We started this morning at Masada, the ancient complex built by Herod the Great on a high plateau in the desert overlooking the Dead Sea. Here, zealous Jews made a final, tragic stand against the Roman Empire, choosing death over surrender; and Masada still remains in the hearts and lore of Israeli Jews today.
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).
After discovering for ourselves that it’s almost impossible to ride a camel gracefully, we visited a Bedouin tent for tea and fresh flatbread. Hospitality has been foundational to the Bedouin culture in the Middle East, and the experience expanded our understanding of the lives of Abraham, Sarah, and Lot. Then we ourselves became wanderers in the desert by hiking down the treacherous canyon of Zohar.
We ended this day by going 1,200 feet below sea level to float like a cork in the Dead Sea. For thousands of years, people have come to the Great Salt Sea, the lowest place on earth, not only for its salt, but also for its mineral-rich mud, good for treating many kinds of skin ailments. We learned experientially today—climbing, riding, tasting, hiking, seeing, floating, hearing—how the Lord has always invited his people to believe that he is good. We can walk by faith because he is faithful, even when the path is difficult.
Known in the Bible as the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Arabah,” this inland body of water is appropriately named because its high mineral content allows nothing to live in its waters. Other post-biblical names for the Dead Sea include the “Sea of Sodom,” the “Sea of Lot,” the “Sea of Asphalt” and the “Stinking Sea.” In the Crusader period, it was sometimes called the “Devil’s Sea.” All of these names reflect something of the nature of this lake.
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