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All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, Twas God that made them all.  (From a song by Cecil Frances Alexander)

Here is an interesting article for flower lovers. For those who will notice, this article is not written in my usual tone. That is because it is a republication of a story written long ago specifically for Yahoo Voices, of which complete rights were returned to me when that platform was taken down.

Beautiful Bi-colored Dahlia.
note the stakes

Dahlias are stunning, and they almost seem to know it. Tall and imposing, clad in bright colors, they dominate the landscape wherever you put them. In the categories of big, bold, bright, and beautiful they are rarely outdone. If your desire is for a steady supply of cut flowers, or if you need a tall specimen against a fence or wall, or if you just want a nice splash of color in your garden, let me tell you about dahlias.

I grew up with dahlias. My grandmother always planted a long row of them along the fence enclosing her vegetable garden. She traded dahlia bulbs (tubers) with her aunts, cousins, and neighbors. I think everyone in my world at that time grew dahlias. We were so enamored of dahlias that we photographed them, and framed the best shots to hang on the wall. I still love dahlias.

There are 30-some species of dahlias, and innumerable variations. They range in size from the tree dahlia, which can reach a height of 20 feet, to the dwarfs, small enough to grow in a terra cotta pot.  Dahlia colors can be quite striking. They go from white, through yellow, orange, and pink, to very dark red. Many dahlias are a mix of colors.  There are no blue dahlias, but some beautiful pinky lavender shades are available. There’s even a choice of petal types, Some are spoon shaped; others are pointed. The cactus dahlia is very attractive with its spiky looking petals.

Pompon Dahlia
Dwergenpaartje Wikimedia Commons

For plants with real pizazz, I recommend those that grow three to four feet tall and a little higher. At the upper end of this size range are the dinnerplate dahlias, between five and eight feet in height, with blossoms up to 12 inches in diameter. The smallest I can honestly recommend are the pompons. They stand at about three feet; their blooms are two to three inches across. Whether short or tall, dahlias come in a plethora of sizes and colors.

Dahlias of this mid-size range are somewhat labor intensive, but well worth the effort required to grow them. You do have to stake them, and in winter you must dig up the tubers and save them. Besides that, their main requirements are water and sunshine. They start blooming in early summer and keep on producing large colorful blossoms until frost. They will keep you in gorgeous cut flowers for weeks on end, for free.

If you’re going to grow them, set the tubers after the last killing frost is expected. They will sprout quickly. Dig a shallow hole with a hoe or shovel, break up the clods of dirt, and put a tuber in with its eye up. The plant will sprout from the eye. You will see the eyes; they are the same as potato eyes. Cover the tuber with the crumbled dirt from the hole. That’s all you need to do at first. When they are about two feet high you will need to stake them. You can use tomato stakes for the pompons, but you will need something more substantial if you are growing dinnerplate dahlias. Old broom handles are great, and so are small saplings cut from the woods, trimmed, and sharpened on one end. Drive them into the ground with a heavy hammer. They need to go in far enough not to be wobbly. Use strips of old cloth or hemp twine to tie the plant loosely to the stake. As they grow they will need to be tied again.

When the flowers begin to bloom you can start using them for arrangements. Do not try to pick a dahlia. They are succulents; the stem will simply crush in your fingers and the flower will flop over and hang there. Cut them with scissors or hand pruners. Dahlias are really spectacular in bouquets and arrangements, but they are not particularly long lasting. If you are using them for a special occasion it is best to cut them the same day, certainly no earlier than the day before. Another thing you will need to do is change the water daily. This is important. Not only will your flowers last longer, but they will smell better. Dahlias do not have a noticeable fragrance but the stems develop an unpleasant odor very quickly in water. You can mitigate this problem by changing the water every day.

If you have more than enough dahlias you can sell your excess. My cousin sold dahlias. She grew them in rows, just like a vegetable garden. She had about twelve 20-foot rows. She said that once the word got out, she had all the customers she wanted. People bought them for weddings, funerals, parties, and just because they were beautiful. If you have only a few bunches of dahlias to sell you can take them to a local tailgate market where farmers sell their own produce. It is very common to find flowers, bulbs, and other non-food items for sale at these markets.

When the petals drop from your unused dahlias, snip off the spent blooms and let them fall to the ground. This is called deadheading. Not only does deadheading improve the looks of your garden, it encourages your plants to produce more blossoms. Keep the weeds from around your dahlias, and you will have a steady supply of attractive blooms until cold weather. A little fertilizer will not hurt them, but you won’t need much.

Newly Harvested Dahlia Tubers
attached to the old stem
F.D. Richards/Wikimedia Commons

After the plants have died in the fall, and before the ground freezes, you should dig your tubers. When you do you will be happy to see they have multiplied. There will be one or more new tubers attached to the old. At this point you will need to tag them unless you are growing all the same kind. If you don’t, come next spring, you will not be able to tell them apart, and you will not know what to plant where. You can make tags of string and cardboard. Use a permanent marker so your writing will not fade. Or, you can buy metal tags from your garden supplier. Do not separate the new tubers from the old stem at this time. Come spring, when the eyes have swollen, you can separate them, discarding any tubers that do not have an eye. Save your dahlia tubers as you would potatoes, covered, in a cool, dry place where they won’t freeze.

That’s it! Next spring, plant more dahlias, or share your extra tubers. Repeat.

. . . . .

As I was creating this post I found myself asking: “Why are you talking about flowers, when all around is so much distress, unease and uncertainty?” The answer was quick: “Because, we walk by faith.” We don’t know what’s coming tomorrow, but we look for tomorrow to come. We need to be prepared — food for the body, and flowers for the soul. We do what we can; the rest is in the Lord’s hand.

 

It is the glory of the Lord to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Proverbs 25:2)

When I started my series of articles about the Hebrew people five years ago I thought it might take two articles to say the things I wanted to. My goodness! What a miscalculation. There have been seven and we are not finished yet.

I have attempted to give you a peek at the Old Testament history of the Jews. I have no qualifications to speak of, that you should listen to me. I just have a desire to communicate the biblical story of these people, for it is the greatest story ever told.

Cuyp, Aelbert
Christ Riding into Jerusalem

Jesus was a Jew. His mother was a descendant of Abraham and his father the Creator of the universe. He was no ordinary man, but he was a man. He walked the streets of Jerusalem and the dirt roads of the countryside. He was a friend of sinners and political dissidents. He hung around with smelly fishermen as well as educated doctors, and could dumbfound the priests, the scholars and learned elders. And in the end he became the lamb that took our place; he gave his blood for us; he took our punishment. Only he could do that, for he was sinless; we are not.

And it does matter. Heaven and hell are both real places. We need his provision of forgiveness for without it we are doomed. We can never be good enough, but he was and is good enough for all of us. His love for us is real, and our response to that must be real also. It involves a true turning from what we used to be, a quality decision, made from the heart. It can’t be, Oh yes, I want that, and then tomorrow you have forgotten what you said yes to.  Jesus said it himself, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father. (Matthew 7:21)

We do our Lord’s will by learning who he is and what he desires and making that our goal. Sometimes we will miss the mark, but he will lovingly correct us, and we can go from there — make the corrections, go back to square one if we have to. He will not condemn us for there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. (Romans 8:1) But he offers us peace. Come unto me, he says to those who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest . . . learn of me . . . for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your soul. (Matthew 11:28-29) Oh! The peace that Jesus gives.

. . . . . .

From time to time during the three years of his public ministry Jesus had occasion to be in the city of Jerusalem. Perhaps you know some of the stories — how he was so furious they were selling animals and exchanging monies in the temple that he took a whip and drove the merchants from the temple courtyard. He was no wimp, even if he was a gentle man! I would not want to incur his wrath. Maybe you know that he was a miracle worker: he healed sick people, blind people, even raised the dead. One time he rode into town on a donkey as people spread their cloaks and palm branches in the road before him, rejoicing and saying, Blessed is the king of Israel! (John 12:13) But he said My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) Nevertheless, he remains King of Kings in this world and the next.

James Tissot
Disciples Admire Buildings of the Temple

Once when they were in Jerusalem his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:1-2) The disciples were impressed with the magnificence of the temple and attendant structures. These were remarkable, for Herod had spared no expense in building this new temple, using costly materials and employing the finest artisans. But here is Jesus saying that not one stone will be left in its place, not one. This is an important statement and we find the same words repeated in the gospels of Mark and Luke — not one stone left upon another.

And in addition,  there is a very ominous warning in Luke: And when he (Jesus) was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)

The Romans attacked Jerusalem in 70 AD, and very soon all of Jewish Jerusalem was in ruins, including the whole of the splendid temple that Herod had built. Scavengers dug to the bedrock in various places, seeking melted gold and valuables. The toppled stones were eventually recycled into other building projects until what had been the city of Jerusalem was unrecognizable. So complete was the destruction that in time the hill where the temple and attendant buildings had stood was plowed for crops. The only remaining structure was the Roman fortress Antonia, on the hill overlooking the desolation. And that was pretty much the end of Jerusalem, for centuries.

And then, two thousand years later — Amazement! Israel officially became a nation, recognized throughout the world, in 1948. The rest is history — recent history. But by that time, for the most part, we (Christians and Jews) had lost the centerpiece of our heritage, the place where God put his name, the holy hill of Zion and the temple of his presence. Oh, there is a presence for sure, erected by the Muslims in 691 AD within the perimeter of the old fortress. But God’s house and David’s citadel seem to be misplaced. We don’t know where they are.

Stepped Stone Structure
Omerm/Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists are digging and looking, and a lot has been found, and artifacts dated. It is wonderful to see the ancient stones exposed, and to know the era to which they pertain, even if we don’t know for certain what some of them mean structurally. But, in our desire to assemble the puzzle as quickly as possible, we have forced some pieces into places where they do not belong. Then, we have empty spaces that will never be filled until we dislodge those ill fitting places and move them to their proper locations.

It is an easy thing to move a name. Read my article Whatever Happened to Whetstone Gap?  A land developer liked the name apparently, and so he moved it eight miles to the west and named the road into his housing project Whetstone Gap Road. Within fifteen to twenty years everyone knew Whetstone Gap Road and where it went — to the cul-de-sac at the border of that subdivision, never mind there wasn’t a hint of a gap there. The little whetstones for which Whetstone Gap was originally named are to this day where they always were, strewn across the slopes of the Whetstone Ridge.

I don’t know where Ornan’s threshing floor was, but I promise you the coordinates of that landmark have not moved! Was there really a threshing floor up there on that rugged wild mountain, or was it within the perimeter of the walled city of Salem, protected and secure?

The Spring

Now, we have the eye witness account of Aristeas https://www.ellopos.com/blog/4508/letter-of-aristeas-full-text-in-greek-and-english/34/and also the account of Tacitus (The History of Cornelius Tacitus, V,11) that there was water springing up within the confines of the Jewish temple.

Old Water Tower
Frostproof, FL

These accounts are summarily dismissed as false or impossible. After all, the springs we are accustomed to flow from the surface of the ground downhill to lower elevations. Very well, but now think of the thousands of small towns that are served by water tanks or towers standing high above the level of the structures. The water flows down out of the tank into pipes below ground level, and then up from the ground into spigots in the various buildings. How does it do that?

If you think about that for a little while you might get some idea of how Solomon’s temple could have been supplied with fresh water.

In my article about the Gihon Spring I mentioned a small (less than ten feet across) spring in South Carolina that reportedly gushed periodically as much as six feet in the air. That little spring in South Carolina worked on the same principle as the Gihon, and like the Gihon, it has ceased its spouting. But, here is a fascinating article about another of these springs — The Bubble, a man made lake in the community of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.  https://www.fandm.edu/news/latest-news/2017/07/06/f-m-researchers-find-ground-water-runs-deeper-than-hydrologists-thought 

This lake is fed by a group of about 30 springs arising from a whopping 1800 feet below the surface. Furthermore a recent study has determined the main source of the springs’ water (the catchment area) is some 50 miles away, on the other side of the mountain. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2017GL073790

Based on this study, water is gushing into The Bubble at the rate of 16 million gallons a day. (Figure appears to be correct. I double checked.) A 13 minute  video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_r9y_abG2w shows two of the bubbling inflow sites; one is bubbling rapidly. Note in the following article that water under pressure is forced to the surface, creating the bubbles.  https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC680XC_the-bubble?guid=0c346836-34df-40db-9489-3bf8da62a433

The water level of The Bubble sometimes rises rapidly, but this is due to rainfall at the main catchment site miles away. None of these articles mention a siphon effect such as was associated with the Gihon.

Both the Gihon and The Bubble are karst springs, which means the subsurface rock is pretty much limestone, a soft rock that forms caves, pipes and cisterns due to percolating water over the millennia. Great quantities of water can be stored in these underground compartments. Karst waterways can be quite complex; and, they can be connected over long distances. In the case of the Gihon, an additional feature was present — a natural siphon, perhaps at a great distance away, which drained a large subterranean cavern, which, when refilled to a certain level, would activate the siphon and drain again, resulting in periodic gushing.

Hezekiah’s tunnel

Presently the Gihon is no longer pulsing. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s10040-010-0600-6

However the yield is quite significant, witness the photos of Hezekiah’s tunnel. Now let us go back to the old days, when the Gihon was a gushing spring, that is during the time of the kings of Judah/Israel. I find it interesting that King Hezekiah and the people stopped up “springs” and then they stopped up the brook (Kidron). (Second Chronicles 32:4) There must have been a lot of water originating at the Gihon spring. At eight pounds a gallon, even a little water can exert a lot of pressure. Now, think about The Bubble — the lake in Pennsylvania. Hydrologists have determined that water bubbles up from 1800 feet under the ground! Even if the pulsing of the Gihon had not been sufficient to raise its waters to the surface of the Jebusite ridge, some simple engineering could  have, and if necessary did remedy that problem. I am not alone in this belief.

The Gihon spring is the key to the temple location. Think about how many thousands, tens of thousands, of animals, even big animals such as oxen, were sacrificed on feast days, when the twelve tribes gathered in Jerusalem. In the early days there were no aqueducts to Jerusalem. They had to get rid of that blood and gore somehow. Pity the hundreds of poor donkeys that (theoretically) would have had to trudge for days on end up and down hill from the Gihon all the way to the Dome of the Rock! There was a better way!

The Akra

Now, what did David obtain when he and his troops invaded and took the Jebusite stronghold of Salem? For one thing, a fortress or fortification inside the walls of the city. Josephus In the Whiston translation tells us David took the lower city but the citadel “held out still”, whereupon King David issued a challenge to his men: the first to go up by way of the “tsinor” and smite the Jebusites would be captain, and here it was that Joab won that position for himself.  After David and his men conquered the Jebusites David took up residence in Salem (Jerusalem). He erected buildings from the Millo (a filled area) and inward “round about the lower city ; he also joined (See Psalm 122) the citadel to it,” and named Jerusalem The City of David . (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 3, Sections 1 and 2) (See also Second Samuel Chapter 5) Here we have an excellent clue as to where the citadel was, and its relation to the rest of Jerusalem. The lower city mentioned here is that part of ancient Jerusalem (Salem) that was lower in elevation than the citadel — which would have been all of it. Remember, these were the first days, the beginning of David’s Jerusalem. If we look at ancient Jerusalem today — the 12 acre crescent shaped southeast ridge — there is no evidence whatever of an elevation significantly higher than the rest of the ridge. However, we know the citadel was higher than its surroundings. Josephus plainly states this later in The Antiquities. Scriptures in First Maccabees also support this conclusion. So? Shortly we are going to find that the high hill that supported the citadel/Akra in the ancient city was leveled to the bedrock under the Hasmonean king/priest Simon. Small wonder we can not find the Akra today!

A Section of Hezekiah’s Wall

We hear about the citadel again in 444 BC when, in preparation for his work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah asks the Persian King Artaxerses for timber to make gates for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall. (Nehemiah 2:8) This was during the time the Jewish exiles who had been 70 years in Babylon were returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding their city. Here the writer of the narrative indicated the citadel was by (beside) the temple. The fortress (citadel) is mentioned again after the rebuilding of the wall. Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, and Hanani are given charge of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 7:2) Before the Babylonian captivity King Hezekiah had rebuilt and strengthened the Jebusite mid-slope walls. They were very strong, being several feet thick. Nevertheless the Babylonians had toppled some of them in their invasion. These were the walls that Nehemiah repaired. Sections of these massive walls are extant today.

The Bible says it took the people 52 days to repair the wall. (Nehemiah 6:15) During the whole of that time the inhabitants of the land who had taken up residence there while the Jews were in Babylon hindered the work at every opportunity and made plans to attack the workers on the wall. When Nehemiah heard of this he divided the workers. Half continued the work an the other half stood guard with shields, spears and bows. (Nehemiah 4:16)

When the repairs were done Nehemiah gathered the princes of Judah, the priests and Levites, elders and officials — two great companies of them that gave thanks. (Nehemiah 12:31) These divided and held a dedication processional, beginning at a point on the west side of the city, and walking upon the wall, one group walking toward the north and the other group to the south, going around the city with rejoicing and blowing of trumpets and much jubilation, meeting on the east side of the city at the double gates before the temple (the Prison Gate and the Water Gate, above the Gihon spring) and then proceeding in two rows into the house of God. The Bible says the joy of this celebration was heard afar off. (See Nehemiah 12:31-43)

Tomb of Mattathias ben johanan
Father and First Leader of Maccabean Revolt
Ariel/Wikipedia

We find more about the Akra in the books of First and Second Maccabees. These books (and others) were taken from most Bibles in the 1800’s. However they are still available from booksellers in the collection known as the Apocrypha. The Maccabean Revolt took place in the interim between the recordings of the Old Testament and the Gospels in the New Testament. The story of the Maccabees and their leadership in the struggle for Jewish independence during that time is inspiring. The word Maccabee is from the Hebrew word for hammer. It was not a surname, at least to start with.  When Antiochus and the Seleucids began to oppress the Jews, forbidding reading of the Torah, observance of the sabbath, circumcision of boys —  in effect requiring them to turn from the worship of the one true God to the worship of idols, the resistance was led by Mattithias, a priest from a settlement near Jerusalem, and his five sons, of which the high priest Simon was the last survivor. The Maccabees are better known as the Hasmoneans. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/history-and-overview-of-the-maccabees

In Nehemiah’s time the Jews had been subject to the Persians, But by the time of the Maccabees (around 170 BC) the Persians had yielded to the authority of the Greeks. Consequently the area of Judea and Samaria came to be ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s successors, namely Antiochus of the Seleucid/Greek empire. The Greeks cared naught for the God of Israel. They were pagans, worshippers of Zeus and other false gods. In time these wicked rulers abolished the Aaronic priesthood and the position of high priest was sold to the highest bidder. Finally a dispute between Antiochus and one of his appointees spiraled into an all out war with much bloodshed and sweeping political changes. One result of these changes was that temple worship became a mix of Judaism and the worship of Hellenistic gods. This was totally unacceptable to devout Jews. Then, to cap it all, in 167BC Antiochus greatly antagonized the Jews by sacrificing a pig in the temple.

After their invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. Antiochus and his forces (and their sympathizers) built a new stronghold next to the temple. Then builded they the city of David with a great and strong wall and with mighty towers and made it a strong hold for them . . . For it was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary . . . Thus they shed blood on every side of the sanctuary, and defiled it. (First Maccabees 1:33-37) Josephus said of the Akra in this situation, “for the place was high, and overlooked the temple.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Chapter 5, Section 4, paragraph 252) 

While they held the Akra the Hellenists harassed and even killed Jews who attempted temple worship. The Maccabees, with God’s help, were eventually successful in leading the devout Jews to victory in their revolt against the Syrians (Seleucids), Greeks and Eqyptians and the many powers that had sought to enslave them and take away their heritage, though it was a long and hard fought battle that cost thousands and thousands of lives. In the end, around 142BC, Simon, the last of the Maccabee sons, high priest and ruler of Judea, successfully attacked and took the Akra from the Seleucid forces.

Josephus gives a pretty good location for the Akra. He describes the hills of the city of Jerusalem. Then he says, “But the other hill, which was called ‘Acra’ and sustains the lower city, is of the shape of the moon when she is horned.” This is the southeastern ridge, the original Jebusite city, which is in roughly the shape of a crescent. Here Josephus is calling the entire southeastern ridge the ‘Acra’. He goes on to say “However in those times when the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) reigned, they filled up that valley (Cheezemongers or Tyropean) with earth . . . Then they took off part of the height of Acra, and reduced it to be of less elevation than before, that the temple might be superior to it. (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 4, Section 1, paragraph 137)

Reinforcing this statement we go to Josephus again for more detail: “Simon, (high priest of Jerusalem, of the Hasmonean family above) took the citadel of Jerusalem by seige (which was then occupied by the Hellenistic Syrians/Greeks and apostate Jews) and cast it down to the ground, that it might not be any more a place of refuge to their enemies . . . And when he had done this he thought it . . . for their advantage to level the very mountain itself upon which the citadel happened to stand that so the temple might be higher than it. And indeed when he had called the multitude to an assembly he persuaded them to have it so demolished, . . . so they all set themselves to the work and leveled the mountain, and in that work spent both day and night without intermission, which cost them three whole years before it was removed, and brought to an entire level with the plain of the rest of the city. After which the temple was the highest of the buildings.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, Chapter 6, Section 7, Paragraphs 215-217)

Dr. Ernest Martin, author of The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot believed the Akra was built on a tel or layered hill, south of that other rise known as the Ophel summit, where the temple was. If you read my article about Joshua you remember the city of Jericho had been occupied by many preceding civilizations, building one upon another, and had grown to a great height. Obviously the mound supporting the Akra was somewhat higher than the Ophel because the citadel overlooked the temple. This excess of elevation could well be the reason the citadel “held out still”  (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 3, Secion 1, Paragraph 63) when David attacked it. If Dr. Martin’s supposition is correct and the high southernmost hill that Simon dug down and carried away was in fact a tel, (and it might have been; after all it took three years to reach bedrock) it would be very interesting to find what is in the filled ravine of the Cheesemongers and at the bottom of the corresponding section of the Kidron Valley. Three years of digging day and night must have misplaced, or sadly, destroyed very many artifacts.

The Temple

Unknown Artist’s Rendering of the Temple
Public Domain

The southeast hill of Jerusalem was long and narrow, though today the northern section of that hill is substantially wider, due to having been filled in and added to a number of times over the years. When Solomon built the first temple, “the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar . . . but when King Solomon had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on a bank cast up for it . . . in future ages the people added new banks, and the hill became a larger plain.” (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5, Section 1, Paragraph 184-185) Earlier we read that David joined the citadel to the structures he built in the “lower city”. And now we see the “plain” upon which the temple was built was very skimpy, so much that a bank had to be cast up for a cloister. If we at first discount the words of Josephus, maybe we can give him credit if we look at Psalm122, a psalm Jewish pilgrims sang on their way to worship at the temple. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up . . . to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. (verses 3-4) Most sources indicate the temple itself was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. “It was covered all over (with) plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fine splendor . . . But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.” (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5, Section 6, Paragraph 222-223) Seven years in the building, it was as beautiful and impressive as it was within Solomon’s means to make it.

Painting of Solomon Dedicating the Temple
James Tissot/public domain

When Solomon dedicated the temple many thousands of Jews were present as the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice and a dense cloud of glory filled the temple (First Kings 8:10) insomuch as the priests were unable to carry on their functions and the people fell on heir faces in worship. And when Solomon had made an end of praying the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. (Second Chronicles 7:1-2) Our God is a supernatural God!

But in time, people turned away from the temple. Sometimes the ruling class, the kings and their officers and associates were the worst offenders. Even Solomon, when he was old, was lured away from the Lord by his many pagan wives, whom he sought to please. Intrigue developed; the northern tribes split off from Judah and Benjamin, and began to worship golden calves. The rulers of the northern kingdom were basically apostates. Nor were the kings of Judah much better. However there were some Judean kings who sought the Lord’s direction and obeyed the commandments. One of these was Hezekiah. And he (Hezekiah) did what was right in the sight of the Lord. (Second Kings 18:3) 

Ahaz, Hezekiah’s predecessor, had worshipped heathen gods, and sacrificed his children to them, and had done very wickedly in his reign. As a result Judah had been invaded repeatedly, and a number of its citizens carried away captive by the neighboring countries.  When Hezekiah came to the throne succeeding Ahaz he found the house of the Lord neglected and in disarray, dirty and filled with rubbish. Right away he assembled the Levites And said to them, Hear me ye Levites, sanctify yourselves and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord and have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs . . . Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem and he hath delivered them to trouble . . . Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel that his fierce wrath may turn from us . . . And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord into the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. It took the priests and eighteen Levites and their brethren of which we have no number, eight days to clean and sanctify the temple. For shame! (Second Chronicles 29:5-17) Note here the rubbish was not taken far off, but to the brook Kidron. I can’t help wondering if the temple had been where the Dome of the Rock now stands, would they have gone to the trouble to carry the trash as far as the brook — round trip probably over a mile.

This wonderful old book illustration shows worshippers and their sacrificial animals going up to Jerusalem from the Gihon spring.

I have made my point; however Hezekiah’s story is worth the re-telling and so we continue. After the purification of the Lord’s house Hezekiah sent word to all the tribes, even to the northern tribes who had earlier broken away from Judah, inviting them to the feast of unleavened bread. A multitude of people from all Israel came. It was such a joyous occasion that when the feast was over, they elected to add another week to the festivities. After that the people went out and destroyed the heathen worship places before they went back to their homes.

Later on Hezekiah learned that the king of Assyria had in mind to invade Judah. At that time, the Bible says he stopped the fountains and closed the Gihon spring exit, turning the water into an underground tunnel, so the Assyrians would not be able to take advantage of Jerusalem’s water source. He built up and strengthened the city wall, and made shields and weapons and organized the soldiers for war. In time the king of Assyria sent his servant with a message to taunt and threaten Hezekiah and the people of Judah. The Assyrians made a gross error however, in that they spoke against the Almighty saying: Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? (Second Kings 19:10-11)

When Hezekiah received the king’s message he went to the temple and prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians. In a little while the prophet Isaiah came to him and told him God had heard his prayer and that God himself would prevent the Assyrians from harming Jerusalem. And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred, fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib King of Assyria departed. (Second Kings 19:35-36)

photo by
Dietmar Rabich
Wikimedia Commons

Continuing on we read that later Hezekiah was sick. Again Isaiah came. This time Isaiah told him the Lord had said to get his house in order that he was going to die. In response to this the scriptures say that Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and that he cried and prayed. Then the Lord changed his mind and sent Isaiah back to tell him that he would heal him. The Lord said he would add fifteen years to his life, and that furthermore he would deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Hezekiah then asked for a sign from the Lord that he would do what he promised. Here the prophet asked him, Shall the shadow (sundial) go forward ten degrees or go back ten degrees? Hezekiah said he wanted it to go back. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord; and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward. (Second Kings 20:9-11)  This was the second time the Lord in his wisdom altered the spinning of the heavenly orbs for one of his servants. See Joshua Chapter 10 for the story of how the sun stood still for Joshua. They laid a lump of figs on Hezekiah (he had a boil). Hezekiah’s sickness was healed and he lived fifteen more years.

Now we have looked at the Akra, the Temple, and the Gihon spring. As promised in the first edition of this post, here is a map that depicts the topography of the ancient Jebusite city of Salem and the high area to the north as it was when King David and his men took the city. The dot on the map is the approximate location of the Gihon spring. The Jebusites had waterways from the spring, but they are not shown. The numbering of the contours is in meters above sea level; the interval is 10 meters.  The rise in the far north represents the area of the Roman fortress, now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. The middle rise going south is my opinion of the approximate location of the temples. The southernmost hump represents what I believe to be the area of David’s citadel, the Akra, which land feature Simon the Hasmonean high priest and the citizens of Jerusalem dug down and dumped into the Tyropean and Kidron valleys.

God Bless You! It’s Easter! He is risen!

 

 

Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh — the Lord will provide

Count the stars. From an old woodcut. Wikipedia

Most of us have heard the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac — near, because it nearly happened! If you have read the book of Genesis, or the articles preceding this one, you know Abraham and his wife Sarah had a son in their old age, Isaac, the first of a vast multitude of descendants, the Hebrew nation, the Israelites. Look now toward heaven, God said to Abraham, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them, . . . so shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:4-5)

God had promised this son years earlier, but as time drew on and Sarah did not conceive, she gave her handmaiden Hagar to Abraham as a wife. Here is what she said, Go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. (Genesis 16:2) We don’t know why she did this. Was she trying to help God fulfill his promise? Was she trying to diminish the reproach of her barrenness? We don’t know. But, we do know Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael.

Thirteen years later the Lord spoke to Abraham and told him that Sarah would have a son the next year. When Abraham voiced some concern for Ishmael at this point, God was quick to tell him what he had already promised Hagar, that he would make Ishmael fruitful, and . . . multiply him exceedingly; . . . and . . . make him a great nation. (Genesis 17:20)

God further stated: But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. Though long in coming, this was God’s plan. May we be patient to wait for his plan. There had been conflict between Hagar and Sarah already, and now Ishmael is causing distress in the family. In Galatians is a comment by Paul that indicates Ishmael “persecuted” Isaac, who was much younger than him. (Galatians 4:28-29) Then Sarah said to her husband, Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son. (Genesis 21:10) The Bible says Abraham was grieved about this, but God told him, Let it not be grevious in thy sight . . . in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Genesis 21:12) So Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, and the angel of the Lord took care of them. After that Hagar and Ishmael lived in Paran. (See Genesis 21.)

Now, can you imagine what consternation Abraham experienced later on when God spoke to him saying, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:2) By then Isaac was a youth, old enough to understand that an animal was necessary for a burnt offering. He questioned his father as they were on their way to the land of Moriah, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? In answer Abraham told his son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:7-8)

Rembrandt painting
Abraham and Isaac

Here we need more revelation than Genesis provides. Let’s go to Hebrews Chapter 11 where the writer is talking about faith. By faith Abraham, when he was tested (that is, while the testing of his faith was still in progress), offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises (of God) was ready to sacrifice his only son (of promise); to whom it was said “IN ISAAC SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE CALLED.” for he considered (it reasonable to believe) that God was able to raise Isaac, even from among the dead. (Hebrews 11:17-19 Amplified Bible)

When they came to the place God showed him, Abraham made an altar, laid the wood on it, bound his son and laid him upon the wood. Oh my! And as he took up the knife to kill his son the angel of the Lord stopped him. And he said, lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything to him, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. (Genesis 22:12) At that point Abraham saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh. (Genesis 22:13) And it is said to this day, On the mount of the Lord it will be provided. (Genesis 22:14 Amplified Bible) Isaac’s life was spared by God, who provided the lamb for the burnt offering. What a wonderful picture of Jesus, the Lamb who died in our place!

After the sacrifice of the ram Abraham and Isaac came down from the mountain and joined their two traveling companions who were waiting for them, and together they left the land of Moriah and returned home to Beersheba. Where had they been? Just where is the land of Moriah? There is only one other mention in scripture of the word Moriah and that is: Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (Second Chronicles 3:1) Here is a mount Moriah which is synonymous with the temple and another  place — the threshing floor of Ornan.  Now that puts the temple, the threshing floor, and Mount Moriah all in one place. Who can argue with that!

Well, the Samaritans will. Their land was the land of Moreh, the place where God first spoke to Abraham, promising his descendants the land on which he stood. Their city was Shechem of old, and their mountain, Gerazim, the Mount of Blessing, where Joshua convened all of Israel upon their entrance into their promised land. The Samaritans believe their mountain to be the sacred mountain, where God provided his own sacrifice, the ram caught in the bushes. The Samaritans number less than a thousand today, yet those few cling tenaciously to their beliefs and customs, as witnessed by their annual celebration of Passover. https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/samaritans-perform-sacrificial-passover-ritual-452001

Samaritan ruins at Sebastia

These people are a remnant of those Jews in the northern kingdom of Israel of whom nearly all were taken captive by the Assyrians and resettled along the Euphrates River and beyond.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25079122/ Those Jews that were taken captive are now considered “lost tribes” since they never returned to Israel. The northern tribes of Israel had separated from their southern brothers shortly after the death of Solomon and in time established the city of Samaria as their capital. The northern kingdom lasted over 200 years, but finally fell in 722 BC after a three year siege by the Assyrians. Many years later Samaria became a Roman possession and the Emperor Augustus gave Samaria to King Herod; he renamed it Sebaste. Today, the ruins of ancient Samaria can be seen near the modern town of Sebastia.

Returning now to our subject — concerning the words the land of Moriah, Robert Harris, a professor of ancient languages in an excellent web publication from 2006 tells us that the translation is actually the land of THE Moriah. He also gives us the medieval interpreter Rashbam’s opinion that God was sending Abraham to the Amorites. Professor Harris does not claim to give us any clear facts, which is understandable (since there aren’t any) but he does give a short discussion of Moriah from an important (and very old) Jewish commentary. https://www.jtsa.edu/torah/examining-the-word-moriah/

So, what do we have now? We know the threshing floor of Ornan (or Araunah, see First Chronicles) was named Mount Moriah according to Ezra the writer of Second Chronicles, and that Solomon built the temple there. We have the traditional narrative (repeated by Josephus in the first century AD) that the temple was built on the site of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac. Then, we know the Samaritans claim their land to be the land of Moriah and their mountain of Gerazim to be the sacrificial site. Further, we have the translation (in the foregoing paragraph) that speaks of the land of THE Moriah.

Proximity of Temple Mount to City of David. Temple Mt. at top; City of David on hill east of paved street. Avram Graicer/Wikimedia Commons

Now, some folks hold fiercely to a tradition that the Temple Mount was the place Abraham brought his son Isaac intending to sacrifice him to the Lord. But, we need to consider that we still don’t know for certain where the land of Moriah was, let alone the mountain where it all took place. Further, and more importantly, we need to consider that the Temple Mount is a mere one third of a mile (or less) from the City of David, which at the time of Abraham’s sacrifice was an inhabited settlement, the walled city of Salem. We know Abraham had been there before and was already acquainted with Melchizedek, king and priest of that city. Melchizedek had come down out of Salem bringing bread and wine to Abraham in the valley of Shaveh as he was returning from the battle of Siddim. (Genesis 14:18-20) The Temple Mount location, so near the city of Salem, within shouting distance even, seems very unlikely.

So where is that mountain that Abraham saw afar off?  Obviously the answer can not be found in the Bible. Is there a preponderance of extrabiblical evidence that gives a clear answer to that question? Not that I have found. But I have found some scholarly folk who admit not knowing where it was the Lord sent Abraham. Regardless of that, by the first century AD certain suppositions about this event were already beginning to solidify. Josephus, the Jewish historian from that era wrote that the temple was  built on the site of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son. (The Antiquities of The Jews, Book 1, Chapter 13, Section 2, Paragraph 226)  Josephus can be counted a reliable source reporting the events he actually saw and lived through; but, can he be expected to give a first hand account of an event 2,000 years before his time. Of course not.

But, there are certain things people want to believe. It sounds right. It seems right. Grandma said it. It must be so. It is here we come up against an immovable stone — the rock of tradition — can we ever chip it all away?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. (Psalm 46:4)

On feast days in ancient Israel as smoke rose up from the temple courtyard, the waters of the Gihon Spring washed away the blood of thousands of sacrificial animals. Today one sacrifice remains, and that is Jesus, who continually offers us cleansing that an ocean of the blood of bulls, sheep and goats could never accomplish.  Just so you know.

Old photo of the entrance to Gihon Spring
Wikipedia

The Gihon Spring is a big, big spring. Until the twentieth century it was the only significant water source for that great city Jerusalem. However, due to population growth, most of Jerusalem’s water is now piped in from outside sources.

The word gihon is Hebrew for bursting forth or gushing, which described the activity of this fascinating water work. Gihon is called an intermittent or rhythmic spring due to periodic gushing and tapering of its flow. Typically this type of spring is fed by accumulations of groundwater in naturally formed underground caves and cisterns, which are numerous in the area of Jerusalem, due to the high incidence of limestone and dolomite. The pulsing feature of these springs is generated by a natural siphon channel that empties the water out of the underground reservoir until air breaks the pull of the siphon and the process begins again. An easy to understand explanation of siphoning is available at http://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-does-a-siphon-work.

Hezekiah’s tunnel Wikimedia commons

Some years ago a group of hydrologists  monitored the Gihon for a while and reported the spring was not pulsing during the time of their inspection. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s10040-010-0600-6. Whether pulsing or not, a tremendous amount of water still flows from the Gihon Spring. Today, thanks to the efforts of the Israelis, tourists can now wade these waters in the channel known as Hezekiah’s tunnel.

Siphon springs are rare and they do not necessarily go on forever. A small spring of this type that early settlers in Spartanburg County, South Carolina called the Boiling Spring gushed periodically as much as six feet in the air and was quite an attraction for many years. This was apparently a cold water geyser and not part of a geothermal system, as people watered their horses from the spring. But, civilization took its toll. As the town of Boiling Springs prospered and grew, the boiling spring gradually ceased its boiling. However, the spring flows today and is protected by a small park. http://www.sciway.net/city/boilingsprings.html. Besides urbanization, changes in landforms such as that produced by earthquakes can damage delicate subterranean systems, causing springs to fail.

Jerusalem is an ancient city, located in Biblical Canaan, the land promised by God to the Hebrews through their earliest ancestor Abraham. The first mention of Jerusalem in the Bible occurs in Genesis 14, where we find Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem (ancient Jerusalem) coming out to meet Abraham as he returns from the battle of Siddim (the battle of the four kings). Jerusalem was then a city of roughly twelve acres situated atop the ridge above the Gihon spring which at that time emptied down the side of the hill and into the Kidron Valley. Easily defensible from its high elevation, Jerusalem had already been inhabited some thousands of years.

Here is a primitive illustration of the “blind and the lame” taunting David.

Several generations later, around 1,000 BC, King David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites. By then the Hebrews had been attempting to take that city for nearly four hundred years. The Jebusites held a very advantageous position at the top of their ridge and they taunted David, saying their city was so impregnable their “blind and lame” could defend it. David knew it was impossible to attack them from below. Somehow David and his men had to get inside the city walls.

From earliest times the Jebusites had furnished their settlement with water from the Gihon Spring. They took advantage of naturally occurring shafts and tunnels, adding to these by their own efforts as necessary, chiseling through the soft limestone and dolomite subsurface of their hill. Dating these subterranean water structures today remains a difficulty; however, we know there were Jebusite waterways in use in David’s time. One such channel, which positively dates before David was cut from the surface and covered with stones.

We are not privy to David’s military “intelligence” about these various underground watercourses. All we know is that eventually David said to his men, Whoever getteth up to the tsinor, and smiteth the Jebusites, . . . he shall be chief and captain. (Second Samuel 5:8) (The word tsinor is ambiguous, probably it means pipe or tunnel, or perhaps gutter.) Joab, one of David’s “mighty men” went up first. We have no more details. In all likelihood Joab and his men entered the city through a water passage. They succeeded in taking the strong hold of Zion: the same is the City of David. (Second Samuel 5:7)

While he was yet living, King David amassed a great supply of building materials in preparation for the magnificent temple of the Lord that his son Solomon would build in Jerusalem. Construction began soon after David’s death and took seven years. Solomon spared no expense, using the finest materials and employing the most skilled artisans, plus thousands of workers. First Kings Chapter 6 gives details of the temple’s ornate features: for example, doors carved with cherubims, palm trees and flowers, and overlaid with gold. It was here the Israelites brought their sacrifices and offerings including, yes, live animals and birds that were slain by the priests and Levites, their blood sprinkled upon the altar, and their flesh consumed by fire. Water from the Gihon Spring (for there was no other water source) cleaned up the mess in short order. Thank goodness, I say! But how? We will see.

Though there were times when worship at the temple of Solomon was neglected due to the apostasy of the people, the magnificent structure stood nearly 400 years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians who invaded Judah, killing thousands, and finally taking thousands captive to Babylon. Seventy years later the Jews under the leadership of Zerubbabel were allowed to return to their land and rebuild their temple. Recorded in the book of Ezra is the celebration that was held when the foundation of the rebuilt temple was laid. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks to the Lord; And all the people shouted with a great shout; because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, . . . wept with a loud voice. (Ezra 3:11-12)

This second temple, known as Zerubbabel’s temple is the one we read about in the letter of Aristeas from the third century BC.  Aristeas was an Egyptian official, sent to visit Eleazar, the high priest in Jerusalem. Here is an exerpt from his eye witness account:

The whole of the floor is paved with stones and slopes down to the appointed places, that water may be conveyed to wash away the blood from the sacrifices, for many thousand beasts are sacrificed there on the feast days. And there is an inexhaustible supply of water, because  an abundant spring gushes up from within  the temple area . . .  There are  many openings  for water at the base  of the altar . . .  so that  all the blood of the sacrifices which is collected in great quantities is washed away in the twinkling of an eye.  http://www.ellopos.com/blog/4508/letter-of-aristeas-full-text-in-greek-and-english/34/

A replica of the Temple

The historian Josephus gives us some detail about the next temple, the magnificent structure built by the Roman ruler Herod on the site of Zerubbabel’s temple. Herod’s temple was lauded for its beauty and artistry, its gates covered with gold, doors hung with beautifully colored veils, and decorative vines made of gold. (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5, Section 4) When Herod spoke to the people of his elaborate plan for a new temple many were afraid he might tear their temple down and not be able to accomplish his monumental building plan. But he told them “he would not pull down their temple until all things were gotten ready for building it up entire again. And as he promised them this beforehand, so he did not break his word to them.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 15, Chapter 11, Section 2) This, then, is the temple of Jesus’ time. It was made of beautiful white stones, and was so impressive that one of Jesus’ disciples exclaimed to him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 13:1-2)

And so it was. Not even a stone is left of these three temples. Only the water remains — the sacred Gihon Spring.

 

“choose you this day whom you will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  (the words of Joshua, Chapter 24:15)

As my ancestors were wont to say, “A lot of water has run under the bridge.” That meant a lot of time had passed, and with it many events. It has been more than four years since my last article pertaining to the Hebrew people, predecessors of the present day sons and daughters of Israel. Despite all its faults, which are not worse than our own, Israel remains the apple of God’s eye, and the seat of His kingdom, which is coming perhaps sooner than we think.

Remains of ancient tower at Jericho, ca 7,000 BC

We left off at Jericho, where by the Lord’s intervention, it took no more than a boisterous shout and the din of trumpets blowing to bring down a six foot thick brick wall surrounding a city of seven acres. It is important to note that this miraculous event took place after Joshua had encountered an unusual personage. And it came to pass, as Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold there stood a man over against him with a sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him and said unto him. Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and did worship, and said unto him, what saith my lord unto his servant? (Joshua 5: 13-14)

The Jericho of Joshua’s era was cloaked in mystery for a long time, to the point there were doubts as to whether there ever was such a place. However, recent excavations and re-examinations of previously held opinions have pretty much settled the issue, certainly for those who believe the Bible. Much of the controversy had to do with questions about the timing of the conquest, and the huge, impenetrable wall that surrounded the city.

The biblical narrative is always true, and when it seems not, it is because our understanding needs a little adjusting. At present there is on YouTube a video depicting excavations at ancient Jericho which show how and where the walls fell. Yes, they have now dug them up. You can see this at http://www.experienceisraelnow.com/heres-a-great-video-about-the-walls-of-jericho/ . To further support the archaeological facts there is an article at http://www.biblearchaeologyreport.com/2-19/05/25/biblical-sites-three-discoveries-at-jericho/  which tells us, “The phrase ‘fell down flat’ is translated from two Hebrew words: (naphal — to fall) and (tachath — bottom or below).  Thus a literal understanding would be that the wall fell below itself. Excavations at Jericho have revealed that this is precisely what happened.” One can see in the video that the massive upper wall fell below itself, to the bottom of a lower retaining wall. Thus the Hebrews were able to scramble up, every man straight before him. (Joshua 6:20)

Be aware that despite all the unmistakable evidence of Joshua’s remarkable conquest of the city of Jericho there are non-Christians who would like the world to believe that such an event never happened. If you visit Jericho in the near future you will likely be subjected to this type of propaganda. While it is a fact there are 23 levels of civilization at Jericho, nearly all of which pre-date Joshua by thousands of years, the proof of Joshua’s destruction of that city is extensive and the sum of it overwhelms all arguments to the contrary.

So: now that we have put Jericho to rest, let us take another look back, all the way back to Abraham, first known as Abram, and his father Terah, who, about four thousand years ago, with their households and possessions, left their home in Ur of the Chaldees and settled at Haran, in upper Mesopotamia. After Terah died, the Lord said to Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee. (Genesis 12:1) The Bible tells us that by faith he went out, not knowing whither he went. (Hebrews 11:8) His first recorded stopping place was Shechem, an ancient site on the outskirts of the modern city of Nablus. We are going to see that Shechem holds an important place in the history of the Israelites. And Abram passed through the land to a place called Shechem (Sichem), unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land. (Genesis 12:6-7) 

Jesus at Jacob’s well. John Linnell, public domain, Wikimedia Commons

What is God up to? Why has he led Abram to the land of the Canaanites? Why are Abram’s descendants promised this land? Oh, the vastness of God’s plan! Oh the depth of . . . the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33) If we stand here in the footprints of Abram and take just a little peek down through the ages we see Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel digging here in the hard ground . . . and if we keep looking . . . yes! there is Jesus, asking a Samaritan woman for a drink from Jacob’s well — Jesus the Messiah, fully God, but totally man, a descendant of this man Abram. The writer of Hebrews says, He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. (Hebrews 2:16) Wow! At this point however, Abram is 75 years old and childless; his wife, about 65 now, has never borne children.

Fast forward some years, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many, maybe ten more or less . . . the Lord appears to Abram in a vision. Abram still does not have any children so he asks God about that saying, Behold to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. (Genesis 15:3) Here the Lord corrects him saying This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir . . . Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: . . . So shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:4-5)

That evening as the sun was going down God made a covenant with Abram, a solemn agreement complete with a sacrifice of animals and birds upon an altar of rough stones, lit by the fire of God himself. The Bible says a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness came upon himAnd he (God) said to Abram, know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and shall serve them: and they shall afflict them four hundred years; . . . thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Genesis 15:12-13, 12-16) The fulfillment of the promise was sure, but it lay in the faraway future . . . why, we are not told, except that the iniquity, the evil, of the Amorites, was not complete.

So, what about the Amorites? Who were they and just what was their wrongdoing? Though perhaps the more numerous and powerful, the Amorites were just one of several people groups occupying the land of Canaan, including the Kenites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perrizites, Jebusites and others. In many instances, these groups were themselves subdivided geographically. These various tribes descended primarily from Noah through his grandson Canaan; they shared a common ancestry and a common heathen culture: idol worship to start with, and then incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality and bestiality. These sins of the Canaanites are listed in Leviticus, followed by the directive: Defile not yourselves in any of these things, for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. (Leviticus 18:24-25) (For all these abominations have the men of the land done which were before you.) (Leviticus 18:27) Note here that the word nations is plural. Not only were the Amorites to be ousted from the promised land, but the other sinful “ite” nations as well.

God continued to lead Abram, eventually changing his name to Abraham and establishing the covenant of circumcision with him. In time Isaac, the promised “seed” was born to Abraham and Sarah, and through Isaac’s son Jacob sprang the twelve tribes of Israel. It is worth mentioning here that Abraham had additional children after Sarah died some years later. He also had a son Ishmael, older than Isaac, whose mother was Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden. Ishmael is considered to be the progenitor of the Arabic peoples. If you need a brush up on Abraham, you could check out my first article in this series — The Hebrews: From the Call of Abraham to the Passover.

It is now the fourth generation. The years of affliction are now finished. Moses has led the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt to freedom at the border of Canaan. Now under the leadership of Joshua, they have begun to lay claim to their inheritance. The Lord has enabled them to supernaturally defeat the fortified city of Jericho and take the smaller fortification of Ai. It is time for the restating of the covenant between God and the children of Abraham. This occasion has been ordained ahead of time by Moses who directed that when the Hebrews had entered their promised land an altar should be erected at Mt. Ebal whereon were to be written the words of the law (commandments). Ceremonies at Mt. Ebal were to include burnt offerings and peace offerings, with the people eating and rejoicing before the Lord. Joshua and the Levites were charged with reiterating, in the hearing of all the people, the commandments, and their attendant blessings and curses.

View from Mt. Ebal by “someone35″/Wikimedia Commons

Now, obeying the directive of Moses, Joshua leads that vast throng from their camp at Gilgal northward through the Jordan valley to Shechem — that same hallowed ground where, centuries ago, the voice of God echoed in the ears of Abraham, Unto thy seed will I give this land. (Genesis 12:7) Oh, the significance of that day! It is fair to estimate that well over a million descendants of Abraham assembled there at that natural amphitheater, half under the slopes of Gerazim, the mount of blessing, and half at Mt. Ebal, the mountain of cursing. If we listen with our hearts we can almost hear the words of Joshua ringing out from Mt. Gerazim . . .  if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy ground. (Deuteronomy 28:2-4) and then, as the Levites lift up their voices, the curses. (Deuteronomy 27:14) But . . .  if thou wilt not hearken . . . cursed shalt thou be. . .(Deuteronomy 28:15) And at the end all the people said “Amen.”

The conquest of the land of Canaan had begun even before the crossing of he Jordan, when two Amorite kings of the east, Sihon and Og, were defeated. Their lands were awarded by Moses to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, on condition that these tribes aid the others in subduing Canaan. The cities of Jericho and Ai have been taken. Now, however, there slips a sour note into the Hebrews’ songs of victory. The nearby Hittites of Gibeon, having heard of the invincibility of the armies of Israel are terrified. They send to the Hebrews’ encampment an entourage pretending to be foreigners desiring a league of peace, which the Hebrews unwittingly agreed to. The Bible says they asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. (Joshua 9:14) Uh oh! Not a good idea, not then, not now. In a matter of days the “foreigners” were found to be Hittites, people whom the Lord had said should be wiped out, but now it was too late, for the Hebrews had sworn by the Lord God in their agreement of peace with these people. The lives of the Gibeonites were spared; however, the Israelites reduced them to servanthood, requiring them to be their woodcutters and water drawers.

Not long after that a coalition of Amorite nations attacked Gibeon for their involvement with Israel and Gibeon sent to Joshua for help. Joshua and the armies of Israel responded quickly and a fierce battle ensued. During that battle Joshua spoke to the Lord and the Bible says the Lord hearkened. For about a whole day, the sun stood still and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves. (Joshua 10:13) If you find that too fantastic to be true, you can find any number of writings to support that, including arguments there was an eclipse that day. This sounds plausible, until one reads in verse 12 that the sun was in Gibeon and the moon in the valley of Ajalon, which, as almost everyone knows, is hardly an alignment for an eclipse!

So let’s consider. If the sun stood still in Canaan, it must have stood still everywhere. Right? Are there non-biblical reports of that happening? Yes, there are. Here is an excerpt from an article by Richard Riss, published by believersweb.org that sheds lots of light on this supernatural event:

In 1940, Harry Rimmer summarized these traditions as follows:

In the ancient Chinese writings there is a legend of a long dayThe Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico have a like record, and there is a Babylonian and a Persian legend of a day that was miraculously extended. Another section of China contributes an account of the day that was miraculously prolonged, in the reign of Emperor Yeo. Herodotus recounts that the priests of Egypt showed him their temple records, and that there he read a strange account of a day that was twice the natural length.

Rimmer concludes this section with a lengthy quotation from the Polynesian account of this event.

In 1950 Immanuel Velikovsky came out with his controversial book, Worlds in Collision, based on the premise that the account of the long day in Joshua is accurate, accounting for many other unsolved scientific mysteries. In support of his premise, he also refers to the ancient traditions of a long day.

You can read Harry Rimmer’s wonderful little book of 32 pages – Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua – on the internet. Search for the book by name at archive.org. Used copies of Velikovsky’s book are available from online booksellers.

There is no doubt Joshua’s campaign against the inhabitants of Canaan was vicious. The Lord strictly instructed the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites and their culture in Deuteronomy Chapter 7. When the Lord shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and has cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perrizites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them and wholly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

Remember, these Canaanite people are idol worshippers. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee. (Exodus 23:33) Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break down their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. (Deuteronomy 12:2-3) God’s people are to worship him only. (Exodus 20:3)

Within an estimated five to seven years of fighting a sizable portion of Canaan was under Israelite control. The Bible lists a total of 31 kings west of the Jordan who had been defeated by then. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh were allowed to return to their land east of Jordan, having fulfilled their pledge to aid their brethren. The land west of Jordan was allotted by portion to the other tribes. Many Canaanites remained in the land and the western tribes were charged to take possession of their portions and to drive out the heathen inhabitants. The Lord had said I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. (Exodus 23:28-30) Chapters 13 through 17 of Joshua mention some of the Canaanite peoples who were not dispossessed at that writing, including: the Geshurites and Maacathites, the Jebusites at Jerusalem, the inhabitants of Gezer, and others, though some of these peoples were eventually put under tribute. The first two chapters of Judges lists some of the Israelites’ successes and failures in subduing the land.

As long as Joshua lived he was leader of the Israelites. He was around 90 years old when his initial campaign drew to a close and the tribes were assigned their lands. Joshua would live about 20 more years. Not much is recorded in scripture of that time period. However, the ferocity of the Hebrews’ campaign to make Canaan their own is apparently attested to in an extra-biblical source, the Amarna letters. This collection of clay tablets was discovered in the nineteenth century in Egypt. Among other things, these tablets contain letters from vassal Canaanite city states to the Pharaoh asking for help defending against the “Habiri”. One of these letters is from Er-Heba, the ruler of Jerusalem, who fears his land will fall to these invaders. The Amarna documents depict the Habiri as a ruthless and rebellious people. https://www.israel-a-history-of.com/amarna-letters.html. That should not be surprising to us, for after all, they were under orders. (See Deuteronomy Chapter 7.)

Toward the end of his life Joshua again called all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem, including the elders, the heads of houses, their judges and officers. At that assembly he reiterated the events of their history. Beginning with Abraham, and continuing through Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and Moses and Aaron, he named their ancestors and spoke of the miraculous help of the Lord . . . about the plagues he put upon the Egyptians and their mighty deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh, how he had fought their battles and provided for them . . . a land for which you did not labor, cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat. (Joshua 24:13) He warned the people against forsaking the Lord and serving strange gods, and they agreed they would serve the Lord. We read that Joshua made a covenant with the people that day. Then he took a great stone and set it up and said, Behold this stone shall be a witness unto us for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall therefore be a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. (Joshua 24:27) Should we doubt that stones can hear? The whole of creation is silent witness to what we are, or are not.

So, Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance. And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. (Joshua 24:29)

Today Israel possesses only a part of their original promised land. The Canaanites were never totally driven out; but again, many of the promises of God to the Hebrews were conditional upon the obedience of the Hebrews to God’s instructions. It would be three to four hundred years before the Jebusites at Jerusalem would yield their stronghold to David, and another generation before the magnificent temple of Solomon would be built there.

Joseph’s Tomb – public domain

The last chapter of the book of Joshua records that the bones of Joseph which were brought up from Egypt were buried at Shechem, in a parcel of ground Jacob his father had bought during his sojourn there. Here is a photo of Joseph’s tomb in the early 1900’s.

 

Appalachian hill cane

Liberally sprinkled on the slopes of many of our Southern mountains, short, tough little shoots of native bamboo have heretofore been growing, unrecognized, unidentified, unclassified and mostly unknown by the botanical community.

And no wonder. When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge mountains I often saw these small nondescript plants on dry slopes in the woods. To us they were so ordinary they didn’t even have a name. For many years I didn’t even know what they were. They weren’t intrusive, nor were they useful in any way we knew. They weren’t especially attractive either, spindly looking, jointed tall grasses. The stems were so tough you couldn’t break them with your hand. Finally a friend identified them to me as “little canes.”

Later in life when I had returned to my ancestral home I found a dense stand of these small canes on a section of bottomland, in full sun, near the creek. The stalks were erect, a little less than half an inch in diameter, and about five feet tall. They were robust plants, growing in profusion alongside an old pasture fence at an elevation of about 2500 feet. About six to eight inches apart, they were practically impenetrable, forming a miniature canebrake.

Worldwide, there are more than a thousand recognized species of bamboo. Of these, only three are natives of North America. Two indigenous species of North American cane, river cane and switch cane, were classified as early as 1788. But the little Appalachian hill cane, our most unique species, was not “discovered” and recognized as a distinctively different plant until 2007.

Hill cane, Arundinaria appalachiana, usually stands at two feet or less, but under optimum conditions it can grow six feet tall. Apart from its diminutive size, this smallish species differs from other canes in one important way. It is deciduous, dropping its leaves in the fall. Common in the southern Appalachians and well known by local residents, Appalachian hill cane had been previously categorized by the scientific community as a deciduous variant of switch cane. Finally Alan Weakley, a botanist with the University of North Carolina, introduced it at Iowa State University where Dr. Lynn Clark, who had already identified 74 new species of cane, immediately recognized it as a new and distinctively different species. (www.public.iastate.edu/-nscentral/news/2007/mar/bamboo.shtml)

My little patch of hill cane was growing right where I didn’t want it, so one winter I cut those leafless stalks all down. The next spring it was right back, vigorous as ever. But in time I had my way with it. Discouraged, it retreated to the edge of the field, where it hid in the shade of a maple tree. Later on, when I found out what it was, I was sorry I had been so bent on its destruction. But not to worry. Cane of any species is not easily eradicated. That was a long time ago, and today there’s still plenty of it, growing tall along the creek bank.

 

 

 

 

unripe wild persimmons “possum apples” Franz Xaver/Wikimedia Commons

“O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.”  Psalm 104:24

When I was just a slip of a girl and playing with my friends outdoors, one of the boys plucked a hard little green ball from a nearby tree and offered my brother and I a taste of an unfamiliar fruit. It looked sort of like a green apple. I had eaten green apples on occasion with no ill effects. This little green thing was not quite an apple though, and I was hesitant. But that boy assured me it absolutely would not hurt a bit to taste it. That it was in fact, good. Precisely what the serpent said to Eve, right?

Yep. Sure enough, it was a lie! I knew it when my mouth began to pucker up and turn inside out and the other children began shrieking with laughter! I sputtered and spit it out as if it were poison. My mouth felt horrible, bitter as quinine and dry as dust. It was my first experience with a persimmon – a wild one at that, and nowhere near ripe.

Later on when I was grown, my in laws had persimmons, big ones, on trees in the middle of their garden. These my mother in law smashed and made into a sweet baked dish that she called persimmon pudding. It was sort of the consistency of sweet potato pie and pretty tasty as I remember.

Many years later while visiting a friend I was reintroduced to wild persimmons. It was October. The persimmons had ripened and dropped on the ground beneath a tree at the edge of the woods. They were delicious, even better than the big persimmons my in laws had grown. I had heard possums favored persimmons. Now I could understand why.

ripe wild persimmons

So I was pleased a number of years ago when I came to my home here to find a wild persimmon tree right at the edge of the back yard. It still isn’t very big and doesn’t bear much fruit, but some years there are enough persimmons that the animals leave me a few. But I am very cautious in eating them. The old folks used to say they weren’t fit to eat before frost. I don’t know about that, but I know they must be very ripe; if they aren’t, they are NOT good.  What makes unripened persimmons so puckery is the tannins within. Tannins are natural compounds found in a variety of plants, including oaks, walnuts, tea, rhubarb, grapes and others. As the fruit of these plants matures, the tanin content is reduced and the fruit becomes edible.

female flower of the wild persimmon

Besides their fierce astringent properties, our native wild persimmons are unique in that they are dioecious. There are male persimmons or female persimmons. Both male and female trees bloom. But the male trees do not set fruit. The female trees will, provided the bees cooperate and bring them pollen from a male persimmon. Now what about that! Persimmons are a rarity; only a small percentage of the world’s plants are dioecious. And while we are discussing this characteristic of persimmons please note if you are planting holly for its beautiful red berries, make sure most of your plants are female. The male holly blooms profusely, but nary a berry will he give you. I discovered that early in life. We had a tall and shapely holly in our yard. Every spring it was covered in white blossoms and every Christmas I was disappointed that the blossoms had not borne fruit. Finally, when I was complaining to my mother of our barren holly, she gave me a lesson in reproduction, the story of berries and bees as pertains to hollies.

original photo from National Agriculture Library

Persimmons belong to a plant genus called Diospyros, meaning: food of the gods. That should give you a hint of how delicious they are. Farmers in China have cultivated them for thousands of years. Foreign varieties of persimmon were introduced as food crops in the United States in the 1800’s. However, our native persimmon – Diospyros virginiana – has flourished in the wild and nourished both animals and people for, how long?

Maybe just about forever…..

Here is a 1935 photo of a magnificent native persimmon tree. Note how it simply dwarfs the man standing near it on the left.

 

“Marvelous are Thy works oh Lord, and that my soul knows right well.”

This awe inspiring old tree is about 6 feet in diameter and around 130 feet high. In size it ranks second in North Carolina, outclassed only by another giant poplar of the same species located in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in nearby Graham County.

It is a yellow or tulip poplar that was saved from the logger’s axe in the 1960’s, and that was probably not the first time it was spared, considering its advanced age of 400 years.

To see this wonderful specimen for yourself, take Horse Cove Road out of Highlands, and then take Rich Gap Road. The tree is a short distance down Rich Gap Road on the right. On the left is an information board and some parking space. The tree is in the woods, but visible from the road when the foliage is not too dense. A trail will take you to it and other large trees nearby.

tulip poplar blossom/Wikimedia commons

 

My husband and I met in February 2018, but not for the first time. We were school children together in Brevard, NC sixty some years ago.

Sixth grade, seventh, and eighth grades we happened to be assigned to the same class. That gave me three years to observe Jerry, and by the time I was thirteen my feminine intuition let me know that here was a special boy……He stole my heart……But I never told a living soul how I felt about Jerry…..After all, I was only thirteen……

And it wasn’t long until time and circumstances put us on separate paths and Jerry became a long ago memory filed away in the earliest pages of the book of my life.

The years and the miles came between us, but then it happened that both our spouses died in 2017. And after that something sweet and wonderful happened. Here are some pictures.

6th grade

7th grade

8th grade

Wikimedia Commons/Gerbil

In memory I see them now, dozens of little flames licking upward, casting their warmth and light upon the green needles of a tall but shabby Christmas tree. I was very young, barely five years old I suppose. It was Christmas and we were visiting my grandmother. We didn’t go there very much. It was 20 miles, and back then not many people had cars. I don’t remember how we got there: Daddy didn’t have a car. He walked to work at a mill in town. But it was Christmas Eve, and somehow we managed to make it up the mountain from Brevard to Quebec, North Carolina. It was well for me that we did, for that day yielded one of my brightest memories.

Early that morning Grandpa had been out to the woods to cut a tree. He’d returned with the fluffiest white pine he could find, its trunk nailed to a wooden crosspiece.  Back then nobody bought a Christmas tree. You made do with what you could find in the fields and forests. It was scrawny by today’s standards, but it reached nearly to the ceiling. Grandma said it suited her just fine.

Mama and Grandma set about decorating that spindly tree. They hung pretty glass balls on it, and ropes of shiny tinsel; and at the top they fastened a cardboard star covered with tinfoil salvaged from a cigarette wrapper. Somebody had bought something called angel hair at the five-and-ten-cent store in town. It was white and looked like hair sure enough. They were about to put that on the tree but Mama said no, it might catch fire. I didn’t see any fire. There wasn’t any fire except in the pot bellied stove there in the living room. And, it was still daytime. The kerosene lamp wasn’t even burning. But I didn’t say anything. When you are five you are pretty much a spectator.

They put the angel hair away and Grandma got out lots of funny looking little things which they fastened to the limbs of the Christmas tree. Now that I am all grown up I know those funny looking things were old fashioned clip candle holders, made to go on Christmas trees. After that they put lots of little white wax candles on the tree.

What happened next became an indelible memory for me. With wooden matches Mama and Grandma lit those dozens of little wax candles, and as they did that homely Christmas tree took on an ethereal luster. It glimmered! It glowed! The candles sputtered and flickered; their golden flames danced, lighting up every corner of the room. It was the most breathtaking scene I’d ever witnessed. Maybe it still is.

But it was short lived. In a little while the candles had burned down and they blew them out. After that they put the angel hair on the tree, and it was all over. I don’t remember what I got that year. But I will never forget Grandma’s Christmas tree.