Saturday, March 24, 2012

Looking Back at Israel - Caesarea Maritime & Jezreel

Caesarea Maritime - Hippodrome

Caesarea Maritime is on the coast of the Mediterranean. It is a city and harbor built by Herod. While there, we saw ruins of a theater, the hippodrome, Herod's palace, a temple to Zeus, an aquaduct and other antiquities. The question is....what does any of it matter to us?

Theatre at Caesarea (the throne would have sat right in the middle of the stadium)

Besides being historical and amazing to think they built all this without machines, this area is mentioned in Scripture twice. Acts 12:20-23 describes the death of Herod after the people called him a god. Because Herod did not give God the glory, he was eaten by worms and died. This event is placed either in the theatre or in the hippodrome; because of what the historian Josephus writes, it most likely is in the theatre.


But in Acts 10, we learn the story of Cornelius who was in Caesarea. Peter travels there after a vision and he witnesses the Holy Spirit fall onto Gentiles. This is the first time Peter sees this happen without a Gentile having to conform to the Jewish traditions. We took some time to just think over the importance of this passage and the greatness of God in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles.

* * *

We experienced the Jezreel Valley from every side: from the northwest at Mt. Carmel, from the west from Megiddo, from the south at Mr. Gilboa, and from the east at Nazareth. The Jezreel Valley is the only way anyone could travel between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Controlling this valley often meant controll of the trade routes and the regions surrounding it. At each of those spots where we viewed the beautiful Jezreel Valley, we also thought of the other historical events that occurred.

Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel: Mt. Carmel was also the place where Elijah contested with the prophets of Baal and Asherah (1 Kings 18).

Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Megiddo is an important spot in past history and future. There are 18 layers of civilizations here and Solomon fortified this city when he was king (1 Kings 9:15-16).  We saw excavated stables and even a manger (which would have been made of stone, not wood). Of course, Megiddo is where the armies will gather for the battle of Armegeddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

Jezreel Valley from Mt. Gilboa. Mt Gilboa is where Saul took his life (1 Samuel 31). The spring of Harod is on Mt. Gilboa and is where Gideon chose 300 men to fight against the Midianites (Judges 7).

Jezreel Valley from Nazareth. Nazareth is behind Hubs, who is taking the picture and we actually did not go into Nazareth besides driving through. Obviously, it is Jesus' boyhood home and where he was rejected twice during his ministry (Luke 4:16-30; Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 13:53-58). However, besides churches and monuments, there didn't seem to be much that would interest us.

We saw all of these sites (and more) in one day. Hopefully that gives perspective on how small Israel is compared to most countries and also how much we accomplished in our days. I also hope that you see how diverse the landscape is. Sometimes I know we think that it is dry, dusty and dessert-ish. However, it is a very fertile area, green and rocky.

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