Thursday, November 29, 2012

Water System in Tel Megiddo

Getting water is a problem for this fortress. The only spring lies outside the fortress walls. In the 9th century BCE, King Ahab constructed a massive water system with a 30 meter deep shaft and a 70 meter long tunnel. 

stairs leading down to Ahad's shaft

deep shaft

a deep deep shaft

the tunnel connect Ahad's shaft and the springs

This tunnel was hewn from both ends at the same time (like Hezekiah's Tunnel) and its builders were only one foot off when meeting in the middle.

staircase leading up to the surface at the spring

the underground spring outside the walls of Megiddo

exit from the underground water system outside the walls of Tel Megiddo


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Tel Megiddo

Megiddo (Hebrew: מגידו‎; Arabic: المجیدو‎, Tell al-Mutesellim) is a tell or hill in northern Israel about 30km south-east of Haifa. Megiddo is better known for its Greek name Armageddon. Megiddo is strategically located at the head of a pass through the Carmel Ridge overlooking the Jezreel Valley from the west. The pass is an important trade route connecting Egypt and northern regions of Syria, Assyria and Mesopotamia (sorry for the mixing the different time periods). Because of this it had been repeated destroyed and rebuilt. Excavations have revealed about 26 layers of ruins! It was probably inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BC (the same time as the destruction of the First Israelite Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and subsequent fall of Israelite rule and exile). Since this time it has remained uninhabited.

Tel Megiddo- aerial view form the southeast (source

Megiddo is mentioned twelve times in the Old Testament, ten times in reference to the ancient city of Megiddo, and twice with reference to "the plain of Megiddo", most probably simply meaning "the plain next to the city." The Bible lists the king of Megiddo among the Canaanite rulers defeated by Joshua in his conquest of the land (Joshua 12:7, 12:21).

The city of Megiddo was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11; 1 Chronicles 7:29).

Deborah and Barak led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanite armies of Sisera by "the waters of Megiddo" (Judges 5:19-20).

Solomon made Megiddo one of his district capitals as well as one of his three main fortress cities (I Kings 4:12; 9:15). According to I Kings (9:15), King Solomon built Megiddo together with Hazor and Gezer. At that time the city had become the center of a royal province of the United Monarchy.

view of Jazreel Valley

There were many famous battles fought there. In 906 BCE, a battle was fought here between Egypt and the Kingdom of Judah. King Josiah of Judah died in battle near Megiddo when he tried to sabotage Pharaoh Necho's attempt to succor the Assyrians at the Battle of Carchemish (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24).

strategic view of Jezreel Valley

The word "Armageddon" appears only once in the Greek New Testament, in Revelation 16:16.

    REV 16:16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

The word may come from Hebrew har məgiddô (הר מגידו), meaning "Mountain of Megiddo". "Mount" Megiddo is not actually a mountain, but a mount (a hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot). According to one premillennial Christian interpretation, the Messiah will return to earth and defeat the Antichrist (the "beast") and Satan the Devil in the Battle of Armageddon. Then Satan will be put into the "bottomless pit" or abyss for 1,000 years, known as the Millennium. 

thick walls and gateway
This may be the Solomonic gateway. King Solomon built many fortified cities in ancient Israel. Some are for chariots while others are for storage of grains. Initially, most scholars think that Tel Megiddo is a chariot city because of its stables. However the discovery of grain storage facilities are forcing them to rethink their classification.

northern stables, probably built around the time of King Ahad

note the thick walls

storage silos for grains, probably built by King Jeroboam II (8th C BC). There are stairs that lead to the bottom of the site

near the southern Megiddo Stables. There are cattle grazing in the background


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David and Saul at Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi (Hebrew: עֵין גֶּדִי) is an oasis in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the caves of Qumran.The name Ein Gedi is composed of two Hebrew words: ein means spring and gdi means goat-kid. En Gedi thus means "Kid spring." It is now a nature reserve.

In Genesis 14:7 Hazazon-tamar is mentioned as being a Amorite city, smitten by Chedorlaomer in his war against the cities of the plain. In Joshua 15:62, Ein Gedi is enumerated among the cities of the Tribe of Judah in the desert Betharaba, but Ezekiel 47:10 shows that it was also a fisherman's town. King David hides in the desert of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-2) and King Saul seeks him "even upon the most craggy rocks, which are accessible only to wild goats" (1 Samuel 24:3). In the 2 Chronicles 20:2 it is identified with Hazazon-tamar, where the Moabites and Ammonites gathered in order to fight Josaphat.

The Song of Songs (Songs 1:14) speaks of the "vineyards of En Gedi." The words of Ecclesiasticus 24:18, "I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades" (’en aígialoîs), may perhaps be understood of the palm trees of Ein Gedi.

Palm trees of Ein Gedi

David Falls, a waterfall in the desert

numerous caves in the hill slope

Rock hyrex in the nature reserve

Nubian ibexes on the craggy rocks

Another view of David Falls

1 SAMUEL 24:1 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, "David is in the Desert of En Gedi." 2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

    1SA 24:3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, "This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, `I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.' " Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe.

    1SA 24:5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6 He said to his men, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

    1SA 24:8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, "My lord the king!" When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, `David is bent on harming you'? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, `I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.' 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, `From evildoers come evil deeds,' so my hand will not touch you.

I have often wondered why David did not kill King Saul when he had a chance in Ein Gedi. This thought was on my mind as I walked the desert path to the waterfall. There were numerous caves on the mountain sides. In any of them, the incident narrated in 1 Samuel 24 could have taken place. After this incident, King Saul made peace with David. However, the king changed his mind and hunted David again. 1 Samuel 26 narrates another incident in which David could have killed King Saul, this time in the king's own camp but again did not.

David had all the excuses to kill Saul. He was exiled unjustly, repeatedly persecuted and hunted relentlessly by the king. David was able to escape Saul because of the desert and caves of regions such as Ein Gedi which afford good hiding places. In the two incidents, Saul was vulnerable and David's men has urged him to kill Saul. David has all the "right" reasons but he realized that to murder Saul was the "wrong" way. If David is to be king, he has to become king, not by murder but by God acting and placing him on the throne in God's way and by God's timing. David explained his reasoning in I Samuel 26: 23-24.

23 The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD's anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble."

No matter how good the reasons are, it will be wrong to take God's justice in our own hands.Doing thing for the "right' reasons in the "wrong" way will not be pleasing to God. We, like David, have to discern how to do everything the right way for the right reasons.

During the Roman times, Ein Gedi was famous for its persimmon perfume. Marc Anthony, the lover of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, confiscated the persimmon groves for her, but after her death king Herod leased them back. During the First Jewish War, the Jewish inhabitants of Ein Gedi tried to uproot the groves so they would not fall in Roman hands and  the Romans fought to prevent it. 

A few years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, according to the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, fanatic Zealots from Massada invaded the agricultural settlement of Ein Gedi. They stole all of the crops after killing 700 women and children, and returned with the spoils to their stronghold on Massada (War 4:401-4). After it was conquered by the Romans, Ein Gedi became quiet again, due to a Roman unit which enforced peace in the region.

During the Second Jewish War (130-135 CE), the famed leader of the Jewish rebels, Bar Kokhba, used Ein Gedi as his main administrative center. The Roman army crushed the rebellion and razed the town.


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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Eye Witnesses (Numbers 13)

Sermon Statement

We are God’s witnesses. The world will mostly know God though what we reveal to them through our lives as His witnesses. To be effective witnesses, we need to see through the eyes of faith.

 read more here
download audio here (mp3)


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Making a Baby Hatch (1)


Monday, November 19, 2012

Celtic Fire

Let us go forth
In the goodness of our merciful father
In the gentleness of our brother Jesus,
In the radiance of his Holy Spirit
In the faith of the apostles,
In the joy praise of the angels,
In the holiness of the saints,
In the courage of the martyrs.

Let us go forth
In the wisdom of our all-seeing Father
In the patience of our all-loving brother,
In the truth of the all-knowing Spirit,
In the learning of the apostles,
In the gracious guidance of the angels,
In the patience of the saints,
In the self control of the martyrs,
Such is the path for all servants of Christ,
The path from death to eternal life.

Robert Van Der Weyer, 1991. Celtic Fire. New York, NY: Doubleday, 143

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Anthony Loke on Lamentations

 Rev. Dr Anthony Loke, Lecturer in Old Testament and Academic Dean of Seminari Theologi Malaysia taught an excellent and enjoyable Spiritual Formation Institute Seminar on the book of Lamentations on 16 November 2012 in Johor Bahru.

Lamentations is a difficult book to deal with in the the Hebrew corpus and many Christians do not know how to deal with it.

note speaker's impassionate gestures

After a general introduction to the book, Anthony identifies the five voices speaking in the book: the narrator, daughter Zion, strong man, community voice and God. He includes God though God is silent throughout the book.

Using the outline from Kathleen O'Connor and his own book, Anthony led the participants through the book, teaching them to appreciate the different voices speaking and the anguish behind the words. He also demonstrate the structure of the book which is that of a funeral song.

A masterclass seminar on Lamentations. Anthony will be back to the Institute with Song of Songs in 2014


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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Baby Hatch

Baby hatch, OrphanCARE, Malaysia

There may be an unidentified epidermic of infanticide in the country. Occasional cases come to light when the victims (dead newborn/babies) are discovered in the trash, drain, toilet, bags and other places and are reported in the press. The mothers are often unmarried adolescents who became pregnant and did not know what to do with their unwanted pregnancies. The Star newspaper (Friday 6 July 2012) reports that there is "a spike in the number of baby-dumping incidences since 2010. After dropping from 102 cases in 2008 to 79 in 2009, the figures increased to 91 and 98 in 2010 and 2011 respectively."  The social stigma and taboo against unmarried mothers and teenage pregnancy are still very strong in this country.

The baby hatch is a place where these mothers can leave their babies without resorting to killing them. The key to the baby hatch is anonymity. Parents can leave their unwanted babies in the hatch without any questions. The baby hatch is usually a hatch where the parents can place the baby, without been seen. Once the baby is in the hatch, the caretaker of the hatch will take care of the baby until arrangements are made to hand the baby over to staff of the children section of the Social Welfare department.

More about baby hatch here

This does not solve the issue of unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock or teenage pregnancies. That need to be addressed in another way. What it does is to offer an alternative way out for mothers of these unwanted babies instead of committing murder.

Baby hatch, Germany

Baby hatch, Czech Republic

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

SFI seminar on Lamentations

SFI Seminar 2012/5

Date      :            2.00pm- 9.30pm, Saturday 17 November 2012
Place     :             Berea, Holy Light Church (English),
                         Jalan Gertak Merah, 80100 Johor Bahru

Synopsis  :            We live in a world filled with pain, grief, and lament. So we insulate ourselves from these things in order not to hurt ourselves. We cannot run away from tragedy, pain, and grief. These things are part of the natural world that we live in. But because we continue to insulate ourselves from them, we have come to a point where we are often hopelessly lost for words when tragedies strike us. We run out of words to say and to offer to those who are grieving. We try to reduce the consequences of the tragedy, play down the scale of its magnitude, and brush aside the pain of its implications. We have become a culture unable to wrestle deeply with pain and grief. We have lost the social practice, lack the words of comfort, and muddle the concepts necessary to help us face pain squarely in the face.

 We are expected to come to church happy and glad all the time. There are no more private places to grieve and work through the pain in a normal church worship service. We launch off into praise expecting everyone to be able to jump-start to praise God when the person is hurting deep inside. As one writer puts it, we have ‘lost the ability to sing the blues in the church’. We put little emphasis on the confession and penitence part in the worship. There is little time to orientate ourselves to come before God’s presence. There ought to be a place for the blues in the church because its absence is often a result of our own pride and arrogance to think that we must always be victorious in the Christian walk. How can we recover the voice of grief and lament? How can we recover an authentic voice that can help us voice our deepest sorrows and pain? How can we speak for those in grief and how can we speak for ourselves when we go through a similar road? The book of Lamentations has something to offer, it teaches us to respond adequately to grief and suffering, to learn to live with the silence of God, and to live with unanswered questions

Speaker  :  

Rev Dr Anthony Loke is an ordained minister with the Trinity Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia as well as a Old Testament lecturer in Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. His current interests include studying the Old Testament, writing articles and books, speaking about the political and social contexts of Malaysia, and a strong advocate against injustice and oppression. He is married to King Lang, who is currently working with the SIB church in Sarawak to develop their kindergarten ministry. They have two grown-up children studying at the tertiary level overseas.

(Seminar cost RM20.00 includes refreshment, dinner and seminar notes).

Spiritual Formation Institute Seminar 2012/5     

Please register with Sister Grace Soon of HLCE (Tel:07-2243285)