Saturday, November 7, 2015


We had a wonderful Sabbath last week. Our worship services were wonderful (other than the part where I did some teaching). We spent time together playing games and talking about things. It really was a nice day.

The next day Julianne took Jacob to the zoo. They had a wonderful time together, and stayed about three or four hours longer than they planned because they were having such a wonderful time. The rest of us cleaned the house, worked on homework, and just bummed around. I spent quite a bit of time getting ready for our Jordan trip and finishing up all sorts of other things for work.

Jacob petting a goat at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
Jacob feeding birds at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Monday morning we left early. I was able to have breakfast with my family, but then I left for Jordan before they left for school. I was with Jeff Chadwick again, and we had a great time together, as always. On the way down we taught about Elijah and Elisha crossing the Jordan River, and sang “Swing Low”. We also talked about Joshua and the Israelites crossing, and about the Savior crossing over and teaching “beyond Jordan.” We had fun and learned as we went. The computers went down at the Allenby border crossing, so we got delayed a while, but eventually we got through.

We first went to Mount Nebo, where we talked about Moses coming to Nebo but not going into the Promised Land. We spoke of the prophecies of Balaam, one of which was given from Nebo (also known as Pisgah). And we talked about the raising of the serpent on a staff since there is a monument for that there at Nebo. We tied that into Christ being lifted up for us. All in all we had a nice devotional and a nice time together. It was my first time on a field trip with this class and my first devotional with them, and I feel like it went pretty well. We are having a good time together.

Looking from Mt Nebo (or Mt. Pisgah) down to the lower plains of Moab, where the Israelites probably camped just before crossing the Jordan. Moses probably had this view of them, as would have Balaam when he went to curse them but blessed them instead
The monument to the Brass Serpent that stands on Mount Nebo

As we drove towards Madaba I taught them about the Israelites coming through the land and the way they skirted Edom and Moab but fought against Sihon and Og. We were driving through territory that they took from Sihon, so we made sure we talked about that. I think the students were actually listening and learning. We had fun and covered some cool stuff.

We were working with a guide we have never worked with before. His name is Amjad, and I really like him a lot and really find him easy to work with. He is friendly, has a good accent, is knowledgeable yet doesn’t feel the need to show off how much he knows or to compete with us in regards to the things we are teaching about. He told us he had worked with church groups before and was used to letting the priests teach the Bible stuff while he taught the historical stuff. We agreed to work that way, and he was so wonderful to work with. I had a perfect time with him. A few funny things came out of this. To begin with you could tell he was used enough to working with priests this way that he kept calling me “Father.” After a while he stopped doing that (not before “Father Muhlestein” became my nickname among many students) and started calling me “the Doctor” which made a lot of Dr. Who fans fairly excited. This is another nickname that seems to be sticking.

We went to Madaba, a place that was taken from Sihon by Moses, retaken later by Moabites, retaken by David, lost to the Moabites under Rehoboam, retaken by Omri, lost by Ahab’s descendants, etc., etc. There is a cool church there with a wonderful mosaic map of Byzantine Jerusalem. We had some nice moments there, had a nice lunch in Madaba, and continued on.

My students at the church at Madaba

The mosaic map of Jerusalem in the church of St. George at Madaba
Amjad teaching my class at Madaba
After that we went to Machaerus. This is the site where Josephus tells us that John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. It was windy like crazy, but beautiful. Jeff Chadwick taught us a great lesson there about the geography and about John. It was a delightful time.

Herod's fortress at Machaerus
Sunset over the Dead Sea as seen from Machaerus
The room that is probably the dungeon at Machaerus. If so, this is where John the Baptist was held until he was beheaded.
Claire, one of my students, at Machaerus
Dr. Chadwick teaching at Machaerus
students at Machaerus

From there it is just a long drive to Petra. We told some stories, listened to some music, and just relaxed on that long drive. From time to time I taught them cool stuff about the Exodus through that area, etc. We also talked about the King’s Highway. It was a nice time. I slept hard that night.
The next day started early. We walked to Petra and got in as it opened. Amjad did a great job of teaching enough, but not too much. It is always fun to be with the students as they first come to the treasury (or Kazneh, the building in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). They get so excited. 

First view of the Treasurey, or Kazneh, of Petra (exiting the Siq, or Canyon of the Crescent Moon as it is called in Last Crusade)
Students riding camels at the Kazneh, or Treasury (the tomb of Aretas IV) at Petra
From there we had free time. I went with a group of students to the High Place. A storm was coming in, and the wind was amazingly powerful. We had a hard time standing up straight there on the high place. Some people wanted to do jumping pictures, and but I didn’t want them to do it near the edge because the wind actually moved you back while you were in the air. It was crazy.

The traditional tomb of Aaron as seen from the High Place at Petra
Jumping at the High Place at Petra
Withstanding the wind at the High Place at Petra
From there I hiked to the Dushara Temple, a temple that is pretty contemporaneous with Herod’s temple and built in much the same style. I showed many students through the temple and taught them about it a bit. I let them all wander off and I enjoyed just hanging out and exploring the temple by myself. 

The Dushara Temple at Petra

The Temple of Dushara at Petra

I also went around and explored a number of old churches there, and some tombs people don’t often go to, and the palace and a bunch of other stuff off the beaten path. 

The Royal Tombs at Petra

The cliffs and ruins of Petra

Ruins of a Byzantine church at Petra

Every now and then I ran into students and explained some things to them. A few times tourists took pictures of me teaching. I’m not sure why. I guess it was that I was wearing my Indiana Jones hat while doing it. I had an absolutely wonderful time exploring today. Sometimes I was with students and loved that. Sometimes I was by myself, and I loved that. It was a peaceful wonderful day, even though we had a ton of sand being blown on us the whole time.

Me teaching a small group of students at a temple in Petra

Some of the ruins of Petra

Some of the cool colors of Petra
My little phone app, which seems to always underestimate how much I am doing, told me that I walked 10.5 miles while in there, going over 29,000 steps, and climbing over 150 flights. It was a good day!

A baby donkey we found outside one of the simple tombs of Petra
The ruins and cliffs of Petra

From there we went to Little Petra. I have never been there before. It is really close by, and it is a series of tombs made by the Nabateans, just like those in Petra. One tomb has some splendid mosaics on it. It was delightful.
From there it was a four hour drive to Amman. We told some stories. They wanted to hear the story of how I got to be a teacher and an Egyptologist and at BYU, etc. So I told them that story and tried to make some lessons of it. I think it went fairly well. We were all glad to get to Amman and shower. I had sand encrusted all over my body. It was good to get clean.
The next morning we went to the citadel of Amman. There Jeff Chadwick taught us all about the various Bible stories that have to do with Rabbat Amman, especially the story of David and Uriah the Hittite. He did a masterful job. 

The remains of the temple of Hercules at the Citadel of Amman

Looking down from the walls of the Citadel of Amman, known at Rabbat Amman in the Bible. From around here the Ammonites killed Uriah, who was down in the valley upon which we look here.
Looking up at the citadel, or Rabbat Ammon, from the view which Uriah would have had just before he died.
Then we toured some of the Muslim features there, and off we went to the Roman theater. There we talked just a bit about the Savior’s involvement with the Decapolis cities, and we sang. There was a local group of school girls there who loved hearing our singing, and recorded it. They also sang for us a bit. It was a nice experience.

Amjad, Jeff Chadwick and me at the citadel of Amman in the Muslim ruins

Singing to the Jordanian girls in the Theater of Philadelphia (the Roman/Hellenistic name for Amman)
From there we drove to the Jabbok River. We spread out along the banks and I taught for about half an hour about Jacob taking his family there in what is essentially an Abrahamic sacrifice, and about his wrestle with an angel, and how we need to learn from Jacob about that. Then we sang a hymn together, and we let them have some time to think and write. It was a time where I felt the spirit strongly and was deeply touched and moved. It was as meaningful a time as I have had on a field trip. I also had the impression that the students quite enjoyed it.

The rock from whence I taught at the Jabbok River. Here we spoke of Jacob wrestling at Peniel

The Jabbok River. Somewhere around here is Peniel, the place Jacob wrestled with an angel

Students reading and writing at the Jabbok River
From there we had lunch and went to Jerash. This is one of the best preserved Roman cities anywhere in the world. Jeff Chadwick taught them about Jerash and especially about how it fits well as the Jershon mentioned in the Book of Abraham. He bore a powerful testimony of the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and of scriptures in general. I think the students quite enjoyed it. 

Students racing at the Hippodrome of Jerash

Jeff Chadwick teaching about the authenticity of scriptures at Jerash
students at the ruins of Jerash
Amjad did a great job explaining some things about the place and taking us around a bit. Then we gave everyone free time, and I explored some temples. It was great!

My class at the entrance to Jerash

My class in front of the Nympaeum of Jerash

The ruins of Jerash (probably Jershon in the Book of Abraham)
Corinthian Columns at the Aretmis temple of Jerash
The temple of Artemis at Jerash
We drove back to Amman. During all this time we were traveling through the territory of Gilead, so on the bus I taught them about things that took place in Gilead, such as the stories involving Jabesh Gilead (there are more than you may think), and Elijah. Jeff taught them about the kings, such as Ahab, who fought in Gilead. I think the students appreciated it, and most of them were even awake for it.
That evening everyone went around Amman. There isn’t a lot of excitement in Amman, but I at least went to the store and bought some treats for my kids. On the whole it was a nice day.

The next morning we went to the Abdullah Mosque. It rained as hard as I have ever seen rain. It poured and poured. We were okay because we were in the mosque, but it was crazy outside. 

Some of my students ready to go into the Abdulla Mosque

From there we were supposed to go to the Amman archaeological museum, but the streets around it had flooded because of the rain, and had been closed. We decided to go to the Royal Automobile museum instead. As we drove we saw streets here and there where the water was up past the wheels of the cars. It was a ton of rain.

Ferraris at the Royal Automobile Museum of Amman

In the Royal Automobile Museum of Amman
The automobile museum was nice. We had lunch and went to the Jordan River, to Bethany Beyond Jordan, the traditional site of the baptism of Christ. I taught about baptism and following Christ there. I feel like it was somewhat inspirational and motivational. I can only hope so. We sang, and a group across the way who were doing baptisms thanked us for singing. Then students just sat and thought and wrote in journals. It was quite nice.

The Jordan River at Bethany Beyond Jordan, or the traditional site of the Savior's baptism

Students writing in their journals at Bethany Beyond Jordan, the traditional site for Jesus' baptism

From there we took forever to cross the border, and finally made it home. I was delighted to be with my family again. The little ones came up to greet us, and it made us all feel so welcome. Reunions are sweet.

The next day we were back at it hard and fast. I taught two hours of New Testament. It is only my second time teaching this group in the classroom, though I have now spent dozens and dozens of hours with them on field trips across Jordan. I felt like the lessons went particularly well. It seemed to me that we had impactful interactions. I love these students. I am blessed to teach the best people in the world here.

My New Testament class
After class I hurried and bought some groceries, and then the teachers all hurried off to do a field trip preparation for our Herodian and Bethlehem trip. It rained and rained on us, but it really wasn’t too bad. The Herodian was nice. Bethlehem was nice. Shepherds field was nice. I think we are all ready to go, and it will be a great field trip.

After that it was just a relaxing evening with my family. Again and again I am amazed at how lucky we are to be here. Thank the Lord!

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