Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day Thirteen: Galilee Field Study - Jezreel Valley

Hiking up to Tel Beit Shan
Today has been another amazing day. Although we were supposed to have left at 7:00 for the Galilee Region, our bus did not arrive until 7:30. No problem though … We took off going under the Mount of Olives once again toward Jericho and up through the West Bank and up the Rift Valley. Our first stop was at the Tel of Beit Shan. This was a strategic location for trade and as a military outpost. The city had been controlled by the Egyptians, Assyrians, and later the Romans throughout history, just to name a few. From here, one has a good overlook both into the rift valley as well as into the Jezreel Valley. It was here at the ancient Beit Shan that King Saul was hung on the city wall after his death on Mount Gilboa. By night, those from Jabesh-Gilead came and took down his body for a proper burial in Jabesh-Gilead. Interestingly, why did they care and, secondly, why did they bury him in Jabesh-Gilead and not in his hometown of Gibeah? Previously we note that Saul had rescued the Jabesh-Gilead from the Ammonites, but the tie may run deeper than this. Remember way back in Judges to the account of the Levite and his concubine in Gibeah of Benjamin? To make a long story short, the rest of the tribes came and fought against the tribe of Benjamin, leaving only 600 men alive. When they realized what they had done, they could not let the tribe of Benjamin be extinguished, so they needed to find wives for these men, but they had made an oath not to give their own daughters to them. The only one who did not come out to fight against Benjamin was Jabesh-Gilead. The plan was that the Benjamites would go over to Jabesh-Gilead and kidnap their women for wives. Hence, Saul, a Benjamite of Gibeah, likely had family in Jabesh-Gilead. This works both ways in his protection of them and their interest in risking their own lives to give him an honorable burial amongst his extended family. … From the tel, we could just make out Mount Gilboah and Mount Moreh two significant mounts in biblical events.
We then proceeded across and were suddenly surprised by a large Roman city at its base! When the tel got too tall, the people resettled at the bottom. Later when the Romans took over they made this one of their outposts on frontier. We descended into the city and took some time to explore. I was quite impressed with just how well things have been preserved. After checking out the impressive Roman bathroom, I headed up to the theatre and down the main cardo before making my way back to the visitor center for a passion fruit popcycle on this very hot day. Although it was not as hot as the Dead Sea (116˚) it was still a bit over a hundred with a good deal of humidity.

Wow! Look at that Red Terra Rosa Soil! Here in the Jezreel Valley, there is 
330 feet of top soil!
From here, we headed down the "pinch" to the Jezreel Valley. In biblical times, this would have been swamp land, making much of it impassable except for the few routes around and one "hiccup" across. Today however, Israel has been able to drain the valley largely using Eucalyptus trees. With 330 feet of topsoil, this valley is rich for produce. As we passed through, we waived at Jezebel falling from her window, and proceeded to Megiddo – "taking Megiddo is as taking a thousand cities." It largely controlled much of the valley and the passes going through it. Here we saw the second of three cities that Solomon fortified with his six chamber gate. From Megiddo, we had a good view of Mount Tabor and Mount Moreh. One thing I found interesting was the location of En Dor. When Saul sought out the witch, he had to go to great lengths to get to her – for she was on the backside of the Mount Moreh from the Philistines. Essentially, Saul had to sneak across enemy lines to get to her house – quite a risky business for a king! Here at Megiddo we discussed its importance in history and its reference in prophecy. Interestingly, Revelation refers to "Mount Megiddo." The only problem is that Megiddo is not a mountain but a tel. There is no Mount Megiddo. This has led some to speculate that perhaps the Hebrew transliteration intends a different location. … Perhaps "the gathering place" is Jerusalem herself. Food for thought that I will have to munch on later. After the lecture, we headed over to "Solomon's Stables." Whether they really are or not, we don't know. It is an odd location for stables if they are such as it is in the highest point of the city, blowing its odors right into the palace. Anyhow, we left Megiddo through by going underground through the city's water system before stopping for lunch.

Lecture atop Mount Carmel - looking down into the Jezreel Valley
After lunch we made a quick stop at a first century tomb and then off to Mount Carmel! Here we could overlook the Jezreel Valley from yet another perspective and picture Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal. Remember how the Jezreel Valley used to be a swamp? Well after three years without rain, even the swamps get fairly hard. However, following Elijah's prayer for rain, he took off and out ran the chariot. Not to discredit Elijah's running ability, but when it began to rain in the Jezreel valley, the swamp would become very difficult to navigate in a chariot, as it would begin to sink in the mud. After hearing that Jezebel was going kill him for slaughering her four-hundred prophets of Baal, he ran off to Beer Sheba and on down to Sinai! God does something interesting when confronting Elijah. He demonstrates that He is not IN the earthquake or fire, but that He is distinct from nature. He is above it and in control of it. This was a demonstration that Yahweh was different from the god's of the nations. Whereas Baal was IN the storm, Yahweh transcends nature. He cannot be controlled or manipulated by man. After heading down from the outlook, we stopped at the monastery for another overlook where we could

Although we didn't get to stop in Nazareth itself, we did get to see it from the lookout. This is a likely spot where Jesus may have come as child to overlook the valley and perhaps reminisce about the many events in Israel's history that had transpired here. It is believed that it was this location that the Jews were ready to throw Him off the high cliff, but Jesus miraculously just walked through the crowd. From the same ridge, we could make out the Church of the Annunciation and the approximate location of the old city. Today Nazareth is quite large and expanding over the mountain.

Our final destination was our hotel on the lake front of the Sea of Galilee! How beautiful!  
Now on the East side of the Mount of Olives

Camel Crossing!

In the desert ... 

Remains of Antipas' City

Stopped for a quick break at a gas station. 

Entering the Gates of Tel Beit Shan

Egyptian Reconstruction of Tel Beit Shan

Looking out from Tel Beit Shan - on the left we have Mt. Gilboa (Saul)
and on the right, Mt. Moreh (the Philistines). Close to the base of Mt.
Gilboa is a spring. 

Looking North-East from Beit Shan

Overlooking Beit Shan to the South ... hey, there's another city down there!

Me overlooking Scythopolis - a Roman Outpost City ... basically a
 "Roman Evangelistic" City

Hiking down to Scythopolis - once a Tel would get too big, the city would
often relocate at the bottom of the hill.

Overlooking the Roman Temple

Looking down Valley Street toward the Central Monument

Looking Back toward the Tel of Beit Shan

Me in Scythopolis

Some very ancient remains of ... is it an air conditioner or a microwave?

Beautiful Columns everywhere

Looking back through Scythopolis from the East

Using the "Latrine" ;)

It's said there would be live music playing in Latrine to make the whole
experience more enjoyable ... 


More Remains at Scythopolis

Walking toward the Theater

Looking back toward the Tel of Beit Shan

A Window's View of the City

Columns in the corner of the Theater

The Theater at Scythopolis

In the theater

Looking Down Palladius Street

Again, notice the detail of the column heads

Much of this would have been covered in smooth stone.

Standing in Palladius Street

Notice the mosaics on the ground!

Looking back over the city

Taking the Shuttle Back to our Bus

Bye-Bye Little Shuttle Bus

I didn't know Israel had a Stonehenge ;)

Their signs look just a bit different than ours, but I bet you can figure it out.

Stopping at Megiddo National Park

Model of the city in visitor center. 

Hiking up to Tel Megiddo - a key city in the Jezreel Valley

Entering the Solomonic Gates at Megiddo

Overlooking Jezreel valley from Tel Meggido

In the distance you can make out Mount Tabor on the left and Mount Moreh
on the Right. Down at the western base of Moreh is the city of Nain and just
behind the mountain is En Dor. In Biblical times this valley was an impassable
marsh. When this valley was being explored around the turn of the century,
their donkey sunk up to its ears in mud. Modern Israel has drained the valley.
One of their methods was to plant Eucalyptus trees - which drink a lot of water!

Overlooking the Valley of Megiddo (Moden Jezreel Valley)

The chariots are coming!

Possible Solomon's Stables, but it's a really bad location for stable ...
what else could it be?

"Solomon's Stables" - though its probably not a stable. Why would you put
your horses at the highest point in the city away from the city gate?

Water System at Tel Megiddo

Looking Down, Down, Down

Walking through the underground passage ways

And that's where we've been - well loop back to the front for lunch

Hey, they do have round bails. I've only seen big square ones thus far
1st Century Tomb along the side of the road

Some beautiful trees
With some beautiful flowers

And Ouch!! Some nasty thorns

Hiking up Mount Carmel

In the distance you can make out Mount Moreh to the right and Mount
Tabor just off center. 

It is believed that it was down on this plain that the contest took place
between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah had them seized and took
them down to the valley to be executed. He then came up somewhere
around the area that we are at and began praying for rain. 

Standing on Mount Carmel

Hiking to the Ethiopian Monastery on Mount Carmel

Ahh ... so that's what Elijah looked like :)

Do you see a small rain cloud? ... Can't make it out in the picture too well, but
we could just see the Mediterranean from here. 

Okay this was ... a tel that I don't remember

Their corn is looking pretty good ... 

This structure was built specifically for the Pope's visit to Nazareth. Here
he served communion to somewhere around 40,000 people.

Hiking up the Nazareth Ridge

Here I am standing on Nazareth Ridge - in the distance is
Mount Moreh in the Jezreel Valley. Much of Israel's History transpired
in this valley. 

The Mountain in the background is Mount Tabor from the Nazareth Ridge.
It would be likely that Christ may have frequented this place as a child. 

Mount Moreh in the Jezreel Valley - you can make out the city of Nain
toward its base

Looking back along the way we've come through the Jezreel Valley

This area is the cliff face where the people of Nazareth were ready to throw
Christ off the cliff. Why? He had just read Isaiah 61. Although Luke doesn't
record the whole passage, the Jews would have known the rest by heart -
they longed for this and were getting excited, but suddenly Jesus
applied it to the Gentiles!! Their excitement turned to wrath and they were
ready to push him over the cliff to his death.

Looking back toward Nazareth - at a close look you can pick out the
Church of the Annunciation and a group of trees marking the location of the
old town. 

Standing on Nazareth Ridge - behind me is modern Nazareth

ACE Hardware - I recognize that one!

That is the city of Nain - remember the miracle Jesus performed here?

Would you like to go to Nain? Bummer, we'll have to
settle for just the sign.

And if you'd like to raise up the dead, En Dor is to the

First Glimpse of the Sea of Galilee

And there are lots of Banana Fields here!

Arriving at Hotel - En-Gev more or less near the ancient city of Aphek on
Decapolis side of the Sea of Galilee. 

Wow! This is a nice hut. 

The Sun is setting over the Sea of Galilee 

Standing near the Sea of Galilee at En-Gev

The sun has set beyond the mountains

Sat along the shore for an hour or so this evening. Absolutely Beautiful!

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