The Journey Begins
The travel day is over and we have arrived in Israel! We united three groups, from three different states as we embarked on our first day walking the ancient paths. The energy level was high, but our expectation for what was to come was even higher. What would God teach us as we did our best to “sh’ma”?
We began our day in the Shephelah by reciting the sh’ma, commonly known as Dueteronomy 6:4-5. “Sh’ma” simply means to hear or listen. Therefore, we will begin everyday reciting the sh’ma together as a group in hopes that we will hear all that God has to say.
Our journey through the Shephelah was done by visiting four tels. A tel is merely a hill that century after century of civilization has built up as the years have gone by. Archaeologists excavate these tels and reveal century’s of history. The first tel we stopped at was Tel Gezer. Here we discussed the purpose for which God has placed us in each of our particular areas of influence. While the Caananite people erected standing “dead” stones to false god’s we are to be as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:5, living stones. Those that are placed in obvious, yet strategic, places in order to tell of God and bring Him glory.
Situated near the International Coastal Highway and guarding the primary route into the Israelite hill country, Gezer was one of the most strategic cities in the Canaanite and Israelite periods. Gezer is a prominent 33-acre site that overlooked the Aijalon Valley and the road leading through it to Jerusalem. The tel was identified as biblical Gezer in 1871 by C. Clermont-Ganneau who two years later found the first of many boundary stones inscribed with the city’s name.
Our next stop was Beth-Shemesh which is located on the Soreq Valley. Beth-Shemesh is typically known for being the home of Samson. Here we learned the danger of doing what is right in our own eyes as Samson did in his involvement with Delilah. This action not only cost Samson his eyesight, but his life. However, we can be comforted that God is sovereign over the good as well as the bad.
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.
We then journeyed to Tel Azekah. This was by far the most strenuous hike of the day, but pictures from the Scriptures that we gained were well worth the effort. Tel Azekah looks over the valley of Elah. This is where David struck down Goliath. Just as David, in a display of amazing faith, takes what he knows and slings it for the glory of God, so we ought to be people who take what God has given us and use it for the glory of His name. Therefore, we will “throw our rock”.
Tel Azekah and Elah Valley
The Brook Elah is famous for the five stones it contributed to the young slinger, David. Some surmise that David chose five stones instead of the one needed in case he needed to face Goliath’s four brothers.
After lunch at the bottom of Tel Azekah we moved to our last site of the day, Tel Lachisch. We hiked, and sat on stones that dated back all the way to the time of Hezekiah. Tel Lachish was the fortified that city that was taken over by Senacerib in 2 Kings 18. The take away came straight out of the chaos of Senacerib’s take over. Hezekiah prays to God in the midst of the chaos and hears, and God responds. What is our first action in the midst of chaos?
We will settle for the night in Miztpe Ramon as we look forward to another great day of walking the ancient paths of those who have gone before for the namesake and the glory of God.
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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