DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17: BETH SHEAN, SHILOH, JERICHO, JUDEAN DESERT, JERUSALEM
Today we left for Jerusalem. This meant saying goodbye to the region of the Sea of Galilee. It’s been special retracing the footsteps of Jesus here, but this will continue in Jerusalem. The day was another sunny one, with high temps around 90 again in Jericho.
After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south through the Jordan Valley to the largest Roman city in Israel, Beth Shean. Located about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, the site actually was also an Old Testament tel. It was here where King Saul’s body was hung on the walls (1 Samuel 31). In the Roman part of the city we saw the bath-house, the colonnaded street, the agora (market place), many mosaics, public latrenes, and a most-impressive intact theater. Many in the group climbed the 190 steps to the top of the OT tel for a great view of the city below as well as the Jordan Valley.
From here we uniquely drove south through the Samaritan Hill Country (also called Ephraim) to Shiloh. The drive was scenic, with this region preserving much of the look from biblical times. We saw lots of shepherds and sheep/goats. As we arrived at Shiloh, we climbed the tel here. After seeing a movie, we read from portions of 1 Samuel 3 and Jeremiah 7. For about 305 years, the Tabernacle was located here. It was here where Hannah dedicated Samuel. We also walked down through the excavations where most believe the Tabernacle once stood. It was pretty special to think this was where God spoke to Samuel.
Continuing south, we past by Bethel (Genesis 12, 28) and Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). Turning east, we took a windy road through the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13). We even saw a bunch of gazelles in the fields. We arrived at Jericho for a late lunch.
“Today we left the Sea of Galilee area. For sure it was an interesting day of traveling. We covered a lot of territory, connecting to the Bible the whole way! Thanks be to God for another great day!”
Following our late lunch, we climbed the OT tel of Jericho (called es-Sultan). We first looked eastward towards Jordan. We recalled the stories of Moses on Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), the crossing of the Jordan River by Joshua (Joshua 3), and the ministry of Elijah and Elisha in this area (2 Kings 2). Jesus was also baptized in the Jordan River here (John 1). As for the ancient site of Jericho, we considered the history of excavations here since the early 1900s. After seeing the oldest tower in Israel (?), we walked to the southern end of the site. Here we saw the stone reventment (retaining) walls of the city. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was a mud-brick wall that was placed on top of this stone wall, and it was this wall that came tumblin’ down (Joshua 6). Together we celebrated the historicity and accuracy of the Bible.
Judean Desert/Wadi Qelt
We ended the day by ascending to Jerusalem. About half way we stopped at the Wadi Qelt (part of the Judean Desert). Here we heard the words of Isaiah (Is. 40) about preparing the way for the Lord. John the Baptist would echo the same words in his ministry (Mt. 3). Shlomo also sang Psalm 23 in Hebrew as well, a perfect setting for this shepherding psalm.
We arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem around 6:40 p.m. After checking in and dinner, most in the group walked to the Western Wall. Seeing it at night was spectacular! We are looking forward to our first day in Jerusalem tomorrow!