So we left the desert yesterday, which was great, but now we’re in the humidity. It’s not quite as hot but with the humidity, it felt just about as uncomfortable as the desert.
Our first hike of the day was up Mount Carmel, which (turns out) does not have any candy on top. Instead, Mount Carmel is famous for being the spot where Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.
There were way too many fascinating details that we learned to put into this post (check out my instagram for some amazing insight about olive trees), but one I’ll include is about the name of the city right below Mount Carmel. There was a nearby city that was very coveted since it guarded a main road of the ancient world. Numerous battles took place in the Jezreel Valley right below between the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Philistines, Egyptians, and more to try and gain possession of the city. It was a place of constant violence and death. More battles took place in the Jezreel valley than any other location in Israel. It was where two sides threw down for an all-out battle to the death.
The city’s name is Megiddo. In Hebrew, it was called Har-Magiddo, which is translated as “The Hill of Magiddo.” The Greek translation of this is: Ar-mageddon. Or: Armageddon. When Revelation talks about the final showdown at the end of the world between God and Satan, it uses the name of this city that’s famous for intense, obnoxious displays of war and battle. I finally got my mind put back together and then it got blown again!
Overlooking the Jezreel valley and Megiddo from the top of Mount Carmel
And it was on a mountain overlooking Magiddo that Elijah chose to do battle with an idol god that had been taking over the Jewish people’s worship for years.
Long story short (but seriously go read the whole account in 1 Kings 18) God wins and all the people (over 850 in attendance) began chanting “Elijah! Elijah!” which means: “My God is YAHWEH!”
From there we went and got to walk through the ancient city of Caesarea. A city built by Herod who, despite being a psychopath, was a brilliant architect, designer, and builder. The city of Caesarea cut deeply into the profits of Alexandria and Rome by giving sailors a middle port to stop by when traveling between both. It made Herod a lot of money.
The view from Herod’s throne room (looking out over the Mediterranean Sea) toward the left arm of the Caesarean harbor.
The games arena (bleachers on right, sea on left, turn around spot in the middle) that extended parallel to the Mediterranean between the harbor and Herod’s palace
It brought the Hellenistic, western culture into Israel through four main elements: Sport, Theater, Education, Religion. So Caesarea had a large theater, a temple to worship Caesar, a school (Greek word gymnasium, as all education focused on the body), and a large arena for racing, wrestling, gladiator battles, and the torturous killing of Christians.
It was in Caesarea that Paul was held under house arrest for 2 years and it’s believed he wrote the letter of Philippians there. It was chilling to walk through a place that was once a crowded, bustling, mega city of the ancient world. It felt eerie, like walking through unseen ghosts from the past.
It was also so humbling to be in a place where people like Peter (a disciple of Jesus), Paul (a Jewish former Pharisee), and Cornelius (a gentile, Roman centurion) were so directly used by God to spread the Gospel to the world.
Our final stop of the day was the cliff right outside Nazareth where the people attempted to throw Jesus off after He spoke prophesy from Isaiah 61 and slipped in some other quotes from Isaiah 58 about the purpose of the Messiah.
A look over the cliff
From there we headed to the place we’ll be staying for the next three night on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. I’ll write more about that tomorrow but for now, here’s the sunset I saw tonight over the water Jesus once walked on.