En Gedi (2 Chronicles 20)

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Illustration: Chalcolithic temple at En Gedi

En Gedi (“spring of the goats”) is located on the western side of the Dead Sea. The site was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium B.C., the period from which the remains of a temple (pictured above) has been discovered. A cave several km south of En Gedi has yielded ivory carvings and other objects that were probably temple items hidden by the inhabitants before an Egyptian campaign in the area. To the north of the area, occupation levels dating from the seventh century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. have been uncovered. Today a kibbutz (Israeli communal farm or settlement) and nature park are located ar En Gedi.

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Illustration: One of the caves where David wrote a number of the psalms

While under Israelite occupation the city belonged to the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:62). David sought refuge from Saul at En Gedi (1 Samuel 23:29) and hid in a cave in close reach of the king. (Still today numerous caves pockmark the hillsides above the waterfall there.) In 2 Chronicles 20:2 the site is given the name Hazazon Tamar, which in Hebrew suggests a grove of palm trees, ans Song of Songs 1:14 informs us that there were beautiful vineyards there. It was from this location that the Moabites, Amorites and Edomites attempted to invade Judah (2 Chronicles 20), possibly because the terrain was so difficult that an attack from this direction would have been unexpected. Nevertheless Jehoshaphat was warned of their plan, and the Lord answered his prayer by turning the invading armies upon one another, so that the Judahite army found only dead bodies and plunder (20:5-26).

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Illustration: En Gedi trail

En Gedi was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 582 B.C. in the aftermath of his destruction of Jerusalem. When the Israelites returned from captivity they rebuilt the site, which was later occupied by the Hasmoneans. Herod the Great destroyed this town and then rebuilt and fortified it, but this settlement too was destroyed during the Jewish War. In the nearby caves several letters were found that had been written by Bar Kokhba, leader of the Jewish uprising that was defeated in A.D. 135, indicating that Bar Kokhba and his meb had used En Gedi as a hideout.

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