Dead Sea

E14 on the Map

Bahr Lut. Asphaltitis is the Greek name for Dead Sea. In Scripture it is called the Salt Sea (Gen 14:3; Num 34:12; etc.), the Sea of the Arabah (Deut 3:17; 4:49; etc.), Eastern Sea (Ezek 47:18; Joel 2:20; Zech 14:8). The name Dead Sea has been applied to it since the 2nd cent AD, and it was also called the Asphalt Sea by early writers or Lake Asphaltitis.

The Dead Sea lies in the S end of the Jordan Valley, occupying the 53 deepest miles in Israel, with an average breadth of 10 miles. The surface is 1,290 feet below the level of the Mediterranean which makes it the lowest dry point on earth, the bottom is just as deep. It is situated between steep, rocky cliffs and is fed by the Jordan and 4 or 5 smaller streams, which pour into it millions of tons of water per day. It has no outlet but is relieved by evaporation, often so great as to form a very heavy vapor. This evaporation causes the bitterness of the sea. The streams that feed it are unusually saline, flowing through nitrous soil and fed by sulfurous springs.

Chemicals have been found in the waters of the sea, probably introduced by hot springs in the sea bottom. Along the shores are deposits of sulfur and petroleum springs making the surrounding strata rich in bituminous matter. At the SE end a ridge of rock salt three hundred feet high runs for five miles, and the bed of the sea appears to be covered with salt crystals. The water of the ocean contains from 4 to 6 percent of solids in solution, the Dead Sea holds from 30 to 33 percent. The water is nauseating to the taste and oily to the touch, leaving upon the skin, when it dries, a thick crust of salt. But it is very brilliant. Its buoyance is so great that it is difficult to sink the limbs deep enough for swimming.

To the E is the long range of Moab, at a 3000 feet above the shore, broken only by the great valley of the Arnon. On the W coast the hills touch the water at two points, but elsewhere leave between themselves and the sea the shore is sometimes 1 1/2 miles in breadth.

The prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 47:1-12) gives a wonderful vision of a stream of water issuing from the Temple and with increasing volume sweeping down to the Dead Sea and healing its bitter waters, "teaching that there is nothing too sunken, too useless, too doomed, but by the grace of God it may be redeemed, lifted, and made rich with life"

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