Masada is spectacular. It’s a mighty fortress on a massive rock plateau. The mountain is about 1,500 feet above the shores of the Dead Sea. The fortification is about 1,950 feet long and 650 feet wide. In his concise traveler’s companion to the Holy Land, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor described this top tourist site as “a great rock curiously like an aircraft-carrier moored to the western cliffs of the Dead Sea.”1
First-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of the sad and tragic event that occurred on Masada in the spring of AD 73 or 74. After enduring a long siege by the Roman army, 960 Jewish men, women, and children committed mass suicide there, rather than let the Romans capture them.
In modern Israel, Masada is revered as a symbol of Jewish heroism. The motto “Masada, never again!” has become symbolic of the Jewish people’s determination to fight for their lives and freedom in their own land.
The word Masada comes from the Hebrew word for “fort,” “fortress,” or “stronghold.” It is not difficult to imagine David, fleeing from King Saul in the Judean wilderness, gazing up at this imposing mount and writing, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is my rock and my fortress [Masada] and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold [Masada]” (Ps. 18:2). For David and Bible believers, Masada is a powerful metaphor for God’s strength, stability, safety, and salvation.
The site itself is an architectural marvel. An article on LoveIsrael.com had this to say:
King Herod’s northern palace was built on three rock terraces overlooking the gorge below. King Herod was Jewish by faith but Arab by birth and his loyalty to the Romans and their Empire [is] evident in the structures. Near the palace is a large Roman style bath-house with a colorful mosaic floor and walls decorated with murals representing his connection to the Romans. Other buildings such as the luxurious western palace, the mikveh a Jewish ritual bath [sic], storerooms, watchtowers, and a synagogue relate to his Jewish faith. Artifacts such as storage containers, decorated pottery, scrolls, and coins have been discovered at Masada. The beautiful embossments and murals that were discovered on the walls of the buildings have been restored by Italian experts for preservation. Masada is the largest most complete Roman fortress that remains today.2
In 1973 archaeologists uncovered a 2,000-year-old cache of date palm seeds at Masada. In 2004, a researcher with a medical organization in Jerusalem asked for some seeds to plant. After a little wrangling, the researcher received three of the two-millennia-old seeds. Amazingly, a year after the seeds were planted, one seed sprouted. Eventually, it grew into a three-foot-high sapling.
Jesus often taught about the Kingdom of God using a seed motif in His parables. Mark 4:26–27 is an example.
Farmers do not fully understand the growth process of their crops. They must simply trust on conditions from God to bring about an eventual harvest.
The promise of the Messianic Kingdom is like the seed from Masada. Many reject the doctrine of a literal Jewish Kingdom on Earth. To them, it simply does not make sense. Yet the mystery of the Kingdom seed goes beyond human understanding. God alone fulfills His promises and makes all things, whether people accept them or not, come to pass.
The miracle seed growth from Masada is an admonishment to keep preaching the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). It will bear fruit. For it is God alone who causes the seed of His Word that is planted in hearts and minds to germinate into new life and grow.
- Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land: An Archaeological Guide from Earliest Time to 1700, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 283.
- “Masada” <loveisrael.com/place-to-visit/Masada>.