You couldn’t ask for a better place to build a fortress!
Masada is on a plateau of a 1,300 ft mini-mountain overlooking the Dead Sea. The only way you can get to the top is by a narrow path along the steep walls of the mountain. A few men at the top of the mountain could easily hold off an entire army trying to wind their way up the small paths.
Herod built a fortress there and stocked it with provisions back around 35BC. It was a fairly lavish place, to say the least. Several buildings are up there, including a Roman-styled bath house, storage facilities for food and weapons, a synagogue, army barracks and more. One could easily spend a few hours up there and not see the whole place.
When Rome was attacking Israel in 70AD, some Jewish Zealots hid out at Masada. The Romans had no way to get to the top, so they built a huge siege ramp on the west side. When defeat was inevitable, the Zealots decided to kill their family members and then themselves. The last of the leaders drew lots to find out which Jew would kill the last remaining Jews and then fall on his own sword. The Romans reached the top and got in, only to find the 936 inhabitants chose suicide rather than capture. An old lady and five children were hiding in a cistern and lived to tell the story. (Judas Iscariot was a Zealot, btw)
There’s not a whole lot in the Bible about Masada, but we often read of King David running to “strongholds” to hide (). Since Masada is a natural place for hiding, it’s not unreasonable to think that he might have come here a time or two to hide out from his enemies.
|Herod’s palace is on the 3 terraces in the center of the photo.|
|Thankfully, you can now get to the top by cable car!|
|Or you can take the path if you want.(The photo here is a close-up of the highlighted square in the above photo.)|
|Here’s the view at the top, looking down at the cable car house where we started. The square on the far left is a Roman camp.|
|Herod’s bath house|
|A panorama of the view from Herod’s palace, looking to the West.|
|(For more on this, be sure to see the movie clip section)|
|One of the Roman camps was situated in the square area on the right. The square is the wall they built around their camp.|
|Herod’s Palace at Masada. It had 3 levels.|
|Here’s the view from the lower portion of Herod’s palace.|
|You can see part of the siege ramp that the Romans built in 90AD when they were attacking the place.By the time I had finished checking out the northern part of the place, it was time to leave! I guess I’ll wait till my next trip there to see the rest of the place.|
|The Roman camp near the base of the trolley car.|
22 And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. (ESV)