Jordan River

Baptisms and Mine Fields

Near the north end of the Dead Sea is a new site not available to us in 2010. (A re-post from 2017.)

Our family “floating” in the Dead Sea.

Our family “floating” in the Dead Sea.

In 2010 we visited a Jordan River baptism site at the point where the out-flow of the Sea of Galilee entered the Jordan River. At the time we were told this most northern point of the Jordan River was the only part accessible to tourists to Israel. The rest of the river all the way to the Dead Sea was in a military zone–and there was hardly any water in it due to agricultural use. The new baptism site we went to in June 2017 is near the Dead Sea.


It seems evident to me that Israelis saw great value in building a tourist site available for Christian baptisms closer to the actual site of Jesus’ baptism in the gospels.

I do not know the process or negotiations that took place between the Palestinians, the Jordanians and themselves, but Israelis spent a great amount of money to provide this place and the accessibility at Bethabara. Scott Stripling, our tour guide and dig director at Shiloh, translated the name as “the house of crossing.,” It is on the western bank of the Jordan River. The country of Jordan is across the Jordan River to the east.

The western bank is in the territory of the Palestinians known, logically, as The West Bank.

Beside the road down to the baptism site of the West Bank near Jericho.

Beside the road down to the baptism site of the West Bank near Jericho.

In 2010, we were told the western bank of the Jordan River from the most southern point of the Sea of Galilee was a Palestinian military zone off-limits to Israelis and tourists. We saw this area labelled DANGER, MINES! beside the road in 2017.


All this resulted in a continual flow of tourists coming to be baptized. And Israeli military personnel stood nearby to watch over us all.




A mountain near the Jordan River.

A mountain near the Jordan River.

AUTHOR: Eskie, tell us how you came to be a spy for Gibeon.

ESKIE: We, meaning the people of Aijalon Valley, needed up-to-date information about the horde of people camped just over the Jordan River from us.

AUTHOR: So, you expected an attack?

ESKIE: Yes. With them so close by, it could happen at any time.

AUTHOR: Who were these people and where had they come from?

ESKIE: They were called Hebrews. There were many old stories about them that caused rumors they had come to take over Canaan.

AUTHOR: How far away were they from Gibeon when you began spying on them?

ESKIE: Only a one-day hard march. Several more if they were driving flocks and herds.

AUTHOR: How were you chosen to be the first spy for Gibeon?

ESKIE: My two older brothers were more essential to the day to day pottery business than me. And I was Sir Ghaleb's top student among the young men trained to defend Gibeon. 

AUTHOR: When did you first become aware of these people?

ESKIE: Our friend Haydak bin-Khanjar the caravanner first told us about them nearly a year before. They had just come out of the Sinai Desert.

AUTHOR: How close were they then—a year ago?

ESKIE: That would depend on how much resistance they got from our neighbors in southern Canaan. When I became a spy we in Gibeon had only the Jordan River and Jericho between us.

AUTHOR: I see. What was a typical day of spying like?

ESKIE: Boring.

AUTHOR: Boring?

ESKIE: Yes, very boring. If it were not for the eagle's nest about two stones' throws away, I am sure I would have died of boredom. I kept asking myself "What are they waiting for?" I decided they must be very patient people. Later, I changed my mind about that.

AUTHOR: How so?

ESKIE: Well, first I thought surely they would cross the Jordan any day. It was winter and the flow of the Jordan was just a trickle. Easy for them to cross. But they did not cross.

AUTHOR: But they did cross, right? When did that happen?

ESKIE: It was strange! They waited until spring was arriving and the snow melt from Mt. Hermon made the Jordan River overflow! They waited until we least expected them to cross.

AUTHOR: How were they able to cross the flooded river?

ESKIE: That I would not have believed if I had not been there and seen it with my own eyes!

AUTHOR: What? What happened?

ESKIE: I was lying there in my well-worn place in our spy nest on the highest pinnacle over Jericho. I had been spying for almost three full moons. That morning I had just finished my first time of running in place to keep from dying from boredom—and to keep my muscles able to make the long trek home from there.

AUTHOR: You were counting on nothing happening with the river flooded. Right?

ESKIE: Yes. And I could not have been more wrong.

AUTHOR: What happened next?

ESKIE: The Hebrews began to break camp and line up. Very precisely. Very deliberately.
Very organized like. It was obvious they were headed for the edge of the flooded Jordan River. And I am lying there shaking my head. Asking myself, "What is this all about? Can they not see there is no possible way for them to cross?"

AUTHOR: Eskie, I am so sorry. We are out of time today. Can you come back tomorrow and finish this exciting tale.

ESKIE: I would be glad to. But remember. This is not a tale. I saw this with my own eyes—and for fact Canaan would never be the same again.

AUTHOR: Thank you, Eskie. Folks, come back for the 'rest of the story' from seventeen-year-old Eskie, the fictional main character of The Star Namer and the Unchosen—available October 1, 2019 wherever fine books are sold. The new book is sequel to the highly acclaimed Shepherd, Potter, Spy—and the Star Namer.

AUTHOR: Until next time, keep on 'digging deeper into HIStory!'