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eNews For The Week Of February 04, 2014

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Articles And Commentary

Archeologists Unearth Remains From Time of David and Solomon

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A chunk of a 3000-year-old clay jar found in Jerusalem may offer evidence that the kingdom of Solomon truly did exist there after all. Secular archeologists generally question the historical existence or importance of David and Solomon’s reigns because physical remnants from their kingdoms have seemed slim. These Jewish kings have often been relegated to the category of King Arthur, and their histories in the Bible regarded as just stories. A variety of important artifacts have been discovered, however, that give credence to the Bible’s descriptions of the kingdoms of David and Solomon and the nature of the monarchy they created out of the disjointed tribes of the time of the Judges.

The Ophel Inscription

An ancient piece of a jug found in the Ophel area of Jerusalem is exciting archeologists because of the writing on its side. The 3,000-year-old letters of the Ophel inscription have been described as an ancient form of southern Hebrew, and the very existence of the letters is as important as what they say. And what do they say? One clear word is yayin, the lowest form of wine, and the whole inscription should read “in the year [.] M, wine, part, m [.],” according to Gershon Galil, a professor of ancient history and biblical studies at the University of Haifa. Galil believes the label describes the contents of the jar and the year of the king who had it made.

Common little villages do not label their wine jars, nor do they differentiate between fine wine and common wine. The jug indicates that it held wine that the common people might drink, workers set on building projects by somebody much higher in power. Labelling a jar “cheap wine” with a date attached is the act of a rich authority who has the luxury of dividing wine into categories, who can set aside wine for the laborers as opposed to more carefully processed wine reserved for people of higher echelons, kings and nobles and their guests. The jar dates to the time when Solomon would have reigned in Jerusalem.

Galil believes the inscription corroborates the Bible’s descriptions of Solomon. He’s not just impressed with the age of the writing or what it says; he’s impressed that the writing existed at all. “The most important thing this tells us is that somebody during this time knew how to write something,” he said. Galil believes the ability to write demonstrates a fully functioning administration as early as the last part of the 10th Century BC.

“The Bible claims that Solomon built the temple and that he was the man that enlarged the city,” explained Galil. “Even if my reading is not the right one, the fact that somebody knew how to write [in Hebrew] during this time, shows that somebody could have easily written a book a little while later like… Samuel and Judges.”

Fragments of David

Archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel has collected a variety of items he believes prove the validity of the biblical accounts of David and Solomon. “These guys said, ‘We didn’t have any archaeological memories, so David and Solomon are mythological figures,’” Garfinkel said. Yet the “archeological memories” are all over the place.

A stone tablet from the Moabite king Mesha that referred to the “House of David” was discovered in 1868. The tablet dates to 840 BC, within 200 years of David’s reign, and it indicates Moab had to contend with a Davidic dynasty in Israel. Another stone was found in the 20th century in northern Israel with “House of David” on it, written by Hazel, the king in Damascus. “He said, I killed 70 kings. I killed a king from Israel and a king from the House of David,” Garfinkel explained.

Above the Valley of Elah, where David famously slew Goliath, a fortress sits frozen in time. The Hebrew name is “Khirbet Qeiyafa” or “Fortress of Elah”, but it is still known locally as “Khirbet Daoud” or “David’s Ruin.”

“It turns out that this beautiful city and all the finds is [sic] from about 1020 to 980 BC, and this is exactly the time of King David,” said Garfinkel, who uncovered the city in 2007. The fortress fits the description of Sha’Araym “the city of two gates” in the Bible. Garfinkel argues it’s clearly a Jewish city because it’s built in the Jewish style and contains only the bones of kosher animals, no pigs or dogs. There are no idols among the ruins.

“It has a big casement city wall and houses abutting the city wall,” said Garfinkel. “This is known from four other sites, so now we have five sites. All these five cities are in Judah. None of them is in Philistia. This is really typical Judean urban planning.”

An ostracon, a pottery shard, found in the city offers the oldest example of Hebrew writing ever found, and it contains commandments to help widows and orphans and slaves. Even the religious shrines in the city match the Bible’s description of the temple layout, including triple-framed doors.

Garfinkel told CBN News he hadn’t intended to go dig up evidence to support the Bible, but it worked out that way. “These are the animal bones, these are the radiocarbon dating, this is the inscription, these are the fortifications, and then you have the biblical tradition. And what do you know — they just happen to fit nicely with each other.”

Hebron Remains

More work is being done to dig up the truth about King David. In a politically tricky area of the West Bank under Israeli control, the nation’s Antiquities Authority began an excavation in Hebron, the first capital set up by David before he moved to Jerusalem. The 1.5 acres are owned by Jews, and the Hebron Jewish community wants to develop an archaeological park there in the part of the city called Tel Rumeida. Walls that date to the time of Abraham and even older have been excavated in the area in the past, and a dwelling from the time of the First Temple has been found.

The Palestinians are not pleased with the existence of the excavation. Hebron is a highly contested area in the West Bank, especially considering its vitally important position in Israeli history.

Hebron’s Jewish Community spokesman David Wilder wrote on his Facebook page in January, “Fifteen years ago archaeologist Emanuel Eisenberg, from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, headed excavations that led to fascinating discoveries in Tel Hebron. This week he returned, together with Prof. Shlomo Ben-David from Ariel University, and renewed excavations on the tel. Hopes are high for more fascinating finds, going back to the days of King David and before.”

Further Reading


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“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”

— Hebrews 13:3

The persecution watch group Open Doors recently reported that 2,123 Christians were killed for their faith in 2013, with Syria alone claiming 1,213 of those lives lost. The number of martyrs is up from 1,201 in 2012, but Voice of the Martyrs believes the true number of Christian casualties in 2013 is much higher, closer to 8,000. The world holds an estimated 2.2 billion Christian worldwide, yet Christianity is persecuted in 111 different countries. According to Open Doors, North Korea was the cruelest, most destructive country persecuting Christians for another year in a row. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people are held in North Korea’s “reeducation” Communist death camps, suffering even as this article is written.

A wide number of churches gathered together at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston on January 25th, where a crowd to over 500 gathered to pray and remember the many Christian martyrs of the past century.

“More Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the other nineteen centuries combined,” Archdiocese of Boston spokesman Terrence Donilon said. “[The service] recognizes that many of our brothers and sisters around the world live not just under persecution for their Christian faith, but give their lives for it.”

The ecumenical service brought together representatives from a wide variety of denominations, including Protestant and Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, black and Evangelical churches, all interested in remembering and praying for fellow followers of Jesus Christ who have suffered and died in his name. Martyrs from around the world were honored at the service, with time spent remembering those in the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, the Americas, Africa and Europe. In Egypt alone last year, 70 churches were burned in one single day.

A young man told the story of his brother, who had to escape Egypt when Muslims in the Egyptian Army began to thin all the non-Muslims from among them. Monica Gabriel, an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the United States said, “Any time we hear the news, it always strikes close to home just because there are so many little churches and it’s a small community. So, any time anything happens, we worry that we know someone there. Even if we don’t, I mean, we’re all family. It affects us all.”

There are a wide variety of Christian organizations who reach out to the persecuted church around the world, who step in and look after the children and wives of pastors in prison, who distribute Bibles and offer Christian training, who provide boats for Christian fisherman when their livelihoods are taken from them or who offer blankets and shelter after villages are burned down. We need to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, who dearly need the power and comfort and love of the Spirit of God in their lives as they live through prison and torture and cold and hunger. We also need to support organizations that reach out to these men and women and children. Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, International Christian Concern and others are there in the ditches, doing the solid work of love in the name of Christ, and we can be a part of the work they do through financial support and especially through prayer.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

— Romans 8:35–39

Further Reading

First Round of Syria Peace Talks Wraps Up

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The first round of peace talks on Syria ended last Friday in a deadlock and a lingering standoff over President Bashar Assad’s future.

After a week of negotiations in Geneva, Syrian government and opposition delegations have yet to agree on how to proceed. The opposing parties are expected to meet again on February 10.

More than 130,000 people have been killed since March 2011 in a conflict that has destabilized neighboring countries and forced millions of people from their homes. Activists said Friday that 1,900 people — including at least 430 civilians — were killed in Syria during the peace talks alone.

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi expressed frustration in not having produced an agreement, even on allowing a U.N. aid convoy to enter the besieged Old City of Homs.

Brahimi also said that the talks between Syria’s regime and opposition have made slim progress, but have raised hopes for a solution to the country’s civil war.

“I think there are some elements that can offer a beginning, ground to stand on,” Brahimi told reporters after a week of closed-door negotiations wrapped up in Geneva. The UN envoy said that getting the government and the main opposition bloc to talk to each other for the first time in three years was a feat in itself.

Brahimi said he saw some positive steps and common ground but the gaps between the sides “remain wide.”

“Progress is very slow indeed, but the sides have engaged in an acceptable manner,” Brahimi said. “This is a very modest beginning, but it is a beginning on which we can build.”

Brahimi listed 10 simple points that he felt the two sides agreed on in the talks and said he thought there was more common ground than the sides recognized.

But neither side has moved from their main positions: the opposition wants the talks to focus on a transitional administration it says will remove Assad from power. But the government wants to talk about fighting “terrorism” - a word it uses to refer to all armed opposition groups.

Syria’s opposition spokesman, Louay Safi, told Al Jazeera: “There is no way there could be progress without establishing a governing transitional body with authority to deal with political and military matters.”

The two sides continue to blame each other for the violence in Syria — where a three-year civil war has killed more than 130,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes. They also remain deeply divided over how to end the war and if Syria’s future government should include Assad.

A tally by activists estimated Friday that 1,900 people — including at least 430 civilians — were killed in Syria during the peace talks alone.

On Thursday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, accused of favoring pro-government areas, posted a statement that humanitarian aid should be distributed in a politically neutral manner. On Friday, the United Nations for the second day entered the largely rebel-controlled Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in order to distribute food to thousands of trapped civilians.

Yarmouk camp, which is held by the rebels, is suffering severe shortages of food and medical supplies, with activists reporting dozens of deaths there from starvation. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness described “chaotic scenes” as 700 of the total 900 food parcels brought into the camp were distributed to residents.

He said it was the first aid to reach the remaining 18,000 residents since 21 January, when UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) distributed 138 food parcels.

Meanwhile, Russia has said that the Syrian government is acting “in good faith” and that a June 30 deadline for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal remains “completely realistic.” The comments came after the United States accused the Assad regime of deliberately stalling and missing deadlines on the removal and destruction of its most dangerous chemical weapons. Robert Mikulak, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said, “Syria must immediately take the necessary actions to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

U.S. and Russian officials — co-sponsors of the conference — are in Geneva advising the opposition and Syrian government delegations, their respective allies. Both sides have agreed to use a 2012 document known as the Geneva Communique as a basis for discussions. That agenda sets out stages to end the conflict, including a halt to fighting, delivery of aid and the setting up of a transitional government body.

While the opposition wants to start by addressing the question of a transitional government — which it believes would mean President Bashar al-Assad stepping down — the government insists the first step is to discuss “terrorism.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that the UN would “continue to explore every avenue for progress” in the Syria talks.

He told reporters at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin that the negotiations were “proving to be very difficult, as we expected.”

For Further Reading


The views and opinions expressed in these articles, enews and linked websites are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views held by Koinonia House. Koinonia House is providing this information as a resource to individuals who are interested in current news and events that may have an impact on Christian Life and Biblical trends. Koinonia House is not responsible for any information contained in these articles that may be inaccurate, or does not present an unbiased or complete perspective. Koinonia House disavows any obligation to correct or update the information contained in these articles.

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