Biblical Israel: Gath

Famous as the hometown of Goliath, Gath of the Philistines sits at the opening of the Elah Valley into the coastal plain (1 Samuel 17) in the northwestern Judean lowlands. Archaeological excavations, as well as ancient sources (like the Bible) have led to the identification of the site of Gath with a place known as Tel es-Safi. Gath was one of the five cities of the Philistine Pentapolis, along with Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron. The Bible mentions Gath more than any other Philistine city.

It serves as a key city within the narrative of the wandering of the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5). Most of the biblical references to Gath come from the stories relating to David. He fought Goliath from Gath (1 Samuel 17); he escaped from Saul fleeing to Achish the king of Gath (1 Samuel 21 and 27). Ittai the Gittite (meaning he’s from Gath) served as the commander of David’s trusted warriors (2 Samuel 15).

Gath’s prominence diminished during the later Old Testament period. 2 Kings 12:17 mentions the capture of Gath by Hazael of Aram (around 830 B.C.). The prophet Amos spoke about the state of Gath’s destruction (6:2), most likely as a result of the destruction of Hazael. In later biblical texts where the Philistine cities are mentioned, Gath is not, indicating that it was no longer important by the 8th century B.C.

Excavations at Gath (Tel es-Safi) indicate that in the Late Bronze Age a distinct cultural change happened with the appearance of Philistine culture. During this period and the early Iron Age, excavations reveal that Gath was a large urban center. Up until the destruction of Gath as a result of Gath’s conquest by Hazael, the site grew reaching its zenith in the 10th-9th centuries B.C. It covered 16 to 20 acres, with an upper and lower city making it one of the largest sites in this period within the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank). Excavators discovered evidence of Hazael’s siege and conquest including a destruction layer throughout the site.

Scholars have recognized that the origins of the Philistines lay within the Aegean world. An inscription discovered in the excavations of Gath have underscored this. The inscription dates to Iron Age IIA and is inscribed with an archaic alphabetic script. It preserves two non-Semitic, Indo-European names with parallels from Mycenaean Greek and Luwian. It is the earliest decipherable Philistine text. It shows that the Philistines used Aegean scripts for their early writing, and that the Philistine language had Indo-European roots.

The size of the site of Gath and the excavations carried out there are significant not only for Gath but understanding Philistine culture in general. This gives important background to their appearance within the biblical record.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Q&A: What is the Talmud?

The Talmud refers to the expansive commentary which developed around the Mishnah in the centuries following the collection and editing of the Mishnah. There are two Talmuds, the Jerusalem Talmud and Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud consists of two parts: the Mishnah and the expansive commentary on the Mishnah known as the Gemara.

The Jerusalem Talmud—often referred as the Yerushalmi—follows the Mishnah’s organization down to the chapter level. However, the Yerushalmi lacks certain Mishnaic tractates (chapters); thus, it is incomplete. The Yerushalmi cites Sages who lived between A.D. 200-400. The main collection and editing of the Yerushalmi occurred within the land of Israel, most of it taking place in Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The language of the Yerushalmi is both Galilean Aramaic and rabbinic Hebrew.

The Babylonian Talmud is the longest literary work produced in Late Antiquity (roughly 6,000 pages in standard printed editions). It provides a full expansive commentary on the Mishnah. Like the Yerushalmi, the Babylonian Talmud includes the Mishnaic text and Gemara. Its size and thoroughness made the Babylonian Talmud the crowning accomplishment of rabbinic Judaism and the most important source of Jewish religious instruction.

The Babylonian Talmud follows the organization of the Mishnah, but the Mishnaic sayings often follow a different order than the Mishnah. The Babylonian Talmud was composed primarily in Babylon; thus, outside the land of Israel. Like the Mishnah and Yerushalmi, the Babylonian Talmud underwent a period of editing and collecting, until it came to its final form sometime in the 6th-8th centuries A.D. It preserves many sayings in Mishnaic Hebrew, but the anonymous glue which holds it together is in Babylonian Aramaic.

Both Talmuds cite sayings which go back to Sages from the time of the Mishnah but are not contained in the Mishnah. These sayings are referred to as baraitot. They provide important additional ancient opinions and sayings from earlier Sages. The Yerushalmi and Babylonian Talmud contain sayings ascribed to Sages as well as anonymous sayings.

The Talmud contains legal material, like the Mishnah. It also contains material derived from Scriptural interpretations, parables, and narrative stories, which are not as plentiful within the Mishnah.

The Talmud was composed much later than the New Testament. Due to its lateness by comparison, some scholars doubt its value for helping us to understand the world of ancient Judaism of which Jesus and the New Testament were a part.

Yet, when we account for the forces which shaped its composition, the oral nature of Judaism and its ability to transmit sayings, interpretations of Scriptures, and instructions, the Talmud can shed light into the world of Jesus. For example, apart from the Gospels, on the lips of Jesus, story parables only appear in rabbinic literature, like the Talmud. Therefore, they have merit in helping us to understand Jesus’ most common manner of teaching.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Islamic Regime and Hamas Boast About Their Genocidal Goals—What’s Next?

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

On a beautiful night in the southern Israel desert, thousands of young men and women were celebrating the final hours of Sukkot—one of three main festivals, this one known for great joy. Billed as a “friends, love, and peace” festival, it instead ended in a shocking display of hatred and evil. Iran-backed terrorists cruelly began shooting to kill partygoers who scattered, running for their lives. In a cowardly, terror-laced version of celebration, Hamas infiltrators aimed their weapons at innocent civilians whose only “crime” was that they were Jewish.

Reportedly, the genocidal terrorists encircled a large group and shot all of them dead—like they were animals or pests. The numbers are still mounting, but at this writing over 1,000 people were slaughtered or kidnapped.

“Never Again” is Again!

To carry out this three-pronged incursion by land, sea, and air, the Islamic Regime and its proxy Hamas must have plotted for months to develop such a sophisticated strategy. Many ask, “How did this happen to Israel?” In a country known for its vigilance and advanced technology, this question will be debated and examined in the weeks, months, and years ahead. But for now, here is my perspective as a longtime advocate for Israel.

First, Israelis had celebrated their annual weeklong Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) this year between Friday, September 29, and Friday, October 6. Sukkot commemorates the 40 years Jews spent in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt. Secondly, the next day, October 7, was Shabbat. Families throughout the country slept in a state of contented exhaustion, with Israel shut down as it is each Shabbat. And then, out of nowhere, the Hamas air attack utilized bomb-carrying drones that targeted IDF outposts near the Gaza fence, also disabling the technology. Thousands of coordinated rockets began falling in Israel as bulldozers breached the supposedly impregnable Gaza fence. Bloodthirsty terrorists zoomed in on motorcycles and in pickup trucks packed with men who were all too eager to kill, kidnap, and rape. The sneak attack from Israel’s cowardly enemies is all too reminiscent of the 1973 Yom Kippur War attacks on their holiest day of the year.

Meanwhile, showing the true nature of Iran’s leaders, video clips appeared shortly on social media showing their Parliament members on October 7th chanting, “Death to Israel. Death to America.” You can be sure they saw the first unspeakable photos of the murderous rampage into southern Israel’s kibbutzim and towns.

The trusted non-profit organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which specializes in skillfully translating Arab media into English, reported a sample of Palestinian Fatah hatred with this headline: “Strike the Sons of Apes and Pigs … slaughter everyone who is Israeli.” Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas, the 87-year-old tyrant who has not held an election since 2009. Fatah has now called for violent Palestinian uprisings in Judea and Samaria. Early on, Abbas “…stressed the right of the Palestinian people to defend themselves against the terrorism of settlers and the occupation forces.”

Again, the true nature of another dictatorship, with a man who leads a movement that glorifies terrorists. Abbas enforces the “pay to slay” policy aimed at recruiting Palestinians to become “martyrs”—and then financially rewards their families for a lifetime.

The above examples of the Iranian-backed proxies, Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah—and others like them—reflect the dreadful and dangerous reality of the evil terror mindset. Hate has deformed too many Arab minds through using media and an educational system that begins with kindergarteners. Tutored by hate, these indoctrinated children grow into adults manipulated by their leaders. Millions are victimized by the poisonous emotions pouring into the minds of those living in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria (in Palestinian-controlled towns) or under Imams weaponizing fanatical Shia Islam. It is my hope that the horrific photos and video clips of these human beasts will finally wake the world up to what Israelis have dealt with for decades.

Similar to the unspeakable Nazi genocide of six million European Jewsrounded up, incarcerated in prison camps, and killed en masse using industrialized methodsthese Islamic murderers are enacting the same, malicious Jew hatred. Shouting their Arabic “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”) as they paraded in the streets of Gaza with American, Israeli, and other hostages with ghastly cheers and shouts while abusing dead bodies and Jewish men, women, and children still alive.

Numerous Israeli military and political leaders tell us this will be a “long war.” For the first time in 50 years, since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the 37th Israeli government’s Security Cabinet officially declared war. On the night of October 8, 2023, as per Article 40 of Israeli Basic Law, they stated: “The war that was forced on the State of Israel in a murderous terrorist assault from the Gaza Strip began at 06:00 yesterday” (Saturday, October 7, 2023).

While I understand the comparative magnitude of the terms, “Israel’s 9/11 and Israel’s Pearl Harbor,” the moniker of this war must be distinctly Jewish. I am calling it The Sukkot War.

Since 2020, the Abraham Accords have been a welcome breakthrough with Israel amid ongoing talks with Saudi Arabia. Likely this plays into Iran’s demonic strategy launched on October 7, a threat to their hegemony in the region and beyond. Nevertheless, it is time for Arab nations to resettle—into their nations—Arab civilians from Gaza who are not part of Hamas.

Israel, the U.S., the UN, and Europe have supplied Gaza with almost-daily humanitarian aid since 2005, when the Israeli government forcibly evacuated every Jew (around 8,000) from their homes, businesses, schools, and synagogues. The same day the last IDF soldier closed the gate as he departed, Palestinians tore through Gaza destroying every asset left behind to help them. Two years later they elected Hamas, beguiled by promises to help them—promises that are still unfulfilled. Israelis literally handed Palestinians a state hoping they would create a “Singapore by the Sea.” Instead, 18 years later the Jewish state is facing a dire existential crisis.

We are witnessing a crossroads in world history. American churches must make serious decisions. Will we advocate openly for the world’s only Jewish state? (Not because the Jewish nation and people are perfect; they are not, and we are not.) We advocate for Israel because we love Jesus, He loves them, and He loves us unconditionally anyway.

The Sukkot War looks like it is only about an argument between Israel and Palestinians—like nothing but a political tug of war, with different sides pulling hard on a rope. Yet it is much bigger and deeper. Satan has fashioned a deadly rope around the necks of nations to destroy Israel. It is a war against God, against His land, and against any believer who stands in the way. Are we ready?

Evangelicals cannot imitate the apathetic German church during World War II. Most churches looked away as trains full of Jews stuffed in cattle cars rolled by on the tracks while church members sang hymns. A remnant of Christians risked their lives, but it was not enough. Will we be enough in the dark days ahead?

We must prepare ourselves. Media will drop any current sympathies and revert to their habitual condemnation of Israel. It has already begun. A rebellious world is embroiled in a storm of accusations. Be ready as believers.

Choose to be truth tellers by remaining close to our Savior, drawing strength from Him, fellowshipping with believers, and reading our Bibles often. Consult trusted media: CBN News, Erick Stakelbeck, TBN’s The Watchman, Amir Tsarfati on Telegram, and All Israel News. Grab this fact now: Remember that the Islamic Republic of Iran, the new Nazis, are responsible for endangering the entire Gazan population as pawns. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that already more than 74,000 refugees are in shelters. They have become refugees at the hands of their hateful dictators.

Unquestionably, pray. Multiple prayer efforts are well underway. However, actions must emerge from our prayers.

Lastly, the U.S. Congress remains a bastion of passing bipartisan legislation that bolsters Israel’s security needs and in turn benefits the U.S. with vast cooperation and intelligence-sharing with Israelis. I served on staff of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee between 2007-2016 as their first Christian Outreach Director covering 69 congressional districts in the Southeast. Reaching out to members of the U.S. Congress via AIPAC and its lay leaders is important and effective to make sure we help our spiritual homeland by appealing to Congress to remain pro-Israel. Lay aside your disdain for politics and put it to holy use on behalf of God’s land and people. You can easily learn and act right away.

Israel needs humanitarian aid right now. Victims of terror and violence need emergency relief. Evacuees from the warzone need food, clothing, and shelter. Your loving support can help fulfill the words of the prophet in Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. Please give a special gift to CBN Israel as they mobilize coordinated relief efforts. Donate today.

Join our CBN Israel team this week to repeatedly pray for Israel. Lamentations 3:46-48 NIV describes the shock, trauma, and grief Israelis are experiencing. “All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.” Verse 66 is a request: “Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD.”

Prayer points:

  • Pray for the 300,000 plus Israeli Defense Forces reservists and those who are currently active military as they defend their homeland in the air, sea, land, and cyber security.
  • Pray for the hostages kidnapped into Gaza (including Americans) and for a leader to negotiate with Hamas effectively.
  • Pray for the many families who are already burying their loved ones among more than 1,200 dead and 2,700 wounded.
  • Pray for Americans who have lost family members or do not yet know where they are.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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Weekly Q&A: What is the Mishnah?

At the beginning of the third century A.D., Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (Judah the Prince) collected, organized, and edited the oral teachings and sayings of Jewish Sages into a single literary work known as the Mishnah. The Mishnah preserves many of the oral sayings—what was known as the Oral Torah—of Jewish Sages from the preceding four hundred years. Written in Hebrew, it served an important role in the process of reorganizing Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70.

The three Jewish revolts which spanned from A.D. 66-136 deeply impacted Judaism and the oral preservation and transmission of teachings and instructions. Already in the second century A.D., some disciples began to form collections of their masters’ sayings. By the beginning of the third century, Judah the Prince collected, edited, and organized these smaller collections, as well as other oral traditions into the Mishnah. The name Mishnah comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to repeat,” stemming from the repetition necessary for disciples to learn orally the sayings of their teachers. 

The Mishnah consists of sixty-three chapters, called tractates. They are organized into six divisions: Seeds, Festivals, Women, Damages, Sacred Things, and Cleannesses. Each division consists of tractates pertaining to specific topics within the broader subject. The instruction is legal focusing upon finer points of interpretation and behavior. The Mishnah does not present a singular or systematic viewpoint. Rather, it collects various rabbinic opinions, some of which disagree with others. Two opposite and contrary opinions are placed side by side within the text of the Mishnah. The opinions and instruction are not organized systematically; rather, it is organized associatively. This makes it difficult for non-Jewish readers to approach it at first.

Christian readers of the Mishnah often struggle to understand the text for a couple main reasons. First of all, Judaism, especially as organized by the Sages, focuses on orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. The New Testament reflects a similar orthopraxical outlook, yet as Christianity developed, its focus became orthodoxy. What does this mean? Judaism could take for granted that the members of its community believed in the God of Israel and the Jewish Scriptures. The focus, then, became right practice in obeying God’s commandments, as opposed to right belief.

Second, Christian readers often find the legal instructions, debates, and opinions in the Mishnah as pedantic and cumbersome. Such an assessment misses the point. The Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament, have much to say about daily life, even in the small practical details, like how you weave your clothes. Faith and obedience to God should penetrate every area of one’s life.

The instructions in the Mishnah seek to spell out how one lives obediently in the minutia of life. Within the Mishnah itself, the Sages acknowledge what they are doing, even admitting God did not decree it all, but it was their way of forming, strengthening, and preserving a community deeply impacted by the Jewish revolts and the growing Jewish Diaspora.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Israel the Miracle: A Symbol of Shared Commitment

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Israel the Miracle is a significant and beautiful new book brainstormed by Jonathan Feldstein, an Israeli Orthodox Jew and founder of Genesis 123, a cutting-edge nonprofit. Israel the Miracle is no ordinary book. It elegantly portrays growing friendships between Jews and Christians within Jonathan’s calling to create projects banding Christians and Jews more closely together. Standing with Israel now, amid its increasing peril, is a welcome project to celebrate during Israel’s 75th anniversary year—and those to come.

Based on our shared faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our relationships are timelier than ever, since Israel needs steadfast Christian friends doing as much as humanly possible to advocate for the Jewish homeland.

Feldstein’s anthology of short, inspiring stories gathered from 75 Christian leaders worldwide honors Israel in its 75th year as a modern Jewish state. These authors have stood with Israel in numerous and varied ways—hosting tours to Israel, leading prayer movements, educating legislators worldwide, plus encouraging donations, humanitarian aid, and more. Combined, these 75 leaders are a small yet important sampling of an estimated 600 million evangelicals worldwide who identify consistently as supporters of the world’s singular Jewish country.

The stories are captivating, with “picture perfect” an apt description for the photographs vividly portraying the Holy Land’s beauty. As you turn one stunning page after another, you will rejoice that this coffee table book carries the foundational messages of cooperation and respect between evangelicals and Jews—particularly in the last four decades.

A reflection of more than 40 years of Christian ministries pioneering on the ground in Israel, Israel the Miracle is a source about small seeds growing into large fruitful trees. As an active years-long advocate for Israel, since 1980 I have observed the important founding of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and several other concurrent evangelical organizations such as Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel, and King of Kings Church. Devoted Christians who pioneered in the early 1980s have grown into nearly 70 ministries called Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM).

Present-day Christian ministries are also legacies from pre-state Israel under the Ottoman Empire during its 600-plus-year rule between 1300-1923. It is likely that the earliest Christian ministry in the Holy Land was established in the 19th century under the Ottomans. Prominent Chicago attorney Horatio Spafford and his wife, Anna, moved to Jerusalem in 1881 to establish what locals later called “the American colony.”

Their ministry began after a horrific tragedy in 1873 where the Spaffords’ four young daughters drowned. Horatio had sent his wife and daughters ahead to Europe on the luxurious French passenger ship Ville du Havre, but an ironclad clipper plowed into their ship in the dark of night and split it midships. Twelve minutes later, the ship sank. Two hundred and seventy-three souls drowned in the frigid waters; only 47 survived. Despite Anna’s frantic, desperate resolve to save her daughters, they slipped out of her arms into the fearsome high seas. Anna survived. 

Horatio quickly boarded a vessel sailing to Europe and wrote a beloved hymn near the location pointed out by the ship’s captain where his daughters had drowned. “It is Well With My Soul” is a hymn that has comforted millions of us for 150 years!

Later, believing the unmistakable biblical relevance of the Holy Land, the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem with 17 Americans and established a clinic, orphanage, soup kitchens, and a hostel. They served everyone in need— Jew, Muslim, Christian, Arab, and Bedouin. Their mercy ministry was respected and admired by all. In the lead-up to World War I, Jerusalem was invaded by hunger, typhus, field-ravaging locusts, and weapons of war. The Colony’s ministry became even more pronounced by managing the military hospitals—where they treated both Turkish and European POWs.

The American Colony, now a five-star hotel, is rich in history, displaying valuable photographs by the Spaffords and their colleagues who superbly embodied 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

Indeed, the commitment exhibited by Christian leaders featured in Israel the Miracle propels the American colony legacy from Jerusalem’s desolate, dusty streets 142 years ago into modern Israel’s thriving innovations and beauty. Evangelical ministries have prayerfully sensed the same call of the 19th-century believers. Like those diverse communities living under Ottoman rule, many Christian organizations today reach out in similar ways to Israel’s diverse populations of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Palestinian Arabs, Christian Arabs, Israeli Arabs, and Bedouins.

Israel the Miracle is a beautiful book to place in your home or office or give as a gift. When you hold this symbolic book in your hands, you may use it to pray for Israel and for the leaders and ministries represented. Inspired by these 75 stories, you might be encouraged to take on a dual mantle: one of prayer matched with practical helps. Along with Jonathan’s non-profit foundation Genesis 123, the ministries represented in the book offer examples of practical helps you may select. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s remarkable founder, Pat Robertson, and his son Gordon (who has skillfully taken up his father’s mantle) are both featured.

In closing, I thank my friend Jonathan Feldstein for inviting my endorsement: “Essays from 75 devoted advocates share gleaming insights about our spiritual homeland. During its 75th sapphire anniversary year, God reveals His design for Jerusalem in Isaiah 54:11 to use blue sapphires for its foundation. Israel is the only place on earth where rare deep blue Mount Carmel sapphires are found. Israel itself, shining as a rarity, is the only nation on earth where God declares in Leviticus, ‘the Land is mine.’”

You can order your own copy of this special book at

Prayer Points:

  • Pray with thanks for the warm friendships and cooperation between Christians and Jews in Israel and abroad.
  • Pray for both Christians and Jews who are at odds with each other and do not reflect the mutual friendships of those featured in Israel the Miracle.
  • Pray for Israel’s detractors to recognize the worthwhile projects shared by Christians and Jews.
  • Pray for Jonathan Feldstein, a genuine and kind influencer, writer, and project creator who honors God, our shared values, and the strong bridges he is building between our faith communities.
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Life-Changing Surgery: Bisan’s Story

When Bisan was just a baby, living in Bethlehem, her parents noticed that her one eyelid drooped. They learned she had ptosis—a condition which can lead to chronic headaches and vision problems. Doctors said it could be corrected surgically but advised waiting a few years.

Yet as Bisan grew older and started school, kids teased her—and she often came home in tears. Her father remembers, “I was heartbroken. We wanted to do the surgery as soon as we could, to avoid any more psychological trauma or vision loss this condition could cause her.”

However, when the family found out how much the operation cost, they knew they couldn’t afford it. They were desperate. And then, friends like you made a way.

Through CBN Israel, caring donors sponsored Bisan’s procedure at St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. Her doctor said, “Bisan is four, so this is just the right time for her surgery. We operate on about 100 cases like this every year. It’s common in the Palestinian territories.”

Thankfully, her operation was a success! Her eye healed quickly, and now she can go to school without being bullied. Her father said, “Thank you to everyone who helped us when there was nowhere else to turn. I am grateful to everyone who took such good care of Bisan!”

Your gifts to CBN Israel can provide life-changing surgeries to those in need—along with food, shelter, financial assistance, and more.

And your support can offer aid and encouragement to Holocaust survivors, single moms, refugees, and terror victims across the Holy Land.

Please let us hear from you today!


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Weekly Q&A: What is Midrash?

Midrash refers to two separate, but related things. The manner of Jewish interpretation of Scripture, the different rules of interpretation developed to apply to the biblical text. And the literary collections of Jewish interpretation which grew up because of Jewish interpretation of the Bible. The word, Midrash, comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to search, seek.” As such, Midrash comes to mean “interpretation.”

Midrash as a method for interpretation refers to interpretations which created homilies as well as legal rulings derived from Scripture. Rabbinic tradition ascribes to different Sages principles of interpretation. We must keep in mind, ancient biblical manuscripts did not have chapters, verses, punctuation, or vowels. They had minimal paragraphing. Thus, the act of reading was interpretation. How you read the text offered your interpretation. The reader supplied the vowels and punctuation to the text.

So too, meanings of words changed from when the biblical books were written to the later period of Jewish interpreters. They sought to understand what words meant, especially archaic words. They did not have dictionaries; therefore, they had to look for other places where the word appeared within the biblical text. For this reason, language became a key factor in the interpretive process.

Jewish interpretation approached the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament, with four basic assumptions. (1) Scripture was a cryptic document that should be scrutinized for every detail and hidden meaning. (2) Scripture is one book of instruction, not a library of separate books. (3) Scripture is harmonious with no mistakes or contradictions. (4) All Scripture is divinely inspired. These assumptions governed Jewish Midrash.

Midrash also refers to the literary collections of Jewish biblical interpretation which use the interpretive method of midrash. Many of these collections are organized around biblical books, like Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Midrash will not necessarily comment on every verse within the biblical text, nor even on every chapter. A section is often organized by the biblical citation and the following interpretations.

The Midrash will include multiple and differing interpretations by different Sages or even anonymous Sages. The interpretation will often make use of other biblical passages to explain the interpretation. Thus, the interpretation and commentary on a verse does not progress in a systematic or comprehensive manner. Rather, it collects various interpretations on a passage or part of a passage.

The collections of the Midrash (plural, midrashim) date from various periods in Jewish history. None are earlier than the Mishnah, and many are later than the Babylonian Talmud. Nevertheless, even later Midrashim include very early sayings and traditions of interpretation.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Good News from Israel Brightens Our World

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Bad news constantly overshadows the world and its estimated eight billion people. Amid this bombardment of tragedies, our thoughts are sometimes governed by hopelessness. Yet, although the Jewish homeland faces supersized problems of its own, they forge ahead with world-blessing brilliance that offers hope for humankind.

Israel’s thousands of innovations made during the last 30 years could fill a hundred-page book. God’s outlook is amplified in Isaiah 49:6 (NIV): “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” God not only restored Jews to their ancestral homeland on May 14, 1948—He sent the Light of the world, choosing the Jewish people as His vessels in ancient and modern times.

I have captured a few examples here of the Jewish nation’s advances, mostly from the Israeli website It is an excellent resource for finding health solutions and technological advancements that improve everyday life or ways to increase your advocacy. Clearly, Israel is a small giant, innovating outsized advances in many areas of endeavor.

A start-up called Spike solves what it calls “communication chaos.” Aimed at businesses, Spike uses AI to combine team chats, instant messaging, video calls, emails, and meetings in a single convenient platform. Spike’s website describes the chaos as a problem for everyone using technology: “A message notification briefly appears on your phone or computer before fading into the background. Now, which app was that? Gmail? Messenger? WhatsApp? Telegram? iMessage? Slack? Microsoft Teams? Google Meet? Zoom?” Spike’s business benefits reduce lost time for employees searching for fragmented messages, thus improving productivity.

Another startup was created to help patients navigate the complexities of home self-care after hospitalization. For people recovering at home, Laguna Health developed an app called Caregiver Companion that strives to integrate telephone, internet, and a companion caregiver to navigate homecare. CEO Yoni Shtein explains, “We create a personalized pathway for members to get to their destinations.” The app will identify and simplify challenges in the often-bewildering aftercare journey—including childcare, chores, medications, and transportation.

Shtein’s idea grew out of his mother-in-law’s move home from the hospital in 2016. The entrepreneur recalls, “We all thought … she was on the road to full recovery. Then she suddenly died at home, and alone.” After wondering every day whether this could have been prevented, he turned his helplessness and sorrow into a way to make the transitions easier. Within an integrated system, taking into account a patient’s home recovery amid anxiety, pain, depression, medications, and scheduling. 

Version Bravo is an excellent example of the close, multi-layered military cooperation between the United States and Israel. When elite Israeli and U.S. Navy SEALS retire, their trustworthiness, drive to succeed, calmness under pressure, and critical thinking mean they’re well equipped to be decision-makers. Founded in 2022, Version Bravo springboards these highly valued men into entrepreneurial positions by helping them reach their potential in civilian life after a successful career in the military.

Part of the program includes two weeks in Israel and two weeks in the United States. Nuri Golan is Version Bravo’s global director. Stating their core mission is “to help former special operators take their military skills into the business world,” Golan says he is deeply excited to promote this first-of-its kind entrepreneur program with American-Israeli collaboration. With an Israeli and American director, supporters of U.S. Navy SEAL and Israel Navy SEAL (Shayetet-13) communities fund Version Bravo.

A team at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is using Artificial Intelligence as a “matchmaker.” It uses nanotechnology with existing cancer drugs to match microscopic particles in compatible pairs. Such “combination therapy” helps doctors use lower doses of medicines that target specific cells. It also minimizes side effects.

The tool has already highlighted 1,985 nanomedicine combinations to treat 70 types of cancers. The American Cancer Society estimated that 1.9 million Americans would be diagnosed with cancer in 2022, with 609,360 deaths. This near-miraculous matchmaker of chemically assembled nanoparticles will bless the lives of sufferers and families globally!

Moving to another industry: Israel’s agricultural and water innovation startups also benefit the United States—as well as Africa. In a program coordinated by America’s Cultivation Corridor, the state of Iowa recently held a six-week online course for seven Israeli ag-tech startups looking to enter our U.S. market. Iowa, one of our most productive farming states with 88,000-plus farms, is a fine example of another way Israel and the United States are connecting in important pursuits. Among the seven startups are Projini, developing safe pesticides, and Seed-X, which will maximize seed quality.

Israeli inventions and investments in Africa are enormous. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (1968-1974) is considered the architect of Israel’s Africa policy. She believed that the lessons learned by Israelis should be passed on to Africans. Golda first traveled to Africa in 1958 as Israel’s foreign minister and at a time when Israel was still a young country. Her perspective emerged in this quote: “Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together and how to defend ourselves.”

One example of Israel’s numerous African outreaches since Golda made her vision known is Innovation: Africa—a charity founded in 2008. Its more than 880 solar and water installations and technologies have improved the quality of life for more than 4.2 million people in 10 African nations. Founder and CEO Sivan Yaari projects that over the next four years their goal is to complete 1,200 projects, impacting 10 million people. She proudly leads this effort in the name of Israel.

Our CBN Israel team invites you to join us in gratitude for the numerous ways Israelis have blessed our world. Proverbs 25:25 resounds with this truth: “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray with thanks for Israeli endurance to innovate even during a homeland crisis.
  • Pray for an increase in innovative ideas that will bless Israel and the world.
  • Pray that Israel-haters will finally recognize the incredible contributions made by the Jewish nation and people.
  • Pray for Israel’s leaders and military amid increasing security challenges both inside and outside the land.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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Weekly Q&A: Why did God call Abram to the Promised Land?

Abram (or Abraham) came from the area of Mesopotamia—the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It boasted larger cities, more developed culture, and wealth than the land of Canaan. Would it not have made more sense for God to establish Abraham and his descendants into a nation here and give them some of the well-watered land in Mesopotamia?

Yet God called Abraham and his descendants to the land of Canaan. To understand why, we must understand the geographic setting of the land of Canaan. Its location created a physical climate of faith in which God taught Abraham’s descendants about Himself and called upon them to live in obedience to Him.

The land of Canaan lay at the strategic land bridge connecting the continents of Asia and Africa. It sat at the crossroads of the ancient world, between the imperial powers of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the barren desert to the east, the land of Canaan provided the land corridor for routes connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia. Its location made it strategic for travel, commerce and trade, and communication.

Its location also meant security and peace were not to be found as empires and local kingdoms fought to control the crossroads of the ancient world. Periods of peace were few, short, and far between. Personal and national existence could never be taken for granted, and here God called Abraham and his descendants to live in faithfulness to Him. This geopolitical insecurity of the region served as “God’s testing ground of faith” and the stage upon which the redemptive drama played out, where sinner and saint struggled against internal upheaval and external threat.

The lands of Egypt and Mesopotamia were sustained by great rivers (the Nile in Egypt, and the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia). These rivers provided consistent water for life and agriculture. The topography of the land of Canaan meant the fresh water sources (the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River) lay below sea level while most of the population dwelt in the hills at an elevation removed from the fresh water sources, or on the coastal plain separated from the fresh water sources by the hill country.

Therefore, the land of Canaan relied upon the rains from heaven to nourish life, herds, and agriculture (Deuteronomy 11:10-11). God promised if Israel obeyed Him at the crossroads, He would send rain in its season, but if they disobeyed, He would withhold rain from the heavens.

The topography and climate of the land became part of God’s call to Abraham and his descendants to trust God at the crossroads and live obediently to Him in this challenging location. To trust whether He would protect them and sustain them and to demonstrate their trust through their obedience.

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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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The Islamic Regime: Skilled Geopolitical Chess Players

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The origins of chess are somewhat clouded. When trying to determine which country originated chess around 1,500 years ago, some say India, others credit Iran. Whichever is true, there’s no question that the ayatollahs who rule Iran with an iron fist of oppression are skilled players on the geopolitical chessboard.

For decades, Israel has remained vigilant about Iran’s strategic chess moves—and not only against its own small country. With a mere 970 air miles between Jerusalem and Tehran, Israel is on the front lines of freedom for all nations that treasure liberty. Its government and people understand the evil nature of the Islamic regime’s Imams and their enforcers, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Israel has repeatedly sounded the alarm about this hostile regime as the world’s terror superpower. In the face of Iran’s serious game of deceit—witnessed in deft geopolitical chess moves of destruction and hatred—Israel’s warnings cannot be minimized.

Israelis have no doubt that Iran wants to destroy Israel, the United States, and any country that interferes with the Imams’ plan to spread their brand of government using the oppressive Shia branch of Islam. Iran’s terror maneuvers include an obsession to possess nuclear weapons, empowering their proxies against Israel, and ignoring their own victimized population. Israel itself is no stranger to geopolitical chess. In fact, the Israelis are experts at defending themselves, with their own moves to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens.

Under immense internal pressures himself, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. Speaking for the ninth time as prime minister, he has repeatedly warned the UN about Iran and offered many proofs of its treachery. In a recent Sky News interview, PM Netanyahu reiterated that diplomacy between the two countries has failed and “Iran remains openly committed to … repeating the Holocaust.” He added, “We will do whatever we need to do to defend ourselves.”

As for Iran’s leaders, they have added to the suffering of that nation’s population since taking over in 1979. Exhausted (and constantly threatened) by the Islamic regime imprisoning, hanging, and shooting them, Iranian citizens took to the streets last September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested and then murdered by the “morality” police. Her “crime?” Not wearing a head covering correctly! Iranians are still protesting, although at a great cost.

In his recent article, “Iran’s Season of Judgment,” my Israeli friend Jonathan Feldstein interviewed our inspiring mutual friend Marzi Amirizadeh. The eye-opening article was published by the International Press Association. Born in Iran, Marzi related factual, first-person stories of living under the regime. In 2009 Marzi, now an American citizen, was arrested then imprisoned in Iran and sentenced to death by hanging. Marzi and her friend Maryam’s “crimes” were their three-year team efforts of covertly distributing New Testaments to 20,000 Iranians and starting two secretive house churches.

Miraculously released after nine months of trauma, Marzi eventually came to the United States. Her life’s calling is to warn the world about the evils of the Islamic regime. Now, seeing the Biden administration handing over $6 billion in frozen, sanctioned Iranian assets—ostensibly to be used for humanitarian purposes—she is appalled. “The regime must not be funded,” she declares vehemently. “The regime must be removed.” Iran’s President Raisi openly insisted that Iran will use the billions in any way it wishes. However, Raisi’s firm statement did not result in Biden canceling the deal. The American hostages boarded a flight in Qatar on Monday bound for the states with $6 billion paid in a ransom.

In contrast, Marzi’s release from prison was not a ransom payment. An international outcry arose from Christians, and God engineered a miracle. In many interviews during and after her prayerful longing to finally visit Israel last March, Marzi knows firsthand that the Islamic regime is an enemy of Israel, her own people, and her new country, the United States. After a year of protests by the Iranian people, Iran’s evil rule is in plain view for so-called crimes about what to wear, what to say, and how to worship.

Compassion for wrongful hostage imprisonment is heartbreaking. However, controversy still exists among varying U.S. administrations about ransoms. President Biden’s green light opens a disturbing revelation. In 2015, the Obama/Biden administration paid $1.7 billion to release four Americans as part of the unwise Iran deal it desperately wanted. Iran then took more hostages and levied bigger price tags. In between the Obama and Biden presidencies, former President Trump used only pressure and sanctions to free two hostages—demonstrating excellent chess moves of his own.

Now, the ransoms have proven even more costly under Biden. Looking at the numbers, Obama/Biden paid $425 million per American in 2015. Now, in 2023, President Biden agreed to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil assets—thus releasing $1.2 billion for each of the five American hostages. A study by the Rand Corporation explains that for decades, American policy has been to refuse paying ransoms to terrorists, viewing such payments as deterrents for future cooperation.

At this rate, the Biden administration will never win a chess game with the Ayatollahs. Successfully playing geopolitical chess requires courage to apply strategic moves, informed by understanding the reality of evil. The Obama/Biden team’s set-up of millions (now billions) in ransom runs the risk of turning American citizens traveling abroad into potential hostages.

Heeding a quote from Andrey Sakharov (1921-1989) would help. The Soviet physicist, later a Nobel Peace prize winner and dissident, made a wise observation about negotiations: “A country which does not respect the rights of its own citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbors.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released its Homeland Threat Assessment for 2024. It contains warnings that foreign terror groups including al-Qaida could be rebuilding—and seeking to target the U.S. again. The huge numbers of what they call “migrants” from many countries have complicated border security. Homeland Security did not mention former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s report in 2017 that the Islamic Republic of Iran has given haven to al-Qaida, a fact established by the 9/11 Commission. With Biden’s wide-open border policy and his own Homeland Security warnings, we must ask ourselves if Iran will use Biden’s policy to harm Americans on our soil.

In his current inconsistent decisions toward the Islamic regime, Biden released a list of 29 sanctions for Iran’s human rights violations on September 15, a day before the first anniversary of the freedom protests (September 16) and in advance of the September 17 release of the five hostages. Ten sanctions are against Iran’s national police, while another eight are against officials of the IRGC.

In a single year, these two groups have murdered more than 600 peaceful Irani protestors and arrested another 22,000. The director of Iran’s prisons, Gholamali Mohammadi, oversees the torture and rape of jailed protesters. He is allegedly sanctioned. It is unclear how or if these sanctions will be enforced or if they are simply sanctions on paper. Protests have not stopped. They have grown since June, numbering more than 4,473 since they began on September 16, 2022.

Nevertheless, there are lights of hope and good news amid the terror against Iranian citizens. The Hudson Institute reported in 2018 that “Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country.” In 2019, an unnamed Iranian church leader commented that “mosques are empty inside Iran.” Author Lela Gilbert reported in The Washington Stand in June that “more than a million new converts—called Muslim Background Believers (MBB)—are reading the Bible for the first time, praying, gathering in small groups, and sharing their new faith … despite the risks.”

The trend is continuing, according to our expert friend Marzi Amirizadeh, who before her imprisonment took huge risks to distribute more than 20,000 Bibles covertly in the dark of night and helped begin several house churches. The seeds of faith that she planted are growing.

We may never know for certain what country invented chess. However, we do know we can count on the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus in these troubled times since He has already defeated the enemy of our souls.

Our CBN Israel team invites you to join us in prayer this week. Let us check our own hearts with these verses in Amos 5:14-15“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you just as you say He is. Hate evil. Love good. Maintain justice in the courts.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for strength and protection for Muslim Background Believers (MBB) as they live out their risk-taking faith under the current Iranian regime.
  • Pray for the Islamic regime to fall and be replaced by a freedom- focused government benefiting all its people.
  • Pray for Iran to again have a leader like ancient Persia’s King Cyrus, who blessed the Jewish people as a tool in God’s hands.
  • Pray that the United States Commander-in-Chief will restore security on our southern border.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at

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