgent exhortation to the son to aggressively seek for wisdom, and to treasure it, the father speaks of the benefits of wisdom. Some benefits are positive (vv. 6-9). Others are negative, keeping the son from the paths of evil, and specifically including the immoral woman:

To deliver you from the strange woman, From the adulteress who flatters with her words; That leaves the companion of her youth And forgets the covenant of her God; For her house sinks down to death [מָוֶת] And her tracks lead to the dead [רְפָאִים]; None who go to her return again, Nor do they reach the paths of life (Proverbs 2:16-19).

While preparing for a recent opportunity to teach this text (in our local congregation) I was put in mind of some of the burial sites which may be seen by the visitor to Bible lands. Such examples as this here below help us to visualize the word picture employed to warn of the destiny of the path of the immoral woman.

Approach to Herod’s family tomb in Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

King Herod the Great was buried at the Herodium, but according to Josephus some of his family members were buried in Jerusalem. This tomb has been identified as Herod’s family tomb. BTW, note the rolling stone at center.

Herod’s family tomb in Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Biblical Archaeological Society notes:

Since its discovery in 1892, a tomb near the King David Hotel, west of Jaffa Gate, has been listed in many guidebooks and shown to multitudes of pilgrim tourists as “Herod’s Family Tomb.” The architectural style of the tomb certainly dates it to the right period. This exterior view, for instance, shows the typical arrangement of the time for a tomb entrance: steps cut into bedrock lead down to a vertical doorway guarded by a huge, cylindrical rolling stone. The suggestion that this was actually the royal family tomb came from what was found beyond this entranceway. The tomb was large; five rooms arranged in the shape of a cross had been hewn out of the bedrock. More significantly, portions of the walls were faced with finely carved ashlar (an ashlar is a rectangular building stone with surfaces trimmed at right angles) stone blocks in the style typical of Herod’s monumental building projects, such as the Temple Mount additions (emphasis mine, LM) (see SNT34: Southern Extension of Temple Mount, Reconstruction Peter; SNT35: Monumental Walls at Tomb of Abraham). This was structurally unnecessary and was a most unusual feature; in other tombs of this period, room walls consisted simply of bedrock, chisel dressed to achieve a flat surface. (The Biblical World in Pictures; BAS Biblical World in Pictures. (2003). Washington D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society).

(It should be noted that some archaeologists/scholars such as the late Ehud Netzer, believed Herod’s family tomb to be near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem).

Using the wording of the Proverbs text, in an article entitled, “None Return Again,” Frank Himmel observed:

No man who becomes involved in adultery will ever be the same again. He cannot return to where he was. He can be forgiven by God. He can be forgiven by his mate. He can be forgiven by the spouse of his partner in adultery. But things can never be quite the way they were.

The implicit trust his mate placed in him has been broken. The special intimate relationship between husband and wife has been violated. The painful memory of the act remains in the consciences of all involved, try as they may to remove it. The feelings of guilt are still there. To the extent the sin is known to others the reputation is damaged. If those involved are Christians the Lord’s holy name is reproached. If they have children who know of the affair the confidence of those little ones is shaken. Time will aid in healing these wounds, but it cannot completely erase the them. (Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 13, pp. 385, 407, July 2, 1992).

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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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