Where did the Covenant of Abraham take place?

abraham-and-three-angels
Abraham and three Angels, Marc Chagall

In the book of Genesis, The Lord made covenant with Abram/Abraham in two different occasions: The first one is known as the “Covenant of the parts” (Hebrew: Brit bein HaBetarim). The second one is the “Covenant of Circumcision” (Hebrew: Brit Milah)

Covenant of the Parts:

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:1, 9-11, 18-21)

Covenant of Circumcision:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. (Genesis 17:1-11)

In this post, I am not going to talk about the meaning of the covenant, but rather on the question: where did it take place?

The Lord commanded Abram: “Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you. (Genesis 13:17).

And indeed, Abraham walked the land from north to south and from east to west.

Many places are mentioned by their names and what Abraham did there:

He built altars in Shechem and Bethel; Moved his tent to Elonei Mamre; Journeyed to Kadesh and Shur; Planted a tree in Beersheba; Pursued kings to Damascus; Sacrificed in the Land of Moriah; and so on.

But two events are described without any reference to a location: the two covenants.

As Bible scholars, we want to learn: where were the places of the covenants.

Let’s start our investigation:

Where was the place of the “Covenants of the Parts”

Mount Hermon

One very common suggestion for the place of the “Covenant of the Parts” is Mount Hermon.

There are several reason to believe that this is the place: The covenant took place, as described in the Bible, immediately after Abram met king of Sodom and Melchizedek king of Salem in “Valley of Shaveh” (Gen 14:17). Unfortunately, there is not an agreement about where valley of Shaveh is…

So, if we look in the Bible a little before that story, we read that Abram was chasing the four kings that took Lot until Hobah which is north of Damascus (Gen 14:15). So, it makes sense, that on his way back, The Lord made the covenant with Abraham on a high mountain somewhere between Damascus and Canaan. Mount Hermon is a good candidate.

Another reason to believe that mount Hermon was the place is the fact that there is an old Jewish tradition (and even Muslim tradition) that relates Mount Hermon to our story. There is even a site that is called “Place of the Parts” that refers to Abraham.

There are though, two problem with the identification of Mount Hermon:

  1. Abraham met King of Sodom and Melchizedek in “Valley of Shaveh that is, the King’s Valley”. Valley of Shaveh is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, but the King’s valley is mentioned once more as the place where Absalom had built himself a pillar as a tomb. (2 Samuel 18:18). It makes sense that Absalom built his tomb close to Jerusalem and not in Hermon Mountain.
  2. The Jewish tradition of “Place of the Parts” on mount Hermon started not before 16th century AD by Jewish pilgrims. So it is quite a “new” tradition that does not go back to Biblical times.

Elonei Mamre (Oaks of Mamre) in Hebron

Let’s read again the verse from the Bible:

And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, that is, the King’s Valley, after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. (Genesis 14:17)

Note that the Bible says: “after his return“. This can point out that all this happened close to where Abraham lived. But Abraham did not live in one place: he moved from one place to another. So how about looking for the last place where he set his tent.?

 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord. (Genesis 13:18)

Oaks of Mamre, or in Hebrew Elonei Mamre, is then the new candidate for the place of the covenant.

And where was the place of the Covenant of Circumcision?

This is in Genesis 17. Again here, there is no reference for a place.

If we go to the previous chapter, to find a reference, then it is the story of Hagar and Ishmael. This story in chapter 16 ends with the saying that Abram was 86 years old.

Chapter 17 starts telling us that Abram was 99 years old when the Lord appeared to him.

It means that 13 years passed between the two stories. We cannot just assume that he was in the same place all those years…

So, why not try to get the location reference from what happens after the Covenant of the Circumcision. In Chapter 18:

Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.  (Genesis 18:1)

This is the beginning of the Story of the three men that came to Abraham and promised him a son from his wife.

We understand that Abraham, after many years, was still in Elonei Mamre. (Later on he would move to the south and set his tent in Beersheba).

So here again, Elonei Mamre is the place where the Covenant could have take place.

Another option though…

I want to come with a different approach about where the covenants took place.

And this is directly from the Bible itself:

Could it be that there is a reason why it was not mentioned where exactly the covenants took place?

If all Abraham’s moves in the country were commented so well exactly where he went and what he did in every place, but the covenants do not have a location – maybe this is in purpose?

Both covenants come with the promise of the inheritance of the land:

18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)

And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:7-8)

The promise in the covenant is the inheritance of the whole land of Canaan. Therefore there is no specific location.

I believe that when the Bible does not mention a place – there is a reason and purpose!

Abraham_Lilien
Abraham, E. M. Lilien

 

I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God

Bible Code Revealed !??

Bible_code_in_Exodus_1,1-6

The Bible, as we know it, was translating to many languages, but the original language is ancient Hebrew. Many people have searched to find a code or a cipher in the Bible that shows divine meaning in it.

And indeed, there are many examples of secrets found in the Bible that can be revealed using decryption method.

In this article, I am not going to dive into those theories or methods. Many books have been written about this subject. I want to focus on something else that people do not always notice: how modern cryptology is explained in the Bible.

Because I am a software engineer, and worked a lot with modern cryptology and ciphering algorithms, I was surprised to reveal that some of the most complicated methods that were invented in the 20th century, were already mentioned in the Bible.

Thus, I am going to explain in simple words, some of the cryptology methods and point to the references in the Bible.

Cryptography for dummies

Goal of cryptography

Cryptography is the practice of sending confidential text or data to another person, in a way that only the recipient can read it. Any person in the middle, including the messenger, should not be able to understand the message.

Terminology

  • Cipher – a cipher is a method (algorithm) that dictates how a piece of text is being encrypted and decrypted. for example, a common cipher is the method of switching letters according to some replacement table.
  • Key/Secret – the key is what is used to encrypt and to decrypt the message. Without the key the message cannot be read. The sender of the message, needs to make sure that the recipient has the key to open and read the message. for example, in a letter switching method, the replacement table is the Key. In the army, they use this method and change the table every two weeks.
  • Identification – because the Key for decryption should be kept secured, the sender of the message also wants to make sure that the recipient got the Key, and not anybody else. Because if the Key falls into wrong hands, all messages are revealed. Therefore the sender wants to identify the person that he hands the key to.
  • Password/Passcode – this is the same as Key, but it is more often used for authentication (Identification). So when I, as a sender wants to verify the identity of the receiver, I ask him to use a password for identification. After successful authentication, I give him the key to decipher messages that I will send in the future. So we have doubled our security.

After this technical introduction, let’s see how all this appears in the Bible.

Gematria (Hebrew: גמטריא‬)

This is the simplest type of cipher. In the Hebrew alphabet, every letter has a numeric value. Aleph:א = 1, Bet:ב‬ = 2, Gimel:ג‬ = 3, etc.

All the chapters and verses in the Hebrew Bible are numbered by letters and not by numbers. So Genesis 1:1 is numbered: א:א. Psalms 114 is numbered:  קי‬ד‬‬.

The cipher here is a translation table between letters and numbers. But the secret is revealed to everyone because it is not really a secret.

Gematria is used a lot in Kabbala, because each word can be translated into a number, and the numbers can be assessed according to numerology.

David and Jonathan

A real example of using a very unique cipher is the story of David and Jonathan. David was afraid that Saul, Jonathan’s father, wanted to kill him. Jonathan, in order to comfort David, Suggests how he would reveal to David whether the king wanted to kill him or not:

David would hide behind a rock. Jonathan, after hearing his father in the palace would send a secret message to David, because no one should know that they have communicated each other. Jonathan would shoot three arrows and would send his servant to find them. He would call the boy with a message that is the secret for David to know whether the king wants to kill him or not (1 Samuel,  20).

In this story we have a Cipher – this is the method that Jonathan agreed with David on how to understand the message. There is a Key – that is the secret message that Jonathan sent when calling his servant. The servant himself, is a messenger that did not have a Key, and therefore could not decipher the message.

But note that there is also a need here for Authentication: Jonathan knew David and passed the secret to him and him only. He did not give the secret to someone else so the secret would not fall into wrong hands.

God will provide the Key

Several times it happened in the Bible that there was a message encrypted and nobody could understand it. But then, there was one person who had the ability (the Key) to decipher the message. This person got the key directly from God.

The different dreams that Joseph interpreted in Egypt were one such example.

Daniel also interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. In this case, the king forgot the dream and Daniel could tell him exactly what was the dream and what was its meaning.

Daniel deciphered later another message that was not a dream. It was king Belshazzar:

They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

25 “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 

26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” (Daniel 5:4-5, 26-28)

There is no way to understand the meaning of the message from God without a key. The key id given to special chosen people and only then the message can be deciphered.

Rembrandt-Belsazar.jpg

Give me the password!

 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim. (Judges 12:5-6)

According to this story, the people of Gilead, led by Jephthah, were fighting against Ephraim. They could not distinguish one from the other – not by look or by language. But there was something about the people of Ephraim: They could not pronounce the word “Shibboleth” properly.

Shibboleth” was the “Password” that was used for authentication.

Note that in this case, we call it “Biometric authentication“, because it is something the the person has by nature and therefore can be easily tracked.

A side note here about the word “Shibboleth”(שִׁבֹּלֶת‬):  Its meaning in Hebrew is “stalk of grain”. In Modern cryptography this word is used to refer to “Password” and is even used as a trademark for an Identity Solution framework. Check it here: shibboleth.net

wheat_PNG86.png

Forgot your password?

What would you do if you’ve forgotten your password? You need a way to reset it, Right?

This happened to the people of Israel:

11 The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, “Read this, please.”

And he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”

12 Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, “Read this, please.”

And he says, “I am not literate.” (Isaiah 29:11-12)

When the Key or Password is lost, we are in trouble. We cannot read the encrypted messages. Isaiah says in his prophecy that this is what happened to the people of Israel.

In the past, they have had access to the Word of God. But now, they lost access and cannot read the book. Some of them are illiterate and cannot read, others can read but the book is sealed and they cannot open it. In both cases, the method – Cipher – is known, but the Key was lost.

sealed book

Asymmetric cryptography

We go now to a further complication of cryptography: Asymmetric cryptography.

The idea is simple, but not the implementation.

Let’s assume that the one who writes the message and encrypt it, use one private Key. But in order to decipher the message, the recipient needs a different key. A public key. The algorithm to implement this is very difficult, but feasible. Why do we need this?

Because, If I have a private key that only I can encrypt a message, then anyone that accept the message and can decrypt it, knows for sure that it arrived from me, as I am the only one that holds the private key. In this case, the recipient wants to validate that the message is authentic and got from the right sender.

The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)

This is a precise example of asymmetric key set: The key of the house of David is the Private Key. It can open, and no one can close. It can close, and no one can open.

This same key appears again in The Book of Revelation.

These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. (Revelations 3:7)

 

 

Israel – Jews – Hebrews: who are we?

Mount of olives.png

We, Jewish people, are part of a very old nation.

The identification of this nation changed throughout time.

  • We are the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
  • Our land is called Israel, but it was Canaan in the past and also Judah
  • Our language is Hebrew
  • We are known in the world as Jews

Why is our identity so confusing?

Let’s try to explain all those terms:

Hebrews

This is the most ancient term. It was referred to Abraham before Israel existed.

“Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre” (Genesis 14:13)

The term “Hebrew” appears many times throughout the Bible and even in the New Testament there is the “Letter to the Hebrews”.

Today, We do not call ourselves “Hebrews” very often, but our language is called Hebrew, which denotes that it is a very ancient.

Where did this name come from?

Hebrew is the tongue of Eber, who is the forefather of many nations including Israel.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. (Genesis 10:25)

The_Commentary_on_Habakkuk_Scroll_.jpg

Israel

Israel is the name that was given to Jacob after struggling with a mysterious man in Peniel. The name means “struggle with God”. Peniel, by the way, means “face of God”.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

The name Israel is mentioned many times in the Bible with reference to the people (Children of Israel, tribes of Israel), the kingdom of Israel and also to God of Israel.

Today this is the name of our state: State of Israel.

The land, before the children of Israel had conquered it, was called Canaan after the people who lived in it.

Judah

Judah is the name of a tribe in Israel. The tribe of the forth son of Jacob/Israel

The kingdom of Israel was divided in the time of Rehoboam, son of King Solomon into two kingdoms: Israel, that was the big kingdom in the north of the country, and had ten tribes, and Judah, that was in the south of the land, and was Judah only (with Simeon and some of the Levites).

Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. (I Kings 12:20)

From here on, Israel and Judah are two distinct Kingdoms.

But note this: although the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel were foes most of the time, people of the kingdom of Judah are also children of Israel. But northern kingdom of Israel does not have part in Judah.

Many prophecies refer to Israel and Judah together.

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:6)

In many places in the Bible, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel are also called “Ephraim“. This may be to differ from “Israel” which include both the people of Judah and the people of the northern Kingdom.

Ephraim shall not envy Judah, And Judah shall not harass Ephraim (Isaiah 11:13)

Jews

Jews and Jewish are terms used to describe the people who once belonged to Judah.

Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by Babylon and people were sent to exile in the first half of the 6th century BC. From this time on, the term “Jews” became the most common reference for our people. The term “Israelites” was rarely used.

Are we all Jews from the tribe of Judah only?

we do not know for sure. Certainly, we have among us people that came from the levites, but also Benjamin, Simeon and maybe other tribes as well.

Modern state of Israel

When the state of the Jews was founded, there was a question of how to call it.

The major suggestions were “Judah” and “Israel”, but also “Zion” and “state of the Hebrews”.

The name Judah made sense, as we are all Jews, which means we refer to Judah.

But there was a problems with this name: if we called it “Judah” it would not include the rest of the tribes of Israel, who, according to the prophecies of the Bible, should also return to their land.

Therefore the name “Israel” was chosen.

There is hope in your future, says the Lord,
That your children shall come back to their own border (Jeremiah 31:17)

858px-Emblem_of_Israel.svg

Where is the city of Ai?

“Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel” (Joshua 7:2)

049.Joshua_Burns_the_Town_of_Ai

The city of Ai is the second city that the sons of Israel conquered in the land of Canaan, after Jericho.

The identification of the location of the city of Ai is one of the most controversial topics in Biblical archeology and research.

As explained in another post, many of the names of Biblical sites are revealed in Arab villages names.

Two of the places quoted above from Joshua 7:2 are identified using Arab synonym of existing places:

  1. Jericho is identified very well and the Arab name of the city today is Aricha.
  2. Bethel in the Bible is identified as the Arab village of Beitin.

The other two places: Ai and Beth-Aven do not have an Arab village name that preserves their location.

What did the writer of the book of Joshua know?

Looking back to the quoted text, you may notice something very interesting: The writer needs to explain where the Ai is, and he explains this by references to two different places: “Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel“.

What is the meaning of this? Well, obviously, when this book was edited, people did not know where the Ai was, but they DID know where Bet-Aven and Bethel wereSo the writer could tell them the location by reference.

For example, if a visitor comes to your city and asks you where is the location of a certain bank branch, you may tell him: “Go to the central station, and three blocks after McDonald’s you will see the bank”. You give instructions to a place that is not known by referring to places that are known.

Another such example can be found about Shiloh in the book of Judges:

“There is a yearly feast of the Lord in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah” (Judges 21:19)

Here again, in the time that the book was written, Shiloh did not exist (was destroyed by the Philistines in the battle of Ebenezer). So it was pointed by reference to Bethel, Shechem and Lebonah that existed in that time.

Back to our topic: we learn that the location of the Ai was not known in the time of writing the book of Joshua, but Bethel and Beth-Aven were known. This fact will be very important later when trying to identify where the Ai is!

Archeological Embarrassment

“And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 12:8)

Another quote about Abraham that set his tent “with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east” led American Biblical scholar Edward Robinson, and later William Foxwell Albright, to identify the Ai with a little hill that is called in Arabic ״Et-Tell״. The location was perfect! Even the Arabic name Et-Tel that means “The ruin” was a good sign as Ai in Hebrew also means “heap of ruins”.

in the 1930s, the first archeological expedition started to excavate the place. The archeologists started with a great excitement and the Baron Rothschild funded the excavation. Everyone thought that they are going to bring the story of  the Bible to life.

But then, a bitter surprise: In 1935, after examining the finding of Et-Tel, the report showed that indeed there was a Canaanite city in this place. The city had a wall, a fortified palace and Canaanite temple. And this city was burned to ashes around 2100 BC.  Around 1000 BC, during early Israelite period, a small village was built again in the site for about 200 years.

Could it be that the sons of Israel led by Joshua burned that big city? NO!!! The conquest of Canaan by Israel dates to, according to the different scholars, between 1450 BC to 1200 BC. Those who count according to the Bible take the earlier date, and other archeologists choose the later date.

But in any case, when Joshua entered Canaan, the fortified city that was found in the ruins in Et-Tell was already destroyed for at least 600 years!

Homat_hai_1

How can sort out this confusion?

The resolutions to what was found in the excavations in Et-Tell went in two different directions, depending on the point of view of the beholder:

  1. Those who wanted to refute the Bible as an historical evidence, concluded that the Bible was just not right and Joshua did not conquer the Ai. Instead, they said, there was an evidence of a place that was burned in history, and the ancient Jews told the story that it was Joshua who burned it.
  2. Those who believed that the Bible was true, claimed that Et-Tell is just a wrong identification. The Ai is out there somewhere and is yet to be discovered.

Read in this article more about the debate between those who try to affirm the Bible through archeology and those who try to refute it.

I want to focus on one very interesting solution to this perplexity that was suggested by Prof. Yehoshua Meir Grints who was a Bible scholar in Tel Aviv university. His analysis is described again by Prof. Yoel Elitzur in his book: Places in the Parashah.[1]

Let’s go back to our key verses:

  1. He pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east (Gen. 12:8)
  2. Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel (Josh. 7:2)

In Genesis, the Ai is east of Bethel and Beth-Aven is not mentioned. In Joshua, the Ai is still east to Bethel, but we also find that it is beside Beth-Aven.

Grints concluded that the three cities were indeed close to one another, but have not existed simultaneously all the time. In the time of Abraham (or the time of writing Genesis) the Ai existed but Beth-Aven did not. Where in the time of editing the book of Joshua, Beth-Aven existed but the Ai did not.

Grints collected all the places in the Bible where the three cities appear and found out something quite surprising:

Bethel existed from the time of the patriarchs through the Bible until the return to Zion in the time of Cyrus.

The Ai existed most of the time of the Bible except for the time after it was destroyed by Joshua, and then was rebuilt in the time of the Israelite kings. Beth-Aven on the other hand, existed only in the time of Joshua, Judges and Samuel.

The suggestion is that those two cities: the Ai and Beth-Aven did not co-exist. In each period only one of them stood in its place.

Going back to the excavations in Et-Tell, it is most likely that this site is Beth-Aven and not the Ai!

Map Of Bethel And Ai 1

Summary

The place that was found and was originally identified as the Ai (Et-Tell) is probably not the Ai. It may be the ruins of Beth-Aven.

So where is the Ai? we do not know. This may be found in the future. But it is also possible that it will never be found. As it is written:

“So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation to this day” (Joshua 8:28)

Continue reading “Where is the city of Ai?”

Good Samaritan, Bad Samaritan

 

Jan_Wijnants_-_Parable_of_the_Good_Samaritan

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him…” (Luke 10:30-34)

This is the story told by Yeshua in the New Testament known as the parable of “The Good Samaritan”.

Samaritans still live today in the area called Samaria (Shomron in Hebrew). When asked, the Samaritans say that they are the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel that were sent to exile by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. Few of them remained in the land and formed the people that today are known as “Samaritans”.

In the New Testament, the Samaritans are mentioned several times, but nothing refers to who they are and what is their origin.

from the New Testament, we learn some interesting facts about them:

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

….12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”…

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:1-20)

Four facts we can learn from this short story:

  1. Samaritans lived in Shechem and were the main residents there in the 1st century AD
  2. They considered themselves as the sons of Israel (Jacob)
  3. Jews and Samaritans did not see themselves as one people
  4. Samaritans worshiped on mount Gerizim and not in Jerusalem

All those points are still valid today: The Samaritans reside in Shechem, they see themselves as sons of Israel, they do not see themselves as Jews and they claim that mount Gerizim is where the God of Israel commanded to worship.

And in fact, the Samaritans follow the laws from the Torah like the Jews. They celebrate the feasts like the Jews. In the picture below you see Samaritans celebrating Pesach on mount Gerizim.

samaritans2

What does the Bible say?

In the Bible, there is one hint that supports what the Samaritans say about themselves being descendants of Israel:

In the book of Jeremiah, after the people of Judah had been sent to exile by the Babylonian (150 years after the people of the kingdom of Israel had been exiled by Assyria), The Babylonian nominated a new leader that is not from the seed of the kings: Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.

In Jeremiah 40-41 we read about the assassination of Gedaliah by his foe: Ishmael son of Nethaniah. After Ishmael killed Gedaliah we read the following:

And it happened, on the second day after he had killed Gedaliah, when as yet no one knew it, that certain men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord. (Jeremiah 41:4-5)

There were people living in the cities of the previous kingdom of Israel, and they came to sacrifice in the Temple. Who are those people? Jews? remaining of the Israelites? Foreigners? the auther does not tell us. But we know for sure that people lving in the cities of Samaria came to the Temple in Jerusalem many years after the exile of Samaria.

(Samaria – Shomron: In the old testament it is used as he name of a city, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In the time of second Temple and in the New Testament and even today, Samaria refers to the mountains north of Judea).

Proselytes by Lions

In later Jewish texts, the Samaritans are referred as “Men of Cuth” and “Proselytes of Lions”.

This is based on what we read in II Kings 17. The text describes what was done in the land of the kingdom of Israel after the exile of Israel:

24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.” 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord

29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt…

34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel

According to what is written here, Those who call themselves Samaritan are not from the seed of the sons of Israel, but rather people from the empire of Assyria that were moved to Israel and learned partially how to worship the God of Israel – without much success!

The Jews and the Samaritans became political foes in the time of the return to Zion from Babylon.

The Samaritans sent a letter to the Persian king asking him not to let the Jews to build a Temple:

From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions—representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River—and so forth.

11 To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:

12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. (Ezra 4:9-13)

Later on, When Nehemiah also comes to Zion and wants to build a wall around the city of Jerusalem, we read about some people from the country that want to stop him.

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?”

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” (Nehemiah 4:1-3)

 

Where is the place to worship?

Back to the Samaritan woman at the well:

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:20)

How did it come that the Samaritan claim Mount Gerizim to be the place to worship? Where did they take it from? If they are indeed the sons of Israel, and they read the Torah, Where does it say so?

Well, The Torah does not say where is the place to worship. Only later in 2 Samuel, God made his covenant with David and Jerusalem is chosen.

but in the five books of the Torah, the place to worship is yet to be defined, or it can be understood that this place can move from place to place.

In many places in Deuteronomy, we read:

“the place where the Lord your God chooses, to put His name for His dwelling place”

Deu 12:5, Deu 12:11, Deu 12:14, Deu 14:23, Deu 15:2 and many more.

After the sons of Israel had entered the land, the Ark moved from place to place: Jericho, Mount Ebal, Shilo, Bethel, Kirjath Jearim and finally Jerusalem.

We also know that the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel did not want their people to go to Jerusalem. Jeroboam sanctified Bethel to stop the Israelites on their way to Jerusalem.

So the Samaritans, who have not accepted the legacy of David’s seed, and who have not read any the books of the Bible after the first 5 books of the Torah, do not accept Jerusalem as the place that God chose.

The first Altar that Joshua build was on mount Ebal, opposite to mount Gerizim. Mount Ebal was the mountain of the curse, whereas mount Gerizim was the mountain of blessing. But the Samaritans do not read the book of Joshua either.

They claim that mount Moriah and the mountain of the first altar of Joshua is mount Gerizim.

picture: Mount Gerizim

Footnote

Samaritan people are today about 800 people world wide. Half of them live in a neighbourhood on top of mount Gerizim and half of them in the city of Holon in Israel.

 

Foxes and Jackals

fox_grapes

As shown in another post, the identification of animals and plants in the Bible may not always be straightforward. While translating the Bible to different languages in different countries, there was a need to use names that are known in the country of the translator, and this could sometimes lead to wrong interpretations. In some cases, there is still lack of consensus about what the original meaning was.

In this post, I would like to examine, what is the animal that is called “fox” in the Bible, and who is the “jackal”.

The Fox

Fox, in Hebrew: “Shu’al” (שׁוּעָל) is mentioned few times in different books in the Bible.

Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. (Judges 15:4)

The red fox that is quite common in Israel, and certainly in the area where Samson was living, has a long beautiful tail. Therefore the identification of the animal seems easy.

But what would you say about the following verse:

Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15)

Foxes that spoil the vines?

In the famous fable of Aesop, a fox wanted to eat grapes that were too high to reach. He therefore remarked that those grapes weren’t ripe yet.

Fox do not eat fruits. Period. Why is it then that we read about this characteristic of the fox as a grape eater?

 

The Jackal

The Jackal mentioned in the Bible more times than fox and always in plural: “Tanim”, in Hebrew: (תַּנִּים)

In the Bible, the attribute of the Jackal is living in the desert and desolate areas.

But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness. (Malachi 1:3)

But You have severely broken us in the place of jackals, And covered us with the shadow of death. (Psalms 44:19)

I am a brother of jackals, And a companion of ostriches. (Job: 30:29)

I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a den of jackals. I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant. (Jeremiah 9:11)

This jackal of the Bible, does not seem to be the jackal we know today: The Jackal is known as an animal that lives close to humans and not in the desert.

Canis_aureus_-_golden_jackal.jpg

Who is who?

Some Bible researches came to a conclusion that, again, there was misinterpretation in the translation of the names into European languages.

The common agreement today is, that Jackal in the Bible (“Tanim”) is not the jackal we know today but rather som bird that lives in the desert.

The fox, on the other hand, can relate sometimes to today’s fox and in other cases to the  jackal that we know today.

This makes sense, as the fox is an animal that eats only small animals and has a long tail, whereas the jackal is known to be omnivore – meaning that it can devour small animals but also eat fruits.

Archeology comes to our aid

Recently, in a new excavation in the north of Israel, a mosaic from the Byzantine time was found with scenes from the stories of Samson.

Foxes appear in one of those scenes that resemble the fox that we know today. See at the bottom of the picture below:

hokuk

 

 

 

King Solomon’s Mines

haggard-king-solomons-mines

The story of King Solomon’s Mines is a fiction from the 19th century written by H. Rider Haggard. The book was inspired by the discovery of ancient copper mines in the south of the Aravah in “Timna” close to the Red Sea.

The Bible does not mention mines that Solomon have built. So the idea of referring those ancient mines to King Solomon came from three places in the Bible:

a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (Deuteronomy 8:9)

From this verse in Deuteronomy we learn that there were mines of iron and copper in Canaan before the sons of Israel conquered it.

… King Solomon also built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom (1 Kings 9:26)

The verse above tells that Solomon had ships in the Red Sea. So the copper mines near the Red Sea, could have been one of the resources of the wealth of the Israel in his time.

… All these articles which Huram made for King Solomon for the house of the Lord were of burnished bronze. 46 In the plain of Jordan the king had them cast in clay molds, between Succoth and Zaretan. 47 And Solomon did not weigh all the articles, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined. (1 Kings 7:45-47)

 

From the verses above we learn that great amount of bronze was cast in Israel in the Jordan valley. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

When ancient mines were found in Timna, they were immediately referred to King Solomon. Nelson Glueck, The first archaeologist that excavated Timna, attributed the site to King Solomon and named it “King Solomon’s mines”.

raffaellosanziojudgementsolomon

Archeological finding refute relation to Solomon

For thirty years, it was well agreed that those copper mines were built by King Solomon, until the year of 1969.

In this year, the Israeli archaeologist Benno Rothenberg found an Egyptian temple in Timna, that was dated to 200-300 years before the time of Solomon.

More research and excavations revealed the techniques that were used in the site, and more Egyptian references.

When you visit in the site today, you can learn all about copper mining in ancient times and about the Egyptian dominance in this area.

It was well agreed among all scholars that the site was abandoned before the time of David and Solomon and therefore cannot be referred to them.

For the last 50 years, there is a movement of archeologist that try to refute the historical validity of what is written in the Bible.

It is such a strong approach in the academy, that almost every site that was identified with a Biblical story only 70 years ago is now considered incorrect.

Yigael Yadin, the famous Israeli archaeologist who was also the Chief of Staff of the IDF, excavated many sites in Israel and found in them evidence to the correctness of the Bible. From late 60’s of the last century the fashion changed and all his findings were being refuted one after the other.

 

Recent findings change the picture again

Timna-Textile1-1

In 2009 another archeological expedition arrived to Timna led by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef from Tel Aviv University.  This group wanted to date the site and find out who were the people that were working in it.

In 2012 they concluded their work with new evidences that change everything that was known before.  See the article in: A New Chronological Framework for Iron Age Copper Production at Timna (Israel)

They were able to find organic material that they could date using  radiocarbon dating method. The organic samples include small pieces of cloth, ropes, and other textiles, various types of uncharred seeds (olive pits, grape and date seeds, pistachio, and more), and wood, including small twigs of acacia trees.

The extreme dry and hot climate of Timna, helped preserving this organic materials for thousands of years. Just like the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The examination let to the conclusion that most of the mining that was done in Timna took place after the Egyptians already left the place and is dated to the 10th century B.C.

Dr. Ben-Yosef also suggest that local Edomite tribes were living in the area and developed the skill of mining.

This brings now the new theory about the place: In the time of King Solomon (10th century B.C.) The Edomites were mining copper in Timna. The Israelites under King Solomon could be in political control over this place just as written in the Bible.

shutterstock_268227944
Solomon’s Pillars in Timna