BiblePlaces Newsletter
Vol 9, #4 - September 14, 2010

Summer came and went without the sending of this newsletter, and I appreciate those who wrote and noted your continued interest in it.  The primary reason that the newsletter did not get out in mid-July was the anticipated switch-over of the BiblePlaces online store.  The delays have now been overcome and we have a special offer below if you want to "take a look around" the new place.

Another task that required some of my "free" time this summer was a series of short articles for The Bible and Interpretation.  In the first one, I suggest that Herod Agrippa I died not in the theater of Caesarea, but in the hippodrome (Acts 12).  In the second, I call attention to the failure of archaeology to account for the historically attested presence of Israel in the Merneptah Stele.  I'm wrapping up a third article now on the location of David's palace.  If you have interest in any of these, I hope that you'll find them stimulating and helpful.

Finally, see below for a "scoop" on how to get more than a hundred high-resolution digital maps for free when you purchase one of the best Bible atlases available.

Thanks so much for reading here, the blog, and the websites. 

Todd Bolen
Editor, and


Picturesque Palestine Special Offer

After nine good years processing the orders for, setSystems  is being closed and our webstore is being transferred to its partner eSellerate.  To kick the tires on our new (and much improved!) site, we're offering a big sale for a brief time. 

The four volumes of Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt are available for $20 each, but for the next 48 hours, you can get the entire set for $20.  That includes free shipping inside the U.S.  To get the discount, you must use this link not later than midnight on September 16. You will see the discount in your cart when you go to checkout.

If you want to pass this deal on to others or post it online, make sure to use this link to get the discount.


Free Digital Maps from the Moody Atlas

I got the scoop for this story from the trash can.  Literally.  Some of you will be impressed by the serious commitment that I and my sources have for bringing you news that even the famous tabloids have not yet learned about.  The scoop is this: all purchasers of the New Moody Atlas of the Bible by Barry Beitzel can get the maps and photos in electronic format, for free.  This tip right here is worth the cost of your subscription to this fine newsletter!

When I heard about this, just a few days ago, from my trash-snooping friend, I immediately ordered the book.  I have wanted it ever since it came out, but knowing that I could get all of the maps and photos in digital format put me over the edge and I couldn't spend my $31.49 fast enough.

Of course, Barry Beitzel is one of the finest historical geographers of the biblical world.  This is not an atlas written by a one-time visitor to the Holy Land (yes, those exist, and no, I'm not going to name them).  Beitzel wrote the first edition of this atlas 25 years ago.  The new edition has the benefit of all of his continued years in the classroom and extensive travels in the Middle East.  It is not surprising that it won the ECPA 2010 Christian Book Award, Medallion of Excellence, in the Bible Study and Reference category.

As for the digital maps and photos, there are a few things that may be worth knowing.  First, the files are available to both past and current purchasers.  If you already bought the atlas, you can email [email protected] or call 1-800-678-8812 to get a code to download the files.  If you buy the atlas as I just did, the code is included in the book (at least it is in the copies sitting on the shelves at Amazon; bookstores with a slow turnover may have earlier printings still around). 

Second, the maps are presented in very high resolution.  You will be impressed!  The photos are available in lower resolution.  (But who reading this newsletter needs more photos of the Bible lands anyway, right?)  Third, you access the materials through WORDsearch.  Though the program is free with this code, I would have preferred to have avoided the hassle of installing another program.  If you have a Mac, you'll have to run WORDsearch using WINE or run it in a Windows environment (via a virtual machine).  From this point, you can save the images in png or pdf format.  (Or you can do as I did and just poke around in your Program Files or Program Data folder, find all of the images, and copy them to a more convenient location if you do not plan to access them via WORDsearch. The pdf files are at a higher resolution than the png images.)

I commented on the blog a few months ago that I really appreciated the publisher's wisdom in making the ESV Bible Atlas maps available on CD to its users and I noted my hope that others would get on board.  I'm delighted to see another publisher following suit.  This is a great service to those of us who research and teach using a computer, and it both spares us the time needed for scanning and gives us clean images without the unsightly crease from the center binding.

You can search the internet for information about this offer, but I don't think you'll find anything.  If you're thinking this is all too good to be true, I've uploaded the official document giving the details.  Of course, I cut off the part encrusted with noodles first.


News from the BiblePlaces Blog...

Cyrus Cylinder Loaned to Iran - The British Museum has sent the inscription to Tehran for a four-month exhibit...

Balsam Plants Living Again at En Gedi - Scientists in Israel have tried to revive the biblical plant in hopes of once again producing the precious perfume...

Temple Discovered in Ataroth, Jordan - The announcement of the discovery of this Moabite temple prompts me to tell my story of when I "discovered" the site six years ago.  Can't remember the significance of Ataroth in the Bible?  This follow-up post is for you...

Palestine Park, Chautauqua, New York - I certainly had no knowledge that such a place existed until a friend who grew up in the area alerted me to it.  This 350-foot-long outdoor "map" is a remarkable teaching tool...

2010 Excavation Blogs - A round-up of the places to get the most recent updates on the summer digs in Israel...

Cuneiform Tablet Discovered in Jerusalem - This 14th-century cuneiform inscription found near the Temple Mount is very important to understanding the city's history (and follow-up here)...

And more...

Featured BiblePlaces Photos:
The City of Samaria

The most important city in Judah during Old Testament times was Jerusalem, but its northern counterpart was equally impressive during its heyday.  The city of Samaria enjoyed lavish expenditures during the reigns of Ahab and later Herod, and the results of their building campaigns are still visible if seldom visited today.  We have made the opportunity to get to this out-of-the-way location several times in recent years and we're happy to share some of our favorite photos.  Among other things, these images may be helpful in studying and teaching biblical books such as Kings, Chronicles, Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah.

Each photo below is linked to a higher-resolution version, but we recommend that you download the Samaria PowerPoint presentation (3.8 MB), which includes an additional 9 photos (16 total).  You are welcome to use these images for personal study and teaching. Commercial use requires separate permission.  For more high-quality, high-resolution photographs and illustrations of biblical sites, purchase the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands or the Historic Views of the Holy Land collections. 


Samaria from the West

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

The city of Samaria is beautifully situated in the productive mountains of western Manasseh.  Unlike the northern kingdom's first two capitals, Samaria was located on a prominent and defensible hill.  The city first achieved biblical significance when Omri established Israel's capital here (1 Kgs 16:24).  Only 160 years later, the city was destroyed by the Assyrians who carried the northern tribes away into captivity (2 Kgs 17).


Roman Theater of Samaria

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

The city was again a thriving center in the days of King Herod who may have built this theater on the slopes of the acropolis.  Most of the stone seats were robbed out by later inhabitants of the area looking for cheap building material.


Israelite Wall and Hellenistic Tower

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Adjacent to the theater is this impressive Hellenistic tower and well-preserved Israelite wall.  The round tower is considered to be the finest surviving work of architecture from the Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BC).  The Israelite wall enclosed the royal acropolis during the time of Kings Ahab, Jeroboam II, and others.


Israelite Wall with Margins and Bosses

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

This close-up of the Israelite wall pictured above shows the style of construction used in the 9th and 8th centuries.  The margins were quite large and the protruding bosses uneven and irregular.  Between the courses of stones a "hollow" space indicates where wooden beams were once located.  Archaeologists today call this a "fugitive course" because the wood has not been preserved.


Israelite Acropolis with Possible Royal Tombs

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

The area of Samaria that should be the most exciting for students of the Bible is probably the most disappointing.  Later construction by King Herod and others combined with the failure by archaeologists to preserve, reconstruct, and label the ruins leave visitors guessing where the "house of ivory" was found and where Ahab might have had his palace.  Recently, an Israeli archaeologist has proposed that two rock-hewn cavities were tombs of the Israelite kings.  In the above photo, two friends stand immediately above the (mostly hidden) entrances to these caves.


Interior of Possible Israelite Royal Tomb

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

The "tombs" are mostly filled in today, but one can see the hewn walls that Norma Franklin believes once served as the burial locations for some of Israel's kings.  Her theory was presented in the July/August 2007 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.  David Ussishkin, an expert in Iron Age tombs, has responded negatively to her proposal in the Nov/Dec issue, and Franklin defended her identification in the Mar/April 2008 issue (all links require paid subscription to BAR).


Herodian Stadium of Samaria

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Most visitors to Israel never make it to Samaria, and those that do probably never find the Herodian stadium on the northern slopes.  The best view of it is from the hillside above where the shape of the oval depression is visible.  This sporting venue was originally built by King Herod and later reconstructed in the late second century.  In contrast to theaters, amphitheaters, and hippodromes, stadiums are rare in Israel; the only other one known today is at Jericho.



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All contents (c) 2010 Todd Bolen.  Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use.  Commercial use requires written permission.