New Life for the Dead Sea

October 15, 2016

I swam in the Dead Sea. Well, actually I floated. The water's quite buoyant. You can easily float on your back. Or you can stand in the water without moving or touching the ground and the water will be at about your chest. It's a weird sensation, but pretty neat.

The Dead Sea is about one-third salt, which is about ten times the average level of oceans. The Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea, but the water doesn't exit. The Dead Sea sits at the lowest place on Earth - more than 1,300 feet below sea level! So the sun evaporates much of the water, leaving behind a higher amount of salt.

There are no fish in the Dead Sea. I saw a hat in a gift shop that jokingly read, "Dead Sea Fishing Club." Fish swimming in the Jordan River actually turn around before they enter the Dead Sea so that they, too, don't end up dead. Nearby in Madaba, there's a mosaic on the floor of a 6th Century church. The mosaic features a map of the region, marking many holy sites. It shows fish swimming down the Jordan River, but turning around at the Dead Sea.

The name "Dead Sea" emerged after biblical times, but the Sea makes several appearances in the Bible. It's called names like "sea of salt" and "east sea." The doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are believed to have been close, but no one knows for sure where.

The most fascinating biblical reference to the Dead Sea comes in Ezekiel. The prophet, like many other biblical writers, gives us a variety of metaphors to help us understand what it will be like someday with God makes all things right. Ezekiel sees this transformation through the lens of the Dead Sea (which he simply calls "the sea"). In the vision, a man takes Ezekiel on a journey to watch what happens when water flows from the temple.

"Then [the man] said to me: 'This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many."

Fresh water flows from the temple and cleans up the Dead Sea, washing out the saltiness and making its fish as plentiful as in the Mediterranean Sea. That's quite a vision of a new reality, a new creation! If even the sea of salt can experience new life, then it should give us hope. Amen!

You can see more photos from day seven in Jordan here.