Putting the Solomonic Era ‘On the Map’

Putting the Solomonic Era ‘On the Map’

Ryan Friesen

Student volunteers from Herbert W. Armstrong College begin work on the second phase of Eilat Mazar’s Ophel Excavation.

Seventeen Herbert W. Armstrong College students and Trumpet staff members recently joined my family in Jerusalem to volunteer on an archaeological excavation at the Ophel, under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. The excavation, located at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, is the site of a monumental royal complex that has been dated to the time of King Solomon.

Dr. Benjamin Mazar, Eilat’s grandfather, pioneered the excavations at this location beginning in 1968. For 10 years thereafter, our predecessor Herbert W. Armstrong supplied financial support and Ambassador College student volunteers to help with Benjamin Mazar’s excavations.

Following history backwards, Professor Mazar and his crew dug every summer for 10 years before they reached a wall dating to the first temple period. The ruins were so well preserved that some parts of the wall stood 5 to 6 meters high.

Picking up where her grandfather left off, Eilat Mazar began a small excavation in 1986 that concentrated primarily on the first temple area of the dig. Her excavation fully revealed a large stone gateway complex, 45 by 54 feet, constructed sometime before the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in the sixth century b.c. Also attached to the gate was a short section of the city wall of Jerusalem, built by Solomon.

Announcing the news at a press conference in 1986, Mazar said the gateway complex was probably one of 12 gates mentioned in the biblical record. The Associated Press quoted Benjamin Mazar, who attended the briefing with his granddaughter: “Now we have more or less the feeling that this is really a gate of Jerusalem from the period of the kings of Judah” (April 21, 1986).

In 2009, Eilat Mazar reopened the Ophel Excavation and Armstrong College quickly agreed to send student volunteers. During that season, more fascinating details emerged about the first temple period. Inside the royal structure, Mazar discovered two floors, one layered on top of the other. Using pottery and other finds, she was able to determine the upper surface was a renovated floor that had been installed during the eighth century. The bottom floor and the walls of the structure had been constructed during the tenth century b.c.

“Solomonic time,” Dr. Mazar was quoted as saying, “is very much on the map now.”

Standing next to Solomon’s wall, you can’t help but think about the massive size of the ancient Israelite kingdom that constructed these edifices. Biblical minimalists like to relegate David and Solomon to puny chieftains of an obscure tribe, but these are obviously not the buildings of wandering nomads.

This wall and other archeological finds from the first temple period provide tangible evidence of an impressive and sophisticated kingdom, just as the Bible describes.

Early on in David’s reign as king, somewhere around the late 11th century b.c., David captured the city of Jerusalem and established it as the nation’s capital (2 Samuel 5:1-9). After this, David “went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him” (verse 10).

When David died, the throne of Israel was passed to his son Solomon. Under Solomon, the kingdom of Israel emerged as the most dominant kingdom in the region. We are given a glimpse of Israel under King Solomon in 1 Kings 4. Notice verse 20: “Judah and Israel were many, like the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.”

The Bible says Solomon’s reach extended all the way to the Euphrates in the northeast, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west and to the border of Egypt in the south (verse 21). Israel in the 10th century was a far-reaching, fabulously wealthy kingdom.

The Bible also says that Solomon was world-famous, known throughout the inhabited world—not for his power and wealth alone, but for his God-given wisdom and understanding (verse 30).

Here again, this was not some petty king or a simpleton ruling over an obscure tribe. He was a powerful, wealthy, world-famous king ruling over a large, affluent and stable kingdom. And the stones Dr. Mazar is uncovering at the Ophel and City of David excavations are beginning to confirm what the Bible recorded thousands of years ago.

Like David, Solomon expanded, fortified and beautified Jerusalem. He spent 13 years constructing his own magnificent palace in Jerusalem. In addition to his palace, he built the outstanding “house of the forest of Lebanon,” a facility laden with gold, silver and other precious materials. In addition to these two gigantic structures, we read in 1 Kings 9:15 that Solomon fortified the city by strengthening the Millo, and building a wall around Jerusalem.

“The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence,” Dr. Mazar told theTrumpet.com last year. She went on to explain that we now have scientific evidence of a fortification line that is described in the Bible.

“People believe, in their ways, that which is written in the Bible,” Mazar said after the first phase of the Ophel Excavation was completed. “But they have no idea that sometimes, lots of it, can really be seen. And can be touched.”

The second phase of the Ophel Excavation started this week and continues from where the last season left off. It will encompass an area that is approximately twice as large as the first phase.

Given this expansion, Dr. Mazar is very happy to have much better facilities on site this time around—including spacious offices inside a Byzantine monastery and a wet sifting station adjacent to the excavation.

This season, Dr. Mazar has also granted our television crew unprecedented access to her excavation as it unfolds. Every week, Armstrong College students, alumni and faculty will be producing a video update about the excavation and posting it on the new website “The Key to David’s City.”

All of these upgrades will dramatically improve the turnaround time for processing and publicizing her finds. And how significant will these findings be?

“We are in the very core of the Ophel—the most important part,” Dr. Mazar said during a staff meeting on August 12. The potential, she said, is fantastic—and we should expect to find royal construction.

Deal or No Deal?—Russia Suspends Naval Base in Syria

Deal or No Deal?—Russia Suspends Naval Base in Syria

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Russia has suspended the use of its only warm-water naval base in Tartus, on the Syrian coast. Moscow has maintained that it will continue to support Syrian President Bashar Assad on a political level, but the naval withdrawal has sent a clear message that Russia will not go so far as to support the regime with military force.

“Our naval base in Tartus will not support a military option. We cannot physically act militarily against countries supporting the Syrian opposition,” a Russian Defense Ministry source told the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The message comes at a bad time for President Assad’s Alawite regime, when the West has begun to actively support the opposition.

Russia has gone to lengths to shore up its relationships with Syria and Iran over the last few years, but with the recent suspension of the Tartus naval base, Russia may be making a clear change in foreign policy. Earlier this month in an interview with Courcy’s Intelligence Report, former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov confirmed that Russia would continue to support Syria and President Assad. But he also indicated that such support might have its limits, calling the current stance “not necessarily a winning position.” Assad’s situation has since deteriorated further.

It appears that a deal over the future of Syria is in the process of being cut between Russia and the West.

German-Foreign-Policy.com released a report on Wednesday stating that Germany has constructed a plan of action concerning the situation in Syria. The plan includes a concept for a new ruling order to replace Assad.

Germany’s intervention in the Syrian situation is interesting. It clashes with its overt hands-off approach toward other Arab Spring uprisings in Libya and Egypt. Why the sudden change?

In his Trumpet column on April 19, Brad Macdonald stated, “One of Germany’s primary aims in the Middle East is to develop an axis with Middle Eastern states that opposes Iran.” That is the reason for Germany building its relationships with nations like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Syria is perhaps Iran’s greatest ally, but the Syrian civil war has a chance to change that. Along with other Western nations, Germany is stepping up its influence over Syria to gain another fulcrum against Iran. This is why Germany has made a stronger move in Syria—and why Russia appears to be reacting.

The Bible predicts that Syria will eventually leave its alliance with Iran—and form a confederacy with other anti-Iranian nations, including Germany. This forecast was made thousands of years ago in an extraordinary prophecy found in Psalm 83.

For the time being, Russia seems content to step back—but don’t let that fool you. Read editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s article “Russia’s Attack Signals Dangerous New Era,” which reveals why Russia may be abandoning Syria.

Drought Hammers U.S. Food Production

The United States is experiencing its worst drought since 1956, with 55 percent of the country being affected by the lack of rain. Not only are corn and soybean yields down, but the crops that are harvested are suffering from poor quality.

Meanwhile, as poor grain production has caused feed prices to climb, ranchers are being forced to cull their herds. The breeding stock of beef cattle in the U.S. has now been reduced to fewer than 98 million, the lowest number in four decades.

In a bid to help farmers by raising the price of meat, the federal government has ordered the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense to spend millions purchasing beef, pork, chicken and even catfish. The side effect, however, is that the rest of the nation will also experience an increase in food prices.

Ironically, due to government subsidies, many farms will make more money plowing their crops under than they would have in a normal harvest. Since government farm insurance pays damages at the going rate, many farmers will reap large payoffs by filing claims for lost crops. Many of those who will benefit the most are large agribusinesses. In fact, the agricultural lobby has convinced the current administration to increase farm insurance subsidies.

Unfortunately, the taxpayer is left with the bill at a time when America’s economy is already withered.

While big agriculture businesses may gain from the ongoing drought, the average American—and much of the rest of the world—will only experience higher prices at the grocery store.

German Court Allows Bundeswehr to be Deployed in Domestic Military Operations

German Court Allows Bundeswehr to be Deployed in Domestic Military Operations

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Germany’s highest court issued a ruling on August 18 allowing the military to be used against threat within the country. This ruling breaks a 67-year-old taboo against using the Bundeswehr within Germany’s borders.

Just before and during World War ii, Adolf Hitler used the SS paramilitary units against the German population to keep his hold on power. In an attempt to stop a repeat of such power abuse, the post-war German government restricted the role of the military to warding off foreign assaults. Troops were explicitly forbidden to be deployed within the country.

The rising threat of terrorist is what prompted the Federal Constitutional Court to reverse this ruling. Bundeswehr troops can now be deployed inside of Germany to counter “states of emergency of catastrophic proportions.” The military is still prohibited from being used “in reaction to the threat posed by demonstrating crowds.”

While the breaking of this taboo does not exactly give the German government dictatorial powers as some are claiming, it does show that the German government officials are becoming more comfortable with the use of military power.

As the eurocrisis intensifies and domestic unrest increases across Europe, expect Germany to rise up as the dominant economic and military power in Europe.

Illinois Credit Rating Cut Over Pensions

Illinois Credit Rating Cut Over Pensions

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Standard & Poor’s lowered Illinois credit rating over underfunded pensions, the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday. The real headline should have been: Illinois and other states are set to see cut after cut until you think the bleeding will go on forever. The Tribune wrote:

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit of the state of Illinois on Wednesday because of its weak funding levels for pensions, a move that could make it more expensive for the state to borrow money.S&P lowered its rating on Illinois to A from A-plus and said its outlook is “negative.”

The article does not comment on why S&P had Illinois at A-plus in the first place. It should have been downgraded long ago. But the rating agencies have gained a reputation for being a lagging indicator. Illinois will never be able to pay all the promises it has made to its unionized workers over the years. The article continues:

“The downgrade reflects the state’s weak pension funding levels and lack of action on reform measures intended to improve funding levels and diminish cost pressures associated with annual contributions,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Robin Prunty in a statement. “The downgrade also reflects continued financial weakness despite significant measures in the past two years to improve structural budget performance.”

Now here comes the key phrase that state-bond investors should pay particular attention to.

The negative outlook reflects the potential for further erosion of the state’s pension funds over the next two years ….

The rating agencies have finally come around to the realization that approximately $2.8 trillion worth of unfunded pension promises have effectively bankrupted many states.

Somebody isn’t going to get paid. Will it be retired state employees, or bond holders that have lent money to the states?

If the rating agencies really have zeroed in on the retirement liabilities facing the states, then rating cut after rating cut, as far as the eye can see, awaits many of America’s biggest states, including California and Illinois. It will be a never-ending cycle of cuts because America’s baby boomers are beginning to retire, leaving fewer taxpayers per retiree to make up the pension shortfalls. As the cuts come, it will become increasingly difficult for states to borrow money at affordable costs—putting further pressure on state finances.

Expect many more municipal and state defaults in the future. And expect higher taxes and fewer services and benefits. See: “Bankrupt U.S. Cities Indicate Nation’s Future.”

Germany Calls for New EU Treaty

Germany Calls for New EU Treaty

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Chancellor Merkel wants EU leaders to hold a convention to forge a new treaty that binds Europe yet closer together.

Germany wants the European Union to hold a convention to create a new treaty to tie Europe closer together by the end of the year, Spiegel Online reported August 25. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s EU policy adviser Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut has discussed the idea with “high-level EU officials,” Spiegel wrote.

Merkel would like the treaty to change the EU into a political union, with the power to intervene in the taxation and spending policies of individual nations. For example, Germany wants the European Court of Justice to be able to punish nations who borrow too much money.

The German desire for a new treaty is not new, but other EU nations have consistently rejected it. Even the majority of the so-called “Berlin Group,” the 10 foreign ministers who meet to plan closer integration, don’t want it.

But Germany does, so it will probably happen.

Chancellor Merkel’s unwavering view is that if other nations are going to share Germany credit, then they must share responsibility. Almost all proposed solutions to the eurozone crisis involve Germany becoming responsible for paying back the debts of other nations, if those nations get into financial difficulty. That is a big commitment. Merkel won’t accept that commitment without a set of rules that gives Germany the power to intervene in a nation’s taxation and spending to prevent it abusing the German credit card.

Of course this isn’t popular outside Germany. But it is the price Germany demands for fixing the euro crisis.

Some nations may decide they’d rather quit the euro than submit. Spiegel says that Poland believes it’s not possible to get all 27 EU nations to agree to Germany’s new treaty.

It’s right. Britain, for example, refused to go along with the latest push toward integration last December. There’s no way it will agree to this.

But it doesn’t seem politically possible for Germany to save Europe without this kind of treaty. Germany’s people and parliament won’t allow it. Instead, watch for this treaty to move forward with a smaller group of nations that will agree to Germany’s conditions.

The Trumpet has long forecast that the EU would lead to the creation of a smaller group of tightly knit countries—a 10-nation superstate.

A small group of states with a common or closely coordinated taxation and spending policy is also the only solution to the eurozone crisis. Europe is being pushed along the path that the Trumpet forecast years ago.