Here comes Jerusalem Day!

Jom_Jeruschalajim
Jerusalem Day Parade on Jaffa Street and at the corner with Ha-Rav Kook street. (Photo by  Daniel Baranek via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0). 

Shalom from Jerusalem! May has been a good month here in the Land, and this coming month should prove to be exciting with what CFI is doing, as well as events in greater Israel.

This coming weekend is Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim. Historically, this day is a recognition of the reunification of Old City Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, which had been separated by Jordan after the 1948 War of Independence. More importantly, during this war Israeli troops regained for Israel control of the Temple Mount, giving access to for Jewish People to safely pray at the Western Wall—for the first time in nearly 2000 years. For more on Jerusalem Day, click here! For some great photos of the Six Day War, click here. Needless to say, this day is important to Israeli society, and in some quarters is considered even more important than the birth of the State of Israel itself.

israel soldiers at kotel 1967
Iconic photo of Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall in June 1967,
moments after securing the Temple Mount.

Before coming to Israel for the first time in 2006, I had never even heard of Jerusalem Day. But my first experience with it was quite a doozey, since the massive Jerusalem Day parade that winds its way down to the Western Wall came right by the hotel where my friends and I were staying. Here is a clip from that day (Note: the technology is 13 years old, so it is not as sharp at the HD 1080 stuff we’ve grown accustomed to, but it is still worth watching). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFFjVBjAXBg

It is simply just one of those things you have to experience personally to appreciate, and I encourage you to move your own “one-of-these-days trips to Israel” item up higher on your prayer list and see what happens.

Jerusalem Day & Ramadan

One interesting note, for the first time in 30 years, the Temple Mount holy site will be closed to Jewish visitors on Jerusalem Day for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Jerusalem authorities also are concerned since some of the routes taken by the Jewish celebrators go through the Muslim Quarter. So please pray for calm, and that people will behave themselves and that no one will be harmed. https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-first-time-in-decades-temple-mount-to-be-closed-to-jews-on-jerusalem-day/

Happy Birthday Israel… but we remember the price.

IMG_4592soldier at flag kotel

Tonight at sundown begins Israel’s Yom HaZicharon—Day of Remembrance: the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaZikaron

Last week we observed Yom HaShoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was followed by a massive rocket attack from our ‘friends’ in Gaza. As I am writing this, the one-minute sirens all over Israel have begun to sound, beginning this day of remembrance and mourning. It is different in Israel, as the ‘memorial day’ here is actually that.

In America, Memorial Day for most people is a day to cookout, relax or watch sports, and there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. Yet, to my own humiliation I have had to be reminded by my 85-year-old mother, who always attends the Memorial Day service at the local cemetery in High Point, NC. Two years ago I went with her, where a handful of other attendees numbering maybe 50 people showed, among whom were some biker guys who had served in Vietnam: they humbly thanked her for coming out.

“People don’t come out for this the way they used to,” she has said. Like the Vietnam vets, mom also remembers a high school friend who died in the Korean Conflict at the age of 19. His name was Vernon, and he is buried in that cemetery literally right across a creek from his own back yard that he played in as a child.

Since I came to Israel nearly two years ago 22 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists—men and women of all ages, rabbis, young soldiers, security guards, office workers, fathers, mothers, and one unborn child, plus the four who died in this past weekend’s rocket attacks. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/comprehensive-listing-of-terrorism-victims-in-israel

So, tonight in Israel begins a Memorial Day, with people who are remembering, and mourning the loss of their loved one(s). You can join your heart with Israel tonight by praying for those who are sorrowing and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 15:2), that somehow the Lord will comfort them.

A Visit to Jericho: The Tel tells the Tale

(Excerpted from “WHO’S LAND IS IT? ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR A JEWISH CLAIM TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL”

me at jericho
Me at Jericho. Behind me is Kenyon’s southern archaeological trench. Above my head are three UFO’s flying in formation… yikes! Oh, those are just cable cars going to the monastery on the mountain.

Jericho

The Scriptures tell us that God commanded Israel to completely annihilate the Canaanites, but only in a protracted campaign against specific people groups were they to “not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deut. 20:16-17). The ethical question “why were the Canaanites singled out for such severe treatment?” has perplexed scholars and laypersons for centuries. Yet, there is a reasonable answer that should satisfy anyone with a sober sense of justice and mercy.

Why the Destruction?
The Canaanites had sunk to an unthinkable and incredibly low state of moral depravity to the point where they would burn their living children to death in honor of their gods (Lev. 18:21), as well as practicing sodomy, bestiality, and other assorted evil, repulsive acts (Lev. 18:23, 24, 20:3). The Scripture indicates that when the inhabitants corrupt themselves to an excessive degree, the land itself begins to “vomit” them out (Lev. 18:25, 27-30). Thus they were not only to be cut off as a punishment, but God was sending a message—to protect and prevent Israel and the rest of mankind from being further corrupted (Deut. 20:16-18)—and God would use Israel to accomplish the mission.

The story of Jericho is one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament:  Joshua and the Israelites marched around the city, blew the trumpets, and the walls came tumbling down. But did it really happen that way, and at the time the Bible indicates?

jericho
The ancient tel of Jericho viewed from the (alleged) Mount of Temptation Monastery. Kenyon’s western trench is seen in the middle.

John Garstang

In 1930 British archaeologist John Garstang launched an expedition to excavate Jericho. His team dug until 1936 and after WWII, he published an account of his final views on Jericho.[1]

Garstang excavated a collapsed double city wall on the summit of the tel—or man-made mound and archaeological site with several layers of civilizations—that he dated to the late-15th to early 14th-century B.C.E. (the Late Bronze Age). He also excavated a residential area which he named City IV, on the southeast slope of the mound, which he believed was part of the city fortified by a double wall—it had been completely destroyed in a violent, fiery conflagration. Garstang determined that Jericho came to an end about 1400 B.C.E., based on pottery found in the destruction debris. He ascribed the destruction to the invading Israelites:

In a word, in all material details and in date the fall of Jericho took place as described in the Biblical narrative. Our demonstration is limited, however, to material observations: the walls fell, shaken apparently by earthquake, and the city was destroyed by fire, about 1400 B.C. These are the basic facts resulting from our investigations. The link with Joshua and the Israelites is only circumstantial but it seems to be solid and without a flaw.[2]

Kathleen Kenyon

In the 1950’s another British archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon, led a dig at Jericho which employed a stratigraphic excavation technique, in which a series of vertical trenches were dug to analyze the soil layers and the relationship to the architecture at the site. Kenyon made some amazing discoveries, determining that Garstang’s City IV had an impressive fortification system, the type of which was not really understood until Kenyon’s careful work at Jericho. This system consisted first of all of a 15 foot high stone “revetment” wall at the base of the mound. At the northern end of the site, remnants of an 8 foot high mudbrick parapet wall, on top of the stone wall, was found. It is likely that this parapet wall originally extended all the way around the city.

The revetment wall held in place a massive packed-earth embankment or rampart with a plastered face that extended to the top of the tel. Atop this earthen embankment was yet another city wall. Unfortunately, the upper portion of the embankment on the rest of the tel has eroded away. Today, though the upper wall that surrounded City IV when it was finally destroyed does not survive, the lower revetment wall and most of the embankment still exist and can be seen.

Despite the fact that the area where the upper wall once stood is gone, there is amazing evidence from Kenyon’s own detailed report that this wall came tumbling down and, in the words of the Biblical account, “fell down flat”, or literally, “fell beneath itself” (Joshua 6:20). Kenyon made three cuts through the city’s ramparts—on the north, west and south. In all three cuts, she carried her excavation to the lower revetment wall; in the west cut, however, she went even beyond the revetment wall to the area outside the wall.

What Kenyon found outside the revetment wall in the west cut was astonishing. There, she found bricks from the city wall above that had collapsed. Kenyon describes how the upper wall was constructed out of red bricks, and that there was a “heavy fill of fallen red [mud]bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment [wall]. These [red bricks] probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [emphasis added].”[3]

It appears that a wall made of red mudbricks existed either on top of the tel, as Kenyon claims, or on the top of the revetment wall itself, or both, until the final destruction of City IV. The red mudbricks came tumbling down, falling over the outer revetment wall at the base of the tel. There the red mudbricks came to rest in a heap,[4] essentially creating a ramp around the city whereby, just as the Scripture states: “the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20b).

jericho bricks
Remains of red bricks and additional stonework near the north end of Jericho.

Remnants of the final phase of City IV were also found on the southeast slope, just above the spring, by both Garstang and Kenyon. They both concluded that City IV was massively destroyed in a violent conflagration[5] that left a layer of destruction debris a minimum of a yard thick across the entire excavation area.[6]Again, Kenyon describes the scene:

The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.”[7]

The last observation in this quotation suggests that an earthquake preceded the destruction by fire, which again coincides with the Biblical account: “They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it” (Joshua 6:24).

Grain

Interestingly, the most abundant item found in the destruction, apart from pottery, was grain. Both Garstang and Kenyon found large quantities of charred grain stored in the ground-floor rooms of the houses.[8] In her limited excavation area—remember, rather than excavating a broad area, Kenyon’s expedition dug trenches—Kenyon recovered six bushels of grain in one season![9] This is unique in the history of what is called “Palestinian archaeology.” Perhaps a jar or two might be found, but to find such an extensive amount of grain is considered exceptional. Why?

In ancient times grain was considered very valuable, and even used as a medium of exchange. The presence of these grain stores in the destroyed city is entirely consistent with the Biblical account. Jericho did not fall as a result of a starvation siege, as was common in ancient times, but rather, the Bible tells us Jericho was destroyed in a single day (Joshua 6:15,20).

brick kiln or storage
I am not sure what this is: perhaps a well (long since filled in), or a kiln, or storage area, possibly for grain.

Normally, successful attackers would plunder a city after capture, including valuable grain, but this is not consistent with the grain found here. The Israelites were told that “the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction,” and they were commanded, “Keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction” (Joshua 6:17-18). So the Israelites were forbidden to take any plunder from Jericho, which could explain why so much grain was left to burn when Jericho met its end.

One other interesting note regarding the grain and the season of the event: the city fell shortly after the Spring harvest, just after Passover (Joshua 5:10). This is precisely when the Bible says the Israelites attacked Jericho: Rahab was drying freshly harvested flax on the roof of her house (Joshua 2:6); and the Israelites crossed the Jordan while it was in flood at harvest time (Joshua 3:15).

Yet with all of Kenyon’s amazing discoveries, her conclusions regarding the date of Jericho’s demise conflicted with Garstang’s. She concluded that the wall Garstang associated with the Israelite invasion should have been dated to the Early Bronze Age some 1,000 years earlier. Thus the destruction of Jericho, which Garstang had dated to about 1400 B.C.E., occurred, according to Kenyon, at about 1550 B.C.E., 150 years before the time of Joshua. [10]

Obviously this is a problem for Bible literalists. The Exodus occurred c. 1445 B.C.E., and with Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho would be placed c. 1405 B.C.E. If the destruction of Jericho occurred a thousand years earlier there would be no fortified city to be conquered, and the Bible story is just that: a bible story, a myth, and nothing more.

Kenyon’s view would endure for another 30 years, with academic consensus going against the biblical version. Because of Kenyon’s death in 1978, her research at Jericho was never fully published until the early 1980’s. However, after years of research Dr. Bryant Wood, an ancient-pottery expert then at the University of Toronto released his analysis of Kenyon’s data. In a Time magazine article from May 1990, Wood explains how Kenyon erred with the earlier date, and why he prefers Garstang’s date of 1400 B.C.E.:

Kenyon’s dating of Jericho’s destruction was based largely on the fact that she failed to find a type of decorative pottery imported from Cyprus, that was popular in the region around 1400 B.C. Its absence, she reasoned, meant that the city had long since become uninhabited. But Wood argues that Kenyon’s excavations were made in a poorer part of the city, where the expensive imported pottery would have been absent in any case. And he says that other pottery, dug up in Jericho in the 1930s, was common in 1400 B.C.[11]

Wood further explains:

Kenyon based her conclusions on a very limited excavation area—two 26-foot by 26-foot squares. An argument from silence is always problematic, but Kenyon’s argument is especially poorly founded. In other words, Kenyon’s analysis was based on what was not found at Jericho rather than what was found. According to Kenyon, City IV must have been destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.) because no imported Cypriote ware—diagnostic for the ensuing Late Bronze I period—was found at Jericho.

jericho.kenyons2digspots
Kenyon’s two 26-foot by 26-foot square excavation areas.

Dating habitation levels at Jericho on the absence of exotic imported wares – which were found primarily in tombs in large urban centers – is methodologically unsound and, indeed, unacceptable. Kenyon drew her comparative material from large cities like Megiddo situated on major trade routes far from Jericho. Jericho, by contrast, is a small site[12] well off the major trade routes of the day.[13]

So, was the destruction of Jericho at the hands of the Israelites? Let’s review the correlation between the archaeological evidence and the Biblical account:

  • The city was strongly fortified (Joshua 2:5,7,15, 6:5,20).
    • The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Joshua 2:6, 3:15, 5:10).
    • The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodstuffs (Joshua 6:1).
    • The siege was short (Joshua 6:15).
    • The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Joshua 6:20).
    • The city was not plundered (Joshua 6:17-18).
    • The city was burned (Joshua 6:20).

Although the debate over when the destruction of Jericho occurred continues to be hotly contested, from the overwhelming evidence it is undeniable that the destruction of Jericho occurred just as the Bible says. Additionally, two other towns were attacked and burned in a similar fashion as Jericho: Ai and Hazor (Joshua 8:28, 11:11): the archaeological evidence confirms that both towns were destroyed c. 1400, and burned to the ground.

Yet, modern scholarship has attempted to deny that Joshua led a military campaign into Canaan. Rather, they have opted to craft a myth that the indigenous Canaanites joined the “Yahweh cult” and eventually became the Israelites, conveniently doing away with the Biblical account. But the evidence of Jericho, Ai and Hazor speaks to the contrary, and testifies that Joshua did fight the battle of Jericho and other towns in Canaan. Thus by 1405 B.C.E., the Jewish people were back from Egypt, and were present in the Land.

For the complete paper on WHO’S LAND IS IT?: ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR A JEWISH CLAIM TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL, click here: Whos Land is It: Archaeological Evidence

For more about Jericho from Dr. Bryant Wood, click here: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/bookstore/product.aspx?id=107

and here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5Fjth9T12U

Notes:

                [1] John Garstang, and J.B.E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho, John Garstang and J.B.E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, Rev. ed. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, rev. ed., 1948.

                [2] John Garstang, “Jericho, and the Biblical Story”, p. 1222.

[3] Kathleen Kenyon, “Jericho 3,” 110.

[4] John Garstang, “Jericho: Sir Charles Marston’s Expedition,” 128.

[5] John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition,” p. 192; “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 21, pp. 122-123; “The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho,” p. 68; “Jericho and the Biblical Story,” p. 1220; Garstang and Garstang, The Story of Jericho, p. 123. Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 232; Archaeology in the Holy Land, pp. 171, 181-182; Jericho 3, pp. 368- 370.

[6] It is clear that the destruction continued beyond the excavation area, since erosion debris from upslope was colored brown, black and red by the burnt material it contained (Kenyon, Archaeology In the Holy Land, p. 182).

[7] Kenyon, Jericho 3, p. 370.

[8] John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition,” pp. 193-194; “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 21, 123, 128, 129; “The Fall of Bronze Age Jericho,” p. 66; “Jericho and the Biblical Story,” p. 1218. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, p. 171; Jericho 3, pp. 369-370.

[9] Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, p. 230.

[10] Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho (London: Ernest Benn, 1957), p. 262; “Jericho,” in Archaeology and Old Testament Study (AOTS) ed. D. Winton Thomas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967), pp. 265- 267; “Jericho,” in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (EAEHL), vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), pp. 551, 564; The Bible in Recent Archaeology (Atlanta: John Knox, 1978), pp. 33-37.

[11] Michael D. Lemonick;Katherine L. Mihok,  Science: Score One for the Bible, Time Magazine; NEW YORK, Monday, Mar. 05, 1990

[12] The area inside the city wall was originally about 5-6 acres (John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho. The Marston-Melchett Expedition of 1931,” PEFQS 1931, p. 186; “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 19, p. 3), while the total area, including the fortification system, was approximately twice that, or 10-12 acres (John Garstang, “The Walls of Jericho,” p. 187, and “Jericho: City and Necropolis,” LAAA 19, p. 3; Kenyon, “Jericho,” EAEHL, p. 550 [4 hectares = 9.9 acres]). Magen Broshi and Ram Gophna list the size of the site as 1.5 ha (3.7 acres; Broshi and Gophna, “Middle Bronze Age II Palestine: Its Settlements and Population,” BASOR 261 [1986], Table 4), but this is no doubt the estimated size of the site as it is today. A considerable portion of the tell was removed in the construction of the reservoir and the modern road.

[13] Bryant G. Wood PhD, Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence; May 01, 2008. website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/01/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx

Hanukkah Light for the World!

IMG_2780
Hanukkiah outside the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem at sunset: ready to be lit!
(Across the street is the new train station and the Bridge of Strings symbolizing King David’s harp, in the distance).

Shalom from Jerusalem! Tonight begins the first night of the eight-day festival known as Hanukkah. I hope you are ready to celebrate!

This week I have watched the Hanukkah menorahs set up all over town, and it is kind of exciting! Actually, the nine branch menorahs are called “hanukkiahs”, and differ from the temple menorah in that it only has seven. This is to accommodate the eight days of Hanukkah.

I’ll forego an in-depth explanation on the history of Hanukkah (that’s what the internet is for), although it is worth the effort to search out and discover this amazing event in the history of G-d’s people.

Known by two names—the Festival of Lights, and the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah is mentioned only once in the Bible, the New Testament/Covenant book of John: “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.” (10:22-23).

This was well into the third year of Jesus’ ministry and after developing quite a national following, His popularity was beginning to wane while the controversy around Him increased. And on this occasion, the conversation ended in a not-too-friendly exchange, about a mile from where I am sitting writing this.

The spiritual leaders of Israel—here noted as “The Jews” which, since they were all Jews, can be interpreted as “the Judeans” (as opposed to “the Galileans”) or “Jewish leaders”—were challenging Jesus’ claim to Messiahship: “The Jewish [leaders] then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (v. 24). To which He answered in the affirmative, citing His works and role as the Shepherd of Israel as His credentials. He then answered their question and took it up a notch: “I and the Father are one.” (v.30). Not only is He the Messiah, but He is equal with the Father.

Recently I had a discussion with an alleged believer in Jesus, but he denies the Deity of Yeshua, that is, that Jesus is God. He gave some lengthy explanations with quite a few supporting Scriptures, but He could never address what Jesus said in John 8:58, 8:24, and here in John 10:30. And just to be clear, Jesus’ audience understood exactly what He was saying: “Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ 33 The Jewish [leaders] answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’”

And that is who He is.

Light of the World, Hanukkah and Christmas?

A lot of things are going on during this season, not the least of which is Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is fairly certain that Jesus was not born in December, but more likely in the late summer or early fall. There are a few reasons for this, a couple of which I will sketch out quickly and you can do your own study.

As King David approached the end of his life, he was busy preparing the Temple to be built by his son Solomon, as well as setting up admin duties for the Kingdom of Israel. One thing he did was to have the sons of Levi (the temple priests) divided into 24 groups and set up a schedule where they would serve in the Temple twice a year (see 2 Chronicles 24:20-31).

Fast forward about one thousand years and we find that “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah…. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:5-9). On this occasion Zacharias is told by and angel that he and his wife (both of whom were beyond natural child bearing age), would have a son, and name him John. This would be John the Baptist.

About six months later an angel visits Mary, a young woman engaged to be married and tells her that she will miraculously conceive and bear a child, and “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:26-38).

So we have Jesus evidently conceived about six months after that of John the Baptist. With John conceived probably around June or July (according to the schedule), he would have been born according to the natural manner of life nine months later, around Passover. This is interesting in that according to Jewish tradition Elijah is believed to return at Passover and herald the coming of the Messiah (see Isaiah 40:3-5/Luke 3:4-6), and John came in the Spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17; John 11:14).

Now fast forward six months and this brings us to the Fall Feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot/Tabernacles. This would be the time that Jesus is born, and perhaps John the Apostle gives us a subtle hint when he writes, “And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us” (1:14).

So, where does Hanukkah fit into all of this? Well, back up from Tabernacles about nine months, and you arrive around the latter part of December, or Kislev on the Jewish calendar. With Hanukkah beginning on the 25 of Kislev the question has to be asked: Is it possible that the announcement for the Birth of the Messiah—the Light of the World—occurred during the Festival of Lights? Could it be that G-d would dedicate Himself in His Son to mankind as our redeemer on Hanukkah?

I don’t know for sure, but yes, it is very possible!

So whether or not Jesus/Yeshua was born in December, the overriding issue is not so much when He came, but why He came: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

In this—that a great miracle happened here in Israel—we can rejoice!  How great is the love of our God toward us! Tonight, light a candle in His Name! And may you meditate on these great and mysterious truths this holiday season, and during the Festival of Lights, let your light shine before all—people need to know Who the Light really is.

Happy Hanukkah!

PC