Joshua Dies & Western Mountains (Homeland of Jesus)

That’s a lot of land, probably more than Alexander the Great conquered, at least in regards to the acreage used and the population of the people.

Mark Wilson describes a visit to Pella, an ancient city located in the Perean foothills of the Jordan River where Jesus’ followers sought refuge while escaping Jerusalem’s destruction.

Before writing my doctoral thesis two decades ago, the only Pella that I knew about was a small town in south central Iowa famous for its windows and doors.

But in the course of my research, I discovered fascinating data about another Pella located in the Perean foothills of the Jordan River.

In March I finally had the opportunity to visit the Pella located in northwestern Jordan.

Jesus, while looking over the temple mount in Jerusalem shortly before his death, prophesied that its beautiful stones would be thrown down within a generation.

He warned that the residents should flee Jerusalem to the mountains when they saw the Roman armies surrounding the city.

Jesus’ admonition is found in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matt 24:15–22; Mk 13:14–20; Lk 21:20–24).

Perhaps Jesus visited Pella during his visit to the Decapolis (Mk 7:31) and Perea (Matt 19:1; Mk 10:1), and recalling its secure location, cryptically referred to it in this prophecy.

Eusebius’s Church History recounts that the Jewish followers of Jesus heeded his warning and fled to Pella for safety before Jerusalem’s destruction.

Birgil Pixner believes that, after the city’s destruction, they returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their Jewish-Christian synagogue on Mount Zion.

Joshua, like Moses, told the Israelites to walk with You.  Did they?

“That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:

But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day” (Josh 23:7-8). 

“1 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you. 

Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. 

And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof ” (Josh 23:12-14).

Joshua then told them what God said,

“…Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. 

And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. 

And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. 

I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. 

And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red Sea” (Josh 24:2-6).

Joshua then said,

“And I have given you a land for which ye did not labor, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat. 

Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 

Bethsaida
Bethsaida, an ancient city on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, is a “tale of two cities” – an Iron age city of the land of Geshur, and a Roman city known as Julias. The area of Bethsaida was referred in the New Testament in conjunction with two of Jesus miracles: healing the blind man and the first feeding of the Multitude. It is also known as the birthplace of some of the Apostles (Andrew, Peter, Philip).
The area of BethSaida is located at the fertile delta of the upper Jordan river, when it enters to the sea of Galilee. The site is located on a hill, several hundred meters to the east of the Jordan river, and 30M higher than the valley. It is 1.5KM north of the northern shores of the sea of Galilee, and 4KM northeast to Capernaum. The ruins cover about 20 acres on the hill.

And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods.

For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:

And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.

And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.

If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you 2 hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.

And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. 

And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. 

Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel” (Josh 24:13-23).

For the remainder of Joshua’s life Israel served God.  Eleazar, son of Aaron died also.

1 & 2 God gives us freewill, but that doesn’t mean that we can worship Jesus and do evil things on the side. 

The freewill is to choose Him or Satan.  I’ve have personal experience in this.  Once God helps you at your request, you can’t go against Him and later come back. 

“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.

Known in Joshua’s day as “the head of all those kingdoms,” the tell of Hazor is today the largest in Israel at 200 acres.
At its height in the Canaanite period, the city encompassed the entire tell. Later when it was inhabited by Israelites, the fortified city included only the Upper City.

But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb 10:26-27).

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb 6:4-6).

“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

Dan
A stepped path approaches the gate from the east. The gate is built of three arches which were constructed from sun-backed bricks.
The outer arch (2.4m wide) is visible above and to the sides of the entrance in the photo below. The arch-shaped lintel is one of the earliest complete standing arches found in the world, and the archway is the earliest intact structure in the world.
This was the gate where Abraham passed during his pursuit against the North Kings.
(Gen 14:14): “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan”.

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet 2:18-22).

Western Moutains
(Homeland of Jesus) 

This central spine of mountains ranging from 1,500 to 4,500 feet in altitude runs the length of western Palestine, broken only by the Jezreel Valley. 

The Israelite tribes originally settled here and began clearing the forests natural to the region (Josh 17:14-15). 

The Western Mountains with their three major divisions – Galilee, Samaria, and Judah – played the major role in biblical history.

North of the Jezreel Valley lies Galilee, a region with two distinct  characteristics.  Upper Galilee is a high, uplifted plateau isolated by its height from surrounding regions. 

Mount Meron, the highest point, rises to an elevation of 3,963 feet.  Well watered and heavily forested in antiquity, Upper Galilee played a less prominent historical role due to its relative isolation.

Herodion
Herod the Great built this monumental fortress and palace in the Judean desert south of Jerusalem, and was buried here.

The site was a rebel stronghold during the great revolts against the Romans.

It is one of the most exciting archaeological sites in Israel.

By contrast, the gentle hills and broad, fertile valleys of Lower Galilee are more familiar to biblical students.  The rolling hills, oriented east and west, do not exceed 2,000 feet and often are much lower. 

Bisecting valleys (Beth Kerem Valley, Beth Netofa Valley) made travel easy.  Vineyards, olive trees, and wheat flourished in the favorable climate and soil.

Villages and towns like Nazareth, Cana, and the provincial capital, Sepphoris, dotted the landscape.

Samaria (Hill Country of Ephraim)

 The regions of Samaria and Judah constitute the Western Mountains south of the Jezreel.  These mountains, composed of soft sedimentary rock, have been scoured by rainfall forming wadis that penetrate the mountains from east and west.

The term wadi refers to gullies formed by runoff erosion.  Normal dry, wadis canbecome raging torrents, especially in semidry regions.

The term wadi refers to gullies formed by runoff erosion.  Normal dry, wadis can become raging torrents, especially in semidry regions.  

The Sea of Galilee is one of the most memorable places recorded in the Gospels during Christ’s ministry on Earth.

Those who have been blessed to visit the Holy Land not only marvel at the natural beauty of the lake and its surrounds, but also find it easy to picture Biblical times upon viewing the splendor of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth, which is just 15 miles from the Sea of Galilee.

Some of these wadis are wide, allowing easy travel; others are narrow, steep, and easily defended. 

Nazareth is situated in a beautiful valley in the Nazareth Mountains in the Lower Galilee.

It was here that the birth of Christ was announced, and the place where His parents, St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary had their home and raised Him.

The ancient quarter, located on the western edge of the valley, is a unique part of the city.

This picturesque area of winding alleyways is home to numerous churches and sites of interest.

During the Crusades the city (which had been a mere village until the Byzantine occupation) grew in importance, and was embellished with many churches.

Today it is a popular pilgrimage destination, and was visited by three Popes.

Pope Benedict XVI visited Mount Precipice

in 2009.

Nazareth is a significant politic, economic, and cultural hub.

Approximately 70% of its population is Muslim, the rest being Christian.

A tour of Nazareth is a unique experience that is best embarked upon early.

We start from St. Mary’s Well – one of the city’s most ancient sites.

An important road – the Ridge Road – following the crest or watershed, links Samaria and Judah. 

Many biblical cities lie along or near this route: Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Bethel, Mizpah, Shilow, and Shechem.

The two sides of the Western Mountains are noticeably different.  The western side of the mountains catches the rain from the Mediterranean Sea, but the area east of the crest receives little rain as it plummets down into the Rift.

As a result, the lands east of the crest are increasingly desert like, especially as one moves south. 

Samaria begins with the Gilboan Mountains (about 1,600 feet) and rises in altitude to more than 3,300 feet near Bethel.  The northern part  of Samaria, the tribal area of Manasseh, is lower and more accessible than the southern sector.  

Here a softer limestone eroded more easily creating extensive valleys; convenient roads followed these valleys. 

The Wadi Farah, an especially important conduit, links Samaria with the Transjordan (Gilead) by way of the Wadi Jabbok across the fords near Adam. 

All the capitals of the Northern Kingdom, Israel (Shechem, Tirzah, and Samaria), were located in north Samaria.  Shechem lies between Mount Ebal (3,083 feet) and Mount Gerizim (2,890 feet), scene of the blessings and curses of Deut 27-28.

The Samaritans built a temple on Mount Gerizim, later destroyed by John Hyrcanus in 128 B.C. 

South of Manasseh a harder limestone withstood erosion producing a high, more isolated plateau (3,000) with steep slopes on both sides.  The tribe of Ephraim settled here. 

Shiloh, Bethel, and Mizpah, located along the Ridge Road, appear frequently in Old Testament history.  Settlers took advantage of the exceptionally rich soi8l to produce abundant crops. 

They farmed the valleys and built terraces on the hillsides, reaping a bounty of wheat, barley, and olives.  The gentle depression called the “Saddle of Benjamin” separates Samaria from Judah.

Judah, or Mount Judah, is a mountainous highland; altitudes range from 2,000 to 3,400 feet with the higher elevations found near Hebron in the south.

The major cities – Jerusalem, Beth-zur, and Hebron – are located along or just off the Ridge Road that follows the crest of the mountains.

Samaria (City)
Shomron (Samaria) was the capital city of the Northern Kingdom, established by Omri and Ahab.

An important Hellenistic and Roman cities in the Holy Land.

Judah is one of the most protected regions in Palestine.  The Wilderness of Judah, a dry desolate area stretching down to the Dead Sea, functions as a formidable barrier to the east. 

The mountains plunge precipitously more than 3,500 feet from Jerusalem down to Jericho in the Rift below.  The few settlements of this desert region clustered just east of the watershed.  

Brigands, outcasts, and Jewish freedom fighters south refuge in this barren region, known as Jeshimon in the Old Testament (1 Sam 23:19).  The Shephelah restricts access to Judah from the west, while the Negeb and deserts Protect the region to the south.

Judah is more rugged and somewhat drier, with less available agricultural land than Samaria.  However, the soil is fertile, and terrace farming provides ample space for the cultivation of vines, fruit trees, and grain crops.