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Biblical Israel: Beth Shean

By Marc Turnage

Located at the intersection of two significant roads that crossed the land of Israel from west to east, through the Jezreel and Harod Valleys towards the land east of the Jordan River, and north to south, through the Jordan River Valley, Beth Shean’s prominence came due to its location. The importance of its location is underscored by being inhabited from the late Neolithic period until the Middle Ages.

Egyptian sources mention Beth Shean, and it served as an Egyptian administrative center during the 16th-13th centuries B.C., when Egypt controlled the region. Beth Shean appears often within the sources during the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods where the city is known as Scythopolis (“city of the Scythians”) or Nysa Scythopolis. 

The tribal allotment of land gave Beth Shean to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11), but the Israelites were unable to dislodge the people of Beth Shean (Judges 1:27), in part, due to the people of Beth Shean having “chariots of iron” (meaning an iron axel; Joshua 17:16), which gave them a military advantage in the plain.

After the death of Saul and his sons on nearby Mount Gilboa, the Philistines hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shean (1 Samuel 31:10). The men of Jabesh Gilead, in the Transjordan, later retrieved their bodies burning them and burying them in Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 31:12). Like Megiddo, Beth Shean served an important role along significant international roadways, which means that it rarely came under the control of the kingdom of Israel. 

The Gospels do not mention Jesus in Beth Shean, Scythopolis, as he avoided non-Jewish villages and cities. Yet, Luke mentions that on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem he passed between Galilee and Samaria (17:11). Luke’s precise geographic language reflects the geopolitical reality of the first century in which Beth Shean, the Harod Valley, and even the Jezreel Valley lay neither in Galilee, nor in Samaria.

Thus, Jesus passed through this way towards the Jordan River, where he crossed the river, south of Beth Shean, proceeding south along the east bank of the Jordan River, which was inhabited by Jews, until he came opposite Jericho, where he crossed the river again and ascended to Jerusalem.

Visitors to the site of Beth Shean today see primarily the Roman-Byzantine city. The biblical period site resides on the high tel that overlooks the lower Roman-Byzantine city. On the tel, archaeologists have excavated five different temples from the Bronze Age to the early Iron Age. Also, on the top of the tel, excavations have revealed Egyptian and Canaanite presence.

The lower city, most of which dates to the late Roman and Byzantine periods, preserves remains of two large bath houses, with public toilets, a large theater, with portions of the backdrop still intact (reconstruction work has added more to this), a public market, nymphaeum (a public fountain), a public market, and shops. 

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

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

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Weekly Devotional: How Do You Want To Be Judged?

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:37-38 NKJV).

Matthew’s parallel adds, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (chapter 7:2). This is perhaps one of the most sobering statements of Jesus. Yet we rarely pause to internalize it.

We often take it to mean that if we do not judge others, others will not judge us, but that misses Jesus’ point entirely. It’s not others who will not judge us; it’s not others who will not condemn us or forgive us; rather, it is God.

You mean how God will judge me and even forgive me depends on how I treat others? According to Jesus, the answer is yes. 

So, how do you want to be judged by God? If we desire God’s mercy, we must show mercy to others. If we want Him to forgive us, then we must forgive. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” And, if we want Him to give to us, we must generously give to others. 

In the manner we want God to act and treat us, we must behave to another as we would to ourselves. In fact, for Him, we demonstrate our love of God and obedience to Him by how we love others. “With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” 

How different would our world look if we took this startling statement of Jesus’ to heart? How would we relate differently to our families? In our workplaces? To strangers? Foreigners? Enemies? 

If we treated others in the same way that we want God to treat us, what testimony would we demonstrate to a world filled with anger, bitterness, judgment, condemnation, and unforgiveness?

We often water down the impact of Jesus’ words. We need to let them hit us anew—and afresh. How do I want God to judge me? Then I must judge others in the same manner. 

We all hope for God to show us mercy, so let us show mercy to others. When we hear Jesus and truly internalize His words, His challenging message rings just as relevant for us today as it did to His listeners 2,000 years ago.

Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.

PRAYER

Father, forgive us for judging and condemning others without kindness and mercy. God, we need Your mercy; let us therefore show mercy toward others like ourselves. Amen.

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Israel Persists in Defending Her People Amidst a Strained Relationship with the U.S.

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Like a ship gradually coming loose from its moorings, the U.S.-Israel relationship is heading into rough waters. It’s facing enormous controversy between the President of the United States and Israel’s Prime Minister. The waves of conflict are out in the open, with Biden telegraphing unmistakable signals to Israel—first about pulling back from Rafah in southern Gaza, and now about Israelis backing off from defending themselves against Hezbollah in the north.

In May, Biden threatened the Middle East’s only democracy about moving into Rafah, saying he would halt some shipments of American weapons into Israel. Netanyahu responded, “I hope we can see eye to eye with the United States. We’re talking to them, but ultimately we do what we have to do to protect the life of our nation.” Netanyahu has also made it clear that Israel will not leave Gaza “until we return all 120 of our hostages, both the living and dead.”

Amid the contention on the global stage, the U.S., EU, Qatar, and other countries are demanding that Israel secure the safety of Gazan civilians. However, mostly overlooked, Israel has repeatedly set up safe zones up and down Gaza, and successfully moved about 1 million Gazans from Rafah into well-defined safe zone boundaries with tents, food, and water. To infer that Israel is lax in its determination to protect civilians undermines the long-held humanitarian policies of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In fact, Israel’s own policies of warning Gazans in advance has increased deaths and injuries among Israel’s military. No other country on earth lets its enemies know when they are coming.

Meanwhile, Israel is “doing what it must do to protect the life” of Israel by moving ahead with important inroads to rid Rafah of the Hamas terrorists. This, despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s observation in a June 23 interview that “there has been a dramatic decline in the supply of munitions from the United States.”

However, the IDF’s biggest shock was yet to come. In Rafah, they discovered some 50 sophisticated tunnels—likely Egyptian engineered—some of which are large enough to drive trucks through from Egypt into Gaza. This means that Egypt, which has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1980, has raked in millions of dollars from large-sized weapons flowing into Gaza.

During the hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israel’s Deputy Attorney General Gilad Noam attempted to persuade that assembly with those facts. “Nearly 700 tunnel shafts have been identified in Rafah,” he stated. “These tunnels are used by Hamas to supply itself with weapons and ammunition.” Further, he warned, they could “potentially be used to smuggle out of Gaza hostages or Hamas senior operators.” Unfortunately, these unbelievable findings made no difference to the UN court, which ordered Israel not to go into Rafah.

It’s been nothing short of a miracle—the IDF first moving a million Gazans out of harm’s way, then going in with their decision as a sovereign nation, and then making these major discoveries. And the combined pushback that Israel now knows about may be just the tip of the iceberg about which leaders are complicit, in additional disturbing ways.

For an in-depth explanation of Rafah’s importance, the perspective of Brigadier General Amir Avivi is quite revealing. Rafah—the last Hamas stronghold—is located on the Egyptian border. The combined Egypt/Rafah/Hamas role serves as the economic engine for Hamas’s terrorists and weapons shipments. Hamas has four battalions of thousands of hate-motivated men in Rafah. The IDF is also discovering more evidence of the Hamas terror mindset and practices: weapons stored under baby cribs and terrorists operating tunnels under the UNRWA headquarters.

Despite the intensely complex challenges in Rafah, last Sunday IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. General Halevi, in his briefing to the IDF in Rafah reported good news: that “they’re about to finish off Rafah’s brigade of four battalions.” It is one of the biggest, most important achievements in the war against terror that the Philadelphi Corridor is now controlled by IDF Division 162. The corridor runs the full length of the Egypt-Gaza border. Halevi said the hard-fought victory will “prevent Hamas from its smuggling operations.”

Had Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military leaders backed down from entering Rafah, where the IDF destroyed tunnels and took control of the Philadelphi Corridor, Hamas would have continued to transport Iran-financed weapons into Gaza with Egypt as an accomplice. Hamas’s evil intent to murder every Jew has not changed. More weapons mean more attacks and assaults launched against the Jewish nation.

Looking up to the north on Israel’s tense border with Lebanon, Hezbollah is endangering the Christian Lebanese population speaking out against it. In eight months, the terrorist organization has already fired 5,000 projectiles into Israel, killing 25 Israelis (both civilian and soldiers). More than 80,000 Israelis were forced to evacuate from their homes shortly after the Hamas war began. Twenty thousand acres are burned and nearly 1,000 homes and large parts of the towns have been destroyed.

The Hezbollah all-out war is a reality. President Biden has already told Israel not to engage with Hezbollah because it might “risk drawing Iran in.” Truth be told, last fall Biden unfroze Iran’s billions and sent the cash to the Islamic Regime. Add Biden’s unwise effort to resuscitate the ineffectual 2015 Iran deal, and now the Middle East is heading toward a potential World War III footing.     

Biden doubled down through his Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Charles Brown commented, “The U.S. will NOT be able to assist Israel in the war against Hezbollah as it assisted it in intercepting the missile and drone attack from Iran in April.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu needs no advice or lessons from President Biden. Again, Netanyahu responded as the strong leader of his endangered, yet eternal nation in a speech to Knesset on Sunday: “At any cost and in any way, we will thwart Iran’s intentions to destroy us.” As he spoke to the leaders and press in the room, he reminded the world that Israel is currently “in an existential war of seven fronts.”

Our CBN Israel team invites you to pray with us amid Israel’s dark days, knowing that God keeps His word in His time. Exodus 23:31 promises, “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for the IDF during their preparations for an expanded defensive war against Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
  • Pray for Israeli families that have lost sons recently fighting for their country.
  • Pray for American Jews who have been attacked by pro-Hamas activists in their synagogues, homes, and streets.
  • Pray for Christians across the globe to express their commitment in words and deed toward Jewish friends near and far.

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 on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. By invitation, Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summits. She also hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Victim of Terrorism: Anastasia’s Story

Like others living along the Gaza border, Anastasia and her family were accustomed to hearing rocket alerts. But the morning of October 7, she knew something was different.

Awakened at 6:30 am by rocket fire and sirens, Anastasia thought, “They will bombard us for two to three days, as always.” So she and her husband ran with their two-year-old daughter to the bomb shelter. Minutes later, a nearby parking lot was bombed, with cars on fire. Then they saw the terrifying videos and news on Facebook, and knew they were under attack.

Yet, friends like you were there for Anastasia. Fortunately, CBN Israel had worked with her family earlier, and staff reached out to make sure they were safe. Through donors’ support, we evacuated them and others to a hotel, and provided meals, essentials, lodging, and counseling.

Anastasia shared, “The group of people who came that believe in God, they have done so much good for us. Really, we are so grateful. Where does all this kindness come from—the donations for people they don’t even know? Wow…” Caring partners gave her encouragement to move forward, and she says, “We are together, we are alive. That is something to thank God for.”

Your gifts to CBN Israel can give so many Israelis in need a reason to be grateful. In addition to helping victims of the war with Hamas, you can supply groceries, financial aid, and housing to many more in crisis.

And your support can bring ongoing assistance to aging Holocaust survivors, single moms, refugees, and terror victims.

Please join us in blessings Israel at this crucial time!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Ein Gedi

By Marc Turnage

The name Ein Gedi means “spring of the kid (young goat).” Ein Gedi, which is the largest oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, sits between two riverbeds (in Hebrew, nahal, in Arabic, wadi): Nahal David to the north and Nahal Arugot to the south. The oasis contains four springs, Ein David, Ein Arugot, Ein Shulamit, and Ein Gedi, that flow year-round supplying three million cubic meters of water annually. 

The springs have allowed habitation, which dates back to the Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000 B.C.). Its most continuous inhabitation goes from the beginning of the seventh century B.C. until the early Arab period as indicated by archaeological and literary evidence. The book of Joshua locates Ein Gedi within the tribal territory of Judah (15:62). Ein Gedi’s location within the tribal territory of Judah explains David’s use of the oasis when he hid from Saul (1 Samuel 23:29; 24). During the biblical period, a road from the southern end of the Dead Sea and the lands to the east, Moab and Edom, ascended from Ein Gedi into the central hill country towards Bethlehem. 

Although located along the arid shores of the Dead Sea, the fresh-water springs and temperate climate year-round allowed Ein Gedi to flourish as a place of agriculture. Date palms and perfume-producing plants became the primary crops of the oasis. The book of Ben Sira mentions the date palms of Ein Gedi. 

In the first century B.C., the arrival of hydraulic plaster from Italy in Judaea enabled the Jewish leaders, the Hasmoneans, to construct aqueducts at Ein Gedi, which allowed them to expand the agricultural production at Ein Gedi. During the first century B.C. and A.D., Ein Gedi produced a perfume, balsam, which served as the cash-crop of the kingdom of Herod the Great and Judaea. It was exported all throughout the Roman world. Herod the Great’s construction of the palace fortress of Masada, just south of Ein Gedi, served to protect the produce of the balsam.

The dates of Judaea also were exported to Italy. The site of Ein Gedi was destroyed during the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-73) but rebuilt in the years after the revolt and served as a location of a Roman garrison as well as a military and administrative center for the Jewish rebels during the Bar Kochba Revolt (A.D. 132-136). The Romans conquered Ein Gedi at the end of this Jewish revolt. Remains of the Jewish rebels and their belongings were discovered in caves near the oasis of Ein Gedi in the twentieth century.

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

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

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Weekly Devotional: Wisdom Is a Skill You Learn

“Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. … I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths” (Proverbs 4:7, 11 HCSB).

Our modern world often equates wisdom with our intelligence or as the natural result of our life experience. In other words, we have little control over whether or not we are wise. We either possess it innately or automatically gain it through life experience. However, according to the Bible, it’s neither.

In the Bible, wisdom is a skill that can be acquired and learned, but it also requires discipline and practice.

Both Psalms and Proverbs associate wisdom with the “fear” of (or obedience to) God. Wisdom dwells with God and in His Word. Yet it is something to be acquired—to grow in and continually learn.

Wisdom first appears in the Bible in connection with Bezalel and his craftsmen (Exodus 35-36), who were tasked with constructing the elements and vestments of the Tabernacle. They were artisans. They are also the first people to be filled with the Spirit of God.

The way the Bible uses the term “wisdom” in the context of Bezalel shows that it is a skill acquired through disciplined, attentive action, and practice. Yes, God filled these artisans with His Spirit, but their ability came from their discipline, their wisdom.

In the Bible, God does not simply give us a skill or ability that we have not acquired and mastered through discipline and practice. David had practiced his slingshot thousands of times before he confronted Goliath.

Bezalel fashioned countless pieces, working on his art and his craft, before God called him to construct the elements of the Tabernacle. Our acquisition of wisdom, skill, and insight enables God to animate what we have mastered and expand its impact exponentially.

Life experience does not alone produce wisdom; neither is wisdom simply something one has or doesn’t have. Wisdom comes through discipline and practice, through obedience.

We can train ourselves to be wise. At the same time, wisdom—within the Bible—comes from God’s instructions, and learning His Word requires discipline, practice, and skill.

Biblical wisdom does not come to the lazy nor to those who want it quickly. We acquire it through discipline in our lives and in God’s Word. But the promise of wisdom is life.

PRAYER

Father, please grant us Your wisdom. May we acquire it and learn to walk in Your ways. Amen.

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CAMERA: Combatting Untruths in Major Media

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Last week, Dr. Tricia Miller returned to the United States from Israel, part of a seven-member solidarity trip sponsored by National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), the largest Christian media organization in the world. NRB’s significant role cannot be underestimated as an influential organization that views support for the world’s only Jewish state a top priority. Since the Hamas War, NRB’s combined worldwide media influence provides an indispensable ballast against the anti-Jew, anti-Zionist, anti-Israel propaganda flooding the airwaves 24/7.

In the NRB membership of more than 1,100 Christian media communicators, Dr. Miller, PhD and author, is the director of the Partnership of Christians and Jews for CAMERA—the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis. Since 1982, CAMERA staff and volunteers have monitored and researched media output—and motivated laypeople to be part of advancing accurate, balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. 

Dr. Miller and I have networked on various pro-Israel projects for more than 15 years. She is a respected friend. After reading her first-person experiences and conversations with Israelis, you will discover simple, quick, yet powerful ways to volunteer as a “sleuth for truth” with CAMERA. The seven solidarity trip leaders interacted with wide-ranging segments of Israeli society. These included members of Knesset, Israel Defense Forces, President Herzog, hostage survivors, hostage family members, and rescuers.

As a small nation, with currently hundreds of thousands serving in Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as either active-duty members or reservists, Israel embraces soldiers as sons and daughters. Their funerals are attended by hundreds—sometimes thousands—of Israelis. Tricia spent much of her time listening—a valuable, compassionate trait for interacting with a nation that has been suffering a daily national trauma since October 7.

“I felt the pain in the souls of the people. I saw it in their eyes.” She explained that no one is exempt from suffering because “literally everyone is related to, or knows someone who is related to, someone killed, wounded, who escaped, or taken hostage.” Tricia reiterates that Israel is dealing with an existential battle for its survival against terrorists funded by the Islamic Regime, with its goal to destroy the Jewish State. “Every Israeli lives with this reality every day of their lives.”

Although Israel’s Government Press Office hosted and briefed more than 4,000 journalists in the weeks following the fatal assaults, more pain is heaped on Israelis now—since most of the world is turning against them, even blaming them! Tricia goes on to note that “Israelis feel like the world has forgotten what happened, as Israel is demonized for defending itself—and the media ignores or denies the numerous precautions IDF takes to protect Gaza’s civilians.” Where are the 4,000 “journalists” now?

Over and over, within the pain and “tangible sense of isolation” she mentions, the message Tricia heard about the Hamas invasion and massacre is the same from everyone in Israel—including President Herzog. All are unified and agree on one thing: the absolute necessity for the Jewish state to survive.

Dr. Miller highlighted their meeting with Jerusalem’s former Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. “What’s going on is a civilizational battle between the forces of good represented by democratic, peace-loving Judeo-Christian countries and very dangerous Islamic jihadi fundamentalism that wants to take the world back 500 years when nobody had any rights,” Fleur commented. “They really dream that the whole world will become one huge caliphate and they are represented by the heads of Iran and Hamas who attacked Israel brutally on the 7th of October.”

Fleur went on to say, “The Jewish people are a peace-loving people, we are trying to survive. This is an existential war, we didn’t want to fight it, we didn’t want to go to war.” She concluded, “This is not just Israel’s problem; it will come everywhere. … The free world really needs us to win this war and should do everything in their power to help us get rid of this terrible cancer we have right on our border.” Remember: the IDF is a DEFENSE Force.

However, no matter what events transpire globally, God will keep His enduring promises in Deuteronomy 33:29 NIV: Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”

To help others make sure our enemies will “cower” before us, Tricia is pioneering a new effort that’s uniting Jews and Christians in tangible ways. Launched in southwest Florida, it is called Naples Partnership of Christians and Jews under the umbrella of CAMERA’s Partnership of Christians and Jews. She welcomes your interest in organizing a similar effort where you live. Tricia will provide information and guidance to form these much-needed alliances amid the outbreak of lawless antisemitism here in the U.S. and worldwide. She will integrate the superb, proven work and techniques CAMERA is known for.

To volunteer for CAMERA is what I call being a “sleuth for truth. You do not need to be a professional. If you care about opposing the lies regarding Israel, your heart is equipped to motivate you—with tools you already use to send emails or talk/text on your mobile phone. CAMERA does the research, and with your extra set of eyes, voices, and hands-on activism it becomes a winning combination: [learn more here].

CAMERA’s varied opportunities are quick and easy if we remain alert each time we read or look at the media. Yes, we are often upset, but emotions are not a strategy when we encounter biased reporting. Instead, act! Join CAMERA’s international team of activists who call and write the media with facts. You will receive talking points, analyses of news articles, and contact information for reporters, editors, producers, or executives.

Jonah Cohen, CAMERA’s Director of Communications, revealed that with added volunteers since October 7, record-breaking milestones have “prompted 303 on-the-record admissions of error about Israel from some of the world’s most influential news outlets.” In May 2024, “a record 75 corrections from major media outlets” not only correct inaccuracies “but also deter recurrence of misrepresentations.”

These successes prove that supporters of Israel are changing the media environment, yet we face a David-and-Goliath challenge. After you read my next paragraph, remember that David defeated the enemy with just five smooth stones. Joining with CAMERA means providing well-aimed smooth stones.

In a YouTube video from June 14, 2024, Alex Traiman, CEO at the Jewish News Syndicate, interviewed tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Yossie Hollander. Hollander gave statistics about the infection of lies and bias against Israel. The Chinese Communist TikTok algorithm ratio against Israel is 200 to one. Iran’s algorithms are mostly based not on real people but on fake bots. Yossie adds, “Social media companies do not necessarily want to shut down fake news, because traffic is money.”

No matter what, as truth sleuths let each of us pick up our stones of truth against the Goliath of lies against Israel—and together help CAMERA.

Tricia’s resounding words give us courage and hope. “The Israelis understand the existential danger, they know who the enemy is, and they will have the victory! Am Yisrael Chai” (“the people of Israel live”). That saying is a declaration of Jewish survival and resilience echoed in Jewish prayers, songs, and ceremonies as a reminder of the enduring nature of the Jewish people and their faith.

We welcome you this week to pray with our CBN Israel team, recalling Zechariah 4:10 that points to an important concept for our activism. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.”

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for more sleuths for truth volunteers to join with CAMERA.
  • Pray for God’s redemptive hope in a world invaded with lawlessness.
  • Pray for Israelis who remain in deep mourning after more IDF deaths.
  • Pray for PM Netanyahu amid the heavy burdens he carries.
  • Pray for God’s angel armies to defeat His enemies in the battles between good and evil.

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 on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. By invitation, Arlene attends Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summits. She also hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Victim of Terrorism: Alina’s Story

Living in Ashkelon in southern Israel, the war was taking its toll on Alina and her family. As they faced 10 days of relentless rocket fire from Gaza, the stress was unbearable. She said, “We saw rockets hitting buildings close to where we live. There was fire all around…At night it would get very scary. The streets were empty. Everything was closed. We just couldn’t relax.”

Working as a hairdresser, Alina explained, “I can’t go to work because we don’t have a bomb shelter nearby. I didn’t know what to do—there was a constant fear.” Plus, her children were crying and on edge. They were all desperate to get out of the city. But where could they go?

Thankfully, friends like you made a way for them. Through CBN Israel, donors evacuated Alina’s family and more than 200 other families to a hotel away from the danger. Here, they can have a break from the trauma and terror, while enjoying themselves and feeling safe. Our partners provided them with meals, safe lodging, and even toys and games for the children.

Her kids play with the other kids, and Alina says gratefully, “They are no longer nervous or anxious. Now they’re more relaxed. They’re having fun here.” She adds, “I still can’t believe that we’re safe, because of generous people far away. You’ve surrounded us with such care. We’re so thankful to CBN… We’ve seen God’s goodness through your support!”

Your gifts to CBN Israel can also bring God’s love and compassion to others in need, including Holocaust survivors, immigrants, and single moms. As the war escalates, more Israelis need our assistance. Your support can deliver food, housing, medical aid, and finances—along with hope.

Please be a part of this special outreach today!

GIVE TODAY

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Biblical Israel: Temple Mount

By Marc Turnage

The Golden Dome of the Rock provides one of the most iconic and recognizable images of any city’s skyline within the world. The Islamic shrine completed in A.D. 692 by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik stands upon the platform of the Temple Mount, which was constructed during the first centuries B.C. and A.D. The Temple Mount refers to the platform and complex upon which stood the Temple constructed by Herod the Great. This was the Temple known to Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Peter, and Paul. It stood on the northern end of the eastern hill of Jerusalem, what the Bible calls Mount Zion. 

Around 1000 B.C., David conquered the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and the stronghold of Zion, which sat on the eastern hill. He made this the capital of his united kingdom, Israel. When his son, Solomon, succeeded his father as king, he extended the city to the northern height of the eastern hill where he built his palace, administrative buildings, and the House of the God of Israel, the First Temple. This building remained situated on the height of the eastern hill until the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed it in 586 B.C. The Babylonians carried the Judeans into exile. When they returned to the land around Jerusalem, they rebuilt the Temple, under Zerubbabel. This building underwent renovations and additions in the subsequent centuries; however, our knowledge of this is limited due to the absence of clear descriptions within ancient sources and a lack of archaeological excavation in the area of the Temple Mount.

In the eighteenth year of Herod the Great’s reign as king of Judea, he began a massive remodeling and reconstruction of the Temple area, which ultimately resulted in the construction of the Temple Mount. The construction, which continued into the first century A.D., after Herod’s death in 4 B.C., created a series of four retaining walls that supported the platform, which covered the high point of the eastern hill turning it into the largest enclosed sacred space within the Roman world. The main portion of construction took nine-and-a-half years. Herod apparently oversaw the building of the Temple building, which stood twice the height of the golden Dome of the Rock, and the remodeling of the sacred precincts, an area of five hundred cubits square, during his lifetime. 

The heart of the Temple Mount was the Temple building and the surrounding sacred complex, which including the Court of the Women, the Court of the Israelites, the Chambers of Wood, Oil, Lepers, and Nazirites. Inside the Temple building was the Holy Place, which housed the golden lampstand (the menorah), the Table of Shewbread, and the altar of incense. Beyond the Holy Place was the Holies of Holies, which was entered only by the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement.

The construction of the Temple Mount continued into the first century as the southern and northern portions of the platform expanded. The four retaining walls of the Temple Mount contained gates that offered access onto the Temple Mount platform. The northern retaining wall contained the Tadi Gate, which rabbinic sources claim was not used at all. The Shushan Gate stood on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, of which portions seem to predate Herod, and it was lower than the other walls that surrounded the Temple Mount. 

The present eastern gate, known as the Golden Gate (or in Arabic, the Mercy Gate) was built much later than the first century. It was sealed, like most of the gates onto the Temple Mount by the Crusader, Knights Templar, who made the Temple Mount their headquarters. The western retaining wall had four gates. Two were upper and two lower, and they alternated lower and upper. The northernmost gate opened onto a street that ran alongside the western retaining wall. Today it is known as Warren’s Gate (named after the British explorer, Charles Warren, who found the gate). 

In the first century an arched bridge spanned from the western hill to the western wall of the Temple Mount. This bridge conveyed an aqueduct that provided water for the Temple worship. The bridge and the arched gateway that provided access onto the Temple Mount were identified by Charles Wilson in the nineteenth century and bear his name today. Today a portion of the western retaining wall serves as the prayer plaza of the Western Wall, a functioning synagogue, a site holy for Jews. In the women’s section of the Western Wall remains of a third gate can be seen. This gate, known as Barclay’s gate, after the American missionary, James Barclay, who discovered it, also provided access to the street that ran along the western wall. 

The fourth and final gate also offered another elevated access onto the Temple Mount platform. It was supported by a large arch with steps that ascended the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. The arch, which was the largest arch in the Roman world at the time of its construction, is known as Robinson’s Arch, bearing the name of the American Edward Robinson who identified the spring of the arch, which is all that remains. The southern entrances of the Temple Mount served the majority of Jewish pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Two large double gates stood at the top of stairs providing access up a ramp onto the Temple Mount platform. Pilgrims entered on the right of the two gates and exited through the left two gates unless they were in mourning. If they were in mourning, they went the opposite direction in order to receive comfort from their fellow worshipers. 

The western and southern retaining walls were built in the first century A.D. Their construction enlarged the Temple Mount platform to the south, which created a large court outside of the sacred precincts. They also supported a large colonnaded structure that stood on the southern end of the Temple Mount known as the Royal Stoa. 

Herod’s Temple and the surround complexes were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. During the second and third centuries a pagan shrine stood on the Temple Mount. During the period of the Christian Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, a couple of churches stood on the Temple Mount. With the coming of Islam in the seventh century, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque were constructed. These two buildings stand on top of the Temple Mount until today.

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

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

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Deeds Worthy of Repentance

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19-20 NKJV).

A key difference between the cultural world of the Bible and much of our modern world is that we tend to think and express ourselves in abstract ways today. We often place more importance upon our inner psychology, defining thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a far more abstract manner. The world of the Bible expresses itself in a more concrete form.

We tend treat repentance as something psychological. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. We may acknowledge that we should not continue in the behaviors that we previously did, but the shift is mostly inward. The Bible looks at repentance differently. Repentance is not something you feel; it’s something you do.

When Paul stood in front of Agrippa, he spoke about his ministry to Jews and Gentiles. His message: Turn to God and do works in keeping with repentance. It’s active, not inward. Now, one might argue that external action begins inside the psyche of a person. And that can be true.

But the Bible does not define repentance as a feeling; rather, repentance is an action whereby one turns to God and performs deeds worthy of repentance. For the biblical mind, the manifestation of repentance, true repentance, appears in our actions, usually our actions towards others.

When we read Paul’s statement, “do works befitting repentance,” we should ask, what exactly are those? We find a similar phrase on the lips of John the Baptist in Luke 3.

John outlines that the fruits consistent with our repentance manifest themselves in our obedience to God, especially in how we care for others and particularly the poor: He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same” (Luke 3:11 HCSB).

We run the risk in our modern world of turning repentance into something purely inward, private, between God and us. Yet, according to the Bible, if we want to repent, we must act, turn to God in obedience, and perform deeds worthy of repentance.

Repentance is not something we do once and then are completely done. Jesus challenged His followers to repent on a daily basis. Repentance is a lifestyle and a posture of humility toward God, recognizing that the fruit of our repentance is usually directed toward others.

PRAYER

Father, we turn to You today. We humbly submit ourselves to Your will today. Today, we will actively seek to perform deeds worthy of our repentance. Amen.

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