We began our day at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, examining the 21,520 square foot model of Jerusalem as it was in the Second Temple Period—which includes the life of Jesus. Since modern Jerusalem sits on top of ancient Jerusalem, many sites that we read about in the Bible are far different today. The model was designed based on the writings of Josephus, the Bible, and other historical sources. In our minds, puzzle pieces from events we know from the Bible clicked into place as we learned about significant locations in the old city, giving us a fuller view of the stories as well as the city itself.
The Israel Museum also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. We saw where they were discovered on Day 4 of our trip, but at the museum we were able to see pieces of the actual manuscripts. It was humbling to see a portion of the book of Isaiah that dates back to 100 B.C.—Isaiah is actually the only book that was found in its entirety.
We left the city again to visit Herodium, another building project of Herod the Great. In its heyday, the palace/fortress stood formidably on the highest peak in the Judaean desert. A massive column made of solid rock, a small theater, a tunnel system, and more have been found in the archaeological tel. Herod’s burial place was discovered at Herodium in 2007. He was buried facing north, toward Jerusalem. From the top, we could look out and see modern Bethlehem.
Our final stop for the day was at the hill of Azekah, overlooking the Valley of Elah. One of the most famous events in the Bible took place in this valley: David and Goliath. The valley—today used for agriculture—is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills covered in green grass, white rocks, and some trees. We listened to a few thoughts from Matt Reagan and then reflected on the story individually.
From Azekah, we could look out over the valley and see the same hills where the Philistine and Israelite armies camped. We could trace the route David took from Bethlehem. We could see the line of the brook where David gathered the five smooth stones. We could imagine the smoke from the fires, the roar of the armies, Goliath walking out before the Israelites every day for forty days with no challenger. We could imagine David arguing with the others, deciding to go out shepherd-style—with no armor and only a sling as a weapon. We could hear him look up at the giant and say, “‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.'” (1 Samuel 17:45, NIV)
Rather than something often told as more of a fairy tale, we walked away with the inspiration of a real story in our hearts and minds, with the physical context coming alive around us. We will never think of David and Goliath the same way again.
At this point in our trip, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and bogged down by everything we’ve seen, heard, and experienced. Please pray for clear minds, retention of the most important information, and the ability to mentally and emotionally process different experiences.
Stay tuned! Check back in the coming days for more updates from our trip.