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If you needed a quick summary of information about En-Gedi, where would you go? I’m doing research for an essay in a future volume of the Lexham Geographic Commentary series and this morning I was studying En Gedi in relation to David’s flight from Saul. I went through a dozen commentaries and pulled out various tidbits about David’s time in the area. Then I went to my standard Bible dictionaries. I usually consider Anchor Bible Dictionary to be the best, and so I started there. The article was decent. Then I went to others to see what else they had (ISBE, NIDB, EBD).

I recently pulled into my line-up the Lexham Bible Dictionary. I’ve been a bit skeptical of its value because it’s not a printed work and they used a wide variety of writers (including many students). But when I pulled up the LBD entry on En-Gedi I was immediately impressed. It was much longer and more thorough than the others. In fact, I think its length is probably twice that of the other four combined. That means there are separate sections on En-Gedi in Ancient Accounts (subdivided into biblical and extrabiblical), Geography and Geology (no one else has much on this), and Archaeological Investigations (which is subdivided into many sections). Then it closes with a bibliography, which is easily better than any I’ve seen elsewhere.

A final delight was to discover the author: Christian Locatell. I know this guy! He’s one of our ace creators of the Photo Companion of the Bible! (Many years before that, he was my student and he gave me various nicknames, but we won’t get into that…) He made a big contribution to our Acts volume, and his work on Romans has been spectacular! (That volume should be available in November.) So I figured I would write a little blogpost with three purposes: (1) to share some interesting tidbits about En-Gedi that you may not know; (2) to suggest you include the Lexham Bible Dictionary as part of your Bible study tools; and (3) to let you know that the author of this terrific article is creating more amazing resources for BiblePlaces followers. 🙂

Here are five ten interesting observations about En-Gedi from Dr. Locatell’s article:

1. Edward Robinson was the first modern explorer to identify En Gedi, and he did so on the basis of its Arabic name: Ain Jiddi.

2. David hid from Saul in the “strongholds” of En-Gedi (1 Sam 23:29), but when he wrote a psalm praising God for saving him from Saul, he called God his “stronghold” (2 Sam 22:2; Ps 18:2).

3. En-Gedi is believed to be the home of the Essenes (and not Qumran) by some scholars.

4. 700 inhabitants of En-Gedi were slaughtered by the Sicarii in the First Jewish Revolt.

5. Many ancient accounts rave about En-Gedi’s lush fertility.

[In one paragraph, Locatell quotes Karmon, Baly, and Efrat and Orni! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such geographical richness in one place. It’s a great paragraph, but too long to copy here. I am certainly proud to be this guy’s first geography teacher.]

6. Clouds over En-Gedi are rare, and the flash floods in the area are the result of the top rock layers being unable to absorb much of rainfall.

7. Most of the springs along the western shore of the Dead Sea have a high saline content, making En-Gedi such a precious resource of sweet water.

8. Between 1949 and 1972, there were seven archaeological expeditions to En-Gedi. [I had no idea there were that many.]

9. An Aramaic mosaic from the 5th-century AD synagogue refers to the “secrets of the town.”

10. Excavations on the northern slope of the tell revealed workshops and equipment probably used for producing the perfumes for which En-Gedi was famous.

There you have it. This is the best article on En-Gedi I know of. Thanks to Lexham and to Locatell for serving us so well.

BTW, we have some great photos of En-Gedi in our Judah and the Dead Sea volume.

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Archaeologists working at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) are claiming that a Byzantine church they are excavating is the “Church of the Apostles.” The story is reported in Haaretz (premium); the excavation website has lots of photos.

The excavation season at Gath is over. Among this week’s posts is this one with their end-of-season photo shoot.

“A rare, very early rural mosque was unearthed during recent archaeological excavations in the southern Israel Bedouin city of Rahat.”

Excavations on Mount Zion have revealed a moat from the Crusader siege of Jerusalem in 1099.

“An unprecedentedly vast Neolithic settlement — the largest ever discovered in Israel and the Levant, say archaeologists — is currently being excavated ahead of highway construction five kilometers from Jerusalem

The University of Basel announced its possession of the oldest autograph of a Christian letter.

Researchers are studying the harbor technologies of Portus, the maritime harbor of Rome in the first centuries AD.

For the first time in decades, Egypt has opened the Bent and Red Pyramids of Dahshur to tourists.

Wayne Stiles draws spiritual lessons about closed doors from Paul’s second missionary journey.

New from Eerdmans: Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran, by Sidnie White Crawford

Now at the top of my wish list (but more difficult to acquire outside of Israel): Ancient Jerusalem Revealed: Archaeological Discoveries, 1998–2018, edited by Hillel Geva.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Agade

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The big story of the week was the “discovery of Ziklag,” a claim made by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel regarding his recent excavations of Khirbet a-Ra‘i. You can read about it in the The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz (premium). You can download high-res photos or watch a one-minute silent video showing excavations at the site. I think the whole thing is sad.

Now, to the week’s stories, of which there are not so many:

You might have trouble picking out your friends in this year’s group photo of the Gath excavation team. (Very clever!) You can poke around the blog for recent updates and lots of photos.

The Tel Burna excavation season is over. John DeLancey created a video of the site with his drone.

A journal article has been published on last year’s discovery of a ceramic pomegranate at Shiloh.

Scott Stripling is back on The Book and the Spade discussing this year’s excavations at Shiloh.

A newly constructed building on an archaeological site in the hills near Hebron has been bulldozed.

On the Logos blog, Karen Engle explains the value of biblical archaeology.

It’s always more enjoyable to think about a difficult passage when you feel more immersed in its setting, and that’s what Wayne Stiles does this week with Jesus’s question at Capernaum.

Israel’s Good Name enjoyed a fascinating outing to the Nizzana Dunes. Don’t skip this one if you love wildlife.

Carl Rasmussen has begun a very interesting series (part 1, part 2) on Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a photo of Capernaum with a unique perspective.

OK, so I’ll elaborate briefly on my thoughts on “Ziklag.” First, the lead archaeologist who made the claim has a track record of making dubious sensational claims. Second, the archaeologist was very careful to conceal his idea from other scholars until he made his big announcement to the press. Now, that may be the way to do things in the competitive business world, but in academia, you’re supposed to share your ideas with colleagues for fruitful critique. Garfinkel’s approach, once again, is more designed to make headlines than to discover truth.

Third, other sites, such as Tel Sera, have appropriate occupation levels, from the Philistines followed by the Israelites, with destruction layers. From the biblical text, we know that there were dozens of sites in this area, and David no doubt removed the Philistines from more than one of them (1 Chr 18:1). Furthermore, the minimal amount of Philistine pottery gives reason to doubt that Kh. a-Ra‘i was actually a Philistine site at all.

Fourth, Khirbet a-Ra‘i (coordinates 31°35’26.83″N, 34°49’10.03″E), is near Lachish (2.5 miles northwest), but according to Joshua 15, Ziklag is located in a more southern district (grouped with sites like Beersheba and Hormah). That is why scholars have proposed for Ziklag the sites of Tel Sera (15 miles southwest of Lachish) and Tel Halif (13 miles south of Lachish). If Khirbet a-Ra‘i was Ziklag, it should be in verse 38 of Joshua 15, not in verse 31. Fifteen miles distant is a long way in the land of Israel!

As with Kh. Qeiyafa, Garfinkel simply ignores what the Bible says about the geographical situation of sites and chooses the most spectacular name to attach to his site. The press will let him get away with it, because sensational stories mean more money for them. By the time that journal articles are written or professors speak up, the headlines have already raced around the world, and the public’s attention is elsewhere. Khirbet a-Ra‘i is a fine archaeological site; it doesn’t need false claims in order to make it worthy of study or publicity.

Final note: Amanda Borschel-Dan has written a solid report for The Times of Israel in which she quotes at length two scholars dumbfounded by Garfinkel’s claim. Luke Chandler (a volunteer at the site this year) and Ferrell Jenkins also weigh in. My analysis here was written before I read these reports, but you’ll see there’s a good bit of overlap.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Agade, Keith Keyser, BibleX

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Museums:

“Assyrians in the Shadow of Vesuvius” is a new exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

“Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri” is now on display at the Getty Villa in southern California. The post discusses how the Getty Villa was designed after the Villa of Papyri.

“Last Supper in Pompeii” is a new exhibit opening later this month at the Ashmolean Museum.

A replica of the destroyed Lion of Mosul is going on display at London’s Imperial War Museum.

A major exhibition on Troy will open at the British Museum on November 21.

The Egyptian Museum, though losing much of its collection to the Grand Egyptian Museum, will undergo a three-year renovation with the hope of securing status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A new exhibition on Tall Zira’a opened this week at The Jordan Museum.


Lectures:

Shahrokh Razmjou will be lecturing on “The Rise and Fall of Persepolis: A Wonder of the Ancient World” in London on July 23.

Twenty scholars will be speaking at the 22nd Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest in San Diego, November 22-24.


Tourism:

Jerusalem’s “Tomb of the Kings” will reopen to visitors for the first time since 2010, but the tombs themselves will be off-limits.

With restorations complete, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity has been removed from UNESCO’s list of endangered world heritage sites.

The Lahun Pyramid opened to the public for the first time last week.

Every year there’s a story that Carchemish will soon be opened to the public.

Babylon has been named a 2019 UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Adam Stewart Brown articulates well why you should visit the Holy Land.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Agade, Explorator, Bill Krewson

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I go away for one week, and I come back to a large pile of stories in the biblical and archaeological world. This is going to take three long posts to catch up.


Discoveries:

Excavations at the synagogue of Huqoq have uncovered a mosaic depicting the Israelites’ encampment at Elim as well as two of the four beasts of Daniel 7.

Recent research has revealed that Tel Shikmona was not a trading settlement but a purple dye manufacturing center.

The Siloam Road, connecting the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, was officially opened this week.

Archaeologists discovered an ancient baptismal font hidden inside another baptismal font at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

An ancient Roman-era shipwreck has been discovered at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the eastern coast of Cyprus.”


Excavations:

The Tel Burna crew has finished three weeks of their summer dig, with daily posts providing summaries of the finds along with photos. Here’s the latest. John DeLancey has posted his perspective as a volunteer.

The Gath expedition is halfway finished with their season, and they are unearthing a road, a window, architectural remains, and a monster wall.

This summer’s excavations at el-Araj (Bethsaida?) have produced more mosaics from the Byzantine church, a mold for making lead fishing weights, part of a roof roller, and Roman flagstones.


The Jerusalem Report has a feature piece on recent excavations at Tell Beth Shemesh.

Excavations are beginning in Laodicea on the road that leads to the ancient stadium.


Studies:

A new DNA study indicates that Philistines living in Ashkelon in the late 12th century BC originated from Greece, Crete, or Sardinia. These articles are based on a journal article published in Science Advances (pdf).

“New research explains why salt crystals are piling up on the deepest parts of the Dead Sea’s floor.”

Joe Zias argues that nearly all, if not all, of the human remains found at Masada are ethnically non-Jewish.

A new study shows that masons’ marks were used at Hippos only from the late first century to the late second century (Haaretz premium).


Sad News:

Doug Greenwold died on June 23. Doug was the Senior Teaching Fellow at Preserving Bible Times and a co-founder of The Institute of Biblical Context. He will be greatly missed.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Agade, Explorator, Lois Tverberg

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Dig:

A tower from the time of King Hezekiah was discovered on a military training base in the Hebron hills.

The first week of the Tel Burna excavation has wrapped up, and Chris McKinny shares a summary and lots of photos.

Aren Maeir provides some of the objectives for each area as they prepare to begin the 2019 season at Gath.

The latest video of the Shiloh Network News is now online.

New finds at Tell Deir Alla in the Jordan Valley contradict previously published results that the north side of the site was used for cultic purposes.” I’m not sure how “new” these finds are, but the aerial view of the site is nice.

The May 2019 issue of the Newsletter of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities features the latest news and discoveries.


Tour:

Sappers finished clearing mines at the seventh and final monastery at Qasr al-Yahud. Six more months of mine clearing are required before the area will be safe.

Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth) has voted to change its name to Nof HaGalil, to end confusion with the city of Jesus’s childhood.

In a painstaking process, the Penn Museum moved its red granite 12.5 ton sphinx of Ramses II to its main museum hall.

The Getty Conservation Institute’s work at Herculaneum is focused on preserving the wall paintings.


Read:

Now available from Eisenbrauns: A Corpus of Ammonite Inscriptions, by Walter E. Aufrecht. This second edition includes 254 additional inscriptions, most of which have no provenance. (Use code NR18 to receive 30% off.)

Gordon Franz has posted an updated version of his article, “‘How Beautiful Are the Feet’ on the Via Egnatia.”

Carl Rasmussen shares a photo of “handcuffs” from the Roman period, along with a list of more than 20 mentions of “chains” in the New Testament.

Ferrell Jenkins posts photos of the wildflowers of the field as well as cedar and hyssop.


Listen:

John DeLancey is Gordon Govier’s guest on The Book and the Spade this week, discussing “the destruction of Jericho.”

Eve Harow interviews Leen Ritmeyer on the Land of Israel Network.


Go:

Wayne Stiles is leading a tour to Israel and Egypt in October 2020.


Thanks:

Agade, Ted Weis, David Padfield, Alexander Schick, Explorator


Break:

There will be no roundup next weekend.

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