What Is It?


Imagine a morning dawning on the Mediterranean coast about 3,500 years ago.  The early light begins to shine into the windows of the growing coastal town of Akko, and everywhere sleepy eyes open to a fresh new day. Ships great and small are moored in the best bay along the Levant, and the coastline begins to fill with activity as languages from all over the known world are spoken on the wharves where merchants and tradesmen haggle, and in the open markets filling the town square. Fishermen are coming in after a long night of throwing their nets, the fish are hauled from the boats, the nets are drawn out on the sand to dry, and to be repaired, families come out to see the fish, perhaps to buy one or two for their day’s meal.

Gleaming on the walls of most homes are beautiful, glazed pottery, hanging from their hooks. Here is a cheese bowl, with a roughened bottom to hold the cheese as the whey is poured off. There hangs a cluster of juglets to hold water, measure flour and oil, and to be pressed into any needed service. Cooking pots, trays, shallow bowls, and there also hangs a lovely milk bowl, with its creamy white background and henna colored design. Perhaps someone takes down the milk bowl to place a couple of barley buns and some salted fish to bring down to the hungry and weary fishermen.

This morning, as we were sweeping the “top soil” off of an area in the excavation being prepared for pictures and measuring, a small, white chip caught my eye. Ordinarily, top soil is considered detritus, because it has no provenance. It could really have been swept in from basically anywhere on the site, and because it’s at the top, it has long since been separated from the time layer it originally belonged to.

Nevertheless, I picked it up for its lovely design, and found out from our resident pottery expert, Rachel, it is a chip from what is called a Cypriot White Slip Milk Bowl (If you follow the embedded link, you can see an example of a milk bowl from every angle, and a brief description of how it was made)

Actually, nobody really knows what a milk bowl was used for. According to one source, “it was widely believed that they were made to process yogurt but there is no actual evidence that this was the case. The name ‘milk bowl’ is progressively being dropped because it is misleading as the use of these bowls is still unknown. They were exported in quite large quantities, but we do not even know if it was for their contents or as the bowls themselves.”

Reading that, it made me think of Depression Glass, which many people collect as beautiful antique treasures, but which originally were store prizes for buying a certain amount groceries or goods. Old timers remember the 1930’s, when flour came in pretty sacks which could be repurposed into little girl dresses, kitchen towels and other linens, and so on. When I was a kid, my parents used to buy shrimp cocktails in little shaped jars which they washed out to use as our drinking glasses.

[Kordas, based on Alvaro’s work [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D%5D

Cyprus is quite near Akko, so the import of Cypriot pottery makes complete sense. Were Cypriot milk bowls actually the pretty container for some other common necessity people routinely purchased, and then hung up the bowl as a decoration? Where does your imagination take you?

“Joanna! Look Here!”


“What, what??” half excited, half anxious, I wasn’t sure which to be. Had I made a mistake, or uncovered an amazing find?

“Look at this,” Rachel said (imagine a rich, Israeli accent coming from a small, energetic grandma), “It’s a complete vessel!” A complete vessel? That was an astounding discovery, having everything from the base, through the body, to the lip. Not all the pieces were there, but the vessel itself could now be fully defined, dated, and correlated to its age and culture. The rest could be inked in.

[Note the base of the vessel to the right, the lip to the left, and soft pink chalk lines marking the connection]

My asthma had gotten the better of me yesterday–combination of lots of dust, hot sun, and exertion. So, today I stayed in the lab, and learned how to inscribe the pottery artifacts.

The pottery from the dig comes back to the Nautical School midday and placed in buckets of water to soak.

Next, Rachel, an archaeologist of fifty years, and our resident pottery expert, sorts and arranges the pottery.

Sometimes, as you can see in this picture, the pieces match. They count as only one piece, then.

When the pottery comes down from the dig, it is in a basket taken from a discrete locus within the larger grid of the excavation. The basket has a tag identifying the locus number and the basket number.

“AK” for Akko, “2018” for the year it was unearthed, (we’re clearing out last year’s inventory so we can make room for the pottery coming in), “L. 3245,” for the locus, or 5×5 meter square where it was dug up, and “B. 25812” for the basket number it was put in,

“How good is your handwriting?” Rachel asked me.

“Passable,” I said.

Yes. I know. Everyone who has seen my writing, just now snorted through their noses and laughed out loud. But, I did not want to miss out on this golden opportunity to be a real live archaeologist, so I told myself if I really put in an effort, I could do this thing.

And that’s how I became a pottery scribe.

Napoleon’s Hill


The first thing you have to do, to get an archaeological excavation ready, is to get all the sandbags up and out. When the excavation was closed the summer before, thousands of white cloth bags were filled with sifted earth from the dig, and placed all around the exposed areas to protect the site until the excavation could be reopened. Today’s project: Stand in a long bag-passing line, stack them, open them, remove the earth, recycle the bags. A a mammoth task!

For some great, current pictures of Akko, and the Tel, go to this website. Make sure you take a look at the arial view of the map and note course of the Na’aman river. Thousands of years ago, it flowed past the Tel and into the Bay, the shores of which came up to the ancient city, now buried in the Tel. It is remarkable how the Bay has silted up to such a degree that a new old city was founded, and the ancient one, once a major international center, was abandoned.

Michal Artzy, co-director of the Akko Excavation, took us on a tour of the whole mound, and gave us the history:

יובל יוסוב / Yuval Yosub [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D

Apparently, though Napoleon did lay siege to Akko in 1799, in his efforts to annex Israel to his empire, he never succeeded, and most likely never made it up to the Tel, since that lies safely within the city’s walls. Nevertheless, locals enjoy the story, and erected this statue.

However, the Persians did defeat Akko and used it as their base of operations to organize an all-out attack on Egypt. This is where we will start digging tomorrow!

[History of Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians | Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions]

So far, discoveries seem to indicate Akko was more of an industrial center than a normal habitation. Stacks and stacks of iron slag point to a foundry, there’s evidence of forges, and weapons manufacturing (that would be the Assyrians making countless arrowheads–and some have been found here–in preparation for war with Egypt), a great deal of pottery manufacture, molds for making jewelry (so at least bronze, possibly other precious metals, though none have been found as yet), today a weaver’s loom weight was unearthed.

Evidently, a “standing stone” has also been excavated, with several offerings in the form of monkey amulets–most likely depictions of the Egyptian god Thot, who said, “I create the living fire whereby works in the foundries and workshops are carried out.

[Image of Thoth | Walters Art Museum [Public domain]]

Several scarabs have also been found. It intrigues me that the Assyrians were ramping up their preparations for war against Egypt, yet also carried scarabs and images of Thot. Can’t wait to find out if our resident archaeologist have a theory about that.

[Cover Photo: Archaeology Excavation Tools, Pixabay]

First Day in Akko


Flying in June, out of any airport in the DelMarVa district, is a risky proposition. Sure enough, my flight out of Dulles was delayed, as our plane (coming in a little late from Italy) circled and circled above as the FAA weighed safety concerns below.

Three hours later, we were finally underway. Sadly, my layover in Germany was only three hours. Adventures ensued, let’s just put it that way. However, between David’s international experience and savvy, and the kindness of all the strangers I met, asking for help, I am now here, a day later, and already loving the experience.

Today happened to be free for everyone, so I didn’t miss the first day of the dig (hooray!) and tonight’s lectures on the history and culture of Akko, and the do’s and don’ts of an archaeological excavation, have prepped us well.

For history buffs, here’s a short summary I found on the City of Akko’s official home page

“Akko (Acre) is a living city, which has existed continuously for about 4,000 years. Its beginning was in Tel Akko, more commonly known as Napoleon Hill. From the Hellenistic period onwards the city expanded west to the area that later became the Crusader and Ottoman city. The following historical review refers to the area known today as Old Akko and is based entirely on the “History of Akko” by Nathan Shore, unless noted otherwise.

“Hellenistic Period
From the times of Alexander the Great (333-332 BCE) Akko enjoyed the same status as the Phoenician cities Tyre and Sidon, maintaining a direct connection with the Greek government. The use of coins was common in Akko and the local mint operated for about 700 years, until the fourth century CE. Akko has the longest and richest numismatic history in Israel.

“From 310 BCE, under Ptolemaic rule, Akko apparently received the status of Polis and was called “Ptolemais”. The beaches of Akko appear in Greek sources of that period as a source for sand used in glass production. Akko reflects well the Hellenistic influence in Syria and Israel; as the largest coastal city in Israel at the time, Akko kept expanding in the peninsula area ideal for trading and gained strong political and economic status.

“Roman Period
During the Roman period Akko’s autonomous status as a Polis persisted. Many Jews settled in Akko in the beginning of this period and the city was connected to the history of the Jews in Israel throughout the Talmudic period. In the early Christian period the Apostles Paul and Peter also stayed in Akko. During this period a long breakwater was built to create a safe harbor, which was Akko’s main source of economic prosperity for about 1,000 years.

“Byzantine period
Starting in the fourth century CE, the Byzantine period marks the strengthening of the Greek influence in Akko. The Tel settlement was abandoned and the economy continued to be based on sea trade. Following the great Jewish revolt of 614 Akko was the first coastal city to be captured. The Jewish community that flourished in Akko was apparently destroyed and the city remained abandoned. 

“Early Arab period (638-1104) The beginning of the Arab period was marked by re-changing of the city name to Aka – its original name in the Arabic form. The elite class in the city were mostly Christians. Yet a continuous process of conversion led to a reinforcement of the Islamic ruling class.”

According to Judges 1:31, the tribe of Asher was given the land of Akko as part of its inheritance in the Lord. After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostle Paul passed through Akko, a major port city on the Haifa Bay, then as today, during his mission trips. (In Acts 21:7 Akko is called Ptolemais, the name it was given in 310 BCE.)

Akko became the gateway to the Holy Land for the Crusaders, where they expanded the peninsula, built the city we see today, and named it the Capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1291 Muslim armies destroyed Akko and drove the Crusaders out, leaving the city all but abandoned until the 18th century, when a Muslim Bedouin Sheik decided to move his capital to Akko, and rebuilt the original structures. Today, as you walk through old town, it looks just as it did a thousand years ago.

One of only six “mixed” cities in Israel, Akko has a robust blend of Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Jewish Israelis, and Baha’i–in fact, the old Ottoman prison in Akko is considered one of the Baha’i’s holy sites, as their founder was held captive there. Having been named a World Heritage Site in 2001, Akko is now beginning to grow as a tourist destination.

After our two intro lectures on the city of Akko, we got some important instructions on how to proceed at our excavation site. Here are just a few pointers, in case you find yourself on a dig, soon:

  1. “Bioturbation” the disturbance of sedimentary deposits by living organisms. We, evidently, have two kinds of moles, and plentiful populations of geckos, a variety of lizards (including “legless” lizards…Yes. They are not snakes. They are lizards without limbs. I know.) But yes, we also have snakes, including the Palestinian Viper. We also have bees, wasps, spiders, and…scorpions. Yikes.
  2. Everything is measured by the metric system.
  3. Beware of getting too excited when you unearth rocks seemingly all in a tidy row. Sometimes rocks just do that. It’s probably not an ancient wall.

Tomorrow we will remove the 5,000 sandbags left the end of last summer to protect the site. (Not kidding. Five. Thousand), and hopefully not disturb any “bioturbs”!

[Paintings of the Templars from the exhibition in the Templars Crusader Tunnel, an underground passageway in Akko by Erik Törner | Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)] 

Akko, Israel


(Commentary on Genesis 6-11 will begin after these posts on the Tel Akko July 2019 Total Archaeology Excavation. Today’s post was actually written June 29, 2019)

As you read these words, I’ll be flying from Dulles International Airport to Tel Aviv, Israel, with a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. Soon, I’ll be on a bus up to Akko, where I’ll sleep in a dorm, shared by two other students, eat delicious Mediterranean cuisine for every meal, drink strong and sweet Turkish coffee in the predawn mist every morning at 4:30am, and listen to one fascinating lecture after another in the setting sun, end of day.

In between I will be gently and meticulously brushing ancient clay from artifacts last touched by someone two thousand years ago or more. Later, I will sift wet sand and rocks to find small fragments of bone and pottery, the detritus of antiquity. Together with other students, we will rinse outer layers of dirt from the lips of amphorae, seeking inscriptions, engravings, perhaps the remnants of paint, or a faint thumbprint.

No doubt this 58-year-old body will fall aching and exhausted into bed each night, asleep before the lights are out, and groan as the alarm rings all too early the next morning. But inside, in my perennially 20-year-old heart and mind, I will be on fire with a five-alarm passion for discovery. “Wouldn’t it be grand,” my inner self thrills, “If I could read an ancient legend with my newly learned koine Greek!”

For the next four weeks, I’ll be joining the crew of the Tel Akko Excavation, led by

Ann E. Killebrew, Associate Professor in the Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Department, Jewish Studies program and Anthropology Department at Penn State University. She has been actively involved in fieldwork for the past 25 years and has excavated at many sites including Tel Akko, Megiddo, Qasrin, Beth Shean, Miqne-Ekron and Jericho.

Michal Artzy, Professor Emeritus and Director of the Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa. She is one of the leading researchers in coastal archaeology and the archaeology of trade in the eastern Mediterranean and has excavated at many sites around Carmel, Akko and the coast of Israel.

From Biblical Archaeology Society,

Located on the Mediterranean Sea at the only natural harbor in the region, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Acre/Akko is the focus of this unique and cutting-edge archaeological project and field school that combines excavation, survey, geographic information systems (GIS), conservation, heritage studies and public archaeology. Throughout its history, Akko has served as a major trade emporium. Bronze and Iron Age Akko appears prominently in ancient Egyptian, Ugaritic, Assyrian, Greek and Biblical documents. Excavations on Tel Akko, the 22 hectare mound located on the edge of the modern city of Akko, have uncovered remains of Canaanite, Sea Peoples, Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian and Greek culture.

The goals of the 2019 project are (1) to continue excavation of Akko’s Phoenician city, investigating the impact of Assyrian imperialism there, (2) to continue the intensive survey of Tel Akko, especially on the southwest side of the mound where the Bronze and Iron Age harbor of ancient Akko is proposed to have been located, and (3) to continue a unique program of community engagement that embeds the study of ancient Akko within the goals of the contemporary communities of the city.

For more information read the following articles from Biblical Archaeology Society and Biblical Archaeology Review

To keep updated, along with this daily blog, visit the Tel Akko website and Tel Akko Facebook Page

[My husband David and me at the Tel Kabri excavation a few summers ago]

The Book of Generations: Two Beginnings


“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus in Matthew 6:21

Yesterday, I asked myself in what ways does my life reflect my statement that nothing is more important to me than relationship with God, and passing that on to the next generation? How does the way I channel my resources, the way I prioritize my energy, and my focus, the way I live out my dailies, reflect this statement of my conviction?

And my next question to myself is how what I support reflects that truth? How much of my church’s budget, for example, a budget I regularly contribute to, is spent on a terrific worship service Sunday morning compared to developing, sustaining, and handing on depth and breadth of relationship with our Lord? Compared to caring for our community, and our earth? What concerns our church governing board the most—money? Numbers of people on a Sunday morning? The condition of the church campus, or online presence? Whether traditional music, or contemporary music is favorably represented? (By the way, I love my church, and I feel very thankful that every member of the church I am a part of has a say in all of these things.)

The main aim of the church is to be the Body of Christ, living as a vibrant community deeply abiding in the Lord, extending the love, grace, and joy of the community to the world around it. Caring for what God loves and cares for, the beautiful earth He created and continues to sustain by the power of His word. Caring for the beautiful people He lovingly creates, in His own image and likeness, and sustains daily by the power of His word. And to raising up a new generation of those who will call upon the name of the Lord in all these things.

God will not allow human evil to keep going indefinitely. God restrains it, but when evil reaches a certain limit, God judges it. This is the repeated story of history, and is the trajectory of humanity’s future. But what will that final judgement mean for all people? One clue is embedded in the following phrase, “This is the book of the generations of,” which occurs in only two places in Scripture. Here in Genesis it is, “This is the book of the generations of Adam.

The only other place it occurs is in the book of Matthew, “This is the book of the generations of Jesus Christ.” The most important factor in all the world, which determines humankind’s destiny, is not the contributions which people make to culture or civilization. Whether or not you have made a reputation for yourself is of little eternal consequence. The critical element for every person named in Genesis chapters 1-5 was this: did that person call on the name of the Lord?

The apostle Peter explained why this final judgment seems so slow in coming, now that Jesus has completed His earthly mission. “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends,” Peter wrote, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

All people have a choice. They can choose the way of Cain, or they can choose the way of Seth. One may lead to earthly grandeur, but the glory is hollow and has no lasting power in terms of eternity. The way of Seth may seem ordinary, unimpressive, without any particular note at all, really. But, in reality, it is the richest of lives, lived in the love and mercy of God, and it is a way that has no end.

[Tree of Life, BrokenSphere [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Love God With All Your Mind

“To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Romans 8:6

If there’s anything we get from Seth’s chapter, Genesis 5, it’s this: Nothing is more important than having a relationship with God and passing that on to the next generation. And that relationship is founded upon faith.

As soon as I wrote those words down, I remembered something I read that has deeply affected me ever since, from Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland. It’s about the five components of belief.

  1. Content of a belief – This is the most important part of belief. This is the actual components, the facts, the concepts. What you believe is going to define your world view, your whole life, the way you think, feel, talk, and act. Your paradigm.

The Bible itself gives us the content of our belief, as the apostle John wrote, “These are written so that you may believe.

  1. Strength of a belief – When a person says they believe something, that doesn’t mean they are certain it’s true, it just means they are at least more than 50 percent convinced the belief is true.

So, a belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you. It may start off as plausible, later become fairly likely, then quite likely, then beyond reasonable doubt, and finally, completely certain. The more certain you are of a belief, the more it becomes a part of your inner being and the more you rely on it to make decisions, and live your life.

For example, most people believe vegetables are good for the body, and processed sugar is bad for the body. But how strongly do you believe that? Probably you are, at some level, still tending your options. You probably still eat sugar from time to time, and eat fewer vegetables than best practices would suggest.

The apostle Paul talked about the strength of a belief when he described Abraham, by writing, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

  1. Centrality of a belief – The more central a belief is, the greater the impact it will have on your worldview, the way you see things. You can tell how central a belief is by trying to take it away. Think about a child discovering Santa isn’t real. That feeling of the world caving in, of instability, of questioning every other belief because this core belief has been proven untrue.

The centrality of a belief in Scripture can be seen in the full commitment of those who followed God throughout the Old and New Testament. In fact, the Shema states centrality of belief as “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

  1. Plausibility of a belief – How does a belief stand up in terms of what the culture considers plausible? The ‘culture’ could be the outside world, the family, the community, or even one’s internal world. If the belief is found to be plausible, it has a much better chance of being adopted.

In the Bible an example of plausibility swinging both ways can be seen in Esau and Jacob, who grew up in the same family, with the same parents. Esau was influenced by the culture around him, and Jacob was influenced by the culture of his father and mother.

  1. Change of a belief – How can you possibly believe something new? Something different? You have to open your mind, and open your hands. You have to start on a course of study with a mind of inquiry. Willingly place yourself in a position to undergo a change in the content, strength and centrality of the beliefs you already have. And you have to be willing to suspend what you currently believe, knowing you might let at least some of it go, in order to receive the new concept or data as more reliable, or worthy.

As I reflect on my own faith, I have to ask myself in what ways does my life reflect my statement that nothing is more important to me than relationship with God, and passing that on to the next generation? How does the way I channel my resources, the way I prioritize my energy, and my focus, the way I live out my dailies, reflect what I say is my conviction?

And how open am I to continuing to listen to God’s words with my mind and hands open, and to listen to the conversation of others who are deeply engaged with God and His words? Just now, my husband reminded me of Paul’s caution to believers, counseling them to not be like those who are tossed about by “every wind of doctrine.” It’s an art, isn’t, being strong and sure in faith, yet also flexible and humble in learning.

[The Shema, michel D’anastasio, Shema Israel, https://www.flickr.com/photos/maltin75/ | Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“His Death Shall Bring It”

Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Hebrews 11:2-3

Genesis chapter 5 contains a long list of interesting names, and each name holds meaning. In their day, a name meant more than simply a way to identify a person. A name said something about that person’s nature, and often held prophetic power in the course of their destiny.

Now, before we get started, let me just say I know. I know the long lives of these people, the stories surrounding them, the fact there’s dialogue and other crazy details, makes it kind of hard to believe, to take it all straight up. Here’s my philosophy on that: You lose nothing at all believing this straight up. If you approach the story as it was written, and look for the “Easter eggs” the author carefully tucked into its nooks and crannies, you’re going to get a lot out of it.

If you need to suspend reality, at least to read the story, so be it. The important part is not whether you can swallow supersized ages. The important part is what you understand from the story.

Here are a few lastingly significant names in this genealogy,

  • Methuselah: His name literally means, “His death shall bring it,” or loosely translated, “When he dies, it will come.” What will come? The Flood! Enoch seems to have had a revelation at the time of Methuselah’s birth concerning the destruction in God’s judgment to come, through a flood. While Methuselah lived, the flood would be held back.

You can imagine how fascinated people were with Methuselah’s comings and goings! Any time Methuselah had a cold, or injured himself, I imagine his family and friends immediately rallied to nurse him back to health. It’s no wonder he lived so long.

In fact, Methuselah lived much longer than any other person of his time, giving testimony to God’s long-suffering patience, holding back destruction till the last possible moment, when every person had been given a chance to repent and be saved.

But though God’s judgment was delayed, it was no less certain. It was inevitable; that day had already been marked down on the calendar. Assuming the chronology of Methusaleh’s life corresponds with Noah, then the very year Methuselah died, that’s the year the Flood came—you see, if you tot up the years from Lamech’s birth, to Noah’s birth, and Noah’s age when the Flood came, you get the same number as Methuselah’s age when he died.

Read that however way you will, I am convinced the author intended for us to see it. It happened exactly as God had predicted.[1]

  • Lamech: Another parallel between Cain’s and Seth’s genealogies is the presence of two Lamechs.

Cain’s Lamech, the son of Methushael, was a godless man who mocked God’s words and twisted them for his own ends.

Seth’s Lamech, the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah, was a godly man. His naming his son Noah revealed his understanding about the fall of humankind and God’s cursing of the ground. It also indicated his faith that God would deliver humankind from the curse. Godly Lamech believed and honored God’s words, he understood this deliverance would specifically come through the son God had given him. (Just pause a moment, and think about that “Easter egg.”)

  • Noah: His name meant “comfort,” which in turn means “to strengthen” or “fortify.” Noah would strengthen people in the Lord during a difficult time.

Each of these people were men of faith. They understood sin’s curse was at the root of all their painful toil and suffering. They looked forward in expectant hope to the redemption God had promised. They produced godly families through whom God’s purposes would continue. Scripture doesn’t say how many of their other sons and daughters were godly. But we do know that these were godly men and through them and their children a line would continue all the way to the last 8 believers on earth, Noah’s family. While the rest of humankind would be destroyed in the flood, the human race through Noah would be preserved.

Look at it like this:

CainSeth
invested himself in a city   and named it after his son invested himself in his son
sacrificed his sons to successmade his sons successes by   surrendering himself and them to God.

When I make that comparison, I have to ask myself what kind of heritage I’m giving to my own children, and to the next generation.

So, at first glance this chapter may have seemed a little bland after the drama of Genesis chapter 4, until we uncover one of the most fascinating aspects of this chapter in the meaning of the names listed. Look at the meaning unfold, it tells the story of how God will ultimately deal with evil. One commentary[2] I read put it all together this way:

The list begins with Seth, which means “Appointed.”

Enosh, his son, means “Mortal”

His son, Kenan, means “Sorrow”

His son Mahalalel, means “Praiseworthy God” – ‘halalel’ is the root for ‘Hallelujah’

He named his boy Jared which means “Came Down”

His boy, Enoch, means “Teaching”

Methuselah, as we saw, means “His Death Shall Bring”

Lamech means “Strength”

Noah means “Comfort”

Now put that all together:

God has Appointed that Mortal man shall Sorrow; but Praiseworthy God, Came Down, Teaching, that His Death Shall Bring, Strength and Comfort. Knowing how much the ancient writers loved this kind of layering, I am totally convinced they meant for us to see this rise up in the names of Seth’s ancient chronology.

[1] Compare Genesis 5:25 with verses 28-29 and Genesis 7:6

[2] Ray Stedman’s lectures on Genesis provided the core concepts and definitions for this post

[Tsunami, Lior Akunis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Walking Through Those Pearly Gates

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

Jesus in Matthew 10:32

Enoch told others about what was coming ahead: Jude gave some insight about this part of Enoch’s life, writing, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

I counted them too, the number of times some variation of “ungodly” showed up in that quote. I’m not sure how that’s all going to work out, the action of God’s judging which is to result in conviction.

In a court of law, conviction comes right before sentencing. But, it seems, in God’s courtroom conviction comes before the crossroad of commitment. “Sentencing,” if we want to call it that, seems to be sourced in the individual, not in God. And all this was terribly important, evidently, to Enoch.

Walking with God didn’t make Enoch withdraw from people. It made him reach out to them. In fact, everyone who walks with God has something extraordinary to share in what we know about God, and about God’s plan to rescue people from the penalty and power of sin.

I’ve noticed that when I am not walking that closely with God, I am inevitably accommodating myself to something that is alienating to God, something that is creating a barrier between me and Him, and ultimately between me and others, as well. When I start walking closer with God, I notice a deepening sense of the awfulness of that barrier, whatever it is I’ve been accommodating myself to. I also notice a deepening joy and gratitude for God’s mercy and grace, and a growing motivation to invite others to join me in this beautiful, life-giving communion.

Enoch walked past death and into eternal life with God: Enoch’s story is an illustration of what is still to come. There is a parallel here for you and me. Enoch was taken up to heaven before the Flood, God’s judgment on the utter depravity of that ancient civilization. There is still a day future to us when God will once again judge the world, and take His own to be with Him.

Jesus gave His word to His disciples, that He would come back to rescue believers from the coming wrath of God, and to bring them back with Him, to His “house with many mansions.” When the disciples saw Jesus going up into heaven, angels told them Jesus would come back in exactly the way they saw Him go, riding on the clouds.

According to the apostle Paul, this is going to be a very public event. Jesus will come down from heaven with a loud command. There will be the voice of an archangel, a deafeningly loud, terrifyingly loud, sound like a trumpet. The dead will rise from their graves, the living will rise up into the air, and all Jesus’ holy ones will meet Him in the clouds as He descends. At least, if you read what Paul wrote, that’s how it sounds! Every believer will have a new, spiritual body, just like Jesus’ body, translated from mortal to immortal.[1]

Because of his walk of faith with God, Enoch escaped God’s judgment. Walking with God meant being fully open and receptive to God, observing and living by God’s way and command, being changed by God, making regular offerings and sacrifices in service to God. In contrast, Cain walked out on God rather than surrender to God’s will, even though Cain believed in God and had initially wanted God’s approval.

The only notable thing Seth’s descendants accomplished was to believe in God, to know and call upon His name, to raise godly families, to walk with God and teach His word, and to stay true to God when their numbers were dwindling. Millennia later, as you consider between Seth and Cain, which family legacy has had the most impact on the world over time, up to this day?

I’m getting older now, definitely heading into old age, and I’ve begun to wonder what my life has counted for, so far. Some days, the way I see it, I haven’t left a dent. No worthy contributions to the earth, or to the world, no new wisdom, no inventions, no art to speak of, no legacy really at all.

Then, other days, I remember Seth, and Genesis chapter 5. I remember that when you live with the Lord, every year counts, every year is worth remembering. No year in any of Cain’s descendants was counted; for all their accomplishments, their years didn’t count. But for Seth’s line, though we don’t read about any accomplishments, each of their years was counted and recorded. God preserved His words and the heritage of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through one family, down through the ages, who had stayed in relationship with Him.

[1] There are several key passages which discuss these events, yet to unfold. Though Christians cover a wide spectrum of understanding concerning timing and details, all agree on Jesus’ magnificent return. See John 14:2-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 1 Corinthians 15

[Pearly Gates, Andrew Gustar, https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewgustar/ | Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

Enoch Walked By Faith

“Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”

James 2:18

Enoch walked by faith. The Bible talks about faith all throughout the old and new testaments, but the only definition it offers for faith is found in the book of Hebrews, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

The writer of Hebrews went on to illustrate what Enoch’s faith looked like by giving us a glimpse of what Enoch’s spiritual life was like, stating, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Enoch was close with God, continually aware of His presence, continually communing with God, meditating on His words, opening himself to God to be profoundly transformed by God’s word, God’s love, and God’s power. There was a surrender here, delighting to go where God directed. When God took a new course, Enoch had to change too, or the walk would be over — fighting or resisting God’s will ends the walk until you surrender, and then you can pick right back up where you left off.

Understanding what faith is becomes a crucial part of understanding what it means to put our faith in Jesus, today. So, what we can glean from scripture, is that faith is

  • The assurance of the things we hope for,
  • The proof of things we do not see, and
  • The conviction of their reality.

Faith is perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.

Does that sound like “blind” faith? It isn’t. Even though faith is based on what is physically unseen, it is not blind. Blind faith is believing something without any evidence or reason. The kind of faith the Bible talks about is a “seeing” faith, based on solid evidence provided through

  • God’s revelation in Scripture.
  • God’s revelation in nature and our lives.
  • God‑given power of reason.
  • Spiritual illumination given by the Holy Spirit.

Pistis is the Greek word that gets translated into both the English words “belief” and “faith.” If you were to put both meanings together into one sentence, then you might say that faith is belief in God and acting on that belief. It is necessary to stress the last part of that definition, though, because the kind of faith the Bible is the most concerned about is saving faith, and saving faith won’t save if the belief is only an intellectual assent to truth.

In his letter, James pointed out that demons have this kind of intellectual assent sort of belief, based on evidence and reason. But instead of being saved, they just tremble at the knowledge of Who God is.

We might say, from Cain’s life, that he certainly believed God existed, he believed God was God. He surely understood the story of creation, the stories his parents had told him of Eden. He had assuredly seen with his own eyes the seraphim with their flaming swords, guarding the gates of paradise. He had even made, albeit half-hearted, sacrifices to God. There was nothing missing in Cain’s belief system. So, what made Cain different than Seth?

That brings us to the even more foundational question: what are the elements of saving faith?

Content: Sincere belief in what is false is called being deceived. So knowing and believing the right things is pretty much essential. And, Adam and Eve presumably taught their offspring the truth about God,

Otherwise, how would all of these things have been passed down through the millennia until they were finally written? There is no question in my mind, however you understand the story of Adam and Eve (as metaphorical, symbolic, or actual) that we are meant to know with confidence that Adam and Eve’s original family knew all there was to know of God.

  • God’s covenant nature
  • The reliability and truthfulness of God’s word
  • God’s promise of a savior
  • The right approach to God
  • God’s mercy and faithfulness
  • The savor of God’s love

Consent: The apostle Paul, in his letter to the believers in Rome, explained the breakdown of belief in these earliest days of humankind, most notably in Cain’s legacy, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

A personal, loving acknowledgement of God, giving thanks to God, glorifying God, are the responses of faith. By thanking God for Seth, Adam and Eve modeled a warm, mature love for God.

Commitment: This is where acting on one’s beliefs comes in, the actual walk of faith. Seth and his descendants acted on their beliefs, as epitomized in Enoch. They walked with God, they called on God’s name.

[Church Graveyard, St Chad’s church at Middlesmoor, by FreeFoto.com]

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