The young bedouin boy, scrambled across the rocky cliff face minding his own business, while searching for his goat. What he discovered in 1947 would rock the modern world of biblical scholars as one of the greatest archeological finds in the last century.
He flung a rock into a the dark recess of the cave and heard something shatter. Curious, he ventured inside to find seven earthen jars with ancient scrolls inside. The earliest surviving manuscripts of the Old Testament emerged relatively intact.
The Isaiah scroll was one thousand years older than any preceding Isaiah texts.
Sold to an antiquities dealer by the bedouins for a pittance, the dealer offered them to scholars. E.L. Sukenick realized the value in these artifacts and secured three of them for Hebrew University in Israel.
In 1954, the rest smuggled quiet into America and were offered for sale through a small ad in get this—- The Wall Street Journal. The cat was out of the bag. Fortune smiled on Sukenik’s son Yigael, who heard of the sale and bought the priceless artifacts for $250,000, returning them to Israel.
We stood fascinated at Qumran, high above the desert plain, as we gazed across the vale at cave number four.
I hung on the guide’s every word. A huge cache of 15,000 fragments from over five hundred scrolls littered the floor in this cave. It’s believed a Roman soldier tore the precious manuscripts to shreds.
The intent concentration of the group is rent by the intrusive discord of a cell phone.
In the middle. Of nowhere. In the desert. In Israel…
Not one minute later the ring pierces us again. Offended glares turn northward to the tour group cowering sheepish beside us.
Called the City of Salt in Joshua 15:62, it was later renamed Khirbet Qumran. The scrolls were penned from two hundred BC to sixty-eight BC by an extreme sect of Jews. When the merciless Romans advanced in AD 66-70, they hid their treasured tomes in a desperate attempt to save them from destruction.
They concealed them so well, their “library” remained shrouded for two thousand years. But by the time organized archeological searches dispersed to find more scrolls in the cave dotted hills, looters had filched them, leaving behind broken jars and thousands of scroll fragments.
Over eight hundred manuscripts have been discovered to date. Among the texts, there are nineteen copies of Isaiah, twenty-five of Deuteronomy, and thirty of the Psalms. My favorite heroine, moxie gal Esther remains the only book not accounted for in the finds.
After a 60 year void, cave number twelve had been discovered just the day before our visit. But with bitter disappointment, the clay pots lay smashed and empty. A pair of rusty modern-day pickax heads further proved the suspicion that the cave had been ransacked in the 1950’s after the first discovery leaked.
In the last fifteen years the numbers of “Dead Sea” scrolls and fragments, real and fake, appearing for sale on the black market has increased like crazy.
Traveling east, the Dead Sea ripples quiet, an incredible thing of beauty. White sandy beaches crusted with salt, lined vibrant turquoise waters. Stretching fifty miles long by ten miles wide, it is the lowest place on earth at 1300 feet below sea level.
The big surprise?
The unlikely treasure divulged itself in…the black goopy mud.
No living things can survive in the super salty water, nine times the ocean’s salt content. But it has it’s purpose as a world famous spa site, with it’s mineral filled mud and thermal springs. However, this is not just a modern day luxury. The ”spa” trend is an ancient tradition.
She strolled regal to the water’s edge, entourage in tow. So enamored with the “healing” properties of the mud and water, the first spa in the world rose from the sandy shore, built by Infamous Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. But legend says a Queen nearly a thousand years earlier treasured the mineral site, King Solomon’s admirer, the Queen of Sheba herself.
We donned our swimsuits and ambled with tentative steps to the beckoning water’s edge. The preacher plunged in adventurous. I snapped pictures as he chortled and floated goofy with arms and legs sticking out of the water like a belly up spider in a puddle.
I waded in with an “eeeuuww” as the slippery gunky muck acted like a suction cup with each slogging step. Something about that goo between the toes almost derailed me. Soon too deep to walk, I floated buoyant, victorious. Trying to push my legs down, I giggled silly as they popped right back up like a buoy.
My childhood inhibition about getting “dirty” kept me from coating myself head to toe as some of our compatriots chose, who looked like monsters from the swamp. I covered my legs with the black mire, marveling at it’s oily slickness.
Mr. Clean, The Preacher was having none of it. I was tempted for a moment to throw some at him.
I now know why people value mud treatments at spas. My legs felt silky smooth and moisturized after the sludge was rinsed free. I settled up for a bar of “Dead Sea Mud” from the gift shop.
But all was not as tranquil at it pretended, a dark undertone revealed itself as we departed. From the highway we began to see enormous craters in the sand with DANGER signs screaming along the desolate landscape. No one is allowed to tread in these areas because of sinkholes large enough to swallow a man, or a car, or a small house.
These treacherous pits can be up to eighty feet deep. The treasured lake is drying up to the alarming tune of three feet a year and in the last twenty-five years the numbers have risen from a mere one hundred holes to over four thousand.
Everyone seeks treasure of some sort.They may not be recognized in those terms, but rather classified as a search for love, acceptance, prosperity, hope, or peace.
Here’s five tips to remember next time you are chomping a the bit for a treasure hunting expedition:
1.Don’t get so caught up in chasing treasures that you ignore the DANGER signs flashing. It’s human nature or Satan’s cruel trick for us to think we can “handle it.”
2. Don’t be blinded and miss the real treasure because you don’t recognize it for the cache it is.
3. Don’t fall into the grass is greener syndrome.
4. Look to his promises: “He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Isaiah 33:6
5. Remember that no matter what life hurls, we have in hand the greatest treasures of all. We have the arms of God around us and possess the promise of a home for eternity in heaven.
“…if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for HIDDEN TREASURE,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.”