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Masada (Hebrew מצדה, pronounced Metzada, from מצודה, metzuda, "fortress") is the
name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of
Israel on top of an isolated rock plateau, or large mesa, on the eastern edge of
the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. After the First Jewish-Roman War
(also known as the Great Jewish Revolt) a siege of the fortress by troops of the
Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of Jewish rebels, who preferred death to
es-Sebbeh. Fortress. Heb. Horvot Mezada "Ruins of Masada". Masada was an ancient
mountaintop fortress in SE Israel, and the site of the Jews' last stand against
the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Masada occupies the entire top of an isolated mesa near the southwest coast of
the Dead Sea. The volcano shaped mountain towers 1,424 feet above the level of
the Dead Sea. It has a summit area of about 18 acres. Some scholars hold that
the site was settled at the time of the First Temple (900 BC), but Masada is
renowned for the palaces and fortifications of Herod the Great (reigned 37-4
BC), king of Judea under the Romans, and for its resistance to the Roman siege
in AD 72-73.
The site was first fortified either by Jonathan Maccabeus (142 BC) or by
Alexander Jannaeus (reigned 103-76 BC), both of the Hasmonean dynasty. Masada
was chiefly developed by Herod, who made it a royal citadel. His constructions
included two ornate palaces (one of them on three levels), heavy walls,
defensive towers, and aqueducts that brought water to cisterns holding nearly
200,000 gallons. After Herod's death (4 BC), Masada was captured by the Romans,
but the Zealots, a Jewish sect that opposed domination by Rome, took it by
surprise in AD 66. The steep slopes of the mountain made Masada a virtually
After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple (ad 70),
the Masada garrison--the last remnant of Jewish rule in Palestine--refused to
surrender and was besieged by the Roman legion X Fretensis under Flavius Silva.
Masada's unequaled defensive site baffled even the Romans' highly developed
siegecraft for a time. It took the Roman army of almost 15,000, fighting a
defending force of less than 1,000, including women and children, almost two
years to subdue the fortress. The Romans built a sloping ramp of earth and
stones to bring their soldiers within reach of the stronghold. The Zealots,
preferring death rather than enslavement, and they committed suicide, led by
Eleazar ben Jair, (April 15, AD 73). Only two women and five children--who had
hidden in a water conduit--survived to tell the story. Masada was briefly
reoccupied by the Jews in the 2nd century AD and was the site of a Byzantine
church in the 5th-6th century. Thereafter, it was abandoned until the 20th
century, except for a brief interval during the Crusades; the Arabs called the
mountain As-Sabba ("The Accursed").
Descriptions by the Jewish historian Josephus, until then the only detailed
source of Masada's history, were found to be highly accurate; the palaces,
storehouses, defense works, and Roman camps and siege works were all revealed
and cleared, as was the winding trail (the "Snake Path") on the mesa's NE face.
A synagogue and ritual bath discovered on Masada are the earliest yet found in
Palestine. Among the most interesting discoveries is a group of potsherds
inscribed with Hebrew personal names. These may be lots cast by the last
defenders to determine who should die first.
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Masada, the Crucifixion, and 70 AD Events
"Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to
show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see
all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon
another, that shall not be thrown down."
The tragedy at Masada and the destruction of Jerusalem was the inevitable
outcome that the Jewish leaders and their followers would face for the tragedy
of all tragedies when they forced the hand of Pilate to order the crucifixion of
Luke 13:34-35 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones
those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Behold!
Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not
see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name
of the LORD!' "
This was all foreseen by God, who predetermined that the tragedy of the death of
His own Son would result in the glorious triumph in His resurrection and the
salvation of mankind. As a result the Church (out-called ones) was born on the
feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus' death (Passover). The Church consisting
of both Jews and Gentiles would take the place temporarily as God's chosen
people until the day comes when the Jewish leaders (nation) would cry out to
their Redeemer whom they pierced*, and weep over Him and what they had done.
* The ancient Jewish prophet Zechariah (520 BC) gave an amazing depiction of
Israel in the last days, they are mourning over the death of their firstborn
(Messiah) when they see that he was actually their God who was pierced by his
own people... Israel:
Zech 12:10-11 And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of
Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom
they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and
grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a
great mourning in Jerusalem.."
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