By the time you read this blog, I will hopefully be settled in our dig headquarters – the five-star Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa on the Jordanian (east) shore of the Dead Sea. Tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! Shirtsleeve weather, I imagine.
My excavation site, Tall el-Hammam (http://www.tallelhammam.com/) has long been believed by scholars to be Abel-Shittim (Nu 25:1; and vicinity Nu 33:49), the last place Moses, Joshua and the Israelites camped before they crossed the Jordan. That would have made it the last place the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant sat before crossing into the Promised Land.
Later, during King Solomon’s time, Tall el-Hammam may have been the capital of his 12th administrative district of Gilead (1 Kgs 4:19) – with direct line of site to the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem.
In New Testament times, there is reason to believe the site was Livias, capital city of King Herod Antipas’ kingdom of Perea. This is the same Herod Antipas to whom Pilate sent Jesus on the day He was crucified (Lu 23:5-12). It was at Machaerus (according to Josephus Antiquities 18.5.1-2), one of his forts in Perea, where Antipas beheaded John the Baptist (Mt 14:1-3).
But the real reason we are excavating at Tall el-Hammam is because we think it may have been the city of Sodom, of Sodom and Gomorrah fame, during the time of Abraham (Gn 13-19). In fact, we think that the city wall and houses (and destruction debris!) that we dug through last year (mentioned in my 12/9/09 blog) has something to do with that Old Testament city. Stay tuned!
In the Holy Land this year, I will celebrate both mine and my wife’s (who is here with me!) birthday as well as baby Jesus’ birthday. This will all be a first for me and I am looking forward to the experience. While this is a wonderful opportunity and a dream come true for an archeological guy like me, I have to say that my job here at Helping Up Mission is still the most significant thing I have ever done in my life. I am going to love my time in Jordan, but I look forward to coming back to my calling and the really important work I get to do at Helping Up Mission.
Keep us in prayer and I will keep you posted on what is happening.
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director