Fight Pride by Reading the Old Testament

OT-044-medPaul’s use of the Old Testament in 1 Cor 10:1-11 is a locus classicus for Christians seeking to understand how to understand the Old Testament text within the church. And the immediate verses that follow, 1 Cor 10:12-13, are also widely quoted by Christians but as encouragement for fighting temptation and pride. The consequence is that both sections of the chapter are frequently, although separately, reflected upon by believers. Consequently, I believe too often the first is used as a proof text for Old Testament application in the church and the second a proof text against pride and temptation, and the connection between the two ideas is missed entirely.

Verse 6 reads:

Now these things happened to them as type (τύποι), in order that our evil desires might not be, as they desired evil. (author’s translation)

The reference to “these things…as a type” (Ταῦτα δὲ τύποι…) in verse 6 likely forms an inclusio with verse 11 which uses nearly the same phrase (ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς…) to conclude the section addressing the sins of Israel. So, it is not completely without reason that we tend to read verses 6-11 as a unit of thought. In verses 6-11 Paul discusses (1) the golden calf incident [Ex 32:6], (2) Israel’s desire for the daughters of Moab and Baal worship [Num 25:1-9], (3) Israel’s impatience and faithlessness toward Moses’ and the Lord’s guidance in the wilderness [Num 21:6], and (4) the people’s continued grumbling against the Lord [Num 14:2ff.; 16:41ff.]. Paul states that these thing were recorded for the instruction of church by providing a “type” for us.

I think that we might miss the theological significance of this phrase by just rendering it “example.” Yes, Israel was an example, it was also more than that. Israel wasn’t just a bad example in that some people, some time ago, in a land far away from did some wrong things…Israel is the example. If anyone should have responded appropriately to the Lord it was Israel. They alone possessed the Patriarchs and Torah (Deut 4:7; Rom 9:4-5). Yet, even with the revelation of YHWH through Torah and the Prophets, Israel hardened its heart and desired evil. Israel’s typological disobedience demonstrates, not only the condition of their heart, but the disposition of all human hearts toward the Lord. If Israel–God’s chosen people and treasured possession–responded in these ways, why should Christians think that they are impervious to the same temptations to rebel?

I believe this is why Paul links the unit in verses 6-11 with verses 12-13 with “Ὥστε” (“So that” or “Therefore” [ESV]). The proper consequence of reading about Israel’s hardened response should be to remind us that we also cannot justify sinful lives. Just like Israel, the church cannot “go on sinning that grace may abound” (Rom 6:1), nor may we avoid the battle against temptation because we have special spiritual status that removes us from the battlefields of sin. Christians must also take up the fight against idolatry, sexual immorality, and anger against the Lord, trusting that–just like Israel’s battles–God is doing the fighting.

Verses 12 and 13 read:

So that let the one who thinks he stands take heed that he might not fall. Temptation has not seized you, except that which is common to mankind. But God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted more than you are able to handle, but he will make with temptation also a way of escape, that you might be able to endure. (author’s translation)

Just as Israel’s sin was a type of human disobedience, Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that their battle against sin and temptation is the necessary human condition in a post-fall world. However, Israel’s sin nor our own, is the final word: “But God is faithful.” When we read the Old Testament and encounter the “type” of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord, we should recognize that apart from God’s grace enabling us to overcome temptation, we are destined to become the “antitype.” So, let us fight pride in our lives by reading and re-reading the Old Testament that we might be reminded of the pattern of human rebellion and the God who is faithful in spite of it.

- Rusty Osborne


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Camels and Consternations

Author on camel near the Dead Sea

If you have been tracking with the news over the past week you have seen the numerous articles on camels and the Bible popping up in mainstream media outlets like New York Times (“Camels Had No Business in Genesis”), Time (“The Mystery of the Bible’s Phantom Camels”), CNN (“Will Camel Discovery Break the Bible’s Back?”), Fox News (“Camel Bones Suggest Error in Bible, Archaeologists Say”), and National Geographic (“Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later than Bible Says”).

John Noble Wilford’s New York Times piece perhaps best captures the ethos of the press coverage:

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place. Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.

This barrage of coverage was instigated by a recent press release and article published by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University.Their research is based upon the camel bones discovered in the Aravah Valley in the Levant, which are radiocarbon dated to latter part of the 10th century B.C. The camel bones are studied in connection with certain copper producing communities within the valley. They conclude:

Current data from copper smelting sites of the Aravah Valley enable us to pinpoint the introduction of domestic camels to the southern Levant more precisely based on stratigraphic contexts associated with an extensive suite of radiocarbon dates. The data indicate that this event occurred not earlier than the last third of the 10th century BCE and most probably during this time. The coincidence of this event with a major reorganization of the copper industry of the region—attributed to the results of the campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I—raises the possibility that the two were connected, and that camels were introduced as part of the efforts to improve efficiency by facilitating trade. (Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, “The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant: Evidence from the Aravah Valley,” Tel Aviv 40 [2013]: 282.)

It should be noted that, like most of the “latest news on the Bible,” camels have been argued to be anachronistic to the patriarchal period for about 50 years now. Critical scholars have long viewed camels as proof of the much later composition (and fictitious nature) of the patriarchal narratives. So, what is a proper response to such conclusions and journalist Elizabeth Dias of Time, who writes regarding the non-historical nature of the Bible: “Case closed”?

First, the issue of determining the difference between wild and domesticated camels by means of bones fragments collected from a few sites is not exceptionally conclusive. In an outstanding and thorough article, Martin Heide writes:

Due to the camel’s natural habitat outside urban centers (and therefore also outside the normal range of archaeologists in the Near and Middle East, who concentrate on the settled communities in the more densely populated areas), the early evidence for camel-man contacts is meager (cf. Rosen/Saidel, 2010, 64).The camel was used primarily in the desert, where it would die. It has to be kept in mind that the domestication of the camel does not, as in most cases of domestication, imply an adaption of the animal’s ways of life to man, but an adaption of man to the camel’s way of life. (Martin Heide, “The Domestication of the Camel: Biological, Archaeological, and Inscriptional Evidence from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, and Arabia, and Literary Evidence from the Hebrew Bible,” in Ugarit Forschungen 42 [Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2011], 338.)

Heide goes on to state that we must recognize the difference between “domestication” and “widespread use,” or use for specific tasks like those perhaps associated with a mining community. “[I]t has to be kept in mind that most of the processes involved with the use of the camel – i.e. breeding,nurturing, milking, and riding – are not reflected in the archaeological record,” (Ibid., 340).

Second, the biblical texts emphasize the Mesopotamian origin of Abram and his family, and naturally his camels. Genesis 12 presents Abram as traveling great distances from Ur in ancient Mesopotamia to Haran, north of Syria-Palestine, and then finally down into the ancient land of Canaan. Camel domestication would not have to be a common phenomenon in Canaan during Abram’s sojourn in the land for the biblical account to be accurate. Mesopotamian sources associate the possession of camels with prestige and wealth, very similar to the representation of Abram provided in the book of Genesis.

Third, it is widely acknowledged that camel domestication took place in Mesopotamia and surrounding regions during the late 3rd millennium and early 2nd millennium B.C., around the time of the patriarchs. Heide concludes his study stating:

The “camel” (gāmāl ) in the patriarchal narratives may refer, at least in some places, to the Bactrian camel. Abram is seen as having employed camels for long-distance journeys in north-south direction, very probably commencing in upper Mesopotamia. From there, he migrated to Canaan and moved further down to Egypt (Gen 12:5.9.16). The same can be said for the opposite direction, from Canaan to upper Mesopotamia and back again (Gen 24:10–64).His son Isaac, who dwelt all his life in Canaan, is not portrayed as having used any camels. His grandson Jacob, however, who spent a considerable time of his life in upper Mesopotamia, did not only use, but bred a small herd of camels (Gen 30:43; 31:17; 32:7.15). After he had settled down in Canaan again,camels are not seen as belonging to his moveable property any more. Albright’s dictum that “any mention of camels in the period of Abraham is a blatant anachronism” (Albright, 1942, 96) is questionable. The archaeological and inscriptional evidence allows at least the domesticated Bactrian camel to have existed at Abraham’s time. In the daily life of the patriarchs, however, the camel played a minor role (Ibid., 368).

So, is the case closed on the historical inaccuracy of the Bible based upon camel domestication in the southern Levant? Emphatically, no. And sadly the present popular interest in Ben-Yosef’s and Sapir-Hen’s article appears to reflect nothing more than a large-scale interest in “disproving” the Bible. I would highly recommend anyone who is actually interested in the subject to read Heide’s article linked above. It is far more thorough and judicious in its conclusions.

(Many thanks to Martin Heide for making his research available online.)

- Rusty Osborne

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Ancient Israel in the Promised Land: Fact or Fiction?

forum flyer

- Rusty Osborne

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Ray Clendenen’s Extensive OT Bibliography

Dr. Ray Clendenen, of B&H Publishing, has made available his recently updated (1/6/2014) Bibliography for Old Testament Study on This document (385 pages) is not for the faint of heart and is quite impressive in its breadth. It covers important topics such as archaeology, geography, intertextuality, text linguistics, LXX, text criticism, hermeneutics, and canon before moving into a book-by-book structure. The resources given reflect a broad range of scholarship but also represent the interests of an evangelical scholar (e.g., sections devoted to messianism and theology).

File:Old books.jpg

Experts in each specific field will likely find some works missing that they would have included, and a large majority of the references are to works written in English. However, for the advanced Master’s student or those entering into a doctoral program, this is a very helpful place to start a variety of research projects. Bibliographies like this one simultaneously make me want to read a lot more, and then sigh while thinking of all the books I will likely never read! Which ever way you respond, I would encourage you to download a copy and store it away in a research folder on your computer. Thank you for the work Dr. Clendenen.

- Rusty Osborne

Photo credit: Photo by William Hoiles (wikimedia commons)

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Ecclesiastes: A Participatory Study Guide

My good friend and colleague Russell Meek, just published a new devotional study guide for the book of Ecclesiastes (Energion Publications). Here is my comment on the volume:

While the academic study of Ecclesiastes has grown substantively in recent years, the book remains a hidden gem for many in the church. And tragically, fewer books could be more relevant to our postmodern, post-Christian society, which is groping for meaning in a fallen world. With the precision of an expert and the sensibility of a pastor, Russell Meek offers the church an in-depth and personal tour through one of Scripture’s least explored books. Russ has long been my personal Ecclesiastes tour guide, and I now thankful others have the chance to learn from him as well.

While accessible for most readers, the book is actually a very good devotional resource for people who are quite familiar with the Old Testament. Russ has been studying the book of Ecclesiastes for some time now, and his familiarity with the secondary literature becomes quickly apparent (e.g., his discussions on the authorship of the book and the meaning of hebel in the first chapters). However, the study does not read like a commentary but instead presents thematic lessons from the book:

  1. Who Wrote Ecclesiastes?
  2. Is Everything Really “Vanity”?
  3. The Problem of Brevity in the World
  4. What is the Expected Relationship Between Actions and Rewards?
  5. Despite Death and Injustice, Enjoy!
  6. The Importance of Obedience to God

I believe Russ has succeeded in producing a helpful resource that unites research and reverence. He states it well in the introduction:

There are injustices in the world. There will be suffering until that day that Jesus returns in all of his glory to take believers to the place where there will be no tears and no death. This is the place where the author of Ecclesiastes longed to go. For now, we are left in the in-between time, a time that is full of death, full of tears, full of longing for intimacy with God. It is in this world that Ecclesiastes must be heard in full.

- Rusty Osborne

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“What Could Be More Delightful? … What Could Be More Sobering?”

block-daniel-fprofLast week I had the privilege of witnessing the presentation of a surprise Festschrift to Dr. Daniel Block (Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College) at the 2013 national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore, MD. The project was organized and edited by Dr. Block’s former students and friends, Drs. Jason DeRouchie, Jason Gile, and Kenneth Turner, and it is titled For Our Good Always: Studies on the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy in Honor of Daniel I. Block(Eisenbrauns, 2013). Dr. Block’s surprise was touching, and hearing the reflections of former students and colleagues simply confirmed Block’s longstanding reputation as a faithful Christian and outstanding scholar.

With a voice shaking from emotion, Dr. Block reflected upon his own career asking his audience, “What could be more delightful?…What could be more sobering?” He is exactly right. These two notions get at the heart of evangelical scholarship: delight and reverence. Seriously studying the Bible is dangerous business.  Sin, pride, and familiarity can slowly transform the most powerful biblical truths into trite platitudes ensued by a condescending yawn. But anyone who has heard Dr. Block speak of the Old Testament Scriptures realizes that “yawning” is not his normal modus operandi! I pray the Lord will enable me, as well as many others, to one day reflect on a career that is centered around God’s Word and is characterized by delight and reverence. Thank you for the example Dr. Block.

Few in my mind could be more worthy of such an honor, and the essays represented here appear to be of the caliber that would indeed honor Dr. Block. I can’t wait to work through them all! Here is Eisenbraun’s description and table of contents:

DERFOROURWith a title adapted from Deut 6:24, For Our Good Always is a collection of 25 essays from evangelical scholars on the message of Deuteronomy and its influence on Christian Scripture. No other book colors the tapestry of biblical thought quite like Deuteronomy. It synthesized the theology of the Pentateuch, provided Israel with a constitution for guiding their covenant relationship with Yahweh in the promised land, and served as a primary lens through which later biblical authors interpreted Israel’s covenant history. Recent advances in scholarship on Deuteronomy and developments in biblical interpretation are raising fresh questions and opening new paths for exploration. This collection of studies wrestles with Deuteronomy from historical, literary, theological, and canonical perspectives and offers new questions, presents original discoveries, and makes innovative proposals.

The volume is offered in honor of Daniel I. Block on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Few Old Testament scholars have worked so ably, carefully, and intentionally to help the church and the academy grasp the message of Deuteronomy. Block’s own studies always exhibit an admirable balance of exegetical rigor, literary and theological awareness, and pastoral care, and for well over a decade he has, like the priest-scribe Ezra, devoted himself to the study, practice, and teaching of the deuteronomic torah (Ezra 7:10), helping and urging others to hear the life-giving gospel of Moses in Deuteronomy. The international group of specialists that contributed to this volume consists of Daniel Block’s colleagues, friends, and former students. It is their hope that these studies will in various ways supplement Daniel Block’s work, serving the church and the academy and honoring the God of Israel.

Foreword                xi

Peter J. Gentry

Preface               xv

The Publications of Daniel I. Block: Overview and Bibliography              xxi

Charlie Trimm

Tributes from the Block Family            xxxiii

Part 1 – The Message of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy and Ancient Hebrew History Writing in Light of Ancient Chronicles and Treaties              3

Alan Millard

“Because of the Wickedness of These Nations” (Deut 9:4–5): The Canaanites––Ethical or Not?              17

Richard S. Hess

Admonitory Examples in Hittite and Biblical Legal Contexts              39

Harry A. Hoffner Jr.

“These Are the Words Moses Spoke”: Implied Audience and a Case for a Pre-Monarchic Dating of Deuteronomy              61

Peter T. Vogt

Laws and Ethical Ideals in Deuteronomy              81

Gordon J. Wenham

Counting the Ten: An Investigation into the Numbering of the Decalogue              93

Jason S. DeRouchie

“Keep These Words in Your Heart” (Deut 6:6): A Spirituality of Torah in the Context of the Shema            127

J. Gordon McConville

The Rhetoric of Theophany: The Imaginative Depiction of Horeb in Deuteronomy 9–10            145

Jerry Hwang

For Your Good Always: Restraining the Rights of the Victor for the Well-Being of the Vulnerable (Deut 21:10–14)            165

Rebekah Josberger

Deuteronomy’s Theology of Exile            189

Kenneth J. Turner

Part 2 – The Infuence of Deuteronomy

The Impact of Deuteronomy on the Books of the Deuteronomistic History            223

Michael A. Grisanti

Deuteronomy and Isaiah            251

H. G. M. Williamson

The Enduring Word of the Lord in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah 36            269

Michael Graves

Deuteronomy and Ezekiel’s Theology of Exile            287

Jason Gile

The “Revealed Things”: Deuteronomy and the Epistemology of Job            307

Christopher B. Ansberry

“Fear God and Keep His Commandments”(Eccl 12:13):An Examination of Some Intertextual Relationships between Deuteronomy and Ecclesiastes            327

Richard Schultz

The Influence of Deuteronomy on Intercessory Prayers in Ezra and Nehemiah            345

Gary V. Smith

Testing God’s Son: Deuteronomy and Luke 4:1–13            365

Grant R. Osborne

Paul’s Reading of Deuteronomy: Law and Grace            389

Douglas Moo

Part 3 – The Lasting Significance of Deuteronomy

Making the Ten Count: Reflections on the Lasting Message of the Decalogue            415

Jason S. DeRouchie

Welcoming the Stranger: Toward a Theology of Immigration in Deuteronomy            441

M. Daniel Carroll R.

Sermonizing in Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and the 21st Century            463

Elmer A. Martens

The Prophet Who Is Like and Greater Than Moses: A Sermon on Deuteronomy 18:15–22            485

Daniel L. Akin

Stealing Souls: Human Trafficking and Deuteronomy 24:7            495

Myrto Theocharous

The Book of the Torah as a Gospel of Grace: A Synthesis of Daniel I. Block’s Biblical Theology of Deuteronomy            511

Thomas H. McClendon Jr.

- Rusty Osborne

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Early Messianic ‘Afterlife’ of Ezekiel 17:22-24

Tyndale House has kindly allowed me to publish a link to my recent article  in Tyndale Bulletin

on the early reception history of the tree metaphor used in Ezekiel 17:22-24.

Thus says the Lord YHWH, “I myself shall take [a shoot] from the lofty top of the cedar and I will place it. I shall pluck from its top a tender sapling and I shall plant it myself on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel, I shall plant it and it shall raise up branches and produce fruit and it shall be a magnificent cedar and every kind of bird shall dwell under it and every kind of winged creature shall dwell in the shadow of its branches.

And all of the trees of the field shall know that I am YHWH;

I bring low a lofty tree, I exalt a low tree,

I dry up the fresh tree and I bring into bloom the dry tree.

I am YHWH, I have spoken and I will do [it].

Here is a brief summary: This article discusses the royal associations of tree imagery in the ancient Near East before examining four early messianic interpretations of the tree symbolism in Ezekiel 17:22-24, namely those of 4QEzekiel a, the Septuagint, Targum Ezekiel, and The Shepherd of Hermas.

- Rusty Osborne

Photo by Taras Kalapun, wikimedia commons

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Bible Software For Everyone

step-logo-bigFew seminary students in the States have made it a year before recognizing the incredible benefits of Bible programs like Logos, Bibleworks, and Accordance. These tools, in many cases, have radically changed the way we study texts, store books, and search for data. I have spoken with several missionaries serving overseas who, growing tired of lugging hundreds of books all over the world, have moved their entire library into a digital environment. As valuable as these electronic tools are, they have largely been cut off from the church in the developing world. In these countries internet cafes are a staple for internet access, and the idea of a personal computer with expensive software on it is simply out of the question. Thanks to Tyndale House in Cambridge, this situation is about to change.

The STEP program (Scripture Tools for Every Person) has been established to give anyone with internet access or smartphone a robust Bible program that is able to equip and aid church leaders around the world. STEP is designed to easily run in multiple languages (currently: German, English, Spanish, French, Latvian, Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Swahili, and Vietnamese. They are always looking for people who can work in new languages!). The basic window is a search window that opens 187 different versions of the biblical text and commentaries, from ancient to modern. Some ancient texts include a tagged version of the Hebrew Bible based on the Leningrad Codex, Rahlf’s Septuagint, several tagged editions of the Greek New Testament, the Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta (NT), and the Samaritan Pentateuch. The tagged texts are extremely helpful for those with a basic level of knowledge of the original languages, since you can simply click on the word and get the root and different definitions. The program can be operated with a double-panel view that allows for linking two texts (e.g. MT/GNT and English), or a passage and a selected commentary. Another nice feature, for those who are more textually savvy, STEP has a more “advanced” view where the researcher can select multiple texts and compare them in interlinear fashion (e.g., MT, LXX, and Vul). This is a very nice resource for free.

The project is still being developed with much more in store. But for those who will be teaching overseas in the next year or so, I would highly encourage you to direct students and pastors to this website. It might actually be beneficial to build an assignment into the course that requires them to get online and use the program to increase familiarity. Regardless, I am excited about the goal of STEP and hope professors, pastors, and missionaries utilize these helpful tools. You can learn more about the overall direction of the project here.

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Eichrodt on von Rad

Walther Eichrodt, 1890-1978

Walther Eichrodt wrote one of the most important Old Testament theologies of the twentieth century (trans. Theology of the Old Testament, 2 vol. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961, 1967). Writing in response to the dominate History of Religions School in Germany, Eichrodt published volume 1 of his theology in 1933 in which he sought to present “the religion of which the records are to be found in the Old Testament as a self-contained entity exhibiting, despite ever-changing historical conditions, a constant basic tendency and character.” (p. 11, vol. 1). This he did.

Years later, Eichrodt produced an appendix to his theological tome in which he compares his work to the then recently released Old Testament theology of Gerhard von Rad. It is from this critique, the following paradigmatic quote is excised:

How does the standpoint of the present Theology of the OT compare with that just described? First, the basic  assumption that existential illumination constitutes the proper revelatory function of the testimonies of Scripture seems to the present writer quite invalid. It involves an intolerable cramping of the far more comprehensive vision of the biblical preaching, and totally obscures the importance for the faith of the congregation of God’s sovereignty in the universe and in the history of mankind…. There must be an absolute refusal to surrender a real historical foundation to the faith of Israel, or to interpret the conflicts between the statements of the OT version of history and that discovered by critical scholarship in a merely negative way as proof of the unimportance of the historical reference of religious statements. This denigration is to be all the more vigorously resisted when it is realized that in the OT we are dealing not with an anti-historical transformation of the course of history into a fairy tale or poem, but with an interpretation of real events inspired by contact with the mysterious Creatorhood of the God who controls history, and from continual experience of his saving action…. The link between the testimony of faith and the facts history is not therefore a topic to be excluded from the scope of OT theology, but calls for continuous and careful attention, if the claim of Israel’s faith to be founded on facts of history is be anything more than a mental device for overcoming the problem of history, and lacking, in the last resort, any kind of binding authority. (p. 516-17, vol. 1)

While modern Evangelicals may not agree with all of the ways Eichrodt interacted with critical methodologies, his commitment to a historical revelation that produced an Israelite faith that was sui generis (p. 517) is to be appreciated and carried on. There is a reason this theology is a classic.

- Rusty Osborne


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Tel Gezer 2013

I am excited to report that I just returned from my first season of excavating at Tel Gezer. The Tel Gezer Project is directed by Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff, and they both do an outstanding job of running the dig and the field school. You can read the latest press release on the 2013 season here. For those out there looking for an archaeological project to support, I enthusiastically recommend sending students or attending the Tel Gezer excavation.

- Rusty OsborneTel Gezer - 1

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