A travelling exhibition on the archeology of Saudi Arabia has some very interesting finds. Included in their website is this overview of the Midianites:
A travelling exhibition on the archeology of Saudi Arabia has some very interesting finds. Included in their website is this overview of the Midianites:
Libya is mentioned a number of times in the bible and under different names. The coast of Cyrene for example was to become a component of the bread-basket to feed the Roman world in the time of the apostles. Phut, Lubim are other names. Lehabim is a Hebrew word meaning flames, Gen 10:13; 1Chron 1:11 later translated as Lubim Nahum 3:9. Lybia has always been a conglomeration of tribal interests. This name is most likely related to the southern segment of the country, and is historically understood to be Libyo-egyptian, and interaction of the early association with Egypt to supply mercenaries 2Chron 12:3; 16:8; Nahum 3:9. The etymology suggests desert dwellers, and is probably equivalent to the modern Berbers, Tuariks or Turegs. These may be part of the “mingled peoples” Ezek 30:5 representing numerous small nomadic peoples combined as Lubim (plural) who roamed the northern Sahara and parts of Lybia and Egypt. Lehabim seems to be separate to Libya proper, as the nation was created from a separate son called P(h)ut Gen 10:6 and troops from Lehabim and Phit are mentioned separately in Nahum 3:9.
The modern separation of these segments of Libya is seen with the removal of the power of Muammar Gaddafi there has been the creation of an almost independent eastern territory and the rise of southern Islamist forces who have contributed to the events in Mali.
The end of Libya is mentioned in the bible. Libya is a component of a northern confederacy to invade the middle east Ezek 38:5 but will fall at the hand of the returning messiah during the events of Armageddon.
Coke in the Libyan desert
Aerial view to the north from the area of Salcah (image courtesy google earth) [Biblical geographic photographs to follow]
Salcah or mdoern Salkhad, is a pimple on a pumpkin. The ascent up the slopes of Salcah is a dramatic one, until once perched on its summit the wide expanses of southern Syria, the wild expanses of the desert to the east, and the rolling plains which saw the action affecting Ahaz and Jehoshaphat in their tenuous alliance against the forces of Syria in the distance at Ramoth Gilead. I can still vividly remember the crisp breeze in our faces as we saw this view. Likewise Salcah can be clearly observed for around 30 km before arriving at its base, a clear marker for the eastern margin of the inland route of the caravansari and the final boundaries of the faith of Jair. The importance of this route past the mount was later reflected in the presence of a Nabatean stronghold in 2cBC and the adjacent city of Beth-gemul Jer 48:23, a reference to the house of camels now near the modern border of Jordan.
It is mentioned as the land of Bashan “as far as Salcah” Josh 13:11 or “unto Salchah” Deut 3:10; 1Chron 5:11 and represents the final extents of the campaign of faithful men and women to preserve the interests of deity in a world that cries look after yourself! This was the land of the king of Og, and the remnant of the giants Josh 12:5 and as such was remembered centuries later as the battle with “famous kings” Ps 136:18. This battle then represented the challenges that all men face when the conscience is exercised in allegiance with God. This is the “principalities and powers” or the “cosmos” which is represented in national, personal or constitutional terms.
Salcah has the idea of wandering, but more properly means migration as a journey with purpose. The area now most famous for the Haj route that passes some 20 km to the west from its base. But the migration that Jair was interested in was the journey of faith, Num 32:41f and grasping a confidence in God’s ability to work with men against enormous challenges, took the land. Jair contains the idea of being enlightened, and clearly points to the source from which the confidence and victory would come, Heb 11:8.
Salcah was the eastern boundaries of Bashan and the area of Arm-Ish-tob, the high place of the man of goodness, 2Sam 10:6,8, and the most southern of the administrative districts of Syria, now reflected in the modern es-Sewayda governate.
Aram Rehob, in southern Beqa’a: Note the wide expanses before the constriction below the Litani Reservoir.
Aram Rehob, 2Sam 10:8 like Aram Maachah has geography that reflects its name. The governate of Aram Rehob covers the remainder of the Beqa’a north of the Litani reservoir to the Nahr Kabir, or the great river that marks the northern terminus of the Lebanese range, Num 13:21. Its name means broad, and reflects the wide expanse of the valley. The rich agricultural fields of the Beqa’a were controlled from Berothai its central town, a location on the central crossroads somewhere near Baalbek.
Known also as the “plain of Aven” Amos 1:5, its other name reflects the emptiness or worthlessness of worship of Hadad or Baal, so reflected in Baal-bek. It was here that the campaigns of Alexander the Great were reflected on the floors in mosaic. Having conquered the areas of Turkey and northern Syria, the now self-proclaimed “king of Asia” swept south to control the area of Phoenicia, the coastal plain of Israel and the entrance of Egypt before turning back to Jerusalem. This campaign is reflected in the actions of the latter-day Gog, who follows the same route Dan 11:41f. But what is significant is that the burden of Yahweh concerning Alexander would rest on Damascus and on Hadrack, or the lands of Syria styled “the bowing to Hadad” Zech 9:1f. Alexander would control the resources of the fleeing Persians, which he captured and gathered at Damascus. But it would be here at Baalbek that the depiction of the birth of Alexander was found. Here is a definitive illustration of the newly born king of Asia, the king of kings, and son of god! This mosaic defines a religious birth of the champion to the lands of Syria. This religious influence seen in the name “beth-rehob” the house of the broad place Judges 18:28; 2Sam 10:6.
“Alexander Nymph” The birth of Alexander depicted in mosaic at Baalbeck, Beqa’a Lebanon. preserved at the National Museum, Beirut, Lebanon.
The Betah and Berothai were the cities central to this governate. Their names meaning the security of the Cyprus grove, 2Sam 8:8. Groves were used as areas where worship of gods could be conducted without scrutiny, and in particular the expression of worship in sexual profanity, 2Chron 33:3; Jer 17:2, so described as being “under” green trees 1Kings 14:23. This was the strength of the king of Damascus. In the time of David the king’s name was Hadad-ezer, or the help or support of Hadad (Baal) 2Sam 8:8. After conquering the area, David renamed the cities Tibhath and Chun, The slaughter of flesh has established, 1Chron 18:8. It was from here that David would take “exceeding much brass” so reflecting the overcoming of flesh as reflected in the colour and hard nature of the metal so commonly used for construction of weapons and utensils, see Job 6:12. This connection between brass and flesh is confirmed in the parable of the brazen serpent which reflected the bitten flesh of the nation of Israel at Punon, Num 21. David however takes the brass to construct in particular the large basins of the temple in which the water would clean the worshippers, and so highlighted that the word of God seen as water Eph 5:26, could so influence a man to bring him to worship God acceptably. David in contrast to Hadadezer was helped by the God of heaven, 2 Sam 8:6,14.
The location of Berothai and Betan are hard to fix within the valley. Numerous suggestions have been made between Baalbek to Zahle further south. We spent a day examining these sites and the site of Beritan or Brital just to the SW of Baalbek on a strategic hill seems likely for four reasons: 1) Its control of the central crossroads of the Beqa’a 2) Its strategic position and defensible geography and 3) from the testimony of Josh 19:30 this town was on a line from Aphek or modern Afqa in wadi Ibrahim into the Beqa’a 4) Its inclusion in Ezek 47:16 precludes a coastal location such as Beirut, and suggests a location between Hamath and Damascus, most likely on the anti-Lebanese range. (For further information read E Lapinski: The Arameans their ancient History, Culture, Religion pg 333f)
The broad place so reflected in the name, conveys the idea of easy passage, and so it is. Travel is not easy in Lebanon with the relentless surging of independent traffic, but in the Beqa’a long straight roads provide easy access along the length of the valley. The word Rehob is reflected in the idea of street, or particular plaza or piazza the wide common area where social interaction was common, Neh 8:1. The term is translated as “broad places” Jer 5:1 and “broad ways” Nahum 2:4. It was in the street or broad places of Gibeah that the national identity of Israel was to be demonstrated in its failure to commit to covenants, Judges 19:15,17,20f. At the request of worthless men, the concubine, reflecting the nation’s religious commitment, was thrown out onto the street to be abused and finally die. So the religion of Israel would through its history become defiled and taken into the streets or broad places of the religious world, so described as the “streets” Rev 11:8. This is reflected in the carrying of the Ephah or measure of Judaism into the land of Shinar, to set it on its own base Zech 5:5-11 from which its “resemblance” would influence the whole earth Zech 5:6.
Broad is the way to destruction, and many that go in it Matt 7:13, but straight (constrained, greek stenos from which we get stenosis or narrowed arteries) is the path that leads to life. Few will find this path, sadly because of the broad and common call of self-centered religion in the broad places of the world. It will be the place were God helps, a religion where self-interest and ability is condemned, and where the water or cleaning influence of God is paramount. To the scriptures we must turn as it is only through this way that God will save men. It is the word of God that is able to make wise to salvation 2Tim 3:15. Every feature of religion must be proved by this revealed method of saving, not the word of priests, monks, religious elders and other ordained prophets. If it be not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isa 8:20.
Looking south across the Litani Reservoir to the confines of Aram Maachah
Of all the places mentioned in the bible, the geography of Aram Rehob and Aram Maachah reflect their names. Maachah means to oppress by pressing in. The wide open expanses of the Beqa’a (arabic: valley) narrow below the Litani reservoir, from which the Nahr Litani bends to its terminus in the Mediterranean at Misrephoth-maim (the place of burning water or the fired glass for which the Phoenicians became famous) Josh 11:8; 13:6. The narrows of this area provided the conduit through which famous invasions of the land of Israel would occur, such as in the time of Ahaz with Tiglath Pileser III. The northern approaches marked by the place of Ijon, 2 Kings 15:29.
This area of Aram-Maachah mentioned in 1 Chron 19:6 was the administrative district controlled from Abel-beth-Maachah, north of the sea of Galilee approaching the modern border with Lebanon, also the name of the mother of Absalom whose father was king of (aram)-Geshur, the south-eastern extension of the district, 1 Chron 3:2.
Maachah was the name of the mother of Asa, who was removed from influence in his kingdom. The manner of her oppression was the introduction of idols and groves, 1 Kings 15:13. Being removed as queen demonstrates the apostacy of the mother of the nation, and hence its religion, see Gal 4:26.
Ben- Hadad (the son of god Hadad or Baal) also marched into northern Israel through this valley in the time of Asa, and his name represents the nature of the campaign, the source of worship of another beside the God of Israel, 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Chron 16:4. Asa unwisely made a league to introduce these early influences of Baal into Israel, even after his early good start.
Maachah then represents the oppressing influences of apostacy in particular, and the very geography demonstrates the pressing in and dangers involved of external influences and challenges to those who would seek to obey God and accept His truths. The Lord explained these challenges to those hearing the gospel. In the parable of the sower this is reflected by the seed choked by thorns Matt 13:7, later described as cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, which grow with the good seed for a while, but eventually chokes the implanted word, Matt 13:22.
The challenge of Maachah exists in many forms today, but all remove the word of God as the influence of choice in a man or woman’s mind.
The gospel of God is the good news of God’s involvement in a believer’s life. This gospel comes from hearing the word of God Rom 10:15-17. Faith, the realisation that God can be involved in our own personal existence is the motivating force that drives a higher goal in life, that of pleasing deity Heb 11:1,6. A believer must then accept both that God exists and will reward his approach of trust. This faith then demonstrates a complete reliance on the ability of God to provide everything that is needed for complete spiritual development and will provide not only the forgiveness of sin, but the giving of a life that reflects all the positive features of the God who invited the relationship. These features are the moral, mental and physical powers of God now perfectly reflected in others. Maachah then represents all the challenges to this development when the pressure distracts from faith.
Moserah Deut 10:6 or Moseroth Num 33:30 is identified with wadi Moseriah by toponym (1) The name meaning bonds may also be reflected in the geography of a steep walled gorge or valley in which the encampment was. The name however reflected the intention of deity with the nation of rescuing from bonds, an event that was heralded each seven years, and for inheritance every 50. The victory of Christ was however over not only captivity, but the very force that would lead men into captivity. and so “leading captivity captive”
Ebronah or Abronah means passage, and is associated with the Arabic word Nukb meaning the pass of a mountain (1) and points to a mountain pass leading to Eilat from the west of the head of the gulf of Eilat. Some suggest that a shallow section of the gulf was the meaning of this word, and hence a suggestion the exodus followed the shoreline. The Targum translates as “ford(s)”.
Mentioned twice in Num 33:34,35 it is omitted in the record of the exodus in the Deuteronomy record.
Cedar wood was used in the construction of David’s palace 2 Sam 7:2; Solomon’s Temple ca 966 BC 2 Chron 2:16 with the temple described as a cedar house 2 Sam 7:7 the house of Lebanon supported with rows of cedar pillars 1 Kings 7:2 and again during the rebuilding of the temple after the exile in 520-516 BC Ezra 3:7. The wood travelled by sea and came into Israel for the construction work at Joppa. But these temples were by no means the only public buildings that had cedar used within them. The wood appears to have been used primarily for ceilings, with beams 1 Kings 7:12 used for supporting the roof structures 1 Kings 6:9 including (alternates being pine or fir) rafters Song 1:17; 1 Kings 6:16; 7:7 and internal paneling 1 Kings 6:15,18. The cedar was then probably coloured or lacquered cf Jer 22:14.
Cedar was used in the temples in throughout the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar, Hadrian, several Assyrian kings and Pharaohs from Egypt all left their mark in Wadi Khalib a few miles to the north of Beirut, and wadi Barissa to the north of the Beqa to let others know both of their occupation and their ownership of Lebanese cedars.
Solomon made cedar trees as common as the sycamore in the Shephelah, indicating the scarceness and the value of the commodity.
Used in panelling in the time of Haggai
Other timber used within the temple is referred to as almug trees in 1 Kings 10:11,12. The word almug containing the idea of incorruption, and hence a symbol of immortality.
Picture of the grandest tree, and the establishment of a secure domain. Used of the Assyrian and the Babylonian empires.
Often sitting at the lights in capital cities around the world the only noise that emerges from the vehicle parked next to you is the deep thumping rhythm of drums and bass guitar. These low-frequency pulses penetrate walls and resonate bodies. Similarly the beating of drums was used to drown the noise of screaming children passed through fire in what is considered a bizarre and ugly practice of idolatry. The word Tophet is considered either an expansion on the Hebrew word Toph (singular) drum or Tophim (plural) drums from the root word taphaph meaning timbrel or alternately the place of fire.
The sanctuary to Tophet, or the Tophet of Salammb0 in Carthage, was discovered in 1921 and is located on Rue de Hannibal, or the street of Hannibal, that astonishing figure who almost toppled the Roman empire! The enclosure of the sanctuary is marked with what must be almost a thousand small memorial headstones to children that were pasted through the fire to Molech. An assemblage of these are located within the subterranean chambers on the northern margin of the sunken sanctuary site. Archeologists estimate the death in excess of 20,000 at this site. While we were there a bus load of Koreans were busily snapping photos of the little rocks, and gleefully calling to each other across the park. The significance in all its historical ugliness was lost of them, sanitised by the neatness of the garden and orderliness of the presentation. But this site is a horrific reminder of the brutal cost of idolatry. The practice of child sacrifice is noted by Plutarch as active at this site, and considered as a Phoenician practice (2). This involved placing a live child on the outstretched arms of the image, and with the movement of limbs, the infant would fall into a blazing brazier to its death. The sacrifice was considered the result of a vow on receipt of the kindness of the god, who had delivered goods into a foreign port or such like action or the entreaty for kindness during famine or sickness. The practice was long-lived with nine distinct levels of deposits extending from ca4cBC through 4cAD. It should be remembered that this practice was not one of a primitive society, but by the Phoenicians whose sophistication is well evident in the intricate works as seen in the Beirut museum, the stone work in their temples in Lebanon and the degree of commercial success as evident in the wide-spread and lasting maritime enterprise.
The Phoenician or Punic practice has been identified at numerous sites, including Tyre (4), Lebanon, el-Hofra at Constantine, Algeria, to the east of the of the acropolis at Amathus in Cyprus and of some interest Motiya in Sicily where the absence of disease in infant bones that survived the cremation practice, confirming the sacrificial nature of the practice. Both Greek and Latin texts highlight the strength of this religious connection between Phoenicia and her “daughters” (3b). Unique features are seen in the Tophet that distinguish it from non-ceremonial grave sites: The presence of pit graves, the presence of animal bones, the range of grave-goods, the marking by funerary stelae, and distinctive burial urns. There is only ever one Tophet even where numerous cemeteries exist. The practice was dedicated to Baal Hammon with inscriptions found in Algeria remarking Baal Hammon as “the lord of the temple” (3). Baal is found with or without the goddess Tinnit. Three distinct offerings were made at Phoenician sites being mlk.mr (mulk immor or sheep substitute) mlk.adm (mulk adam, or common child) and mlk.b’l (mulk ba’al or distinguished or honoured citizen’s child) (1) But at Carthage not a single reference to mlk.adm has been discovered. The term mlk, is similar to the word used in Lev 18:21 where the law prohibited the passage of children through the fire to Molech, a hebrew term for an idol meaning king. This passing to Molech is connected to Tophet in 2 Kings 23:10 Molech and Ba’al are mentioned together in Jer 32:25.
Molech or Milcolm was the abomination of the children of Ammon 1 Kings 11:5,7 and was attached to immoral sexual practices Lev 20:5 and was so abhorrent that the practice was considered outside the mind of deity Jer 32:25. To engage in the practice was to defile the sanctuary of deity and profane His name Lev 20:3.
(1) N Spencer: Time, tradition and society in greek archeology: bridging the great divide pg 21
(2) Curtius Rufus; Histories of Alexander the great 4.3.23
(3) E Gruen; Cultural identity in the ancient monuments pg 374 (3b) pg 376
(4) Berytus: The American university of Beirut, Museum of archeology; vol 39; 1992 pg 39-82; Description of finds from Tyre 1991, including Iron age IIcineary Phonecian urns from Tophet at Tyre found by Seeden and Simmonetti
(5) E Mazar; Archeology in Israel; AJA98 (1994) pg 495
(6) Philip King: Jeremiah an archeological companion pg 136
Ain-musa is the traditional tourist site for Marah in northern Sinai. The location appears to be too far north to match the crossing point from the basin south of Suez, the Piharaoth (the mouth of the gorges) that entrapped the children of Israel with no apparent escape. Marah is more likely to be found in wadi Gharandal further to the southeast from ain Musa. This would correspond with the three days journey of around 15-20km further south, Num 33:8,9.
Marah was a dramatic demonstration of the value of sweet waters through the bearing of a tree on the shoulders of Moses. This pictorial demonstration of the crucifixion should have demonstrated the presence of the deity within the nation to supply the method of salvation. Marah, the place of bitterness Ex 15:23, has the same name as the Lord’s mother Mary and spoke of all the results coming from human nature and the conscious decision to sin. The answer to the dilemma is to obey the voice of Deity and have faith in His operation Ex 15:26.
Today ain-Musa is visited less due to the turmoil in Egypt, and is a dingy tourist stop on the tarmac heading south deeper in Sinai. The roaring of trucks and occasional car was all that interrupted the quietness of the location.