Israel 2019 Day 7
Our day started in the Dead Sea—a body of water that sits at the lowest elevation on earth. The Jordan river empties into it, and there’s no outlet. A combination of environmental factors gives the Dead Sea a salinity of 30%. The bottom line here is that everyone floats in the Dead Sea. In Ezekiel’s vision of the new earth he sees a river running from the throne of the Lord in Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea, bringing it to life (Ezekiel 47). It’s a dramatic picture of God’s restoring work, bringing dead things to life. It reminds me of Ephesians 2:5– “God made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses.”
We continued north along the west coast of the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, the desert oasis where David hid from Saul for a while. A spring here provides much needed water. This was the place where Saul ventured into the very cave where David and his men were hiding. David chose to depend on God, and refused to kill Saul.
Another famous biblical event happened at Ein Gedi when the Transjordan coalition attacked Judah from Moab. They used Ein Gedi as their launching point into Israel. In 2 Chronicles 20 we read how Jehoshaphat led Israel in prayer, asking God for salvation. God said all they needed to do was stand and watch his deliverance. The coalition collapsed, and Israel went home with the spoils. Again, dependence on God was the clear theme (gospel in the OT, anyone?).
From there we headed to Qumran. It was spiritual motivation that drove the Essenes, a strict Jewish religious sect, to live in monastic style at Qumran. The most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century was made at Qumran: the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
After our time at Qumran we drove north through the Jordan Rift Valley to Beth Shean, where the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and his sons. We considered 1 Samuel 31 and the tragic end of king Saul. As the men of Jabesh Gilead rescued the bodies of Saul and his sons from the walls of Beth ShEan, they remind us of Saul’s one good moment. All the way back in 1 Samuel 11 Saul led Israel in rescuing the people of Jabesh Gilead. The hill in the background is the ancient city whose walls would have been visible for miles around.
Having arrived in Galilee, our final stop of a busy day was Magdala. This site has only been open since 2014. What’s so exciting here is that a coin literally minted during Jesus’ earthly ministry was found there. That means the site was preserved in its condition at the time of Christ. The synagogue was well preserved, and it is almost certain that Jesus taught in it. Perhaps it was here that he first encountered Mary Magdalene, whom he raised from death to life.