Module 3 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by JQuisumbing
Welcome to Module 3. Here we will visit the Bible sites where God moved the lives of the Judges that saved the early nation of Israel from themselves.
We will start taking up this tour…
- after the time when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt & slavery;
- after Joshua took over leadership and led them into the promised land;
- after Israel successfully (more or less) conquered the Canaanites and other inhabitants;
- and after the land was divided into the Twelve tribal territories.
Welcome into the time of the Judges.
1 – Judges
Before Israel had a king, it had a series of tribal leaders called judges. But why ‘judges’?
When Joshua and his generation died, so did the Israelites’ knowledge of God (Judges 2:10). They began to worship other gods and forgot their vow to Him. So, the Lord God handed them over to plunderers, and they plundered them (Judges 2:13) until they could not stand up to their enemies no longer. So, God raised these judges to save them from their enemies but mostly lead them back to Him.
The Book of Judges mentions twelve leaders. For our purposes, we will visit the sites of where the Lord raised three of them to do His bidding. We will also include a fourth leader who was not menti0ned in the Book of Judges; mainly because the Bible mentions him in two other books named after him.
Below are the sites we will visit.
So, let us go to our first site.
2 – HAZOR
Click LINK 1 – Ruins of Hazor
Welcome to Tel Hazor. You are looking at a 360 aerial view of the archaeological site of this ancient city which is located north of the Sea of Galilee.
Hazor was the royal city of the Canaanite King Jabin (Joshua 11:1). This city, before the Israelite conquest, seemed to have been the seat of wide authority in this region (Joshua 11:11). It was taken by Joshua, who exterminated the inhabitants, and it was the only city in that region which he destroyed by fire (11:11-13). At a later time though, the Jabin Dynasty recovered power and restored the city after the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD (Judges 4:2). King Jabin had his army commander, Sisera, who’s army was well equipped with nine hundred iron chariots to oppress the sons of Israel severely for twenty years. Enter Deborah, a prophetess, who was already judging Israel at that time. And she called Barak, from the tribe of Naphtali, to lead the fight against Sisera. But Barak was timid in his faith. Even when Barak was promised victory (Judg. 4:6–7), he resisted, saying that he would go only if Deborah went with him (v. 8). So…
Deborah said, “I will certainly go with you; however, the fame shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)
Well, the Lord helped Barak route the Canaanite army in a valley south of Hazor. But the victory was not complete. Sisera had escaped Barak, however, as prophesied by Deborah, he ended up being killed by a woman. As for the Canaanite King Jabin, he was eventually subdued and eliminated.
We go now to our next site which is about 35 miles south.
3 – HAROD
Click LINK 2 – Spring of Harod
Welcome to the Ma’ayan Harod National Park. This national park is located at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley just south of Mt Moreh. You are facing a pool that is called the Spring of Harod. The water comes from a copious stream of clear cold water rising from within a rocky cave just behind you. (Note the white block house up the hill.) This spring is more famously known as Gideon’s Spring.
The story of Gideon in the Bible is from the Book of Judges chapters 6-8. He was known as the reluctant warrior who eventually earned the position as a hero of faith referenced in Hebrews 11:32-34.
Again, like every situation in the Book of Judges, Israel had greatly sinned against the Lord. So, here in chapters 6 & 7, Israel suffered under the hands of the marauding tribe of Midian for 7 long years; after which, as expected, they cried again out to Him. Enter Gideon…
The Story of Gideon in a Nutshell
Gideon was a farmer whose hometown was Ophrah, in the Valley of Jezreel. He was of the tribe of Manasseh. In Judges 6, we find him hiding from marauding Midianites in a wine press beating out wheat. God appeared to Gideon as an angel and patiently encouraged him to lead the Israelites, promising He would be with him. I said patiently because God allowed Gideon to test Him thrice even after he witnessed His power at work (6:20-24;36-40).
So, Gideon managed to gather almost twenty thousand warriors to him. But God had some thing else in mind. He declared, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to hand Midian over to them, otherwise Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has saved me.’ “ So, Gideon brought them to the spring of Harod to test the men of Israel. Those that did not lap the water with their tongues like dogs will fight the Midianites. Only three hundred men were chosen. With the help of God, Gideon with his 300 men routed an army of about 130,000.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon… who by faith … quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34)
4 – TIMNAH
Click LINK 3 – Timnah
You are standing within the remnants of a Philistine village once called Timnah located just within the border of the territory of the tribe of Judah. At this time of the Book of Judges, all of Israel again had sinned greatly against the Lord. So, the Lord had allowed the northern tribes to be oppressed by the Ammonites and the southern tribes to be bullied by the Philistines. The Philistines had made several infractions into Judah’s fertile lands establishing farming communities. Timnah was one of those communities and it was the setting of where the Philistines were introduced to Israel’s most colorful & controversial Judge, Samson.
You can say that Samson was Israel’s superhero because he displayed such inhuman strength. Well, according to biblical accounts, Samson was repeatedly seized by the “Spirit of the Lord,” who blessed him with such incredible strength. What made Samson so privileged? That story in itself is a story worthy for reading on your own. [Click here > Judges 13] Meanwhile, let’s go back to Timnah…
The Marriage at Timnah
In Judges 14, Samson, who was just a young man, went down to Timnah and saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. He impulsively wanted to marry her. His parents were not happy because they preferred he marry one from their own people. Of course, what they did not know was that this was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. [v4]
Let’s jump forward. At the wedding feast, Samson gave a riddle to his thirty groomsmen who were all Philistines. If they can solve it, he will give them thirty pieces of fine linen and garments, but if they cannot they must give him thirty pieces of fine linen and garments. After failing to guess, they were infuriated by the riddle, so much so, that they threatened the bride and her family to discover the answer. In tears, she implored Samson to gives her the solution, which he eventually did. Knowing the answer, they surprised Samson with right answer.
Samson knew where they got the answer. Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, so, he traveled to the Philistine city, Ashkelon (roughly 30 miles away) where he slayed 30 Philistines for their garments; he then returned and gave them to his thirty groomsmen.
The story then went sideward when Samson found out that his bride was given to one of the groomsmen. Samson then went out, caught 300 jackals, and tied them together in pairs by their tails. He then attached a burning torch to each pair of foxes’ tails and turned them loose in the grain fields and olive groves of the Philistines. The Philistines learned why Samson burned their crops and they burned Samson’s bride and her father to death in retribution. Samson in return retaliated by ruthlessly slaughtering a great number of them to a point that the Philistines assembled an army to go after one man.
Other biblical accounts showed Samson displaying his immense strength by the slaying of a lion with his bare hands; massacring an entire army of Philistines using only the jawbone of a donkey; and the tearing down of the gates of Gaza, then carrying them on his shoulders about 40 miles into the hills. He judged Israel for 20 years until his weakness of lust caused him to lose his super strength. But forgiveness and divine restoration prevailed when his final act was the demoralization of the Philistines as Samson, this one man of the True God of Israel, chained & blind, brought down their temple killing tens of thousands.
So, we finish the Book of Judges, but by no means was Samson the last Judge of Israel. For this, we go to two other books.
5 – BOOKS OF SAMUEL
Samuel was the principal author of the Books of Samuel. He was also both Judge and Prophet of Israel. He was a key figure who, in the narratives of the Bible, played a key role in the transition from the period of the biblical judges to the institution of the Kingdom. Based on these books, we will visit these following sites.
In the beginning of the first Book of Samuel, we shall go to the place where the people used as their center of worship. Let us go to…
Click LINK 4 – SHILOH (Aerial)
Shiloh (Shilo), pronounced as ‘Shee-low’, was God’s home on earth or what we know as the Tabernacle by Joshua during the conquest of Canaan.
Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there… Joshua 18:1
For over 300 years, Israelites performed aliyah l’regel (pilgrimage) and brought offerings to this location until the death of it’s High Priest named Eli. But we are getting ahead of the story.
Optional video: Evidence of the Tabernacle Found at Shiloh
Beginning Story of Samuel
In 1st Samuel 1, our story started with Hannah, the second wife of Elkanah, an Ephraimite. Hannah came to the Tent of Meeting, to desperately plead for a child to end her shame of being barren. She begged for a son with the vow that she will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head (1:11). Eli the priest was watching her and thought the she was drunk. He started to rebuke her when she tearfully explained of her desperate prayer. He relented saying, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your request that you have asked of Him.” (1:17) And God did!
Hannah gave birth to Samuel and when he was weaned she brought him back to Shiloh where he grew up as a Nazarite*.
By the way, the Lord had blessed Hannah even more by giving her three other sons and two daughters. (2:21)
[* According to Numbers 6, the Nazarite was one who was consecrated to serve the Lord. He was required to abstain from all wine and anything else made from the grape vine; refrain from cutting the hair; and to stay ritually pure by avoiding contact with corpses or graves, even those of family members.]
Click LINK 4a- SHILOH
Samuel’s Prophetic Calling
Now the boy Samuel was attending to the service of the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days; visions were infrequent. (3:1)
Samuel was being raised to serve the priesthood. But the Lord intended him to be a prophet charged with announcing His word to Israel. Ironically, his first prophetic act was to announce to Eli the Priest of his fate.
When Samuel was asleep in the temple, God called out his name. Thinking that Eli called him, he went to wake him. Eli thought he was dreaming and sent him back to sleep. But the Lord called his name again. This happened three times.
On the third time, Eli surmised that it was the Lord calling Samuel’s name. So, he told him to answer the Lord, which he did. God revealed very bad news for Eli and his family and instructed Samuels to speak what was told to him. In that morning, he was reluctant to talk to Eli, but Eli insisted. So, Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And Eli said, “He is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” (3:18)
Now Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and He let none of his words fail. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD. (3:19-21)
Before we go to our next site, there is one other incident that we need to talk about and it is related to the prophetical fate of Eli and his family.
Eli had two sons who were serving as priests but they had greatly sinned against the people. But the real problem was that Eli allowed them to continue even after the Lord warned him. Then, there was war again with the Philistines. After the Israelites were badly defeated in the first battle, they sent for the sons of Eli to bring the Ark of the Covenant to their camp in the hope that the Lord would grant them victory. But the Philistines won the battle, killed the sons of Eli and worst of all, they captured the Ark of the Covenant. When Eli the Priest finally heard the news about the Ark, he literally dropped dead as was prophesied by Samuel.
6 – The Ark of the Covenant & The Philistines
So, victorious from the war with the Israelites, the Philistines brought the captured Ark of the Covenant back to their cities.
To set the stage for the next story, let us go to the ruins of…
Click LINK 5 – ASHKELON
The ancient site of Ashkelon is now a national park on the city’s southern coast. The walls that encircled the city are still visible, as well as Canaanite earth ramparts. The park contains Byzantine, Crusader and Roman ruins. Here’s an interesting note – the largest dog cemetery in the ancient world was discovered in Ashkelon.
Click on Google Map Photos of Ashkelon
5 Golden Mice & 5 Golden Tumors
When the Philistines brought the Ark into their cities, they placed it at the feet of their idol god Dagon. The next day, they found Dagon face down before the Ark. So they took Dagon and set him back in his place. But, again the next time, the head of Dagon and both palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the torso of Dagon was left.
Meanwhile, where ever the Ark was brought, the hand of the LORD was heavy on them, and He made them feel devastated and struck them with tumors (5:6). Therefore they sent word and gathered all the governors of the Philistines, and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people!” (5:11) So, the leadership, advised by their priests, placed the Ark on a wagon with a guilt offering of 5 golden mice & tumors corresponding to the number of the governors & the cities devastated by plague.
Now, to see, if the plagues were really from the God of Israel, they hitched two milk cows (which recently just had calves) to the wagon and let them go on the road that went up into the hills of Judah. If the cows strayed off the road, then they will know that the plague were not from God. Bellowing as they went, the cows did not turn off to the right or to the left. And the governors of the Philistines followed them to the border.
So, we come to our next site…
Click LINK 6 – BETH SHEMESH
You are looking at the 360 degree aerial view of the ruins of the ancient biblical city of Beth Shemesh within the territory of Judah. It is an archaeological mound situated immediately west of modern town, Beit Shemesh.
Now, look west where the highway runs past this mound and imagine the Israelites seeing the Ark of Covenant on the road with nobody driving the wagon. The cows drew the ark up to the village of Beth-Shemesh, where the people were reaping their wheat harvest on the hillsides. They saw the Ark and were glad.
The cows stopped beside a great stone in the field. Then the men of Beth-Shemesh cut up the wagon, and with it made a fire, and on the stone as an altar offered the two cows as an offering to the Lord.
But the men of Beth-Shemesh opened the ark and looked into it. This was contrary to God’s command, for none but the Levitical priests were allowed to touch the Ark. God sent a plague upon the people of that place and many of them died, because they did not deal reverently with the Ark of God.
They were filled with fear and sent to the men of Kirjath-jearim, asking them to take the ark away. They did so, and for twenty years the Ark of the Covenant stood in the house of a man named Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:1,2).
They did not take the Ark back to Shiloh, for after the death of Eli, the place was deserted, the Tabernacle fell into ruins, and no man lived there again.*
7 – The Final Acts of Samuel
We come to the place in what is referred to as the Biblical High Place. Welcome to…
Click LINK 7 – GIBEON
Today, Gibeon is known as the Nebi Samuel National Park. Nebi Samuel is translated to the Tomb of Samuel. The park is situated atop a steep hill at an elevation of 908 meters above sea level. You are virtually standing on the ro0f of a blocky structure that is both Synagogue & Mosque.
What can you see from Gibeon?
From the high vantage point of where you are standing now, if you look southeast between the cell tower and the watch tower, you can see the fringes of Jerusalem, though during Samuel’s time it was called the city of Jebu. Look east and zoom in a little. Can you spot a light-blue water tank? The hill behind it was the site of Ramah where Samuel was born and where his house was. South of Ramah on another hill was the biblical site of Gibeah which I will tell you more about later. Unfortunately, Google Maps does not provide any 360 degree scenery of any archaeological ruins of both Ramah & Gibeah. However, take note of their vicinity to Gibeon.
Israel Demanded a King
From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel mourned after the LORD. (7:2)
Samuel had been ministering to the people mostly from his hometown of Ramah during the time that Shiloh fell into disarray. He was known as the Seer. It was said that he would often go up the ‘High Place’ which was Gibeon where he built an altar. As he grew old, he had appointed his 2 sons as judges over the people. But they turned out to be disappointments to Samuel. They went after dishonest gain, took bribes and perverted justice (8:3). The people were not happy. So, they came to Samuel at Ramah to demand for a king. This did not please Samuel but then the Lord said to Samuel…
“Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have abandoned Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you as well. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall warn them strongly and tell them of the practice of the king who will reign over them.” (8:7-9)
And a warning he did give them in 1 Samuel 8:10-18. But yet, they refused to listen to him and the Lord. Enter Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin. According to the Bible, he was not just a young and handsome man. He was described as more handsome than among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up, he was taller than any of the people (9:2). Based on mankind’s standard, he was the ideal choice for King.
On a nearby plateau about 5 miles northeast of Gibeon, at the place called Mizpah, Saul was chosen by lot to be the first anointed king of all Israel. He was apparently reluctant to be king, for the Lord had to reveal to the elders where he was hiding (10:22).
Saul’s fledgling kingdom had a rocky start, for not all wanted to follow him as king (10:27). Then his first test as king came in 1 Samuel 11 when the Israelites who lived at Jabesh-gilead which was east of the Jordan River came under siege by the Ammonites. To complete this story, let’s go to our next site.
Click LINK 8 – GILGAL
This site of Gilgal, which is just west of the Jordan River, is in actuality one of several Gilgals mentioned in the Bible. This place, in particular, was designated as a permanent encampment for religious & national rites. Gilgal means in Hebrew “circle of stones” hence the reason why, in this modern day, you can see a circular tower of large block stones built for tourists rising about 20 feet high. Now, if you look north at the mountain range, you’ll see a dip on the horizon. Just a little beyond that was Jabesh-gilead.
What happened here in Gilgal?
When Saul heard the call for help by the people of Jabesh-gilead, the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul (11:6) and he assembled a fighting force of about 300 thousand. He attacked the Ammonites and destroyed them. Then, all of Israel was behind Saul. After which Samuel summoned the entire congregation to the encampment of Gilgal where they offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD and Saul’s kingship was renewed (11:14,15). From there, Saul returned to his own hometown of Gibeah and built a fortress where he reigned. But his reign will be short lived.
In 1 Samuel 15, Saul had greatly sinned against the Lord. His commandment to Saul was… ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, in that he obstructed him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and completely destroy everything that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ But in a nutshell, Saul disobeyed God by sparing Agag, king of the Amalekites, & the best of the animals for his own gain. But when Samuel confronted him, Saul used the lame excuse that those choice animals were for sacrifices. God saw through his lies and Samuel spoke…
“Does the LORD have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than a sacrifice, And to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as reprehensible as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as reprehensible as false religion and idolatry. Since you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (15:22,23)
So, here at Gilgal, Samuel hewed King Agag into pieces (v33), completing the task assigned to Saul. Samuel returned home to Ramah mourning for Saul.
[Video – In-depth Bible Study on Gilgal]
This sets the stage for our next stop. Let’s go to…
Click LINK 9 – BETHLEHEM
You are virtually standing on a rock outcrop that overlooks Bethlehem. Above it is the Shepherd’s Field Chapel dedicated to a supernatural event of the New Testament. But I felt that this would be a good background for the tale of an ordinary shepherd boy who would become king.
Now, God does not look on us as we see each other. We might think that God blesses those who are strong, but the Lord blesses those whom He will strengthen and who will accept His help. [from http://www.jareddees.com]
And the story below will reflect it.
Samuel Anointed David (1 Samuel 16)
God was disappointed in Saul, the king of Israel. So, He secretly sent the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse and anoint another person as king. When he arrived, he invited Jesse and his sons to a blessing ceremony. Samuel requested that Jesse present his sons one by one.
Jesse brought forth his oldest son, Eliab. Samuel saw the young man and thought to himself, ‘Surely this is the one the Lord wants me to anoint as king.’ For he was tall & strong. But the Lord said to Samuel…
“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (16:7)
Now, Jesse presented seven of his sons before Samuel, but the Lord said that none of them fitted His criteria. Finding out that there was still one more son, the youngest, tending sheep out on the hills, Samuel sent for him. When Samuel first set his eyes upon David, the shepherd boy, he saw a gangly but handsome lad in his teens. He saw one that no one would ever c0nsider kingly.
The Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” (16:12)
Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel set out and went to Ramah.
Here is food for thought for you.
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. [1 Corinthians 1:27]
Samuel returned to Ramah and after a long time, he died was buried at Ramah (25:1). According to tradition, his remains were later moved to the cavern under Gibeon.
Click LINK 10 – TOMB OF SAMUEL
So, as you gaze around the room where the Jews come to pay homage, say goodbye to Samuel who was instrumental in launching the Kingdom Era that will last forever and ever.
So, we close our third module here. Thank you for walking with us, following the steps of the Judges. The next step for you is…
Module 4 – The Way of Kings & the Prophets where you will visit the sites where David slew Goliath; where Elijah confronted 400 Baal priests; and where Solomon gained his great wisdom.
Hope to see you there…
The Old Testament of the Bible always point to the ultimate saving grace of the Gospel. Are you new to this? If you are, I invite you to watch this 3 minute informative video below.