BiblePlaces Newsletter
Vol 7, #4 - December 16, 2008

I was recently looking at some photos I took on January 1, 2000.  Some people were afraid the world was going to stop that morning, and as I spent that day traveling around remote sites in the ancient tribal territory of Benjamin, I wondered how I would know if it did.  It's hard to believe now that 2008 is now ending. 

This month's featured photos are not typical for this newsletter.  Instead of photos from the ground, we have a set of satellite photos of Jerusalem that are helpfully labeled.  If you've not quite put the pieces of Jerusalem together in your head, or if you can use a teaching tool, you'll find this PowerPoint presentation quite helpful.

Also, if you've been waiting to order the new "Views That Have Vanished" CD, now is a great time to order.  We have had excellent response on this unique and rich collection.  If you're looking for a gift for your teacher, pastor, or future travel companion, we highly recommend it.  All U.S. orders placed by Friday the 19th will arrive before Christmas and shipping is free.

May you have a blessed celebration of Christmas and/or Hanukkah.

Todd Bolen


News from the BiblePlaces Blog...

Video Review: Noah's Ark in Iran - The latest in the "don't believe everything you read/hear/watch in biblical archaeology"...

Perfume Bottles Found at Magdala - The excavators suggest they may be the same ones used by Mary Magdalene.  I don't think so...

The Acoustics of Mounts Gerizim and Ebal - A fascinating report by a traveler in the 1870s who did an experiment...

New Discoveries at Herod's Tomb - Archaeologists have found more coffins and a theater that could seat 750 people...

And more...

Biblical Archaeology Discovery of the Year?: Khirbet Qeiyafa

Perhaps you've seen these funny words, Khirbet Qeiyafa, in a news story or blog in the last few months.  Admittedly, the name probably doesn't grab most readers, and you may just skip over to the next story.  If you're still reading this, however, my goal is to explain, in concise form, just why you might want to pay attention to names you have trouble pronouncing.

Defining terms: Khirbet is a word with a meaning similar to "tell."  Whereas a tell has many layers, a khirbet consists of one or two, meaning that people only lived there in one or two periods in ancient times.  Khirbet is often translated "ruin," as opposed to a tell, which is translated as "mound." Qeiyafa is the name the locals gave to this particular ruin.  Sometimes the modern names preserve the ancient name (for instance, Beisan was the Arabic name of biblical Beth Shean). 

Where is it?:  Kh. Qeiyafa is located in the western foothills (Shephelah) of the Judean hill country.  More specifically, it sits on the northern side of the Elah Valley.

Elah Valley, that sounds familiar: Yes, that's because when David fought Goliath, the two armies were situated on hills on opposite sides of the Elah Valley (1 Sam 17:2-3).

David and Goliath?: That's where this whole story gets real interesting.

Tell me more: After two seasons of excavating, the ruins at Kh. Qeiyafa date to approximately 1000 B.C.  According to the biblical chronology, David became king over Judah in about 1000 B.C.

Too bad they didn't find an inscription: Actually, they did!  It may be the earliest Hebrew inscription.  It is quite difficult to read, which is why a translation has not yet been published.

Is Qeiyafa in the Bible?: Maybe.  The excavator once suggested that the site was Azekah (1 Sam 17:1).  Now he has proposed that it is Shaaraim (1 Sam 17:52).  Another scholar has identified the site as Gob (2 Sam 21:18-19).  I have argued that it may be Ephes-dammim, where the Philistine army was camped when they fought David (1 Sam 17:1).

What's the bottom line: 1) This is an important site from the time of David. 2) Critical scholarship that has tended to minimize the importance of the Israelites during this time may need to revise their conclusions.  3) The inscribed potsherd is likely to be a big story when it is translated.  4) Continued excavations will likely reveal more in future years.

Where can I find more?: You can google Qeiyafa, go straight to the excavation's website (#1 and #2), read my analysis of why the site may be Ephes-dammim, and why I don't think it is Shaaraim or Gob.  Other posts I have written (or will write) may be found here.


A Reader Writes
and a Related Tip

Todd - I must confess that there were several things I did not understand when I was in [classes at] IBEX.  One that always had me in a fog was the view from Nebi Samwil.  I never "got" where we were looking.  But, in prepping for this Sunday's last Israel presentation in church, I found myself forced to cover Nebi Samwil's view.  So, I pulled out my Pictorial Library and discovered your PowerPoints, panoramas, and aerials that FINALLY enabled me to understand what we were looking at Nebi Samwil!

Your Pictorial Library collection has gathered dust on my bookshelf for almost a year now.  I don't know why.  Now that I have reviewed it for refreshing my understanding, I am astounded at the work you put into that project!  It is OUTSTANDING.  Thank you!  It is a resource that I shall use with renewed vigor.  I think I'm gonna put everything on my computer and begin indexing it with Picasa, so I have readily searchable data for the future when I have the opportunity to teach on Israel again. But, I just wanted to thank you very much for the excellent resource that the Pictorial Library is.  You have done an amazing job on that.

--Austen D.

My Follow-Up: Of course it is gratifying to hear such encouraging words, but I include them here for the benefit of my readers.  Specifically, the Pictorial Library may be gathering dust on YOUR shelf, and that may be depriving yourself or those around you of some valuable instruction.  Personally, I've heard teaching this past week on Jesus' walking on the Sea of Galilee and of his healing the blind man at the Pool of Siloam, but not a single photograph in the instructor's PowerPoint.  Since I can picture the scene in my mind, I am not missing out, but others are.

Here's a suggestion to make it easier: use the PowerPoint files already included on the Pictorial Library CDs.  These make it easy to find related images, plus they have extensive explanations about the sites.  Picasa is a good program for searching for jpg images, but the PowerPoint files have additional material, such as labels on aerial photographs or panoramic views.  Besides, if you use PowerPoint for your presentations, you can very easily copy the slides you want from the CD to your file.

By the way, the Nebi Samwil material is in the "Benjamin" file on the "Samaria and the Center" CD, and you can see many places mentioned throughout the Old Testament in this area.


Featured BiblePlaces Photos:
Satellite Photos of Jerusalem

This month's featured images are high-resolution screenshots of Jerusalem.  The base images come from Google Earth, but helpful labels have been added by A.D. Riddle that make it easy to identify the major features of the ancient and modern city.  The five slides are each included with and without labeling, for maximum usefulness.  The labeled images are:

Jerusalem's Valleys and Mount of Olives

Jerusalem's Hills, Valleys and Springs

Jerusalem's Citadel and Holy Sites

Jerusalem's Quarters

Jerusalem's Walls and Gates


These images are available in a PowerPoint file, and the base images are from Google Earth and are subject to the terms and conditions as established by Google. 


Jerusalem's Valleys and the Mount of Olives

Click picture to download PowerPoint file.

This is the first of five labeled images from Google Earth.  This image highlights the valleys in and around the Old City, and identifies the peaks of the Mount of Olives on which sit major landmarks today. 



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All contents (c) 2008 Todd Bolen.  Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use.  Commercial use requires written permission.