The Feet of the Judges

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.
The Promise land divided into the 12 Tribes of Israel

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)

Click on Google Map Photos of Shiloh [SET A] [SET B]

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

Ark of the Covenant

So, victorious from the war with the Israelites, the Philistines brought the captured Ark of the Covenant back to their cities.

The 5 cities of the Philistines were Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron & Gath.

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.*

[* http://www.studyjesus.com]

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.

Click -> More photos at Nebi Samuel National Park

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).

Mizpah

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…


Epilogue:

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.

A Walk through the Wilderness

Google Map Tours of the BibleModule 2 guided by JQuisumbing

In this module, we will visit the Bible sites significant to the books of Exodus & Joshua – mostly the sites where God used Moses and Joshua to lead the nation of Israel through the wilderness into the promise land.

In module 1, we ended our tour in Egypt… and it is there that we have to pick up the trail.

1 – EGYPT

In the end of Genesis, Israel brought his entire family and household to Egypt. At that time, a different king ruled over Lower Egypt. This was the same king that made Joseph, son of Israel, Prime Minister of his kingdom.

Exodus 1:7
But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.

Historically, at the time that Joseph was Prime Minister, Lower Egypt was dominated by an Asiatic group of people known as the Hyksos. Centuries before, they over threw the original Egyptians and pushed them deep south to Upper Egypt. Where they abided their time to return and claim the kingdom they lost. And sure enough, after Joseph passed…

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. Exodus 1:8

And at that time, Pharaoh saw both a military and economic threat in the growing number of the people of Israel. The Egyptians’ solution was to enslave and dishearten them. This went on for 400 years.

Except for the pyramids of Giza, Google Maps does not offer us much virtual scenery of the archaeological sites of the cities built by the enslaved Hebrews in Lower Egypt . So, we start our tour at an ancient city of Upper Egypt.

Click LINK 1 – 360 Degree View of Karnak

Click on pic to view Google photos
of the ruins of Tanis

As you look at the grandeur of Karnak & Tanis, you can well picture the type of structures that these Egyptians forced the Israelites to build. Four Hundred years, they had to endure under the cruel whips of slavery. For 400 years, the Israelites pleaded for God to intervene… and after 400 years, God did.

Enter Moses…

2 – THE EXODUS [Route 1]

Putting Exodus 5-13 in a nut shell, God sent Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt especially after God forced Pharaoh’s hand with 10 devastating plagues.

Our virtual tour will take us on the Exodus trail of almost 3 million displaced Israelites marching to the legendary mountain of God, Mt Sinai. We will explore two possible routes ending onto two different Mt Sinai locations [please refer to map below].

From 500AD to about the 1990s, the traditional route (note the black line on the map) of the exodus of Israel was always believed to end on a mountain top near the tip of what today is called the Sinai Peninsula. Unfortunately, Google Maps does not provide any other visual reference of any biblical or archaeological sites along the traditional route except the location of …

Click LINK 2 – Mt Sinai 1

You are virtually standing on the top of Mount Sinai (1), traditionally known as Jabal Musa (means Mount Moses in Arabic). It is actually the name of a collection of peaks, sometimes referred to as the Holy Mountain peaks, which consist of Jabal Musa, Mount Catherine and Ras Sufsafeh. For climbers, there are two principal routes to the summit of Jabal Musa. The longer and shallower route, Siket El Bashait, takes about 2.5 hours on foot, though camels can be used. The steeper, more direct route (Siket Sayidna Musa) is up the 3,750 “steps of penitence” in the ravine behind the St Catherine’s Monastery which most visitors are brought to first.

Click on pic – 360 degree view of St Catherine Monastery & Mt Sinai 1

But is Jabal Musa the actual legendary location of where Moses received the Ten Commandments?

For many scholars today, they have found undeniable evidence that the mountain in the peninsula may not be the true mountain of God. So, we will take a closer look at some of the other sites discovered.

3 – THE CROSSING [Route 2]

Let us again refer to the map below but this time we will follow the exodus trail in red to the site of Mt Sinai 2.

Along this route, we will find a number of signs that seem to satisfy biblical accounts. Let us go to where they may have crossed the Red Sea.

Click LINK 3 – Nuweiba Beach

As you look across the waters, imagine what happened here.

Exodus 14
8 So the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. 9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were coming after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD.

13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will perform for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again, ever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, while you keep silent.”

21 Then Moses reached out with his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 So the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right and on their left.

image borrowed from learnreligions.com

How do we know that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea from Nuweiba?

A very wise man, King Solomon himself, placed a marker here.

Click LINK 4 – Solomon’s Column on Nuweiba Beach

Solomon also placed another marker on the Arabian side of the crossing, however, the Saudi government had it removed for safekeeping and replaced with another marker.

Were there other evidences of the crossings here? Well, Pharaoh’s army followed the fleeing Israelites into the parted sea and this was what happened…

Guess what divers found in the sea floor between Nuweiba and the Arabian shore? Click on the video >>…

Click video: Exodus Revealed Search for the Red Sea Crossing

4 – The Trail into the Wilderness

Click LINK 5 –SAUDI BEACH

When crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites knew that the Egyptians were just behind. They knew their danger. If the Egyptian battle ready army reached them, it could have been a great slaughter and return to slavery. But instead, true to the words of Moses, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD… The LORD will fight for you…” (Genesis 13:13,14), the Israelites saw the closing of the sea on the Egyptian army and could not help but sing.

The Song of Moses and Israel

Exodus 14
1 Then Moses and the sons of Israel
sang this song to the LORD, saying:
“I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.

2 The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

3 “The LORD is a warrior;
The LORD is His name.

19 For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea on them, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea.

20 Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. 21 And Miriam answered them, “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”


Then Moses led the people from the Red Sea. After three days, water became scarce and then when they did find it, it was a stagnant pool of bitter water. After the people grumbled against Moses, he pleaded to God. So, God showed him a tree which Moses threw in the waters and became sweet. Then God gave the people this statute to consider.

And He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and listen to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” (Exodus 14:26)

Exodus 14:27
Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.

Click LINK 6 – ELIM OASIS

The Elim Oasis is about 27 miles south from where the Israelites made landfall.


Jethro the Midianite

Before we get back on the trail of the Israelites, southeast from the Elim oasis about 14 miles as the crow flies over a series of mountain ranges is a large valley where Jethro, the priest of Midian once lived. Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law. But I am getting ahead of the story.

As a baby, Moses was saved from Pharaoh’s edict that all newborn Hebrew males must be put to death, by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses grew up in a privileged life but he always remembered that he was Hebrew. As a man, he saw their hard labors. His first action was to secretly kill an Egyptian who was beating a fellow Hebrew and then buried him in the sand. But Pharaoh found out what he did and attempted to have him killed. Moses fled Egypt in fear for his life and ended up in the lands of Midian. To this same valley, where there was a well.

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. (Exodus 2:16-17)

Image borrowed from fredwiddowson.blogspot.com

Click LINK 7 – WELL OF JETHRO

Jethro, the priest of Midian, invited Moses to become part of his family by marrying his eldest daughter, Zipporah. Moses lived with them for 40 years.

Google Maps offers visitors to another site in this valley where Jethro may have been buried.

Click LINK 8 – CAVES OF JETHRO


 5 – Wilderness of Sin

From Elim, Moses led the Israelites deeper into mountainous region of the Wilderness of Sin.

Click LINK 9 – WILDERNESS OF SIN

It was in this arid environ that Israel grumbled again to Moses.

“If only we had died by the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this entire assembly with hunger!” (Exodus 16:3)

But even after this, God provided the people with a bread & meat. The people called the bread manna, for it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. The manna came in the morning dew. At night, the Lord blew in quails which covered the camp. The people gathered a regular portion for each family every 5 days. On the sixth day, the Lord provided double the portion, for on the seventh, there was none.

image borrowed from Wikipedia

The double portion was meant to remind and emphasize that they must keep the Sabbath.


REPHIDIM

Exodus 17
1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water so that we may drink!” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people were thirsty for water there; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why is it that you have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

image borrowed from pastorernieblog.org

4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What am I to do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” 5 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Click LINK 9 – ROCK OF HOREB

It was also here in Rephidim that Moses built an altar and named it ‘The LORD is My Banner’ after they were victorious against Amelek. [Exodus 17:8-16]

image borrowed from Wikipedia

6 – MT SINAI (Arabia)

Exodus 19
1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.

Click LINK 10 – Mt Sinai 2

What you are looking at is a satellite view of Mt Sinai in Arabia. Northeast of the mountain is the vast valley of the Sinai Wilderness where the Israelites camped for a year. Unfortunately, Google Maps had no 360 views on the mountain. The photo below is the view of the eastern side of the mountain.

This is the eastern view of Mt Sinai generated by Google Earth.
Note: Elijah’s cave is noteworthy for Module 3.

Again, can this site be the true Mt Sinai?

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the entire mountain quaked violently. (Exodus 19:18)

Talking about evidence: It would be interesting to note that geologists had found evidences of scorched materials at the mountain top and that Mt Sinai was not even volcanic.


Biblically, what happened here? READ Exodus 19-23

After God told Moses of the Law…

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. Moses alone, however, shall approach the LORD, but they shall not approach, nor shall the people come up with him.” (Exodus 24:1,2)

After which, Moses reported to the people all the words of the LORD. They responded with one voice that they will obey. Then he got up early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve memorial stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.

Click LINK 11 – ALTAR of MOSES

Click on photo

Exodus 24
5 And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it as the people listened; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

So, in verses 9-11, Moses went up the mountain with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel. He took them to a large level area about halfway up the mountain. (Note the Speaking Platform pinpointed on photo above.) There, they worshiped and saw a vision of God majestically standing on a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.

Then God called Moses to come higher up the mountain to receive the tablets of the Ten Commandments.


Exodus 32 – Beyond 40 days, as Moses was still on the fiery mountain, the Israelites went to Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we do not now what happened to him.” So, Aaron fashioned for them a golden calf.

Image is from the 1968 movie, The Ten Commandments

Then, the people worshiped the idol even after they vowed as one voice in Exodus 24.

Golden Calf Altar fenced off by Saudi gov’t

Click LINK 12 – GOLDEN CALF ALTAR

Moses came down and condemned their revelry and three thousand men lost their lives for their sins. The full story can be read in Exodus 32:19-35.

Image is from the 1968 movie, The Ten Commandments

For a year, the Lord inspired Moses and the people to construct…

The Tabernacle

The Israelites called it mishkān which means ‘residence’ or ‘dwelling place’. It was also known as the Tent of the Congregation and also Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle was the portable earthly dwelling place of God. It was where He manifested His presence and communicated His will. It was the closest way for the people to approach a Holy God without dying via specific rituals of animal sacrifices. It was The Place to seek FORGIVENESS.

Details of it’s construction can be found in Exodus 25-30, 36-38.

original image borrowed
from owlcation.com
image borrowed from
thejewishobserver.com

Exodus 28, 29 – Consecration of the Priesthood

Exodus 40 – The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle


The Cloud on the Tabernacle

Numbers 9

15 Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle until morning. 16 That is how it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. 18 At the command of the LORD the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped.


7 – The Forty Year Journey

Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from above the tabernacle of the testimony; and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled in the wilderness of Paran.  (Numbers 10:11,12)

Click LINK 13 – PARAN

Link 13 is a 360 aerial view of what was once the Paran Wilderness. We are near the modern day border between Israel and the state of Jordan. North from here, through the distant haze, is the Dead Sea. A little to the left is the Negev Desert. To the east is a line of mountains once called the Seir Range. In those mountains, the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s other son) made their home. Look south, do you see the flat area between the mountains? That is where God told the Israelites that they will wander the wilderness for 40 years.


Why did the Israelites have to wander the wilderness for 40 years?

In Numbers 13, God commanded that 12 leaders, one from each tribe, to spy out the land of Canaan.

“Go up there into the Negev; then go up into the hill country. See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. And how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are the people in open camps or in fortifications? And how is the land, is it productive or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? And show yourselves courageous and get some of the fruit of the land.” (Numbers 13:17-20)

After 40 days, they successfully returned laden with the fruit of the land. When they gave their report to the people, ten out of the twelve gave bleak and very negative analysis of what they saw. In Numbers 14, the congregation reacted in fear and in despair to the point that they grumbled greatly. Joshua & Caleb, the two spies that had positive outlooks tried to encourage the people…

“The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection is gone from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)

The people reacted even more badly by wanting to stone them including Moses and Aaron. So, God had enough. He told Moses that He was going to destroy the nation, but Moses pleaded for them (vs 13-19). God did relent. However, those that grumbled against Him must pay a price.

“As I live,” declares the LORD, “just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you; your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness, all your numbered men according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. Also, your sons will be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your bodies perish in the wilderness…” (vs 26-35)


S1 – Numbers 13 – God condemned Israel to wander the wilderness for 40 years.

S2 – Numbers 20

Click LINK 14 – MERIBAH??

You hovering over an area of the Paran Desert.

Vs1: Death of Miriam (sister to Moses)

Vs2-13: Waters of Meribah – Israel grumbled again about no water. God instructed Moses to ‘speak to the rock before their eyes’ and water would come forth. But Moses struck the rock with his staff in anger, against God’s specific words to speak to it, so God told him & Aaron that they both will not enter the promised land.

Click LINK 14a – EDOM

You are on the Jordan Valley Highway. The mountains before are the Seir Range which was the territory of the kingdom of Edom. The Edomites were the estranged cousins of the Israelites. They were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob.

S3 – Numbers 20:14-21 – King of Edom denied the Israelites passage through their territory.

S4 – Numbers 20:22- 29 – Aaron died as prophesied and was buried on Mt Hor.

Click LINK 14b – The Seir Range

You are virtually driving on the Aqaba Highway which cut through the bottom end of the Seir mountain range in the state of Jordan. The Israelites went through this area to avoid conflict with the Edomites.

S5 – The Bronze Snake

Numbers 21:6-9 Israel grumbled again which angered God enough to send venomous snakes among them. Moses pleaded with God… God commanded Moses to make a bronze snake, mount it on a pole and erected it at the center of the camp. The instruction for the people was that if one was bitten by a serpent, all he/she had to do was look at it and he/she will be healed.

The bronze snake is also a New Testament lesson of FAITH


8 – Journey’s End

We come to the end of the 40 year journey of the people of Israel led by Moses who was 120 years old. During the 40 year period of wandering, God inspired Moses to write the five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy.

MT NEBO

Click LINK 15 – Mt Nebo

You are looking at a 360 degree panoramic scene from the high vantage view of Mount Nebo. Moses ascended this mountain, which was in the land of Moab (today in Jordan). In Deuteronomy 34, God allowed him to see the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land), which God had said he would not enter. Unfortunately, due to air pollutant haze in the distant west, we do not see what Moses saw back then. It must had been a spectacular sight. Now, if you gaze down a little, you’ll see the Jordan River Valley. Imagine Moses watching a mass of about 3 million Israelites filling the east side of the river. But he did not watch them cross. According to verse 5, Moses then died there and only the Lord knows where he was buried.

Now, if you look south and up a little, you will see the next site for you to visit.

Click LINK 15a – Moses Memorial Church

Rising majestically more than 700 meters above the Jordan Valley, Mount Nebo, Moses Memorial Church (built around the fourth century) was restored by the Franciscans in 1993. 

Click HERE to view more photos.

Outside the church is a sculpture of the bronze snake of Moses.

A serpentine cross sculpture atop Mount Nebo was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. It is symbolic of the miracle of the bronze serpent invoked by Moses in the wilderness and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

9 – Joshua

Click LINK 16 – Jordan River

After Joshua got intelligence on Jericho, he led the people to the Jordan River. At that time, the Jordan River was much more wider than what you see here and the rushing water was overflowing the banks making the river dangerously inaccessible. God commanded Joshua that the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant must precede the congregation into the river. When they did, the river stopped and literally stood in one heap. Then the people crossed.

Joshua 3

Days later, they came before…

10 – Jericho

Site of Ruins of Jericho
Drawing rendition of Ancient Jericho

Click LINK 17 – Ruins of Jericho

The ruins of Jericho or Tel-Jericho is located on the western edge of modern day city of Jericho, a Palestinian city on the West Bank.

Joshua 6 tells the incredible story of how Jericho fell without a single Israelite dying. In a nutshell, God had them circle the city 7 times then they stopped to face the walls and they all shouted. The walls came down.

Click here to read the entire story of JOSHUA 6.

The rest of the Book of Joshua tells of the conquest of Canaan by Israel.


Epilogue:

Again, thank you for walking with us through the wilderness. It has always been important for me to point you to the Gospel. After all, the Old Testament goes that way. So, I invite you to another video about the Gospel. Enjoy…


This ends our tour of Module 2. Thank you for joining me in A Walk through the Wilderness.

Click here to go to MODULE 3The Feet of the Judges

SIMON THE LEPER part 15

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

In the morning, Simon came out of his tent feeling invigorated. Lazarus wanted to pull up stakes and make the return trip to Bethany today. But Simon was thinking about staying.

“Well, father, when we get home, we have to tell as many people that we found the Messiah… and show them how you were healed… and then…”

“No, I will not.”

“What! What are you saying, father? People must be told.”

“I agree, but it will not come from me.”

“Why, father?”

“Because the master asked me,” Simon said solemnly. “His words to me last night were ‘Tell not anyone about this. Go, instead to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering as is according to the law passed down by Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. It is most important that this will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’ “

“Can we not even tell the girls?”

“Of course, we can.”

“Good. I cannot wait to see Mary’s face when you get home.”

Then, they were approached by two women carrying a large bundle. One of them said, “The master sends his regrets that he was not here to see you off. He and the disciples left before dawn. He asked us to bring you more supplies for your trip back to Bethany.”

Simon wanted to say that he was staying, but the other woman added, “The master also said that he knows of your desire to stay and follow him. But he instructs that you return home and await for him.”

Three days later, he was entering the village of Bethany to the surprise of everyone who set their eyes on him for they thought him to be long dead. When he reached his house, a crowd of curious neighbors had gathered. Just as he was getting off his donkey, he heard a gleeful sound and running feet.

“Abba! Oh Abba!”

It was Mary who was all grown up. They embraced for a long time. Mary took his face and looked closely at him.

“Are you healed, Abba?”

“Yes, Mary, I am healed…”, then a thought occured to him, “…and I am saved.”

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 14

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

Then, the Nazarene turned his attention to Simon.

Simon took two steps forward and then like he realized who he was facing threw himself on the ground and asked, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Then the Nazarene started to reach down and was actually going to touch him. The crowd simultaneously gasped and Simon flinched back. But the Nazarene was quicker. Before Simon could back away, his right hand was on his back, his left was gently grasping his arm and helping him up.

Simon felt a warm sensation throughout his body. Then the first thing he noticed was that he had feelings in his feet. He actually could feel the grass under his toes. Even his finger tips were tingling. He looked at his arms to find normal skin color rather than the expected sickly white flakes and bleeding sores.

“Look at his face!” exclaimed an awed voice from the crowd.

Simon hesitated for just a moment, then lifted trembling hands to his face. What his probing fingers revealed was a whole nose restored and no sign of sores.

Then, the valley was filled with celebratory singing and dancing. Lazarus, who had witnessed everything from among the crowd, went directly to his father and embrace him. They both wept.

“Come, follow me,” said the Nazarene.

Simon, still hugging his son, followed the rabbi to a nomad tent under the trees.

“Please, sit down,” the rabbi gestured to a matt on the ground. He went over to a low table and poured water into three clay bowls. He served the two bowls first to them, took the third bowl and joined them on the matt. “Drink first, then we talk.”

A woman brought in a large plate of flat breads, fruits, some meats and placed it in the middle of them. After they ate, the rabbi called for the men that were just outside the tent. Twelve men entered including the big man called Peter.

“Andrew, please take a couple of men and follow this young man to their camp and bring everything back here.”

“Yes, master.”

When they left, the rabbi gestured for the big man and two others to sit down with them while the others sat in other parts of the tent.

“Lord, what is your name? I only know of you as the Nazarene.”

“I am Jesus.”

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

Google Maps Tour of the Bible

Johann Quisumbing – your virtual tour guide

Every two or three years, my church would organize a Holy Land trip led by our Pastor. I always get enthusiastic and excited when the organizers promote the next trip by showing videos & pictures, telling stories of their last successful trip. Then, those friends and church members who signed up to go would make plans & discuss what they will see, feel and eat when they get there. I am ashamed to admit that I do feel a little envious of them because I knew that again I could not go with them.

Many cannot afford to go to Israel and tour the sites of the Bible. Some, like myself, are unable to travel due to health problems. So, we are left to wait for them to send postcards of their adventure which is nice. However, I would have loved to see where Jesus himself walked and make some kind of connection. Fortunately, the Lord had given me a way to connect vicariously with the help of technology and an active imagination.

For years, I have been a vicarious* tourist of the world without leaving the comforts of my bed. I travel using the online programs Google Maps / Google Earth.

[*vicariousexperienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another]

I have enjoyed visiting numerous country sides, cities and towns of several countries. I may have not been there physically, but with a little imagination I was as good as there. I especially include my the time exploring the Holy Land. It’s kinda funny, but I believe that in my virtual tour, I visited more sites than those who actually visited there. I don’t mind telling all of you that finding these biblical sites even though I was only there vicariously was to me quite enriching. So, I wanted to see if I can guide other people to what I discovered and see how they react.

During the last Christmas Season, I invited my small discipleship group and my niece with their respective kids to join me on a virtual Christmas tour of discovery. We went to see where the angel Gabriel visited and gave good news Zechariah & Mary. We went from the northern region of Galilee down to the hillsides of Bethlehem where the angel appeared to the shepherds. We went as far as Egypt where the infant Jesus was carried to… away from Herod’s murderous clutches. I also brought them to the ruins of Babylon to illustrate where the magi may have come from. Because they were able to navigate the different locales using Google Maps/Street View controls, they expressed enjoyment like as if they were there themselves.

Well, Holy Week is at hand and I have it in mind to set up a way for others to either…

[1] join me in an even more extensive guided tour of the sites of the Bible as me as your tour guide via ZOOM…

or

[2] to go touring on their own using itinerary guide modules that I will provide here in my website.

But before we can go ahead with our tour, I am sure that many of you don’t know how to implement Google Maps or Google Earth. So, I encourage you to watch the video below. Then spend some time to experiment and practice… practice… practice.

Youtube have other extensive videos on this subject, feel free to search them out.


Well, I’m assuming that you have learned how to use Google Maps with it’s Street View functions. Let’s go touring!

6 Itinerary Modules

Google Maps Tour of the Bible will be organized into 6 itinerary modules.

1 – Following the footsteps of the Patriarchs

In this first module, we look into the sites described in the Old Testament where the patriarchs of old walked. We’ll start in the land of Ur or modern day Iraq where Abraham originally hailed from and end at the Nile delta of Goshen where Jacob brought his entire family to save them from a draught.

2 – A Walk through the Wilderness

The second module will trace the footsteps of Moses leading his people out of bondage of Egypt. One of the things we will look at are the two possible crossing points of the Red Sea and locations of Mt Sinai. We will also look at the wilderness where the tribes of Israel wandered for 40 years.

3 – The Feet of the Judges

In the third module, we will visit the sites where the Judges walked. We will see where Gideon defeated an army of 10 thousand with just 300 men; where God used one man to humble the Philistines; and how the Ark of the Covenant was captured.

4 – The Way of Kings & the Prophets

In the fourth module, we will visit the sites where the Kings & the Prophets . We will see where David slew Goliath; where Elijah confronted 400 Baal priests; and where Solomon gained his great wisdom.

5 – Walking the footsteps of Jesus

In the fifth module, let us go see where Jesus went fishing with his disciples; where he gave the Sermon on the Mount; where he changed water into wine; and also see the garden where he sweated blood. We will also walk around a large model replica of the city of Jerusalem when Herod ruled. Because Jesus covered a lot of ground, Module 5 is divided into 2 parts.

Module 5 – Walking the footsteps of Jesus Part 1 – You will visit where Jesus ministered in north country of Galilee.

Module 5a Walking the footsteps of Jesus Part 2 – You will visit the sites mostly in Jerusalem during Jesus’ final days.

6 – Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit

In the sixth and final module, we will follow where the Holy Spirit led the disciples from Judea to Turkey, Greece and eventually all the way to Rome. Some of the places we will see are where the Apostle John wrote Revelation; where Jesus’ mother eventually lived in her old age; where Jesus caused Saul to be blind on the road to Damascus; and much more.


About the Guided Tours:

Guided tours will be conducted via ZOOM.

Each module session may run up to 1.5 hours (max 2 hours).

Viewing of Google Map links will work better on Laptops/Desktops.

— Cell phone viewing is possible, however keep in mind that you will be navigating on 2-3 open windows.

To join guided tours, contact Rhon Bautista, head librarian of Union Church of Manila

library@unionchurch.ph


Schedules:

Holy Week Tour:

[* Manila time]

  • Module 1 April 9 Saturday – 2pm*
  • Module 2April 9 Saturday 5pm*
  • Module 3April 10 Sunday 2pm*
  • Module 4April 10 Sunday 5pm*
  • Module 5April 13 Wednesday 5pm*
  • Module 5a – April 14 Thursday 5pm*
  • Module 6April 23 Saturday 5pm*

If you want to schedule other group guided tours, please contact Rhon Bautista – library@unionchurch.ph or scan the QR Code below.

Click on QR code image to Register

If you want to send me a message then click CONTACT ME.

SIMON THE LEPER part 13

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

Suddenly, Simon was up and rushing down the hill with his son asking a little surprisingly on where he was going.

The hill was a little steeper, so Simon had to slow down his descent. Lazarus was following a short distance behind. He looks up and saw that the Nazarene was already in the valley approaching the creek, working his way through the crowd. He was approaching the edge of the crowd on his side of the valley. He paused to figure out where to go. Should he skirt the edge of the gathered mass of people? It looks like the only way to get to him was through all those people. Simon hesitated.

“Father, what is going on?” His son asked as he gasped for air.

“I have to see him, Lazarus.”

Lazarus looked at him then he looked at the crowd.

“Father… No! Those people will kill you! You do not have to see you him today.”

Simon looked at him then said, “Yes, I do.”

Simon started to walk towards the crowd who were still about thirty feet away. Lazarus, not able to block or physically detain him, followed from behind.

When he was about ten feet from the crowd, Simon started to shout out to them. “Unclean! Unclean! Make way! Unclean!” At first, no one turned around, but then a young woman heard his shout. She turned around and screamed out loud. Apparently, Simon’s veil was uncovered and all the woman saw was a leprous face with no nose. Her scream came to the attention of other women and they too joined in the screaming. When people saw a leper walking purposely towards them, they scrambled out of his way. Simon managed to successfully penetrate through the crowd, so he thought he was going to make it. But then their initial surprise and panic quickly turned into anger.

Simon had to slow down because the angry shouting crowd was not moving aside as much. Then, they started to pelt him with stones. Some of the bolder ones started to come at him with long sticks. One of them hit him in the back of the head and Simon collapsed on his knees. Then they started to pound on him, hitting him on his back and his head.

Simon was dazed and his head was ringing. At one time, he thought his son was calling for him but his voice sounded so distant. Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

He slowly and painfully stood up amazed as he watched the Nazarene calmly walking over to the giant and placed his hand on his arm. He looked up at him half-scoldingly and said, “Peter…” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The big man returned a half grin and a shrug. He smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to Simon.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 12

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

The Nazarene communicated to every sort of person. To the stingy and the attention seekers, he says to offer alms for the needy and to do it in private, so that only the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. He talked about the hypocrisy in how people pray and fast, then he would show them how. To those who work so hard to gain wealth and to toil even harder to keep it, he revealed unapologetically that it was temporary and even quite futile compared to true and everlasting treasures.

He told them of not judging others but looking deep in oneself instead. Finally, he summed up all that he spoke about with the golden rule – “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 NLT]

Simon thought he ended his sermon there, for the Nazarene paused for such a long time. But then he spoke of entering God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate and then of being wary of false prophets by deeply checking their fruit. Somehow, the delivery was a little different and Simon wondered if the narrow gate had something to do with him.

And sure enough, the Nazarene spoke of himself and said something that may be construed as blasphemous.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” [Matthew 7:21-27 NLT]

Then, the Nazarene stood up indicating he was done. The people started to clap and call out to him.

For Simon, the words of the Nazarene was heaven in itself. He had almost forgotten that he was stricken with a flesh eating disease that will sooner or later take his life. He so wanted to live not because he was afraid. But because he wanted to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven. He watched the Nazarene work his way down the hill through the crowd. It looked like he was making his way to a copse of low lying trees on his side of the stream. It was then he noticed some tents among the trees. A thought occurred to him.

Suddenly, he was up and rushing down the hill with his son asking a little surprisingly on where he was going.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 11

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

You are the salt of the earth,” the Nazarene said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 10

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennesaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting place, to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were addressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were addressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

Following the footsteps of the Patriarchs

Module 1 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In this module, we will visit the Bible sites significant to the book of Genesis – mostly the sites where God impacted the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and other patriarchs.

Take note: the order of sites we visit will not always be in chronological order.

So, let us start where Abraham first hailed from.

“I am the LORD who brought you (Abraham) out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land (Canaan & more) to possess it.” Genesis 15:7

1 – UR, the land of the Chaldeans

Click LINK 1 – UR

What you are looking at is the satellite view of the ruins of Ur which can be found in modern day Tall al-Muqayyar, Iraq. Unfortunately, Google Maps did not have any 360 degree views here. However, you can click on any of the castle-tower-icons which will open a side panel on the left side of the window screen and you can view numerous photos of the site. During Abraham’s early time, Ur was an important city of ancient southern Mesopotamia. The image below is a rendition of what Ur may have looked like

In antiquity the Euphrates River ran much closer to the city; the change in the great river’s course had left the ruins in a desert that once was irrigated and fertile.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you into a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing… And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

Why did God have Abraham leave the country of his birth and yes, even from his father’s house?

Joshua gave us the reason when he said, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods”’ (Joshua 24:2). For Abraham to become a great blessing to all mankind, God had to separate him from the cultural influence of IDOLATRY.

To see museum artifacts from Ur, you are welcome to take this optional side trip: A walk through the Exhibition of Ur Artifacts @ British Museum at London

2 – Harran

Now Terah took his son Abram, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they departed together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran and settled there. Genesis 11:31

Abram, Sarai and his entire clan more than likely followed a well known trading route which followed the Great Euphrates River to the northwest. From Ur to Harran, it would have been about a 600 mile journey… and travelling by camels, it would have taken close to a year to get there.

Click LINK 2 – Ruins of Harran*

*LINK 2 was shot by a drone

The ruins of Harran is located in southeastern modern day Turkey. It was also known as Carrhae and was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia. It was also a commercial, cultural, science and religious center. Harran, being a smaller version of Ur, probably reminded Terah and the rest of Abram’s kin that it was almost like their home. So, they settled there (Gen 11:31).

Harran also was site when…

Gen 24: About 70 years later, a very old Abraham sent his trusted servant to search out a wife for his son, Isaac, among the relatives in Harran. God led him to Rebekah, the daughter of Laban who was Abraham’s nephew.

Gen 28-30: Another 60 years later than that, Jacob, who was the Abraham’s grandson, was sent by Rebekah, his mother to Laban (his uncle) to escape a reprisal from his twin brother, Esau. Laban tricked Jacob into 20 years of service. It was also here that Jacob sired 11 out of the 12 sons the made up the future 12 tribes of Israel.


3 – Mt Ararat

Since we are in the neighborhood of Turkey, we might as well take a quick detour to about 400 miles northeast from the ruins of Harran to where Abraham’s Great, great… (plus 10 other Greats after that)… Grandfather safely made landfall with the only remnants of humanity and the remnants of the animal kingdom (that we see today) after spending 150 days in big a wooden ark during the great flood that covered all the earth. His name was NOAH.

Genesis 6-9: Noah’s Ark & the Flood

When the deluge stopped and the flood started to recede, the ark landed on a rocky outcrop jutting out of the water. That place was…

Click LINK 3 – MT ARARAT

You are standing on the southern slope of Mt Ararat. Imagine Noah peering out the window of the ark from this vantage point as he watched the flood waters drain away. Imagine him breaking open the side of the ark to release the animals to scatter unto the four winds. Imagine him building a stone altar on those very slopes and offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. Then, he was given a colorful surprise… a rainbow… a visual promise from God that never again will a great flood cover the earth.

Some archaeologists found another possible site of the ark’s final resting place some 20 miles south of the mountain. They based their claim on the boat-shape contour formed on the rock terrain. The discovery was made in what is known as the Durupinar site. Click here to view photos of DURUPINAR.


Let’s get back to Abraham.

Though his clan settled in Harran, God moved the heart of Abram to leave there and go south almost 400 miles into the land of…

4CANAAN

These are the sites we will see.

What does the Bible say about the inhabitants of Canaan?

Genesis 10 (background)

Now these are the records of the generations of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and sons were born to them after the flood. [vs1]

The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. [vs6]

Canaan fathered Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth, the Jebusite, the Amorite, the Girgashite, the Hivite, the Arkite, the Sinite, the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite; and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad. [15-18]

The territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon going toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; and going toward Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. [19]

Important note: God had destined the Canaanites to lose this land to the descendants of Shem… the descendants of Abraham.

So Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.” Genesis 9:25-26

5 – SHECHEM

Abram’s first stop was…

Click LINK 4 – SHECHEM

Link 4 is a 360 degree view of the valley where Shechem was located. What you see below, from the vantage point of Mt. Gerizim, is the modern town of Nablus.

What happened here?

Genesis 12:6-7

Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanites were in the land at that time. And the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.

Other biblical occurrences:

Genesis 33:18-20
Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram (Harran), and camped before the city. He bought the plot of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (the mighty God of Israel).

Jacob also dug a well here that was the scene where a Samaritan woman will meet One who promised ‘Living Water’ for all.

Genesis 34 – The slaughter of the men of Shechem by the hands of Jacob’s sons.

Genesis 35:1-4
It was said that at this same oak of Moreh that Jacob buried his household’s “foreign gods” (idols) when God commanded him to proceed to Bethel for purification and dedication.

From here, let us take a detour and go East across the Jordan River to an important site.

6 – PENIEL

Click LINK 5 – Peniel

What you are looking at is the Zarqa River in the modern day country of Jordan. This river, during Jacob’s day, was once called the Jabbok River which flowed into the Jordan River just a couple of miles west from here. Somewhere in this vicinity, Jacob had a hand to hand encounter with God.

In Genesis 32, Jacob had just escaped from 20 years of unjust servitude to his uncle Laban at Paddan-aram (Harran). When reaching the hill country of Gilead (East of the Jordan River) at the Jabbok River, he sent his entire household across the river.

That night, he encountered a being and wrestled with Him. It was here that God reiterated the changing of Jacob’s name to Israel. Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”

7 – BETHEL

Let us go back in time again to Genesis 12, Abram traveled about 19 miles south from Shechem to…

Click LINK 6 – Bethel

You’re on a hill designated as an archaeological site. If you look north on another hill, you can see the modern day town of Biet-el.

Bethel, during the time when Abraham first set his tents near here (Gen 12:8) & where he also parted ways with Lot (Gen 13), was originally called ‘Luz‘.

How did Bethel get its name?

Bethel got it’s name later in Genesis 28.

Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) had departed from Beersheba and was on his way to Haran to avoid a violent altercation with his angry twin brother, Esau.  As he laid his head to sleep…

And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Then behold, the LORD was standing above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:12-15

Jacob then called this place, BETHEL, which means the “House of God”.

Let us go farther south to…

8 – HEBRON

The Oak of Mamre

Click LINK 7 – The Oak of Mamre

The Oak of Mamre is also called the Tree of Abraham or Shajr-e Ibrahaim in Arabic. This tree, where Abram pitched his tent, is located on the outskirts of Hebron. Today, the remnant of the tree used to stand on the grounds of the modern Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

The Oak of Mamre.
This old tree is supported by beams in order to prevent it from falling.

The old tree fell in 2019, but there are plans to preserve its trunk and sustain the growth of the young shoot. It is believed that it was over 5000 years old. It withered in 1996 from time and age however two new trees sprouted the following year from the dried-up oak that still had life in its roots underground.

Biblical Occurrences:

Genesis 13:18 – Abram moved his tent from the Negev after Lot (his nephew) had separated from him, and came and lived by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron; and there he built an altar to the LORD.

Genesis 15 – Abram was promised a Son… God gave him a vision.

Important note – Abram was declared righteous for his faith.

Genesis 16 – It was also in this same place that Abram’s wife, Sarai, mistakenly passed her slave Hagar to him from whom Ishmael was born .

Genesis 17 – Years later, he was visited by 3 angels… Here, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision was established.

Genesis 18:1… – When Abraham turned 99, the Lord came and visited him. He was told that Sarah will give birth to Isaac in her old age.

Genesis 18:22… – Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom & Gomorrah.

In another part of Hebron, let us go to another site.

The Cave of the Patriarchs

The Cave of the Patriarchs, known to the Jews as the Cave of Machpelah and to the Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham, is a series of burial caves holy to them as well as to Christians. Over the caves stand a large rectangular enclosure which is divided into both a synagogue and a mosque.

Click LINK 8 – Cave of the Patriarchs

You are virtually standing between the entrances into the caverns where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob were buried.

Biblical Occurrences:

Genesis 23 – Abraham’s wife Sarah died in Kiryat Arba near Hebron in the land of Canaan at the age of 127. Abraham came to mourn for her. After a while he stood up and spoke to the sons of Heth. He told them that he was a foreigner in their land and requested that they speak to Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, who lived in Mamre and owns the cave of Machpelah which he was offering to buy for “the full price”. Ephron sold the entire field for four hundred shekels of silver and Abraham agreed to the price without any further bargaining. Abraham then buried his beloved wife Sarah there. [Wikipedia data]

Genesis 25 – Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham who passed at the age of 175 in the cave of Machpelah…

Genesis 49 – Jacob gave his account to his family that when Isaac died at the age of 180, he and Esau buried him in Machpelah. Rebekah (his mother) as well as his wife Leah were buried there too.

Genesis 50 – Joseph, who was then the prime minister of Egypt, had his physicians embalm his father Jacob, who died at the age of 147. They then removed him from Egypt to be buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah.

9 – SODOM, GOMORRAH & LOT

Click LINK 9 – Dead Sea

You are looking at a 360 degree aerial view of the southwestern side of the Dead Sea. Archaeologists had pinpointed that the notoriously sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, from the book of Genesis, were located in those areas. Both cities were completely destroyed by “sulfur and fire” because of their wickedness (Genesis 19:24).

Click to watch –
Sodom & Gomorrah Location,
New Archaeological Discoveries

2 Sites to see:

Click LINK 10 – Lot’s Wife

This rocky figure of a woman can be seen from Highway 65 on the Jordan side of the Dead Sea. Of course, it is not really Lot’s wife turned to salt. But it does make a fun background to tell the story of Genesis 19.

Genesis 19:15-26
When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men grasped his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, because the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the surrounding area; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.”

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the surrounding area, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

But Lot’s wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Click LINK 11 – Lot’s Cave

Lot’s Cave, which is a stiff 10-minute climb up a steep flight of steps, is surrounded by the ruins of a small Byzantine church (5th to 8th centuries), a reservoir and some mosaics, which were excavated by the British Museum. The cave is 2km northeast of Safi and well signposted from the Dead Sea Highway. Look for the circular museum building on the hillside.

Lot, the nephew of Abraham, features repeatedly in the colourful annals of the Dead Sea’s southern shores. Lot’s Cave, just past the Lisan Peninsula, is where he and his daughters are said to have lived after fleeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In an eyebrow-raising incident that’s remarkable even for the Bible, it’s written in Genesis 19:30-38 that Lot’s two daughters spiked their father’s drink, had intercourse with him and then nine months later gave birth to his sons of incest, Moab and Ben Ammi, the forefathers of the Moabite and Ammonite peoples.

[excerpt from Lonely Planet website]

10 – BEERSHEBA [Beersheva]

Beersheba is located on the north section of the Negev desert. It got its name from Genesis 21:31 when Abraham and Abimelech took an oath of witness that the former had dug the well and seven ewe lambs were offered in sacrifice. Speaking of wells…

Click LINK 12 – Abraham’s Well

Unfortunately, this Google Map street view of Abraham’s Well leaves much to be desired. However, if you pan a little to the left, you may want to order a slice or so. I hear that camel took the place of pepperoni. Kidding aside, turn back to Abraham’s Well. Go ahead and click on the green circle with the camera icon to view photos of what’s inside.

What happened here?

Genesis 21:1-7 – Birth of Isaac as promised by God.

Genesis 21:9-19 By God’s encouragement, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away into the Negev wilderness. When close to dying of thirst, an angel provided for them and Hagar was reassured that Ishmael will become a great nation.

11 – MT MORIAH

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:1-3)

Mt Moriah is about 45 miles from Beersheba.

Click LINK 13 – MT MORIAH TODAY

This is the Dome of the Rock and it is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was built over the original site of Mt. Moriah.

What happened here during Abraham’s time?

And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”


We end module 1 with a final visit to…

12 – EGYPT

After all, the book of Genesis do end here in the land of the pharaohs and pyramids. I refer to Jacob, when he uprooted his entire family including all of their households and herds, then trekked almost 240 miles to Egypt.

Jacob’s route into Egypt

Genesis 46 – Jacob (aka Israel) moved to Egypt when he found out that his favorite son, Joseph, who he believed was killed by an animal (Gen 37:31-35), was not only alive but was also the second highest ruler of the kingdom of Lower Egypt.

So, Jacob, with the blessings of Pharaoh, settled in this area of Goshen.

Click LINK 16 – GOSHEN

As you can see, Goshen is quite fertile even today. It was perfect to raise herds of sheep and other livestock. For 400 years, the patriarch’s clan of 75 people grew into a nation of 12 tribes of about 2 million people.

Before we leave our tour, I felt it right that we play the tourist as we visit the…

Click LINK 17 – PYRAMIDS OF GIZA

As you look around the great pyramids of Giza, allow me to end this tour with the final blessings of Jacob concerning the futures of his sons. [You can read the entire text here in Genesis 49.] For our purposes, we will focus on one particular blessing that have so much significance in regards to the promise given to Abraham about his future offspring.

Genesis 49:8-12

“Judah, your brothers will praise you. You will grasp your enemies by the neck. All your relatives will bow before you.

Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion he crouches and lies down; like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.

He ties his foal to a grapevine, the colt of his donkey to a choice vine.

He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.

His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk.

What made this blessing so important? It points to our…

MESSIAH


Epilogue:

The Old Testament of the Bible always point to the ultimate saving grace of the Gospel. As your tour guide to the virtual sites of the Bible, I invite you to watch this 6 minute video.


This ends our tour of Module 1. Thank you for joining me in Following the Footsteps of the Patriarchs.

Click here to go to MODULE 2 – A Walk through the Wilderness