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AtlasToursJordanBiblical Jordan

After the Exodus

Following the time of Moses and Joshua (pbut), the next two centuries in the biblical narrative are known as "the days when the judges governed" (Ruth 1:1), and incidents in the lives of several judges took place in Jordan. When Gideon chased the Midianites to east, he traveled on the main road through the central Jordan Valley, probably following the path of the Bible's Way of the Plain (2 Samuel 18:23).

The massive, excavated Tell Deir Alla in the central plain has been identified as the ancient market and cultic center of Succoth. It was visited by Gideon (Judges 8:5-16) when he was chasing the Midianites to the east. Succoth refused to assist him, so on his return journey Gideon carried through with his pledge to thrash the bodies of the men of Succoth "with the thorns of the wilderness and with brides". A small museum at the Tell Deir Alla archaeological station includes artifacts excavated at several ancient sites in the central valley.

The Jordan Valley

The nearby town of Zerathan (or Zeredah) is linked with episodes in the lives of Solomon, Joshua and Gideon (I Kings 7:46; Joshua 3:16). When Joshua and the people crossed the Jordan River, the waters stopped and "piled up in a heap ... at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zerathan".

The site of Zerathan is identified with the large, excavated Tell Assaidiyya. Adam is identified with Tell Damyeh, in the central valley in Jordan. Another candidate for Zerathan is the nearby excavated Iron Age biblical era site called Tell Al-Mazar.

This area on the Jordan Valley floor between Succoth and Zerathan, described in 2 Chronicles 4:17, is where King Solomon's master coppersmith Huran cast the bronze and other decorative elements for the temple in Jerusalem.

Jephthah the Gileadite is associated in the Bible with the towns of Mizpah in Gilead (possibly modern Anjara) and Zaphon (identified with Tell Al-Qos) (Judges 11:29; 12:1). He defeated the Ammonites in battle at Aroer, Minnith and Abel-keramim (Judges 11:33), then defeated the Ephraimites near the fords of the Jordan River (Judges 12:4-6).

The ancient name of Aroer, located on the northern rim of Wadi Al-Mujib, is retained today in the village and excavated biblical era antiquities site called Arair in Arabic. Abel-keramim is identified with the massive archaeological mound called Tell Al-Umayri, about 10 kms south of Amman alongside the Desert Highway.

It has been excavated since the early 1980s and reveals some of the best preserved urban remains from the Bronze and Iron Age biblical periods, including a reconstructed four-room house that allows visitors to peek into a typical home used by the biblical era Ammonites, Moabites and Israelites.

Also from the time of the judges is the famous story of the Moabite woman Ruth and her family. Ruth was the great grandmother of David (pbuh), and ancestor of Jesus Christ (pbuh) (Ruth 1-4; Matthew 1:5). During a period of famine in Judah, her family found refuge in the region of Moab, south of the Wadi Al-Mujib, which was famed for its rich agricultural and pasture lands (Jeremiah 48:33).

Excavations at Tell Al-Umayri

After her husband died, Ruth returned to Judah with her mother-in-law rather than stay in Moab. Ruth became a symbol of deep loyalty and love, with her oft-quoted "Entreat me not to leave thee nor to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go, and whither thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God" (Ruth 1:16).

The lineage of David and Jesus (pbut) from the Moabite Ruth is another example of how God used people from all nations and tribes to spread His divine message of love to all humankind.

The next significant biblical figure associated with the land of Jordan was King David (pbuh), who lived in the early 10th century BC. He sought refuge at Mahanaim in Gilead during the revolt of his son Absalom. He was given food and assistance by several men from Ammon and Gilead (2 Samuel 17:26-29; 7 Kings 2:7).

Mahanaim has been associated with the modern village of Mihna, in the forested hills east of the Jordan Valley. Absalom died hanging by his hair from a tree in the nearby forest of Ephraim in Gilead (2 Samuel 18:6-16). David was sitting in the city gate of Mahanaim when he received the news of his son's death (2 Samuel 18:24-32).

A mosque/shrine to Nabi Daoud (Prophet David in Arabic) is located at Mazar Al-Shamali in the northern Jordan hills. It recalls King David's visits to Mahanaim and reflects his status among Arabs as a righteous man and important prophet.

The region around the Jordanian capital Amman was known in the Bible as Ammon or the Ammonite Kingdom (Deuteronomy 2:37, 2 Samuel 10:2), famed for its springs and citadel. Most visitors to Jordan start their visits in Amman, the ancient Rabbath-Ammon (or Rabbah), citadel and capital of the Ammonites.

Still standing are its massive fortifications, where David arranged for Uriah the Hittite to die in battle so that David could marry Uriah's widow Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-27).

David's son Solomon (pbut) is noted in the Bible for his wisdom, and was one of Jesus' ancestors (1 Kings 10:24, Matthew 1:6, 6:29, 12:42). One of Solomon's wives, Naamah, was an Ammonite, and was also an ancestress of Jesus Christ (pbuh) (1 Kings 14:21, 31). Solomon is known to Arabs and Muslims as Nabi Suleiman (the Prophet Solomon), and a shrine to Solomon stands at Sarfah, near Kerak.

Continue to: Elijah and Elisha
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