Sharing the Beauty of the Holy Land
Bringing you stories from the Holy Cities of the Bible, the places where Jesus walked, and the people who live there today.
Bible storiesHow Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is Observed in Israel: Traditions and Customs.Yom Kippur, referred to additionally as the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn and significant day in the Jewish calendar. A time for deep reflection, repentance, and seeking forgiveness for one's sins. In this blog post, we'll explore the meaning and traditions of Yom Kippur, its significance in Judaism, and how it's observed in the Holy Land, Israel. When is Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 27, and ends at sundown on Thursday, September 28. What is Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur falls on the seventh month in the Jewish calendar and marks the culmination of the Ten Days of Repentance that begin with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is the most significant day in the Jewish Calendar and is marked by fasting, prayer, and introspection, allowing individuals to engage in meaningful self-reflection and seek spiritual renewal. The Importance of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement): Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a day when Jews seek atonement and reconciliation with God. It is believed that God inscribes each individual's course for the coming year in the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the “Jewish high holidays” or “high holy days" and are a journey of introspection, self-examination, and the sincere quest for forgiveness. How is Yom Kippur celebrated? 1. Fasting and Prayer on Yom Kippur: One of the most well-known aspects of Yom Kippur is the 25-hour fast. This fast includes abstaining from food, drink, and other physical comforts. What is the purpose of the fast? Spiritual Focus: The fast serves as a means to redirect one's attention away from physical needs and desires and toward spiritual matters. Symbol of Repentance: Fasting is a tangible expression of sincere repentance and remorse for one's sins. Physical and Spiritual Detoxification: The fast serves as a form of purification, both physically and spiritually. Fasting on Yom Kippur serves a profound purpose with multiple dimensions. It stands as a powerful symbol of one's dedication to both physical and mental repentance, enabling an individual to create a sacred space for spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and divine reconciliation. 2. Reflection and Forgiveness: The essence of Yom Kippur is self-reflection and seeking forgiveness. Jews use this time to examine their actions over the past year, make amends with those they've wronged, and resolve to improve in the coming year. 3. Synagogue Services: Yom Kippur radiates with spiritual intensity as worshippers gather for a day of profound and intense synagogue services. On Yom Kippur, two central prayers hold profound significance for Jewish worshippers: Kol Nidre: This solemn and deeply meaningful prayer is recited during the evening service. It serves as a heartfelt plea for the annulment of vows and promises made to God, allowing individuals to approach the Day of Atonement with a clean slate and a spirit of repentance. Al Chet Confession: Following Kol Nidre, a full day of prayer unfolds, featuring the "Al Chet" confession. In this solemn act, a comprehensive list of sins is enumerated, and worshippers earnestly seek forgiveness, collectively embracing spiritual renewal and divine grace. These two prayers together reveal the heart of Yom Kippur, a day of profound transformation. Here, in the embrace of introspection, sincere repentance, and the quest for divine mercy, individuals are empowered to embark on a journey of spiritual renewal and personal growth. How is Yom Kippur celebrated in Israel? Yom Kippur in Israel is a special festival which is celebrated/respected by all levels of religiosity. Yom Kippur in Israel marks a unique pause in the rhythm of everyday life. On this day, the nation comes to a standstill, with businesses, restaurants, and recreational venues closing their doors. Transportation, including Ben Gurion Airport, grinds to a halt, and public roads, usually bustling, become remarkably empty. Additionally, Throughout Yom Kippur Day, when the highways are empty, it has become more and more common to see kids and their families take to the desolate roads to ride their bikes, scooters and skateboards on what would be some of the busiest roads in Israel. Meaningful Activities on Yom Kippur. As Yom Kippur holds a profound spiritual significance for Jews, Christian visitors in Israel on this sacred day use it as an opportunity for their own quiet reflection and spiritual contemplation by seeking out a serene and peaceful natural setting or by visiting one of Israel's many historic and religious sites, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the tranquil shores of the Sea of Galilee, or the sacred waters of the Jordan River. It's a moment to pause, reflect, and draw from the wellspring of spiritual energy that permeates the Holy Land on this extraordinary day. Yom Kippur transcends religious boundaries, offering a universal invitation to all who seek moments of inner peace, renewal, and connection with the divine. It's a day where anyone, regardless of their faith, can find solace and inspiration. For those who want a fully immersive experience of the Holy Land where Jesus walked, our Artza subscription box is designed to do just that. Delivered quarterly, each locally sourced Artza box is packed with up to eight stunning handcrafted gifts, local foods, spices, art, scripture, ceramics, and so much more - each carefully chosen from the local artisans and charities of that specific region - with the aim of bringing the Holy Land to life in the most meaningful and immersive way possible.
Bible storiesBiblical Significance of Jesus at the Mount of OlivesThe Mount of Olives was one of Jesus's favorite places to pray; however, it was so much more than that. We associate the Mount of Olives with Jesus due to how many events of importance occur here involving Him; it is known as the "place of suffering and glory of the Messiah.” We explore the powerful stories behind the Olivet discourse. The Mount of Olives Situated in Jerusalem, east of the Old City, and separated from the Eastern Hill by the Kidron Valley, the Mount of Olives encompasses three peaks (although it is more of a hill than a mountain). Also known as the Mount of Anointment (for the olive oil used in sacred anointing), it gives way to a beautiful garden of olive trees, known as the Garden of Gethsemane in the Bible. This is where Jesus and the disciples prayed the day before the crucifixion. It was one of His favorite places to pray, the place where He made several important prophecies, and the place where he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:11). Some Christians believe that this is where He will one day return for His second coming. These factors, along with other biblical events there, make the Mount of Olives a very special and unique place. Visiting This Sacred Location Today The mountain and the garden can be visited today; one can visit the memorial church Gethsemane and can even see trees that were around when Jesus walked here. Biblical Events That Occurred at the Mount of Olives Prophecies The Mount of Olives was a very significant place in terms of prophecies. The glorious entry that was prophesized in the Old Testament came true here (Psalm 118:22, 25-26, Daniel 9:25, Zechariah 9:9, 16, and Matthew 21)—He came down the mountain on Palm Sunday, while crying over the city’s future destruction (Luke 19:29-44). The Old Testament proclaimed that He would be betrayed here, as He was. Several other prophecies linked to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane in the Bible illustrate the sacred importance of this place. The Three Visits to the Mount of Olives During the week before the crucifixion, Jesus visited the Mount of Olives three times. Luke 19:28-39 tells us about the first visit; as he neared the Temple Mount, the Jewish crowds cried out: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! —Luke 19: 38 The Second Coming One of the most significant prophecies involving the Mount of Olives relates to the Second Coming. It was here that Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 24-25. As well as this, on His second visit, the disciples were able to talk to Jesus about the end of days, and Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-36 provide us with clear details, including a powerful image in which Jesus splits the Mount of Olives. Christ returned the last time to the Mount of Olives to pray on the day before his arrest. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweats blood: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Perhaps, a prophecy in itself. He was comforted there by an angel. The Mount of Olives as a Safe Place for Children “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. —Mark 10:13-16 King David and Jesus Events in the lives of King David and Jesus seemed somewhat of a mirror, and within this mirror, the Mount of Olives is inextricably intertwined. David traveled to the sacred mountain just as our Lord did and was betrayed by a friend (2 Samuel 15:31; Luke 22:47-48) who would later commit suicide by hanging himself (2 Samuel 17:23; Matthew 27:5). God's grace was evident in both events. The Mount of Olives Is a Beacon of Hope The mountain, with its enthralling garden, incredible views, and proximity to the Temple Mount, has always been a precious, holy, and important place where phenomenal events have occurred. The beautiful connections between Jesus and His disciples, His triumphant re-entry into Jerusalem, and Jesus' ascension have imbued this destination with the other-worldly wonder of God. The possibility of Jesus' Second Coming, back to this enthralling spot, can only fill us with hope; in the meantime, the solid and very tangible earth lies under our feet as a constant reminder of a glorious eternity with Him.
Bible storiesThe Miracles of the Sea of Galilee.Israel's largest freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee, serves as the country's primary source of water. Located in the Jordan Valley about 60 miles north of Jerusalem. Many of the miracles that Jesus performed were performed at the Sea of Galilee, one of the most significant locations in the Bible. “What Jesus did here in Cana Of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” John 2:11 The Sea of Galilee is a popular tourist destination with Christians. Visiting this site, you can walk the paths Jesus walked (John 6:19-21), calmed a storm (Matthew 8:23-26), showed the disciples miraculous catches of fish (Luke 5:1-8; John 21:1-6) and performed other additional miracles in the region of Galilee. Jesus may have specifically targeted this area to minister and perform miraculous healings (Matthew 9:2–8; Mark 3:1–6) because of the significant number of sick people who sought out the Sea of Galilee’s restorative climate and the medicinal springs of nearby Tiberias. In continuation with the theme of miracles performed in the Galilee region, Artza has partnered with a unique, small family business, Alma. Alma originates from the Spanish language and means 'soul' in English. Adi and Oren Levi, the founders of Alma handmake each natural care soap from within their warm home where they have an established workshop. Each soap is made with love, care and personal attention. The formation of Alma Soaps came about when their first-born daughter was born, Alma. When Alma was born, Adi searched the market for organic and all-natural cosmetic products she would feel safe using on her daughter. With no success in finding a natural soap that is organic and all-natural, Adi studied aromatherapy and set out to create all-natural and organic soaps. In celebration of partnering with Artza's Christmas Blessing Subscription Box, Alma created a special winter edition of their fabulous ‘body butter’. It contains olive oil that was derived from the olive trees in their backyard, and many other rich and fine blends of essential oils and butters. The mixture of fine Galilee olive trees oil, combined with the scent of Mediterranean lavender will give you a sneak peek at the healing power of the promised land. Subscribing to or giving an Artza Subscription Box brings pieces of the Holy Land to your home and supports Israeli artisans. Each Artza Box is carefully curated and comes packed with faith-inspired goodies. Your recipient will regularly receive the gift box, and each time they'll be surprised with new delightful items, designed to provide education, delight, and nourishment for the mind, body and soul.
Bible storiesJesus’ Resurrection of Lazarus: The Biblical Significance of BethanyThe village of Bethany lies on the eastern slopes of the holy Mount of Olives, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem within the Judea region of ancient Israel. The distance from Bethany to Jerusalem is just under two miles and is a "Sabbath day’s journey" (Acts 1:12) from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. Why Did Jesus Resurrect Lazarus of Bethany? The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany in the Bible occurs in John 11:1-45. Jesus had previously visited the siblings, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha of Bethany, as His good friends. When Lazarus of Bethany fell gravely ill, Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus. He did not rush; instead, He waited two days before traveling to Bethany and said this: “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4). The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany is a miracle of Jesus, retold in the Gospel of John in the New Testament (John 11:1–44). Jesus raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead four days after he was laid to rest in a tomb. The miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus would help the disciples know that Jesus was the Savior. What It Teaches Us The story of the resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany holds many valuable lessons. The Bible story of Lazarus is the fifth “I Am” statement in John’s gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). When Jesus was outside the tomb, he said, "Lazarus, come forth!" and Lazarus was resurrected. In doing this, Jesus showed he was the resurrection and the life (John 11:43). “Because He lives, we live. Because He is Life, we have life eternally" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Jesus chose Lazarus to demonstrate His power, foreshadowing His own resurrection at Easter. Who Was Lazarus? Lazarus was a friend to Jesus and a brother to Mary and Martha. The Bible says Lazarus was the one for whom Jesus wept (John 11:35). Jesus, even knowing the good outcome, wept for his friend before raising him from the dead. Why Else Was Bethany Important to Jesus? Bethany is referenced frequently in the New Testament and was the setting for many events in Jesus' life. The town is best known as the hometown of Jesus’ good friends Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Bethany was a favorite place of rest and refuge for Jesus. He stayed there for Holy Week before He was crucified and led His followers back there after His resurrection. It's also where He ascended to heaven. Other Important Biblical Events in Bethany Jesus visits Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) According to Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visited Mary and Martha's home. Martha complained that her sister Mary, who was sitting at Christ’s feet, had left all the work to her. Jesus Christ replied: “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her”. The anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-8) At dinner in the house of Simon the Leper a week before the crucifixion, Mary poured perfume over Christ’s feet and wiped them with her hair – an act he saw as the anointing of his body for burial (John 12:1-8). “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). What Does Bethany Mean Spiritually? In the Gospel of Luke, Bethany is spiritually significant as the place near which Jesus Christ ascended back to heaven. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples final instructions at the Mount of Olives before He left the earth (Luke 24:50–51). Where Is Modern Day Bethany? Situated on the West Bank, Bethany is cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation wall. Today, it is in a Palestinian enclave. The modern day name for Bethany is Eizariya, or Al-ʿAyzariyyah in Arabic (derived from the name Lazarus). It is home to the Tomb of Lazarus and is an important place of pilgrimage. According to the Book of Zechariah, Bethany has an exciting prophesied future. The ancient town of Bethany will be the scene of a world-changing event: “the glorious return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:11–16). Did You Know? In 1973, a group of congregants at a church in Bethany heard the voices of angels chime in at the end of their worship song. Here is the recording.
Bible storiesBiblical Significance of Joppa (Jaffa)Joppa is mentioned in both the old and the new testament and is one of the oldest cities in the world. Boasting an incredibly strategic location at several crossroads for Israel and an excellent port, it was also a vital city in ancient history. Today, the precious events recounted in the Bible are still celebrated here, along with a new vibrancy. Where Is Joppa? Set roughly 30 miles south of Caesarea and 40 miles northwest of Jerusalem, Jaffa is also encompassed by the city of Tel Aviv. Jutting out over the Mediterranean and forming a small harbor, the city was an important port for hundreds of years. Biblical Events That Involve Joppa Jonah and the Whale God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh (in Syria) to spread His word to the Jewish people. Jonah didn't like this idea, as he felt the Jewish people were undeserving. So he made his way towards the port of Joppa instead—so that he could flee in the opposite direction towards the distant city of Tarshish (now part of Spain). This is where the famous whale comes in. After being thrown overboard, Jonah was swallowed by the mighty creature and then deposited on the coast nearer to Niniveh. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. —Jonah 1:3 The Distance Between Joppa and Nineveh The distance from Joppa to Niniveh as the crow flies is 550 miles. Instead of taking this journey, Jonah was planning to travel roughly 2500 miles to Tarshish—he was really trying to escape God's order! Simon the Tanner and Apostle Peter’s Vision Peter the apostle stayed in the house of Simon the Tanner, “by the sea” (Acts 10:6), and while taking a break on the rooftop, he had a vision of animals being lowered from the sky with a sheet, and clear instruction from God: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. —Acts10:9-18 This was part of the message that he must evangelize Jewish people. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles —Acts 10:45 Tabitha or Dorcas in Joppa in the Bible Tabitha (known as Dorcas in Greek) was a disciple who had a powerful impact with her good work in the name of the Lord (learn more about her in Acts 9:36-43). She was brought back to life by Peter in Simon's house. The City Opposite the Hebrew Tribe of Dan Joppa was located opposite the territory given to the Hebrew Tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:46) as a border. The Tribe of Dan, one of the ancient Israeli "12 tribes", eventually became the Jewish people. King David and King Solomon Conquered Jaffa It also played an important role for King David and King Solomon (his son). The port brought in the cedars from Tyre needed to build the First Temple. What Is Joppa Like Today? Joppa is now called "Jaffa" (also "Japho," "Yafo in Hebrew," and "Yafa" in Arabic) and is a diverse city home to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. For Christians, the exquisite Franciscan Roman-Catholic basilica St. Peter’s Church, dating from the 17th century, is a must-see, along with the special places mentioned in the Bible (such as Simon the Tanner's House), which can be seen as part of guided tours. Often nicknamed "Tel Aviv's coolest neighborhood," the area captivates visitors with its mix of old and new and is now a major cultural and economic center. Besides the atmospheric port itself (perfect for boat tours, sundowners, or a lazy breakfast while you watch the catch being brought in), a wealth of attractions provide days of exploring. Make sure to spend an afternoon in the gorgeous HaPisgah Gardens, which features a wishing bridge providing some spectacular views over the city. Soak in some of the local cultures and practice your haggling skills at the bustling market (where you'll find anything and everything), or take a culinary journey through the ever-growing number of cafés, bars, and restaurants. Art and music lovers can look forward to an impressive plethora of galleries, venues, and live performance events.
Bible storiesThe Journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to BethlehemThe story of the birth of Christ is significant to Christians as this is where the story of Christmas begins, but what about the events leading up to His birth? The circumstances surrounding the time is not as widely known as the nativity story. Mary and Joseph had to travel far and under dangerous conditions to get from their home in Nazareth to the childhood home of Joseph in Bethlehem. Once they arrived in Bethlehem, they faced further challenges. Let's take a deeper look at their journey, including why they went to Bethlehem, how they got there, and the events which transpired at the time of their arrival. Why Did Mary and Joseph Go to Bethlehem? Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to participate in a census ordered by Caesar Augustus. This was ultimately so that everyone could be accounted for and pay taxes. And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. " - Luke 2:2 (NKJV). Everyone was to be registered in their own city, so Mary and Joseph had to return to Joseph's home city - Bethlehem in Judea. Bethlehem at the time was called David's city, and Joseph was of descent of David. Let us remember that all things happen the way they do as it is God's will. While Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census, there was a very particular reason that the decree was given when Mary was as close to childbirth as she was. A prophecy given in Micah 5:2-3 speaks of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” It is a powerful passage in our Gospel, as it states clearly where the one true Messiah will be born. It refers to Jesus and confirms the reason for Caesar Augustus issuing the census so close to the birth of Christ. How Did Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem? We all know the traditional story of how Mary rode on a donkey while Joseph walked. However, this is down to speculation. Neither the Bible passage that accounts for their journey nor any documentation mentions the infamous donkey. The donkeys included in the Nativity Scene are presumed to be those residing in the manger Mary and Joseph arrived at, not any brought along from their journey. The speculation does not come without reason, however, as the trip was far uphill, and Mary was heavily pregnant at the time and may very well have required assistance. While the assumption is not entirely far-fetched, it is essential to note that it is merely speculation. What Route Did Mary and Joseph Take? Luke 2:4 (NKJV) states that Joseph went up from Galilee into Judea. This is because the city of Bethlehem is elevated at about 2543 feet above sea level (1493 feet higher than Nazareth). Bethlehem is also located in the Judean Mountains, making for rugged terrain during their journey. They had to navigate foothills in Jerusalem on their way, meaning they had to maneuver up and downhill throughout their journey. Mary and Joseph also took their journey during the beginning of winter, which meant they likely experienced rainfall along the way. To combat the elements, Mary and Joseph probably wore thick coats over their clothes, which added to the load they had to bear. In addition to these obstacles, they would have had to be careful of thieves along the road and dangerous animals in the surrounding woods. While the exact time their journey would have taken is unknown, educated guesses place the number somewhere between four days and a week. Arrival in Bethlehem The relief of arriving at their destination as the city of Bethlehem was short-lived, as it was soon discovered that there was nowhere for the couple to stay. The town was filled with individuals who had come to be registered much as Mary and Joseph had. They made do with what was available and set up in the manger, where Mary immediately went into labor and gave birth to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke2:7 (NKJV). Their stay in Bethlehem was short-lived, however, due to King Herod's fear of the promised power of Jesus. An angel in the night warned Joseph to leave Bethlehem, and so he took Mary and Jesus and did precisely that. Joseph and Mary's flight to Egypt would start a series of important events in the life of Jesus Christ.
Bible storiesThe Ten Plagues of Egypt in the BibleThe book of Exodus in the Old Testament tells of 10 plagues that ravished the Egyptian people. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact year that these occurred, but it is speculated that they happened between 1570 and 1440 BC. The 10 Plagues of Egypt, in order: 1. Blood 2. Frogs 3. Lice or Gnats 4. Flies 5. Death of Livestock 6. Boils 7. Hail 8. Locusts 9. Darkness 10. Death of Firstborns There are two main reasons why God sent the plagues to Egypt. The first is that the Pharaoh of Egypt refused to let the enslaved Israelites go after over 400 years of slavery. God not only wanted to display His strength to the Pharaoh and intimidate him into freeing the slaves, but also as a sign of reassurance to Israelites that their God was the absolute god. The second was because the Egyptians did not follow God Himself, but instead worshipped gods and goddesses of the land, sky, and sea. The Lord wanted to prove to the Egyptians that he was the only God worth serving. What Happened During Each of the Ten Biblical Plagues God sent Moses and Aaron as his envoys, to carry out the plagues in his name. Every time a plague happened, Moses and Aaron relayed the message that the Pharaoh needed to let God's people go, and every time the Pharaoh refused another plague ensued. The Pharaoh had hired magicians to recreate the plagues that God sent down. Each time the magicians use magic and trickery to mimic the plagues it solidified the Pharaoh's belief that God was powerless, and he refused to let God's people go. With every refusal, God sent Moses and Aaron back with another plague, and so the 10 curses of Egypt occurred. The First Plague: Blood With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. Exodus 7:17 The first plague was that of turning the Nile river into blood. This was done so that the Egyptians could not drink the water nor eat the fish as they all died and began to rot. The Second Plague: Frogs If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. Exodus 8:2 One week after the Nile had been turned into blood the Lord demanded the release of his people. Once more the Pharaoh refused, causing an infestation of frogs to cover the land. The Pharaoh told Moses that if God removed these frogs his people would be free to worship him. Once removed, however, the Pharaoh refused to uphold his end of the deal. The Third Plague: Lice or Gnats All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. Exodus 8:17 After being refused again, the Lord instructed Aaron to turn all of the dust in Egypt into gnats (or in some recollections, lice). Even the Pharaoh's magicians could not replicate this, instead, naming it the work of the hand of God. The Pharoah, however, refused to listen. The Fourth Plague: Flies If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. Exodus 8:21 The Lord sent flies to cover all of Egypt, except for the land of Goshen. Goshen was given to the Israelites by the Pharaoh. The Lord did not want the worst of the plagues of Egypt to affect the Israelites, and so while the whole of Egypt was teeming with flies, the land of Goshen saw none. The Fifth Plague: Death of Livestock ...the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats. Exodus 9:3 A similar instance occurred to that of the plague of flies, with all of the livestock of the Egyptians dying in the fields, but those of the Israelites being untouched. Even when the Pharaoh discovered that the Israelites' livestock had been spared, he stood fast and refused to release them. The Sixth Plague: Boils ...festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land. Exodus 9:9 A plague of boils broke out upon all of the Egyptian people, and their livestock too. The magicians could not even attempt to recreate this with magic, as their boils were so painful that they couldn't stand. But again, the Pharaoh was resolute. The Seventh Plague: Hail ...I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Exodus 9:18 The Lord warned the people of Egypt to bring any of their livestock that had survived the plagues before to shelter, as he would release a hail storm like none that Egypt had ever seen before. A great many did not listen to this warning, and sure enough, the following day a tremendous storm of hail and lightning was seen on all of Egypt, except for the land of Goshen. The Eighth Plague: Locusts If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. Exodus 10:4 At this point, even the Pharaoh's advisors and magicians were advocating for the release of the Israelites, but the Pharaoh stood fast. This caused a plague of locusts to envelop all of Egypt, laying waste to any crops that survived the previous plagues. The Ninth Plague: Darkness Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt Exodus 10:21 For three days in Egypt, there was a darkness that enveloped all of Egypt. The Egyptians could not leave their homes and had to feel their way around. The homes of every Israelite, however, had light. The Tenth Plague: Death of Firstborn This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die Exodus 11:4-5 The tenth and final plague was the one that broke the Pharaoh's resolve. Every firstborn son of every household, including livestock, would die when the Lord sent the angel of death over their houses. The Israelites were spared only if they carried out an act of service to prove their faith. Every family had to sacrifice a lamb to God and mark their door with its blood in order for the angel of death to pass over their homes and spare them. Relevance of the 10 Plagues Today The final plague, and ultimately the reason that the Israelites were set free, is why we have the holiday of Passover today. It teaches us that it is not enough to be Christian only in name. As the Israelites had to sacrifice a lamb to God, so we as Christians have to proclaim our faith to receive favor from the Lord.
Bible storiesWho Were the Three Wise Men in the Nativity Scene?The well-known story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem only scratches the surface of larger meaning in which the mysterious three wise men play an important role. Different cultures have referred to them as wise men, kings, magi, and much more. The facts about the magi from the East are intriguing, and this article delves into the details we know about the identities and stories surrounding them. Where Did the Three Wise Men Come From? Each of the kings came from different places with different cultures, and they all brought unique gifts for Baby Jesus. The magi are mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12, and it is unclear how many of them there were, but tradition maintains that the names of three of these men are Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Balthasar Balthasar, typically depicted with a purple cloak, was the ruler of Tarsus/Macedonia and Egypt. His gift to Baby Jesus was Myrrh, a fragrant resin commonly used in perfumes. Melchoir Melchoir, adorned in gold, was the Ruler of Arabia. Like his garb, he gifted Baby Jesus with Gold. Gaspar Also known as Caspar, Gaspar, dressed in jeweled green clothing, was the King of Sheba. He presented Baby Jesus with the gift of Frankincense, another aromatic resin used in perfumes. What Does the Bible Say About the Three Wise Men? After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ (Matthew 2:1-2) The exact number of wise men varies culturally. Scholars are thought to have arrived at the number of three because of the three gifts that were mentioned. However, in Eastern traditions, it is believed that as many as twelve wise men came to Bethlehem to meet Jesus. The same disparity is evident in their exact arrival. In many traditions, it is believed that the wise men from the East visited around 12 days after Jesus' birth. Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day, is one of the oldest celebrations in Christian history (think of The Twelve Days of Christmas). A more accurate time for their arrival, however, may have been up to two years later. They had far to travel, and their modes of transportation were animals. Melchior came on horseback, Caspar by camel, and Balthazar rode in on an elephant. This could also connect to King Herod's order of all infants two years or younger to be killed. Are the Three Wise Men the Three Fools? A typical take is that the magi were wise because they were astrologers or priests. However, royal courts during these times often viewed magi as servants. The wise men in the bible were not necessarily wise, and it was not their wealth that enabled them to visit Jesus. It was of their own volition that they sought Him out, and that is what made them wise. Is It True That There Was a Fourth Wise Man? A fourth magus made an appearance in texts between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, joining three European men. There are also numerous artworks depicting the magi as feminine. Like other factors, this point is unclear and varies from culture to culture. How Much of the Christmas Story Is True? The only places that discuss the details of Jesus's birth are Matthew 2 and Luke 2, which makes it difficult to draw a definitive answer. Typical nativity scenes and short stories of the birth of Jesus show three wise men at a stable. However, Matthew 2:11 states that they found Mary and Jesus staying in a house, and this would most likely be much later after His birth. Furthermore, early biblical descriptions tell of how Jesus was born in a cave, moved to a stable, and then to a house, where the three magi would have eventually visited. Three Men Celebrate the Birth of Hope The nativity story allows us to connect with the birth of Jesus in a beautiful way, no matter its details. But the more complex and untold stories of the Three Wise Men show us that it is not the local royalty or well-read elders who had the honor of meeting Jesus first, but outsiders in a foreign land, seeking meaning and showing humility in the face of the divine. Despite the cultural differences between local versions of the story, they all resonate with the same theme of hope.
Bible storiesThe Significance of Ezekiel and the Cherubim in the BibleEzekiel is one of the prophetic books in the Bible. The Prophet Ezekiel has six visions in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. In one of these visions, he sees a mystical chariot and the throne of God, held by "four living creatures" identified as cherubim. But what were Ezekiel's visions, and what do the Cherubim represent? Who was Ezekiel in the Bible? Little is known about the historical background of Ezekiel. He was the son of the priest, Buzi. Ezekiel was one of the Jews exiled from Israel to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the First Holy Temple in 593BC. In exile, Ezekiel lived with his wife on the banks of the Chebar River, in Tel Abib, which is believed to be in modern-day Iraq. It was here, by the River Chebar (Kebar) that Ezekiel was called to be a prophet at the age of 30, five years after going into captivity. Ezekiel's message was specifically for the exiled Jews. He gave them a message of hope for the rehabilitation of Jerusalem and Judea. His message was a promise for the future and the restoration of their nation. Ezekiel foresaw that all Jews would return to Israel from the Diaspora and that a new covenant would be made between them and God. His visions also reinforce the power of God and His sovereignty over all nations. The purpose of Ezekiel's ministry was to first denounce the sins of his people, and second to bring them comfort and hope. He told them why they were exiled, and how they could reconnect with God. What Are the Cherubim According to the Bible? Cherubim are God's throne bearers and His attendants, and appear over 90 times in the Bible verses. In Hebrew, Cherubim means a celestial winged being who represents God's spirit on Earth and symbolizes the worship of God. In Ezekiel, cherubim are described as angelic creatures, with two sets of wings and four faces (lion, ox, human, and eagle). The four faces of the cherubim represent the four domains of God's rule. The lion represents wild animals; man represents humanity; the ox represents domestic animals, and the eagle represents birds. In Revelations 4:6-8, cherubim appear in John's vision as having the same faces but in a different order, and having six wings instead of four. The cherubim are God's throne bearers, but they also form another function of guarding God's spirituality and continually praising God. What Are the Six Visions of Ezekiel? God uses Ezekiel's six visions to teach us important lessons: The Vision of God (The Vision of the Throne-Chariot and Living Creatures). A storm blows in with a cloud containing God's chariot held up by four living creatures (cherubim). Ezekiel’s vision of the cherubim shows them supporting the throne alongside four mystical wheels. Experts have offered several interpretations of this first vision. The significance of the cherubim in Ezekiel's vision is to show that God has not abandoned his people and still rules over all domains. The Vision of the Scroll (2:9-3:3). Ezekiel sees a hand stretched out towards him holding an open scroll with writing inside and out and instructs Ezekiel to eat it. This symbolizes Ezekiel internalizing God's message and being commissioned to take God's message to the people. The Vision of the Plain (3:22-23). God tells Ezekiel to go out into the fields where God could be seen in all his glory. It was so overwhelming that Ezekiel fell on his face. The Vision of Jerusalem. Ezekiel sees Jerusalem in several stages including the wickedness in the Temple (8:1-18); the killing of the city's inhabitants (9:1-11); the burning of Jerusalem(10:1-22), and the departure of God (11:1-25). With this vision, Ezekiel is foreseeing what will happen to Jerusalem. The Vision of Dry Bones (37:1-10). Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones representing the people who have lost faith and hope. God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones and tell them God would breathe life into them. The Vision of the New Temple (40:1-48:35). God wants the people to rebuild the Holy Temple, that has been destroyed by the Babylonians. He wants it built according to a particular plan which is revealed in Ezekiel's vision. How Did Ezekiel Die? Ezekiel died a martyr when he was killed for reprimanding leaders of the exiled Jews for idol worship. The Bible does not specify the way he was killed. It is believed that he died at age 51 in approximately 570BC and was buried at a tomb in Al Kifl, Iraq. For a full understanding of the spiritual meaning of Ezekiel, join an Ezekiel Bible study and read a book of Ezekiel summary.