We’re in Jordan! We drove down into the depths of the Jordan/Rift Valley to the Beth Shean border crossing. It was amazing how clear the air was and what a huge difference it made for visibility throughout the day. Going through border control was quite interesting but not as intense as I expected after all the stories I’ve heard. I guess we’ll see what I have to say after crossing back to Israel. We’re blessing God for the Jordanian tour guide he gave us. He is very genial, knows an incredible amount of history and actually doesn’t seem to be making up too many facts.
At our first stop, ancient Sukkot, we discussed some interesting Bible connections. This area was also known to have more of a bedouin culture with folks coming to raise crops in the fall and winter but living up in the hills during the summer. This all makes sense with the name of this city, Sukkot which means tent or tabernacle, and also the fact that bedouin in tents don’t really leave a lot behind to be found. Fragments of a large plastered wall mural were found, a part of which was a writing about one, Baalam son of Beor. Hmm, that sounds familiar. There is a problem with this though since this text was dated to about four or five centuries before Israel ever entered the land. So was this some sort of a mythical prophet figure story that was handed down over the years and retold to fit the Israelites account?
Another time Sukkot shows up in biblical records is when Gideon came rushing over here with his 300 men in pursuit of Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian. They’re exhausted but the people of Sukkot sort of made fun of them and refused to give them any food to give them energy for the rest of their chase. But, when God gave Gideon success in capturing the kings he ‘took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkot a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers.’ Ouch, that was a pretty sore lesson to learn by not helping your neighbor in need!
Pella was our next stop. It was named after Pella, Macedonia the birthplace of Alexander the Great and became a very important connection on the trade route from the Jezreel Valley headed out to the Kings Highway. It mirror images it’s sister city, Beth-Shean directly across the Jordan Valley. Imported ivory, pottery and perfumes gives us evidence of wealthy trade passing through their hands here. After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 66, many Christians fled here for protection. The earthquake in 747 destroyed this beautiful Roman city and basically ended its long history as a city of major influence in the region.
Umm Qais or Gadara is another of the accomplished Roman Decapolis cities. It sits in the plateau of lower Gilead overlooking the Jordan Valley toward the Northwest. We were able to get an amazing view of the Sea of Galilee first of all, but then we picked out Arbel and the Horns of Hittim, Tabor, the Hill of Moreh and then waaaaay off to the north we thought we saw the shadowy ridge of Mt. Hermon. It feels a little cock-eyed to be looking at things from this direction versus the western side but widens my perspective again of how near and connected most everything is in this land.
Ramoth Gilead is our last stop before heading out to Rabbah/Philadelphia for the night. It’s really just a huge, unexcavated tell but it had it’s connections. This area of flat, in-between land was a sought after, launchpad type of area for kings and empires. For the armies coming from Damascus on their chariots it was a perfect connecting town to the road that led straight up to the Jezreel Valley, right into the heart of Israel’s territory. Ahab and Jehoshaphat fought against the Arameans here and Ahab was wounded in battle and died that evening. Later Jehu was anointed king of Israel here and sent on his mission to cut off the whole house of Ahab.