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Israel Museum

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts


Our final day in Israel started with a visit to the Garden Tomb, sometimes referred to as Gordon's Calvary. This site is often offered as an alternative site to Golgotha from the Church of the Holy Sepulture. In my opinion, it is probably not the site of Golgotha, but it is a nice place to visit anyway. Afterwards, we visited the Israel Museum. Seeing the large, outdoor mode of Jerusalem during the first century helps to bring everything we have learned together. This model is a powerful teaching tool and I always encourage my tours to take many pictures. We were also able to view many of the Dead Sea Scrolls and many items in the Archaeological wing of the museum.

We drove out to the coast and walked around ancient Joppa. This stop in the late afternoon offers some panoramic views of the coastal area of Tel Aviv. I am always reminded of how Jonah came here and unsuccessfully tried to run away from God.

After dinner, we headed to the airport and flew home. It is hard to believe that this tour is already over. I always encourage my travelers to use this tour as a jumping off place to learn more about Biblical geography. If you understand the land of Israel, many of the Biblical stories become clearer and will enhance your understanding of the scriptures.

Before the nation of Israel entered into the promised land, Moses described the land to them. He said:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. - Deuteronomy 8:7-10

Until next time, shalom.

Note: The photo at the top of this post is our group shot from the Mount of Olives.

One Year Ago - The Israel Museum

The Mediterranean Sea from the city of Ashkelon. NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went to the Israel Museum and to Ashkelon.

We started our day with a stop at the Israel Museum. This is your typical museum with more things to see than you could possibly see in a few hours. We started off at the huge model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. This is a fantastic way to visualize the way that the city looked during the time of Jesus. Our attention was then directed into the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. We ended our tour of the museum in the Archaeology wing, where we could see many different artifacts related to Biblical history.

Our last stop of the day was at the tel at Ashkelon. Most tour groups don't travel all the way to this site. But, I have some good friends that were in Israel working the dig at this city. They provided us with a fantastic personal tour of the site and showed us the work that they are doing.

Tomorrow: Our journey ends.

2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year's tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.


DSCN1428 The Romans were experts at crucifixion. A few years ago, a first century ossuary was found in Jerusalem. Upon opening it up, they found the bones of a crucified man. This picture, of a nail through an ankle bone, is a vivid reminder of how terrible of an ordeal it was.

The Final Day

The Final Day


Well, the tour is over. I am sending this post from my home in Athens, Alabama. Due to time limitations, I was not able to send a post last night. We woke up yesterday morning a little later than usual, allowing us to have some extra sleep and time to pack our bags for the voyage home. We started the day at the Israel Museum. We spent about 2.5 hours there, but that was only long enough to make us wish that we could spend a week. There are three primary sections to the museum: 1) The large model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period, 2) the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and 3) the museum itself.

We toured the large model (about a half acre in size) first. This is a wonderful visual aid to understanding Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. If given the opportunity, I would love to teach a series of lessons using that model as my background. You can describe so many stories from the Gospels and Acts by examining the model in light of Scripture.

We then turned our attention to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Having visited Qumran earlier in the trip, it was nice to see the actual scrolls being displayed.

Finally, we visited the archaeology wing of the museum (there are many other wings that we did not even walk into). Our quick tour of that wing showed us so many things that related to our tour and passages in the Bible.

duttonsHaving finished at the Museum, we headed southwest toward the coast. I have two friends, Trent and Rebekah Dutton, who are currently getting their Masters Degree at Wheaton College in Chicago in Biblical Archaeology. To accomplish that goal, they have been participating at a dig at the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. They agreed to meet us at the site and to give us a personal guided tour of the site and of the work that they are doing. It was a fantastic tour and I believe that everyone enjoyed the personal touch. The main thing that I learned from the tour is how large the city of Ashkelon was. The site itself (which is made up of three tels) rivals the size of Hazor in the north on just pure size. In addition, by seeing its location on the coast makes it easy to understand why it was such an important city.

From there we headed north toward Joppa. We spent about an hour touring the city and seeing how beautiful it is. It is through this port that cedar wood from Lebanon was delivered to build Solomon’s Temple. Jonah tried to run from God here. And, Peter received a vision which instructed him to teach to Good News of Jesus to the Gentile people.

tel_avivAfter a final dinner, we headed toward the airport. Ben Gurion International Airport is known as one of the most secure airports in the world. You need to arrive early because there are several different levels of security to go through. We all made it through fine and boarded our flight to New York City. The flight was smooth and even landed a little ahead of schedule. At New York City, we all parted ways to go to our separate home destinations.

It was a great tour. I could not have asked for a kinder, more fun group than the people that came with me on this tour. They never complained and were glad to be spending this wonderful time together.

Visiting the land of Israel opens the Bible in ways that you had never considered. I’ll end these series of posts by reminding us of the words of Moses as he spoke to the people before entering the land of Canaan:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. - Deuteronomy 8:7-10

I agree. It’s a wonderful land. And, I can’t wait to go back. Until then, shalom.

Let Your Light Shine

Let Your Light Shine


During Biblical times, small oil lamps were used to light the inside of a house. But, in order for them to be most effective, the lamps needed to be placed in a location where they could light the entire room. This was accomplished by building small niches into the interior walls. These niches were above head level and were just large enough to hold a small oil lamp. From that location, a lit lamp could provide light to an entire room. As Jesus spoke in what is commonly called the "Sermon on the Mount", He said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16

The picture at the top of this post is of a couple of small oil lamps very similar to what Jesus would have been referring to as He spoke. Knowing the details helps you to better understand the Bible accounts.

(I took this picture of the lamps while visiting the Israel Museum in Jerusalem last year. If you are reading this post via email, you will probably need to click on the title to view the post from the web page to see the image.)

Theodotos Inscription

Theodotos Inscription


Earlier tonight, I was involved in a study of Acts 6, dealing with the early church in Jerusalem. Part of the passage reads:

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. - Acts 6:8-9

As we read the passage, I was reminded of an artifact that I saw last September in the Israel Museum. In 1914, a French archaeologist found an inscription while digging in the Ophel, just south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The inscription, called the Theodotos Inscription, is about 25 inches wide by 17 inches high. It reads:

Theodotos son of Vettenus, priest and synagogue leader, son of a synagogue leader, grandson of a synagogue leader, rebuilt this synagogue for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments, and the hostelry, rooms and baths, for the lodging of those who have need from abroad. It was established by his forefathers, the elders and Simonides.

The black screens cover the areas of the Ophel Excavations on the south end of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.The "Freedmen" that were mentioned were freed slaves of the Diaspora. This First Century inscription was possibly mounted above one of the synagogues of the freedmen that we read about in Acts 6.

Of particular note is the use of the term "synagogue leader". That exact same term is used by Luke (who also wrote Acts) in his gospel (13:15, 18:8, 18:17). Each time, it is referring to a leader of the Jews of the Diaspora.

NOTE: If you are reading this via email, you might need to click on the title to see a picture of the inscription.

H/T Ferrell Jenkins

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display.This morning, while visiting Israel, President Obama had the opportunity to visit the Israel Museum. In particular, he visited an area of the museum called "The Shrine of the Book", where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the caves of Qumran and are some of the oldest manuscripts of the Bible. Earlier today, USA Today posted a video of him visiting the site. This video is rather rare in the fact that cameras are normally not allowed in this area. Having been there a couple of times, I've been "reminded" of the rules by the kind museum employees. I guess I'll need to go get myself elected President of the United States if I want my own pictures!

Herod the Great Exhibit Video

Back in December, I posted a blog entry about the upcoming Herod the Great exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Earlier today, I saw a great video made by the Israel Museum promoting the upcoming exhibit. It is only a minute long and I encourage you to watch it.

Even though it is not mentioned in the video, I am fairly confident that it was filmed at the large Jerusalem model at the museum. During Jesus' time, the palace was located on the western edge of the city. Knowing the location of places like this help you to better understand the Biblical accounts.

For instance, during the trials of Jesus, we read:

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other. - Luke 23:6-12

Although it is not explicitly mentioned, it is reasonable to conclude that this conversation took place in Herod's palace. With that mind, let's consider the last days of Jesus' life.

  • He started in Bethany (about 2 miles east of Jerusalem).
  • He came into town for the last supper with his apostles (possibly in the upper city).
  • He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray (located outside the eastern side of the city).
  • He was arrested and led to the house of Caiaphas (possibly located in the upper city).
  • In the morning, He was led to the Sanhedrin (exact location unknown).
  • He was then led to Pilate (located in either the Antonio Fortress or in or near the palace).
  • He was then led to Herod (probably in the palace on the western edge of the city).
  • He was then led back to Pilate.
  • Finally, He was led to the cross (located outside the city).

That is a lot of walking.

We often read passages like "he sent Him to Herod" and don't take the time to consider the fact that he walked these distances (possibly in shackles) with very little sleep. It is no wonder that the guards did not have to break His legs to speed up His death during the crucifixion. By the time Jesus made it to the cross, He was completely exhausted.

As I mentioned earlier, knowing the locations of these Biblical places help you understand the stories.

Snow at the Israel Museum

I'm still seeing a large number of great pictures taken around Israel with regards to the snow. In particular, one picture this morning caught my eye. At the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, there is a rather large model of the city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. You can walk around it and stare at it for hours remembering the stories that you have read in the Bible. On their Facebook page this morning, they posted the following picture of the model in the snow: The model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum.  Photo courtesy of the Israel Museum.

You can compare that picture to one that I took back when I visited back in September:

The Temple Mount representation at the Jerusalem Model at the Israel Museum.

With all of these pictures of snow in Jerusalem this week, I was reminded by a good friend who lives in Washington State of a passage from the period of the King David:

Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. - 1 Chronicles 11:22

Herod the Great Exhibit

Even today, you can see hundreds of stones used by Herod the Great to build the massive Temple Mount structure.A few weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of understanding the Herodium. Even though the Herodium is never mentioned in the Bible, learning about it helps you to understand Herod the Great, who was the Roman ruler in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. Recently, CNN had a video report of a new exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is slated to run from February to September of next year and will be dedicated to the history and architecture of Herod the Great. This is fantastic as it will allow us to see many of the artifacts that surround this historically important individual.

Since it is highly unlikely that many of us will be able to travel to Jerusalem to see the exhibit, we'll need to hope that there will be a lot of pictures and/or videos posted on the Internet. As I see information on the exhibit, I will try to pass them along.

2012 Israel Trip - Day Ten

2012 Israel Trip - Day Ten


Today was a short day. This is our last full day (sort of) in Israel. Therefore, we cut the day short so that we could all come back to the hotel and get packed up for the flight to the United States tomorrow night. We started our day with a surprise visit to Nabi Samuel. It is a location north of the city of Jerusalem in which you can view the land of Benjamin. The view was magnificent and helped us to better understand the land which was given to the Israelites by God.

From there, we went to the Israel Museum. This was of particular interest to me for a number of reasons. And, those reasons can be mapped to different parts of the museum.

Jerusalem Model - There is a huge model of the city of Jerusalem in the First Century. Everything that we have learned over the last several days can be molded into a practical understanding by looking at the model. Last time I was at the Israel Museum, we arrived at the model about 10 minutes before closing. Therefore, we barely had time to fully understand it and take all of the pictures that we needed. Numerous times since my last visit I wished I had more pictures of this model. I remedied that today. I'm sure that I will realize later that I missed some angles, but I took dozens and dozens of pictures that I hope to use in Bible classes.

Shrine of the Book - This is where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. Earlier in the trip, we visited Qumran, which is where they were found. Now, we get the chance to actually see some of them. It is very interesting.

Main Hall - The last time I was here, the Main Hall was under renovation, therefore, we were not able to go in. This time, not only were we able to go in, but we were able to take pictures (which had not been allowed until a couple of months ago). The museum is very well laid out. Like all museums, we could have spent days there, however, we didn't have that much time. We quickly hit the "high spots", allowing ourselves to see some artifacts that we had discussed earlier in the trip. Anybody that comes over here should make it a point to spend some time at this museum.

Our day ended with a trip to the Garden Tomb. For years, some people thought that this was the actual tomb of Jesus. Due to other evidence, most have backed off of that claim now. However, it does allow us to see a good example of an Iron Age tomb.

Tomorrow will be an exciting day because we will spend most of the time driving through the Shephelah. Our flight is due to leave Israel late tomorrow night and arrive in the United States Saturday morning. I'll do my best to post something while I'm waiting to board the flight tomorrow night. If I don't get the chance, I'll post something as soon as I can upon returning home.

Israel Museum Walk-Through

Israel Museum Walk-Through


Only weeks after hearing word that the Israel Museum is now allowing photography inside the museum, we learn that they have been working with the Google Art Project to give you an interactive walkthrough of the entire museum. Although it is not the same as actually walking through the hallways, it is a lot cheaper. I have been able to visit the Shrine of the Book (which houses some of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the enormous model of First Century Jerusalem. I'm looking forward to the opportunity in the near future to hopefully walk through these walls myself.

Photo courtesy of the Australian News.