This is Mount Carmel

It had been over 3 years since rain had fallen in Israel.  The prophet Elijah had been blamed for it by King Ahab and was labeled “the troubler of Israel.”  But when God sent Elijah back to the king with the message of “rain coming,” little did anyone know of the event that was being orchestrated.  Elijah called for the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to ascend Mount Carmel and meet him there for the most epic showdown between God and the forces of evil since the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 18).  It came down to 2 altars of sacrifice and 2 distinctly different calls for response.  YHWH answered in an unquestionable way of who the only true and living God could be.  Fire rained down from heaven and consumed not only the sacrifice, but also the wood, the valuable water that had been poured about it, the rocks on which it had been placed and even the dust.  Subsequently, Elijah had all of the false prophets executed at the brook Kishon.
After Elijah was succeeded by Elisha, the prophet was being mocked by some young boys calling him “baldy.”  Elisha then called down a curse from God and two female bears came charging out of the wood-line.  The bears mauled 42 of the boys.  Elisha subsequently left there and went to Mount Carmel (2 Kings 2).

“Carmel” is a common Hebrew noun that means “garden,” “vineyard,” or “orchard.”  It has an annual rainfall of 28 inches along with its fertile slopes, which lends itself to the title.  The harvest of olives, grains and fruits from the grounds are often celebrated along with its renown of legendary wines.  In Scripture, it is equivalent with beauty and splendor and is used for comparison as such (Song of Solomon 7:5; Isaiah 35:2; Jeremiah 50:19).  Locally it is called Jebel Kurmul or Jebel Mar Elyas.  It’s location on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea juts out, forming a cape on the Bay of Acre (modern bay of Haifa).  It stands in stark contrast to the otherwise smooth coastline that extends all the way back to Egypt.  The forest hills of Mount Carmel form the tribal territory boundary of Asher (Joshua 19:26).
The mountain is host to a number of caves called “Kebaran,” that are often credited to the earliest of human inhabitants and are anthropologically referred to as the “cradle of human development.”  Because of the numerous caves, criminals would often hide there throughout history.  Others seeking shelter from enemies would also take refuge there.  
While being directly mentioned in early Egyptian and Mesopotamian writings, it is also indirectly recorded in Pharaoh Pepi’s archives (2350 BC) as the “Nose of the Gazelle’s Head,” which ran down to the sea.  Pharaoh Thutmose III (1481-1425 BC) also speaks of the “Holy Head,” where his troops would land, as well as Ramses II (1303 BC-1213 BC) and Ramses III (1186-1155 BC).  It also appears in the annals of Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (841 BC).
In the Roman period, a temple of Zeus was built on the mountain.  Emperors Trajan and Vespasian offered sacrifices to an idol that was given the name, “Carmel,” who was identified with Zeus.  Tacitus recorded that Emperor Vespasian (reigned 69-79 AD) was given an oracle from the priests of Carmel, stating the Emperor would be the master of the world.  A single stone foot was placed there to commemorate the oracle.    
Throughout the centuries of Christianity, Mount Carmel has been the location of a number of monasteries to the Carmelite Monastic Movement.  Other religious groups were also drawn to the mountain as a sacred location.  Practicing Baha’i (a religion that embraces “all religions”) members placed a Baha’i garden shrine there with tombs of leaders from their past.  Mount Carmel remains an agriculturally rich area that supplies much of the region with produce.

Biblical References

  • 1 Kings 18:19, 20, 42; 
  • 2 Kings 2:25; 
  • 2 Kings 4:25; 
  • Song of Solomon 7:5; 
  • Jeremiah 46:18;

This is Tel Aviv

The modern city of Tel Aviv was originally founded on the outskirts of the ancient city of Joppa (contemporary “Jaffa”) in 1909.  In the scope of Israel and the Middle East, this would classify Tel Aviv as being a relatively ‘new’ city.  Tel Aviv’s growth eventually took over a large portion of the area and now encompasses the historical city (Joppa).  They were merged together in 1950.  Its name means “Ancient Hill of Spring.”

All of what would be considered contemporary or secular (“this worldly”) in Israel is found in Tel Aviv.  It is second in population (over 440,000) to Jerusalem and is ranked 34th in economic scale to the global community.  It has a large technology sector industry that is known as “Silicon Wadi” in parallel comparison to “Silicon Valley” in California, USA.  It has earned the reputation of the “party capitol of the Middle East” and boasts a round the clock entertainment business culture.  Since its founding, the city was purposed to be modeled after cities in Europe. 

In contrast to the contemporary nature of Tel Aviv, the ancient city of Joppa is mentioned in historical antiquities dating as far back as Thutmose III in the 15thc BC.  The Papyrus Anastasi I describes the Syro-Palestinian geography of the 13thc BC, which included Joppa.  Located in the tribal territory of Dan (Joshua 19:46), the cedar timbers from Lebanon used by Solomon to build the temple were shipped through Joppa and transported by land to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:15).  It is also mentioned as the port at which Jonah hired a vessel to flee from the presence of God to go to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3).

When reading history concerning Tel Aviv, much of what is written is based on an anti-Israel revisionism.  Inhabitants from Israel are often referred to as “immigrants” to the region.  This gives the notion that land had never been conveyed to them by God and was originally belonging to the Arabs.  Moreover, revisionist history is being taught in most major universities that Israel essentially did not exist until May 14, 1948.  Tel Aviv had been the temporary location for the State of Israel governmental affairs, until moving to Jerusalem as a capitol in 1949.  However, in 1980, continued Muslim objections became a point of contention and the UN assembly directed over 13 embassies to be relocated from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.  While many US presidents, including the last 6, have promised to move the American Embassy back to Jerusalem (thus, recognizing it as the capitol of Israel), it has not been until this year under President Trump that the event has actually occurred.

Tel Aviv is currently estimated at 93% Jewish, 1% Christian and 1% Muslim.  The remaining 5% are non-affiliated.  There are a reported 544 synagogues.  However, the overwhelming percentage of “Jews” should not be misconstrued as all being directly related to religiously practicing in Judaism.  In Tel Aviv there are 2 major factions of Jews – one religious and one secular.  As of 2008, a center for secular Jewish studies has been established in the city.  This may pose as an oxymoron to some, but the title ‘Jew’ is no longer singularly defined in religious terms in Tel Aviv.  Instead, it is taken more in reference to the historical and cultural concerns therein. 

Additionally, the secular influence has also become a segue to the pro-homosexual movement in Tel Aviv.  The city hosts the largest annual homosexual parade in the Middle East and Asia.  As labeled by American Airlines as the “best gay city in the world,” Tel Aviv is one of the most popular homosexual vacation destinations in tourist travel. 

This is Madaba

Approximately 18.5 miles south of Amman, on the King’s Highway, rising on the natural elevation of the Jordanian plateau, is the city of Madaba (biblically known as “Medeba”).  On the fourth day of our journey, this will be the one of three places we will visit. 

Biblical references to the city are limited, though the historical antiquity concerning the early church is phenomenal.  When Israel entered Canaan, they conquered and occupied Medeba, which was one of the cities of the Moabite Mishor (Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9, 16;).   Approximately 100 years later, King David battled against the Aramean–Ammonite coalition near this city (1 Chronicles 19:7).

There are a large number of tombs dating from the 1stc AD that provide evidences of the Medeba area belonging to the Nabatean kingdom of Petra.  One monument is dated at 37 AD, which is the period of King Aretas IV.  In terms of antiquity though, 2 tombs discovered at tel-Medeba date back as far as the 13th to the 10thc BC.  Many would date these as being contemporary with the period of the Israelite exodus and conquest of Canaan. 

Approximately 300 years past the time of King David, Mesha, king of Moab, regained control of the city.  600 years later, the Maccabean revolt finds itself ambushed by the “Sons of Jambri,” a tribe from Medeba (110 BC).  A Jewish caravan is looted and the brother of Judas Maccabaeus is killed.  After a prolonged siege, John Hyrcanus retakes the city.  In a series of war deals made in the years following, the city control was given to King Aretas, of Petra.

During the 7thc AD, historical references to Madaba appear to go dark.  Much of this is attributed to the invasion of Islam into the territory. 

In the late 19th century, bedouin Christians pitched their tents in and around the ruins of the city.  As they began to build more permanent shelters, they had the wherewithal to realize the artifacts that existed among the cut stones they were using.  Many of these were conveyed to authorities that revealed intricate mosaics from the Byzantine-Umayyad period that beheld the Church of the Virgin, the Church of the Prophet Elijah, the mosaic of the crypt of Elisha, the Church of the Holy Martyrs, and the Church of the Map (as well as many others).  This earned Madaba the name, “City of Mosaics”.

The Church of the Map hosts an incredible mosaic of a documentation of the Onomasticon (of Eusebius).  This depicts the twelve tribes of Israel, their boundaries and surrounding areas. 

Biblical References

  • Numbers 21:30;
  • Joshua 13:9, 16; 1
  • Chronicles 19:7;
  • Isaiah 15:2;

This is Mt. Nebo

After touring Madaba, our journey will take us to a ridge that rises in Jordan approximately 2,330ft in Jordan called “Mount Nebo.”  In Numbers 20, the nation of Israel is contending with Moses and Aaron because they have no water.  It would be ignoring the context not to also see that Moses and Aaron’s sister, Miriam, has recently died and been buried.  Undoubtedly grieving, in combination with the complaining of the people, clearly leaves Moses irritated with their attitudes.  Thus, he carries out an order from God to take “the rod” with his brother Aaron to speak to the rock before the eyewitness of the people, so that it would, “yield its water.”  However, standing before the rock and the people, Moses makes 3 critical errors.  Instead of speaking to the rock, he, 1) let’s his anger take control of him and chastises the people; 2) takes partial credit (glory) for what is about to happen (“shall we bring forth water”); 3) and he struck the rock, not once, but twice to bring forth the water.  This act cost Moses his entrance into the Promised Land.  

However, in God’s grace, He does allow Moses to view the land of Canaan from a mountain of the Abarim, which was in the land of Moab opposite of Jericho.  It was called then, as it is today, Mt Nebo.  This will also be where he will die.  Scripture states that Moses was buried in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor (Deuteronomy 34:6).  This would be in the valley called Wâdī Ąyun Mûsā.  Scripture also states that no man knows his burial place “to this day.”  Yet in typical custom not to disappoint, tourists and pilgrims that came to the area during the Byzantine era were pointed to a tomb declared to be Moses’ burial site.  As demonstrated throughout the centuries, there is no shortage of traditions and legends for locations in the area concerning Moses and related events.

The contemporary location of Mt Nebo is with the headland called Râs es-Siâghah, which is 6 miles northwest of Madaba in East Jordan .  There are several springs at the foot of the northern slope that supply water to farming regions to the west and to the town of Madaba in the southeast.  The springs are referred to as ‘Ąyun Mûsā, which means “the springs of Moses.”  There is also a wadi to the west and a ruin on the north and the south (see, “This is Petra”) that holds his name as well.  

The Byzantium monastery subsequently settled into the area and built a basilica that hosted a Presbytery, baptistery, chapel, and diakonikon baptistery (a central place where the priests could wash themselves and holy articles, as well as a storage area for pertinent books and other objects precious to them).  The ruins are in exceptional state with regard to the Islamic invasions of the 7thc AD.  

Archaeological excavations have borne out that the name of Nebo has been faithfully kept to the mountain and region prior to the 4thc AD.  Eusebius’ Onomasticon (see, “This is Madaba”) demonstrates that the mountain was already known by the name long prior to the Byzantium inhabitation. 

Biblical References: 

  • “Nebo” – Deuteronomy 32:49, 34:1; 
  • Moses – Numbers 20:1ff;