“You tithe mint, dill and cumin…but neglect…justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” Ferrell Jenkins explains and illustrates.
Alexander Schick will be lecturing on November 4, 6:30 pm for the University of the Holy Land in
Room 211 of the Rothberg Institute. The title: “Genius or Thief? Constantine Tischendorf turns two hundred – the life of the famous Bible hunter and the case of the Codex Sinaiticus in the light of newly discovered documents from his personal archives.” For more on this subject, see here.
by Chris McKinny Many visitors to Israel have visited the Nahal Zin and hiked into Ein Avdat. While witnessing the canyon’s spectacular views and wildlife, visitors will probably be informed that Nahal Zin was the southern border of the promised land (and thereby Canaan and the tribe of Judah) based on a connection between the large, continuous canyon (Arabic – Wadi el-Marra) and the southern boundary descriptions in the Bible (Num. 34:4; Josh. 15:3).
Southern Boundary Markers of Canaan/Judah on Karte Von Arabia Petraea (A. Musil 1906)
This identification was made over a century ago by Alois Musil in his Karte Von Arabia Petraea who was told that the northern cliff face of Wadi el-Marra (i.e. Nahal Zin) was called Jebel Halaq by the local population. Since “jebel” means “mountain” in Arabic and the second part of the name is identical to the biblical place name, this identification was generally accepted. However, since the early cartographic projects did not cover the Negev Highlands (e.g., the Survey of Western Palestine, Van De Velde’s Map) most are unaware of this connection and its implications for biblical geography. Mount Halak is mentioned twice in the book of Joshua, in both cases it is within a north-south boundary description describing the territory that Joshua conquered.
“So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them and put them to death. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.” (Josh. 11:16–18 ESV)
“And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir” (Joshua 12:7 ESV)
Aerial view of Nahal Zin with view of Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq), photo by Bill Schlegel
Jebel Halaq faces towards southern Jordan and the mountains of Edom (i.e. Mt. Seir), which matches the passages from Joshua. When we add Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq) to the accepted identifications of Tamar (En-Hazeva), the Ascent of Akkrabim (Roman road west of Tamar rising to Mamshit), and Kadesh-barnea (Ein el-Qudeirat), it is clear that the various boundary descriptions were describing the same border, which they demarcated using various topographical features (oases, mountains, and natural roads).
For those who visit the Nahal Zin/Ein Avdat, Mount Halak (Jebel Halaq) can be seen either on the bus ride down to the hike or at the Ben-Gurion tomb, which overlooks the Nahal Zin. Be sure to look that way next time you make it down there!
Ben-Gurion tombs with Nahal Zin and Mount Halak in background
Volume 3 of NGSBA (Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology) Archaeology has been released. The articles are primarily about the excavations at Yehud and Maresha. The entire issue can be downloaded for free. Previous volumes are available here.
The Oriental Institute has begun posting their photo archives online. Images are now available from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. As far as I can tell, the images are all low-res.
Here’s a unique tour of Israel: the Life and Land of Jesus, with Wayne Stiles. This should be particularly attractive for those who want to return but don’t want to visit the same places as every time before.
Mount Sodom (Jebel Usdum) from north – copyright BiblePlaces.com
Simply put, there appears to be good toponymic evidence for the traditional references to “Mt. Sodom” that is located on the southwestern side of the Dead Sea. Researchers may be unfamiliar with this evidence, because it is absent from both the well-known Survey of Western Palestine Maps (which did not survey this part of Palestine) and the later British Mandate Map of the Negev prepared by S.F. Newcombe. In fact and somewhat ironically, this area is a bit of a black hole in the early cartographic sources of 19th and early 20th century Palestine. However, at least two sources clearly show the name “J. Usdum” in the area that is commonly referred to as Mt. Sodom. One of these sources is the lesser known map of Arabia and Petrea prepared by Alois Musil in 1900, which can be found online in three parts here. The other is a very important map prepared by Charles Van de Velde that includes the mid-19th century explorations of Edward Robinson and Charles Van de Velde and also shows the name “Jeb. Usdum” on the rocky scarp above the western shore of the Dead Sea.
Section of Musil 1900 – Karte von Arabia Petraea – see “J. Usdum” on left side near Dead Sea
Section of Van de Velde 1865 – Map of the Holy Land – see “Jeb. Usdum” on left side near Dead Sea
To those unfamiliar with Arabic toponymy and its relation to biblical place names – Jebel Usdum would seem to clearly preserve the name “Sodom.” The toponym’s proximity to the southern candidates (e.g., Bab edh-drah, Numeirah, etc.) would at least plausibly connect them to the cities of the plain or perhaps to destroyed and then submerged cities within the Dead Sea (as originally suggested by Albright 1924:2-12). This connection finds further support in Eusebius’ description of the “Lasan” (Hebrew = Lisan [tongue]) that he describes as being “near Sodom” (Onom. 120.3). The Lisan is the boundary of the promised land below the Dead Sea (Josh. 15:2). In light of this evidence and regardless of one’s opinion regarding the historicity or chronology of the patriarchal narratives that mention Sodom, the occurrence of Jebel Usdum on the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea together with the early Christian witness to Sodom near the “Lisan” would seem to be (more) compelling evidence that Sodom and the cities of the plain should be located on the southern end of the Dead Sea.
Albright, W. F. 1924. The Archaeological Results of an Expedition to Moab and the Dead Sea. BASOR 14: 2–12.
The BiblePlaces Blog provides updates and analysis of the latest in biblical archaeology, history, and geography. Unless otherwise noted, the posts are written by Todd Bolen, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University.