It’s no wonder David chose this place, and others like it, to hide out from Saul. We read aloud 1 Samuel 24 while we were here, and it helps bring the story to life. We could imagine the entire scene being played out right in front of us. Jesus also wandered not far from here, as he spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, fasting and preparing for his ministry. The park was just so beautiful and lush, it was hard to believe it was all happening within a ravine that is surrounded by harsh desert. It was truly an oasis, and our first example of how God’s creativity is pretty darn perfect. The same now as it was 2000 years ago.
Next we went to Masada. Masada is like a giant mesa rising out of the desert with a flat plateau top, perfect for building a fortress. There is a zig zag slope that the ancient inhabitants, and adventurous modern-day visitors use to climb to the top. Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by Roman troops at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 Sicarii rebels and their families who were hiding there. Of course, most of us hiked to the top, but some of us took the cable cars to get an early start to the adventure on Masada. King Herod, who built impressive structures all over Israel, decided to build a palace on top of Masada. And it was awesome.
Built right into the side of the cliff, with roman baths all along the top, and fancy windows showing off a view of the Dead Sea in the distance. Pillars, colonnades, colors – all the modern conveniences you could want 2000 years ago – were here for his enjoyment. It was so grand, so bold – that some of us couldn’t help pretending we were Herod talking about the plans for this place, but using President Trump’s voice. I mean – it was Huuuge! But in contrast to Ein Gedi – it’s now mostly gone. Turned to rubble. Halfway fallen off the cliff. Sure, we can visit what’s left and imagine it in it’s glory – but it paled in comparison to the beauty that still remains at Ein Gedi.
We saw many Mikvahs and Cisterns used to collect water, and the caves which held original handwritten copies of the Torah from before the time of Christ. And yes, they confirm that our Bible is accurate, and yes, Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9 did exist over two thousand years ago. Two powerful passages that point towards the coming of Jesus the Messiah. It is truly providence that the scrolls were found recently so that we had the technology to preserve them and read them without destroying them. God’s timing is always perfect.
Finally – a big group of us went to the Dead Sea to float around. It’s a weird sensation not being able to get your feet underwater. The Sea almost forces you onto your back to stare up at the heavens. It lies about 1200 feet below sea level, and has been receding a lot over the past couple of decades. The amount of water flowing into it has declined dramatically with the amount of water being taken out of the River Jordan up north. Sink holes are forming around the southern edge of the Sea, and it’s sad to see the lines marking how much higher the sea was about 100 years ago. This is one of God’s creation that still lasts, but is slowly being pushed away by the growing population in Israel and the overuse of water resources up north.
Tomorrow morning we awake bright and early to finally ascend into Jerusalem, where we’ll spend the remaining portion of our journey. We’ll write from that holy city tomorrow night. Much love.