Thursday, July 30, 2020

Israel's Exodus and Egypt's Record Aligns!

The Amarna diplomatic letters exposed vassal relationships between field commanders, acting as local kings and Pharaoh their Egyptian ruler. Field garrisons, who defended Egyptian territories sometimes expressed conflicting interests that often triggered a spate of letter writing. Victories, defeats or political turmoil weighed heavily on the writings.

The tablets appear to have been buried with Akhenaten at El Amarna, but are not originals, mostly made of clay from areas east of the Jordan River they are deemed authentic. One such letter #254 titled "Neither Rebel nor Delinquent" by Labaya commander of the Samaria region, from Sakmu, the biblical city of Shechem exposed serious allegations against him for having surrendered land to the Habiru. The letter and the connected letters further south at Uru-Salem, biblical Jerusalem discuss battles waged by the Habiru

Dating and sources of the Amarna letters are not yet firmly established, but thought to span Egyptian Pharaoh's Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, through possibly Smenkhkare or Tutankhamun around 150 years. These Pharaoh's may overlap Biblical Hebrew or Israelite presence, enslavement in and exile from Egypt. However, the chronologies leave much open to speculation. The Labaya tablet #254 and others reference Pharaoh in his 32nd year of reign leaving only Amenhotep III who held power for 36-38 years during the Amarna period.

The Bible describes Israel's 40 year sojourn before entering the land of Canaan and Joshua, the Israelite leader is said to have ruled 32 years after that. If there is a Biblical overlap and the Habiru, even if  only some were Hebrew Israelite's raiding Canaan then letter #254 must have been written during the overlap of Amenhotep III and Joshua's 32 year reign, which according to the Biblical record ended in 1245 BCE.  

Prince Thutmose, the eldest son of Amenhotep III is said to have died in the third decade of his fathers  reign. His younger brother Akhenaten became the "strange" Pharaoh as depicted in uncharacteristically abstract art from his reign. From evidence at Amarna we know the state of health among those buried elite of Egypt was poor despite opposite representations reflected in artwork of the time. Amarna depicts how the tyranny of distance upheld diplomatic facade, appearance of control and power, yet reality was always different. For Akhenaten losing control of Retjenu (Canaan) may have been his diplomatic inheritance and artistic downfall.

Evidence dated toward the end of the 13th century BCE, from Papyrus Anastasi III, Merneptah Stele (1203 BCE), Egyptian late bronze age temple at Jerusalem's École biblique and tombs north and north-west of Jerusalem's Mount Moriah describe a prolonged Egyptian commitment and interest in Canaan during the approximately 250 years of military activity from Amenhotep III to Merneptah. In addition to strategic and regional benefits, a long term commitment to Canaan may have been etched in the psyche of Egyptian leaders by Egypt's founder and first Pharaoh Khem. According to the Biblical record he may have incestuously fathered CanaanThe place name Canaan is common in Egyptian and Biblical records.

This most tumultuous military period directly overlaps Israelite tribes who were displacing local Canaanite leaders and populations long connected with Egypt by settling their indigenous land and entitlements east and west of the Jordan River. This re-settlement spanned a period of 300 years from Joshua until King David culminating the Israelite inheritance consistent with biblical teachings and tribal agreements.

In a desperate plea Adonizedek requested Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) take the coastal route to rescue the dire situation in Jerusalem, but  one critical Amarna letter, early in the reign of Akhenaten shows that the coast road was still open when King Dusratta wrote to his son-in-law Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) twenty years later. Joshua must then have overlapped Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, which if we wind back 40 years, makes Thumose IV the prime candidate for the Israelite Exodus led by Moses.

Despite that the lower Galilee was, for some few years with Philistia and Syria it was reconquered by Rameses II, who never entered the Judæan mountains. The events placed in these time frames may help us to better understand that Pithom and Rameses, Egyptian cities built by Israelite slaves could have provided the political impetus that promoted ascension of the House of Rameses to the status of Pharaoh over Egypt. When Rameses II appeared on the scene it was already the latter period of Israel's settlement during the period recorded in its Book of Judges.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Jerusalem vs. The Sun!

The origins of Christianity and Judaism differ significantly, but at least by a clergy who faced east to herald the sun or west to obviate it. Orientation in church architecture is toward the altar, the main interior interest is positioned towards the east, the main entrance to the west end. But, Jerusalem's temple architecture was opposite and biblical history is replete (2 Kings 23:1-25) with sun worshipers who challenged its main point of interest, its Holy Inner Sanctuary positioned toward the west

A recent ~2600 year old City of David, Jerusalem discovery relates the last period in which the horses of the sun gods were destroyed by King Josiah (see video).


Whats the big deal you may ask? Respect or disrespect - not as much about the direction priestly practitioners face, rather the direction their rear ends face! That insult laid waste untold millions of lives over thousands of years and provides a fascinating insight to the origins of Jerusalem's temple culture and subsequent rise of organized religion. 

The discovery of rock-cut-rooms on the east facing, lower slope of Jerusalem's Mount Moriah, in proximity to the Gihon Spring may be Jerusalem's original temple, so called Temple Zero. 

West end features including raised platform for altar

The notable direction of Temple Zero is by the placement of its most important features including matzevah, or standing stone and raised platform, the remnant of its altar toward the west. Priests offering and attending to sacrifices on this altar would have faced west and wine or water poured onto the altar would have run in the liquids channel toward the pit on the east. Facing west obviated glorification of the sun, especially obvious during sunrise worship. 
West to the matzevah

West to the altars' raised platform

Jewish religious practice does not permit the use of any medium or physical depiction as a conduit or substitute to a unified, omnipotent and directly approachable God. This premise dates back prior to the biblical record through establishment of monotheism. The practice transferred from Adam to Noah, to his son Shem known as Malchi-Tzedek (the Righteous King) and finally his descendant Abraham was the first to effect and teach the religious philosophy that was distinguished from the duality of paganism. 

The bible prohibited post-Egyptian Israelite's from using a matzevah to covenant with God. Abraham's grandson Jacob was the last to erect such a stone at Beit El (Bethel) before the prohibition. Approximately 650 years after Jacob (Israel) was exiled to Egypt before King David returned the nation's central administration to Mount Moriah.  

Practically the steep eastern slope is crowd unfriendly. The bedrock to the west rises (as seen by the retainer wall constructed for these excavations) and to the east falls away rapidly (as seen in the people walking up the steep ascent). Yet, by its very layout worship at this site did not pay homage to the sun. So, what was its purpose in context to the site of Solomon's first temple through the Herodian second temple further north on Mount Moriah?


East to the Kidron Valley

From the great work of Israel Antiquities Archaeologist, Ortal Chalaf (standing @2 - middle image above) and Joe Uziel, we are fortunate to glimpse the ten times this space was built, destroyed and rebuilt over hundreds of years from the eighth century BCE to the end of the Iron Age (image @3). This evidences the tension between eagerness of and opposition to occupants that once heralded this sacred place. The biblical record at the end of the Iron Age reveals the fickle character of Jewish Kings who permitted or shunned idol worship in this period and the evidence at this location may directly reflect the Royal attitudes.

Remarkably, the matzevah has withstood the tests of at least 2800 years, from the earliest layer of  construction and destruction above the bedrock. Almost certainly Temple Zeros' rock-cut-rooms precede the first layer built on the bedrock of the image @3, but was it in existence when King David arrived in the 10th century, ~200 years earlier? Most archaeologists agree that part of the fortified passage made up by Wall 109 (left) and Wall 108 (right) (see below) rises to intersect the bedrock ridge of the rock-cut-rooms and it dates to the middle bronze age.  

 Wall 109 and 108 and rock-cut-quarry block passage to Temple Zero (top center)

The fortified passage was a major construction, involving imported, regional labor forces an event that is not recorded in the bible. Despite Joe Uziel carbon dating the north east tower corner, the complex is not considered to be a part of King David's early Iron Age activities. Reference to a pre-Solomon temple is also not mentioned in the 24 books of the bible, therefore a search for Temple Zero dating clarity should be directed to the Bronze Age.

Temple Zero's altar faced the sun, its priests were before the altar, with their backs to the sun. This opposed most, if not all idolatrous practitioners who otherwise would place their deities or human gods in the place of the altar facing the sun and priests before their deity, with their backs to the sun. Alternatively as with Christianity, priests were after (behind) the altar facing east toward the sun. 

Is this the reason Temple Zero was relegated to a rock-cut-quarry (or pool) that blocked ascent from the east and a fortified passage that blocked access from the north-west? It did not celebrate deities or human gods and had no place for priests to practice after the altar, for idol worshiping occupants of ancient Jerusalem it had little use.

The holy center of Jerusalem opposed sun worshipers (Temple Zero bottom left)

In the time before King David whether buried or blocked, even detractors of Temple Zero preserved its sanctity and the matzevah stands as a testament. Perhaps it was concealed so that its spiritual attractiveness to Israelite worshipers of a monotheistic God would be diminished or forgotten and with it their desire to return to The Mountain.




Thursday, May 21, 2020

Jerusalem Day - The Confluence of Miracles!

28 Iyar 5727 was one of Jewish history's greatest days!

Every year since Moses transcribed the Torah on Israels transit from servitude to freedom, members of the nation have blessed their own counting each of the 49 days that follow the first day of the Passover festival. 

The practice of not eating wheat and other leavened grains during the 7 days of Passover flows into this  -  (7 X 7) 49 day cycle that preceded the traditional wheat harvest. On a personal level each 7-day cycle of blessings relates to one of seven dominant personality attributes each of us possess. 

The 28th of Iyar is the first day of the last 7-day cycle, arguably the most mystical of the prior six cycles.  This first day relates to the way you manifest the expression of 'kindness'. In the prior six 7-day cycles kindness features more esoterically in the attribute of each cycle, but the seventh is the way you manifest its expression from all of the preceding attributes.

We must not forget this day celebrates the 1967 victory in the war that was thrust upon Israel. The first shots were fired on 26 Iyar, the sixth day of the sixth 7-day cycle - the dominant attribute of 'foundation' in a war that would last just six days. The cumulative blessings that precede and complete the sixth 7-day cycle cause the sixth to face, project and manifest in the seventh 7-day cycle. 

On 26 Iyar (5 June) 1967, to the absolute, stunning astonishment of every Jew and against all negative sentiment, even those espoused by Israel's generals, a small battalion of Israeli soldiers beat back Jordanian and Egyptian positions to capture the ancient city of Jerusalem that had been torn from Israel's possession immediately following its declaration of independence in 1948. 

By 28 Iyar (8 June) 1967 one miracle after another were evident even to Israel's chief doomsayer, General Moshe Dayan. Still, he opposed an attack on Syria believing such an undertaking would result in losses of 30,000 and might trigger Soviet intervention. Prime Minister Eshkol, was more open to the possibility, as was the head of the Northern Command. Unexpectedly, the situation on the southern and central fronts cleared up, intelligence estimated the chance of Soviet intervention had been reduced, reconnaissance showed some Syrian defenses in the Golan region collapsing, and an intercepted cable revealed that Egypt's Nasser was urging the President of Syria to accept a cease-fire. 

By 28 Iyar there were no more doubts about the miracles that had transpired. Certainly some suppressed their elation and others managed expression of emotional attributes, but even the stoic so called Jewish non-believers overcame inhibition. Everyone agreed that by the 43rd of 49 day's a series of miracles had led to a 3 day victory in a war that would be over 3 day's later. And on the 50th day each year Israel rejoices in the day Moses transcribed the Torah and bound the nation under God.

Like the nation acknowledged the miracle that pure Jerusalem temple oil had burned for 8 days during the Maccabees battle against the Greeks, the nation-wide recognition that Israel's Six-Day-War victory was led by a series of miracles is the hidden cause of our celebration. Jerusalem was once again in Jewish hands a city, to be restored, celebrated and developed for the future spiritual well being of the entire world. 


Friday, March 20, 2020

Under The Rock - New Evidence Proof For Temple Zero!

Its hard to believe that evidence buried under a single rock, right under the noses of Jerusalem's leading archaeologists at the City of David could resolve their contention over a 1000 year time gap. Seldom do senior archaeologists disagree over a hundred years let alone a thousand! A four roomed Bronze Age 'Temple Zero' complex, was discovered and named by Eli Shukron, but his boss, Ronnie Reich openly contradicted him by publishing a video in which he claimed the complex to be a creation of the Iron Age.


Lower down the eastern slope under boulders on the bedrock, adjacent to the Gihon Spring was a missing layer of important evidence. Precisely two full missing strata, eight and nine - that can represent up to 1000 years! How did the evidence trapped under a boulder miss out from strata 10 through strata 7? After all it was trapped under the same rock, but nothing from strata eight and nine. How did this missing evidence phenomena occur? 

Sunken Round Chamber (closest) and present day platform suspended in quarry

Our answer comes directly from Ronnie Reich who separately explained that a wooden platform was once suspended across the rock-cut-pool or quarry (south of the Gihon Spring) much like the platform on which people are sitting in the image above, only fully extended. The indentation for this platform can still be seen cut into the stone above the heads of the people who are standing.  (also see rendering below) 

Depicted, ancient wooden platform suspended above bedrock

Evidence trapped under the rock

If the ancient suspended platform was maintained in place for the entire period spanning strata eight and nine, evidence from that era would have been prevented from falling to the bedrock. Once the platform was built, during strata 10 it would have locked in strata 10 evidence on the bedrock and no later evidence could fall on top of it. In simple terms strata 10 is around late bronze age - ~3400 years ago, strata 7 late iron age, ~2600 years ago.

From this evidence we can conclude activity existed from the late bronze age. This critical dating is conclusive for the citadel complex built from boulders that most likely originated in the quarry including the adjacent double wall north of the quarry. Further, it clarifies that water channeled from the Gihon Spring into the deep round chamber (feature of the quarry) was drawn from and processed on the platform for distribution to the people living +50 meters higher up on the mountain plateau. All this has been confirmed by Ronnie Reich.

Gihon Spring Citadel complex
Quarry (south), double wall (west) and guard tower (east) by Ronnie Reich

Since digging the quarry post-dated the deposit of strata 10 evidence, two possibilities emerge: 1) Either the designer hoped the quarry would dam up with water from the Gihon Spring, but never did because it's a geophysical impossibility since the spring is only 1 meter above the base of the Round Chamber, or: 2) The Citadel, double wall and quarry cavity, were the objective of the massive construction effort, if so why?  Its important to recognize that the quarry cavity forever changed the previous natural bedrock slope. Further if the the smaller diameter, round chamber were originally cut into the natural slope the much larger quarried cavity lowered natural access to the round chamber. This required the construction of a wooden platform to conveniently access and process water for distribution.

Perhaps the best clue to the construction objective is not in the quarry or the new water route through the double wall, but at the highest westerly point, at the termination of the double wall at the top of the 35m vertical rise, in a place now known as the Parker Tunnel.

Double Wall Termination
Parker Tunnel
Parker's "cyclopean" clearance

To highlight the steep rise on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah, each color in the image below represents a 5 meter rise above sea level. Ronny Reich's Citadel complex is overlaid on the topography to give you an idea of the impassable access to and from the Parker Tunnel. The highest point, the termination of the double wall abuts the bedrock at an ancient wall section that blocked access to the Parker Tunnel, @670m.

Parker's excavation notes recorded that he removed one of the giant"cyclopean" boulders to improve access, but he failed to discover the complete Temple Zero complex immediately to the south. When Eli Shukron found it in 2011, it strengthened evidence that termination of the double wall, its construction, the quarry cavity and citadel watchtower served a dual purpose: 1) to cut the eastern slope of the mountain and prevent access to the southern end of the Parker Tunnel and the Temple Zero location @670m and 2) to protect the transport of water through the underground passage, now known as Warren's Shaft System.

Residents of Mount Moriah could not have completed this massive construction project without significant help. They relied on allies, imported workers, but what compelled their alliance. Blocking access to Temple Zero may sound a bit far-fetched, but not if you were living their at that time. The new, much enlarged Israel were rising up out of Egypt, nations living on land that was sacred to Jacob knew that Israel would return. If Temple Zero were exposed Israel would have been more compelled to conquer the mountain, like a red flag to a bull. Perhaps the occupants who built this construct knew that when Israel returned they would surely seek it out so they blocked and obfuscated access to Temple Zero!

The evidence trapped under the rock and the quarry proves the quarry construction from the Bronze through the Iron Age. It dates the entire complex on the eastern slope of the Gihon Spring, including Temple Zero to the period around 3400 years ago, around the time Israel rose up out of Egypt and not to the Strata 7 Iron Age.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Shalem, Luz, BeitEl, Jerusalem - City of David!

Once a small, quiet, undisturbed hill among many, the rock that constitutes Mount Moriah lies in a north-south direction. In a recent presentation I tried to compress more than 10 years of experiences in archaeological excavations and spiritual pursuit to capture a better understanding. Why this rock, and what compelled King David, in the seventh year of his reign to leave his base in Hevron to establish a kingdom from this Mountain?

The presentation, which is available in the video link below, lacks one additional point that I wanted to emphasize: In his book, In Ismael's House Martin Gilbert told of the men who entered Jerusalem with Calif Omar in 638 CE, one of whom was a Jewish convert to Islam, Ka'b al-Ahbar [whose Hebrew name was Akiva]. Some 600 years after the Herodian Temple destruction, at Omar's request, Ka'b pointed out the rock where the Jewish Temple had been built by Solomon and after some misgivings, identified the holiest spot where the shrine to Calif Omar was built. That shrine today known as the Dome of The Rock, the Golden Dome occupies a prominent location on the Temple Mount selected by a Jewish convert. That particular location on the Temple Mount has no special designation in Jewish law, only in Jewish tradition.

The presentation lasts around 40 minutes.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Jerusalem's 3800 Year Old Water Bottling Plant!

Between 1923 and 1925 archaeologists MacAlister and Duncan, for the Palestine Exploration Fund and The Daily Telegraph excavated on the Mount of Ophel, Mount Moriah, Jerusalem: Their extensive report included an aerial photo of the area they called the Jebusite City, now known as the City of David. That image (below) was marked by them to illustrates the location of the Fields 5 (north of),7 and 9 they excavated.  To the east, the Gihon Spring in Valley of the Kidron, which they referred to as the Virgins Fountain they wrote: "In fact we have come to the conclusion that there are no Jebusite cisterns at all in the city, but that the Jebusite city was dependent entirely on the Virgins Fountain ([the Gihon Spring] and possibly other springs since dried up) for their water supply."

1925 R.A.F. reconnaissance photo over City of David. 
Of their bedrock discoveries in Fields 5,7 and 9 which rise to between @680-700 meters above sea level they wrote: "We thought, when they were first uncovered that they were cisterns and in the original draft of this report we described them as such. We have now definitely abandoned this theory. There is no trace of a water line on the walls. There is no cup-hollows such as usually exists in the bottom of rock-cut cisterns to catch the last dregs of the water. We now hold that these carefully hewn chambers were tombs of a very early date, presumably belonging to notables of the Jebusite city." Pottery discovered and reported from the grave caves in these Fields dated back well before Biblical Jebusites to neolithic and early bronze ages.

How did life, development and water use evolve from the "very early date" these "notables" were buried on the mountain ridge? We have ample evidence of the embedded bedrock implements that were used for processing food or worship, the cave dwellings carved into rock, quarried bedrock structures and foundations that supported stone houses and walls. However, we must find the main route and the way water was transported from the Gihon Spring or we will not understand how 1000-2000 people began to live on the ridge of the mountain.

Bedrock of eastern slope in context Parker, Reich and Eli Shukron expeditions
Occupation was initially clustered close to or at the level of the Gihon Spring. Moving heavy water from the spring up mountain slope would have required substantial effort. The steep grade of the eastern slope rises 50 vertical meters from the Gihon Spring @634m to Field 9 starting @680m above sea level and within a walking distance of 100 meters from the Kidron Valley floor. Enterprising solutions must have been required to service populations once settlement moved above 650 meters. (Sea level heights are indicated in the image above.) To resolve this problem a King, attributed to the Emorites, Jebusites or one of the seven Canaanite tribes, during the period circa 1800-1700 B.C.E ordered work to expand an east sloping, natural underground tunnel that once ran from around @660m toward the Gihon Spring and Kidron Valley below.

In the video below Ronny Reich explains this underground tunnel now known as a water system or the Warrens Shaft System. There are several important points to note: 1. The iron steps, on which Ronny stands marks the termination of the tunnel and no evidence of steps, at that point has ever been found. Ropes may have hoisted water up the vertical shaft where the iron steps are now built. 2. Ronny indicates the system was used by common people to obtain their daily water, I dispute that, it was used by professional water carriers only. 3. The tunnel route evolved in three stages initially via the natural cave entry-exit to or from the water source immediately north of the double wall fortress and after it was constructed, between the double walls. The final route was more direct through an entry to the tunnel system immediately south of the double walls. These indications support a royal, efficient enterprise that controlled water from the Gihon Spring that had been channeled into the Round Chamber for 'bottling' and distribution.

In a previous article I detailed how the Warrens Shaft System had transformed the sanctity of the ancient bedrock on the lower eastern slope, specifically how it cut the four room worship complex from growing populations on the northern mountain ridge. The water enterprise of the Jeubusites, its capture and continued use by King David, its transformation to industrial zone and food market for the city, by the kings that followed forever changed the ancient character of the eastern slope.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Beit El Proof Text Locates Ai!

Refugees who fled the Assyrian army that had attacked the northern tribes of Israel arrived in Jerusalem only to swell its already burgeoning population. In the months following resettlement, their different religious practices immediately became abhorrent to the resident priests in Jerusalem's temple.  King Hezekiah acted to remove idolatry, centralize worship and focus the attention of his subjects on the task at hand, to strengthen the city. Hezekiah sent Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah to appease Sennacherib's generals, they obtained only temporary reprieve. He sent lavish gifts to Sennacherib, the Assyrian King hoping to stave off an attack, but it soon became apparent the Assyrian army would advance on Jerusalem.

During the reprieve Hezekiah was attributed with 6 decrees, the first three were considered good; (1) he concealed the book of healing because people, instead of praying to God relied on concoctions; (2) he broke in pieces the brazen serpent of Moses; and (3) he dragged his father's remains, instead of giving them an honorable burial. The second three, which were not good: (1) he re-directed the water of Gihon into the city; (2) he cut the gold from the doors of the Temple for a gift to Sennacherib; and (3) he moved Passover celebrations to the second month to meet the demands of northern refugees. Around this time Hezekiah fell gravely ill (Isaiah 38:6).

The king's stress was palpable, but we cannot imagine how that was exacerbated when workers, commissioned to strengthen the walls of the city and build watch towers stumbled across a discovery that shocked the king to his core (2 Chronicles 32:5). On the eastern slope of Mount Moriah @657m (above sea level), directly above the path, @634m of the water tunnel being constructed workers cleared rubble and stumbled upon the ancient, permanent temple of Beit-El carved out of the buried bedrock. As the king grappled with the discovery, its potential impact to centralized worship and its contradiction with Solomon's temple he went into a state of shock, infection took over the boils on his body and he began to die. He lamented, prayed and ordered the ancient temple to be sealed between a false wall that was filled with soft sand. Then the prophet Isaiah announced a miracle, the king was granted a 15 year life extension, following which the Assyrian invasion of Jerusalem collapsed. 

"C" marked on map below - standing on bedrock
Hezekiah's wall behind matzevah
Hezekiah's wall behind Jebusite
 wall (built on bedrock)

Tower marked "A" on the map was ~4m above bedrock, in the South corner (see middle image below)

Until Hezekiah, the general area of Beit-El in Jerusalem had been forgotten. Biblical reference was first made more than 1000 years earlier during the time of Abraham and again by Jacob, then nothing until Joshua. By the time King David arrived it's association with Jerusalem had mostly been forgotten. Commentators of the bible vary in their opinions, most refer to the later city of Bethel that was built by Jeroboam north of Jerusalem, but for some reason they are compelled to refer it back to Jerusalem. Some 67 years after Hezekiah, his great, great grandson King Josiah ordered The High Priest Hilkiyahu to remove idolatry from the temple and destroy it in the plains of the Kidron Valley. Hilkiyahu promptly carried out the mission and carried the smashed pieces to Beit-El (2 Kings 23:4) adjacent to the Kidron Valley where it's thought he deposited them in a pit behind Wall NB or Wall 3, discovered by archaeologist Kathryn Kenyon (see images below). This is the last time Beit-El of Jerusalem was accurately mentioned in Biblical texts.

Spring citadel - double wall
The ancient temple of Beit-El remained buried, untouched until it was re-discovered by Eli Shukron for the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2011. 2 Kings 23:4 is a proof text that resolves the mystery of Beit-El's original Shalem, Jebusite City, City of David, Jerusalem location. With this it establishes a new basis for archaeologists looking for its counterpart city Ai, which was to its east.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ancient Jerusalem - A Sacred Burial Site?

From the excavation report by MacAlister and Duncan - Excavations on the Hill of Ophel, Jerusalem 1923-1925: "We thought, when they were first uncovered that they were cisterns and in the original draft of this report we described them as such. We have now definitely abandoned this theory. There is no trace of a water line on the walls. There is no cup-hollows such as usually exists in the bottom of rock-cut cisterns to catch the last dregs of the water. We now hold that these carefully hewn chambers were tombs of a very early date, presumably belonging to notable of the Jebusite city. In fact we have come to the conclusion that there are no Jebusite cisterns at all in the city, but that the Jebusite city was dependent entirely on the Virgins Fountain (and possibly other springs since dried up) for their water supply."

The statement above related to burial sites in Field 5, but also 7 and 9 of the excavation, which is the upper east facing elevation along the north-south ridge of Mount Moriah (west of and between the modern Area G and E). It is testimony to the use of at least some of these areas as cultic worship sites established around sacred burial caves in the early and mid Bronze Age periods.

Presenting my tomb theory to members of the Israel Antiquity Authority

The vigil seen at sacred grave sites in Israel today may resemble an early form of the tradition that continues by devotees who recite psalms and other prayers at the place the spirit of the deceased returns.

Prayer vigil at Joseph's tomb 
As I have previously written, shaft tombs were common in the region during the early through middle Bronze Age.  Arguably Jerusalem's most ancient and important tomb may have existed for 1000 years or more before it was hacked when an Iron Age quarry cut the north-south passage on the lower eastern slope of the mountain. The path between two significant Bronze Age features, the upper floor blocked cave and the lower floor cave house (Parker), that exists either side of the quarry may have been purposely separated in order to prevent ("stop or cancel" - see video) the continuous traditions of occupation and organized worship.

Plan of Gihon excavations
The Rock-cut pool disconnected bidirectional north-south access 
Along the rim of the quarry the slope of the bedrock's south face can be seen below. It is now known that water could not be contained in the quarry because the low degree geophysical slope from the Gihon spring, north of the quarry could never build sufficient hydraulic pressure to raise water into any section of it.

Cut quarry often confused as - upper Gihon Pool
The remnant round chamber (as it is known today) is contained in the bedrock of the rock-cut quarry visible below. It may once have been a much taller shaft connecting the burial chamber at the base to the surface (as illustrated top left of image).

Remnant of shaft to round chamber in rock-cut quarry 
The confirmed discovery of early and mid-bronze burial sites, in vicinity on the eastern slopes of Mount Moriah, as it descends toward the Kidron Valley and Gihon spring offer strong support for the theory that the round chamber in the rock-cut quarry once was a shaft-tomb leading to a sacred burial chamber. Eventually, at its base the abandoned burial chamber was connected to the Gihon Spring source through a series of cut channels.

On the adjacent, north face of the quarry the partly collapsed massive bronze age double wall rises from the east, near the Kidron Valley up the steep bedrock slope to the west. At the top (west), the double wall once connected with the city wall built at the time of King Hezekiah to further and completely block passage from north to south. around 100 years ago Montague Parker cleared sections of the wall to provide passage through a tunnel as seen in the next two images.

Double Wall looking east - quarry to the immediate south.

Top of wall was dismantled by Parker - looking north
(Kevin's gate can be seen in background left).
Before it was dismantled by Parker, the top of the double wall abutted the city wall, which in conjunction with the quarry entirely blocked the north to south passage across the lower section of the east face above the Gihon Spring. In addition to sacred graves, we need to understand the time periods and long-standing motivations to undertake this massive construction.

Drawing (looking to the west) from Ronnie Reich's book
 demonstrates how the double wall, above the
Fortress of Zion and quarry blocked passage.
Parker dismantled the top section of the double wall, that abutted the city wall to obtain access room 3 and 4, (image below) but he never made it to the adjacent rooms 2 and 1, they were discovered in 2011 by Eli Shukron.

Temple Zero complex facing east near the Gihon Spring
If these four rooms comprised a Bronze Age temple, the quarry, double walls and city wall may have been specifically constructed to prevent successive populations from practicing sacred rites in the four rooms. Herein may lie the long-standing negative motivation to construct such significant barriers that surround this important four room feature and prevent its use.

As MacAlister and Duncan suggested in their detailed report the story of the Lame and the Blind at the Fortress of Zion may further explain such long-standing motivations. The fortress refers to the stone construction immediately south of the Gihon Spring, extending west up the steep east face of Mount Moriah.

All city walls depicted in this image
have not been located in archaeology
This Jebusite fortress is referred to in 2 Samuel 5:7-8 and 1 Chronicles 11:5. King David's troops entered, captured and lived in the fortress until they eventually took control of the broader areas and the surrounding populations on the mountain. According to the Biblical accounts, surprisingly the Jebusite King was never forced to vacate Mount Moriah. During King David's 40 year reign at the same location the Jebusite Kings other property rights were upheld.

According to tradition the Lame and the Blind refers to the pacts between Abraham, Isaac and the descendants of Philistine progenitor Avimelech, as inherited by Jacob. These pacts permitted the Jebusites rights to occupy land in this region. King David allegedly broke the 500+ year "Lame and Blind" pact when his troops conquered the fortress and renamed it and the mountain the City of David.

The fortress and walls preceded Iron Age King David, by at least several hundred years. Therefore, the Bronze Age burial sites in the immediate vicinity may have motivated the Fortress, quarry and double wall obfuscation of the Temple Zero complex as a reminder to Israel of their paternal "Lame and Blind" pact with Jebusites. In this context "Lame" refers to Jacob who was lamed during his tussle with his "angel of death" brother Esau while en route back to the matzevah he erected 20 years earlier in the place he named Beit El, on Mount Moriah, the night he experience his famous "Jacob's Ladder" dream. Unlike room 3 of Temple Zero, which was purposefully constructed to retain the bedrock platform in its northwest corner, room 2 was empty until, post construction the perfectly preserved matzevah was located on its bedrock.

The Israel Antiquities Authority have agreed to investigate using geophysical probes and other methods that may reveal how or if it is affixed to bedrock. Regardless, its preservation in rooms that were sealed when discovered in 2011 is nonetheless remarkable.

Matzevah of Jacob on Mount Moriah

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Report from City of David

After living in exile for 210 years in Egypt and after wondering the desert for 38 years, Israel sought to enter the land of its inheritance. To their surprise Amelikites disguised as Canaanites attacked them, Edomites refused them passage, Moabites and Amonites withheld the offer of food or water. All these events took place on Israel's southern approach along the eastern side of the Jordan river and are recorded for posterity in passages of Chukat (Numbers:20-22) from the Bible.

What inspired these independent nations to collaborate against Israel? They could not have individually or collectively attributed harm, ill treatment or designation as enemy of their various states, yet they unanimously stood against Israel's attempt to reach its destination. The threat of Israel rising must have been a significant motivating factor that contributed to these coordinated national actions against Israel.

If we use the Bible as a context, Israel's redemption from exile in Egypt must have seemed like the impossible come true. This fledgling nation of 70 had grown to an army of 600,000 men and now their families were amassed along the south eastern boundary of Jordan River. The daunting prospect should have dampened the conviction of the alliance against Israel, yet each nation stood resolute against them.

This article is not about the war that ensued, during which Israel conquered the land of Moab, Amon and the Emorites east of the Jordan river instead it focuses on the ultimate destination, the mountain that motivated Israel's allied opponents to remain united and intransigent.

Some 300 years after these events, there was good reason King David waited for 7 years before he could advance on the mountain from which he would ultimately establish the united kingdom of Israel. The mountain, is ancient Jerusalem's Mount Moriah associated with some of Israel's most significant events during establishment, and post redemption from Egypt. Israel's preamble, as recorded in the Bible and commentaries preserved over multiple millennia include stories of, Adam, Malchi-Tzedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, David and a 1000 year lineage of kings. So why was conquering the mountain a go-no-go event for David and why did he risk his fragile kingdom to capture it?

To answer that I offer the following pictorial study of the early through late bronze age (4000-3300 years ago) artifacts that preceded King David (3000 years ago) on Mount Moriah.

Passage out of cave home, north to steel steps
Inside cave home (south of steel steps) on the lower
eastern slope of Mt Moriah
Early bronze graveside pottery discovered by Parker north of iron steps
Connection arrives at upper ridge altar and liquids channel
Connection from top of iron steps to upper ridge

Upper ridge steel bedrock and steel cabinet
Standing stone/pillar or matzevah on upper ridge

Oil press on upper ridge (north end)

V-markings on upper ridge (animal processing - south end)

Double wall fortress of Zion
north of upper ridge, south of Gihon spring
View from upper ridge into the double wall fortress of Zion

 More at this interactive map 

The massive double wall of the fortress of Zion was built up the steep eastern slope of Mount Moriah. It was an enormously complex feat of architecture and engineering during the middle and late Bronze Age. It could not have been accomplished by the small local population alone. They must have obtained the full support of the alliance and there must have been a deeply rooted reason to dedicate resources required for its construction because the water of the adjacent Gihon Spring was not protected by it.

The artists rendition of the eastern slope of Mt Moriah demonstrates how the double wall fortress of Zion circa 3300 years ago may once have cut access across north-south directions on the eastern slope. The city wall was a later addition circa 2700 years ago before the destruction of the first temple.

The ~2700 year old city wall can be seen
in the upper section of this image on top
 of an older wall connected to the bedrock
Connect the blue plastic to piece together remnant of the
 southern element of the double wall fortress of Zion

Apparently the allied forces opposing Israel did not want Israel to come back to the mountain and particularly this section on the south section of the eastern slope. Why and why did King David make sure to conquer this mountain in order to unify his kingdom?

Eli Shukron, the lead archaeologist who excavated these discoveries, contradicts the view that this area was especially important to Israel because it was the original Beit El designated by Jacob. It was once known as Luz, and Salem previous to that. It was the area that Malchi-Tzedek practiced as high priest, where Abraham tithed to him, Isaac was offered as a sacrifice and Jacob erected the pillar, standing stone or matzevah. For these reasons Israel's allied enemies were intent on permanently isolating it and they did all they could to ensure the impracticality of its future. These are my opinions, I invite you to form yours!