Day 3: Ein Gedi, Qumran, Lower Jordan

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I’m running behind in my posting and so I will try to post double today so I can catch up!

This was our last day in the Judean wilderness. We visited the oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul, Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, a wadi, the Jordan River, and a stop in Jericho where we saw, among other things, a very old Sycamore Tree. I forgot to take a picture of the tree, but I am pretty sure it was not the one that Zacchaeus was sitting in! Sorry Pastor Rick!

Ein Gedi is an oasis in the desert. My initial reaction was to be underwhelmed. In my minds eye over the years I had built up this image of paradise that wasn’t realistic. But in reality, when David was there, it must have been a relief and incredible place to flee to from Saul. It is a place where you can survive in the unforgiving desert. It is teeming with animal life. With water. With the shade of trees. We saw a large Tamarisk tree that is described in Genesis 18 when Abraham was sitting under its shade in the hottest part of the day. Ein Gedi was a place of protection and shelter in the cruel desert and it brought hope and restoration when you were depleted. This is the place where David and his men hid in a cave, Saul came in to relieve himself, and David cut off the hem of his robe promising not to harm “The Lord’s annointed.” You can read the story in 1 Samuel 24, 2 Samuel 22, and Psalm 18.

Qumran is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. It’s in the hills and mountains literally adjacent to the northern part of the dead sea. It is incredible to me that the scrolls were even found. As you look up at the hills there are caves everywhere. We drove along a highway that runs parallel with the dead sea on your right and the hills on your left. We drove North for many miles and it was desert and caves as far as the eye can see. But the seeming random act of a shepherd boy throwing rocks in the hills above the Dead Sea discovered the oldest manuscripts of the scriptures found. From these manuscripts we get great confidence in the accuracy and truth of our Bibles.

A wadi is a flash flood plain. We stood in it on a day when there was risk of flash flood! It’s what Jesus had in mind when he said, “don’t build your house on the sand, build it on a rock…” Only a fool would build their house where a flash flood could wash it away at any moment.

Finally, we visited the Jordan River. We went to a place where it is thought that Jesus was Baptized by John. You can see geographically while you are there that John came “up” (north) from the wilderness in the Judean desert. Some have even speculated that he was part of the Essene group who kept the dead sea scrolls. Jesus and the people would have been north of this location of the Jordan and had to travel south to get to the place where John was. It’s a good distance from The Galilee. The water of the Jordan was brown and churned up. Our tour guide reminded us that there is a difference between being “clean” and being “pure.” Those that were baptized by John my not have come out of the Jordan particularly clean. But they were seeking spiritual purity.

This was a pretty amazing day. By the way, you can see in the picture below that the Kingdom of Jordan is across the River…they also have their own holy site! There was a marker in the water telling you where you were not allowed cross into the other country!