Vol. 30 New Series February, April, June, August, 1968 No.'s 1-4
THE GEOLOGICAL FORMATION OF THE DEAD SEA: ITS HISTORY, ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AND ITS PLACE IN PROPHECY
THE GEOLOGICAL FORMATION OF THE DEAD SEA: ITS HISTORY, ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AND ITS PLACE IN PROPHECY
The Dead Sea has been an enigma to mankind throughout the ages, a source of superstition and of incredible legends. It is strange that until a little over a century ago only a few traditional tales had come out of the country concerning it. No Westerner had made any attempt to search it out and explore it. To have done so would have led such a traveller through most dangerous territory. It was not until 1848 that a properly equipped expedition set out to do so. These scientists from the United States transported two metal boats from Akko (Acre), launching them three weeks later in the waters of Lake Gennesaret, after overcoming stupendous difficulties. Here, when they started their survey, they were amazed to discover that this lake was some 680 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. They carried out their exploration of the Jordan from its sources on the slopes of Mount Hermon down to the basin of the Dead Sea. Here they verified some of the tales, disproved others and made a number of remarkable discoveries. They found that the level of this large sheet of water lay 1,280 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean. Its shores were the deepest known exposed surface of the earth's crust. Bathing in its waters confirmed that it was impossible for the human body to sink, owing to its have a 25% of common and other salts in solution, whereas the normal sea content is slightly under 5%. There is no outlet, so that the supply of fresh water from the Jordan and its tributaries and sundry other smaller streams, totalling about 300 million cubic feet per day was evaporated from its surface, maintaining its constant level The maximum depth of water was found to be in the neighbourhood of 1,300 feet. Thus its bottom-most part is only a few feet short of 2,600 feet below the Mediterranean Sea level. This is over 5,000 feet below Golgotha, the highest point of Mount Moriah, less than 25 miles away. The length is approximately 46 miles and it averages seven miles in width. Three-quarters of the way down its length a considerable promontory (called Ha-Lashon—the tongue) projects from the Eastern coast, leaving a passage 2½ miles in width; whence it opens out again forming a basin 12½ miles long. It is recorded that at this point two Roman legionaries, deserters from their unit, had waded across to the Moabite coast and effected their escape. Indeed, fording these narrows was possible up to mid-19th century. A survey of depth today shows that near this narrow passage the bottom rises steeply and that thereafter Southward, a depth of from 60 to 80 feet is maintained until the sea merges with the marshes. Of these shallows more will be said later.
A short way back from the water's edge, on the Western side of the South end of the Dead Sea, stretches a five mile long. escarpment, averaging 150 feet high of solid rock salt, weathered, but where portions great and small, have lately broken off,... glittering in the fierce sunlight as one moves along. This is called by the Arabs Jebel 'Usdum, a name handed down through centuries from father to son, but preserving the ancient name of Sodom. In view of all this one wonders if there is not some connection between Sodom and common salt (Sodium chloride), where thousands of tons of this rock salt formed a rampart over against the city.
The Western side of the Sea is indented with numerous bays and headlands and, in places, there are wide stretches of plain leading back to the higher ground forming the mountains of Judaea. The nearest heights of over 2,000 feet on this Western side, that is of over 3,300 feet above the Dead Sea surface are, on the average nearly ten miles back from its shores. On the Eastern side, however, apart from the tongue, the gradient is much steeper and averages the same height three miles back, while the peaks of the mountains of Moab and Edom are, similarly, nine miles from the shore and have a height of 3,000 feet to 4,000 feet. The nearest, only five and a half miles East of the South end of the Sea, is over 4,000 feet high, that is 5,300 feet above this Sea's surface.
Hebron and Jerusalem, with their surrounding heights, mark the ridge of the Judaean mountains with heights from 3,350 feet to 2,700 feet and distances from 13 miles to 18 miles respectively from the shores. To these heights 1,300 feet must be added to give the rise from the surface of the Dead Sea, so that the maximum height referred to already is 4,650 feet ascent in a distance of thirteen miles, or about 360 feet per mile, one in fifteen gradient.
At each end of the Sea is a wide plain spanning the valley, the Northern one known as the Plains of Jericho and the Southern one the Valley of Salt. Both of these areas are called in the Hebrew, Kikkar, from their flat circular appearance. In modern days the Arabs refer to the whole valley of the Jordan from South of the Sea of Galilee to well South of the Dead Sea as El-Ghor. From the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba is 108 miles and is known as Ha-Araba. The Gulf of Akaba, which washes against the Eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula, is but a continuation of this same unusual formation that extends to run down the length of the Red Sea to its entrance from the Indian Ocean. Here it is joined by a short arm from that ocean and then continues in a South Westerly direction for a few hundred miles and then South through Kenya and Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa to near the mouth of the Zambezi. This geological fault on the earth's surface is called 'The Great Rift.' It has its Northern end at the foot of the Taurus Mountains, in Asia Minor, near the upper regions of 'the Great River,' the river Euphrates. Its length has been accurately traced, and in its path are Mount Hebron, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan, the Dead Sea, the Ghor, the Arabah and the Red Sea. Except where it passes across the Red Sea and a few other places, this Rift is flanked on both sides by high mountains or raised table-lands, but the focal point of this Northern section is the Dead Sea, with all its peculiarities, and it is from this point that the examination of the formation will start.
The surface of the earth, in ages gone by, was subject to periods of considerable change, volcanic eruptions, times of quiescence, big upheavals and again other epochs of comparative tranquil state. In these more restful periods sands of different kinds were deposited to considerable depths, and in these sands died living creatures of that particular era. In times of upheaval many of these layers were shifted or broken, but sometimes they lay as they were to receive later deposits on top of them of a different kind, with other forms of life buried in them. The earliest of these layers of the earth's crust is known as Cambrian, the earliest of the 'primary' eras. Over this was deposited, as shown by a cross-section of the Judaean and Moabite ranges at the Dead Sea, the Lower Cretaceous or Nubian Sandstone, the Upper Cretaceous, Cainozoic and Senonian. From the position, slopes and heights of these and their distance apart, one can to a degree imagine what might have happened in far-off days to account for the present state of affairs and to anticipate what may happen at some future date, when Biblical prophecy is fulfilled. This may indicate how these things could come to pass.
If a start is made with the above data, in broad outline, one can imagine, as it were, a four layer cake composed of four geologic deposits, viewed from the South. As every chain has its weakest link, so every obstacle to superior force, when applied, has its line of weakness. Here, the line of weakness ran vertically through all four strata, so that when the tremendous pressure from the centre of the earth built up till it could be resisted no more, the surface of this line of weakness began to open out and the strata to tilt East and West. From the sides of this crack came a general 'fall-out,' tumbling to the bottom. This movement continued until there was a very considerable tilt equal on both sides. The Western side then slipped back towards its original position and the Eastern side, being released, was heaved up higher by the pressure underneath. As the Western side returned, a wedge of the upper three strata detached itself and fell into the large fissure, sealing it and forcing the lower part of the Western side away from the Eastern. The pressure from below shifted its effective application Westward and again tilted the strata, jambing the dropped 'plug' in the position it was to occupy more or less permanently. As it tilted, another section fell away and formed a revetment on the West side of the gorge now formed. A similar 'fall-out' took place on the East side. Further South the plug was arrested before it fell so far and thus any flow of water into the ravine was stopped and the Dead Sea began to form as a large lake. As the water continued to flow the basin filled up and the surface of what now became an inland sea, enlarged its area until a balance was struck between the evaporating power of the sun and the inflow from the converging streams.
One hundred and fifty miles South of this a similar seismic rupture was taking place on a much larger scale in the formation of the Gulf of Aqaba, in which the deepest part on the Admiralty chart is 1,000 fathoms (6,000 feet), more than double the depth of the bottom of the Dead Sea below sea level. Five miles South West of Aqaba the depth is 365 fathoms (2,200 feet). At the narrowest part of the entrance to the gulf, where it is 4 miles across, the depth is 760 fathoms (4,560 feet). In the middle of the North end of the Red Sea proper, near by where the axis of the gulfs of Aqaba and Suez cross one another, the depth is 696 fathoms (4,176 feet), and 360 fathoms (2,160 feet) is recorded as the depth at 2 miles from the African coast, 2 miles North of Ras-Abu-Somer. If this line is continued across Western Egypt to the Nile valley it meets the River Nile exactly at Asswan, where one of the biggest projects that man has ever attempted is in progress, the harnessing of the River Nile, by the building of the Higher Dam. It may be pointed out in passing that the deepest place in the 150 mile length of the Gulf of Suez is 45 fathoms (270 feet), which is in extreme contrast to the depth of the Gulf of Aqaba.
The Dead Sea, as it is called today, is NEVER so named in the Bible. It is most frequently called the Salt Sea. In Joshua 3:16 and 12:3 it is referred to as "the 'Sea of the plain,' the Salt Sea." It is also known as the 'East Sea' in Joel 2:20 and Ezekiel 47:18, and the 'former' Sea in Zechariah 14:8. According to context it is, or may be referred to as 'the Sea,' or the second 'sea' in the expression 'from Sea to Sea,' though, in places, this is thought to be the Persian Gulf. It is known as the Dead Sea for nothing lives, or can live, in its waters because of their salinity. Tales have been told that no bird could fly over it and live, but this may be discounted. However, its shoreline supports no living creatures and of vegetation there is none. Dead branches litter the foreshore, having been washed down by the Jordan and other streams in times of flood. But certain areas of plains round its shores that are well watered are lush with tropical vegetation and abound with life.
The first mention of this stretch of water is in Genesis 14:3, when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and their allies of the neighbouring Cities, joined in battle against the confederate forces of Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, to resist him, having served him for twelve years, when he came to suppress their revolt in the thirteenth year. This takes one back to the previous chapter, where there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle. This brought about a decision that they must separate. Abram, therefore, gave Lot the choice of where he would go, saying that he would proceed in the opposite direction, be it one way or the other.
" And Lot lifted up his eyes , and beheld all the plain ofJordan, that it was well watered every where, before theLord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the gardenof the Lord , like the land of Egypt , as thou comest toZoar. And Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan , andLot journeyed East : . . . and Lot dwelled in the citiesof the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom."It used to be thought that the site of these cities was at the North end of the Salt Sea because of what is written in verse three, but later research discounts this notion and has placed them at the South end, connecting the name Sodom with the ancient Arab name for the ridge of Jebel Usdum.
When, subsequently, these cities were destroyed in chapter 19, Lot was told,
"Escape for thy life, . . . neither stay thou in all the 'plain,'. . . And the Lord. . . overthrew those cities and all the'plain '." (see also vv. 28 and 29),the Hebrew word used for 'plain' is KIKKAR, translated twelve times thus, but 48 times 'talent' and 4 times 'loaf,' which conveys the meaning of a definite circular, flat surface, as of a coin or a loaf (pan-cake), such as was baked by the Eastern women on their primitive ovens. Thus the term came into use as any circular, flat land at the mouth of a river, or even of a large flat area, such as the basin of a lake, embracing all the land surrounding it. In this way it appears to have been used in Deuteronomy 34:3, which reads,
"unto the utmost Sea (Mediterranean), and the South(NEGEV), and the 'plain' of the valley of Jericho, thecity of palm trees, unto Zoar."As Zoar is one of the cities to the South of the Salt Sea, over which Moses must have looked to view the South land or NEGEV, this expression necessarily includes the Salt Sea. Zoar was the city to which Lot fled on the destruction of Sodom.
Earlier reference has been made to the peculiar contour of the bottom of the Dead Sea along its North-South axis and mention was made of the record that two Roman Soldiers, who were deserters from their Unit, having been found to have waded across the Salt Sea at its narrowest point. Soundings taken of this part today, and that to the Southward, show it to be much deeper, but such a change is not out of the way. It is now held that this shallow part is the original site of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim and that Zoar was some little way away on ground that was slightly more elevated, but not in the mountains, for Lot, later went there with his two daughters. In those days the vale, or basin, was well watered or irrigated by substantial rivers, now 'wadis,' which under certain circumstances becoming raging torrents, bringing down the mineral salts from the mountains. Through the centuries, from time to time, this water has come down and lodged in large lakes on the higher ground South of the present Sea. These lakes have, time and again, evaporated so that as one looks across the plain, it has the appearance of a series of snow drifts. But conditions were different then, before Sodom was destroyed, and "it was well watered everywhere, . . . even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest to Zoar." This seems to indicate a complex system of irrigation and possibly of reservoirs.
Before the destruction of these cities the Dead Sea extended only as far South as Ha-Lashon, the tongue that juts out from the Moabite shore to the Westward. In fact the Southern gulf of the Sea was an elevation, may be 50 to 100 feet above the surface of the Sea, on which Sodom and its sister cities were built. It is conjectured that the destruction that came upon these cities was brought about by a repetition, on a small scale, of the process of formation. The fault, or rift, opened out a few feet at that particular place and the 'plug' dropped, producing a tremendous pressure on the gases enclosed below it, which had accumulated there in the course of millenniums. These gases forced their way up through the cracks at the sides of the valley, bringing with them rocks and lumps of minerals and throwing them high in the air. Amongst these minerals was rock sulphur (brimstone) which together with the gases became ignited and rained down in burning masses upon the doomed cities, completely destroying them.
"And Abram gat up early in the morning to the place wherehe stood before the Lord: and he looked toward Sodomand Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain , andbehold, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as thesmoke of a furnace." As the cities were destroyed the ground continued to settle so that presently the waters of the Salt Sea flowed over the ruins, extinguishing the flames and obliterating the very remembrance of where they had been built.
From the awe with which the Arabs looked upon the Dead Sea even up to very recent years and from all the tales of superstition that have been woven about the place, it would appear that the memory of the inferno that must have raged in that pit of iniquity on the surface of the earth, struck the beholders with such terror that generation after generation would have given the neighbourhood a wide berth. Few would have ventured near it and those who were bold enough to do so would have been sure to have returned with bombastic tales of their intrepid expeditions into the valley of evil spirits, poisonous vapours, overpowering heat, and death.
It is little wonder that the Roman Military (Police) who were searching for the deserters sighted them too late to effect their arrest, for driven to desperation the much exhausted fugitives must have entered the unknown area, knowing that their fate could not have been worse than that awaiting them if they were caught: They hoped to have been able to swim the two and a half miles to the other side and so to safety; but imagine their surprise when they found that they were able to wade most, if not all of the way across. Their pursuers would have had little incentive to follow them.
With the Northern end of the Sea many were familiar, it being close by the ancient city of Jericho and the caravan route across the Southern end of the Jordan valley, None who have ever experienced the delight of a bathe in the waters at this end, for half an hour on Christmas day, are likely to forget the extraordinary buoyancy, and delightful refreshment it gave in the sub-tropical heat then prevailing, nor would he soon lose the memory of being inadvertently plunged into the Sea off the shore at S'dom, when the boat he was in sank on account of the heavy buffetings from the waves, when a storm whipped them up, as once happened to a friend. Sticky and acrid as the water is in the North, it is doubly so at the South end, where it is pungent and offensive, necessitating subsequent lengthy and careful ablution under a fresh water shower, if considerable discomfort is not to persist. Its taste is astringent and nauseous in the extreme and if it gets into the eyes it is very painful indeed. Plunging the head beneath the surface should be avoided and no attempt should be made to dive into the waters and learn the hard way.
Part 3Today, the only continuous source of supply of fresh water to the Dead Sea is the Jordan. This river pours in an average of about 300 million cubic feet of fresh, though muddy looking water daily. The strange thing about this cloudy water of the Jordan is, that if it is boiled it becomes clear.
The Jordan, out there, is never referred to as the 'River' Jordan, and never has been, although it may appear in Western print, or be used by someone who is ignorant of the fact. Jordan means 'descender' and it certainly lives up to its name. It rises on the Western and Southern slopes of Mt. Hermon 1,700 feet above the sea level of the Mediterranean, and in its descent covers l18 miles as the crow flies, dropping almost 3,000 feet. In its course it passes through the waters of Merom (modern name Huleh, a few feet above the Mediterranean Sea level, lately a malarious swamp, but now drained and as a lake no longer in existence) and flows on to the Sea of Galilee. From this Sea, known also as the Sea of Chinneroth, the Lake of Tiberias and the Lake of Gennezaret) it flows South a further 66 miles to the Dead Sea, dropping a further 600 feet. In making this descent the Jordan winds to such an extent that it covers almost 200 miles in its course. In Asia Minor, near the ancient city of Ephesus, is a river which has given its name to the world for its winding and wandering peculiarity, the Meander. The Jordan, however, has put this river in the shade in regard to the intricacy of its course. Not only does it wander about from side to side, but at times it doubles back on its course and flows Northwards, as if attempting to get back again to the pleasant lake, whence it flowed, and to avoid the descent, inevitable in its nature, to the Dead Sea.
Four miles South of the Sea of Galilee the Jordan's first tributary flows in from the North East, the YARMOUK or HEIROMAX, which descends from the great table-land and highlands of Bashan. 34 miles further South the YABBOQ, or JABBOCK joins up, again from the North East. These are the only two tributaries of the Jordan of any considerable size, though many smaller 'wadis' or watercourses add to its volume in the rainy seasons, which are otherwise dried up. Another feature peculiar to this valley of the Jordan is the number of hot springs which pour forth from the earth at various places. Two are on each side of the Dead Sea itself; one on the West side of the Jordan V alley, half way between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea and another where the Yarmouk emerges from the hills, five miles from its junction with the Jordan, and one on each side of the Sea of Galilee. South of the Dead Sea for 106 miles stretches EL-ARABAH, the plain, as far as the Gulf of Aqaba. The Northern part of this is also called EL-GHOR, a large, plain, covered with salt flats and from this the ground gradually rises until it reaches sea level after 39 miles. Continuing to rise it reaches the watershed, 600 feet above sea level, after another 21 miles; thence it descends the remaining 46 miles when it reaches the Red Sea port of Solomon's day, Elath, later known as EZION-GEBER and now ElLAT. This Arabah was the scene of the wanderings of the children of Israel for forty years.
In the days of Abram the cities of the plain, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar flourished in fertile surroundings and all but Zoar perished in their exceeding sinfulness. In the North, about six miles from the Dead Sea, is the ancient city of Jericho, first mentioned in the Bible in Numbers 20:1; but excavations have shown that it is one of the oldest, if not the oldest city yet discovered. This city was destroyed by Joshua, when he led the children of Israel against it as the key to the conquering of the land of the Canaanites. All are familiar with the story of its destruction, but not so acquainted with the later history of its rebuilding in the days of Ahab by Hiel (1. Kings 16:34), thus fulfilling the curse of Joshua (Josh. 6:26).
Amongst the cities of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, the last mentioned is EN-GEDI—meaning, spring of goats, which was situated half way down the Western side of the Salt Sea, high above its surface, the waters of the spring cascading over the cliffs into the sea. In view of what shall be considered later this position is significant. En-gedi is mentioned earlier in Genesis 14:7 under its more ancient name HAZAZON-TAMAR—meaning row of palms, as being an Amorite city, smitten by Chedorlaomer after he had defeated the federated kings of the vale of Siddim. The identity of these two names is stated in 2. Chron. 20:2,
"There cometh a multitude against thee from beyond the Seaon this side Syria: and behold, they be in Hazazon-Tamar,which is En-gedi."It was a place of caves, of strongholds or fortresses, for it was there that David resorted when he fled from Saul. It was a place of vineyards (Song of Solomon 1:14). It most certainly was an oasis in the wilderness of Judah.
But, whoever, in his right senses would call it a 'fishing village'? Yet, this is the very thing prophesied of it in the only other reference to the place in the Bible. Ezekiel 47:10, says,
"And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand uponit ( the Sea shore ) from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; theyshall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be accord-ing to their kinds, as the fish of the Great Sea (Mediterranean),exceeding many."This is a most extraordinary statement, which must not be taken out of its context of the river issuing from the Sanctuary and flowing Eastward and Westward, healing the waters of the Salt Sea into which it is to flow and bringing fertility to the land on either side of it. Of En-eglaim nothing is known today, but Dean Stanley in his Sinai and Palestine (1887) identifies it with a site near the hot springs on the North East end of the Sea, better known by the name of Callirhoe, to which place Herod the Great resorted in his last illness for the healing virtues of the hot springs, which lie just one mile from the ancient site marked on the map as El-kharsha. Two separate hot springs are marked in this vicinity and two at En-gedi, one lying two miles North and the other two miles South of En-gedi ruins. It must be stated that others have supposed that the site of En-eglaim to have been somewhere in the vicinity of Kir-Moab, the modern Karak.
I have recently received a letter (from Rev. Leonard T. Pearson), which I quote: "In our car we went to Sodom on the new road. . . . and after passing the salt cracking plant we went to Masada. After spending a night at the foot we climbed the 'Snake Path' mentioned by Josephus. It was only uncovered a few years ago. This path zig-zags for 1,850 feet.
"We were glad we set out for this climb at 0430 a.m., for a Hamseen blew up and it was very, VERY hot. . . . We then went on to En-gedi. After being waste for hundreds of years the waters of the 'ein' (spring) which cascades down, are being used again. Beautiful houses have been built. Tropical trees and plants are a speciality. The tomatoes are six feet in height. Palm trees are growing in hundreds, and every kind of vegetable. The road from Sodom to En-gedi is scarcely more than a very rough track."
When the children of Israel were near the end of their forty years wandering in the wilderness and the new generation of 'under twenties' had grown up, so that the oldest of them was nearly sixty, they came up from the South from Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Akaba, and after compassing the land of Edom, they took to the King's Highway to pass through Moab on their way to the plains over against Jericho, at Kir-Moab, thus passing the length of the Salt Sea within a dozen miles, parallel to its shores, and would have looked down upon its forbidding depths from four to five thousand feet above and view the promised land rising from the opposite shore twenty-five miles away. From Mt. Nebo, before "he died there in the land of Moab, according to the Word of the Lord," Moses had his view of the whole of the land of promise from Mt. Hermon in the North, the Utter most or Mediterranean Sea in the West, to the Negev, or South country, whence they had come. Dean Stanley wrote a century ago, "This was precisely the description of Elijah, whose last appearance has been in this very wilderness, before he finally vanished from the eyes of his disciple. . . This, too, was the aspect of his great representative, when he came, in the same place. . . "in raiment of camel's hair." . . . To the same wilder ness, probably that on the Eastern side (of Jordan), Jesus is described as 'led up' by the Spirit—up into the desert-hills whence Moses had seen the view of all the 'kingdoms' of Palestine, . . . where John was baptising beyond Jordan," where Moses left off and was buried, and whence Elijah was 'taken up,' there the Lord of heaven, the Son of Man was 'led up' by the Spirit to be tempted of the Devil. Thence "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee." Thus far had the Spirit of God taken Moses; thus far had the same Spirit taken Elijah the prophet; and from this very place the Lord Jesus Christ started out on His great ministry. If Dean Stanley is right and there is no authority for the traditional Mt. of Temptation, then there is something of great importance to learn.
"And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when hedied : his eye was not dim , nor his natural force abated.. . . . . And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit ofwisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him : . . . Nowafter the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came topass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses'minister, saying, Moses My servant is dead; now thereforearise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto theland which I do give them." (Deut. 34:7, 9 and Josh. 1:1,2).Joshua was but a type of Christ who led the children of Israel into the land to possess it, while the law still stood; but Jesus (the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Joshua-meaning Jehovah will save) having fulfilled the law in every point, and the prophets in all they foretold of Him, takes up His mission from the point where Moses left off (being unable to enter the promised land) and goes forward to accomplish that for which He was sent.
Early in His ministry the Lord Jesus said,
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say untoyou, Till heaven and earth pass away , one jot or one tittleshall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matt.5:17, 18)." It is very significant that this almost unique, but certainly singular formation should be situate at the door of the locality, chosen by God for the carrying out of His great plan for the redemption of mankind, the birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If, in type, rivers and rocks, trees and shrubs, mountains and seas can, by figure of speech, illustrate or point out Scripture truths, why not then, this peculiar topographical formation? From the snows of Mount Hermon to the depths of the abyss of the Salt Sea, in whose waters all is death, runs the Jordan, the 'Descender.' Is not this an apt picture of mankind?
The snows that crown Mount Hermon (the most probable scene of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ), deposited there in the Winter months indicate the heavenly origin of the human race. These snows melt and run down through fissures on the mountain top, and by devious channels and unknown reservoirs beneath the surface, deep in the mountain's heart, to issue into the light of day some seven thousand feet below.
There are three main sources—"the first at the bottom of a wild ravine called HASBEIYA, where is a basin that the water comes bubbling up from under projecting rocks. It is of a transparent dark colour and appears to be of immense depth." (Van de Velde). "The second is at BANIAS, the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi, from a pool at the foot of a high cliff, fed by numerous gushing streamlets, which rise by the entrance of a deep cavern." (Stanley). Here Herod erected a temple to the honour of Augustus.
This was the Northernmost limit of our Lord's ministerial journeys and near by the scene of Peter's confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (Matt. 16:16).
The third source is at Dan, or TEL-EL-KADI, described thus: "It is at the foot of a green eminence overgrown with shrubs. From its North West corner a magnificent spring, the exemplar, so to speak, of all those tributaries that we have seen along its banks from En-gedi upwards-bursts forth into a wide crystal river through the valley." (Stanley).
The three streams unite near TEL-DAPHNEH, and flow in a sluggish course through a marshy plain to Lake Merom, now the Huleh and no longer a lake. This lake is six feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea, and it is shortly after issuing from the location of the lake, at a place 12 miles South, called JSIR BENAT YACOBE—the bridge of the daughters of Jacob, that the river commences its headlong descent of close on 600 feet in six miles, when it enters the sea of Galilee. "It is a continued repetition of roaring rapids and leaping cataracts over basaltic rocks," wrote Dr. Thomson a century ago.
The Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias, thirteen miles long and seven miles at the widest part, from the plain of Gennezeret at Magdala to the city of the Gergesenes, is 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, and it is here that the Jordan comes to a long rest, except when its surface is whipped up by the wild storms that come down upon it, such as has been so vividly and eloquently described in the gospels. It was round this basin that man had chosen to build so many towns and villages, with a satisfactory feeling of security, the embodiment of self satisfaction. It was from its depths that he has obtained so plenteous a supply of food, of fish caught by line and net. It was from its shores that he produced his crops for daily bread, his fruit and vegetables. It was on the slopes of its hills that his flocks of sheep, his herds of goats were led out to pasture. It was on the top of the escarpment on the Eastern side that the swine were feeding, into which the demons were permitted to enter, whereon they ran down the steep place into the sea, where the waters covered them and they perished; the demons returned to the abyss, whence they came.
Here man passes his life in serenity, only occasionally disturbed on the surface, surrounded by pleasure and religion, in self satisfaction and complacency. He may deny the outlet and essay to remain here, but inexorably he is drawn to the Southern end, and in slow motion, hardly perceptible, he passes into the channel and glides slowly past the banks. The pace quickens and the fall of another 600 feet begins, to cover the 66 miles to the Dead Sea. It seems, however, that the River is now aware of its eventual destiny; which is drawing nearer, and is afraid. It begins to twist and turn, to double back and sometimes to slow down, so that its actual track covers 200 miles, or three times the direct distance from one sea to the other. In the end it pours forth as a turbid stream into the Dead Sea, where nothing can live—300,000,000 cubic feet of water a day. 300,000,000 cubic feet of water a day is evaporated, leaving behind the salts and :solids that have been picked up and absorbed in its passage South—118 miles of distance 3,000 feet of descent.
It was not by chance that the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 and Matt. 2:6). This town is situated only 15 miles from the Salt Sea and about 3,600 feet above its surface and about 900 feet higher than the sources of Jordan. When the time was come for Jesus to commence his ministry, He is introduced in all four gospels AT THE LOWEST SPOT ON THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH, where mankind is at closest proximity to the emblem of death. It was there that John the Baptist was calling upon the People to repent of their sins and turn to God. Then those who were obedient to his call submitted to be plunged below the Surface of the Jordan, as it were below the level of the surface of the Salt Sea, yet, in fact in fresh water, thereby symbolising their passage through death and rising again in newness of life.
It was there, as it were, at man's extremity, that John looked up and saw Jesus, and by the Spirit recognised Him and when Jesus sought baptism "he forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou unto me?" "And Jesus answering him said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then He suffered him."
Thus Jesus identified Himself with degenerate mankind at his lowest place. It was then that "the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice from heaven, which said, 'This is My Beloved Son; In Thee I am well pleased.'" It was at the summit of Mt. Hermon in the presence of Moses and Elias and the three disciples, at the end of His ministry, that Jesus was transfigured "and a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." The locality of these two great events can be no more a matter of accident than the birth at Bethlehem—one at each end of Jordan—the descender; but with Him they took place in reverse, for He is the 'Ascender.'
Jesus, thus having identified Himself with John's ministry, as Son of Man was then led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. This took place on the heights above and to the East of the Salt Sea, again at the height of about 2,600 feet. This locality, Bethlehem and Golgotha are almost the same elevation. From the forty days temptation in the wilderness He proceeded back North, to Nazareth, where he had been taken as an infant, after His presentation in the temple. Now, the height of Nazareth is 1,700-1,800 feet, the same as the source of Jordan. There He abode still until He received news of John the Baptist having been cast into prison by Herod. Then He began His ministry by proclaiming in the synagogue in Nazareth: "This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears." Thereafter the bulk of His ministry was round about the Sea of Galilee, working from Capernaum. His frequent visits to Jerusalem for the Feasts indicate His conformity to the requirements of the law, but before His final arrival for the last Passover, He was to be found "away again beyond Jordan, where John at first baptized; and there He abode." He must, therefore, have crossed again near that very spot before entering Jericho and leaving it to make the ascent to Bethany and later into Jerusalem, there to be apprehended, tried and crucified on Golgotha.
Having crossed the Jordan in its lower reaches He brings with Him His disciples and others who believed in Him, steadfastly setting His face to go up to Jerusalem, there to die, disposing of sin and sins, the power of the flesh and the Devil, there to give light and liberty through faith in His finished work. The seal to this is the historical fact of His resurrection, testified to by so many that it cannot be denied.
From the Mount of Olives, forty days later, He was received up from their sight into the heavens, where He must remain until the appointed time in God's purposes, as described in the Scriptures, when He will as surely return to that same place.
As Christ has dealt with death as represented symbolically by the Jordan and the Salt Sea, so it will be found that eventually that symbol of death will be abolished, according to prophecy. It is to the examination of this and other kindred prophecies we now set ourselves in order to find out what the Scriptures say in the matter. As the formation of the Salt Sea was caused by upheavals and earthquakes, so also it will be found that in the time of the end and "the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of the prophets," similar seismic convulsions, which will so alter the land's surface in these countries that the Salt Sea will disappear and those countries round about will become fertile and "the desert will blossom as the rose."
Part 4Few believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will deny that the Scriptures prophesy that He is to return to this earth in power and glory.
When the Lord ascended from the Mount of Olives, forty days after His resurrection,
"Two men stood by the disciples in white apparel; which said,' Ye men of Galilee , why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shallso come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.'"(Acts 1:11).This takes us back to Matthew 24:30:
"And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds ofheaven with power and great glory." Before this great event takes place many things must happen as told these same disciples by the Lord as He sat upon the Mount of Olives. These were given to them as signs which will betoken the end of the age-wars and rumours of wars; Nation rising against Nation; famines and pestilences and earthquake, in divers places (widespread).
Now, all these things have been commonplace throughout the Christian Era and there is nothing significant about their occurrence to-day; but if, after a period of quiescence, of peace and plenty, these things should suddenly break out: then they would surely betoken prophesied events to follow.
These are the forerunners of the great climax that is to take place "at the coming of the Son of Man."
"Wars and rumours of wars" will be succeeded by the greatest of all wars. "Nation shall rise against Nation" will foreshadow the Nations divided for or against God's People, the Nation of Israel. "Famines and pestilences" will reach their zenith and "Earthquakes in divers places" will lead up to the earthquake of Zechariah 14:1-10.
"Behold, the day of the Lord cometh. . . then shall the Lord goforth and fight against those Nations . . . and His feet shallstand upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem onthe East , and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midstthereof toward the East and toward the West and there shallbe a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall removetoward the North and half of it toward the South. And yeshall flee toward the valley of the mountains , for the valleyof the mountains shall reach unto Azal."This place, Azal, is identified by some as Askelon and by others as Ajalon. Although 30 miles apart, either could be the place prophetically referred to, or neither. The rift across the mount of Olives could well cut into the existing valley 5 miles West of Jerusalem and the waters from the temple of Ezekiel flow down the Wadi Surar through the Valley of Sorek. The Eastern flow might pass through the 'very great valley' and then down the Wadi Mukelik to the Salt Sea. There is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the 'very great valley' cleft through the mount of Olives will be a gorge of nearly 3,000 feet depth, extending from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, through the mountains of Judaea, to the Jordan valley. Such a gorge would not permit of a flow both ways, when the water issuing from the Sanctuary fell into it, cascading almost vertically 2,400 feet.
" And it shall be in that day that living waters ( fresh runningwater in abundance) shall go out from Jerusalem ; half of themtoward the former (Eastern or Salt ) Sea and half of themtoward the hinder (Western or Mediterranean ) Sea. . . and theland shall be turned (as on a hinge) as a plain (ARABAH) fromGeba to Rimmon South of Jerusalem, and it shall be lifted upand inhabited ( or remain in place or position ) . . . and menshall dwell in it, and there shall be no more destruction (curse),but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited."These passages indicate considerable seismic upheavals that are prophesied to take place on the Western side of the Dead Sea, and it would appear from the words used that with the cleaving of the mount of Olives the whole area of the mountains of Judaea will become a vast plain or Arabah by the elevation of the Eastern regions, amounting to a thousand or so feet, thus making it similar to the table-lands of Moab. This great movement, hinged on the Jerusalem, Hebron, Rimmon and Beer-Sheba line, would permit of a flow of water both ways from the City.
Now, let us review what is to take place immediately before this great event. Israel, having returned to the Land as a Nation (Deut. 30:1-10), leaving no Jews among the Nations of the earth (Ezek. 20:33-38) and the land having been restored to fruitfulness, and their cities having been rebuilt, are worshipping their God Jehovah according to the Law.
The Temple has been rebuilt and they are carrying out the offering of the prescribed sacrifices in the Temple under the Levitical Priesthood. Jehovah has placed them under the Covenant of Peace (Ezek. 34:25; 37:26) some little time after their return to the land and they have been enjoying the fruits of their righteousness in obedience to the Law until they have apostatised from the purity of their faith. They have fallen under the influence of false prophets and have been seeking false messiahs (christs). They have raised to themselves a ruler of their own choice, whom they have anointed king, after the manner of their fathers when they called for Saul to be made their king. This one has negotiated a Covenant with the man of Sin, who has appeared after the apostasy has set in (2 Thess. 2:2-4) and before what is called the day of the Lord (correct text). This man of Sin, who has become the ruler of the Nations, or some of them at least, is a World Dictator and is opposed to God. He is also known as Antichrist.
After 3½ years he breaks the Covenant, enters and takes over the Temple at Jerusalem. Here he sets up the centre of world religion, with the image of the beast in the most holy place, and decrees that it shall be the object of worship by mankind. He causes the daily sacrifice to cease and sets about enforcing decrees which immediately lead to the great tribulation. This, in turn, lasts 3½ years.
Although he has a garrison at Jerusalem to enforce his edicts, the main army supporting him is encamped on the plains of Esdraelon or Jezreel by Har-Megiddo (the mount of Megiddo, from which we get the word Armageddon), preparing for the battle, according to Rev. 16:16,
" And He gathered them together into a place called in theHebrew tongue HARMAGEDDON (verse 14) to the battle ofthat great day of God Almighty."It was then that,
"The seventh angel poured out his vial into the air, . . . and therewere voices and thunders and lightnings ; and there was agreat earthquake, and so great. And the great city was dividedinto three parts. . . "Surely all this bears on the matter that we are considering. Such great earthquakes and upheavals of the land in the vicinity of the Great Rift are bound to have effects widespread along its Northern length. One possibility that may be envisaged that the 'plug,' forming the watershed of the Arabah, 100 miles South of Jerusalem, will fall, by the opening again of the Rift, a matter of about 1,000 feet, 400 feet below the level of the Gulf of Aqaba, thereby admitting by way of this gulf, suddenly, the waters of the Red Sea by a 5 mile wide and 400 feet deep channel. This would cause the Red Sea to decant into the Dead Sea, plunging Northward in an enormous cataract. It would sweep up the Jordan Valley in an immense tidal wave, carried forward by the momentum it had gained in its rush up the Gulf of Aqaba, sweeping all before it and penetrating far up the intersecting wadis and rivers on either side. It would turn Westwards up the valley of Jezreel to the Northward of Mount Gilboa and Southward to Mount Tabor, washing by the foothills at Nazareth it would converge on the plain of Megiddo and wash out the valley of the Brook Kishon, carrying with it the debris of its destruction across the bay of Haifa far out into the Mediterranean. Its force would gouge out and destroy the low watershed between Mula and Jenin, under 300 feet, and eventually leave behind it a channel that, when the waters settled, would form a waterway out to the Mediterranean Sea.
In its surge Northward the Sea of Galilee would soon be covered to a depth of nearly 800 feet or more and this immense cataclysm breaking down and tearing up everything in its path would sweep over the Huleh until it came up against another watershed, which might itself already have divided on account of the great earthquake, that between the Jordan and the Leontes, so that it might be that the Leontes will no longer flow out into the Mediterranean Sea, but continue its flow Southward, joining up with the upper reaches of the Jordan and, eventually, flowing into the new formed Gulf just South of Dan. And what of the great army that had gathered together at Har-Megiddo? There will be no battles as we mortals understand it. Truly it will be "the battle (is to the Lord) of that great day of God Almighty."
Concurrent with this cataclysm, as we have already seen, the land from Geba, North of Jerusalem, to Rimmon, far to the South is raised, and En-gedi, high on the steep cliffs on the Western side of the Dead Sea, will be raised and will maintain its position above the floods and finally fulfil the prophecy relating to it, that nets will be spread out in front of their dwellings after returning from the fishing.
The Dead Sea will thus be filled with ordinary Sea water in which there will be an abundance of fish, and its level will be raised 1,300 feet to that of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Into it will flow the living waters from the Eastern stream that issues from the Sanctuary of the Temple at Jerusalem and will enter the new born Gulf near the present site of Nebi Musa.
The Scripture states:
"those that flee from Jerusalem to the valley of the mountains;for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal."Of this Dean Stanley says, in reference to the comparison of the behaviour of the people when they fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah King of Judah, "they fled before the earthquake to the ravine of the mountains, to the rocky fissures safer, even though they themselves rent by like convulsions, than the habitations of men. It may even be that they flee to the rift through the Mount of Olives, just made, as they passed through the Red Sea to safety." This idea may be strengthened by reading Isaiah 2:10, 12 and 19:—
"Enter into the rock and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and for the glory of His Majesty . . . for the dayof the Lord of Hosts shall be upon everyone that is proud andlofty. . . and they shall go into the holes of the rocks and intothe caves of the Earth for the fear of the Lord and for theglory of His Majesty , when He ariseth to shake the Earth(Land) terribly."With the occurrence of such seismic convulsions anything might happen to the contour of the Land and in that these are taking place at this Northern end of the Great Rift, there are many other possibilities that might arise. As has already been mentioned, the watershed by Dan is part of the Great Rift itself and what has happened further South might well take place here. Nothing of this, however is indicated in Scripture, but it will not be beyond the bounds of possibility in those days.
There is, however, an indication of similar diversions along the North/South line of the Northern end of the Great Rift. Although one is told specifically of the very considerable upheaval of the land of Judah, this upheaval is not necessarily confined to this area. On the contrary, there are two events that are prophesied that necessitate the upheaval of the whole of the land for about 500 miles to the South of Jerusalem.
The first of these is in Isaiah 11:15, where it states,
"And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the EgyptianSea."This would be accomplished by the raising of the land between Suez and the entrance to the Gulf of Suez 300 feet. The deepest part of the whole 200 miles length of the gulf is only 45 fathoms (270 feet).
The second is the passage in Ezekiel 29:10,
"And I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolatefrom Migdol to Syene ( A.V. margin ) even unto the border ofEthiopia."Is. 19:5-10 goes into considerable detail concerning this,
" And the waters shall fail from the Sea and the River shall be wasted and dried up. And they shall turn the rivers faraway ; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and driedup ; the reeds and the flags shall wither. The paper reeds bythe brooks by the mouth of the brooks , and everything sownby the brooks, shall wither, be driven away , and be no more.The fishers also shall mourn, and all that cast angle into thebrooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish. Moreover they that work in fine flax , andthey that weave networks , shall be confounded. And theyshall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluicesand, ponds for fish."From these very comprehensive passages one can safely imply that the River Nile will be dried up from Syene (modern Asswan) Northwards to Migdol, supposed to be on the Mediterranean Sea on the Delta of the Nile. If the various tributaries of the Nile to the South from the highlands continue to pour their waters into the main stream, then, perforce, the main stream must run somewhere other than it has hitherto done. The raising of the land of Egypt with that of Juda and Sinai would bring about the preventing of the flow of the River Northward. If a map of the Middle East were examined it would be found that a line drawn through the Jordan valley, the 'Dead Sea' the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqaba and across the Red Sea and Eastern Egyptian desert, would cut the Nile very close to Asswan. Is not this significant? Man, today, is busy erecting an immense structure, for irrigation purposes, damming the Nile so that unlimited water may be provided for irrigation purposes and thus causing an enormous lake to form, covering hundreds of square miles of the valley and running well into the Sudan. Will this dam being so built contribute toward the alteration of the course of the Nile so that it turns Eastwards there and carves out for itself, under seismic disturbance a new channel into the Red Sea?
Ezekiel 29:11 says, of the Land of Egypt,
"No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shallpass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. AndI will make the land desolate in the midst of the countries thatare desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid wasteshall be desolate forty years."There is no rainfall in Egypt. Egypt is entirely dependent on the Nile to water its soil. The failure of these waters to flow down the valley would mean absolute destruction of the Nation and produce the result that follows:
"And I will scatter the Egyptians among the Nations, and willdisperse them through the countries."Verse nine of this chapter begins,
"And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste (CHORBAH= a place of drought)."Mention has already been made of the utter destruction of the tongue of the Egyptian Sea. It must not for a moment be assumed that this 'tongue,' or Gulf of Suez as it is now known.. has remained static over the centuries gone by, for there are extant two maps of Ptolemy's days (2nd cent. B.C.), in both of which there is an island drawn where to-day is marked Tor Bank on the Admiralty charts, and the shape of this island approximates the shape of the line at 20 fathoms (120 feet). This is proof positive that that portion of the Red Sea was approximately 120 feet shallower 2,000 years ago, when the maximum depth in that vicinity would have been 150 feet. What it was 1,000 years earlier, about the time of the Exodus it is impossible to say. It is my belief that the crossing of the Red Sea (YAM SUPH = Sea of Reeds, or, as some believe, the 'terminal' sea) took place here. The seismic disturbance that is to take place will undoubtedly affect this gulf and would account for its draining.
It would appear from these and other prophecies that when the Lord returns in glory, accompanied by His holy angels, finally to set up the Nation of Israel under His own personal rule in Jerusalem (Zion) and the Nations are subjugated to Him through Israel, judgements are carried out. Some Nations will be rewarded, others will be punished. In Isaiah and Ezekiel we have read of one judgment against Egypt, which will last for forty years, singularly reminiscent of the wanderings in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt (and a probationary period). Limited judgments appear to be passed upon both Moab and Ammon (Jer. 48 and 49.) and Elam (49:39). Other Nations, apparently, will suffer punishment of longer duration, even to the ceasing to be a Nation for evermore.
Israel, on the other hand, having "looked upon Him whom they have pierced," will recognise and acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah, their Redeemer and their King. They will go out among the Nations and proclaim Him as King of kings and God of the whole earth. The Nations so instructed and converted will send their embassies up to Jerusalem. Their kings will come up and worship Him to whom all homage is due and peace will reign over the whole world.
This is the so called Millennium, the day when the great promise made to Abram will be fulfilled, the day in which God's Covenant with Him will be performed, when the land from the Great River, the River Euphrates, unto the River of Egypt will be Israel's possession and when the desert will blossom as the rose.