The first Pope of the Americas Jorge Mario Bergoglio hails from Argentina. The 76-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a prominent figure throughout the continent, yet remains a simple pastor who is deeply loved by his diocese, throughout which he has travelled extensively on the underground and by bus during the 15 years of his episcopal ministry.
"My people are poor and I am one of them", he has said more than once, explaining his decision to live in an apartment and cook his own supper. He has always advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. The worst thing that could happen to the Church, he has said on various occasions, "is what de Lubac called spiritual worldliness", which means, "being self-centred". And when he speaks of social justice, he calls people first of all to pick up the Catechism, to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project is simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that "trampling upon a person's dignity is a serious sin.
The land of modern day Jordan has been the site of significant events in the history of Christianity spanning across centuries throughout the New and Old Testaments. It is because of this religious significance that sites all around Jordan have been designated as pilgrimage sites and have been visited by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI within the past half century and expects its fourth Papal visit by Pope Francis in May of 2014. As a land dedicated to religious coexistence, the country of Jordan maintains these religious sites for the use of pilgrims from all around the world.
"Today I am in Jordan, a land familiar to me from the Holy Scriptures - a land sanctified by the presence of Jesus Himself, by the presence of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist; and of saints and martyrs of the early Church. Yours is a land noted for its hospitality and openness to all."
The old Decapolis city of Gadara (modern-day Umm Qays) is a spectacular destination. The structures of the city...READ MORE
The city of Pella (Tabaqat Fahl) has been continuously occupied since Neolithic times and was first mentioned in the 19th century...READ MORE
The city of Umm Al-Jimal was given this name because of its key location as a stop on camel caravan routes. Umm Al-Jimal...READ MORE
The book of Kings mentions the homeland of Prophet Elijah stating, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead...READ MORE
Rehab Banu Hassan is a biblical city mentioned in the second Book of Samuel (10:6), in which it was reported that the king...READ MORE
The ancient city of Jerash prides itself for having an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years...READ MORE
Job is one of the earliest patriarchal figures in the Bible, whose book is one of the world’s great masterpieces...READ MORE
Amman, previously known as Philadelphia and as Rabbath Ammon, is one of the Decapolis Cities of the area...READ MORE
Modern-day Hisban is widely identified with one of the Cities of the Plain, Heshbon, due to the similarity in their names...READ MORE
Known in the Old Testament as Medeba, Madaba and its hinterlands are located in central Jordan. These lands were...READ MORE
Dhiban (Dibon) is a biblical city that was populated starting with the Bronze Age (3000 BC). Some buildings from the Iron Age...READ MORE
While the origin of the Arabic name “Umm Ar-Rasas” remains a mystery to this day it wasn’t until the seventeen century...READ MORE
The Dead Sea is one of the most dramatic places on Earth, with its stunning natural environment equally matched.READ MORE
Christianity came to Petra during its early stages. When the whole city became Christian, its inhabitants changed many.READ MORE
The first site in southern Jordan mentioned in the Exodus is Eziongeber (Number 33-35). Ezion-geber and Elath (or Eloth) .READ MORE
The site, acknowledged both in the Bible and Byzantine and Medieval texts, has been identified to extend from Tell al-Kharrar (Elijah’s Hill / Tall Mar Elias in Arabic) to the John the Baptist Church area, on the eastern bank of the River Jordan. Tell al-Kharrar is the same place from which Elijah is believed to have ascended to heaven in a whirlwind on a chariot of fire.
The Bible narrates that people used to travel from Jerusalem and Yahuda and from the countries bordering Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. “And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee” (Mark 1:9)
Though Jesus Christ’s divinity was acknowledged before his birth, he didn’t launch his public ministry at Bethany Beyond the Jordan until the age of 30. During his three-day stay at Bethany, Jesus prayed to God for the first time and gathered his first disciples – Simon, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael.
“Jesus left Nazareth and went to Scythopolis (Baysan) and he spent the night close to Pella. On the second morning of his journey he continued to the east bank of the Jordan River and he arrived at Bethany beyond Jordan and went to John to be baptized by him in river and stood in line with the repentant sinners. John recognized Jesus by inspiration from the Holy Spirit and tried to discourage him by saying, “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ then he consented.” (Matthew 3:14-15).
John confirms that the events of Jesus’ baptism occurred by saying, “These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (John 1:28).
Bethany formed part of the early Christian pilgrimage route between Jerusalem, the Jordan River, and Mount Nebo. Today, the area’s Arabic name is al-Maghtas – The Place of Baptism. In 1996, stunning archaeological discoveries identified this as the exact site where John had been living and carrying out his baptisms. Pottery, coins, stone objects, and architectural remains confirm the site was used in the early 1st century AD, during the time of Jesus and John.
The 3rd century Roman building, decorated with mosaics, is believed to be an early Christian ‘Prayer Hall’ – probably the earliest building for this specific use to have been identified anywhere in the world.
Closer to the Jordan River are the remains of five memorial churches built by early believers. Records of such churches remained throughout the Islamic periods - a sign of continued Christian-Muslim coexistence in Jordan. Pope John Paul II visited Bethany Beyond the Jordan during his March 2000 pilgrimage to Jordan and the Holy Land, and it was designated as a Jubilee Year 2000 pilgrimage site by the Catholic Church in the Middle East, along with Mount Nebo, Mukawir, Tall Mar Elias and Anjara
Mount Nebo, was the final station in Moses’ historic flight from Egypt to the Holy Land. Moses and his people camped “in the valley near Bethpeor”, a place long associated with the site known today as Ayun Musa (Springs of Moses).
Mount Nebo’s windswept promontory overlooks the Dead Sea, the Jordan River Valley, Jericho, and the distant hills of Jerusalem. From here, Moses viewed the Holy Land of Canaan that he would never enter. He died and was buried in Moab, “in the valley opposite Beth-peor” but his tomb remains unknown. After consulting the Oracle, Jeremiah reportedly hid the Ark of the Covenant, the Tent, and the Altar of Incense at Mount Nebo.
In the fourth century three domed buildings were erected in the place of the current altar. The place used to have a hidden passage which contained graves decorated with mosaics. On both sides of the place there were two small churches for performing the burial prayers. The baptistery, which is in the northern section of the site, is decorated with mosaics, while the floor of the southern section is decorated with a large cross.
Joshua, Moses’ successor, crossed the Jordan River with his people at a point directly opposite Jericho. Today, this ford is known as Bethabara, or Beit ‘Abarah (house of the crossing). It is believed this may be the same ford known in the Bible as Beth-barah, Beth-arabah and Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan. This has long been identified as the place where, centuries later, the prophets Elijah and Elisha divided the Jordan’s waters “to right and to left” and crossed to the eastern bank of the river.
Mount Nebo became a place of pilgrimage for early Christians from Jerusalem, and a small church was built there in the 4th century to commemorate the end of Moses’ life. Though the church was expanded in the 5th and 6th centuries, some of the original stones remain.
The Serpentine Cross, which stands just outside the sanctuary, is symbolic of the bronze (or brazen) serpent taken by Moses into the desert, as well as the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The curative serpent wrapped around a pole, designated to spare the Israelite followers from death, would later become the symbol of the pharmaceutical industry.
In the year 2000, the late Pope John Paul II commemorated the beginning of the new millennium with a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, starting his visit with prayers in the basilica at Mount Nebo. The viewing platform erected for Pope John Paul’s visit remains and is used by pilgrims to enjoy the same panoramic scene.
Mount Nebo was designated as a Jubilee Year 2000 pilgrimage site by the Catholic Church in the Middle East, along with Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Mukawir, Tall Mar Elias and Anjara.
It is believed that Jesus Christ, his disciples, and the Virgin Mary, passed through Anjara, in the hills of Gilead, once and rested in a cave there during a journey between the Sea of Galilee, the Decapolis Cities, Bethany Beyond the Jordan and Jerusalem. The cave in Anjara has long been a holy place for pilgrims and has now been commemorated with a modern shrine, the Church of Our Lady of the Mountain. The cave was also designated by the Catholic Churches of the Middle East as one of the five pilgrimage sites for the year 2000.
The 1st century AD Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, identified the awe-inspiring site of Machaerus (modern-day Mukawir) as the palace-fortress of Herod Antipas, the Roman-appointed regional ruler during the life of Jesus Christ. It was here, at this hilltop fortified palace overlooking the Dead Sea region and the distant hills of Palestine and Israel that Herod imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist; “He was beheaded after Salome’s fateful dance.” (Matthew 14:3-11)
Like its sister site, Masada, on the opposite side of the Dead Sea, Machaerus was also the scene of a Roman siege during the first Jewish revolt against Rome. The top of Mountain of Mukawir overlooks a breathtaking view of the Dead Sea. The summit can be reached after climbing a winding staircase up the mountain.
On a clear night you can easily make out the lights of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Ariha (Jericho). Far removed from the tourist circuit, the quiet of this area transports you back into Biblical times. Indeed, shepherds and their flocks still find shelter in the myriad caves and grottoes around Machaerus. Hike down towards the Dead Sea from Machaerus and you will truly feel that you are on top of the world.
Mukawir is also one of the designated pilgrimage sites for the year 2000.
Associated with the Prophet Elijah, Tall Mar Elias is very close to the ruins of a village known as Listib. It is believed that this place was formerly Tishbi, the home of Elijah, a native of Giliad in Transjordan (2Kings 17:1). The presence of two churches, built on the Tall (hilltop) at the end of the Byzantine period, substantiates the fact that this was a religious site.
This site has long been identified as the same place from which tradition says Elijah ascended to Heaven. Elijah, one of the most famous prophets sent to people bring them back from paganism, lived during the time of the rule of King Ahab in Israel. Ahab and his wife oppressed Elijah, and when Elijah grew old, God inspired him to leave and settle in what is today Jordan. When he and his successor Elisha arrived at the River Jordan, Elijah struck it with his cloak and parted the waters of the river. They crossed the dry land, and as they were speaking together upon the other side of the river, a fiery chariot came and carried Elijah into the heavens (2 Kings 2).
The site at Tall Mar Elias includes extensive architectural remains, scattered across the summit of the hill that rises above Listib, to the southeast.
The old Decapolis city of Gadara (modern-day Umm Qays) is a spectacular destination. The structures of the city are a combination of Ancient Graeco-Roman ruins intertwined with houses of an Ottoman village built with black basalt stone giving the city a grand and unique feel. This area is also where Jesus performed the miracle of the Gadarene swine, casting spirits out of two demented men and into a herd of pigs which then ran into the waters of the Sea of Galilee and drowned.
“And when he [Jesus] came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.” (Matthew 8:28-32)
A rare five-aisled basilica from the 4th century was recently discovered and excavated at Umm Qays. From the interior church, one can spy a Roman-Byzantine tomb over which the church was built. Such a distinctive architectural arrangement strongly indicates that it was built to commemorate the very spot where the Byzantine faithful believed that Jesus performed his miracle.
The city of Pella (Tabaqat Fahl) has been continuously occupied since Neolithic times and was first mentioned in the 19th century BC in Egyptian inscriptions. Its name was later Hellenized to Pella, perhaps to honor Alexander the Great’s birthplace. During this period Pella was one of the cities making up the Decapolis. At the advent of Christianity, the religion was spread in Pella (Tabaqat Fahl) and the city was the site of one of Christianity’s earliest churches. According to Eusebius of Caesarea it was a refuge for Jerusalem Christians in the 1st century AD who were fleeing the Jewish–Roman wars. The city was destroyed by the earthquake of 746 and a small village remains in the area.
Some of the most important events in the lives of Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, took place in ancient Jordan.
A massive Bronze and Iron Age temple recently discovered at Pella is thought to be the best-preserved temple from Old Testament times anywhere in the Holy Land. The discovery strongly indicates that Pella is the site of ancient Penuel; where Jacob stopped during his flight from Mesopotamia to Canaan.
The city of Umm Al-Jimal was given this name because of its key location as a stop on camel caravan routes. Umm Al-Jimal, like a few other sites in the area was built using black volcanic rocks due to the paucity of timber in the area. Nabatean inscriptions and graves have also been found in and around the city.
A total of fifteen churches have been uncovered in the Umm Al-Jimal area. The oldest church is that of Eulianos which goes back to 345 AD. Others, like the churches of Claudius and Maseshous are named after either the architects who designed them or the charitable people who built them.
The book of Kings mentions the homeland of Prophet Elijah stating, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)
Clay articles from the Hellenic and Roman eras and the Arab Middle Ages have been found in the city. Additionally, a number of items such as mosaic stones, lanterns and ornamental items from the Byzantine era were also found. A pool carved in the rock was discovered one kilometer to the northeast of Lesteb.
“And the word of the LORD came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (1 Kings 17:2-6)
The remains of one of the largest known Byzantine churches in Jordan can be found at the site. Artifacts from this site including marble carvings and small metal religious objects are on display at the Ajloun Castle Museum.
Rehab Banu Hassan is a biblical city mentioned in the second Book of Samuel (10:6), in which it was reported that the king of Ammon sent for and hired 20,000 Syrian men from Beth Rehob and from Zoba to fight in his army in the war against King David whose army came from Jerusalem under the leadership of Joab to defeat Ammon. The city is also mentioned in the book of Judges (18:28).
The most significant ruins of Christian Rehab include eight churches. Two of them are from the time of Biodorus the archbishop of Basra (Prophet Isaiah and Saint Mina in 634), another built during the era of Archbishop Aghabious (Saint Mary in 534) and five more churches built during the time of Archbishop Pauleoctus of Basra (Saint Baseleous in 594, Saint Paul in 596, Saint Sofia in 604, Saint Stephen in 620 and the church of Saint Peter in 624).
The ancient city of Jerash prides itself for having an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. During the pre-Roman era, and more specifically during the reign of Ptolemy III (246-222 BC), Jerash was a prosperous city. It was later captured by Alexander Janaeus, the leader of the Jews (102-76 BC), and remained under Jewish rule until the Roman leader Pompey captured Syria and Palestine in the middle of the first century BC.
During the period of Roman paganism, Jerash was famous for its many huge temples. After the end of Christian persecution and the conversion of the Romans to Christianity, the city began to receive fame for its large churches. Today, twenty churches have been found in Jerash including: The Cathedral Church, Saint Theodorus Church, John’s Church, Saint George’s Church, and Saints Cosmas and Damian’s Church.
In a large ecclesiastical complex within the city, there is a fountain where Byzantine citizens once annually celebrated Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. Today, the “Fountain Court” within Jerash is a popular destination for modern pilgrims who want to re-enact the travels and teachings of Christ.
The colonnaded streets, plazas, temples, paved pathways, theatres and fifteen Byzantine churches make Jerash the second most important historical destination for tourists in Jordan, after Petra.
Job is one of the earliest patriarchal figures in the Bible, whose book is one of the world’s great masterpieces of religious literature. The City of As-Salt, northwest of Jordan’s capital, Amman, houses the tomb/shrine of Job. The story of Job, who endured great hardships, is regarded as one of the oldest in the Bible.
As-Salt is also the location of the tomb/shrine of the prophet Jethro, who was Moses’ father-in-law. Furthermore, it is the site of the tombs of Jacob’s sons Jad and Asher.
Amman, previously known as Philadelphia and as Rabbath Ammon, is one of the Decapolis Cities of the area and once served as the capital of the Ammonite tribes. Mentioned in the Old Testament, the previous name of Amman, Rabbath Ammon, was the name of Saint Lot’s son. In the thirteenth century BC the Ammonite tribes united and formed a kingdom for themselves, predating the Israelite tribes, who were still living in the time of the Judges and did not form a kingdom until the time of the Prophet Samuel who anointed Saul as king in 1030 BC. When David fled from Saul and his men, he found refuge and an ally in Nahash, king of Ammon. When Nahash passed away, his son Hanun succeeded him on the throne. When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, they started preparing for a battle and hired mercenaries from Aram (Syria). When David heard of their plan he sent Joab and an army of the mightiest men to fight them. Then the people of Ammon came out and put themselves in battle array at the entrance. So Joab and the people who were with him drew near for the battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him. When the people of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fleeing, they also fled, and entered the city and took refuge behind its wall and towers.
So Joab returned from the people of Ammon and came to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 10:1-14). “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab to fight the children of Ammon, he besieged Rabbath and destroyed the children of Ammon” (2 Samuel 11:1). The city is also mentioned in the New Testament as the land of martyrs where Christians were killed by the Romans.
Amman today boasts a number of important ruins, including the Roman Theatre, a Roman temple and several Byzantine churches. The archeological museum situated in the Citadel owns one of the finest collections of ancient artifacts in the Middle East, including some of the Copper Dead Sea scrolls.
The modern capital is well-known for its excellent infrastructure, museums, fascinating shops, gourmet restaurants, luxurious hotels and recreational facilities.
Modern-day Hisban is widely identified with one of the Cities of the Plain, Heshbon, due to the similarity in their names (Numbers 21:26). Formerly ruled by the Amorite King Sihon, this region of central Jordan was referenced in the Song of Solomon 7:5, “…your eyes are like pools in Heshbon”.
Deuteronomy (2:26–31) mentions that when Moses arrived at the Wilderness of Kedemoth he sent messengers to Sihon King of Heshbon with words of peace, saying “Let me pass through your land. I will go only by the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink. Only let me pass through on foot, as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I go over the Jordan into the land that the LORD our God is giving to us.’ But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day.”
On the 18th of December 746 an earthquake destroyed buildings and civilizations in Hisban and cities and villages in the region; the city of Hisban was able to sustain its civilization until the end of the eighth century.
In addition to the excavated graves from the Roman and Byzantine eras, there are the remains of three churches. The remains of a church on top of the hill (Acropolis), the remains of a church on top of the hill on the east, and the remains of a church to the north of the hill.
Known in the Old Testament as Medeba, Madaba and its hinterlands are located in central Jordan. These lands were featured in narratives related to Moses and the Exodus, David’s war against the Moabites, Isaiah’s oracle against Moab, and King Mesha of Moab’s rebellion against Israel.
The book of Joshua mentions that Madaba and its neighboring areas were assigned to Jacob’s eldest son with Leah; Reuben: “So their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon (Al-Mujib), and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland by Medeba…And the border of the people of Reuben was the Jordan as a boundary. This was the inheritance of the people of Reuben, according to their clans with their cities and villages.” (Joshua 13:16-23).
Some of the finest art of the early Christian centuries can still be seen in Madaba and its surrounding regions. Between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, the prosperous ecclesiastical center of Madaba produced one of the world’s richest collections of Byzantine mosaics, many of which are well-preserved. Several church floor mosaics can still be seen in their original locations, while others are displayed in the Madaba Archaeological Park. The park houses Jordan’s oldest mosaic – a 1st century BC floor from the Herodian palace-fortress at Machaerus.
But Madaba’s real masterpiece, located in the Orthodox Church of Saint George, is the 6th century AD mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land – the earliest religious map of the Holy Land in any form to survive from antiquity. Accordingly, Madaba is dubbed “The City of Mosaics”. The map is said to have been made during the second half of the sixth century due to its stylistic resemblance to that of the Church of the Apostles.
Dhiban (Dibon) is a biblical city that was populated starting with the Bronze Age (3000 BC). Some buildings from the Iron Age were also found on the hill. Excavations reveal run-down buildings, streets and walls from different historical eras. Clay items were also found, the oldest of them from the ninth century BC.
“We overthrew them; Heshbon, as far as Dibon, perished; and we laid waste as far as Nophah; fire spread as far as Medeba.” (Numbers 21:30). “And the people of Gad built Dibon, Ataroth, and Aroer.” (Numbers 32:34)
The area seems to have played an important role throughout the Iron Age (1200-586BC), as mentioned on Mesha’s Stele, or Moab’s Stone, a black basalt stone discovered in 1868 AD. Engraved upon this stone were the achievements and victories of the Moabite King Mesha in the middle of the ninth century BC. The city is also mentioned in the Old Testament by the name of Medeba (Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9).
While the origin of the Arabic name “Umm Ar-Rasas” remains a mystery to this day it wasn’t until the seventeen century that archaeologist Jemer Deran suggested that Umm Al Rasas is in fact Mephaath mentioned in the Book of Joshua. Inscriptions in the churches of Umm Ar-Rasas validate Deran’s theory and proved that it was in fact Mephaath which the Bible mentioned was located in land of Moab which was also considered a refuge for those guilty of accidental killing (Joshua 21:36).
“And Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the people of Reuben according to their clans. So their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland by Medeba; with Heshbon, and all its cities that are in the tableland; Dibon, and Bamoth-baal, and Beth-baal-meon, and Jahaz, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath” (Joshua 13:15-18)
“Judgment has come upon the tableland, upon Holon, and Jahzah, and Mephaath” (Jeremiah 48:21).
The main attraction is outside the city walls within the Church of St. Stephen, which contains a very large, perfectly preserved mosaic floor laid down in 718 AD. It portrays fifteen major cities of the Holy Land from both east and west of the River Jordan. This magnificent mosaic is second only to Madaba’s world famous mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.Arnon Valley / Wadi Mujib
The Dead Sea is one of the most dramatic places on Earth, with its stunning natural environment equally matched by its powerful spiritual symbolism. The Bible variously calls it the “Sea of Arabah”, the “Salt Sea”, or the “Eastern Sea”. Mediaeval texts refer to it as “the Devil’s Sea”, but the Arab people have always known it as Bahr Lut (Lot’s Sea).
The infamous Sodom and Gomorrah and other cities of the Dead Sea plain, or (Cities of the Valley) were the subjects of some of the most dramatic and enduring Old Testament stories, including that of Lot, whose wife was turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying God’s will. Lot and his two daughters survived and fled to a cave near the small town of Zoar (modern-day Safi). The Bible says Lot’s daughters gave birth to sons whose descendents would become the Ammonite and Moabite people, whose kingdoms were in what is now central Jordan.
However, as they were leaving the burning city of Sodom, Lot’s wife disobeyed God’s order not to look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26). A rock formation stands near the Dead Sea, said to be the remains of the salt pillar that was Lot’s wife.
“So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.” (Genesis 19:29-30)
By the 6th century AD in the early Christian era - more than 2000 years after the events from Genesis - the land of Jordan was dotted with Christian monasteries and churches.
Christianity came to Petra during its early stages. When the whole city became Christian, its inhabitants changed many of the tombs into churches, including the “Al Jara Grave” to a church in 447 at the time of Bishop Jazonous. Petra was a diocese during the Byzantine era, and as proof the remains of a Catholic cathedral are found there.
During the time of Jesus and the Apostles, one of the East Mediterranean’s greatest trading centres was located in the southern Jordan city of Petra, the extensive rock-cut capital of the Nabataean Kingdom.
Petra flourished during Nabataean rule from the 3rd century BC to the early 2nd century AD, when it was occupied by the Roman Emperor, Trajan. Petra seems to be mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament under several possible names, including Sela and Joktheel (2 Kings 14:7).
During the Exodus, Moses and the Israelites passed through the Petra area in Edom. Local tradition says that the spring at Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses), just outside Petra, is the place where Moses struck the rock and brought forth water (Numbers 20:10-11). The Bible says that Moses was not allowed to enter the Holy Land but could only glimpse it from Mount Nebo, because he struck the rock with his rod to bring forth water, instead of speaking to it as God had commanded (Numbers 20:12-24).
Aaron, the first High Priest of the Bible and the brother of Moses and Miriam, died in Jordan and was buried in Petra at Mount Hor, now called Jabal Harun in Arabic (Mount Aaron). A Byzantine church, and later an Islamic shrine/tomb, were built on the summit of the mountain, which today attracts pilgrims from all over the world. Aaron is best remembered for the beautiful blessing that God commanded him to give people:
Petra was almost certainly the last staging post of the three kings, who took frankincense, gold and myrrh to honour the baby Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12). The King Aretas, mentioned in Corinthians 11:32, was a Nabataean king who ruled Petra.
The first site in southern Jordan mentioned in the Exodus is Eziongeber (Number 33-35). Ezion-geber and Elath (or Eloth) were port towns located at, or near, the Red Sea port of Aqaba. They are best known for their roles during the Iron Age, a few hundred years after the time of the Exodus. These locations are associated with both King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Deuteronomy 2:8), as well as The Chronic Wars between the kings of Judah and Edom (1 Kings 9:26, 2 Kings 14:22).
In recent years, what is believed to be the oldest purpose-built church in the world has been discovered in Aqaba.
The King’s Highway is the world’s oldest continuously used communication route. It used to link ancient Bashan, Giliad, and Ammon in the North with Moab, Edom, Paran, and Midian in the South.
Abraham, a common patriarch of Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, would certainly have used this route on his journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan.
In the Bible, The King’s Highway is first mentioned by name in Numbers 20:17, when Moses led the Exodus through southern Jordan. Moses asked the King of Edom if he and his people could “go along the King’s Highway” during their journey to Canaan, but his request was denied.
The King’s Highway is also referenced in an earlier story in Genesis 14:5-8, in relation to the four Kings from the North. They attacked Sodom and Gomorrah and the three other Cities of the Plain - Heshbon (Hisban), Medaba (Madaba) and Kir Moab (Karak) – taking Lot hostage, only to be chased and beaten by Abraham.
Today, this scenic route is a fine paved road that winds, dips, twists, and rambles through the heart of the Jordanian highlands, passing through the country’s most stunning landscapes and some of its most important ancient sites.