The Story of Masada

The mountain of Masada is located in the Southern Negev (desert) about 25 miles east of the town of  Arad.  And about 30 miles southeast of Jerusalem. 

Masada was one of eight  mountain fortresses build sometime before 43 B.C.E. during the  Hasmonean Dynasty and taken over by King Herod around 37 to 31 B.C.E.. That's the same King Herod that  had all the children in Bethlehem  under two years of age killed after Yahoshua was born (Matt 2:16). Herod died in 4 BCE. indicating that Yahshua  would have been born 2 years prior to Herod's death 6 B.C.E.

Herod had control of Masada while he was king over Judea, at which time he had a palace built on the side of the mountain. You can see pictures of that palace, or at least the remains of that palace, in the pictures of Masada

Around 66 A.D. Jewish zealots, known as Sacarii, or "dagger-men", lead by Elazar ben Yair stormed Masada kiilling the Roman soldiers and taking control of the Mountain fortress. Around the same  time, in 66 A.D. they also took temporary control of Jerusalem from the Romans. Which ignited the Roman siege on the city and the eventual its destruction of the City in 70 A.D.. 

So after Jerusalem fell in 70 AD the Romans went throughout Judea slaughtering the Jews and destroying all their strongholds until, according to Josephus, a Jewish historian that lived during the time of Messiah and died around 100 AD., the last stronghold to be taken was Masada, in 73 AD.  Josephus talks quite extensively about Masada in his book "War of the Jews.”

According to Josephus, 2 women and 5 children survived and told the story of what happen in the final hours on top of Masada.

The 962 people that lived on Masada, other than the survivors, agreed to die rather then have their women and children raped and tortured, then taken to Rome as slaves.  According to Josephus, the fathers and husbands, while embracing their loved ones for the last time, cut their throats. It sounds very cruel but the fact is, in my opinion, it was the most merciful thing they could have done, considering the alternative, which would have been a fate worse then death.

Then the men that were left drew lots and 10 men were assigned to kill the remaining men.

Then the 10 men drew lots again, and  the one who drew the lot killed the other 9 after which he took his own life. So when the Romans finally breached the wall at the top of the mountain, entering the fortress, they found all the inhabitants dead. Except for the 7 people who hid themselves in a cave.

The decision to die rather then being taken captive by the Romans was, for the most part, a decision agreed upon by all of the 962 occupants of Masada.  The commander of the community, Elazar ben Yair, gave an impassioned speech explaining the alternative of being taken captive by Rome. But there were still some who were reluctant to the idea of dying rather then being taken captive.  Yair gave a second speech after which it was agreed upon by just about everyone that dying by the hands of a loved one was preferred rather then being made sport of in the coliseum in Rome. 


To get to the top of Masada the Romans build the earth ramp to the top using thousands of Jewish slaves that they had brought there for that purpose.  Knowing that  the Jews on top, who were very well armed because of all the weapons that king Herod had stored  on Masada before the Jews took control, would not shoot upon their own people.

There are included pictures of what remains of the ramp and a artist rendition of what the ramp and siege tower that was used by the Romans to get over the wall, would have looked like.

As I was driving through the desert to get to Masada  I was trying to imagine how a legion of Roman soldiers, approx 3,000 to 6,000 men, marched through the desert to get there.  There are some pictures of the ’Negev’, the desert, that I‘ll include at the bottom of “Masada Pictures“.  And as you’ll see it’s some very rugged terrain. 

As you look at the pictures of the Negev, stop and think also about Israelites who after they left Egypt, these 3 to 4 million Israelites, along with the mixed multitude (Exo 12:38), wandered through the desert for 40 years before they were allowed to enter the Promise Land. 

I slept in a tent at the bottom of Masada, so that I’d be able to get up early enough to hike to the top of the mountain and get some pictures of the sun rising over the Dead Sea in the morning.  I wasn’t sure of the time, but I think I was waiting on Masada for at least an hour before the sun finally came up.  Standing on the top on the mountain, before sunrise, looking around, I was imagining what all those people on top were thinking and going through 2,000 years earlier, as they watched the ramp being build, knowing that soon they would be taken captive, the women and young boys would have been raped and tortured. And then taken to Rome to be made sport of in Coliseum before ultimately being put to death.  Or they could die *mercifully at the hand of a loved one.

When the sun came up and tourist started coming to the top, a bus full of Israeli high school kids got there early and I spent some time talking to a few of them. I can’t say enough about the character of the Jewish people, in general of course, there are always exceptions to everything, but for the most part they are some of the most friendly and helpful people I‘ve ever met.