What can we learn from the Dead Sea Scrolls?

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A Lesson on Restoration

The Word of God is a book on restoration. The first two chapters of the Bible are about God’s original plan for the world and humanity. The last two chapters are the fulfillment of His ultimate intention. Everything in between these first two and last two chapters is about the restoration of His intent and how He plans to do it, on every level. 

According to the Scriptures, the nation of Israel is and will be a primary player and example of this epic drama unfolding through the ages. So today, when things that have been lying dead or hidden for 2 millennia are coming back to life in Israel, it is time to take notice.

There are three stunning and interconnected examples of this: the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew language.

Dead Sea

Right near the heart of Israel, the capital city of Jerusalem, down the desert road to the lowest place on earth lies what the Bible calls the Salt Sea. At 30 miles long and 15 miles wide at its widest point, it’s a good name for a body of water that is ten times saltier than any ocean on earth. Since extraordinarily little can live in that environment and no vegetation can grow with saltwater, the Romans aptly named it “the Dead Sea”.

1800 years later, when Mark Twain visited the land in 1867, he described the Dead Sea as “a funny bath” that left him with “a splendid brand-new smell”. Yet his final thoughts ultimately agreed with the ancient Romans, as he writes, “A silence broods over the scene that is depressing to the spirits. It makes one think of funerals and death.” 

Yet today that is beginning to change. 

In the last 20 years and for the first time ever, sinkholes are beginning to appear around the Dead Sea. As geologists started investigating, it was discovered that the sinkholes were formed by underground freshwater springs. The fresh water was diluting the mineral content and weakening the soil structure, causing it to cave in. Hundreds of sinkholes continue to appear, partially swallowing formerly popular beaches, gas stations and even portions of the highway.

At the same time, green marshes are starting to grow, facilitating small aquatic life and inviting wildlife and locals alike. Today, through irrigation techniques that Israelis are the best at, orchards and fields are being planted near the seashores. A lifegiving green color is starting to appear more and more near the Dead Sea. And yet, Ezekiel predicts something much greater than this – that the Dead Sea will be filled with freshwater and men will fish out of it:

“Then he said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. …”And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many.” Ezekiel 47:8-10

After thousands of years, the restoration of the Dead Sea is slowly happening.

Dead Sea Scrolls

On the shores of the Dead Sea sat an ancient Essene community called Qumran. Today is it but an archeological excavation site, but it was here that in 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy was tossing stones into desert caves when he heard unusual sound of shattering clay. This sound echoed around the world and led to one of the most stunning archeological discoveries in modern history, of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The very existence of the scrolls silenced biblical critics and verified the accuracy of our current day biblical translations, dating back over 2000 years. While the story of their discovery and the subsequent smuggling, intrigue and black-market purchases rival any bestselling spy novel, the timing of their unveiling was the most stunning.

Back in 1940s at the UN in New York, after months of arguing about the partition plan of the British Mandate of Palestine that involved a few postponements of the general assembly vote, a date of November 29, 1947 was secured. Yet unknown to the rest of the world, a lot was happening on the other side of the globe.

In Jerusalem, in a small modest home study of Hebrew University professor Eliazer Zucanis, the Dead Sea scrolls were being carefully unfolded. While the professor was engrossed in these ancient Jewish scripts, his son Mati was listening to UN vote on the radio and the report that the vote on the Jewish State had passed.

An unlikely coincidence was about to change history. After 2000 years of being hidden in the close proximity to the Dead Sea, the precious scrolls on Jewish culture and Scripture were being verified for accuracy by a Jewish professor in Jerusalem. And on the very same day the nations of the world confirmed the need of a Jewish State in their ancient homeland.

Isaiah asked, Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” Isaiah 66:8

The answer is, Yes, it can, and yes, it was! After 1800 years of desolation, the restoration of Israel’s ancient and modern history was happening all at once. And as the Dead Sea Scrolls were being read for the first time in thousands of years, it was just as amazing that the professor was reading them in Hebrew.

Hebrew Language

In 1881, a young Jewish man stepped off the boat in what was then known as Palestine. His name was Eliezer ben Yehuda and he had a drive to change the world. He had been studying biblical Hebrew and was convinced that it could be revived and become a unifying language for the young Zionist movement – the Jewish people returning home. To that end, as he and his wife Devora left Europe for their ancient homeland, they committed to only speak Hebrew from that point on.

Eliezer and Devora were so devoted to this purpose that in the coming years they wouldn’t allow their young son to play with other children, out of fear of polluting his first language of Hebrew. This made him the first regionally born Hebrew speaker in centuries! Despite the ongoing controversy that his research and his first Hebrew dictionary caused – including literal fist fights over what language should be taught in the Jewish schools – Ben Yehuda’s devoted studies changed the young nation for the better.

As a result, Hebrew is the only language in history that was practically dead and then revived to become a common, unifying language for the people who originally spoke it. Whether Ben Yehuda recognized it or not, his work was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, as found in Zephaniah 3:9 which states, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord.”

What is amazing about this specific promise is that in the preceding verse (v. 8) we find every character of the Hebrew alphabet – or Aleph-Bet, as it is called in Hebrew – including the 5 final forms, called sofit. There is not another verse like it in the entirety of scripture that would use every single Hebrew letter. Imagine, 100 years ago Hebrew was considered a dead language, used only in religious and liturgical settings. And today, it is being studied by millions of people around the world. You can even download it on your phone!

Restoration

The Bible is a book on restoration. These few tangible examples mentioned above demonstrate that God is in the process of keeping His promises and will restore all things. This process of restoration will include us as well, and the things in our lives that have been dead for seemingly centuries. This is not difficult for Him.

If the examples of the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew language can teach us anything, it is that God can take the most dead water on earth, the most hidden and fragile scrolls, and an archaic language, and use them as a sign to the nations that He is the one who restores life to the dead. The same promise of restoration holds true for us.

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” John 5:21

Your restoration is coming.

This article originally appeared on FIRM, October 30, 2020, and reposted with permission.

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Doug Hershey shares from a perspective of historian and storyteller. His accounts of Israel, the Middle East and the awakening of Bible prophecy are as intriguing as they are rare. In his bestselling photo book, ISRAEL RISING, Doug tracks 2000 years of Israel’s history with over 100 then/now photo comparisons, all through the lens of biblical prophecy. Doug is the founder of Ezra Adventures, a boutique travel and education company, specializing in exclusive customized small group travel throughout Israel and the Middle East. For more info, go to EzraAdventures.com or keep up with Ezra Adventures on FB and IG.