Nimrod's Castle

Stronghold on the road to Damascus

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This stronghold, resting on the flanks of Mt Hermon, protected the road to Damascus. It is known popularly as Nimrod’s Fortress or Qal'at al-Subeiba (“Cliff castle”). The site was hastily erected in the 1220s to prevent the European Crusaders from a return to the region.

The fears were unfounded. The Crusaders did not return and despite the adaption of the latest technologies in this medieval slugfest between East and West, the fortress was never used as a point of active defense.

I set our students free to explore the site on their own. Naturally the adventurous ones headed straight for the keep, the inner stronghold on the highest point of the ridge pictured here.

We know that Saul of Tarsus was converted along the famous “road to Damascus,” but it is unknown where the event described in Acts 9 (see here) took place.


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The residency program of Johnson University leads to a Master of Strategic Ministry degree. It involves a collaborative relationship between Johnson University and local churches. This accredited program equips students for effective, strategic Christian leadership and includes a study-tour to Israel/Palestine.

To learn more about residencies, see the link here.

A long drop

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Not quite sure why I find this sign amusing.

Maybe it’s the little guy in the red triangle doing the swan dive.

Maybe it‘s the words in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

The Hebrew portion of the sign reads sakkanah tehom.

The first term, sakkanah, is clear enough and is of more recent vintage: “danger!”

The second word, tehom, is a very old term that goes back to creation. Gen 1:2 describes how darkness was over the surface of “the deep” at the start-up. The Hebrew Bible usually uses the word tehom is to describe the deep places in the sea. Occasionally, as in Psalm 71:20, it is used of the deep places in the earth (or sheol).

As I peek over that wall, I can see that it is long drop before you make the first bounce. It is a dangerous abyss, a lovely word drawn from the Greek abyssos, “a bottomless pit.”

Any help out there with the Arabic?

This shot was taken from the site of Nimrod (Arab Qal’at Subayba), overlooking the Hula Basin.


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If you’d like to join us on an adventure of your own in the Land of the Bible, recognize that there are openings for Israel/Palestine trips departing this summer. Shoot me a note at markziese@gmail.com or check our full list of study-travel opportunities here.

You would bounce a few times

Bill Weber checks out the steep slope falling off the side of Qal'at al-Subeiba, appropriately named the "Castle of the Large Cliff." This castle, located on the shoulders of Mt Hermon in occupied Syria (or the "Golan Heights") is actually an anti-Crusader castle. It was thrown together hastily by Al-Aziz 'Uthman in the 1230s (AD) to protect "the road to Damascus" from a Crusader return. The return of the Europeans never materialized. Three decades later, the Mongols took it. After being briefly used as a Turkish prison, it fell into disrepair. A few tourists like Bill still visit the site (I shot this in 2005) and likely remember it by the name "Nimrod's Castle."