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psalm 59:16… day ten

May 7, 2010

Well I’ve run across blazing upload speeds for the Internet. And I’m sure you’re wondering where these mystical upload speeds have come from. I’ll tell you. It’s not a secret. From ANOTHER HOTEL, that’s where! That’s right, I’m currently sitting in the lobby of the Olive Tree Hotel, which is down the road from the Grand Court where I’m staying. I decided that it would be worth a whirl to see if I could get Internet access over here, and aside from the awkwardness of my response to the front desk agent’s question of, “What room are you staying in?”, it’s been a worthwhile purchase. But I’ve only got three hours until my time runs out, so I bettr start tyeing fast if i wan too get this all in,

So let’s start with me bringing you up to speed on yesterday’s events.

On Thursday we saw three sites: Masada, Qumran, and Jericho. Here are my thoughts on each…

Every trip has that one site that everyone you know who has been to the location you’re going to before tells you is just amazing and then you see it for yourself and it’s a dud. Well, Masada was that place for me. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t boring or anything; it just wasn’t as enticing as you would think a stronghold built high atop a natural defensive fortification could be. The story behind its final days was pretty worthwhile, but the place itself… not so much.

For those not familiar with this place, the end of the story is that Masada was a stronghold on the western edge of the Dead Sea and was built by Herod the Great to serve as a place of refuge. Blah, blah, blah – the guy had plenty of them, as he was one paranoid dude. But where the story of Masada takes a turn for the interesting is when we look at what happened there in 73AD, just three years after Jerusalem had fallen at the hands of the Romans. Led by  Eleazor, a number of Jewish extremists had been holding out against the impending Roman destruction. The Romans finally determined that building a siege ramp out of the rubble would be their best option for the completion of their efforts to destroy the Jewish state.

Rather than succumb to slavery, Eleazor convinced his comrades that suicide was a better option. So after killing the women and children, the extremists of Masada took their own lives. The rousing speech that Eleazor delivered to his men is captured for us by Josephus in his Wars of the Jews, though it is debated how accurate Josephus is with regard to this episode. (I would argue “not very”. Though with that said, I think that Josephus’ account may simply be an embellishment of what might have happened, perhaps as a bit of an apology for bailing on his countrymen.) Anyway, in the last few decades the story of Masada has served as a motivator and symbol for the young of Israel. (Nevermind the fact that Eleazor and his men actually pillaged from and killed most of the people in surrounding villages while trying to outwait the Romans). Today, it’s the most visited tourist site in all of Israel. And I still found it lacking. At the end of the day, there really aren’t that many ruins at the top of this 1,400 foot high mountain and it feels like it’s 109 degrees when you’re up there.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the siege ramp that the Romans built out of debris and rocks which allowed them to finally take Masada (ramp is in the middle). It’s pretty cool that it’s still there:

From Masada, our next stop was at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And the way the scrolls were found is actually a pretty interesting story. They weren’t so much as “found by a shepherd” as they were “illegally sold on the Black Market”. But nonetheless, these documents serve as the find of the 20th century. Pictured below is Cave 4, where the clear majority of the scrolls have – to date – been found.

The theory goes that the Essenes buried the scrolls in clay pots and jars in an attempt to preserve their writings (largely instructions on their way of life) as they were quickly being expelled by the Romans in 68AD. Unfortunately, it appears as if the Romans tore much of the writings up, thinking that they were junk as they rooted the caves in search of usable materials. But after what was probably at least a handful of rolls of Scotch tape, most of the 900+ documents have been restored, providing us with the oldest known copies of what was of far more value than how the Essenes bathed – the Biblical texts.

Our final stop for the day was one that I’m sure was circled on most everyone’s itineraries – Jericho.

Today, Jericho is a thriving area. It seems that it’s one of the first considerations for those ready to leave Jerusalem. What really came to life for me was how obvious it is as to why this would have been the first city that Joshua and his men would have conquered during the conquest. When standing atop Mount Nebo, the city looks like it’s just a skip away from the Jordan River, near where it meets the Dead Sea.

But that’s not to say that the Jericho of the Old Testament just jumps right out at you, as you really have no idea what you’re even looking at. Jericho is, it seems, about as poorly dug of an archaeological site as you’re going to run into. It pretty much just looks like a big grey mound. You can see the revetment (outer) wall from Joshua’s day still standing, but other than that it’s mostly just a lot of pot shards and weeds. In the picture below you can see the shadow of Jericho in the foreground, with the famed palm trees in the middle, and the Plain of Moab in the background.

As I’ve already mentioned, Jericho had two walls – an outer (revetment) wall and an inner wall (probably 25′-50′ higher up the hill from the outer wall). This was a common technique in antiquity. If your opponent made it through one wall (a generally time consuming affair) then he still had to make it through another one. It’s the inner, higher wall that would have fallen to the ground for the benefit of the Israelites, at which point they would have scaled the lower wall with ladders and other such paraphernalia. While there is evidence of the inner wall having actually fallen, I don’t have any pictures of that. But the whole structure would have looked something like this:

Here’s a video that shows you the still-standing outer wall:

So while it might not be much to look at, it’s still the site of one of the most well-known stories in the Bible and it’s a testament to how – once again – the Biblical accounts can be verified as long as you’re willing to allow enough time to pass for new discoveries to be made. Because time is one of the biggest allies the Bible has.

We spent all of today in Jerusalem, and so I plan to fit both Friday and Saturday’s events into an All-Jerusalem-All-The-Time post tomorrow in an effort to get us caught up after The Great Internet Debacle of Oh-10. But I will tell you one thing about today’s events that was just wonderful…

You see, we’ve been changing hotels quite frequently while on this excursion. Checking in at 6:00 in the evening and checking out at 8:00 the next morning is fairly common on this trip. But we have four days in the same hotel (well, unless, of course, you feel the need to walk to a different hotel for some random reason) to close the trip out. As a result, it meant that this morning Erin and I only had to carry two small backpacks onto the bus instead of our usual of two large suitcases, three backpacks, a camera bag, and about half a dozen giant bottles of water. As a result of that usual routine, our area tends to look like a landfill by the end of the day. I’m not kidding, the only thing keeping us and our 6 square feet area from joining the hobo consortium is a stick and a bandana. But not today. Today our feet actually touched the floor.

Oh, and because someone asked…. Of course we hummed the Indiana Jones theme while riding our horses into the siq in Petra at the majestic speed of ‘walking’.

Two for the price of one tomorrow!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 4:55 pm

    Since you hadn’t answere any of the previous questions from us, the readers, I figured you were saving them up to answer near the end of your trip. So I have a few more questions for you to answer.

    What color is a giraffe’s tongue?

    Where was the city of Atlantis before it went missing?

    Did Oswald act alone?

    How is an IQ measured?

    Who shot J.R.?

    When will man return to the moon?

    Is there “life” after death?

    Why is the sky blue?

    How many nets are lost per year by fishermen?

    Do androids dream of electric sheep?

    How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

    What happened April 17, 1943?

    What is the meaning of life?

  2. Don and Terri permalink
    May 7, 2010 6:16 pm

    We are loving every blog! Love the video of ya’ll humming the Indiana Jones theme, especially James playing the drums. Hope you got daddy a rock from Jericho. Is that against the law? Did you stick a prayer in the wailing wall…..Betsy said she did. Stay safe and have fun.

  3. Stacy permalink
    May 7, 2010 9:47 pm

    YAY! Thanks for the video! 🙂 … BTW the Olive Tree Hotel also has a fun trinkets shop (rams horns, olive wood vases — or it did 2 years ago).

  4. Aaron Gann permalink
    May 10, 2010 12:19 am

    Question: Is it really surprising that Jericho isn’t much to look at? I mean
    Jos 6:24 says “And they burnt the city with fire, and all that [was] therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.” (blueletterbible.com, KJV).
    Cool theme music though. I remember that was the music my brother used at his wedding for their departure. And lo, behold, during the next movie Indy got married. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Anyway, I have a test tomorrow at 8 a.m. and your post is keeping me awake. It’s a good thing the entries aren’t too long.

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