This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library Image from the history picture library

Subject: ‘Bible’

All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.

The quest to find Noah’s Ark was briefly ended

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Bible, Boats, Historical articles on Friday, 14 March 2014

This edited article about the discovery of Noah’s Ark first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 589 published on 28 April 1973.

Discovery of Noah's Ark,  picture, image, illustration
Lieutenant Roskovitsky of the Russian Air Force was convinced that he had spotted the ark by Roger Payne

Lieutenant Roskovitsky, of the Russian Air Force, stared down at the mountain top below him. He knew only two things about Mount Ararat in Armenia. One was that it was almost 17,000 feet high, which was a point worth remembering when flying the shaky aeroplanes of 1916, and the other was the well known tradition that it was on that very peak that Noah had grounded his ark at the end of the Great Flood.

Suddenly Roskovitsky caught his breath. On one of the highest slopes there was a shape that seemed too regular to be natural. In fact it looked for all the world like a huge boat. A boat? Could the old Bible story be true after all, and was he actually looking down on what was left of that extraordinary floating zoo?

The pilot headed for home and made his report with some misgivings. As an official report it sounded hopelessly far fetched, and Roskovitsky was well aware that his superiors were quite likely to haul him over the coals for wasting time on fantasies in the middle of a war. As it turned out, he had no need to worry. The story of the stranded ark worked its way from office to office until it came to the ears of the Czar himself, who promptly organised an expedition to Mount Ararat in order to recover the ancient timbers. The war against Germany might be important, but men had dreamed of finding the ark for two thousand years!

To ordinary men and women there had always been something logical about the quest, for was it not clearly stated in the Old Testament that “the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat”? The Flood had receded long ago, so surely it stood to reason that Noah’s wonderful vessel must still be up there?

This belief was shared by the Armenians, who up to the beginning of the 19th century refused permission for anyone to climb Mount Ararat on the grounds that a monk had once attempted the ascent, only to be turned back by an angel. This meant, they argued, that the mountain was particularly holy and quite inaccessible to ordinary men. So far as the Armenian Church was concerned, the ark would have to remain undiscovered.

Read the rest of this article »

An ancient copper scroll told of fabulous treasure in the desert

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Bible, Historical articles, History on Friday, 28 February 2014

This edited article about the Dead Sea Scrolls first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 574 published on 13 January 1973.

Dead Sea Scrolls,  picture, image, illustration
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

It was a clear and brilliantly sunny morning in early summer, with the promise of a scorching heat later in the day. The Arab shepherd lad idly watched his sheep and the rocky, barren landscape on one side with the shores of the Dead Sea on the other. His name was Muhammad, his nickname “The Wolf” but today he hardly had the energy to live up to this name. It was 1947, at a place called Qumran; he had been up since dawn and now all he wished to do was look for some shade as the sun rose higher.

The sound of stones being dislodged made him look upwards and he saw that one of the goats which fed with the sheep had strayed up a steep cliff path. His shouts were of no avail and, unwillingly, he rose to his feet and went after it. Unless he could drive the goat back to the plateau there would be real trouble. But the goat simply scampered on, with Muhammad wearily climbing afterwards. Soon he came on an overhanging crag of rock, and decided to use its shade for a brief rest.

As he sat down, his eye was caught by a small, queerly placed hole. Tossing a stone through, he was even more surprised when he heard the sound of breaking pottery. Soon he had cleared the entrance to a long, narrow cave, and inside were several tall, wide-necked jars. At this, Muhammad began to fear, for who would expect such signs of habitation in this wilderness? He wondered about evil spirits and swiftly decided that this was no place for him. Forgetting all about his goat, he dashed back to the camp and told his story.

Next day Muhammad returned, more boldly, with a friend. They squeezed through the entrance hole and took the bowl shaped lids off the jars. But instead of the Aladdin’s treasure they had hoped for, all they found were some evil smelling cloth-covered bundles – and underndeath each cloth was simply a roll of parchment.

Although the shepherd boys may have been disappointed, they were, in fact, looking at some of the most precious manuscripts the world has known. The “Dead Sea Scrolls” as they became known include copies of parts of the Old Testament older by a thousand years than anything we had ever seen. The fact that they were still in such good condition seemed miraculous and it was only the heat and dryness of the Dead Sea Rift Valley, 1300 feet below sea level that had made it possible.

Read the rest of this article »

John Wesley rode 250,000 miles to preach the word of God

Posted in Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Friday, 21 February 2014

This edited article about John Wesley first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 562 published on 21 October 1972.

John Wesley,  picture, image, illustration
John Wesley preaching in the market place by Peter Jackson

John Wesley lived to the grand old age of 87. It was little short of a miracle that he survived the age of six, for one night the rambling old thatched-roofed rectory at Epworth went up in flames and John was trapped in an upstairs room. As his parents knelt in prayer for his deliverance he appeared at a window. Onlookers formed a human ladder by climbing on each other’s shoulders and John was rescued only seconds before the blazing roof crashed in. His claim in later life to be “a brand plucked from the burning” was certainly justified.

Apart from his fame as a preacher and the founder of Methodism, he was in many other ways a most remarkable man.

His writings alone would have been an ordinary person’s fulltime output, for he edited collections of hymns, psalms, sacred songs, and grammars of ancient and modern languages for students. Even when in the saddle he often composed hymns and compiled notes. It is said that during his lifetime he preached 40,000 sermons and rode 250,000 miles to deliver them.

When forbidden to preach his doctrine in the churches of England, he began touring the country, preaching on village greens, at the wayside, or wherever friends would make a room or a hall available.

Often he would be saddling his horse well before dawn and before the end of the day would have ridden 50 miles or more, delivering numerous sermons along the route. Even at the age of 84 he would often rise at 4 am, conduct a service, then ride up to 40 miles and deliver at least three sermons during the day.

Wesley was a superb horseman and few knew the highways and byways of Britain better than he. Signposts were few and often as inaccurate as the roughly-cut milestones. About the only time he ever became lost was one stormy night when crossing Dartmoor, but even then it only needed the sound of a church bell in the distance for him to get his bearings. No matter how tired or hungry he himself was at the end of a journey, his first consideration was to see to it that his faithful horse was fed and well stabled for the night.

Read the rest of this article »

Nebuchadnezzar raised Babylon to spectacular heights

Posted in Ancient History, Architecture, Bible, Historical articles, History, Royalty, War on Wednesday, 19 February 2014

This edited article about Nebuchadnezzar first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 558 published on 23 September 1972.

Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon,  picture, image, illustration
Nebuchadnezzar surveys his works in a New Year's Day Procession in Babylon by Peter Jackson

At the fall of Nineveh, that mighty citadel of Assyrian supremacy, in 612 B.C., the captive peoples of the Assyrian empire expressed their relief and happiness from the rooftops. King Nabopolassar of Babylon, whose armies, together with his allies the Medes, had brought about the destruction of Nineveh but who himself had not gone to the siege of that city, preened himself in his royal palace when the news reached him.

Now all the glory was his. Now a new Babylonian empire would arise; an empire fashioned by him for his successors; a renaissance Babylon that would last for ever.

And indeed, Nabopolassar and his successors did create a dazzling empire. It did not last for ever, for empires never do, and although in fact its glory was short-lived, it was an empire that the Bible tells us a great deal about.

Meanwhile other peoples – peoples like the Hebrews of Judah – who had cheered the fall of Nineveh, took stock of their new Babylonian rulers. What was in store for them under the new regime, they wondered.

There was still plenty of “mopping up” work for Nabopolassar to get on with. There were other Assyrians besides those who had died in their scorched capital, and they had to be cleared out before real peace could be established. So, while Nabopolassar laid the foundations of the new rule, his dynamic young son Nebuchadnezzar went to war against the Egyptians and routed them.

In time King Nabopolassar died, and his now famous son had to return to Babylon to succeed him.

Nebuchadnezzar proved himself as successful a king as he had proved himself a soldier.

Read the rest of this article »

Mormons believe that the Garden of Eden was in America

Posted in America, Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Saturday, 25 January 2014

This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 527 published on 19 February 1972.

Mormons,  picture, image, illustration
Brigham Young considers the map as the Mormons prepare for their great trek by Gerry Wood

The wagon creaked to a halt and the stern-faced, soberly-dressed man who sat beside the driver stared without speaking at the land ahead. He had come from the lush green eastern states of America, as had most of the men and women he had brought with him – come over 2,000 miles of mountain and desert in search of a new home. Could this be it?

Ahead of the wagon lay a valley, but unlike any he had seen in Connecticut or New York. Rimmed by jagged peaks, the land shimmered back in the summer heat – a wilderness of dry ground, bunch grass, crickets and rattlesnakes. To the west stretched a great lake, so salt that it was as sterile as the Dead Sea of the Bible. Yet . . .

“This is the place,” said Brigham Young.

It was July 24th, 1847. The Mormons had reached the end of the trail at last, and this was to be their home.

They were not the first people to brave a wilderness in order to save themselves from persecution, nor would they be the last. But it would be hard to find a crueller trail to a promised land. Yet they had made the journey quietly, without complaint and with an almost unbelievable fortitude – because this was something that had to be done if the Mormons were to be free to worship in the way they thought right.

It was a time of great religious fervour in America, and in every State new creeds and new churches were springing up. Some were little more than variations of well-known denominations within the Christian faith, while others were so different that it was hard to believe that they sprang from the same religion. But just as the country had become a melting pot for immigrant people of many nationalities, it seemed as though their ideas and beliefs had to undergo a similar period of mingling and eventual change. Most of the new sects enjoyed a brief popularity and were never heard of again. But some – Mormonism in particular – took root, and went from strength to strength.

Read the rest of this article »

The famous walls of Jericho lay in ruins long before Joshua’s trumpeted campaign

Posted in Archaeology, Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Saturday, 18 January 2014

This edited article about the Bible first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 518 published on 18 December 1971.

Jericho falls, picture, image, illustration
Joshua at the walls of Jericho by James E McConnell

He was a Genghis Khan of the Ancient World, a conqueror who erupted with his fighting tribesmen into the land of Canaan in what is now Israel and put city after city to the sword. If his conquests were on a smaller scale than the great Mongol ruler, they were carried out just as ruthlessly.

Such is the picture the Bible draws of Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan after the death of Moses. If anyone questions the comparison with Genghis Khan, let him read the Book of Joshua again, with its accounts of whole cities destroyed and every man, woman and child killed.

But how much of this story is true and how much legend? Did the walls of Jericho really come tumbling down at the sound of Joshua’s trumpets? To find out we must do some detective work.

The early chapters of the Bible are traditional stories of how their race was founded, handed down by one generation of Jews to another by word of mouth, then copied down. Not until the reign of King David around 1,000 B.C. are we approaching historical times. It is like the early history of Ancient Rome, a maddening mixture of probable fact and probable fiction.

Fortunately, we have one science to help us in our search and that is archaeology. And archaeologists often prove the Bible right!

They have dated Joshua’s invasion of Canaan at about the 13th century B.C. According to the Bible, he had sent spies ahead who stayed in Jericho at the house of a woman named Rahab; her family was the only one spared in the holocaust that followed.

Some scholars say that in fact Jericho was already a ruin when Joshua arrived and was certainly not the mighty city of the Bible. Others claim that the Israelites did conquer the city roughly as described in the Bible, but without the trumpets!

Read the rest of this article »

Leonard Woolley uncovered evidence of a huge flood catastrophe in ancient Iraq

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Tuesday, 10 December 2013

This edited article about archaeology first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 486 published on 8 May 1971.

Noah and the Ark, picture, image, illustration
The Deluge or Noah's Flood showing Noah and his Ark by James E McConnell

Down at the bottom of a dusty pit near Ur in southern Iraq, a local workman grumbled quietly. He had worked on many archaeological sites and knew quite a lot about digging up ancient bits and pieces – but this time he really didn’t understand what the people in charge were asking him to do.

Yesterday he and his mates had finished digging right down through the layers of dust and rubble that man had left behind to mark his dwelling in this desolate place. No one lived here now of course, but the piles of shattered pottery and tumbled ruins showed that long ago this little hill had been a flourishing town, echoing to the chatter of children and the clatter of blacksmiths’ hammers.

The workman was a pious Muslim and as he dug down he wondered about the endless cycle of birth and death that was the pattern of Iraq’s history. All lay in the hand of Allah, he thought, wiping the grime and sweat from his eyes – yet why was Sir Leonard Woolley asking him to go on digging? He was now deep into a layer of thick sticky clay with not the slightest sign of human habitation.

“Ya, Allah, Woolley Effendi is suffering from the sun,” he muttered and thrust his spade once more into the greenish clay. The spade went straight through! And the man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head at what he saw.

“Effendi! Effendi!” he yelled. “Come see!”

Sir Leonard Woolley rushed up with two of his staff. There, at the bottom of the pit, sealed beneath an eight-foot thick layer of filthy clay, were bits of pottery and the rubbish that was the unmistakable sign that man had once lived here. But how had it got there – under all that sterile mud?

Something had been nagging at Sir Leonard’s mind for days, something he just couldn’t put his finger on. That was why he had asked the Iraqi labourers to go on digging into the uninteresting clay, and now they had found this!

For quite a while the learned archaeologists stared blankly into the hole. It just didn’t make sense. A great slice of clay stuck smack in the middle of otherwise normal layers of man-made debris!

At that moment Sir Leonard’s wife walked up. She glanced casually into the yawning pit.

“Well, of course, it’s the Flood,” she announced calmly.

Read the rest of this article »

Moses probably led his people out of Egypt across the Isthmus of Suez

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Bible, Religion on Monday, 9 December 2013

This edited article about the Exodus first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 484 published on 24 April 1971.

Moses crosses the Red Sea, picture, image, illustration
The Egyptian army is destroyed by the returning waters of the Red Sea

The story of how Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt chased by the Egyptians, and of how he held up his rod to make the Red Sea part in two to let the people pass over on dry land, is one of the most exciting parts of the Old Testament – but there is no mention of it in any ancient Egyptian records. According to the Bible, the waters closed behind them, drowning the Egyptian army which was halfway across.

“And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued them, and went after them into the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen. And the Lord troubled the host of the Egyptians so that the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee, for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.’ And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea; and the sea returned to his strength. And the Egyptians fled against it and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the host of Pharaoh; there remained not so much as one of them.”

Exodus, chapter 14, verses 22 – 28 (paraphrased).

It sounds like a military disaster of the worst kind! But which Pharaoh lost this army and who were the Children of Israel? The first archaeologists to get into the secret land of Egypt at the beginning of the last century, all dreamed of finding proof, real concrete evidence of the catastrophe described in Exodus. But they found nothing – not the slightest mention of the Israelites, of Joseph, nor of Moses. It was very disappointing!

Then in 1887 they had a bit of luck, the sort of luck that even today is still as important as scientific gadgets when it comes to discovering our mysterious past.

A wizened old Egyptian peasant woman was scraping about for ancient mud bricks outside the scruffy village of Tell al Amara. These old bricks made good fertilizer. She stooped down eagerly, then stood up with a large piece of clay in her hand.

“What have you found?” shouted a man in a red fez standing nearby. He always kept an eye on the peasants because they sometimes dug up things that could be sold to tourists.

“Rubbish!” exclaimed the old woman crossly. “I find bricks baked like rock – they are no use to me,” and being an irritable old soul she threw the piece of baked clay at the inquisitive man. He dodged the missile, picked it up and noticed that it had strange writing on it.

That was how the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten’s Royal Records Library was discovered. There were hundreds of these inscribed tablets and many of them mentioned the “Habiru.” Habiru – Hebrews – could they be the same? If these Habiru were the Hebrews of the Bible, then they certainly made themselves a nuisance to Akhenaten and the other Pharaohs. One tablet was a desperate letter from the Governor of Jerusalem to Pharaoh.

Read the rest of this article »

Petra – “a rose-red city half as old as time”

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Architecture, Bible, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 13 November 2013

This edited article about Petra originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 455 published on 3 October 1970.

Petra, picture, image, illustration
Khasne Pharaon, or "Pharaoh's Treasury," Petra

For hundreds of years it lay forgotten by the Western world, a lost, beautiful, dead city, slumbering majestically in the desert of what is now southern Jordan. Petra, which was for a time the greatest market of the ancient world, was visited by no one except for occasional bands of wandering tribesmen.

Then, in 1812, a Swiss traveller named Burckhardt, who became famous as the first European to visit the holy city of Mecca, rediscovered Petra.

Today, its extraordinary rock-cut monuments and many-hued red and pink sandstone formations, are one of the supreme tourist attractions of the Middle East. In the last century they inspired a Dean of Chichester and traveller named John Burgon to pen the romantic line, “A rose-red city – ‘half as old as Time’!”

Petra gets its name from the Greek word for rock. It lies in the mountains bordering the Araba Depression south of the Dead Sea, and it seems to have been occupied since Stone Age times.

It was superbly situated and easy to defend, and it controlled the trade routes which wound their way out of Egypt and southern Palestine, across the Araba and up on to the Jordan plateau, there to join another ancient route from Arabia to the Mediterranean.

Tradition has it that the first important inhabitants of Petra were the Horites, or “cave-dwellers”, and some claim that Petra is mentioned in the Bible under the name of Sela, which also means rock. The earliest known inhabitants, however, were the Edomites, a fierce tribe who set up a colony on one of Petra’s highest peaks in the 9th century B.C.

Read the rest of this article »

Musical instruments, from Biblical trumpets to the tenor saxophone

Posted in Ancient History, Bible, Historical articles, History, Music on Friday, 8 November 2013

This edited article about music originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 453 published on 19 September 1970.

Gideon triumphs, picture, image, illustration
The Midianites fled away from the victorious hosts of Israel, their shouts almost drowned by the three hundred trumpets of Gideon and his chosen warriors, who chased and killed them

Of all musical instruments, the most widely known is probably that little piece of twanging metal known as a “Jew’s Harp.” It has been discovered in Borneo and Siberia, as well as in every European country. The Chinese were playing it over a thousand years ago. Carvings in cathedrals of the Middle Ages show it in use, and it appears in some of the world’s most famous paintings of olden days. It was used in Scotland to accompany dancing long before the invention of the bagpipe, and early British settlers in America made it very popular with the Red Indians. So its discovery or invention may well be looked on as a milestone in music, if only for its astonishing popularity ever since. Only 30 years ago, Jews’ Harps were being produced in Birmingham at the rate of a hundred thousand a week!

Many people say that the name “Jew’s Harp” was originally “Jaw’s Harp,” for it is held between the teeth of the player, who changes the shape of his mouth to provide different notes. This helps us to see how any musical instrument works, that is, by using something to move the air which surrounds it. The waves so created make our eardrums vibrate also, and from them our brains receive the message sent out by the instrument through which the vibration was started. In the case of a Jew’s Harp, we not only hear the vibrations, but can actually watch the strip of metal which produces them, as it vibrates rapidly when plucked by the player’s finger.

Perhaps it was the wind whistling through the reeds, or through a hollow in the rocks, which gave primitive man his first clue to the possibility of producing sounds by blowing into a tube. Certainly it was discovered very early in our history that shells, bones and reeds could be used in this way. The first performer may not have realised that it was a column of air which vibrated in the hollow tube which he blew to produce the sound, but he soon discovered that the shorter the tube the higher the note produced, and that a series of reeds could be bound into a pleasing set of pipes, on which different notes might be played.

This simple instrument, still known as the “Pan pipe”, takes its name from the legendary Greek god, Pan. He is said to have made the first “Pan pipe” from a clump of reeds into which a fleeing maiden had been magically changed! Her name – “Syrinx” – was given to this musical instrument by the Greeks, and it is undoubtedly the oldest and most widely found of all wind instruments. The pipes of a church organ, in their orderly array of size, are a later development of the simple Pan pipe. Tiny sets of such pipes are sometimes found in Christmas crackers.

Read the rest of this article »