From Mount Nebo to Bethany

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
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Sunday, April 6, 2008

For a couple of nights, I stayed again in Amman in the center of the city, right under the Citadel, where locals ate the popular tahini kofta plates broiled at Sharazar Restaurant and waited in line at Habibah for sweet cheese knafeh. 

Watching the people at alleyway Habibah work was fascinating enough, as they sprinkled crushed green pistachio nuts onto the hot baked sweet cheese and pastry dish, drenched in boiling honey water.  They cut large circular plates of knafeh into pieces for everyone: fifty cents for a small one and a dollar for a large.  Lines were long as people entered the narrow room to get their piece.

In another alley was Sharazar, along with other kebab restaurants, where people ate outside in the cool nights.  Fresh juice bars were around the corner.  Further along was a barber shop, where I chatted with the Palestinians there as one shaved my beard.  A large percentage of Jordan is composed of Palestinians.  One barber had lived in New York City and Brazil for many years.

On two day trips, I visited Madaba and Mt. Nebo then Bethany on the Jordan.  First was Madaba and Mt. Nebo.  Madaba was known for its mosaics, foremost among them was the Madaba map, a floor mosaic at the Church of St. George.  The mosaics date to around 560 A.D. and show the entire Biblical pilgrimage area, with hundreds of Biblical sites.  Back then, the mosaic would have been sixteen meters across, from one side of the Byzantine Church to the other, and six meters wide; covering an area from Lebanon to Egypt.

Today, only a quarter of the map remains, but what they uncovered includes Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, Bethlehem, and More: basically the heart of the map.

Nearby Mt. Nebo was also one of those sites, a nearby mountaintop where Moses spoke with God, telling him that he would be able to see the land Abraham was promised in God's covenant, but he would not set foot in
Caanan: he would die on Mt. Nebo.

"Get thee up into this mountain, and die in the mount, and be gathered
unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in Mount Hor, and was
gathered unto his people."

God killed Moses before reaching the Promised Land because he, along with his brother Aaron, had rebelled against His word
(Numbers 20:23-24).  At this point in time, God was less forgiving, but still more forgiving than during the time of Sodom, and the Flood during Noah's time.  Slowly, it seems, God develops more compassion and forgiveness for the people of the world, bridging the gap lost when Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden.  This gap is reconciled when Jesus changes the relationship of God and man during Easter, as prophesized by Jeremiah: instead of God being more distant, God can be found in our hearts and minds and in logos.

The sky was hazy, but still I could see the view that Moses would have seen, as he breathed his last breath looking at the land he had fought so hard to set foot upon for his people.  Still, I think he died a contented man, knowing with faith that his people would eventually colonize Caanan and call it Israel.

On another day, I visited Bethany on the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the reincarnation of Elijah, who left this world in these parts also.  The deserts surrounding the area would also have been where Jesus stayed in the desert for forty days, the number that recurrs throughout the Bible: forty.  Elijah, Moses, and Jesus all stayed forty days in the desert.  And, yes, the Bible makes it clear that Elijah and John the Baptist are the same, just like the Dalai Lamas come back to Earth.

Here, once again, traditions change, as Jesus changed Baptism from meaning a baptism by water to purify one from sins to Baptism by the Holy Spirit, where sin no longer exists in that person, theoretically, if you have faith.  Faith and the Holy Spirit in your heart was enough, as these would supercede the Law of Moses.  Still, the letters of John and Paul to various peoples found in the Bible indicate that believers still needed to work at this and it wasn't an automatic or easy process, similar to what people feel today.

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt... This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

On the way back to Amman, the police gave me a ride to the highway and a truck driver drove me to the edge of the city--thank you--from where I took three separate buses to the center of town.  The load of the truck was so heavy that climbing the 3000 feet from the Dead Sea floor to Amman took twice as long, but the ride was enjoyable with the friendly driver.

The changes in scripture between Moses and Jesus--from Mt. Nebo to Bethany--can all be interpreted in many ways, but no matter how you interpret it the following must be true: that God was developing a deeper and closer relationship with people and the psychology of the Bible was moving from external punishment and Laws to spirit in the heart and mind.  And the entire scene where this unfolded--Judea--could be seen from Mount Nebo.
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