Uncrowned Queen of Palestine (and other places)

The drive north through the hill country is amazing. We move out of cenomanian layers to the more rounded eocene hills and then into the deeply eroded Michmatah valley filled with alluvial soil so wonderful for agriculture. (Ha, I love using those terms cause by now you’re all probably scratching your head a bit and wondering if my mind has taken too much heat.

Its Sunday, September 18 and we’re headed for Samaria. I can’t see enough of scenery as we travel. The lovely terraced hillsides as we move into Manasseh’s territory remind me of the years of work being poured into this land. I love the handing down of territory and the seriousness of taking care of what God has given to your family because it’s your livelihood and that of your children. We see numerous flocks of sheep and goats sprinkled over the hillsides as well as several bedouin tents.

The lovely terraced mountainsides

We arrive at Mt. Gerazim and Mt. Ebal; these mountains of blessings and curses. Here Abraham commanded the children of Israel to renew their covenant with the Lord and then Joshua records the actual event. They built an altar and sacrificed to the Lord. Then Joshua read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, and the Bible records that the whole assembly of the Israelites were there, the foreigner and the native born. So why would they have needed to do that, this renewal of the promise? Well, there were a bunch of new Israelites that wouldn’t have been at Sinai so maybe just a reminder of the relationship the Lord wanted with His people. “Don’t forget this wonderful God that lead us out of the land of bondage, to freedom. Let’s remember to obey and stay in relationship with HIM!” Also, if there were foreigners with them, perhaps they didn’t know all the laws of this God. Perhaps they were only beginning to be taught about the goodness of serving this mighty Creator, who wanted to be in relationship with them and would bless them abundantly if they served Him but if they disobeyed the consequences were severe. It was great to look down over the town and read the passage that they would have recited together, all the promises and consequences.

The mountains of blessing and cursing; Gerazim on the left, Ebal on the right
Looking over to Mt. Ebal from Mt. Gerazim
Love these ladies! Also our theme verse in school this week.
On Gerazim looking out over the beautiful valleys and rolling hills

The walls at the city of Shechem were quite massive in their day. The city was protected by huge earthen embankment and cyclopean fortifications and gates from the Middle Bronze Age. Getting to see these old ruins is a pretty huge privilege. And it was so cool to know that this is where so many stories were played out. Abram traveled through here in his journey of obedience to God’s call. He built an altar at the “great tree of Moreh at Shechem.” Later Jacob comes to this town on his way back from living with Laban. He camped “in sight of the city” then he bought that piece of land and built an altar and called it El Elohe Israel. Now when we look at these ruins today there is evidence of large temple with an open courtyard area or temenosadjacent to it. Could it be that this piece of land Jacob bought was right outside the temple? And then when Israel comes back to the land there was a connection to this place and its people. Perhaps it was known as the place to renew vows and covenants that were made between men and God.

The temple compound at Shechem
Looking down at ancient Shechem from Gerazim

Then we have the story of Gideon aka Jerub-Baal. The Israelites wanted him to rule over them but he said, “No, The LORD will rule over you.” But, he had a concubine that lived in Shechem and she had a son who he named Abimelek which means, ‘my father is king.’ Hmm, okay what is that supposed to mean? Abimelek then starts to campaign for a kingdom. He kills his father’s sons, 69 of them; Jotham escapes. When the Shechemites gather to crown their new king, Jotham climbs Mt. Gerizim and tells them that they are all going to be destroyed and that they really deserve it for how despicably they acted. Its so incredible to watch the story play out in the chapters of Judges that follow.

Getting a drink from Jacob’s Well was a unique experience. So often its hard to know whether this is exactly the spot or not but the well has been preserved by the town to be the historically correct place. So, Jesus really came here, sat in this area and spoke with the woman of Samaria? Whoa, that is too cool!

For real.
Our modern day Samaritan woman

We drove out to Samaria after all that and looked at the kingdoms of Ahab and Omri. How we look at them through the biblical accounts and see them as wicked kings who didn’t do a stitch of good. Well, they sure didn’t follow the plan that God had for their kingdoms but look at the major trade hold that Ahab had over the land. From Phoenicia the home of his princess wife down the coastal highway and then all the way across the rift valley to the hills of Trans-Jordan. He was getting a mega amount of wool as tax from the king of Moab and Phoenicia had the only access to making purple dye. So, being able to control the trade of both of these major resources created a huge influx on the economy for the land of Judah and the lifestyle of the king.

Herod's Theater in Samaria
Part of Herod's palace to Augustus on top of Samaria including some modern day Israelites

But along with these things came the temptation of Baal worship. Along with the princess came the traditions that she grew up with and the wishes of her father that she wanted to honor.  So, as a common person, how will you decide whether to go with the king or to somehow stand up for the decrees that your God had set for your people? How do we live in the middle of the pagan-ness and not become a part of it? How do we influence the people around us for good instead of being influenced by evil?

It's true.

Our last stop of the day was at Shiloh. We sat in an old grape press for our lecture. Cool, huh? Here is where the tabernacle was first set up when the Israelites came into the land. It is part of the remote interior of Ephraim’s inheritance in that its tucked up in the hills, away from main routes and sort of hard to get to. So why does God want HIS most important sanctuary to be in such a remote place? Also, there was an interesting little happening here that’s recorded at the very end of Judges. Check it out sometime (Judges 19-21) Hmm, it raises quite a few questions really…

And so we continue to read and study. To dig deep and ask questions. To desire the deep things of our Lord more and more.

Oh, and I should tell you about today too. I got to babysit these adorable Witty children, Jack & Violet. It was quite fun even amidst the 5:56 awakening. They are so sweet and lovable when there aren’t legos flying or any such kid activities going on. 🙂

The Witty Family; John, Laurie, Jack, Violet

I planned to meet Verna at a park around 2:15 this afternoon then so that the Beachy and Witty children could all play together cause I had a class at 3:00. Well, I left a bit late and then tried a ‘shorter’ route. Um yeah, that didn’t work out so well. So I was cruising, along trying to figure out which direction I was supposed to be headed in. (What an awful babysitter) I ended up probably walking 10-15 minutes longer than I would have needed to if I had had a map. Keep in mind that I was also pushing a double stroller and it was like 85°. Finally found Verna. By now Jack was fast asleep and Vi was well on the way. So I raced for school (almost literally). I prayed for the minutes to stretch and made it with about 9 to spare. Yay! But I’m sweating like a workhorse and think I smell like one too. Eww, now I get to sit in class when everyone else is nicely dressed and has walked leisurely to class, no sweating involved. 😦 Well, class was great though and I’m very excited for our Benjamin field study this weekend!

I’m thinking by the time I actually got home tonight (a number of backtracking, huffing and puffing involved) that I probably walked 6ish miles today. My thighs groan at any movement and my poor back is pining for some a treatment.

Ah yes, life is GOOD.

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