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Sep 20, 2017

Archeologists uncover proof of Babylonian Siege




Did you know that both the first temple, built by King Solomon, and the also Nehemiah’s second temple that Yeshua frequented, were both destroyed on the same date in the Jewish calendar? That date is called Tisha B’Av, which means the 9th of the month of Av, the fifth month in the Jewish calendar. And remarkably, archaeologists have just made some important discoveries related to the Babylonian destruction of the first temple in 586 BCE!

Disovering the secrets of the City of David

Close to the hotly contested Temple Mount area, just to the south (a bit to the right of the picture above), is a finger of land like a miniature mountain ridge where King David first established Jerusalem. It is the hill that David and his troops climbed to attack the Jebusites 2 Samuel 5:

“So David made the stronghold of Zion (also called the City of David) his headquarters. Then, beginning at the old Millo section of the city, he built northward toward the present city center.”

Today this area is known as the “City of David”, and it is the focus of intensive archaeological excavation. They have already found many treasures: floor tiles from the second temple, an underground tunnel with stairs leading up to the temple, a bell that would have hung on the hem of a priest’s robe, seals from officials mentioned in Jeremiah, Yehucal son of Shelemiah and Gedaliah son of Pashhurand, of course Hezekiah’s tunnel, as described in 2 Kings 20:20. These were all found among the debris that was dumped when construction work was happening at the Temple Mount between 1996-1999. 

The Times of Israel explains: “The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the institution overseeing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, excavated a section of the Temple Mount for the building of a subterranean mosque in an area known as Solomon’s Stables. Tens of thousands of tons of dirt — roughly 400 truckloads — were excavated by heavy machinery, without the supervision of archaeologists, and were dumped outside the Old City.”[1]

The piles of earth sat in the Kidron Valley for over four years until the Temple Mount Sifting Project began to carefully examine the soil began in 2004. So far they have managed to go through more than 70% of the discarded debris.

But now, even as certain parties are in utter denial of Israel’s past, we have made another new discovery, related to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem over 2500 years ago. We have well preserved evidence of the destruction that the Romans caused when they sacked Jerusalem in 70 CE, but thanks to a particular pottery design that can be identified to only a short window of time in history, we are now building a clearer picture of what happened when the Babylonians came to town.

There have been many pots found in the City of David with handles bearing the letters “למלך“, which means “For the King”. This seal has been found on handles of jars, dating from just before the Assyrian invasion in 701 BCE onwards (the earliest one we have is from the time of Hezekiah’s reign in late 8th century BCE [2]), but was later replaced with a rosette design on the handle instead. These rosette seals disappeared after the Babylonian destruction, meaning that they are only found in the period leading up to 586 BCE.

Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority excavation directors explain:

“These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty. Classifying objects facilitated controlling, overseeing, collecting, marketing and storing crop yields. The rosette, in essence, replaced the ‘For the King’ seal used by the previous administrative system.”[3]

The discovery of such jars has helped identify the age of layers of earth and debris, and was accompanied by other signs of destruction such as heaps of broken and burnt pottery, charred wood, along with other treasures, including a rare ivory statuette. They were surprised to find that this layer was not uniform in depth from place to place, with some areas being as much as a meter deep but barely traceable in other places. The working hypothesis is that the Babylonians burnt and trashed some buildings but not all of them. Dr Joe Uziel says, “The process may have been to destroy certain points they didn’t have to destroy every single building in order to destroy Jerusalem.”

Chalaf and Uziel tell us that, “The excavation’s findings unequivocally show that Jerusalem had spread outside of the city walls before its destruction. A row of structures currently under excavation appears beyond the city wall that constituted the eastern border of the city during this period. Throughout the Iron Age, Jerusalem underwent constant growth, expressed both in the construction of the city wall and the fact that the city later spread beyond it. Excavations carried out in the past in the area of the Jewish Quarter have shown how the growth of the community at the end of the 8th Century BCE caused the annexation of the western area of Jerusalem. In the current excavation, we may suggest that following the westward expansion of the city, structures were built outside of the wall’s border on the east as well.”[3]

Jerusalem was expanding, an affluent city at ease with itself, but not pleasing God.

Why did God allow his own temple get destroyed – twice?

In these days of struggle and contention over the Temple Mount, there is great indignation and fury because of the perceived holiness of the site. Both Muslims and Jews feel like it belongs to them and their religion, but of course, the very notion of holiness means dedicated to God. It’s God’s mountain – God’s place, where he has chosen to put his name. And he can do whatever he wants with it. When it became practically idolatrous leading up to the time of the Babylonian destruction, God sent his servant Jeremiah with these words for those who had developed a twisted view of what it means to rightly worship God:

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord‘s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 7:1-4)

God was willing to destroy his own holy city and the his own holy temple in order to bring about justice and righteousness – true holiness. 

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.” (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

“These findings depict the affluence and character of Jerusalem, capital of the Judean Kingdom, and are mesmerizing proof of the city’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians.” (Israel Antiques Authority)

Israel may have been rich, but they had grown cold towards God and become riddled with social injustice. Jerusalem was and continues to be extremely important to God, as does his holy mountain, but our hearts are even more important to him. God did not shy away from sending the Babylonians to administer his harsh punishment. He is not interested in dead religion and empty duties, but commands us to love him with all our hearts and love our neighbours as ourselves. He cannot abide the oppression of those in need.

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?“  (Jeremiah 7:8-12)

Isn’t it interesting that Yeshua quotes these very words of Jeremiah bringing down the same verdict on the second temple, not long before that too was destroyed in 70 CE?

However, Jeremiah also foretells not only the return from the Babylonian exile, but also the regathering of Israel from all the nations, which we are seeing in our days. God is a covenant keeping God. He has his plans and purposes for Jerusalem, and will one day come again and reign from his holy mountain.

These archaeological findings of the Babylonian destruction so close to Tisha B’Av are a stark reminder to us of God’s purposes, his faithfulness to his promises, and also his priorities of his heart.

[1] The Times of Israel, “Sifting for Temple Mount artifacts halts as funding dries up”, Ilan Ben Zion, April 3, 2017, [2] HaAretz, “Archaeologists Find Destruction Left by Babylonian Conquest of Jerusalem”, Ruth Schuster, Jul 26, 2017 [3] Israel Antiques Authority, “Evidence of Babylonian Destruction of Jerusalem Found at the City of David”


New Posts
  • Admin
    Sep 20, 2017

    https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/turning-up-treasures-in-the-disciples-hometown/ As odd as it might seem, archaeologists have not been able to positively identify Bethsaida, home to Yeshua’s disciples, Peter , Andrew and Philip, until just now! There have been educated guesses about the location but nothing that fitted the biblical description of a sizable and important city. It’s been a bit of a mystery. However, new excavations at the site of el Araj seem to be revealing the remains of a significant metropolis, which Bethsaida once had been. Will the real Bethsaida please stand up? Since 1839, archaeologists have thought that Bethsaida was located at the site of e-Tell, but that was always too far away from the coast to match the Biblical descriptions of a fishing town, and the findings seem too sparse and insignificant to be the bustling centre that Bethsaida was supposed to have been.[1] There is another site that has been posited as a contender in the past, but with some exciting new discoveries, it now it seems this third site at el Araj is the more likely option. The game changer was the discovery of an advanced Roman-style bathhouse at el Araj, which shows that there had been a city there rather than just a small fishing village, according to Dr. Mordechai Aviam of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology.[2] Josephus Flavius tells us in “Antiquities” XVIII, Chapter 2:1, “When Philip also had built Paneas, a city at the fountains of Jordan, he named it Cesarea. He also advanced the village Bethsaida, situate at the lake of Gennesareth, unto the dignity of a city, both by the number of inhabitants it contained, and its other grandeur, and called it by the name of Julias, the same name with Caesar’s daughter.”[3] Josephus is telling us about Herod’s building projects and how he and his son Philip had elevated the status and size of various towns to become cities of significance. Bethsaida used to be a village that had been “advanced” in this way and transformed into a city at the hands of Philip the Tetrarch, and renamed Julias (after the mother of Tiberias, the Roman Emperor). Archaeologists who have been digging at the site of el Araj since 2016 are now finding evidence that this was indeed the case. Not only have they found the bathhouse but also they think they have found the remains of the Byzantine church that was built over the house of Peter and Andrew, in the tradition of building churches over sacred sites. The church was described by a Bavarian bishop called Willibald Eichstätt who traveled in the region in the eighth century documenting what he found on the way. Fifth-century walls have been found and importantly, gilded-glass mosaics of the kind that would only appear in ornate and important churches, worthy of such costly decoration. Steven Notley, professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Nyack College and academic director of the el-Araj excavations, explained to National Geographic the significance of the bishop’s account: It tells us that, “in the Byzantine period we have living memory of the site of Bethsaida and identifies it with the Gospel tradition.” Cautiously optimistic, he says, “Only time will tell if (1) our site has the Byzantine church, and (2) it is correctly situated on the site of first-century Bethsaida… At present I think our prospects of an affirmative answer on these two points is very, very good.” And what was the “Gospel tradition”? Bethsaida was not only the hometown of three of the disciples but also a city where Yeshua did many miracles, including healing a blind man, as recorded in Mark 8. There, Yeshua spat on the man’s blind eyes, laid hands on them, and prayed until the people initially seemed like trees walking around, but after a second round of prayer his sight was fully restored. Yeshua did so many astounding miracles there that he was furious at their lack of faith, after having seen so much. In Luke 10:13, he cries out, “What horrors await you, you cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did for you had been done in the cities of Tyre and Sidon , their people would have sat in deep repentance long ago, clothed in sackcloth and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse.” From these words too, we can see that Bethsaida was indeed a city, but one that did not appreciate the wonders done when their Messiah came to visit. Certainly, the area underwent many horrors at the hands of the Romans and other later invaders, but the eternal consequences of spurning the grace that God gives us are even more grave. Today, the environment is peaceful, but even though there are Jewish believers in the Galilee region, most still do not know the significance of the Messiah who walked about in their towns and villages 2,000 years ago. Looking after the Treasures of Tiberias If you have been to see the land (and sea) on which Yeshua walked, you might have noticed that much of the Galilee area is not the best kept place you have ever seen, considering its earth-shattering significance! The shores of the Sea of Galilee are often lined with trash and seem to be in a state of disrepair. Priceless treasures of antiquity have been neglected for centuries, and are wasting away instead of being enjoyed and admired. There is a 400 meter “cardo” or Roman road, running parallel to the lake, a bathhouse, a Roman theatre built around 20 CE by Herod’s son Antipater, an ancient Basilica which served meeting place of the Sanhedrin, and more, all surrounding the city of Tiberias, none of which are properly displayed or enjoyed at the moment. However, at the nearby site of Magdala , there has been great excitement as a well preserved first century synagogue has been discovered with compelling evidence that Yeshua himself had stood and preached in it. The Magdala site is a great example of a treasure discovered and given worthy attention, and very much enjoyed by visitors. Though at the beginning stages of building a tourist friendly environment in which to appreciate the astonishing finds, there is already plenty to see and appreciate, and the plans for future development are very promising. It sets a great standard to how these ancient sites can be best kept and shared as the treasures that they are. Similarly, an environmental stewardship organization non-profit organisation called The Beautiful Land Initiative is stepping up to help solve the litter problem in the area. By inviting teams of volunteers to come, they have collected thousands of bags of trash from the shores of the Sea of Galilee and other areas. They point to Leviticus 25:23, where God says, “The Land is Mine.” They remind us that, while the land itself belongs to the Lord, it is the inheritance of God’s people to steward the land of Israel – His possession. Amen to that.  To watch a video of the site and the findings, click here [1] National Geographic,  The Real Story Behind the “House of Jesus’ Apostles” Discovery,  Kristin Romey, August 7, 2017 [2] HaAretz,  The Lost Home of Jesus’ Apostles Has Just Been Found, Archaeologists Say, Noa Shpigel and Ruth Schuster, August 08, 2017 [3] Josephus Flavius, Antiquities of the Jews – Book XVIII
  • Admin
    Sep 20, 2017

    https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/bursting-with-fruitfulness/ Pomegranates are in abundance during the time of the Fall feasts in Israel; a symbol of Rosh HaShana (Jewish new year) and the holiday season. They are on greeting cards, ceramic ornaments, beautiful materials – everywhere! They are also dangling plentifully from trees in the fields. They are ripe and ready, bursting to tell a story. A story that God wrote. An unusual design If you think about it, since he designed everything from scratch, God could have made pomegranates however he liked – whatever colour, shape, and layout he felt like. But he chose to make it the way it is. Red, and a bit battered and leathery on the outside, full of jewel-like seeds inside, with a sort of crown on the top. It’s a kind of tricky fruit to eat – some using a pin to pick up one seed at a time, others chopping it in half and scooping out seeds with a spoon, making the rich, nutritious juice spill out – and staining anything in its path blood-red. Pomegranates are a very unusual fruit in that we usually eat the flesh of the fruit and either don’t notice the seeds, or discard them if we can. But with pomegranates, there is no flesh – only seeds. Rabbis have said that the fact that there is no flesh, only seeds, speaks of the blessings and commandments of God – they are not for our own selfish, fleshly desires, but for blessing others because once flesh is gone, it has gone forever, but when a seed dies, it produces a whole load of new life. A pomegranate reminds us that we are living for the benefit and blessing of others. They also say that there are 613 seeds in each pomegranate, symbollic of the 613 mitzvot, or laws. But they’re wrong about that. I counted them. Twice. With two different pomegranates just to be sure. But still, you get the idea. Pomegranates in the Bible Biblically, pomegranates crop up again and again in the scriptures. First of all, God himself prescribes that pomegranates must be sown to the hem of the robe of the high priest in Exodus 28:33 – 35: “On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.” Commentaries don’t often have a lot to say about this mysterious fashion choice of God’s, but he always has a purpose when he gives these specific instructions. Personally I think the rabbis are onto something with their focus on the seeds in contrast to the flesh. It has also been said that the pomegranate represents Israel – appearing a bit battered on the outside, but full of blessing for others and with a crown on top – the kingship of God. Just as the priest wore the ephod to remind God of the twelve tribes he represented, perhaps the pomegranates were also symbolic of his Chosen People. The fact that there were bells in between them (or ‘inside/amongst’, as the Hebrew says) reminds us of the danger of approaching God’s holiness. The lack of bells ringing from inside the tabernacle would indicate that something had gone horribly wrong. We know that the colour blue in God’s pattern represented the heavens, purple is for royalty and red (scarlet) for blood – for life. Perhaps the pomegranates were to remind him of his mercy and covenant with his people, and his plan of redemption. In the rest of the Bible we see the pomegranate equated with fruitfulness, blessing and prosperity as the twelve spies bring back enormous grapes with some figs and pomegranates from their reconnaissance work (Numbers 13:23), showing the Land to be bursting with promise, just as God said. However, just seven chapters later, the people complained, asking, “Why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” But God reiterates his promise in Deuteronomy 8:8, in which he lists the seven species of blessing he had put in the land for their enjoyment. Including pomegranates. From then onwards, the pomegranate is used as a by-word for blessing and prosperity, fertility and fruitfulness, and the lack of it signifies the opposite in the warnings of the prophets. Pomegranates feature strongly in Song of Songs, speaking of love, beauty, fruitfulness and fertility. We also see that pomegranates were used to decorate Solomon’s temple – 400 of them! Rows and rows of pomegranates crowned the temple and the pillars, declaring God’s goodness and blessing to his covenant people. Battered and bruised though they may be, the people of Israel have carried great seeds of blessing to the world in the very words of God to us, and the most holy seed of all – Yeshua the Messiah, seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, King of all the world. Bursting with promise Sadly, the bronze pomegranates adorning the temple were carted off with the exile to Babylon, and Yeshua has been rejected by his own people, but we know that this is not the end of the story. When they are truly ripe and ready, pomegranates burst open, and their seeds pour out. As Paul writes in Romans 11, great things are coming when the people of Israel turn to receive their Messiah. “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (verses 11-15)