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Anise and Cummin

Anise and Cummin


In my last post, I presented a picture of frankincense and myrrh that that I took while walking around the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, I want to show you the seeds of two more spices from that same store. 

In Matthew 23 we read:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
— Matthew 23:23

Anise and cummin were used as spices for the flavoring of foods. This practice is still common today. 

Frankincense and Myrrh

Frankincense and Myrrh


I love walking through the Old City of Jerusalem. Within the city, there are half a dozen spice shops. These shops allow you the opportunity to see things that it is more difficult to see in the United States. When I was there a few weeks ago, I ran across a couple of bowls which contained frankincense and myrrh. 

Of course, this reminds me of the passage in Matthew 2:9-11:

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Walking Like Jesus (Southern Steps of Temple Mount)

Walking Like Jesus (Southern Steps of Temple Mount)


Recently, I was asked to speak on the topic of "Walking Like Jesus". I thought that I would share some of my thoughts from that presentation in a series of blog posts. Since Jesus was raised by a good Jewish family, he undoubtedly made many trips to Jerusalem during His childhood. We read in Luke 2 of one particular trip that His family made.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. - Luke 2:41-51

The picture at the top of this post is of the southern steps leading up to the Temple Mount.

Jesus walked here.

During the first century, King Herod remodeled the temple. It was (and still is) a monumental structure. The entire Temple Mount area covers 39 acres. No doubt, it would have been awe-inspiring to a 12-year old boy from a small village in Galilee.

What can we learn about Jesus' visit here? We can learn that when Jesus walked up those steps, He already knew what His purpose in life was to be. He was here to fulfill His Father's will. Recognizing this, it begs the question: Do you know what your purpose in life is?

We have many distractions in life. Jobs, family, friends, entertainment, etc are all things that occupy our time. And, they often impact the decisions that we need to make. Jesus once said:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.

Notice that Jesus did not tell us not to see other things in life. But, we are to seek God first.

Do you want to walk like Jesus? Then take a walk up the southern steps of the Temple Mount and remember that our purpose in life is to serve God.

Bonus information:

Recently, I have been involved with Appian Media to film videos about the early life of Jesus. While we were in Israel, we filmed some videos on the steps to the Temple Mount that I mentioned above. One of our photographers, Craig Dehut, recorded a small recap video from that day and the personal impact visiting this location had on him.


How would you like to join me next summer on a Bible study tour of Israel? Next June, I will be leading another tour group and I would love for you to join me! Reservations and deposits are already coming in, but we still have plenty of room. This is a first-class tour with every moment filled with something to remember.

We will be visiting Caesarea, Nazareth, Megiddo, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Hazor, Dan, Jezreel, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and dozens of other places. This tour is perfect for husbands/wives, parents/children, grandparents/grandchildren, and anyone who is a student of God's Word.

If you are interested, please contact me and go to my website to find out more information!

Two Days of Touring

Two Days of Touring


Shalom everyone! I apologize for not posting anything last night. When you lead a tour, sometimes there are things that you need to do to make sure everything is set up and ready to go.

We started yesterday morning at the top of the Mount of Olives. After taking our group picture, we were able to view this beautiful city and discuss many of the Biblical events that happened within the view. We then walked down the Mount of Olives to the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The City of David was next on our agenda. After viewing the possible remains of the palace of King David, we walked down to the Gihon Spring. Most of our group then walked through Hezekiah's Tunnel, which still has water flowing through it 2700 years after it was built.

After lunch at Ramat Rachel Kibbutz, we drove to Bethlehem. We stopped by Kando's Store and viewed the largest Dead Sea Scroll jar that has been preserved. From here, we went to the Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of the birth of Jesus.

This morning, we started at the Western Wall. This Jewish holy site is always a highlight of the tour. Everyone had the opportunity to touch the wall and have their picture made in front of it.

We then went through the Western Wall Tunnels to view some of the huge stones that comprise this massive building effort by King Herod.

After a stop by the Pools of Bethesda, we walked the Via Dolorosa to the Church of he Holy Sepulture. Tourism is very high here in Israel, and the church was no exception. I estimate that the queue to see inside the crypt was at least three hours.

It was now lunchtime and I wanted to visit one of my favorite places, Jacob's Pizza near the Jaffa Gate. I mentioned it to the group, and before I knew it, nearly all of the group was following me to taste this homemade pizza. It was delicious and I'm glad that everyone enjoyed it.

After eating, we walked through the Spice Market and saw different sites in the Jewish Quarter. We ended the day by touring the Davidson Archeological Museum and sitting on original temple steps from the first century. A great way to end the day.

Tomorrow, we will head to one of my favorite places in the land, the Shephelah.

Until then, shalom.


To read other blogs about the tour, here are a couple of links:

Jeremy Dehut -

Jane Britnell -

Down The Rift Valley

Down The Rift Valley


This evening, we arrived in the beautiful city of Jerusalem. Unlike what is being reported on the news right now, it is exactly as I remember it from my last visit. In fact, when we arrived at Jericho today, it was more crowded with tourists than I have ever seen it. So, whatever is being reported back home isn't exactly what is happening here on the ground. In other words, as much as we all appreciate your care and concern, we are doing just fine. I always hate leaving Galilee, but that is what we were required to do to keep on our schedule. Very soon, we found ourselves at Tel Jezreel, the site of the palace so Ahab and Jezebel. From the hillside, you can see the locations of many Biblical stories.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Spring of Harod. Gideon narrowed his army to 300 men by giving them a test here. The water was actually flowing a little bit. Since we are at the end of the dry season, I had not expected this.

A visit to Bet She'an was next on the agenda. The amount of ruins that are visible here is overwhelming. By claiming to the top of the tel, you get a good appreciation for the strategic importance of this location.

By driving down the Jordan Rift Valley, we found ourselves at Jericho. Whenever we stop there, I want to talk to the group for an hour discussing all that happened here. But, it was very hot when we arrived. So, I abbreviated my comments and then finished them up when we were all back in our touring coach.

After a quick visit to the traditional baptismal site, we made our way "up to Jerusalem". We will spend the next five nights here and enjoy all of the sites in this wonderful city.

We are all having a great time and the sarcasm is getting more and more intense. I can't wait to spend time with all of them again tomorrow.

Until then, shalom.

Why Study Biblical Geography? Part III

file_zps5d96c665In my last two posts, I have discussed two reasons why I study Biblical geography. For review, they were: Reason #1: I study Biblical geography to better understand God's people. Reason #2: I study Biblical geography to better understand God's Word.

Today, I'm going to discuss the final reason, which is:

Reason #3: I study Biblical geography to better understand God.

Imagine yourself standing on the Mount of Olives. Most likely, you see yourself spending most of your time staring at the huge Temple Mount area as you slowly locate different Biblical sites.

Now, imagine that King David is standing next to you. You could ask him, "Isn't that beautiful?" He would answer "yes". But, then you notice that he is not looking in the same direction as you are. He is looking south of the Temple Mount area.

See, in David's time, the city of Jerusalem sat on a small, 9-acre peninsula of land just south of the current Temple Mount. That is where the ancient Jebusite city was located. It was there due to two reasons. First, with the Gihon Spring, there was a nice water source. Second, with valleys and hills around it, the city was easily defendable.

Jerusalem, during the time of David, was bounded by the Hinnom Valley to the south, the Kidron Valley to the east, and the Central Valley on the west. On the opposite sides of those valleys were hills. Across the Central Valley, the western hill rises to about 2600 feet in elevation. Across the Hinnom Valley, the southern hill rises to about 2500 feet in elevation. Across the Kidron Valley, the Mount of Olives rises to nearly 2700 feet in elevation. The city of Jerusalem sits at approximately 2400 feet in elevation.

Why did I tell you all of this? I told you all of this so that you would understand one single verse. It reads:

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. - Psalms 125:2

Isn't that beautiful?

This psalm was written at a time in which the entire city of Jerusalem sat on this small piece of land and it is surrounded by hills that are all higher than the city itself. The writer of this psalm is expecting us to fully understand these geographical features so that we can completely appreciate the point that is being made.

And in doing so, we can better understand God.

Why do I study Biblical Geography? Three reasons: 1) I study Biblical geography to better understand God's people. 2) I study Biblical geography to better understand God's Word. 3) I study Biblical geography to better understand God.

Words Mean Something

Herod's palace, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima. Words mean something.

I know that saying is a bit of a cliche, but it is true. Words do mean something. And, in the Bible, they really mean something. The writers of the Bible did not just add words to meet some "minimal word count". They meant exactly what they said.

Recently, I finished a study of the Book of Acts. In one of the passages, Luke records a conversation between Festus and the Jews in Jerusalem. Note the prepositions that Luke uses:

Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” - Acts 25:1-12

Isn't that interesting?

Today, we usually refer to "up" as "going to the north". And, we refer to "down" as "going to the south". However, that is not the way that the Biblical writers used those words. According to them, "up" meant "up" and "down" meant "down".

Jerusalem sits on the crest of the central mountain range at an elevation of approximately 2,700 feet. Caesarea, since it is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, sits at sea level. So, from their perspective, the path to go to Jerusalem was definitely going "up". And, from Jerusalem, you would go "down" to get to Caesarea.

As you read through the Bible, don't just read past these small prepositional phrases without thinking about them. Why? Because words mean something.

One Year Ago - A Walk Through the Old City

Our group in front of the Dome of the Rock. 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 walked through the Old City.

Our day began by entering the Temple Mount area and viewing the city from there. You can imagine the temple as it once stood on this location before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. The beautiful Dome of the Rock now stands out on this platform.

Our tour continued at the Pools of Bethesda and then we walked west on the Via Dolorosa toward the Church of the Holy Sepulture. After eating lunch and doing some shopping in the Christian Quarter, we walked through the Spice Market and arrived at the Jewish Quarter where we visited the Western Wall.

We toured the ancient city of David and then walked through Hezekiah's tunnel. Our day ended on the steps leading up to the southern end of the Temple Mount. Jesus and His family used these same steps about 2,000 years ago.

Tomorrow: We visit the Shephelah.

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.

One Year Ago - Up To Jerusalem

bethshan 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 "up to Jerusalem". I have read that phrase a hundred times in the Scriptures. But until you actually go up those mountains and find Jerusalem on the ridge, you don't quite understand it.

We left our hotel in Tiberias and traveled south, stopping on Beit-shan. The excavations at this city are amazing and from the top of the tel, you can see the strategic importance of this city. Any traffic traveling east-to-west through the Harod Valley or north-to-south through the Jordan Rift Valley could be closely monitored by this city.

We followed this stop with visits to the Spring of Harod (where Gideon gathered his army of 300 men), Jezreel (where Ahab and Jezebel had a palace) and Samaria (which was one of the capitals of the Northern Kingdom of Israel).

Traveling through this area allows you to see multiple examples of terraced farming, which demonstrates how the early inhabitants of the land adopted this hilly countryside into useable farmland.

Our journey for today ended at one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: From the heights of Jerusalem, to the lowest place on earth.

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.

Walking the Via Dolorosa

DSCN0769 Last June, when our tour group was in Israel, we spent an entire day within the Old City. We started the day with a visit to the Temple Mount. Upon exiting the Temple Mount near the Lions Gate, we visited the ancient Pool of Bethesda.

Before leaving the area of the pool, I gathered our group together and explained to them that we were about to walk the Via Dolorosa. But, before we did that I wanted them to understand three things:

1) The Via Dolorosa makes the assumption that the Praetorium (John 18:28) was located in the Antonia Fortress, just outside the Temple Mount on the northwest corner. It also makes the assumption that Golgotha was located in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Sepulture. 2) Even if those two assumptions are true, keep in mind that the original, first century Roman roads were located several feet under the current roads. 3) My current belief is that Golgotha was probably located in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Sepulture. However, I was not as convinced in the location of the Praetorium being at the Antonia Fortress.

After giving them this information, I encouraged them to enjoy the walk through the Old City, consider the things that they are seeing and to study the matter for themselves.

This week, PBS released a short video about the Via Dolorosa. Recent archaeological findings are casting additional doubt on the current path that it follows. I encourage you to watch it. I tend to agree with the path that it proposes.

There is one other thing that I told my tour group last June. I told them that, in reality, our ability to walk the exact path that Jesus walked isn't really that important. What is really important was that Jesus walked it for all of us.

New Geography Book

book32-1024x804As I have mentioned a number of times in this blog, I love good maps. Along with that, I love good drawings and illustrations that aid others in learning about the Bible. Therefore, I was thrilled when I received Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer's latest book "Jerusalem - The Temple Mount" in the mail this past week. I learned about the book six months ago, when the publisher put a temporary hold on it. However, due to many factors including the response from avid fans who wanted the book published, the hold was recently lifted. I ordered it immediately and it arrived last week. (Full Disclosure: I was one of those avid fans!)

Readers of Leen Ritmeyer's blog will recognize the amount of interest and knowledge that he has for the area of the Temple Mount. His posts and drawings of that area are fantastic. Visitors to that area now are often confused by what they see and by what they can no longer see. This book helps cut through all of the confusion and creates accurate representations of that famous hill throughout history.

The book contains three primary chapters entitled "A Brief History of the Temple Mount", "A Walk Around the Temple Mount Walls" and "A Tour of the Temple Mount Platform". Each chapter is well illustrated and are easy reads for even those that are not well-versed in the area. I would love to take this book with me the next time I am there and use it as a personal guide as I walk around. (NOTE: Using it on the Temple Mount platform could prove difficult. Outside of the Koran, very few, if any, books are allowed there.)

For those of you who are looking for a great, hand-held book on this area, I highly recommend adding this to your library. My cost was $31, which included shipping from Israel to the United States.

To Leen & Kathleen Ritmeyer: Well done. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

Walls of the Temple Mount

DSCN1275 King Herod was a terrible man. He did not even trust members of his own family and had them executed. But, he was a visionary and had very large construction projects. Even two thousand years later, his thumbprint is all over the country. This view of the southern wall of the Temple Mount still contains many Herodian stones. The Mount of Olives sits in the background.

Kidron Valley

kidron_valley Between the city of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley flows from north to south eventually emptying into the Dead Sea. This view from the ancient City of David looks south where the Hinnom Valley merges into the Kidron Valley. The homes on the side of the hill are in the Arab village of Silwan.

Are you interested in traveling to Israel? Join me this October for a 12-day Bible Study tour of this beautiful land. See the Israel Tour Page for an itinerary and pricing details.

Approaching the City of David

Jerusalem and the City of David This view of the iconic Jerusalem skyline is a staple to many a postcard vendor. However, panning out a bit outside the Ottoman-era walls reveals two important locations. First is the Temple Mount which today features the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. And, across the street from the Temple Mount and slightly beneath the brilliant blue rooftop is the Iron Age City of David—the original Jerusalem. This small mound was protected on all sides from approach, except from the north, where an enemy could approach unseen down the ridgeline. Thus, the Temple Mount not only served as a holy place, but also as fortified protection from hostile forces from the north.

Podcast #2 - The Mountains Around Jerusalem

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /] In Psalm 125, the psalmist draws a beautiful comparison between the mountains of Jerusalem and the love and protection that God provides to His people. But, in order to fully appreciate what the psalmist means, you have to have an complete understanding of the geography of Jerusalem. That is what we will be discussing on this program.

Podcast Links Jerusalem Post Article concerning 2013 Jerusalem Marathon 2015 Israel Tour

Podcast #1 - Samuel's Farewell Address

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /] In 1 Samuel 12, as Samuel is growing old, he takes the time to address the nation of Israel one last time. At the end of his speech, he asks God for a sign. God then sends a thunderstorm. The text then tells us that the people "greatly feared the Lord and Samuel". Why? Well, to fully understand the answer to the question, you need to know a little bit about the geography of Israel. That is what we will discuss in today's program.

You can subscribe to this podcast by searching for "Exploring Bible Lands" in iTunes, or by using our podcast feed URL ( in any podcast subscription application.

Podcast Links 1 Samuel 12 - 2015 Israel Tour Exploring Bible Lands' Facebook Page

First Century Steps

IMG_2816 Maps are good things. But because maps are two-dimensional, they do a terrible job of helping the user understand the changes in terrain. The city of Jerusalem is actually very hilly, even more so in the First Century. Today's picture is of some First Century steps that led from the lower city to the upper city. It is very possible that Jesus went up and down these steps on the last couple of days before he was crucified.

Jerusalem Through the Ages

Jersalem, from the Mount of Olives.  Visible are the Dome of the Rock with the blue domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the distance.Jerusalem is a beautiful city. And, when you stand on top of one of its many hills, you can't help but think of all of the history that has occurred within your field of vision. But, when people ask me to describe Jerusalem to them, I usually just joke and say, "it is confusing". The city has changed so many times over the millennia that it is often difficult to describe to visitors what they are looking at.

Of course, at the center of this confusion is the Temple Mount. A small piece of land that has changed so much that very little of the original hill remains. Over the past couple of weeks, Leen Ritmeyer has written a number of excellent blog posts on the history of the Temple Mount. I encourage all Bible students to read through them. Knowing a little bit more about the city of Jerusalem, and in particular the Temple Mount, will help you understand the Bible stories even more.

So far, he has written posts on the following time periods:

Mount Moriah Jebusite Period Time of Solomon King Hezekiah Ezra and Nehemiah Hellenistic and Hasmonean Periods

I look forward to more posts from Mr. Ritmeyer on this topic.

They Knew He Was Coming

IMG_2821A little over a year ago, I posted a picture of the East Gate from the Old City. The picture was taken from the Roman Catholic Church of All Nations, which sits on the traditional location of the Garden of Gethsemane. The point was made that from the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus could have easily seen the "multitude of people" coming to arrest him. Earlier this week, I was talking with Trent and Rebekah Dutton, who have both spent considerable time in Israel. We were talking about the physical geography of the city of Jerusalem. Rebekah wondered if the priests could see the activity in the Garden of Gethsemane from their home.

It is a good question. During the First Century, the wealthy and influential people who lived in Jerusalem lived on the Western Hill. It is called the "Western Hill" because it sat west of the original City of David across the Tyropoeon Valley. So, if the priests' house was high enough on the hill, it might have a view of the Garden of Gethsemane.

As we were discussing this, I remembered a picture that I took in 2010 from the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. (That picture is at the top of this blog post. If you are reading this post in an email, then you might need to click on the title to view the post from a web page.) That church sits on the traditional location of the house of Annas and Caiaphas, who were both priests in the First Century. The picture is looking northeast in the direction of the Garden of Gethsemane. You can easily see the golden domes of the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene. That church sits just up the hill from the traditional location of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew, in his gospel, tells us:

And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. - Matthew 26:47

Imagine this same view in the middle of the night. It would be completely dark. Undoubtedly, this "great multitude" would have numerous torches to light their way as they left the city, crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the garden. It is possible that the priests, sitting in their house, could have seen the activity in the garden knowing what was going on.

In addition, after they arrested Jesus, the priests could have probably seen the torches of the multitude coming in their direction as they made their way from the garden to the upper city. They knew He was coming.

Samuel's Farewell Address

17_2_TelBetShean_Valley_smallIn 1 Samuel 12, Samuel speaks to the people of Israel about some of the decisions that they have made, primarily concerning the fact that they had requested a king (when God was already their king). However, he states that if the people and their king will obey the Lord, then all will be well. However, if they don’t, then “the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king”. Then, Samuel performs a sign. He asks God for thunder and rain. And, the Lord provides it.

"Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. - 1 Samuel 12:16-18

Why did the people “greatly fear” them? Well, you have to know a little bit about the geography and climatology of the land to understand.

Location of the Sign Slide06The people were assembled at Gilgal. (NOTE: I realize that there are a couple of different locations attributed to Gilgal. And, I realize that “a gilgal” could have been something that was built. But, I believe that in this passage we are talking about an actual location). Gilgal was location approximately 4-5 kilometers away from Jericho in the base of the Jordan Rift Valley.

As winds come off of the Mediterranean Sea, they reach the Central Mountain Range and rise. As the air rises, it cools and water droplets condense and eventually fall as rain. Therefore, the Central Mountain Range (including the cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Samaria, etc) get about 26 inches of rain per year. However, as the winds top of the Central Mountain Range, they descend into the Jordan Rift Valley. In doing so, the air warms and the water dries up. Consequently, the city of Jericho (which is located about 10-12 miles from Jerusalem) only gets 4-6 inches of rain per year.

So, why were the people afraid? Because they realized that God made it rain in a place that doesn’t get that much rain.

But, I think that there is another reason.

Time of the Sign Slide13Did you catch that extra piece of information that Samuel stated in his speech? He said that it was the time of the wheat harvest. What does that mean?

Well, the little rain that does fall in the Jordan Rift Valley falls between the months of October and April. The wheat harvest is in May (and may go into June). The people knew that God had made it rain at a time of year in which it never rains.

When the people saw that the rain fell in a place that rarely gets rain and at a time in which it never gets rain, they knew that this was a sign from God. And consequently, they were greatly afraid.

By better understanding the lands of the Bible, you can better understand the stories in the Bible.

Recently, I presented a lesson on this topic at Capshaw church of Christ. You are welcome to listen to it and let me know if you have any questions.

(NOTE: The picture at the top of the post is from Trent and Rebekah Dutton. You can see all of their pictures at The picture is taken from the Central Mountain Range looking east across the Jordan Rift Valley toward the Trans-Jordan Plateau.)