Friends, Do you ever have a day start off perfectly? My day started with sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.
Today was our fourth day in Israel. Our first stop was the Jordan River near where Jesus may have been baptized. Many people in our group renewed their love for Jesus by being baptized here. It was a deeply moving and joyful celebration
After Jordan we drove to Beit She’an (Beth Shan). It was the leading city of the Decapolis (10 Gentile cities in Galilee). It is only mentioned once in the Bible in the story of King Saul. After he and his three sons were killed in battle on Mt. Gilboa, the Bible says their bodies were hung by the Philistines on the wall of Beth Shan until the men of Jabesh Gilead came bravely and took them down. During Jesus’ day Beth Shan was a large pagan Roman city with a theater that seated 7,500, an amphitheater for public executions, and a hippodrome for horse races. The city is estimated to have had between 75,000 and 120,000 people. Although it is not mentioned by name in the Gospels, Jesus’ fame fame spread throughout the Decapolis after casting demons out of Legion. Many of the 4,000 Jesus preached to and fed with the 7 loaves came from there. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD, but remarkably well preserved due to being covered in dirt for centuries and protected from the elements.
It is the best and most complete example of a first century city that we have today. Beit She’an is also famous for one other thing: Jesus Christ Superstar was filmed here. Does this tree look familiar?
After Beit She’an, we drove to the Essene community of Qumran. In 1947 two young shepherd boys stumbled upon perhaps the greatest literary find in history - scrolls of the Old Testament that dated back 1,000 years before any other previously discovered manuscript. The entire book of Isaiah was in tact and matched word for word with a copy written 1000 years later proving the accurate preservation of the Bible we all read today. The boys sold it to a collector for only $400. The value of the Dead Sea Scrolls is priceless! Along with seeing the remains of the first century Essene Community John the Baptist may have joined before starting his ministry, we saw the actual cave where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. Pretty awesome!
From Qumran we drove down to the the Dead Sea where I took an early evening swim or should I say “float.” The water has such a high salt and mineral content - 37 percent (10 to 20 times the amount in regular sea water(1.5 to 4 percent), you feel like you are swimming in oil, and you naturally float. God foretells of a River flowing from the temple into the Dead Sea that makes the salty waters of the Dead Sea sweet and full of life. (You can read about it in Ezekiel 47.) In a spiritual sense that river is the Holy Spirit (rivers of living water) flowing from us (the temple of God). May we make salty people sweet, and dead environments full of life.
Tomorrow we are up bright and early for Masada, En Gedi, and Jerusalem.