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Posts Tagged ‘Rooted in His Word Tour of Israel’

The last day I was in Israel was a Sunday, and I was staying in Jerusalem. As a final way to close the trip, my friends and I visited the Old City one last time. It was a beautiful day. In this post, I will share with you some of the splendor of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a place that can be difficult to navigate for all the apparent organized chaos and the different manifestations of faith and ritual that are all around. This time, perhaps because it was a Sunday, I was able to genuinely enjoy the beauty and serenity of the church. Whatever you may believe about where Yeshua, the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was buried, this church is a place where generations of believers have come and remembered the crucifixion and burial of Yeshua. God said that He would be found by those who seek Him with all their heart. See Jeremiah 29:13.

 

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Our second day of touring on the recent Rooted in His Word Israel tour began in Beersheva. We were starting our “Dan to Beersheva” in earnest.

Some things to know about Beersheva:

  • the ancient tel is located in the south of Israel and 25 miles north of the Wilderness of Zin where Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt
  • Tel Beersheba is one of the oldest Biblical sites in Israel dating back to the time of the patriarchs. See
  • Excavations at Beersheba have identified many strata (different civilizations/occupations of the site)
    When the land was divided under the leadership of Joshua, Beersheba was part of the allotment of Simeon
  • The original water system for the town in ancient times was centered around the well. Later, rain water was collected from roofs and courtyards and diverted by a channel beneath the street into  the cistern. 
This gives us a good view of the ramparts of the city wall.

This provides a view of the rampart (glaci) outside of the city provided added protection for the city.
entering the city gate
Chamber inside of the gate. These areas would be used for conducting civil matters as well as business matters. Note the benches along the walls.
Benches inside the city gate where legal matters were handled by the elders of the city

Reconstruction in the gate niche showing it was plastered
another view of the gate niche which would hold soldiers in time of siege
evidence of the casemate wall that existed around the city
Beersheva – ruins of ancient tel
evidence of Israelite occupation – pillared houses
view from the observation tower – showing the extent of the ancient tel

entrance into the cistern (modern)
View looking up out of the cistern
Evidence of plastering of the cistern walls
The land/terrain surrounding Tel Beersheva
Artist’s rendering of the city in ancient times

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Finally, we come to the last two places we visited on day one of our recent Rooted in His Word Israel tour.

The first of the two was Ziklag. This was a little off the beaten path. Literally, we had to wait for the herd of goats to pass before we could proceed. We reached a point where the road was impassible, and from there we climbed the tel. Ziklag,  you may recall, was where David was at one point hiding out from Saul  in the region of the Philistines. Ziklag was a town given to David by Achish, a Philistine king. (See 1 Samuel 27:6) While David was out with his men on a “mission,” his wives and the wives of his men were kidnapped by the Amalekites and the city was burned. (See 1 Samuel 30)

The ruins at this site have not been fully excavated yet, but it is very helpful to put a place to a name in a Bible story. 

Tel Ziklag ruins

tel Ziklag Iron Age ruins
tel Ziklag Iron Age ruins
view from tel Ziklag
view from tel Ziklag

The final site of the day was another new stop on the tour. The parks service has done a wonderful job at this site. Lachish, you may recall from Bible history, was a great city of the Canaanites even before it was occupied by the Israelites. It is known as one of the fortified cities of Hezekiah, a city that was under siege by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in 701 BC during the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah. Lachish was, at the time, a highly fortified city, virtually impenetrable–or so it seemed. It had thick, tall walls, steep ramparts, and a well-fortified gate complex. The Assyrians were formidable foes, building a siege ramp against the ramparts of the city. Their custom was to use locals from surrounding towns and villages that they had already captured to build the ramp to discourage attacks on the builders. The residents of Lachish built their own counter-siege ramp, the remains of which can still be seen. To look up the siege ramp is to take in the amazing defenses of the city and to also know that they could see their end coming–closer and closer, day by day. The Assyrians were known to be such brutal enemies that some surrendered without opposition. This was not the way of the Israelites. They fought courageously until the end. 

The tel at Lachish is quite extensive. The remains of the royal palace can be seen with a large open area believed to have been used for horses and chariots. 

This site is a must-see and hopefully, we can add it to our future tours.

Assyrian siege ramp at Lachish

Walls of city of ancient Lachish

Rampart of city

Judeans fleeing Assyrians
outer gate at Lachish

Gate structure – with niche
Gate structure – Lachish
View of the expanse of the city of Lachish (much remains to be excavated)
Part of water system at Lachish

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Day one of the tour, we head south from Tel Aviv, to reach the south of Israel. On the way, we visit a couple of very interesting sites. These are new to the tour, so the excitement starts immediately. 

Beit Shemesh

You may recall the story of the how the Israelites have the bright idea of bringing the Ark of the Covenant to battle with them against the Philistines. Other armies bring their gods with them, so Israel thought it might give them a boost over their relentless enemy to bring the ark with them. Their idea turns into a nightmare when the ark is stolen by the Philistines.

This ends up being one of the most comical stories in the Bible to my way of thinking. The Philistines take the ark to Ashdod and put it in the temple with their god, Dagon. The next morning, they find Dagon face down before the ark of the covenant. They set Dagon back in his place, but the next day when they came to check, Dagon’s arms and head were missing and he was face down again before the ark of the Lord. This just led to more problems and the ark was sent from one Philistine town to another and at each stop, the people in the city suffered because of the ark or so they believed. Finally, they are so tired of people dying, being tormented by hemorrhoids and rats eating their crops that they decide to send the ark back to the Israelites. You can read the story in 1 Samuel chapters 5 and 6. 

When they send the ark back to the Israelites, the Philistines send it from Ekron, a Philistine city at the west end of the Sorek Valley, to Beit Shemesh, an Israelite city further east in the Israel-dominated end of the Sorek. 

The Tel of Beit Shemesh sits as it did in antiquity, overlooking the Sorek Valley, a complex system of ravines that protects Jerusalem on the west side from attack because of the difficulty of traveling through it. We stood on the tel and looked into the valley, rich with agriculture today and could almost hear the mooing of the milk cows drawing the wagon with the ark from Ekron.

 

Tel Beit Shemesh
Tel Beit Shemesh (ruins)
Looking east toward Jerusalem

Looking west toward Philistine territory

Cisterns

One of the things you come to look for at ancient sites in Israel are the cisterns. Because of the lack of water in the land, in order to survive the hot, dry spring and summers, occupants of the land carved cisterns out of the rock. The water would be captured and routed to these underground storage places. This is our first cistern of the trip, but it will certainly not be our last. 

Steps into the cistern – Beit Shemesh
Cistern – Beit Shemesh
Cistern
Plaster on walls of cistern to help keep water from leaching into the Limestone
Inside the cistern

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