Nebi Samwil—A Site with Wisdom Ignored

Solomon's defining moment can also become ours.

Most travelers to Jerusalem never think to come to Nebi Samwil. The minaret towering above the hill looks like a misplaced lighthouse searching for the sea. On a clear day, a visitor can spy the Mediterranean to the west.

Nebi Samwil

(Photo: Nebi Samwil. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Although few come here today, there were few more important places in David’s and Solomon’s time—if any. In fact, it signified Solomon’s most defining moment.

What’s more, it represents the potential for ours as well.

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Hope from the Upper Room and David’s Tomb

How events of history and tradition combine to offer an answer to David’s prayer.

One of King David’s most poignant prayers came after one of his greatest mistakes. “Do not cast me away from Your presence,” he prayed, “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

Hope from the Upper Room and David Tomb

(Photo: Upper Room Interior. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

At the traditional site of the Upper Room, pieces of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building. Here, on Jerusalem’s Western Hill, events of history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s prayer.

In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.

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From Bahurim to Susa—God Turns a Curse into a Blessing

The Lord’s Providential Ironies Flow from Benjamin’s Tribe

One of the dark moments of King David’s reign saw him shuffling barefoot over the Mount of Olives, fleeing rather than facing a fight with his rebel son Absalom.

From Bahurim to Susa—God Turns a Curse into a Blessing

(Photo: Sunrise over the Mount of Olives. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After David made his way over the summit, he passed below the Benjamite village of Bahurim. There a loudmouth named Shimei hurled rocks at David’s passing entourage. But the curses Shimei chucked hurt worse. David’s response was stellar:

My son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him. Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day. —2 Sam. 16:11–12

Centuries later, another Benjamite named Shimei would play a role in providing blessing to David’s line. In fact to all Jews.

And to you.

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Why the Wisdom of Solomon Isn’t Enough for You

Everybody likes to be an exception to the rule. No exceptions. This paradox seems especially true for individuals who are exceptional. Like Solomon. (And like you and me.)

Why the Wisdom of Solomon Isn't Enough for You

(Photo by Owen Walters. Courtesy of

“I have given you a wise and discerning heart,” God told Solomon, “so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12). Talk about exceptional!

And yet Solomon became the exception to the wisdom of Solomon. How?

It started with two small compromises that we can avoid.

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What to Do When It’s Not Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.

(Photo by Photodune)

(Photo by Photodune)

Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.

During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).

David felt very alone.

His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.

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Why God Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

The superscription of Psalm 63 notes how David prayed the psalm in the wilderness of Judah, either while fleeing from King Saul or, later, from David’s rebel son Absalom.

Why God Connects Your Physical Needs to Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Sunset over the Judean Wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. —Psalm 63:1

The “dry and weary land” that David described also described his own weariness, and the lack of water around him served to surface an even deeper thirst. At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life. He yearned for God. Our physical needs are connected to our spiritual lives for that very reason.

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Horeshat Tal—A Reminder of Unity’s Essential Ingredient

Many places in Israel adapt their modern names from biblical names or references. Horeshat Tal National Park takes its name from Psalm 133.

Horeshat Tal—A Reminder of Unity's Essential Ingredient

(Photo: Horeshat Tal National Park. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Horeshat Tal means “The Dew Grove,” a name derived from verse 3:

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. —Psalm 133:3

Sitting in the shadow of Mount Hermon, this extensive park with its lush surroundings includes beautiful lawns, rolling streams, stone bridges, and a large swimming pool and water slide.

But the best parts of the park are the beautiful groves of centuries-old Tabor oak trees.

  • At one time, these oaks grew in abundance on the hills of the Galilee.
  • These trees are all that remain—saved partly due to a local legend that claims whoever harms a tree will endure suffering.

The superstition reminds me of a principle of unity that Psalm 133 speaks as truth—not legend.

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Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

We can only approach God’s presence God’s way. But are there multiple ways? The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament?

Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

(Photo courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).

Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.

In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.

This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?

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Bethlehem—A Metaphor for Your Heart

Except for sporadic fistfights among the priests in the Church of the Nativity, we usually picture Bethlehem as a place of serenity. After all, history reveals the city as the hometown of King David. It was the adopted home of godly Ruth.

And of course, it was the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Bethlehem—A Metaphor for Your Heart

(Photo: Today’s little town of Bethlehem, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Christmas cards and carols venerate Bethlehem as an idyllic, quiet place with “silent stars” above it and “deep and dreamless sleep” within its walls. A pleasant picture, for sure.

But it wasn’t always so.

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Tel Dan Stele—Providential Ironies in Favor of King David

Sometimes Israel’s archaeology offers marvelous vindications to its history and the Bible.

Gravel pathways of the ancient site of Tel Dan lead to a large, rock wall—a city gate that dates from the time of Solomon’s temple. Likely built by King Ahab in the ninth century BC, this Iron Age entrance helped to fortify the city of Dan.

Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele was discovered

Photo: Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele was discovered. Courtesy of

And for good reason. The ninth and early-eighth centuries BC saw many battles between the northern kingdom of Israel and the expanding kingdom of Aram.

In the courtyard of Tel Dan’s gate complex, archaeologists unearthed sections of a large engraved stone—an ancient basalt stele.

Its discovery gave hard evidence that King David was no Robin Hood legend of Hebrew history.

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