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Mount Carmel

From One Coast to Another


Our first full day in the land of Israel saw us traveling from one coast to the other. We started by watching the sun rise over the resort city of Netanya on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. From there, we traveled to Caesarea Maritima. This large seaport city was truly a jewel in the crown of King Herod's building projects. We toured the theatre, palace, hippodrome, and harbor. 

We then climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and revisited the story of Elijah's contest against the prophets of Baal. Our view was very clear and we could see for miles. There are so many locations of Biblical stories that can be seen from there.

After lunch, we toured the ancient city of Megiddo. Once again, the views across the Jezreel Valley were fantastic.

We concluded our day with a visit to Nazareth Village. This first century replica village helps the visitors understand life during the time of Jesus.

We have arrived at truly one of my favorite hotels in Israel, the Ron Beach on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We will spend three nights here touring the land of Galilee. 

The tour group is doing great and everyone is having a great time. It is an honor to travel with them and learn more about the Bible. 

Water from Mount Carmel

Water from Mount Carmel

During the first century BC and AD, the coastal city of Caesarea served as the Roman Administrative Center of the province of Syria. Even today, Caesarea Maritima displays any number of the massive building projects overseen by King Herod. Form the theatre, the praetorium, the hippodrome, and harbor, all still have the identifiable thumbprints of King Herod all over them. 

From an engineering perspective, one of the most awe-inspiring projects is the aqueduct system which transported water into the city. Having a population of over 100,000 people, water was a necessity. King Herod built an aqueduct that stretched eight miles from a spring at the foot of the Carmel mountain range to the city of Caesarea. Much of this aqueduct can still be seen today.

The picture at the top of this post was taken from the top of the theatre in Caesarea looking northeast. The range of mountains you can see in the distance is the Carmel. This was the source of the fresh water which was brought into the city of Caesarea.

Often, we have the tendency to think about the people in ancient times as being uneducated or somehow intellectually less than we are. That is not true at all. It may have taken them a little longer to accomplish a task, but they got it done. And often, the task was completed in such a way that is far superior than what we are capable of today.

(Note: People who have visited Caesarea Maritima will notice the miniature model of the city under the covering in the bottom-right hand portion of the picture. Visitors often stop at this model to better understand the ruins that they are seeing.)

All The Way Across The Land

All The Way Across The Land


This morning our group was met with a beautiful sunrise from the coastal city of Netanya. After breakfast, we drove up the coast to visit the ancient city of Caesarea. It is interesting to note that The apostle Peter took a very similar path to this while he was on his way to speak with Cornelius about the Gospel. Leaving the Coastal Plain, we drove up into the Carmel Mountain Range to visit the traditional site of Elijah"s contest against the prophets of Baal. By standing there on that ridge, you can visualize Elijah leading the prophets of Baal down to the Kishon Brook go their demise.

imageThe view across the Jezreel Valley from amazing from Meggido. Standing on the summit of the city, you can easily learn why this city has been so important through the centuries.

Our final stop of the day was at Nazareth village. This replica city shows what life would have been like in the first century.

Our group has arrive in Tiberias on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. It was a great day. Looking forward to our adventures tomorrow.

Why Study Biblical Geography? Part I

The Spring of Harod, at the foot of Mount Gilboa.Sometimes people ask me, "Why do you study Biblical geography so much?" Generally, I study Biblical geography because it helps me to understand the Bible more. But, to answer answer the question specifically, I can think of three reasons. I will cover these three reasons in the next few posts.

Reason #1 - I study Biblical Geography to better understand God's people.

As Moses was giving final directions to the nations of Israel, he states:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. - Deuteronomy 6:4-9

God wanted His people to teach their children about Him as they walked by the way (or, as they walked across the land). Three times a year, the nation of Israel were required to go to Jerusalem for the feasts. As they made those trips, it would provide a number of opportunities for the parents to talk to their kids about God.

As they passed the Spring of Harod, the could explain how God used Gideon and a small army of only 300 men to take on and defeat the Midianites.

As they passed Mount Carmel, they could explain how God and Elijah took on the prophets of Baal and proved that He was the one and only true God.

As they passed the ruins of Jericho, they could explain how God used His power to render a fortified city defenseless against His people.

By studying Biblical Geography, we can better understand God's people and how they taught their children.

In my next two posts, I'll discuss two other reasons why we need to study Biblical geography.

The Importance of Jezreel

The Importance of Jezreel


Even a casual reading of the period of the Divided Kingdom in the Old Testament reveals the importance of a particular city in the Northern Kingdom...Jezreel. The city of Jezreel is located on a small bluff on the western edge of Mount Gilboa. The city overlooks the beautiful Jezreel Valley to its north. The panoramic view stretches from Mount Carmel to the west, across the Nazareth ridge to the north, past Mount Tabor and the Hill of Moreh to the Harod Valley in the east. It is one of my favorite sites in Israel as you can visualize so many Biblical stories taking place within its view. This morning, I read an interesting article by Norma Franklin from the University of Haifa. She talks about the importance of the city of Jezreel throughout history, but in particular, the period of the Divided Kingdom. I invite you to read it.

Want to see Jezreel? I'll be going over there next June, and I'm leading a tour. I would be honored for you to join me on this exciting trip as we study the Bible while traveling through Israel.


The Jezreel Valley from the top of Mount Carmel.In our Bible class at church, we have been studying the period of time that we commonly refer to as The Divided Kingdom. It is the time in which the people of Israel had divided itself into two, separate nations. Last week, our study focused on the prophet Elijah and the work that he did in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. One of the most memorable stories is of Elijah's contest against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is actually a range of mountains that run from the northwest to the southeast and compromise the southwestern edge of the Jezreel Valley. The traditional location of this event is at Muhraqa, which is located about 500 meters (about 1600 feet) above the valley floor.

I don't hike as much as I used to. But, when I do, I really enjoy it. However, if there is one thing that I have learned in hiking, it is to never underestimate the height of the mountain you are climbing. In this case, 500 meters may not sound like a lot of elevation to climb, but it can be. Especially if you have to do it twice!

In 1 Kings 18, it mentions that Elijah and all of the people gathered on top of Mount Carmel.

So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. - 1 Kings 18:20.

Then, after God showed his power to the people, Elijah gathered the 450 prophets of Baal and slew them at the Kishon Brook. The Kishon Brook is located in the floor of the Jezreel Valley.

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. - 1 Kings 18:40

A close up of the Kishon Brook from the top of Mount Carmel.(The picture at the top of the this post shows the view from Mount Carmel looking east. The Kishon Brook is in the foreground on the valley floor. The second picture shows you a closeup of the brook, located along the line of shrubs just above the modern road.)

Then, after Elijah warns Ahab about the rain and then reclimbs Mount Carmel.

Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” - 1 Kings 18:41-43a

After Elijah sees that his prediction of rain was about to come true, he heads towards the city of Jezreel, which is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) away.

Honestly, the exact timeframe of all of these events is uncertain. But regardless, this is a lot of ground for one man to cover in a short amount of time. Up a mountain, down a mountain, up a mountain and then 16 miles to Jezreel. I am tired just reading it.

Different Views of the Jezreel Valley

The Jezreel Valley, looking southeast from the top of Mount Carmel.From time to time, people will ask me what my favorite spot is in Israel. Well, that is a very difficult question. In many ways, that is like comparing apples to oranges. How do you compare the history of Jerusalem to the beauty of Upper Galilee? Or, how do you compare either one of those to majesty of Masada? Well, you can't. But, that is what makes traveling to Israel so interesting...and fun. There are so many great things to see. With that being said, I do enjoy the Jezreel Valley. For millennia, the Jezreel Valley has been the site of literally hundreds of historical events. But, what makes it interesting is how small it is. The triangular-shaped valley is only about 20 miles long by 12-15 miles wide. Consequently, in a single day, you are able to easily drive around and see the valley from so many different angles. By doing so, you can mentally reenact many of the Biblical stories in your head.

You can visualize:

  • Deborah and Barak as they gathered the fighting men on Mount Tabor before attack on Sisera and the Caananites (Judges 4).
  • Gideon and his 300 men as they snuck across the valley to the Hill of Moreh to attack the Midianites (Judges 7).
  • Saul as he disguised himself to speak with the medium at Endor (1 Samuel 28).
  • The children of Israel as they watched Elijah go up against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. (1 Kings 18).
  • The Shunammite Woman riding across the valley to visit with Elisha on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 4).
  • Jehu furiously riding his chariot across the valley floor toward Jezreel (2 Kings 9).
  • Josiah losing his life near Megiddo as he battled the Egyptians (2 Kings 23).
  • Jesus as he raised from the dead, the son of a widow at Nain (Luke 7).

While there are hundreds of places to visit in the country, the Valley of Jezreel should definitely be at the top of anyone's list. Go, enjoy and learn.

Elisha Could See the Shunammite Woman Coming

During the period of the Divided Kingdom, Elisha served as a prophet of God to the nation of Israel. As he passed through the Jezreel Valley, he would frequently stay in the town of Shunam with a woman and her husband. This friendly couple even built an extra room on to their house so that Elisha would have a place to stay (1 Kings 4:8-10). After a period of time, Elisha wanted to repay the woman for the kindness she had shown to him. Since the couple was childless, Elisha's servant, Gehazi recommended that the couple be provided with a son. Elisha promised them a child and about a year later, a son was born.

Years later, the young man was working out in the field and developed a headache. Soon after arriving back at home, he died in his mother's arms. Distraught, the Shunammite woman got on her donkey to go and find Elisha, who was now at Mount Carmel. Then, in 1 Kings 4:24-25, we read:

Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” And so she departed, and went to the man of God at Mount Carmel. So it was, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to his servant Gehazi, “Look, the Shunammite woman!"

As you know, Elisha soon raised the young man from the dead as a show of the power of God.

Recently, I was in a Bible class where we were discussing this story. I was struck by the phrase "when the man of God saw her afar off". I was reminded of a picture that I took last September when I was in Israel. I have featured that picture in this post. This picture is taken from Mount Carmel looking east in the direction of the Hill of Moreh. The town of Sulam is the modern city which sits on ancient Shunam, which was located in the Jezreel Valley just southwest of the Hill of Moreh. In the picture, Shunam would have sat just to the right of the hill.

As Elisha and Gehazi sat on Mount Carmel, this would have been the approximate view that they would have had. As you can see, it would have been easy to see a couple of people riding donkeys heading in their direction.

Isn't it interesting how accurate the Bible is?

2012 Israel Trip - Day Three

2012 Israel Trip - Day Three


Well, our first full day in Israel was a complete success. We left Netanya at 8:00AM and drove north toward Caesarea Maritima. Caesarea was a very large and important city in the first century. Among other things, it is the home of Cornelius. Cornelius was a just man and after seeing a vision, asked his men to go to Joppa and look for Peter. Having landed yesterday in Tel Aviv (which is adjacent to Joppa), we have traveled the same route that those men took so long ago. The ruins at Caesarea Maritima are impressive. You can see the theater, the location of Herod's palace, the hippodrome as well as many other sites. It enables you to get a great perspective of this city and makes you appreciate the Scriptures even more. As you know, Paul was imprisoned in Herod's palace for a period of two years awaiting trial. From the excavations, we know that the palace was immediately adjacent to the hippodrome. So, imagine Paul sitting in his room listening to the cheers of thousands of people as they enjoyed the activities in the hippodrome, knowing that he could not go out and watch. That is something that isn't mentioned in scripture, but becomes evident when you see the city for yourself. From Caesarea Maritima, we went up into the Carmel Mountain Range and visited the traditional site of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Again, the geographical references mentioned in Scripture come to light when you visit the site. From the top, you can see the area where all of the Israelite people would have watched. You can see the Kishon Brook in the valley below where the prophets were killed. And, you can see the Mediterranean Sea where the young man with Elijah reported seeing the small cloud which eventually developed into a large rainstorm.

We continued on to Megiddo, which has ruins dating back several thousand years. We walked through the gate which was constructed during the reign of Solomon. And, we walked down the deep tunnel that was constructed by King Ahab to securely get water into the city. From the tel of Megiddo, you have an unforgettable view of the Jezreel Valley, where many famous battles have been fought over the millennia. You can clearly see why the city of Megiddo was so important during ancient times.

We ended our day by driving through Nazareth (where Jesus grew up), Cana (where Jesus performed his first miracle) and saw the tel of Gath-hepher (the birthplace of Jonah). We finally arrived in the city of Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Tomorrow starts off with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The same sea where Peter, Andrew, James and John used to fish. And the same sea that Jesus calmed during a terrible storm. What a great way to start the day.

For those of you who are interested in following other blogs from people on this same trip, here are the links to their blogs: