Israel 2014--Jordan Valley; Day 7

The following descriptions in italics come from the webpage of Wayne Stiles, author of Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus. The photos are mine (Tim McKeown) from 2004.


We start the day at the south end of the Galilee area at BETH-SHEAN, one of the largest archaeological sites in Israel with Egyptian, Philistine, and Roman remains. 

Because the spot was so good, every nation wanted control of Beth Shean. And whoever held it always seemed to contend with those who would wrench it from their grasp.
Perhaps its strategic location gave Beth Shean its name, “House of Security.”
But security only works when you trust in God.
Beth Shean’s Prime Spot
As with most ancient sites in the Holy Land, geography explains the reasons for Beth Shean’s significance.
  • For thousands of years, Beth Shean stood as Canaan’s front door to all westbound traffic from the Jordan Valley to the strategic Jezreel Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Its surroundings are fertile with abundant water.
  • Egypt dominated the land of Canaan just prior to the Exodus (1446 BC), and Beth Shean served as the primary city of the region.
What God’s People Abandoned, Others Controlled
In ancient Israel, Joshua allotted the city to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). But Manasseh failed to drive out the Canaanites who lived there, and half of Manasseh settled across the Jordan Valley in what is modern Jordan (Judges 1:27).
  • During the reign of King Saul, the Philistines controlled Beth Shean. In fact, after Saul’s tragic death on nearby Mount Gilboa, the Philistines fastened the decapitated bodies of Saul and his sons to the wall of Beth Shean in the open square (1 Samuel 31:10-12; 2 Samuel 21:12).
  • The city remained a thorn in the side of Israel until the time of David and Solomon (Judges 2:3; 1 Kings 4:12).
  • After Alexander the Great swept across the Middle East, Beth Shean was renamed Scythopolis (“City of the Scythians”) and became a prosperous Greek city.
  • Once Rome gained control of Israel in the first century BC, Scythopolis became one of the cities of the Decapolis, the only one of the “ten cities” west side of the Jordan River.
  • During the Byzantine era, Scythopolis served as a major center for Christianity.

An earthquake in AD 749 toppled many of the city’s great structures and put the death blow to its prosperity. At the base of the tell today, columns still lay on their sides where they fell.
We then drive to JERICHO where the walls collapsed for the army of Israel under Joshua. 

On the monochrome landscape north of the Dead Sea, a conspicuous green splotch appears at the western edge of the Jordan Rift Valley.
“The city of palm trees” exemplifies what we imagine when we picture an oasis.
Jericho’s date palm trees have roots that stretch toward a source of fresh water that has turned a desert into a garden. Visitors to Jericho, or Tell es-Sultan, can see the perennial spring that supported the city for centuries and provided a splendid irrigation system, distributing water to the plain as well as to all travelers in antiquity. Likely, Prophet Elisha purified this spring (2 Kings 2:21).
The “oldest city on earth” also sits as the lowest one—at more than 800 feet below sea level. Jericho owes its existence to the spring, to be sure. But the city also sits at the base of the primary roads that ascended from the Jordan Rift valley up to the Hill Country of Judea. Anyone crossing the Jordan River from the Plains of Moab had Jericho to face.
The walled city stood as a strategic roadblock that no one passing could ignore.
Enter Joshua.
Joshua and Jericho—the Battle Continues Today
The favorite Bible story of many children remains Jericho’s most renowned event—the day its walls came tumbling down (Joshua 6). When Joshua and the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan Riverfrom the east, only Jericho stood between them and the Promised Land.
The archaeologist’s spade has excavated Jericho more than any other site in Israel—except Jerusalem. The tell sits as a 10-acre mound, about as big as two city blocks, with more than 26 separate layers of occupation beneath its topsoil.
  • In 1868 Charles Warren excavated Tell es-Sultan but concluded the tell offered little to consider.
  • Other archaeologists continued to dig, including Sellin and Watzinger from 1907-1913, Garstang from 1930-1936, and Kenyon from 1952-1958—to name a few examples.
  • During her excavation, Kathleen Kenyon discovered a Neolithic tower 26-feet in diameter and 26 feet high, which she dated to 8000-7000 BC. The purpose for this tower still bewilders most archaeologists. This discovery and its alleged date offer the basis for Jericho’s fantastic boast as being “the oldest city on earth.”
  • Most recently, Italian archaeologists have done significant work at the tell, finding remains from the Early and Middle Bronze periods.
We drive southwest of Jerusalem to QUMRAN, site of the community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and of Dr. Price’s excavations on the southern plateau.

In 2004, Dr. Randall Price and Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem led a team which excavated an intact, sealed, jar, discovered at Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves. It was found about 50 meters south of Qumran in an uninhabited area that may have been used for agriculture. Animal bones and pottery shards were unearthed nearby. 

A multinational team of scientists have been analyzing the jar and their findings published in the journal Archaeometry. “The finding of an intact and sealed storage jar is an extremely rare event,” the researchers stated. The discovery “provides a unique possibility to analyze its last contents.”

Altogether nine scientists are credited in the paper. Kaare Lund Rasmussen, of the University of Southern Denmark, is listed at the lead author.

We then proceed to EIN BOQEK by the southern end of the Dead Sea to check-in to the beautiful Isrotel Hotel (the better one).


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