Israel Study Tour with Calvin Theological Seminary

January 3-15, 2016

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Qumran, Jericho, Beit She’an

We began our day by journeying to the site of the Qumran, where a monastic community copied and preserved many of the Biblical texts. The scrolls were discovered after nearly 2000 years, having been maintained in clay jars and carefully hidden in the nearby mountain caves (to one of these several of us climbed).


10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a “dead-end street” and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live.

The site was excavated by Catholic priest Roland deVaux from 1953-56. More recent excavations of the site have taken place under the direction of Hanan Eshel.

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We then went north to Qasr el Yahud, on the Jordan River where Jesus was believed to have been baptized on the eastern bank. As we drove down a long road, lined with barbed wire and surrounded by mine fields, the context of the current conflict brought new life to John the Baptists’ ministry of preaching repentance and preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness. I watched as my peers waded into the cold, dirty waters under the gaze of both Israeli and Jordanian soldiers brandishing automatic weapons, yet the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable as songs of praise and murmurs prayer circled in the air. Here in this very place, that has been filled with incredible tension and violence, the One who came and is to come arrived here to begin his ministry of preaching peace, love, and Good New that the light has come into to our world long filled with profound darkness, to make our dirty water clear as crystal. Like Jesus, we left the Jordan and went up to Jericho, the world oldest city which sits 1300 feet below sea level! Here We saw the place of Joshua’s tumbling walls and the wilderness in which Christ was tested by Satan. Interestingly many of the places around town have taken the name “Temptation” to commemorate this Biblical story.


The “City of Palms” spreads out on the west side of the Jordan River at 825 feet below sea level. In Jesus’ day a new center had been constructed on the wadi banks in the foreground by the Hasmonean rulers and Herod the Great.

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We concluded out day by touring through the incredible ruins of a Roman City at Beit She’an, complete with amphitheater and bathhouse, where many nations, including Israel under the rule of King David, conquered and made use of the strategically located hill. It was amazing to see the expanse of the site. It looked just like a smaller version of Rome. All in all the day was filled with deep prayer and reflection as we continued to journey in the footsteps of God’s people throughout history.

Beth Shean

Located 17 miles (27 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth Shean is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.” It is no surprise then that the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.

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