Weekly Devotional: When Adversity Strikes

“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:29-31 NKJV).

When the chief priests of Jerusalem commanded Peter and John to no longer speak in Jesus’ name, the two disciples had a choice to make. They went to their community and together they prayed. 

They did not pray for favor with the rulers. They did not pray for deliverance. They did not pray for protection. They prayed for boldness to continue in their way. They asked God to show forth His glory through signs and wonders. As a result of their prayer, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word with boldness. 

How do you respond to adversity? Do you seek a way out or the removal of the problem? The followers of Jesus did not see adversity as a problem to be avoided or from which to be delivered. They did not reason, “If we just gained favor with the ruling powers.” Rather, they sought to stay their course faithfully in doing what God had called them to do. 

Adversity does not mean we are out of God’s will, nor should we seek to avoid it. They sought boldness to do the task they had been given and believed that ultimately God would glorify Himself and His servant Jesus. 

When you find yourself confronted with adversity, how do you pray? Our true submission to God seeks His glory above our comfort; it submits to the challenges we face, recognizing that how we handle them provides an opportunity for Him to show forth His wonders. 

The followers of Jesus did not pray a prayer that focused on themselves. They could have—they had just been threatened. Rather, they sought God to glorify Himself through them, and they offered themselves as vessels for Him to use for that purpose.  

Our daily prayer should be that in our lives, no matter the situation or adversity we face, God will glorify Himself.


Father, glorify Your name through our lives. No matter the situation, we will stay faithful to You; glorify Yourself in this world through us. Amen.

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United Nations: No Valentines for Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

For Valentine’s Day this past Monday, Americans rushed to buy flowers, candy, and greeting cards for loved ones. That same day, the United Nations watchdog, UN Watch, sent another kind of greeting calling out the recently established Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory (COI) at the United Nations. The so-called Commission puts Israel under a magnifying glass of constant investigation. The COI’s permanent inquiry has singled out Israel among the 193 U.N. members; no other nation has been forced to tolerate this extraordinary level of destructive attention. Not North Korea, not China, not Iran. Take a moment to absorb this fact: Since 2015, the U.N. has condemned Israel an unprecedented 112 times, North Korea, 6, and Iran, a paltry 5.

UN Watch, an independent non-governmental organization, is an excellent watchdog of U.N. activities. Canadian-born lawyer Hillel Neuer is the executive director of the organization, which was founded in 1993 and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. About the COI, Neuer explains, “It is unlimited in its scope. … [It is] systemic discrimination … to accuse Israel of being a racist state.” The COI’s three-member team was allocated several million dollars and a staff of 20 to prepare its first report due in June 2022. 

Neuer has launched an online petition calling on Navi Pillay, the chair of the Commission of Inquiry, to resign. With signatures increasing, you may want to add your signature and consider it a Valentine to Israel! UN Watch has plenty of facts in its legal brief, a 30-page complaint, to justify its demand for Pillay’s resignation. She is a former U.N. human rights commissioner and a retired South African judge. However, the impressive titles cannot hide the underlying facts that prove her inability to run the commission with a fair and unbiased perspective. 

The first red flag appeared early on with Pillay’s omission of prior statements she’s made about Israel that are sure to indicate her opinions going forward. International law requires fact finders to be impartial. Here is a small sample of Pillay’s opinions. She signed a petition, “Sanction Apartheid Israel,” that was authored by the South Africa Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Coalition. A UN Watch study revealed that between September 2008 and June 2010, Pillay made “nine [negative] statements on Israel, the only democracy in the region, but none on the human rights violations of 146 countries, including nothing on such gross violators as North Korea … and Sudan.” 

Further, Pillay describes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “inhuman.” In a June 2021 letter to President Biden, she accused Israel of “domination and oppression of the Palestinian people.” It is obvious that Pillay’s selection to the COI was not based on fairness. The appointee selection guarantees the United Nations’ hoped-for result as another series of condemnations and denigration against the world’s only Jewish state. Recusing herself is the right action to take.

While exploring the COI, let us take a short tour of the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). CNSNews reported last October in the lead-up to HRC elections that the number of “free” nations on the HRC is shrinking. Out of 47 nations, only 14 are considered “free.” Those designated “not free” include the likes of China, Cuba, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Venezuela. 

In these nations and others like them, human “wrongs” rule the day, not human rights. Having their representatives sitting at the table in the COI’s Geneva, Switzerland, headquarters seems like a travesty.  

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 to 2019, recalled her unsuccessful efforts to reform the HRC: “Right now, you have every murderer, dictator and thief on that council.” That remains true. 

The United Nations itself lists these as basic rights for every human being: the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work, and education. The World Population clock changes every second, but at this writing it is 7.9 billion people. The Thompson Reuters Foundation in 2016 estimated that “a third of the world” lives in nations without freedoms. These numbers are all but incomprehensible. 

Nevertheless, those of us who enjoy the blessings of living in freedom have a duty in following our Lord to bless others as we are able. Remembering Jesus’ affirmation of the widow’s mite lets us know His pleasure when we give to others, especially sacrificially. And Psalm 82:3 urges us to “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.” Excellent organizations help provide human rights by giving humanitarian aid throughout the world. CBN’s Operation Blessing and Samaritan’s Purse are at the top of my list, both here at home and abroad.

While overlooked at the United Nations, Israel’s humanitarian aid covers the world with help in crises produced by natural disasters, famine, and poverty—and extends to providing training in superior agricultural methods. Israel does not consider any religion or skin color as a barrier to mercy. Embedded in Israel’s culture is a concept called tikkun olam—“repairing the world.” The U.N.’s “human wrongs” nations would do well to imitate Israel rather than create a Commission of Inquiry to investigate one of the world’s most humanitarian nations. 

The COI would also do well to investigate how the Palestinian Authority (PA) oppresses its own population, as reported by The Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). One JINSA article asserts that the PA has long sought to keep the Palestinian people “poor and powerless while enriching its apparatchiks and functionaries with villas and cars,” as confided by a former political director in President Mahmoud Abbas’s office. Polls show, in fact, that 80 percent of Palestinians believe the PA is corrupt and neglects their fundamental rights. 

Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989)Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident, peace activist, and Nobel laureate—once said, “A country which does not respect the rights of its own citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbors.” It is long past time for the United Nations to heed that advice and investigate and rehabilitate the nations riddled with human wrongs and kick them off the Human Rights Council. Stop the hypocrisy and place freedom-loving nations on the HRC. 

Join with CBN Israel to pray this week from Isaiah 1:17—“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

  • Pray that we ourselves, the Christian community, will be consistent givers and “pray-ers” for those in need.
  • Pray for an effective, firm uprising in the United Nations—that it might rehabilitate itself and adhere to its founding values. 
  • Pray freedom for people trapped in evil nations. 
  • Pray for encounters with our Lord among those in desperate need, giving them salvation and the hope of heaven. 
  • Pray for Hillel Neuer as he leads the way in revealing wrongdoing at the United Nations.

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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Victim of Terrorism: Liat’s Story

Liat’s life has never been easy. Married to a violent husband for years, at age 44 she is now a single mother, raising her two children alone on a limited income. Although she struggles to make ends meet, she is grateful that the terror in her home is over. 

However, living in Israel’s coastal city of Ashdod, she has endured a different battleground—facing ongoing terror and rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza. These attacks have been going on for nearly 20 years and can seem “routine”—but the constant stress and unpredictability can take its toll emotionally. 

Liat lives in government housing, and the rocket strikes on her building left the electrical system barely working. Liat paid for the repairs—but still waits for the government to reimburse her. Meanwhile, a recent barrage of rockets left her 17-year-old daughter debilitated by anxiety, and desperate for treatment. With bills piling up, Liat needed help.

Thankfully, friends like you were there for Liat. Through CBN Israel, caring partners covered the cost for trauma counseling for her daughter—as well as providing finances to buy nutritious food, basic essentials, and pay some of the bills for the rocket strike repairs. Liat exclaimed gratefully, “Thank you so much… We are so overwhelmed with your kindness and generosity!”

Your gift to CBN Israel can rush continued aid to terror victims—plus deliver food, housing, financial help, and more to those in need. So many in Israel struggle to survive. You can make a difference for immigrant families, aging Holocaust survivors, and others in crisis. 

Will you join us in blessing this special land today?


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Biblical Israel: Mount Carmel

By Marc Turnage

Mount Carmel is a limestone ridge that bisects the coastal plain of the land of Israel branching off from the mountains of Samaria west towards the Mediterranean coast. It is most famous as the location for the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18:19).

Today, the Carmelite monastery of Mukhraka (Arabic meaning “burned place”) remembers that event. The mountain’s geographic location along the Mediterranean coast makes it fertile for agriculture (600mm average rainfall a year), which also led biblical writers and prophets to herald Carmel as a place of agricultural abundance (Song of Solomon 7:6; Isaiah 33:9; 35:2; Amos 1:2). Its fertility, rainfall, and proximity to the Phoenician coast, just to its north, made Carmel an appropriate location for the worship of Ba’al, the Phoenician god of storms and fertility. Even after Elijah, people continued to worship Ba’al of Carmel. 

The fertility, precipitation, and location of Mount Carmel play a key role in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al. Agriculture in the land of Israel proved difficult in the ancient world. The people depended solely upon God for rain to water their fields and crops due to the topography of the land (see Deuteronomy 8; 11:10-20). 

For this reason, God promised that as long as Israel obeyed Him and His commandments, He would send rain in its season; if Israel disobeyed, He would shut the heavens, so it wouldn’t rain. The concern for rain in its season (at the appropriate time) lead the Israelites to often look also to other local deities, like Ba’al, to provide rain, just in case.

The people had turned from God by worshipping Ba’al during the reign of King Ahab, and therefore, God sent drought on the land. Elijah called the children of Israel, together with the prophets of Ba’al, to gather on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel receives some form of precipitation 250 days a year; it sits on the southern edge of Phoenicia where Ba’al worship originated. It also provided a high place. 

Ba’al is often depicted walking on the mountains, a god of high places. The drought that God sent offered a direct challenge to the god of rain. Elijah’s challenge, the god who answered with fire was God; Ba’al’s symbol was a lightening bolt. The heart of the story lies within the geographic setting of Mount Carmel. 

Of course, after God sends the fire upon Elijah’s sacrifice, and the people turn to the Lord as God, then He sends the rain. The setting and background of this story underline the challenges of daily life faced by the ancient Israelites; these challenges that raised the fundamental question that Elijah posed to the people, “If the Lord is God, then serve Him.”

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 Devotional: Do Not Abandon Your Love

Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. 

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:1-5 HCSB).

We often read John’s letter to the community in Ephesus and think that they had lost their love for the Lord. But that doesn’t make sense within the context. John commends the Ephesian community for testing those who call themselves apostles, not tolerating evil-doers, and enduring patiently for the sake of Jesus’ name. They hadn’t lost their love for the Lord.

Rather, they had lost their love for one another. In their ardor for testing, not tolerating evil, and enduring in their faith, they had abandoned their love for others. It’s easy to do. Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded to love one another and not judge, for in the manner we judge others, God will judge us (see Luke 6:37-38). We can become so focused on truth that we forget to love. It’s not an either-or, but as Paul says, without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13).

The threat posed to the Ephesians is that if they do not change, they will eventually be removed. How we treat others is weighed seriously within the New Testament. In our zeal for truth, we can be both right and wrong. The Ephesians had lost the love for others that they’d had at first. 

Maintaining love is one of the hardest actions we do as humans. The gravity of life can tend to pull us in the opposite direction, and we can all too easily find our love gradually growing cold. Whether in marriages, families, friendships, or other relationships, we have to work and cultivate our love for others. In our fervor for the truth, we must guard against becoming cold and callous.

Let’s remember this powerful statement by Jesus to His disciples on the night He was arrested. “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13 HCSB).

Jesus’ warning to the community in Ephesus serves as a sober reminder to us today in how we are to treat others. We must pursue loving rightly as much as we pursue doing right. May we follow the command of Jesus to love one another as He has loved us.


Father, we repent of those times that we have not loved others. We have judged when we should have been merciful. Forgive us, and may we be merciful as You are merciful. Amen.

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Amnesty International Offers No Amnesty to Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Amnesty International describes itself as a global movement that protects people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied. And there’s no question that this human rights organization has a good track record at “researching and documenting human rights abuses wherever they occur,” as its website states. However, one nation is excluded from these noble goals, as evidenced in a recently released document that accuses Israel of outrageous treatment of Palestinians. The 278-page report is titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity.” Such a title is more fitting for actual terrorists who live in or around Israel—or for China or North Korea. 

The word “amnesty” in ancient Greek means “forgetfulness, passing over” and is defined as “a government pardon to a group or class of people.” Often this includes a political offense where a country officially “forgives” groups or individuals who are prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International has expanded its attention to a range of issues, and the United States has not escaped its criticism. For example, one of its reports cites how terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay continue to be held without adequate medical care or fair trials. 

Amnesty International was established in 1961 with headquarters in London. With offices now scattered worldwide, this non-governmental organization is dedicated to advocating for human rights. Claiming 10 million activists, it received the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its “defense of human dignity against torture.” Amnesty has acted in many admirable ways, for example calling out China’s enslavement of Turkic Muslim Uighurs and Iran’s harsh reprisals against its citizens.

However, when it comes to Israel, Amnesty’s report borders on an incomprehensible lack of truth telling. Its four-year project is in fact an exercise in distortion. They are demanding that the International Criminal Court investigate Israel. This strikes me as an attempt to pass itself off as an intellectual pursuit to advocate for Palestinians, yet it suffers from a lack of context. Amid the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism, Amnesty’s 278-page opinion piece veers off into libel, handing out more hate tools to use against Israel.

A Wall Street Journal editorial calls the report “a libel that distorts history.” It goes on to say, “Israel was founded in the wake of the Holocaust with broad international support. The Jews who settled in historic Palestine had to fight to survive against Arab militias and national armies that wanted to push them into the sea. … The report is a denunciation of the very existence of Israel as a refuge for the Jewish people.”

Neither Amnesty International nor the United Nations is the final authority for Israel’s rights and its very existence. The foremost facts of history are contained in the 66 books of the Bible. For 3,000 years it has enshrined God’s eternal, unconditional real estate deed to Israel as the Jewish ancestral homeland. Genesis 15:18-21 makes it clear when God visited Abraham and held one of the most significant conversations of all time: “I will assign this land to your offspring.” God’s simple words carry frequent and profound repetition throughout the Old and New Testaments. 

One thousand Bible verses attest to the Jewish people as the indigenous owners of the land.

Let us check out a few facts that Amnesty International neglected. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. The PLO added the Palestinian Authority in 1995 as a part of conducting the practical aspects of the defunct Oslo Accords. The PLO and PA are interrelated and interchangeable. They retain several key claims in their charter: Article 9: “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.” Article 10: “Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution.” In other words, their goal hasn’t changed: to wipe the nation of Israel off the map. 

The 84-year-old Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, holds tightly to the PLO charter. On Palestinian “educational” efforts, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports that the slogan used in textbooks and speeches—“Palestine stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River”—is commonplace. The PA Ministry of Education says it in another way: “Israel does not exist.” PMW also reports that for decades Palestinian TV has been planting ideas of violence into their children to become child soldiers.

The Amnesty report mentions the almost two million Palestinians living in Gaza, calling 1.4 million of them registered refugees. It cites Gaza’s shortcomings with regard to garbage collection, inadequate water, unreliable electricity, and huge unemployment, yet fails to blame the ruling terrorist organization, Hamas, for these conditions. There’s no mention, either, about that government’s cruel use of civilians as human shields—or the fact that their top leaders live in luxury while the citizens suffer. Even as Hamas is pounding Israeli civilians with rocket barrages, Jewish truckers are crossing into danger in order to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza. Yet Hamas launched rockets against these trucks in the conflict last May, so who are the humanitarians? Surely not Hamas! 

Amnesty International’s recent report, which adds fuel to the fire of slander and libel against Israel, is described in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” No nation on earth is perfect, of course, including Israel. Nevertheless, I’d like to recount a few essential facts. In 2005 Israel removed its 8,000 citizens from Gaza, hoping that after this complete disengagement, Palestinians would turn the area into a paradise on the Mediterranean. Instead, the Palestinians elected Hamas in 2007—and rockets began to rain on Israel a few years later. 

Furthermore, Israel is the only nation in the world that delivered black Africans to freedom when it airlifted thousands of Ethiopians to settle in Israel. In a proactive effort to save civilians when Israel is forced to defend its own citizens, Israel’s army is the only military that makes calls and drops leaflets to Gazan civilians telling them to vacate buildings (including schools and mosques) where Hamas purposely stores weapons. Jewish and Arab physicians work side by side in Israeli hospitals, where the lives of hundreds of Palestinian children are saved. Numerous Israeli businesses employ some 35,000 Palestinians in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—and offer equal wages and benefits. Arabs serve in the Knesset and, although not required, proudly serve in the Israel Defense Forces. 

Although Amnesty has consistently ignored these few realities, those of us who stand with Israel could easily write our own 278-page report and call it “Israel’s Demonstrated Commitment to Peace and Equality for Everyone.” 

No matter how often Israel is slandered with apartheid or accused of living on “stolen land,” God the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the final Authority. Ezekiel 37:21 “Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land.”

Join CBN Israel this week in prayer as we have also spoken out against this report:

  • Pray that Christians will rise up to pray and act against rising anti-Semitism.
  • Pray for Israel’s supporters to respond with wise words and facts when Israel is slandered in situations like these.  
  • Pray for a reverse of anti-Semitism among some politicians in U.S. Congress.
  • Pray that Palestinian children who are hearing hateful messages about Israel in Palestinian media be exposed to the truth. 

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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Living with Disability: Gila and Noam’s Story

Living in Israel, Gila is 60, and a single mom of four grown children. Three live on their own—but Noam, her youngest at 20, was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy. 

Noam’s daily challenges include impaired vision and epilepsy. With the mental and verbal capacity of a child, he requires leg braces and assistance to walk, and has a manual wheelchair. As his sole caregiver, Gila now lacks the strength at her age to continue the care he needs. 

Recently, Noam became a resident in a special disabled home unit. He learns life skills with other residents—and comes home on weekends. Gila saw this as a wonderful gift. However, Noam wasn’t strong enough to propel his old wheelchair. When the home gave him lessons to use the new motorized wheelchairs, Gila knew that Noam needed one to gain more independence. On her low income, she could not afford it, and was rejected for a government grant. She then raised donations for almost half the amount—but needed help for the remainder of the cost.

Thanks to friends like you, CBN Israel was able to fund the rest—and Gila presented it to Noam for his 20th birthday! CBN Israel’s caring donors also brought her food, assistance, and encouragement. And today, Noam is thriving in the home with more freedom and mobility, bringing Gila peace of mind. She exclaimed, “Thank you so much for your kindness!” 

Your gift to CBN Israel can provide vital aid to many more in Israel with disabilities—as well as offering groceries, finances, and essentials to others in need. As the cries for help in the Holy Land persist, you can bring hope and assistance to refugees, elderly Holocaust survivors, and hurting families. 

Please join us in blessing those who desperately need our help!


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Biblical Israel: First Century Tombs and Burial

By Marc Turnage

Bible readers find the issue of Jewish burial customs and tombs interesting due to the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. While the Gospels do not provide an exact location for the tomb of Jesus, although tradition and archaeology does support the traditional location of the Holy Sepulchre, they do offer several interesting details about Jewish burial practices and the style of tombs used in the first century. And, since Jesus was placed in a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid (Luke 23:53), the style of His tomb must have been one of two known from the first century.

Jewish tombs in the first century consisted of two types: kokhim and arcosolia. The most common being the kokhim. A kokh (singular) was a long, narrow recess cut into a rock tomb in which a body, coffin, or ossuary (bone box) could be laid. The typical kokhim tomb was hewn into the hillside and consisted of a square chamber. The entrance to an ordinary kokhim tomb was a small square opening that required a person entering to stoop. The height of the chamber was usually less than that of a person, so they often cut a square pit into the floor of the chamber. This pit created a bench on three sides of the chamber where the bodies of the deceased could be prepared. 

After the chamber and the pit were cut, the kokhim were cut level with the top of the benches and perpendicular to the wall of the tomb in a counter clockwise direction, from right to left, in every wall except the entrance wall. One to three kokhim were usually cut per wall. The kokh had roughly vaulted ceilings and were the length of the deceased or a coffin. After the deceased was placed into the kokh, a blocking stone sealed the square entrance of the tomb. Small stones and plaster helped to further seal the blocking stone. The tomb was sealed in a manner that it blended into the surrounding hillside. 

After a year, when the flesh had decayed, the bones were collected and buried into the ossuary. Once the bones were placed into the ossuary, the ossuary could be placed in a loculus (kokh) within the tomb or upon the bench or floor of the main tomb chamber. Ossuaries were made of the soft, chalky limestone (a few ossuaries were made out of clay or wood) and consisted of a box where the bones were placed and a lid. The limestone was placed into water to soften the stone, which allowed the stone to be easily carved into the ossuary. 

Originally ossuaries served one individual, so the dimensions of the ossuary were the length of the femur and the width and height of the pelvis and skull. Many ossuaries, however, contain the bones of more than one person (and not complete persons at that). Most of the ossuaries discovered bear decorations, although they can be plain. Professional craftsmen decorated the ossuaries using a compass, ruler, straightedge, carving knife, gouge, mallet, and chisel. 

Many ossuaries bear inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. These inscriptions were not done by professional scribes, but in the semi-dark of the cave by family members, to identify the deceased. Archaeologists excavating south of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1990 discovered an ornately decorated ossuary bearing the inscription “Joseph, son of Caiaphas,” the high priest who turned Jesus over to Pilate. It held the bones of a sixty-year-old male, and in the eye sockets of the skull were two coins. The practice of secondary burial in ossuaries date from the period of the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. Jews could also bury in coffins during this period as well. 

In addition to the kokhim tomb, arcosolia tombs began to appear sporadically during the first century. The arcosolia is a bench-like aperture with an arched ceiling hewn into the length of the wall. This style of burial was more expensive since only three burial places existed within a tomb chamber instead of six or nine, as typically found within kokhim tombs. Approximately 130 arcosolia tombs have been discovered in Jerusalem and over half of them also contain kokhim. Ossuaries (bone boxes) could be placed on the arcosolia benches.

The tomb identified within the Holy Sepulchre as the tomb of Jesus was originally an arcosolium (singular) with an antechamber; however, the centuries of pilgrims and the various destructions of the church have deformed and obliterated the tomb. What visitors see today is a later structure; nevertheless, the tomb originally contained a first century arcosolium tomb. 

Burial practices reflect the values, philosophy, and religion of people. The style of tombs used by Jews in the first century differ significantly from those used in the period of the Old Testament, which reflects the development of views of death and the afterlife from the period of the Old Testament to the New Testament.

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 Devotional: If It Had Not Been the Lord

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul; then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul” (Psalm 124:2-5 NKJV).

When things get difficult, whom do you turn to for aid? Do you try to figure it out yourself? Do you look to family or friends? Or do you look to God? This does not mean simply throwing a prayer heavenward in a moment of crisis; do you really look to God each day?

When you come out of moments of difficulty, do you recognize that God was near and that He was with you through it all? Do you acknowledge His deliverance and help? Do you recognize what would have happened had He not been by you?

Psalm 124 does that. It recognizes God’s nearness to His people, and it acknowledges what would have happened had He not come to their aid. The psalmist was not merely looking to God as a safety valve in a moment of trouble, although he acknowledged Israel’s reliance upon God. 

God wants to help His people; He desires to deliver them. Like any good parent wants to help and protect their children, God loves to help us, and He enjoys it even more when we recognize His divine intervention. He gains glory by what He does for us.

Of course, the question naturally comes: Why does God not deliver us from every painful or difficult situation? On the one hand, we can say that growth comes through hardship; we also gain a depth in our relationship with Him when He brings us through. But on the other hand, we have to acknowledge that within life, suffering is a great mystery too—and we do not have all the answers.

The crux of the matter, though, is that we pursue a relationship with God in which we invite Him into our daily lives and trust Him to be our God—even in the midst of our most painful moments and circumstances. And if our cries for help do not receive the exact answers we expect, will we still choose to believe that God is near and will see us through?

Where do you look for help? The psalmist declared, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8 NKJV). Is He the One you look to? When you come through hardship, do you recognize how God was with you?


Father, You are our help. You have been our help. If it weren’t for You, we certainly would have perished. May Your name be blessed for the protection and deliverance You have given for us. Amen.

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Isaiah’s Prophecy, Professor Sukenik, and the United Nations

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

Last week, the Jewish community and millions of caring people worldwide observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2005, the United Nations finally called for an International Holocaust Remembrance Day to be observed each January 27, the day that in 1945 saw Auschwitz-Birkenau finally liberated. It was a fine-sounding, auspicious decree. However, when it comes to the United Nations and its decades-long bias against Israel, one has to wonder why there have been so many contradictory policies.

Prior to a slew of “feel good” Holocaust Remembrance events last week at the U.N., the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reported the United Nations’ latest hypocrisy on January 23. The U.N. created a permanent investigation into Israel. It is critical to emphasize that no such open-ended inquiry has ever been directed against any other U.N. member state. Then, one day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres declared, “All societies must act to ‘tackle antisemitism, root and branch.’”  

The U.N. has consistently given a pass to the likes of Cuba, China, Iran, and North Korea. They are among 52 dictator nations as reported by the World Population Review in 2020. Central and Latin America have three, Africa has 22, and Asia and the Middle East top out at 27. The U.N.’s membership is 193 nations. The leaders of dictatorships might carry titles such as president or prime minister, but oppressive dictators they are. 

The preponderance of dictatorships sadly represents a significant failure of the United Nations Charter that was passed on October 24, 1945, by its then-51 members. A brief summation of the U.N.’s goals: Incorporate harmonious relationships among nations cooperating to solve international problems and keep the peace. 

Over the last 77 years, the U.N. seems to have abandoned its original concept that the organization is “open to all peace-loving states that accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations.” Nowhere is that policy concept more neglected than one of the smallest yet most miraculous nations in the world: Israel. A nation that has longed for peace since the United Nations’ vote on November 29, 1947.

On that day, the United Nations—then located in San Francisco—generated one of its most important decisions. Their vote on Resolution 181 to adopt the so-named partition plan for two states—one Jewish, one Arab—changed world history. The vote ended 25 years of British obligatory rule in what was called the Mandate of Palestine. It not only changed history; it fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah 66:7-8: “Who has ever heard of such things? 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.” Of the then-57 member nations, 33 countries voted “Yes,” 13 voted “No,” and 10 countries abstained. 

Little did anyone know that another fulfillment of prophecy was unfolding in Jerusalem that same night—at the same time the vote was taking place. Israeli archaeologist and Hebrew University professor, Eleazer Sukenik, sat in his study that night in Jerusalem intently scrutinizing fragile pieces of parchment. They were part of the Dead Sea Scrolls that had recently come into his hands. As he pondered the precious scroll fragments, his son, Yigael Yadin, ran into the room shouting the news he just heard on the radio. 

The cause for Yigael’s excitement: Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had announced the U.N. vote. Thousands upon thousands of Jews hovering near their radios were intent on hearing news about their 2,000-year hope finally becoming reality. With the historic announcement, shouts of excitement and tears of joy ensued among the Jews of the new Israel. They ran into the streets dancing. 

Tragically, less than five months later, surrounding Arab countries attacked the new Jewish nation just hours after Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s Independence on May 14, 1948. Arabs gave up their opportunity to have their own piece of the state, larger than the portion assigned to the Jews. Miraculously, Israel won that defensive war, which would turn out to be the first of many victories against the unrelenting assaults by their Arab neighbors.

The 24-hour convergence of the U.N. vote and Professor Sukenik verifying the Isaiah fragment revealed God’s unmistakable blessing on the modern state of Israel. It was reborn as God had said through the prophet Isaiah 3,000 years earlier. 

Another fascinating fact was discovered in Jerusalem and reported on February 22, 2018, that adds to the convergence. Ruth Schuster at Haaretz wrote that Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University discovered a seal impression, called a bulla, in an undisturbed section of King David’s palace. She found it near another bulla bearing King Hezekiah’s inscription. Isaiah and Hezekiah were contemporaries. Isaiah’s bulla is half an inch wide, and shows the name, Yesha’yah[u] (Isaiah’s name in ancient Hebrew script), followed by the letters N-V-Y. The letters are thought to be the first three letters of the word for prophet (navi).

Stop for a moment and allow these realizations to sink deeply into your understanding of Israel’s ancestral homeland deeded by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Jerusalem, Israel’s ancient capital, is also Israel’s modern capital. Miraculously, Jerusalem has survived 52 attacks, been captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice.

Some 3,000 years ago, Isaiah predicted the journey in Chapter 66, verses 7 and 8. Then Bedouins discovered the first Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, closely followed by the U.N. vote on November 29, 1947 and Dr. Sukenik’s assessment of authenticity. Finally, adding to 3,000 years of connectivity, Dr. Mazar’s discovery of Isaiah’s bulla.

No matter what lies ahead, whether bias on the United Nations “Commission of Anti-Semitism” (my name), Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, or Iran’s presence in Syria, the Christian community will hopefully maintain vigilance on behalf of Israel and our Jewish friends worldwide. God has given us another chance. Let us not imitate the passivity of so many German Christians in the World War II era.

My favorite theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was hung in Flossenberrg by the Nazis because he risked his life trying to convince German churches to disassociate from Hitler, to wake up, and stand up for Jewish families.

Let’s recall what he wisely observed in his day: “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t as a Christian simply wait for the catastrophe then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for Israel and the Jewish community:

  • Pray for Israel’s leaders to create strategies to maintain Israel’s sovereignty. 
  • Pray that the U.S. Congress will continue to vote in favor of Israel’s security aid and that Christians will become more politically engaged on behalf of Israel.
  • Pray that Christians will not remain silent about supporting Israel since God is allowing us to live at such a time as this.
  • Pray for the Christian community to remain steadfast in prayer and action on behalf of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. 
  • Pray for CBN Israel to have the support and resources necessary to reach millions worldwide with the true story of Israel while also blessing her people in need. 

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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