We have seen many different kingdoms and cities, but one we haven’t seen yet is…
Marriage and Divorce
1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
“Coasts of Judea” – the Greek and Roman equivalent to the Old Testament
land of Judah, essentially the southern part of the Holy Land (now exclusive of Idumea), which formerly had been the southern kingdom.
2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
“Came to him, and asked him” – the question of the Pharisees was hostile. It was for unlawful divorce and remarriage that John the Baptists denounced Herod Antipas and Herodias (6:17-18), and this rebuke cost him first imprisonment and then his life.
Jesus was now within Herod’s jurisdiction and the Pharisees may have hoped that Jesus’ rely would cause the tetrarch to seize Him as he had John.
“Is it lawful…to put away his wife?” – Jews of that day generally agreed that divorce was lawful, the only debated issue being the proper grounds for it.
3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
“For the hardness of your heart” – divorce was an accommodation to human weakness and was used to bring order in a society that had disregarded God’s will, but it was not the standard God had originally intended, as vv. 6-9 clearly indicate.
The purpose of Deut 24:1 was not to make divorce acceptable, but to reduce the hardship of its consequences.
6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
“From the beginning of the creation” – Jesus goes back to the time before human sin to show God’s original intention. God instituted marriage as a great unifying blessing, bonding the male and female in His creation.
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
“No more twain, but one flesh” – the deduction drawn by Jesus affirms the ideal of the permanence of marriage.
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
“What therefore God hath joined together” – Jesus grounds the sanctity of marriage in the authority of God Himself, and His “No’ to divorce safeguards against human selfishness, which always threatens to destroy marriage.
10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
“Whosoever shall put away his wife” – in Jewish practice divorce was effected by the husband himself, not by a judicial authority or court.
“Committeth adultery against her” – a simple declaration of divorce on the part of a husband could not release him from the divine law or marriage and its moral obligations – this enduring force of the marriage bond was unrecognized in rabbinic courts.
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
“She committeth adultery” – in Roman culture women, as well as men, could divorce, whereas in Jewish society, only men could divorce their spouses.
13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
“Of such” – the kingdom of God belongs to those who, like children, are prepared to receive the kingdom as a gift of God.
15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
“As a little child” – the point of comparison is the usual openness and receptivity of children. The kingdom of God must be received as a gift,; it cannot be achieved by human effort (cf. Eph 2:8-9). It may be entered only by those who know they are helpless, without claim or merit.
16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
“What shall I do…?” – the rich man was thinking in terms of earning righteousness to merit eternal life, but Jesus taught that it was a gift to be received.
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
“Why callest thou me good?” – Jesus wasn’t denying His own goodness but was forcing the man to recognize that his only hope was in total reliance of God, who alone can give eternal life. No human being is good, only God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.
“Defraud not” – the prohibition of fraud may have represented the 10th commandment.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast” – there is nothing wrong with having money, but hoarding it when there are others that need help is basically telling God to mind His own business. See v. 10:25.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
“With men it is impossible, but not with God” – God can do anything and salvation only comes from Him.
28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
“Now in this time…the world to come” – these two terms take in all of time from the fall of man to the eternal state. The present age is evil (Gal 1:4), but the coming righteous age will begin with the second advent of Christ and continue forever.
31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
“First shall be last” – a warning against pride in sacrificial accomplishments such as Peter had manifested (v. 28).
32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,
33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
“Drink of the cup that I drink of” – a Jewish expression that meant to share someone’s fate.
“Be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” – the image of baptism is parallel to that of the cup, referring to His sufficient and death as a baptism which equals eternal life.
But the Catholics and Jews use Peter’s words and tell lies to people saying that you have to be baptized with water to be saved. For example, having your baby baptized by the Catholic priest does only two things: (1) the baby is wet and (2) your pocketbook has less.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, an dye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).
39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
“Jericho” – a very ancient city located five miles west of the Jordan and about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem, but down a decline of 3,700 feet to more than 1,000 below sea level.
In Jesus’ time Old Testament Jericho was largely abandoned, but a new city south of the old one, had been built by Herod the Great.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
The Lost Cities of Africa (2 of 5)
Location: Nile Delta, Egypt
Date of Construction: c 1070 B.C.
Abandoned: Pre-7th Century C.E.
Built By: Pharaoh Smendes and the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Dynasties
Key Features: Re-Use Of Blocks and Statuary from Older Sites; Temple Compound with Wall; Temple Of Amun; Royal Tombs and Treasures.
Scattered blocks and the stumps of obelisks litter the top of a huge sand mound, marooned along the former course of a long-since silted-up branch of the Nile Delta.
Here was the site of Tanis, one-timecapital of ancient Egypt and the site of the only authentically undisturbed royal tombs, the extraordinary though unheralded contents of which rival the glories of Tutankhamun.
Tanis is the Greek name for the ancient Egyptian city of Djanet, a site known today as San el-Hagar – “the place of stones”.
Technically speaking, San el-Hagar actually refers to the northernmost and larger of two huge sand mounds or gezira: it rises over 9,814 feet above the surrounding flood plain and has an area of 437 acres.
From around the 11th century B.C. until the late 8th century B.C. it was capital of Egypt (albeit one of several at some points).
Before and after this it was an important regional capital and as well as its administrative role it was a major religious and trading center, funneling trans-Mediterranean trade into and out of Egypt, until its branch of the Nile silted up and it was left high and dry.
Despite this prominence, the circumstances of its construction made Tanis extremely difficult for latter-day archaeologists to identify, for the site is a kind of structural palimpsest, composed of the building blocks of other cities and other times.
Delta Pharaohs and Southern High Priests
Tanis was the product of a confused and divisive period of ancient Egyptian politics. The Twentieth Dynasty was weak and failing and in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country) the pharaoh had lost most real power to the high priests of Amun in the city of Thebes.
By the end of the reign of Ramesses XI, last pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty, the High Priest Herihor was openly sharing power as co-ruler.
The rise of the high priests saw the pharaonic power base shift to the north of Egypt in the Nile Delta region, where the city of Pi-Ramesses had been made capital.
At the death of Ramesses XI, the throne passed to the governor of Tanis, one Smendes, who may have been Ramesses’ son-in-law. As his residence he took Tanis, superseding Pi-Ramesses, whose own branch of the Nile was now drying up.
Smendes’ Twenty-First Dynasty had Libyan connections, which became more marked with the transition to the Twenty-Second Dynasty under Shoshenq I, which retained Tanis as its seat.
However, in the mid-9th century B.C. the south of Egypt broke away to become a separate kingdom, and by the 8th century B.C. several rival dynasties were established, running concurrently and each ruling a portion of Egypt; Tanis was now only the capital of a small local kingdom.
Egypt was reunited by a Nubian Dynasty around 720 B.C. and Tanis henceforth reverted to the role of a provincial capital.
With only intermittent control of the country and much civil strife, the view of the dynasties of the Third Intermediate Period has traditionally been that they were poor shadows of former glories, scraping by in pale imitation of the wealth and opulent splendor of the preceding New Kingdom.
Discoveries made at Tanis were to both reinforce and undermine this accepted view.
The first archaeology at Tanis was little more than looting, with quantities of statuary carted off to European capitals.
But Egyptologists such as Auguste Mariette and Flinders Petrie also uncovered inscriptions, statues and names dating back to the Middle Kingdom and the Twelfth Dynasty (c 1900 B.C.), as well as ones that seemed to identify the site as the lost city of Avaris, which was later re-named Pi-Ramesses.
When French Egyptologist Pierre Montet began what was to be the most significant exploration of the site in 1929, he also found similar evidence.
But later Egyptologists have realized that Montet and his predecessors were wrong and that the inscriptions were misleading: the blocks and statuary were recycled – moved from elsewhere and pressed into service.
It is now clear that the nearby, but probably largely abandoned, city of Pi-Ramesses had served as a sort of quarry for the builders of Tanis. Other blocks, obelisks and statues came from other locations.
Some dated back as far as the Old Kingdom. This evidence of a capital cobbled together from the recycled detritus of older cities would appear to tie in with the traditional view of the impoverished Intermediate dynasties.
However, it may have been that the northern delta kings did not have access to the quarries of Upper Egypt when they built their new capital and were simply being practical.
Excavations have revealed that the primary feature of the city was a massive wall of mud brick, which enclosed a sandy bowl between four raised areas on the San el-Hagar mound, creating a huge temple compound.
The wall was 33 feet high and 49 feet thick. It was built by Psusennes I, third pharaoh of the Twenty-First Dynasty (reign 1039-991 B.C.), in an apparent effort to create a northern Thebes.
Thebes was the religious capital of Egypt, with a complex of temples to the “divine family” – Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Its importance as the focus of Egyptian religious and cultural life brought power and prestige.
Psusennes created his own temple complex with shrines to the divine family and then went further and created a northern analogue of Thebes’s Valley of the Kings – the sacred valley where the great pharaohs of ages past had been interred (see Tombs to Rival Tutankhamun below).
Other structures that have been identified include smaller temples (chapels) built by later pharaohs. After the Persian occupation of Egypt (525-405 B.C.), Nectanebo I of the Thirtieth Dynasty (reign 380-362 B.C.) initiated a new program of building at Tanis.
He built a new, enormous mud-brick enclosure and started new temples, as well as constructing a sacred lake in the northern corner of the city. Egypt soon fell again to the Persians and then to Alexander the Great and afterwards was ruled by the Greco-Egyptian Ptolemies.
They completed some of these unfinished temples, but by now the original
great temple to Amun was gone, its site built over with houses.
The Ptolemies gave way to the Romans, but by the end of the Roman Era the branch of the Nile that gave Tanis its raison d’etre had silted up and it was – like Pi-Ramesses before it – defunct and largely abandoned by the time of the Islamic conquest.
Lime burners destroyed much of the fabric of the city, leaving little but the granite blocks and obelisks that litter the site today.
Tombs to Rival
The unprepossessing detritus of ancient Tanis on the surface concealed something spectacular beneath. Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings had electrified the world of archaeology with its astonishing collection of grave goods, but even King Tutankhamun’s tomb had not escaped the attentions of ancient tomb raiders.
Reapplied seals on the doors, chests with contents that did not match the inventories listed on their exteriors and the general disarray of parts of the tomb all indicated that it had been broken into and robbed in antiquity, before being resealed and later lost to the world.
Tanis, however, hosted a mini-Valley of the Kings and included a royal tomb that had never been disturbed, complete with all its grave goods – treasures to rival those of Tutankhamun.
In 1939, in his eleventh season of excavation at Tanis, and with the gathering clouds of war in faraway Europe casting a long shadow over his endeavors, Montet unearthed a tomb within the temple precinct.
Inscriptions identified it as that of Osorkon II (ruler during the Twenty-Second Dynasty 872-837 B.C.) and although it had been long plundered, the thieves had left behind heavy objects such as a stunning quartzite sarcophagus, shabtis (tomb statues supposed to come to life in the afterlife as servants for the dead pharaoh) and alabaster jars for his internal organs.
Far more impressive was the adjoining tomb, which proved to be undisturbed. Nested within a granite sarcophagus and a granite coffin was a coffin of solid silver; within lay incredible jewelry and a glorious face-mask of solid gold (the mummy itself had largely decomposed).
Although the inscriptions on the wall attributed the tomb to Psusennes I, who had originally built it for himself and his queen Mutnodjmet, there were numerous other burials in the five-chambered tomb, including three more Twenty-First Dynasty pharaohs:
General Wendebauenjed (an important military man), and the previously unknown pharaoh Shoshenq II (ruler during Twenty-Second Dynasty), who occupied an unusual silver coffin with a head shaped like a falcon.
In all Montet discovered six tombs, which hosted the burials of at least 14 royals and nobles.
The exquisite treasures, including face-masks of workmanship at least as fine as that of Tutankhamun, and fabulous jewelry of gold and lapis lazuli (not to mention sets of golden sandals to protect the feet of kings on the road to the afterlife), show that the kings of the Intermediate Period were far from impoverished.
Yet the tombs also show the continuing practice of reusing materials. Sarcophagus lids were carved from statues while a huge granite block used to plug the entrance to one of the tombs had originally been part of an obelisk in praise of Ramesses II.
The use of a sarcophagus from Thebes reminds us that Psusennes’ brother was High Priest at Thebes and was apparently responsible for state-sanctioned looting of the Valley of the Kings.
Montet’s discoveries, which included no less than five intact and undisturbed royal mummies, made in 1939 and 1940, were overshadowed by the war in Europe and never got the publicity that attended Carter’s success.
Today the wonders of Tanis sit in Cairo Museum, often overlooked by tourists eager to see the more celebrated treasures of Tutankhamun.
Tanis and the Lost Ark
The name of Tanis is probably best known today as the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant in the blockbuster movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, which presents an entirely fanciful and inaccurate picture of the city.
Most scholars dismiss this link as a convenient fiction, invented by the moviemakers to justify an exotic Egyptian location. There is, however, a genuine if tenuous link between Tanis and the Ark, for the Bible speaks of an Egyptian king called Shishak who invaded Israel and took Jerusalem.
One theory about the missing Ark is that it was looted from the Temple of Solomon by Shishak. Could Shishak have been Shoshenq of Tanis?
This was thought to be the case for many years (although more recently the link has been disputed), in which case perhaps the Ark was stolen away to Tanis, just as Indiana Jones discovered.