April 15, 2016
We began today with a swim in the Dead Sea and a great breakfast at the hotel. After a devotional, we headed out to Masada. We rode the gondola up, saw Herod’s palace, and the Roman rampart that led to the mass suicide of the Zealots and the Roman capture of Masada. It was fascinating and daunting to look all around and imagine the 10th Legion of the Roman army completely surrounding the plateau on which Masada sits.
The summit of Masada sits 190 feet (59 m) above sea level and about 1,500 feet (470 m) above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet (610 m) long, 650 feet (200 m) wide, 4,250 feet (1330 m) in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres. The "Snake Path" climbs 900 feet (280 m) in elevation. From the west, the difference in height is 225 feet (70 m).
Next, going north along the coast of the Dead Sea we went to Ein Gedi. This is the place where David fled from Saul. Once you see it, you know exactly why David would have found peace and comfort there. Right in the middle of the hot, rocky desert, up pops Ein Gedi, a beautiful fresh water stream with drinkable and enjoyable water. This truth is magnified by the fact that the salty Dead Sea is not so far way. While there, we were confronted with the questions, “Who is your Ein Gedi?” “Are you an Ein Gedi for other people around you?”
En Gedi is the largest oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. The springs here have allowed nearly continuous inhabitation of the site since the Chalcolithic period. The area was allotted to the tribe of Judah, and was famous in the time of Solomon (Josh 15:62). Today the Israeli kibbutz of En Gedi sits along the southern bank of the Nahal Arugot.
We finished the day at Qumran. We began by looking at the mikvehs that seem to surround the town center. These were used for a baptism of repentance among the Essene community. We moved from there into a meeting room where we discovered that some of the well known people in the bible were possibly Essene like John the Baptist and Simeon and Anna. These people were deeply devout and people of the Text. We saw this in the area where they made copies of the Scriptures. The process was difficult and long, but it ensured a perfect copy. These copies of the Scriptures were hidden all throughout the area in caves and are now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. We finished the day looking down where Jesus was most likely baptized in the Jordan understanding that this Essene community, a community committed to preparing the way of the Lord, was visible from His vantage point.
10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a "dead-end street" and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live. Requiring vast amounts of water for their daily purification rites, the Essenes had to channel the water from the wadi during the infrequent winter storms.
Something that Scott said today that I think affected all of us was that we can’t just see this as some far off historical fact. Instead, in a very real way, we are connected to this STORY. God has done these things and all the while knowing that one day the Gospel would hit our ears. Beautiful!
by Brian Gunter