In 1643, a group of British colonists from Plymouth journeyed west to find a new home. It had been a generation since the founding of Plymouth colony and the world was changing rapidly. The colonists had seen war and hardship, they saw their hard-fought religious idealism of the New World diluted by a rapidly growing Massachusetts Bay colony to the north, and back in England the country was in the early throws of a civil war. It was in this climate that this group of colonists were inspired by the story of Isaac and his wells. God had “made room” for them and, like Isaac and the subsequent Israelites, they could be “fruitful” (Genesis 26:22) in the land. Today, this town is known as Rehoboth, Massachusetts.
Throughout history, the story of Isaac finding room has resonated by settlers of all stripes. In 1845, mixed Protestant missionaries founded a town of Rehoboth in pre-colonial Namibia. In 1873, a group of Methodists founded a resort town of Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. There are other towns with similar stories in New Mexico, Ohio, Alabama, and Maryland. It was also the name for a US Navy ship during World War I, historic buildings in New York and Maryland, and there’s even an asteroid. This is a story that has resonated down through the generations.
These stories had meaning which we carry to this day. But what ever happened to those wells? Read on for more.
I made one huge mistake in my last trip to Jerusalem, in January: I didn’t bring a heavy enough coat. As an American, I tend to think of Israel as a hot place– and indeed it is much of the time. Tel Aviv rarely gets below freezing and even in the winter the overnight lows tend to be in the forties. Jerusalem is in the mountains and tends to be a bit colder than Tel Aviv– as I found out– and it snows there with accumulations every few years. This January, Jerusalem was blanketed by nearly eight inches of powder! In the far north of Israel, on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, it even snows enough for a ski resort.
With my eyes opened to snow in the land of Israel, my second though turned to snow in the bible. I couldn’t remember even a single bible story that involved snow. Seeing this as a challenge, I set about to research everywhere that snow appears in the bible. And it does appear: twenty-seven times in the Hebrew Bible– most often in the Book of Job– and three more in the New Testament. While it factors directly in only one bible side-story, the way that it is used as an image or metaphor in different parts of the bible display a beautiful complexity.
This first part covers the very first mentions of snow in the Torah and how the metaphor of snow started as one of impurity ultimately transitioned to one of purity. Additional posts will follow. It’s exciting! Read on for more.
I work in Israel a few times each year and when I do, I stay in Herzliya, a small suburb city just north of Tel Aviv. Herzliya has some fascinating history– it may have been the site of a Crusader town called Apollonia-Arsuf– but sadly no biblical history. Fortunately, nearby Tel Aviv does. Before coming to Israel, I had no idea that Tel Aviv was near the site of the ancient and biblical city of Jaffa. Originally, Tel Aviv was a Jewish community adjacent to a larger majority Arab port city, but now the former has largely absorbed the latter, though not without bloodshed. I only knew of Jaffa from the history books, namely its conquest by King Richard the Lionhearted during the 12th century, and to a lesser extent from an an extremely old episode of Doctor Who…
But Jaffa’s history goes back much farther, even before the bible. Read on for more.
A work trip has derailed my summer posting schedule, but I hope to be back on track in two weeks. In the meantime, I am in India, a country with beautiful and varied history. It’s a place like no other in the world and I’m very glad to be here. Despite its great distance, India is not unknown in the bible. In fact, the bible reports that there were ancient Jews in India! Read on for more.
The situation was desperate: a small group of Jewish soldiers were surrounded. The year was 72 AD, only two years after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and eight years into a rebellion that pitted Jewish soldiers against the Romans. The Romans were winning, Jerusalem had been captured, and this may have been the last stand. The place was Masada, a fortress on a plateau on the edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea.
This is the first in a short series I’m calling “Biblical Tourist”, pictures and commentary on a recent trip to Israel. This was my third trip so I didn’t see all of the typical things, but I took a lot of pictures. Each entry in this series will connect to bible passages in some way.
So, what happened? And where are the pictures? And how does a fort built more then thirty years after Jesus figure into the bible? Read on for more!