Saturday, January 24, 2015

Israel: Beth-shan

Our next stop that day, on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, was Beth-shan. Beth-shan was a Canaanite city that resisted the attack of the Israelites. It was here that the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung for all to see.

Later, in 700BC, this city was deserted and empty until the Hellenistic period, when it was named Scythopolis, "city of the Scythians."

During the New Testament times, it was part of the Decapolis, with a hippodrome, a theater, and pagan temples.

 It later became a Christian city and was the seat of bishopry.

We hiked up and up and up to the top of a hill. This is from that vantage point.

We read that in this area excavators have found the remains of 18 levels of occupation. The most interesting to me was the Israelite fortress, dating back to 5 years after King Solomon's death. That means Benaiah would have been there.

These are the remains of that fortress.

 Upon my return from Israel, I have certainly read my Bible differently. Before, many times, place names were just given a quick glance by me. Not anymore!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Israel: Castle Exploration

On our drive to Jerusalem, after our baptisms, we stopped to see Belvoir Fortress, a crusader castle. We have seen a few castles here and there, this was the best preserved my kids had ever seen. We read that the Knights Hospitaller purchased the land from a French nobleman in 1168 and began to build the castle then. It was designed to stop the Muslim invasion of Jerusalem. It's Hebrew name means "Star of the Jordan."

The moat was so striking. We wondered at the drawbridge and talked about how it might have looked.

There were lots of nooks and crannies. Dungeons? For kids who didn't do their homework?

We found a spot to get into the dried-up moat.

And this was a hole from which an arrow could be shot, giving the knight protection. These arrow holes were placed in both the inner and outer fortress walls.

This is what they think it might have looked like at one time. The concentric design of this castle influenced castle design for many centuries later.

And from this vantage point, we could see Gilad Mountain (Gilead).

 We could also see the country of Jordan.

That little river snaking in the center of the picture is the Jordan River! It gets thin in spots.

My kids listed this among their favorites.  We are a Narnia and Lord of the Rings lovin' family, so it was fun to see and place and think about the past and who might have lived there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Israel: Jordan River Baptisms Part II

We had not thought of our two little ones getting baptized, though both of them had asked questions about it in the last months. After we were baptized, Big Ben had been watching (and applauded for each as his sisters did), then said he was ready and wanted to do it. He did have some questions. How cold was it? was the main one. We assured him that the cold part was worth it. He has made a firm commitment to letting the Lord into his life, so we agreed that he could be baptized this day.

CC reviewed several salvation questions, and they remembered together the decision he had made in Kindergarten.

 Raised in newness of life!

And then there was Sweet Cheeks, wanting to be baptized, but scared. She's always been my child to do things a little later, a little more slowly, a little more carefully. We let it be her decision. She was thinking so hard. She asked if she had to. We told her that she did not have to. We told her that baptism does not give us salvation, but that it was a command, so sometime she should do it. As she was thinking, I asked her what she felt God wanted her to do. She said, "He wants me to do it." And then Big Ben called out, "Hey, Eva, wouldn't you rather be baptized where Jesus was than somewhere else?" and that sealed the deal. She was ready. I promised her we would walk through the cold water with her and that she would be glad she did it.

And when she came up, Miss Middler caught this picture, which has become my favorite from the trip. She turned and said, "I am so glad I did that!"

From the song "Trust and Obey": Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away; Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, Can abide when we trust and obey.

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