City of David, Bethlehem and More
We drove by Rockefeller Plaza, where the Dead Sea scrolls are stored below in bedrock far below the surface in order to keep them dry and well-preserved.
City of David
David captured the fortified Jebusite city around 1004 BC. Joshua had tried to capture it before but was unsuccessful. David’s capture of the city was written in 2 Samuel 5:6-9 and nothing was said about the battle so it could be that the Israelites won without a fight. There is a lot of speculation on how they may have done so, but the most recent findings have shot down those theories. Regardless, David captured this stronghold and established his throne in this city in the area of the tribe of Benjamin. This sent a strong signal to the other tribes since David, of the mightiest tribe of Judah, set up his house in the weakest tribe of Benjamin. This helped David unite the disparate tribes of Israel into a great Kingdom. There is strong archeological evidence that this was the city of David and also where Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern in Jeremiah 36-37.
Jerusalem Archaeological Park
We saw the southern wall excavation. This wall had 5 gates at one time and was the place where the common people came into the walled city of Jerusalem. The steps vary in height and depth and it is believed this was done on purpose so people would be quiet and concentrate with their head down as they climbed the steps. We could also see Robinson’s arch where people enter from the west.
An enormous flight of steps leads to the Southern Wall from the south. They were excavated after 1967 by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar and are the northernmost extension of the Jerusalem pilgrim road leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the Double Gate and the Triple Gate, collectively called the Huldah Gates. These are the steps that Jesus of Nazareth and other Jews of his era walked up to approach the Temple, especially on the great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  The stairs that lead to the double gate are intact and "well-preserved." The steps that lead to the triple gate were mostly destroyed. / The risers are low, a mere 7 to 10 inches high, and each step is 12 to 35 inches deep, forcing the ascending pilgrims to walk with a stately, deliberate tread. The pilgrims entered the temple precincts through the double and triple gates still visible in the Southern Wall. Together, the double and triple gates are known as the Hulda Gates, after the prophetess Huldah.
Church of Peter Gallicantu (Rooster)
There is a church on the site now that was designed by Barluzzi. This was likely the home of Caiaphas, the chief priest at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Weights were found under the building. Only the priests were entrusted with these weights as they used them to verify that the merchants were using the proper scales. Also coins were found from the 1st century on the staircase, indicating that it was functioning in the first century. The reason it is called the church of the Rooster is this is where people believed that Peter heard the rooster crow three times after he denied Christ. The two main attractions are the dungeon where Christ was likely held on Thursday before He was crucified and the steps to Jerusalem which were recently unearthed. We went to the basement area where there were holes in the rocks where chains would have been looped to hold prisoners. It makes for a very credible case that this is where Jesus was held on Thursday before his crucifixion. On Friday, he would have gone down the staircase where the 1st century coins were found on his way to Golgoltha. I had a very heavy heart just thinking about how Christ would have felt being scourged, being held in a dungeon prison overnight, then walking a considerable way to his death on Friday morning. Psalms 88 and 121 give perspective to these events.
Bet (house) and lehem (bread). Ephratah (fruitful). This reflects the fertile ground of Bethlehem Ephratah which is now under Arab control. There are around 170,000 people in the area and the Christian population has dwindled down to roughly 20,000. You will see either a cross or St. George statue in Christian houses. St. George was born near Tel Aviv and the statue shows him slaying a dragon. He is popular with Christians in the area. The typical house has parents on the top floor and adds floors for children and grandchildren. Land is very expensive. Most have small gardens in front of the house with olive trees. Olive, fig, pomegranate and lemons trees are common if you have enough land.
Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah,and the New Testament describes it as the "City of David". It is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. It was the home of Jesse, father of King David of Israel, and the site of David's anointment by the prophet Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.
Shepherds were known to be the lowest members of society. In Roman times, they could not even testify in court because of their low stature. There are also many caves in the area where shepherds would take their sheep into a cave at night and the shepherd would sleep at the mouth of the cave to protect the sheep. The area is referred to in the book of Ruth and this is where Boaz’ field existed.
We went to the Church of the Nativity, the church was originally commissioned in 327 by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that is considered to be located over the cave that marks Christ’s birthplace. The site's original basilica was completed in 339 and destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts in the 6th century. A new basilica was built 565 by Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor, restoring it to the general look of the original church. It is the oldest active basilica in the world with Greek Orthodox, Armenians, and Catholics all having parts of the building under their jurisdiction. We saw some of the original mosaic floor from the 3rd century church. It took Jerome 35 years to translate the Bible into Latin here. There was major restoration going on but you could see the splendor, bordering on gaudiness at times.
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