With the highest measured salinity in the world for a body of water (25-30%), the Dead Sea has earned its name for good reason. No aquatic biological life form can technically survive in a salinity of this value. The Sea has been referred to by various names in ancient times, including the “Salt Sea,” “Sea of Arabah,” “Sea of the Plain,” “Eastern Sea,” “East Sea,” and “The Former Sea.” Josephus called it “Lake Asphaltitis and the Arabic name for it is, Bahr Lût, meaning, “Sea of Lot.”
The general theories about the cause of the salt content usually divide into 2 groups: 1) the salt mountain Jebel Usdum (now called, “Har Sedom”) leaching into the Sea; and 2) the biblical phenomenon of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Both sides roundly reject the other’s assertions. However, this does not necessarily have to be an either/or situation. A massive geological fissure exists from south of the Jordan River Valley to the Zambezi River in eastern Africa. Therefore, God may have used a large earthquake (which the area is prone to) and erupted subterranean heat, sulfur, and noxious gases (i.e. hydrogen Sulfide) and blown salt all over the region.
The current surface of the Dead Sea is 1294 ft below sea level. It is about 50 miles long and 10 miles wide. The Sea is divided into 2 uneven sections by a point of land referred to as “el-Lisan” (“the tongue”). It receives water primarily from the Jordan River along with other minor tributaries. Winter and spring rains also drain into the Sea through several wadis located there. While salt is still mined from the Sea, the most lucrative extraction is that of potash.
To the southwest corner lies the fortress of Masada. A little further north is En-gedi and on the northwest corner are the infamous Qumran caves, which yielded the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because of the rough terrain on the western side, in conjunction with the sudden and violent storms that emerge on the Sea, it became a fantastic eastern boundary in defense of Judea against her enemies. The traditional sites for Sodom and Gomorrah are located on western side of the Sea (a 700 ft tall halite formation called “Mount Sodom”). However, there is no extensive evidence to support their exact locations.
The Dead Sea has made the news in last few years pertaining to an oil field discovery. The Hatrurim Reservoir is estimated to hold 7-11 million barrels of oil. In the last few months, reports of aquatic wildlife (both fish and plant) in the Sea have excited the prophetic community. It is reported that fish and plants have been spotted in the Sea which is the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy given in Ezekiel 47:8, 9. However, some say that there is nothing unusual about the sightings, because they are technically not in the Dead Sea proper. Rather, they are peripheral areas of water pools that appear from the discharge of underwater springs. Thus, the report should be taken with a ‘grain of salt’.
- Genesis 14:3
- Numbers 34:3, 12
- Deuteronomy 3:17, 4:49
- Joshua 3:16; 12:3; 15:2, 5; 18:19
- Ezekiel 47:18
- Joel 2:20
- Zechariah 14:8