Today’s sites were fascinating historical sites set in the times of the patriarchs. We left our lovely resort at the Dead Sea and set out to the ancient fortress of Masada. Some of our intrepid climbed the Snake Path up the mountain while most of us rode the gondola [sweet!] up to this fortified city overlooking the Dead Sea. There we learned about King Herod’s background, how he came to power and expanded the Masada fortress, which was a key location on the trade road of the day. The Jewish Zealot group eventually took the fortress, but fell to the Romans after a long siege. There was a distinct contrast in the opulence and show of power that Herod so desired and treasured to the attitudes of the Jews. As our guide Ronen said today, the Jews have a word, "Dayenu", which means Just Enough. The Jews still embrace the concept of just enough today. I had to ponder as an American, what is just enough? Is God just enough?
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 then proceeded to Ein Gedi, where David hid from Saul in the caves and penned Psalm 42. David had an opportunity to kill Saul at one point, but refused to kill the Lord’s anointed. God was teaching David patience, trust, humility, and being second in this “desert” time of David’s life.
The lovely rushing water at Ein Gedi, a rarity in the desert was living water, was unlike the cisterns of still water in most places. Brad taught about Jesus, the living water, and that we as believers also dispense water to a thirsty world through the Holy Spirit living in us…again the questions…is my water living and vibrant, or musty and still. Lord, that we would dispense your precious living water daily!
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 Qumran at the northernmost edge of the Dead Sea where caves dot the jagged cliffs. Here a small Jewish contingent known as the Essenes painstakingly transcribed the all of the Old Testament manuscripts, 800 copies, (except the book of Esther). This is where some children discovered the manuscripts in 1947, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. We were able to see this place of the discovery that rocked the world and is known as one of the greatest archeological finds ever. Once again our intrepid (aka slightly crazy) ones became Ibex and scaled the mountainside to place their Ebenezer stones at the top of the world there!
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.
The site was excavated by Catholic priest Roland deVaux from 1953-56. More recent excavations of the site have taken place under the direction of Hanan Eshel.
As we weary travelers bussed our way to the Sea of Galilee, I found myself reflecting on God’s grace, goodness, and timing. We are seeing him revealed in new ways daily…in mighty shouts, and gentle whispers. It’s good to be this small band of believers seeking Him together, discovering Him in new ways, seeing the land of the promise. Looking forward to new adventures. But first,….sleep. Shalom!
Psalm 42: 1, 2 As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Written by Candi Lapa