[For those who have expressed concern about us traveling in Israel right now, please see my quick note at the bottom of this post.]
Today is the Sabbath. The roads are empty, most shops are closed, and there are hardly any pedestrians to be seen as we drive through towns. Gus shared several examples to explain how seriously some Jewish people observe the Sabbath. The most memorable is when one of his neighbors asked Gus to do a favor for him. The neighbor believed that turning knobs on appliances and light switches was forbidden on the Sabbath. Because of this he had turned their stove on to be able to heat things until the Sabbath was over and his son had turned it off, so he asked Gus if he would come over and turn the stove back on for him (which he did).
With less traffic on the road, we made the journey south from the of Sea of Galilee to Jerusalem, with several stops on the way.
As we walked to the overlook of Tel Jezreel, the lower sky was more hazy than previous days, so the view was a little obscured. But from the overlook we could make out Hill Moreh, where the Midianites were encamped when Gideon and his 300 men defeated them (Judges 7). The city of Shunem used to be near the base of Moreh, and is where the Shunamite family lived who housed Elisha, received the miraculous provision of oil, and received her resurrected son (2 Kings 1-37). It was at Jezreel that Ahab built a palace, where his wife Jezebel lived and died (2 Kings 9:30-37). Naboth's vineyard was also in Jezreel; he was a Jezreelite (2 Kings 9:21-26).
When we visit many places in our tour, we understand that we are looking at the general area where a Biblical event took place. But the Harod Stream is not one of them. This is one of those locations where the event actually occurred!
The book of Judges tells us that Gideon and his men were fighting the Midianites and their coalition who were encamped in the Valley of Jezreel (Judg. 6:33). The next morning those following Gideon encamped beside the spring of Harod, while the enemy was next to the hill of Moreh in the valley (Judg. 7:1). God decided that the number of Israelite warriors was too great and reduced them several times until only 300 fighting men remained. The final test was to have 10,000 men drink from the stream that flowed from spring. Only those who lapped the water were allowed to fight.
The path to the spring and stream was beautiful, lined with flowering, aromatic plants. Several of us modeled drinking from the stream. (It is helpful to know that the stream is much smaller than it used to be. Barry shared a picture from the 1920's where the water was gushing from the spring and made the stream extremely wide.
Bet She'an (Beth-shan)
The slain bodies of King Saul and his sons were displayed by the Philistines on the walls of Beth-shan (1 Sam. 31:8-13). However, that city is still buried beneath a Roman city from the 5th century that was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 A.D. I could easily imagine living in this city as I walked the main thoroughfare lined with columns to stop in at the theater, marketplace and civil buildings.
There is a lot to say about the city of Jericho! That is because it is the longest continuously inhabited city in the world! From OT, NT, extra-Biblical, there is simply a lot of history here. Such as:
- God used the prophet Elisha to heal the water at Jericho (2 Kings 2:19-22).
- King Herod the Great of the NT had a winter palace built here.
- The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is the setting of Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
However, I would assume that when most people hear the name "Jericho", their imaginations turn back to when Joshua led the Israelites to conquer the land. During the course of a week they marched around the city once per day, except for the seventh day when they marched seven times, and at the blast of the trumpets and shouting of the people the walls collapsed and the Israelites captured the city (Joshua 6)! The event was on the minds of several of us as we hiked up to the top of the tel and we began singing hymns about it.
As we stood on the edge of the tel, Barry retold the event as he pointed out different landmarks. Imagine being a soldier of Jericho standing on the city wall and looking down into the Jordan valley plain, where on the far side of the flooded river an Israelite encampment 1-4 million people strong had established themselves (Josh. 2:1)! You would have heard of the military victories of these people (Josh. 2:8-11). Imagine the rumors that must have circulated within the city about how this woman named Rahab had potentially assisted enemy spies and helped them escape. She actually told them to hide in the hills behind the city for three days until it was safe for them to return to their camp (Josh. 2:16).Then imagine how you would feel when inexplicably, the flooded Jordan stopped flowing and this mass of people moved their camp across the dry river-bed and parked on your doorstep. (That happened because God caused the water to heap up 14 miles north according to Josh. 3:14-17). Then instead of attacking, these people just silently stroll around your city wall once a day, until the seventh day...you remember the rest.
From where we stood we were able to look down in the Jordan plain and see where Joshua and the Israelites encamped, crossed the Jordan and then set up camp in the promised land. We could turn around behind us and see the hills where the Israelite spies hid for three days at Rahab's instruction. And we were standing on the tel of the city where the walls fell and Israel conquered her first city in the land promised to the patriach, Abraham.
Traditional Baptismal Site of Jesus
This is a traditional site where many believe Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. There were several people there reciting from books, praying, and as Gus put it, some come to step into the water to renew their baptism.
As our day of travel ended, going up to Jerusalem like so many before us, Gus praised his hometown, and is excited to begin sharing it with us.
We love you all, and will write more when we can.
Jeremy & Anna
*A quick note for those who have expressed concern for us to be traveling in Israel right now. Thank you for your prayers! Please continue offering them. We have several more days of touring before this wonderful group of people start heading back to their homes. Barry, Gus and our driver have been safely leading tours for a while and know when, where and which way to go. Barry is keeping up on the news and will be making adjustments as he and Gus think is best.