Today was another amazing, and full day in Israel. We started out this morning with the usual routine of breakfast and then departed our hotel for Mount Precipice. This is likely the place that the events recorded in Luke 4:29–30  took place. The scripture says…29They got up, forced him out of the town, and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.30But he passed through the crowd and went on his way. [1] Standing up on this high spot really brings the situation into perspective. The hill gradually climbs to the precipice where you are surrounded on three sides by a steep and large drop. Being pushed or thrown from here would mean certain death. Seeing these kinds of places really brings the bible to life.

Mount Precipice

The drop off

The drop off

Standing on the edge of the precipice

Standing on the edge of the precipice

While thinking about what happened here on the precipice and considering the scripture was great, the view is really what makes this place worth visiting. From here you can see so much biblical history. Off to my right I saw Mount Tabor. I wrote about some of the things that happened here on Tabor in the journal entry for day 2 when we first arrived in Nazareth. This is a very important biblical site and one that I never realized was so close to the home town of Jesus. Some new information I learned today about Tabor is that at the foot of the city is the city of Debareh where Deborah lived.  She was, an Israelite judge, and played a major role in the war against the Canaanites (Jgs 4:6, 12; 5:1, 12).[2] It all happened in the valley below.

Tabor from Mount Precipice

Tabor from Mount Precipice

Then looking straight off the precipice we could see the small city of Nain. The name of this city means “beauty”, it is a village in Galilee where Christ resurrected a widow’s son (Luke 7:11). It is located 3.2 km. (2 mi.) south of Mount Tabor and a little southwest of the Sea of Galilee.[3] Once again I was impressed by the proximity of this place to the place where Jesus was raised. Only a few miles to the right of Nain is the village Shunem which is where Elisha traveled to raise another child many years before Christ 2 Kings 4:29–31. Other important things happened here as well. For example the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible outlines the following events.

Nain & Shunem from Mount Precipice

Nain & Shunem from Mount Precipice

The Philistines used Shunem to launch their siege of the Israelite forces at Jezreel (1 Sm 28–31). Because Shunem was on a well-used route, Elijah frequented the town and even resided there (2 Kgs 4:8). Later Elijah raised a woman’s son from death (vv 32–37). During the latter years of the reign of David a beautiful woman from Shunem named Abishag was summoned to care for the ailing king (1 Kgs 1:3, 15). After David’s death Abishag appears in the story of the rivalry between Adonijah (David’s eldest son) and Solomon. Adonijah requests Abishag for his own once Solomon gains the throne, but the king views his brother’s interest as presumption—and a possible attempt at his throne (2:13–25).[4]

Further in the distance and off to the right hand side of the precipice was Mount Carmel. It was here that the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal took place (1 Kings 18). This mountain range also had great strategic importance throughout history especially during the crusades. Once again I was impressed by the relatively short distance between Mount Carmel and the home town of Jesus. It’s just really amazing to be able to stand in one place and see so many things. If time permitted and one really dissected the scriptures there are many more events that could be outlined from this vantage point high above Nazareth. It’s more than a view from Mount Precipice, it’s a view into biblical history, that takes you back in time. My perspective of so many things was wrong and my understanding has increased so much from just being up here and seeing the bird’s eye view.

After leaving Mount Precipice we drove into the West Bank. This is Palestinian territory and we had to present our passports at the checkpoint to get in. From the checkpoint you could clearly see that you had entered a different country. Technically this is still Israel but they have their own government, and issue their own passports, and really it operates as a separate country. The cars, buildings, and overall state of affairs seems twenty years behind compared to what we had experienced in Israel. These people have very few options when it comes to making things better but they were all nice, friendly, and welcoming to us.

Our first stop in the West Bank was Jacobs well (Gen 33:18-20). The biblical city of Shechem is where Jacob’s well is located and is now called Nablus. This large Palestinian city sits down in a valley between rising hills all around. When you first arrive at the well all you can see is a large wall protecting the site. After you pass through the small gates you will see a towering church building. There is not much to see on the outside other than the structure itself. When you enter the building you will discover some very elaborate decorations. Our time was short so we crossed through the church and went down the stairs to where the well is located. The room is small and somewhat crowded. The well is indeed deep as the bible describes it and a simple hand crank with a stainless steel bucket can still be used to draw the fresh sweet water up to the surface. There is a “common cup” that all guests can share if the wish to take a drink from the well.

The church at Jacobs well

The church at Jacob’s well

Inside the church at Jacobs well

Inside the church at Jacob’s well

These stairs take you down to the well

These stairs take you down to the well

Me pulling the bucket up and holding the cup you drink out of

Me pulling the bucket up and holding the cup you drink out of

Jacobs Well

Jacob’s Well

The well is the place that Jesus had his encounter with the Samaritan women at the well (John 4:4-26). This is a powerful text and a very interesting one as well. We learned today that at the time Jesus encountered the women this town is believed to only have had about 200 inhabitants. This means that at most fifty families lived here. The women at the well admitted to having five husbands, that changed my perspective of this story some knowing how small the town would have been. I could not help but be overwhelmed by the grace and mercy of my Lord. I was equally moved by the way he used this woman with a bad reputation to reach her town. It was an amazing experience.

From here we drove a short distance to the top of Mount Gerizim. This is the mountain that the Samaritan women mentioned to Jesus and being the mountain they worshiped on in John 4. Today a small group of Samaritans still live and worship here on this mountain. We met with one of the main priests of the Samaritans today and he told us that there are only 762 Samaritans living today. They all live in two communities in Israel. They have a Torah that is over 3,600 years old, and he also showed us their ancient astrology book which is now in the small museum we toured. He was very friendly, funny, and it was a great time of humor. He took several pictures with us, and said he would be putting our group picture on his Facebook page. Despite being extremely religious they have some modern ways about them as well. It was a fun visit followed with a great lunch at the restaurant in the Samaritan village. Here are some more interesting facts about mount Gerizim.

  1. According to Samaritan tradition, Gerizim is Mt Moriah (Gn. 22:2) and the place where God chose to place his name (Dt. 12:5).[5]
  2. A ledge halfway to the top is popularly called ‘Jotham’s pulpit’, from which he once addressed the men of Shechem (Jdg. 9:7).[6]
  3. It has been called the mount of blessing, because here the blessings for obedience were pronounced at the solemn assembly of Israel described in Jos. 8:30–35[7]

 

Mount Gerizim Samaritan Villiage

Mount Gerizim Samaritan Villiage

Pastor Pete with the  Samaritan Priest.

Pastor Pete with the Samaritan Priest.

Our final stop for the day took us along the Jordan Valley with the mountains that border Jordan in the distance. We departed the West Bank and then found ourselves in the ancient city of Bet Shean. This place is jam-packed with history. This city is located where the Jordan and Jezreel valley meet. This made it a very important and strategic military location. As a result it has changed hands many times over the years leaving over twenty layers of archeological history behind dating back as far as sixth to fifth millennia BC. The Egyptians where some of the first to inhabit this strategic hilltop location. Later the Canaanites took over but they were then run out by the Philistines. King Saul along with his sons was killed on nearby Mount Gilboa in 1004 BC and their bodies were hung on the walls of this city (1 Samuel 31:10).  King David later ran out the Philistines and took control of Bet Shean. 1 Kings 4:12says Baana son of Ahilud was in charge of Taanach and Megiddo, as well as all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah and on past Jokmeam. Later the Assyrians took the site but did little to rebuild it or use it during their occupation. And this continued through the crusades and even during the British rule.

The Romans seem to have had the most influence on what remains in the largest part of the ruins you will see if you visit. There is a large 7,000 seat theater that would have housed all kinds of events for the 40,000 people who lived in this area. There is a large street running down the center of town with shops on your left as you face the mountain peak, and other ancient structures on your right behind the theater. Directly behind the theater is a large public restroom that men and women apparently shared. There are numerous columns throughout the lower complex. One of the most impressive things is the mosaic walk way that is on the upper level as you walk down the main street. This exquisite art shows how important and wealthy this city was.

Bet Shean 7,000 seat Theater

Bet Shean 7,000 seat Theater

Roman tile floor

Roman tile floor

Standing at the top looking down on the Roman city.

Standing at the top looking down on the Roman city.

Bet Shean

Bet Shean

Mosaic floors

Mosaic floors

Mosaic walk in front of main shops in the city

Mosaic walk in front of main shops in the city

Pastor Pete trying out the toilet. Its very comfortable we should have just done this for the restrooms at the arena...

Pastor Pete trying out the toilet. It’s very comfortable we should have just done this for the restrooms at the arena…

The largest part of this ancient city built by the Romans is not on top of the hill where the most ancient complexes are so you have to climb up the stairs to reach the peak. Once on top of the mountain there are numerous remains to look at from many of the people who inhabited this place.

Ruins on top of Bet Shean

Ruins on top of Bet Shean

Ruins where Sauls Body may have been hung

Ruins where Saul’s Body may have been hung

Ruins

Ruins

This city likely played a role in Christ’s ministry as well. For example in Matthew 4:5 it says. “And large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan River.”[8] The “Decapolis” here likely refers to Bet Shean as it was the only city west of the Jordan that was part of the Decapolis cities and its proximity to Nazareth and Galilee make it even more likely. In any case this is a very important city for not only Christians but the world when it comes to understanding our history. I was privileged to explore it today.

It’s hard to sum up what days like this mean to me. My soul is overwhelmed with the richness this land presents. It seems at every turn there is something new to discover. Places that were only dots on a map in the back of my Bible are now places I have seen with my eyes. Places like Jacob’s well that were once only ideas in my mind are now things I have touched with my hands and tasted with my lips.  Some ideas and perceptions that were once so strong now don’t even seem plausible. Other things I was never sure about are now certainties. It’s strange how just a few days in this place changes so many things. I am really enjoying this!



[1]  Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 9.

[3] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), lix.

[4] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1959.

[5] G. T. Manley and F. F. Bruce, “Gerizim,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 406.

[6] G. T. Manley and F. F. Bruce, “Gerizim,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 406.

[7] G. T. Manley and F. F. Bruce, “Gerizim,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 406.

[8] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Mt 4:25.