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En-Gedi: Springs in the desert

THE STONES CRY OUT

Jesus promised us that if human witness concerning the truth about Himself suffers lack or is blocked for some reason, the stones themselves “will cry out” and tell the story of His awesome work of creation, redemption and Kingdom reign (Luke 19:40). This was not a new concept in Hebraic theology as David sang one thousand years beforehand that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19. And while all creation all over the universe bears witness to God, His greatness, His wisdom and His kind purpose, the Land of Israel in particular has a unique and special role in providing this witness as her mountains, valleys and plains display the actual places and times of some of God’s most profound activity on behalf of mankind. This column features some of those special places and the stories they tell.

SPRINGS IN THE DESERT

Driving southeast from Jerusalem, the view of green mountain slopes quickly changes to dry and arid rocky terrain (still beautiful with its epic vistas) as you descend into the Jordan Valley. Within minutes of leaving behind downtown Jerusalem, the Judean wilderness swallows up the impressions of the modern world, and at once you are transported to an ancient, mysterious and a much quieter realm.

The Dead Sea, like a huge bowl of azure blue molasses, stretches between the nations of Israel and Jordan; its white shores linking the golden browns of the harsh landscapes to the deep blue waters. The rugged mountains rise in hues of red against the bluest blue of the Sea, and lavender and purple streak the skies as the sun sets over the wilderness, inviting the majestic silence of the desert night. Nothing lives in these waters, neither fish nor plant, ever since the fire of God consumed the region, and the only points of color and life along the long and lonely shores are spa resorts and hotels offering the visitors a truly “out of this world” experience.

There are numerous springs in the vicinity, most of them too salty to support life. The spring of En Gedi, however, one of only two fresh water springs, forms the largest and most treasured oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. Supporting human habitation, agriculture and industry for thousands of years, En Gedi appears in the Bible many times starting in the book of Joshua chapter 15 as one of the cities allotted to the tribe of Judah. This wilderness oasis, however, rose to prominence as the place appears in the colorful and epic story of David during his early years of fleeing the madness of King Saul. As I-Samuel 23:29 says, “Then David went up from there and dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi.”

Traveling to the oasis of En Gedi today and hiking alongside the riverbed to the hidden waterfalls and upper springs, no visitor can stay untouched by the rugged beauty of what the bible calls the “stronghold at En Gedi.” Immediately, you understand why David chose this remote and rough mountain valley as his hiding place during those early years, and also appreciate how this place left its own remarkable mark on David’s soul for the rest of his life.

PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Reading inspired poetry such as Psalm 23, the reader can easily find the rugged terrain and the steep valley walls shading the pools of cool waters in the burning desert, right  in between David’s famous words as he sang, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…”

In the Hebrew language, En Gedi means “the spring of the kid goat,” and both biblical and modern references confirm this hidden oasis as a favorite habitation of young ibex. Some even show up upon the steep rocks way above the valley floor as hikers pass by. And once, while chasing David, trying to eliminate this “threat” to his position, King Saul entered a cave in the area. David, hidden in the depth of that same cave, cut off the corner of Saul’s robe in order to prove that he meant no harm to the obsessed King. (1 Sam 24:4).

In His writings, King Solomon compared his beloved bride to “a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi” (Song of Songs 1:14), referring no doubt to the beauty and fruitfulness of this desert oasis, famous for its exquisite perfume products. Josephus, the First Century historian, admired En Gedi for its vegetation, and the prophetic word, according to Ezekiel, promises that “It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many.” (Ezekiel 47:10). This prophecy speaks of the healing of the entire Dead Sea district during the coming season of restoration and renewal that will affect the geology and ecology of the entire region during the Kingdom age.

No doubt, if you visit the En-Gedi oasis today, hike its rocky paths and dip in its cool pools, these scriptures, as well as many other precious words of God, will gain greater meaning and significance, impacting your life as you walk on with the Lord.

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