Places of Interest
1. Masada is found at the southern end of the Dead Sea about 40 miles (64 km.) southeast of Jerusalem.
2. It's a natural flat mountain that rises up from the valley floor some 1,000 ft. (305 m.). It's like a huge column with sheer cliffs on every side that makes it virtually unreachable.
3. Ancient Gomorrah lies at the base of Masada and ancient Sodom is south of Masada about 14 miles (23 km.).
4. The base of Masada is in a desert region about 1,000 ft. (305 m.) below sea level.
5. The word Masada means fortress.
Historical Background Leading up to the Fall of Masada
1. Masada was one of 3 fortified fortresses King Herod built for pleasure purposes, and from which to protect his territories. He built Masada in about 24 BC.
2. Masada was fortified with elaborate water cisterns that were fed by diverting water from the nearby mountains. It even had swimming pools and many of the luxuries life afforded at that time.
3. In addition to ample water storage, Masada had 15 storehouses of food, enough for 10,000 people for 10 years.
4. In 66 BC, events began to unfold in Israel that caused the Jews to rebel against Roman rule. This revolt began in Caesarea Maritime.
5. In 66-70 AD, when the nation was in revolt, Jewish Zealots who had fled from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas took the fortress of Masada from Roman occupation. They were national Freedom Fighters who opposed Roman rule. In their conquest, they gained possession of all the stored food and water at Masada.
6. Between 66–70 AD, Rome conquered all the northern cities of Israel.
7. In 70 AD, the Romans, under the command of Titus, totally destroyed Jerusalem in a bloody battle that lasted well over 4 months. In this battle, Josephus (Jewish Historian) claims that 1.1 million Jews lost their lives, and another 97,000 were captured and enslaved. The temple was leveled in the siege at this time as well.
8. In 73 AD, there had amassed a total of 967 Jews, counting their families, at Masada. They were under the command of Eleazar Ben-Yair, a Jewish Zealot Freedom Fighter.
9. After conquering Jerusalem and most of Israel, the Romans headed south to conquer the southern strongholds around the Dead Sea region and Masada.
10. Masada was the last stronghold of the Israelites that existed, and the Romans amassed their troops there in the fall of 73 AD.
Places of Interest
2. Living Quarters
3. Ritual Baths
4. Small Palace 1
5. Southern Fort
7. Small Palace 2
8. Small Palace 3
9. Western Palace
10. Byzantine Church
11. Cable Car Access
12. Eastern Gate
15. Northern Palace
16. Officer’s Quarters
17. Administrative Building
18. Western Gate
20. Siege Ramp
21. En Gedi
22. Dead Sea
23. Ancient Gomorrah
24. Ancient Sodom
Masada in the Bible
1. After a confrontation between King Saul and David close to En Gedi, it’s likely David hid out on top of Masada afterward.
1 Samuel 24:22: And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold [fortress].
2. Because of Israel’s rejection of Christ as their Messiah, Christ foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. This destruction occurred between 66-70 AD.
Luke 19:41–44: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.
3. Zechariah prophesied about Jerusalem’s destruction as well.
Zechariah 14:1–2: Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
The Fall of Masada
1. In 73 AD, the 10th Roman Army Legion, totaling around 10,000 soldiers and 6,000 Jewish slaves under a commander by the name of Silva, arrived at the base of Masada.
2. This Roman legion first built a wall around the base of Masada, much of it by using Jewish slave labor.
3. Next, they built 8 camps around the base of the mountain. The remains of most of these camps can still be seen today. Silva set up his headquarters at the northwest camp.
4. After several months of unsuccessful engagement with the Jewish Zealots atop Masada, the Romans decided to build a massive siege ramp out of dirt on the west side of Masada using Israelite slave labor to help in the process.
5. As the siege ramp grew closer to the top of Masada, the Romans primarily used Jewish slave labor so that their fellow Jews on Masada wouldn’t shoot arrows and throw spears at their own countrymen.
6. After several months of building the siege ramp, the Romans finally reached the top of Masada and severely damaged the exterior wall.
7. When the Jewish Zealots realized they were in grave danger of being conquered, they built another interior wall just inside the exterior wall using wood beams from many of their buildings. They layered the beams with earth in between in order to fortify the new wall.
8. The Romans set this inner wall on fire and were now poised to enter. However, this all happened late at night, so the Romans decided to wait until the next morning to make their attack.
9. Eleazar Ben-Yair, the commander of the Zealots, gave an impassioned speech about how God had not created them to be slaves and about what would happen to them if they surrendered to the Romans. This is what he proposed:
The Romans are angry after the long battle and will kill most of us by torture. Those who are not killed will be mistreated and forced to be slaves. Our women will be raped before our eyes and violated, and our children will be tortured and forced to be slaves as well.
The only option we have as free people is to take our own lives.
So the men gathered in a special meeting and drew lots picking out 10 courageous men who knew about killing and understood how to die.
Then every father went home and killed their wives and children.
Then all the men gathered again together and 10 of these men in the group killed the remaining men. Then one man killed the other 9, and then the last man killed himself.
10. On May 3, 74 AD, after 7 months or so of long battled weariness, the Romans entered the top of Masada and stood in awe-stricken silence as they beheld the mass suicide of the Jews before them. The Zealots chose to die by suicide rather than be conquered by the Romans to be abused or killed.
Faith Lesson from Masada
1. Now while we don’t endorse and believe the Jewish Zealots should have committed suicide because it’s only God’s place to take a person’s life. However, we do understand the decision of these Zealots.
2. While some of the Zealots may have believed in Christ and were devoted servants to God, the Jewish nation as a whole, and their leaders, had largely rejected Christ as their Messiah. As a result, Christ spoke judgment upon the nation in Luke 19:41–44.
3. Almost every instance in which a country falls, it’s due mainly to the decisions of its leaders.
4. The sad reality is that the righteous always suffer at the hands of the wicked.
5. Today, it’s the same, while there may be many righteous people in a country, God will still judge it because of the sinful and immoral decisions its leaders, and the majority of the people make.
6. Israel didn’t return to be a nation again until 1948, and this was due to God’s sovereign plan for them. God prophesied that He would bring them back again to be a nation and it’s a miracle that after almost 2,000 years this has been fulfilled. This is unheard of in the history of any civilization.
7. However, the price Israel paid for their rejection of Christ cost them dearly and should be a warning to us today as well.