GEOLOGICAL AND TRIBULATION FEATURES ON ISRAELI TOUR PATHS
Tiberias and Upper Galilee– First Half of Nor ma
l Third Day of Tours
Tiberias was established in around AD 20 AD by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, it became the capital of his realm in Galilee. It was named in honor of Antipas’ patron, the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Josephus describes the building of Tiberias by Herod Antipas near a village called Emmaus in The Antiquities of the Jews. Also in The Wars of the Jews Flavius Josephus refers to it as Emmaus.
During Antipas’s time, the Jews refused to settle there; the presence of a cemetery rendered the site ritually unclean. Antipas settled predominantly non-Jews there from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains in order to populate his new capital, and Antipas furthermore built a palace on the acropolis. The prestige of Tiberias was so great that the Sea of Galilee soon came to be called the Sea of Tiberias. The city was governed by a city council of 600 with a committee of 10 until 44 AD when a Roman Procurator was set over the city after the death of Agrippa I. In 61 AD Agrippa II annexed the city to his kingdom whose capital was Caesarea Phillippi. During the First Jewish–Roman War Josephus Flavius took control of the city
and destroyed Herod’s palace but was able to stop the city being pillaged by his Jewish army. Where most other cities in Palestine were razed, Tiberias was spared because its inhabitants remained loyal to Rome after Josephus Flavius had surrendered the city to the Roman emperor Vespasian. Eventually it became a mixed city after the fall of Jerusalem; with Judea subdued, the southern Jewish population migrated to Galilee.
In 145 AD the Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai “cleansed the city of ritual impurity allowing Jews to settle in the city in numbers.” The Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, also fled from Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, and after several moves eventually settled in Tiberias in about 150 AD. It was to be its final meeting place before disbanding in the early Byzantine period. Following the expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem after 135 AD, Tiberias and its neighbor Sepphoris became the major centers of Jewish culture. The Mishnah, which Rabbi Judah Hakkodesh is said to have collated as the Jerusalem Talmud, may have begun to have been written here.
The 13 synagogues served the spiritual needs of a growing Jewish population.
In 614 it was the site where during the final Jewish revolt against the Byzantine Empire, the Jewish population supported the Persian invaders; the Christians were massacred and
the churches destroyed. In 628 the Byzantium army retook Tiberias and the slaughter of the Christians was reciprocated with a slaughter of the Jews.
We will head northward in Upper Galilee along the western shoreline of the heart shaped Sea of Galilee, passing near the base of towering Mount Arbel, where lie the ruins of the ancient city of Magdala.
Today the remains of the city can be found by traveling north about six kilometers on the coastal road from Tiberias.
Magdala was placed on the map forever because of its most famous first-century resident. We know her from the dozen references in the New Testament as Mary Magdalene. We also know from the Gospels that Jesus (Yeshua) delivered this woman from a demonized life (Mark 16:9). Thereafter, she became a disciple par excellence. Mary accomplished something that the twelve selected disciples did not accomplish. She followed Jesus all the way to the cross (John 19:25), and three days later she was the first witness to the resurrection of the Lord (John 20:14-18).
Mary’s city, Magdala, is mentioned only once in scripture, in Matthew 15:39. Here it is stated that Jesus came to the region of Magdala. However, even in this instance, the NIV translates Magdala as Magadan. The area of Magdala is also associated in the New Testament with the name Dalmanutha, as seen in Mark 8:10. All other references to the city are indirect ones.
Like so many other ancient cities, Magdala was rediscovered in the past century. In 1971-74, the city was excavated by Corbo and Loffreda. In their excavations they discovered a mini-synagogue, a water reservoir and some mosaics. One of the mosaics, now on display at Capernaum, depicts an ancient boat with both sails and oars, not unlike the famous boat actually discovered in the general area in 1986.
HOW MAGDALA GOT ITS NAME
In the Talmud, Magdala is called by its Aramaic name, Migdal Nunaiya (Pes. 46a). This name gives us a clue to the basic enterprise going on in the area, since the name means “Tower of Fish.” Magdala was famous for its skill in processing fish. In the first century the town was called by another name illustrating this. In the Greek language it was called Tarichaea, again, referring to it as a place of salting or processing fish.
We read in the New Testament about two miracles that Jesus performed, both including some type of small fish. It is thought today that the small fish were the plentiful Kinneret sardines. Obviously the boy could not have had them in his lunch unless they were preserved in some fashion. It is likely that the fish were either salted or smoked. It is even quite possible that these little fish were originally processed at Magdala.
HISTORY OF MAGDALA
Soon after the time of Jesus, Magdala suffered a tragic blow. After the revolt against Rome began in AD 66, Magdala was defeated by the Romans. The historian, Josephus, recounts that the Romans under Titus conquered the city with much bloodshed. Since Magdala was a center of boat building, many of the remaining residents fled to the sea in their vessels. A great sea battle resulted with a total of 6500 Jews slaughtered in the sea and on land. Josephus describes how the sea became bloody and full of dead bodies. Titus’ father, Vespasian, then decreed that the remaining citizens would not be spared. The old and infirm were slaughtered. Six thousand of the city’s strongest were given as slaves to Nero, and the remaining thousands were sold in the slave markets.*
Somehow, Magdala continued on as a city. In later times the Talmud mentions Magdala once again as a boat-building center. The city is also characterized as one noted for its wealth and depravity.
After passing Magdala we come to Kibbutz Ginnosar, the home of the Jesus Boat. It was founded by Israel-born youth and Youth Aliyah graduates of *Ben Shemen. The kibbutz was set up at the time of the Arab riots early in 1937, serving initially as a guard outpost on *Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) lands. In spite of PICA’s opposition, the settlement became permanent. Before 1948, in the pre-State period, Ginnosar served as a training and organizational center of the *Palmaḥ. It developed subtropical intensive farming (bananas, avocado, mango, and litchi), field crops, dairy cattle, and fishery. In addition, the kibbutz operated a banana plant nursery and also opened a large guesthouse and restaurant. Yigal Allon House, a memorial museum, is located inside the kibbutz. It features the so-called “Jesus boat,” constructed in around 40 B.C. and salvaged from Lake Tiberiasin 1986.
The Sea of Galilee Boat or The Jesus Boat was an ancient fishing boat from the 1st century AD (the time of Jesus), which was discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The remains of the boat, which are 27 feet (8.27 meters) long and 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide and with a maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet (1.3 meters), first appeared during a drought, when the waters of the Sea (actually a great fresh-water lake) receded.
Discovery and excavation
The remains of the boat were found by two fishermen brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, from Kibbutz Ginnosar. The brothers were keen amateur archaeologists with an interest in discovering artifacts from Israel’s past. It had always been their hope to one day discover a boat in the Sea of Galilee, where they and generations of their family had fished. When the drought reduced the water-level of the lake the two brothers examined the newly exposed beach and stumbled across the remains of the boat buried in the shore.
The brothers reported their discovery to the authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to investigate. Realising that the remains of the boat were of tremendous historical importance to Jews and Christians alike, the secret archaeological dig that followed was undertaken by members of the Kibbutz Ginosar, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and numerous volunteers. Rumour spread that the boat was full of gold, so the site of the dig had to be guarded night and day. Excavating the boat from the mud without damaging it, and quickly enough to extract it before the water rose again, was a difficult process which lasted 12 days and nights. The boat was then submerged in a chemical bath for 7 years before it could be displayed in the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar.
Dating the boat
The boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years) based on radiocarbon dating, and 50 BC to 50 AD based on the pottery (including a cooking pot and lamp) and nails found in the boat, as well as hull construction techniques. The evidence of repeated repairs shows the boat was used for several decades, perhaps nearly a century. When its fishermen owners thought it was beyond repair, they removed all useful wooden parts and the hull eventually sank to the bottom of the lake.
The Sea of Galilee Boat is historically important to Jews as an example of the type of boat used by their ancestors in the 1st century for both fishing and transportation across the lake. The boat is also important to Christians because this was the sort of boat used by Jesus and his disciples, several of whom were fishermen. Boats such as this played a large role in Jesus’ life and ministry, and are mentioned 50 times in the Gospels.
There is no evidence connecting the Sea of Galilee Boat to Jesus or his disciples.
THE CURSED CITY OF CHORAZIN
Chorazin (Korazin, Korazim) is located on the side of a large hill about two and one-half miles north of Capernaum. This city is remembered as one of the three key cities in which Jesus spent much of his ministry. These cities, Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida formed what is called the “Evangelical Triangle,” the small area where most of Jesus’ miracles were displayed (Matt.11:20). Chorazin also has the dubious distinction of being one of the cities that Jesus cursed. The city is mentioned only twice in the New Testament (Matt.11:21; Lk.10:13), and both instances concern the curse that Jesus placed upon it.
WHAT WE KNOW AND DON’T KNOW ABOUT CHORAZIN
We know a little about the city from Jewish writings and from history. The city and its surroundings are mentioned in Jewish Talmud (b. Menahot 85a). It is praised as an area famous for its very early harvest of grain. This is no doubt due to an abundance of black basalt stones and dark volcanic soil in the area. Chorazin’s steep sun-exposed hillside, with its dark coloration tends to warm up in the springtime, much earlier than surrounding areas. Today this natural process is known as insoltation.
We learn from history that the city was destroyed, probably by an earthquake, in the fourth century AD and rebuilt in the fifth century.
The first archaeological work on the city began in the nineteenth century. The synagogue in Chorazin was discovered as a result of a survey conducted by the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1869. In 1905–07 excavations on the city were begun and work was resumed at different times, continuing on as late as 1980–84.
Surprisingly, Chorazin’s archaeological remains have yielded no evidence of first century (time of Jesus) settlement on the present site. An abundance of coins and other information date the current site clearly to the third and fourth centuries AD. However, potsherds gathered nearby may indicate that the biblical city of Jesus’ day lies somewhere in the immediate area.
The excavations in the city have yielded numerous archaeological treasures. The most outstanding of course is the well preserved synagogue made of local black basalt stone. The synagogue measures about 50 feet by 70 feet in size. Prominently displayed in the synagogue is the ‘seat of Moses,’ likely referred to by Jesus in Matthew 23:2. There are also floral decorations, human and animal figures and surprisingly a well preserved Medusa.
Near the synagogue can be seen what remains of the city’s commercial area plus several dwellings. In one of these dwellings very near the synagogue a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh) has been excavated.
WHY DID JESUS CURSE CHORAZIN
We may ask why Jesus cursed this city as well as the other two cities of Capernaum and Bethsaida? The obvious reason from scripture is that most of his mighty works were done in these areas. All three were Jewish cities, contrasted with the many Gentile cities elsewhere around the lake and in the Galilee area. There were so many Gentiles around, that the area is even referred to as “Galilee of the Gentiles” in Isaiah 9:1. We know from scripture that Jesus was sent primarily to the House of Israel and it is interesting that he also sent his disciples exclusively to Israel. We read about this in Matthew 10:5-6: “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.’”
We can only imagine the great responsibility brought to bear upon a small town as the King of the Universe came regularly to visit. We know from scripture that Jesus did many miracles in this city. These people witnessed the mighty power of God in their streets for the better part of three years. Yet, it seemed to make no difference in their lives. Jesus finally said: “Woe to you, Korazin…If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you” (Matt. 11:21-22).
The archaeological excavations at Chorazin may also help us understand why the people received such a curse from God. Although it obviously happened some generations after Jesus, it is truly interesting that the descendants of these people would allow a Medusa to be built right into their synagogue wall. Its presence betrays an assimilation with the Greek and pagan practices of the time. We know from other sources that this assimilation was going on in Jesus’ time and actually as early as Maccabeean period in the second century BC.
Of course the Medusa came directly from Greek mythology and was the most famous of the monsters known as Gorgons. Supposedly anyone who looked directly at Medusa was turned to stone. According to mythology she was killed by Perseus, who cut off her head. But we might ask what in the world does all this have to do with true religion?
THE ONGOING STRUGGLE WITH PAGANISM
It seems that the true faith always remains in a life and death struggle with paganism.
Throughout the centuries we see both Jews and Christians involved in this ongoing struggle. It was not just at Chorazin, but it was at Capernaum, Hammat (Tiberias), Bet Alpha, and other places where pagan symbols were included in ancient synagogue architecture. At the Beit Alpha and Hammat synagogues, there are the symbols of the Zodiac embedded in the mosaic floors. At both sites one can also see the pagan symbol par excellence, the image of Helios, the Sun God
Although the early church began with great purity of doctrine, it was not long until pagan ideas even crept into Christianity. We see Jude writing to early Christians with this exhortation: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3). In a very few centuries the mother goddess, so prevalent in paganism, was introduced into the church through Mariolatry. Her images continue everywhere in Catholicism today. Even our great Christian celebrations such as Easter can be traced directly to the pagan worship of the mother goddess Ishtar.
In our day neo-pagan ideas of Humanism, New Age, and eastern influences are often evidenced in our assemblies. Christian books and teachings often reinforce these strange concepts. We need a warning about all this lest we end up in a situation similar to that of Chorazin. When we take the name of God; call ourselves Christians and present ourselves to the world as God’s covenant people, we are placing ourselves in a peculiar and dangerous position. If we fail to be true to God and his word he will surely judge us and our judgment will exceed that of pagans who know no better. In Amos 3:2, the prophet reprimands Israel in stern words that certainly apply to believers today: “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.”
From Chorazin we move on to the great northern city fortress of Hazor.
The tel (mound) of the ancient city of Hatzor is the largest and richest archeological site in Israel. It is located in the upper Galilee, 14 km. north of the Sea of Galilee.
The mound rises only slightly above the fertile plain surrounding it and consists of two parts: a lower Tel with an area of some 170 acres and the acropolis to the south with an
area of about 30 acres.
Many large areas of both mounds were excavated during 1955 and 1958, again in 1968 – 1969; excavation was resumed in 1990, on the upper tel only.
Hatzor was the largest Canaanite city of the 2nd millennium BC. It maintained trade links with Mari on the Tigris River, as mentioned in 18th century BC documents found there. Fourteenth century BCE documents, from the El Amarna archive in Egypt, also mention Hatzor as an important city in Canaan; they also include the name of its king, Abdi-Tirshi, who had sworn loyalty to the pharaoh of Egypt. He is the only Canaanite ruler referred to as “king” in those documents. The excavators hope that comparable archives will be found in Hatzor.
Thus far, only several documents in cuneiform script on fragments of small clay tablets, have been found in the upper city of Hatzor. They are similar to the Mari and El Amarna documents, both in content and date. One of the Hatzor documents mentions Ibni Addu, whose name also appears in a Mari document.
In the semitic languages, the name is reminiscent of that of the last Canaanite king of Hatzor, Yavin, known from the Bible. Texts of an administrative and economic nature discovered in Hatzor strengthen the assumption that the palace now being excavated on the acropolis will eventually yield a wealth of such documents.
The Canaanite City
The fortified Canaanite city of Hatzor (19th – 13th centuries BC) comprised both the upper tel (acropolis) and the lower tel (lower city). The rectangular shape of the lower mound resulted from the huge earthen rampart which was constructed at the beginning of this period along the western and northern sides of the city. The eastern side, above a steep slope, was protected only by a wall; here two city gates were located with gatehouses consisting of two rectangular towers with a passage between them, narrowed by three pairs of pilasters that supported doors.
The fortified area of lower Hatzor contained dwellings and public buildings. A very large Canaanite temple was uncovered in the northern part of the city. It appears that four consecutive temples were built one on top of the other, between the 17th and 13th centuries BCE. The first of these was modest, the last attained its greatest size in the 14th century BC. It consists of three large rooms built in a row, from south to north. The entrance hall in the south leads to a central hall, behind which was the holy of holies, the northernmost and the largest room of the temple. In its northern wall is a rectangular niche in which the statue of a god may have stood. This Canaanite temple reminds one of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, which, according to the biblical description, also included three rooms in a row.
A unique technique was employed in building this Canaanite temple at Hatzor: the inner sides of the walls were lined with orthostats, trimmed rectangular basalt slabs, which strengthened the brick walls. A large basalt orthostat, with a lion depicted on it in relief, was found; it is probably one of a pair that stood on either side of the entrance.
In the ruins of this temple, which was destroyed by fire, a variety of statues, cult vessels, libation tables and a deep basalt bowl decorated with running-spiral motif were found. Of special interest is a square basalt altar for burning incense. On one of its sides, a circle with a cross in the center – the divine symbol of the Canaanite storm god – is carved in low relief.
In the western part of the lower city, a small 14th century BCE temple built into the earthen rampart was uncovered. At the back of the building stood a row of basalt steles, one with a pair of hands raised in prayer and above them a crescent and disk, presumed to represent divine attributes. Also found here – of basalt – were statuettes of a seated figure and of a lion.
The most important discovery of recent years was the Canaanite palace on the acropolis. It is the largest and most elaborate of this period so far discovered in Israel.
At the center of a large courtyard in front of the palace stood a raised platform, probably for cultic use. Two enormous stone bases, which once supported massive columns, were found on the facade of the entrance hall, from which several steps led up to a 12 x 12 m.
room – assumed to have been the throne room.
The walls of the palace were up to 3 m. thick, built of bricks reinforced with cedar-wood beams, their bases lined with basalt orthostats. Since the palace and the building style bear similarities to those found in countries to the north of Israel, it is assumed that during this period Hatzor had cultural and economic ties with these lands.
The palace was destroyed with the rest of Hatzor, apparently in a conflagration that fired the bricks into very hard material. The remains of the Hatzor palace were covered with ash and debris which contained fragments of Egyptian sculptures, ivory artifacts, jewelry, bronze figurines and statues and more. One stone statue, cracked by fire and broken into many pieces, was over one meter high, thus making it the largest statue from the Bronze Age so far found in Israel.
Northeast of the palace was a Canaanite temple with clear north-Syrian architectural influences. It consists of a single large hall with a courtyard in front of it. This was probably the private, royal temple.
The uncovered fortifications, elaborate palace, temples and buildings, together with the written documents and other finds, indicate Hatzor’s importance among the Canaanite city-states of the 2nd millenium BC. It illuminates the biblical passage which describes Hatzor as “the head of all those kingdoms.” (Joshua 11:10) This flourishing city was totally destroyed by fire at the end of the Late Bronze Age (around 1200 BC). The conflagration is mentioned in the Bible, emphasizing the complete destruction of Hatzor during the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites: But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hatzor only; that did Joshua burn. (Joshua 11:13)
The Israelite City
For some 200 years after the destruction of the Canaanite city, only an insignificant Israelite settlement existed here. A royal city was founded on the upper tel in the 10th century BCE, during King Solomon’s reign, as recounted in the Bible: And this is the reason for the labor force which King Solomon raised: to build the house of the Lord, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hatzor, Megiddo and Gezer. (1 Kings 9:15) It is noteworthy that fortification systems and administration buildings identical to those found at Hatzor have also been found at Megiddo and Gezer.
A casemate wall surrounded only the western half of the upper tel. The eastern gate consisted of three pairs of chambers and two outward projecting towers. At the western edge of the city stood a mighty fortress, probably serving also as the residence of the governor appointed by the king to rule over the northern part of the kingdom.
In the 9th century BC, during the rule of King Ahab, Israelite Hatzor became a great, royal city, grandly planned. The eastern part of the upper tel was surrounded by a solid wall and the early casemate wall in the west was filled in with stone, resulting in a massive, strong and uniform wall surrounding the entire city. A new citadel measuring 25 x 21 m. with two-meter thick walls was erected in the western part of the city. It had two long halls with rooms on three sides and a staircase of long, trimmed stones which led to the second story. The main, western entrance to the citadel consisted of two stone pilasters bearing carved proto-aeolic capitals which once supported the doorway’s lintel. Such capitals, with two large, carved volutes, are among the hallmarks of Israelite royal architecture.
Within the city and near the gate, a variety of administrative and private structures were built. A storehouse structure with two rows of monolithic stone pillars that supported a roof is noteworthy among these. This building was dismantled in the renewed excavations and reconstructed nearby so as to allow the excavation to continue to lower levels.
A water system of amazing size and engineering complexity was constructed at Hatzor during the reign of King Ahab. It is located in the south of the city, opposite the natural springs in the valley at the base of the mound. The main component of the water system is a broad, rectangular shaft, cut into the rock to a depth of 30 m. A 3 m. wide winding staircase along the walls, leads to the bottom. The lowest flight of stairs continues in a southwesterly direction into a sloping, 4 m. high and 25 m. long tunnel, which leads to a water chamber cut in
to the aquifer. This unique water system ensured the continued water supply to the city even in time of siege, hidden from the enemy’s view.
In the 8th century BCE Israelite Hatzor lost its importance and declined. It was conquered by Tiglat Pileser III of Assyria in 732 BCE. (2 Kings 15:29) Traces of the destruction have been found all over the city. Hatzor never regained its past glory; only a small settlement continued to exist there, until that too was abandoned in the Hellenistic period.
Excavations of Hatzor between 1955-58 and in 1968 were conducted by Y.
Yadin on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations carried out since 1990 (the Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin), are directed by A. Ben-Tor on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and M.T. Rubiato of the Complutense University of Madrid in cooperation with the Israel Exploration Society and the Rothschild Foundation
PART 3B – Tiberias and Upper Galilee– Second Half of Normal Third Day of Tours will be Continued.
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