The Jordan Side of Things {two}

We headed to the ancient site of Amman or Rabbah/Philadelphia from our hotel. It was a sister city to Jerusalem also situated in a sort of bowl with steep valleys on three side and higher hills wrapping around those in a protecting manner. Just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, so you can feel the nestling of the city. The eastern side though, is more open and susceptible to raiders or armies coming to attack. This ‘open to the East’ connotation also had it’s benefits with easy trade to Arabia and empires beyond. Situated on this eastern horizon of the Ammonite kingdom though, it may have acted as a sort of watch town for the rest of the empire.

Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. {Psalm 24:7}
The sun and Roman ruins. Such fun!

The people of Ammon originate from the Ben-Ammi the son of Lot’s youngest daughter. So they were related to Abraham as well and when Israel entered the land, in accordance with the command of the Lord, they didn’t intrude on any land of their relative’s, the Ammonites.

Jerash, oh beautiful Roman city. City of one thousand pillars, City of the laziest officer. It had lots or nicknames according to our guide. There’s been lots of restoration done and it’s a pretty impressive site though without biblical connections.

The impressive Hadrian’s arch entrance against the bright blue expanse of sky above. Just inside to the left there’s a hippodrome where horse and chariot races took place as well as human wrestling.
From there we walked on up the main street, entered the next gate into the city and came into the huge Oval Precinct with its beautiful pillars and connecting headers.
A bit up the hill to the left was their temple to Zeus and behind it this large theater with amazing working acoustics.
A few folks from our group sang and it was great but then these men came in with their bagpipes and drums and entertained us for a while. Their music was so noisy that it didn’t matter whether the acoustics worked or not. I think you may have heard it from the other side of town.

We went on from there and hit the Cardo street, literally the heart of each Roman town. Pillars line the street on each side and there would have been shops built between each one. Its like a giant mall!

A little way farther we came to the central town fountain. This was the main structure that would have been plastered and painted with nymphs and statues in the niches. There were holes near the top where the water would have run out of and down into a pool at the bottom which in turn flowed out into a large bowl where it could be accessed by the townspeople.
Here's the grand entrance and stairs up to the temple of Artemis. This is the same goddess that the Ephesians held in such high regard and shouted about for two hours in Ephesus one day.
We got to see a neat method of bread baking at our lunch stop. First its rolled very thinly then flipped onto this cushion-like object…
…then the chef took it and smacked it to the inside of this outdoor oven to bake…
…and after a minute or so he pulled it out, baked to perfection!

Our stop overlooking the Wadi Jabbok. The grandeur of God’s creation is breathtaking from way up here. It’s neat to be able to see how much this side of the Rift mirrors the western hills of Ephraim and Manassah. Jacob camped along here with his family on their way to meet Easu and he named the place Mahanaim. They went on from there then and crossed the ford of the Jabbok and here’s where Jacob wrestled with the mysterious man. He then named that place Peniel which originally means, the face of God.

I just wanted to stand and gaze in silence.

We drove for quite a while from there and when I woke up from a nap, we were trying to make our way through some very tight streets in a little town. We stopped several times to figure out how to pass the oncoming vehicles and not hit the ones parked beside the streets. Our driver was waving his arms and rattling off a string of Arabic punctuated at times with his jolly chuckle. Us students didn’t know where we were headed exactly. Some place called Iraq El-Amir but beyond that it was a mystery. We passed a number of caves in the side of the mountain and then we were there. We had awhile to climb around the ruins and try to figure out what it was then we discussed what we had found and what it actually was. Scholars think it was a large luxury palace with a huge reflecting pool around. There are lots of rooms inside and huge lions carved into the walls outside. There’s a balcony thing with pillars at the one end with Roman looking capitals on top, all very regal and impressive looking. So what’s the connection? Well, they found one tomb or home nearby with ‘Tobiah’ carved into the stone and it seems to be connected to the Tobiah mentioned in the Bible. He’s shows up in Ezra first of all as one of the families that couldn’t prove their Jewish descent when they returned from exile. Later he comes up again as one of the men who withstood Nehemiah’s re-building of the temple. Later in that story Tobiah was closely associated with the priest that was in charge of the storerooms of the temple. So it seems that Tobiah may have had royal family ties on the east side of the Jordan that he was in touch with and had lived over here with his family at some time since he is referred to as Tobiah the Ammonite.

The pleasure palace of the Tobiah family.
The lions above would have been reflected in the sparkling pool all around the palace.
Some of the things you see beside the road are quite interesting. Lotsa onions perhaps?
And so we ended our day, excited but tired.

And then there was yet a four hour drive down south to Petra…


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