10-17-18 Baptism, Jericho, Qumran, Masada, Dead Sea, Valley of Shadow of Death

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10/17/18 – We head down from Jerusalem across the Judean wilderness to where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea where we see a series of churches mostly on the Jordanian side.

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10/17/18 – Five meters across the river is the nation of Jordan. Doran says often we will see Israeli or Jordanian soldiers – but more often than not, they’re drinking coffee somewhere. Today must have been the Jordanians’ turn to drink coffee and only the elite of the Israeli army are keeping guard on the border.

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10/17/18 – The spiritual significance is that this was the spot where John the Baptizer baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and here Pastor Dave leads us in our morning devotional and reaffirmation of our baptism.
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10/17/18 – After the devotional and a dip for many in the river, we head through farmland to the city of Jericho. Jericho is the oldest continually inhabited city on earth. Today it is a popular vacation spot for wealthy Arabs, and Doron calls it “the Florida of Israel.” At least for Arabs. Jews have Tel Aviv-Yafo, which is where most of them live anyway.
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10/17/18 – Of course for most Christians, mention of Jericho immediately brings to mind the story of Zacchaeus who climbed the Sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus in Luke chapter 19. Of course, some enterprising Arabs are glad to show Christians the very tree, but in reality this sycamore tree is only a few hundred years old, but is of the same type as in the Bible.
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10/17/18 – The mountain just beyond Jericho is purported to be “the Mount of Temptation” where Satan tempted Jesus after his baptism in the Jordan. There’s no way to know for certain if this is the same mountain, but the location makes sense.
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10/1718 – A monastery rests on the side of the mountain.

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10/17/18 – I had some fun posing for this pic. It looks like I am standing on the very edge of a precipice, but in reality it’s only s very steep slope into a deep wadi. Standing on the edge, I pretended to lose my balance and was about to fall over the edge. It got a good reaction from some of the others.

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10/17/18 – Date palms, which don’t require much moisture, do very well in this sunny environment.
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10/17/18 – Heading south along the western shore of the Dead Sea, we come across the cave of Qumran in whose cave complex the 1st century Essene community hid the scrolls that later became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls – the greatest archeological discovery of the last millennium. The first pic is the cave where the Isaiah scroll was discovered and the other 2 are cave #4 where more than 400 of the roughly 1000 scrolls were found.
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10/17/18 – OF course the Essenes were not cave dwellers, but lived in an extensive settlement. Their homes and other buildings are being excavated in the area near the caves.
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10/17/18 – Continuing south we pass En Gedi where David and his men hid out while being pursued by King Saul.
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10/17/18 – In the distance ahead we see a mountain shaped like a ship rising above the desert , the Herodian fortress of Masada which had lain abandoned for centuries after the Jewish revolt in 73 AD until its rediscovery by some Americans in 1838.
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10/17/18 – Most people are probably familiar with the siege of Masada which was held by 900 some odd Jewish Zealot men, women, and children against the 10th Roman Legion for about 6 months in 73 AD – the last Jewish stronghold after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. What I was unprepared for was how big the mountain top was. A model is in the visitor’s center.
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10/17/18 – From the top of the mountain, one has a clear view of the Dead Sea – or what’s left of it with the falling water levels, off to the east. In the lower right of the second pic, the outline of one of the Roman camps is still visible.
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10/17/18 – Again, a nice scale model gives an idea of how the north end of the fortress would have looked in its glory days after Herod built it.

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10/17/18 – These pictures are just two of the dozen or so HUGE storerooms that were full of grain and other supplies. The fortress had enough storage space for supplies to withstand a siege almost indefinitely. The last pic shows that some of the buildings were plastered and had frescoes painted on the walls.
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10/17/18 – Doron explains the three tiered palace complex that rested against the inaccessible north side of the mountain.
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10/17/18 – Meanwhile, moving around to the west, we can see more Roman camps from where the Romans put Jewish slaves to work in the summer heat building a ramp against the most accessible western side of the mountain.

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10/17/18 – Some of the plastered walls and mosaic floors give an idea how much trouble went into making Herod’s remote “vacation home” comfortable.
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10/17/18 – The remains of the multi-roomed Roman bathhouse.
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10/17/18 – the main Roman camp and the remains of the man made ramp built to advance a siege tower against the walls is still visible on the west side of the mountain
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10/17/18 – As the Roman tower rose up the ramp and the ram began breaking down the wall, the Jews knew that the next day they would be killed or enslaved, their women violated and their children sold into a lifetime of slavery. So they wrote their names on pot shards – “the lots.” By agreement the men killed their own wives and children then selected 10 men by lot to kill the other men. The 10 men left, a minyan, or minimum number of men left to make a synagogue then prayed the kaddish for the dead. There were 2 women and 5 children who survived by hiding in the cistren. The lots with names were found in the excavation.
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10/17/18 – Finally the last 10 men drew lots to kill each other and the last man killing himself. In the Synagogue building, they burred their scrolls. The scrolls were discovered. It appears that the last reading was from Ezekiel 37: “And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ex 37 3-7.

As Doron pointed out: The Jews are still here and here to stay. Where are the Romans?

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10/17/18 – after a hot day on top of a mountain in the desert, what can be more refreshing than a nice dip in the Dead Sea? That is if you consider warm water with almost 10 times the salinity of the ocean as refreshing. Some people went for the full experience, but Jackie and I were satisfied with getting out feet wet and then drinking beer in the lowest bar on earth – bout 1300 feet below sea level.

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10/17/18 – Just a passing safety tip, in case anyone reading this is considering a trip to the Dead Sea. If any are dangerous heart patients or own high blood pressure, maybe you should see if you can sell it before your trip.

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10/17/18 – As the sun starts to set over the Judean wilderness, we make one more stop. This is practically an unknown place. In the distance, leading from the isolated Monastery of St. George, one can see the lighter colored path. This was the old Jericho Road. This is the setting of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Many believe that it was here, in this wilderness, not far from Bethlehem that David wrote the 23d Psalm and that this gorge was what he had in mind when he wrote of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Categories: Israel 2018

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