Week 19 Friday: Masada, Qumran: Dead Sea scrolls, Jericho, and the Dead Sea


Masada is the name of a site of ancient fortifications and palaces on top of an isolated rock plateau which impressively looks out over the Dead Sea in Southern Israel.

Impressive video from Masada looking out over the Dead Sea:

Josephus, a 1st century Roman Jewish historian, is from whom all of our information about Masada comes, except for archeological evidence.  Herod the Great fortified Masada 37-31 BC as a get away place in case of a revolt.  However, a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii took over the Roman control of Masada.  In 72 AC, the Romans were out conquering again and wanted Masada back.  However, Masada was well fortified, up very high, and only had a snake path to get up and down.  So, they built a ramp up to the plateau supposedly using Jewish slaves which took 2-3 months.  The story says that the Romans were getting ready to take the fortress, but it was dark so they decided to wait until the morning.  The Sicarii decided they would rather die than be enslaved by the Romans.  So, each man was in charge of killing his own wife and children, then the men drew lots and killed each other while only the unlucky lot winner had to kill himself because suicide is a sin in Judaism (especially if you’re an extremist).  The Romans got up the next morning to find 936 people dead and all the buildings burned (except for the food room to show that they had enough food to survive).  In the end, 2 women and 5 children survived who had hidden and told the story of what had happened.

The story of Masada is very sacred to the Jewish Israelis, but there is a lot of doubt surrounding this story told by a Jewish historian.  Therefore, I have decided to formulate no opinion which I think is safer.

Masada model:

Masada signage:

A model of Herod’s palace on the side of Masada:

View looking down on Herod’s palace today:

A picture of us at Masada at the start of the Snake Path:

On our way down the Snake Path with cable car above and me as the little dot:

On our way down the Snake Path (the tiny dot is John):

Me at the bottom of the Snake Path (Snake Path on right):


Qumran is the settlement where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered from 1947 to 1956.  The scrolls were found in a series of eleven caves just to the west of the settlement.

Qumran with the caves in the background:

Qumran with the Dead Sea on the left and the caves on the right:

The Dead Sea scrolls consist of roughly 900 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, which were written between 150 BC to 70 AD.  This is an enormous find because the oldest Hebew Bible texts before this only dated back to the 9th century AD.  So, to find text from the 2nd century BC was a big breakthrough in textual criticism (how old are these books? Who wrote them?).  Below is a list of the books found.

Books  ↓ No. found  ↓
Psalms 39
Deuteronomy 33
1 Enoch 25
Genesis 24
Isaiah 22
Jubilees 21
Exodus 18
Leviticus 17
Numbers 11
Minor Prophets 10
Daniel 8
Jeremiah 6
Ezekiel 6
Job 6
1 & 2 Samuel 4


Jericho is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.  Archeologists have unearthed 20 successive settlements in Jericho dating back to 11,000 years ago (9,000 BC).  Jericho also has the oldest stone structure in the world.

Oldest stone structure in the world:

Biblically, in Deuteronomy 34:1 God shows Moses Jericho as part of the Promised Land and then Jericho is where the Israelites are led to by Joshua after leaving the bondage of Egypt.

Jesus heals 2 blind men or 1 blind man (depending on which book you read) as he is leaving or entering Jericho (depending on which book you read).  -Matthew 20: 29-30, Mark 10: 46-59, and Luke 18: 35-43.

Jericho is mentioned in my favorite story of the Good Samaritan. “A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers.” – Luke 10:30.

Jericho is where John Williams’ favorie story, the story of Zacchaeus, takes place. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.” -Luke 19: 1 We stopped at the traditional site of the Zacchaes story, but were told that on our possibility scale of 1 to 3…this was a 3,000.

Zacchaes’ Sycamore Tree:

Sign for Zacchaeus’ Sycamore Tree:

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is salty!  It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean with 33.7% salinity.
Therefore, animals cannot flourish there so it is called the Dead Sea.  Also, the Dead Sea’s shore is the lowest point of dry land on Earth at 1,385 ft. below sea level.  So, with this information we decided to jump in and go for a swim.  Well, not really because you can’t really swim in the Dead Sea…you just kinda float around.  The worst part was that the salt sharpens the rocks in the dead sea to where I tried to put my hand down at one point and it sliced my hand pretty good and the same thing happened with the heel of my foot.  So, if you are ever in the Dead Sea just keep floating and don’t reach down.  It was a lot of fun for everyone and surreal to be floating around in the Dead Sea with my seminary friends (just like us all riding camels by the Pyramids).

Video of Seminary crew floating in the Dead Sea: (like we do)

Pic of Seminary crew floating in the Dead Sea:

When we got out it didn’t take long for the salt to show up on our skin and make your skin feel very dry.

Salty skin after being out of the water for 3 minutes:

You HAD to take a shower.  Luckily, I had a few people go before me who learned the hard way that when covered with salt one should not start the shower on hot, but start the shower on cold until one has all of the salt off of them and then warm it up.  Another FYI for those future Dead Sea goers.  Good Dead Sea times!

Thus ends Friday…

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

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