One of my book sets that was acquired through some measure of trial and tribulation is William Thomson’s The Land and the Book. If you’ve done much reading of ancient customs and how they may illuminate the Bible, then you’ve certainly heard of this three-volume work if you haven’t read it yourself. You also may have enjoyed selections from it if you have The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection that was produced by us and published for Accordance.

Logos Bible Software has put the set in its Community Pricing which gives you the opportunity to get the full text for a low price. (The way that C.P. works is that a single bid of $20 is equal to two bids of $10, so feel free to bid low if you get a friend to join you.)

To give you a sense for some of Thomson’s writings, I opened up a few of the American Colony presentations and started reading. I very quickly found a number of quotes that relate very well to my recent study and teaching in Genesis.

For instance, when I was reading Genesis 18, I was struggling with the timeline. The three men show up “in the heat of the day,” eat a prepared calf, and then walk down to Sodom by evening. Apart from the fact that this makes it very difficult (i.e., impossible) to locate Sodom on the northern side of the Dead Sea, I was wondering how the calf could have been cooked so quickly. Thomson’s experience was helpful.

With the Bedâwin it is nearly universal to cook the meat immediately after it is butchered, and to bake fresh bread for every meal. Visit any Arab sheikh, for example, whose tent is now in the valley below us, and you will witness the entire process. A sheep or calf will be brought and killed before you, thrust instanter into the great caldron which stands ready on the fire to receive it, and, ere you are aware, it will reappear on a large copper tray, with a heap of bûrgûl, cracked wheat, or of boiled rice and leben, sour milk. In Cincinnati, a hog walks into a narrow passage on his own feet, and comes out at the other end bacon, ham, and half a dozen other commodities; at the sheikh’s camp, it is a calf or sheep that walks past you into the caldron, and comes forth a smoking stew for dinner. (2: 205)

Of course, we cannot assume that the way things were in the late 1800s are the way things were more than three thousand years ago. But it is possible that traditional ways were maintained for a long time.

Certainly the practice of killing a choice animal for visitors was similar in Abraham’s day as it was among Arabs in 19th century Palestine.

Not only is this true, but amongst the Bedâwin Arabs the killing of a sheep, calf, or kid in honor of a visitor is required by their laws of hospitality, and the neglect of it is keenly resented. They have a dozen caustic terms of contempt for the sheikh who neglected to honor his guest with the usual dabbîhah, sacrifice, as it is universally called—a name suggestive of the religious rite of hospitality as practiced in ancient times by the patriarchs, and frequently confirmed by a solemn oath and covenant” (2: 205).

I’ll close with one more, this one related to the story of Esau.

In my rambles about the outskirts of the town last evening I lit upon a company of Ishmaelites sitting round a large saucepan, regaling themselves with their dinner. As they said “Tŭfŭddâl”—oblige us—very earnestly, I sat down amongst them, and, doubling some of their bread spoon-fashion, plunged into the saucepan as they did, and found their food very savory indeed. The composition was made of the red kind of lentiles which we examined in the market at Jaffa; and I can readily believe, from the little experience I had of its appetizing fragrance and substantial taste, that to a hungry man it must have been very tempting” (2: 252).

I wouldn’t let that Thomson’s experience take anything away from your disdain for a son who despised the glorious promises of God, but it is certainly valuable to be able to “see” things more clearly.

You can bid on the Logos set here. There’s a free Google version here. There are many used copies available, but they come in abridged and 2-volume formats that can make purchasing confusing. You might also consider one of the volumes in The American Colony Collection, such as the fascinating Traditional Life and Customs. For $20, you get 600 photographs and hundreds of interesting quotations from Thomson and many other early explorers.

Bedouin hospitality, having coffee in sheikh's tent, mat05980

Bedouin hospitality (photo source)

Question: Does your collection include a picture of where Mount Carmel runs into the sea?  I recall seeing a picture once showing the impracticability of travel along the sea. –J.B.

Answer: There actually is a narrow strip of land along the water’s edge that is traversable, unlike the cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean at Rosh HaNiqra. But in ancient times and modern, travelers have preferred the passes through Mount Carmel. One of the reasons for this in antiquity was the difficult, marshy conditions in the Haifa area.

This first photo comes from the “Acco” group on volume 1 of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

Acco sunset with Mt Carmel from north, tb122100211

This second one comes from the “Haifa” set on volume 1 of the American Colony and Eric Matson Collection.

Haifa and Mount Carmel, mat07135

Both give a sense for the proximity of the edge of Mount Carmel to the sea. You can also check out the view on Google Earth.


If you are looking for unique Christmas images, the Accordance Blog tells you where to find them.

A scroll containing the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy has just been put on display at Discovery Times Square in New York City.

Iraq’s second largest museum is paying smugglers to return the artifacts.

If you’ve been intrigued by the title of Jodi Magness’ latest work, BAR has posted a review by Shaye J. D. Cohen of Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. The book is available for $16 at Amazon or $20 at Eisenbrauns.

A bulla with the name of a biblical town has been discovered in the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

According to ANE-2, Gabriel Barkay will present it at a conference at Bar Ilan University at the end of the month.

The new Egyptian Minister of Antiquities has announced new policies for his department.

Ferrell Jenkins has written an illustrated series appropriate for the season:

Fishermen using illegal nets in the Sea of Galilee have been caught and detained.

The Biblical Archaeology Society has released a new edition of its free eBook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning. The new material looks at the War Scroll, the Temple Scroll, and the Book of Enoch. If you have not already, you must register to receive the eBook.

Olive Tree Bible Software now has the ESV Bible Atlas for sale for $22, the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible for $26, and the Holman Bible Atlas for $20. These atlases are supported on the Android, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and soon the PC.

If you ever hear the name Ron Wyatt in connection with some amazing archaeological discovery, run the other way. His death in 1999 did not prevent his frauds from being perpetuated in email forwards and on various websites. His alleged discovery of chariot wheels in the Red Sea and research claimed to date the objects based on the number of spokes is worthy of being featured as the latest post at PaleoBabble.

HT: Jack Sasson


This month, Accordance’s Featured Product is the American Colony Collection module. They are offering the module at a discounted price of $109 (regularly $149) through the month of March. You can read Todd’s introduction to the collection here and learn more about the Accordance module from Todd and Accordance’s David Lang. If you have already purchased the collection from BiblePlaces.com and are an Accordance user, you may want to consider the crossgrade option.


Construction work in the Dome of the Chain on the Temple Mount gets attention from Arutz-7.

Muslim religious authorities are concluding a clandestine eight-month dig on the Temple Mount that is intended to erase traces of the Jewish Temple’s Altar, Temple activists charge.
The digs have been taking place under the Dome of the Chain, believed to have been built over 1300 years ago. For eight months, the dome – which has a diameter of 14 meters – has been surrounded by a metal fence and black cloth, which hide whatever activity has been going on there from outside inspection. The Muslim Waqf religious authority has claimed the activity is simply a refurbishing of the structure, but refuses adamantly to let Jews or tourists near.

The article includes a couple of additional brief paragraphs along with five photographs.  Several months ago a reader wrote to me about this activity and I replied with speculation that the work consisted of no more than the repair of tiles.  That seems to be confirmed by the photographs.  It’s unfortunate that the Muslims are so secretive, as such only contributes to the suspicion that they are damaging Jewish antiquities.  On the other hand, the charge that the Muslims’ intent is to erase traces of the Temple’s altar is not supported by evidence and seems intended to stir up animosity.

I have located my response mentioned above and am including a portion of it here:

Why was it necessary even to build the plastic construction for a 2nd time so that even the “half cm’s” openings would be closed?

They do the same thing on many Jewish excavations in Jerusalem.  Everyone is just so sensitive.  It doesn’t have to be a problem, just the thought of a problem.  Given the dust-up a couple of years ago with the digging of a trench for a water pipe, I’m not surprised they take every precaution, even if it’s just to replace a few tiles (which is what I bet it is).

Why aren’t we allowed to have a look at least?

Because you might be a biased journalist and write some half-cocked story.  No one is safe from journalists.

What is there to get angry about if I want to take a picture of an open door and a floor with tiles?

See above.

Are they digging under the Dome of the Rock?

Certainly not.  The Dome of the Rock is built on bedrock.  If they wanted to dig under the Dome, they’d do it from inside.  It’s possible they could be accessing some underground cavities (cisterns), but I’d really be surprised if they were doing more than superficial repairs.

How is it possible that Israel cannot go on with their openly work on the ramp to the Mughrabi gate outside the Temple compound, and nobody worries about  secret ‘works’ near the Rock itself? What are they ruining there that we are not allowed to see?

This question seems to suggest that you believe that Middle Eastern matters are treated fairly in the court of world opinion.  That’s as far from the truth as could be.  Why aren’t the Israelis doing something?  My guess is that the cost isn’t worth the gain.  Why cause a fuss over something relatively insignificant that you’re not going to win anyway?

Finally, Leen Ritmeyer explains why he believes that the altar was not located under the Dome of the Chain.  His illustrations will help you put it all together.

Dome of Rock, with Dome of Chain, mat03221

Dome of the Rock with smaller Dome of the Chain (left) in the 1930s (Source)

Barbara Bair has written an interesting and informative article in the Jerusalem Quarterly on the history of the American Colony Photography Department.  Their work is compared and contrasted with other photographic agencies in the Old City of Jerusalem.

An important commercial niche that the American Colony photographers shared with other professional photography businesses in the Near East was the production of images of allegorical “biblical” scenes. Like other photographers needing to remain commercially viable, they took photographs of sacred sites, such as the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But they also went beyond the standard images well-known to tourists to create extensive documentation of mosques, churches, architectural sites, city-scapes and village homes and streets in greater Syria. An American Colony Store catalogue flyer of American Colony Photo Post Cards available in 1934 featured nearly 300 selections, catalogued geographically, with more than 50 of them Jerusalem scenes.
American Colony “typology” studies of unnamed working Jerusalemites included photographs of a water carrier, a porter, and a rabbi (perhaps a model posing as a rabbi), each indicated in the catalogue as signifying specific verses from the Bible. The generic anonymity of these subjects implied a timeless arc from ancient times to the present, and made the humans featured into symbols of their respective cultures and ways of life, much as the architectural typology of holy buildings symbolized entire faiths. American Colony cameramen joined other photographers in staging “tableau” photographs and took opportunity images that were emblematic of New Testament scenarios (shepherds with their flocks, women at the well, women grinding grain, fishermen with their nets, the arched streets of the Via Dolorosa, the river Jordan). They excelled in this particular niche market, producing albums of gorgeous hand-tinted sepia photographs, and pictorial prints of lush romantic Palestinian landscapes that followed both painterly and popular culture artistic traditions. Albums entitled the “23rd Psalm” and “Blue Galilee” were best sellers, and were also available for order as sets of lantern slides.

The full article is here.

Village guest chamber, mat05610

Village guest chamber (source)