Bible Culture and Customs

Nazareth, Nazareth in the Holy Land, Where is Nazareth, Nazareth in the Bible


Nazareth   “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto...
God told them to tie ezov, known as hyssop in bunches and use it as a brush to apply blood to the doorposts during the climactic events of the Exodus. Hyssop in the Bible. Hyssop in Psalm 51


Hyssop  “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which...
Jacob’s Well is located near historic Shechem (Sychar in the the Book of John). Jesus witnessed to the Samaritan woman here in John 4.

Jacob’s Well

Jacob’s Well  “And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave...
The Waterfall at En Gedi. David would often come here to hide and find refreshment.

King David’s Blessing at En Gedi 

King David’s Blessing at En Gedi  “And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the...
Remains of Tel Motza. It was discovered by construction workers as they built a bridge across a valley. As you can see, parts of the site were destroyed in the construction process. The site is of interest because excavators found a small, fully functional replica of the Jerusalem Temple built here. Photo by John Buckner


Emmaus In The New Testament “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.” Luke 24:13 Jesus liked...
Ruins of the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim overlooking Shechem. A massive, ancient staircase leads up from the valley floor to the temple. A small remnant of Samaritans lives nearby in a village on the mountain. They still practice their ancient religion.

The Samaritan Temple

The Samaritan Temple “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me,...
The ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Corinth. The city was known in antiquity for this magnificent Doric temple. Ironically, this was the city where the preacher from Alexandria, Apollos, came to minister. Corinth was destroyed by the Romans under Lucius Mummius, then later refounded as a city by Julius Caesar, just before his assassination. As a result, many monuments in the city were dedicated to his memory, and that of his familv. Photo by John Buckner

Paul in Corinth

 Paul in Corinth  “And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, Saying, This fellow...
The ruins of the Castle of the Servant in Jordan. The historian Josephus wrote that the dynasty of Tobiah built a castle on the east side of the Jordan River, in Ammon. He specifically wrote in the Antiquities of the Jews about the carved "beasts of gigantic size" visible here on the left corner of the structure. The beasts on the right side are not as well-preserved. The structure dates to the centuries after Nehemiah, however it shows the power and prestige of this family of "servants." Photo by John Buckner

The Castle of the Servant 

The Castle of the Servant  “When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek...
The Mountain of the House, also known as the Temple Mount, with the Mount of Olives in the background.
Some of the steps in the foreground date from the Second Temple period, and would have been the steps Jesus ascended. Archeologists have uncovered around 300 baptismal pools along the steps leading up to the Temple. They would be convenient for baptizing 3,000 people!
The Hebrew word ruakh can mean either spirit, wind, or breath. The Breath of God, the Spirit of God, and the Wind of God are all understood to be cognates.
Photo by John Buckner

Where Was the House on Pentecost? 

 “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing...
Bible Valley

Bible Valleys  

The Hebrew Bible uses several words for a valley. The largest valley is the emek, which is a wide, U-shaped valley. The valley of Elah, famous for the fight between...
The King Herod who built the Herodium is the same Herod who tried to kill Jesus, and ordered the slaughter of the babies in nearby Bethlehem. He knew his subjects hated him, so before he died, he provided for his tomb to be guarded after his death. After a couple of years, the money ran out so the guards went home. The vengeful locals trashed his palace and smashed his ornate mausoleum to tiny pieces.
Photo by John Buckner

The Herodium in Bethlehem 

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart,...
The altar of sacrifice in front of the holy of holies in Arad. Even though it is a smaller imitation, the temple here gives the visitor an idea of how the Temple in Jerusalem appeared.

Photo by John Buckner

Mixed Worship at Arad 

“And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some...
The Parthenon in Athens as viewed from Mars' Hill, also called the Areopagus. It is a small hill just below the famous temple complex on the Acropolis.
Photo by John Buckner

Mars’ Hill 

“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of...
Wildflowers in biblical Moab. When she came back to Bethlehem, Naomi used some Hebrew wordplay. She said that “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” (1:20)  The Hebrew word she used for Almighty, שַׁדַּי is very close to the word used in verse 1:1 for “the country,” שְׂדֵי. In this way, the reader understands the true origin of Naomi’s bitter dealings: the country of Moab.
Photo by John Buckner


 “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in...
The hillside to the left in the biblical Valley of Achor shows many examples of magal. These paths are often used by ibex and antelope as well as sheep.
In such areas the sparse rain that falls in the winter is not enough to erase the paths.
Photo by John Buckner

Paths of Righteousness  

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake” (Psalm 23:3). As a shepherd from the wilderness south of Bethlehem, David wrote about...

Update On Our Israel Tour!

The nation of Israel has been front and center in news broadcasts over the last few months. It has also been at the heart of endless conversations about prophecy being...
A bee takes flight from a flower on the Western Hill in Jerusalem. This hill is in the fertile highlands, but is close to the less arable lands to the south where shepherds such as David pastured their flocks in the wilderness.
Photo by John Buckner

Milk and Honey

“And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a...

It Is Well in Zion

“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare...

Jonah and Peter in Joppa

Jonah and Peter in Joppa “And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is...
Theatre of Ephesus

Diana of the Ephesians

“For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like...
The Pool of Bethesda
is a mishmash
At various points in
history it has housed Byzantine and
Crusader churches, as well as an
Islamic law school.
It has been built
over multiple times through the
Photo by John Buckner

The Pool of Bethesda

“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in...
The soft, inviting sand in the bottom of most wadis appears to be an ideal place to pitch a tent for the night. However, the wise camper will instead spend the night on the high ground, despite the rocks and thorn bushes. Wadis, such as this one in Jordan, can be deceptive. 
Photo by John Buckner

Floods in the Desert

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every...
Ancient millstone in Capernaum, with the Sea of Galilee in the background. It is easy to imagine Jesus pointing and saying “It would be better to have that tied around your neck and be thrown in there!” 
Photo by John Buckner

Millstones in Capernaum

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him...

The Brass Serpent

“And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the...
Arched Milky Way over the mountain dirt road in summer. Beautiful night landscape with starry sky, milky way arch, trail in mountain village, hills, green grass and purple flowers. Space and galaxy

The Heath in the Desert 

The prophet Jeremiah grew up in the Judean Wilderness, the large desert on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. As a desert dweller, he often wrote about the animals...
The Tombs of the Prophets

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” 
Zechariah 14:4

	One of the most overlooked gems in Jerusalem is the Tombs of the Prophets on the Mount of Olives. Every day, thousands of pilgrims on their way up or down the mountain troop past the weatherbeaten sign pointing toward the tombs. Only a few turn in to see it. 
Photos by John Buckner 

	The tombs are believed to belong to Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and their disciples. They are located in an enormous man-made cavern in the side of the Mount of Olives. The ancients carved this place near the summit of the Mount of Olives to bury the prophets because of Zechariah’s prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. 
	Once you descend the stairs into the cavern, there is no electricity or signs of modernity. A little light leaks in from the entrance and illuminates the cathedral-like antechamber where the guard will light a candle, hand it to you, and then show you the map of the tombs. He will smile and exhort you to sing, preach, or pray if you feel like it. Believe me, you will!
From there you can wander carefully by candlelight through the corridors and tunnels until you come to the tombs of the great men deep in the mountain. You can find their tombs by the feeble light from a single candle that always burns in front of each of the the three prophet’s graves. A local custom full of symbolism is to kneel, blow out your candle, then relight it from one of theirs. 
Photos from December, 2020.
John Buckner 

	Scholars are not certain if they are the tombs that Jesus mentioned, or if those tombs were elsewhere. Personally, I imagine Him pointing across the Kidron Valley to the tombs, since the entrance to the tombs was visible from the Temple Mount where He was teaching when He said:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,” Matthew 23:29

What is known is that the cavern was built by ancient people to honor some great prophets of the Bible. The Tombs of the Prophets have amazing acoustics. I recommend standing somewhere in the dark, and when your meditations on the prophets, and on Jesus’ teachings, ascension, and second coming overcome you, burst into song! It is overwhelming to be near where Jesus will soon return and sing to Him. Whenever I descend the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, I always stop and glance back to see if He is there. Every time, I remember that right up there is where He said to “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” 
	When you go to Jerusalem, and I hope you do, please schedule an hour or two to visit this beautiful memorial to the prophets. Then go forth carrying the light that they preached to a dark world.  

“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;” Malachi 4:2

“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. Haggai 2:6-7

The Tombs of the Prophets

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst...

Why did David keep Saul’s water cruse?

In I Samuel 26, we find a puzzling account from the life of David. He recruited Joab’s brother Abishai to go with him on a high-risk night raid into the...
Ancient Shechem, with the mountains Ebal and Gerizim in the background, as well as modern Nablus in the West Bank. Photo by author.

The Graveyard of the Old Gods in Shechem 

The Graveyard of the Old Gods in Shechem “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which...