Petra is the coolest historical site in Jordan. Is it biblically significant?

Posted by Jennifer Tomshack
Wednesday 21, October 2015 | Category:   Church History
Petra, Jordan
Petra’s most famous ruin, Al Khazneh (“the Treasury”). The Hellenistic facade is carved into sandstone.
Of course Petra is cool—just ask Indiana Jones! The climactic scene in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade—in which the main character goes on a quest for the Holy Grail (which is, according to legend, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper)—was filmed in Petra.
 
That in itself does not qualify it as a biblically significant site (sorry, Harrison Ford!). In fact, the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, located in the modern country of Jordan about 50 miles south of the Dead Sea, is not specifically named in the Bible—although it’s possible that Petra is mentioned in the Old Testament under other names, including Sela and Joktheel. But it was indisputably a significant trade center in the region during biblical times. Today, the stunningly dramatic archaeological site is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction.
 
Enclosed by cliffs, Petra is accessed through a natural split in the rock, called the Siq (“shaft”), which winds for about a mile. At the end of this narrow crevice is Petra’s most famous ruin, Al Khazneh (“the Treasury”), whose Hellenistic facade is carved into the sandstone.
 
Petra is in what was once the land of the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau, the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the brother of Jacob. Moses and the Israelites passed near Petra, and it is believed that the spring at Wadi Musa (“Valley of Moses”), just outside Petra, is where Moses struck the rock and brought forth water. Moses’ brother Aaron was buried in Petra at Mount Hor, or Jabal Harun (“Mount Aaron”), where a Byzantine church and an Islamic shrine were built.
 
The Edomites were eventually supplanted by the Nabataeans. Petra flourished as the wealthy capital of the Nabataean kingdom from the 3rd century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. The three kings who traveled to Bethlehem to honor the infant Jesus likely got their gifts in Petra, from which the Nabataeans controlled the Incense Route that connected the Mediterranean world with Eastern sources of incense, including Arabian frankincense and myrrh. One of the three kings is believed to have been Aretas, the Nabataean ruler of Petra.
 
The city was eventually abandoned by all but local tribes. Petra was unknown to the Western world for centuries, until it was visited by a European explorer in 1812.
 

Scripture: 2 Kings 14:7; Isaiah 16:1; Numbers 20:10-11; Matthew 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 11:32

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