Purim – Coming Up March 11, 2017
The Jewish holiday known as Purim, or Feast of Lots, is celebrated annually on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. This year it begins the evening of March 11th on the Gregorian calendar.
This favorite Jewish national holiday commemorates the deliverance of the Hebrew people from destruction by the evil Haman. The Purim story is told in the book of Esther: Haman, a vizier in the Persian empire under King Xerxes, created a plan to kill all the Jews in the empire, but Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai foil his evil plot. The book of Esther, chapter 9 verse 24, says, “For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction.” When the King of Persia learned that his queen, Esther, was Jewish and what Haman had devised against them, he ordered Haman to be hanged. The story continues as King Xerxes allows Mordecai and Esther to write a decree to the Jews which allows them to preemptively strike any who oppose them. The Jews were successful in thwarting their enemies and instituted a feast, confirmed by Queen Esther and Mordecai, to commemorate their triumph. Hence, the day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
Today, the Purim holiday is joyously celebrated by Jews in Israel and around the world by exchanging gifts of food, donating to charities, reading the book of Esther, dressing up in costumes as the beautiful Queen Esther or the Jewish hero, Mordecai.
A traditional Jewish treat eaten during Purim, called Hamantashen, has three corners and is said to represent Haman’s hat. Here’s a great Cannoli Hamantashen recipe with an Italian twist. Enjoy and Happy Purim!
Kiriath Jearim – Where the Ark of the Covenant Rested
Per a recent article in the Times of Israel, archaeologists plan to excavate the ancient site of Kiryat Ye’arim (transliterated Kiriath Jearim), one of the few biblical tels left in the Jerusalem hills which hasn’t been systematically studied. Mentioned over a dozen times in the bible, Kiryat Ye’arim is located about 7 miles west of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the site, according to the Bible, where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 2 decades after it was returned by the Philistines to the Israelites. Later, King David brought the Ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13:5-8).
Largely bare, the mound is one of the largest in the Judean highlands. On the tel’s summit is the Monastery of the Ark of the Covenant, built in 1924, which sits atop the ruins of a 5th century Byzantine church. Tradition has it that this is the site of the house of Abinadab (1 Samuel 7:1-2). According to Tel Aviv University’s Israel Finkelstein, the dig will concentrate on studying this area.
Researchers hope the excavation will provide insight into the site’s importance during the Iron Age (For the Levant 1200 BC – 500 BC), the period associated with King David and King Solomon. It will be very exciting to see what this dig reveals. The excavation season begins August 7, 2017 and runs to September 1, 2017. Learn more by visiting the Shumis Family Excavations at Kiriath Jearim.
Kiriath Jearim in the Bible
Joshua 9:17 – Kiriath Jearim was mentioned to be a Hivite city and associated with the Gibeonites.
Joshua 15:9 – Kiriath Jearim identified the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
Nehemiah 7:29 – Among the Jewish exiles who returned to Judea with Zerubbabel were descendants from Kiriath Jearim.
The Story of Hanukkah
The Festival of Lights, also known as Hanukkah from the Hebrew word for “dedication” is an eight-day Jewish holiday which marks the re-dedication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Second Temple) after its desecration by the forces of the King of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and commemorates the “miracle of the oil”. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days during which time they pressed and consecrated fresh olive oil.
According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, Judas Maccabbeus ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after re-dedicating the Temple. In his book, Jewish Antiquities Book XII, he states, “they [Israelites] were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days.”
The festival is observed by lighting candles on a special candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, on each night of the holiday. The 9th candle space is usually higher than the others and is lit on every night. Each night an additional candle is lit, progressing to eight on the final night. Celebrations also include singing special songs and reciting Hallel prayer (Psalms 113-118). This year the Festival of Lights begins the evening of December 24th and ends the evening of Sunday, January 1st.
Listen to an audio dramatization of the Miracle of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple on Chabad.org here.
Haaretz reports on the discovery of new papyri fragments in Judean Desert.
Archaeologists excavating in the Judean desert have recently found new papyri fragments in the Cave of the Skulls near the Dead Sea. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls found before them, they have survived mainly due to the region’s arid climate. The fragments are tiny and the writing so faded that they will require advanced technological analysis to determine much about their content. The fragments do give scholars hope that they will be able to match these pieces to documents which have turned up in the black market in recent years and have no known provenance.
Besides the papyri, archaeologists also found hundreds of fragments of leather, ropes, textiles, wooden objects and bone tools used inside the cave.
The Israel Antiquities Authority and Hebrew University are partnering to further explore the Judean Desert caves in order to salvage any hidden antiquities that remain before robbers get there first. The Place of the Skulls excavation is the initial effort in this ongoing project.
God is Sovereign
Regarding yesterday’s US presidential election a well-known Israeli Rabbi was quoted as saying, “…the best plans laid by the most powerful people, comes to nothing.” Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
Whether in the misery of defeat or the jubilation of triumph, let us remember that God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne (Psalm 47:8).
A 2,700-year-old Hebrew papyrus, from the first temple era, was recently discovered in Israel’s Judean desert. What is quite unique about this papyrus is it contains the Hebrew word, “Yerushalma” (hence Jerusalem Papyrus). Israeli Prof. Shmuel Achituv, an expert on the people of Israel living in the ancient East, deciphered the papyrus. According to Achituv, “Yerushalma” is mentioned in the El-Amarna letters, written in cuneiform. The letters were sent by the kings of Canaan to the Pharaoh in the 14th century BC.
Researchers believe the Jerusalem Papyrus is the earliest Hebrew documentation of the association between the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish people outside of the Bible. The papyrus is currently on display at Israel’s new National Archaeological campus in Jerusalem.
Read the full article about the Jerusalem Papyrus in the Jewish Press.
Credit: Shai Halevi, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority
It is the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Festival of Booths and in Hebrew “Sukkot”. During this joyous 8-day feast Jews, in Israel and around the world, celebrate the fall harvest and God’s faithful protection of the Israelites during their forty years of wanderings in the Sinai Desert. There are activities and festivals happening all over Israel; family and friends remember God’s faithful provision as they share special meals together in their sukkahs.
For Christians, the festival is reminder of the redemptive work of Christ and of his sovereignty in our lives. It points to a time in which he will reign on Earth forever. Hallalujah! Let this year’s feast be a time for followers of Jesus to remember the exhortation in 1 Peter 5 to cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is the Light & Water which sustains us. Amen.
Please join me in praying for God’s peace and protection over Israel. As always, your love and support for the Holy Land is appreciated.
If you want assistance planning a trip to the Holy Land for your church group or ministry, contact us. It is our heartfelt desire to serve you and we look forward to welcoming you to this beautiful land.
Learn more about this holy convocation:
Yom Kippur (the word for “kippur” is kafar potentially derived from the word kofer which means “ransom”) or in English, “the Day of Atonement”, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. This was the only day the Jewish High Priest was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice to God to atone for the sins of His people.
God’s command to observe this holy day is recorded in Leviticus 23:27-28: “on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and present an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” The word “afflict” originates from the Hebrew term anah which means “to abase or humble”. It was this same quality in little children to which Jesus referred when he was asked how one could enter the kingdom of God and he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
This sacrificial system God initiated for the substitutionary atonement for the sins of the Israelites was a symbolic foreshadowing of the finished work of the Messiah as our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:10) in the person of Jesus Christ.
On Yom Kippur, let us humble ourselves before the LORD and give thanks that our hope is not in the things of this world but in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ!
Sundown on the first day of Tishrei (the first month of the Jewish civil calendar) marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “head of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays, or Asseret Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance) which are days specifically set aside for repentance concluding with the holiday of Yom Kippur.
In the Bible Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Yom-Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar, known to Christians as the Feast of Trumpets. You can read about it in the book of Leviticus, chapter 23. The common Hebrew greeting during this festival is “L’shanah tovah” or just “Shana Tova” for short, which means “may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”
An ancient synagogue discovered last week on Tel Recheš Peak, in the eastern lower Galilee, dates to the Second Temple era. According to Dr. Motti Aviam, an archaeologist who has been conducting digs at the sight for the past 6 years, it’s the first synagogue of its kind in the Galilean villages.
Prior to this discovery, researchers were able to surmise from the absence of pig bones that the Roman era estate at Tel Rekhesh belonged to a Jewish community. Also notable was the discovery of stone utensils, which according to Jewish law cannot become impure, unlike those made of wood or metal. It is believed the estate was likely abandoned because of the second revolt against Rome.
Scholars believe Tel Rekhesh may be the ruins of the biblical city of Anaharath. Joshua 19:19 The site is located about 7 miles southwest of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee.
Although Anaharath is not mentioned in the New Testament we know from scripture that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Matthew 4:23
It’s very possible Jesus ministered at this ancient synagogue discovered at Tel Rekhesh.
Read the full Ynet News article.