Zephaniah 2 -The Call to Repentance & Lost Cities of Europe: Akrotiri (1 of 4)

I have always like natural disasters, yet, I don’t like people getting hurt.  Now that I realized that You are real, my appreciation for natural disasters has changed. 

What always made me admire natural disasters is the awesome uncontrollable power they have.  And now I know why it can’t be controlled, that awesome power is You.

You made us in Your image and likeness (Gen 1:26) so You, just like us, must have moments when You become totally fed up.  How we usually react is by screaming, hollering, or breaking something.  You do the same, but Your scream can be life threatening.

“Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire” (Isa 29:6).

Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano 54 miles southeast of Seattle.
The highest peak in the Cascade Range is also a volcano loaded with the most glacier ice of any mountain in the contiguous U.S., which will complicate things whenever it does erupt.

The U.S. Geological Survey calls Mount Rainier “potentially the most dangerous” mainland U.S. volcano because in addition to all that ice, it looms over the Seattle-Tacoma metro area and its 3.2 million inhabitants.

When Jesus was resurrected:

“And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it”. (Matt 28:2).

As Jesus died on the cross…

“Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt 27:54).

They said that volcanic eruption at Akrotiri was 100 times worse than Mount St. Helen.  Since Mount St. Helen was just a pimple compared to Mount Rainier I wonder how catastrophic it will be?

That mountain hasn’t erupted since around the 1840s, but it’s active, it has given signs of life.  I’m wondering something?  When You decide to make it erupt are You are going to connect it with the San Andreas Fault in San Francisco or possibly vice versa?

Tomorrow let’s look at…


Zephaniah 2
The Call to Repentance

The Anthedon, Gaza’s ancient port, dates back to the eighth century B.C., when Gaza was a major Philistine city.

1 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;

2:1-3 – Zephaniah’s exhortation to repent.  This call to repentance and the later indictment of Jerusalem for refusal to repent frame the series of judgments that illustratively detail God’s acts in the coming day of the Lord.

2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger come upon you.

3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.

“Seek ye the LORD” – even though destruction is imminent, there is still time to be sheltered from the calamity if only the nation will repent.  As it is still is today.

“Meek” – those who abandon the arrogance of their idolatry and wickedness and humble themselves in repentance before God.

4 For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

2:4-3:8 _ God’s coming judgment on the nations – including Jerusalem.

5 Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.

6 And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.

Archaeological site in Palestine on the Mediterranean Sea 15 miles northeast of Gaza. An ancient city settled in the third millennium BC it was taken over by the Philistines in the 12th century BC and became one of their five city-states called the Philistine Pentapolis.

It flourished under many rulers as a major port and trade center between Syria and Egypt. Excavation of the city’s important remains began in 1920.

7 And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.

The faithful remnant of Judah will occupy this land and graze their flocks on it.

8 I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border.

9 Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.

“Sodom…Gomorrah” – They are used to typify complete destruction at the hands of God (Gen 19) and their mention adds ominous overtones to the prophet’s description of the day of the Lord.

10 This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts.

11 The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, everyone from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.

12 Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.

“Ethiopians” – Lit. “Cushites,” people from the upper (southern) Nile region.  Egypt was ruled from 715 to 663 B.C. by a Cushite Dynasty.

13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.

Ruins of Early Arabian period 6th to 11th centuries in the southern part of Ashdod. Perhaps, it is all that can speak about the greatness of the civilisation having existed here in former times.

“North” – although Nineveh was east of Judah, Assyrian armies normally invaded Canaan from the north, having first marched west along the Euphrates.

“Nineveh” – see the books of Jonah and Nahum.  Since Nineveh was destroyed in 612 B.C., Zephaniah’s ministry had to be before that date.

“Desolation” – even the site of Nineveh was alter forgotten until discovered through modern excavations.

14 And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work.

15 This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.

Lost Cities of Europe (1 of 4) 


Location: Santorini, Greece
Date of Construction: c. 2000 .B.C.
Abandoned: 1625 or 1545 B.C.
Built by: Cycladic Culture
Key Features: Frescoes, Two-Story Houses, Lustral Basins.

Gracious houses decorated with delightful frescoes and finely carved furniture crowd together around a harbor under a bright blue Mediterranean sky. The wharves are busy with sailors and dockhands buzzing to and fro, overseen by prosperous merchants.

But far beneath them a huge mass of magma seethes and roils, threatening to unleash a cataclysm. Ancient Akrotiri was a picture of bourgeois bliss, but this middle-class paradise was built on a volcano that was about to erupt in the most enormous explosion ever witnessed by civilization.

On August 27 1883, the Indonesian island of Rakata almost vanished when the nearby island volcano of Krakatoa erupted. In fact, about 75% of the land area of Rakata no longer exists. It was the most violent volcanic eruption recorded in human history.

Around 1625 B.C. (or possibly 1545 B.C. – there is fierce dispute over the exact dating) the volcanic island of Thera, one of the Cyclades Islands between mainland Greece and Crete, exploded in an eruption that measured 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index – 100 times more powerful than the eruption of Mt. St. Helen in 1980.

The tsunamis generated by the eruption would have been up to 492 feet high according to some estimates. Four times as much material was ejected into the atmosphere as during the famous explosion at Krakatau in 1883 and a blanket of ash and rock up to 164 feet thick settled on the remnants of the island (today the shattered island is an archipelago known as Santorini).

Buried beneath this volcanic fallout was the ancient seaport at modern Akrotiri, which lay hidden for three and half millennia until in 1967 renowned Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos began excavations.

What he revealed, and subsequent excavations continue to investigate, was a Cycladic version of Pompeii (the next Lost City of Europe in our study), but with important differences from the Roman town.

Spyridon Nikolaou Marinatos (November 4, 1901 – October 1, 1974) was a Greek archaeologist.
Marinatos began his career in Crete as director of the Herakelion Museum along with Georgia Andrea in 1929 where he met Sir Arthur Evans.

He conducted several excavations on Crete at Dreros, Arkalochori, Vathypetro and Gazi, all of which resulted in spectacular finds. In 1937, he became director of the Antiquities service in Greece for the first time. Shortly afterwards, he became professor at the University of Athens.

He turned his attention to the Mycenaeans next, regarding them as the first Greeks. He excavated many Mycenaean sites in the Peloponnese, including an unplundered royal tomb at Routsi, near Pylos. He also dug at Thermopylae and Marathon uncovering the sites where the famous battles had occurred.

Whereas the unfortunate Latins were caught unawares and suffered grisly deaths, the inhabitants of Akrotiri seem to have managed to evacuate the town, taking all their portable valuables with them.

No uninterred human remains have been found nor have any precious objects, with one exception, an intriguing golden ibex figurine that was hidden beneath a floor – perhaps simply forgotten or perhaps buried for ritual reasons, like figurines found in Neolithic Catalhoyuk

Cosmopolitan Harbor Town

When the ancient Akrotirians fled they left behind a sophisticated urban development, with spacious multistory houses of high-quality masonry equipped with advanced plumbing and sewers, and adorned with vivid and graceful art as fine as any Mediterranean civilization has ever produced.

The first settlements on this site date back as far as the Neolithic Era, to before the 4th millennium B.C., but the town reached its height in the Minoan Era (2000-1500 B.C.), by which time it had grown into one of the major Bronze Age ports in the eastern Mediterranean.

The flourishing palace culture of the Minoans in Crete carried on extensive trade with other Bronze Age superpowers of Egypt, Asia Minor and the Levant, while on the Greek mainland the Mycenaean civilization was gathering strength.

Goods and people passed back and forth across the Aegean and Akrotiri was at the center of this trade – objects have been found there from Crete, Egypt, Anatolia, Cyprus, Syria and the Greek mainland and islands.

The wealth garnered by this trade helped turn Akrotiri into a prosperous town that covered around 49 acres and had a population of several thousand. Excavations have shown that although the streets were relatively narrow (probably too narrow for wheeled carts, but wide enough for pack animals), the houses were quite grand.

Mostly built of rubble masonry between timber frames, but with some sophisticated dressed-stone block masonry in places (especially on public buildings), many of them were two or even three stories high.

Inside, the lower rooms were probably utilitarian, with kitchen amenities such as mill installations for grinding corn, pestles and mortars for food preparation and large sunken jars for storing supplies.

The upper rooms, however, where the owners lived and socialized, were large and airy with big windows. The interiors were plastered and often decorated with the beautiful frescoes that are Akrotiri’s most famous legacy.

The West House is a relatively small, but well-organized building. In the ground floor there are storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and a mill-installation.

Some houses had toilets, with wooden benches with openings to clay pipes that connected to the municipal sewers – narrow stone-lined trenches that ran beneath the streets. In some places twin sets of pipes bringing water into houses suggest that the Akrotirians had hot and cold running water – the former perhaps supplied by hot springs on the volcanic island.

Some houses even had separate bathrooms, with walls plastered halfway up to guard against splashing, just like our modern bathrooms. These rooms were painted yellow and may have been equipped with clay bathtubs and bronze vessels for bringing water, such as have been found in one of the settlement’s houses.

One of the public buildings has a lustral basin – a sunken stone-lined pool probably used for ritual washing. Such sophisticated plumbing is remarkable for an ancient town.

The End of Akrotiri

Marinatos’s excavation revealed evidence that Akrotiri had suffered major earthquake damage before it was buried in ash from the eruption of Thera. He theorized that it was this earthquake that had given the inhabitants sufficient warning to evacuate.

In practice, the picture is slightly more complex. The careful piling of rubble and the presence of great stone “demolition” balls probably similar to modern wrecking balls (although it has been suggested that these are merely natural volcanic ejecta), indicates that after an initial earthquake there was a planned program of demolition to clear unsafe houses and prepare for reconstruction.

A detail of one of the most famous frescoes in Akrotiri, which shows two boys returning from a fishing expedition, loaded with the fish they have caught. This fresco is found in the parlour of a building known as the West House, believed to have belonged to a naval commander.

One expert on the site has suggested that the boys are his sons; others have argued that the boys are shown having successfully completed a rite of passage, or are bringing offerings to a goddess. The fish that the boy is carrying have been identified as dolphin fish.

It is also clear that this program of reconstruction was well underway when the evacuation came – and possibly had been for years. Evidently there was sufficient warning – perhaps from small tremors or perhaps from an initial, minor eruption and ash-fall – that a major eruption was on the way, for this rebuilding was abruptly halted.

In the building known as the West House, where plastering and painting was apparently still in progress and was left half-finished, abandoned vessels of plaster and paint have been found.

When the eruption came a deep layer of pumice and ash covered the island so thickly that it was uninhabitable for centuries. Exactly what became of the Akrotirians is impossible to know, but the consequences of the eruption may have been far-reaching.

Marinatos was led to begin his excavations at Akrotiri by his theory that the eruption triggered the collapse of Minoan civilization, but in practice the dates do not match up. The palace culture probably survived for another century after Thera exploded, but there is little doubt that the volcano had an impact.

While the prevailing winds meant that most of Crete was not hit by the fallout, the vast tsunami generated by the eruption must have pulverized the Minoan fleet and the towns along its northern seaboard.

Many Atlantologists even claim that the destruction of Thera was the basis for the legend of Atlantis (although in practice Atlantis was probably purely an invention of Plato’s, and not based on a real place).

The Frescoes

The most striking survivors of the eruption are the many frescoes that decorate the inside of every building in Akrotiri. Only a few of the rooms in each house are decorated and the subjects dealt with vary widely.

For instance, in the building known as Xeste 3 (from the Greek xeste, meaning “dressed masonry”, such as is seen on this building, probably indicating that it was a public building and thus somewhat grander than the private houses), which features a lustral basin, the frescoes appear to show parts of a procession or religious ritual/festival.

On the upper floor young women are shown gathering crocuses and bringing them to a central female figure, perhaps a goddess, who is flanked by worshipping animals – a griffin and a monkey.

On the ground floor a fresco on one wall shows a girl carrying a necklace, a girl who has hurt her foot, which is bleeding, and a girl walking in one direction but facing in the other. One wall is dominated by a fresco of a closed door crowned with horns dripping with blood.

By contrast the private houses show more secular scenes. The building known as the West House, for instance, features a famous fresco of two young fishermen, bearing skeins offish, while another room shows a fleet of ships crossing the sea and putting in at port, while on another wall of the same room two ships disgorge warriors in boar’s-tusk helmets.

Another room in the house is decorated with a frieze of a repeated motif of the stern cabin of a ship.

Pottery excavated at Akrotiri.
When the inhabitants fled, they took their most valuable possessions but left behind many everyday objects such as jars and bowls, providing a treasure trove for the archaeologist.

Analysis of the clay reveals that the majority of pottery was made on Thera, but significant quantities were imported from Crete. Similarly, the decorative motifs, even when domestically produced, demonstrate many foreign — primarily Minoan — influences.

Interpreting these frescoes at a distance of 3,500 years is hard, but ancient historian Fritz Schachermeyr takes a personal slant. He identifies the house with the fleet frescoes as belonging to the commander of such a fleet – the main fresco is an account of one of his journeys and the port shown is Akrotiri itself.

Meanwhile, he has decorated his own bedroom with cabins because of their personal significance, while the two fishing youths in the parlor are his sons.

Schachermeyr also has an influential theory about Akrotiri as a whole. The absence of any palace buildings indicates that there was no ruling family.

Rather, the nature of the houses (their size and quality and the expensive fittings and decorations) suggests that there were several rich families, possibly patricians, and the heterogeneous forms taken by the frescoes underline the way that taste and style were not defined by a central authority, but created on an individual basis.

All this, he argues, points to Akrotiri being a maritime republic of the type seen throughout history, from Athens and Carthage, Genoa and Venice, to Hamburg and Bremen, Amsterdam and London.

In such cities a prosperous merchant class was independent and liberal in governance and thought, and its society prospered as a result.

Could Akrotiri have been the first such liberal maritime republic? An engagingly sophisticated and modern society until it was cut off in its prime by an unstoppable cataclysm?

…the city of Pompeii.