Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

More lies beneath the surface if we will simply explore.

When we think of the Red Sea, we tend to picture Moses holding up his arms and dividing the waters. This body of water parted like curtains in the opening act of Israel’s history. The parting of the sea set the stage for one of history’s most incredible escapes (Exodus 14:29-31).

Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

(Photo: Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But this part of the Red Sea represents only half of its northernmost edges.

The sea has two fingers that point north, divided by the Sinai Peninsula. The more famous finger, the one that parted in the exodus, is the western one—today called the Gulf of Suez.

If the western finger of the Red Sea represented Israel’s beginning as a nation under God, the eastern section, or the Gulf of Aqaba, could embody Israel’s ongoing relationship with the Lord.

And it offers a spiritual lesson for those who will look below the surface.

There’s Eilat of Biblical History

Moses and the children of Israel passed the eastern section of the Red Sea as they circumvented the land of Edom and headed north to the area east of the Jordan River (Numbers 33:35-36; Deuteronomy 2:8). The port cities of that time were Ezion Geber and Elath—from which we get the modern spelling, Eilat.

Eilat, Israel, sits at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, as did the ancient city.

Eilat and Red Sea

(Photo: Eilat and Red Sea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Often closely associated with Ezion Geber, the cities served as key ports for Israel’s trade with Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

  • King Solomon constructed a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber (1 Kings 9:26-28).
  • King Jehoshaphat also assembled ships at Ezion Geber to sail to Ophir, but God scuttled them because of an evil alliance Jehoshaphat had made (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37).
  • Although King Uzziah recaptured Eilat during his reign, the Arameans would later conquer it and remove Judah from controlling the port (2 Kings 14:22; 2 Chronicles 26:1; 2 Kings 16:6).

Eilat, Israel—A Major Port City

Today, the gulf still plays a crucial role as a port city for Israel, a fact easily seen by the many tankers and cargo ships that frequent Eilat. Israel’s imports and exports to and from Asia and East Africa have their touch point in Eilat.

But Eilat is more than a modern port. Much more!

(All pics courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Eilat—Israel on the Red Sea

Since 1949, the State of Israel has transformed Eilat into a beautiful resort city, and it remains the only Israeli town on the Red Sea.

  • Beautiful beaches.
  • Marine life.
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving.
  • Bird watching.
  • Luxurious hotels.
  • The city even has its own airport.

The place literally was built for tourists.

Red Sea coral reef at Eilat

(Photo: Red Sea coral reef at Eilat. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

A Look Below the Surface

The sea is crystal clear and shallow enough to reward any visitor wearing a mask and snorkel with a marvelous peek at one of the richest ecosystems on earth.

  • Scuba divers can swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Reef.
  • Those preferring to stay dry can still behold the wonders of the sea in a glass-bottomed boat.
  • A visit to the Underwater Observatory, south of Coral Beach, allows anyone to stare up close and wide-eyed at a part of creation rarely seen by landlubbers.
  • Sharks, sea turtles, sponges, invertebrates, red tropical groupers, and coral reefs, are easily viewed behind glass walls thirty feet below the surface.
  • A nearby oceanographic museum educates visitors on the marine life they’ll see. Over 500 species of fish is a lot to take in!
Eilat Underwater Observatory, coral and fish

(Photo: Eilat Underwater Observatory, coral and fish. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Eilat, Israel—Not Just a Secular Scene

Those who come to Eilat might expect a completely secular experience. After all, except for the few biblical references to Eilat as a port, the place seems utterly devoid of anything spiritual.

But it’s not that way for me.

The times I have been to Eilat cause me to marvel at the contrasts I see there.

  • The monochrome, barren, and blistering hills that surround Eilat contrast wildly with the colorful and vibrant creation that explodes beneath its waters.
  • That vivid difference reminds me of the spiritual life that thrives in the lives of many people who otherwise appear unadorned or even barren.
  • As Scripture reminds us, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Eilat reminds me that there often lies more beneath the surface if we will simply explore.

Question: What helps you look below the surface of people to the beauty underneath? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Dr. Roger Gribble

    I proudly wear on my right hand a ring cast in Eilate set with a beautiful Eliate stone it reminds be of the beauiy above and below the beautiful city of Eilate. I have visited there on three occassions and would love to return.

    • I have always enjoyed seeing Eilat’s beautiful jewelry. The “Eilat Stone” is lovely. Thanks for your comment, Roger.

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  • Colleen

    With a disabled son, I’ve learned the most beautiful people are typically those whose have outer struggles or don’t fit “society’s” ever-changing definition of beauty. My aging parents are also two of the most beautiful people for they have taught me grace, forgiveness, mercy, and more.
    As far as this post, I have to say you added another reason to see this land-its rich, biblical history and now, it’s below the surface beautiful scenery. Thanks Wayne for keeping our hope alive by writing such great posts about our amazingly gracious God!

    • Thank you, Colleen. Yes—you do have a front-row seat to many of life’s hidden blessings. So many of us are blessed to read your words and to experience the joy of the reality that exists beneath the thin veneer the world shows.

  • KB

    I’ve heard love your neighbor as yourself, of course, but some people really test that command outside of how I feel about myself. But taking Behavioral Health classes and using healing scripture in counseling…I can see how when we help strip away what the enemy has worked to ruin and destroy…there is beauty under there and explains how God CAN love all of us and why Him telling us too as well makes perfect sense.

    • I agree, KB. That’s why God’s command to love (agape) is so essential. It looks beyond how a person makes us feel to the intrinsic value of the person. It’s also what we have to do when others refuse to give us the worth that God has given us in Christ.

  • Thanks for a great post Wayne. The contrasts throughout the Holy Land are amazing and Eilat is just spectacular in that respect. My husband scuba dived there on one of our tours to the Holy Land and hopes to do that again next year with another group. Israel reminds us all to look below the surface, to look past the lens of conflict and see God’s faithfulness. Thanks again! Cheryl

    • That’s great, Cheryl. I think your husband would also like diving at Caesarea. I’m a certified diver too and that spot is on my bucket list. 🙂 God bless.

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