Thursday, April 16, 2009

Climate Chronicle

What are the benefits of visiting or living at the lowest spot on earth? The arid Dead Sea, 420 meters below sea level, is predictably warmer and much drier than regions just a few dozen miles to the north or west. The extremely low humidity helped preserve the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in near perfect condition for almost 2000 years. They were discovered accidentally in 1947 by Bedouin goatherds. While in Jerusalem we examined, at arm’s length, the Great Isaiah Scroll. Our hearts filled with wonder and reverence. Twenty-four Isaiah manuscripts have been found. This is a complete copy of the startling 66-chapter messianic prophecy, housed at the Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book museum.

The Dead Sea area has undergone substantial climatic fluctuations throughout ancient geologic history. However, it appears that the consistent dry conditions prevalent since the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and stored, have provided 21st century man with proof that our current English-language Bibles preserve inspired scripture virtually unchanged from close to the time they were written. Qumran copies of Dead Sea scriptures contain at least parts of every Old Testament book except Esther. They date from two centuries before Christ. The prophet Isaiah lived in the 8th century BC.

Let’s leap from the authenticity of scripture to some of the health benefits of the Dead Sea environment in the 21st century. Earth’s air blanket at sea level presses on each square inch of surface with 14.7 lb. of pressure. This pressure acts in every direction--downward, sideways, and upward. At 420 meters below sea level the air is 5% more dense than just a few miles away in the Judean hills. This means there is 5% more oxygen present, along with other gases in air. The additional oxygen has proved helpful for certain skin ailments such as psoriasis. These increased oxygen concentrations are also beneficial in filtering out sunburn-causing medium-wavelength ultraviolet (UVB) while permitting passage of beneficial long wave-length ultraviolet (UVA). Resort visitors, therefore, need not concern themselves so much with sunburn. Instead, they may focus on how to procure the best therapeutic Dead Sea mineral mud.

Even Herod the Great, who ruled Judea from 40 BC to about the time of Christ’s birth, used Dead Sea springs late in his life in an attempt to alleviate his serious health problems. The Roman Senate installed Herod, an Idumean descendent of Esau, as "King of the Jews" in 40 BC. He built the magnificent fortress of Masada on a flat-topped mesa located on the eastern shores of the Dead Sea. It served as a luxurious vacation getaway and military stronghold for Herod. After Herod’s death it became a refuge for Jews who rebelled against the oppression of the Romans. This World Heritage Site has been preserved by the same dry climate responsible for the preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A scroll containing the “dry bones” passage in Ezekiel 37 was found in its ruins, probably hidden away by Jewish refugees in one of their synagogues after they recaptured Masada.

The Ezekiel passage states the dry bones will be restored with tendons, flesh, and skin (Ezekiel 37:6). Prophecy scholars think this portion of scripture prophecy is being fulfilled in modern times with the restoration of Israel as a nation. The history of Israel and Bible prophecies dealing with unfolding world events centered on this small country spring to life with a real-time visit as surely as Ezekiel's dry bones.