"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled..." ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands..." ~ II Tim. 1:6

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The Feast of Tabernacles and the Fleeting Nature of Man

We live like we have unlimited time.  Even though we know better, this is human nature.

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the fall holy days are really about us, as they picture God’s plan for reconciling the whole of humanity to Him (while the spring holy days are about the salvation of His called-out people).

The spring holy days are quiet, personal, intimate.  It’s about salvation on a one-to-one level, focused on inward change.  The fall holy days are about the whole of mankind, with dramatic and world-encompassing events that no one will be able to ignore.

We know that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.  His faithful saints will have been resurrected to eternal life, and God will begin reconciling the rest of the world to Himself.  So for those of us who understand God’s plan and are striving to be in that first group (the spring harvest), what should this holy day period mean to us on a personal level?

Dwelling in tents

Let’s look at the original command to keep the Feast, back in Leviticus:

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord…when you have gathered in the fruit of the land…you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook: and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days…You shall dwell in booths for seven days…that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths [tents] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:34-43)

Why did God make the Israelites dwell in temporary dwellings during this time of rejoicing and feasting?   Yes, it’s a literal reminder of how the Israelites were made to wander for 40 years, living in tents in the wilderness and relying on God to sustain them before they could enter the Promised Land.  But we know that there’s a spiritual analogy here as well.

He commanded it to remind us of where we’re going.  Dwelling in tents during the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to remind us of the lack of permanence—the fleeting nature of mankind, of this life, of this world.  It also is meant to drive home our total reliance on God.

Ephemeral humanity

Several of David’s psalms dwell on the idea of humanity’s transience, how man is “like a breath…his days like a passing shadow” (Ps. 144:4).  He gets to the heart of why he’s focusing on this idea in Psalm 39:

Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but a breath.  Selah.  Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.  And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.” (Ps. 39:4-7)

The book of Ecclesiastes explores this idea in-depth, making it a perfect pairing with the Feast of Tabernacles (the Jews traditionally read Ecclesiastes during the Feast).  At its heart, Ecclesiastes asks the reader:  What direction is your life headed in—toward man or toward God?

It starts (and ends) with the famous exclamation that “All is vanity!” and then Solomon goes on to talk about all the ways he tried to seek physical fulfillment, only to discover that it’s all emptiness.  That word translated “vanity” is hebel (H1892), used heavily in Ecclesiastes but more than 70 times throughout the Old Testament (including David’s Psalm 39).

The KJV/NKJV versions exclusively translate it as “vanity”, and other translations (like the NIV) use “meaningless” or “emptiness”, but none of these really captures the true meaning intended—it’s definitely not accurate to say that this life is meaningless.  Hebel is a notoriously tricky word to translate, but its true meaning is closer to “breath”, “vapor”, or “mist”.

Or in other words, insubstantial, temporary, and impossible to cling on to.

James cautioned his readers about this very thing, saying, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  The prophet Isaiah echoed a similar sentiment, likening flesh to grass that withers and fades (Is. 40:6-7).

Like the Israelites in the desert, God is showing us we are in temporary dwellings until He gives us a permanent habitation (“a body incorruptible”).  The apostle Peter, as he neared the end of his life, wrote of knowing his “tent must soon be folded up” (II Pet. 1:13-14; Moffatt version).

Do we see our lives—our bodies, our jobs, our houses—in this manner, as a flimsy covering that one day will abruptly be taken down?  Generally speaking, the way we focus on our houses, careers, and physical appearance would suggest not.  Paul also uses this analogy, telling the Corinthians, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands (II Cor. 5:1).

Being a Light in a Dark World

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1)

Light is one of the most prevalent themes throughout the entire bible, a thread that starts man’s journey on the physical earth and closes out the story in Revelation.

In the first few verses of Genesis, the very first thing God (the Word, Jesus Christ) does in recreating the earth is to bring physical light.

“The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:2-4).

Then, in the last few verses of the bible, John explains that after God has set up His kingdom and recreated a spiritual heaven and earth, that “they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Rev. 22:5).  The physical celestial lights that God created for man in the current kosmos—sun, moon, and stars—are no longer necessary because we will have the Light with us and God’s glory will be all that is needed to see.

During His ministry, Jesus told His disciples (and us, by extension), “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).  We’ve each probably read that verse a couple hundred times in our lives, and typically what I’ve heard said is that it’s about how we’re meant to live righteous lives and be examples of God’s way.  And that’s true.

But a message I heard at the Feast last year got me to thinking about the analogy a little differently, including various aspects of being a light—basically, what does that really mean and require of us?  After digging in somewhat, there are a few insights about light that helped me in seeing even deeper meaning to that verse in Matthew.  They’re not earthshattering revelations, but rather reminders that should enhance our understanding of the type of light we are meant to be.

Light illuminates

I know, that feels like a “duh” statement.

So maybe another way of putting it is that it reveals.

The Hebrew word that’s used in that very first Genesis verse referenced above (ore, H216) means illumination, bright, or clear.  In Jesus’s command in Matthew 5, the Greek word used (phos, G5457) also means to shine or make manifest (a.k.a. clear, plain, apparent).  Both imply an enlightening or uncovering of something that was there but hadn’t previously been seen or understood.

The Pursuit of Happiness…What Does That Mean?

The beginning of the Declaration of Independence makes an interesting statement.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The writers believed that this was self-evident, meaning that it was completely obvious and didn’t need explanation.  The right to life (a.k.a. to stay alive) and right to liberty (a.k.a. freedom) make perfect sense to us.  But the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t have the same meaning to us today as it did to the patriots in 1776.

We live in a world today that is obsessed with the pursuit of happiness.  But it’s not a world that our founding fathers would even recognize.  Today the words “happy” or “happiness” have become watered down, speaking more to a temporary mood or shallow state of being.

But when that sentence was written, the phrase signified a combination of fulfillment, contentment, self-worth, dignity, and community or civic duty.  I love the quote from this article, which sums it up by saying that “happiness was about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification”.

So our founding fathers thought that this was a core tenet of humanity, but is the pursuit of happiness a biblical principle as well?

Related:  Comparison & Envy: the Key to Unhappiness

What does the bible say about happiness?

A lot, it turns out.

It’s worth just getting this out of the way to begin with:  pursuing happiness does NOT mean pursuing your own desires at the expense of others, or at odds with God’s way.  It does not say “the pursuit of pleasure”.   And it’s NOT the pursuit of materialism, humanism, and hedonism (II Tim. 3:1-4).  Solomon was clear that pursuing these things was pointless vanity (Eccl. 12), and the bible reiterates this again and again.

A New Lump, Purged From Sin

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7, 10)

In a previous year’s study as the Days of Unleavened Bread drew to a close, we explored how the command is that we must eat unleavened bread for seven days—the focus being on taking in Christ as the Bread of Life, rather than on thinking, even unintentionally, that we can get sin (leavening) out of our lives on our own.

One of the scriptures we really focused on in that study was a key passage where Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity (clearness, purity) and truth” (I Cor. 5:7-8)

The word translated “purge” in this passage means to cleanse thoroughly, with the implication of cleaning or purging out rather than just wiping down.  It’s a very evocative, active word, and I think the King James translators used it very intentionally in this passage and one other (that we’ll get to later).

I hadn’t ever really thought about why and how the word “purge” is used here, but it caught my attention these past Days of Unleavened Bread, and brought to mind a few trains of thought that I wanted to share.

How are we supposed to become a new lump?

You can’t get leaven out of or “deleaven” your leavened bread dough.  The yeast spores so thoroughly permeate every inch of the dough that it’s physically impossible.  You have to start fresh with new dough.  When the Israelites left Egypt, God forced them to completely throw out their old dough starters, with yeast that had built up multiplied over potentially decades.  But He didn’t want them bringing any of that old leaven with them.

We, too, have to start fresh with new dough, metaphorically-speaking.  Paul covered this topic a LOT.  He illustrated it for us when he said, “For I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  In a letter to the Corinthians he told them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

When we came to understand the gravity of our former sins, repented, and were baptized, we entered into covenant with God and symbolically died in the watery grave of baptism.  We came out of it as a new being (Rom. 6), free from sin, a new, unleavened lump.  This is our purging, and it continues throughout the rest of our physical lives. 

So let’s explore a couple things related to purging out our old leaven and being purged from sin.  I’ll try not to get *too* graphic, but there are some parallels to our physical experiences that are hard to ignore.  Like I said, they chose the word for a reason 🙂

Studying Bible Prophecy: Where to Start

When I was growing up, bible prophecy was something that was discussed quite a bit in my family, so it’s always been a part of my life.  The church I was in also talked about it quite a bit, though it seemed to be falling out of favor around that time.  What I’ve witnessed in the last 15-20 years has been a pendulum swing the other way, to where talking about prophecy in the bible in any kind of detail almost makes people uncomfortable.  People who study it in-depth are looked at as radicals, and the very idea of speculating about events, times, etc. gives people hives.

I get where some of the reaction is coming from, to some extent—for a long time, people were setting specific dates and claiming to know things, and none of it was true.  And certainly, there are many other things besides prophecy that we should be focusing on, such as growing in Godly character, showing love to our brethren, and readying ourselves spiritually for the kingdom.  I’ve had people argue that if we’re doing all of these things, it doesn’t really matter if we’re studying prophecy in the bible.  But I don’t agree with that argument.

This post is meant to be a thought-starter for people who don’t or haven’t studied prophecy, not an all-encompassing look at the topic.  This was originally a presentation that’s been adapted into article form, so we’ve included a downloadable Powerpoint at the end that covers the highlights and can be printed out if desired.  The main purpose of this post is to talk about why studying prophecy in the bible is important, and then offer some key insights and direction for getting started or digging back in.

3 reasons we should care about prophecy in the bible

The bible is a lot more seamless than we give it credit for—prophecy is one of the major common threads, if not THE major thread, through the entire thing

You’d be hard-pressed to find a book in the bible that doesn’t contain prophecy (there may be a couple, but you have to try really hard).  In fact, Genesis—which many people wouldn’t list as a prophetic book—is one of the most important prophetical books we have, the foundation of all bible prophecy.  Go read Genesis 3, when God pronounces the punishment of Satan and Adam and Eve, and basically tells them that they’d totally screwed up, but it’s okay because He’d thought ahead and already had a plan to fix it.  Read about the Tree of Life, and God commanding the start of a family.  In fact, the bible starts and ends with a marriage and the establishment of a family—think that’s a coincidence?  It all starts there.

Additionally, the holy days give us a framework for God’s plan for mankind.  They’re the macro view of prophecy, a large-scale roadmap of when He plans to step in and how He plans to accomplish His will.  Bible prophecy is a constant reminder of God’s power and omnipotence, His everlasting nature, and His ability to accomplish everything He says He will.

The Signs of Spiritual Erosion

Be my rock of refuge [strength], a fortress of defense to save me

~ Psalms 31:2

Christ once told His disciples a parable, saying, “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (Luke 6:48-49).

Long-time Christians like to latch on to scriptures like this.  We picture Satan attacking in dramatic ways, provoking equally grand gestures of faith—turning down a job for the Sabbath, telling the truth though it will damage us, staying faithful despite being ostracized at school for being different.  Many of us like to imagine that, if put in a “deny God or die” scenario, we would maintain our faith and face the consequences.  And perhaps we’re right.

But the reality is that many of us won’t face such a drastic situation, and even if we do, it will be once or twice in our lifetimes.  So we think we’ve got it made since we built our house on the rock, a solid foundation that will stand the test of time.  And it’s true, the foundation we build upon is critical to our success.

But what if it’s the rock itself that becomes the problem?

Erosion:  The process by which something is diminished or destroyed by degrees. To eat into, or to eat away by slow destruction of substance, to deteriorate

I once read an article about a famous historical lighthouse at Cape Henlopen, Delaware.  The lighthouse was critical to the Philadelphia shipping industry, and they took excellent care of it for many years.  It weathered storms and hurricanes, providing light and safe passage to the ships coming through.  But it took them decades to realize that the cliff it had been built on—its very foundation—was eroding.  One day, before they could work out a solution for saving it, a storm rolled through and the giant lighthouse fell into the sea.

We are told to build our spiritual house on a rock, and most of us take that admonition very seriously.  There is no doubt that the Rock in question is God the Father and His Son.  There are dozens of verses in the Psalms alone that reference Him this way (e.g. Psalms 31:2, 92:15).  It’s obviously critical that what we build upward and visibly is made of quality materials, and that we build on the solid foundation, the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; I Cor. 3:11).

But we often forget that the foundation itself has to be maintained over time.  And so what happens is that the daily grinding effects of life—of temptations, worries, pressures, envies, discouragements—these are what wear us down little by little, day by day.  Until one day we, too, crumble and fall.

It’s important to understand that when this happens, it’s not God or His power that has eroded.  That simply isn’t possible.  Rather, it’s Him as our foundation—because we allow it and we don’t maintain it.  We may appear to be weathering the storm, but underneath our foundation is being eaten away, and one day we’ll slide off into the ocean or crumble beneath the weight of what we’ve built.

What is spiritual erosion?

Spiritual erosion is slow, silent, and subtle.  Like physical erosion, it starts imperceptibly, and the daily familiarity of routine keeps us from seeing it in ourselves or even those close to us.  A person will usually keep doing the same things they’ve always done, like keeping the Sabbath, asking people how their week was at church, deleavening the house, and attending the Feast.  Many Christians still attend church long after their faith is gone, because we’re creatures of habit.

What Are Abominations Before the Lord?

Where the study stemmed from

In today’s world of political correctness and permissiveness, the very word “abomination” is something that most people recoil from and completely reject. The industry I work in is very liberal, and I’m often placed in a position of needing to explain and defend my faith as tactfully as possible. Most people can wrap their heads around the fact that I don’t keep Christmas, don’t eat unclean meats, and keep a seventh-day Sabbath. But where their understanding stops is when it comes to homosexuality, because they believe that it’s bigotry or hatred on my part not to accept homosexuality as a completely natural thing.

There is a shaky line I have to walk in explaining that it has nothing to do with hating those people specifically, but that I also don’t get to pick and choose which commandments are valid within the things God says are wrong. I’ve had many people tell me that it was only considered wrong in the Old Testament, but that the New Testament doesn’t mention anything about it and Jesus did away with all that Old Testament hardline nonsense.

But the thing is, we know that Jesus didn’t do away with the Old Testament—only added to it or fulfilled some aspects (such as the need for the Levitical priesthood and physical sacrifices). And so quite some time back, I decided that I needed to do an in-depth study on what God considers abominations, so that I could confidently discuss the topic when asked.

The use of “abomination” in the Bible

It makes sense to start by finding out what things or actions God call an abomination. Interestingly, people often think about this as being mainly a hardline law/Pentateuch thing, and certainly there were a number of occurrences there. But it came as a surprise to me that the highest concentration of the word “abomination” appears to be in the book of Proverbs, in verses concerned with the heart and mind.

The words “abomination” and “abominable” are used over 170 times in the KJV and probably a similar number in the NKJV, though they tend to be used a less frequently in certain modern translations. While there’s only one Greek word translated this way, there are around five different Hebrew words. Three are from the same root word (shequets, shaqats, shiqquts) and mean roughly the same thing—filth, figuratively or literally an idolatrous object, detestable thing. These words are used when speaking of unclean animals, for instance, or often refer to pagan or idolatrous things in a more general sense. Two other words (ba ash and piggul piggul) are only translated abomination once or twice, but more often words like stank, loathsome, and abhor are used when translating them.

The most prominent word translated “abomination” is to ebah to ebah, and signifies that which is disgusting morally, an abhorrence.  It is used not only in the passages we expect (such as those on sexual sins or pagan rituals) but also passages in Proverbs and similar that speak to behaviors God finds detestable.

Touring the Holy Land: Petra & Wadi Rum, Jordan

This post continues our series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, and is more photo diary than the others—meant to really give you a sense of place.  Jordan is one of the most unique and fascinating places I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.  While it’s obviously its own nation today, much of its land was a part of the Israelite nation in biblical times, and all or almost all of it was part of the Promised Land.

You can also catch up on the other posts here.  If you haven’t already, I’d recommend starting with the Introduction, which gives some helpful context to the geography, history, and politics of the region before we dive in.

Geography, Culture, and Background:  An Introduction

Northern Israel:  the Galilee Area, Tel-Megiddo, and Akko

Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa, Be’er Sheva, and the Negev Desert

Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, and the Dead Sea

Our friends dropped us off at the border in Eilat and we walked across, dealing with all the visas and security checkpoints.  Once across (technically in Aqaba now), we waited for our taxi driver to arrive and some of the other taxi drivers shared their coffee with us while we waited.

The Land of Jordan in the Bible

Obviously that’s super broad, because the modern-day country of Jordan has even had significant boundary shifts over the last century or two.  So here are just a few highlights on the ancient nations that help inform today’s Jordan.

When the kingdoms of Israel and Judah controlled the land of Canaan, the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom ruled east of the Jordan.  The bible tells us quite a lot about the origin of these peoples.

  • The Edomites:  In the Bible, the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin and Isaac’s oldest son (Genesis 36). The Edomites controlled an area east of the Arabah, from the Zered to the Gulf of Aqaba. Their capital was Bozrah  (modern Buseirah), which sat in the northern part of their territory.
  • The Ammonites:  In the Bible, they are described as being descendants of Ben-ammi, who was the son of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and Lot’s younger daughter (Genesis 19:38).  The capital of the Iron Age (roughly 1200-600 BCE) kingdom of Ammon was Rabbah, which is located at modern-day Amman, Jordan.
  • The Moabites:  In the Bible, the Moabites are said to have descended from Moab, the son of Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37). The kingdom of Moab stretched “north and south of the Arnon River” with its capital at Dibon.
    • Ruth was a Moabitess—it’s possible that Moab is given some slack in end-time prophecy because of her faith and her role in Christ’s geneaology

These people factor into end-time prophecies as well.  Daniel tells us that He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon” (Dan 11:41).

Prophetic Harvest Seasons and Feast of Trumpets Food for Thought

I always find it interesting to see how people approach holy day studies and messages.  There are a couple of ditches that we can fall into when it comes to the holy days.

It’s understandable when something only comes around once a year to want to go over a certain set of scriptures that clearly pertain to that day.  Some people give the same message year after year or cycle through a few, sometimes taken almost straight from church literature, often implying that church leadership of a few decades ago figured out all the major things we need to know and that trying to dive deeper or consider something in a different way is simply a liturgical fidget at best and potentially hubris to think you could find something more.

Others try so hard to figure out every single detail, plot out specific timing and order of events, and connect every scripture that could possibly be related.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this at face value, because we’re supposed to be searching the scriptures and God expects us to have studied the events of the end time so we’re prepared for what’s to come.  The danger in this approach can be a myopic approach to individual holy days and how they fit together, and being too invested in our own way of looking at it to consider other ideas.

In giving each holy day its moment in the spotlight, we sometimes fail to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and some of the keys that God has given us to help made sense of His plan.  One of those big thematic keys is the idea of harvest seasons.

God’s holy days and the harvest seasons

The bible is chock-full of harvest symbolism, of sowing and reaping, cycles of growing and coming to maturity.  It’s no accident that God tied His holy day calendar to the agricultural cycles.  Based on what He laid out in His word, I believe that the spring holy days and the fall holy days picture two distinct harvest seasons—each separate and complete.  This isn’t earth-shattering or “new truth”, but sometimes the actual implications of the harvest seasons in prophecy get overlooked.

  • The spring holy days are a smaller harvest, focused on the journey of God’s spiritual firstfruits from calling, repentance and reconciliation (Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread) to resurrection and acceptance into God’s spiritual family (Pentecost). The spring holy days are focused on a very small, specific group of people, and do not apply to the world at large.
  • The fall holy days tell the same story, but for the whole world—and because this physical world is hostile to God, the process of reconciliation requires its complete destruction as a starting point.
    • Traditionally, the Jews believe that Adam was created on Trumpets. In this case, then, we have Trumpets picturing the creation of physical man and this physical world, and then finally Jesus reclaiming dominion of the kingdoms of this world from Satan as the earth nears self-annihilation.
    • In Atonement we see (again, traditionally) the fall of man with the first sin in the Garden of Eden (requiring the death penalty), and ultimately Jesus’s perfect sacrifice being applied to all mankind to wipe away its sins, which makes reconciliation possible.
    • This larger harvest ends with a seven-day journey toward eternal life for those still alive and the establishment of God’s kingdom on this physical earth, followed by the resurrection of all of humanity since the beginning of time.
    • The entire plan is capped off with the cessation of the physical and creation of a new heaven and new earth on the eighth day, as all of mankind is brought into God’s family and this physical world ceases to exist.

Touring the Holy Land: Old Jaffa, Be’er Sheva, & the Negev Desert

This is the third post in a series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, focusing particularly on the history and biblical relevance to areas we visited.  After our first day, spent up in the north part of Israel tracing Jesus’s footsteps around the Sea of Galilee and wandering the ruins of Megiddo, we got to spend a beautiful sabbath morning in modern Tel Aviv and ancient Jaffa before driving through the Negev Desert to the Red Sea.

If you missed the other posts in the series, here are the links.  I’d definitely recommend starting with the maps and introduction post, which gives some helpful context to the geography, history, and politics of the region.

Geography, Culture, & Background (start here!)

Northern Israel:  the Galilee area, Tel-Megiddo, & Akko

Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan

Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, & the Dead Sea

Tel Aviv & Old Jaffa (Yafo/Joppa/Japho)

We based ourselves in Tel Aviv the first couple days we were there, but didn’t end up getting to spend a lot of time in the city itself.  Tel Aviv is actually quite modern, officially founded in the early 1900s by Jewish settlers as the Zionist movement was gaining traction.  It’s a vibrant and interesting city with gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, and the center of tech and finance in Israel as well as one of the great tech cities in the world.  So what does that have to do with biblical history?

While Tel Aviv is a young city, it was founded on the outskirts of—and eventually consumed—the ancient port of Jaffa (also known as Yafo, Japho, Joppa, etc.).

There many references to Old Jaffa in the bible, by various names (Japho, Joppa, and more)

History of Old Jaffa

Basically everyone has owned Jaffa at some point—it’s one of the oldest functioning harbors in the world.  As we mentioned in the last post on Akko, that means that its history is quite colorful (and lengthy!) as well.

The port is strategically located near the north-south Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”), the ancient coastal road that connected the regions north of Israel (Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria) to the south (Egypt).

  • Established as Canaanite port, conquered by Egyptians in 1500s BC (first recorded), Hittites tried to take around 1300
  • Came under Philistine control in 12th century BC, apparently back and forth between Philistine & Judah for a long time
    • Philistines (“Sea Peoples”) from the Aegean Sea landed in Canaan and Egypt in 12th century BC. They battled the Egyptians for control, and eventually the Philistines were confined to a small area in the southern coastal cities, from Gaza to Ashkelon, eventually moved up and conquered Jaffa as well.  Ruled until King Solomon’s time.
  • Was a border city for tribe of Dan during the period of the judges
  • King Solomon used for importing timber during construction of the temple (~1000 BC)
  • Where Jonah tried to flee to Tarshish (8th century BC)
  • Hezekiah re-took the port trying to prepare for Assyrian invasion (701 BC)
    • In 701 BCE the Assyrians, headed by Sennacherib, invaded Israel in order to bring it into their vast empire (2 Chronicles 32 1).  In preparation for the war, King Hezekiah enlarged the borders of the kingdom and fortified the cities in Judea, including the conquest and fortification of of Jaffa (which may have still been a Canaanite seaport at that time).  Spoiler alert: the Assyrians won.
  • Became major Greek city, renamed Joppa (4th-1st century BC)
  • Continued to play a role throughout history—Romans, Jewish revolts, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusades, Mamalukes and Ottomans, and even Napoleon conquered it (before the Ottomans re-took it), then the British took over in 1917

Jaffa in the Bible

Because of its strategic position and importance as a shipping port, Jaffa pops up in the bible several times, both Old and New Testament.

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