Tragic Last Stand at Masada
At the edge of the Judean Desert, on a rocky plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, lies the excavated ruin of a royal citadel. It was the last stronghold held by Jewish Zealots who refused to submit to Roman occupation. When they could hold out no longer, Masada became the backdrop for one of the most dramatic scenes in Jewish history.
Mountain Top Fortress
Rising over 1,200 feet above the surrounding desert and surrounded by deep gorges, the Masada plateau was naturally fortified. On the east, the earth fell in a straight drop to the Dead Sea. The path on that side was called “the Snake” because of its narrowness and winding curves. There was only one other path to the top.
In the first century BC, King Herod built an elaborate fortress on this mountain top, including large palaces, bathhouses, storerooms, and twelve enormous cisterns. While he built the fortress out of fear of Egypt, it also served him as a vacation home.
Jewish Fight for Freedom
Years later, in 66 CE, Masada became a refuge for Jewish Zealots resisting Roman rule. Following the conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple in 69 CE, more Jews joined the group. They resisted Roman efforts to dislodge them and used Masada as their base for raids (against both Romans and opposing Jewish factions). With the perfectly-preserved food that Herod had stored, as well as the water from the cisterns, they could last indefinitely.
After the fall of Jerusalem, and destruction of the Holy Temple in 70 C.E., hundreds of Jews joined an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, on the mountaintop. For three brave years, Jewish freedom fighters managed to hold back 10,000 Roman troops armed with every contemporary siege weapon. The relentless Roman army built eight siege camps around the site. They constructed a gigantic ramp on the western side of the mountain as an entryway for their troops and as a platform for their battering rams and ballista.
Finally, a battering ram breached the wall. When the Romans breached the Jewish defenses, they were met only with silence. Food remaining in the storerooms demonstrated that the defenders had not been starved out.
The Roman siege of Masada is described in great detail by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. According to his account, when all was lost, the defenders committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Each man killed his own family. Ten men were then selected to kill the rest. One of the ten was then selected by lot to kill the remaining nine.
Visiting this site is a sobering experience. It is one of the stops in the Dead Sea area during our Christian Israel Tours and Christ-Centered Holy Land tours. Arriving to the area, we stop to see the spectacular site of Beth Shean, then we drive about an hour and arrive at the base of Masada. There we take a cable-car up the majestic mountain side to the top. You will enjoy a spectacular view from Edom to Mt. Nebo and to the Mediterranean and Dead Seas.
Israel Tours Details
Our in-depth Christian Israel tours will leave you feeling refreshed in your faith. You will see first-hand some of the Bibles most historic locations as you journey through Israel’s Holy Land. Our Jordan & Israel tours bring life and meaning to your favorite passages. Be amazed, as you visit a variety of destinations including Mt. of Olives, Sea of Galilee, the site of Jesus baptism, Nazareth, Jericho, the Garden tomb, Jerusalem and many more! We guarantee our guest speakers will bring a new perspective to your existing insight of the Old and New Testament.