Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Walled Cities of the Bible: A Reflection on theDaughters of Israel and the Daughters of Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres.

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The Walled Cities of the Bible A Reflection on the

Daughters of Israel and the Daughters of

Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres.

by Amado Galo J. Estonilo, III

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The biblical text contains a wealth of information pertaining to the manners and customs of the people of ancient Israel. This information ranges from the manner in which to perform sacrifices to God to injunctions regarding the slaughtering of animals. In the Bible can be found subjects ranging from civil and religious laws to building codes and harvesting techniques. It also includes significant details on the proper procedure for dealing with a delinquent son and the requirements for purifying a priest after he has come into contact with a corpse. As a storehouse of useful information the biblical text also describes the various aspects of day-to-day life of ancient Israel. Questions such as What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they worship? Under what conditions do the people live? What physical, economic, and social demands do geography, climate, physical resources, and neighboring groups place on the people? How much of Israel’s people and culture had been influenced by other cultures can be partially answered by simply reading the Scripture. The answers to these questions, however, may vary according to time period and level of cultural development. Israel did change its social attitudes and customs over the two millennia of its existence before the Christian era. With this in mind, the researcher would like to raise an important question Would not a careful reading of the biblical text be sufficient to supply all the information anyone would need on this subject? An attempt to recreate the social world of ancient Israel the researcher sees that it is inevitable to resort to other sources of information other than the biblical text itself.

For more than a century, archaeologists working in the Near East have painstakingly uncovered the past, shedding dramatic new light on the texts of the Bible and making its pages come alive as never before in history. Some of the more exciting finds of recent years made world headlines and captured the attention of both scholars and the public. For instance, the discovery of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” from the Qumran caves in 147 served as one of the most important modern tools for studying the biblical text. A copy of John’s Gospel found in Egypt, dated A.D.150 by the scientific method carbon 14, destroyed the hypothesis that the Fourth Gospel was a late second-century creation. The inscription (T)IBERIEVM and (PO)NTVS PILATVS (dated from AD 6 � 7), found in Caesaria by a group of archaeologists from the University of South Florida offered physical evidence that at Jesus’ time Tiberius was the Roman emperor, and Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judea. In 176, the discovery of gold coins bearing the portrait of the Emperor Tiberius near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem brings to mind the sermon of Jesus at the same location, “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt. 1). Archaeological excavations on the site of biblical Capernaum revealed the remains of a massive synagogue with a long prayer hall and a colonnaded courtyard. Archaeologists dated the ancient synagogue between the nd and rd century, indicative to the fact that it was not the one where Jesus preached. However, archaeologists believe that the grandeur of the synagogue serves as a reminder of the strong Jewish population and character of Capernaum during Jesus’ time. We are reminded in Matthew 11-4 that Jesus Christ condemned Capernaum because the people there would not repent, despite all that they have seen him do.

Can archaeological evidences provide useful information on the life and culture of the people of the Bible and of the people of ancient Israel? Although in some instances physical remains of the past may only offer a partial picture of life in ancient times, they can become important source of data and contribute to the understanding of the people of the past. Like any other field of study, Archaeology, as the scientific study of material remains of past human life and activities has its own strengths and limitations. According to Flemming (10154), “archaeological discoveries are only mute evidences of life in the ancient past and to expect these discoveries to conclusively prove the truth is unreasonable”. But he also recognized that one of archaeology’s greatest strength is that, “even in part, archaeology can bridge the gap of thousand years by insights into the day-to-day life of the ancient past” (10156).

The Pontifical Biblical Commission’s decree on The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church published in 14 teaches that the use of the Historical-Critical method is “the indispensable method for the scientific study of the meaning of the Holy Scripture” (PBC, 500). The same document, however, also reiterates that “Catholic exegesis freely makes use of other scientific methods and approaches which allow a better grasp of the meaning of texts in their linguistic, literary, socio-cultural, religious and historical contexts” (PBC, 51). Biblical archaeology is one of the scientific methods emphasized by the document that can become useful in the interpretation and understanding of the world of the Bible. In the past century, numerous archaeological discoveries have shed light on the study of the Bible by way of reconstructing the different cultures and the rich traditions and customs behind the biblical world.

The various archaeological discoveries on the study of the Bible in Israel will be useful to the present study. This study aims to identify the two () basic divisions of the land of biblical Israel, and to identify the predominant inhabitants in each of the basic divisions. It also hopes to reconstruct the culture and tradition of the inhabitants in each division and lead to an understanding of the day-to-day life of the people. More importantly, this study will show the impact of the economic, political, social and class distinctions to the faith life of the people inhabiting these two major land divisions.

Israel The Land of “Milk and Honey”

Israel is a relatively small land of 50 miles long and 60 miles wide. Several spectacular geographical features that affect the people who live there characterize the land of Israel. Its topography reveals the two most prominent features of the land the fertile valleys or plains, and the hill country.

As a matter of illustration, the Jordan valley runs from the north of the Sea (lake) of Galilee down to the Jordan River and zigzags south along its course toward the Dead Sea, providing water for crops and livestock. The further south the Jordan River flows the more saline the water becomes (due to the heavy clogging of brine), thereby dividing the country agriculturally with wheat being planted in the north and more salt resistant barley in the south. Paralleling the Jordan Valley is the central hill country. The hill country is well known for its spectacular drop in elevation known as the “slopes”. Jerusalem and Jericho serve as one example of the differences in elevation that occur within a relatively short distance in the region. Jerusalem has an elevation of over ,500 feet above sea level. However, Jericho, just 15 miles to the east, has an elevation of 1,75 feet below sea level. According to Matthews, “such massive shifts in the earth’s surface make travel difficult and tend to cut off direct communication and cultural interaction” (117). The topographical map of Israel shows these two important features. About 75% of the land belong to the hill country, and only 5% of the land represent the plains or the valleys. These two important regions are characterized not only by land elevation but also by the quality and standard of life of the people who live in these two distinct regions.

Life in the hill country is difficult and unpredictable. Its low annual rainfall makes this region the most uncertain, fragile and harshest environment in Israel. For example, the scarcity of water in the Judean wilderness and the Negeb desert makes the land unsuitable for any agricultural-base activities. In contrast to the approximately 45 inches of annual rainfall in the valley, the hill country only receives about 5 to 8 inches of rain per year. In this area, however, rain may not come in years and this barrenness has made it synonymous with pain, trial, and death. Life in the hill country is silent, lonely and exhausting. The farther one goes out to the hills and the desert the smaller the settlements become. The settlements up in the hills of Israel are the small, simple, unwalled, and unprotected villages. Since agricultural farming is not suitable to the land in this region, the inhabitants of the hill country often resorted to pastoral activities. The Bible calls the land in the hill country, the LAND OF MILK because there one finds shepherds, sheep, goats, goat cheese, and goat milk. Those who lived up in the hill country, on the road to nowhere, are the simple and unwalled villages.

Life in the valleys and plains is easy and predictable. This region enjoys the advantages of the highest annual rainfall in the country and the most fertile soil. It is supported by wheat farming along with fruit and olive orchards. In biblical times, irrigation farming was very common in this region, as well as terraced agriculture on the slopes of the hills. A massive aqua-dock system was built during the reign of Pontius Pilate along the coastal plains of Palestine in order to strengthen the agricultural activities of this region. Life in the valleys and plains is noisy and busy. The valleys and plains were heavily populated in biblical times, containing the major cities with huge palace complexes and temples. According to Flemming, “out of the 64 cities and towns mentioned in the Old Testament, 50 are located in the plains and valleys, and over 00 are in the hill country” (1007). Some of the 50 cities in the plains and valleys are the walled, large, urbanized, and trading centers that are located along the main highways that network the country. Aside from agricultural farming, the major cities in the plains were also supported by large-scale commercial activities. The Bible calls the land in the valleys and plains, the LAND OF HONEY. Honey, is not meant the sweet viscid substance collected by honey-producing bees. But biblical honey refers to the fruits or the produce of trees of the fertile and well-watered soil of the valleys and plains. In Isaiah 0, the prophet warned the Israelites of the coming of the Assyrians, “and when the Assyrians come they will make your land of milk and honey, a land of milk” (RSV). This means that the Assyrians will uproot the trees and will destroy the plains and valleys. The people in the fertile, cosmopolitan plains, “the honey people” will be destroyed, and all that will be left are the people who live in the remote and hill country area.

During the past century, biblical archaeologists have focused most of their archaeological diggings in the ancient cities located in the valleys and plains of Israel. They discovered that walled citadels fortified these major cities in the valley and plains, and that the common people lived outside the walled citadels. The biblical phrase for these people is, the daughters. The daughters of Israel means, the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the unprotected people who lived in the unwalled towns and villages in the valleys and in the hill country.

The Book of Exodus reminds us that Yahweh was able to work more effectively with the Israelites while they were living in the most remote places in the mountains at Sinai. There in the most hostile and unprotected side of the biblical land that the word of the Lord comes to those whose lives are unpredictable, silent, lonely and exhausting. And what might seem to be blessings for those people living in the walled, protected, easy and noisy cities in the valley sometimes end up as curse.

The Walled Cities of Israel

Gustavo Gutierrez often reminded us in class that God comes to the simple, the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden, and that we can find God by way of being aware and sensitive to the needs of the poor. The biblical drama shows this reality whenever the people experience hardships, trials and pain, and most often than not their perils in life happen in the wilderness of the hill country. What is it about that region of the land that helped influence the spirituality and religiosity of the daughters of Israel, and why is it hard for the people to find authentic faith once they move down into the plains and try to live there?

The present study would like to respond to the question by illustrating the setting of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. Nazareth is located in the northern part of the central hill country in the tribe of Zebulon. It is situated between two large valleys, the Yiftahel valley to the north of Nazareth, and the Jezreel valley to the south. There are two walled cities located in the Yiftahel valley the city of Cana, and the larger and more cosmopolitan city of Sepphoris. The valley to the south of Nazareth, the Jezreel valley is in itself a famous historical place. That valley in the Apocalypse of John was called Armageddon. The largest walled city in the Jezreel valley is the city of Megiddo.


At the time when the Israelites were conquering the Promised Land, Cana was one of the villages that belonged to the territory inhabited by the Canaanites. When the Israelites divided the land by lots, Cana became the portion that fell to the sons of Zebulon. According to Alliata, “scholars have identified Cana as the Old Testament city of Et-Kazim, which was mentioned in the first book of Joshua 11” (188 5). In the New Testament, the city became famous for Jesus’ miracle when he changed water into wine at a marriage feast (John 11). In past centuries, as well as today, Cana lies on the way that passes from Nazareth to Sepphoris. The historian, Josephus Flavius wrote that Cana was a strategic location between Sepphoris and Tiberias (Alliata, 18857). St. Jerome also wrote about Cana when he narrated the journey of his disciple, St. Paula to Cana. According to St. Jerome’s narration, “she passed by Cana when she went from Nazareth to Capernaum and visited a large church where six water jars were enshrined in honor of Jesus’ miracle in Cana” (Alliata, 18858).

Archaeological exploration in the ancient city of Cana begun in 164 by a Franciscan, L. S. Bagatti of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem. Bagatti’s exploration team found remains of Roman buildings and courtyards dated back to the 1st and nd century AD. The archaeological excavations in Cana by Bagatti’s team revealed the remains of a Roman palace bearing the imprints of the original decorative floor tiles. It was also discovered that the palace was surrounded by tall and impressive columns “possibly made out of hard Italian marbles” (Bagatti, 17515). In addition, excavations in Cana also exposed remarkable mosaics, engravings and statues typical of the classical influence of Roman art and culture. But the most impressive archaeological discovery in Cana by the Bagatti team was a portion of a massive wall which according to Bagatti divided Cana into an upper and lower city. The wall itself shows an impressive characteristic of Roman technique known as opus reticulatum, which used pyramid-shaped pieces of stone with square bases that were wedged into the concrete walls. The remains of the Roman architectures and arts mentioned above were all discovered within the upper city of Cana. There were no traces of simple dwellings within the city walls. Excavations outside the city walls revealed, however, the remains of small dwellings inhabited by the majority yet poor and marginalized population of the city.

The archaeological exploration and discoveries in Cana give us an idea that Cana was a large, urbanized city, and possibly “with an approximate population of 10,000 people or more” (Bagatti, 175 45). It has a massive wall that protects the Aristocracy and divides them from their lower and poor subjects.


Just across the Yiftahel valley from the city of Cana is another large city, Sepphoris. Sepphoris was the capital of Galilee during the time of Jesus. Herod Antipas made Sepphoris his capital after inheriting Galilee and Perea at his father’s (Herod the Great) death in 4 BC. Although not mentioned in the Christian gospels, Sepphoris was a major Roman city and was a center of Jewish life and learning.

The first archaeological exploration in Sepphoris was done in 10 by a team from the University of Michigan under the direction of Leroy Waterman. But due to the lack of funding, Waterman’s excavation was put into halt the following year. Excavations at Sepphoris resumed only in 185 through a joint venture from the University of South Florida (USF), Duke University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Under the direction of Dr. James Strange of the USF, the consortium began extensive work in the ancient city of Sepphoris.

According to Dr. Strange, “the most important archaeological discovery in Sepphoris is the ruins of a splendid and colossal building located at the east-side of the city” (107). Archaeologists in Sepphoris observed that the building is near the size of the palace uncovered in Cana, but improbable as a palatial estate for the Aristocracy of the city of Sepphoris. Excavations at the ruins of the building uncovered important artifacts that helped archaeologists in making some conclusions about the possible use of the place. According to Strange

The central space of the building is surrounded by columns and paved with mosaic floors in geometric patterns. Ruins of a row of small rooms (shops or offices) line the south side of the building. These rooms do not open directly on to the streets. They are accessible from within the building. The mosaic floors bear designs of altar worship and offerings, and other symbols used in ancient worship such as, birds, fishes, bread, etc. Hundreds of gold coins and many fragments of glass were also recovered in the course of the excavations (10107).

These findings led Strange and his team to conclude that the general plan of the building was more likely that of a basilica than any other structure in antiquity. However, the discovery of hundreds of gold coins, ruins of small rooms or stalls, remnants of various types of furniture, and glass fragments suggesting liquid commodities such as oil or wine, reveals the economic activity of the place. At one point in history, Strange adds, that the building could have also been used as a market place.

It was also uncovered that Sepphoris had an amphitheater that seated about 5000 people. In addition, the discovery of a cistern and ceramic pipes at the western part of the city suggest that Sepphoris had a massive and accessible water system. Several private pools attached to large villas were also discovered in Sepphoris. Josephus Flavuis noted that in the nd century AD, Sepphoris took the name Diocaesarea and became a great Jewish intellectual center.

Like the discovery of a massive wall in Cana, the excavations in Sepphoris also unearthed strong and wide walls surrounding the city. A double wall protects the city of Sepphoris, and archaeologists discovered that a third wall is constructed and attached diagonally between the two inner and outer walls. The diagonal walls served as foundations and fortifications for the two inner and outer walls. This structure is typical of a Herodian construction. A similar wall was discovered at Herod the Great’s palatial mountaintop fortress (the Herodium) at the Jordan valley.

Archaeological discoveries within the city walls indicate that Sepphoris was a major trade center during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Its sophistication has greatly influenced the religious, socio-political and economic conditions of the population. However, archaeological studies in Sepphoris illustrate the extraordinary and expensive standard of living. Likewise, there were no traces of ordinary dwelling places unearthed within the city walls of Sepphoris.

The Jezereel Valley

The plain to the south of Nazareth is called the Jezereel valley. Throughout the course of history, the Jezereel valley was the site of many important events, and was called by many names. In the Old Testament, the Jezereel valley was known for the area were the Gentile pagans worshipped Baal. In Jesus’ time, the Romans built Pantheons in the valley to worship their Greco-Roman gods. The Book of Revelation calls this valley Armageddon, and accords it a crucial role in the future, promising an eschatological battle between the forces of good and evil. The Romans called this valley, the Legio, in reference to the presence of the Roman legion in the area.

The Jezereel valley was the arena of many battles in history. The main highway connecting the three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa goes through this valley. This highway was called the Via Maris, the “way of the sea”. It served mainly as a trade route, but throughout the course of history many armies have marched through this highway. The earliest known battle in this valley was in the early Bronze age, rd millennium BC, when the Egyptian Pharoah Thutmose III marched his army through the Jezereel valley and had a battle with the Canaanite forces. The Old Testament records several battles in that valley Gideon against the Medianites, King Saul and King David fought the Philistines in this valley, and King Josiah died in a battle in the Jezereel valley.

After the New Testament period, the valley played a decisive role in many battles for the control of the city of Meggido. The Crusaders retreated across that valley from the advancing army of Saladin I. In 1808, the French Emperor Napoleon I (Bonaparte) fought the Turkish army at the valley of Armageddon. In World War I, British Field Marshall Edmund Allenby led an Australian cavalry and the Tenth Indian infantry to win a battle at the Jezereel valley against a group of about 100 Turkish fighters defending the last vestige of the Ottoman Empire.

The Jezereel valley’s military importance and long history as an international battleground is aptly reflected in the Apocalypse of John in the Book of Revelation (1614-16). Armageddon (meaning “the mount of Megiddo”) is designated as the site where, at the end of days, the evil will gather the hosts of the nations for the ultimate battle against the forces of God.

Jesus’ birthplace, Nazareth, is located above the slope of a hill overlooking the Jezereel valley. We could imagine Jesus taking walks in the afternoon around Nazareth looking over that huge valley spread out before him. He may have known those events in history, and could be reminded of how living in that valley destroyed many people. Those events may also have contributed to Jesus’ teaching, “He that lives by the sword, dies by the sword”.

The front yard of Nazareth is the battleground of history, and the people who lived in that valley, outside the city walls, are the ones “run over” by huge armies. They do not ask if there will be an army to attack them, they only ask when.


The largest city in the Jezereel valley in biblical times was the City of Megiddo. According to Kempinski, “Megiddo is the only site in Israel mentioned by every great power in the Ancient Near East and is widely regarded as the most important biblical period in Israel” (18). Kempinski’s statement may reflect one important historical fact about Megiddo, that is, most of the great battles fought in the Jezereel valley was for the capture and control of the City of Megiddo. Megiddo lured the great armies of the Ancient Near East because of its strategic location in the Jezereel valley. The rich soil and abundant harvest supported the city. The Via Maris, which passes right beside the city limits, served as the “superhighway” that linked Megiddo to neighboring cultures and civilizations.

Clarence Fisher of the University of Chicago led the first archaeological excavations in Megiddo in 16. His team discovered that “there are 1 cities on top of each other in Megiddo” (1405). This means that Megiddo was destroyed and rebuilt 1 different city plans. This “destroy and rebuilt” cycle shows the strategic and military importance of Megiddo to the numerous armies and civilizations that conquered and razed her to the ground.

Fisher’s excavation team also discovered that the city of Megiddo was divide into two extremely different dwelling places. His team identified the larger segment of the city as Lower Megiddo, and the smaller portion was labeled, Tel Megiddo. A Tel is a walled citadel within the city where most of the public buildings are located, and where the ruling aristocracy lived. The Fisher excavation focused most of their work on Lower Megiddo. Fisher’s plan to start excavation at the citadel was hampered by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Excavations at Lower Megiddo unearthed ruins of mad brick houses surrounding the citadel and narrow unpaved streets. In contrast to archaeological evidences from the citadel, Lower Megiddo “did not have strong and impressive material remains for archaeologists to uncover (Fisher, 140 8). For instance, the most common material remains in that segment of the city were farming tools (iron sickles, wooden or bone edged blades), mortars and pestles, and clay bowls and jars. Archaeologists concluded that Lower Megiddo showed a pattern of agricultural settlements around the tel. Its inhabitants were the poor farmers and their families who harvest the grain in the Jezereel valley.

In 16, Dr. Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem began archaeological explorations at Tel Megiddo. He confirmed Fisher’s findings about the twenty-one major levels of occupation in Megiddo. In contrast to Fisher’s excavations at Lower Megiddo, the Tel revealed enough strong and impressive artifacts left behind by its numerous inhabitants throughout history. Yadin wrote

The most important remains were the sacred complex, the monumental fortifications and gates, the impressive water systems, various palaces, and the so-called Solomonic stables (17010).

The area of the Tel identified by Yadin as the sacred complex (dated early Bronze Age, 00-100 BC) was composed of altars, temples, and deposits of butchered animal bones. They are evidences of public sacrifice that may have marked the emergence of one of the first urban centers in this part of the ancient Near East. Other evidences found in the area suggest that the sanctity of this cultic area survived in later temple constructions and public altars were built on the same spot for millennia to come. For example, Egyptian and Solomonic ritual artifacts were discovered at the area of the sacred complex but on two different estrata. Ruins of massive palaces dating to the conquest of the Assyrian Kings were excavated at the northeast part of the citadel. In a nearby area, the northern edge of the citadel, Yadin’s excavations exposed remains of a massive city gate, fortified walls, and enormous palaces identified as the Solominic City. Yadin attributed the city to King Solomon for two main reasons. First, the architectural plan of the Solomon palace resembles that of Syrian palaces that existed about the same period of King Solomon’s time. Second, the Solomonic palace in Megiddo gives historical credence to the description in 1 Kings 15 of King Solomon rebuilding of the city and extending his empire from its capital Jerusalem far to the north.

Another interesting feature of Yadin’s Solomonic City are the three longitudinal halls, separated by a row of mangers and stone pillars. The side halls are paved with pebbles and the central aisle is paved with thick plaster. Shortly after the discovery of these halls, a debate followed as to the exact function of the buildings. Earth samples taken from the floor revealed the identity of animal waste, thus, led Yadin to conclude that the buildings were used as horse stables, and possibly a place for the chariots and the army. At present, there are no common houses yet discovered within the city walls of Tel Megiddo.

The walled cities of the Bible are the large, urbanized, protected, and predictable dwelling places of the rich and powerful. The archaeological artifacts discovered in these dwelling places are evidences to the comfortable, easy and noisy lifestyle of its inhabitants. Unearthed ruins of palaces, public buildings, shops and offices, commonly found in all excavation sites mentioned above, affirm the function of the walled cities as centers of political, social, and economic powers. The remnants of places of horses, chariots, and the army (stations for the Roman Legion) give us an idea of how the aristocracy were well protected. Elaborately designed weapons and tools found within the city walls are also manifestations of wealth and protection. The discovery of impressive underground water tunnels inside the walled cities allowed its wealthy inhabitants access to nearby water sources even under siege conditions. The large stone-lined silos served as storage for grains and other provisions. These things made life easy and predictable for the people living inside the walls. Moreover, these archaeological discoveries point to the fact that the walled cities in the Bible were almost entirely devoted to military and administrative functions.

The walls of the cities and citadels of Israel served as a “concrete” symbol of the radical distinction between the rich and the poor of the land. For the rich and powerful, the walls are symbols of security, power, domination and pride. The walls protect and shield the powerful and wealthy of the city against the advancing army. We can imagine the terrible conflict and arguments in biblical times whenever the army of the enemy came. Those who are powerful within the city, as well as those who are oppressed outside must have had the terrible burden to decide who and how many they would allow to enter the city gates. It is the people with protection, and who have bribed enough city officials to be allowed inside the walls when the enemy campaign comes. But the more of the daughters are let in, the less likely they are able to survive the siege.

In our own City of Manila, we are remind of this reality by the tall and thick walls of Fort Santiago. The fortified walls of Fort Santiago protected the rich and aristocratic Spaniards and Mestizos during the Spanish rule in the Philippines. The walls as they still stand tall today are symbols of divisions between the powerful and the powerless, between the rich and the poor, between the easy-going and the hard working, between the educated and the non-educated, and between the “city” and its “daughters”.

But why is it difficult for people within the city walls, or for people who moved from the mountains to the walled cities, to find authentic religion and faith? The discovery of temple ruins and shops all together in one area, calls to mind Jesus’ anger when the people turned his Father’s house into a market place.

The Unwalled village of Nazareth

By contrast to the walled cities in the plains and valleys, Nazareth was an unwalled village located in the slopes of the hill country regions of Galilee, overlooking the Jezereel valley. The present day Church of the Annunciation in the modern city of Nazareth sits right on top of the ancient village of Nazareth. The name Nazareth means Lily. The Church of the Annunciation was designed to look like a Lily looking up to the heaven whose petals stretched down over the town. Underneath the church are the memories of where Jesus spent his childhood and early manhood.

Archaeological excavations conducted in Nazareth by Bagatti in 155 show that Nazareth was a small agricultural village settled by a few dozen families. The pottery remains testify to a continuous settlement during the period 600-00 BC. According to Bagatti, “after those years, there was a break in settlement until the year 00 BC, and since then the site of Nazareth has been consistently inhabited” (1756). Most of the archaeological artifacts recovered in Nazareth consist of caves, cisterns and grain storage bins, oil mills and mill stones. These findings convinced archaeologists about the agricultural character of Nazareth.

In the words of Nathanel of Cana, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 147) characterized the village’s seeming insignificance. Of the 1 cities in the tribe of Zebulon mentioned in the Book of Joshua 1, Nazareth was not mentioned. Out of the 46 towns in Galilee mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus, Nazareth was not one of them. Of the 6 towns mentioned in the Jewish writings in the Mishna, Nazareth was not mentioned. The important thing that ancient history would like us to remember about Nazareth is that, it is not important! The name Nazarenes given to the early Christians might have been a derogatory nickname that the people of Judea have to the followers of Jesus. Jesus was known throughout the region of Galilee as “Jesus of Nazareth”, but for those not from the Galilee, this name had no meaning. In the book of Kings 11, in order to explain where Nazareth was located, the Galileans had to explain that the village was near Gat-Hyefer (Jonah’s hometown). It is also possible that the people of Judea had never heard of Nazareth. From this we understand the reason that Pontius Pilate decorated the cross with the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (John 11). For Pilate and the Judeans, this could mean that “King of the Jews” is from nowhere.

The Daughters of Israel The word of the Lord comes to the poor and the oppressed.

There are numerous references in the biblical text linking the small, unwalled and unprotected villages to nearby economic, administrative, and military centers. In Isaiah 18, the prophet speaks of “the daughters of Zion suffering from darkness and bloodshed. But the time will come when they will confer God’s glory to those who lived in the plains” (RSV). Further on, Isaiah 611 proclaims “the coming of a Savior to the daughters of his people” (RSV). Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus was a daughter village. In Joshua 1557, the word hazerim is also referred on the daughters of the cities, thus, the phrase, “the cities and their hazerim” (RSV). A hazer was a group of houses or temporary settlements close to a walled city. In Leviticus, 51, hazerim are referred to, “the houses of the villages that have no walls around them” (RSV). Other biblical references to the daughters of the city are found in the following Song 7, 5, 11 and 58; Lamentations 51; Ezekiel 117, 167. In Luke 8, Jesus said, “daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children, feel sorry for the woman with child when the enemy surrounds you” (RSV).

The people living in the unwalled, unprotected, unpredictable, exhausting, lonely and silent villages in the valleys and in the hill country of the biblical land are the daughters of Israel. Cana, Sepphores, and Megiddo are the walled cities of Israel, and Nazareth is a daughter. The daughters of Israel are the poor, oppressed, simple and downtrodden people of the land. The unpredictable and unprotected land of the daughters of Israel gives us an idea of their day-to-day life. The barren land with minimal amount of annual rainfall in the hill country make agriculture very unpredictable, thus making life for the daughters of Israel unpredictable. The biblical drama also illustrates to us that the rich and powerful inhabitants of the walled cities too often drove the daughters of Israel to forced labor. Thus making life exhausting and poor.

From the point of view of the daughters of the city, the walls of the city served as a symbol of powerlessness, oppression, helplessness, and humiliation. The city walls in the biblical times have affected the social, economic and religious lives of the daughters of the city. The walls also alienate them from the affluent class of the society. Their only so-called “society” was limited within their silent and lonely settlements in the far distant mountains and deserts. The daughters of the land also experienced economic oppression from the inhabitants of the walled cities. Most often, the daughters do not fully benefit from the fruits of their labors and hard work. The huge silos discovered by archaeologists within the walled cities served to store grains and other produce for the sole consumption of the wealthy inhabitants of the city. The archaeological finding of temple and sacred ruins could also be caused for religious oppression. The cozy and well-structured temples within the city walls were for the exclusive use of the rich inhabitants of the city. However, the Bible shows that even with this form of religious oppression, the daughters of Israel remained steadfast and dedicated to their faith. To cite a few examples, in Deuteronomy 15 4-5, God gives his precedence over the poor. In Isaiah 6 10-1, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of a Savior to the daughters of His people. The same idea comes from the words of Jesus in his beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (RSV). Jesus came from a poor town called Nazareth, a daughter village of Cana. In his first public discourse, Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah, “the spirit of the Lord has been given to me, and he has anointed me, he has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and light to the blind, and set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor”(RSV).

The word of the Lord comes to the poor, simple, downtrodden, oppressed and unprotected, and that He comes to us by responding to their neediness and hardships. It is in human simplicity and humility that God reveals His love. The stories of Abraham, Jacob and Moses are some of the most touching examples of God’s manifestation of love to the simple and righteous. In his book, The Power of the Poor in History, Gustavo Gutierrez brings to mind the reality of the biblical drama that the God of history came to the poor to liberate them from their bondage. He made the poor his people, thus, the power of the poor comes from God’s love and presence to them. Gutierrez continues to say that the love and presence of God cannot be measured solely through human and earthly blessings. God comes in a deeper experience, that is, in the realm of spiritual awareness and living. I believe that spiritual awareness and living also correspond to the individual’s solidarity with the poor. The difficulty of seeking God comes when one fails to seek God through other people. It is truly difficult to seek the love and presence of God in our lives when we fail to turn our sight to those who are less fortunate and in need of our help. To create a spirituality of solidarity with the poor is not an easy task. But as Gutierrez suggested in the conclusion of his book, “to achieve this goal is only possible if the fortunate ones will work harder in tearing down the walls that separate them from the less fortunate”(87150). Our “walls” today are not the thick, fortified and concrete walls of ancient cities in Israel. We have created our own invincible walls of pride, materialism and selfishness that divide and separate us from the “daughters” of our society. The lessons learned from the protected citadels and unprotected villages in this study challenge us to destroy our own protective barriers. By destroying our walls we come to realize the presence of God among the poor, simple, downtrodden, unprotected and oppressed. By doing so, we also come to realize the presence of God in our lives.

The Daughters of Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres

The walled cities of the Bible in ancient Israel may remind us of the present political, social and economic situation of the Philippines. One stark reality of our country is the unending, continuous, and unbridgeable gap between the rich and the poor. It is as if the present dichotomy between the two classes of our society is a reflection of the class distinctions created by the walls of the ancient cities of Israel. The rich remain comfortable and protected inside their concrete and fortified mansions, while the poor have no barriers to protect themselves even from their own class. The wealthy boast proudly of the fruits of their own labor, but reap the fruits of the poor laborer’s as well. Clearly, poverty, oppression, and inequality are the modern day walls that divide the classes of our Philippine society.

Today we commemorate the 16th anniversary of the 186 Edsa People Power. As we recall the touching events in 186, it is unavoidable not to be reminded also of the two recent Edsa People Power, the so-called Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres. The events that transpired in those two Edsa People Power are somehow reminiscent of the lessons learned from the walled cities of the Bible. Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres both drew large crowds in Edsa albeit two different classes with opposing objectives, principles, and heroes. Are these two events a case of modern-day class war?

Was Edsa dos brought about by the people’s loss of faith in the process of the impeachment trial of the former president, Joseph Ejercito Estrada? Who were actually behind the scenes that brought about People Power II? Among the protesters at Edsa dos were students, professionals, doctors, teachers and lawyers, and perhaps few lower class masses that had voted for Estrada. Estrada had never been popular among the gentrified elite, those wealthy descendants of Spanish colonialists who comprised the well-heeled Makati and Forbes Park power brokers. They viewed Estrada as something of parvenu, an uncouth impostor in the palace. His clique of shady Chinese business cronies and provincial politicians was regarded as proof that Estrada was second-rater, unfit to rule and certainly not one to act in the best interest of the Philippines. Estrada’s term in office had been an economic disaster. The Manila Stock Exchange plummeted 6%, and the peso was trading at an all-time low of 55.75 to the dollar. The business elite had wanted him out in office almost shortly after his landslide victory. The allegations of corruption and the impeachment trial merely provided the galvanizing issues that eventually deposed him from the presidency.

Edsa tres, as we all witnessed it happen in television, was a disorderly struggle by the lower class of the society with a strong determination to unseat the lady enthroned by the elite. Estrada’s masterful portrayal of himself as “protector of the poor”, gave him the support to win the 18 presidential election. The same rhetoric worked when Estrada’s supporters came out in force to defend, protect, and rescue their suffering hero on a too-thin mattress in a too-small cell with malfunctioning airconditioning. After a five-day boisterous gathering at the Edsa shrine, Estrada’s supporters decided to march and storm the nation’s seat of power and government. The day of the siege was very eventful, but the fortified walls and defending armies of Malacanang lessened their resolve to reinstall Joseph Estrada. When the smoke cleared, the handful of rich politicians who instigated the crowd into a rampant rage were no where to be found. When the ruling elite go into battle, the poor are always on the losing side. This is a familiar reality between the walled cities of Israel and her poor and unprotected daughters.

During the height of Edsa Tres, nowhere is the wrath of the poor more feared than in the exclusive residential compounds that border Makati. Behind the high walls of Forbes Park and Dasmarinas Village, in a diametrically different world from that occupied by the ten of millions of destitute Filipinos, live some of the country’s wealthiest families. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was brought up in her family’s huge home in Forbes Park. Estrada, for all his pretensions of being one with the people, owns a house there, too. When word reached these high-security villages that Estrada’s supporters were on the streets of Makati, their gates slammed shut like prison doors. Fire trucks were maneuvered into positions as a precautionary measure.

President Gloria Arroyo has won praises for her firm handling of the crisis, and her government may emerge the winner in the latest political fight between one group of the poor and another of the wealthy. But her challenge will be to really try to do something about the country’s desperate poverty. The country is still semi-feudal, with a handful of landowning families controlling most of the economy. The rich 10%, in which Arroyo and Estrada are chartered members, own more than a third of the country’s wealth.


The two recent people power movements, Edsa dos and Edsa tres, left us with a bitter-sweet after taste. The former taught us that public confidence in a leader is a must for effective governance. Without it the cards, so to speak, will fall down. The latter one reminded us that in situations of massive poverty, the public is more concerned about getting better living conditions, than any form of government. A healthy nation necessitates a balance between the people’s will and government. Good governance plays a very important role in achieving such delicate balance.

The founding principle of Edsa People Power-I is the fight for the peoples’ will and good governance. This principle was achieved in 186 without the class divisions of rich and poor, powerful and powerless, etc. United as a nation, both the rich and the poor overthrow the dictatorship, and restored freedom and democracy. We, who continue to work, even in our own humble ways, for the preservation of the ideals of Edsa People Power-I despite of our political, social, and economic barriers are the modern day daughters of our nations.

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