Treasures of the Dead Sea
By Eva Marie Everson
We drove northward from Ein Avdat on a highway cut between canyon walls of limestone dotted with ancient caves. Colors of the desert gave way to the red, coral, and white bougainvillea blossoms and the dark green fronds of date palms. I strained to look out the window, knowing that any minute a dark blue fork of water would lie nearly motionless along the land.
And then, like a vision of an oasis shimmering just up ahead, there it was. The Dead Sea.
Talk About Ground Zero
The shoreline of the Dead Sea, at 1300 feet below sea level, marks the lowest point on earth. From the highway laying like a ribbon alongside it, one can look across and see the Jordanian hills of Moab. An entire “other world” lies no more than a short distance from us. Another country, separated only by still waters.
But this is not just “some” body of water. This water has the highest salinity rate of any in the world. It is ten times more salty than any ocean and twice as salty as the Great Salt Lake located in northern Utah. There isn’t any fishing here; even salt water fish swim for higher waters.
But that doesn’t make it useless. Just ask the sixteen hundred people who are employed by The Dead Sea Works located at the southern basin of the sea. They work day and night to harvest the valuable minerals, including potash or potassium carbonate. Or, ask any man or woman whose hair and skin has been soothed and pampered by the Dead Sea products produced there.
For thousands of years, men and women from around the world have flocked to the Dead Sea. Because of the high volume of minerals, the water feels heavy and oily; this is why it becomes a balm for the skin and peace for the soul. Something almost magical happens when the water sweeps up its guests and buoys them in her warm embrace.
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This impressive body of water was not known as The Dead Sea until the second century AD. In the Old Testament it is referred to as the Salt Sea, the Sea of Araba, the Eastern Sea, and simply the Sea.
Genesis 14 tells the story of Abraham’s rescue of his nephew Lot. The opening verses read:
At this time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Salt Sea).
When Joshua led the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land (Joshua 3), the latter part of the chapter reads:
So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
Only a few other verses mention the sea. One is rather significant for those who watch for latter day prophesies to be fulfilled. The prophet Ezekiel foretold something rather extraordinary about the Dead Sea. In chapter 47 we read these words:
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea.
This may be difficult to imagine or even believe. That said, today the Dead Sea is evaporating at an alarming rate, which makes it easier to wonder how God will fulfill his word to Ezekiel. Just how will this water ever be like that of the Mediterranean? Perhaps, in time, the old will pass away … and God will make this magnificent portion of his creation, new.
Where Does it Come From?
Simply put, in the northern region of Israel (and also in Syria and Lebanon) an “old grandfather” called Mt. Hermon stands in white-haired glory. The white, of course, is snow. As the snow melts, it rushes southward, forming the three tributaries – the Dan, the Hasbani, and the Banias – of the Jordan River. In the Galilee region, it pours into a “bowl” and is called the Sea of Galilee. On the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, it slips again into the Jordan River where it meanders along, becomes remarkably muddy in places, and then finally comes to rest as the Dead Sea.
So then, according to Ezekiel, this now salty, mineral-rich, buoyant water will one day be as fresh as it begins. It will teem with fish as it does in the Sea of Galilee. And the beaches will not be lined – as they are today – with salt-covered rocks, exclusive spa hotels, and those seeking healing waters. It will, instead, be inhabited by fishermen.
The first time I came to Israel I was impressed by the high-rising cliffs and mountains on Israel’s side of the Dead Sea and the rolling hills along Jordan’s. I was moved by the view of the water as it lay so perfectly still and yet shimmering in the hot June sunlight. On a whim, as I stepped into the water, I ran my hands through it and then – like the daredevil I am – brought my fingertips to my lips.
It was some kind of salty!
I continued to step into the water. As it reached about thigh level, a sudden buoyancy overcame me. I bobbed up, my legs stretched out before me, and then I floated along by no power of my own.
I was reminded of a verse – not about the Dead Sea or the Salt Sea – from Psalms that talks about the tear vials God holds for us in Heaven. It says:
You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8 NKJV).
Fifth Gospel Teaching
High places behind me. High places below me. I am sitting in the lowest place on earth. And so I think of God, of course. I have experienced emotional highs and the deepest lows. I know there will be better days before me, but right now – in this valley – I cry. Sometimes the tears slip down my cheeks, meandering along like the Jordan. Other times they rush like the mighty rush of water from Mt. Hermon to the tributaries. But for now, I am buoyed in the cusp of God’s hand, in the place where he collects my tears, where he will make all things – which seem dead and worthless, but are not – new again.
A Fifth Gospel Word for You
You’ve been there, too, haven’t you? At the lowest points of your life, whether you realized it or not, God was there. He held you, even when you fell, even as you cried with more passion than you’ve ever cried before. He kept you safe between the mountains, warmed like the sun by his love. He buoyed you in the cusp of his hand.
And he knew that one day, this moment in time would not only minister to you, but it would minister to others. This moment – this place – would one day draw fish.
And you would become a fisher of men.
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Eva Marie Everson is the co-author of the award-winning Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel (Thomas Nelson). Eva Marie Everson is the coauthor of Reflections of God’s Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel. For more information about Eva Marie, the book, or to have her come speak to your group, go to: www.EvaMarieEverson.com. Eva Marie encourages everyone to go to Israel! You will never be the same!
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