Jordan – The Holy Land Museum

view of holy land from mount nebo jordan by Eva the dragon

“If you put a fence around Jordan, it would be the world’s largest museum,” the archaeologist told me.

Most Westerners visit the Holy Land by flying into Israel to see Jerusalem and, perhaps, Bethlehem.  Jerusalem is important, and Bethlehem is central for the Christians, but if you want to travel the Old Testament, then Jordan is the place to go.

national geographic human migration-990_32314_600x450

According to National Geographic’s Genographic Study, about 50,000 years ago, a large “second” migration out of Africa occurred. These became the first, large settlements in the Fertile Crescent.

Biblical map of Jordan king's highway petra

Modern Jordan is smack dab in the middle of recorded, human history.  Jericho, located on the other side of the Jordan River in occupied Palestine, is considered to be the oldest city on Earth.  But the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, inhabited by Bdouls, has been dated to the same era – 9000 BC.

From 9000 BC onward, Jordan houses remains from every era.

Copper Age (4500-3000 BC)

  • Copper mines are found at the Dana Reserve.

Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC)

  • Egypt’s influence is noted in pottery and jewelry.
  • Canaanites in the Jordan Valley were first mentioned in Genesis 9:22 when Noah cursed his son Ham, the father of Canaan.
  • Abram and his brother Lot, Genesis 11:21, split up.  In Genesis 13:10, Lot choose to move to Jordan to live among the wicked Sodomites.
  • 2300 BC Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed.  Lot and his daughters found a cave to live.  The cave is along the Dead Sea Highway (Highway 65), a bit south of the Dead Sea.

Iron Age (1200-330 BC)

  • Starting with Numbers 21:31, the Old Testament included stories about the three kingdoms of the dreaded poly-theists: the Edomites in the south, the Moabites and the Ammonites.  They occupied the eastern desert of Jordan.
  • These Old Testament tribes occupied Umm Al-Rasas, Theban, Ma’in and Arnon in Jordan.
  • It was the Edomites who blocked Moses and the Israelites.  To get north, they resorted to the mountains along a road which for millennia has been called the King’s Highway.  You can still drive the King’s Highway today.
  • When Moses finally made it north, Deutoromony 34:1 says Moses went to Mount Nebo in Jordan where God showed him the Promised Land.  At the foot of Mount Nebo is Moses’ spring where he is reputed to have opened a rock for his people.

850 BC Israelite Empire was defeated by the Moab king named Mesha.

  • Numbers 32:38 talks about King Mesha who lived in Ma’in, Jordan.
  • The Moabites worshiped Baal Maon which means God of Water and Asherah whom the ancient Sumerians called the Great Goddess.

333 BC Alexander the Great stormed through northern Jordan which became part of the largest empire ever seen.  After his death, Ptolemy I became the ruler and Greek became the common language.

  • During the time of Jesus the Christ, southern Jordan was controlled by the Nabataeans from their capital in Petra.
  • On top of Machaerus, aka Mukawir, is Herod Antipas’ castle.  Here is where Herod imprisoned then beheaded John the Baptist as Salome requested.
  • The Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba has a 6th century map depicting the entire Holy Land.
  • St. John the Baptist Church in Madaba is dedicated to Saint John and a running well dated to the Moabite era.

64 BC Rome conquered Syria.  The Romans began looking south towards the Nabataean capital, Petra, and its wealthy trade routes.

  • 106AD Emperor Trajan finally annexed the Nabataeans and renamed the province Arabia Petraea making Petra its capital.
  • The Roman city of Jerash, north of Amman, is the best preserved Roman city in the world – better even than Rome.

324 AD Byzantine Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official faith of the Roman Empire.

  • At Bethany on the Jordan, a church has been excavated marking the place where Jesus was baptized.
  • Old temples were transformed into Byzantine churches.  These original churches can be seen in Madaba, Umm ar-Rasas and Petra.

632 AD Prophet Mohammed’s death.  His followers began expanding north out of the Arabian desert.

  • 629 AD Islamists lost first battle against Byzantine army near Karak castle.
  • 636 AD Islamists won Battle of Yarmouk.  638 Jerusalem fell. 640 Syria was taken.  Islam became the dominate religion and Arabic replaced Greek as lingua franca.

661-750 AD Umayyad Dynasty.  During this time the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem were built.

  • Desert castles were built in Jordan: Qasayr Amra in 711AD and Qasr Kharana 710 AD.

700 AD the Holy Wars between the Christian and Islamic armies started. 1099 Christians took Jerusalem. 1187 Islamists took Jerusalem. 1517 Ottoman Turks took Jerusalem.

  • In Jordan, you can see the Qala’at ar-Rabad at Ajlun and the Crusader Castles at Karak, Petra and on the Pharaoh’s Island offshore of Aqaba.

WWI the Ottoman Turks and Germans fought against the Egyptian-based British in Jordan’s southern desert.

  • The Hejaz railway bombed by TE Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, and the Arab Revolt is still in existence.
  • In Wadi Rum’s desert, there is a house and a spring both attributed to “Lawrence”.
  • Further south, Lawrence stayed at both the Aqaba Fort and the Azraq Fort.

There was no way we could cover all of Jordan in five days and enjoy the trip.

the monastery by david roberts petra jordan

Instead we focused on the romance of TE Lawrence’s Arabia in Wadi Rum, the Rose-colored city Petra that David Roberts painted, and the easy to reach, high-points in Christian history – Mount Nebo, Bethany by the Jordan, the Dead Sea and Madaba.

ABOUT BOOKS ON JORDAN

Lonely Planet’s Jordan is the book I rely on and carry with me.

My friend Louise also found Jordan: Past and Present published by Vision Roma in Petra.  This is a super fun book which helps you envision the old ruins as they looked in the past.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 07:00:14

    Really enjoyed reading your article. x

    Reply

  2. winfredpeppinck
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 14:00:41

    We must swap stories – I wrote half a dozen about various locations – for we too loved Jordan, particularly the tranquility and the vastness of Wadi Rum, or being the first down the Siq when the gates open and seeing the sun burnish the Treasury. Mind you, the first time I saw it was hovering just above the Treasury in the King’s Puma helicopter and not having to smell the horse apples on the way down the Siq!

    Reply

    • Eva the Dragon
      Oct 10, 2013 @ 16:07:43

      It is such a lovely place and the people are so nice. Sounds like you got the royal treatment. Some of us had to manage to find the beauty without stepping on them apples.

      Reply

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