Visiting the Dead Sea in Israel

A few days ago our group was able to see the Dead Sea, among other sites to the south of Jerusalem. The Dead Sea is:

a large lake in southern Israel at the lowest point on earth. In the Old Testament it is called the Salt Sea (Gen. 14:3; Josh. 3:16); the Sea of the Arabah (Deut. 3:17); and the Eastern Sea (Ezek. 47:18; Joel 2:20). Josephus, the Jewish historian, referred to this buoyant body as Lake Asphaltitis. The Arabic name is Bahr Lut, meaning, “Sea of Lot.” But from the second Christian century onward, Dead Sea has been the most common name for this unusual body of water.

The topography of the Middle East is dominated by a geologic fault that extends from Syria south through Palestine, all the way to Nyasa Lake in east-central Africa. The Dead Sea is located at the southern end of the Jordan valley at the deepest depression of this geologic fault. With a water level approximately 390 meters (1,300 feet) below sea level, the surface of the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. At the deepest point of the sea, on the northeast corner at the foot of the Moab mountains, the bottom is 390 meters (1,300 feet) deeper still. (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

Dead Sea at Sunset. Looking east to the mountains of Moab. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Dead Sea at Sunset. Looking east to the mountains of Moab. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

 

The Dead Sea is actually a lake into which the river Jordan flows, but once entering the Sea there is no outlet. Because of its high mineral content (25 percent), and the fact that the water is ten times saltier than the ocean, the Dead Sea does not support marine life. These unusual geographical facts became the basis of a thought-provoking song by Lula Zahn (words are now public domain) that makes spiritual application. It has been my experience that this is not the easiest song (musically speaking) for congregational use, but it’s worth the effort to try!

“There is a Sea”

by Lula Klingman Zahn

There is a sea which day by day
Receives the rippling rills
And streams that spring from wells of God
Or fall from cedared hills
But what it thus receives it gives
With glad unsparing hand
A stream more wide, with deeper tide
Flows on to lower land

There is a sea which day by day
Receives a fuller tide
But all its store it keeps, nor gives
To shore nor sea beside
It’s Jordan stream, now turned to brine
Lies heavy as molten lead
It’s dreadful name doth e’er proclaim
That sea is waste and dead

Which shall it be for you and me
Who God’s good gifts obtain?
Shall we accept for self alone
Or take to give again?
For He who once was rich indeed
Laid all His glory down
That by His grace, our ransomed race
Should share His wealth and crown

Click on image for larger view.

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