Ein Gedi—A Testimony to God’s Grace and Provision

Finding hope against a depressing backdrop of death and desperation.

Ancient travelers who made their way along the shores of the Dead Sea would no doubt shake their heads when they saw it. How could so much water stand in such a barren place—and none of it be drinkable?

Ein Gedi—A Testimony to God’s Grace and Provision

(Photo: The oasis of Ein Gedi beside the Dead Sea, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Before the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Jordan Valley looked like the “garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). But afterwards, even the many springs that bubbled beside the Dead Sea tasted too salty to swallow. The plentiful waters gave nothing in the way of sustenance.

They only offered a spiritual prompt of the need to take God seriously.

Against this depressing backdrop of death and desperation flows the Ein Gedi.

Ein Gedi—A Spring for More than Goats

If you want to find where history took place, just look for the waterholes.

Ein Gedi means, “Spring of the Wild Goat,” and suggests that animals—not just people—depended upon its fresh and plentiful streams (1 Samuel 24:1-2).

  • Because Ein Gedi represented one of only two springs that offered fresh water west of the Dead Sea, every nomad, wanderer, and warrior stopped there as they passed.
  • The Bible records Ammonites, Edomites, Meunites, and Moabites—Judah’s neighbors east of the Jordan—gathering there before their attack on Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1-2).

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

But Ein Gedi served as more than a popular pit stop for travelers.

With regional water so scant, the spring hosted numerous settlements throughout history—thousands of years of continuous habitation.

  • God allotted Ein Gedi to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:62), from which came David.
  • David’s familiarity with the oasis and its caves allowed him to select hiding places from the jealous King Saul (1 Samuel 23-24). David may have written Psalms 57 and 142 here, as the superscription for each psalm mentions David composing them in a cave.
  • The Hasmoneans made Ein Gedi their royal estate and administrative center in the 2nd-century BC.
  • Eusebius described Ein Gedi in his Onomasticon as being “a very large village of Jews.”
  • The area has a Canaanite temple as well as Roman forts, a Byzantine fort, and an Israelite fort—all situated to protect the nearby roadway.
(Photo: a hidden waterfall at En Gedi's Nahal Arugot

(Photo: a hidden waterfall at En Gedi’s Nahal Arugot, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

A Symbol of Provision, Beauty, and Uniqueness

A vibrant blotch of green on an otherwise colorless landscape, Ein Gedi came to symbolize not only beauty, but also that which stands out as unique. David’s son, Solomon, is compared to “a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi” (Song of Solomon 1:14).

Even today, the Ein Gedi National Park remains a distinctive oasis for flora and fauna—that’s an alliterative reference to “vegetation” and “wildlife.”

Ibex at Ein Gedi

(Photo: Ibex at Ein Gedi, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

  • The flora grows near the streams and includes cattails, reeds, the Christ-thorn, the Sodom apple, and the acacia tree. Mosses and ferns cling to the cliffs.
  • The fauna include hyraxes (coneys that look like large rodents), desert leopards, and panthers.
  • But the most common animal visitors see is the ibex, a wild Nubian goat. With hooves that make climbing look relaxed, they scamper across the cliffs effortlessly. Their piercing brown eyes and distinctive horns capture the attention of every hiker who sees them.

The Visitors Center offers maps for several levels of hiking and various lengths of trails. Hikes can last from one hour to seven.

  • The most popular trail follows the Wadi David’s stream—which flows from the immense Shulamit falls—and requires a leisurely hour round-trip.
  • More experienced hikers might enjoy the Upper David Trail and the Tsafit Trail.
  • For those guests who want some pampering, the Ein Gedi Health Spa (about 4 km south of the national park) offers hot sulfur baths as well as private access to the Dead Sea.

An Illustration of God’s Grace

Exaggeration fails to describe the relief that Ein Gedi would have given the weary traveler in antiquity. Even today, the oasis offers refreshment for the locals and the tourists alike.

In this barren region that has struggled to support life since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Ein Gedi has flowed for thousands of years as a longstanding testimony to God’s grace.

God does the same in our lives, doesn’t He? He offers hope against a depressing backdrop of death and desperation.

Tell me what you think: How has God given hope against hope in your life? To leave a comment, just click here.

Ein Gedi on the Map:

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  • Dubonnet

    Dear Waynes,

    thank you for this good report from this region.

    The Shulammite maiden alluded to the fruitfulness of the region, referring to “a cluster of henna . . . among the vineyards of En-gedi.” (Ca 1:14) This, however, only partly describes the rich plant life that flourishes there even today. En-gedi’s particular location in the depression of the region of the Dead Sea is conducive to the growth of semitropical vegetation, palms and balsam, plus a variety of fruits, making En-gedi an oasis that stands out from the nearby severely desolate Wilderness of Judah.
    Not only this abundant growth but also the inaccessibility of the region made En-gedi an ideal hideout for David when he was being pursued by King Saul. Thus the Bible speaks of certain “places difficult to approach at En-gedi.” (1Sa 23:29) The hostility of parts of the terrain is also indicated by the reference to “the bare rocks of the mountain goats.” (1Sa 24:2) A proper name, “Rocks of the Wild Goats” (AT, JB, RS), referring to some particular locality where goats were likely to congregate, as they do even in modern times in the En-gedi region. The rocks of En-gedi are honeycombed with roomy caves. David and his men may have hidden in one of these. (1Sa 24:3) Some suggest that “the stone sheepfolds” where Saul stopped may refer to these caves, with a rough wall built in front to give weather protection.—1Sa 24:2-10.

    a little more history.

    best regards

    • Super additions, once again. I appreciate your insights and additional info. Thanks.

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  • Michelle thick

    Just knowing God is there is my hope. I read the bible every nite and pray for my prayer list. This brings me closer to HIM EVERYDAY. The answers I get to questions worries life. He answers and gives me rest.

  • Tibor Meszaros

    Years ago I went thru some intense personal hardship. I was hurting and had no hope to overcome my struggles. Speaking of being brokenhearted and crushed in the spirit … I remember how God spoke to me one night. In a very personal and encouraging way. It was like His voice was audible. A whisper yet resonating deep within me. I was able to stand up again on my feet, fight and overcome my struggles one by one. Not only did I prevail but also achieved greater results than I ever imagined. When I look back I am grateful for God taking time to give hope against hope in my life.

    • God specializes in hope, doesn’t He? Thanks for sharing. I find no greater hope than in His Word.

  • Gaylon Richter

    I am moved at how much David’s life was in danger as he ran from Saul yet at the very moment he could’ve followed the counsel of his men and taken matters (justice) into his own hands–he refused, and instead removed a corner of Saul’s robe. The ensuing dialogue between David and Saul revealed a call on God alone to act on David’s behalf. David for his part was content to be relationally obedient to His LORD and let God do the saving. The call for God’s justice instead of invoking his own was too much for Saul to handle and he gave up his pursuit and David and company returned to the stronghold of Engedi. So as bad as it can get, there is Engedi. God is so merciful.

    My brother died when I was 14, my dad died while I was in college and my mom died in my arms shortly after college. I then attempted the most demanding aviation program in the world and due to lack of sleep failed out of the F-16 course. I proposed to the woman of my dreams only to have her tell me she didn’t love me and called off the wedding three weeks prior. I cried myself to sleep many nights. She changed her mind and we married and then at one of the most broken points in my life a Campus Crusade friend challenged my self righteous faith with a faith in Christ alone and used tapes from Denton Bible in 1992 from Romans to support his view. It was at this utterly low point in my life that God brought me to the strongholds of Engedi as I discovered that ‘there is none righteous no not one’ and ‘being justified as a gift by His grace’. I prayed ‘Dear God let me start over only as your child-my hands are empty’. God is faithful and ‘granted to me emeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’ and I am now surrounded by love and faith and a knowledge that God alone saves.

    • What a marvelous testimony, Gaylon, of God’s hand in your life. THANK YOU for sharing it in such detail. Your words about entrusting yourself to God’s justice remind me of Peter’s words of Jesus: “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). God bless you, brother.