Words Mean Something, Part 2

The modern city of Jericho and the wilderness rising to the west. Photo from BiblePlaces.com.

The modern city of Jericho and the wilderness rising to the west. Photo from BiblePlaces.com.

In a previous post, I made reference that the words in the Bible mean something. By carefully reading all of the words, a clearer understanding of Scripture can be found.

I was recently teaching a class on the book of Joshua in which we were discussing Israel’s preparations for attacking the city of Ai in Joshua 7. The passage in question involves a conversation between Joshua and member of his army. This conversation took place in Gilgal, in an area on the floor of the Jordan Rift Valley near Jericho. Notice the language that the men use in describing the location of Ai in reference to where they currently are located.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. – Joshua 7:2-5

The picture at the top of this post is from BiblePlaces.com. It is an aerial picture south of Jericho looking north. Be sure to notice the dramatic elevation change from the city of Jericho as the terrain rises into the Central Mountain range. Now, go back and read the passage again. As you can tell, Joshua and his men described the situation perfectly from their point of view.

Words truly do mean something. Don’t skip over them when reading these Biblical stories.

Spring in the Jordan Valley

As I speak to people about the lands of the Bible, I am often met with surprise when I discuss the rich and fertile areas of Israel. And, while there are places like the wilderness and the Negeb that are very dry, much of the area is well watered.

Recently, I watched a video by Amir Aloni of the Jordan Valley. He took the footage for the video using a drone which flew over many of the fields in the area. I encourage you to watch it as well.

When I saw this video, I was reminded the passage in Genesis 13 in which Lot chose to settle in the fertile Jordan Valley when he separated from Abraham.

So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land. Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. – Genesis 13:1-11

Words Mean Something

Herod's palace, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima.

Herod’s palace, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima.

Words mean something.

I know that saying is a bit of a cliche, but it is true. Words do mean something. And, in the Bible, they really mean something. The writers of the Bible did not just add words to meet some “minimal word count”. They meant exactly what they said.

Recently, I finished a study of the Book of Acts. In one of the passages, Luke records a conversation between Festus and the Jews in Jerusalem. Note the prepositions that Luke uses:

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” – Acts 25:1-12

Isn’t that interesting?

Today, we usually refer to “up” as “going to the north”. And, we refer to “down” as “going to the south”. However, that is not the way that the Biblical writers used those words. According to them, “up” meant “up” and “down” meant “down”.

Jerusalem sits on the crest of the central mountain range at an elevation of approximately 2,700 feet. Caesarea, since it is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, sits at sea level. So, from their perspective, the path to go to Jerusalem was definitely going “up”. And, from Jerusalem, you would go “down” to get to Caesarea.

As you read through the Bible, don’t just read past these small prepositional phrases without thinking about them. Why? Because words mean something.

One Year Ago – Our Journey Ends

Our group standing on the Mount of Olives.

Our group standing on the Mount of Olives.

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, our journey came to a close.

Just as quickly as the tour started, it came to a close. We arrived at Ben Gurion International airport weary and tired. But, thankful for the opportunity that was provided to us to visit this beautiful land.

For me, it was a great two weeks. I enjoyed being able to help people understand the geography of the Bible. I’ve attached our group picture from the top of the Mount of Olives.

Shalom!


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


One Year Ago – The Israel Museum

The Mediterranean Sea from the city of Ashkelon.

The Mediterranean Sea from the city of Ashkelon.

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went to the Israel Museum and to Ashkelon.

We started our day with a stop at the Israel Museum. This is your typical museum with more things to see than you could possibly see in a few hours. We started off at the huge model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. This is a fantastic way to visualize the way that the city looked during the time of Jesus. Our attention was then directed into the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. We ended our tour of the museum in the Archaeology wing, where we could see many different artifacts related to Biblical history.

Our last stop of the day was at the tel at Ashkelon. Most tour groups don’t travel all the way to this site. But, I have some good friends that were in Israel working the dig at this city. They provided us with a fantastic personal tour of the site and showed us the work that they are doing.

Tomorrow: Our journey ends.


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


One Year Ago – The Little Town of Bethlehem

Tim Smelser, one of the members of our tour, stands with the Negeb in the background.

Tim Smelser, one of the members of our tour, stands with the Negeb in the background.

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went to the small town of Bethlehem. (Actually, it is no longer that small.)

Located just six miles south of Jerusalem, is the town of Bethlehem. This was the town that David was from. And, it was the town that Jesus was born in. We visited the Church of the Nativity, which sits above the traditional location where Jesus was born. From there, we traveled to the Shepherds’ fields and then to the Herodium.

Our final stop of the day was at Shibly Kando’s Antiquities shop. Mr. Kando is the grandson of one of the main people involved in the discovery and recognition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In his store, you can see one of the four original jars on display. (Two of the other three are located at the Israel Museum and the other one is located at the Vatican in Rome.)

Tomorrow: The Israel Museum and Ashkelon.


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


One Year Ago – A Tour of the Lowlands

Sorek Valley

Looking northeast in the Sorek Valley.

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we toured the Shephelah.

Pressed between the coastal plain and the central mountain range is a small area of land called the Shephelah. In our Bibles, it is translated “lowlands”. It only measures about 10 miles wide and 50 miles long, but it played a very important role during the United and Divided Kingdoms.

The Shephelah is bisected by five valleys. During the time of Saul and David, Philistines controlled cities on the western end of the valleys and the Israelites controlled cities on the eastern end. This arrangement was the setup for numerous battles between the two nations.

Probably the most famous battle was the one commonly referred to as “David vs. Goliath”. This battle took place in the Valley of Elah. An Israelite defeat in this battle would have given the Philistines an easy path up the valley and into the hill country.

Tomorrow: The little town of Bethlehem.


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


One Year Ago – A Walk Through the Old City

Our group in front of the Dome of the Rock.

Our group in front of the Dome of the Rock.

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we walked through the Old City.

Our day began by entering the Temple Mount area and viewing the city from there. You can imagine the temple as it once stood on this location before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. The beautiful Dome of the Rock now stands out on this platform.

Our tour continued at the Pools of Bethesda and then we walked west on the Via Dolorosa toward the Church of the Holy Sepulture. After eating lunch and doing some shopping in the Christian Quarter, we walked through the Spice Market and arrived at the Jewish Quarter where we visited the Western Wall.

We toured the ancient city of David and then walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel. Our day ended on the steps leading up to the southern end of the Temple Mount. Jesus and His family used these same steps about 2,000 years ago.

Tomorrow: We visit the Shephelah.


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


One Year Ago – The Lowest Place on Earth

Herod's Palace at Masada

Herod’s Palace at Masada

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went to the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea. This beautiful body of water does not live up to its name…it exceeds it. The water in the Dead Sea is a beautiful shade of blue and is actually quite clear for several feet.

We began the day by driving down to Masada, where Herod built a beautiful palace. Years later, nearly a thousand Jewish zealots held off the Roman army for a couple of years by using this “stronghold”.

Our next stop was at En Gedi, for a short walk up a path to a waterfall. It is interesting to see the abundance of water in this place given the arid environment around it. It is no wonder why David fled to this location while being pursued by Saul.

After a stop at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), we visited one of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho. You can visualize so many Biblical stories from this location.

We finished our day by trying to take a dip in the Dead Sea. Of course, everyone just floated to the top. But, it was a great day to end the day.

Tomorrow: We visit the Old City.


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


One Year Ago – Up To Jerusalem

bethshan

Some of the ancient ruins of Beit-shean.

NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went “up to Jerusalem”. I have read that phrase a hundred times in the Scriptures. But until you actually go up those mountains and find Jerusalem on the ridge, you don’t quite understand it.

We left our hotel in Tiberias and traveled south, stopping on Beit-shan. The excavations at this city are amazing and from the top of the tel, you can see the strategic importance of this city. Any traffic traveling east-to-west through the Harod Valley or north-to-south through the Jordan Rift Valley could be closely monitored by this city.

We followed this stop with visits to the Spring of Harod (where Gideon gathered his army of 300 men), Jezreel (where Ahab and Jezebel had a palace) and Samaria (which was one of the capitals of the Northern Kingdom of Israel).

Traveling through this area allows you to see multiple examples of terraced farming, which demonstrates how the early inhabitants of the land adopted this hilly countryside into useable farmland.

Our journey for today ended at one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: From the heights of Jerusalem, to the lowest place on earth.


2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year’s tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.