“On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land…”‘
– Genesis 15:18
These posts are not an attempt to convert anyone. It is my efforts to understand my relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope that you find them entertaining, engaging and informative.
I have been trying to learn about the Bible. I have read a lot of books in my life, but I have never read the Bible until a month ago.
What is the Holy Land?
The Holy Land is at the far eastern end of the blue Mediterranean. It’s the cradle of civilization and where the Christian faith was founded. The Holy Land has been called the Fifth Gospel because like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John it’s where Christians believe events occurred that changed world history.
From Abraham to the Apostles and beyond the Holy Land has had a significant impact on history. The people of the Holy Land have been some of the most studied, pondered and argued over in all of history.
The world’s three main religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all consider the Holy Land, and especially the city of Jerusalem, to be the holiest place on earth. The Holy Land is where the Bible comes dramatically alive.
Who are the Patriarchs?
First, we have to start at the beginning. We have to go back to the Middle Bronze Age to the Era of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs were Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob.
We will start with “Father Abraham,” as he is referred to by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. When we first met this semi-nomadic shepherd named Abram, later named Abraham, is in Genesis Chapter 11.
Up to this point, the Biblical narrative has been downcast and uncertainty. The tragic events of the Garden of Eden have resulted in a broken relationship between God and humankind. After the chaos of the Tower of Babel, we are introduced to Abram, the man who God has chosen to unite and bless humanity.
God tells Abram, “and through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me,” (Genesis 22:18). Abraham believed God’s promises and a covenant was established between them concerning Abraham’s offspring and the land they would inherit.
The beginning of God’s people was established, at least in theory. First Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was barren and aging, would need a son. At God’s request, Abraham lived for a while in various locations: Shechem, Bethel, Hebron and the Negev Desert to name a few.
God did give Abraham a son, several in fact. The first was his son Ishmael. Ishmael was conceived with Hagar, Sarah’s servant, and handmaiden. Later both Ishmael and Hagar were cast out by Abraham by God’s command. Ishmael would go on to become the father of Arab nations.
Abraham’s heir was Isaac. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age by supernatural intervention by God. Abraham confirmed his devotion to God by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac.
On Mount Moriah, God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, provided a substitute. A ram was sacrificed instead to God. The second Patriarch Isaac would go on to become the son that God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation, would come into existence through.
The third Patriarch was Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob’s name would literally change to “Israel.” Jacob was a truly fascinating Biblical figure. He was a man worthy of a Greek play. Jacob was a man of great strengths and weaknesses. He was a man of great faith but also, at times, of great fear.
Jacob famously wrestles with God. He has a dream of a ladder where angels descend and ascend heaven. God’s promise of making Abraham’s descendants a great nation would be further fulfilled when Jacob had twelve sons. One of his son, Joseph, would rise to great power in Egypt. Eventually, the families of Jacob’s sons would become the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Hebrews would end up in Egypt because of famine. Over the next 400 years, the Hebrew nation would grow larger and larger while living in Egypt. They eventually became slaves to the rulers of Egypt. They would need God to deliver them out of bondage.
What is Biblical Archeology?
One of the stunning things about Biblical archeology is the scientific discipline didn’t exist until about a 150 years ago. In fact, archeology was even a soft science before the 19th century. Archeology started as treasure hunting for wealthy, self-seeking opportunists.
Due to these half-hearted efforts by these opportunists, many excavations were botched. Many discoveries were lost. When you remove a historical object from its context and surroundings, you lose that information forever.
Something recovered from in a modern, controlled dig has much higher value than something sold by a treasure hunter. Indiana Jones adventures are not what modern archeology is about. Rising academic interests, the invention of new technological tools and systematic approach has changed archeology in the last century. We have learned a lot about the ancient world. Now that the Israelites are back in the Holy Land after 1900 years, many new sites and discoveries have enhanced knowledge of the Bible. Especially from Tels.
What is a “Tel”?
A Tel, also spelled tell, is a mound. In Arabic “tel” means tall. Inside a raised mound are the ancient remains of a city. Ancient cities often experienced natural or cultural disasters. Some of these misfortunes were fires, earthquakes, and assaults from enemy armies.
If an ancient city was destroyed, there was no way to remove all the demolished rubble. So people just built right on top of the ruins. Therefore over the centuries debris and layer would form. For example, the Biblical city of Tel Megiddo, the prophesied site of the Battle of Armageddon, has 26 layers of ruins.
Tels present an exciting challenge for archeologists who literally get to dig through layers of history. They go back in time the deeper they go. The biggest tel in Israel is Tel Hazor. Tel Hazor is barely excavated after three decades. There are ancient layers of history waiting to be discovered.
Tel Beersheba is just a few miles north of the Negev Desert. Tel Beersheba is the ancient southern boundary of the Hebrew people. The phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba” is a Biblical phrase used nine times in the Hebrew Bible to refer to the settled areas of the Tribes of Israel between Dan in the North and Beersheba in the South. This was the boundaries of the Biblical promise land.
Beersheba is a backdrop for many Old Testaments events. Beersheba was occupied as early as 4,000 B.C. The early settlement of Tel Beersheba dates back to 12th Century B.C. during the Judges period in the Bible.
The central theme of Judges is the settlement in the land of Canaan, a period before the monarchy. Beersheba is where two of Samuel’s son judged from. During the reign of King Ahab, the prophet Elijah fled to Beersheba to escape Ahab and Jezebel.
The fortifications of Beersheba date to the 10th century B.C. They are likely the result of Solomon’s building projects. Beersheba has a casemate wall, like those found in other cities which Solomon is known to have built. The city has a chambered gate similar to that in Megiddo.
When we first encounter Beersheba in the Bible, it is the place that Hagar, where Sarah’s servant was sent after she gave birth to Ismael. Despite being banished to Beersheba, God never abandons Hagar. God spoke to and helped Hagar. Her son became quite successful and eventually was the father of the Arab nations.
Beersheba is first mentioned in Genesis 21. Here Beersheba is given its name, meaning “Well of the Oaths.” It’s also called the “Well of the Seven.” It stands for the seven lambs sacrificed for the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech. Abraham is given water rights in Beersheba. Water is a super big deal in this extremely arid part of Israel. A covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with humanity. In ancient Biblical times lambs were sacrificed or cut, and the parties walked between the dead lambs. This was a promise if the covenant was broken, they will be killed and cut apart like the sacrificed lamb.
A covenant more or less defines what it means to be in a relationship with God. Without a covenant no relationship is possible. The covenant that God makes with Abraham is a solemn agreement that God initiates that contains specific promises and demands.
God makes a covenant with Abraham. God appears to Abraham in Genesis 15 as a smoking flame. God (as the flame) passes through the dead animals alone to seal the covenant. Typically both parties pass between the animals. This time only God does. This covenant would not fail because it depended on God alone. The covenant would never be broken.
Covenants are found throughout the Old Testament. God makes one with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. Then eventually the Prophet Jeremiah pointed towards a new covenant in the future.
Christians believe that the blood of Jesus, in His own words, “the blood of the new covenant.” That Jesus, with His death and resurrection, makes a better and more lasting covenant than all the other covenants made with Abraham and Moses. The new covenant is available to all people, both Jews, and Gentiles.
Grace is favor, or “unmerited favor.” Grace gives salvation. Grace is, God’s unmerited favor sealed through the covenant by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Grace is God’s goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect, divine favor. The principal manifestation of God’s grace is in the form of a gift in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.
Thank you for reading my post, God bless you.