By Nathan Jones
Day 8 of Lamb & Lion Ministries' 2009 Israel Tour continues the marathon pace across the country. There is just so much to see that 10 days doesn't do the country justice.
Today we focused on the Dead Sea region, the lowest point on land in the world. And, it isn't called the Dead Sea for nothing. When God wanted to wipe Sodom and Gomorrah off the map due to "their sin so grievous" (Gen. 18:20), he made the Dead Sea a wasteland. The mineral runnoff into the Dead Sea has caused the water to be unlivable for any creature. Jewelry corrodes in just days and metal boats are eaten through in a matter of weeks. The adjacent cliffs are salt encrusted and barren. Fresh water is almost impossible to find. Flies buzz all around like on a carcass.
The Dead Sea is a dead testament to the severity of God's judgment when mankind totally abandons morality.
After leaving Jerusalem very early to avoid the noonday heat, we passed through the Judean Wilderness. This is the area Jesus went to fast for 40 days and resisted temptation (Matt. 4:1).
A view of the Dead Sea through the typical morning haze.
Masada, King Herod's fortress in the desert.
What the people of the First Century would have given for one of these cable cars. The alternative way up is a treacherous and long walk up the snake filled, winding path.
It may be a long way up, but you can't get much better of a view of the desolate terrain.
The ruins of the Masada fortress, and every Roman soldier's nightmare assignment.
The last great holdout of Jewish rebellion from the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem holed up in Masada. For almost two years nearly 800 Jews held off 8,000 Roman troops led by Flavius Silva (played by Peter O'Toole).
The Romans camped out at the base of the mountain, unable to scale the steep cliffs to reach the fortress. They were hot, tired and teed-off!
The Jews, meanwhile, had plenty of food and water stored from the flash floods that occur 3-4 times per year in the Dead Sea region to keep the Romans at bay. The Romans had to hike miles to draw water and return. Stephen shows us the Columbarium, which was like a chicken coop. The Jewish women would even hang their wet clothes off the side of the cliffs for drying to mock the thirsty soldiers.
The Romans used thousands of captured Jewish slaves and had them stack rocks to build the largest seige ramp in history. They rolled up a seige tower and burned down the gate, along with their own seige tower. Rather than become Roman slaves and have their women ravished, the Jewish fathers killed their families and themselves. The Romans, expecting slaves and spoil, were left with nothing but a sour victory. The demoralized Tenth Legion Fretensis afterwards disbanded in disgrace.
While a place of death, the Dead Sea's minerals have many healing properties, and is a major component in Ahava moisturizers. Ahava will also corrode one's wallet.
The ibex is commonly seen among the cliffs, and we observed, even on one's car (Deut. 14:5).
En Gedi, the oasis among the desert and popular hideout of King David (1 Sam. 23:29).
This is one of the caves that stored the Dead Sea Scrolls, the best evidence that the translations of the Old Testament that we have today are exact to the original texts.
A sect called the Essenes sought purification in the desert and copied and stored all the books of the Old Testament but Esther.
Due to water demands from Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea has receded at an alarming rate, leaving this pier high and dry.
The waters are so full of minerals that people just float on the water's surface, like our resident traveling family. Families that float together stay together.
Teresa shows us how the mud can cure everything from arthritis (for up to two years) to athlete's foot (not that she has either).
- Because the Dead Sea is so much below sea level and is covered in a haze, it provides a natural UV protection, so it's almost impossible despite the intense heat to get a sunburn.
- "Ahava" in Hebrew means "love."
- Until nightfall, today was the Jewish Sabbath. Jerusalem was like a ghost town. It was easy to tell when it was over because all the car honking began. I think they mistake the horn for the gas pedal.
- Sabbath elevators open on every floor so a Jewish person doesn't have to "work" pushing a button nor have to use an electrical device. Time to take the stairs!
The Dead Sea in Bible Prophecy
Ezekiel 47 tells us about the promising prophetic future for the Dead Sea. During the upcoming 1,000 year reign of Jesus on Earth, water will pour from the Millennial Temple. This water will flow South into the Dead Sea, making it's waters fresh and alive once more. Ezekiel 47:8 states, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh."
The Dead Sea will no longer be dead, but it will come alive again. Verse 7 describes its new life. "When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river."
Verses 9-12 tell us that the barren terrain will be bountiful, life-giving, and inhabited once more. "Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds - like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."
Everything we saw today - the death, destruction, desperation and desolation - will all be erased by Jesus Christ's return and reign. The Dead Sea is therefore also a living testament that, though our lives begin desolate by sin and death, Jesus can give us life by having a saving relationship with Him.
Tomorrow for Day 9 we will like the wise men journey to Bethlehem.