Down the Jordan Valley

November 4, 2016

We said “Good-bye” to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee this morning and made our way down (biblically “up” in altitude) to Jerusalem. We made a stop at Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.

Nazareth in Galilee, Jesus' hometown. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Nazareth in Galilee, Jesus’ hometown. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We also made a stop at the Spring of Harod,where Gideon’s army was reduced to 300 men, by which God gave Israel victory over the Midianites (Judges 7-8).

Spring of Harod. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Spring of Harod. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Colorful flora at the site:

Flora at the Spring of Harod. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Flora at the Spring of Harod. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We also saw Beth-Shean, mentioned in 1 Sam. 31 as the site where the victorious Philistines took the bodies of King Saul and his three sons, fastening them to the walls of the city. This was Scythopolis in New Testament times, one of the cities of the Decapolis.

Beth-shean. OT tel in background; Roman ruins in foreground. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Beth-shean. OT tel in background; Roman ruins in foreground. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Good friend and tour member Lynn Clayton.

Lynn at Beth-shean. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Lynn at Beth-shean. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click photos for larger image. Thanks for following our travels in the Bible lands.


Setting of King Saul’s Final Battle

June 25, 2015

1 Sam. 28:4: “So the Philistines gathered together and came and camped in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together and they camped in Gilboa.”

The horizontal cluster of white buildings in the upper center of photo mark the spot of ancient Shunem, the site of the Philistine encampment referenced in our text.

Shunem, note white buildings upper center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Shunem, note white buildings upper center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Saul and the forces of Israel were encamped at Gilboa. This view of Gilboa is from Beth Shan.

Gilboa as seen from Beth Shan. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Gilboa as seen from Beth Shan. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As the 1 Samuel narrative continues, the next chapter states, ” Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel” (29:1) We have previously posted photos/articles on Aphek here and here, where the Philistines at this time gathered all their armies. At Jezreel one can see the spring mentioned here in 1 Sam. 29:1.

Jezreel Spring. Note greenery at center.  Tel Jezreel is in foreground. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jezreel Spring. Note greenery at center. Tel Jezreel is in foreground. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Saul and his three sons (including David’s best friend Jonathan) died at Mt. Gilboa, a great victory for the Philistines. It was a sad day for Israel:

8 It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. (1 Sam. 31:8-10).

We are told that also the bodies of Saul’s sons were nailed to the walls of Beth Shan (1 Sam. 31:12).

Beth Shan, where the Philistines nailed the bodies of Saul & sons. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beth Shan, where the Philistines nailed the bodies of Saul & sons. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

These photos may be used along with maps to show where the events of 1 Sam. 28-31 transpired. Click on images for larger view.

Beth Shean

February 20, 2012

The current issue of BAR features an article entitled, “Was King Saul Impaled on the Wall of Beth Shean?” The author, Amihai Mazar, conducted nine excavation seasons in 1989-1996.

Beth Shean. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There were some interesting signs on the top of the tel that commemorate Saul’s death at nearby Mt. Gilboa, and the fastening of his body to the walls of Beth Shean (1 Sam. 31).

Info atop tel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Illustrations of humiliation to Saul's body. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Biblical record is in 1 Sam. 31. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The BAR article explains that excavations have revealed many layers of occupation, including Egyptian.

Statue of Ramesses III. Egyptians occupied Beth Shean prior to Saul's death. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This statue of Ramesses III (replica) marked the Egyptian victory over the “sea peoples” who invaded the land in the 12 century BC. The statue was made locally, in Egyptian monumental style. Original is in the Israel Museum.

I have previously written on Beth Shean and its strategic significance here.

Click on images for larger view.

More Cities Not Taken, cont’d.: Beth-shean

May 20, 2011

Our previous post looked at the implication of texts which name cities of the conquest which Israel did not conquer, or did not retain. As noted, Josh. 16:10 mentions Gezer in that context.

The next chapter, Josh. 17, list several cities, including Beth-shean, Dor and Megiddo (v.11). v. 12 states, “But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.”

The significance of this situation is two-fold. [1] The continued presence of the Canaanites would turn out to be a detrimental influence on Israel, just as God through Moses warned. Israel would lapse into idolatry, worshiping the gods of the Canaanites, as well as those of the surrounding nations. [2] Upon a closer look at the geography, it turns out that many of the places mentioned are not just random sites, but very strategic locations. Therefore it would greatly impact Israel in a negative way to not possess the specified cities.

Beth-shean controlled major routes going both north-south and east-west.

Beth Shean, allotted to Manasseh, but not retained. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beth-shean was strategically located at the juncture of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys. The modern name of the site is Tel el-Husn.

Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary says,

Excavations at Tell el-Ḥuṣn, conducted from 1921 to 1933 by C. S. Fisher and A. Rowe for the University of Pennsylvania Museum, indicate that the site has been settled almost continuously since Chalcolithic times. In the Late Bronze Age the city apparently functioned as the major Egyptian center in Palestine. It is listed among those cities conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III (fifteenth century B.C.), and numerous Egyptian remains have been found. Included are a fourteenth-century temple to the local god Mekal, to whom was dedicated a stele inscribed with a prayer; a magnificent relief showing a lion and dog in combat was discovered on a wall of the temple. A victory stele of Seti I (1313–1292) indicates that he reinforced the city’s military operations, perhaps with troops from Gath-Carmel; another stele mentions the ˓Apiru of Yarmuth, probably the town assigned to Issachar (Josh. 19:21). Two temples, dedicated to Anat (called ˓Antit) and Dagon, were erected in the time of Rameses II and continued in use through the Philistine occupation and into the Israelite period; apparently these were the temples to which the Philistines fastened the armor and head of Saul (1 Sam. 31:10; 1 Chr. 10:10). A large cemetery north of the city has been assigned to this approximate period; it contains several anthropoid coffins (clay coffins bearing human portraits) of dignitaries or mercenaries in Egyptian service. Remains of the Israelite occupation are unimpressive; the relevant strata of the tell bear considerable evidence of destruction by Pharaoh Shishak (ca. 920) and the Assyrians or Babylonians. In the postexilic period Beth-shan was little more than a village. A theater, hippodrome, aqueduct, and a great city wall have been discovered, dating to the Roman occupation. Several churches and synagogues as well as a sixth century monastery survive from Byzantine times.

One of the sad things later associated with the site is that King Saul’s body, and those of three of his sons, were fasten to the walls of the city after Israel’s defeat by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31).

By Helenistic times the city was called Scythopolis. By New Testament times it was included in the Decapolis, the “10 cities” given the right of self-government by the Romans. During Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, “And large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan River” (Matt. 4:25, NET).

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