May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 3


(Theme of the Day: Standing strong in God) 

Today was our first full day in Israel. We were greeted with mild temps, with highs in the 70s. The morning was overcast (with a few brief showers), but the afternoon was partly sunny. Leaving our hotel along the Med Sea in Tel Aviv shortly after 7:30, we drove to the Shephelah (lowlands of Judah). We would spend the entire day here.



Gezer and Solomon’s gate (I Kings 9)

Tel Gezer was our first stop. Located along the Aijalon Valley, this archaeological site connects us to both the ancient Canaanites and Israelites. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 (“there is a season for everything) and I Kings 9 (about Solomon refortifying the city). Among the ruins we saw the Canaanite tower, wall, 6-chamber gate, and the water system. From the Israelite period we saw the 6-chamber gate attributed to Solomon. We even saw a replica of the Gezer Calendar discovered about 100 years ago here. Leaving the site we saw the standing stones of Gezer, most likely part of the Canaanite cultic practices.

Beth Shemesh 

Sorek Valley

The Sorek Valley from Beth Shemesh

Driving south to the Sorek Valley, we made a brief stop at Beth Shemesh. Reading from 1 Samuel 6 about the return of the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines, we could see this incredible story come to life!  Samson was also from this area (Zorah). Although he married Delilah (from Timnah just a few miles west in the valley), God used him in amazing ways!



Gath, the Philistine city of Goliath

Continue south to the Elah Valley, we made a brief stop at Gath (Tel es-Safi). This was where Goliath was from. We also read from 2 Kings 12 about Hazael, the Aramean, who surrounded and conquered this city.  Here we saw some of the lower ruins of the city.



Qeiyafa and the Elah Valley (1 Samuel 17)

One of the newest archaeological sites is Kh. Qeiyafa. This was our next stop. Standing inside one of the city’s two chamber gates, we had a great view of the Elah Valley below. This was where David defeated Goliath. Reading from I Samuel 17, we took great joy in knowing that God helps us fight our battles of life when we entrust the difficult circumstances of life to His sovereign care. Passing by many of the ruins and casemate fortification wall, we exited through the other chambered gate. It is possible that this site was Shaaraim of ! Samuel 17:52.


Bell cave

The “bell cave” at Beit Guvrin

After eating lunch, we visited Beit Guvrin. This was our first national park. We walked to two caves. The first was the columbarium (designed for raising pigeons). The second was one of the bell caves. Here we listened to Shlomo share a song on his recorder. We also blended our voices together with two worship songs. The acoustics were fantastic! We also read form Micah 1 and 5 as this prophet was from this city (formerly called Moreshah).




Our last stop was Lachish. This was both a Canaanite (conquered by Joshua in two days, see Joshua 10) and Israelite city. In the late 8th century BC, the city was conquered by the Assyrians. Over 100 years later, the Babylonians came and destroyed the city for good. We read from Jeremiah 34:7, a text that matches perfectly with what one of 20 ostraca (Lachish Letter #4) said. Climbing the site, we saw the double walls and gates as well as the palace (probably built by Rehoboam, see 2 Chronicles 12).


Following a drive of about 50 minutes, we arrived in Beersheba, the primary city of the Negev. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner. We also met briefly for a time of worship.


(Theme of the Day: Finding God in the Desert) 

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Our Easter Joy & Hope

The centerpiece of our Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter serves as the bedrock of our spiritual and eternal joy and hope. The wonderful words of the angel at the tomb says it all – “He is not here!  He is risen! (Matthew 28:6).”  


Jewish ossuaries

Display of Jewish ossuaries in the Hecht Museum. (Credit: Photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

An ossuary is a small stone box containing the bones of the deceased person. These were used in the days of Jesus. 100s have been found in Jerusalem alone. Some ossuaries were quite ornate, decorated with rosettes. Others had the name of the deceased scratched on the outside of them, identifying whose bones they were. Archaeologists actually found an ossuary with the following name written in Aramaic – Yeshua bar Yoseph” (e.g. “Jesus, son of Joseph”). Of course this ossuary wasn’t our Yeshua’s ossuary. To be very clear, He didn’t need an ossuary! Rather, the tomb of Jesus was empty, not because of the body of the Savior was stolen nor because His followers hallucinated or made up the story. The tomb was empty because Jesus was literally raised to life!


In Israel, 100s of Second Temple Tomb (tombs dating to the 1st century) have been found. About two dozen tombs have actually been found in and around the Holy Sepulcher Church, one of there three oldest churches in the world (4th century AD). But whether this is the place of Jesus’ tomb or not, we honor not merely the traditional place but rather the historical truth and reality of Christ’s resurrection. We worship the Person, Jesus, raised from the grave! It is what brings us the joy and certainty of our faith!

3 Tomb Reconstruction copy

A model of an “arcasolium” tomb

The most likely type of Second Temple Tomb Jesus was laid in on Friday afternoon was an arcasolium tomb.  The most common type of tomb during the period of the New Testament was the koch (kochim, plural) or niche tomb.  However, it seems as if they angels in the resurrection story couldn’t sit at the feet and head of Christ (John 20:12) within a narrow and elongated niche tomb. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was a newly-hewn tomb (Matthew 27:60), and must have been a tomb of prominence. What a dramatic event it must have been for the women at the tomb who were told by the angels of Christ’s resurrection! What an amazing experience also for Peter and John who ran to the tomb shortly after!

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The Empty Grave

So this weekend, all the Christian world rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus! Easter lilies stand tall in celebration! Easter flowers bloom brilliantly as a sign of life! May our hearts rejoice in Christ’s resurrection!

Enjoy this song that celebrates the beautiful and powerful name of Jesus!


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Herod’s Palace – The Place of Jesus’ Sentencing

The passion of Jesus during His last week in Jerusalem can be seen in each of the four Gospels. He would die on a Friday. While He predicted for the first time His death and resurrection up north in a place called Caesarea Philippi (see Matthew 16), Jesus was only one day away from fulfilling the first part of this prediction, namely, His crucifixion.

Antonia Fortress

Herod's palace

A model at the Israel Museum of Herod’s Palace

Traditionally, the place of the trial and the sentencing Jesus by Pontius Pilate was the Antonia FortressThis tradition is based on the discovery of a stone pavement (in Greek, lithostrotos, see John 19) that can be seen today below the Sisters of Zion convent. However, this pavement dates to the 2nd century AD, or to the time of Hadrian. This traditional location for the trial of Jesus happening here is what has led to the Via Dolorosa starting here and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the place for the death and burial of Jesus according to a 4th century AD tradition).

Herod’s Palace

Herod's palace

The newly uncovered palace area of Herod the Great (credit: Tower of David’s Citadel)

At the opposite end of the Old City today, however, is Herod’s Palace. It was built by Herod the Great. Today, this palace can be seen in the area just south of the Jaffa Gate in an archaeological park called David’s Citadel. Here in recent excavations, a 1st century stone pavement has been uncovered. This is the most likely place where Jesus stood in front of Pilate (who was in town from Caesarea during Passover). Following sentencing, it was from here where Jesus bore His cross and carried it to Calvary.



Herodian ruins in the palace area known as the Kishle (credit: Ferrell Jenkins)

The video below offers a quick peak into the lower reaches of Herod’s palace. Over the last few years, the archaeological excavations have been quite thorough and revealing.

Eventually, Jesus would die on a cross. Starting with being humiliated before Pilate here at Herod’s palace, Jesus would die scorned and rejected on a cruel cross. As the hymn states,

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 10


Today was our first day in Jerusalem, and it was a great one! The weather was perfect, with full sun and temps in the low 70s.

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

The Old City and Temple Mount from the Mt. of Olives

Leaving the hotel about 7:30 after breakfast, we drove around the Old City of Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a panoramic view of the entire Old City, the Temple Mount, the the City of David to the south. Walking down to the chapel called Dominus Flavet, we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14. From here we continued our walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Brother Diego greeted us here. We also enjoyed a quite reflective time here, considering the passion of Jesus (Luke 22).

Old City

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

We walked to the Old City from here through St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lion’s and Jericho gate). At the Pools of Bethesda we read from John 5 about the healing that took place here. We also sounded angelic as we sang a few songs in St. Anne’s Church (Crusader, with an eight-second echo!). We continued our walk to the Holy Sepulcher Church in the heart of the Christian Quarter. This is one of two possible places for the crucifixion and burial tomb of Jesus. We explored the church on our own. It dates to 325 AD. We also ate lunch nearby.



Herodium – where Herod the Great was buried

We walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and boarded our bus. We drove southeast to Herodium. This was where Herod the Great was buried in 4 BC. We climbed this partially artificial hill to the top, offering us a good view of Jerusalem to the north, the Judean Desert to the east, Bethlehem to the west, and Tekoa to the south. We even saw some migrating storks fly overhead. We descended down through the cistern system of the site.

Shepherd’s Fields/Bethlehem

small lamb

A small lamb at the Shepherds’ Fields

Nearby in Beit Sahour, we made a brief stop at the Shepherds’ Fields. Descending into a cave at the Shepherds’ Fields, we read from Micah 5 and Luke 2, in celebration of Christ’s birth that came “just at the right time (Galatians 4:4).” We also sang a few carols in the cave as well as in the chapel. To end the day, we visited an olive wood shop and store owned by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. The olive wood pieces are amazing!

We drove back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for some shopping and a taste of more modern Israeli life.


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 9


We spent the entire day in the Judean Desert along the west side of the Dead Sea. The sun would be bright with warm but bearable temps in the high 80s.



Masada – a palace-fortress built by Herod

Following breakfast and check-out, we left the hotel a little after 7:45. Driving just 15 minutes north along the Dead Sea and reading Psalm 18:1-2 as we started the day (God is my rock, my fortress – “metzada” in Hebrew), our first stop was Masada. Taking the cable-car to the top of this 1,000 foot high “stand alone” fortress originally built by Herod the Great, we saw the ruins (southern palace, Roman ramp, casemate wall, synagogue, northern palace, and bathhouse). We also heard the story of Masada shared passionately by Shlomo. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Masada was used as a place of refuge for 967 Jews. Leaving the site, we took the cable car back down. Nine in the group hiked down the Snake Path.



Engedi water falls

Continuing to drive north, we arrived at Engedi, the oasis in the Judean Desert. Walking back into the canyon, we read from Song of Songs 1 (about the henna blossoms of Engedi), 2 Chronicles 20 (the “Ascent of Ziz”) and 1 Samuel 24. This is where David encountered King Saul in a cave. We walked back to the water falls further up in the canyon. Some enjoyed getting very wet!


Inside Cave 1 Qumran

Inside of Cave 1 at Qumran

Only about 30 minutes further north is Qumran. This was the most important archaeological site in all of Israel, for this is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. During the lunch hour, 15 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were found (including the famous Isaiah Scrolls). Following lunch we visited the site itself, seeing the ruins of the scribes of the texts, the Essene community. Standing in front of Cave 4 (and where #5 was), we read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found in Cave 11) as well as Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16. Praise God for the amazing preservation of God’s Word!


Jericho walls

The retaining walls of Jericho

From here we visit Old Testament Jericho. This city is located just north of the Dead Sea. Climbing the “tel,” we first looked east across the Jordan Valley to see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34). It was in the Jordan River across from where Jesus was baptized (John 1). We also talked about how the archaeology here matches well (“confirms”) the biblical story of Joshua 6. Standing on the southern end, we saw the double retaining stone walls of the city. It was on top of these stone walls that the mud brick wall was placed. It was this mud brick wall that came tumblin’ down when the shofars sounded! Praise God for the reliability of Scripture!

Wadi Qelt & on to Jerusalem

Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt – Judean Desert

On our drive west to Jerusalem (18 miles), we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. This is part of the Judean Desert. As the sun was setting, we heard the words of Isaiah 40 shared with us as well as Psalm 23. The desert here serves as the context for these passages!

Arriving in Jerusalem, we checked into our hotel. Upon finishing dinner, we enjoyed an orientation walk to the Western Wall! We walked through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City to there and back. It is exciting to be in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital!



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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 8


Today was a “cross-over” day once again. We awoke to Sammy’s (our guide) unique “wakie wakie” wake-up call. So we rolled out of our tents here in Wadi Rum around 6 am. The warm sun greeted us, with high temps at the end of the day about 90.

Jordan-Israel Crossing / Read Sea – Coral Beach

Red Sea

The beautiful Red Sea in Elat, Israel

Driving from Wadi Rum to the southern border crossing at Aqaba/Elat took about an hour. With no groups ahead of us, this Rabin crossing only took about an hour. David and Shlomo greeted us on the other side. After loading up the bus, we drove to Coral Beach where a number of people enjoyed a swim in the Red Sea. The water was clear and the coral and fish were amazing!

Timnah – Tabernacle Model

Tabernacle Model

The Tabernacle Model at Timnah

Driving north about 20 miles we arrived at Timnah. In the 13th century BC, this was the site of an Egyptian copper mine. After seeing a brief movie about the copper found here, we drove to the display of a full-size Tabernacle was described in the Old Testament. 150 x 75 feet was the size. 50 chapters in the OT are dedicated to the design, building, and use of this Tent of Meeting. We were guided around the model, seeing in the courtyard the sacrificial altar and the bronze laven. In the Holy Chamber we saw the Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Incense Altar. The priest and High Priest were also adorned in their garments. In the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. We read from Hebrews 9 about how Jesus came to fulfill the sacrificial system once and for all.


Ice cream Yotvata

Enjoying some ice cream at Yotvata

For lunch we drove just a few miles north to a dairy-kibbutz called Yotvata. Here we met Shlomo’s sister. We also enjoyed incredible ice cream here!

Dead Sea

Send Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

We drove just shy of two hours to our hotel located on the southern end of the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47). Upon checking in, many quickly changed and walked down to the shoreline of the Dead Sea. This unique body of water is about 33% salt and mineral, making it impossible to sink. As the sun set to the west, the appearance of the Jordanian mountains on the other side took almost a pink color. To float here was a fun experience! After getting showers, we enjoyed dinner and a free night.


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 7


Today was an amazing day here in Jordan! Between the beauty of God’s creation and the unique experiences at both Petra and Wadi Rum, we are grateful to God. The weather was perfect again, with full sun, cloudless deep blue skies, and temps in the 70s.


Treasury Petra Jordan

The famous “Treasury” at Petra, Jordan

Following an earlier breakfast we departed at 7 am for the entrance of Petra. We would spend about 6.5 hours within this red-rose ancient city. We are here in the Seir Mountains, the land of the Edomites as mentioned in the Bible. We began our experience here with walking into the site of Petra through the canyon called the Siq. At the end of the Siq we came to the most prominent and well-known monument called “The Treasury” (Al-Khazneh). This well-preserved monumental tomb appears in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” It served as the tomb of Aretas III or IV (who Paul actually mentions in 2 Cor. 11).

From the Treasury, the site opens up. Walking further we past 100s of other tombs/burial chambers as well as one of the largest theaters in Jordan. Carved into the sand stone, this theater could hold 3000 people!

Monastery Tomb

The Monastery Tomb at Petra, Jordan

Just past the theater are the Royal Tombs. Some in the group explored these while others hiked to the western edge of Petra to the famous Monastery Tomb. The hike ascended about 750 feet in elevation over the course of about 900 steps, but it was well worth it. The view from above the Monastery provided the opportunity to look westward into Israel and the Aravah Valley & southern Negev. A couple in the group also hiked to the top of the High Place.

We all walked back to the entrance on our own, enjoying the unique beauty of this site. What an incredible place Petra is. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum

Jeep Rides at Wadi Rum, Jordan

Driving south and a little east about two hours, we arrive at Wadi Rum. This Jordanian desert is known for the story of Sir Lawrence of Arabia during WWI. Here we enjoyed a jeep ride through the desert. We stopped for a few panoramic views as well as for the sunset as we listened to a few worship songs.

Captains Bedouin Tent “Hotel”

The jeeps took us to our dwelling for the night, a Bedouin Tent facility called Captains. We enjoyed a unique dinner (with the meat prepared in an underground pit covered in sand), with a camp-fire under the brilliant stars to follow. Truly, the heavens declare the glory of God! We retired to our own individual camel-wool tents for the evening!


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 6


This morning we left the Sea of Galilee area. We were once again greeted with sun, with eventual high temps in the 70s. Perfect once again!

Kinneret Cemetery

Rachel the Poet

“Rachel the Poet’s” grave – Kinneret Cemetery

Leaving at 7:15 following breakfast, we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to the Kinneret Cemetery. This was a cemetery used by early Jewish pioneers to the land. We stood around the grave of a certain Rachel (Bluwstein). She immigrated from Ukraine to Israel in 1909 and died in 1931. She is known for her poetry. She even appears on the new 20 shekel bill.

Jordan Border Crossing/Jerash

Jerash Jordan

Jerash Jordan

Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan Valley, we made our crossing into Jordan at the Sheik Border Crossing. With a little patience, we crossed without any issues. We we met on the Jordan side by our Jordanian guide, Sammy, and our driver.

After loading the bus, we drove about an hour and half to Jeresh. This was a huge Decopolis city of the Romans. Here we saw many things, including the hippodrome, the massive theater, and Temple of Athena, the many other ancient ruins.

Mt. Nebo

Mt. Nebo

The view of Israel from Mt. Nebo

Driving south through the edge of Amman we arrived at Mt. Nebo. Here we looked westward into back into Israel (the Promised Land) as Moses did before he died on this mountain. We read from Deuteronomy 34 and Joshua 1. We were encouraged to be “strong and courageous” in our walk of faith. Before leaving, we also saw the newly renovated chapel built over the ruins of a Byzantine church (4-5th century AD). The mosaics were beautiful! We also stopped briefly at a mosaic shop. Here we saw a replica of the Medeba Map, a 6th century AD map of the Holyland.

Drive to Petra

From here we continued through the city of Medeba and drove south on the Desert Highway to Petra. The drive took about 3.5 hours, with a short break on the way. Arriving at our hotel we enjoyed a late dinner together before retiring for the night. We are looking forward to visiting Petra early tomorrow!


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 5


Today was a day of focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus here in the region of the Sea of Galilee. It weather provided mostly sunny skies, with highs in the low 70s.



Mt. Arbel on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee

Following another plentiful breakfast, we drove about five minutes to the trailhead leading up a 800 foot cliff called Arbel. 11 in the group climbed, while the rest of the group bussed around to the other side and ascended the top with a shorter walk. The view from the top was stunning. We could see the entire NW corner of the lake (Sea of Galilee) below. Before leaving the top, a number of couples renewed their wedding vows! It was special!

Yardenit/Jordan River

Baptism in the Jordan

Baptism in the Jordan River

Driving to the southern end of the lake, six in the group renewed their baptism in the waters of the Jordan River. We had the entire placed (called Yardenit) to ourselves. While the water was a bit chilly still this time of year, the experience was rewarding!


Magdala synagogue

The 1st century Magdala synagogue

Driving back through Tiberias, our next stop was Magdala. This was where a certain “Mary” was from. Unique to this archeological site is the 1st century synagogue uncovered here. It took a simple rectangular shape but no bigger than to hold about 60 people. We could picture Jesus teaching here!


Following lunch (the traditional St. Peter’s fish), we visited Chorazin. This was one of the three cities condemned by Jesus. In the 3rd century synagogue we read from Matthew 23 about the Moses’ seat. We also learned a life-lesson about humility. The entire city was built with black basaltic stone.



The 5th century Capernaum synagogue

Down on the shoreline, Capernaum is located. As we entered the site, we made our way to the 5th century synagogue (the 1st century one is below). Here we sat together and heard the many stories that took here involving Jesus (Mark 1, 2, 5, and 9; Luke 7; and John 6). Besides seeing other 1st century ruins of houses, and a 5th century octagonal church, we enjoyed a few moments of quiet reflection on the shoreline. This was most likely where Jesus called the fishermen disciples! He also called Matthew (Levi) here too to follow Him.

Boat Ride/Ancient Boat

Returning to Nof Ginnosar, we boarded our own boat for a 50 minute “sail” on the Sea of Galilee. We enjoyed a time of worship and reflection. We read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14, the storm storm narratives about Jesus calming the stormy waters. Following this, we saw the ancient boat that dates to the 1st century! It was found in 1986 by two brothers.

Mt. of Beatitudes

Mt. of Beatitudes

The Sea of Galilee from the Mt. of Beatitudes

The last stop of the day was the Mt. of Beatitudes. While sitting on the rocks overlooking a natural amphitheater, we listened to the first part of Matthew 5 in both Hebrew and English. It is possible that more than 5,000 would have listened to Jesus share these kingdom principles. Following a quiet time, many in the group walked down the pathway that leads to the water’s edge below. This sunset encounter was special and a great way to end the day.

We returned to our hotel for dinner. Many in the group enjoyed painting their stones collected from Capernaum.

It was a day where the life and ministry of Jesus came alive!


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The Isaiah Seal Impression (& Video)

Excitement in the Archaeological World

Isaiah seal

Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

The excitement about biblical archaeology is that one never knows what may be uncovered next! This is particularly true of archaeological discoveries in and around Jerusalem, for it seems as though significant finds are appearing in the news more and more! This is truly exciting.

The last discovery in Jerusalem was just made public last week. I’m sure many of you have seen the report already! It is a discovery that is potentially and directly links us to one of the major prophets who lived in the 7th century BC. This prophet’s name is Isaiah.

The Seal Impression

Isaiah seal and Ophel

The Ophel excavations where the Isaiah Seal was discovered (credit: Andrew Shiva)

In a recent Times of Israel article, Dr. Elat Mizar, archaeologist, reported the following, “We appear to have discovered a seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, in a scientific, archaeological excavation…” Discovered in the Ophel excavations (just north of the City of David and just south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), this “seal impression” (or bulla) is a remarkable find!

Mizar continues to describe both about discovery and the challenge of interpreting it, “Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at the end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah.” You can read the entire article HERE. If this discovery does indeed link us to the Isaiah of the Bible, this would be an incredible find!

A Video

Here is a recent video from last week featuring a personal interview with Elat Mizar.

For the sake of providing additional (yet somewhat similar) resources/articles about this discovery, follow these links:

National Geographic


Haaretz (an Israeli newspaper)


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