Summary: This is the 5th in my travelogues telling of my visit to Israel. In this lesson we visit 4 "gates" in Northern Israel including the "gates of Hell".
Tonight we’re going to be visiting four different “gates” in the northern section of Israel. The first of these “gates” is figurative. It is the gate to the source of the Jordan River
(Showed a slide of the Jordan)
The Jordan River is more than 223 miles in length but, because its course is meandering, the actual distance between its source and the Dead Sea is less than 124 miles. The Jordan is the major source of water for Israel and its neighbors. The word “Jordan” means “flowing down” and it “flows down” from the region of what had once been the tribe of Dan.
(Slide of a map of Israel showing Dan in the north)
As you can see from this map, Dan is located in the north of Israel. That wasn’t originally true. Originally Dan had been allocated land just north of Judah bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. This plot of land was difficult for the tribe to control and so they migrated north to the northern area held by Naphtali. It is from this region that the River of Jordan begins.
The Jordan has three sources in the north. One is the river Ḥāṣbānī, which comes down from the southern part of Lebanon. The 2nd is the Bāniyās River which flows from Syria. And the third is the Dan River which is fed from springs which begin amongst the snow cap of Mount Hermon.
(Slides of Mt. Hermon and of the main springs found at Caesarea Philippi)
As you can see Mt. Hermon is a majestic peak and the melting snow pack goes down through underground channels to feed the Dan River at Caesarea Philippi.
(I showed a couple of bottles of Jordan water)
These two bottles of water were collected by me on my visit. This first bottle is water from the part of the river where Jesus is believed to have been baptized. You’ll notice how muddy it appears. That’s because of two reasons: 1) as the water makes it way down to the Dead Sea it collects silt and 2) factories and farms have runoff that is carried away by the Jordan as it makes its southward. At the location where Jesus was supposedly baptized they will often check the contaminant level of the water to make sure it is safe for tourists to step in to.
This 2nd bottle of water was collected by me at the springs at what had once been Caesarea Philippi. The water is so clear and pure you could drink from this bottle… but you won’t because I won’t let you. It’s my bottle!
(Several slides showing the Dan River)
One of the most beautiful regions in the northern part of Israel is the Tel Dan Nature Reserve Israel. It has a long and beautiful nature walk that exposes you to the beautiful flora and fauna of the region as well as witnessing the rushing waters of the Dan. This beautiful path ultimately led us to one of the most ancient structures in all of Israel.
(Slide of Abraham’s Gate)
This gate was built around 1800 B.C. and was part of the ancient Canaanite city of Laish. When Abraham came to Canaan, this is the gate he entered. Notice, it is made of mud and straw, and is not wide enough for chariots. This was also in the general area where Abraham probably ambushed the armies of the Kings of the North who had kidnapped his nephew Lot and rescued his nephew and freed up the possessions they’d stolen from the cities of the South.
Notice the canopy over this structure. It’s intended to help protect this important archaeological find from the ravages of weather.
(Slide of a metal reconstruction of what Abraham’s gate may have looked like)
This small scale model sets directly in front of the gate where visitors can get an idea of how the gate may have looked in Abraham’s day. They have a small sheep and shepherd standing on the steps leading up to the gate that help give you a sense of scale.
(An Artist’s visualization of Jeroboam at his altar at Tel Dan)
Laish seems to have been the foundation on which the later city of Dan was built. King Jeroboam made this one of his defensive cities to the north and built his infamous altar on this spot. For those of you who don’t remember the story, Israel divided into two distinct nations after the death of King Solomon – Judah to the south, reigned over by King Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) and the 10 tribes of Israel to the north, with King Jeroboam as its ruler.
This unhappy division was actually a punishment for King Solomon. Solomon had many wives, and he’d fallen in love with some of them to the point where he’d begun to even worship their gods. This made God so furious that He said to Solomon: