On Thursday – we did a whirlwind tour of several Biblical locations: Caesarea, Mt Carmel, Megiddo, and Nazareth.
CAESARIA – Caesaria is one of my favorite locations in Israel. If you heard the sermon series I just did in December, I told quite a bit about what Herod built in Caesaria (built "for Caesar" – even though he would never come here).The palace extends into the Sea well beyond the ruins you can see in the photo.
Here is Herod's palace build on the Mediterranean Sea. The rectangle in the middle was a fresh water pool that also helped with cooling the air inside the palace.
This photo is of a mosaic on the floor of Herod's palace. You can almost always tell Israelite mosaics because they do not put faces, gods, or even animals in them – only designs. They felt that to put an "image" of anyone or anything goes against the second commandment ("no graven image").
This is a photo of our group. We are standing likely where Paul was heard by Felix in Caesaria. We know from Acts 23:35 that the governor "ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod's palace." The place we are standing was a meeting hall that would likely be used for Paul's hearing by Festus and King Agrippa. You can read the entire story of Paul in Caesaria in Acts 23:23 – Acts 26:32. It is a great story!
Mt. Carmel is the famous place where Elijah took on the prophets of Baal. You can read the story HERE. This photo was taken from the top of Mt. Carmel and certainly this story took place very close to this location. I'm standing on the roof of a church that was built on top of the traditional location believed to be the place of the sacrifice.
Megiddo is a city named twelve times in the Bible, and is the most excavated city in Israel. The reason it has been excavated so often is because there are 35 "layers" of history at Megiddo. In ancient days, when a city was conquered – they didn't use a bulldozer. They simply covered it up and started over. Megiddo has 35 layers that they have found – which makes it a great place for archeology. The reason this city has been conquered and rebuilt so many times is because of its location. It sits at one of the major crossroads of the Middle East. In fact, it overlooks the Jezeel Valley – the location of countless battles before Israel was there, during biblical Israel's time, and since. This valley at the base of Megiddo will also be the location of the final battle – the Battle of Armageddon. This city is also the place where Josiah and Ahaziah died during two important battles of the Divided Kingdom.
This is Solomon's Gate. 1 Kings 9:15 says this: "Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the LORD's temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer." That may not seem like an exciting verse, but what is significant is that the gates of Hazor and Gezer were discovered to be the exact dimensions of this gate – archeologically verifying what 1 Kings 9:15 says. So – this is Solomon's Gate in Megiddo.
The final place we visited today was Nazareth. It is well known for three things in the Bible. First, it is Mary and Joseph's hometown – where they were when engaged and when it was revealed to them that Mary would give birth to Jesus. Second, Nazareth became the childhood home of Jesus. After his birth, they fled to Egypt (when Herod killed the children in Bethlehem). When Herod the Great died, Joseph, Mary and Jesus moved to Nazareth. This small town (a small town of approximately 500 in Jesus' day) was where Jesus grew up. Third, after his baptism, Jesus came here to announce his ministry by saying that prophecy by Isaiah was fulfilled in Him. The people who heard him say it were so mad they tried to kill him. You can read that story HERE. It is a great story!
Here is a shepherd in on the hillside of Nazareth. It is amazing to standing in the city where Jesus grew up.