Nazareth

 

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JORDAN (various sites)

 

A. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The history of this ancient country parallels that of Israel.  The modern country of Jordan, typically defined as the body of land east of the Jordan River bordered by Syria to the north (directly east of the Sea of Galilee) and by Saudi Arabia (directly east of the northern tip of the Red Sea) has a rich history dating as far back as the days of the Old Testament. 

The southern area of this country was called Edom, while the middle area of the country was called Moab as far back as the 3rd century B.C. (the ancient territory of Ammon was located in the northern areas).   Edom played  a significant role in the earliest history of Israel because its affiliations with the southern deserts were close.  On the other hand, Moab is mentioned often in Scripture, particularly in reference to the final leg of the Israelites in their journey to the Promised Land.  It will be at Mt. Nebo in Moab where Moses dies.

In the 3rd millennium B.C., the inhabitants of both Edom and Moab were primarily semi-nomadic tribes who practiced primitive forms of agriculture.  As these cultures came to an end in about 1,900 B.C., it was during the next centuries of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages that this area became more heavily populated. 

Of particular importance to this region was the development of the natural trade route called the ransJordanian Highway (sometimes referred to as the King’s Highway).

Crucial to the security of this land was the protection of this trade route leading from the Red Sea port of Elath and the ancient capital of Rabbath-Ammon, the former capital city of the Ammonite Kingdom.

Mentioned both in Scripture as well as in Egyptian sources, the Edomites were of semitic stock that must have penetrated the area as early as the 15th century B.C.   Archaeological surveys have shown that the country flourished mainly from the 13th to the 8th centuries B.C., declined, and then finally destroyed in the 6th century B.C.   The ancient Israelite route into the Promise land passed through this country of Edom.  The first Israelite king to conquer Edom was David who stationed garrisons all over the country (II Samuel 8:14, I Kings 11:15-16). 

Edom revolted in the days of Joram and the Edomites put up a king of their own (II Kings 8:20-22) who probably also conquered Ezion-Geber (Red Sea coast?).  About a 100 years later, Amaziah took Selah in Edom and renamed it Joktheel (II Kings 14:7).  The re-conquest of Edom was later completed by King Uzziah, King of Judah (II Kings 14:22, II Chr. 26:1-2).  It was not until the days of Ahaz that the country finally regained its independence (II Kings 16:6).  In the 6th century, Edom was conquered by the invading Babylonians, and in the centuries following its downfall new nomadic tribes penetrated the area, pressing the Edomites westwards into Judea where they settled south of Hebron in Israel towards the Biblical Negev.

           

While this history took place in the southern area of the country, the Moabites occupying the northern area of the region fortified this region from about the 15th century.   The invading Israelites also came through Moab.

             

In fact, two particular tribes of the Israelites, the tribe of Reuben and Gad conquered this region that formerly belonged to the Moabites (Num. 21:25ff).  However, there was constant enmity between Israel and Moab following the Conquest.

In the 13th century, the punitive campaigns of Ramses II against Moab and Edom both can be verified by Egyptian war reliefs and documents.  The surrende of Boteret of Moab is depicted in reliefs at Luxor, Egypt, which also shows the fortress of Dibon (the city mentioned in Numbers 21:30). 

There was also a continual state of war between Israel and Moab in the time of the Judges (Judges 3:12).  in the 11th century, King Saul fought Moab (I Samuel 14:47) and David completed its conquest (II Samuel 8:2).  However, it seems as though friendly relations existed between Israel and Moab during the reign of King Solomon ( I Kings 11:1).  After the division of the Kingdom of Israel, Moab regained its independence.  Omri (882-871 B.C.) then conquered the country, requiring Moab to pay tribute to Israel.   But Moab once again became free in Ahab’s day (871-852 B.C.).  Later, during the reign of Jehoram, King of Israel (851-842 B.C.), Moab revolted (II Kings 3:27).  This is confirmed by the Stele of Mesha, King of Moab.  This stone (3 feet high by 2 feet wide) was erected in Mesha’s capital city of Dibbon.  The stele gives an account of his breaking of the Israelite yoke, his victories on the battlefield, the prisoners he took and the buildings he erected.  Omri, King of Israel, is mentioned by name as well as the “son of Omri” (Ahab).  The stele was written in the Moabite dialect.

Soon in the 8th century, Sargon II of Assyria tells in his war annals of the conquest of Moab, whose soldiers afterwards helped the Assyrians in their wars against the Arabs.  Later it formed part of the Babylonian and Persian Kingdoms. 

In about the 4th or 3rd century B.C. the Nabataeans penetrated both Moab and Edom, gaining control of the King’s Highway as well as the region.  These Nabataeans were newcomers to the region and not heard of before the late 4th century B.C.    By the first part of the 2nd century B.C, they established their kingdom.  The first evidence of the occupation of Petra by these Nabataeans can be traced to the end of the second century B.C.

After 106 A.D., the Nabataean Kingdom became part of the Provincia Arabia.  The country flourished in the later Romans and Byzantine periods.         

In the 4th century A.D., the Provincia Arabia was subdivided.  Bostra became the capital of Arabia, while Petra was the capital of Palestina Tertia, which stretched over the south of Palestine and Nabataea.

At the beginning of the 12th century A.D., the region was conquered by Baldwin I.  The following centuries up to the modern day saw the infiltration of the Islamic and Mamluk Empires.                       

 

B. BIBLICAL REFERENCES (for select regions & cities)

A.  EDOM (SEIR)

 1.  Genesis 32:3  Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

2.  Numbers 20:14f   Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the King of Edom.  The country of Edom responses by saying passage through this region is not allowed.  Israel turns away and goes around Edom (21:4)  See also Judges 11:17

3.  Numbers 34:3   Moses offers the borders of Israel to go as far as the “border of Edom” to the south.         

4.  Joshua 24:4  “...And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.  I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau...”

5.  I Samuel 14:47   Saul fights against his enemies:  Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the Kings of Zobah, and the   Philistines.                  

6.  I Kings 11:15  David fights with Edom, with Joab striking down the Edomites.

7.  II Chron. 20:2f  A vast army from Edom comes to fight against Jehoshaphat, King of Judah.  This army included people from Ammon, Moab, and Mt. Seir.

8.  Psalm 60:8  “Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandals...”

9.  Jeremiah 49  This chapter includes strong prophetic words against Edom, “Edom will become an object of horror...”

10.  Ezekiel 25:12f  God says he will “stretch out His hand of wrath and anger against Edom” for the things they did toIsrael.

11.  Joel 3:19   Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste...

12.  Amos 1:11f   “For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath...”

13.  Obadiah 1:1,8  The vision of this prophet focused upon Edom, “the mountains of Esau.”

 

B.   MOAB

 1.  Genesis 19:37  The older daughter of Lot had a son, and she named him Moab, and he is the father of the Moabites of today.

2.  Numbers 21:13f   The Israelites camp alongside the Arnon River, which is in the desert extending into Amorite territory.  The Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.

3.  Numbers 22:1f  The Israelites travel to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan.

4.  Numbers 22-24   The story of Balak, King of Moab, Balaam, the prophet/diviner, and the “talking donkey.”

5.  Deut. 34:1  Moses climbs Mt. Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Mt. Pisgah, across from Jericho.

6.  Judges 3:12f  As a result of Israel’s sin, God gives them over to Eglon, King of Moab, the very fat King who  required tribute from Israel.  Israel’s Judge, Ehud, kills him with a sword.

7.  Ruth 1:2f  Naomi and her husband Elimelech travel from Bethlehem to Moab to live during a famine.       Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite women, one of them being Ruth.

8.  II Kings 1:1  After Ahab’s death, Moab rebels against Israel.

9.  II Kings 23:13  “Chemosh,” the god of Moab, is identified.

10.  II Chron. 20:2f  The Moabites join other armies in their attack against Jehoshaphat, King of Judah.

11.  Isaiah 15:1,2  Isaiah offers an oracle against Moab and its temples in Dibon and Medeba.

12.  Jeremiah 40:11  Apparently Jews lived in Edom and Moab during the Babylonian attack against Judah in the 580’s B.C.

13.  Jeremiah 49  This chapter includes strong prophetic words against Moab, “Woe to Nebo...”

14.  Amos 2:1,2  “For three sins of Moab, even for four, I will not turn my wrath...”  

15.  Zeph. 2:8,9  "Surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah...”

 

C.  MT. NEBO

 1.  Deut. 32:49  “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mt. Nebo in Moab, across the Jericho and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession.”

2.  Deut. 34:1f  Moses climbs Mt. Nebo.

           

D.   MEDEBA, DIBON

 1.  Numbers 21:30  The Israelites engage the Moabites from Heshbon, to Dibon, to Medeba.    

           

E.  ARNON GORGE/RIVER

1.  Numbers 21:13   The Israelites camp alongside the Arnon, the border of Moab and the Amorites.

2.  Numbers 22:36  When Balak heard Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border.

3.  Deut. 3:12   The Israel Tribes of Reuben and Gad were given territory extending from Gilead down to the Arnon Gorge and out to the Jabbok River.

4.  Jeremiah 48:20  “Announce by the Arnon that Moab is destroyed.”

 

F.  ZERED RIVER

1.  Numbers 21:12  The Israelites moved and camped in the Zered Valley.

2.  Deut. 2:14   38 years passed by the time the Israelites left Egypt and crossed the Zered Valley.

 

G.  AMMON

 1.  Judges 11:28f   The King of Ammon is mentioned as someone who resisted Jephthah, the Judge of Israel.  Israel subdues these enemies.

2.  II Chron. 20:2f  People from Ammon, Edom, and Moab attack Jehoshaphat, King of Judah.

3.  Nehemiah 13:23   Israelites marry people from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.

4.  Amos 1:13   “For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.”

 

H.  HESHBON

1.  Numbers 21:28   “Fire went out from Heshbon, a blaze from the city of Sihon...” as a result of Israel’s attack upon them.

2.  Joshua 12:2  Sihon, the King of the Amorites who reigned in Heshbon, is defeated by Joshua’s military campaign.

3.  Judges 11:26   “For 300 years Israel occupied Heshbon.

4.  Isaiah 15:4   The voices and cries from Heshbon are heard all the way to Jahaz.

 

I.  MT. PISGAH/NEBO

 1.  Deut. 3:27  “Go to the top of Mt. Pisgah and look west and north and south and east.  Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross the Jordan.”                    

2.  Deut. 34:1f   Moses views the Promised Land from the top of Mt. Pisgah, and views the land from Gilead to Dan.

 

J.  SHITTIM

 1.  Numbers 25:1   “While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women.”

2.  Numbers 33:49   From the plains of Moab the Israelites camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.

3.  Joshua 2:1    From Shittim, Joshua sends 2 spies into Canaan to spy Jericho.  Later (3:1), they break camp from                                             Shittim and cross the Jordan River.

 

C. ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS OF INTEREST (Selected sites) 

A. PETRA

Undoubtedly, the Nabataean city of Petra is Jordan’s main attraction.  Located 160 miles south of Ammon, the victorian traveler and poet, Dean Burgon, gave Petra a description which holds to this day, “Match me such a marvel save in Eastern clime, a rose-red city half as old as time.”  The city itself is protected by the peculiar topographical formation of the valley of Petra and the surrounding high mountains that attracted the early Nabataeans.  The valley is about 1,000 yards long and 400 yards wide, and is divided by Wadi Musa into two unequal parts  Above the valley, sheer walls of rock rise to a height of about 1,000 feet.  Entrance into the city can be done only by preceding through the high cliffs of red rock.

The ruins of this spectacular red-rose city of Petra, the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom (below) were discovered and identified in 1812 by J. I. Burckhardt.  It is generally accepted by Biblical scholars that “Ha-Sela” (“The Rock”) , the Edomite town (II Kings 14:7) should be identified at one of the highest rock formations above Wadi Musa.  Petra is the greek form of this Semitic name.  The ancient Nabataean name of the town was Rekem (or Rekmu, as rendered in a Nabataean inscription).  Except for some ancient remains dating to the Early Bronze Period (and even earlier by speculation) and the Iron Age I, there is little at Petra that is earlier than the Hellenistic Period.

Many scholars believed that the Nabataean tribes, nomadic in nature, arrived in Arabia late in the 6th century B.C., when the Edomites went to settle in the south of Judaea after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  However, the earliest mention of the Nabataeans is recorded to a date going back to 312 B.C., when Antigonus, one of the heirs of Alexander the Great, fought them.   Of this early period hardly any building remains survive.

The first Nabataean ruler to be known with certainty, a man named Aretas, is mentioned in conjunction with Jason’s flight from Jerusalem to Petra in 169 B.C.  However, there is no indication of an established Nabataean Dynasty there until the end of that century.  From then on, Nabataean kings ruled there until its incorporation into the Provincia Arabia in 106 A.D.

The great expansion of Nabataean commerce occurred in the reigns of King Oboda III (30-9 B.C.) and King Aretas IV (9 B.C. - 40 A.D.).  Of the history of the city during the reigns of the last two Nabataean kings, Malichus II (40-70 A.D.) and Rabel II (70-106 A.D.), less is known.   It is speculated that between 40,000 - 50,000 people once inhabited Petra at this time.  However, it is quite certain that the city suffered a decline at that time.

For the whole of the 2nd century A.D. and the greater part of the 3rd century A.D., prosperity returned to Petra.  In 131 A.D., Hadrian, the Roman ruler, visited Petra and on that occasion the city was raised to the rank of a metropolis.  Coins were struck to commemorate the event.

Later in the Roman Period, Petra diminished in importance, due to the changing of the trading routes that now flowed along the other routes to Egypt.  By the 5th century A.D. Christianity penetrated Petra, but by then the city was unimportant.  The history of Petra in the years of the Arab Conquest is not known. 

At the beginning of the 12th century A.D., it was conquered by Baldwin I (1260’s A.D.)

As it concerns the archaeological finds at this city, much of the finds can be attributed to the work done in the 1900’s.   The archaeological finds dating to each archaeological period are as follows:

1. HELLENISTIC PERIOD:   Pottery and coins can be dated to this Period (as well as other Nabataean sites such as Oboda, Nessana, and Elusa).  Primitive construction built from field stones and mud mortar were found.  The rarity of houses may suggest the semi-nomadic nature of these early people.

2. NABATAEAN/EARLY ROMAN PERIOD: (1st Cen. B.C. - 3rd Cen. A.D.)   Few dwelling places have been discovered.  Retaining walls were also found, with some of the walls being plastered and painted.

A colonnaded Roman Road was unearthed.  It was about 20 feet wide.  New public buildings were built (perhaps to impress Hadrian as he visited).  A triple monumental gate was found as well.  In addition, to the west of the gate stands one of the most beautiful and best preserved free standing monuments, the Qsar Bint Farun, or “The Palace of the Daughter of Pharaoh.”  Some believed this was used as a temple.  A road 200 yards long leads to a large enclosure in the middle of which stands a huge building, rising to a height of more than 60 feet.  This temple is supposedly the place where overburdened Pharaoh, pursuing the Israelites, deposited his daughter.  However, actually the ruins are a temple dedicated to the Nabataean god Dhu-Shara, Lord of the Shara Mountain.  It was damaged by the earthquake in 303 A.D.

A monastery was found, called Ed-Deir and is the largest monument at Petra.  Carved in deep relief from the shoulder of a sandstone mountain, the tomb’s facade is 140 feet high and 107 feet wide.  Through the huge 30 foot high doorway, light enters and illuminates one large plain room inside.  The second story, decorated with six columns and two pillars, bears a pediment separated in the center by a domed structure called a tholos.

Also, a theater with seats cut into a steep mountainside and arranged in three tiers was found.  It seated approximately 3,000-8,000 people.  This theater probably dates to Nabataean King Aretas IV (9 B.C. - 40 A.D.) and may have been used for his funeral if the nearby Treasury of the Pharaoh really is his tomb.

Most significantly, the Necropolis, a burial chamber/monument consisting of shaft graves, sunk into flat rock, and tombs hewn into the sheer walls of the wadi.   The most famous of the Roman temple type tombs is the El Hazneh, or The Treasury of the Pharaoh.   According to Arab legend, the Pharaoh deposited his gold in this building cut into the rock.  One sees this the moment one enters the city through the wadi.  (This red sandstone structure was used in one of the Indiana Jones movies).  It stands nearly 140 feet high and 90 feet wide. Most say that this served as the tomb for Aretas IV.

In all, there are about 750 monuments of all types at Petra, including the Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, and the Palace Tomb.   

 

B. MEDEBA

This city was an important town in the Byzantine Period.  In 451 A.D. its Bishop participated in the Council of Chalcedon.  In 1896 a mosaic floor was discovered dating to the 6th century A.D.(560 A.D.) Known now as the Medeba Map, this depicts a map of Biblical lands and is an extremely useful source of information about the topography of the Holy Land.  This mosaic can be seen at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.

 

C. MT. NEBO

This is the mountain of the Abarim in Moab, where the Israelites camped (Numbers 33:47) and from which Moses beheld the Promise Land.  During the Roman and Byzantine Periods, the town of Nebo was inhabited.  Today, the site is identified with Khirbet (The Ruin of) Ayn Musa or Khirbet El-Mukhayet.  Pottery from the Iron Age I Period was found at the latter.  To the Byzantine Period belongs a church (dating to both the 4th and 6th century A.D.) with beautiful mosaics in which famous churches in Israel are depicted.

 

 D. MACHAERUS

About 25 miles south of Medeba is Mukawir, or ancient Machaerus.  This was a fortress built by King Herod the Great, which after his death passed to Herod Antipas.  Here is where Herod imprisoned John the Baptist, and where Salome danced for Herod.  To honor her wishes, Herod be-headed John the Baptist here.  

 

E. PELLA

A short distance north of Ammon is Pella.  It is among the largest and most important archaeological sites in the region.  Most of the visible structures date from the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic Periods (2nd - 14th Cen. A.D.).  Many free-standing Roman pillars from Temples have been unearthed and can be seen today.

 

F. JERASH

Located only an hour north of Ammon is the Graeco-Roman city of Jerash (Geresa).  A triple arched gateway built to honor the Emperor Hadrian’s arrival at Jerash in 129 A.D.  Jerash is considered as the best preserved and most completed city of the Decapolis as mentioned in the Gospels.  As typical to most Roman sites, one can see at this impressive site various temples, theaters, plazas, Romans baths, and  colonnaded streets.                     

 

G. GADARA

This city is located among the Decapolis as mentioned in the Gospels.  The city is situated near the Sea of Galilee on its eastern side and is situated along the Yarmouk River Gorge.  Many fine Roman buildings can be seen.

 

 

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