Ancient History

Reading the Bible in its own context begins with exploring the people and cultures of antiquity, the cities and languages they left behind.

Tabgha

What if the place where Jesus fed the five thousand was also the place Jesus went to, soon after His resurrection, to cook a breakfast of fish and hot bread for His disciples, after they had spent a long night of fishing?

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The Magdala Stone

Scholars are still studying and thinking about the meaning of the Magdala Stone. As I searched for explanations, I turned to the Biblical Archaeology Society’s article written in 2021, as well as a few other sources,

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Magdala

As we walked through the chapel, we admired the frescoes of scenes from scripture, read the names of women disciples on the marble pillars, and stopped in the sanctuary to gaze at the replica of the Galilee Boat, thinking about Jesus and His ministry.

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Tel Dan

Before being given to the tribe of Dan for their inheritance in the Promised Land, the city of Dan was known as Laish, also sometimes written Leshem, meaning jewel.

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Tel Hazor

Unlike the other cities of Canaan, including even Megiddo, Hazor was the master. Like Rome would be millennia later, all roads led to and from Hazor, the largest fortified city in the country.

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Tel Megiddo

Megiddo’s history reaches far back into the distant past, having been a continuous settlement down through thousands of years, from Neolithic times through to Persian occupation.

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Tel Beit Shemesh

So Dave and I were looking at a map of archaeological sites in the Negev, southern Israel, ancient Judah’s territory, and we saw that Tel Beit Shemesh was near us. “Wonderful,” we said. “Let’s go see Beit Shemesh!

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Tel Lachish

Lachish’s history is long, beginning in the Neolithic age and continuing to become Judah’s second most important city (the first being Jerusalem). Not much is left today but the lizards

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Arad, and a View of Moab

One of the distinctive features of Arad are their lookout points giving a view of the vast valleys and grand mountain ranges surrounding the area. It was an admitted thrill to stand in the foothills of what was once Judah and gaze across to the mountains of Moab.

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Masada Museum: The Sicarii

They were considered a splinter group of the Zealots, and were called Sicarii because they hid small daggers called sicae in their cloaks. Like silent, stealthy assassins, they would blend in with the crowd then in a split-second strike of a snake, they would whip out their sicae to attack Romans, and disappear as a wisp of smoke.

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Masada: Herod’s Aerie

Herod the Great’s palace complex on the plateau of Masada does not feature in the Biblical narrative, but it is an impressive site, nonetheless, and speaks to Herod’s ambitious building program, enormous budget, and ambitions of grandeur.

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Ashdod

The Philistines had five great city-states, each with their own king: Ashkelon was the only port city. Gaza was Philistia’s southernmost city-state, Ashdod to the north was a bit further inland, and even more inland was Ekron, known for its olive oil export, then Gath was to its south.

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Ashkelon

David and I are once again in Israel, the “Beautiful Land,” as the prophet Daniel described it. Today we visited Ashkelon National Park with the oldest arched gate in the world.

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From the blog

Puah and Shiphrah

We don’t often talk about the story of Puah and Shiphrah, though their story is one of courage and mettle, standing together against forces of evil seeking to destroy a nation. (a twenty minute tale)

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Shabbat

Every Friday evening, we make a special point of dressing nicely, and arriving to dinner in time for the kiddush. It’s important to be punctual, since the candles are to be lit at least 18 minutes before sunset.

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Astragali

As I carefully brushed around what seemed like a floor formation of pottery sherds and cobblestones, almost by accident, I unearthed what looked like a knucklebone—actually a bone in the ankle.

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Ashtoreth

Working in the Pottery Lab complex is one of several unexpected pleasures I’ve been experiencing on this excavation. As a microcosm of Israel itself, our Lab is international.

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We Went To Prison Today

The Akko prison intersects the Crusaders with the Ottoman empire, the British Mandate, and the Jewish resistance movements throughout Palestine. Today, the 12th century Crusader Hospitaller Center bears evidence of the 18th century Muslim fortress with military barracks and palaces, and the 19th century British prison. During the British Mandate, there were three major prisons: Jerusalem (Russian Compound and Kishle); Akko; and Bethlehem (women’s prison).

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Jerusalem

Part of the Tel Akko Excavation’s Total Archaeology approach is to take in the larger context of the dig—the present day city and its history, the surrounding landscape, the people groups and cultures, the land of Israel and its history. Today, to get a better understanding of the unique challenges Israel faces, we visited the capitol city, Jerusalem, another of the six “Mixed Cities” and filled with spiritual pilgrims from three of the major religions in the world: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

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Reconstructing the Past

I am working on one aspect of the excavation, the “Survey.” What is currently being dug is only a small part of the whole Tel. There is much more still waiting to be discovered, so the survey team methodically digs shallow, square trenches over the rest of the site, just to see what potential there might be. Every day, the survey team brings back a good fifty or sixty buckets of samples, all of which need to be read, registered, written on and packed up.

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Tyrian Purple

An outlier in her time, Lydia made a name for herself in the Tyrian purple market, establishing her own business and household, and enjoying a level of independence only a small minority of women in her day were able to experience. The images below all come from my visit to the Hecht museum, which has a display of murex shells and the beautiful dye Tyre, Sidon, and Akko were known for.

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A Startling Image

Inside, we saw many of the kinds of things we’ve been digging up in Akko, amphorae, giant storage jars, ancient glass, and all kinds of pottery. We also saw finds from other local sites, and this one arrested my attention mid-step: Inside, we saw many of the kinds of things we’ve been digging up in Akko, amphorae, giant storage jars, ancient glass, and all kinds of pottery. We also saw finds from other local sites, and this one arrested my attention mid-step:

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Mary of Magdala

Refusing to abandon Jesus in His darkest hour, all four Gospel accounts describe Mary of Magdala’s faithfulness and courage, remaining with Jesus, at the foot of His cross, until His death. She had accompanied Jesus and those who had come to know and love Him, on His way to Jerusalem for the last time, to celebrate the Feast of Passover.

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Magdala

Part of our excursion last Saturday was to visit the once bustling and wealthy city of Magdala, where Mary of Magdala came from. It’s a beautiful settlement, made all of black basalt, which is plentiful in the Galilee from ancient volcanic activity.

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Synergy

I can’t publish the actual arrowhead, but this picture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0] is a pretty close facsimile. Evidently, arrowhead technology remained pretty steady for a good twelve or thirteen hundred years in the middle east and Europe.

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Thot, Scarabs, and the Assyrian Army

Second breakfast is one long table covered in a blue cloth, laden with boiled eggs, yoghurt, labneh, olives, cut vegetables, hummus, fruit, and something special—one day pancakes, another day fried eggs. All fifty of us come in from every part of the tel, dusty, hungry, and thankful for a chance to rest and eat after…

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The Crusades

As I sit here typing, the Muslim call to prayers is being sung in the minarets throughout Akko, and I think about those who are devoted to Allah, spreading their prayer rugs, standing, then bowing, then prostrating themselves toward Mecca, touching their foreheads to the ground in humility, saying “rabbanā laka al-ḥamd,” meaning “O Lord, all praise is for you.”

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May This Never End…

As I listened to Rebekah’s hauntingly beautiful voice, sitting in Zippori’s open-air amphitheater, I closed my eyes, felt the heat of Israel’s sun, and the soft current of Israel’s breeze on my skin.

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What Is It?

This morning, as we were sweeping the “top soil” off of an area in the excavation being prepared for pictures and measuring, a small, white chip caught my eye. Ordinarily, top soil is considered detritus, because it has no provenance. It could really have been swept in from basically anywhere on the site, and because it’s at the top, it has long since been separated from the time layer it originally belonged to.

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Napoleon’s Hill

The first thing you have to do, to get an archaeological excavation ready, is to get all the sandbags up and out. When the excavation was closed the summer before, thousands of white cloth bags were filled with sifted earth from the dig, and placed all around the exposed areas to protect the site until the excavation could be reopened.

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First Day in Akko

Akko (Acre) is a living city, which has existed continuously for about 4,000 years. Its beginning was in Tel Akko, more commonly known as Napoleon Hill. From the Hellenistic period onwards the city expanded west to the area that later became the Crusader and Ottoman city.

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About Me

My passion for the Bible began when I was eight or nine years old, somewhere in there, when on occasion my dad would take me to synagogue, where he sang. I remember watching the men in synagogue pray the words of scripture, murmuring and weeping, lovingly touching and kissing the Torah, and I wished I could read what they were reading.

Imagine, then, my wonder when I was given a Bible of my own! Read more

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