Day 03 - Negev: Ein Gedi, Qumran, Lower Jordan
It is hard to keep track of the days on a trip like this because of the time difference and the jam-packed agenda, but I’m pretty sure this is Friday – the third full day of our Israel adventure.
Our first stop of the day was in En-Gedi (or Ein Gedi) which means “spring of the goat.” This is an appropriate name because the most striking thing we noticed right of the bat was that it was green and there were trees and vegetation. You have to understand that we had just come from the Dead Sea and the surrounding hot arid desert areas and now there was a lot of green! Could there be water (i.e. a spring) nearby? As we continued up the “wadi” (ravine/valley) we spotted goats (well, actually Ibex) and finally at the end of the wadi we found the reason for all of the life we were encountering – a waterfall emanating from a natural spring! This “living water” brought life to the desert and was a beautiful picture of the living water available from God (Jeremiah 2:13).
En-Gedi is the place David chose to come for refuge while hiding from Saul, and where he was able to cut a piece off of Saul’s robe but chose not to kill the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 24). In En-Gedi, God provided David with a spring of living water bringing him sustenance, protection and rest that only this special place could provide.
Next we went to Qumran and found ourselves back in the hot and arid desert. This is the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls werefound in a series of caves not far from the Dead Sea. 800 scrolls have been found in 11 caves and 100 of these scrolls contain Old Testament books or fragments of books. There are still many questions about why these scrolls were there and who exactly left them there, but it seems most likely that it was the Essene community of Jewish believers who were responsible. The Romans ruthlessly annihilated the Essene community in 68 AD shortly before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. All that was left was some evidence of production of goods (pottery, date honey, and wheat) and the scrolls hidden in the caves.
Our third stop was at the lower Jordan river near Jericho. This is the spot, or at least near the spot, at which several significant Biblical events have taken place, and not by coincidence! This is the spot where, after Moses’ death, Joshua and the Israelites cross the Jordan on their way to conquer Jericho – their first conquest in the promised land (Joshua 6). Later, this is the same spot where Elijah crossed back over the Jordan to the East bank and was taken up by God in the sight of Elisha (2 Kings 2). And finally, John the Baptist returns to this spot to call the people back out of the promised land, and to the Jordan to acknowledge their sin against God, to be redeemed, and to start the process of making them ready for the kingdom that is coming in Christ. And God puts a bow on this package by having Christ meet John in this place to be baptized himself (Mark 1).
Finally, we went to nearby Jericho, which is now part of the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. That was an interesting experience involving checkpoints and a lack of building codes – I’m not quite sure what to make of it all yet, but it was very interesting.
The day ended at our new home-away-from-home for the next couple of days, a resort on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where I enjoyed a dip in the Sea, a shower, and a lovely dinner. Today was a fabulous day - I love seeing Bible stories that I have known for years coming to life in ways that I never imagined, and I can’t wait for tomorrow!