BiblePlaces Newsletter

Vol 21, #2 - June 14, 2022

You do not need photos to understand the message of the Bible, but visual aids can be very beneficial in enjoying Scripture and apprehending some of its fascinating details. Of course, better than a photograph is being there yourself. Instead of being limited to what’s in the photographer’s frame, you have a 360-degree perspective with all of your senses engaged.

But being there has its limits too. For one thing, you probably can’t be everywhere. That dream trip to Israel—well, you need to follow that up with the dream trip to Turkey. And then there’s still Jordan, Egypt, and Greece. When you’ve been there, you still are missing Lebanon and Syria. And good luck getting to the biblical sites in Iraq and Iran.

But leaving that aside, being on-site is still not enough. You’re still missing out on some things. In many cases, the sites have changed significantly, even in the last 50 years, with construction and renovation and hordes of tourists. But even in those places that seem untouched by time, you are still limited, because the archaeologists carted off all the great finds to the museum. That’s why the tour guide is holding up a binder with a photo of an artifact or a reconstruction drawing, and everyone is crowding around squinting to see it.

These reasons, and some others, ensure that we can never “have it all.” We will always need to travel to one more site, visit one more museum, and research one more discovery. We will always wish we could sweep away the crowds in the viewfinder or travel back in a time machine.

Is there a “next best thing”? I don’t think there will ever be a replacement to being on location. But what would be very helpful is having a collection of images that brings together all that is missing. If you could start with the ground perspective and add some aerial views, photos of artifacts, and historic images, you would certainly have a more comprehensive grasp of the whole.

This vision has been what has been driving us for the last twenty years, and for the last seven years, we have been pulling everything together in a one-stop resource to illustrate the Bible, book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse. We call it the “Photo Companion to the Bible,” and it is a library of images indexed by biblical text and annotated by experts.

I used to think of it as the “holy grail” of photo collections, but now with a team of brilliant colleagues, it’s no longer an impossible dream. We’ve done it. Well, not the whole Bible, but some of the richest portions from a visual perspective. Every chapter in the Gospels, every journey of Paul’s, and every one of Paul’s epistles.

We’ve also finished the historical books from Joshua’s entrance into Canaan to the destruction of the temple at the end of 2 KingsWe have photos of (nearly) every site and (nearly) every artifact. Some sites haven’t been identified, and some artifacts are inaccessible. But I would say that 3,000 photos for 1 Samuel is not too shabby. Or 7,400 photos for 1 & 2 Kings. Big numbers are not always easy to appreciate, but if you break it down, it’s easier: 2 Kings 1 has 80 photos. And every other chapter in 1 & 2 Kings has even more (up to 2 Kings 18—Sennacherib’s attack on Hezekiah—with 310 photos).

We can’t promise that we have everything, but we do have a lot. And if there’s a new discovery this year? We can easily add it, since this is a digital collection and our updates are free. This approach is better for our customers than one that requires purchase of every new edition or one that requires payment of a monthly or annual subscription fee. Buy it now, and it is yours forever, including any updates.

We released the massive 1 & 2 Kings last week, and we’re spreading the word now while the introductory pricing is available. If you think you will ever be doing a more careful study of these books, now is the time to pick up the collection. If you think your pastor or professor or Bible study leader would ever teach on the stories of Elijah and Elisha, or the reigns of Solomon, Ahab, and Hezekiah, this would be a good recommendation to make or gift to provide. There are many good books and commentaries, but Solomon never wrote, “of the making of many photo collections, there is no end” (Eccl 12:12).

Take a look. We have made available for free download the PowerPoints for 1 Kings 9 and 2 Kings 8Download them and enjoy the wealth of images that illuminate our understanding of the Bible. And then consider how you or someone you know could benefit. This week, 1 Kings is available for $69, 2 Kings is also available for $69, or you can purchase both for $79. That comes out to about $10 per 1,000 photos, all carefully organized and annotated for easy use.

It’s not necessary to have this to treasure the riches of God’s Word, and it will never be enough to satisfy all our curiosities, but perhaps it is the next best thing. It certainly is a useful and inspiring photo companion to the Bible.

Todd Bolen
Photographer, BiblePlaces.com
Professor of Biblical Studies, The Master’s University

Featured BiblePlaces Photos:
Naboth's Vineyard

The book of Kings is filled with many sad stories that were intended to instruct God’s people. A particularly tragic one shows King Ahab acting not like a humble servant of the Lord but as a despotic tyrant of the ancient Near East, seizing land from a fellow Israelite and murdering him to do it. This week’s photos show some of the setting and historical context of Naboth’s vineyard and the crime committed there.

These photos come from the Photo Companion to 1 & 2 Kings, an extensive collection of images illustrating the history of Israel and Judah from Solomon to Zedekiah. For more free photos, download the 1 Kings 9 PowerPoint (200 slides) and the 2 Kings 8 PowerPoint (170 slides). These and more than 7,400 photos are included in the new 1 & 2 Kings volumes in the Photo Companion to the Bible.

“Now Naboth . . . had a vineyard in Jezreel”

Jezreel was Ahab’s destination after fire fell on Mount Carmel, and the king raced Elijah to the city before the rainstorm hit (1 Kgs 18:44-46). Ahab apparently had a winter palace in Jezreel, and excavations have revealed stone masonry typical of Ahab’s construction projects at other sites. The area was productive for vinetending, as recent excavations have uncovered dozens of winepresses. Naboth owned a desirable vineyard, not far from Ahab’s palace (1 Kgs 21:1).

“And Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard'”

The exact location of Naboth’s vineyard is unknown. However, 2 Kings 9:21 indicates that it was along the route from Jezreel toward Ramoth-gilead, the place to the east from which Jehu was coming when he was met by Joram and Ahaziah. Thus the vineyard should be located east of Jezreel in the Harod Valley. There are numerous springs along the southern edge of the Harod Valley at the base of Mt. Gilboa including Ein Harod, Sachne, and others. Recently, new excavations led by Jennie Ebeling and Norma Franklin at Tel Jezreel have focused on exposing remains at the nearby spring of Ein Jezreel. Among their finds was a large-scale winepress and wine production facility.

“And I will give you a better vineyard in its place”

A survey of the area around Tel Jezreel in 2012 produced evidence of 57 agricultural installations (olive presses and wine presses). Most of these were discovered along the rocky slopes to the east of Tel Jezreel. A particularly large and well-preserved winery at the foot of the slope was subsequently excavated. This photograph shows a grapevine growing on the east side of the ancient city.

“But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard’”

This large winery complex is located at the foot of Tel Jezreel. Cut into the bedrock, it includes a large treading floor, two deep vats, a basin, and numerous mortars or pits. The treading floor is about 10 x 10 feet (3 x 3 m), while the vats are a little over 3 x 3 feet (1 x 1 m) and more than 3 feet (1 m) deep. The small pits are of unknown purpose and may predate the construction of the rest of the winery. This photo was provided by Norma Franklin, courtesy of the Jezreel Expedition, and is used by permission.

“So Jezebel wrote letters in Ahab’s name”

Jezebel appealed to Ahab’s pride and position of power as king, as though that gave him the right to take whatever he pleased. It is likely that Jezebel would have used a scribe to write the letters she wished to send, and the letters would almost certainly have been written on papyrus that had been imported from Egypt. This relief depicts two Assyrian scribes; the one at the back is writing on a papyrus roll, while the one in the foreground is writing on a wax tablet. This relief was photographed at the British Museum.

“And she sealed them with his seal”

The letters sent by Jezebel would have been tied with a string and sealed with one or more bullae, stamped with the king’s seal. The “seal” refers to an inscribed stone or metal object that was pressed into soft clay. The resulting impression verified that the document had come from the owner of the seal. This unprovenanced bronze signet ring is inscribed “Ahab, king of Israel.” It was photographed at the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa.

This week you can purchase the 1 & 2 Kings volumes at our launch price of $79, including immediate download and free shipping. Your order enables us to continue creating more volumes in this unique resource. Purchase these volumes as a DVD+download or download-only.


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All contents © 2022 Todd Bolen. Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use with attribution. Commercial use requires written permission.