Faith thrives in harsh circumstances
Today was our last day in the Dead Sea region and it was another picture-perfect day. We had our devotion and then set for a short ride to Masada, which is its own mountain that Herod the Great built into a huge fortress/palace/city. We could either take a nearly one hour hike up the mountain or enjoy a six minute gondola ride. We chose the gondola! The views and the ruins remain impressive even today. Scrolls from the books of Ezekiel and Leviticus were found by the synagogue at the top of Masada.
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).
We learned much about the political and economic shrewdness of Herod and about Masada itself from our guide, Yehuda, and from Pastor Terry. Masada was overtaken in a 66 AD revolt. The Roman Empire ruled by intimidation and spared no expense trying to crush Herod's empire. Because it was such a mighty fortress, the ten thousand Roman soldiers built 8 camps around the base of Masada and it took 3 years to defeat the one thousand Jews.
Our next stop was Ein Gedi, not too far away and still in the Judaean Desert. This is an oasis of sorts with lots of cliffs surroundIng it and filled with Acacia trees, running water, and even a waterfall. Ibex (in the goat family) and rock badgers can be seen throughout this area. Pastor Terry's lesson was from 1 Samuel 24 where the Bible recounts David running from King Saul who was trying to kill him. I'll let you read the account but David ends up sparing Saul's life and this event took place in this very spot. Our lesson centered on Ein Gedi representing refreshing rest, which is symbolized by the beautiful trees and running water. We talked about the importance of being an Ein Gedi for others, about not chasing after 'things' that really don't matter, but living quiet simple lives and knowing that we do not live by bread alone.
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.
Our next stop was lunch and a trip to the Qumran caves. Back in 1947 a Beduion shepherd boy was looking for a lost goat in the surrounding caves and found a piece of pottery containing old scrolls. After finally landing into the right hands it was determined that these scrolls were actual copies of books from the Old Testament. After much excavating in the Qumran caves over the next few years, they found all books of the Old Testament except for Esther along with some secular writings...none were of the New Testament. It was determined that these scrolls were written approximately 200 BC and the found books of the validate the Bible translations we have today. Terry read from Proverbs 30: 7-9 where we are reminded that we be truthful and want only what we need; if we have too much, then we may not think we need God. If we don't have enough, we may be tempted to steal and profane God. Our faith lesson at this stop was that faith thrives in harsh circumstances.
Allegedly discovered by a Bedouin shepherd chasing a stray, the initial Dead Sea Scrolls found here changed the study of the Old Testament.
The seven scrolls discovered in this cave were the Manual of Discipline, War of Sons of Light, Thanksgiving Scroll, Isaiah A and B, Genesis Apocryphon and Habakkuk Commentary.
We then boarded our very comfortable bus and drove about 2 hours through the West Bank and along the remnants of the Jordan River to our new hotel right by the Sea of Galilee. Tomorrow will be another exciting day!
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