Jordan/Israel ~ 1987-1988 ~ Part 3

Day #3

Our hotel is in the capital of Jordan-Amman.  Amman was the southernmost Decapolis city, which explains why there are many Roman ruins there such as a Roman theater.  The population of Jordan is four million, one million of these people live in Amman.  Much of Jordan is three thousand feet above sea level.  When we left Amman for Petra, we saw many things.  We saw olive trees, artisan wells, sheep, military posts, and Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) Refuge Camps.  The exports of Jordan are cement, and phosphates from the Dead Sea.

Amman was a very clean city, with white cement buildings, it was a hilly town, very scenic with no advertisements, and there were army and police men posted in many places.  In ancient times Amman was known as Rabbath-Ammon, chief town of the Ammonites.  Later it was rebuilt and renamed Philadelphus by Ptolemy Philadelphus (245-246 B.C.).  Rabbath means “great,” i.e., the capital.  Amman is at the headwaters of the Jabbok, 23 miles east of the Jordan.  The ancient background of Amman is as follows:  When David was king, the Ammonites defied Israel, prepared for war, and hired auxiliaries from the Aramaeans.  The hired army marched to the town of Medeba (I Chronicles 19:7; or perhaps “waters of Rabbah”).  Joab and the Israelites were encamped before the gate of Rabbah, and presently the Aramaeans  pitched camp behind them in the open field.  The Israelites were beset before and behind (2 Samuel 10:8-9; 1 Chronicles 19:9).  By dividing his forces, Joab met and defeated both enemies (2 Samuel 10:13-14).  The next spring, Joab besieged Rabbah again.  During a sally from the gate, Uriah the Hittite was killed.  That part of the city lying between the citadel and the river, and called the city of waters, fell into the hands of Joab, but the citadel held out.  David was sent for to complete the conquest and associate it with his name.  He came, took the city, and condemned the inhabitants to forced labor (2 Samuel 11:1; 12:26-31; I Chronicles 20:1-3).  In time, the Ammonites recovered the city.  Judgments were denounced against it by Jeremiah (40:2-6) and Ezekiel (21:20).  It was embellished by Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.), and in his honor named Philadelphus.  The city was the eastern limit of Peraea (War III:3,3).  The commercial highway between Damascus and Arabia, which skirted the desert passed through it, and there was also a trade road from Philadelphia by way of Gerasa and Pella to Scythopolis.  The modern name is Amman, an echo of Ammon.  So much for the rich history in the city where our plane landed.

Along the way to Petra, Pastor Grimes told us that the best stance towards the Arab/Israeli conflict is one of neutrality.  This sounds like wise advice.  They do not like each other, and they both have no hope for salvation unless they turn to Jesus Christ.

We already mentioned the intense security check upon entering the airport.  They also had several security checks along the highway.  Jordan has goats, mules and burros, we noticed along the way.  It is a very hilly and barren land.  We crossed a large mountain range.  As we mentioned, phosphates are mined in Jordan and exported for fertilizer.  We saw many shepherds and their flocks of sheep.  There were also many small cement homes for miners, dwellers, etc.  There did not seem to be the danger in Jordan that the recent United States news media attempted to portray (especially P.L.O. factions at the Gaza Strip and in Bethlehem).  We also noticed that many people in Jordan just stand around doing nothing out in the country.  A tourist bus is one of the few things which makes them move – they will attempt to sell just about anything, including the right to take their picture.

We drove on the famous King’s Highway which had an expensive tax on it in Bible times.  We saw many Bedouins after we left the main road.  Finally, we arrived at our first attraction on our way to Petra.  This was the Crusader’s Castle Shoubak.  This castle goes back to the sixth century, and is noted for guarding the crossroads at the King’s Highway near Petra.  It sits up very high, it has steep ravines and canyons around it, and looked impregnable.

The pace of life in Jordan seemed very slow and we noticed many grapes growing upon terraces.

Next, we entered the area of three main attractions:  1) The rock Moses smote in the Wadi of Kadesh, 2) Petra, home of the Edomites and many other settlers later on, and 3) Mount Hor, the traditional burial place of Aaron.  The rock Moses smote accounts for all the water in this area even today.  It is called Wadi Musa, and it supports the modern city of Petra.  Petra is one of the most incredible places on the face of the earth.  The inhabitants there dwelt high, among the clefts (Obadiah 3-4).  This was originally a place in Edom, where the Edomites lived.  The Nabataeans, however, were a group of desert tribesmen (a Semitic, Thamudic people of Arabic descent from Yemen) who may have encroached on the territory of Edom as early as the sixth century B.C.  According to the Greek historian Diodorus, these invaders from the eastern desert eventually captured all of the territory of Edom, including the capital city of Petra.  The Nabataean Arabs raised Petra to its highest glory before they came under Roman control in A.D. 106.  The ruins in Petra we saw were Nabataean ruins.  The Roman influence on the Nabataeans can be seen in the buildings, columns and arches.  Petra is surrounded on all sides by precipitous sandstone cliffs.  A rivulet traverses the whole length of the city, accounting for the variegated colors of the rock – red, brown, purple and yellow – adding to the beauty of the spot.  I picked up some of this rock for our four children.  The only entrance to the city is a narrow ravine with steep, high cliffs on each side.  Petra is surrounded by mountains.  There are some things that have to be SEEN in order to be appreciated and believed – Petra is one of these.  From a distance, the Petra mountains are like nothing you have ever seen – they are purple, eerie, mystic, out of place, like lunar landscape, majestic, steep and towering.  The rock in Petra is the easily cutable soft sandstone.  In Petra, there are Nabataean tombs, Obelisk tombs, remains of temples, an amphitheater, a triumphal arch, and dwelling houses in adjacent cliffs.  On the height above, overlooking the ancient city, is the great high place, and other altars standing on neighboring lofty sites.  There are also areas for blood sacrifices and many other things.  Petra received water through a small aqueduct.  Petra is at the center of a network of three roads – 1) The Kings Highway to the north, 2) a road to the south, 3) and the Desert Highway to the east.  1) Transportation and 2) water are needed for the city.

Mohammed, a popular Arab name in an eastern land, was the name of about a thirteen year old lad who led my horse into and out of Petra.

In the realm of culture, we noticed that in Jordan the music sounds very wailing and full of mourning.  It is even depressing, and almost reminded one of a funeral.

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The two most fascinating places that I have ever been to, are Machu Picchu, Peru and Petra, Jordan.  They are both listed among the seven wonders of the modern world.

Although I formerly agreed with Pastor Bill Grimes’ recommendation to stay neutral in regards to the Arab/Israeli conflict, since learning more of God’s plan for the nation of Israel, I have had trouble doing this.  Genesis 12:3 tells us the Lord will “…bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee.”  The Lord also calls Israel the “…apple of His eye.”  Although I see both Arabic people and Israelis as largely both lost without faith in Christ, Israel is a specially chosen nation of people for whom the Lord has a plan.  I also carry the underdog mentality.  Americans love the underdog, a role that Israel carries, as she is surrounded by innumerable Islamic nations and radical movements who have desired for this nation to be exterminated since May, 1948.  One day the Lord God will thwart the efforts of Gog and Magog, when they gather a huge coalition and mutually attack Israel.  Many students of prophecy believe Gog and Magog are Russia, Iran, and other like minded nations.  

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