This is The Mount of The Beatitudes

In Matthew chapter 5, it states that when Jesus saw the multitudes, “He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.”  Read alone, it captures none of the dramatic nature of the event taking place.  Going back into the end of chapter 4, Jesus is going throughout the land and physically healing what would have otherwise been incurable.  Imagine the crowds that would genuinely gather around someone who could cure anything, right before one’s eyes.  No tricks.  No behind the cloak scenes.  No mystery diseases were declared cured that had not yet been identified in the person.  A withered hand was restored (Mark 3:1ff), seizures stopped, demons cast out, and the paralyzed made ambulatory.  The crowds came from as far east of the Sea of Galilee as they did from the west and the south.  Jesus literally has drawn national attention.  

Here He stops and the crowds gather to listen to what He has to say.  The words given could not have been from any earthly man, because they are the exact opposite to what they would expect to hear.  Blessed are the poor?  Blessed are the mourning?  Blessed are the persecuted?  You have heard it said, but I say unto you?  He was not talking about random subjects, ideas or conjectures; He was talking about Torah.  To challenge the teachings of the theologically academic leaders of His day was unheard of.  Did He not know what they could do to Him?

The site for the Mount of the Beatitudes is still under some dispute today.  But tradition has held for 1600 years that the location is between Capernaum and Gennesaret.  It is also referred to as Mt. Eremos (Greek = “solitary,” “uninhabited”) and Karn Hattin.  This area has also been known as the “Horns of Hattin” for the two mountains that emerged from an extinct volcano.   At an elevation of just over 500 ft above the surface of the lake (190 ft below sea level), the “mountains” are more actual “hills.”  They overlook the beautiful Plain of Gennesaret, which extends for approximately 4 miles.  A Byzantine church was built on the slopes in 4thc AD.  In the 1187AD, the Crusaders were defeated by the Islamic army of Saladin at the Battle of Hattin.  Saladin erected an Islamic “victory dome” on the mountain, but it was reported as destroyed as early as the 17thc AD.  The current Roman Catholic chapel constructed in the 1930’s is visible from Capernaum.  Inside, the stained glass windows depict the 8 Beatitudes with the 7 Virtues being represented around an altar.  Those in agreement with this being the site of Matthew 5, also attribute it to the region spoken of in Mark 6-7 where many other miracles took place.  

Biblical References

  • Matthew 4:23-8:1
  • Mark 6-7

This is Capernaum

After leaving Caesarea Philippi, we are to pass by the proposed site in Bethsaida where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the multitude.  We will also go by the Mount of Beatitudes on our way to Tiberias for a St. Peter’s fish lunch.  Afterwards, we will take a cruise on a boat in the Sea of Galilee and from there we will journey on to the north towards Capernaum.  

After departing from the wilderness (40 days and nights), Jesus receives word that John the Baptist has been taken into custody.  Jesus leaves Nazareth to set His home in Capernaum.  It will later be referred to as “His own city” (Matthew 9:1).  At least 3 of His disciples were from this city.  Though Peter and Andrew were originally from Bethsaida, Scripture tells us that they moved to Capernaum (Mark 1:29).  Here, Christ cleanses the leper, cures a centurion’s servant, calls Matthew from his tax collection table, heals a royal officer’s son, heals a man let down through a roof by his friends, and cures Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever.

The people that we read of being present in Capernaum give us some indication as to the importance to the city.  A Roman centurion with a detachment of soldiers, a taxing station and a royal official are ample evidence to the governing attention given.  Nevertheless, Jesus chastises them in Matthew 11 :23 for the way they willingly ignored the signs and wonders given to them.  Yet faithful people lived there during the time of Christ.  The Roman centurion with a sick servant had previously built the synagogue there (Luke 7:5).  

From the middle of the 2ndc AD, Capernaum became a central point for rabbinical Judaism.  Christians were roundly rejected and little was done to change their perception.  Debate still exists whether archaeologists have discovered the actual ruins of Simon Peter’s house there.  Regardless, by the 4thc AD, a church was built at the site and new one (the Octagonal Church) replaced it in the 5thc AD.  By the 11thc AD, the city is abandoned due to the Islamic invasion of the land.  

Biblical References

  • Matthew 4:13; 8:5; 11:23; 17:24
  • Mark 1:21; 2:1; 9:33
  • Luke 4:23, 31; 7:1; 10:15
  • John 2:12; 4:46; 6:17, 24, 59

This is Caesarea Philippi

After Dan we will travel about 4 miles to the city of Caesarea Philippi.  It is located at the southwest base of Mount Hermon at approximately 1150 ft above sea level, at the headwaters for the Jordan River.  Being almost 25 miles to the north of the Sea of Galilee, the location in itself was strategic in defending the fertile plains to the west.  Prior to the Hellenistic Period, the name of area is relatively unknown.  However, a shrine built there to the idols Baal-gad or Baal-hermon (Joshua 11:17ff; Judges 3:3; 1 Chronicles 5:23) may have been the actual cave site discussed next.

A cave of individual note is located there where a spring emerges and particularly floods during the spring rains.  Greeks who came to stay there dedicated the existing shrine to their idol “Pan,” and “the Nymphs.”  During the reign of Antiochus the Great (ca. 200 BC), the name of the city was refined to Panion (or Paneion).  The title remained for the region and would etymologically change to “Paneas.” 

As a side note of particular value for cultural understanding, Pan (meaning “all” in Greek) was the idolatrous god of the wild, untamed mountains, shepherds and flocks, simple music, sexuality, and an association to the Nymphs.  He was half goat and half man, whose appearance frightened more than attracted others.  However, his music on a set of handmade pipes constructed of reeds cut down while pursuing a nymph named Syrinx, was seductive.  The sexual focus on Pan’s fiction developed into sordid stories of rape, homosexuality, and bestiality.  Even the word “nymph (+mania)” is used in psychological terms today in reference to those with sexual addictions.  The story continues that Pan loved naps even more than his nymphs and disturbing him was at one’s own peril.  Once angered, Pan could let out a shrieking voice so terrifying, all who heard it would “panic,” hence, the origin of the word.  Legend stated that the overwhelming feeling of fright one had when lost in the mountain wilderness was actually the presence of Pan.  He is the only “god” in Greek mythology to have died. 

However, the cave carried an even extended myth to the locals there.  They believed that the opening of the cave (where the shrine was built) served as a gateway to “Hades.”  In this underworld, the fertility gods (such as Pan) would sleep throughout the winter.  Every year when the spring would come flooding out of the cave, they believed the fertility gods were awakening and coming forth.  Horrible acts of worship occurred around this cave and city.  Prostitution and bestiality were openly practiced as well as ritual human sacrifice.  The cave was literally seen as the entrance and exit to “hell.”

Understanding this gives a more comprehensive context to the understanding of Matthew 16:13ff.  Of all the places for a Jewish Rabbi to bring His students, Caesarea Philippi had to be of some question in the minds of the disciples.  Not only would it be the equivalent of holding a midnight Bible study in Patpong, Bangkok (red light district), regardless of one’s belief in idols or not, it would be next to the notorious opening to the underworld. 

Here Christ stands in Caesarea Philippi with His disciples and asks them, “Who do people say that I am?”  In the midst of a hub of hedonistic idolatry, the question is answered by Peter in almost a purely Jewish fashion (“John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah”).  It would be akin to the typical “church answer” to open questions.  But undoubtedly, the eerie location had to be on their minds.  Then Jesus asks Peter the same question, except in regard to him personally.  “Who do you say that I am?” Then Peter gives his great confession of faith.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  But what Jesus speaks next is phenomenally connected to the geographical context.  Jesus calls him “Peter (masculine – Petros),” which essentially means “rocky.”  Then Christ says it is upon this “rock (feminine – petras),” that He will build His church and the gates of “Hades” will not overpower it.  Thus, while standing in front of stone shrines to idols, Jesus proclaims His church to built on the “rock” of the confession of true faith.  Moreover, before this legendary doorway for the underworld and the gods, He states that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.  Not only would this crush imaginary fears, but true fears of evil as well.  Then adding to the wonderful news, Jesus tells them that He will hand them the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  So, the false gate of hell is vanquished with no power and the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is at their hand.

Going back in time before the coming of Christ, Herod the Great (20 BC) was given the district of Paneas by Augustus.  In response, Herod built a temple constructed of white marble to honor the Emperor.  Herod dies shortly thereafter (4 BC), and Philip inherits the area as a part of his tetrarchy.  He reconstructs the city and renames it “Caesarea,” in honor of Augustus.  Philip used his own name in conjunction with Caesarea, in order to distinguish it separately from the existing city of Caesarea.  Agrippa II (ca. 53 AD) increased the size of the city and changed the name to Neronias, to honor Nero.  The name did not stick, however.  Josephus records that during the First Jewish War, Vespasian and his legions rested in the city.  After the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem, Emperor Titus sends some of the captives to Caesarea Philippi to have them thrown to wild beasts. 

The name of the city fell back to Paneas in later Roman and Byzantine periods.  After the invasion of the Muslims, they adopted the name into the Arabic form, “Banias.”

Biblical References

  • Matthew 16:13
  • Mark 8:27

This is Dan

Day 6 of adventure will lead us through another packed series of sites that begins with the ancient city of Dan.  Tel Dan (Tell el Qadi) is first mentioned in Scripture during the time of Abraham in (Genesis 14:4).  At that time, the city was known as “Laish” (also “Leshem”) to the people.  Laish appears in Egyptian Execration Texts that date back to the 18thc BC.  Thutmose III also lists Laish as one of the cities he conquered.    A scarab of Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) testifies of prevailing Egyptian influence in the region.  The city’s name was changed to Dan after the tribe of Dan conquered it in the taking of Canaan (Joshua 19:47). 

Dan is located on the northern most edge of Israel at the foot Mount Herman and near the headwaters of the Jordan River.  The tel is situated at a main intersecting of roads leading to Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea.  It covers approximately 50 acres and is just over 65 feet above the surround plain, at a 40° angle on the rampart.  This tells us that the city had a substantial means of fortification and defense built into it for the location it was in.  

Archaeologists have estimated that artifacts date the first settlement of Dan (Laish) to 5000 BC.  There is a large gap of physical evidence until the 27thc BC.  Several periods are representative of the settlements inhabitants over the centuries prior to the conquest by the Israelites.  

It will be after the death of Solomon that Jeroboam, son of Nebat challenges Rehoboam (Solomon’s son and successor to the throne of Israel) to be king.  The kingdom responds by dividing itself in a civil war.  Jeroboam knows that Rehoboam has the upper hand of influence over the majority of the people though, because within his territory of Judah, Rehoboam has Jerusalem, and thus, the temple of God.  To compete with this, Jeroboam builds his own places of worship to attract not only Israelites, but foreigners as well.  He incorporates shrines on the “high places” in Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12) with the comingling of altars to YHWH and idols represented by golden calves (possibly the Apis Bull of Egypt, which is often considered being the idol built by Aaron in the wilderness after the exodus).  The sanctuary built by Jeroboam has been discovered at tel Dan.
As mentioned prior, Dan was abundantly fortified, possibly for two main reasons.  First, the city was on a main artery between major trade routes in the north.  Being somewhat removed, it would be susceptible to foreign invasions, especially bordering enemy nations.  Secondly, as an established religious location, even more attention would be drawn to the assumed treasuries to the idols.  

Dan continued to be a place of idolatrous worship, even through the Hellenistic periods.  Several coins from Antiochus IV, Demetrius V, Constantine I and Constantine II have been discovered.  Inscriptions written in Greek and Aramaic giving homage to “the god who is in Dan,” remain.  

Biblical References

  • Genesis 14:4
  • Joshua 19:47
  • Judges 18:29; 20:1
  • 1 Samuel 3:20
  • 2 Samuel 3:10; 17:11; 24:2, 6(?), 15
  • 1 Kings 4:25; 12:29-30; 15:20
  • 2 Kings 10:29
  • 1 Chronicles 21:2
  • 2 Chronicles 16:4; 30:5
  • Jeremiah 4:15; 8:16
  • Ezekiel 48:2, 32
  • Amos 8:14

This is Tiberias

During our Day 5 tour of Caesarea, Megiddo and Nazareth, we will be staying two nights in the area of the Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.  In comparison to the antiquities of most places in the region, Tiberias is fairly young, being established in and around 20 AD.  When Herod Antipas (see genealogical flow chart below) came into power, he built the city to rule (as a capitol) his tetrarchy of Galilee and Perea.  It was strategically located on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee (also referred to later as “Lake Tiberias) between the Sea to the east and the hill country to the west.  Hot springs were nearby (which had been described as hot enough to cause injury) and the region was noted for its excellent produce of figs, wine, wheat and barley, which were sold in the Tiberian market.  
As the construction of the city ensued, tombs were accidentally discovered which caused alarm for the Jews involved.  Declaring the site as “unclean,” most of the Jews refused to participate in the construction.  Therefore, Antipas used a blend of Gentiles, some Jews who were willing to stay, and slaves who had been freed.  Some of these people were landless, so the attraction to work and live in a new city was obvious.  Josephus wrote of the odd mix of the poor and foreigners that were used to populate the city.  Antipas named the city in honor of Emperor Tiberius and minted coins at the city with one side stating, “Of Herod The Tetrarch,” and on the other, “Tiberias.”  The earliest dates on the coins are 24 AD, which correlates to the completion of the construction.  
Within the city, Antipas built markets, a stadium, baths and an elaborate royal palace perched overlooking the city.  He decorated the palace with statues of animals that Jews took particular abhorrence.  During the First Jewish Revolt, it was the first building to be destroyed.  It also housed what would be referred to as the “finest synagogue in Galilee.”
Herod Antipas would eventually be exiled by Emperor Caligula in 39 AD and replaced with Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great and Mariamne (see below).  Agrippa suddenly died and the region and title went under the Roman authority from Caesarea.  By 61 AD, Nero gives the control to Herod Agrippa II, son of Agrippa I.  Though he technically ruled Tiberias and neighboring lands to the end of the century, he was ousted by the Jews heading into the First Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD), because he sided with Rome.  
When Vespasian takes the throne in 69 AD as Emperor, he leads a charge against Tiberias to which they easily surrendered.  He spared the city and returned the control to Agrippa.  But in the process, the Vespasian orders 12,000 refugees from Taricheae to be executed in the stadium.  An additional 6,000 were sent to build Nero’s canal at Corinth, and 30,400 were sold as slaves.  Agrippa subsequently dishonored the city by moving the capitol to Sepphoris.  In the Second Jewish Revolt, Emperor Hadrian will abolish Jewish municipal government altogether in Judea.  
In spite of the wars, Tiberias retained its position for marketing to the Roman Empire.  Agriculture and fishing, along with many other goods and services flowed through the city.  Tiberias was also known for exceptionally clear glass production.  By the 2ndc AD, Jews began returning and the city became a Jewish center for education and study.  In an ironic twist, the city once declared as “unclean” became one of the 4 pillars of the sacred community.  In 150 AD, the Sanhedrin is moved from Sepphoris to Tiberias.  Institutions of rabbinical learning were established and eventually, the Mishnah is compiled there (220 Ad).  The Tiberian form of vowel pointing was invented and the Palestinian Talmud was written in the 4thc AD.  
The Talmud spoke of 13 synagogues existing in Tiberias.  Within the synagogues was a form of Jewish denominationalism, with Babylonian Jews meeting separately from the “Jews of Tarsus” who met separately from the special synagogue of the city council.  Though Constantine built the first church recorded there and established a bishopric over the city, Christianity never really took hold, even after Emperor Justinian (527 AD) passed a law that banned all Jewish government in Tiberias and handed it over to Christian authorities.  The Persian Invasion of 614 AD, followed by the Muslim Arabs in 636 AD changed the religious landscape to what it largely reflects today.  
However, one interesting fact remained throughout this time of occupation; Tiberias became the center for a group called “The Masoretes.”  These are the scholars who are largely responsible for what is referred to as the “vocalization” of the Hebrew Bible.  What this means, is that they inserted vowels between the consonants of the Hebrew words (which are otherwise assumed in pronunciation).  In doing so, otherwise single scrolls were doubled in length, turning them into 2 scrolls.  This is why we have 1st and 2nd scrolls of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.
Throughout Tiberias history, it has largely been subject to severe earthquakes.  It was almost completely destroyed on January 1, 1837.  

Biblical References

  • John 6:1, 23; 21:1

This is Nazareth

Continuing our journey on Day 5, we will travel north of the Valley of Jezreel to the town of Jesus’ youth, Nazareth.  The town is situated between the Sea of Galilee (15 miles east) and the Mediterranean (20 miles west).  This city is where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus.  After His birth in Bethlehem, they returned to Nazareth as their home.  Scripture refers to Nazareth as the village where Joseph and Mary resided and raised Jesus.  When Jesus first set foot to begin in His ministry in the flesh on earth, He left Nazareth to visit the towns of Galilee.  When He returned there and spoke in the synagogue, He was met with a harsh reaction.  Many people identified Christ as coming from Nazareth, to which some gave a less than favorable reaction (“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”).

Matthew 4:15 quotes Isaiah 9:1 as a prophecy fulfilled, referring to “Galilee of the Gentiles.”  It is important to note here that Jesus spent His childhood in a city within a region that did not have a closed-minded Judaizing command that held foreigners with contempt.  This will be a decisive factor for Christianity to reach the world as opposed to being isolated from those outside of Judaism. 

Scripture states that prophecy was being fulfilled in Jesus being a “Nazarene.”  Most proposals are agreeably problematic though.  Some have related this to a wordplay being used by Matthew in relation to Isaiah 11:1.  This would mean that Matthew is using “Nazarene” as the Hebrew word “nēşer,” which would mean “branch” or “root.”  Another take is that the word is connected with an earlier Hebrew name of “Nazara,” which would refer to the entire district of the land.  In this case, it would mean “Galilean.”  Nevertheless, in Acts 24:5, an attorney by the name of Tertullus levies charges against Paul by saying he is a “ringleader of the sect of Nazarenes.”  While it carries a slightly different spelling, it is clearly a derogatory name used by Jews towards Christians. 

During the Herodian and pre-Herodian periods, Nazareth was approximately the size of a 60 acre plot of land with an estimated population of 480 persons (1stc AD).  The village has been understood to be purely Jewish as late as the 4thc AD. When the failure of the First Jewish Revolt occurred in Jerusalem, 24 divisions of priests fled northward from the temple.  One of the priest’s families named Hapizez settled in Nazareth.  This priestly “character” in Nazareth carried deep into the 3rdc AD according to the Midrash Qoholeth. 

Nazareth classically is referred to as a “tiny village” with no mention of a church from the records of Eusebius and Jerome.  However, during the Constantinian period, at least two main churches were built: The Church of Gabriel and the Church of Annunciation.  Some caves in the area were set apart as shrines to Mary and Jesus.  During 679-704 AD, Muslim conquest held the Church of Annunciation hostage and demanded a very large ransom from the Christians, to which they paid. 

When excavations ensued in the late 19th and early 20thc, several interesting artifacts were recovered from the general region and caves discovered beneath the Church of Annunciation.  A Neanderthal skull was also unearthed near Nazareth in 1934.  Caves were discovered that were adorned with painted plaster, a cross, and inscribed prayers to Jesus in Greek language.  These caves are adjoined to a building that has been identified as a Jewish-Christian synagogue.  Excavations also revealed that under the beautiful mosaic floors therein, from an earlier period, was a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh) with seven steps leading down into the water.  

Today, Nazareth is the largest Arabic city in Israel with a 69% Muslim and 30.9% Christian population of 210,000 people.  Nazareth has a thriving high-tech industry, thus earning the title, “Silicon Valley of the Arab Community.”

Biblical References

  • Matthew 2:23; 21:11
  • Mark 1:9
  • Luke 1:26; 2:4, 39, 51; 4:16, 28-30;
  • John 1:45, 46
  • Acts 24:5

This is Megiddo

When Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, one of the places and kings conquered was in the land of Megiddo.  The ancient Canaanite city is located southeast of Mount Carmel, adjacent to the Valley of Jezreel.  Scripture records the tribe of Manasseh being allotted this region (Joshua 17:11).  However, they failed at securing the territory and the Canaanites “persisted in living in the land.”  The Prophetess and Judge Deborah directed Barak, son of Abinoam to lead an army of soldiers against Sison and his troops, who were under the rule of the Canaanite King Jabin (Judges 4).  They were to amass at Mount Tabor and battle at the river Kishon, which is in the valley of Megiddo at the foot of Mount Carmel. 

It would appear that Solomon controlled the area (1 Kings 4:12) and even fortified it as a city of Israel (1 Kings 9:15).  Yet in the following days of the divided kingdom, King Ahaziah (from Judah) went to check on King Joram (from North Israel) who was recovering from wounds of war with the Arameans (2 Kings 9:15, 16).  After agreeing to join forces with one another, they go out to face Jehu, who has just been anointed by God through His prophet Elisha, to be King of Israel.  Jehu kills Joram and pursues the fleeing Ahaziah.  After being seriously wounded, Ahaziah escapes to Megiddo and subsequently dies there.  Good King Josiah also died at Megiddo after Pharaoh Neco (king of Egypt) attacked and killed him there.

The ancient city of Tel Megiddo is also known as Tell el-Mutesellim (Arabic), meaning, “tell of the governor.”  It enjoyed an abundant water supply from two springs and was strategically located along the major highway for the area, Via Maris.  These items, in conjunction with the locality of a fertile valley, made Megiddo a center of business and attention.  The excavation site is a major mound of some 20 levels of identifications that predate the 20thc BC.  The prominence of Egyptian domination in the region is evident in many archaeological discoveries.  Papyrus records during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep discuss grain and beer envoys to various Canaanite cities, including Megiddo.  Eight of the el-Amarna letters were sent from Megiddo, which indicate the level of importance placed on the city.   Maps will also refer to the area as the Plain of Esdraelon (Greek for “Jezreel”) during the Ptolemaic period of occupation.  Farms were established by the Greeks in the premium land for produce, but eventually, the Maccabeans will retake it after the revolution against the Seleucids. 

Some mystery surrounds the name “Megiddo” due to a compound word used in Revelation 16:16, “Har-Magedon” (or “Armageddon”).  Fiction in movies and literature abound with this in reference to “end-time” events, such as world wars and the destruction of the earth.  Those who use a literalist approach to Revelation seek to identify Har-Magedon as a literal location.  However, to do so is to ignore that Revelation is of apocalyptic genre.  This means if Har-Magedon is literal, then so is Babylon and Euphrates in the apocalyptic sense.  In order to be exegetically faithful to the text, Har-Magedon is representative and illustrative instead of being specifically geographical in future reference.  Old Testament prophecies are often quoted about a final battle in history to be fought in the immediate city of Jerusalem, Mount Zion and its surrounding mountains.  However, it is approximately a 2-day walk north from Jerusalem to Megiddo.  Arguments of the contrasting parallels between Revelation 19:17-19; 20:8 and Ezekiel 38-39 abound and what or how Har-Magedon plays into the scene.  But for the sake of brevity, this article will remain focused on the actual etymology of the pronoun. 

Har-Magedon /Armageddon (Hebrew) literally means, “mount of Megiddo.”  This is an anomaly because there is technically no mountain of Megiddo.  However, sometimes things local to a point can borrow from the name.  For example, the river Kishon is called “the waters of Megiddo” in Judges 5:19, 21.  Thus, it is possible (not necessarily probable) that Mount Carmel could have been referred to as Mount Megiddo.  Another remote possibility is in relation to the city being built on a “tel” or hill.  This is why contemporarily some archaeologist refer to “tel-Megiddo” as “har-Megiddo.”  There is also the suggestion that Megiddo could come from a root word meaning “to cut, attack or maraud.”  Some LXX traditions translate the word to mean “in the plain to being cut down.” 

With all of these things in consideration, these are the simple biblical facts.  Megiddo was the place where: kings were defeated who oppress God’s people (Jabin and Ahab); false prophets were condemned to death (Elijah at Carmel and Kishon); and misled kings die (Josiah), which caused deep mourning by the nation.  The dualistic events of Ahab (wicked) and Josiah (good) being killed at the same place became a proverb amongst Jews.  The Apostle John’s record of the vision given to him in Revelation with these typological and prophetic associations of these events is most likely why “mount of Megiddo / Armageddon” is illustratively used. 

Megiddo continues to be one of the largest archaeological discoveries in the Middle East and continues to reveal its historical treasures.

Biblical References

  •  Joshua 12:7-8, 21
  • Joshua 17:11
  • Judges 5:19
  • 1 Kings 4:12
  • 1 Kings 9:15
  • 2 Kings 9:7
  • 2 Kings 23:29
  • 2 Chronicles 35:20-24
  • Zechariah 12:11 (Megiddon)
  • Revelation 16:16

This is Caesarea

Day 5 of our journey will be busy as before, with 4 sites visited (technically 5, including the night’s stay in Tiberias).  The first location will be the historically rich city of Caesarea.  Our route will be along the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea to arrive at the seaport also known as Caesarea Maritima.  Centuries prior, this location had been used by Egypt as their shipping portal to the eastern Mediterranean, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica (also known as “the Levant”).  Records of the Sidonian king named “Strato” retaining settlement to the area extend back to the 4thc BC.  It was known as “Strato’s Tower.”  Because of the location of the port to the fertile land of the Plain of Sharon, agricultural transportation was a prime marketing trade.
Having been under Ptolemaic control in the late 2ndc BC, a ruler by the name of Zoilus captured Strato’s Tower and local lands.  He then changed the port to a fully fortified city by constructing an artificially protected anchorage point.  To accomplish this, Zoilus literally changed the coastline and flooded the area to create a shipping harbor.  During the Hellenistic age, the harbor was closed into the city walls for additional fortification.  Zoilus maintained control of area until being overcome by Alexander Jannaeus in 103 BC.  By the time Herod the Great comes into power (40-4 BC), the city will practically be in ruins.  
Herod will eventually be placed in the position of Rome’s client king of Judea.  Caesar thus granted him additional territory, which included the ruins of Strato’s Tower.  After the acquisition, Herod turns the region into a major international port he named “Sebastos” to bolster his economic position, both locally and with Rome.  Eventually, Herod will rebuild the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  As a counterpart to appeal to his Gentile allies, Herod turns the area into a definitive Greco-Roman attraction that included pagan temples, a hippodrome, amphitheater, and theater.  In an astonishing archaeological feat, the entire complex was completed in just over 10 years (22-10/9 BC).  These events have been recorded by Flavius Josephus in historic detail.  
Upon Herod’s death, his son Archelaus took over as king of Judea.  However, Caesar Augustus deemed him as incompetent and removed him from the seat in 6 AD.  The kingdom under him, including Caesarea, was annexed into the immediate Roman Empire.  Now being considered a part of Judea, the seaport was appointed as capitol of the region.  Thus, a census was called for by Augustus and directed hence from Caesarea to determine the amount to be taxed upon its residents.  This is the very census that Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary respond to and subsequently travel to Bethlehem for.  (Luke 2:2).  
In additional terms of biblical historicity, few cities rival Caesarea for events; Pontius Pilate governed Judea as prefect from this capitol city; Philip (deacon in the Jerusalem church) brings Christianity to Caesarea in Acts 8:4-40; Peter confirms the converting of the first Gentile, Cornelius (and household) in Acts 10:3-48; The apostle Paul had been taken from Caesarea to Tarsus in Acts 9:23-26, but is later imprisoned there for two years before (57-59 AD) being transferred to Rome (Acts 23-26).  The interesting aspect in this situation in regard to the profound wisdom of God is that even though imprisoned, Paul’s evangelistic outreach extends through the shipping portal of Caesarea.  
The beginning of the First Jewish War (66-70 AD – Destruction of the Temple) is largely attributed to circumstances occurring in Caesarea.  Through disruptions with the people, some 20,000 Jews were killed there in one hour.  Vespasian, and his son Titus issued orders to the Roman legions from this location.  At one juncture, over 10,000 soldiers resided in the city.  However, when the war was over, “social boredom” set in with people.  Therefore, Titus hosted “victory games” in the amphitheater for the people’s entertainment.  As appointed “gladiators,” 2500 Jewish prisoners were required to fight to their deaths for the amusement of the populace.  In honor of commitment and loyalty to Caesar, Vespasian renamed the city as a Roman colony – Colonia Prima Flavia Augustus Caesarea.
Additional construction, honors and titles were placed upon the city due to subsequent favors of Caesars to follow.  By the end of the 3rdc AD, the Jewish population had largely recovered from the wars.  Prominent rabbis began issuing legal decisions from Caesarea and were recorded in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds.  When Origen arrives in 231 AD, he literally turned the city into a center of learning for Christianity.  He constructed a library there (which housed the Hexapala) that was utilized for decades by scholars of the Scriptures.  
The peak of Christian persecution occurred in Caesarea from 303-313 AD.  Multiple believers were martyred there for their faith and testimony.  Eusebius of Caesarea recorded many of the events in “On The Martyrs of Palestine,” in 311 AD.  He is the same Eusebius who wrote the first historical chronicle of the church, “Ecclesiastical History.”
During the Byzantine period and the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, a political dispute between bishops emerged over the importance placed on Caesarea as opposed to Jerusalem.  Regardless, the library continued to enrich many who came to study there.  
Into the 6th and 7thc AD, the city began to decline due to drought and religious conflict with Islam.  After the port being rebuilt in the early 6thc, the city surrendered approximately 100 years later (614 AD) to the Persians.  Emperor Heraclius overthrew the Persians in 627-28 AD.  But only 6 years later, the Muslims invaded and attacked Caesarea.  The city withstood the attacks until 640-641 AD.  Caesarea could have ultimately survived their onslaught, but a Jew by the name of Joseph betrayed the people and led the invaders into the city through an aqueduct.
By the time of the Crusades, Christians reclaimed the city.  In the process of regaining control, a green cut-glass chalice was discovered in the Great Mosque and was determined to be Holy Grail.  The Genoese fleet took the chalice back to their home city of Genoa, where it remains in the treasury of Cathedral of San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence).  
Throughout the centuries, the general ruins of Caesarea have remained intact, in spite of skirmishes in the territories.  It was not until 1952 that a Jewish community established the modern settlement of Caesarea next to the ancient city.  Today, the general population is just over 5,000.  Caesarea Maritima has been declared a national park and preserved for antiquity.  

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.