Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"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

Category: History

Touring the Holy Land: Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, & the Dead Sea

This is the final post in a series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, where we’ve been focusing particularly on the history and biblical relevance to areas we visited.  At the end of our trip, over the course of about two days, we immersed ourselves in Jerusalem’s Old City, visited the Temple Mount, and spent some time exploring the fortress of Masada, ancient oasis of En Gedi, and the Dead 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.

After spending two days in the fascinating modern-day country of Jordan (historically Moab, Ammon, and Edom in the bible),  our friends picked us up at the border in Eilat, and we drove toward Jerusalem.

Drive from Eilat to Jerusalem

We took a different route coming back from Eilat than we’d taken from Tel Aviv down there a few days earlier.  Instead, we came up along the coast of the Dead Sea.

Qumran Caves

As we drove toward Jerusalem, we could see the Qumran Caves in the distance, with their distinctive striations, points, and cave holes.  The caves are famous for being where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Specifically, thousands of fragments of the Old Testament scrolls dating back to between about the 1st-2nd century BCE through the first century AD.

You can visit some of the Qumran Caves but we didn’t have time for stops on this particular drive.

West Bank

I won’t even attempt to thoroughly explain the West Bank, because I’m not remotely equipped to do so.  It is an important thing to know about if you’re traveling in Israel, however.  It encompasses a large swath of modern-day Israel that is hotly contested by Palestinian Arabs, who claim it should be theirs as part of a Palestinian nation state. 

Towns such as Bethlehem (where Jesus Christ was born) and Jericho (thought to be the oldest city in the world) are here, as well as Hebron, where tradition says Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah are buried.  As such, it’s a popular place to visit despite some of the complexities.

When you are driving through Israel, you will encounter various checkpoints.  We didn’t have any issues getting through, but if you’re visiting certain areas it’s recommended to go with a day tour or you can use public transportation and then hire a Palestinian taxi driver to take you around.  The Gaza Strip, however, is basically considered off-limits (to the point that the U.S. government explicitly says they will not help you if you’re dumb enough to go on your own).  

Most of the time when we were within the West Bank, I didn’t even know it.  However, as we approached Jerusalem and then from certain viewpoints in Jerusalem, you could see it a bit more clearly.  There is a wall at certain points that delineates.

Jerusalem in the Bible

Because Jerusalem is obviously present throughout most of the bible, we’ll have to approach this section a little differently than in the previous articles, since we could list scriptures for days.  Instead, we’ll cover the highlights of specific sites in Jerusalem in the bible or history.

One of the first things we did upon arriving in Jerusalem was visit the Israel Museum, because we arrived on their Independence Day and museum entrance was free.  While I’m not a big museum person, this may be one of the best in the world (from a historical standpoint). 

One of the things you can see there are fragments of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls (which were discovered in the Qumrum Caves above).  These are housed in the Shrine of the Book, a beautiful white dome meant to look like the clay jars the scrolls were discovered in.

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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).

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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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Touring the Holy Land: Northern Israel

As I mentioned in the previous article, we’re doing a series of posts on our trip to Israel and Jordan, based on a presentation we did speaking to the historical and biblical relevance to various sites.  This one is pretty lengthy because the sites are all so close together up in that area, so we were able to visit a lot in one day.

I’d recommend starting with this introductory post to get familiar with the geography of the area and all the places we went.  We gave some background on the history and politics of the region as well, particularly as it relates to the modern state of Israel.

After you read the introductory post, make sure you catch these other posts:

Touring the Holy Land: Old Jaffa, Beersheba, & the Negev Desert

Touring the Holy Land: Petra & Wadi Rum, Jordan

Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, & the Dead Sea

Dad and I flew into Tel Aviv in the evening and our friends picked us up, got some food into us (yummy fresh falafel and pita), and then we crashed into bed.  But we were up early the next morning to get on the road, since we had a ton of ground to cover in the north of Israel.  Below is the route we took, then back to Tel Aviv.

Our friend Steven picked us up and we headed north, stopping in Netanya quickly for coffee and French pastries (Netanya is a community of French Jewish emigrants), then arriving in Caesarea Maritima for our first stop.

Caesarea Maritima

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Touring the Holy Land: Introduction & Maps

This post is a little different from what we typically share on this site.  Rather than an in-depth study, it’s adapted from a presentation we gave recently at my parents’ congregation.  My dad and I spent a week in Israel and Jordan this spring, and we wanted to share some of our travels in the Holy Land, focusing on where they show up in the bible and some of the history or prophecy tied to them.

Similar to how we started the live presentation, we’re starting here by talking through a few maps, just to ground the overall discussion.  That way once we dive into individual sites you can refer back here if necessary.  It’s also helpful to have some context on the modern state of Israel and some of the dynamics and politics of that area, so we’ll provide a (super topline) bit on that at the end of this post.  Once you’ve read through this post, here are the next ones:

Modern-day Israel...this post provides some maps of the Holy Land and background on the region's history, politics, & geography to serve as the basis for the next few posts

What do we mean by the Holy Land?

Roughly speaking, the Holy Land encompasses the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (and including the eastern bank of the Jordan).  The ruins of the world’s oldest civilizations lie within this region, and most (though not quite all) of the bible takes place within its borders.

For this particular trip, we spent time in the country of Israel as well as southern Jordan.  The map below shows the modern state of Israel and some of the key cities and sites.  While not marked on the map, we also visited Wadi Rum and the lost city of Petra in Jordan, which are both in the south—to the east of Eilat (Wadi Rum; Eilat is at the very tip of Israel, if the map is fuzzy) and southeast of Mitzpe Ramon (Petra); both are about halfway over in Jordan on the part pictured by this map.

Modern-day Israel...this post provides some maps of the Holy Land and background on the region's history, politics, & geography to serve as the basis for the next few posts

Putting the modern state of Israel into perspective

Something that many people don’t really realize is how small today’s Israel is.  The whole country is about the size of New Jersey.  Unless you’re from the Northeast, that probably doesn’t mean much, so I overlaid it on my home state of Kansas for comparison—this fun website allows you to set a point of comparison and it will overlay Israel on it.  By our U.S. standards that is so tiny!

Holy Land maps & background on the region's history, politics, and geography as an introduction into our biblical Israel and Jordan travels

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