I was fortunate to be able to attend a conference in Jordan in late February. As a history (and especially Biblical history) buff, I loved the opportunity to be able to explore some of the sites of the stories in the Bible and to build up a visual gallery of images to accompany those stories.
I’ve always found it interesting how our imagination often creates images that are in stark contrast to what things actually look like. Sometimes these images are based on what we have been exposed to in various media, in other cases, it is just our imagination creating images out of whole cloth.
“Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan – that fine hill country and Lebanon” – Deuteronomy 3:25
During the conference we had a half day visiting some sites close to our conference location in Amman. We were able to go up to Mt Nebo where Moses was shown the Promised Land.
Unfortunately because of haze we were not able to see much beyond the Jordan, but it was not difficult to imagine how it would have looked on a clear day. The guides say that Jericho and Jerusalem are quite commonly visible, but I’m not sure if it is possible to actually see as far as Lake Galilee
Jesus’ Baptism site
“This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” – John 1:28
Unfortunately the Jordan River is now not much more than a muddy stream because of all the water that is pumped out for irrigation. As you can tell by the stairs going into the River, baptisms are still conducted here from time to time. This is also the border between Jordan and Israel, one of the most security conscious borders in the world. You might think it looks easy to cross, but there are machine-gun carrying soldiers on each side.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the LORD shone around them, and they were terrified.” – Luke 2:9
The view form the Shepherd’s Fields towards Bethlehem. If you can filter out the barbed wire fences, lampposts, etc and imagine looking this way under a night sky you can get some idea of what the shepherd’s may have seen after the angel announced the birth of Jesus to them.
“On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies. ” – 2 Samuel 5:8
This is Warren’s shaft, which is the very same water shaft that David’s men used to conquer Jerusalem
“When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him.” – 2 Chronicles 32:2-3
You can walk through the water tunnel that Hezekiah made to protect Jerusalem from the Assyrian’s siege. You do need a torch to light you r way through though. Most of the tunnel is abut a foot deep, but there are parts that are almost 3 feet deep.
Pool of Siloam
“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” – John 9:7
“Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David.” – 2 Samuel 5:11
Recently archaeological excavations have uncovered the palace of David. The City of David is located just to the south of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is currently a huge archaeological dig site. This pillar is typical of what would have been part of a palace and was located at a layer dating it at about 3000 years ago which is exactly the time of David.
The House of Gemariah
“From the room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper courtyard at the entrance of the New Gate of the temple, Baruch read to all the people t the LORD’s temple the words of Jeremiah from the scroll.” – Jeremiah 36:10
“But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from it.” – Jeremiah 38:18
In the foreground of this picture is the remains of a house. When the large slab that was the roof of this house was lifted up, the archaeologists found 18 inches of ash. Among the ash were clay seals. At this time scrolls were kept rolled up, with clay seals. When the fire that destroyed Jerusalem came, the scrolls were burned, but the clay seals did not burn, instead they hardened – and the name on many of the scrolls: Gemariah son of Shaphan.
“Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” – Nehemiah 2:17
The Temple Wall
“When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.” – Isaiah 66:14
The above verse is carved into this stone which is some 20 feet above the road inside the Dung Gate going to the temple. It was likely written by a Jew visiting Jerusalem in the few centuries after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD
Mt of Olives
It’s not difficult to imagine Jesus walking or sitting with his disciples in places like this.
There are tombs that are supposed to be those of Absalom and the prophet Zechariah. However you can see in the foreground that much of the area has been demolished. This is because this area was where the battle lines and borders were drawn in the Israeli-Arab wars. Many of the tombs that were destroyed were from the first temple period, ie more than 2500 years old.
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).” – John 19:17
Just outside the Damascus Gate, on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, this rocky outcrop was the site for Jewish stonings. It was probably the place where Stephen was stoned (contrary to what the naming of another gate to the Old City as St Stephen’s Gate would suggest.) When someone was to be stoned they would be thrown from the top and then have stones hurled down on to them from above. It has been suggested that this may have been the place where Jesus was crucified. The rock does bear some resemblance to a skull (but the name may refer to it as the place of skulls ie where there are skulls from dead criminals who remained unburied), and the location is in exactly the sort of public place the Romans would use for crucifixion – just out side the city gates on a main road. If this was the place though, he would not have been crucified on top of the rocky outcrop, but rather at the bottom, right in the faces of those on the road.
The Garden Tomb
“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” – John 19:41
The Garden Tomb is suggested as a possible site for Jesus’ tomb. It fits several criteria, such as being outside the city walls, being cut into the rock, and being in a garden. It was never venerated like the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre but some pilgrims obviously considered it, as evidenced by a cross carved into the outside of the wall by the tomb entrance. But as to where the exact location of the tomb was, we probably will never know.