by Ferrell Jenkins
is probably one of the most beautiful, and most unforgettable places
one will ever visit. It is located about 50 miles south of the Dead
Sea in the territory of ancient Edom. The first visit I made to
Petra in 1967 was from Jerusalem (then in Jordan). The distance
from Amman or Jerusalem depends on the route you take. The Desert
Highway, which connects Amman with Aqaba, is much faster, but the
old Kings Highway is much more scenic.
is the Greek word for rock, and is likely to be identified as the
biblical Sela, which also means rock (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chron. 25:11-12;
Isa. 16:1; 42:11; Jer. 49:16). This region was also known as Mount
Seir. The ancient city is located in the basin of Wadi Musa at an
elevation of about 2700 feet, and must be reached by foot or horseback
through the Siq (Arabic for pass).
Edomite stronghold dating to the Iron Age (7th-6th century B.C.)
has been found on top of Umm el-Biyarah which is a high, steep-sided,
flat-topped hill in Petra. The Edomites were displaced by the Nabateans
and moved into the region of southern Judea. In New Testament times
they were know as the Idumeans (Mark 3:8).
Greek and Nabatean inscription found at Jerash in 1931,
tells of a statue dedicated to Aretas IV. Amman Museum.
Nabateans have been described as "one of the most gifted and
vigorous peoples in the Near East of Jesus' time" (Wright,
Biblical Archaeology 229). They exacted high tolls from the caravans
which passed their way. The greatest king of the Nabateans was Aretas
IV (9 B.C. to A.D. 40). His rule extended as far north as Damascus
during the last part of his reign; this was at the time Paul escaped
from Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32).
Antipas ("that fox," Luke 13:32) left his wife, a daughter
of Aretas, to marry Herodias (Mark 6:17-29). When the rejected wife
fled to her father, he sent an army to defeat Herod in A.D. 36.
chief deities of the Nabataeans were the sun god Dushara and the
goddess Allat. Dushara was symbolized by a block of stone or a stone
obelisk. Several can still be seen in Petra.
Roman emperor Trajan conquered Petra in A.D. 106 and converted it
into the province of Arabia. The Romans continued the rock sculpturing
of the Nabataeans but added a theatre, a street with colonnades,
etc. Some have speculated, on the basis of Galatians 1:17, that
Paul spent time at Petra after his conversion to Christ.
photo shows the Roman theater at Petra. The theater, cut from the
native stone in the second or third century, seated 3,000.
© Ferrell Jenkins 2004.
The photos may be used by others in teaching, but may not be used
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