• American History, Jerusalem Comments Off on An American President and Psalm 48

    There is an apocryphal story that is told of the 39th president of the United States. During one of his shuttle diplomacy trips to the Middle East after the Camp David Accord was signed, he visited the office of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. He noticed there were three telephones on his desk: a red one, a white one, and a blue one.

    Click here to download and read “An American President and Psalm 48”.

  • Archaeology and the Bible, Jerusalem Comments Off on SIGNED, SEALED, AND DELIVERED: An Archaeological Exposition of Jeremiah 32:1-15

    by Gordon Franz

    This essay is dedicated to Dr. Gabriel “Goby” Barkay and Zachi Zweig, co-directors of the Temple Mount Sifting Project; and to the tens of thousands who have sifted the dirt from the Holy Hill of Zion (Psalm 102:14)

    Introduction
    It is always the archaeologist’s dream to find inscriptional material, such as a seal, bulla, stela, ostraca, clay tablet, papyrus, scroll, or even just graffiti on a wall.  In Israel, an inscription is a rare find, and some are revealed to be forgeries.

    In the summer of 2005, the Jerusalem Post reported the discovery of a tenth-century wall in the City of David in Jerusalem by Dr. Eilat Mazar.  One of her area supervisors also discovered a bulla (a dried lump of clay with a seal impression on it) of an individual named “Jerucal ben [son of] Shelemiah ben [son of] Shevi.”  The name of this person appears in Jeremiah 37:3 and 38:1.  This seal impression adds a detail that the Bible does not mention: the name of his grandfather, Shevi (Lefkovits 2005:13; Mazar 2007:67-69).

    In this essay we will examine the command that God gave to Jeremiah to redeem a field from his cousin, Hanamel of Anathoth.  Particular attention will be given to the archaeological background to this chapter and how it illustrates the Biblical text.  Jeremiah’s obedience to God’s command, in spite of a hopeless situation, was a vivid lesson to the people of Judah that God would return His people from the Babylonian captivity.  Jeremiah had publicly proclaimed to the people of Judah that God would restore them to the land after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.  Jeremiah’s faith in the promise of God was shown by buying the field at Anathoth, a city already destroyed by the Babylonians.  Jeremiah was literally putting his money where his mouth was!

    Jeremiah Redeems a Field in Anathoth as a Sign of Future Redemption (32:1-15)

    The Time Setting.  32:1, 2
    The date that is given in this chapter is the tenth year of Zedekiah and the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar (32:1).  This date would be in 587 BC.  Two deportations of Judeans to Babylon had already taken place (605 BC and 598 BC).  In the tenth year of Zedekiah, the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem (32:2).  Jeremiah was in the court of the prison in the king’s house, possibly on the Western Hill.

    In the preceding two chapters (Jer. 30 and 31), Jeremiah forewarned the Judeans of the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah as well as the Babylonian captivity.  But he also predicted that the people would return to the land of Judah.  For this reason, these chapters have been called the “book of consolation” or “book of hope” (cf. Jer. 30:2).  At least nine times he predicts that the people of Judah will return to the land (30:10,11, 30:18, 31:3-6, 31:7-9, 31:10-12, 31:16,17, 31:18, 31:23,24).

    King Zedekiah complains of Jeremiah’s prophecies.  32:3-5
    The Prophet Jeremiah was not a popular preacher.  He did not say to the people of Judah that God did not care about their lifestyle and that they could go on living in their sins.  Nor did he say that the Babylonians were a peace-loving people with only good intentions toward Jerusalem and Judah.  King Zedekiah understood the words of the prophet: First, the LORD was going to use the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem (32:3; cf. 21:4-6); second, King Zedekiah would attempt to flee from the Babylonians but he would be captured and taken to see King Nebuchadnezzar face to face (32:4; cf. 21:7); and finally, King Zedekiah would be taken captive to Babylon (32:5a).  Jeremiah also added that it would be futile to fight the Babylonian army (32:5b).

    King Zedekiah did not like Jeremiah’s “doom-and-gloom” preaching.  Yet everything Jeremiah said was based on the Mosaic Law as recorded in the Torah.  As history unfolded, everything Jeremiah said in his seven encounters with King Zedekiah (Jer. 21:1-7, 32:1-5, 34:1-7, 37:1-15, 37:16-21, 38:1-6, 38:14-28) came to pass (2 Kings 25:4-7; Jer. 39:1-10).  What Jeremiah had not told him was that his sons would be killed and his eyes would be put out by the Babylonians.

    Jeremiah recounts the story of redeeming a field in Anathoth.  32:6-15

    The city of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s hometown, is located 4 kilometers (2½ miles) to the north of the Temple Mount in the tribal territory of Benjamin (cf. Josh. 18:11-28; Jer. 1:1, 11:21-23, 29:27, 32:7-9; Hareuveni 1991).  It was also a Levitical city (Josh. 21:18).  Two of David’s mighty men, Abiezar and Jehu, came from this city (2 Sam. 23:27; 1 Chron. 11:28, 12:3, 27:12).  A high priest, Abiathar, was exiled to his estate in the city (1 Kings 2:26).  During the Syro-Ephraimite Campaign, Anathoth was a target for the invading army (Isa. 10:30).  After the Babylonian exile, some of the people of Anathoth returned to their hometown, just as Jeremiah had prophesized (Ezra 2:23; Neh. 7:27, 11:32).

    Jeremiah was in prison when the Lord spoke to him and said that his cousin, Hanamel, was going to visit and ask Jeremiah to buy his field in Anathoth (32:6-7).  Jeremiah realized it was the hand of the Lord when Hanamel, the son of Shallum, showed up and asked Jeremiah to redeem his field in Anathoth partially based on the laws recorded in Leviticus 25:23-28.  Jeremiah might have been aware that Anathoth had already fallen to the Babylonians (cf. 32:25).  He redeemed the field because God commanded him to do so, rather than thinking: “This must be some cruel joke by my relatives who plotted to kill me a few years ago along with the men of Anathoth (Jer. 11:18-23). Now they are trying to sell me this field after the Babylonians destroyed the city.  What a scam!”  God commanded him to buy the field so that Judah would have a sign that they would one day return from captivity in Babylon.

    In verses 9-15 the transaction is recorded in detail.  The first thing Jeremiah did was to weigh out the 17 shekels of silver scraps in order to buy the field (32:9).  During the Iron Age, money – minted coins – had not yet been invented.  So the shekels of silver would have been a weight of silver, not coins.  Today, we would call it “junk silver,” e.g., broken pieces of a silver ring, silverware, old silver coins.  In 1968, the largest hoard of junk silver ever discovered was in five Iron Age vessels in the ancient city of Eshtemoa in the Judean Hills.  These vessels contained a total of 27.21 kilograms (62 pounds) of junk silver (Yeivin 1987:38-44).

    One shekel of silver weighed 11.33 grams (Kletter 1991:122,134).  Jeremiah would have purchased the land for about 182.61 grams (0.182 kilograms) of silver.  To give the American reader a contemporary perspective, that amount of silver would be equivalent to 73 Mercury-head dimes worth of silver.  Keep in mind; however, there is not a speck of silver in the dimes currently being minted because they have been debased by the federal government!

    Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding the transaction are not known.  One cannot conclude that the land was worth $7.30; the amount of silver used to purchase the land is equal to the amount of silver in 73 Mercury-head dimes, but its value is not.  Therefore, we have no idea what the value of silver was at the time or whether its value was inflated because of the siege.  We also do not know the size of the field being purchased or its market value.  All we know for certain is that Jeremiah paid 17 shekels for that field.

    Jeremiah put 17 stone shekel weights on a pan on one side of the scale and proceeded to put seventeen shekels of silver scraps on a pan on the other side until the scale was balanced (32:10).  During the 1977 season at the excavations of Tel Lachish, half of a balance beam from a scale was discovered in Stratum IV of Area S, dated to the middle of the eighth century BC.  It was made of ivory, or polished bone, and was 10.1 cm (4 inches) long.  If it were complete, then it would be about 20 cm (8 inches) long.  The only other balance beam to be found in an archaeological excavation was at Megiddo (Barkay 1996:75-82).

    To finalize the land purchase, two “purchase deeds” were written up:  an open one and a sealed one (32:10-14).  The deeds were identical, but, in case of a dispute, the sealed one was the one that was binding.  The sealed deed was put in a safe place so it could be opened if there was a problem.  Probably, the transaction information, including the price of the sale, a description of the field being sold, and the identity of the buyer and seller were recorded on the document, which was papyrus.  One deed was rolled up and tied with a string.  A lump of clay was then placed on the string, and an impression was made with a seal that contained the owner’s name and possibly his title.  This clay impression is known as a bulla (plural bullae).  Although it is not stated in the text, the witnesses to the transaction might have added their bullae as well (Avigad 1986:125-127; Shiloh 1986:36-38; for illustrations as to how the deed might have been sealed: Avigad 1986:123, Fig. 4; Brandl 2000:60, Fig. 6; 63, Fig. 9).

    The deeds were handed to Baruch the son of Neriah the son of Mahseiah for safe keeping.  A bulla with the inscription “(Belonging) to Berekhyahu son of Neriyahu the scribe” was discovered in a non-provenanced hoard of bullae and published by Professor Nahman Avigad (1978, 1979, and 1986).  A second, identical bulla is in a private collection (Shanks 1996:36-38).  Baruch is the shortened form of the name Berekhyahu.  Most likely this bulla was used by Baruch to seal documents when he was a royal scribe before 605/604 BC.  Avigad suggests that “Baruch seems eventually to have left his official position [of royal scribe] and joined Jeremiah in his struggle against the pro-Egyptian, anti-Babylonian policy of the court, a policy which was soon to lead to the destruction of Jerusalem” (1986:130).  A word of caution is in order: recently one scholar identified these two bullae as forgeries (Rollston 2003:161), but there is still a scholarly debate as to their authenticity.

    Jeremiah instructed Baruch to take both purchase deeds and place them in an earthen vessel so they would be preserved for a long time (32:13-14).  During the 1982 season at the City of David excavations in Jerusalem, 51 bullae (later revised to 53) were discovered in Locus 967 in Area G.  This is the “first time that so large a group of easily legible Hebrew sealings has come to light in a controlled excavation, in a clear stratigraphic context and accompanied by architectural, ceramic and historical evidence” (Shiloh 1986:16-17).  On the floor of what is now known as the “House of the Bullae” were found “two vessels of uncommon form – tall kraters with high trumpet bases.  The latter are distinguished by their exceptionally high-quality slip and wheel-burnish covering the entire body.  At the base of the body is a drainage (?) hole, made prior to firing” (Shiloh 1986:23-24; Fig. 6:2-3; Pl. 6A).  The excavator, Yigal Shiloh, suggested the possibility that these two kraters “may have served for storage of the papyri, the bullae from which were found scattered around them” (1986:36).  This collection of bullae dates to the end of the seventh and beginning of the sixth centuries BC, which would make them contemporary with the Prophet Jeremiah (Shoham 2000:30).

    Conclusions

    Jeremiah paid 17 shekels of silver to redeem his cousin’s field in Anathoth.  He signed the land deed, sealed it with his personal seal, which the witnesses probably did as well, and then delivered the deed to his confidant Baruch for safe keeping in a clay vessel, most likely in an administrative archive.  This account ends with the promise from the Lord that “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (32:15).
    The situation looked bleak, because the Babylonians were about to destroy Jerusalem and take the Judeans captive to Babylon.  Jeremiah, however, rested in the promise of God and proclaimed that the people would return to their land and rebuild their cities.  He put his money where his mouth was by redeeming his cousin’s field.
    Perhaps one day, archaeologists will find a bulla or seal with the name of Jeremiah the prophet on it in a controlled archaeological excavation!

    Bibliography

    Avigad, Nahman
    1978    Baruch the Scribe and Jerahmeel the King’s Son.  Israel Exploration Journal 28: 52-56.

    1979    Jerahmeel and Baruch.  King’s Son and Scribe. Biblical Archaeologist 42: 114-118.

    1986    Hebrew Bullae From the Time of Jeremiah.  Remnants of a Burnt Archive. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

    Barkay, Gabriel
    1996    A Balance Beam from Tel Lachish.  Tel Aviv 23/1: 75-82.

    Brandl, Baruch
    2000    Bullae with Figurative Decoration.  Pp. 58-74 in Excavations at the City of David 1978-1985 Directed by Yigal Shiloh.  Final Report VI.  Inscriptions.  Edited by D. T. Ariel.  Qedem 41.  Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University.

    Hareuveni, Nogah
    1991    Desert and Shepherd in Our Biblical Heritage.  Kiryat Ono, Israel: Neot Kedumim.

    Kletter, Raz
    1991    The Inscribed Weights of the Kingdom of Judah.  Tel Aviv 18/2: 121-163.

    Lefkovits, Etgar
    2005    Shards of Evidence.  The Jerusalem Post August 11.  Page 13.

    Mazar, Eilat
    2007    Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center. Jerusalem and New York: Shalem.

    Rollston, Christopher
    2003    Non-Provenanced Epigraphs I: Pillaged Antiquities, Northwest Semitic Forgeries, and Protocols for Laboratory Tests.  Maarav 10:135-195.

    Shanks, Hershel
    1996    Fingerprint of Jeremiah’s Scribe.  Biblical Archaeology Review 22/2: 36-38.

    Shiloh, Yigal
    1986    A Group of Hebrew Bullae from the City of David.  Israel Exploration Journal 36/1-2: 16-38.

    Shoham, Yair
    2000    Hebrew Bullae.  Pp. 29-57 in Excavations at the City of David 1978-1985 Directed by Yigal Shiloh.  Final Report VI.  Inscriptions.  Edited by D. T. Ariel.  Qedem 41.  Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University.

    Yeivin, Ze’ev
    1987    The Mysterious Silver Hoard from Eshtemoa.  Biblical Archaeology Review 13/6: 38-44.

  • Jerusalem Comments Off on Why Did God Choose Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel?

    By Gordon Franz

    Introduction

    Jerusalem is a city that is sacred to the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has been and remains to this day, a contested piece of real estate for two of these religions.

    Former Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, often said, “Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided capital of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.” On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, with the help of some world politicians, wants to divide the city and create a Palestinian State with Abu Dis in eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

    Within Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is the most hotly debated piece of real estate anywhere in the world. At the Second Camp David summit held during the summer of 2000, Yasser Arafat said that there was never a temple built by Solomon or Herod on what the Moslems call the Haram esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). Those temples, he said, were located on Mount Gerizim near Nablus (Gold 2007: 11). The literary sources and the Temple Mount Sifting Project have clearly demonstrated that these Temples once stood on the Haram.

    The Bible, history, and geography are clear: Jerusalem was chosen by the Almighty as the capital of the nation of Israel … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.
    There are Better Cities to be Capital

    Politically and strategically there were better sites that David could have chosen to be the capital of Israel. But God had Jerusalem in mind, primarily, it can be argued, for spiritual reasons.

    The first city David could have chosen was Hebron (Tel Rumeidah). In fact, this was the first city from which David ruled when he came to the throne. David was selected by God to be king and anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem (I Sam. 16:1-13). After his flight from Saul, God instructed David to go to the city of Hebron and there the men of Judah “anointed David king over the house of Judah” (II Sam. 2:1-4)1 and he reigned over Judah for seven and a half years (II Sam. 5:5). Finally, all the tribes of Israel came to King David and anointed him king over all Israel and Judah and he reigned for thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

    The reason Hebron was David’s first capital was because he was from the tribe of Judah and Hebron was in the tribal territory of Judah. The city also had a Patriarchal connection: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with some of their wives, are buried in the Cave of Machpelah near Hebron (Gen. 23:9, 17; 25:7-11; 49:29-32). Hebron overlooks the Patriarchal Highway the runs through the Hill Country of Judah down to Beersheva.

    David’s second choice of a capital could have been Gibeah of Saul (Tel el-Ful). Gibeah was King Saul’s capital (I Sam. 15:34). This city had a commanding view of the Central Benjamin Plateau from its position on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 19:13).

    A third possibility might have been Bethel (el-Birah). This city was situated on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 21:19) and had Patriarchal connections. This was the second place Abraham built an altar after he entered the Promised Land (Gen. 12:8-9). Jacob had his hallmark “ladder dream” at Bethel and it was at that event that God reconfirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob (Gen. 28:11-22; cf. John 1:51).

    A fourth possibility is Gibeon (el-Jib) because “this great city, like one of the royal cities” (Josh. 10:2) was strategically located on the Central Benjamin Plateau and controlled the road leading to the Beth Horon Ridge Route. This road goes from the Central Benjamin Plateau to the International Coastal Highway and the port city of Jaffa.

    The last city David could have chosen was Shechem (Tel Balatah). It too was located on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 21:19) at a strategic junction where the road splits. One could go west between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, or go northeast down to Tirzah and the Wadi Farah. Shechem, like some of the other cities, had Patriarchal connections as well. This was the first place Abraham built an altar after he came into the Promised Land (Gen. 12:6, 7) and Joseph is buried there (Josh. 24:32). Interestingly, Shechem was made the first capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) by Jeroboam I following the division of the kingdom (I Kings 12:23).

    These five cities may have geographically, militarily, and strategically made better capitals for the Kingdom of Israel, yet Jebus (Jerusalem) was chosen … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.
    Why Jebus (Jerusalem) Should Not Have Been Chosen

    The ancient city of Jebus is situated on the ridge above the Gihon Spring. Jebus, later named the City of David, covered a small area of approximately 10 acres (Mazar 2007:12). It was not located on the Patriarchal Highway, in fact, one had to turn off the ridge route (the Patriarchal Highway) in order to get to the city (Judges 19:10-12). The city is also isolated by steep valleys (Psalm 125:1, 2). The Kidron Valley is on the east and the Tyropean Valley (Central Valley) is on the west (Neh. 2:13). The city is isolated and in a bowl because it is surrounded by hills (Psalm 125:1, 2). Strategically and geographically, Jebus (Jerusalem) should not have been chosen the capital of Israel, yet it was … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.
    Why Was It Chosen the Capital?

    There are two reasons Jerusalem was chosen the capital of Israel. The first, from David’s perspective, is political. The second, from God’s perspective, and more importantly, is spiritual.
    Political Reason

    Jerusalem was not conquered during the initial conquest of the Land by Joshua (Josh. 15:63). Thus it was still controlled by the Jebusites. During the period of the Judges, Judah and Benjamin could not drive the Jebusites out of the city (Judges 1:21; cf. 19:12).

    When David came to the throne, he first ruled from Hebron. In order to unify the country, he had to find a “neutral” site that was not in the tribal territory of Judah. The unconquered city of Jebus was in the tribal territory of Benjamin (Josh. 15:7, 8; 18:16, 28). Also, there were not any Benjamites living in the city because the Jebusites were able to regain the city after Judah took the city and burned it during the period of the Judges (Judges 1:8; Mazar 2007:47-48).

    David also understood the geo-political realities of the tribal territory of Benjamin. The easiest and most convenient road from Jericho, and thus the Transjordanian Plateau, to the International Coast Highway in the west was via the Central Benjamin Plateau. The tribal territory of Benjamin is lower in elevation than the territories of Judah to its south and Ephraim to its north. David wanted to keep the tribe of Benjamin on Judah’s side so he could control these east-west roads and not let them fall under Ephraim’s control. Eventually, David and his men were able to take the city of Jebus and he moved the capital to the city (II Sam. 5:6-10; I Chron. 11:4-9).
    Spiritual Reason

    God used David as a human instrument to bring about His divine purpose of placing His name in the capital of Jerusalem. Just before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, the LORD instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel that they were to meet the LORD three times a year in a place that He would choose to place His name (Deut. 12:1-11). “But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit … then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD” (12:10-11).

    God does not reveal the identity of this place until nearly 400 years later when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon prayed: “O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ and You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place” (I Kings 8:28, 29; see also 8:44, 48; cf. II Chron. 6:20, 33, 34, 38; Ps. 78:67-69; 132:13, 14). The LORD affirmed Solomon’s prayer when He said: “I have heard your prayer and supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (I Kings 9:3; cf. II Chron. 7:12, 16).

    God chose to place His name in Jerusalem because of the two events that transpired in the city that are recorded in the book of Genesis. Both events foreshadow the Person and Work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The first event is recorded in Genesis 14. In this account, Abram delivers his nephew Lot from the Mesopotamian kings at the city of Laish (Dan). On his way back to the Negev he stops at the Valley of Shaveh (cf. II Sam. 18:18) and meets Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of Salem and also the priest of the Most High God (El Elyon). The King / Priest blessed Abram and Abram in turn gave a tithe to Melchizedek (14:18-20; cf. Heb. 7:1-4).

    The Book of Hebrews gives a divine commentary on this passage as well as Psalm 110 where David stated, “The LORD (Yahweh) has sworn and will not relent, ‘You (David’s Lord) are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'” (110:4). In Hebrews 5:5, 6, God (the Father) said to David’s Lord (God’s Son), “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (a quotation from Psalm 2:7), and also “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (a quotation from Psalm 110:4). Later, Jesus is identified as the Son who is the “High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:20).

    King David composed Psalm 110, a beautiful and prophetic psalm, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God (Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36). In this psalm, David’s Lord is commanded to “Sit at My (Yahweh’s) right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (110:1). David, also being a prophet (Acts 2:30), foresaw the day when his descendent would rule forever from Zion (cf. Luke 1:31-33; Matt. 22:41-46; II Sam. 7:4-17; I Chron. 17:3-15). Zion is another name for the City of David, Salem, or Jerusalem (II Sam. 5:7; Ps. 76:1, 2; I Kings 8:1).

    The first reason God chose Jerusalem as the capital is because one day, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune God, will return again to the Mount of Olives with His saints and sit upon the throne of David and establish His Kingdom over all the earth in Jerusalem as a King / Priest (Zech. 14; cf. Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:5-8; Zech. 12:10; Rev. 19:11-19).

    The second event recorded in the book of Genesis was Abraham offering up Isaac on a mountain in the Land of Moriah (Gen. 22), called in Jewish tradition Akedah, for the “binding” of Isaac. The Temple built by Solomon was located on Mount Moriah (II Chron. 3:1).

    In this touching account, God tested Abraham by commanding him to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the Land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (22:2). In the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, it says, “Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved – Isaac.” The Greek word for “beloved one” in the LXX is the same word used of Jesus at His baptism and transfiguration. The voice from heaven, God the Father, said at His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Again at the transfiguration He said: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5).

    Abraham took his son Isaac, two young men, and a donkey that carried the wood for the sacrifice to the Land of Moriah. When they could see the mountain, Abraham said to the young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (22:5). Abraham said, “we (plural) will come back”, fully anticipating that Isaac would return with him, even though God had said to sacrifice him!

    Rabbis and commentators have had a field day trying to figure out this paradox. How could Abraham kill his son as a sacrifice, yet they were going to return together from worshiping God? Again, the book of Hebrews gives us a divine commentary on this event. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it is said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (11:17-19). Abraham fully believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead, if he killed him.

    As the father (Abraham) and the son (Isaac) walked together to the mountain with the wood on the son’s shoulders, and the knife and fire in the father’s hands, Isaac asks, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (22:7). Abraham solemnly responded, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8).

    Abraham built an altar and bound his beloved son and placed him on it. As he was about to slay him with the knife, the Angel of the LORD stopped him with these words: “Do not lay your hands on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (22:12).

    Abraham lifted up his eyes, probably filled with tears, and saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket. He took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son Isaac and named the place, “The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided'” (22:13, 14).

    The Lord Jesus was visiting the Temple during the Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles) in AD 29 when He had an encounter with the religious leaders. The topic of discussion was Father Abraham. They asked Jesus if He was greater than Abraham and the prophets. Jesus answered in the affirmative and said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The religious leaders said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (8:57). With that, the Lord Jesus asserted His deity by saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58). The religious leaders understood that Jesus was attributing the divine name I AM WHO I AM (cf. Ex. 3:14) to Himself and so they picked up stones to throw at Him for blasphemy (John 8:59).

    But what did Jesus mean by, “You father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad”? What day was he talking about and why was he glad? I believe this statement goes back to the account in Genesis 22. Abraham, the friend of God, somehow knew of the Person and work of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, because he called the name of the place “The LORD Will Provide” which meant “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Abraham said to Isaac that God would provide a lamb as a burnt offering, and a ram was caught in the thicket. The ram is not a lamb! The ram was a substitute for Isaac, the ram died in Isaac’s place. It is not until 2,000 years later that John the Baptizer [remember, John was a Jew, not a Baptist!!!] was at Bethany beyond the Jordan (Batanea) when he saw Jesus approaching him after His 40 days of testing (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13) and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus was the Lamb that God would provide Himself (Gen. 22:8).

    It was on Mount Moriah that Solomon built a Temple (and later the Second Temple stood) where people could bring sacrifices that could only atone for, or cover sins, but could never take away sins. It was on a nearby hill, called Calvary, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless, Lamb of God, died as the perfect sacrifice in order to pay for all the sins of all humanity (Heb. 9:11-10:18; 13:13; I John 2:2; John 19:16-42). The final cry from the cross was “It is finished” (John 19:30). This word was used of a financial transaction that stated a bill was paid in full.

    In the Mount of the LORD, eternal redemption was provided by God and He offers His righteousness to any and all who would put their trust in the Lamb of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Macedonia and said if anyone could gain salvation by their good works, or their own merits, it was himself (Phil. 3:4-6). But he came to realize the great truth, “and be found in Him [the Lord Jesus], not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (3:9).

    The Apostle Peter stated that redemption was not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but it was by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18, 19).

    The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes [trust in, or rely upon] in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
    The Answer to the Question

    God chose Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because of the priority He placed on His Son and His Son’s coming to redeem sinners. Jerusalem figures prominently, practically, and prophetically into Jesus’s coming to earth. The two Jerusalem-centered events in the book of Genesis foreshadowed the Person and work of the Lord Jesus in His first and second comings to earth. The first time He came, He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world on a cross outside Jerusalem. The second time He will come, He will be the King / Priest who will rule the world from the Davidic throne on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
    Bibliography

    Gold, Dore

    2007 The Fight for Jerusalem. Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City. Washington, DC: Regnery.

    Mazar, Eilat

    2007 Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center Area. Jerusalem and New York: Shalem.

    1 All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version.

  • Jerusalem Comments Off on The Pleasure of Dust!

    By Stephanie Hernandez

    Nineteen people, most of them strangers to each other, descended on Jerusalem in the last weeks of June. Most met at Newark Airport in New Jersey, others joined the group in the coming days. There were the usual questions: “Where are you from?”; “Is this your first trip to Israel?”; “What do you do for a living?” and the occasional “What was your name again?” But by the end of our two-week journey, friendships were forged that are sure to last a lifetime, with the common bond of Israel and the Lord at there center.

    The Associates for Biblical Research’s Temple Mount Sifting Project group participants came from all over America, and even all over the world. But we all shared one common desire: to know the city of Jerusalem where the Lord chose to set as His capital, a place where the grace, wrath, love, hope, and faithfulness of the Lord was revealed to mankind in the past and will continue well into the future. It was the chance to hold Biblically-related history in our hands that interested many in the program. With the exception of a few people, most of the group members had no experience in archaeology or even sifting. Yet by the time they left, each person had a firm grasp of the immense importance of the very soil of the Temple Mount and the land of Israel. “My personal discovery about archaeology,” participant Scott Astbury remarks, “was that it first and foremost provides you with undeniable evidence of existence.”

    Our typical day would begin around 7AM with a great breakfast prepared by the kitchen staff at the comfortable and welcoming Gloria Hotel, situated just inside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. Gathered around the table, we would talk about the previous day’s events and speak with excitement of what was to take place that day. Most days we toured the city of Jerusalem in the morning and then proceeded to the Temple Mount Sifting Site in the eastern part of Jerusalem, but there were a few days when we went first to the sifting site, and then explored the city in the afternoon. Although the option of a taxi was available to anyone who needed it, almost all of the participants chose to walk to the sifting site every day, through the winding, and sometimes confusing, streets of the Old City. Once outside the gates, we walked along the walls of the Old City, passed people who live in the midst of this multi-religious center, those who have made their homes in the most contentious city in the world. The last stretch of the walk to the site was a difficult one, with a steep climb to the Zurim Valley National Park, where the Temple Mount Sifting Project is established.

    No doubt a few were surprised when we were greeted by the sight of an armed guard standing watch over the Palestinian section of eastern Jerusalem, himself responsible for guarding the contended soil from the Temple Mount, which was at the center of an intense legal battle beginning in 1999. On our arrival, we were greeted by Zachi Zweig, who in 1999 called a press conference to bring to light the illegal removal of soil from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf and the subsequent dumping of the soil in the Kidron Valley and elsewhere. We were given an introductory presentation in which the history of the project and some interesting finds were revealed. On another day, Assaf Avraham who is the day-to-day supervisor, gave us a brief lecture on one of the most interesting finds, various-size stone fragments that were used as pavement on the Temple Mount called opus sectile, mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus in the his epic work The Jewish Wars. Afterwards, we delved into the archaeological matrix that hid millennia-old history in its dust with the help of the Temple Mount Sifting staff.

    Sifting the dirt involved dumping a bucket of water-soaked dirt onto a screen, then spraying the dirt with water in order to remove the dirt from the materials, which is often referred to as wet-sifting.  Others helped with the dry screening, or the sifting of dry dirt through mesh screens, while others worked the “T-4” pile, a large pile of oversized rocks and debris taken from the Temple Mount. It is in this pile that the pieces of opus sectile were found. After we were finished sifting a bucket, a staff member would check the screen to make sure nothing was missed. By the second week, the staff felt we had a firm grasp of sifting and no longer checked our screens for overlooked artifacts. On several occasions the members would find more uncommon artifacts, such as coins, Roman jewelry, and even a die. These special finds were then given to Tali, one of the staff members, who would tag and register the artifact. Materials such as mosaic tiles, small pieces of ceramics and bone, and pieces of glass were found on a regular basis. Yet although the common site of broken pottery was not an extraordinary find, it reminded us of the words of Isaiah the Prophet, who, in Isaiah 30:14, spoke of a time when Israel’s sin would “break into pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”

    I believe that it was during the sifting that we all got to know each other a little better.  Bent over dripping screens, the group members began to get to know each other.  Be it religion, politics, music, movies, or personal experiences, there was no topic that did not help us to become better acquainted with those whom we shared this amazing experience. Participant Sandy Souza observes, “I agree heartily with [archaeologist] Gabriel Barkay that the best discovery is the people, the ABR team in particular, and also the old and new friends we met in Jerusalem”. Our talks would continue outside the sifting site, usually on the strenuous walk back to our hotel, up the ancient hills of Jerusalem, back through the winding corridors of the Old City. We often stopped along the way, with Gordon pointing out a historical part of Jerusalem and discussing the always important relation to the Bible. Participant Paula Owen agrees, stating, “Gordon successfully created both picturesque and cherished lessons and memories that ultimately left an unforgettable impact on us all!”

    Weekends were a little more relaxed than the weekdays. On Shabbat, a bus would be chartered that took us around to the different sites outside Jerusalem, to Lachish, the Elah Valley, Masada and the Dead Sea. Taking in the passing Israeli countryside was met with awe and wonder. The mixture of beauty and peace and glimpses of the wall separating Jerusalem from the West Bank reminded us all that the time has not yet come for Divine peace in this region. But with this realization came the excitement and assurance of knowing the final outcome, where there will be no more tears, no more death or mourning or crying or pain. With that, we sat back and enjoyed the ride.

    But there was always time to sit and reflect. Whether it was walking silently through the Muslim Quarter, staring off into the distance on the shore of the Dead Sea, taking in the bustling of Ben Yehuda Street, or listening to the bells from the churches in the Christian Quarter, we came to see the rarity of the city of Jerusalem and the frustration of an imperfect world were the City of Peace does not yet exist. The true Jerusalem, the true Israel, is something that must be experienced for oneself. Words cannot do it justice, and pictures do even less. Through this project we agreed with the Psalmist that “her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity” (Ps 102:14).  The Temple Mount Sifting Project and touring of the land of Israel made every single participant come away from the experience with a new, profound understanding and appreciation for the words of the prophets, the kings, and the Lord Himself concerning Jerusalem and Israel, as well as the very stones of Israel itself. It almost leaves me, well, speechless.

    Stephanie Hernandez graduated with a BA in archaeology and anthropology from Biola University. She has done field archaeology in California and was the ABR hostess for the 2009 Temple Mount Sifting Project. She has also participated in the Hazor excavations.  She will be the ABR hostess for the January 2010 Temple Mount Sifting Project.  For more information, see the ABR website.

    www.biblearchaeology.org/outreach/event.aspx?id=101

    Bibliography

    Josephus
    1978    Jewish Wars.  Books 4-7.  Vol. 3.  Trans. by H. Thackeray.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.  Loeb Classical Library 210.

    This article first appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Bible and Spade, Vol. 22, no. 1, pages 9-11.

  • Jerusalem Comments Off on “The Most Important Discovery was the People”: An Interview with Dr. Gabriel Barkay

    By Gordon Franz and Stephanie Hernandez

    Raised in the ghettos of Budapest, Hungary, Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay has had an accomplished career in the archaeology of the Bible Lands.  Barkay holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Hebrew University and a PhD from Tel Aviv University.  His doctoral dissertation, completed in 1985, was on “Northern and Western Jerusalem at the End of the Iron Age.”

    Gordon Franz: Thank you for doing this interview for us Goby.  In which schools have you taught?

    Gabriel “Goby” Barkay:  I taught for 27 years at Tel Aviv University in their Institute of Archaeology.  Since 1997, I have taught at different schools, mainly Bar-Ilan University, the Hebrew University Rothberg School for Overseas Studies, and for more than 30 years I’ve been teaching at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies, better known today as the Jerusalem University College.

    Gordon: Where have you excavated?

    Goby: I started my excavations at Tel Arad in 1963.  In 1964 I participated in a short excavation in Jerusalem on the road going up to Mount Zion, known as the Pope’s Road.  In 1965, I participated in a dig as a student with Yigael Yadin at Megiddo.  That same year I started for several seasons excavating in the Negev with Avraham Negev, including Beersheva and Tel Masos for eleven seasons.  I also spent fifteen years at Lachish.  Since the 1970’s I concentrated my efforts on Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity.  For seven seasons, I directed the excavations at Ketef Hinnom below the St. Andrews Church of Scotland as well as several burial caves in the Hinnom Valley.  To the west of Jerusalem I dug one of the tumuli and also a short season at Ramat Rachel.  I dug for two seasons at Jezreel.  I dug one season at Susa in Iran during the winter of 1969.  In the last seven years I have been involved in a project in the Shephelah at Tel Zayit, digging with Professor Ron Tappy from the Pittsburg Theological Seminary.

    Gordon: How did you become involved in the Temple Mount Sifting Project?

    Gody: A violation of the law took place on the Temple Mount when a gigantic mosque was built inside Solomon’s Stables in 1996.  In 1999 there was a removal of an enormous quantities of soil saturated with archaeological material from inside the Temple Mount.  We were all enraged.  I remember myself in December 1999 or January 2000, participating in a demonstration that took place near the piles of dirt removed from the Temple Mount and remember being interviewed by different television stations on the subject.  I was very much enraged by the fact that the Temple Mount, being the most important archaeological site in the country, is a black hole in the archaeology of Jerusalem.

    We actually know nothing about the Temple Mount archaeologically.  We know it is more than twice the size of the City of David and is the center of activity in ancient times in Jerusalem and not a single sherd was published from the Temple Mount.  Not one survey was carried out on the Temple Mount and that is something that is almost unthinkable.

    In 2000, two of my former students, Zachi Zweig and Aran Yardeni showed up at this very place we are sitting right now.  They were very upset and they emptied onto the dining room table here two plastic bags that included much mud, but also pot sherds of different periods that I could identify.  They covered a wide range of the history of Jerusalem, starting with the Iron Age and ending with the Ottoman-Turkish period.  Even earlier than that, I collected pieces of pottery on the piles removed from the Temple Mount which showed that the pile is embodied in it a potential of archaeological studies.  The two students and their enthusiasm convinced me that something had to be done.

    I negotiated in 2000 with different bodies in an attempt to organize a systematic sifting of the material, but the damage was done.  The corpse of the destruction act of the Islamic Waqf was done, the body was already there.  The question was now, how to get something positive out of this tragedy.  In any case, I was encouraged by Zachi and eventually, after long deliberations, denials and negotiations, and even threats, we managed to get a license in the beginning in my name only and later in Zachi’s name as well.  We managed to get a license for sifting through the material in 2004.

    Gordon:  Some archaeologists have suggested that the project is not real archaeology.  What can we learn from the sifting project that will help in our knowledge of Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular?

    Goby: I would prefer to have real archaeology on the Temple Mount, if it were possible.  That would be great.  Because of political and religious reasons, one can not dig on the Temple Mount.  I do not see in the coming future any possibility of carrying out any normal pre-initiated excavations on the Temple Mount.  We have to suffice with what we can do.  It is always like that in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem, you do not dig wherever you want to dig, but wherever it is possible.  So this is in line with Jerusalem’s archaeology.

    Of course, it is much easier to stand on Mount Olympus, dig some site in Greece or in Turkey, or in Hazor or Megiddo, or any other place and criticize people working in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is under totally different conditions than any other sites.  And in Jerusalem, the archaeology and politics: what can we do?  It goes hand in hand.  It goes together and there is much influence to the archaeological activities in Jerusalem by all kinds of political and other interventions.

    If I am interested to know about the Temple Mount, then I am directed by my interests, my motivations.  I am interested in the Temple Mount and so is the scholarly world in general.  Everyone does what everyone can.  This is how I can learn something about the Temple Mount.  Of course, I would prefer to have normal excavations on the Temple Mount, but that is impossible, so we have to go in the possible way and not criticize the conditions, but get the advantages of what we can do.

    Eventually at the end of this sifting project, or even before the end, we are going to have a kind of a graph showing the intensiveness of human activity upon the Temple Mount in different periods, the statistics of pottery found on the Temple Mount from each and every one of the archaeological periods.  The pottery and the amounts of pottery will eventually show the history of occupation upon the Temple Mount.  I am well aware of the fact that we work with material which does not have any context.  It does not come from the floors, it does not come from stratigraphy, and it does not come from the ideal conditions that an archaeologist would prefer.

    Our project is comparable to a surface survey.  If you go to a site which was not yet studied, the first thing you do is collect the pottery from the surface, assuming that upon the surface there is a proper representation of all periods and all the civilizations that once were active on the site.  The activity throughout the years brought up to the surface from the activity on that certain site.  The archaeological survey is a legitimate and common archaeological activity.  That is also without any context to the finds.  You collect the pottery and draw conclusions without having any floors, any architecture, any stratigraphy, and so forth.  Nevertheless, you come to historical, geographical conclusions.  So our work is comparable to a surface survey of any archaeological site.  When we know nothing, it is better to know little than to despair and give it all up.

    Gordon:  You have studies what has been sifted so far.  Is there any aspect of our understanding of the history of Jerusalem, and specifically the Temple Mount, that the sifting project would change?

    Goby: The answer is yes, very much so.  We have already some preliminary results which changed the history of Jerusalem on the whole and even the Temple Mount.  For example, we have a group of flint implements from the prehistoric Epi-paleolithic period, approximately 15,000 years before our time.  This was a period previously unknown in Jerusalem.  We have some implements and nice arrowheads of the Neolithic period which is hardly known in Jerusalem.  So, this is by itself a very important contribution.  We have some Bronze Age pottery and it is hard to tell if the Temple Mount was part of human activity in Jerusalem in the 4th, 3rd, 2nd millennia BC.  But nevertheless, we have some Chalcolithic pottery, Bronze Age pottery, 2nd millennium pottery from the time of the Canaanites.  We have scarabs of the general Egyptian times, one of which is probably from the Middle Bronze Age and the other from the Late Bronze Age, which is a welcomed addition to the scarce knowledge we have of Jerusalem in the second millennium BC.

    Concerning the Iron Age, it is very interesting we do not have any pottery that we can clearly say is part of the Iron Age I.  On the other hand, Iron Age 2A, from the 10th century BC, is where we have some material, not of quantitative value, but still we have some pieces that can be clearly dated, and burnished pieces which are of the 10th century BC.

    Concerning the later periods, we have a large number of coins and that is one specialty of the sifting project.  We have many thousands of coins and we have for example, one Yehud coin of the Persian Period in the 4th century BC.  This type of coin has been rare and is important to have.  We have several coins of the early Hellenistic period from the rule of the Ptolemy’s, the late 4th and 3rd centuries BC.  We have some coins from the Seleucid rule in Jerusalem, and that period is quite enigmatic in the archaeology of Jerusalem, since we do not have many finds in other digs from that time.  So we can draw a nice picture of the history of Jerusalem from the coins.

    Concerning other periods, such as the Byzantine period, the Christian period, we do not have too many good sources of the Temple Mount.  In the account of pilgrims coming to the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is entirely ignored.  It does not play any important role in the early Christian period.  In the written sources one can surmise the Temple Mount was either empty, not active, or was a garbage heap at the time.  The results of the sifting project show a totally different picture.  It shows much activity.  We have a large number of objects dating back to the early Christian period, drawing a totally different picture than what was known before.  We have a large number of coins from the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries of the Common Era.  We have a large number of weights from weighing gold, showing that there was economic activity on the Temple Mount.

    We have a large amount of pottery of the Byzantine period: oil lamps, household ware, as well as course ware of different kinds and types.  In addition, we have architectural fragments of Corinthian capitals, which evidentially belong to ecclesiastical structures.  I think that the whole role of the Temple mount in the early Christian period should be reevaluated, which means that in a densely built up city, which Christian Jerusalem was in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, I can not imagine a large, vast area of 145,000 square meters in the heart of the city being totally abandoned and totally unused, while the vicinity of the city, just outside Jaffa Gate, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, on the hills surrounding the city on the north up to St. Etienne on the north and even further than that, there was much activity.  There was an overflow of human activity on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  So why did the inside of Jerusalem remain empty, such a vast area left unused?  That does not make sense on the one hand and on the other hand we have an abundance of material.

    Among the material we have are a large number of pieces of jewelry, which at the moment are understudied, but typologically, they could be related to the early Christian period.  Among the finds we have about ten or so cruciform C-shaped pendants which were left by the pilgrims or Christians who were active on the Temple Mount.  We have from sources perhaps an existence of a nunnery, maybe even an ecclesiastical building; a pinnacle church.  So all this hints to a possibility that we will have in the future the ability to change what is known about the Temple Mount in the history books.

    Now, another period which is interesting is the Early Roman period.  The Temple Mount was destroyed by Titus.  We know about the Temple Mount only seventy years later, when Hadrian rebuilt the city of Aelia-Capitaline.  The question is what happened between.  What happened towards the end of the 1st century AD and the 2nd century AD?  I believe that our finds will enable us to draw a picture of the Temple Mount history of that enigmatic period of time.

    Gordon: What do you think are the most important objects found during the sifting project so far, and why are they important?

    Goby: First of all, the most important discovery we have is not the finds.  I discovered that people are more important than finds.  We work with a very, very fine team of people who are very sensitive, very helpful, very good natured people and I’ve witnessed the arrival of 40,000 volunteers who participated in this project.  The greatest discovery is the immense interest of the people in archaeology and also from circles who would not come to any other archaeological project but who are drawn by a connection to the Temple Mount.  In any case, very devote Christian evangelists, the Jewish ultra-orthodox and Orthodox circle come and participate and sift.  They are thrilled to have their hands upon the objects that were in the immediate vicinity or area of the Temple Mount itself and were part of the worship of the Temple.  So watching the people, watching their excitement, watching their emotional involvement in our project is one of the greatest discoveries.

    We collect in the project everything that was either made by man or used by man or testifies about man’s environment.  So we collect seashells and we have them in abundance.  We collect animal bones and we have them in abundance and eventually those parts of a general assemblage of materials will be of great importance.  Among the bones we have several pig bones, several foxes, and we have all kinds and types of wild animals as well as household animals.  We have a large number of burnt bones, especially of sheep and goats.  Eventually, in the future, we are not only going to identify the bones but also date them with advanced techniques, such as C-14 data.  We are going to have some knowledge about the sacrificial activity upon the Temple Mount.

    We have much information about the Islamic periods on the Temple Mount and I would like to stress that.  We deal with all the periods of the Temple Mount, from the earliest involvement of mankind in the past of the country and until our own days.  We have rich finds from the Arabic period, from the time of the Umayyad Dynasty, the time of the Abbasid Dynasty, the time of the Fatimid Dynasty, time of the Crusaders.  We have an abundance and rich collection of Crusader coins minted in Jerusalem and we ought not to forget that the headquarters of the Knights Templar were in the southern quadrant of the Temple Mount where the soil was removed.  We have a rich collection of Mamluk and Turkish-Ottoman finds including art objects, gaming pieces, glass objects, coins, jewelry, and an abundance of all kinds of types and finds.

    If we go to the most touching piece that we have I would say that I was very much touched by a small piece, about 10 cm in size, of stone which is sculpted in the Herodian style.  It has a remnant of a floral or vegetal design, very beautifully and artistically carved out of hard limestone.  The piece itself got exfoliated or unpeeled from a building as a result of conflagration at a high temperature.  The piece is in the style of the Jewish art of the Herodian Dynasty’s time and is close in style to the facades of sculpted burial caves, and in the style of the decorated ceilings of the Huldah Gate passages underneath the present day Al-Aqsa Mosque.  It is beyond any doubt belonging to the time of Herod the Great.  At the edge of the object there is a remnant of black soot from the conflagration.  Actually, this is a piece which enable us to visualize the great fire in which the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  So this is in touch with the destruction of the Temple.  I can even suggest that the stone could have come from the Temple itself.

    Another piece which is very touching is a piece dating back to the First Temple period, to the time of the Prophet Jeremiah.  It is a bulla, a tiny lump of clay which has on the back side of it an imprint of some fabric.  It probably was the imprint of a satchel that was tied with a string and upon the knot they put a sealing in order to ensure the contents of the satchel which included silver scraps, the hoard of silver of somebody.  The other face of the bulla has the impression of the seal of the owner.  The bulla itself was made in the negative, and the impression is made in the positive.  Eventually someone opened the satchel and the seal got broken.  Nevertheless we have two lines of writing upon it.  It says the name “[Ga’]alyahu” and in the second line, which is well-preserved, we have the name “[son of] Immer”.  The Immer priestly family and another son of the family by the name Pashchur, son of Imer, is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, chapter twenty, being the man in charge of the Temple.  He was the chief clerk in the Temple.  He is the man who arrested and tortured the Prophet Jeremiah.  The Immer family continues to exist in Jerusalem and we find them in the Post-Exilic period in the Book of Nehemiah (7:40; Ezra 2:37).  So through this tiny bulla we have direct regards from the First Temple, from Solomon’s Temple.  This is of great importance.

    Some other finds which made me especially enthusiastic were some of the coins from the First Revolt against the Romans.  Some of the coins of the late First Revolt are found burned, twisted and defaced from the fire, from the conflagration.  On the first coin that we found we had the slogan of the Zealots and the people who fought the Romans: “for the freedom of Zion.”  It is very touching to see after 2,000 years.  Actually, each and every one of the objects that we find: beads, a piece of early Arabic period, or a piece from Turkish-Ottoman decoration that surrounded the Dome of the Rock, the glazed tiles that we have pieces of, a bead remnant that that were left by Christian pilgrims in the past, or some Bronze Age or Iron Age pottery, all is very significant for the history of the Temple Mount.

    Gordon: You mentioned earlier that you found some bones from foxes.  What is the significant of that?

    Goby: The Prophet Micah prophesized that the Temple Mount would be destroyed (3:12), and that was in the 8th century BC.  In the 8th century there was a corruption of the priesthood that calls the prophet to have a prophecy, and he prophesized that the Temple Mount would he desolate and that foxes would walk upon it.  In the book of Lamentation we have also the fact of foxes upon the Temple Mount (5:18).  This of course symbolizes the fact that human activity was not there anymore and the place was desolate.  In Talmudic literature we have a semi-legendary story of Rabbi Akiva, one of the most influential people in Judaism in general (Tractate Makkoth 24b).  Akiva, the son of Joseph, one of the greatest among the sages, is said to have visited Jerusalem after its destruction.  He lived in the 2nd century of the Common Era and was executed by the Romans in Caesarea.  He is said to have visited the Temple and it said that there he watched a fox come out of the place where the Holy of Holies stood.  Of course, he regarded it as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah and maybe the fox we have is the very one he had seen when he came there in the 2nd century.

    Gordon: Thank you very much Goby.

    This article first appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Bible and Spade.  Vol. 22, no. 1, pages 3-8.

  • Jerusalem Comments Off on PICTURE POST CARDS FROM THE PSALMISTS

    By Gordon Franz

    Introduction

    Most Bible believers who live outside the Land of Israel may read Psalm 125:2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever,” and think, “Humm, that’s a comforting and encouraging passage.  The Lord surrounds His people.  He protects us and watches over us forever.”  Yet they may not fully appreciate the word picture used by the psalmist in the first part of the verse.

    The ABR sifters had the privilege of being guided through the City of David excavations by Aran Yardeni, an archaeological staff member of the TMSP and a graduate of Bar Ilan University.  We started at an overview of the City of David on the top of a house situated only meters from where David’s palace once stood (Mazar 2007:52-66).  As we read Psalm 125 we looked to the east and saw the range of the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4), the southern spur being called the Hill of Corruption (II Kings 23:13).  To the north, we observed Mount Zion, also called Mount Moriah or the Mountain of the LORD (Psalm 48:1, 2; II Chron. 3:1; Micah 4:2).  To the west was the Western Hill called the Mishnah in the Hebrew Bible, and usually translated into English as the  “Second Quarter” (Zeph. 1:10; Jer. 31:39; II Kings 22:14).  Finally, to the south of the city, off in the distance, was the Hill of Evil Counsel.  Today the United Nations headquarters for the Middle East is situated on this ridge!

    The psalmist composed this psalm in the City of David and literally saw the mountains surrounding Jerusalem and used this word picture to convey a dynamic and powerful spiritual truth; the Lord surrounds His people forever!  What an impact that had on each of the sifters.

    Hebrew Hymnbook for the Temple

    The book of Psalms was the Hebrew Hymnbook for both the First and Second Temple and is still used in the synagogues today.  Each psalm was composed by a real people, who were experiencing real events in real places.  This article will present some of those places and put the psalm in its historical context.

    Beautiful in elevation – Psalm 48:2

    A popular song in Evangelical circles is based on Psalm 48.  You know the one: “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised …”  After touring the City of David, a person will never sing this song the same way again.  On the tours of the City of David that I guide, after walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel and visiting the Pool of Siloam, I usually start walking back up the steep road to the Dung Gate at a very brisk pace.  I wait until somebody in the group “complains” and says, “Stop, slow down, this is such a steep hill to climb!”  At that point I stop and read Psalm 48 to the group.  Verse 2 says, “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth; Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King.”  From the Pool of Siloam to the top of the Temple Mount is a 106 meters elevation change.  Mount Zion was on the north side of the City of David”.

    The psalmist, one of the “Sons of Korah,” probably lived in the City of David.  He would, on occasion, walk up the hill from his house to Mount Zion, the City of the Great King, in order to minister in the Temple.  It was with joy that he took this strenuous walk because he knew he was going to the place where the LORD resided.  Thus he described this elevation as “beautiful.”  Fortunately for the ABR sifters, Aran arranged for a bus to drive us up the beautiful elevation!

    A City Compact together – Psalm 122:3

    The City of David looks like an elongated tongue protruding from the Temple Mount.  In antiquity, there were houses built on terraces on the slopes of the city.  It seems that houses were practically built one on top of the other.  This is reflected in the words of Psalm 122: “Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together” (v. 3).  Dr. Yigael Shiloh, the former excavator of the City of David, used to tell his volunteers that excavated with him, “If you want to know what the Cityof David looked like ‘compact together,’ look across the Kidron Valley to the Silwan Village.  It too is built on a slope and the houses appear to be built one on top of the other.”

    At Home in Death – Psalm 49:11

    One afternoon we visited the excavations at Ketef Hinnom below the St. Andrew’s Scottish Presbyterian Church.  Here we studied a series of burial caves from the time of the Judean Monarchy.  One cave in particular was of interest because the two oldest Biblical texts were discovered there in 1979 (Franz 2005:53-59).  When we visited the City of David two days before, we noticed a house in Area G that was built following the pattern of typical Israel four-room house.  Interestingly, the pattern of the burial cave is similar.  After I pointed out the similarities between the house and the burial cave, I read Psalm 49:11: “Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, Their dwelling places to all generations.”

    In this psalm, the wealthy materialistic person at the end of the 8th century BC knew that their earthly dwelling place would one-day collapse because it was made of stone, mudbrick, wooden beams and a dried mud roof with grass on top.  This person desired to “live eternally” in his earthly body (Ps. 49:9), yet reality told him otherwise.  Desiring a more permanent dwelling, knowing that one-day death would be the end results, a burial cave was hewn out of the rocky escarpment outside the city and was patterned after his earthly house.  He wanted to feel “at home in death!” (Franz 2005: 59).

    By contrast, the psalmist puts materialism in its proper perspective when he concludes the psalm by saying, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (Sheol), for He shall receive me.  Selah.  Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.  Though while he lives he blesses himself (for men will praise you when you do well for yourself), he shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.  Man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:15-20).

    Cave of Adullam – Psalm 57

    After David feigned madness in Gath of the Philistines and fled through the Elah Valley, he hid in a cave at Adullam with 400 of his family and friends (I Sam. 22:1, 2).  On another occasion, David was in the cave while the Philistines were occupying his hometown of Bethlehem.  David wanted a drink of water from the well of the city, so three of his mighty men fetched him some water.  When they returned, David poured out the water before the Lord (I Chron. 11:15-19).  Perhaps on one of these occasions David composed Psalm 57.  While the superscription of the psalm does not say when this occurred or which cave David was in, the psalm follows Psalm 56 which was written when David was captured in Gath (I Sam. 21:10-15).  The order of the psalms seems to hint that it was written when David fled from Saul and hid in the cave of Adullam.

    Green Grass in the Wilderness – Psalm 103:15-18

    David composed a beautiful psalm extolling the character and attributes of God (Ps 103) in which he contrasts the unchangeable and eternal God with humans that are like grass and flowers.  In verses 15-18 David draws on his experiences in the Judean desert.  During the winter months, the desert is green with grass and there are an abundance of flowers if it was a good rainy season.  Soon after Passover, the hot, dry Hamsin winds come off the Arabian Desert and scorch the grass and flowers so they wither away.  David sang, “As for man, his days are like grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.  For the [Hamsin] wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting”.  The Prophet Isaiah makes a similar analogy, but he contrasts the shortness of life with the eternality of the Word of God (40:6-8).

    When we went on our Dead Sea Field Trip in June the Judean Desert was dry, brown and desolate.  There was not a blade of green grass, or a single flower to be seen!  Some of the sifters questions what I said about the grass and flowers.  Fortunately our tour hostess, Stephanie, had visited Israel in the springtime a few years earlier and was able to vouch for this phenomenon.

    The summer months are the setting for another psalm composed by David when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.  He wrote: “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (63:1).

    Masada and the Psalms

    I should preface my comments about the passages on Masada in the psalms by recounting a story.  While teaching at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, I was invited to speak to a Christian tour group in one of the local hotels.  The tour host never took his groups to Masada because, as he put it, “The site is post-resurrection [of Jesus], thus unimportant.”  One elderly lady in the group asked me quite piously and condescendingly, “You don’t take your groups to Masada, do you?”  I knew where that question was coming from.  I smiled and said, “Of course I do, it’s a very important Biblical site.  King David visited the site on at least three occasions and composed several psalms that mention Masada!”  The shocked look on her face was one of those priceless Kodak moments! J  She told the group leader of our conversation.  He examined the passages and from that point on, he took his groups to Masada.

    The word “Masada” in the Hebrew Bible is generally translated “stronghold” or “fortress” in the English Bibles.  David visited the site on at least three occasions.  The first time he saw it was when he was fleeing from Saul.  After his family joined him in the cave of Adullam (I Sam. 22:1, 2), David decided to take them to the Land of Moab and ask the king of Moab to let them stay under his protection in his land.  David and his entourage would have gone past Masada as they forded the Dead Sea at the Lisan (“tongue”).

    As David passed by, he would have noted the strategic and military value of Masada.  The mountain plateau was situated 360 meters above the plain floor on the southeastern edge of the Wilderness of Judah, opposite the Lisan of the Dead Sea.  Strategically, from the top of the site, David would have a commanding view of the Dead Sea region and the eastern slopes of the Wilderness of Judah.  If there was any large troop movement by Saul, or even the Philistines, he could quickly escape across the Lisan to Moab.  Militarily, he also noticed the site had steep sides all around it with only one accessible path to the top on the eastern side of the mountain, today called the “Snake Path.”  It was easily defensible from any attackers because of its elevation and the single path to the top.  The defenders on top could easily roll down boulders of rocks to stop any attackers.

    David made good on his observations and stayed at the “stronghold” (Masada) after he left his parents in Moab.  As long as there was water on top of the mountain, David felt safe and secure and did not want to leave.  It was not until the prophet Gad came and told David to leave, that he left for the Forest of Hereth in the Land of Judah (I Sam. 22:4, 5).

    The second time David and his men went to Masada was after he spared Saul’s life at Ein Gedi.  The Bible says, “And Saul went home, and David and his men went up to the stronghold” (I Sam. 24:22).  Here was the “parting of the ways” between Saul and David.  Saul goes northwest, back to his palace at Gibeah of Saul, and David goes south to the stronghold situated 18 km to the south of Ein Gedi.

    The third time we know of David at Masada is after he was anointed king of all Israel in Hebron.  The Bible says, “All the Philistines went up to search for David.  And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold” (II Sam. 5:17).  Notice the topographical indicators in this passage.  Hebron (Tel Rumeida) is situated 944 meters above sea level.  The base of Masada is 300 meters below sea level.  David literally went down to Masada.

    Masada was extensively excavated by Professor Yigael Yadin in the early 1960’s.  Most of the excavations concentrated on the Early Roman period remains built by Herod the Great and used by the defenders at the end of the First Jewish Revolt in AD 73.  Yadin, however, also found 10th century BC, Iron Age pottery scattered on the surface (1966:202).  Perhaps some of the 10th century pottery was left by David and his men.

    David composed at least four psalms in which he mentions Masada.  The first psalm is Psalm 18.  This psalm was written on the “day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (18: superscription).  In it he sings, “I will love You, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock and my fortress (Masada) and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (lit. “high tower”)” (18:1, 2).

    The second psalm is Psalm 31.  Again David sings, “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in your righteousness.  Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, a fortress (Masada) of defense to save me.  For you are my rock and my fortress (Masada); Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me” (31:1-3).

    The Hebrew word “Masada” is also used in Psalm 66:11 and is translated into English as “net” (NKJV; NASB) or “prison” (NIV).

    The third psalm that uses Masada is Psalm 71.  It is uninscribed, but most likely written by David.  In it he sings: “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame. … Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For you are my rock and my fortress (Masada)” (71:1, 3).

    The fourth psalm composed by David that mentioned Masada is Psalm 144.  In this psalm he sang: “Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle –  My loving-kindness and my fortress (Masada), My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me” (144:1, 2).

    One other psalm mentions a “stronghold.”  Psalm 91 is uninscribed, but some commentators attribute it to Moses and suggest it is a continuation of Psalm 90.  The superscription of that psalm says: “A Prayer of Moses the man of God.”  In Psalm 91 it starts out: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress (Masada), My God, in Him I will trust” (91:1, 2).

    This would have been a psalm David knew by heart.  He understood theologically that the LORD was his fortress / stronghold and his trust was in God.  Perhaps when he saw Masada for the first time, it reminded him of the Lord.  After staying there on several occasions, he came to realize, as secure as this rocky plateau may seem, the Lord truly was his Masada!

    The Ein Gedi Cave and Ibex

    Another stop on our Dead Sea Field Trip was the overlook at the Ein Gedi Field School.  There was a great view of the waterfall in the Nahal David, the spring and tel of Ein Gedi and the ancient terraces on the slopes of the mountains.  Somewhere in the area, David hid in a cave when he fled from King Saul (I Sam. 24).  Psalm 142 was composed “in a cave”.  This might have been the context of this psalm.

    The name Ein Gedi means the “spring of the young goat.”  Whether it is the domesticated goat or the ibex, the mountain goat, is unclear.  David mentions them in Psalm 104:18, as does Job (39:1).  Ein Gedi is a nature reserve so the animals are protected, so we were fortunate to see a few ibex “up close and personal’.

    Casting Our Sins into the Dead Sea

    The prophet Micah admonished the people of Israel to “cast all our sins into the depth of the sea” (7:19-20).  The word-picture that Micah has in view is the sacrifice in the Temple.  The priest would offer a sacrifice for a person, but the blood of the sacrifice could only “atone” (cover) for the sins of the offerer, but it could never take the sins away.  From the Temple Mount, the blood was washed down a pipe into the Kidron Valley and this blood mingled with the water as it flowed through the Wilderness of Judah to the Dead Sea.  This sea is the deepest surface of water anywhere on the face of the earth, some 400 meters below sea level.  It is also the saltiest body of water and nothing lives in it.

    In the Temple economy, sins were covered (“atoned for”) but never taken away.  That is why the offerer had to offer a new offering each time he fell into sin.  Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in human flesh, died on the Cross, He paid for all the sins of all humanity (I John 2:2) and there is no need for any more sacrifices (Heb. 10:1-18).  God has forgiven, and forgotten, all the sins of those who put their trust in His Son.  The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed the New Covenant that was made with the House of Israel and Judah, and by extension, those in the Church.  In it, God proclaimed that the “sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34; quoted also in Heb. 8:12 and 10:17).

    What the prophet Micah is saying is this: based on the mercy of God, our sins are cast into the depth of the [Dead] Sea.  What God has forgiven, God has forgotten.  God does not want His children to go fishing for something that does not exist (our sins)!  We can thank the Lord Jesus for paying for all our sins and be assured of the promise of God, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to [continually] cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

    Summing Up the Field Trips

    One of the sifters, Paula Owen, commented that this trip was: “An incredible journey of a lifetime – that would be the bottom line description of the TMSP!!  I can truly say that never have I learned so many valuable Biblical facts at one time, as I did on this trip!!  By Day #2 my brain went to the overload mode in the pure excitement and pleasure of this archaeological adventure.  It was so overwhelming!”

    The history, archaeology and geography of the Land of the Bible can enrich ones reading of the Word of God.  The psalms were written by real people, experiencing real events in real places.  To see the psalms in their context could enhance our worship of the Lord God.

    We took the words of Psalm 48 to heart and acted upon them.  “Walk about Zion, and go all around her.  Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following” (48:12, 13).  I trust the background information and the spiritual truths learned by each sifter will be passed on to other people, and thus, another generation.

    Bibliography

    Franz, Gordon

    2002   “At Home in Death”:  An Archaeological Exposition of Psalm 49:11.  Bible and Spade 15/3: 85-91.

    2005   “Remember, Archaeology is NOT a Treasure Hunt!”  Bible and Spade 18/2: 53-59.

    2007   Archaeology, Assyrian Reliefs and the Psalms of the Sons of Korah.  Bible and Spade 20/1: 13-24.

    Mazar, Eilat

    2007   Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center Area.  Jerusalem and New York: Shalem.

    Yadin, Yigael

    1966   Masada.  Herods Fortress and the Zealots Last Stand.  Jerusalem: Steimatzky.  Reprinted 1984.

    This article appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Bible and Spade, vol. 22, no. 1, pages 14-19.

  • Jerusalem Comments Off on Why Did God Choose Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel?

    By Gordon Franz

    Introduction

    Jerusalem is a city that is sacred to the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has been and remains to this day, a contested piece of real estate for two of these religions.

    Former Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, often said, “Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided capital of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.” On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, with the help of some world politicians, wants to divide the city and create a Palestinian State with Abu Dis in eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

    Within Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is the most hotly debated piece of real estate anywhere in the world. At the Second Camp David summit held during the summer of 2000, Yasser Arafat said that there was never a temple built by Solomon or Herod on what the Moslems call the Haram esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). Those temples, he said, were located on Mount Gerizim near Nablus (Gold 2007: 11). The literary sources and the Temple Mount Sifting Project have clearly demonstrated that these Temples once stood on the Haram.

    The Bible, history, and geography are clear: Jerusalem was chosen by the Almighty as the capital of the nation of Israel … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.

    There are Better Cities to be Capital

    Politically and strategically there were better sites that David could have chosen to be the capital of Israel. But God had Jerusalem in mind, primarily, it can be argued, for spiritual reasons.

    The first city David could have chosen was Hebron (Tel Rumeidah). In fact, this was the first city from which David ruled when he came to the throne. David was selected by God to be king and anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem (I Sam. 16:1-13). After his flight from Saul, God instructed David to go to the city of Hebron and there the men of Judah “anointed David king over the house of Judah” (II Sam. 2:1-4)1 and he reigned over Judah for seven and a half years (II Sam. 5:5). Finally, all the tribes of Israel came to King David and anointed him king over all Israel and Judah and he reigned for thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

    The reason Hebron was David’s first capital was because he was from the tribe of Judah and Hebron was in the tribal territory of Judah. The city also had a Patriarchal connection: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with some of their wives, are buried in the Cave of Machpelah near Hebron (Gen. 23:9, 17; 25:7-11; 49:29-32). Hebron overlooks the Patriarchal Highway the runs through the Hill Country of Judah down to Beersheva.

    David’s second choice of a capital could have been Gibeah of Saul (Tel el-Ful). Gibeah was King Saul’s capital (I Sam. 15:34). This city had a commanding view of the Central Benjamin Plateau from its position on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 19:13).

    A third possibility might have been Bethel (el-Birah). This city was situated on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 21:19) and had Patriarchal connections. This was the second place Abraham built an altar after he entered the Promised Land (Gen. 12:8-9). Jacob had his hallmark “ladder dream” at Bethel and it was at that event that God reconfirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob (Gen. 28:11-22; cf. John 1:51).

    A fourth possibility is Gibeon (el-Jib) because “this great city, like one of the royal cities” (Josh. 10:2) was strategically located on the Central Benjamin Plateau and controlled the road leading to the Beth Horon Ridge Route. This road goes from the Central Benjamin Plateau to the International Coastal Highway and the port city of Jaffa.

    The last city David could have chosen was Shechem (Tel Balatah). It too was located on the Patriarchal Highway (Judges 21:19) at a strategic junction where the road splits. One could go west between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, or go northeast down to Tirzah and the Wadi Farah. Shechem, like some of the other cities, had Patriarchal connections as well. This was the first place Abraham built an altar after he came into the Promised Land (Gen. 12:6, 7) and Joseph is buried there (Josh. 24:32). Interestingly, Shechem was made the first capital of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) by Jeroboam I following the division of the kingdom (I Kings 12:23).

    These five cities may have geographically, militarily, and strategically made better capitals for the Kingdom of Israel, yet Jebus (Jerusalem) was chosen … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.

    Why Jebus (Jerusalem) Should Not Have Been Chosen

    The ancient city of Jebus is situated on the ridge above the Gihon Spring. Jebus, later named the City of David, covered a small area of approximately 10 acres (Mazar 2007:12). It was not located on the Patriarchal Highway, in fact, one had to turn off the ridge route (the Patriarchal Highway) in order to get to the city (Judges 19:10-12). The city is also isolated by steep valleys (Psalm 125:1, 2). The Kidron Valley is on the east and the Tyropean Valley (Central Valley) is on the west (Neh. 2:13). The city is isolated and in a bowl because it is surrounded by hills (Psalm 125:1, 2). Strategically and geographically, Jebus (Jerusalem) should not have been chosen the capital of Israel, yet it was … why? The simple answer – God’s Son.

    Why Was It Chosen the Capital?

    There are two reasons Jerusalem was chosen the capital of Israel. The first, from David’s perspective, is political. The second, from God’s perspective, and more importantly, is spiritual.

    Political Reason

    Jerusalem was not conquered during the initial conquest of the Land by Joshua (Josh. 15:63). Thus it was still controlled by the Jebusites. During the period of the Judges, Judah and Benjamin could not drive the Jebusites out of the city (Judges 1:21; cf. 19:12).

    When David came to the throne, he first ruled from Hebron. In order to unify the country, he had to find a “neutral” site that was not in the tribal territory of Judah. The unconquered city of Jebus was in the tribal territory of Benjamin (Josh. 15:7, 8; 18:16, 28). Also, there were not any Benjamites living in the city because the Jebusites were able to regain the city after Judah took the city and burned it during the period of the Judges (Judges 1:8; Mazar 2007:47-48).

    David also understood the geo-political realities of the tribal territory of Benjamin. The easiest and most convenient road from Jericho, and thus the Transjordanian Plateau, to the International Coast Highway in the west was via the Central Benjamin Plateau. The tribal territory of Benjamin is lower in elevation than the territories of Judah to its south and Ephraim to its north. David wanted to keep the tribe of Benjamin on Judah’s side so he could control these east-west roads and not let them fall under Ephraim’s control. Eventually, David and his men were able to take the city of Jebus and he moved the capital to the city (II Sam. 5:6-10; I Chron. 11:4-9).

    Spiritual Reason

    God used David as a human instrument to bring about His divine purpose of placing His name in the capital of Jerusalem. Just before the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, the LORD instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel that they were to meet the LORD three times a year in a place that He would choose to place His name (Deut. 12:1-11). “But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit … then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD” (12:10-11).

    God does not reveal the identity of this place until nearly 400 years later when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon prayed: “O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ and You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place” (I Kings 8:28, 29; see also 8:44, 48; cf. II Chron. 6:20, 33, 34, 38; Ps. 78:67-69; 132:13, 14). The LORD affirmed Solomon’s prayer when He said: “I have heard your prayer and supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (I Kings 9:3; cf. II Chron. 7:12, 16).

    God chose to place His name in Jerusalem because of the two events that transpired in the city that are recorded in the book of Genesis. Both events foreshadow the Person and Work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The first event is recorded in Genesis 14. In this account, Abram delivers his nephew Lot from the Mesopotamian kings at the city of Laish (Dan). On his way back to the Negev he stops at the Valley of Shaveh (cf. II Sam. 18:18) and meets Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of Salem and also the priest of the Most High God (El Elyon). The King / Priest blessed Abram and Abram in turn gave a tithe to Melchizedek (14:18-20; cf. Heb. 7:1-4).

    The Book of Hebrews gives a divine commentary on this passage as well as Psalm 110 where David stated, “The LORD (Yahweh) has sworn and will not relent, ‘You (David’s Lord) are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'” (110:4). In Hebrews 5:5, 6, God (the Father) said to David’s Lord (God’s Son), “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (a quotation from Psalm 2:7), and also “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (a quotation from Psalm 110:4). Later, Jesus is identified as the Son who is the “High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:20).

    King David composed Psalm 110, a beautiful and prophetic psalm, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God (Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36). In this psalm, David’s Lord is commanded to “Sit at My (Yahweh’s) right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (110:1). David, also being a prophet (Acts 2:30), foresaw the day when his descendent would rule forever from Zion (cf. Luke 1:31-33; Matt. 22:41-46; II Sam. 7:4-17; I Chron. 17:3-15). Zion is another name for the City of David, Salem, or Jerusalem (II Sam. 5:7; Ps. 76:1, 2; I Kings 8:1).

    The first reason God chose Jerusalem as the capital is because one day, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune God, will return again to the Mount of Olives with His saints and sit upon the throne of David and establish His Kingdom over all the earth in Jerusalem as a King / Priest (Zech. 14; cf. Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:5-8; Zech. 12:10; Rev. 19:11-19).

    The second event recorded in the book of Genesis was Abraham offering up Isaac on a mountain in the Land of Moriah (Gen. 22), called in Jewish tradition Akedah, for the “binding” of Isaac. The Temple built by Solomon was located on Mount Moriah (II Chron. 3:1).

    In this touching account, God tested Abraham by commanding him to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the Land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (22:2). In the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, it says, “Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved – Isaac.” The Greek word for “beloved one” in the LXX is the same word used of Jesus at His baptism and transfiguration. The voice from heaven, God the Father, said at His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Again at the transfiguration He said: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5).

    Abraham took his son Isaac, two young men, and a donkey that carried the wood for the sacrifice to the Land of Moriah. When they could see the mountain, Abraham said to the young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (22:5). Abraham said, “we (plural) will come back”, fully anticipating that Isaac would return with him, even though God had said to sacrifice him!

    Rabbis and commentators have had a field day trying to figure out this paradox. How could Abraham kill his son as a sacrifice, yet they were going to return together from worshiping God? Again, the book of Hebrews gives us a divine commentary on this event. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it is said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (11:17-19). Abraham fully believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead, if he killed him.

    As the father (Abraham) and the son (Isaac) walked together to the mountain with the wood on the son’s shoulders, and the knife and fire in the father’s hands, Isaac asks, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (22:7). Abraham solemnly responded, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8).

    Abraham built an altar and bound his beloved son and placed him on it. As he was about to slay him with the knife, the Angel of the LORD stopped him with these words: “Do not lay your hands on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (22:12).

    Abraham lifted up his eyes, probably filled with tears, and saw a ram caught in a nearby thicket. He took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son Isaac and named the place, “The LORD will provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided'” (22:13, 14).

    The Lord Jesus was visiting the Temple during the Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles) in AD 29 when He had an encounter with the religious leaders. The topic of discussion was Father Abraham. They asked Jesus if He was greater than Abraham and the prophets. Jesus answered in the affirmative and said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The religious leaders said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (8:57). With that, the Lord Jesus asserted His deity by saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58). The religious leaders understood that Jesus was attributing the divine name I AM WHO I AM (cf. Ex. 3:14) to Himself and so they picked up stones to throw at Him for blasphemy (John 8:59).

    But what did Jesus mean by, “You father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad”? What day was he talking about and why was he glad? I believe this statement goes back to the account in Genesis 22. Abraham, the friend of God, somehow knew of the Person and work of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, because he called the name of the place “The LORD Will Provide” which meant “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Abraham said to Isaac that God would provide a lamb as a burnt offering, and a ram was caught in the thicket. The ram is not a lamb! The ram was a substitute for Isaac, the ram died in Isaac’s place. It is not until 2,000 years later that John the Baptizer [remember, John was a Jew, not a Baptist!!!] was at Bethany beyond the Jordan (Batanea) when he saw Jesus approaching him after His 40 days of testing (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13) and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus was the Lamb that God would provide Himself (Gen. 22:8).

    It was on Mount Moriah that Solomon built a Temple (and later the Second Temple stood) where people could bring sacrifices that could only atone for, or cover sins, but could never take away sins. It was on a nearby hill, called Calvary, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless, Lamb of God, died as the perfect sacrifice in order to pay for all the sins of all humanity (Heb. 9:11-10:18; 13:13; I John 2:2; John 19:16-42). The final cry from the cross was “It is finished” (John 19:30). This word was used of a financial transaction that stated a bill was paid in full.

    In the Mount of the LORD, eternal redemption was provided by God and He offers His righteousness to any and all who would put their trust in the Lamb of God. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi in Macedonia and said if anyone could gain salvation by their good works, or their own merits, it was himself (Phil. 3:4-6). But he came to realize the great truth, “and be found in Him [the Lord Jesus], not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (3:9).

    The Apostle Peter stated that redemption was not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but it was by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18, 19).

    The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes [trust in, or rely upon] in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

    The Answer to the Question

    God chose Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because of the priority He placed on His Son and His Son’s coming to redeem sinners. Jerusalem figures prominently, practically, and prophetically into Jesus’s coming to earth. The two Jerusalem-centered events in the book of Genesis foreshadowed the Person and work of the Lord Jesus in His first and second comings to earth. The first time He came, He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world on a cross outside Jerusalem. The second time He will come, He will be the King / Priest who will rule the world from the Davidic throne on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

    Bibliography

    Gold, Dore

      2007 The Fight for Jerusalem. Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City. Washington, DC: Regnery.

    Mazar, Eilat

      2007 Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center Area. Jerusalem and New York: Shalem.

    1 All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version.

   

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