Masada is a large rock plateau that creates a desert stronghold in the Judea Wilderness. In Old Testament times, David hid from King Saul in this area. We don’t know that David ever stayed in Masada, but David had surely seen or heard of its huge size and steep cliffs.

During his hiding, David wrote, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (Ps. 18:2). In this Psalm, he used the Hebrew word that literally means “masada”, providing a fitting picture of the unshakeable protection and strength of God.

Later, Herod the Great fortified Masada with towers and a high wall. The top of Masada could be cultivated to provide supplies for the defenders. Herod also built a system of cisterns to store water and storehouses to contain necessary supplies.

When Jerusalem during the Jewish Revolts against Rome, the Jewish patriot Eliezer Ben Yair and 960 people with him escaped to the top of the mountain. The Romans spent two years laying siege to the mountain. According to Josephus, when the Romans reached the top, all but five of the people had taken their own lives rather than surrender to the Romans.

Remembering the ancient defeat of these Jews, modern Israeli army recruits swear their oath of allegiance at Masada. They are given a gun and a Hebrew Bible, and they swear to never let Masada fall again.


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