We will touch down in Israel at Ben Gurion airport near the city of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv was originally named Ahuzat Bayit, meaning “acquisition of a home”. It was founded by 60 families in 1909 as an all-Jewish neighborhood near Jaffa. In 1910, the name was changed to Tel Aviv (Abib), meaning “Ancient Hill of Spring.” The name was taken from Ezekiel 3:13-17, “…and I came to the exiles at Tel-abib”. A “Tel” is a mound of ancient civilizations. Within these mounds lay the remains of civilizations piled one on top of the other. “Aviv” represents the first month of the spring harvest and is the same month God set His people free from slavery in Egypt.
After Tel Aviv, our first experience in the Holy Land will be at the ancient sea port of Jaffa. In our January Newsletter you learned that Jaffa was the very place the Jewish exiles from Europe returned to restore and rebuild their homeland. The Jews, boarding poorly equipped ships headed for a safe haven to rest the soles of their feet. Finding no country that would open their doors, many sailed onward to the port of Jaffa.
As new Jewish immigrants flooded the shores, those that had remained in “Palestine” found new hope for their survival. Thus began the intense labor pains of building a nation and defending themselves from their enemies. They cleared the swamps and planted gardens while guarding their children with picks and shovels.
Leaving our luggage at the hotel in Tel Aviv, we will walk down the gorgeous sandy beach of the Mediterranean to view the port of Jaffa, meaning “beautiful”. This is the oldest port city in Israel, giving access to the heart of the land.
When the Egyptians invaded Canaan, one of their prime targets was Jaffa. It was one of the cities conquered by Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III (1458-1425 BC), and resulted in the conquest of Canaan. Egyptian scarabs, seals, or small good luck charms were found in excavations along with the earliest documented peace agreement dating back to the reign of Ramses II, (1279-1213 BC). Along with the gods of Egypt, the lintel of the gate bearing the title of Ramses II was unearthed in Jaffa and a replica now stands where it was found.
Jaffa in the Scriptures
- In Jaffa/Joppa, the LORD called upon Jonah, meaning “Dove”, to go to Nineveh (modern day Mosul in Iraq). Most of us know the account, as Jonah fled from the presence of the LORD, he boarded a ship in Jaffa bound for Tarshish, the complete opposite way to Nineveh.
READ: Jonah chapters 1-4
- Solomon, the son of King David, developed Jaffa into Israel’s major seaport. Using the port of Jaffa, the King of Tyre sent silver, gold, cedars and much more to Solomon to build a permanent dwelling for the LORD.
READ: II Chronicles 2:1-6, 2:11-16
- Cyrus, King of Persia, “in order to fulfill the word of the LORD”, released the Hebrews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
READ: Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-7
- At Joppa/Jaffa, we read of a disciple named Tabitha (Dorcas), who fell sick and died. Peter came to her side, knelt down and prayed. Tabitha was healed and many believed in the LORD.
READ: Acts 9:36-43, 10:1-17
The Lost Color of the Fringe of His Cloak
The hillazon-murex trunculus is a sea creature that was found in 1990 by a Rabbi/scientist along the shore of the Mediterranean. He discovered the secretion from a tiny gland of this sea creature provided the only acceptable blue dye, called “tekhelet”, for the Temple fabrics and blue cords of fringe that hang from the four cornered garment of the Jews. Numbers 15:38. This incredibly rare color was thought to be lost forever, but after thousands of years it has been rediscovered and is now being used for the new Temple as well as the cord for the corners of the prayer shawls.
Now headed north, up the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea, a city that Herod the Great dedicated to Caesar Augustus more than 2,000 years ago. Caesarea Maritime was a major Roman political center built on the site of an old town called Strato’s Tower, located on the road from Egypt to Tyre, about 70 miles NW of Jerusalem. Herod the Great built Caesarea in 22-10 BC., and it became capital of the Roman province of Judea as well as the residence of powerful men like Festus, Felix, and the other Roman procurators.
Caesarea is mentioned frequently in New Testament events:
- Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was the first Gentile convert. Acts 10.
- Peter first took the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles at Caesarea.
- Philip, the evangelist, made his home in Caesarea. Acts 21:8
- The place of the frightening account of Herod Agrippa I, who was smitten by an angel of the Lord. Acts 12:21-23.
In Caesarea, we will visit this ancient sea harbor, aqueduct, hippodrome, and sit in the magnificent amphitheater where many events took place.
There are six “Herod’s” in the New Testament, and they are all somehow related to each other. Here are thumbnail sketches to help you keep track of who’s who:
1. Herod the Great (ruled 37-4 B.C.) He’s the guy in the Christmas story. Super powerful king answerable to Rome. He’s the guy who tried to trick the wise men and killed the baby boys in Bethlehem, Matthew 2 (not to mention some of his own sons and wives). Not cuddly at all. Actually, you wouldn’t invite any of these Herods to become your “bosom friend,” but especially not “the Great.” Herod the Great was a master builder or at least knew the guys to hire. He also built the palace of Masada and began the building of the Western Wall.
2. Herod Archelaus (ruled 4 B.C.-A.D. 6) He was one of Herod the Great’s three sons mentioned in the Bible. Jesus father, Joseph, was unwilling to move Mary and toddler Jesus to Bethlehem after fleeing to Egypt because Bethlehem was in Herod’s territory, and like his father “the Great,” Herod Archelaus was also a ruthless ruler. Archelaus was replaced by a Roman procurator less than ten years into his reign; that’s why Pontius Pilate is the man in charge at Jesus’ crucifixion rather than one of the “Herods.” Matthew 2:19-23
3. Herod Antipas (ruled 4 B.C.-A.D. 39) Jesus called him “that Fox”, Luke 13:32. He received a quarter of his father’s territory (Galilee and Perea). He divorced his first wife and married Herodias, the wife of his brother (who was yet a different “Herod”). Herod Antipas was the Herod who killed John the Baptist. Matt 14:10. Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to see this Herod as part of His trial since this Herod was visiting Jerusalem at the time Jesus was sentenced to death. Did you know that Pilate and Herod Antipas became friends on that day? Luke 23:12.
4. Herod Philip the Tetrarch (ruled 4 B.C.-A.D. 34) This Herod got the remaining quarter of his father’s territory and married his niece, Salome, the daughter of Herodias (Herod Antipas’s wife-of-sin). Matthew 14:1-12.
5. Herod Agrippa I (ruled A.D. 37-44) Grandson of Herod the Great and nephew of Herodias. Agrippa I eventually ended up ruling over more territory than his grandfather, Herod the Great. In the book of Acts, he is known as the one who put Peter in prison Acts 12:1-19. Also, “He did not give God the glory” when referred to as a god by the people of Tyre and Sidon and was thus struck by an angel and “eaten by worms” Acts 12:20-23.
6. Herod Agrippa II (ruled A.D. 50s until long after the end of the Jewish war; died around A.D. 93) Like his father Herod Agrippa I and great-grandfather Herod the Great he ruled over a large territory. He’s the one who interviewed Paul along with the Roman procurator Porcius Festus when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea after Paul’s third missionary journey Acts 25-26. Agrippa exclaimed to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian…” Acts 26:28. This Herod completed the building of the Western Wall.