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I mentioned recently the newly released Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch, edited by Barry J. Beitzel. I thought it would be useful here to provide a short summary of one of the two articles I contributed.

Chapter 8 (of 47) is entitled “The Patriarchal Travels in Canaan: A Geographic Assessment.” Two helpful features for each article is that they begin with a list of relevant biblical references and as well as an inset box with the “Key Points.” This particular article covers a bit of ground in Genesis, and the listed references are Genesis 12:6–8; 13:1–18; 14:13–24; 20:1–13; 22:1–19; 23:2–20; 26:7–33; 28:11–22; 33:18–20; 35:1–7; 46:1–5.

As with previous volumes in the Lexham Geographic Commentary, I find the “Key Points” overview to be extremely useful in getting a quick feel for the article and whether it’s one I want to read now or later. I think what might be most interesting here is if I give each of my five Key Points along with a little bit of commentary.

1. As the book of beginnings, Genesis explains the origins of significant sites and regions in the history of Israel.

I suppose that this point shouldn’t really be a surprise, but I must say for myself that it took me a long time to put two and two together. Yes, I think of Genesis as the book of origins, but I’m always thinking in terms of the origins of the earth, humanity, sin, promise, covenant, and theological categories. But Genesis also explains where Shechem “came from” (that is, before Moses sent the Israelites there to renew the covenant, it was the place where God promised Abram the land). So many sites that were later prominent in Israel’s history have their beginnings explained in Genesis.

2. The patriarchs lived in the southern hill country and Negev, avoiding the plains and valleys where major cities were located.

This point explains why the average tourist to Israel hears almost nothing about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—because the average tour doesn’t visit the southern hill country or the Negev. The patriarchs’ stomping grounds was in less traveled areas, avoiding major Bronze Age sites such as Hazor, Megiddo, Joppa, and Sodom. They generally stayed away from the coastal plain, the Shephelah, and the Jezreel Valley. This leads to the next point.

3. The places where the patriarchs lived and worshiped became significant sites for the Israelites when they returned from Egypt and settled the land.

Many of the sites most important in Israel’s history following the conquest feature prominently in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Shechem, significant to both Abraham and Jacob, was the northern kingdom’s first capital. Jacob made a vow to the Lord at Bethel, and the tribes later inquired of the Lord there before Jeroboam built his infamous high place. Hebron first was the place of the patriarchs’ burial, but it became important to Caleb, David, and Absalom.

4. The places where the patriarchs had conflicts became places where the Israelites had conflicts.

Not only do the patriarchal locations reappear in Israel’s history, but often we see that the Israelites imitated the actions of their ancestors in these places. Bethel and Beersheba were each worship sites for Jacob and for his descendants. Shechem saw the painful episode with the violation of Jacob’s daughter, and in the time of the judges Abimelech slaughtered his own people there. The Jewish commentator Ramban observed this pattern, noting that “not a single incident that befell the father didn’t befall the children.”

5. The patriarchal sites served as signposts, pointing forward to Israel’s future hope.

This is easily my favorite point, and the most delightful discovery of my studies. The lessons learned at Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, Beersheba, and Moriah all were intended to point Israel to God’s fulfillment of the covenant promise through a greater priest-king, a divinely provided substitute, resurrection from the dead, and restoration to the land.

As I mentioned before, the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch is available in both print (hardcover; Amazon) and in digital (Logos) formats. I plan to do a similar post in the coming weeks on my second article in the volume.

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The occupants of the 4th century BC Royal Tombs at Vergina have been identified as Alexander the Great’s father Philip, his stepmother, half-siblings, and son.

An Egyptian antiquities official was criticized after he announced that Egypt was restoring the granite casing on one of the three main pyramids of Giza.

The Times of Israel: “A Tel Aviv University team is using muon detectors to track powerful particles, hoping to build a 3D map of undiscovered tunnels, chambers and fortifications under the holey city,” Jerusalem.

Kathryn Oliver describes how conservators at the British Museum restored a sarcophagus relief in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit, “Legion: Life in the Roman Army.”

In the latest video from the Institute of Biblical Culture, David Moster compares Torah scrolls from Yemen with others from around the Jewish world.

Chandler Collins looks at what we can learn about Jerusalem from a travelogue published by William Barlett in the 1840s.

John Drummond gives a preview of “The Seven World Wonders” article that is in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Bryan Windle’s top three reports in biblical archaeology for the month of January includes a bonus story.

The BBC gives a history of beds through the ages.

“The Bible and Its World” international academic conference will be held in Israel on July 1-3.

Now open access: Syria’s Monuments: Their Survival and Destruction, by Michael Greenhalgh (Brill, 2016, $229; open access pdf – download link temporarily not working)

Stephen Mitchell, author of many books on Asia Minor in the Roman era, died this week.

Zoom all-day seminar today: “In Search of Ancient Israel,” with Gary Rendsburg ($90)

HT: Agade, Gordon Dickson, Arne Halbakken

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Last week the mailman delivered the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch. It has been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait. This is the best compendium of geographical information on the Pentateuch ever assembled—I don’t think anything even comes close.

To start with, Barry Beitzel is the editor. He has long been a leading scholar on biblical geography, as evidenced by his highly-praised The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands (published in 1985; revised in 2009 as The New Moody Atlas of the Bible). Now retired from 40 years of service at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dr. Beitzel cast the vision for this series, developed its vast scope of topics, and recruited the best scholars in the field. In addition to his editorial work, he also wrote the preface and one of the articles on the Red Sea.

The contributors’ list alone suggests the excellence of this volume, including Richard E. Averbeck, David W. Baker, John A. Beck, Daniel I. Block, Mark W. Chavalas, Benjamin A. Foreman, Lawrence T. Geraty, James K. Hoffmeier, Mark D. Janzen, Chris McKinny, Gerald L. Mattingly, Steven M. Ortiz, Elaine A. Phillips, and Paul H. Wright.

The 900-page volume includes 47 individual essays addressing broad thematic subjects as well as narrowly focused topics. Some articles address controversial issues, such as the debate over Sodom and Gomorrah (two articles), the identification of Mount Sinai (two articles), and the location of Rachel’s tomb.

Other articles analyze broader geographical matters, such as the four rivers of Eden, the Table of Nations, the Tower of Babel, the region of Goshen, the wilderness itinerary, and the “seven nations” of Canaan. You can find entire articles dedicated to mountains in the patriarchal period, famine and its impact, burial practices, the golden calf, manna, quail, and water.

You can see a full list of the articles here. If I were to pick three articles to read first, instead of going from cover to cover, I might start with these three:

  • “‘A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey’: The Expression’s Meaning and Socio-spatial Significance,” by John A. Beck
  • “Geography, Agriculture, and the Israelite Calendar,” by Vernon H. Alexander
  • “The Theology of Land in Deuteronomy,” by Daniel I. Block

I contributed two articles to this volume, both of which were fresh studies for me that led to new and delightful discoveries.

  • “The Patriarchal Travels in Canaan: A Geographic Assessment”
  • “The ‘Land’ Given to Abraham and His Descendants: A Geographic and Socio-spatial Analysis”

I plan to post briefly about my two articles in the coming weeks.

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Pentateuch is available both in print (hardcover; Amazon) and in digital (Logos) formats. I am very thankful to Barry Beitzel, the authors, and the Logos editors and staff for their work in creating an extraordinary resource for the study of the books of Moses.

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The Temple Mount Sifting Project has discovered some very rare Byzantine coin weights, suggesting that there was more activity on the Temple Mount in the Byzantine period than usually assumed. Perhaps there was even a church located there.

“Almost a century after the British archaeologist Alan Rowe excavated Gezer, Dr. Samuel Wolff published a final report on the site, including on three vessels whose use defies interpretation.”

“The Forma Urbis Museum recently unveiled an exhibition featuring an ancient marble map of Rome dating back to 203-211 AD.”

Nathan Steinmeyer provides a 6-minute video tour of Beth Shean in the latest episode in BAS’s OnSite series.

Bible History Daily has a piece introducing an article in BAR about the Deborah and Jael mosaics discovered in the Huqoq synagogue.

A new study suggests that Roman wine tasted spicy.

“After years of criticism over its collecting practices, Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum is repatriating to Greece three antiquities that are widely regarded to have been looted.” Reading the article requires a free account.

Hybrid lecture on Feb 22 at the Albright: “The Archaeology of Olive Oil: Excavating a Bronze Age Olive Oil ‘Factory’ in Jordan,” by Jamie Fraser

Biblical Israel Ministry and Tours has begun a new teaching series on the “Life of Christ in Context.” The first episode is an overview of the whole.

HT: Agade, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken

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Archaeologists discovered a rare silver coin from the Persian period during excavations as part of a highway-expansion project in the hills southwest of Jerusalem.

Ariel David, writing for Haaretz, reports that underground hiding places in Israel have “a more complex history than previously thought.”

A recent article by Nahshon Szanton in ‘Atiqot argues that the small pool at the outlet of Hezekiah’s Tunnel is the true Pool of Siloam and the more recently excavated large reservoir (Birkat el-Hamra) is what Josephus called “Solomon’s Pool.” Leen Ritmeyer (mostly) agrees, and he is not surprised that they have not discovered more steps in the recent excavations.

The National Library of Israel received the world’s largest collection of Yemenite Jewish manuscripts as a donation.

The latest issue of Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology focuses on “Spatial Digital Archaeology and History of Israel.”

Chris McKinny and Kyle Keimer discuss the top 10 archaeological discoveries in 2023 in the first of a three-part series in the Biblical World podcast. Part 2 is here.

A man was arrested while carrying out an illegal excavation at the site of Philippi.

New release: An Ancient Mesopotamian Herbal, by Barbara Böck, Shahina A. Ghazanfar, Mark Nesbit (Surrey Kew, £30). “Combining methods from the humanities and science, the authors provide a concise overview of ancient Mesopotamian culture and herbal lore, along with new identifications of Assyrian and Babylonian herbal medicines, focusing on 25 case studies.”

Zoom event on Jan 31: “The Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library would like to invite you to experience up close the more than 200,000 fragments of the Cairo Genizah Collection.”

On the latest episode of Digging for Truth, Bryan Windle explores the archaeological evidence for King Jehoiachin.

Bryan Windle has written an archaeological biography for King Belshazzar.

There are 42 things you are not allowed to do on the dig.

HT: Agade, Andy Cook, Arne Halbakken, Ted Weis

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My longtime friend, Wayne Stiles, has spent the past seven years developing a wonderful website that features more than 200 videos that connect the Bible and its lands to life. He has traveled and filmed extensively in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. 

The links below take you to the various regions and countries with trailers to watch. There’s even an app so you can watch it on the go—and on tours! The cost for joining is nominal—and a whole lot cheaper than taking a tour—and you experience more than many tours combined could offer. 

In addition, you can use this code (BOLEN) to get a $10 credit—which allows you to rent two full episodes or to buy one of your choosing. 

Judah and the South (39 episodes, including Gath, Libnah, Timna Valley, Negev Highlands—and more)

Galilee and the North (23 episodes, including Sepphoris, Tabgha, Hazor, Capernaum, Cana—and more)

Samaria and the Center (20 episodes, including Beth-shan, Jericho, Dothan, Gibeon—and more)

Jerusalem (24 episodes, including the Temple Mount, Kidron Valley, Walls and Gates, Western Wall—and more)

Greece (19 episodes, including Patmos, Rhodes, Philippi, Athens, Corinth—and more)

Rome and Malta (20 episodes, including Appian Way, Roman Forum, Malta, Pompeii—and more)

Turkey (29 episodes, including Troas, Ephesus, Assos, Tarsus, the Churches of Revelation—and more) 

Egypt (8 episodes, including the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings, Nile River, Karnak Temple—and more)

Jordan (9 episodes, including Petra, Mount Nebo, Moab, Machaerus, Ammon—and more)

Interviews (11 interviews, including Bryant Wood, Scott Stripling, Carl Rasmussen, Charlie Dyer, and me)

If you are reading the Bible in 2024, Wayne also has a new Reading the Bible Lands program that goes through the whole Bible with videos, devotionals, and my photos—with the opportunity for Live Zoom calls with Wayne and other members to discuss the Bible reading and Q&A time. 

Some years ago I wrote the following about Wayne, and I don’t think I can say it any better now:

“Wayne Stiles has a unique gift for bringing the biblical world into our own. Some teachers are history gurus, but they can’t translate their research into how it affects us today. Wayne is superb at doing this in his books, on his blog, on his podcast, and at the sites. He is passionate, accurate, and faithful.” 

Wayne’s resources are outstanding in every way, and I’m very thankful for the ways he has applied his giftings and energies to create excellent tools to increase our love for and understanding of God’s Word.

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