MIDDLE EASTERN PHOTOS/COMMENTARY, VOL. I
OUR JOURNEY BEGINS IN AMMAN, JORDAN
Children rejoice to see a tour bus approaching! The tour bus stops and tourists hand out small gifts and candy. This is a delightful custom giving the tourists a chance to experience the precious children of each country.
The Acacia (shittah or shittum) tree is a thorny tree found abundantly in Egypt and more sparsely in arid areas elsewhere in the Middle East. It grows abundantly in the wadies of Sinai and the Dead Sea. The Ark of the Tabernacle was built out of the Acacia tree’s orange-colored, close grained, wood. This wood is heavy and very insect resistant. The Acacia grows up to 20 feet tall and bears yellow flowers
“The Treasury” and many of the other buildings in Petra are actually tombs. One of Petra’s mysteries is that with all these tombs, no human bones have ever been discovered.
Petra was built in the 1st century B.C. by Nabataen Arabs, to be the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. It was taken over by the Romans in the 2nd century A.D. (B.C.E.). Modern engineers say the Nabataens were “absolute geniuses” at controlling rainwater to prevent flooding and to avoid shortages in times of drought. Petra’s temples, tombs, theaters, and other buildings are scattered over 400 square miles.
MT. NEBO (PISGAH), JORDAN
“Go up into this mountain of the Abraye [the descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who had crossed the Euphrates River] into mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over toward Jericho; and view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession. And die on the mountain which you ascend.” Deut. 32:49-50a
“And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to the mountain of Nebo, to the top of the hill which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan …. So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor; but no man knows of his sepulcher to this day.” Deut. 34:1, 5-6
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent of brass, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass that every one who is bitten by a serpent, when he looks upon it, shall live.’ So Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” Numbers 21:8-9
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man is ready to be lifted up.” John 3:14
Because our seminary professors spoke Arabic, the Syrian government suspected they might be spies. Therefore, a government official rode on our tour bus. One night in a restaurant we caused quite a stir because someone overheard our professors speaking Arabic. When law enforcement officers arrived in the restaurant, the fear from the other customers was palpable. We were simply puzzled as to what was going on. Finally the situation was solved and the law enforcement officers left the restaurant. Meanwhile, we got to experience first hand the level of fear that exists in the Middle East.
Hanania Church is located on the site of the House of Judah where Ananias healed Saul/Paul of his blindness.
“Your Lord says, ‘Call on Me; I will answer your prayer.’” Qur’an 40.60
“When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed Close to them. I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me.” Qur’an 2.186
“Prayer restrains one from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of God is the greatest thing in life, without doubt.” Qur’an 29.45
“Establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of night: for those things that are good remove those that are evil. This is a word of remembrance to those who remember.” Qur’an 11.114
“Call on your Lord with humility and in private.” Qur’an 7.55
VILLAGE OF MA’ALOULA, SYRIA
By far, the Village of Ma’aloula is the most important Christian site in Syria. In Syrian, Ma’aloula means “the entrance,” probably referring to the gorge in between the mountains. Ma’aloula is the only village in the world that still speaks an ancient dialect of Aramaic—the dialect most likely spoken by Jesus.
While in Ma’aloula, our tour group happened upon a baptismal service. The parents invited us to observe with them. We were thrilled to be included in this sacred ritual.
The church was unheated, as is the case in Middle Eastern churches. The naked baby is dipped into warm water in the bowl and baptized.
This altar is the oldest in the world. It predates the 325 A.D. Council at Nicea where it was outlawed because it resembles an altar of animal sacrifice. The villages of Ma’aloula and Seidnaya are located in the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and are of great importance to Christendom.
This village, where houses are built around a rock with a very old monastery at the top, is considered a place for religious pilgrimage. A steep climb is the only way up to the monastery, which is said to date back to the Emperor Justinian (483-565).
Legend states that the Virgin Mary appeared to Justinian and asked him to found the monastery. After entering through a maze of passages we finally reach the Chapel of the Virgin. The walls are covered with beautiful icons including one said to have been painted by St. Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke. This chapel was very sacred to Christians and at one point was the second most sacred Christian place of pilgrimage after Jerusalem. The Crusaders called it “Notre Dame de Sardeneye.”
TADMOR - PALMYRA, SYRIA
“And King Hiram [of Tyre] sent to King Solomon one hundred and twenty talents of gold. And this is the portion of tribute which King Solomon levied to build the house of the Lord and his own house. And he also built the wall of Jerusalem and Millo and Hazor and Megiddo, and Gezer. For Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had gone up and conquered Gezer and burned it with fire and slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city and given it as a present to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. And Solomon built Gezer and Beth-hauran the lower and Baalath and TADMOR in the land of the wilderness and all the cities for storage that Solomon had, and the cities for the chariots and cities for the horsemen and whatsoever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem and in Lebanon and in all the land of his dominion.” I Kings 9:14-19, II Chronicles 8:1-6
Monumental architectural feats are characteristic of the Middle East. There exists many theories as to how these huge stone structures were created, but not one gives a feasible explanation for a world without cranes. Metaphysicians would say these immense stones were levitated into place.
TADMOR – PALMYRA, SYRIA
Tadmor was located in a fertile oasis in the Syrian desert 140 miles northeast of Damascus. Its location between Mesopotamia and the western part of the Fertile Crescent rendered it an important caravan city between 2000 B.C. and the early Islamic period in the 7-8th centuries C.E. (i.e. A.D.). Tadmor reached its height of prosperity during the Roman period and was then called PALMYRA. The well-preserved ruins tell a detailed story of a wealthy Syrian metropolis. (Harper’s Bible Dictionary)
PALMYRA’s magnificent ruins reveal much about the reign of Queen Zenobia during the 2nd century C.E. Palmyra is located near a hot-water spring and was an ideal place for caravans to stop and rest. These caravans were traveling between Iraq and Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan—and were trading in silk from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Queen Zenobia was an astonishing ruler. She was exceptionally brilliant and attractive. A gifted linguist, she was an eloquent speaker of Palmyrian, Greek, and Egyptian. Queen Zenobia had a wide knowledge of politics, and in her court, were many philosophers, scholars, and theologians.
In ancient times, this plant was used to make paper and scrolls for writing. This shop continues to make papyrus paper. The original biblical literature was written on papyrus scrolls, including the early Christian text. Over 800 scrolls have been discovered at Qumran, an Essene community. 60 of these scrolls were written on papyrus.
When the camel kneels, it bends the front legs first, leaving the rider at a precarious angle. As my camel kneeled, my camera got caught between me and the saddle rod and cracked. Thankfully, it lasted until we got back to the U.S. I enjoyed telling people that I broke my camera on a camel’s back.
The Great Pyramid is the largest and only surviving 7 Wonders of The Ancient World.
Research by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert in their book The Orion Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids found that the three pyramids at Giza are aligned with the three stars in Orion’s Belt. The King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid is also aligned with Orion’s Belt. It was within the King’s Chamber that the neophyte underwent symbolically the “second death” in order to achieve the status of Initiate. Thus God’s question to Job (Job 38:31): “Have you seen the path of Orion?” (Lamsa’s translation from the Aramaic) very likely indicates God is asking Job if he has been initiated in the King’s Chamber
END OF VOL. I