BiblePlaces Newsletter
Vol 12, #4 - October 1, 2013

A favorite region of Israel and an exciting new resource for learning biblical geography—these are the topics of this month's newsletter.

If you could choose an area of Israel to build your home, irrespective of employment or income or politics, where would you want to live? I've thought about this personally and with regard to the ancient Israelites. The featured photos this month come from the "hot real estate market" at the time of the Israelite settlement.

The new resource is one that I've been excited about ever since I was involved in planning discussions for it nearly a decade ago. For the last few years, we've been using "beta" editions, but now the Satellite Bible Atlas is published and available to all. We have a great special this month that includes a fantastic wall map. See below for details.

Todd Bolen
Assoc. Professor, The Master's College

News from the BiblePlaces Blog...

Picture of the Week: Churning Butter - A photo of an ancient custom provides insight into a biblical proverb...

Archaeology Discovery Weekend at La Sierra University - A number of major archaeologists will be lecturing on the subject of Jerusalem...

Website for Gabriel Barkay - This resource provides Barkay's speaking schedule and links to his publications...

Picture of the Week: Knossos Palace Throne Room (and Thoughts on the PLBL in the Classroom) - Seth M. Rodriquez provides some good insights in how to make the most from the Pictorial Library...

First Season of Excavations at Abel Beth Maacah - A new dig is always exciting, especially when it's a virgin site near the ancient border of the Israelites and Arameans...

And more...

New Satellite Bible Atlas (& Map)

We're excited to announce here the publication of a new atlas that we've come to love! The Satellite Bible Atlas is the result of years of research and preparation by Bill Schlegel, long-time professor at the Israel Bible Extension of The Master's College. Early editions have been used by our students in recent years, but the atlas is now available to all in an affordable, hardcover edition.

There are other good atlases, but here's what makes the Satellite Bible Atlas unique and superior to its predecessors:

1. Every map covers a full page and is in full color. That allows for lots of detail and context.

2. Every other page is a map. That's a good thing if you think that atlases should be full of maps!

3. The atlas provides maps of everything from Abraham's journey from Ur to Paul's arrival in Rome. Whatever you're reading or teaching, you will find a map that marks the location and explains the event. You'll never have to guess where something took place.

4. The commentary for the maps is provided on the facing pages, so you don't have to flip back and forth to understand what you're seeing. Because the author has a high regard for the historicity of Scripture, you don't have to worry about whether you can recommend this to others in your church.

5. All of the imagery comes from satellite photographs. It is difficult to be more accurate than this!

6. No other atlas has video commentary filmed on location in Israel to help you understand the regional dynamics.

7. Purchase includes free access to all of the maps in digital (jpg) format. This makes it easy to use the maps in the classroom and on location.

The Satellite Bible Atlas is now reduced to $28, including free shipping in the U.S. For an extra $4, you can add the wall/door map that shows the entire land from Dan to Beersheba (and south to Elath). This is a fabulous deal that we recommend you take advantage of today.

Those interested in ordering larger quantities for use in the church or classroom can contact us for a greater discount. Customers outside the U.S. may save on shipping costs by ordering from Israel.

Check out our website for more details including screenshots, free downloads, and teaching videos.

Featured BiblePlaces Photos:
Ephraim and Manasseh

Do you have a favorite area in Israel? The ancient Israelite tribes did and it was not around the Sea of Galilee. We know what was the choicest territory based on which land was given to the dominant tribes, ahead of the "lottery system" used for the rest of the tribes. Because the two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, were from the tribes of Ephraim and Judah, these two tribes were given first pick. They chose the central hill country north and south of Jerusalem. The remaining seven tribes were apportioned the land that was left over according to the "casting of lots" in Joshua 18. (Two and a half tribes had already received portions on the east side of the Jordan.)

This month's featured photos are from the central hill country that was allotted to the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. This is not only a beautiful area, but it is rich with biblical history as you'll see from the explanations below.

All of the photos below are available, with additional photos, in a free PowerPoint presentation. A limited version is also available in pdf format.

Readers 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.

Wadi Farah

Click photograph for higher-resolution version.
Download the
PowerPoint presentation for all of the photos.

The beautiful Wadi Farah may well have been the entrance into the hill country for the patriarch Abraham. This was a natural route to Shechem where the Lord first promised him the land. Later his grandson Jacob certainly passed this way on his return from Paddan Aram via the Wadi Jabbok. After he wrestled with the angel and met Esau (Gen 32–33), he traveled through the Wadi Farah on his way to Shechem (Gen 34).


Click photograph for higher-resolution version.

Abraham and Jacob would have passed by Tirzah, but there is no indication in the Bible that it was inhabited at the time or that they were aware of it. But in the time of David and Solomon, Tirzah was famous for its beauty: "You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling, as lovely as Jerusalem . . . Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me" (Song 6:4-5). After the northern kingdom split from Judah, Tirzah became Israel's capital city. Jeroboam and Baasha ruled from here, but after Zimri burnt the palace down on himself, Omri moved the capital to Samaria. The photo above is one of the new aerial images taken by Barry Beitzel in the revised edition of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.


Shechem and Sychar

Click photograph for higher-resolution version.

The view from Mount Gerizim is quite impressive in any direction. Looking to the northeast, one has a view of the Michmethath Valley. On the left side stands Mount Ebal and at its base are the old towns of Shechem and Sychar. The Samaritan woman journeyed from Sychar towards Shechem in order to draw water at Jacob's Well (John 4). The amount of biblical history that one can recount at this site is extensive—I usually tell my students when we arrive that they can expect a tour of the Bible from just this spot!



Click photograph for higher-resolution version.

When touring the ancient lands of Ephraim and Manasseh, it is not just the stops at sites that are impressive, but the drive is as well. All window shades must be raised and naps are forbidden while the bus makes its way through Israel's heartland and past modern farmers and shepherds who are carrying on the traditions of their forefathers. In this photo, one can imagine the tension that has long existed between the farmer and the shepherd both of whom desired the same fertile fields.

Israelite Wall at Samaria

Click photograph for higher-resolution version.

As we continue on our way, we finally come to Israel's final and greatest capital city. Established by Ahab's father, Samaria was well known to Elijah, Elisha, Jehu, and Jeroboam II. The monumental construction of Omri and Ahab is still visible though it has not been maintained well in the 80 years since it was excavated. The wall shown above is possibly the best preserved section of architecture from the time of Israel's kings. Not too far away lie the ruins of an impressive temple built by King Herod in honor of Emperor Augustus.


Click photograph for higher-resolution version.

My guess is that most of my readers have not seen any of the places shown in the photos above, because these sites are rarely on any itineraries, save for those of student groups. Even if you have been fortunate enough to see Shechem and Samaria, you likely did not get out to this site. Timnath-serah was chosen by Joshua as his own personal inheritance within the tribal territory of Ephraim (Josh 19:50). We don't have any record of how Moses' successor spent his final days after the Conquest, but Scripture twice records that Joshua was buried here (Josh 24:30; Judg 2:9). This rather remote site has not been excavated.



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All contents © 2013 Todd Bolen. Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use. Commercial use requires written permission.