Day Four: Caesarea, Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Nazareth

We left Jerusalem by 7:30 AM for a drive north and west to Caesarea. Everyone was on time and since it was the Sabbath there was virtually no traffic on the road. The drive through Tel Aviv would be brutal, but there was very little traffic on the road this morning, [I will add some pictures later, I have a very slow WiFi connection right now]

Caesarea is one of my favorite places to visit. The city is Herod the Great’s tribute to the Roman Empire. By building such a beautiful city Herod demonstrates he is the ideal Roman client king and makes the claim that Judea is not something backwards end of the Roman empire, it can hold its own against any other Greco-Roman city.We spent a little time talking in the theater about the death of Herod in Acts 12 and Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea later in the book of Acts. This was likely a house arrest, Paul was likely in a similar situation to his house arrest at the end of Acts.

If you visit Caesarea, be sure to stop by the  the new visitor’s center (it is about two years old). The center has a small museum with a few artifacts, but the main feature is a film about Herod’s life and his need to impress Rome by building the city. It is a bit too influenced by Game of Thrones, but it fairly accurate and gives first time visitors an insight into why the city is intentionally Roman.

As for biblical significance, Caesarea is the city Peter visited when he preached to Cornelius in Acts 10. In Acts 12 Herod Agrippa was struck dead when he entered the theater looking like a God (a story confirmed by Josephus). Philip the Evangelist lived in Caesarea with his four daughters when Paul passed through the city on his return from Ephesus. Paul also spent two years under house arrest awaiting trial while Felix was the governor. Later, when Festus was governor, Paul made his famous appeal to Caesar in Caesarea.

From Caesarea we traveled to Daliat el-Carmel, partially to eat at the excellent Druze restaurant (yes, I did have the falafel). After a too-large lunch, we drove to the end of the ridge to visit the Carmelite church marking the traditional site where Elijah challenged the priests of Baal. We went to the top of the church and our guide orientated us to the geography of Samaria and northern Israel. We read i Kings 18 and talked briefly about that story, but there were extremely high winds making it difficult to continue.

After Carmel, we visited Megiddo. If you go, be sure to see the new introduction video, it has plenty of flashy edits, drone shots and interviews with Israel Finklestein by a really perky host. The video does a good job telling the story of the site as well as the history of excavations in less that ten minutes.

Why is Megiddo important for biblical Studies? According to 1 Kings 9:15 Solomon fortified Megiddo along with Hazor and Gezer. Jehu assassinated Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27) and Josiah was killed in battle by the Egyptian army led by Necho II (2 Kings 23:29). Aside from the spectacular view of the Jezreel Valley, there is a 3000 BC Canaanite cult center and a major granary and other storage buildings. But the main thing to see at Megiddo is the water system, a passage carved through the rock to a hidden spring. (Megiddo is the inspiration for James Michner’s The Source).

We continued across the Jezreel Valley to Nazareth, although we did not do much in this very crowded and busy city (which looks nothing like it did in Jesus’s day). We drove up to a view point 1290 feet above sea level. Although it is highly unlikely, some Christians this this is the place where the people Nazareth tried to throw Jesus off a cliff in Luke 4:29. There is even a tradition that Jesus escaped the crod by jumping from the cliff, which is why it is sometimes called the Mount of Leaping. #Doubt.  The precipice is outside of town and clearly very high, but it is so far from the original Nazareth village of the first century to be an authentic location.

We are saying in the Village rooms, which are small, comfortable bungalow-style rooms. Even though it feels a little like camp, the dining room is excellent (the best food on the trip). Two people told me they were already looking forward to breakfast!

Tomorrow we will visit sites related to the life of Jesus, beginning with a hike up Mount Arbel to view the Sea of Galilee.

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