Day #6-The Lowest Point on the Planet
We left Galilee this morning at 8am, after three days of touring the places where Jesus spent the majority of His public ministry. It was an incredible three days. We ended our day today at the lowest point on the planet, the Dead Sea. We had some fascinating stops, however, along the way.
The Jordan River
For Christians, other than the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River has the most significance in the life and ministry of Jesus. And, the Jordan River also has noteworthy meaning as we read our Old Testament.
The Jordan River means "to go down from Dan." We learned yesterday that the Dan River is a major feeder into the Jordan. The Jordan flows from the Sea of Galilee south to the Dead Sea. As the crow flies, that is about 70 miles. But the Jordan snakes back and forth so that it is nearly 110 miles long. The Jordan doesn't have many neighborhoods around it because of the very thick vegetation surrounding the Jordan.
Today, the Jordan River resembles more of a creek than a mighty river. It is only about 50 feet wide at most points. A major reason why the Jordan is much smaller today than in Old and New Testament times is because of the invention of drip irrigation that primarily comes from the Jordan River.
The Jordan Plain and Jordan River is the area Lot, the nephew of Abraham wanted. He described it as "well watered like the land of Egypt." (Gen. 13:10-11)
God defined the eastern property lines for Israel as the Jordan River (Numbers 34:10-12). Famously, the children of Israel camped by the Jordan River just before entering the promised land. (Num. 22:1) Then, Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan when the waters were dammed upstream at the town of Adam. (Josh. 3:1-4:18) They had the waters of the Jordan River divided by God at Gilgal. The Jordan River was the location of multiple battles and escape routes in the Books of Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. In Ezekiel, God redefined, during the Babylonian Captivity, the Jordan River as the eastern boundary of Israel. (Ezekiel 47:18)
Most precious to Christians, for sure, is the importance of Jesus' ministry in the Jordan. John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan River. (Matt. 3:5-6; Mark 1:5; John 1:28) Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. (Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9) The location above is most likely the general spot where John the Baptist was baptizing and where he baptized our Lord Jesus.
We were able to meet these two ladies at the Jordan River, who are members of the Israeli military. They were both very kind. Strong too!
Harod Spring (Gideon Spring)
The Book of Judges covers a span of about 300 years from the time of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land until the time of Samuel. Judges speaks of twelve different Judges. The fifth Judge who is given the most amount of verses in the Book of Judges is Gideon. He was from the small tribe of Manasseh. The people of God kept repeating a cycle: sin, slavery, supplication, salvation (repeat).
God heard the cry of His people and in mercy, sent a rescuer. Due to Israel's idolatry, the Midianites were terrorizing them by hiding in caves and coming upon them at the time of harvest. They would steal their produce, over-and-over again. Ultimately, God heard and chose Gideon to deliver his people from the Midianites. Initially, Gideon chose 32,000 men from four different tribes to fight the Midianites. However, the Lord told Gideon he had too many men. The Lord's first filter for Gideon was for him to ask the entire 32,000 if they were afraid and wanted to go home to their families, they could leave. 22,000 immediately left. The Lord said that the remaining 10,000 were still too many. The final reduction test took place at Harod Spring. Gideon was told to ask all 10,000 men to go down to the Harod Spring and get a drink of water and to observe which men lapped water like dogs and which men kneeled and cupped the water in their hands and drank observingly. The lappers were told to go home and the kneelers were kept. There were only 300 who knelt. God defeated the Midianites with 300 men. He received all the glory!
Joe Bolduc as a Kneeler and Bill Gondy as a Lapper
Beth Shan is at the juncture of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys. This area was originally allotted to the tribe of Manasseh. But like most tribes, they were unable to drive out the Canaanites due to their unbelief. (Josh 17:11,16;Judges 1:27)
After defeating Saul on Mount Gilboa, the Philistines hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shan. (You can see Joe and I have a similar foot race up to the ancient city here:
The Greeks and Romans were not fond of building their cities on top of other cities they defeated. So, the Greeks built the city of Scythopolis and the Romans later expanded it. Scythopolis was one of the chief cities of Decapolis-there were ten cities in the league that shared Greek culture and government.
There has been civilization in Jericho since ancient times. It's one of the world's oldest cities. It has a pleasantly warm climate, a lot of natural springs of water and an important trade location.
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit Jericho any more than driving through it this afternoon.
The Dead Sea
We arrived at the Dead Sea this evening. Some of our group floated out on the Dead Sea. It was quite the experience. I plan to add a section to tomorrow's post on the Dead Sea.
As we pillow our heads tonight, we are sleeping at the lowest place on the planet. The southernmost tip of the Dead Sea is over 1500 feet below sea level.
Tomorrow we head to Masada, Ein Gedi and end up in Jerusalem, God-willing.