Our group is experiencing so many great things here in Israel, and we wish we could bring everyone from Northridge to experience it with us! We hope these posts each day will allow you to "live" a bit of what we are seeing and learning.
Today was our third day of touring and we began by driving through the Jezreel Valley (Jezreel meaning "fertile") to the ancient city of Megiddo. On our way we drove past Mount Tabor where, in the time of the Judges, Barak of Israel faced off against the Canaanite army commanded by Sisera. Read the fascinating (and gruesome) story of how Sisera met his end at the hands of a woman in Judges 4.
The city of Megiddo is an ancient tel, which is essentially a hill composed of many layers of the remains of several civilizations over centuries. This tel contains an amazing 24 layers of civilization!
Notice the city gates of Megiddo:
In the 9th century BC King Ahab dug a shaft to provide water from a nearby spring. We were able to walk the tunnel connected to this shaft which runs underneath the tel.
The Bible describes how Josiah, one of the rare good kings of the Southern Kingdom, was killed by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt on the plains of Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29). As we overlooked these plains, our group took a moment to consider the significance of this spot both historically and in the days to come. In Hebrew, this city is called Har Megiddo which in Greek is translated Armageddon. In Revelation 16:14-16 John speaks of a future day when Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will judge the nations of the world at this very spot… and He will reign forever!
From Megiddo we traveled north to Dan. In fact you can't get any farther north in Israel than Dan, which is why the Old Testament uses the phrase "From Dan to Beersheba" over and over (Judges 20:1, 1 Samuel 3:19-20; 1 Kings 4:25). It is an expression which highlights the cities in the northernmost and southernmost points in the land. It would be another way of saying "the entire nation".
Here in this city, Jeroboam, the 1st king of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), set up an alter to present sacrifices to the LORD as a way of discouraging those in the Northern Kingdom from heading south to Jerusalem 3 times a year as required. This was in an attempt to foster loyalty to the North and avoid competition with the Southern Kingdom (Judah). The problem is that Yahweh had specifically made it clear that Jerusalem was the only place where sacrifices could be made. In this act, Jeroboam was displaying disregard for the ways of the LORD, which is why years later the righteous King Josiah (mentioned above) smashed the altar to bits as he attempted to restore the land to spiritual health. Here our group is gathered in front of Jeroboam's alter as we consider the implications of crafting a religion to your own liking as Jeroboam did. The metal structure is simply in place to help you get a sense of where the original alter would have stood:
We take our Bibles everywhere as that is our textbook for this study trip. To read the stories where they happened is a unique experience that is hard to describe.
Our next location for the day was Caesarea Philippi. This is most likely the very spot where Peter confessed to Jesus "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus would affirm Peter's statement and then go on to say that He would build His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. You can read that account in Matthew 16:13-20. Caesarea Philippi was filled with pagan shrines carved right into the cliff walls, and temples built to pagan deities. It was also thought to be the gateway to hell because of the existence of a deep and massive cave (pictured to the left in the photo), so it makes sense that Jesus would declare this truth here.
At the end of our tour we stopped briefly at a Syrian bunker that had been destroyed by Israeli soldiers in the battle of 1967. Apparently all the danger is still not completely gone!