After getting outside early enough to catch the sun rising over the Golan Heights on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we spent the day visiting sites in Upper Galilee, and then circled the lake by traveling along the eastern and southern shores and then traveling back up the western side to our hotel on Tiberias. There were several places that we took pictures from the bus as we were moving, for the sake of time I will not comment on those in this post, but will write about those later.
Korazim (or Chorzin in some NT translations) is a town just north of the Sea of Galilee. It is one of three Galilean towns that Jesus pronounced woe on, because of their lack of faith and repentance at his ministry (Matt. 11:20-24).
The site had multiple houses with beautiful arches inside, a 3rd century tabernacle, a purification bath house and more. There was also a replica of piece of tabernacle furniture called "Moses' Seat", a chair used for those who spoke with authority (Ex. 18:13; Matt. 23:2-3). Among all of the walls in Bethsaida you could see multiple rock badgers (the OT Hyrax) sunning and playing.
We continued further north from Korazim up the Hulah Valley to Tel Hazor. Hazor is a site that holds a huge amount of historical significance. It has levels that go back approx. 4,000 years! According to Barry, one archaeologist suggested it would take 500 years/digging seasons to completely work the site. It has a Canaanite palace, gates from Solomon's time, a restored watchtower and more. King Jabin of Hazor fought in a Canaanite coalition against Joshua and the Israelites as they settled the promised land (Josh. 11:1-12). During Joshua's defeat he burned the city, just as evidence at the tel confirms.
As Barry said, "This site just has a cool factor." He was right! At the northern end of Israel, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve had many well built walkways and lush vegetation providing shade for most of the walk. We visited the only sites that have been uncovered on this large tell; there were three of them. Each of them deserves their own post later, so for now I'll just upload a couple of pictures. The three sites are the Israelite gate to the city, King Jeroboam's high place, and a Canaanite gate that dates to the time of Abraham which he most likely used (Gen. 14:14)!
"And when heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan."
Caesarea Philippi (Banias)
Just east of Tel Dan, is Caesarea Philippi (or Benias). It was in this area, near the temple of Pan, where Jesus asked his disciples who men thought he was and where Peter professed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the LIVING God (Matt. 16:13-20). Here in the shadow of the cliff, listening to the stream of Hermon trickling nearby, with multiple temples and niches in the side of the mountain which held the cold, rough, immobile and impotent statues of pagan idols, Peter verbalized his faith in Jesus as the Son of the living God! Jesus' response to Peter's declaration was to confirm that it was upon this confession that his church would be built! As every believer confesses Christ to be the Son of the living God and are united with him in his sacrificial death they are added to his assembly, his body, his church (1 Cor. 12:13).
The Road to Damascus
For just a moment as we continued our day, we stopped so Barry and Gus could show us the area where Saul most likely traveled on his way to Damascus to arrest those who belonged to the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2). However, this area is now the border between Israel and Syria. There is a small lookout on the Israeli side of the border, where you can see a United Nations complex called UNDOF, and just beyond it an electrified fence. On the other side of the fence is Syria, where a town with a small lake and prayer tower can be seen. It was a sobering moment where our historical tour collided with modern events. After several moments of safely taking pictures (I promise mom, we were safe), we boarded the bus to begin heading back south toward Tiberias.
Bethsaida is at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee and just barely east. In ancient Israel it was known as Geshur. Geshur was the home of Absalom's mother (1 Chron. 3:2) and is where he fled for safety after murdering his brother for abusing his sister (2 Sam. 13:34-39) until he was invited to return to Jerusalem. In NT times, Bethsaida was the home of several disciples (John 1:44; 12:21), and was also one of the three towns Jesus pronounced woe on (Matt. 11:20-24).
Crossing the Jordan
On our way back to the hotel, Barry spoke with Gus, and we stopped to cross the Jordan River before it enters the Sea of Galilee on the north. We all jumped off the bus and crossed the Jordan...on a two-lane highway bridge.=) It was a fabulous day, visiting places that help reinforce what the Biblical text already says!
We will write more tomorrow. Love you all,
Jeremy & Anna