Day #7: “Masada Will Not Fall Again.”
We departed at 8:06am (1:06 AM local time) from the David Dead Sea Hotel. The Dead Sea was fascinating. Most of our group of 27 floated in the Dead Sea. Some of us rubbed the mineral mud on our skin. (It's the world's largest, free spa!) Here are a few interesting facts about the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea
-The Dead Sea is very salty. It has an average salinity of 34%. That's over ten times the saltiness of the ocean.
The Dead Sea has many names: Sea of Death, Sea of Salt, Sea of Arabah (Hebrew: "wasteland" or "barrenland") or, Eastern Sea, or Lake of Sodom.
The Dead Sea is 1000 feet at its deepest point. It is 50 miles long, North to South. And, it is 11 miles wide at its widest point.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. It is 1387 feet below level.
The Dead Sea is is the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms one of the deepest cracks in the earth's crust.
The Dead Sea is almost impossible to swim in. Because of its high salinity, as you lay backwards, you will float, no matter your size. (While there is no swimming in the Dead Sea, there is scuba diving.)
The Dead Sea has no outlet. Therefore, combined with its low level and rapid evaporation, the Sea capures the minerals and evaporates the liquid.
There is no life in the Dead Sea. Because of the high levels of salt and minerals, nothing lives in the Dead Sea, except for bacteria.
The Dead Sea is dissapearing. It's estimated the Dead Sea is shrinking three feet a year. There are a variety of reasons for the diminishing Dead Sea. One cause is that million of gallons from the Jordan River, which has historically fed the Dead Sea, have been diverted for drip irragation. Also, the dry climate and the depth of the Dead Sea result in rapid evaporation.
The Dead Sea is mentioned 16 times in the Bible. Usually it is simply being used to mark the border of the land of Israel. Three important Biblical settlements are around the Dead Sea: Masada, Engedi and Qumran.
The Dead Sea is located 16 miles east of Jerusalem.
Many Bible scholars believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were buried in the southwest corner of the Dead Sea when it was destroyed. There is a mountain nearby that is called "Mount Sodom."
The prophet Ezekiel prophesied that one day in the Millenial kingdom that the Dead Sea would become fresh and fishermen would line-up on its banks.
Masada is a plateau at the top of a mountain at the edge of the Judean desert between Ein Gedi and Sodom. Masada means "strong fortress of support."
Herod the Great built a palace on this plateau in case he needed to escape. Herod the Great ruled from 37-4BC.
This palace was massive. It covered over 840 acres.
Herod had four palaces like Mesada. When Herod died the Romans took over Mesada and made it into a Roman Garrison. During the Jewish great revolt in 66 AD Eleazar Ben Yair took a group of rebels to Masada and overtook the Roman soldiers and turned Mesada into a refuge for Jewish rebels.
When Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD, a lot more rebels joined Eleazar in Mesada. With women and children they totaled 960.
Once the Roman-Jewish war was over, the Romans wanted to stamp out any more rebellion. The only rebels were these 960 Jews at Mesada.
Flavius Silva led a legion of 8,000 Romans to build camps around Mesada, built a seige wall, a ramp leading up to the Western side of the mountain.
After several months of siege without success, the Romans built a tower on the ramp to try and take out the fortress’s wall. When it became clear that the Romans were going to take over Masada, on April 15, 73 A.D., on the instructions of Ben Yair, all but two women and five children, who hid in the cisterns and later told their stories, took conceived a plan to have each huaband kill his family and then the remaining ten drew lots to determine which nine would be the one to kill the final ten, rather than live as Roman slaves.
"Masada will not fall again."
"En Gedi" is where we traveled after Masada. En Gedi means "spring of the wild goat." It is an oasis in the Judaen Wilderness that is on the western shore of the Dead Sea. This area is known, especially because of being in such a warm, dry climate, for its abundant supply of fresh water, fragant plants and date palm groves.
En Gedi was originally alotted to the tribe of Judah. (Joshua 15:62)
Famously, David hid in a cave at En Gedi when he was hiding from Saul. (I Samuel 23:29)
Then, Saul entered the cave where David and his men were hiding, and David cut off part of Saul's robe while Saul "relieved himself." (I Sam. 24)
The Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites came together at En Gedi to have a surprise attack against Jerusalem. (En Gedi is kind of the back door to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea). God foight for His people and confused the armies. (II Chronicles 20:1-30)
Between 100 BC to 100 AD there was a group of the Jewish faithfull called, "Essenes." The Essenes thought they needed to pull away from other Jews because of their "lukewarm" faith, secularizartion and worldliness. They were very disciplined. They began an isolated village at Qumran, which is near the northwest tip of the Dead Sea.
They had purification baths, with seven steps downward, Scriptitoriums where they would make hand written copies of the Old Testament Scriptures, and rooms for meals and fellowship.
In 66 AD, during the Jewish Revolt, the Essenes became concerned they would be targeted. So they hid their writings in clay pots in the cool caves at Qumran. Roman soldiers saw the village atop Qumran while they were in the Dead Sea. Evidently, on a whim, they attacked Qumran and killed all the Essenes. Their secret died with them.
In 1946 a shepherd was throwing rocks in the caves at Qumran. That's when he discovered what is now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Much of the Old Testament were copied on scrolls making these copies of the Old Testament the oldest copies we have of the Old Teatament. There was one scroll that had the entire Book of Isaiah.
Tomorrow, we begin four days in Jerusalem!