I rubber-necked as we whizzed by several small ski shops.
Snow skiing in Israel?
Wouldn’t you just love to know who the first Israelite skier was? I picture a turbaned man with robes flapping, zooming down the mountain on wood planks. Nine-thousand feet tall and snow covered, Mount Hermon only knows. Majestic and splendid, it rose in the background, a grand sentry providing the illusion of peace and serenity.
Below the mount, rises an imposing rock one-hundred feet tall by five hundred feet wide. Carved deep into it’s side, a huge grotto births the headwaters of the Jordan River. The ruins of morally corrupt Caesarea Phillipi scatter near.
These pagan worshippers believed water symbolized the abyss and that this sodden cave with a “bottomless” pool offered a door to the underworld. The gates to Hell were literally in their backyard. How’s that for creepy?
Ritual offerings were thrown into the cave and it was believed that the Gods were accepting if the victims disappeared below the waters. But if blood emerged in the lower river, the sacrifice was shunned.
The cavern was considered to be the birthplace of mythological Pan, the half-goat-man. Carved in the rock were niches that held a statue of Pan, one of Echo the mountain nymph, and the third held and edifice of Pan’s father Hermes.
In front of this massive rock rested the remains of a temple to Zeus, The Court of Nemesis and five other temples/plazas, built from the third century BC through 220AD. This nest of ancient evil was the only place on our trip that made my skin crawl,
All these memorials lined up in a flaunting parade of pagan worship.
Herod the Great, a torah observing Jew, seemed to have no problem straddling the fence by building the first temple. The glorious white marble edifice was a tribute to his benefactor Caesar Augustus and place to worship him as a deity.
That Jesus gathered his disciples in this setting was intentional and dramatic.
Surrounded by the pervasive evil of the region of Caesarea Philippi, they were whacked over the head by his pointed question.
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:13
I picture Peter waving a dismissive hand at the pagan temples and then pointing emphatically to Jesus as he says YOU are the Messiah.
And then there was Dan, vile little brother to Caesarea Philippi. “Jesus and his disciples went on to the the villages around Caesarea Philippi.” Mark 8:27 Dan lays a mere three and a half miles to the west so it’s pretty certain they visited this hamlet.
The northernmost city in the Kingdom of Israel, the lush vegetation was astounding in such an arid country. Feeling like an oasis, we walked through a dense forest as we weaved down the narrow treelined path. We followed the course of clear, cold, Dan springs, one of four sources of the Jordan river. Here lie ruins of the most ancient site we had seen yet.
Somewhere around the 8th century BC Jereboam set up golden calves in his temple so the people didn’t have to travel to Jerusalem, 147 miles away. “One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.” I Kings 12:25
And then he had the nerve to say, “Behold your Gods which brought you out of Israel” 1 Kings 12:29 It makes me angry just writing about it. And those people had to have the shortest memories on the face of the earth.
But before you think he was just looking out for his people… keeping them out of Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be reminded of the impressive Davidic kingdom was as much a motivation as was convenient proximity.
But the happy event in Dan was the rescue of Lot years before. “And when Abram heard that his brother (refers to his nephew Lot) was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.“Genesis 14:14
Because of this incident, they call the massive gate into the city, the Canaanite gate or Abraham’s gate. Dating from 1750 BC, it predates the Sphinx and pyramids. The red dirt facade had the resemblance of a melting ice sculpture. For eighteen centuries winds and rain smoothed and shaved the mud bricks into solid adobe looking walls, like the grand pueblos in New Mexico. But the resemblance stopped there with the stone patterns soldiered around the arched entrance.
I imagine cows lowing and donkeys braying as ancient peoples lined down the stone pavement seeking passage into Dan through the imposing gates with their carts and animals and wares.
Most significant from a christian evidences point of view are the remains of a stone tablet inscribed with the record of a military victory in which a foreign king killed two Israelite kings and refers to the House of David. This is the first tangible evidence of the existence of David and his royal lineage outside biblical literature.
And unlike Caesarea Philippi and Dan, I wonder why I am not as disturbed by the evil living loud around me everyday.
Blinders of busy
Distort and skew me into a false reality.
Ignore. And. It. Won’t. Effect. Me.