Cities of the Decapolis

July 18, 2018

I’m currently presenting a visualized survey of the Bible, with tonight’s lesson dealing with the Life of Christ. Following Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, He pursued a plan to invest more time alone with the Apostles, preparing them for the great work they were to do. This period is known as the Retirement Ministry, “retiring” from the crowds to be with the apostles. One region Jesus traveled during this time was the Decapolis. “Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis” (Mark 7:31). This largely Gentile area was comprised of ten cities (hence the name) which were given autonomy by Rome.

One of the cities of the Decapolis was Jerash (Gerasa).

Hadrian Gate at entrance to Jerash, one of the cities of the Decapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Here is a view down the Cardo of Jerash.

Cardo at Jerash. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Another city of the Decapolis was Hippos. From here you can see the Sea of Galilee.

Hippos of the Decapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We’ve previously written here on Hippos.

Back to our text of Mark 7:31. Here was the site of one of Jesus’ many miracles, which gave proof of His deity:

Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mark 7:31-37).

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Paul’s Military Escort: From Jerusalem to Caesarea via Antipatris

June 20, 2018

Acts 23 records how Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander stationed in Jerusalem, upon learning of a Jewish plot to kill his prisoner, the Apostle Paul, provided for a military escort to Caesarea, the Capital. “And he called to him two of the centurions and said, ‘Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.’ 24 They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor” (vv.23-24). These unusual measures were taken because Paul, although a Jew, was also a Roman citizen. It was upon previously learning that fact (Acts 22:25-29), that the Commander provided for Paul’s safe transport to the Governor’s residence, Herod’s Praetorium. Claudius Lysias certainly did not want responsibility for the assassination of a Roman citizen on his watch!

Their route from Jerusalem to Caesarea took them through Antipatris: “So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris” (Acts 23:31).

Antipatris, a stopping point on Paul’s escort to Caesarea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

This past March, Ferrell Jenkins and I saw the RACE Show (Roman Army and Chariot Experience) in the Roman amphitheater at Jerash of the Decapolis (in today’s Jordan). This helps us visualize the Roman soldiers/spearmen that would have accompanied Paul.

Roman soldiers (actors) at Jerash of the Decapolis. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

From there Paul was taken on to Caesarea: “But the next day, leaving the horsemen to go on with him, they returned to the barracks. When these had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him” (Acts 23:32-33).

Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. Ruins of the Palace. Paul was taken here. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The closing verse of Acts 23 records the Governor’s (Felix) reception of Paul: “‘I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also,’ giving orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium” (v.35). There is on-site at Caesarea some artwork that helps us to visualize the Praetorium.

Artwork showing Herod’s Palace at Caesarea. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

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Trip Summary &the Siq at Petra

March 30, 2018

Ferrell Jenkins & I are at the TLV airport, awaiting flights (different airlines) to Florida and Sweet Home Alabama respectively. It has been a great trip. In Israel we’ve traveled and photographed from “Dan to Beersheba”, and on down to Elath. Our time was rather equally divided between Jordan and Israel. We’ve seen the Mediterranean, the Jordan (and some of its tributaries: the Banias, a sliver of the Dan, the Senir), the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. On the Jordan side we were able to see the Arnon and the Jabbok (where Jacob wrestled with the Angel).

There is such variety in the land: a bit of snow could be seen on Mt. Hermon, the highest point of elevation in Israel. At the Dead Sea we were at the lowest point on earth. We traversed longitudinal zones: the coastal plain, the gently rising hills of the Shephelah, the hill country of Judea, Samaria and Galilee; the Jordan Valley, and the Trans-Jordan Plateau. We saw numerous green fields, some with crops, much agriculture, but also the barren desert.

I learned a lot on this trip, enjoyed the companionship of a valued professor, esteemed friend, and fellow-worker. I took a few thousand photos which hopefully find use in various venues of teaching, preaching, classes and writing, as well as resources for our local congregation.

For now I’ll share a photo of the Siq at Petra:

The Siq at Petra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The 1.2km siq, or canyon, with its narrow, vertical walls, is undeniably one of the highlights of Petra. The walk through this magical corridor, as it snakes its way towards the hidden city, is one full of anticipation for the wonders ahead – a point not wasted on the Nabataeans who made the passage into a sacred way, punctuated with sites of spiritual significance.

The Siq starts at an obvious bridge, beside a modern dam. The dam was built in 1963, on top of a Nabataean dam dated AD 50, to stop floodwater from Wadi Musa flowing through the Siq. To the right, Wadi Muthlim heads through a Nabataean tunnel – the start (or finish) of an exciting hike. The entrance to the Siq was once marked by a Nabataean monumental arch. It survived until the end of the 19th century, and some remains can be seen at twin niches on either side of the entrance. Many people charge through the Siq impatient to get to Petra. That’s a pity because the corridor of stone is worth enjoying for its own sake and the longer you take to travel through it, the more you can savour the final moment of arrival. Technically, the Siq, with its 200m-high walls, is not a canyon (a gorge carved out by water), but a single block that has been rent apart by tectonic forces. At various points you can see where the grain of the rock on one side matches the other – it’s easiest to spot when the Siq narrows to 2m wide. The original channels cut into the walls to bring water into Petra are visible, and in some places the 2000-year-old terracotta pipes are still in place. A section of Roman paving was revealed after excavations in 1997 removed 2m of soil accumulation.

Some historians speculate that the primary function of the Siq was akin to the ancient Graeco-Roman Sacred Way. Some of the most important rituals of Petra’s spiritual life began as a procession through the narrow canyon, and it also represented the end point for Nabataean pilgrims. Many of the wall niches that are still visible today along the Siq’s walls were designed to hold figures or representations (called baetyls) of the main Nabataean god, Dushara. These small sacred sites served as touchstones of the sacred for pilgrims and priests, offering them a link to the more ornate temples, tombs and sanctuaries in the city’s heart, reminding them that they were leaving the outside world, and on the threshold of what was for many a holy city. At one point the Siq opens out to reveal a square tomb next to a lone fig tree. A little further on, look for a weathered carving of a camel and caravan man on the left wall. The water channel passes behind the carving. Hereafter, the walls almost appear to meet overhead, shutting out the sound and light and helping to build the anticipation of a first glimpse of the Treasury. It’s a sublime introduction to the ancient city. (Lonely Planet Jordan: Travel Guide).


Zarethan (Tell es Sa’idiyeh) in the Jordan Valley

March 22, 2018

This morning we left  the Dead Sea, made our way to the border crossing at the King Hussein Bridge into Israel, and arrived after dark at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, with brief stops at Jerusalem and Caesarea on the way. We plan as time permits to share more photos/info from this past week in Jordan, as well as more to come in Israel.

For tonight I wanted to mention Zarethan in the Jordan Valley, of biblical significance in the Old Testament. When Solomon was building the temple and its vessels, some of the metal casting  (bronze) was done in the area of Zarethan.

Zarephan, mentioned in connection with casting bronze for use in Solomon’s temple. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

1 Kings 7:

40 Now Hiram made the basins and the shovels and the bowls. So Hiram finished doing all the work which he performed for King Solomon in the house of the LORD: 41 the two pillars and the two bowls of the capitals which were on the top of the two pillars, and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on the top of the pillars; 42 and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, two rows of pomegranates for each network to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on the tops of the pillars; 43 and the ten stands with the ten basins on the stands; 44 and the one sea and the twelve oxen under the sea; 45 and the pails and the shovels and the bowls; even all these utensils which Hiram made for King Solomon in the house of the LORD were of polished bronze. 46 In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan. (verses 40-46)

The British Museum website has some interesting info:

Tell es Sa’idiyeh, identified as the biblical city of Zarethan, lies at the heart of the central Jordan Valley. The huge, double occupation mound occupies a key strategic position, commanding the crossroads of two major trade routes, and dominating some of the richest and most fertile agricultural land east of the River Jordan.

Excavations undertaken since 1985, by a British Museum expedition under the direction of Jonathan N. Tubb, have revealed the great antiquity of the site’s occupational history, with settlement phases extending from the Early Islamic period of the seventh century AD, as far back at least as the Early Bronze Age of the third millennium BC. Excavations have shown that by about 2900 BC, Tell es-Sa’idiyeh was a large and prosperous city, with well constructed architecture and evidence for highly developed municipal planning. The most significant finding in this Early Bronze Age phase has been of a large palace complex on the lower tell, with areas set aside for olive oil production and storage, wine-making and textile preparation. All three of these activities were conducted on an industrial scale, clearly designed for international commerce. The pottery and other artifacts recovered from this early city display a level of refinement and sophistication unparalleled elsewhere in the Levant.

Equally remarkable discoveries relate to the city of the twelfth century BC, where excavations have uncovered evidence to suggest that Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, like Beth Shan or Gaza on the other side of the Jordan River, was a major centre for the Egyptian control of Canaan during the final years of its New Kingdom empire. Substantial architecture, including an elaborate water system and Egyptian-style public buildings have been found on the upper mound, and the same strong Egyptian component is also found in the contemporary cemetery which was cut into the long-abandoned and eroded ruins of the Early Bronze Age city on the lower mound. The expedition has excavated, to date, some 450 graves, many of which show unusual Egyptian features, both in terms of the grave-goods and burial customs. (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/tell_es-sa%E2%80%98idiyeh_excavations.aspx).

A couple of days ago I posted a sunset view of the Dead Sea; here is our view of the Dead Sea from the Jordan side looking across to Israel this morning.

Morning view of Dead Sea looking west. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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Making Friends in the Jordan Valley

March 21, 2018

Ferrell Jenkins & I are continuing to enjoy our present opportunity to visit and photograph biblical/archaeological sites in Jordan and Israel. We also enjoy meeting many friendly people along the way. Today as we were looking for Tell es Sa’idiyeh, identified as the biblical city of Zarethan, we stopped for a bite of lunch in the Jordan Valley, in the biblical region of Perea.

Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The food was good (we each had a 1/2 chicken), but it was also pleasant to meet friendly people.

Thanks for continuing to follow our travels.


Greetings from Jordan

March 20, 2018

Today’s travels/photography included the proposed site of Tel Heshbon (mentioned numerous times, Num. 21:25, etc.) and Madaba, famous for its large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Israel.

Here is today’s sunset view from Jordan, across the Dead Sea looking to Israel. The mountains of Moab are at our back.

Sunset at Dead Sea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks for following our travels.

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The Treasury at Petra

March 19, 2018

This morning we enjoyed a visit to Petra, the capital of the Roman province of Arabia during the time of Christ. During Old Testament times Petra was in the territory of Edom. There is so much to see. For now I will share a photo of the “Treasury.”

“Treasury” at Petra. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Known locally as the Treasury, this tomb is where most visitors fall in love with Petra. The Hellenistic facade is an astonishing piece of craftsmanship. Although carved out of iron-laden sandstone to serve as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III (c 100 BC– AD 200), the Treasury derives its name from the story that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasure here (in the facade urn) while pursuing the Israelites. Some locals clearly believed the tale because the 3.5m-high urn is pockmarked by rifle shots. As with all rock-hewn monuments in Petra, the interior is unadorned. (Lonely Planet).

It’s been a while since I’ve been on horseback, and I had never ridden a donkey, but I did both today.

Ferrell Jenkins and Leon Mauldin riding donkeys at Petra. Photo by local Bedouin.

Tonight we’re on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea as we continue to explore and photograph Jordan.

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