Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pilgrimage to Holy Land 4 - Petra Jordan

Prior to visiting the Holy Land, I did not realize that the Holy Land also includes territories outside of Israel.  If you examine the map of the Old Testament you will realized that the Holy Land was indeed a wide territory including the present country of Jordan.  Therefore in Jordan of today there are many Biblical sites like Mt. Nebo, Petra and others.

One of these places we visited was Petra, Jordan.

Background of Petra 

Petra is the Greek word for “rock”.  In biblical times it was known as Sela or Selah or Seir.  Between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba there is a valley surrounded by rocky cliffs, with a few narrow gorges leading inside.  Access to Petra is by a narrow crevice called the Siq.  The city of Petra was built inside this valley.  This was a natural protection for Petra as it was in a valley surrounded by high cliffs, with limited access via the Siq.  Petra is located about 170 miles from modern Amman.
Petra was extensively mentioned in the Bible especially as it concerned Job, Esau and Isaac.  Jacob tricked Esau of his birthday rights ( Gen 25-27 ), angry because of the betrayal he and his family left to settle in the new land of Seir or Petra.  From Esau came his descendants the Edomites.  The Edomites lived in this land when the Israelite came out of Egypt during the Exodus about 1445 BC.  The Edomites became the enemies of the ancient Hebrew together with the Amalekites, Moabites and Ammonites.

About 400 BC the Edomites were driven out by the Arabian Nabateans.  The Nabateans made Petra their capital and controlled the important trade routes between the East and the West.  Caravans passing through these routes had to pay taxes to the Nabateans who became very wealthy enabling them to build beautiful palaces, temples, theatres and tombs hewn out of solid rock in the valley.
In later centuries trade dried up as trade routes were conducted between the Orients and Europe.  Petra was forgotten for centuries and it became a legend.  Ancient people claimed that references to Petra were figment of imagination as this city was just a legend.  They claimed the non existence of Petra was the proof of unreliability of the Bible.  They were wrong.  God is never wrong!  In 1812, Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt disguised as an Arab Sheik discovered the lost city.  It was incredible that such a picturesque place existed just about 161 Kilometres south of Jerusalem! Due to unstable Middle Eastern political situations, visit to Petra was near impossible only in recent years this city is readily available to tourist visits.

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