This week has been pretty bland compared to most of the other weeks I have had while I've been here. We didn't go on a field trip this week because we took four finals and two midterms this week. We just finished our Palestine, Judaism, language class, and the Old Testament. So eight credits of the fifteen credits we take while we are here are finished. The classes left to finish are New Testament, Ancient Near Eastern History, and our field trips class. As I have finished all of these classes, just as I do every time I finish classes, I marvel at how much I have learned. I know so much more about Islam, Judaism, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the history behind the Bible and the Holy Land, and the Old Testament.
I feel very blessed to have come here and learn so much. To see all the places I've seen so far and have the experiences I've had has really been amazing. Probably the thing that I've been the most grateful about is that I have been able to get to know the Old Testament so much better than I ever did before. If someone had asked me about two months ago if I wanted to take an Old Testament class at BYU, I would have told them no. I have always just thought that the Old Testament was weird and foreign and just full of history that I didn't understand. I wasn't really that excited about taking an Old Testament class here at the Jerusalem Center, but I figured it wouldn't be too bad because I would be in the place where all of the Old Testament took place. I couldn't have been more wrong. The Old Testament is awesome!! I have loved reading and studying it each day while I've been here. And as I have read it, studied it, and talked about it in class, I have come to know that the people in the Old Testament really had the truth of the Gospel just like we do today. It's not in the same form of course, but those people still had the Plan of Salvation, revelation from prophets, temple worship, covenants to keep, and commandments that they needed to follow in order to get back to Heavenly Father. Even though when first reading the Old Testament, it might seem like the Lord is really harsh, if you really study the Old Testament, it really is amazing how loving and merciful the Lord because of how many chances he gives people to repent and do better. (Example: the kingdom of Israel had SO many warnings and chances to repent before it was scattered by the Assyrians attacking in 732 BC and 721 BC). After taking an ancient near eastern history course alongside the Old Testament, I feel like I can understand so much more about the timeline of what is going on in the book. I also feel like I can understand so much more of Isaiah when I read it now because of that.
The other really awesome thing about the Old Testament is that it contains so many revelations about the latter days. My favorite new scripture that I have discovered this semester from taking the Old Testament is in Jeremiah. Jeremiah saw our day, and this is what he had to say about it:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
I feel like this scripture encompasses so many important principles. It is talking about when Christ comes to fulfill the Law of Moses, and it also refers to Joseph Smith restoring the Gospel. Both times the Lord is starting a new covenant with the House of Israel. I had never thought much about the part of my patriarchal blessing that tells me I am part of the House of Israel, but really this is what the Lord is promising: that I will have the chance to make temple covenants (putting his law in my heart like the scripture says) and become a part of God's people. It really is such an amazing promise. I feel as if I have come to know Christ so much better just through studying the Old Testament. I don't ever really think I knew it before, but after this experience, I now know that Jesus Christ really was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He is a merciful and loving god, and the people of the Old Testament were invited to come to know God through knowing Jesus Christ through the Law of Moses. And as a result of coming to know Christ and our Heavenly Father through following the commandments now, we can become something even greater. The Old Testament really does teach that we can come to know God through His son. It is truly a great message that isn't new news, but it still applies to us today. And we can come to know Christ and Heavenly Father so much better through the Old Testament because it is the story of the Lord's interaction with His covenant people, which people anyone can become a part of today through the restoration of the Gospel.
So even though most of my week has been consumed with studying and taking tests, I did do a couple of fun things this week. On Sunday, I went to the Israel museum, which is the premier museum in the world for biblical history artifacts. There was so much cool stuff that I saw there. I saw gates that Solomon built, pottery that had the names of prophets on it, inscriptions that mention Israel and the House of David, and all kinds of cool things. I saw the actual four-horned altar from Beersheba and the Holy of Holies from the Israelite temple at Tel-Arad. I also saw some of the Dead Sea scrolls. That was really neat to see the writings of the prophets from ancient times in Hebrew. But the coolest things that I saw was a small metal amulet that had been found in a tomb in the Hinnom Valley. (The valley on the southwestern side of Jerusalem.) It is the oldest recorded passage of the Bible known to man. The name of the amulet is Ketef-Hinnom, named for where the amulet was found--the shoulder of the Hinnom Valley. The passage found on the amulet comes from Numbers 6. It says, "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee...And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them." (Numbers 6:24-27). They think that whoever was wearing this amulet wore it for protection. It kind of reminds me of wearing garments. And the coolest part of the whole thing is that the amulet dates to 600 BC, the time of Lehi and Nephi. And that's cool because it is other proof that people were writing scriptures on metal at the time. Pretty cool huh? I sure thought so. :-)
The other fun thing that we did this week was have another humanitarian activity on Friday where we made school kits for kids around here. It was a really fun activity, and we made over 2000 kits in two hours. It was really fun, and it is a great way to missionary work around here. And this time I took pictures.
Tomorrow, I'm going to Tel Aviv to go to the beach with a group of about ten people. I think it will be a much needed break and a good way to relax after a hard finals week. And then on Monday we leave for Jordan, and we will be there for four days. I'm really excited. :-) It's going to be a great week. I'll post pictures of the trip next week.
A life-size model of the city of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum. The model said that every 2 centimeters equaled about a meter in real life. The piece right behind Kjersten is Herod's temple that was built after Solomon's temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians.
Me in front of the building where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept. The building looks that way because that is what the lids of the jars looked like that they found the scrolls in. The most impressive scroll was the Isaiah scroll. I can't remember which chapter it correlates to in the Bible, but it was definitely in the best condition of all of the scrolls. It reminded me of Nephi's words, "great are the words of Isaiah..." Coincidence that it was so well-preserved? I think not.
Us at our humanitarian activity on Friday making school kits for children in and around the area.