Floating Terror: Iran Weaponizing the Seas Aimed at the United States

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Surrounding Israel through its demonic proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza, Iran’s terror is expanding on the high seas, where they are outfitting Iranian commercial ships with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The Islamic regime’s Ministry of Defense broadcast the launch of its Kheibarshekan (“castle buster”) missile on West Asia News Agency. With a reported range of l,243–1,450 miles, this missile could easily reach Israel. In fact, the ICBM’s name symbolizes the regime’s declared intentions toward Israel; it stems from the seventh century, when Muslim warriors allegedly captured a Jewish castle in the Arabian Peninsula. 

However, surface-to-surface ICBMs are not merely a threat to Israel. Although the Islamic Ayatollahs call Israel the “little satan,” they refer to the United States as the “big satan.” Iran’s stealthy creation of these floating terror bases is not at all surprising. The Islamic regime’s military ambitions must be taken seriously, and it is vitally important that we continue to advocate for a strong, mutually beneficial U.S.-Israel relationship.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, describes Iran’s treacherous strategy: “It’s no surprise that Tehran is looking to extend the range of various unmanned aerial threat systems so that its rockets, drones, and missiles can be launched from containers or vessels at sea and away from Iranian territory. This helps feed the fiction that Iran intends to keep its 2,000-kilometer range cap on ballistic missiles while increasing the severity of the threat and aiding in deniability.” 

Consider geography and our oceans for a moment. Maritime law is fascinating and complex, since oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface. For our purposes, here is a simple maritime boundary explanation from NOAA, our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “Once a vessel is in waters that are more than 24 miles off the coast of a country, they are considered to be on the high seas and in international waters.” If an Iranian “commercial” ship is carrying ICBMs that have a range of up to 1,450 miles, 24 miles is miniscule. 

Navigating from Iran to the East Coast of the U.S., Iran’s maritime route would begin at one of its seven ports located along its coastline on the 21-mile-wide Strait of Hormuz. Here’s a significant fact: as ships ply the waters of the channel, they transport a fifth of the world’s oil, around 21 million barrels a day, worth more than a billion dollars. From the Strait, ships sail out into the Arabian Sea, and then up through the Red Sea, which empties out into the Mediterranean. As they sail west for the narrow Strait of Gibraltar located between Spain and Morocco, the Atlantic Ocean is just beyond and with it, the East Coast of the United States. 

Boston, New York, Washington, Norfolk, Charleston, and Savannah would be in the crosshairs of an ICBM. The ruthless Iranian regime now boasts about the possibility of a 3,300-pound warhead on its “castle buster” missile. Adding a nuclear tip, aimed at our East Coast, is not out of the question to Islamic Imams who are firmly intent on attaining their goal of world domination in a modern-day caliphate. You do not need much imagination to visualize this. 

Iran’s malign sea-born activities are nothing new. The terrorist nation has made trouble in the Strait of Hormuz beginning with motorboats as a nuisance interfering with ships in the Strait. Building on the harassments, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s navy got busy unlawfully seizing merchant ships. They have added oil tanker seizures to their crimes—such as Niovi, a Panama-flagged oil tanker, and Advantage Sweet, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker. In 2022, an Iranian “suicide drone” launched from an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) base in Iran attacked an Israeli-owned civilian tanker near Oman. An Israeli defense source commented, “Iranians are no longer hiding behind proxies.”

Fortunately, in May the Biden Administration undertook a U.S.-led multinational partnership called Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) by creating a new taskforce to train and improve maritime security in the Middle East. CMF is the largest multinational naval partnership in the world, with 38 nations committed to upholding the international rules-based order at sea. More good news: Israel’s famous Iron Dome missile defense systems are being added to their naval frigates. 

Unfortunately, Biden simply will not let go of the disastrous 2015 Iran deal—despite alleging that the deal “hasn’t been on the agenda for months.” The truth is, since January discussions have continued. Foundation For Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz sums up this latest version: “Under this ‘less for more’ deal, Tehran will give up few nuclear concessions, keep most of its important nuclear advancements, and get billions of dollars to rescue its failing economy. Too many will see the hope of a longer and stronger agreement. But they will be like pilgrims in the desert looking at the horizon and seeing a mirage.” 

Beyond what is written above about geography, terror bases on the high seas, threats against Israel and the United States, and a revived Iran deal, the raw reality of dealing with the Islamic Imams is as follows: The Western nations do not yet fully understand that we are in a spiritual battle. The Islamic regime is intently—and patiently—laser focused on their fundamentalist religious goal centered on welcoming their divine Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, who will rid the world of evil in a “final apocalyptic battle.” They have gradually indoctrinated their elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with this outlook, called Mahdism.

It is truly timely that millions of Christians joined in for the Isaiah 62 Global Prayer and Fasting for 21 days, which ended on Pentecost Sunday (Shavuot). With a terrorist ring of fire surrounding Israel within the physical and spiritual realm right now, do not be surprised if Israel must launch a first strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran in Syria. May the recent foundation of prayers worldwide enable Israel’s Defense Forces to deter attacks that would come from multiple fronts simultaneously. And may God deliver the Iranian people from the oppressive Islamic regime that is willing to sacrifice innocent citizens longing for freedom in order to achieve its evil intent. 

As we pray for Israel, let us remember the message of Deuteronomy 20:3-4: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for both Israel and the United States:

  • Pray for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to “throw Israel’s enemies into confusion.” 
  • Pray for the U.S. and all Western nations to be wise about the true nature of the Islamic regime. 
  • Pray for protection for at-risk Israeli civilians amid any multiple-front attacks. 
  • Pray for all branches of IDF to experience the Hand of God in every kind of battle. 

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

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Biblical Israel: Second Temple Model

By Marc Turnage

The large, scale model of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 offers one of the main attractions at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Hans Kroch, who owner of the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem, commissioned Professor Michael Avi-Yonah and his students to create the model in honor of Kroch’s son who died in the War of Independence in 1948. Avi-Yonah provided topographical and archaeological detail and architectural design. 

For many years, the model resided at the Holy Land Hotel. Today the model is housed at the Israel Museum. When Avi-Yonah and his students began the project, the Old City of Jerusalem as well as the City of David—the area of biblical Jerusalem—lay in East Jerusalem, which was controlled by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 

From 1948 to 1967, the city of Jerusalem was divided between West and East Jerusalem. West Jerusalem belonged to the State of Israel, while East Jerusalem belonged to the Kingdom of Jordan. East Jerusalem contained the area of biblical Jerusalem, which meant that during the period under Jordanian control little archaeological work and activity was conducted; thus, much of the archaeological information that came to light in the latter part of the twentieth century remained unknown when Professor Avi-Yonah built the model. 

This raises the obvious question: how could he have built such an accurate model of Jerusalem in A.D. 66 without the assistance of archaeological discovery? The answer lies in the rich descriptions of Jerusalem provided by the first century Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus wrote his works for a non-Jewish, Roman audience that had never been to Jerusalem. He provided such a detailed description of the city that using what they knew about the Roman world and the land of Israel in the first century, Professor Avi-Yonah and his students were able to produce this model, which contains a great deal of accuracy. While there are some mistakes within the model, it offers a testament to Josephus and his value as our greatest source on ancient Judaism and the land of Israel in the first century. 

Visitors to the model will notice three primary features. First, Jerusalem in the first century covered much more area than the modern Old City of Jerusalem (which has nothing to do with biblical Jerusalem). 

Also, the city had two principal foci. On its western edge, at the highest point of the city, stood the palace of Herod the Great. The largest of Herod’s palaces, his palace in Jerusalem played host to the wisemen (Matthew 2) and Jesus when he stood before Pilate. On the northern end of palace stood three towers, which Herod named Mariamme, Phasael, and Hippicus. On the eastern side of the city stood the Temple and the enclosure that surrounded it, which made the Temple Mount the largest sacred enclosure within the Roman world in the first century. The Temple provided the economic and religious center of the city. 

Jerusalem in the first century produced nothing; it did not sit on a major trade route. It dealt in religion. Jewish and non-Jewish pilgrims (see Acts 2) streamed into the city from all over the known world three times a year: Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot. Pilgrims approached the Temple from the south. On top of the Temple Mount today stands the golden Dome of the Rock. To gain perspective, Herod’s Temple, the Temple that Jesus, Peter, and Paul knew, was twice the height of the Dome of the Rock. Looking at the model, visitors gain some perspective of its awesome grandeur. 

The third feature of the city is its walls. In the model, people see three different wall lines. The wall that comes from the south-eastern part of the Temple Mount surrounding the southern and western sides of the city, which turns east and connects at the western wall of the Temple Mount, Josephus calls the first wall. A large wall includes the northern neighborhoods; this is Josephus’ third wall, which was built after the time of Jesus. Inside the third wall, visitors to the model see a second wall. The first and second walls contained the Jerusalem that Jesus knew, which was twice the size of the modern Old City. 

One of the biggest challenges for guides of Jerusalem is helping their groups understand the city’s history and many layers. The model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum offers an excellent visual, as well as a monument to the city at its height in the first 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.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: The Promise of the Father

Pentecost (or Shavuot) was one of the three pilgrimage festivals within ancient Judaism. Along with Passover (or Pesach) and the Feast of Booths (or Sukkot), the Law of Moses required every able-bodied male to appear before the Lord on these festivals. In the first century, that meant coming to Jerusalem and the Temple. Luke describes the throngs of pilgrims from all over the world that traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost.

Jewish tradition identified the festival of Pentecost as the time when God appeared to Israel on Mount Sinai and gave them the Torah. God’s appearance at Sinai included fire, wind and sounds. Luke wove these same images into his story in Acts 2. He wanted to draw his reader’s attention back to what God did on Sinai when He gave the Torah to Israel, connecting the giving of the Spirit with the foundation of Israel as a nation.

As the crowds hear the disciples uttering the wonders of God in their various languages, Peter stands up before the crowd and explains that what they have experienced is the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel. Then, he began to preach the good news about Jesus.

Within the book of Acts, the proof God gives of Jesus’ messiahship is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s coming provides the divine evidence that Jesus is truly the Messiah and that God raised him from the dead. The two—the coming of the Spirit and Jesus’ messiahship—are always linked in Acts.

People often focus on other aspects and manifestations of the Spirit, but we can never forget that the coming of the Spirit ultimately testifies that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Messiah, whom He raised from the dead. Peter’s response to the crowd that listened to him: “Repent and be baptized. … And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV).

The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost fulfilled God’s promises through Joel. It connected to His act of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. And, most importantly, it testified that Jesus is His Messiah, raised from the dead. Whatever the Spirit’s work is in our lives and in our communities, it should also testify to these things.


Father, thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to testify of the truth of Your Son. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: What benefits are there to studying biblical languages?

The Bible was originally written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Old Testament is written primarily in Hebrew, apart from some chapters in Daniel and Ezra and some scattered verses elsewhere, which were written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The composition of the books of the Old Testament span hundreds of years; thus, the Hebrew within the Old Testament displays an evolution through time. Because the New Testament was written during the first century, it does not display a similar language evolution as found in the Old Testament.

But, while the New Testament is written in Greek, its authors were either Jews or came from circles closely tied to the Jewish community; therefore, the manner of the Greek used in the New Testament often reflects Jewish (even Hebrew) meanings of words and phrases. In other words, the New Testament belongs to Jewish Greek literature.

Language embeds culture. A culture communicates its ideas, values, beliefs, and perceptions of reality through language. Language reflects the history of a people; thus, language changes over time, sensitive to changing historical circumstances. A major benefit to studying biblical languages, then, is the ability to engage and understand the cultural world of the Bible, its thoughts, beliefs, and values.

Learning a language, even a biblical language, is not about merely translating words and sentences into another language, nor is it about syntax and grammar. Learning a biblical language means interacting with the cultures of the biblical world. It means understanding the development of words and ideas. It helps us to better understand what the biblical authors intended.

Whenever we translate something from one language to another, we lose meaning in the translation. That is inevitable. Idioms, figures of speech, humor, these do not translate easily from one language into another. When we learn biblical languages, it enables us to enter the biblical world through the window of their thought, values, and beliefs.

Learning biblical languages is not about acquiring special or secret knowledge. It is not about unlocking hidden meanings or codes. It means entering the cultural world of the Bible so we can understand how the writers of the Bible and their original audiences viewed the world and communicated their views and beliefs.

For some, learning biblical languages may seem like a daunting task. Even if you do not know Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, you can still be aware of the fact that how language reflects culture and words in one language do not always convey the same meaning as they do in others. At least in this way, you can still position yourself to learn how to approach the words of the Bible.

Reading other ancient literature contemporary with the world of the Bible also provides a repository of language and thought of the people contemporary with the Bible, which can help us understand and interpret the language used by the biblical writers.

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 Allies Foundation: Networking Worldwide with an Iron Dome of Truth

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The Israeli cabinet held its weekly meeting last Sunday in the Western Wall tunnels below the Temple Mount to celebrate the 56th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification. While this was not the cabinet’s first tunnel meeting, the symbolism and biblical mandates endure. How fitting, since Israel just celebrated a national holiday, Jerusalem Day, on May 18-19, where thousands marched through the Old City waving Israel’s blue and white flags in the streets in honor of the capital’s 1967 reunification. Psalm 122:3 established the ancient (now modern) proclamation, “The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself.” 

On Capitol Hill last week, I attended an inspiring reception celebrating Jerusalem Day in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus (CIAC). Israel’s parliament first created the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) in 2004. KCAC has expanded under the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) into a network of 51 parliaments and congresses globally. From Brazil to Botswana, Canada to Croatia, and South Korea to South Africa, IAF’s faith-based diplomacy is upheld by the eternal fact that “the State of Israel has the right to exist in peace within secure borders with Jerusalem as its indivisible, eternal capital.” They educate and empower pro-Israel, faith-based legislators worldwide. 

The United States caucus was the first one founded in 2006 after the Israel caucus. CIAC is a bipartisan, pro-Israel working group in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hundreds of guests celebrated the two-party pledge with both co-chairs—Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)—speaking in one voice of support. More than 70 members of the U.S. Congress are in the pro-Israel caucus. Repeated cheers and applause from Israelis, Americans, Christians, and Jews saturated the room. 

Jordanna McMillan, newly appointed as U.S. Director for Israel Allies Foundation, emceed the program, observing: “In one of the most divisive political times that I remember, it’s nothing short of a miracle how Israel brings members together from opposite ends of the spectrum amid the rise of bold anti-Israel forces.” She adds that for legislators in the U.S. or the 51 IAF caucuses worldwide, their “biblical faith compels them to support the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The Judeo-Christian values that bind our nations together will not be broken.”

Josh Reinstein, who has been the director of Knesset Christian Allies Caucus since its inception, is now president of the Israel Allies Foundation. He observed, “The Congressional Israel Allies Caucus plays an important role in stressing the nonpartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Faith-based diplomacy unites congressmen across the political divide based on shared values, which includes support for Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel.” 

Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, Gila Gamliel, gave the keynote address. She totally caught my attention when she mentioned the words “Cyrus Accords”—how Cyrus, as king of ancient Persia, freed her ancestors and helped them rebuild their Temple. Gamliel then declared in a powerful statement, “I am honored to be here together with the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus to celebrate our capital, Jerusalem, on this historic occasion,” she said. “The prophets promised that Jerusalem would become a house of prayer for all nations and in today’s times we have seen that prophecy materialize. Over 2,000 years ago, Cyrus, the King of Persia, or modern-day Iran, proclaimed that Jews had the right to return to Israel and rebuild their second temple in Jerusalem. Just recently, as a Minister of the State of Israel, I had the privilege to invite the son of the last Shah of Iran to visit the site of that very temple.”

The exiled crown prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, sat in the audience. Afterward, a long line formed to shake the hands of Minister Gamliel and Crown Prince Pahlavi. Gamliel also asserted that any division of Jerusalem would have a chilling effect on freedom of religion that encompasses billions of people in the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

To amplify her statement: Between 1948 and 1967, Jordanians occupied east Jerusalem with oppressive policies until Israelis liberated and united their 3,000-year-old capital in the 1967 Six-Day War. For the first time in 2,000 years, Jews controlled their holiest sites—freely touching their Western Wall and hearing the shofar sounding the victory. Israel enacted their new Basic Laws guaranteeing religious freedom in the capital city and throughout Israel for the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. 

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s President, Dr. Juergen Buehler, always speaks with eloquence. He summed up a fact we would do well to recall: “What happens in Congress saves lives in Israel.” If you think that nothing good happens in Congress, take time to learn that the Israel Allies Foundation is a ray of political light!

Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, has previously commented about Israel Allies, “We can count on you to be our Iron Dome of truth.” Friends, let us make sure that we in the Christian community live up to his Iron Dome description, shooting down rockets of lies endlessly aimed at the world’s only Jewish state. After all, Israel is our spiritual homeland and worth defending! 

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

  • Pray with thankfulness that we are grafted into the Jewish olive tree.
  • Pray for the Israel Allies Foundation to grow exponentially amid the rise of Jew hatred.  
  • Pray for the United States Congress to remain a bulwark of security support for Israel.
  • Pray that more Christians will raise their voices of support for our spiritual homeland.

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

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Shavuot (Pentecost): The Festival of Weeks

By Julie Stahl

“Observe the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the agricultural year. Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel” (Exodus 34:22-23).

“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages” (Acts 2:1-4).

What’s the connection between God giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai and pouring out His Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts? They are both celebrated on the biblical Festival of Weeks or Shavuot, known in the New Testament as Pentecost.

Fifty days or seven weeks after Passover, Jewish people celebrate Shavuot (“weeks” in Hebrew). At the same time, Christians celebrate Pentecost (“fifty days” in Greek).

According to Jewish tradition, God called Moses up to Mount Sinai and gave him the Law—the two tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written—as well as the entire Torah on Shavuot.

Rabbi Welton adds, “Some Jewish people feel that the Torah is like the wedding ring between them and God in the spirit of the verse, ‘I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the LORD’” (Hosea 2:19-20). 

He adds, “Each year on Shavuot we renew our nuptial vows to our Beloved. Many people have the custom to stay up all night, engaged in studying Torah to reenact the great excitement and love one has on their wedding night.”

Boaz Michael, founder of First Fruits of Zion, comments: “There’re so many beautiful parallels that take place for Shavuot. Imagine Mount Sinai with the mountains above it, the covenant given to the people of Israel. This reminds us of a chuppah [“canopy”] over a bride and a groom. It tells us that God is making a covenant with His bride, Israel. There’s a marriage that takes place.”

“Shavuot is the culmination of a series of events,” Michael continues. “We’ve finally been freed from slavery in Egypt, we’ve wandered through the wilderness, and now we’ve come to Mount Sinai. It’s here that we enter into an intimate relationship with God, through the giving of His commandments and then the covenant that He gives to us, the Torah.”

He concludes: “So this event links us to Acts chapter one verse eight, where Jesus tells His disciples that they’re going to receive the Holy Spirit and take His message to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Three times a year, God commanded the Jewish people to come up to Jerusalem, and one of those times was Shavuot.

“All your males are to appear three times a year before the Lord your God in the place He chooses: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Booths. No one is to appear before the Lord empty-handed” (Deuteronomy 16:16).

The New Testament records that Jews were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost.

Many Jewish people stay up all night on Shavuot to study the Scriptures. The Ten Commandments are read, and in many Jewish communities, the Book of Ruth is also read. Before dawn, those in Jerusalem head to the Western Wall on foot where they pray and bless God.

Shavuot has become a time of eating dairy foods, chief among them cheesecake!

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

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Biblical Israel: Avdat

By Marc Turnage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Weekly Devotional: Blessed With Daily Desires

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:12-15 NIV).

The Bible reflects the realities and desires of those who lived in its world and time. Here, the psalmist summarized the desires of the biblical person: sons and daughters, storehouses filled with all kinds of produce, flocks and cattle, and peace. He concluded the psalm stating that those who have such are blessed.

He equated those participating in such a blessing as those whose God is the Lord of Israel. In other words, God was the source of such blessing.

Within the Old Testament, God’s promises provided practical blessings: progeny, fruitful harvest and herds, long life, and peace. People in the Bible yearned for such an existence and saw God as the provider of such.

At the same time, God’s promises were tied to the obedience of the people. If they disobeyed His commandments, the consequences of their disobedience were the cutting off of their progeny, the heavens not giving rain—which meant distress on crops and herds—their lives being cut short, and absence of peace.

For this reason, the psalmist equated those who participate in such desired blessings as those whose God is the Lord. They obey God, who provides those things they desire and need. The biblical person saw God as intimately involved in his or her daily life. The sustenance and bounty of life came from God.

To participate in such blessings, they had to live in obedience to the Lord. Failure to do so meant consequences that impacted their daily lives as well.

As modern readers of the Bible, we often spiritualize things to such a degree that we fail to see God’s provision in our everyday, ordinary lives. We want spiritual ecstasy instead of seeing God as the source for the practical needs and desires of our life.

Can we find the blessing in His provision of our daily needs? The care of our families? “Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.”


Father, may we daily walk in obedience to You. May our greatest joy be in Your daily provisions of the things we need. Amen.

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Weekly Q&A: What are some of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Israel related to the New Testament?

There are a number of archaeological findings in Israel related to the New Testament, but there are several discoveries that are particularly worth mentioning here: (1) the Pilate Inscription; (2) the crucified anklebone; (3) the Caiaphas Ossuary; and (4) the Thanatos Inscription.

Pilate Inscription: Archaeological excavations at Herod the Great’s seaside harbor city, Caesarea, uncovered a limestone slab bearing an inscription concerning a Tiberium (a small temple to the Roman Emperor Tiberius) dedicated by Pontius Pilate the Prefect of Judea. Excavators found this stone in secondary use in the theater of Caesarea, but they suggest the Tiberium stood nearby.

This stone is remarkable—not because it bears the name of Pilate, but rather, because it provides a window into Pilate’s psychology. Roman citizens did not build temples to living emperors. Pilate’s Tiberium in Caesarea offers the only example. This speaks to the Prefect’s exaggerated devotion to the emperor, a devotion which surfaces in his condemnation of Jesus.

Crucified Anklebone: Excavations in a northern neighborhood of Jerusalem uncovered a tomb with an ossuary (a box for collecting the bones of the deceased). Inside this box, excavators discovered the anklebone of a man who was crucified. One of the nails remained embedded in the anklebone. The nail hit a knot in the wood causing it to hook, so when they sought to extract it from the man’s ankle, they could not.

This discovery enabled forensic archaeologists to reconstruct the anatomy of crucifixion. A piece of wood was placed on the outside of the ankles to increase the surface area of the nail. Two nails were then driven through both ankles while the crucified victim straddled the upright beam of the cross.

Caiaphas Ossuary: Archaeologists discovered the ossuary—bone box—of the high priest Caiaphas in a southern neighborhood of Jerusalem. Ossuaries were part of secondary burial used in Jewish burial practices from the first century B.C. into the second century A.D. The body of the deceased was laid into a tomb for twelve months for the flesh and organs to decay. After twelve months, friends or family members gathered the bones and placed them in an ossuary.

Many ossuaries have inscriptions bearing the name of the person buried inside. Caiaphas’ ossuary bears the name Yosef, Caipha—Joseph Caiaphas. When excavators discovered the ossuary, they found a skull inside; within the eye sockets, they found two coins, a practice usually attached to pagan burial.

Thanatos Inscription: Josephus, the Jewish historian, describes a small wall separating the outer court of the Temple, where non-Jews were permitted, from the inner, sacred area of the Temple, where only Jews who had been purified could go. Josephus relates that this wall bore signs written in Greek and Latin prohibiting non-Jews from passing beyond this point, under punishment of death (in Greek Thanatos). Two separate copies of this inscription were discovered in Jerusalem.

A complete inscription currently resides in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. A broken fragmentary version of the inscription is housed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The book of Acts records how Jews accused Paul of bringing non-Jews past this barrier, which caused a riot in the Temple precincts. Paul refers to this in Ephesians calling it the “middle wall of partition.”

Archaeological findings like the ones highlighted above shed light on the world of the Bible. They provide crucial information for us to understand the past. These and other archaeological discoveries add new evidence and information to help us reconstruct the biblical world.

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’s 75th Anniversary Celebrations Undeterred by Terrorism

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Among Israel’s friends—600 million evangelicals worldwide—good news surrounding Israel’s 75th anniversary is keeping pace with the bad: deadly rocket barrages from Iran’s terror proxies in Gaza. Among the good news is this: countless Christian-organized celebrations are taking place in Israel, the United States, and other locations across the globe to recognize the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948. 

Last night, I attended a gala in Washington, D.C., hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s U.S. branch, to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary. Fifty ministries joined in as sponsors, including CBN Israel. Hundreds of us enjoyed renewed longtime friendships built while networking together in the pro-Israel movement. Inspiring speakers and music motivated us to become even stronger advocates for the world’s only Jewish nation, our spiritual homeland.  

Each anniversary is a miracle engineered by the promise-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Recognizing Israel’s modern independence, followed by Jerusalem Day on May 18 in Israel’s united capital, is a flag-waving signal to Israel’s enemies and critics that Israel is not alone. It’s also a signal that Israel, on the 75th anniversary of its modern founding, stands strong.

Another sign of strength is tourism. I am relieved that mass cancellations of Christian tours are not happening, at least for the time being. Rev. Dr. Tony Crisp remarked that thus far no one has canceled on any of his TLC Holy Land Tours. He added, “It seems tourists understand the risks/rewards and are making deliberate choices to go.” They choose walking in Jesus’ footsteps, an unforgettable experience in the small country that is only 290 miles long and a scant 85 miles at its widest point. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports that between January and April of this year, 1.35 million foreign visitors entered Israel. Some tourists are understandably nervous, especially first timers, yet a recent study ranks Israel as the fifth-safest country in the world, safer than the UK, U.S., and most European countries.

Today’s ongoing tourism amid coalescing enemy attacks and mounting Jew hatred is a welcome contrast to the 2000–2005 Second Intifada (uprising). Instigated by Palestinian terrorists, the intifada resulted in Christians and Jews canceling numerous tours. A few of us kept our Christian tour schedules and hoped our Jewish friends were aware of our friendship and support when they saw us walking on the streets, eating in closely guarded restaurant entrances, and visiting Holocaust survivors. We remained vigilant yet felt safe. However, Israelis suffered dreadful losses during the Second Intifada, with more than 1,000 Jews murdered.

Likewise, tour cancellations during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 left the streets of Israel practically empty, with millions of citizens tucked away in bomb shelters and safe rooms. Nevertheless, some Christian tours took place anyway. Forty of us organized a tour in a week’s time—a process that involved passports for several of our travelers being renewed within a few days! We agreed with Israel Always founder Earl Cox, who was compelled to launch the trip.

Cox, appointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu as his Israel Goodwill Ambassador to Jews and Christians, declared, “Friends stand by friends in times of trouble.” The staff of Jerusalem’s Red Cross (Magen David Adom) expressed surprise when about 30 of us showed up to donate blood. Some in our group prayed on and off for hours at the Western Wall, while others traveled up to the Israel-Lebanon border to give out small American flags to the IDF soldiers. They were astonished but encouraged to see American Christians visiting them while rockets fell.  

That modern Israel even exists is an act of God as foretold by the prophet in Isaiah 43:5-6 (NIV): “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” 

For 2,000 years, during the Jewish dispersion worldwide, the Hebrew language did not completely die out. It survived in its scholarly and liturgical form until Eliezer Ben-Yehuda immigrated to Israel in 1881 from the former Russian empire. He devoted himself to fashioning Hebrew into an everyday language. Ben-Yehuda’s restoration of Hebrew, and the Jewish immigration (Aliyah) to their ancestral homeland, began in the late 1800s. It signifies Israel’s unique destiny as the world’s only ancient land and language to be restored in modern times. 

It is important to emphasize good news while the mainstream media reports its own barrages of bad news. Israelis go on with their lives as best they can. For example, an estimated 40,000 Israelis attended a May 11 outdoor rock concert at HaYarkon Park near Tel Aviv. The IDF allowed it to go on and sent text messages to ticket holders with these instructions if the rocket alarms sounded: “Do not run (dangerous in a large crowd) but drop to the ground and protect your heads with your hands for 10 minutes.” Israel’s countrywide alarm system with military innovations like the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system helps Israelis to feel safer. Another innovation, David’s Sling, was recently used successfully for the first time to shoot down rockets fired from 62 to 124 miles away. Israel’s cyber security expertise also saves lives in every conflict. 

May we remember the words of Micah 5:8 (NLT) as God promises, “The remnant left in Israel will take their place among the nations.” Let us make sure we remain part of the Christian remnant praying and actively advocating for Israel. 

Please join CBN Israel in praying for Israel and her people this week: 

  • Pray with thanks for the valuable Christian tourism to Israel.
  • Pray for wise decisions by Israel’s leaders to halt Iran’s influence. 
  • Pray for more Christians to spread facts about Israel by forwarding and posting trustworthy sources like CBN Israel News. 
  • Pray for Israeli security’s safety as they protect their country. 
  • Pray for Israel to remain unified as they face existential challenges.

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

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