Israel Study Tour - Cornerstone

Jan 2-12, 2017

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Within Eyesight!

Today, we toured the Shephelah, the hilly country of southern Israel between the Judean mountains and the coastal plain. We visited the site of the ancient (and modern) city of Beth-Shemesh which overlooks the valley of Sorek, where the majority of Samson's story took place.

Our tour guide pointed out Zorah (Samson's village) and Timnah (the Philistine village where he found his wife). The two towns were only a couple miles apart, just down the road and across the valley from each other, well within eyesight.

Beth Shemesh

A border city between Judah and Dan, Beth Shemesh was given to the Levites. Beth Shemesh was the most important Israelite city in the Sorek Valley as it watched both east-west traffic through the Sorek Valley and north-south traffic along the “Diagonal Route.” Recent excavations have shown a thriving city here from the Middle Bronze Age through the Iron II period.

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One of the great things about visiting the Holy Land is that these scenes in Scripture come to life. The next time I read the story of Samson, I'll picture the valley where it happened.
--Andrew Winter

Timna Valley

The Timna Valley is located 15 miles (25 km) north of Eilat (Elath). It is not mentioned in the Bible but was used for copper mining during the biblical period. (The Timnah in Judges 14 is located further north.) The valley of Timna is 35 square miles (90 sq km) with high mountains (1600-2300 ft; 500-700 m) on all sides except in the east. Mount Timna in the center rises 1486 feet (453 m) above the surrounding valley. The valley is drained by four wadis.

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Clouds scatter the sky above us. The sun peeks through, making spotlights on tels and valleys. Stepping off the bus, we walk up a steep, paved path that turns into carved chalk steps. It still feels humid from the rain earlier today. We look up and see tall brick walls and carved limestone upon rocky hills. Long grass grows between the boulders that ascend up to the ancient ruins of Lachish. Our tour guide, Judah (pronounced Ya-Who-Dah), made the “ch” harsh in his thick accent making it sound more like Lah-Heesh. We continue up the ramp on the side of the fort. It takes a sharp turn right before the entry that makes it easier to defend. We walk up onto a giant plateau and can see for miles around us. Jerusalem is to the left. Rolling hills, covered in residual fog, are in front of us. The coastal plains are behind us. We imagine how Hezekiah’s armies protected themselves from the Assyrians here and later on how the Jews fell to the Babylonians here.

--SJ Winter


Identified first as Lachish by Albright in 1929, the tell was excavated by James Leslie Starkey 1932-38 and by Tel Aviv University 1973-87.

Lachish is generally regarded as the second most important city in the southern kingdom of Judah. It enters the biblical narrative in the battle accounts of Joshua, Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar.

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