Israel History & Scripture Reference
Israel was the new name given to Jacob, which means “ruling
with God” (Gen 32:28). The
twelve tribes of Israel were created by the descendants of Israel’s
twelve sons. These tribes
became known as the nation of Israel.
The Northern Kingdom later became known as Israel.
Israel was a term used to refer to God’s true and obedient
people in the New Testament.
“And he said,
Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast
thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen 32:28).
Herod the Great built the city of Caesarea between 22 &
10 B.C. and named in honor of Caesar Augustus. Caesarea, the Roman
capital of Palestine, is an 8,000 acre site which is located 23 miles
south of Mount Carmel on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Caesarea became the administrative capital of the Province of
Judea, where the Roman procurators, or governors, resided. Three Roman governors of Palestine lived there: Felix (Acts
24), Festus (Acts 25), and Pontius Pilate (John 19). Archeologists found Pilate’s name carved in stone in the
theater at Caesarea. In New
Testament times, Caesarea served as the major seaport of Judea.
Herod built a harbor that could shelter ships from Mediterranean
Herod wanted the city to be Hellenistic, accommodating mainly
non-Jewish populations; however, there were still a significant amount
of Jews who resided in the city. Cornelius,
a Roman officer, was converted to Christianity in Caesarea (Acts 10:1,
24). Peter’s mission to
Caesarea helped to expand the Christian population among the Gentiles
(Acts 10).The apostle Peter visited Philip, who was a prominent
Christian leader who lived there (Acts 21:8).
Caesarea was also the place of Paul’s imprisonment for two
years, before his journey to Rome. In AD 70 Roman general Titus returned
to Caesarea after conquering Jerusalem, as did Flavius Silva in AD 73
after defeating the fortress cities of Masada and Herodium.
During the Byzantine period, Caesarea became a center of
Since 1971, excavations have added much information about
Caesarea. A very productive
aqueduct was built by King Herod, which brought freshwater from Mount
Carmel to Caesarea. This
water traveled underground, originating from springs to the northeast.
A smaller aqueduct was also used for irrigation.
Large sewers have been found running under the city as well.
A 30,000 seat hippodrome (racetrack) was also built on the east
side of the city. However
it was destroyed during the Muslim invasion of 640, along with a large
archives building on the coast. Two
quotations of the Greek text of Romans 13:3 were found inscribed on
mosaic floors in the archives building during excavation.
Still visible today is the large amphitheater northwest of the
hippodrome. In 1976, excavations produced the first evidence of
Strato’s Tower, the Hellenistic site near which Herod built Caesarea,
according to Josephus. Also,
a small synagogue was excavated north of a large fort built at the
Herodian harbor during the Crusades.
This harbor area contained many stone storerooms; many of which
have still not been excavated. The
only one ever found in Palestine was reused by the Roman legions as a
Mithraeum (a cultic center dedicated to the Persian god Mithras).
The city of Caesarea was never rebuilt after its destruction by
Muslims in the thirteenth century.
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him…”
“Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to
Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30).
“And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea.
And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his
kinsmen and near friends” (Acts 10:24).
“And the next day we that were of Paul’s company
departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of
Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him”
“We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix,
with all thankfulness…” (Acts 24:3-27).
Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from
Caesarea to Jerusalem…” (Acts 25:1-27).
Carmel is a mountainous ridge extending about twenty miles along
the Mediterranean Sea and jutting southeastward into the Jezreel Valley.
Its greatest width at the southeast is thirteen miles; its
highest point 1, 742 feet. The
ridge is made of the same Cenomanian limestone as makes up the central
mountain range of Palestine. Haifa,
located on Carmel’s northwestern corner, contains harbors for ships
passing in the ocean; several Jewish settlements are also nestled in
Mount Carmel’s slopes, and two large Druze villages. (Druzes are
members of a particular Muslim sect.)
The plain of Sharon extends to the south.
In ancient times oak trees, olive groves, and vineyards grew
around Mt. Carmel, which explains why it is known for its beauty and
fertility (Isaiah 33:9; 35:2). “Carmel”
is a contraction of a Hebrew word meaning “vineyard” or “garden of
God.” Robbers and
outcasts used this area as a hiding place, because of the many dense
wild plants and gorges and caves (Amos 9:3).
Today, Carmel is still forested, and large parts of it have been
made a nature reserve. Solomon
described his beloved by saying, “Your head is as majestic as Mount
Carmel” (Song of Solomon 7:5), possibly comparing her hair to the
thick, luxuriant foliage of Carmel.
Conquerors and traders often avoided Mount Carmel’s military
base and moved through the Jezreel Valley to the east or the Zebulun
Valley to the northeast. There
were important passes that cut through the mountain, which linked the
plains of Sharon and Esdraelon. Early
in the fifteenth century BC, that route was taken by Pharaoh Thutmose
III and also by British Lord Allenby when he conquered Palestine in
1918. The tribal
territories of Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, and Manasseh met at Mount
Carmel, although possession of the mountain’s heights was never fully
The crowning event of Elijah’s ministry took place on Mount
Carmel. Elijah the prophet
challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel: “How
long halt ye between two opinions?
If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him”
(1 Kings 18:21). Elijah was
not the first to build a Hebrew altar on the mountain; the Bible
describes him as repairing a ruined “altar of the LORD” before
offering his sacrifice (1 Kings 18:30).
According to tradition, that contest took place at Qeren
ha-Carmel, located at 1, 581 feet, overlooking the Jezreel Valley.
The brook Kishon flows through that valley and around to the
north of Carmel before emptying into the Bay of Acre (1 Kings 18:40).
“So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered
the prophets together unto Mount Carmel” (1 Kings 18:21).
“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me.
And all the people came near unto him.
And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down” (1
“And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let
not one of them escape. And
they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and
slew them there” (1 Kings 18:40).
“Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine
head like purple; the king is held in the galleries” (Song of Sol
“The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and
hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off
their fruits” (Isaiah 33:9).
“It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and
singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of
Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the
excellency of our God” (Isaiah 35:2).
“And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I
will search and take them out thence…” (Amos 9:3).
Located west of Jordan at the edge of the fertile Jezreel Valley,
this important city guarded the main pass of the International Coastal
Highway leading into the valley. This
strategic position made Megiddo one of the most important commercial and
military centers of Palestine from 2000 to early 1000 B.C.
Megiddo was the scene of many Old Testament battles.
Great military men, such as Thutmose III of Egypt (15th
century B.C.), Napolean in 1799, and General Allenby during World War I,
have fought for mastery there. King
Thutmose III (1504-1450 B.C.) defeated a coalition of Canaanite kings at
Megiddo. It is also the
place where king Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30)
Although he did not take the city, Joshua defeated the king
of Megiddo at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan (Joshua
12:21). The land was later
divided among the tribes of Israel and Megiddo was assigned to Manasseh. However, they could not conquer it from the Canaanites
(Joshua 17:11-12; Judges 1:27). Deborah
and Barak defeated the forces of Hazor under the command of Sisera near
Megiddo, but they did not take the city either (Judges 4:15; Judges
5:19). King David might
have conquered the land as part of his program for establishing the
kingdom. By the time of King Solomon, Megiddo served as the
headquarters of one of his twelve administrative regions (1 Kings 4:12).
Later, Solomon rebuilt the city in order to serve as one of his
chariot and garrison cities (1 Kings 9:15-19).
The plain of Megiddo (valley of Megiddon, KJV) is referred to in
Zechariah’s prophecies that Israel and Jerusalem would be restored
(Zechariah 12:11). Revelation
16:16 mentions the numerous conflicts fought over control of this
valley, also known as Armageddon (Har Megiddon, the “mount of
“The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one”
“And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher Bethshean and
her towns…and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even three
countries” (Josh 17:11-12).
“Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of
Bethshean and her towns…nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns:
but the Canaanites would dwell in that land” (Judges 1:27).
“And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and
all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera
lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet” (Judges
“The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan
in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money”
“Baana the son of Ahilud; to him pertained Taanach and
Megiddo, and all Bethshean…” (1 Kings 4:12).
“And this is
the reason of the levy which King Solomon raised; for to build the house
of the Lord, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem,
and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer” (1 Kings 9:15).
“But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by
the way of the garden house….And he fled to Megiddo, and died there”
(2 Kings 9:27).
“In his days Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against
the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and King Josiah went against
him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him” (2 Kings
“In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem,
as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon” (Zech
“And he gathered them together into a place called in the
Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev 16:16).
Cana was a village in Galilee, located four miles northwest
Jesus performed His first miracles in Cana.
He changed the water into wine (John 2:1, 11) and healed an
official’s son who lived in Capernaum (John 4:46-50).
Nathaneal, one of Jesus’ disciples, and possibly Simon came
from Cana (John 21:2).
Cana was made headquarters for defending Galilee against he
Romans during the first Jewish revolt, which resulted in the destruction
of Jerusalem in AD 70. After
this destruction, the town became the seat of the priestly family of
Eliashib. John’s Gospel
refers to it as “Cana of Galilee,” in order to distinguish it from
Kanah, located near Tyre (Joshua 19:28).
Since Byzantine and medieval times, the traditional site of Cana
has been Kefar Kana, about four miles east of Nazareth on the main road
from Nazareth to Tiberias. However,
contemporary scholars have almost unanimously settled on Khirbet Kana as
the site of New Testament Cana. This
site is located eight miles north of Nazareth on the northern edge of
the Battuf Plain. To this day it is called Cana of Galilee by the Arabs of the
region. Pottery from the
Hebrew monarchy period, as well as from Hellenistic, Roman, Arabic, and
Crusader times, has been found by archeologists.
“And Hebron, and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even unto
great Zidon” (Joshua 19:28).
“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;
and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1).
beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth
his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:11).
“So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made
the water wine. And there
was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum…” (John
“There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus,
and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other
of his disciples” (John 21:2).
Jesus grew up in Nazareth; a small village in Galilee located
seventy miles north of Jerusalem. It
is first mentioned in the New Testament as the home of Mary and Joseph
(Luke 1:26-27). Nazareth is
located about 15 miles west of the Sea of Galilee and 20 miles east of
he Mediterranean. Jerusalem
lies about 70 miles south. It
was located in the rocky limestone hills, overlooking the Jezreel
Valley. It is situated on
three sides of a hill. This
location forms a sheltered valley with a moderate climate favorable to
fruits and wildflowers. Archeologists
found that the ancient town was higher on the western hill than the
present village (compare Luke 4:29).
Although trade routes and roads passed near Nazareth, the village
itself was not on any main road.
Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha
(ancient writings not included in the Bible), Jewish writings, or the
histories of Josephus. Nathanael remarked, “Can there any good thing
come out of Nazareth? Philip
saith unto him, Come and see” (John 1:46).
Jesus’ public ministry began in Nazareth.
He later left the village to be baptized by John in the Jordan
River (Mark 1:9). When John
was arrested, Jesus moved to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13).
Though Jesus was often identified by his boyhood city as “Jesus
of Nazareth” (John 18:5, 7), the New Testament records only one
subsequent visit by Jesus to Nazareth.
During this visit, Jesus preached in the local synagogue and
claimed that Isaiah’s prophecies were coming true to the oppressed
people. He was then rejected by the townspeople (Luke 4:16-30).
Jesus’ followers were also known as “Nazarenes” (Acts
24:5). The angel Gabriel announced in Nazareth that Mary would bear a
Son whose name would be called Jesus (Luke 1:26).
Nazareth remained a Jewish city until the time of the emperor
Constantine (AD 327), when it became a sacred place for Christian
pilgrims. In about AD 600,
a large basilica was built in Nazareth.
The village was alternately controlled by Arabs and Crusaders
until 1517, when it fell to the Turks, who forced all Christians to
leave. In 1620, Christians
returned and the town became an important Christian center.
“And he came
and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which
was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt.
“And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum,
which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim”
“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from
Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan” (Mark 1:9).
“And in the
sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee,
named Nazareth” (Luke 1:26).
“And he came
to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he
went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read”
“And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him
unto the brow of the hill whereon there city was built, that they might
cast him down headlong” (Luke 4:29).
“And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come
out of Nazareth? Philip
saith unto him, Come and see” (John 1:46).
“They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus saith unto them, I am he.
And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them…” (John
“For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover
of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of
the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).
Founded by Herod Antipas about A.D. 18, Tiberias was one of the
two cities that dominated Lower Galilee later that century.
It is located midway along the western shores of Lake Galilee.
Herod named the city in honor of the emperor Tiberius.
Today the name is preserved in the town Tabariyeh.
The site became Herod’s new capital after abandoning Sepphoris,
which he built in 4 B.C. Tiberias had several advantages because of
it’s location. It lay
just below a rocky projection above the lake, a natural acropolis that
offered good protection. It
was a center where roads from north, south, and west met, allowing Herod
to move readily to various parts of his domain.
To the south lay famous warm springs, which were known to the
Roman writer Pliny the Elder, who spoke of their health-giving
qualities. A lakeside
palace was built by Herod, with the security of a naturally fortified
acropolis lay behind him. This
palace would let in a panoramic view of Galilee.
After a burial ground was discovered during the building of
the town, Jews abandoned the site.
The town was settled by a group of Gentiles, some under the
orders of Herod. Herod
accomplished a good population by offering nice houses and plenty of
land to all who lived there. According
to the Gospels, Jesus never went to Tiberias, probably because of the
pollution caused by corpses. The
town of Tiberias is only mentioned once in the New Testament, after the
feeding of the five thousand. The
Sea of Tiberias, or Lake Galilee, is referred to in John 6:1 and John
“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee,
which is the sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1).
“The day after Jesus walked on the sea a crowd from Tiberias pursued Him across the sea to Capernaum…” (John 6:22-25).
“Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the
place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks”
“After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the
disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself”
The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake thirteen miles long and
seventeen miles wide. The
lake is surrounded on all sides by higher land because the surface of
the lake is 690 feet below sea level.
It lies in the lower section of the Jordan Valley.
It is located about 60 miles north of Jerusalem in a range of
mountains. The mountains of
Upper Galilee are northwest of the lake and rise to a height of 4,000
feet above sea level, while the mountains on the east and west ascend
about 2,000 feet. The
Decapolis is found on the west, south, and east.
The mountain wall flattens into the plain of Gennesaret at the
northwest corner of the lake. At
about 2,000 feet above sea level, it gives way to El Batila in the
northeast. Where the Jordan River enters the sea.
During the New Testament, the sea was surrounded by the towns of
Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazin, Magdala, Tiberias, and others.
This lake has many names, beginning with Sea of Chinnereth
(Numbers 34:11), which is found in the Old Testament. The name was later changed to Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:1).
Because the town of Tiberias is on the shore, it was also called
the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1, 23, and 21:1).
King Herod built the town near the warm springs of Hamath by the
sea around AD 26 and named it for the emperor.
People began to call it the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18) because
it is close to the province of Galilee.
In the New Testament, “the sea” identifies it as the Sea of
The Sea of Galilee is one of the five divisions found in the
Jordan Rift, which drains 70 percent of the land of Palestine.
In its 65-mile course from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea,
the Jordan River drops 590 feet, an average of about nine feet per mile.
This lake provided fishing industries and agriculture products to
many local towns and villages. After
being rejected by His home village, Jesus moved his ministry to the Sea
of Galilee, where He performed many miracles and teachings.
Jesus calmed the storm on the lake for His disciples and also
appeared walking on the water of Galilee (Matt. 8:23-27, Mark 6:47-52).
“And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the
east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the
side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward:” (Numbers 34:11).
“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two
brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into
the sea: for they were fishers” (Matt 4:18).
“And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little
faith? Then he arose, and
rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (Matt.
“Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and
Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers”
“And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was
contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh
unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had
been a spirit, and cried out…” (Mark 6:48-49).
“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him
to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret” (Luke
“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee,
which is the sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1).
“(Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto
the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given
thanks:)” (John 6:23).
“After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the
disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself”
This city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee became
Jesus’ home base for His ministry. This name means “village of
Nahum,” although there is no knowledge as to who Nahum was.
Capernaum was located in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali
(Matthew4:13). The west
shore of the lake was settled by the tribe of Naphtali.
Its location was described as being near the border of the Jordan
and the political frontier. Such
a frontier town is told about in the story of the centurion (8:5; Luke
Through excavation and Jewish evidence, Tell Hum has been
revealed as the site for ancient Capernaum.
During the excavations, a private house was uncovered beneath a
fourth-century Jewish-Christian place of meeting. In the first half of the second century, this house served as
an assembly hall for the early Christians.
It was very likely the home of Peter as well, through findings of inscriptions and
reports from early Christian travelers.
Matthew refers to Capernaum as “Jesus’ own city” (Matt.
9:1). Jesus cured Peter’s
mother-in-law of a fever, healed two paralytics, and raised the daughter
of Jairus from the dead (Matt. 8:5-17; Mark 2:1-22; Luke 8:40-56). Jesus
called His first disciples from the villagers and fishermen nearby. He called Matthew to be His disciple from a station selling
goods located in the vicinity of Capernaum.
Although He taught much in the local synagogue and performed many
miracles, few people from the city were among his followers. This caused
Jesus to grieve over the city for its lack of faith (Matt.11:20-24).
Because of the city’s refusal to believe and repent, there was
a heavy curse imposed on Capernaum (Matthew11:23).
“And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum,
which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim”
“And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto
him a centurion, beseeching him…” (Matt 8:5-17).
“And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into
his own city…” (Matt 9:1).
“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his
mighty works were done, because they repented not…” (Matt 11:20-24).
“And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean
spirit; and he cried out” (Mark 1:23).
“And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up;
and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them”
“And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and
cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak because they
knew him” (Mark 1:34).
“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and
it was noised that he was in the house…” (Mark 2:1-22).
“And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit
of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice” (Luke 4:33).
“And it came
to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God,
he stood by the lake of Gennesaret…” (Luke 5:1-11).
“And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto
him, was sick, and ready to die” (Luke 7:2).
“And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the
people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him…”
“So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made
the water wine. And there
was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum” (John 4:46).
This is the mountain where Jesus was followed by great multitudes
to listen to his sermon of Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven…” (Matt 5:3-12). These
statements tell who’s blessed and the reason that they are blessed.
“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and
when he was set, his disciples came unto him…” (Matt 5:1).
“When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes
followed him” (Matt 8:1).
that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye
have no reward of your Father which is in heaven…” (Matt 6).
that ye be not judged…” (Matt 7).
This city lay at the southern base of Mount Hermon and was the
northernmost point of the ancient Israelite kingdom.
I was also used as a topographical marker in the phrase “from
Dan to Beersheba” (2 Samuel 3:10).
Dan was a Phoenician city, originally named Leshem (Joshua 19:47)
or Laish (Judges 18:7), which was conquered by Dan’s tribe when it
Dan was also a very important commercial center, because it
guarded a major trading route running between Damascus and Tyre.
The Huleh Valley, below Dan, was very lush and fertile because of
the great water sources from the Jordan River.
There was an abundant amount of grain and vegetables produced in
this territory, as well as plenty of supplies to feed the flocks and
herds of animals.
Eventually Israel separated into two kingdoms. When Jeroboam I became king of the northern kingdom of Israel, Dan housed one of two shrines where golden calves were worshiped. Even Jehu’s drastic purge did not defeat the worship of Baal at Dan. The city fell under Syrian control (2 Kings 10:28-32) during Ben-hadad’s reign. Dan was later re-conquered by the northern kingdom when the Syrians were attempting to ward off Assyrian attacks during the time of Jeroboam III (793-753 BC). Its inhabitants were deported to Assyria (2 Kings 17:6) by Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 BC). The site did continue to be inhabited (Jeremiah 4:15; 8:16), and its acropolis was used for worship. During Greek and Roman times, the area was enlarged and in the New Testament times, it was eclipsed by Caesarea, which was located very close to Dan.
“And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little
for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem,
and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it,
and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their
father” (Josh 19:47).
“Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the
people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of
the Zidonians, quiet and secure…” (Judges 18:7).
“To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to
set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to
Beersheba” (2 Sam 3:10).
“Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel…” (2 Kings
“In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took
Samaria and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah
and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (2
“For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction
from mount Ephraim” (Jeremiah 4:15).
“The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole
land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones…”
Located on the southern slopes of Mount Hermon near the ancient
city of Dan, this city is found at the northern extremity of Palestine. It lies in the Wadi Banias, a beautiful area near the Jordan
River. It was called Panion
in the second century BC, because the Greek god Pan was worshiped in a
cave nearby. It was also
the place where the King Antiochus III, of Syria, defeated the Ptolemies
of Egypt in a crucial battle in 200 BC.
“Panium” was governed by Zenodorus, according to Jewish
historian Josephus (Antiquities 15.10.3).
Josephus writes its cultic site was “a very fine cave in a
mountain, under which there is a great cavity in the earth, and the
cavern is abrupt, and prodigiously deep, and full of a still water; over
it hangs a vast mountain, and under the caverns arise the springs of the
Augustus Caesar gave the city to Herod the Great after the death
of Zenodorus. King Herod
then gave the territory to his third son, Philip, when he died in 4 BC.
Philip built his capital and named it Caesarea Philippi, after
the Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar and himself.
This distinguished it from the larger Caesarea Maritima on the
Mediterranean coast. This
territory was also known as Panias, an area sacred to the Graeco-Roman
nature god. Herod and
Philip also built a temple in this capital dedicated to Caesar.
Caesarea Philippi is where Jesus asked His disciples “Whom
do men say that I the Son of man am?” and Peter made his confession
that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God (Matt.16:13-16).
The transfiguration of Jesus probably took place here as well.
King Agrippa II enlarged Caesarea Philippi in about AD 50 and
named it Neronias in honor of the emperor Nero.
The modern name,
Banias, derives from the Arabic difficulty in pronouncing Paneas.
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ,
the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16).
The Jordan River originates above the Sea of Galilee and meanders
south through the Jordan Valley two hundred miles to end in the Dead
Sea. This river lies in the bottom of a great canyon called the Jordan
Rift, an elongated depression stretching from lower southwest Asia Minor
(Syria) to the Gulf of Aqaba. The
rift was once filled by the Lisan Lake, but geological activity caused
it to recede, and the result was the formation of three separate bodies:
the Huleh Lake, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea.
Each of these bodies of water is fed by the Jordan River even to
this day. In Hebrew, Jordan
River means “the descender.” The Jordan is comprised of four separate streams: Bereighith,
Hasani, el-Liddani, and Baniyas. In
the northwest corner of the Huleh Valley, the Bereighith emerges within
the area of Merj Ayoun, flowing from a spring located on a modest knoll
west of Mount Hermon. To
the east is the Hasbani, a stream that descends from a spring 1,700 feet
above sea level and follows a course of about 24 miles.
These two smaller streams merge less than a mile above where they
merge with the el-Liddani and the Baniyas.
The el-Liddani is located near Tel el-Qadi (the biblical city of
Dan). The most
powerful stream of the four, it is fed by ‘Ain Leddan, a spring that
is nestled among thick underbrush and is fed by the melting snows off
Mount Hermon. The el-Liddani
meets the Baniyas, the last of the four streams.
The Baniyas originates from a cave approximately 1, 100 feet
above sea level in the northeast corner of the Huleh Valley (Caesarea
Philippi) and follows a steep descent before it joins with others.
These four streams, making up the Jordan River, flow together
along a southerly course of 10 miles before entering Huleh Lake.
The Jordan River played a very important role in Biblical
times. It is the river that
the Israelites crossed to enter the Promised Land of Canaan (Joshua
3:14-17). The fords of the Jordan were the sites of conflict in the war
of Jephthah and the Gileadites against the Ephraimites (Judges 12:1-6).
The prophet Elijah sought refuge from Ahab king of Israel by the brook
of Kerith east of the Jordan (1 Kings 17:1-5).
Elisha followed Elijah to the Jordan River, where he watched
Elijah ascend into heaven by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:6-12).
Naaman, the Syrian general, bathed in the Jordan at the command
of Elisha and his leprosy was healed (2 Kings 5:8-14).
Elisha made the ax float at the Jordan River (2 Kings 6:1-7).
The Jordan River also marked the division between the tetrarchy
of Philip and that of Herod Antipas. It is also the river in which John
baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). Peter confessed that Jesus was the “Christ, the Son of the
living God” at Caesarea Philippi, located on one of the sources of the
Jordan, Baniyas (Matthew 16:13-20).
Jesus healed two blind men at Jericho, which is near the Jordan
(Matthew 20:29-34) and visited with Zacchaeus in that same city (Luke
“And it came to pass, when the people removed from their
tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the
covenant before the people…” (Josh 3:14-17).
“And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and
went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to
fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with
thee? We will burn thine house upon thee with fire…” (Judges
“… So he went and did according unto the word of the
Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before the
Jordan” (1 Kings 17:1-5).
“And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for
the Lord hath sent me to Jordan…” (2 Kings 2:6-12).
“And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that
the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king,
saying, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes?...” (2 Kings 5:8-14).
“And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now,
the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us…” (2 Kings
shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the
habitation of the strong…” (Jeremiah 49:19).
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be
baptized of him…” (Matt 3:13-17).
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he
asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man
am...?” (Matt 16:13-20).
“And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude
followed him” (Matt 20:29-34).
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief
among the publicans, and hew was rich…” (Luke 19:1-10).
“And went away
again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and
there he abode” (John 10:40).
There are traces of an ancient settlement here in the well
watered and fertile northern part of the Jordan Valley.
This Palestinian town is located fifteen miles south of the Sea
of Galilee and four miles west of the Jordan River.
It stood at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, guarding an
important Jordan River crossing. It
was one of the key cities that developed at points where natural routes
connected the highlands to the east and west.
When the Philistines defeated Israel under King Saul at the
battle on Mount Gilboa, Beth-Shan was a Philistine city.
The slain bodies of Saul and his sons were hung on the city wall.
Saul’s head was displayed in the temple of Dagon, a Philistine
deity (1 Samuel 31:10-13; 2 Samuel 21:12-14; 1 Chronicles 10:8-10).
Later, the city became a part of David’s kingdom.
Beth-Shan contains the ancient tell from the Old Testament,
which towers above the city of Scythopolis.
Two Egyptian texts found at Tell-el Husn, a mound, indicate that
this is the same area as Beth-Shan.
The tell, or mound, is 213 feet high and about one-half mile in
circumference at its base. An
inscribed stone, called a stele, was found at Beth- Shan that tells the
story of Seti I’s victory over Habiru.
The area that included Beth-Shan was given to Issachar’s
tribe at the time of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. Eventually, Manasseh’s tribe took it over (Joshua 17:11).
It was then added into the district of Baanah under King Solomon
(1 Kings 4:12). The city is
thought to have been destroyed by Shishak (Sheshonk I), pharaoh of Egypt
in the tenth century B.C. During
the remainder of the Old Testament period, Beth-Shan was insignificant.
Beth-Shan received the name of Scythopolis during the
Hellenistic period because it was settled by a colony of Scythian
mercenaries serving the Egyptian king Ptolemy II.
This strategic site also held an Egyptian military base, which
were also located in other surrounding areas.
Greek deities Dionysus and Zeus had temples built in honor of
them. Eventually, Beth-Shan
became an important administrative center under the rule of the
Hasmonean kings. It
prospered as a member of the league of Greco-Roman commercial cities
called Decapolis (Matthew 4:25; Mark 7:31) and was the only league
member west of the Jordan.
“And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher Beth-shean and
her towns…” (Josh 17:11).
“And they put his armor in the house of Ashtaroth: and they
fastened his body to the wall of Beth-Shan…” (1 Samuel 31:10-12).
“And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of
Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them
from the street of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them,
when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa…” (2 Sam 21:12-14).
“Baana the son of Ahilud; to him pertained Taanach and
Megiddo, and all Beth-shean…” (1 Kings 4:12).
“And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines
came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in
mount Gilboa…” (1 Chr 10:8-10).
“And there followed him great multitudes of people from
Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and
from beyond Jordan” (Matt 4:25).
“And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how
great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel” (Mark
“And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he
came unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of
Decapolis” (Mark 7:31).
Jericho was an ancient city on the west side of the Jordan River. The name Jericho may be connected to the ancient name of the
Canaanite moon god. The
Hebrew words for moon, month, new moon, and Jericho are very similar.
It is also associated with the words for spirit or smell.
The pleasant fragrances of the fruits and spices in the land may
have helped to name the place. In the Old Testament, it is referred to
as “the city of palm trees” (Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15).
Jericho was located about five miles from the southern-most fords
and about ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea.
It lies nearly 1,000 feet below sea level and about 3,500 feet
below Jerusalem, which was only 17 miles away.
As Jesus said in the parable of the good Samaritan, “down from
Jerusalem to Jericho” (Luke 10:30).
Before the Bible first mentions Jericho in connection with the
exodus from Egypt, it was a large and thriving city for centuries.
Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world.
It is dated back to the Neolithic Age ten thousand years ago.
There are three main reasons primitive people would have chosen
this site as a settlement and as a key city. 1) It has a plentiful
spring, now called Elisha’s Fountain (2 Kings 2:18-22).
2) It has a warm climate in the winter, although “hot”
describes it in the summer. 3)
It is strategically placed at a Jordan ford and at the base of several
routes leading westward to the foothills.
Many different populations have come and gone in Jericho,
however, the civilizations grew more complex over the years.
The food-gathering population gave way to a relatively complex
urban society, which included kings, soldiers, and guest houses.
Jericho was developed this way when Joshua arrived there.
The first certain identification of its inhabitants occurs in
Numbers 13:29: “The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in
the hill country; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the
In the Old
Testament, Jericho is best known because of Joshua’s conquest of the
city by encircling it and blowing the trumpets in obedience to Gods
command. Israel had spent some time on the east bank of the Jordan in
the plains of Moab (Numbers 22:1; Numbers 26:3, 63).
Jericho was targeted as the first military objective in the
conquest. Before crossing the Jordan and establishing camp at Gilgal,
Joshua sent spies ahead to Jericho.
Rahab the harlot took them in and later helped them escape.
For her cooperation, she and her family were spared when Israel
destroyed the city (Joshua 2:1; Joshua 6:1).
Because Jericho was such a strategic oasis, if it could be taken,
the way into the mountains of Canaan would lay open.
The fall of the city itself occurred after the Israelites had
marched around it in silence, except for he continual blowing of
trumpets, once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh
day. As the priests blew
the trumpets, the people shouted and the walls collapsed. Joshua laid a curse on anyone who might rebuild Jericho
(Joshua 6:26). Five hundred
years later, Hiel rebuilt the city at the cost of two of his sons (1
Kings 16:34). Joshua’s
victory has led to major excavations at Tel es Sultan, the mound of
Jericho appears throughout the rest of the Old Testament In 2
Samuel 10:5 David had his humiliated ambassadors wait there until their
beards grew back (see also 1 Chronicles 19:5).
It was also where many of the prophets lived, as well as a
headquarters for Elisha (2 Kings 2:5; 1 Samuel 10:5).
A return of prisoners also took place there at the time of Ahaz
(2 Chronicles 28:15). Jerusalem
fell in 586 B.C. and King Zedekiah fled to land near Jericho, but was
caught by Babylonians. The
Babylonians took out his eyes at a place called Riblah in Syria (2 Kings
25:5; Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:8).
Jericho is mentioned in the census lists of Ezra and Nehemiah
(Ezra 2:34; Nehemiah 7:36). Men
from Jericho also helped rebuild the Jerusalem wall (Nehemiah 3:2).
King Herod built the Jericho of the New Testament more than a
mile to the south of the Old Testament site.
In the New Testament Jericho is the home of Zacchaeus, the
wealthy chief tax collector of the new Roman Jericho.
As Jesus passed through Jericho (Luke 19:1) he met and ate with
Zacchaeus. Jesus also healed blind men while passing from the site of
ancient Jericho (Matthew 20:29) to the Herodian Jericho (Luke 18:35).
The parable of the good Samaritan also took place in Jericho
In 1868, Charles Warren first excavated Jericho.
It was then excavated by Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger in
1907-11, and then by John Garstang in 1930-36.
Although Garstang thought he had found the wall that fell before
the Israelites, the investigations by Kathleen Kenyon in 1952-56 showed
that the topmost level of ruins was already too early to tell anything
of the city of Joshua’s day. Kathleen
Kenyon uncovered and interpreted many layers of civilizations that date
back to 8000 B.C. at Jericho.
The Neolithic tower has also been uncovered through excavations.
Although Jericho was of small consequence after its
destruction under Joshua, the Jericho of Herod was a city of beauty and
importance. Eventually this
Jericho decayed with the decline of Roman influence in the Middle East.
There have been writings of pilgrims to the Holy Land that have
taught us what we now know of the modern city of Jericho.
They usually report seeing certain things of Biblical
significance, such as the tree that Zacchaeus climbed.
They also report that Jericho was a filthy, wretched Muslim
village. It remained that
way until recently, when it grew in size and importance as a major West
“And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the
plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho” (Numbers 22:1).
“And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them in the
plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,” (Numbers 26:3).
“These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the
priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by
Jordan near Jericho” (Numbers 26:63).
“And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the
city of palm trees, unto Zoar” (Deut 34:3).
“And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to
spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho…” (Josh 2:1).
“Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children
of Israel: none went out, and none came in” (Josh 6:1).
“And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be
the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city
Jericho…” (Josh 6:26).
“When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them,
because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at
Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return” (2 Sam 10:5).
“In his days did Hiel the Beth-elite build Jericho…” (1
“And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to
Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy
master from thy head to day? And
he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye peace” (2 Kings 2:5).
“And the men
of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this
city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the
ground barren…” (2 Kings 2:19-22).
“And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and
overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered
from him” (2 Kings 25:5).
“Then there went certain, and told David how the men were
served. And he sent to meet
them: for the men were greatly ashamed.
And the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown,
and then return” (1 Chr 19:5).
“And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took
the captives… and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees to
their brethren: then they returned to Samaria” (2 Chr 28:15).
“The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five”
(Ezra 2:34 & Nehemiah 7:36).
“But the Chaldeans’ army pursued after them, and
over-took Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho…” (Jer 39:5).
“But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and
overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was
scattered from him” (Jer.52:8).
“And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude
followed him” (Matt 20:29).
“Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God
came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2).
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from
Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves…” (Luke 10:30-37).
“And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto
Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging…” (Luke
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho…” (Luke 19:1-10).
The Dead Sea is both the lowest point in Eurasia at 418 meters (1,371 ft) below sea level and falling, and the deepest hypersaline lake in the world at 330 m (1,083 ft) deep and 799 m (2,621 ft) below sea level. It is also one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth with a salinity of about 30%. This is about 8.6 times greater than the average ocean salinity. It measures 67 kilometers (42 mi) long, up to 18 kilometers (11 mi) wide, and is located on the border between the West Bank, Israel, and Jordan, and lies in the Jordan Rift Valley. The main tributary is the Jordan River.
The Dead Sea has attracted interest and visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. It was a place of refuge for King David, it was one of the world's first health resorts for Herod the Great, and it has been the supplier of products as diverse as balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers.
In Arabic the Dead Sea is called Al Bahr al Mayyit meaning "the Dead Sea", or less commonly Bahr Lūţ meaning "the Sea of Lot". Historically, another Arabic name was the "Sea of Zoar", after a nearby town. In Hebrew the Dead Sea is called the Yam ha-Melakh - meaning "sea of salt", or Yam ha-Mavet - meaning "sea of death". In past times it was the "Eastern Sea" or the "Sea of Arava". To the Greeks, the Dead Sea was "Lake Asphaltites"
The Jordan River is the only major stream flowing into Dead Sea. There
are no outlet streams. The water level is receding to alarming levels
due mostly to irrigation of the
Jordan River, both in
Israel & Jordan. Plans
are being discussed to dig a channel from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aqaba in
order to bring it back to past levels.
Called at various times:
The Salt Sea
The Sea of the Plains
The East Sea
The Former Sea
Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada became famous for its significance in the First Jewish-Roman War (Great Jewish Revolt), when a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to a mass suicide of the site's Jewish defenders when defeat became imminent.
Remnants of one of several legionary camps at Masada, just outside the circumvallation wall which can be seen next to it.In 72 CE, the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva, marched against Masada with the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to the fortress. After failed attempts to breach the wall, they built a circumvallation wall and then a rampart against the western face of the plateau, using thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth. Josephus does not record any major attempts by the Zealots to counterattack the besiegers during this process, a significant difference from his accounts of other sieges against Jewish fortresses, suggesting that perhaps the Zealots lacked the equipment or skills to fight the Roman legion. Some historians also believe that Romans may have used Jewish slaves to build the rampart, whom the Zealots were reluctant to kill because of their beliefs.
A shot of the ramp from the top.The rampart was complete in the spring of 73 CE, after approximately two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram on April 16. When they entered the fortress, however, the Romans discovered that its approximately 1000 defenders had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide rather than face certain capture or defeat by their enemies (which would probably have led to slavery or execution). Because Judaism strongly discourages suicide, however, the defenders were reported to have drawn lots and slain each other in turn, down to the last man, who would be the only one to actually take his own life. The storerooms were apparently left standing to show that the defenders retained the ability to live and chose the time of their death over slavery. This account of the siege of Masada was related to Josephus by two women who survived the suicide by hiding inside a cistern along with five children and repeated Elazar ben Yair's final exortation to his followers, prior to the mass suicide, verbatim to the Romans.
The site today
On the western shore of the Dead Sea about 35 miles southeast of
Jerusalem, the extreme conditions of the area made habitation
prohibitive except near the freshwater springs. En-gedi contained a hot
water spring coming from the side of a limestone cliff, producing
semitropical vegetation. This
vital oasis was allotted to Judah’s tribe for an inheritance (Jos.
15:62). The area became
known for its palms, vineyards, and balsam (Sg 1:14; Josephus’s
Antiquities 20.1.2). This
ancient site was southeast of the oasis at Tell el-Jarn near modern
‘Ain Jidi. In 2
Chronicles 20:2, En-gedi was called Hazazon-tamar and was involved in
several Old Testament events. Kedorlaomer
conquered the Amorites here (Gn 14:7); when David fled from Saul he
found refuge in the many caves of the region (1Sam 23:29); and in
Ezekiel’s vision of Israel’s restoration, fishermen would catch fish
from the Dead Sea from En-gedi to En-eglaim (Ez 47:10).
“And they returned, and came to En-mish-pat, which is
Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the
Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar” (Gen 14:7).
“And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds
at En-ge-di” (1 Sam 23:29).
Ziphites came unto Saul and Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself
in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon…” (1 Samuel 26).
“Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There
cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side
Syria; and” (2 Chr 20:2).
“And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand
upon it from En-ge-di even unto En-eg-la-im…” (Ezekiel 47:10).
These caves located on the western shore of the Dead Sea are
where many ancient manuscripts have been found including the Dead Sea
Scrolls, the Psalm Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and fragments of over
400 other writings including pieces
from almost every book in the Old Testament.
They were found in a dozen caves from 1947 onward.
Some manuscripts are intact and others are fragmentary.
Esther is the only book from the Old Testament that remains
On the north side of the Wadi Qumran, about one mile south of
Cave I, lay the ruins of a Jewish monastery known as Khirbet Qumran.
Khirbet Qumran was first investigated in 1949 by archaeologists
Harding and de Vaux. The
Jordanian Archaeological Museum and the Ecole Biblique conducted more
investigation in 1951. They
uncovered the main building and concluded that it was the center of a
well- organized community. Most
of the 200 to 400 people who lived in Qumran, lived in tents or in
nearby caves. A large
cemetery was located to the east toward the Dead Sea.
It was announced by De Vaux that Khirbet Qumran was the
headquarters of a Jewish sect called the Essenes.
Dated back to the eighth and seventh centuries BC,
investigations at this site have shown that it was lived in several
times. Some have suggested
that the buildings may have been built during the reign of King Uzziah
(2 Chronicles 26:10). There
is more evidence of people living on the site during the Greco-Roman
period. A major settlement
began shortly before 100 BC, in the time of Hycranus I, and ended with
an earthquake in 31 BC. There
was probably settlement in the area again in about the time of death of
Herod the Great (4 BC). The
area was then captured by the Romans in AD 68.
A Roman garrison remained there until about AD 90.
Jewish rebels then used the site as a base during the second
revolt against the Romans under Bar-Kochba in Ad 132-135.
The largest building was the main assembly hall.
Much pottery was found, some of which was used for housing the
scrolls, which were copied in the writing room.
There were no manuscripts found in the ruins of Khirbet Qumran,
however, the pottery was very similar to that in which the Dead Sea
Scrolls were found in Cave I. This
clearly shows that there is a link between the ruins and the
manuscripts. Small plaster
tables or benches, together with inkwells dating from Roman times, were
also found during excavation in the writing room, or scriptorium.
The elaborate water system in the area had many round and
rectangular cisterns that collected water from the mountains to the
west, probably used for ritual purifications and baptism by the Qumran
group. Hundreds of coins
from the Greco-Roman period have also helped in telling us when the area
was occupied. ‘Ain Feshka,
an oasis and spring about two miles to the south, was probably used as
an agricultural outpost of Khirbet Qumran.
Ziphites came unto Saul and Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself
in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon…” (1 Samuel 26).
“Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells:
for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains:
husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for
he loved husbandry” (2 Chr 26:10).
This name is used only twice in the Old Testament. Abraham was sent to sacrifice his son Isaac in “the land of Moriah” (Gen 22:2). It has been suggested that the form of the name “Moriah” may be connected with the ram that was “provided” in the place of Isaac when God “appeared” to Abraham. (The Hebrew verb ra’ah can have the meanings “see,” “provide,” and “appear,” and the ending –iah is the shortened form f the name of the Lord that is found in many Hebrew names.)
The northern part of the ridge of Mount Moriah is actually 250 feet higher than the southeastern hill because the eastern ridge slopes towards the south. It is on this higher elevation that Solomon built the Temple Mount. Solomon’s commencement of his grand design for Jerusalem enclosed the higher ridge of Mount Moriah, which provided space for the temple and palace complex. David expanded Jerusalem northward upon the northern part of the eastern ridge (2 Chr. 3:1). The threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Sam 24; 1 Chr 21) has been identified with Solomon’s temple. Some see in the description of the Lord’s appearing to David a reminder of his appearing to Abraham there. The Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 1.13.2; 7.13.4), as well as the second-century BC book of Jubilees, connects the place of the temple with he place where Isaac was offered up (Jubilees 18:13). Moriah has been linked with Mt. Gerizim by Samaritan tradition. Muslim tradition links the Dom of the Rock with Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac on the great rock under the dome of the mosque.
“And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen 22:2).
“And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite” (2 Sam 24:18).
“And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breaches of the city of David his father” (1 Kings 11:27).
“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel…” (1 Chr 21).
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah…” (2 Chr 3:1).
From this overview, we sit while your guide discusses the Biblical significance and history of the city gates, valleys, and important structures. Thoughts of time past, present day and future events brings to mind the realization that this is the city of our Great King and our future home.
"As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from hence forth and forever." (Psalms 125:2)
On Sunday of the last week of His life, Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives to cries of “Hosanna”. On Tuesday of the same week, after answering questions from the religious authorities He taught his disciples about the “end times” while seated on the Mount of Olives.
“And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world” (Matt 24:3).
“And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately” (Mark 13:3).
“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey” (Acts 1:12).
Gethsemene was located opposite the temple, across the Kidron Valley on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. After the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus engaged in fervent prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene. He underwent a great inner struggle, knowing that the hour of his betrayal was coming soon. It was here that Judas betrayed Jesus to temple authorities who placed Jesus under arrest (Matt 26:36; Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:2-12).
The name Gethsemane is used only in Matthew 26:36 and Mark 1:32. It means “oil press,” also suggesting the presence of an olive grove. More than anything else Jesus realized that He must say "yes" to the Father and bare the weight of the sins of all mankind. He prayed three times and was pressed to the extent that He sweated great drops of blood. For devotional application, it is interesting to note that olives are pressed three times. The use of the word “place” in the Gospel accounts indicates that Gethsemane was an enclosed piece of ground. It may be that the grove was privately owned and that Jesus and his disciples had special permission to enter.
The Gospels of Luke and John do not mention the word Gethsemane. However, they both record Jesus’ agony before his betrayal. Luke says the location was on the “Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39). John describes the area as “across the Kidron Valley” (John 18:1); the Gospel of John is the only Gospel to call the spot a garden. It is also evident that Jesus and his disciples gathered in Gethsemane for fellowship and prayer (Luke 22:39; John 18:2). The Gospel narratives indicate that the garden was large enough for the group to separate into different part of it.
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder…” (Matt 26:36-45).
“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray…” (Mark 14:32-42).
“And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him…” (Luke 22:47-53).
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples…” (John 18:2-12).
Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. (John 18:14-28)
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace, And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matt. 26:57-75)
The second-story room of Hebrew or Greek homes; often like a tower, built on the flat roof of a Hebrew home for privacy, for comfort during the hot season, or for the entertainment of guests. It could sometimes accommodate large gatherings of people. Jesus met with his disciples shortly before his arrest in an upper room and ate the Passover supper (Lord’s Supper) with them as well (Mark 14:15; Luke 22:12). This is where He prepared them for His death, the Holy Spirit’s coming and their future ministry. The size of some of these rooms is evident from the fact that, after Jesus had left and ascended to heaven, the disciples went to the upper room where they all had been staying before. In one instance the room was on the third story (Acts 20:8). Eutychus, sitting in the window, went to sleep and fell three stories to the street below (20:9-10). Ahaziah also fell through he latticework of his upper room (2 Kings 1:2).
The dead son of the widow of Zarephath was taken by Elijah to an upper room where he had been staying and raised him from the dead (1 Kings 17:19-23). David went to an upper room for privacy to mourn the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33). The kings of Judah built strange altars near the upper room of Ahaz, which Josiah pulled down as part of his reform program (2 Kings 23:12). Dorcas was laid in an upper room after she had died; later, Peter was taken up to the same room to pray for her restoration to life (Acts 9:36-41).
“And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam18:33).
“And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him…” (1 Kings 17:19-23).
“And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of baalzeub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease”(2 Kings 1:2).
“And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron” (2 Kings 23:12).
“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover…” (Matt 26:17-29).
“And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.” (Mark 14:15).
“And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in…” (Luke 22:10-38).
“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew…” (Acts 1:13, 2).
“And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together…” (Acts 20:8-10).
“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did…” (Acts 9:36-41).
This city was located in the hills of Judah and had access to the Ridge Road, which ran alongside major cities. Jerusalem was captured by David from the Jebusites in about 993 B.C. and made capital (2 Sam.5:1-10). It became Israel’s national sanctuary as well. David made many building establishments in Jerusalem. He built the royal court along with Solomon, a palace with the aid of Hiram, transported the Ark of the Covenant, and built a tent shrine to house the sacred chest (2 Sam. 6). Solomon’s crown achievement in building activities was the construction of a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant (known as the Temple Mount). Jerusalem became the spiritual and political heart of Israel and the Zion of Yahweh.
Jerusalem was later captured by Babylon in 598 BC and destroyed in 587 BC. About 50 years later rebuilding was started and by Jesus’ day it was the center of Jewish worship and under Roman rule. Jesus often traveled to Jerusalem to attend Jewish festivals. John recorded three Passover feasts, one Feast of Tabernacles, an unnamed feast, and a festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) that Jesus attended. Jesus performed many miracles while in Jerusalem. He healed a paralytic man at the “Sheep’s Pool,” known as Bethesda (John 5:2-9). Jesus also healed a blind man in the Pool of Siloam. He also spent a lot of time teaching His disciples and others in the temple. Jesus spent his last days in Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, discipleing, and being judged by high priests and leaders. He was then crucified just outside city walls in a place called Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” The Gospels describe several post-resurrection appearances that took place in Jerusalem (Matt. 28:9-10; Mark 16:14-18; John 20:19-29).
The name “Jerusalem” has many meanings: 1) Egyptian Meaning: The earliest mention of Jerusalem is found in the texts known as the Egyptian Execration Texts from the 19th and 18th centuries before Christ, in he form Urusalimum. 2) Semitic Meaning: In the 4th century BC, the name appears as Urusalim. Later it is found as Ursalimmu. The two Hebrew root-words, uru (city) and salim (a divine name), produced the compound word “the city of the god salim.” Salim, or Shalem (Akkadian, Shulmanu; perhaps Solomon), was a god worshiped by the Amorites (Ezekiel 16:3). 3) Hebrew/Aramaic Meaning: In the Hebrew Old Testament, Jerusalem is written yerushalayim, and in the portions of the Old Testament written in the Aramaic language, the name is written yerushalem. It contains the root words yarah (“to found”) and shalem (a divine name), which gives us “the foundation of [the god] Shalem.” 4) Greek Meaning: In the New Testament, the word “Jerusalem” is a translation of Ierousalem and Hierosoluma. The first of these is simply the way that Greek authors wrote the Old Testament Aramaic word; the second reflects the Greek word hieros (holy).
“Behold, I build a house to the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to him…” (2 Chr. 2-4:8).
“So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward” (2 Sam 5:9).
“Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand…” (2 Sam 6).
“And say, Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite” (Ezekiel 16:3).
“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him…” (Matt 28:9-10).
“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief…” (Mark 16:14-18).
“Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches” (John 5:2-9).
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you…” (John 20:19-29).
Ecce Homo-- (Latin: "Behold, the man!") A station of the cross on the Via Dolorosa commemorated by an arch. The phrase "Ecce Homo" refers to Pilate's words when he brought Jesus out to the crowd for judgment. (John 19:5)
Garden Tomb -- The Garden Tomb was first pointed out in 1849; a rock formation there resembles a skull (Golgotha), and the site accords with the biblical data of the area where Jesus was buried. It is presently a beautiful garden park, where many Christian groups take communion.
Jewish Quarter -- Where you may find the "broad wall" that is mentioned in Isaiah 22 and Nehemiah 3; a "window" into the period of the First Temple.
Mount Zion -- Often identified with the "City of David", it was after Solomon that the city grew farther to the north and to the west on the hill today identified as Mount Zion, a hill that is protected on the south and west by the Valley of Hinnom. This identification of Mount Zion, which in 2 Sam. 5:7 is applied to David's city, derives from the Jewish historian Josephus, who identified all of the Jerusalem of his day (the first century A.D.) with the city of David. You can visit the "Upper Room" (Mark 14:12-26) and the House of the High Priest Caiaphas (Mt.26:57).
Palm Sunday Road -- Follow the trail of Jesus and his disciples from the Mt. of Olives to Jerusalem, when he was hailed as king in the so-called, "Triumphal Entry." (Matt 21:1-11 Mark 11:1-10 Luke 19:28-40 John 12:12-16)
Pool of Bethesda -- A name found in later NT manuscripts for the original "Bethzatha" in John 5:2. It is the Hebrew name of the pool near the 'Sheep Gate' in Jerusalem. Here, according to tradition, many of the sick in Jerusalem waited for healing by means of a periodic angelic visitation. Jesus performed a great miracle here on a man who had been lame for 38 years. As it was done on the Sabbath, this led to controversy with certain Jewish leaders of the time. (John 5:1-16)
Rabbi's Tunnel/Western Wall Tunnel -- Underneath the present
surface of the Western Wall compound lies the magnificent Western
retaining wall of the Herodian Temple.
Devotional Application: Before exiting the Tunnel, we view the massive cornerstone rejected by the builders and the stones on the street where Jesus walked as he was taken to the Judgment Hall. This is definitely a time for prayer and reflection.
Located in Jerusalem, this was the palace of King Herod the Great of Judea. During Roman times, wealthy Jerusalemites, like King Herod, built their palatial villas or palaces in the Upper City. Herod was responsible for the building of many great structures, including an impressive port of Caesarea on the coast, giving to Palestine a much needed major harbor. He also built two fortresses, Masada and Macherus, along the shores of the Dead Sea. In an attempt to locate and kill Jesus, Herod killed many baby boys in the land when Jesus was born (Matt 2).
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem…” (Matt 2:1-22).
“For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake his brother Philip’s wife…” (Mark 6:17-28).
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church…” (Acts 12:1-3).
Southern Wall Excavations -- This southern side of The Temple was the main entrance for the common folk, whereas the Priests and Levites had their own entrance from the higher, eastern side. Parts of the giant stairs, which led to the Temple Mount from the courtyard, have been unearthed. It is in this courtyard that Jesus likely drove out the vendors and money exchangers who were exploiting the people. (Matt 21:12-17; Mk 11:15-17; Luke19:45-46) In the Mishna, we are told that Rabbi Gamliel taught at the Temple steps; thus this is likely the place where the Apostle Paul (Saul) learned at Gamliel's feet. (Acts 22:3) It is also the only known area where 3,000 could have heard the preaching of Peter and be baptized on the Day of Pentecost.
Day of Pentecost -
According to the Book of Acts, the experience of the
Pentecost was shared by all in the large crowd, causing confusion, and
Then (the Apostle) Peter standing with the eleven other
apostles spoke to the crowd. He explained that these strange events had
been predicted by the prophet Joel, and that Jesus's coming had been
prophesied by David. Peter explained that these events confirmed David's
prophesied exaltation of Jesus. Peter then exorted his listeners to turn
to Christ. About three thousand responded to Peter's sermon.
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto
you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as
the LORD our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify
and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then
they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there
were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Temple Mount -- The place where God chose to "put His name;" where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice (Mt. Moriah, Gen 22); the site of both the First and Second Temples found in the Bible. Today it is occupied by the Dome of The Rock Mosque.
Via Dolorosa -- (Latin: 'way of pain'), the traditional pilgrimage route in Jerusalem commemorating Jesus' journey to the cross (Mark 15:20-23). The traditional route is not likely to have been historical, since Pilate probably condemned Jesus at the Herodian palace on the opposite side of the city (Matt. 27:19; Luke 23:4; John 18:28; Philo Delegation to Gaius 38; Josephus War 2.301). A route from there through the city to Golgotha would have led east on David street and then west on Triple Suk to Golgotha. The present route consists of two devotional stops near the Ecce Homo arch, seven outside leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and five inside the church itself. Though Byzantine pilgrims followed approximately the present route from Gethsemane to Calvary on Holy Thursday, they made no devotional stops. Numerous routes developed during the Middle Ages. The devotional practice of representing the gospel story in churches around fourteen stations led to the development of the present route. The route itself was fixed in the eighteenth century and all of the stations established in the nineteenth. (Matt.26)
Wailing/Western Wall and Excavations -- The holiest site in Judaism, that is the closest visible and accessible part of the Second Temple complex from Jesus' time.
Israel Museum/Shrine of the Book -- Israel's finest and most comprehensive museum, containing artifacts and documents from pre-historical to Biblical to Byzantine, Turkish and Modern times. Also, the some of the Dead Sea Scrolls (including the famous Isaiah text) and many artifacts relating to the Qumran community can be found in the separate Shrine of the Book building, whose famous roof is shaped like the ceramic jar covers in which the scrolls were first found.
Jerusalem Model of 2nd Temple Jerusalem -- Here the visitor can find a full scale model of the Jerusalem of Jesus' time. A great aid in visualizing the geography of NT Jerusalem.
The Knesset -- home of the Israeli Parliament.
Solomon's Quarry -- A quarry located north of the Temple Mount near the present-day Damascus Gate, now called Solomon's Quarry or Zedekiah's Cave. This quarry was used through the Roman period (63 B.C.-A.D. 324), and possibly also by Hezekiah for his building projects.
Yad V'Shem -- ("Hand and Name" from Isaiah 56:5) This museum commemorates the Holocaust of European Jewry perpetrated by the Nazis before and during WW II.
Bethany - John 10:19-40 - Jesus returned after threatened stoning and again to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Stephen’s Gate -
Stephen was the
first martyr of the Christian faith. After his stoning, many
Christians fled to Judea and Samaria from Jerusalem, while also planting
the Gospel in Cyprus.
Found in the New Testament, the word “Judgment Hall” was also translated as “Praetorium” (Mark 15:16) and “common hall” (Matt 27:27). The word was first used to refer to the place where the Roman general’s tent stood in an army camp and hence was a reference to the headquarters of the camp. Later, it came to mean the military council that met in the general’s tent. It was then used in reference to the palace in which the Roman governor or procurator resided while ruling a province. In Jerusalem, it was the palace that Herod the Great had built for himself. When the Roman governor came from his normal residence in Caesarea to Jerusalem, he occupied Herod’s palace and conducted his official business there. On Friday, before Jesus’ death, the high council brought Jesus before Pilate to gain assent to their verdict, charging Jesus with treason. The site of the interrogation before Pilate is debated. It could have been in Herod’s palace in the western part of the city. Another possibility is that Pilate lodged in the Antonia Fortress while residing in Jerusalem. Pilate then sent Jesus to be judged by Herod Antipas, after realizing that Jesus was a Galilean. Jesus was then turned back into the hands of Pilate, who allowed Jesus to be executed by torture and crucifixion.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers” (Matt 27:27).
“…And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it…” (Mark 15:1-5).
“And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band” (Mark 15:16).
“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate…” (Luke 23:1-5).
Ancient tradition places Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection over this site. Queen Helena, mother of Constantine, ordered this church to be built over the site Christians showed her when she visited Jerusalem in about 335 A.D. Through archeology, it was found that this site was actually outside city walls at the time of Jesus’ death and was used as a quarry with many tombs cut into the rock.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites? For ye are like unto white sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt 23:27).
“And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher” (Matt 27:61).
“Their throat is an open sepulcher…” (Rom 3:13).
Bethlehem is a town six miles southwest of Jerusalem.
It is sometimes called Bethlehem-judah or Ephrath (Gen 35:19;
Micah 5:2) to keep it from being confused with another city, Bethlehem
of Zebulun. Located in Judah, Bethlehem was one of the towns that played
a key role in history. Jesus
was born in Bethlehem, which was a fulfillment of prophecy (Micah 5:2;
Luke 2:1-7). Bethlehem was
also the place of death and burial for Rachel.
It is also known as the City of David, as David was both born and
anointed there (1 Sam. 16:4, 13; Luke 2:4, 11).
The name Bethlehem actually means “house of bread.”
Bethlehem was first settled by the Canaanites and was associated
with the earliest fathers (or “patriarchs”) of Israel, because
Rachel died and was buried near it (Gen 35:16, 19; Gen 48:7).
The earliest mention of Bethlehem is in some ancient battle
reports, written fourteen hundred years before Christ’s birth, which
refer to a city named bitil u-lahama south of Jerusalem.
This name may have meant “house of (the goddess) Lahama.”
A branch of Caleb’s family settled there, and Caleb’s son
Salma was known as “the father of Bethlehem” (1 Chr 2:51).
It was also the home of a Levite boy who served as priest to
Micah (Judges 17:7-8), and of Boaz, Ruth, Obed, and Jesse, the
Bethlehemite, David’s father (Ruth 4:11-17; 1 Samuel 16:18).
Bethlehem was the birthplace of David and the home of one of
David’s mighty men, Elhanan (2 Sam 23:24; 1 Chr 11:26).
A daring deed was performed in Bethlehem by three of David’s
warriors. They broke
through a chain of Philistine warriors who had taken over the city to
bring David water from a well near the city gate of
his hometown (2 Sam 23:14-17).
Bethlehem is also mentioned as being next to the village of
Geruth-kimham, where Jews running from the Babylonians stayed while they
were on their way to Egypt (Jer 41:17).
People from Babylon were part of the group
of Jews who returned Israel after living in exile in Babylon
(Ezra 2:21; Nehemiah 7:26; 1 Esdras 5:17).
Bethlehem was only a small village when Jesus was born (Matt
2:1-16; Luke 2:4-6, 15; John 7:42).
Joseph had to go to Bethlehem because he was part of the family
of David (Luke 2:4), under orders of Caesar Augustus.
It is said that the birth of Jesus might have taken place in a
cave in the rocks outside town, as agreed upon by Christian writers
Justin Martyr and Origen. Another
early Christian writer, Jerome, described the cave where the Roman
Emperor Constantine had built a church.
Some evidence was found near Bethlehem that suggested a second
period of building in the time of a later emperor, Justinian (AD
527-565), in 1934-35. Constantine’s
church was then extended past its original boundaries.
There were steps that led down to the cave, which were
artificially shaped into a square, probably by Constantine’s builders.
There is, however, no description of the cave from before the
construction of Constantine’s church.
“…And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath,
which is Bethlehem…” (Gen 35:16-27).
“And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me
in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to
come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the
same is Bethlehem” (Gen 48:7).
“And there was a young man out of Bethlehem-judah of the
family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there…” (Judges
“And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders,
said, We are witnesses. The
Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like
Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in
Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem…” (Ruth 4:11-17).
“And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came to
Bethlehem. And the elders
of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?”
(1 Sam 16:4).
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the
midst of his brethren: and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from
that day forward. So Samuel
rose up, and went to Ramah” (1 Sam 16:13).
“Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I
have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing,
and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and
a comely person, and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam 16:18).
“Now David was
the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-Judah, whose names was
Jesse…” (1 Sam 17).
“And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the
Philistines was then in Bethlehem…” (2 Sam 23:14-17).
“Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan
the son of Dodo of Bethlehem” (2 Sam 23:24).
“Salma the father of Bethlehem, Hareph the father of
Bethgader” (1 Chr 2:51).
“Also the valiant men of the armies were, Asahel the
brother of Joab, Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem” (1 Chr 11:26).
“The children of Bethlehem, an hundred twenty and three”
“The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore
and eight” (Nehemiah 7:26).
“And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham,
which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt” (41:17).
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among
the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that
is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from
everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days
of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to
Jerusalem…” (Matt 2:1-16).
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent
forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the
coasts thereof, from two years old and under…” (Matt 2:16-23).
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a
decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…”
“Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (John 7:42).
Bethlehem/Shepherd's Field -- Originally a small village on the road from Jerusalem to Hevron. Here took place the story of Ruth and Boaz, and is the birthplace of both David, and David's greatest son, Jesus. Here also can be found the tomb of Rachel. Many believe the site of The Shepherd's Field to be the place where angels of the Lord visited the shepherds to announce the birth of Israel's King and Savior. (Gen 35:16-20 48:7 Ruth 1 Sam 16:1-12; 17:12 Micah 5:2 Luke 2:1-7, 8-20 Matt 2:1-18)