Monday, June 2, 2014

Israel 2014 -- Hezekiah's Water Tunnel; Day 9

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.

 JERUSALEM - We start late morning at the Temple Mount Sifting Project to hopefully find artifacts from soil removed from under the Temple Mount.  

Abraham saw the acreage. David bought the lot. Solomon built the house.

Nebuchadnezzar tore it town. Zerubbabel rebuilt it. Herod the Great expanded it. Titus flattened it. Before these temples stood on Mount Moriah, it was nothing but a hill used for threshing wheat.
But today, the Temple Mount remains the most precious piece of real estate in the world. And the golden shrine that graces its crest has become the icon for the Holy City of Jerusalem itself.
How did this ordinary hill become holy? Not through battles or land bartering or by popular vote. God chose it.
Abraham Saw the Acreage
The site of the Temple Mount first appeared on the scene when God told Abraham to go to the land of Moriah and sacrifice Isaac there (Genesis 22:2).
The “Binding of Isaac” climaxed with the Lord providing a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in the place of his only son. Thus the saying began: “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided” (Genesis 22:14).
David Bought the Lot and Solomon Built the House
One millennium after Abraham, King David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite as a site to offer sacrifices after his David’s sin with the census (2 Samuel 24:18-25).
In the same area where Abraham came to offer Isaac, and on the very hill where David offered burnt offerings for his sin, Solomon began to build the First Temple on Mount Moriah in 966 BC (1 Kings 6:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” —2 Chronicles 3:1
The original size of the Temple Mount was smaller than the outline we see today, which is Herodian. Leen Ritmeyer has convincingly argued in his excellent volume, The Quest, that the Mishna’s measurements of a 500-cubit square Temple Mount fit with the archaeological evidence.
At the bottom of a staircase to the northwest of the Dome of the Rock lies a large step precisely 500 cubits (750 feet) from the eastern wall. Ritmeyer points to this step as the top of the pre-Herodian western wall.  The step since has been covered over with new pavement.
Along the outside of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, a seam in the wall clearly joins two sections of wall built at different eras. If the older part of this seam forms the pre-Herodian corner of the 500-cubit square Temple Mount, then the Dome of the Rock covers the spot where the Temple stood—including, of course, the Holy of Holies.
Nebuchadnezzar Tore it Down and Zerubbabel Rebuilt It
The Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar tore down the First Temple on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) in 586 BC. It had stood for 380 years.
The exiled Jews returned to their land after 70 years when Cyrus the Great allowed them to rebuild the Temple. The structure Zerubbabel erected seemed modest in comparison to Solomon’s magnificent edifice. Following the first Maccabean triumphs, the Jews improved it even more.
Herod the Great Expanded it and Titus Flattened it Again
The most elaborate reconstruction and renovation occurred when Herod the Great began his extensive building project that would crown the Second Temple.
Herod expanded the Temple Mount north, west, and south to its present dimensions of thirty-five acres.
After Herod the Great expanded the hill, its topography lay hidden beneath acres of backfill and retaining walls.
The construction of Herod’s marvelous temple began in 20 BC and continued for 83 years (imagine that!).
This was the Temple Jesus knew, whose destruction He predicted (Matthew 24:1-2). The Southern Steps of the Temple Mount where pilgrims walk today would have felt Jesus’ sandals too.
In AD 70 Titus rolled in his Roman legions and destroyed on Tisha B’Av in a matter of days what had taken decades to construct (see Daniel 9:26). Stones from the Second Temple still lay in the first-century street where archaeologists found them.

After lunch we go to DAVID’s CITY to see the recently excavated remains of the palace and WARREN’S SHAFT and SPRING TOWER from the Jebusite & Canaanite periods, and to walk through HEZEKIAH’S WATER TUNNEL.

Picture Source click here

When people picture the city of Jerusalem, they usually think of the historic Western Wall, or the Old City, or the Temple Mount crowned with the Golden Dome of the Rock.
But people on our tour were surprised to learn that the original city of Jerusalem lay just south of the Temple Mount on a small spur of land that encompassed about only ten acres.
Crammed with houses and punctured with archaeological digs, the original area of Jerusalem looks much different today than it did three thousand years ago when King David conquered it.
Today, this part of Jerusalem retains the name, “The City of David,” and offers a number of archeological interests that relate to the monarch. The best way to view the area is to ascend the stairs just inside the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and stand atop the observation platform.
The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.
King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah. Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God.

After Assyria invaded Judah and began besieging the fortified cities (2 Chronicles 32:1).
“Hezekiah decided with his officers and his warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and the stream which flowed through the region, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?’ . . . It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David” (2 Chronicles 32:3-4, 30).

We conclude our day visiting the new excavations at the POOL OF SILOAM where you will be walking on the same stones that Jesus walked on.  To see on a map, click here
This is the picture I took in 2004. 
The Siloam Pool has long been considered a sacred Christian site, even if the correct identification of the site itself was uncertain. According to the Gospel of John, it was at the Siloam Pool where Jesus healed the blind man (John 9:1–11).
Traditionally, the Christian site of the Siloam Pool was the pool and church that were built by the Byzantine empress Eudocia (c. 400–460 A.D.) to commemorate the miracle recounted in the New Testament. However, the exact location of the original pool as it existed during the time of Jesus remained a mystery until June 2004.
During construction work to repair a large water pipe south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, at the southern end of the ridge known as the City of David, archaeologists Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron identified two ancient stone steps. Further excavation revealed that they were part of a monumental pool from the Second Temple period, the period in which Jesus lived. The structure Reich and Shukron discovered was 225 feet long, with corners that are slightly greater than 90 degrees, indicating a trapezoidal shape, with the widening end oriented toward Tyropoeon valley.
The Siloam Pool is adjacent to the area in the ancient City of David known as the King’s Garden and is just southeast of the remains of the fifth-century church and pool traditionally believed to be the sacred Christian site.
Artist’s rendering of the Siloam Pool, the Biblical Christian site where Jesus healed the blind man. Image: Jason Clarke. Source: click here

We then walk up the newly opened tunnel to the Western Wall area. Check into the Dan Jerusalem.

When you say the words “The Western Wall,” most folks think of the Western Wall plaza:
  • It’s the place where bar- and bat-mitzvahs regularly occur and where soldiers are inducted.
  • It’s the spot where ultra- and orthodox Jews come to pray—as well as many tourists—and the place of national prayer gatherings.
  • It’s Judaism’s most sacred site.
But like the tip of an iceberg, the Western Wall plaza represents only a small part of the whole. There’s much more of the wall to see. Most of the Western Wall lies buried beneath the rubble of time and hasn’t seen the light of day for centuries. But a tunnel lets you see the entire length of the wall today.

The Western Wall Tunnel
Because the site represents part of the Western Wall, the tour requests all men to cover their heads in respect. The model explains the stages of building the first two temples on the site.
  1. Solomon built the original temple, and the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BC.
  2. After the Jews’ return from exile, Zerubbabel helped rebuild the temple. Herod the Greatgreatly expanded it in the first century BC—though the construction continued into the first century—decades after Herod’s death.
The stones visible in the tunnel tour date from Herod’s time and represent the western section of the massive retaining wall that supported the base of the Second Temple. But these treasures weren’t always visible.

Israel 2014 -- Bethlehem; Day 10

BETHLEHEM - Christmas comes early this year as this morning you enter BETHLEHEM.

The merchant shops of modern Bethlehem make use of the town’s famous event by selling mass-produced olive wood nativity sets and Christmas paraphernalia. Not even in Bethlehem can we escape the commercialism of Christmas.

But just east of the city lies a large pasture known as “The Shepherds’ Field.”
  • Here the modern traveler can exchange Christmas shopping for the Christmas story.
  • No olive wood sets . . . just olive trees. No merchants hawking trinkets . . . just some local children holding lambs in their arms.
  • This rocky meadow represents the likely location of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds that first Christmas night.
Born to Shepherd. Born to Die as a Lamb.

The shepherds guarded flocks of sheep that were raised for sacrifice in Jerusalem. They heard the words from the angelic herald:
Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. —Luke 2:11
These words gave a glimpse of what salvation would cost: the Babe in the manger would become the final sacrificial Lamb (Luke 2:11-12; John 1:29).

Jesus—just like the flocks the shepherds pastured that night—was born to die in Jerusalem, only five miles up the road from Bethlehem.

Jesus’ Birth Story Had You in Mind
Why would the Lord first announce the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds? Why would Jesus’ birth story begin in a barn?

Scripture reveals that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,” and Jesus Himself would later pray:
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. —Luke 10:21
God choose such an ignoble beginning for such an important birth, perhaps for the same reason He would choose such an ignoble death for such an exemplary life.

Because God had you in mind.

The Lord knew that we—lowly sinners—needed a Savior. Jesus came to the lowly, lived a humble life, and died an ignoble death. All so that we could have our sins forgiven by faith in Him.

Climb the HERODIAN, the mountain-fortress of Herod the Great where the infamous king’s tomb was just excavated several years ago.

Hearing from the Magi that the “king of the Jews” was born in Bethlehem, the paranoid Herod sent and slew all the male boys under two years old in the town—a cryptic fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.

Of course, Jesus’ family got word of the impending threat and escaped by night to sojourn in Egypt until Herod’s death (Matthew 2:13-18).

Whenever I visit the area of the Herodium, I can’t help but think of the historical irony that Herod tried to kill Jesus—but failed. Instead, Herod himself died and was buried in the Herodium overlooking the very city the Messiah was born (Micah 5:2).

This offers a lesson of great encouragement in God’s sovereignty.

Devotional Thought for the Herodium
Read Matthew 2:1-18.

God warned Joseph in a dream to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt. In a wonderful twist of poetic irony (i.e. God’s sovereignty), the raving King Herod died and was buried in the Herodium—where archaeologists recently discovered his tomb—overlooking the birthplace of the true King of Israel.

Caesar’s census caused Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem two years earlier. Herod’s murderous edict caused them to leave Bethlehem.

We can take encouragement that though the most powerful rulers in world make decrees and decisions that require us to move on, they only play into God’s sovereignty.

This wasn’t the first Joseph, by the way, whom God spoke to in dreams and sent to Egypt. What the patriarch said 2000 years before Jesus was born was just as true with Jesus’ move to Egypt: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
God uses even godless decisions to bring about good in our lives. That’s His sovereignty. (Tweet that.)
The Lord’s will for our lives is never thwarted by godless decisions. Instead He uses them for His purposes and for our good.

We then go to the SHEPHERD’S FIELD (YMCA) to sing Christmas carols inside a shepherd’s cave (with manger outside!).

Caves where shepherds “kept watch over their flock” still abound in the area east of Bethlehem. Here, the Gospel of Luke tells us, an angel announced the birth of Jesus.

The angel’s good news was not given to the noble or pious, but to workers with a low reputation. Jewish literature ranked “shepherd” as among the most despised occupations of the time — but Christ was to identify himself with this occupation when he called himself “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

The traditional place of the angel’s visit is the town of Beit Sahur. Originally known as the Village of the Shepherds, it is now an eastern suburb of Bethlehem.

The tradition connected with the Shepherds’ Field is complicated by the fact that archaeologists have identified more than one possible site.

Next we enter the CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, the traditional birthplace of Jesus and site of Jerome’s translation of the Latin Vulgate.

Entering the church that marks the site of Christ’s birthplace means having to stoop low. The only doorway in the fortress-like front wall is just 1.2 metres high.

The previous entrance to the Church of the Nativity was lowered around the year 1500 to stop looters from driving their carts in. To Christians, it seems appropriate to bow low before entering the place where God humbled himself to become man.

Today’s basilica, the oldest complete church in the Christian world, was built by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It replaced the original church of Constantine the Great, built over the cave venerated as Christ’s birthplace, and dedicated in AD 339.

Before Constantine, the first Christian emperor, the Romans had tried to wipe out the memory of the cave. They planted a grove dedicated to the pagan god Adonis, lover of Venus, and established his cult in the cave.

As St Jerome wrote in AD 395, “The earth’s most sacred spot was overshadowed by the grave of Adonis, and the cave where the infant Christ once wept was where the paramour of Venus was bewailed.”

After time to shop at an OLIVE WOOD STORE we go back to Jerusalem and return to the Dan Jerusalem.

Israel 2014 -- Gethsemane; Empty Tomb; Day 11

The house of the High Priest where Jesus was questioned.
JERUSALEM - Begin today at CAIAPHAS’ HOUSE and then walk the VIA DOLOROSA, Jesus’ path to the cross, ending at the CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE, the traditional site of the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus. 

The Via Dolorosa
Jerusalem’s modern Via Dolorosa—the “Way of Suffering” that venerates Jesus’ walking route from Pilate’s Praetorium to Golgotha—owes its location to tradition, not history. The same is true with the nearby Ecce Homo Arch and the Monastery of the Flagellation.

Unfortunately, for many Christian sites, tradition trumps truth and history. 

The misunderstanding occurred because many assume Pilate judged Jesus at the Antonia Fortress, which was located at the northwest corner of the Temple Mount.

However, Josephus indicated that the Roman governor resided in Herod the Great’s palace—the Tower of David Citadel beside today’s Jaffa Gate—and set up his judgment seat before it (Wars, 2.14). Philo affirms that Pilate stayed in the palace (Leg. in Caium, 38, 39).

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One of the biggest surprises to Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem occurs when they step inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection falls short of the expectations of many Christians accustomed to Western worship.

Gold drips from icons. Chanting fills the spaces. Incense rises between cold stone walls. Six sects of Christendom betray jealous rivalries over the goings-on within. Territorial fistfights even occur on occasion. 

Without proper mental preparation, a Christian pilgrim may see only the distracting depravity of religion that has affixed itself to this site like barnacles on sunken treasure.

But if we look past today’s traditionalism to history’s tradition, we find an unbroken connection to the central event of all time—the redemption of the universe.

For in this place, Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again.

Next we return to the MT of OLIVES and walk down “disciples path” to DOMINUS FLEVIT, the place where Christ wept over Jerusalem and to the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE where He prayed.

Dominus Flevit, which translates from Latin as "The Lord Wept", was fashioned in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Christ. Here, according to the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, while walking toward the city of Jerusalem, becomes overwhelmed by the beauty of the Second Temple and predicting its future destruction, and the diaspora of the Jewish people, weeps openly (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin language). (Luke 19:37-42)

The site of Christ's weeping was unmarked until the Crusader era. It was during this time that people began commemorating the site. Eventually a small chapel was built there. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187, the church fell into ruin. In the early sixteenth century a mosque or madrasah existed at the site, presumably built by the Turks, from the remains of the earlier church, although the exact use is disputed. This place was known as el Mansouriyeh (The Triumphant) and also el Khelweh (The Hermitage).

Our reflection on the sufferings of the Savior climax at the GARDEN TOMB with a COMMUNION SERVICE under the olive trees.

Special FAREWELL DINNER at an exclusive Israeli restaurant and then to BEN-GURION Airport for your security check-in and 11:10 P.M. flight to the United States.