Saturday, June 13, 2009

First Day of Class at JETS

Today we met our class and started to teach our course in 8th Century Prophets. Our class in made up of 14 Bachelor-level students and 5 Masters-level students. This is a great number for our class since due to some legal restraints the total number of students at JETS has come down from almost 150 to 60 over the past two years. Our class has 6 females and 13 males. They come from the countries of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan. A few speak English but most are only conversant in Arabic. Our translator is a young man Hanna Hattar (the picture on the right shows Steven Anderson teaching while Hanna translates). He has done a great job although in my passion I sometimes get carried away and speak for too long and he needs to interrupt before he forgets what I said!
This afternoon I took Steven Anderson out to a place called Iraq al-Amir, a 2nd century Hellenistic pre-Roman country villa. This site is about 10-12 miles outside of Amman in the valley facing towards the west (Jordan Valley). It has some amazingly large stones (up to 25 tonnes!) but is still is a state of disrepair. One interesting inscription found above a cave is the name "Tobiah." This name is preserved as an Ammonite family name from the time of the 5th century Tobiah in the Bible (Nehemiah 2:19). Tobiah the Ammonite was one of the men who opposed Nehemiah in the building of the wall of Jerusalem.
In the field next to this site grain gathering was going on. Some women were cutting the grain (and another was watching the goats), some young people were loading the grain, and the men were sitting down resting from all the supervision they were doing!
On the way back to Amman I stopped to take a picture of a young man with his donkey bringing some grain home.
Tomorrow is Sunday and we are off to church. I'll let you know tomorrow night how the service was compared to my normal worship service at Waterbrook!

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Day in Amman, Jordan

I arrived in Jordan last night, got a rental car, exchanged some money, ate at Hardees!, and then had a good (but non-airconditioned) sleep in the guest room of the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary. I am here with one of my Ph.D. students Steven Anderson. We begin to teach a class in 8th Century Prophets tomorrow (Saturday) morning.
Today (Friday) we got up early and went down to the Roman Theater in downtown Amman. We actually got there before it opened and being a Friday (Muslim holy day) there were few cars on the street which is great because Amman is a city with narrow streets, many cars, and few people who know the rules of the road or at least care to follow them (we saw at least 10 cars today drive right through red lights). We next drove up to the top of the hill called the Citadel and saw the ruins there and the museum. [The picture above is taken with the Roman Odeon right behind me and the Citadel with the columns up high on the upper left.] This is the place where Uriah the Hittite (husband of Bathsheba) lost his life when attacking the Ammonites (see 2 Samuel 11). The museum houses some very interesting pieces including the copper scroll discovered at Qumran, an extra-biblical prophecy by Balaam (the prophet whose donkey talked to him and the one who ended up blessing rather than cursing the Israelites; see Numbers 22–24) painted in red and black on plaster. We saw many other great items in this very small but amazing museum (it is scheduled to be moved to a more suitable building in 2007!)
After a break for a lunch that we made back at the guest rooms we headed off to see Mt. Nebo and Hesbon. Mt. Nebo, of course, is the place where Moses died (see Deuteronomy 34). [The picture to the right is from the top of Mt. Nebo looking over the Jordan River Valley called the Plains of Moab or Shittim [Plain of accacia trees] where the children of Israel camped before going across the river (Numbers 22:1; Joshua 3:1). Jericho is difficult to see the slight haze but it is at the foot of the mountains of Judea on the other side of the Jordan River.
After seeing Mt. Nebo and stopping at a restaurant I knew to show Steven an old threshing sled and winnowing fork we headed off to see the ancient city of Hesbon. There is some dispute about the location but we went to the traditional site. No guard, broken gate, old rusty signs but archeological remains that showed this was a place of importance for many different peoples. [I'm standing on top of Hesbon in the picture below.] Hesbon is the home of King Sihon, one of the kings Moses and Israel defeated after traveling around Edom and Moab and as they were moving down towards Jericho (the story is told first in Numbers 20:21-35) . The defeat of Kings Sihon and Og (he ruled up north in Bashan, today's Golan Heights) is repeated throughout Scripture to remind God's people of His power over great opposition.
As I start to teach tomorrow I am reminded, as I think of the places I visited today, that the battle is the Lord's. I'd appreciate your prayers that I would be faithful (although if I didn't have to die here in Amman like Uriah did while he was being faithful is O.K. with me!), that I would have faith to go forward like the Israelites did when they conquered Hesbon and then later went across the Jordan on dry land. This is a spiritual journey and I am thankful we can learn from those who have gone before us. But they can't go for us! So join with me on a journey of faith in the days ahead.
Hope you'll come back to hear more about the teaching and touring in Jordan in the two weeks ahead.