Thursday, December 6, 2018

It Is Well With My Soul

The American Colony Hotel Jerusalem 

American Colony Hotel

Horatio Spafford was an American Lawyer and Presbyterian church elder best known for the old hymn he wrote, "It Is Well With My Soul." What many don't know is the story behind this hymn and Spafford's relation to the Holy Land. In 1873, Spafford decided to take his family on a European vacation and chose England because his good friend, D.L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. He was delayed due to business, but sent his wife and four daughters ahead. On November 22, 1873 while crossing the Atlantic, the ship was struck by another vessel and 226 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. Only his wife Anna survived. Upon her arrival to England, she sent Spafford a telegram that simply said, "Saved alone." When Horatio Spafford sailed across the Atlantic to meet his wife in England, he went directly over the area in which his daughters had lost their lives. Heartbroken and shattered, he looked to God and out of his anguish composed the beautiful song we now know today, "It Is Well With My Soul."
Horatio Spafford 

Horatio Spafford

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrow like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin not in part, but the whole.
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Returning to the states, the Spaffords later felt like outsiders among their congregation. How many other Christians have felt out of place in the American church after suffering deep tragedy? The Spaffords left their Presbyterian congregation and began holding meetings in their own home, later naming the group "The Overcomers." In 1881, the Spaffords, along with 13 other adults from this group moved to Jerusalem and set up what became known as the American Colony. The group quickly gained the trust of the local Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities due to their philanthropic endeavors among the people of Jerusalem. They worked with and helped people, regardless of their religious affiliation and without proselytizing motives. Instead, choosing to live out and show the true meaning of love (I Corinthians 13).

Today in Jerusalem, you can visit the American Colony Hotel started by this group. It is a 5-star hotel that was originally built in the 1870's by Ottoman, Pasha Rabbah Daoud Amin Effendi Al-Hussein for his four wives. In 1895, he sold it the group of American Christians who had come over with the Spaffords. In the early 1900's, the building was turned into a hotel. Today, the hotel is located between east and west Jerusalem, and is often the preferred hotel by many diplomats, politicians, and foreign correspondents. Famous guests include Lawrence of Arabia, Bob Dylan, and Tony Blair. Enduring countless challenges, the hotel has always been known locally as a neutral island, remaining outside the turbulent politics that surround it. Owned by neither Arabs nor Jews, but by Americans, British and Swedes, it has always had friends from all sectors of Jerusalem’s mixed society. Unlike any other place in the region, this hotel has become an oasis where Jews and Arabs can comfortably meet, and a favorite haven for international journalists, high-ranking officers of the United Nations, and diplomats from across the world. Is there any place else in the Middle East where these three groups can come together amicably? The American Colony Hotel is now managed by the hotels of Switzerland, but it is still owned and run by the descendants of the original founders.
Horatio Spafford's headstone in Mount Zion
Cemertery, Jerusalem.

The Spaffords also retained their former home in the Old City and used it for charitable purposes, providing care to needy children over the decades. Today it houses the Spafford Children's Center, which runs medical care and infant welfare for local children. Horatio Spafford died in 1888, and today you can visit his grave in Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem, outside the old city walls on the southwestern slope of Mt. Zion which can be reached after passing Jerusalem University College.

Down through the ages, Horatio Spafford's faith and endurance continues to live on every time we sing his beloved, inspired hymn. This family went on to build a legacy, showing love and care to people of all religious backgrounds, building a bridge of peace in one of the most explosive countries in the world. May it serve as a reminder to us, how God can use the darkest moments in our life to launch us into our greatest destiny and change the world. Truly, it is well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Holy Land Devotional: Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi
Ein Gedi, which translates from Hebrew to “spring of the kid (goat)” is the largest oasis located near Masada and the Qumran Caves. Ein Gedi is watered by four springs. The fresh water makes this a fertile place and has been since ancient times. It provides a cool and refreshing refuge in the Judean Desert. When you stand at Ein Gedi, surrounded by lush greenery and waterfalls, you will also see the dry and desolate desert surrounding, and the salty waters of the Dead Sea about a mile away.

Ein Gedi has sustained jungle-like greenery for thousands of years and it was a prominent location for multiple events of the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis and all the way to Song of Solomon. Perhaps the most well known story of Ein Gedi can be found in 1 Samuel when David fled to the strongholds of Ein Gedi for protection from Saul (1020 BC). Ein Gedi was a place of refuge and rest.

1 Samuel 23:26-24:2

26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Ein Gedi. 1 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Ein gedi.Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats' Rocks.

Rewinding a few decades (1400 BC), Ein Gedi is listed in the book of Joshua as a city of the Tribe of
Judah. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they were condemned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience. If you have visited the wilderness, you know how vast, empty and depressing it would have been to be stuck there for forty years. 

But then a new leader was chosen to lead the next generation into the Promised Land. The book of Joshua begins with God calling Joshua to lead the Israelites, and then spends the first 12 chapters detailing their conquests. Beginning in chapter 13, he divides the conquered land among the 12 tribes of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. The tribe of Judah, from which will come the lineage of Jesus, was apportioned much of the southern region of Israel which included Ein Gedi.

An otherwise colorless landscape, Ein Gedi is a vibrant patch of green and therefore came to symbolize not only beauty, but also that which stands out as unique. David's son Solomon mentioned it "a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi." Solomon 1:14

Throughout ancient times, the oasis of Ein Gedi has offered relief and refuge to the weary travelers, and still today to the locals and tourists. The surrounding desert has struggled to support life since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Ein Gedi has continued to produce water, lush greenery, and life for thousands of years as a testimony to God's grace. Often God does the same thing in our own lives doesn't He? Out of life's destruction and barren deserts, He always offers a place of refuge, an oasis of hope, and eventual relief from the dryness of the desert.

By: Nannette Cropsey
*Material from Wellington Church Devotional, Kentucky.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Holy Land Devotional: The Jordan River

The Jordan River today.

Jordan River

The Jordan River is perhaps one of the most significant rivers for Judaism and Christianity. The river is 156 miles long and flows north to south, through both the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. Israel and the West Bank lie on the west side of the river, and Jordan and the Golan Heights border the east.*

In the Old Testament, the Jordan River was the point of crossing for the Israelites as they were lead from the wilderness into the Promised Land. The Jordan River has often been referenced as a metaphor for freedom. It is also considered a place of healing, a place of anointing, and the start of new ministries. In the New Testament, it was in the Jordan River that John the Baptist was baptizing and preaching of the coming Messiah. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist there on the east side of the river, which is in modern day Jordan. You can visit the actual baptism site and even be baptized.

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.[a]” So John agreed to baptize him.16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were
What is believed to be the actual baptism site of Jesus in Jordan.
opened[b] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

It was also in the Jordan River the military leader, Naaman washed in order to be healed of his leprosy, as instructed by the prophet Elisha (880 BC).*

II Kings 5:11-14

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Finally, we can deduce the Jordan River was a special place to God, because it is also where Elijah was taken directly to heaven in chariots of fire and where Elijah's mantle (anointing) was turned over to Elisha. You can see the general area where this happened when you visit the Baptism site in Jordan.

II Kings 2:2-13

2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel.” But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel. 3 The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.” 4 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Jericho.” But Elisha replied again, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together to Jericho. 5 Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?” “Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.” 6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.” But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together. 7 Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. 8 Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground! 9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I
Baptism in the Jordan River.
am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.” 11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress. 13 Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. 14 He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

Something to Think About:

1) What makes the Jordan River significant in the stories above?

2) What makes the Jordan River significant today?

3) Does the Jordan River have any spiritual significance for you?

4) Have you visited the Jordan River? Share your pictures and stories with us.

*Taken from the Holy Land Devotional from Wellington Church, Kentucky. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Capernaum, The Town of Jesus

View of the Synagogue.
Nestled along the northern banks of the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), surrounded by plush greenery and magnificent hanging flowers, lies the ancient ruins of the small fishing village Capernaum. Known by many simply as "The Town of Jesus." Unlike some other Biblical sites in Israel, Capernaum has not been turned "touristy." It is still a quiet village, perhaps like it also stood in the 2nd century BC when it was founded. Down through the centuries the highest population to inhabit this village was around 1,500 people.

This seemingly insignificant fishing village, was where Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry, a great deal of his healing ministry, and also the home of some of his favorite disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew the tax collector.

Courtyard in the 4th Century Synagogue.
After Jesus left Nazareth, it would seem he selected Capernaum to be the main center of his ministry referred to in Matthew 9:1 as "his own city." All four gospels record accounts of the miraculous miracles, healing miracles performed by Jesus. It was here Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38-39), the paraplegic that was lowered through the roof to Jesus (Mark 2:1-12), and the healing of the Roman Centurion who asked for his help (Luke 7:1-10).  The first chapter of Mark accounts that Jesus healed many people with various diseases and cast out many demons, which Mark says Jesus did not allow to speak because they knew who he was.

It was also in Capernaum where Jesus, while teaching on the Sabbath in the Synagogue, healed a man possessed by a demon (Mark 1:21-28). The people were amazed wondering what is this teaching with new authority? And it was after this, Jesus fame spread throughout all of Galilee.

Today you can wander amicably among the ancient ruins, many
made of the beautiful basalt stone common to this region by the Sea. There were two synagogues discovered in Capernaum built, the Synagogue from the 4th century AD built on top of the remains of the Synagogue Jesus would have taught. You can visit the 4th century Synagogue and see remains of the other underneath. This is a wonderful place to rest for a while and open scripture. Read aloud some of the many miracles Jesus performed here, and envision the masses of people crowding around the door to hear his preaching and find healing. It
Remains of Peter's House.
is quite easy to sit in the ancient synagogue of Capernaum and reflect on all the ways Jesus has healed you personally.

A house which was turned into a church by the Byzantines has also been discovered here and was built over what is believed to be the home of the Apostle Peter.  Notably, there are also multiple grain and oil mills, a cemetery, and the remains of a harbor excavated over the years.

Excavations at Capernaum of the village.
After spending time in this beautiful village, one can't help but wonder about the lack of faith in Jesus as the Messiah by the people in this town, after all the mighty miracles they witnessed. Jesus cursed Capernaum in Matthew 11:23-24 when he said they would be brought down to "Hades." "For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than you."

Capernaum in Galilee is a regular stop on our Holy Land tours when you book with Beyond Bethany.

By: Nannette Cropsey

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Sky Full of Stars.....and Promise

To say my trip to Jordan in October of last year was arranged by God would be to highlight the extraordinarily obvious. A little more than a year ago, I started working with a school that teaches English to international students. Once there, I met a coworker who spent several years in Jordan with his wife. As we talked, the pieces just fell into place and the 4 of us (husband, wife, son…and me, Uncle Dennis), confirmed plans to set out for Jordan. For those of you who have spent time in the middle of God’s will for your life know things just, well, “happen” when you stay there.

So, October found me flying over the Atlantic Ocean to an enigmatic place for me…the Jordan spoken of so much in the Bible. The stated reason for this trip was to provide sports equipment for some of the Jordanian schools most overwhelmed by the thousands of Syrian refugees that have fled to Jordan to escape the tragic conflict there. (Read about the project here.) That reason was more than enough for me to venture outside—a good distance outside—of my comfort zone. However, in my heart, I knew God had a larger reason for me to make this journey.

Once in Jordan, I was immediately captivated by the city of Amman, with its western architecture mixed with its Arabic culture and uniquely Jordanian hospitality. All the while, my “tour guides” assured me there were some really amazing things we just had to see while we were there. The lowest point on earth. The backdrop for one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies. The most complete ancient Roman ruins in the Middle East. The crossroads to the ancient world, where Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all converge. More locations than I can recall that hold immense Biblical significance.

So, it will likely sound perhaps a bit strange to note the moment of greatest epiphany for me happened as we drove through the desert at night. No lights, no cities, no villages, not even any buildings. At one point we pulled onto the shoulder of the road and turned off the headlights of the quaint little rental we drove that week. When I got out of the car and looked up, I was immediately struck speechless by the thousands upon thousands of stars in the night sky above us. As a city boy, I can never remember seeing that many stars in Indiana. That moment forever changed the way I view God as Creator. When Genesis tells us God placed the stars in the Heavens, I had no idea of the vastness of the number of stars He placed there…just for me at that moment.

As I stood there dumbfounded, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that when God had promised Abraham his descendants would number as the stars, and through them the entire world would be blessed (Gen 26:4); it was these very stars Abraham used to gauge the depth of that promise and the love God has for His creation was the keystone of that promise.

Of all the amazing sites Jordan has to offer, I challenge you to think differently about how amazing God is when you see the nighttime sky, full of more stars than you have ever seen as part of Beyond Bethany Tours.

By: Dennis Papenmeier

Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Love To Jordan

Jordan with its olive trees, yellow sand, salty water, happy days and sad moments; I love all of it.

When I am asked about Jordan, I must be silent. How can I find the right words to describe this lovely country? In my eyes I see the map of Jordan as a handsome man, bending and beckoning visitors to come in. With its small economy and big heart, Jordan will always open its gates to the people who need it.

The many civilizations from the history of Jordan can be touched and seen  in different places and cities: Amman, Salt, Jerash, Irbid, Ajloun, UmmQais, Pella, Umm Al-Jimal, Dead Sea, Jordan River, Madaba, Karak, Shobak, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and Petra.  Each place has a special story to tell whether from the Greek civilization, the Roman, the Byzantine or maybe even the Arab Islamic one.

In many places in Jordan, you can sit at a table in a hotel or restaurant and see one of the ancient ruins out of the window.

I have traveled to many cities in the world and can say the best weather to enjoy with all of the seasons, will only be found in Jordan.

What a nice feeling when you drive to the Dead Sea at the lowest point on earth, swimming in it's salty water knowing you will never sink, while also enjoying the sunset at evening. A relaxing and peaceful feeling you will only experience in this place. Then you could drive to Ajloun only one and a half hours away, to be at one of the highest mountains in Jordan. There you can enjoy the green forest, fresh air, hiking to the ancient castle, bird watching, flowers and rare plants, or be blessed by the Tell Mar Elias church there (Church of the Prophet Elijah).

If you want to wander through the mist of time, Amman is the place. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and has seen many civilizations pass through. Amman began in the Bronze Age, was passed on to the Ammonites, the Romans, and the Byzantine, ending with the Islamic civilization in 720 AD.

Salt is a historic town that takes you to the Ottoman Empire, while Jerash is one of the best preserved ancient Roman cities in the world.

Umm Qais is the most dramatically situated of Jordan's ancient Roman towns. The name was Gadara, which means "a stronghold." Meanwhile, ruins of Pella portray a dramatic sweep of history, from the Bronze and Iron Ages to the Islamic civilization. There are many things to see in Umm Al-Jimal, the ruins of the Nabatean temple, several churches, the great barracks and many more.

Near the northern end of the Dead Sea, the waters of the Jordan River trickle into the Baptismal Site, the third most holy site for Christians in the world, and where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. This is also where Prophet Elijah was lifted to heaven in a whirlwind. Nearby are the mountains of Moab and Mount Nebo where the Prophet Moses first saw the Promised Land and where God then buried him. Also near there is Madaba, where you can see the oldest mosaic map in the Middle East, depicting important holy sites throughout the land.

There are also many crusader and Islamic castles to visit in Karak, Shobak, Ajloun, Aqaba, Qasayr Amra, and Qasr Azraq. These castles are breathtaking. Walk inside and imagine the great and secure life they were living.

Petra is a living museum of 10,000 years of human history. Its architecture shows Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine influences. The beauty of its rose-colored sandstone reflected by the sun, will take your breath away. There are many monuments and sites to discover in Petra: the Treasury, the Monastery, the carved Siq, the Colonnaded street, the Byzantine Church, the Great TEmple, Petra Church, and many more treasures still lie hidden beneath the sand. Creative and hardworking people were buried there with their secrets in the amazing tombs.

Wadi Rum (The Valley of the Moon) is one of the most memorable destinations in Jordan, and has been since the dawn of time. The image of the mountains surrounding it will stick in your mind forever. It is a courageous place. An ambassador who was a dear friend once told me,he could not allow a weekend to pass without going and enjoying the peaceful feeling there.

Another two hours drive and you will be in the Red Sea port of Aqaba. It has one of the most colorful sea lives in all the world, with over 500 species of coral and over 1200 species of fish. You can dive in and think you are in heaven. What a nice feeling and joyful time you will spend
swimming and diving in the Red Sea. After coming out of the water, the warm sun will cover your body and your soul.

No matter where you go in Jordan, you will always meet people who love you and welcome you. Ahlan wa sahlan, they will say and maybe even invite you to have tea or lunch in their house. They will always offer their help if you need it. They are some of the most hospitable and kind people in the world.

Food is a deeply symbolic part of Jordanian culture, with its rich flavors, it leaves the tongue begging for just one more taste. It delights the palate and satisfies the senses.

Jordan is a treasure box, filled with opportunities and the more you learn about the different regions of the Kingdom, the more you will want to explore. Welcome to Jordan!

By: Luma Al-Masri
Editor and Publisher of books about the country of Jordan.

Monday, March 19, 2018

"I Have Seen the Face of God." The Jabbok River

The Reunion of Jacob and Esau (1844 painting b...
The Reunion of Jacob and Esau (1844 painting by Francesco Hayez) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Zarqa River
The Jabbok River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The sound of the Jabbok's rushing water, as it tumbles over rocks on its descent from the  Hauran plateau to the Jordan River Valley is like music. Even more so to the weary and parched desert traveler. The word Jabbok (יבק) comes from two different Hebrew verb roots (בוק  בקק) meaning "empty" and "luxuriant." Originally, this word may have derived from Arabic verbs meaning a "gurgling sound" and "abundance."  (See reference). It is easy to see how this name came to be. Water has always represented life and abundance in the Middle East. Where there is water, there is life.

All along the modern day highway near the river, fruit and vegetable farmers sell their produce. Beautiful and ancient olive groves can be seen flourishing along the river's parched hillsides. City water trucks can be seen tanking up near the river to quench the thirst of the nearly 7 million people living in and around Amman, the capital of Jordan. What abundance this "gurgling" river provides!

My favorite places to visit in Jordan are those off the beaten tour path. The ones that are often forgotten for the more famous sites like Petra, Jerash, and the Dead Sea. The Jabbok River is one of these neglected places. Did you know rivers in the Bible often marked the borders between kingdoms? Rivers were also a place where God chose to meet with the prophets of old.

Abraham likely crossed the Jabbok river on his way from Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq) to Canaan (Modern day Israel/Palestine).

Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”  (Genesis 15:7)

Later Jacob would follow this same path down the Jabbok River Valley upon his return from his Uncle Laban's home in Haran to Shechem. Genesis says Jacob was in this place when, "the angel of the Lord" met him. Jacob named this place Mahanaim which means "camp" in Hebrew. Scholars debate the actual location of both Peniel and Mahanaim, but most agree both were located near the Jabbok River in this region.

As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him.  When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is God’s camp!” So he named the place Mahanaim. (Genesis 32:1-2)

Jacob was traveling on the south (right) side of the Jabbok River at this point in the story. He camps with his flocks of sheep, goats, and donkeys at Mahanaim. He is fearful his brother Esau will attack and kill him and his entire family, so he devises a plan to appease his brother. First, he sends messengers with a soft and gentle message, then he decides to send his family in two separate groups to test the waters.

Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me. (Genesis 32:3-5)
 My best guess is Mahanaim is the closer hilltop on the right side of the photo. It is from this camp Jacob sends the first group across the river to meet Esau and his 400 warriors. He is convinced his death is near.
After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!”  Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups.  He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape. (Genesis 32: 6-8)
Jacob decides to send his flocks and family across the river in waves to hopefully appease his brother Esau.  Each wave is a generous gift of animals for his brother.

Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. He divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.” (Genesis 32:13-16).

Jacob spent the night alone on the far side of the river. It was at this darkest hour of his life that God showed up. As the story goes, Jacob wrestled all night with God and demands a blessing from Him. Jacob's name is changed to "Israel" and Jacob names the place Peniel (which means "face of God"). Jacob said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared." (Genesis 32:30).

Significant Biblical References to Mahanaim:

*After the death of Saul, his son Ish-Bosheth took refuge and ruled from Mahanaim (2 Sam 2:8). 
*During Absalom’s revolt, David fled to Mahanaim (2 Sam 17:24-29). 
*Mahanaim seems to be a Transjordan administrative center. Jeroboam I built his Transjordan capital at Penuel (1 Kgs 12:25), possibly in connection with the invasion of Pharaoh Shishak.

All of these significant Biblical events took place in the modern country of Jordan by the Jabbok River and the surrounding area. To visit the Jabbok River, request it as part of your tour with Beyond Bethany.

By: Joshua Cropsey