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Biblical Israel: Pool of Siloam

By Marc Turnage

Located on the southern part of the rock cliff that marks the hill of the City of David (in Jerusalem), near the southern end of the Tyropoean Valley sits the Pool of Siloam. The pool was accidentally discovered in 2004 by workmen laying a new sewage line in the southern part of the City of David. The Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s primary water source, supplied water to the pool in antiquity via the so-called Hezekiah’s Tunnel. 

Archaeologists uncovered two flights of five narrow steps separated by a wide landing that descend into the pool. This enabled people to descend to different levels based upon the fluctuation of the water level due to either the rainy or dry seasons within the land of Israel. Although the archaeologists only uncovered one side of the steps of the pool, it seems that such an arrangement of steps surrounded the pool on four sides. The pool covered roughly an acre of land. Coins and pottery date the construction of the stepped pool to the mid first century B.C.

To the north of the pool, archaeologists uncovered a fine pavement of stones that resemble the first century street that runs to the west of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Discovery of column drums and column bases protruding from the pavement suggests that a colonnade ran along the pavement. 

The Pool of Siloam appears twice within the New Testament (Luke 13:4; and John 9:7). In John, Jesus instructed the blind man to wash the mud from his eyes in the pool to be healed. It served the water needs of ancient Jerusalem (along with other pools in the city), and it also served as the largest ritual immersion pool within the city. Jewish pilgrims, who needed to be ritually pure before entering the sacred precincts of the Temple (see Acts 21:26), could use the Pool of Siloam for ritual immersion. Its size and proximity to the Temple makes it a suitable location for the baptism of the three thousand who responded to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). 

Archaeologists have suggested that the holes found on the steps leading into the pool might have supported screens made of wood or mats to provide privacy for those ritually immersing in the pool. Jewish ritual immersion, like what we find in the New Testament, required privacy as the person immersing did so in the nude, nothing can come between the bather and the water. 

During the first century, on the last night of the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam and brought to the altar of the Temple and poured out as a libation. The festival occurs at the end of the summer (around October), and the water libation requested rains from God (see John 7:37). This ceremony, known as the Beth HaShoeva, occurred at night. Jewish sources describe how pilgrims lined the route from the pool to the Temple carrying torches.

The first century Pool of Siloam likely covers the same pool mentioned in Nehemiah (3:15). Then, at a later time, the pool was enlarged and constructed in the manner of a Jewish ritual immersion bath. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Biblical Israel: Avdat

By Marc Turnage

Located in the modern Negev Desert on the spur of a mountain ridge, overlooking the plain around the canyon of En Avdat (the “Spring of Avdat”), sits the ancient ruins of the Nabatean city of Avdat. Avdat sits along the ancient caravan routes that crossed the barren lands from Elat (ancient Aila) on the Gulf of Aqaba, and Petra, the Nabatean capital in the Transjordan, to the Mediterranean coast and the port city of Gaza. 

The Nabateans, a nomadic people, immigrated out of the Arabian Peninsula, and in the period of the New Testament, their kingdom stretched from southern Syria to the northern Hijaz in the Arabian Peninsula. Their capital was Petra, in the south of the modern Kingdom of Jordan. Although the land of their kingdom was vast, they had few urban centers. They controlled the trade and caravan routes through the Transjordan, including those that extended west to the Mediterranean coast. Their ability to travel through the dry desert regions, in part by using their caravansaries, like Avdat, enabled them to acquire a great degree of wealth. 

In the New Testament, Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist, was originally married to a Nabatean princess, the daughter of the Nabatean king Aretas IV. He divorced her in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother with whom he had an adulterous affair (Luke 3:19-20).

Avdat was originally settled at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century B.C. as a station on the caravan routes. By the end of the first century B.C. and into the first century A.D., Avdat had become a religious, military, and commercial center. Nabatean shrines were located at the site. 

The Roman annexation of the Nabatean kingdom into Provincia Arabia in A.D. 106 did not hurt Avdat. In fact, the second and third centuries A.D. saw the site flourish, as both agriculture and herding became part of the local economy. With the rise of Christianity in the fourth century A.D., two churches and a monastery were built on the site replacing the pagan shrines. Avdat relied upon the cultivation and production of a fine variety of grapes and wine during the Byzantine period. The site was abandoned in A.D. 636 with the Arab conquest. 

The earliest periods of settlement left little in terms of remains, especially a lack of architectural remains. Coins and imported pottery provide the main discoveries on the site from the fourth century B.C. to the early first century B.C. During the first century, public buildings were erected on the site including a shrine (temple) where the Nabatean pantheon were worshipped. 

Although not mentioned in the New Testament, Avdat and the Nabateans stood on the edge of the New Testament world. Herod the Great’s mother likely belonged to the Nabatean aristocracy, if not the royal family. We already mentioned the wife of Antipas. Throughout the first century, the Herodian lands came into conflict with Nabatean territory, which sets the backdrop for life in the region.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Yom HaAtzma’ut: Israel’s Independence Day

By Julie Stahl

“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8 NIV).

On May 14, 1948, just before the Sabbath, some 350 guests crammed into an un-air-conditioned, Tel Aviv art gallery for a 32-minute ceremony that would change the world forever.

We, members of the people’s council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel,” declared David Ben-Gurion, Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and soon to be the first prime minister of the fledgling state.

On that historic day, Ben-Gurion spoke for 11 million Jewish men, women, and children around the world who had no voice, no address, and nowhere to go. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, they finally had their own nation in their ancestral homeland.

“It was promised to us by God. We are the only people in the history of the world that live on the same land, speaking the same language, and believing in the same God more than 3,000 years,” says Isaac Dror, who heads the education efforts for Independence Hall, the place where the declaration was made.

Among the crowd of witnesses was Yael Sharett, whose father Moshe Sharett was on stage with Ben-Gurion and was the country’s first foreign minister and second prime minister. At age 17, Yael wrote as her father dictated one of the drafts of the declaration. She shared a chair with her aunt at the ceremony.

“It’s really epic. It’s poetry actually. The only time I was really moved I must say was when the Rabbi Levine made the old age Jewish blessing: shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh,” Yael told CBN News.

That ancient Jewish prayer, which is recited on momentous occasions, offers thanks to God “who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.”

Then they sang HaTikvah (“The Hope”), which is Israel’s national anthem.

The next day, which was the Sabbath, U.S. President Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize Israel.

He understood something that most of his top advisors and ministers failed to see. This is truly prophecy being realized,” Dror said.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations had passed resolution 181 calling for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State in British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. The plan set aside land in the Galilee, along the Mediterranean and the Negev Desert for the Jewish people, while the Arabs were to receive all of biblical Judea and Samaria, later known as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and other small portions. Perhaps the most controversial part of the plan was that an international body would control Jerusalem.

Still the Jewish people accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected it. Less than six months later the Jewish people declared independence. The following day, the armies of five Arab nations attacked Israel.

Many countries have fought wars for their independence, but Israel’s war was not common. They had been granted independence by the sovereign, Britain; the decision was confirmed by the United Nations; and the Jewish people were returning to the historic land of their ancestors. But it was their neighbors who didn’t want them to exist.

A year later, the Jewish state was still standing and had increased its size by nearly 50 percent. Against overwhelming odds, this fledgling State of Israel not only survived but grew beyond expectation.

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Plan, Israel’s mission to the U.N. celebrated by returning to the hall in Flushing Meadows, New York, where the U.N. vote took place.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said: “In this very hall 70 years ago when the United Nations declared to the modern world an ancient truth that the Jewish people have a natural, irrevocable right to an independent state in their ancestral and eternal homeland.”

Israelis celebrate Independence Day on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. During a televised ceremony that includes Israeli leaders, Israelis make the transition from mourning on their memorial day to celebrating their independence. Later that night, in cities and towns around the country, young and old take to the streets to listen to live music and dance Israeli folk dances.

Orthodox Jews recite the Psalms (but ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t yet recognize the State).

On Independence Day, the Israeli Air Force flies over cities and along beaches to celebrate as their fellow citizens picnic and barbecue (what they call mahngal). At the close of the day, the country awards the Israel Prize to Israelis who have made a unique contribution to the country’s culture, science, arts, and humanities.

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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Yom HaZikaron: Israel’s Memorial Day

By Julie Stahl

“The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die” (Psalm 116:15).

A week after Yom HaShoah (“Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day”), Israelis mark Yom HaZikaron (“Israel’s Memorial Day”) to honor and remember those who died fighting for their country and those murdered in terror attacks.

A televised state ceremony is held at the Western Wall and neighborhoods throughout the country hold their own ceremonies in public places, with the participation of the youth. 

Israelis stand in the streets for an hour or more as the people who died from those neighborhoods are honored.

Since Israel is frequently under attack—whether by rockets or terror attacks or infiltrations—the day is very real and relevant for most Israelis. Many visit cemeteries and attend other ceremonies on the day. Schools are in session but have special programs to honor the fallen.

Twice, on the evening before Israel’s Memorial Day and the following morning itself, Israelis collectively stand in silence as a siren sounds calling to mind the sacrifices that were made by family and friends for Israel’s freedom and security. 

“I was thinking about all the soldiers from the beginning of the modern State of Israel up until today who had to fight on the frontlines and on the home front,” said Shai Yosipov, a former IDF combat medic.

“It’s so important that everyone understands the price and the responsibility we have for living in this country. We not only remember our fallen loved ones, but we also acknowledge that there has always been a sacrifice that needed to be made so that we could be here today,” says Yosipov.

“During the siren, I was praying for families who’ve lost so many, and I prayed that God would give them comfort from the pain,” says Sarah Rivka Yekutiel, who moved to Israel from Boston many years ago.

“It’s an emotional time for everyone, whether you’ve lost family or not. This day is very heavy and intense,” said Orital Saban, who recently moved to Israel from Canada.

More than 23,000 Israeli and Jewish soldiers and more than 3,100 terror victims have fallen since 1860. 

At sundown on Israel’s Memorial Day, Israelis make an incredible leap from mourning those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, to celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut (“Israel’s Independence Day”).

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN—first as a graduate student in Journalism at Regent University; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. She is also an integral part of CBN News’ award-winning show, Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program providing a biblical and prophetic perspective to what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.

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Biblical Israel: Shiloh

By Marc Turnage

Shiloh served as the place where the Israelites erected the Tabernacle and placed the Ark of the Covenant after they conquered the land (Joshua 18:1). It became a place for religious pilgrimage and the celebration of festivals (Judges 21:19; 1 Samuel 1:3). The parents of Samuel, Hannah and Elkana, came to Shiloh and encountered the priest Eli, who delivered God’s promise to Hannah’s prayer that she would give birth to a son (1 Samuel 1). Then, when Samuel came of age, she brought him to serve the Lord and Eli at Shiloh, and, at Shiloh, God revealed himself to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:21). 

News of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines reached Eli in Shiloh, as well as the death of his sons, Hophni and Phineas (1 Samuel 4). Shiloh apparently suffered a destruction, not mentioned directly in the Bible, prior to the period of David and Solomon because, when the Ark returns to Israel (1 Samuel 6), the people did not return it to Shiloh, and the prophet Jeremiah mentions its destruction in his oracle against Jerusalem and the Temple: “Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel…therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh” (7:12, 14; 26:6, 9).

Shiloh sits about twenty-five miles north of Jerusalem. The book of Judges provides a clear description of its location: “north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah” (Judges 21:19). Shiloh, then, sat on the primary north-south roadway that ran through the central hill country. Other well-known biblical towns and villages also resided along this roadway, Hebron, Bethlehem, Gibeah, Ramah, Mizpah, Bethel, Shiloh, and Shechem. Jerusalem sits just to the east of this road. 

Excavations of the site of Shiloh revealed a destruction layer caused by a fierce fire in the eleventh century B.C., which coincides with the period of the priesthood of Eli, Samuel, and the capture of the Ark. The destruction of Shiloh likely coincided with the Philistine victory against the Israelites, which resulted in the Ark’s capture. Excavations also attest in this period that Shiloh served as a religious and economic center. 

The Tabernacle and Ark remained at Shiloh for a long period of time prior to the city’s destruction. Although a small settlement appears in the latter part of the monarchy, it never had the importance that it previously had. In Jeremiah’s oracle, it became an object lesson for those who thought the mere presence of God’s dwelling place insulated the people from his judgement and destruction. What mattered to Him was obedience; if you don’t believe Him, just go and look at Shiloh.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial Day

The Holocaust is etched in Israel’s national memory. Each year, its victims are honored on one special national holiday called Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day). All places of entertainment are closed. In the morning, a siren sounds across the country—and everything stops for two minutes of silence, in memory of the 6 million Jewish lives tragically lost.

Their fight for survival was shaped within the shadows and ashes of Europe’s extermination camps. And it gave those who lived the determination to firmly declare, “Never Again.”

That is why today, thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel honors their commitment. We are helping to expose and stem the tide of rising global anti-Semitism, with CBN’s broad international media platform. Through CBN News, we are sharing a biblical perspective on headlines in the Holy Land—and fighting hatred and misinformation with the truth. Plus, we are producing award-winning documentaries that share the riveting stories of Israel’s past and present.

You are also serving Israel’s last generation of Holocaust survivors, most of whom are in their 90s. Today, there are approximately 165,000 survivors left in Israel; sadly, many are isolated, lonely, and struggle to make ends meet. But you are there, providing groceries, medical and financial aid, home repairs, and safe visits with needed food, supplies, and encouragement.

You gift to CBN Israel can let these frail seniors know they are not forgotten, as well as being there for Jewish refugees, terror victims, single mothers, and others in need. So many people in Israel are living week to week.

Your support can bless them by offering food, shelter, job training, finances, and more. Please help us make a difference in this special land!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Megiddo

By Marc Turnage

Situated in the western Jezreel Valley at the foot of the lowlands of Mount Carmel stands the ancient mound of Megiddo. It overlooks where Nahal Iron crosses through the Carmel lowlands, which provided passage for one of the branches of the most important highway in the Ancient Near East, a highway that connected Egypt via Israel’s coastline, through the Jezreel Valley, onto Damascus and Mesopotamia. Megiddo’s importance stemmed from its location guarding this most import roadway. 

Archaeological excavations have revealed twenty layers of civilization beginning in the Neolithic period until the fourth century B.C. Its strategic significance made it the stage for battles through much of its history, with Pharoah Thutmoses III in 1468 B.C., Pharoah Merneptah in 1220 B.C., Pharoah Shishak in 924 B.C., and the battle in which Josiah, king of Judah, died at the hands of the forces of Pharoah Neco in 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:29-30). 

Megiddo’s strategic importance made it the object of Israelite conquest when the Israelites entered the land (Joshua 12:21). By the “waters of Megiddo,” the forces of Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanite forces of the king of Hazor (Judges 5:19). Megiddo fell within the territorial allotment of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11), but the Manassites could not take possession of Megiddo. It remained under the control of the local Canaanites (Joshua 17:12; Judges 1:27). 

During the United Monarchy, Solomon is said to have fortified Megiddo, along with Gezer and Hazor (1 Kings 9:15)—all three cities provided overwatch of the international coastal highway running from Egypt to Damascus and Mesopotamia. The final mention of Megiddo within the Bible is the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24). Within the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., Megiddo became an administrative city of the Assyrians, but its settlement steadily declined until it was abandoned in the fourth century B.C., most likely due to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the land. 

Visitors to the site today can visit two multi-chambered gate complexes from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Two separate palace and administrative complexes have been excavated, as well as an area that contained several cultic places of worship from different time periods. The site contains the remains of horse stables, stone mangers, and an exercise corral for the horses. Kings of Israel stationed horse and chariot forces, which were the tank corps of the ancient world, at Megiddo due to its strategic location. 

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the site that has been excavated is the water system. Ancient sites, especially administrative centers like Megiddo, had to provide the water needs for the city in times of peace and war. Most ancient sites sat on hills to offer the protection of elevation from an attacking army. Springs, however, usually do not sit on hills; they are found at their base. At Megiddo, the spring sits at the bottom of the west side of the mound. To bring the water into the city, the engineers cut a square shaft through the earth within the city’s fortified walls that connected to a long horizontal tunnel (80 meters long) that had been dug to the source of the spring. This tunnel brought the water to the area where the shaft had been dug, and the shaft enabled the people in the city to descend and draw water. 

A final word should be made regarding the well-known idea that the ancient site of Megiddo had some connection with John’s mention of Armageddon in Revelation (16:13-14, 16). The usual explanation, Armageddon represents the Hebrew meaning the “mountain of Megiddo.” People will speak about the Valley of Armageddon, yet the Bible never mentions a Valley of Armageddon. This is a modern fiction, which appears for the first time in the nineteenth century. 

No ancient Church father or Christian source ever connected Armageddon with Megiddo. Moreover, as we noted, Megiddo ceased to be inhabited in the fourth century B.C. The location of the site was forgotten. The first century Jewish historian Josephus did not know of it. In fact, he relocated the death of Josiah to a town he knew on the border between Egypt and the land of Israel. The fourth century Church father, Eusebius, did not know its location, nor did he connect Megiddo with Armageddon. No one, then, knew in the first century, when John wrote Revelation, where Megiddo was. 

Finally, while Megiddo sits on a hill created by layers of civilization, it cannot be described as a mountain. Hebrew has a word for “hill,” a word that accounts for the names of places like Gibeah, Geva, and Gibeon. Megiddo is a hill, and not a mountain. Time does not permit a full explanation for what stands behind John’s Armageddon, but suffice to say, he expected the gathering point for the armies of wickedness to fight against God to be Jerusalem (Revelation 11:1-2; 14:20; and 20:9), the mountain of assembly.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Who is My Neighbor?

“Just then an expert in the law stood up to test [Jesus], saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the law?’ He asked him. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. ‘You’ve answered correctly,’ He told him. ‘Do this and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28 HCSB).

To Jesus’ reply, the lawyer followed up with the natural question, “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

Have you ever noticed the nature of that question, “Who is my neighbor?” No matter how broad or narrow you make the circle, the question seeks to draw a line and define who’s inside and who’s outside of the line. Who are we obligated to love, and who are we relieved from loving? Jesus, however, turned the lawyer’s question around: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers” (Luke 10:36)? In other words, it is not for us to define insider and outsider, but rather: We must go be the neighbor.

Jesus drew His inspiration for His teaching from God Himself. He recognized that God does not distinguish in His mercy, and neither can we. “But I tell you, love your enemies … so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus saw in nature God’s mercy toward all humanity, and He calls upon His followers to imitate God: “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

But that makes us uncomfortable. We want to believe that God loves us because we’re on the inside. Of course, we want Him to love those like us because they also are inside the line—they are our neighbors. But those who hate us? God must certainly feel differently toward the evil and unrighteous, right? No—not according to Jesus. He sends His sunlight and rain on everyone. His mercy extends to all of humanity without distinction, and we must follow His example.

It’s wonderful to think about how much God loves us, but He loves our enemies the same. He calls us to imitate Him in our mercy toward them. That’s hard. But it’s what we’ve been called to do.

So, who is our neighbor? The person across the street. The foreigner and stranger in our midst. Our enemies, the people who hate us. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

PRAYER

Father, You send Your sun and rain on us all to show Your great mercy. May we be merciful as You are merciful to everyone. May we demonstrate our love for You by how we love others who are created in Your image. Amen.

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Biblical Israel: Arbel

By Marc Turnage

Arbel sits high upon the sheer limestone cliffs along the northwest corner of the lake of Galilee, northwest of Tiberias, overlooking the fertile plain of Gennesar. The Arbel Cliffs form the southern boundary of the plain of Gennesar and provide a striking visual landmark along the northwest shores of the lake. From here, visitors can see the geography on the northern shores of the lake of Galilee where 95% of Jesus’ ministry recorded in the Gospels took place.

Arbel could be identified with Beth-Arbel mentioned in the prophecy of Hosea (10:14). The current site of Arbel, however, began at the end of the second century B.C. The settlement most likely started as part of Hasmonean settlement of the Galilee when Jewish immigrants from Judea moved into the region. Rabbinic tradition identifies a Sage, Nittai, who lived in the second half of the second century B.C., as from Arbel (m. Avot 1:6-7). He served as the head of the Sanhedrin (m. Hagigah 2:2). His prominent position within Jewish society indicates a significant Jewish religious presence in Galilee at the end of the second century B.C.  

After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70, the priestly division of Yeshua, the ninth priestly division, settled at Arbel. Arbel was principally known for the growing of flax from which the inhabitants produced linen (Genesis Rabbah 19:1). The Arbel Valley was also known for its agricultural fertility, especially the production of grain (y. Peah 7, 4, 20a). Excavations uncovered wine and olive presses, as well as large pools, probably used for the processing of flax.

Arbel was the location of a clash between the Hasmonean forces of Antigonus and Herod (c. 39-38 B.C.). After Herod gained control of Sepphoris, he sent his force “to the village of Arbela,” and after 40 days, Herod’s forces fought the supporters of Antigonus (Josephus, War 1:305-313). Herod’s forces won the battle, and Antigonus’ supporters fled some taking refuge in caves “very near the village” of Arbel (Antiquities 14:415). There are three groups of caves in the cliffs of Mount Arbel, and most likely the rebels sought refuge in the western group of caves, which are the closest to the village of Arbel (approximately 400 meters). 

Herod eventually dealt with the rebels held-up in the caves. His forces could not make a direct assault on the caves due to the sheerness of the cliffs. His engineers constructed baskets to lower soldiers down the cliff face by machines anchored to the summit of the hill. The soldiers, armed with grappling hooks, fished the brigands out of the caves hurling them to the rocks below. Soldiers hurled fire into the caves to force the rebels out of them. Some of the rebels threw themselves along with their families down the cliffs while Herod watched from a fortified position on an opposite hill.

During the First Jewish revolt against Rome, Josephus fortified the “cave of Arbel” (Life 188; see Life 311; and War 2:573). Josephus likely fortified the eastern group of caves on the Arbel Cliffs where there are remains of actual fortifications. He also quite possibly utilized the western group of caves previously used by the supporters of Antigonus against Herod.

Today visitors can hike to the overlook from the cliffs of the Gennesar Valley and the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. They can also see the remains of a limestone synagogue built in the fourth century A.D., which continued in use until the eighth century A.D. Renovations were made in the late sixth or early seventh century A.D. 

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Resurrection

“Why are you seeking the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead” (Luke 24:5-7 NASB).

The Romans crucified thousands of Jews in the first century; Jesus was one of them. His death on a cross was not unique. It proved to be a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23). The difference: the resurrection. Jesus walked out of the tomb.

The resurrection became the cornerstone of the New Testament message that Jesus was God’s Messiah. He “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4 NKJV). When Paul was addressing the pagan Athenians, he sought common ground to proclaim his message—an altar to an unknown god, quoting their poets, not quoting the Jewish Scripture—yet the one thing he could not equivocate on was the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus served as God’s promise to those who are faithful that they too will participate in the resurrection at the end of the Age (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15). It also provided a powerful reversal. The crucifixion and death of Jesus left the hopes of many shattered (Luke 24:21). While Jesus died fully trusting His good and loving Father, His followers did not share the faith of their master. But God specializes in turning the dark into light, making the impossible possible, and bringing life from death.

In the resurrection of Jesus, God triumphed over the grave. He brought life from death; He turned darkness into light. He gave hope. This is why in the midst of our deepest despair, we do not lose faith. No matter how dark the night, how devastating the diagnosis, how impossible the situation, God will triumph. He will transform death into life and darkness into light; and so, we have hope. Why? Because Jesus walked out of the tomb. 

The Apostle Peter firmly declares the hope we have because of the resurrection: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB).

Even when we come to the end our lives and face our own death, we have nothing to fear. We have extraordinary hope, for ourselves and our loved ones. Why? Because Jesus walked out of the tomb. 

PRAYER

Father, You are our hope. Even in our darkest moments, You bring us light and life, and therefore we trust You. Thank you for the hope we have in the resurrection. Amen.

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