The Dead Sea, Proof of God’s Plan For Restoration

Leaving Jerusalem on Highway 1 and making a left turn onto Highway 90, the Dead Sea, with the red Moab Mountains of Jordan rising on its eastern shore, is a sliver of blue out the front window of the bus.

Dead Sea and Moab Mountains

Cited sixteen times in the Bible, the Dead Sea is used primarily to describe the borders and regions of the Promised Land.  The body of water is known by a few different names in the Bible, including the Salt Sea , the Sea of the Arabah , and the Eastern Sea. It was called the Salt Sea because of its unusually high salinity and the name Eastern Sea defined the Dead Sea’s position on the eastern boundary of the land of Israel. In Hebrew, arabah means “a wasteland” or “barren district,” and the name Sea of the Arabah derived from its location in the Arabah Valley.

Sunrise Over the Dead Sea From Masada (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

A Hiding Place, Spa, Refuge

According to Biblical accounts, the Dead Sea region was a place of refuge for David after he was anointed king and Saul, unhappy with that turn of events, plotted to kill him. It was also the world’s first health spa as Herod the Great, the Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra, King Solomon and many others dallied on its mesmerizing shores. Both Herod the Great and Cleopatra had their eyes on the region, Herod built his fortress of Masada, a summer palace designed to take advantage of the incredible views and impregnability, on its shores. While Cleopatra was determined to charm Marc Antony into capturing the region for her own personal use! All of these historical characters came to it’s shores in order to soak up the benefits of the sun, dry climate, low pollen and allergen content, reduced ultraviolet rays due to the low atmospheric pressure and bountiful minerals with specific health effects.  Those health benefits appear to be real enough.  Even today, modern doctors encourage patients to visit the area to take advantage of those same healthy qualities.

Subject of Prophesy

Two prophets, Ezekiel and Zechariah, speak about a time when the salty body of water will be transformed into freshwater, a body of life-giving water teeming with sea life and surrounded by vegetation and trees with leaves that “will not wither nor will their fruit fail.”

[Ezekiel 47: 8—9] Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure.  There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows. 

[Zechariah 14: 8—9]  On that day life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward the Dead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean, flowing continuously in both summer and winter.   And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.

According to the biblical narrative, the Dead Sea region was once vibrant, filled with life, and abundantly watered by streams of freshwater flowing into the lake. It was only after God rained down fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah did the area become an “arabah” or wasteland, and the sea became the hyper-saline salt lake it is today. However, according to Ezekiel and Zechariah, in the messianic era, once mankind’s relationship with God is restored, the region will return to its original status.

When Ezekiel writes, “when it reaches the sea (the river of life transforming water) its waters are healed,”  it becomes truly apparent that God cares about the environment and promises to restore and heal it.

Signs Of Restoration

God is a God of Restoration. The first  chapters of Genesis are about God’s original plan for the world and humanity. His last words to us, Revelation, are the fulfillment of His ultimate intention. Everything in between is His plan for completing the restoration of His creation, which includes us—humanity.  There are three stunning examples of this, the salty, mineral filled expanse of the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the Dead Sea region at Qumran, and finally, the Hebrew language, which had been considered a dead language for 2000 years until the formation of the state of Israel.  In fact, the prophet Zephaniah prophesies about the language being restored in chapter 3 of his book:  “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord.” 

Each of these remarkable places, finds and events are proof of God’s Plan of restoration. Consider the incredible archeological finds in the Qumran Caves surrounded by the climate controlling aspects of the Dead Sea. For 2000 years God preserved His word in ceramic jars and dry heat. Keeping light and moisture at bay while He prepared the right time for the scrolls to be found…the 20th century birth of the nation of Israel.

Then the restoration of the Hebrew language. Hebrew is the only language in history that was essentially dead and then revived to become a common, unifying language for the people who originally spoke it. In 1881, a young Jewish man named Eliezer Ben Yehuda stepped off a boat onto the shores of Palestine convinced that the ancient Biblical language could be brought back to life. Today Rabbis and scholars toil to add modern words like “commute” and “internet” to the ancient tongue. Hebrew is the only language in history that was practically dead and then revived to become a common, unifying language for the people who originally spoke it. Whether Ben Yehuda recognized it or not, his work was a fulfillment of Zephaniah’s prophecy.

Water and The Middle East

According to historical records and past accounts, the sea or lake, which straddles the Israeli border with Jordan, was a considerably larger sliver of blue than it is now. While many believe it is an slow-motion environmental crisis, and others postulate that the shrinking Dead Sea is a symptom of what ails water resource management throughout the world, I believe it is a picture of God’s perfect plan working in spite of man’s imperfect choices. 

The Dead Sea suffers from the realities of a sun baked Middle East, including the siphoning of water destined for the lake by an agricultural industry thirsty for water, surrounding nations providing fresh water for their populations and business elements running 24/7 that thrive on minerals mined from its shores and waters. Put all those interests together and you have a calamity of alarming proportions….according to those who live around and study the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea inhabits the lowest place on earth, 1400 feet below sea level, and because of that elevation, what little water that enters the lake leaves solely through evaporation…and 7 million tons evaporate daily.

The Jordan River was and is the source for the majority of water entering the Dead Sea.  In the middle 1800s, a US naval expedition was dispatched to explore the Jordan River.  They described it as 30 meters wide with a series of 5 meter high waterfalls separated by rushing rapids.  Today, there are places in Israel where, in the dry season, you can almost step over it! Consider these statistics:

  • In 1950 over 420 billion gallons of water made it way into the Dead Sea annually
    • Today 53 Billion gallons arrive annually
  • In 1950 the Jordan River provided 362 billion gallons of that 420 billion
    • Today, the Jordan River provides a mere 39 billion gallons

Just recently, the Mekorot National Water Company and the Israeli Water Authority launched the largest water infrastructure project of its kind in northern Israel. It includes a new water transmission system that will pump desalinated seawater from the Mediterranean Sea into the Sea of Galilee – which drains into the Jordan River. Although the main function of this project is to provide water for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, including irrigation for agriculture in the Jordan Valley; one can hope that it will, in time, also add much needed gallons of water for the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea From Space

Science of Saltiness and Saturation

Regardless of the dire predictions and even though man is not always careful with the natural resources we have been entrusted with, while the Dead Sea will continue to shrink, it isn’t going to die. That incredible body of water benefits from a God-given universal law, the scientific law of saltiness and saturation, wherein the Dead Sea will eventually reach a point of equilibrium and stop shrinking. Simply, the amount of water in the sea’s briny make-up and the amount of evaporated moisture in the air above it will reach a kind of stability or balance. Additionally, while it is prone to a certain level of evaporation, it is also hygroscopic, which means it is capable of absorbing water from the atmosphere around it. It’s almost as though this endangered natural treasure has some in-built safety mechanisms, in essence, God given protections from man.

This God given promise of protection and process of restoration for God’s earth is also a promise for us. If there are things in our lives that are destroying us, the example of the Dead Sea can teach us that God is the One Who restores life.  If He can take the most dead water on earth and make it fresh, there isn’t anything that He cannot accomplish in our life. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

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