Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shephelah Summer 2012 Field Trip

One of our standard Old Testament field trips is a bus tour through the Shephelah, the area of low rising hills cut by wadis and small streams where so much of the books of Judges and 1 Samuel took place. For more background and discussion of the pertinent scriptural texts, see the blog entries for our fall and winter trips (the pictures in the winter blog post are particularly striking because of how green the flower-filled the hillsides were during the rainy season).

In this entry I am mostly just posting pictures from this last trip.  I must admit that on more than one occasion I wistfully realized that this would be my last visit to many of these places!

Tel Lakhish in January

Tel Lakhish in May
Bet Shemesh and the Samson Saga (see Judges 13-16).

Looking across to Zorah, Samson's home town

Class pic at Tel Bet Shemesh
Singing "Choose the Right," because Samson didn't always make the right choice!


Azeqah (spelled Azekah in the Bible, but is uses a qoph so I insist on a "q!") was an important hill top controlling the Elah Valley.  Here we read about the Philistine invasions and David's willingness to fight Goliath.  We then sang "Who's on the Lord's Side, Who?"

At the "David & Goliath Lookout" with the battle site in the Valley of Elah below
Model of the Shephelah

Close-up of the site of `Azeqah, lower center, sideways text

Valley of Elah

Taking our students down to the Valley of Elah itself, we went to the probably site of the contest between the Philistines and the Hebrews, and notable the duel between Goliah and David (see 1 Samuel 17).

Here I am setting up the scene . . .

Our Philistines watch from their side of the wadi
Nate McMaster, our David, challenges Goliath
David takes on Goliath (Alvin Green)
David about to cut off Goliath's head
"David" showing all the students how to use their slings

Detailed map of our Shephelah field trip

(B) Bet Shemesh, (C) `Azeqah and the Valley of Elah, (D) Lakhish, and (E) Marisha (Bet Guvrin)


Lakhish (KJV "Lachish") was an important fortress dominating the Lakhish Valley. Its earlier Caananite king is mentioned in Joshua, and the Israelite stronghold here was famously besieged by both the Assyrians and Babylonians.

Tel Lakhish, with ramp heading up to the gate
Students clambering through the dried grass to the site of ruined temple.  Some say it is a Persian "solar temple," but it may be an early Israelite shrine like the small YHWH at Arad

Group pic at the temple site at Lakhish

David Cramer clambering through the water culvert under the Lackhish gate
Jared Ludlow in the room where the Lakhish Letters were found

Our own "Lachish Letters!"


Maresha, also known as Bet Guvrin ("House of Guvrin" because it dominates the Guvrin Valley), is not a site explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, but its fortress served the same function in the Guvrin Valley as Bet Shemesh, Azeqah, and Lakhish did in their areas.  Along with the rest of southern Judah, it was taken over by Edomites, who are known in the New Testament as Idumeans.  In fact, Herod is said to have been born here.  They Edomites were Hellenized in the Intertestamental Period, when Maresha became known as Marissa.  Later, after the Jewish Revolt, the Romans changed the name of the city to Eleutheropolis.

Marsesha is known for its extensive caves, both amazing bell caves, which were chalk and lime quarries, and storage and work rooms under the town itself.

The Roman-era amphitheater in Eleutheropolis
Class pic in one of the bell caves
Singing in the bell caves.  Because of the great acoustics, this is a great place to sing!  We started with Christmas carols and then sang a sacrament hymn about the crucifixion.  After that we sang Easter hymns.  Then after singing "Oh How Lovely Was the Morning," we sang "Hark All Ye Nations."  In other words, we sang a musical summary of the gospel and restoration!

Water in a cistern in Marissa. No wonder "fountains of living water" were such a powerful and attractive image!
A columbarium or dovecote.

In the Sidonian tombs

Group pic in the Sidonian tomb

No comments:

Post a Comment