Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

More lies beneath the surface if we will simply explore.

When we think of the Red Sea, we tend to picture Moses holding up his arms and dividing the waters. This body of water parted like curtains in the opening act of Israel’s history. The parting of the sea set the stage for one of history’s most incredible escapes (Exodus 14:29-31).

Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

(Photo: Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But this part of the Red Sea represents only half of its northernmost edges.

The sea has two fingers that point north, divided by the Sinai Peninsula. The more famous finger, the one that parted in the exodus, is the western one—today called the Gulf of Suez.

If the western finger of the Red Sea represented Israel’s beginning as a nation under God, the eastern section, or the Gulf of Aqaba, could embody Israel’s ongoing relationship with the Lord.

And it offers a spiritual lesson for those who will look below the surface.

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Hezekiah’s Tunnel and Wall Give a Lesson from Archaeology

Scripture is supported by what we can dig out of the ground.

The ancient world had a bully system that worked in straightforward terms. A nation would conquer a region and demand tribute—annual payment of money and goods. If you didn’t pay tribute, they’d come and kill you. Pretty simple system.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

(Photo: Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

King Hezekiah refused to pay tribute to the bully. So the Assyrians invaded Judah.

Archaeology has unearthed treasures that reveal Hezekiah’s faith in God. How does it strengthen your faith to see the Bible in archaeology?

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Caesarea Philippi (Banias)—From the god Pan to the God-Man

Refreshing hope from the Son of God and the sons of Korah

In a land where water is life, it’s no wonder one of the major sources of water would become a primary place of worship. Regrettably, the god worshipped at Banias was not the God of Israel.

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi forms the headwaters of the Jordan River. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

The flowing streams and the nearby waterfalls offer some of the most pleasant and inviting surroundings for tours, holidays, and family outings. What an absolutely beautiful area!

But that’s not why Jesus came here.

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Kiriath Jearim—A Noteworthy Hill Nobody Notices

A reminder that God gave His Word for a reason.

It’s a place between important places. Few individuals, if any, journey there directly. Most would miss it, in fact, if they didn’t know to look. Yet Kiriath Jearim was profoundly significant.

Kiriath Jearim—A Noteworthy Hill Nobody Notices

(Photo: Kiriath Jearim, Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Modern commuters along Israel’s Route 1 drive by the site every day, their minds on their routines. Even tour buses rarely point to the place, much less stop there.

The tourists who do pull over often do so only to snap pictures at the Elvis American Diner (also known as the “Elvis Inn”). A 16-foot-tall bronze likeness of Elvis Presley greets every visitor. Inside the diner, Elvis music is all they hear as they eat their Elvis Burgers. But Elvis isn’t what makes this hill noteworthy.

Around the corner from the offbeat diner, near the modern Israeli Arab village of Abu Gosh, sits the site so few see and even fewer visit—the biblical site of Kiriath Jearim.

You’d never know by looking, but the physical symbol of God’s presence in Israel rested for about a century on this overlooked hill.

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How to Take Your Accountability to God Seriously

Amos' words to Samaria offer wisdom to our lives.

We don’t like accountability. Oh, we like the idea of accountability. For governing officials. For pastors and priests. For bankers and doctors. But personally? Uh, no thanks.

How to Take Your Accountability to God Seriously

(Photo: Ruins atop Samaria’s acropolis mark the kings’ administrative center. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

From the pages of Scripture, an unlikely prophet named Amos helps us learn why our refusal to accept personal accountability is more than simply wrong or foolhardy. His words to the northern capital of Samaria are words we need to hear as well.

Without accountability to God, we will never become all we want to be.

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The Herodium—A Monument to God’s Sovereignty

How a hill devoted to a paranoid king offers comfort to our anxious lives.

Herod the Great is often remembered for the biblical account that never appears on Christmas cards. Hearing from the Magi that the “king of the Jews” was born, the paranoid Herod slew all boys under two years old in Bethlehem—a cryptic fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.

The Herodium—A Monument to God’s Sovereignty

(Photo: The Herodium, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Of course, Jesus’ family got word of the impending threat and escaped by night to sojourn in Egypt until Herod’s death (Matthew 2:13-18).

When I visited the Herodium in March, I couldn’t help but remember the historical irony that Herod tried to kill Jesus—but failed. Instead, Herod himself died and was buried in the Herodium overlooking the very city where the true King of the Jews was born (Micah 5:2).

The Herodium offers a lesson of great encouragement in God’s sovereignty in our lives today.

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Shechem Still Shouts for Us to Choose God Today

Joshua's words show us the way to succeed in life each day.

Have you noticed when someone says something to you, the tone of what they say speaks louder than their words? As I’ve studied the Bible, I’m convinced something else also contributes to the words: the place the words were spoken.

Shechem Still Shouts for Us to Choose God Today

(Photo: The summit of Mt. Gerizim overlooks ancient Shechem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

That’s why Joshua regathered the young Hebrew nation to Shechem. The geographical context of his words played a significant role in shaping the message.

The place screamed as loudly as Joshua’s words.

What he said that day still applies to us.

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The King’s Garden in Jerusalem: A Lesson in Futility

Solomon’s experience shows us how not to waste our lives.

Some folks love gardening. For them, nothing compares to the joy of creating and appreciating beautiful landscapes and gardens. It provides them hours of relaxation and satisfaction. Me, not so much.

The King’s Garden in Jerusalem-A Lesson in Futility

(Photo: The King’s Garden began in the Kidron Valley beside the City of David. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

I guess it’s because working with plants requires continual maintenance. Mowing, pulling, watering, trimming—then do it again next week. Then again.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love the results of the work. It’s tremendously rewarding. But the results are just so short-lived.

King Solomon had a similar experience. He wrote:

I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. (Ecclesiastes 2:5–6)

After all this work—and many other pursuits—Solomon concluded a few verses later:

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (v. 11)

The King’s Garden in Jerusalem offers us some valuable lessons how not to waste our lives.

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Joppa’s Greatest Export May Actually Surprise You

God's compassion to Gentiles launched here in both Testaments.

One of the best parts of going to Tel Aviv is strolling down the beautiful seaside boardwalk to ancient Joppa. Amazingly, very little remains visible to speak of Joppa’s significance. But history tells a different story.

Joppa’s Greatest Export—God’s Compassion

(Photo: Joppa’s modern port, courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Only a few fishing boats float in Joppa’s modest harbor today, hardly representative of its significant past. Beyond goods and trade, Joppa greatest export was something else.

It may actually surprise you.

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Jesus Has Many More Eye-Opening Truths to Teach You

A lesson from Bethsaida shows us how far we have to go.

Many people have never lived a day without knowing the name of Jesus. They grew up with the hymns and knowing the gospels. Others have taken their knowledge of the Savior further through intensive study, Bible school, or even seminary.

A Bethsaida Lesson—Jesus Wants to Teach You Much More

(Photo: The Plain of Bethsaida. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Although many years of knowing Christ often carry with them the danger of familiarity—i.e. complacency—not everyone falls prey to the threat. There is, in fact, another danger.

All of Jesus’ disciples grew up knowing their Bibles. They lived in anticipation of the Messiah. And finally, they had found Him.

  • By the time Jesus brought His disciples to Bethsaida that day, they had followed Him for more than two years.
  • They carried with them the admiration of the crowds.
  • They were leaders, promised by Christ to reign with Him.

What else was there to gain? They had gone as high as they could. Many of us might slip into the same error of thinking.

For the faithful follower of Jesus, there is another danger beyond complacency.

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