Psalms 48:1, 48:9–14
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.
Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.
Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them
to the next generation.
For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.
Dr. Chris McKinny
Curriculum Vitae: https://biu.academia.edu/ChrisMcKinny/CurriculumVitae
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Mount Arbel is one of those places never mentioned in the Bible. Its presence was so obvious, it was assumed. From this spot you can see where the majority of the events mentioned in the Gospels took place. Jesus would have passed its enormous cliffs many times during His time in Galilee.
Meaning “well of the oath” or “well of seven.” ”From Dan to Beersheba” (a distance of 144 miles) was a familiar saying in the Old Testament. It was used to represent the extent of the national territory at the time. Dan was the northernmost city, Beersheba was the southernmost city. The area of Beersheba is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where Hagar went after she was sent away from Abraham because of family conflicts with Abraham’s wife Sarah.
Other notable events of Beersheba: Jacob had his Stairway To Heaven dream in the area, and later God spoke to Jacob there when the Israelites were on their way to Egypt, where they would remain for over 400 years in eventual slavery before the Exodus (Genesis 46:1). The prophet Elijah sought refuge there after wicked Jezebel ordered him killed (1 Kings 19:3). Samuel’s two corrupt sons who served as judges there caused the Israelites to demand their first king which they got in Saul (1 Samuel 8:1–3, 9:1–2,17).
The home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper. Jesus is reported to have lodged there after his entry into Jerusalem, and it could be from Bethany that he parted from his disciples at the Ascension. The village of Bethany is referenced in relation to five incidents in the New Testament, in which the word Bethany appears 11 times:
- The raising of Lazarus from the dead — John 11:1–46
- The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which Jesus begins near Bethany — Mark 11:1 and Luke 19:29
- The lodging of Jesus in Bethany during the following week — Matthew 21:17 and Mark 11:11–12
- In the house of Simon the Leper, at which Mary anoints Jesus — Matthew 26:6–13, Mark 14:3–9, and John 12:1–8
- Before the Ascension of Jesus into heaven — Luke 24:50
In Luke 10:38–42, a visit of Jesus to the home of Mary and Martha is described, but the village of Bethany is not named.
(*Not to be confused with Bethany beyond the Jordan.)
Mount of Beatitudes
The Mount of Beatitudes, believed to be the setting for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It overlooks the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It offers an enchanting vista of the northern part of the lake and across to the cliffs of the Golan Heights. Just below is Sower’s Cove, where it is believed Jesus taught the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1–9) from a boat moored in the bay. The Church of the Beatitudes, built here, has eight sides which represent the eight beatitudes shown in Latin in the upper windows.
Matthew 5: Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Pools of Bethesda
John 5 describes a pool near the Sheep Gate, which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John’s Gospel for the existence of this pool; therefore, scholars argued that the gospel was written later, probably by someone without first-hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem, and that the “pool” had only a metaphorical, rather than a historical significance. In the 19th century, archaeologists discovered the remains of a pool fitting the description in John’s Gospel.
JOHN 5: Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Meaning “house of the hunt.” Jesus criticized the Galilean fishing village of Bethsaida for its inhabitants’ lack of faith. In contrast, at least three of its native sons — Peter, Andrew and Philip — responded to his call and gave up everything to follow him.
Jesus curses Bethsaida: Luke 10:13–14, Matthew 11:20–22
Jesus cures a blind man: Mark 8:22–26
Meaning “house of the sun.” A city in the tribe of Dan (Joshua 21:16 ; 1 Samuel 6:15), on the north border of Judah (Joshua 15:10). It was the scene of an encounter between Jehoash, King of Israel, and Amaziah, King of Judah, in which the latter was made prisoner (2 Kings 14:11–13). It was afterwards taken by the Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18). It is the modern ruined Arabic village ‘Ain-shems, on the north-west slopes of the mountains of Judah, 14 miles west of Jerusalem.
Samson’s prophesied birth was in this area (Judges 13) as was the location of his burial (Judges 16).
Meaning “house of the hollow” or “of the cavern.” The name of two towns, Beth-horon the Upper (Joshua 16:5) and Beth-horon the Lower (Joshua 16:3), said to have been built (1 Chronicles 7:24) by Sheerah, the daughter of Beriah. The border line between Benjamin and Ephraim passed by the Beth-horons (Joshua 16:5; Joshua 21:22), the cities belonging to the latter tribe and therefore, later on, to the Northern Kingdom. Solomon “built Beth-horon the upper, and Beth-horon the nether, fortified cities, with walls, gates, and bars” (2 Chronicles 8:5; 1 Kings 9:17).
Excavations at Beth Shean in the past century have revealed a 6,000-year history of settlement at the site. Located near the intersection of two well-traveled ancient routes, Beth Shean proved to have important strategic value as early as the fifth millennium B.C.E., when it was first settled.
The most famous episode featuring Beth Shean in the Bible follows the death of King Saul on Mt. Gilboa: The Philistines came to strip the slain, and they found Saul and his three sons lying on Mt. Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped him of his armor … They placed his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they impaled his body on the wall of Beth Shean. When the men of Jabesh-Gilead heard about it—what the Philistines had done to Saul—all their stalwart men set out and marched all night. They removed the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shean and came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took the bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and they fasted for 7 days (1 Samuel 31:8–13; cf. 1 Chronicles 10:8–12).
Originally known as Banias, tin honor of the Greek god Pan — a half-man, half-goat deity who was worshiped here. East of a large cave are the remains of shrines to Pan and inscriptions, from the 2nd century, bearing his name. It was near Caesarea Philippi, a city of Greek-Roman culture known for its worship of foreign gods, Jesus announced he would establish a church and gave authority over it to the apostle Simon — whom he renamed Peter.
When Christ asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” it was Simon Peter who was inspired to answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
In reply, Christ declared: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13–20)
Capernaum was the center of Jesus’ activities in the Galilee and his town during that time. It was also the home of the apostles Peter, James, Andrew and John, and the tax collector Matthew. Many familiar Gospel events occurred in this village.
Capernaum is where Jesus first began to preach after the Temptation in the wilderness (Mt 1:12–17) and called Levi from his tax-collector’s booth (Mk 2:13–17). It was while teaching in this synagogue that Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:54)
Capernaum is where Jesus healed a centurion’s servant without even seeing him (Mt 8:5–13; Lk 7:1–10), Peter’s mother-in- law (Mt 8:14–15; Mk 1:29–30); the paralytic who was lowered thorugh the roof (Mk 2:1–12), and many others who were brought to him (Mt 8:16–17). And it was Capernaum that Jesus had set out from when he calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mt 8:23–27).
The “White Synagogue” appears to have been built around the 4th or 5th century. There is strong evidence that the one underneath of it may have been the one that Jesus taught in.
Herod built Caesarea into the grandest city other than Jerusalem in Palestine, with a deep sea harbor, aqueduct, hippodrome and magnificent amphitheater that remain standing today. He renamed the city Caesarea in honor of the emperor. The population was half gentile and half Jewish, often causing disputes among the people. In 6 CE, Caesarea became the home of the Roman governors (Procurators) of Judea. The city remained the capital of Roman and Byzantine Palestine.
Caesarea is an important site in Christian history. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus. This was where Simon Peter converted the Roman, Cornelius, the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus. Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. Paul was also imprisoned for two years in Caesarea.
Acts 25:4–7 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.” After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.
The Cardo was Jerusalem’s main street 1800 years ago. It begins at the Damascus Gate in the north and crosses the city southwards until the area of the Zion Gate. In its day, the Cardo was an exceptionally wide colonnaded street running through the heart (or cardo) of the city on a north-south axis, connecting many of Byzantine Jerusalem’s major institutions.
The Cardo was comprised of a central lane, open to the sky, for the passage of carriages and animals, flanked on each side by colonnaded covered walkways for pedestrians. The road is paved with stone slabs and is 22.5 meters wide. The Cardo is depicted in the Madaba Map, part of a floor mosaic dated to the 6th century AD that was discovered in a Byzantine church in Madaba, Jordan. The Madaba Map is the oldest surviving detailed depiction of Jerusalem. A replica of this map is displayed in the Cardo.
An ancient village in northern Galilee, two and a half miles from Capernaum on a hill above the Sea of Galilee.
Matthew 11:20–22 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
Luke 10:10–15 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
“The place where the darkness of death was overwhelmed by the Light of Life.” Originally built by the mother of Constantine in 330 A.D., the Church of the Holy Sepulcher commemorates the hill of crucifixion and the tomb of Christ’s burial. On grounds of tradition alone, this church is the best candidate for the location of these events. The Garden Tomb was not identified as the tomb of Jesus until the 19th century. Inside the church is a rocky outcropping which is the traditional place where the cross was placed. Archaeological excavations have demonstrated that this site was outside the city but close to one of its gates and thus would have been a good location for a crucifixion.
The best piece of evidence that the tomb of Jesus was in this area is the fact that other first-century tombs are still preserved inside the church. Called the “Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea,” these burial shafts are clearly from the time of Christ’s death and thus attest to some kind of burial ground in the area. Several Christian sects control this property. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic, and to a lesser degree the Egyptian Copts, Syriacs and Ethiopians. Meanwhile, Protestants, including Anglicans, have no permanent presence in the Church and they prefer the Garden Tomb, as a more evocative site to commemorate those events.
The ladder in the upper right window has been there since at least 1860, a testimony to rivalries between the church’s factions.
According to 1 Kings 18 Elijah challenges 450 prophets of a particular Baal to a contest at the altar on Mount Carmel to determine whose deity was genuinely in control of the Kingdom of Israel. The challenge was to see which deity could light a sacrifice by fire. After the prophets of Baal had failed, Elijah had water poured on his sacrifice to saturate the altar and then he prayed; fire fell and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, and water which prompted the Israelite witnesses to proclaim, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”. In the account, Elijah announced the end to a long drought; clouds gathered, the sky turned black, and it rained heavily.
The northern most city of the Kingdom of Israel, and belonging to the tribe of Dan. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, divided the Kingdom after King Solomon’s death. He established in Dan a substitute worship place for Jerusalem. This involved erecting a golden calf and building an altar described in (1 Kings 12: 28–31): “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.”
Despite being called the Tower of David, the citadel has no connection to King David. It is a medieval fortress with architectural additions from later periods located near the Jaffa Gate. From the heights of the towers of the Citadel one has a breathtaking 360 degree view of Jerusalem: the Old City and the New City, the Four Quarters, the new neighborhoods, the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea in the distance. The panoramic view is the only one of its kind in Jerusalem and literally allows the viewer to hold the city in the palm of one’s hand.
The Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family in Jerusalem, which opened its doors in 1863, was the first national pilgrims’ guesthouse in the Holy Land. As with David’s Citadel, our main interest in this site is in the views it affords us of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Davidson Center helps visitors appreciate what Jerusalem looked like in the late Second Temple Period (1st century) and offers a window into Jerusalem on the eve of its destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. through a combination of exhibitions of artifacts, illustrations, interactive multimedia.
Follow the wooden steps down to the 1st century street below. 2,000 years ago this was the busiest street in Jerusalem, lined with shops and so jam packed with people during Jewish pilgrimage festivals that it was probably difficult to walk down.
City of David
The archeological exploration of the City of David began in the middle of the 19th century and continues to this day. It has fired the imagination of many scholars from different nations and backgrounds who came to excavate in Jerusalem. The latest excavations were carried out between 1978 and 1985 and there is an ongoing process of updating and revising previous interpretations. 2 Samuel 5:6 The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.”
Known in the Bible as the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Arabah” its surface and shores are 1,412 ft below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land. It is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world at 997 ft. With 34.2% salinity, it is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 31 miles long and 9 miles wide at its widest point.
En Gedi is the largest oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. It served as a water source during biblical times (Joshua 15:62, I Samuel 24:1–2). The spring begins to flow 656 feet above the Dead Sea. 3000 years ago, En Gedi served as one of the main places of refuge for David as he fled from King Saul. David “dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi” (1 Samuel 23:29). En Gedi means literally “the spring of the kid (goat).” Evidence exists that young ibex have always lived near the springs of En Gedi. One time when David was fleeing from King Saul, the pursuers searched the “Crags of the Ibex” in the vicinity of En Gedi. In a cave near here, David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe (1 Samuel 24).
When Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’swell in Sychar (modern Nablus), she said to Him, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain” (Jn 4:20). Some think she was referring to Mount Gerizim 1.2 miles to the southwest, as the center of Samaritan worship since the 5th century BC.
Deuteronomy 11:29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.
Best known as the place described in the Bible where the Israelites were encamped when David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2, 19). The Brook Elah is famous for the five stones it contributed to the young slinger, David. Some surmise that David chose five stones instead of the one needed in case he needed to face Goliath’s four brothers. You will want to grab a couple of stones from this brook to remind you who fights your battles.
Meaning “oil press”, it is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed before his crucifixion. The present Gethsemane trees, were not standing at the time of Christ. Josephus states that all the trees around Jerusalem were cut down by the Romans for their siege equipment in AD 70.
Matthew 26:36–46: Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
A museum with a boat that dates back to Jesus’ day. The boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years) based on radiocarbon dating, and 50 BC to AD 50 based on pottery (including a cooking pot and lamp) and nails found in the boat, as well as hull construction techniques. The evidence of repeated repairs shows the boat was used for several decades, perhaps nearly a century. When its fishermen owners thought it was beyond repair, they removed all useful wooden parts and the hull eventually sank to the bottom of the lake. There it was covered with mud which prevented bacterial decomposition.
Known in Joshua’s day as “the head of all those kingdoms,” the tell of Hazor is today the largest in Israel at 200 acres. According to the Bible, Jabin the King of Hazor headed an alliance of Canaanite cities against the advancing Israelites, led by Joshua. The Israelites won the battle and burned and ravaged the city (Josh 11:1–12).
At the time of David and Solomon, Hazor was a far richer than Jerusalem and roughly ten times larger. Hazor had two distinct sections: the upper city, where public buildings were situated, and the lower city, a fortified enclosure with massive fortifications.
Situated near the International Coastal Highway and guarding the primary route into the Israelite hill country, Gezer was one of the most strategic cities in the Canaanite and Israelite periods. Gezer is a prominent 33-acre site that overlooked the Aijalon Valley and the road leading through it to Jerusalem. Joshua 10:33 — Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.
Joshua 16:10- They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.
Herod The Great
Born 73 BC died 4 AD. He was a Roman client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. The history of his legacy has polarized opinion, as he is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Herod’s Temple), the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada and Herodium. Herod appears in the Gospel according to Matthew (2:1–23), which describes an event known as the Massacre of the Innocents.
Herodium is 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem and 8 miles south of Jerusalem. A fortress for Herod to quickly flee to from Jerusalem and a luxurious palace for his enjoyment. He chose to be buried here and the mountain is the shape of a tumulus. Herod’s tomb was discovered by archaeologist Ehud Netzer in 2007. The findings include coffins of Herod’s family, a theater with a VIP room, and two coffins containing the remains of most likely Herod’s wife and his son’s wife Archelaus. New findings support the idea that the grave discovered belongs to Herod the Great. A theater that could hold an audience of 750 was discovered not far from the mausoleum. In front of the seating area is a large room for VIPs, from which the king and his close friends would watch the shows.
King Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem for an impending siege by the Assyrians, by “blocking the source of the waters of the upper Gihon, and leading them straight down on the west to the City of David” (2 Chronicles 32). In 1838 American biblical scholar Edward Robinson discovered Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The 1,750 feet tunnel dug 131 feet below ground through solid rock was far more spectacular than anyone could have imagined. It has a steady grade slope of 0.6% to keep the water flowing. Warren’s Shaft is in this area as well.
Ruins of an ancient city at the summit of a steep hill on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee overlooking its shores. Its beginnings was as a large Hellenistic city called Hippos (horse) in Greek.
Hippus was one of the ten cities in this region that formed the alliance known as the Decapolis. This may have been the city Jesus used as an illustration when he said in Matthew 5:14–16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Jericho — “City of palms” — is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world. It was the first city captured by the Israelites upon entering the land of Canaan following their 40 years of wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. The Gospels state that Jesus of Nazareth passed through Jericho where he healed one (Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35) or two (Matthew 20:29) blind beggars, and inspired a local chief tax-collector named Zacchaeus to repent of his dishonest practices (Luke 19:1–10). The road between Jerusalem and Jericho is the setting for the Parable of the Good
Samaritan. Herod the Great’s winter palace is located in Jericho. He died here and later was taken to his Herodium palace for burial.
King David conquered the city from the Jebusites and established it as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel, and his son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple. Jerusalem was on the border of the two tribes. Benjamin (Rachel) was promised God’s Presence (Deut. 33:12 About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”) AND Judah (Leah) wa promised authority. (Gen 49:10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.) John Lightfoot states that according to Jewish tradition the altars and sanctuary were in Benjamin, while the courts of the temple were in Judah. Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.
According to the Book of Kings, the royal palace of King Ahab in Jezreel was adjacent to the vineyard of Naboth. Prior to the division of the United Kingdom of Israel, the city was also the hometown of Ahinoam, first wife of King David. In the Bible, the city of Jezreel has a long, violent history. The wife of King Ahab, Jezebel, died when she was thrown from a window of Jezreel’s palace, and her body was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30–35). Naboth was murdered in Jezreel when he refused to give King Ahab his vineyard (1 Kings 21:1–23). King Ahab’s sons were beheaded and their heads piled at the gates of Jezreel (2 Kings 10:1–11). Jezreel was also the scene of many biblical battles: Deborah’s victory over Sisera (Judges 4); the Israelites’ victory over the
Midianites and the Amalekites (Judges 6—8); Saul and Jonathan’s defeat at the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 31); Egypt’s victory over King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29).
Jordan River Baptismal
All four gospels recall the story of Jesus coming to the Jordan to be baptized by John. The synoptics record that when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, saying “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:13–17; cf. Mk 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22). The Gospel of John tells us where the scene occurred: “These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing” (Jn 1:28). Jesus also stayed in the same “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (don’t confuse with Bethany on the Mt. of Olives), when he fled persecution in Jerusalem (Jn 10:40). What is the symbolism of Jesus being baptized at this spot? This is the same place, where the Israelites crossed the Jordan when they entered the land of Canaan. As the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the river, the waters of the Jordan were cut off and the Israelites could cross it on dry ground (Joshua 3:14–17). Later, the prophet Elijah crossed the Jordan on dry ground with Elisha just before he was taken up to heaven on a chariot of fire (2 Ki 2:8) as a sign that his prophetic ministry was over. Elisha then returned to Israel in the same way, crossing the Jordan on dry ground to inaugurate his own prophetic ministry (2 Ki 2:14). The fact that Jesus also began his ministry there, by “crossing the Jordan,” portrays him as a “new Joshua.”
Lachish was the 2nd most important fortified city in the kingdom of Judah, after Jerusalem. It guarded a main road from Egypt to Jerusalem. Lachish is referred in many Biblical accounts, including the Assyrian and Babylonian campaigns when Lachish was a key city for the conquest of the Judahite Kingdom. The Israelites captured and destroyed Lachish for joining the league against the Gibeonites (Joshua 10:31–33). The territory was later assigned to the tribe of Judah (15:39) and became part of the Kingdom of Israel. The Lachish reliefs are a set of Assyrian palace reliefs narrating the story of the Assyrian victory over the kingdom of Judah during the siege of Lachish in 701 BCE. Carved between 700–681 BCE, as a decoration of the South-West Palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh (in modern Iraq).
Both Matthew and Mark say Jesus preached in synagogues “throughout Galilee”, and Magdala was only 6.2 miles from Capernaum, where he based his ministry. So it’s reasonable to believe that Jesus taught in Magdala’s synagogue. Magdala’s fame down the centuries rested on one notable person, Mary Magdalene. After Jesus died she was one of the women who took spices for anointing to the tomb. They found the tomb empty, but “two men in dazzling clothes” gave them the news that Jesus had risen. (Luke 24:1–12)
According to Josephus, between 37 and 31 BCE, Herod the Great built a large fortress as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt, and erected two palaces. In 73 C.E., after the Great Revolt had been subdued, the Romans decided to put an end to the last pocket of resistance: the freedom fighters of Masada. For 3 years, the Zealots had managed to keep the Romans off the mountain. Nearly 10,000 troops tried starving the Jewish rebels and when that didn’t work they utilized every conceivable kind of siege weapon in an effort to break through the impregnable fortress. Finally, they breached the wall by building an earthen ramp embankment, which was apparently erected by thousands of Jewish slaves whom the Romans brought to Masada especially for this purpose. They were sure that the Zealots wouldn’t shoot at Jews and they were right. When the end was near, Zealot leader Elazar Ben-Yair called his people – 967 men, women, and children – together. He reminded them that they had long ago resolved to serve only God, and not the Romans nor any other master. He called upon them to die as free men and women, rather than face capture and slavery by the pagan conquerors. His moving speech persuaded the Zealots to commit suicide before the expected dawn attack by the Romans. Lots were drawn and 10 men were chosen as executioners: the rest lay side by side and bared their necks. At the end, one Zealot killed the other nine and then took his own life. It was the first day of Passover, the holiday in which the Jews celebrate their freedom from bondage.
Megiddo is known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance, especially under its Greek name Armageddon. Megiddo is first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 12:21. At the time the city was inhabited by Canaanites. The city later came under the control of King Solomon, though there is some controversy as to how much of a connection he had to the remains that have been discovered. The Israelite connection to the city ended around 732 B.C.E. when the Assyrians conquered Palestine. You’ll see the chariot stables, called Solomon’s Stables even though we now know they were built by King Ahab during the 9th century B.C.E. Here, an ingenious system was devised to collect water safely. A vertical shaft was dug within the city to the depth of the nearby spring and then a tunnel was built connecting to the water source. We will walk down 183 steps into the shaft, which is 120 feet deep, and then out the tunnel, another 215 feet.
Known as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events. In Luke’s Gospel, Nazareth is first described as ‘a city of Galilee’ and home of Mary (Luke 1:26). Following the birth and early epiphanial events of chapter 2 of Luke’s Gospel, Mary, Joseph and Jesus “returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.” Jesus spent his boyhood years in Nazareth before beginning his ministry when he was about 30. After moving to Capernaum, Jesus returned to teach in the synagogue of Nazareth twice more, but was rejected both times. The Basilica of the Annunciation is located here with its beautiful art from around the world.
Nebi Samwill is located on a hill, some 3.1 miles north of Jerusalem. The hill provides a good view of Jerusalem and controls the roads leading to the city from the north: the road from the Coastal Plain in the west and that from Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. It is the traditional burial site of the biblical Hebrew prophet Samuel. From this vantage point — roughly half of the geography as represented in the books of Joshua, Judges, 1–2 Samuel, and 1–2 Kings can be observed.
Mount of Olives
It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves, making it central in the tradition of Jewish cemeteries. Frequently mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 21:1; 26:30.) as part of the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem. Jesus is said to have spent time on the mount, teaching and prophesying to his disciples (Matthew 24–25), including the Olivet discourse, returning after each day to rest (Luke 21:37, and John 8:1), and also coming there on the night of his betrayal (Matthew 26:39). At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells how Jesus and his disciples sang together – “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” Matthew 26:30. Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives according to Acts 1:9–12.
Best known as the settlement nearest to the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. In 1947 two Bedouin shepherds accidentally came across a clay jar in a cave near Khirbet Qumran that contained seven parchment scrolls. The scrolls came into the hands of dealers in antiquities who offered them to scholars. The news of the discovery of the first scrolls aroused intense interest throughout the world and controversy, especially with regard to their dating. The largest manuscript (the Isaiah Scroll in Hebrew, 23 ft. long) was authoritatively dated around 100 BCE. In all, over 100 copies of the books of the Hebrew Bible were discovered, most of which survived only as fragments. Only the Book of Ester is not represented. The community to which the Dead Sea Scrolls apparently belonged occupied Qumran around 130 BCE to 70 CE. The sect was an extremist offshoot of the Jewish apocalyptic movement, whose basic doctrine was the expectation of the soon end of days.
Sepphoris rose to prominence during the century before Christ because it overlooked two major highways. The Hebrew name is Zippori because it sits on a hilltop like a bird (zippor). According to Josephus, Herod Antipas made it “the ornament of Galilee”, a term also implying the military connotation of an impregnable city. After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Sepphoris became a center of Jewish learning and seat of the Sanhedrin supreme court. The Mishnah, the first authoritative collection of Jewish oral law, was compiled here. You will see many multi-colored mosaic floors at this site.
Shiloh was the major Israelite worship centre before the first Temple was built in Jerusalem. All of Israel assembled together at Shiloh and set up the tent (or tabernacle) of the congregation there (Joshua 18:1) According to I Samuel 1–3, the sanctuary at Shiloh was administered by the Aaronite high priest Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas. The young Samuel was dedicated by his mother Hannah there, to be raised at the shrine by the high priest. His own prophetic ministry is presented as having begun here. It was under Eli and his sons that the Ark was lost to Israel in a battle with the Philistines at Aphek. During the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah (7:12–15; 26:5–9) over three hundred years later, Shiloh had been reduced to ruins.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, which regards it as the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more than in any other place. Jewish tradition maintains it is here a Third and final Temple will also be built. Since the 1st century CE, the site has been associated in Judaism with Mt Moriah, the location of Abraham’s binding of Isaac. According to Scripture, the First Temple was built by King Solomon in 966 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. The Al Aqsa Mosque rests on the far southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca. The Dome of the Rock, completed in 691 CE, currently sits in the middle, occupying or close to the area where the Holy Temple previously stood. In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world.
An Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Established around 20 CE, it was named in honor of the 2nd Emperor of the Roman Empire Tiberius. There is no record of Jesus visiting this city.
The Upper Room (Cenacle)
The site of the Last Supper is not known and the Gospel accounts provide few clues. It cannot be the present room, which was built in the 12th century. However, it is possible it stands over or near the original site of the Last Supper and Pentecost. Beneath the floor of the building are Byzantine and Roman pavements and the foundations go back to at least the 2nd century AD. It is possible that the “little church of God” that existed on Mount Zion in 130 AD (mentioned by Epiphanius of Salamis) was on this site. Danger and persecutions would have excluded Christian invention of a new holy place in the 2nd century, so if an active church existed in 130 it must have already been important for some time — perhaps because the upper room was nearby. In those times this was an affluent area of the city and a wealthy Christian may have opened his home for use as a church. The room was transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1524, who were less concerned with the site’s Christian traditions than with the Tomb of King David on the level below.
The term Western Wall is mostly used in a narrow sense for the section traditionally used by Jews for prayer, and it has also been called the “Wailing Wall”, referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site over the destruction of the Temples. It is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Of the four retaining walls, the western one is considered to be closest to the former Temple, making it the most sacred site recognized by Judaism outside the Temple Mount. Just over half the wall’s total height, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, and is commonly believed to have been built around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, but was not finished by the time Herod died in 4 BCE.
At the Western Wall Plaza, the total height of the Wall from its foundation is estimated at 105 feet (32 m), with the exposed section standing approximately 62 feet (19 m) high. The Wall consists of 45 stone courses, 28 of them above ground and 17 underground. This section of wall is built from enormous limestone blocks most weighing between 2 and 8 tons each, but others weigh even more, with one extraordinary stone located slightly north of Wilson’s Arch measuring 43 ft and weighing approximately 570 tons. In a broader sense, “Western Wall” can refer to the entire 1,601 ft. retaining wall on the western side of the Temple Mount. The classic portion now faces a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, near the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, while the rest of the wall is concealed behind structures in the Muslim Quarter.
Maps and Illustrations:
Temple Mount Wall:
Jerusalem over the centuries:
Sennacherib’s Lachish Relief:
Sea of Galilee:
Map of Galilee:
Map of Israel (At the Time of Christ):
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