More than 2000 years ago, King Herod built a fortress in the Judean Desert that could house 10,000 soldiers. He equipped it with five palaces and water installations which included three bathhouses and a swimming pool. Masada is a butte with incredibly steep sides making it an easy place to defend. When Rome set out to defeat the Jewish zealots, the rebels sought refuge at Masada where they held out from A.D. 66 to 73. In recent years there have been new archaeological discoveries at Masada.
Archeologists have been exploring the remains of Masada for a very long time. In the past ten years, new technology has revealed a great deal of information about the history of Rome, Palestine, the Jewish community, and the Christian community. Biblical Archaeology Review for September/October 2018 carries an excellent article about what they have learned. The discoveries have strong implications for the credibility of the Bible and help us understand the conditions that existed at the time of Jesus and during the early years of the Church. Here are some of the recent finds:
Masada had an advanced water system, enough to produce extensive agriculture including a winery with 50 fermentation tanks.
Herod had huge gardens with trees and flowers as well as agricultural products.
There was an Essene community at Masada. The Essenes are the Jewish group that left us the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Jews had animals of burden during the siege by the Romans.
A Christian community had a chapel on Masada by A.D. 400 and a Church which included a monastery on Masada from the fifth to seventh centuries.
Archaeological discoveries at Masada give us new insights into biblical events and beliefs. The interactions of the apostles and Jesus with the Jews and the Romans give us a better understanding of what happened in New Testament times, during the life of Jesus, and for the first 500 years of the Church.
–John N. Clayton © 2018