The Dead Sea is dying. Water levels of what the Bible also calls The Salt Sea, already rest at the lowest on earth (1378 feet below sea level), and are dropping at a rate of three feet a year.
The problem has developed not only from natural weather cycles, but also from the amount of water that the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan are pulling from Lake Galilee and the Jordan River. The massive Dead Sea mining industries of both Israel and Jordan are also contributing to the shrinkage by using huge evaporation pools to extract potash (used in fertilizer) and magnesium chloride from the mineral rich waters.
A current online BBC article by Edward Stourton, calls attention to the problem by pointing out that a once thriving seaside restaurant now lies almost a mile from the water’s edge. The rapidly receding shoreline makes it difficult for hotels and restaurants to provide access to tourists who come for the healing properties of Dead Sea mud and water, or just to enjoy the unsinkable pleasure of floating in water that has seven times as much salt as the Mediterranean.
The environmental and commercial impact of the shrinking sea has become so critical that many believe an expensive engineering effort needs to be undertaken to replenish the dying sea with waters channeled in from either the Red or Mediterranean oceans. Note: yellow sign in next picture warned swimmers in Hebrew and English “Danger of Drowning.”
Whether any of these enormously expensive projects will ever be developed remains to be seen. But such human projects could remind us of a solution predicted by the Bible. According to the prophet Ezekiel, when the Messiah of Israel comes to rule the earth from Jerusalem, one of the results will be a fresh river of water flowing from the throne of God that will heal the Dead Sea and bring it back to life. Its fishery will be as rich as the Mediterranean, and fishermen will spread their nets on its shores to dry (Ezekiel 47:1-12.)
Students of the Bible disagree about how literally these prophetic details should be taken. That’s not surprising since how prophetic details play out to show the power and wisdom of God is usually understood only after their fulfillment.
What does seem clear is that the Bible regards the Dead Sea as one of many examples of “dead things” that require the life giving Spirit of God. The prophet assumed that the Dead Sea would remain “dead” until God brings it back to life. (Picture is of Jordan River north of Galilee)
In that regard, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that the proposed Med-Dead or Red-Dead projects (to bring water from the Mediterranean or Red Seas) would be able to bring the Sea back to life (only to stop its shrinkage and limit the resulting commercial and economic damage.)
Seems to me that, the Dead Sea may be a God-given geographical contrast to the freshwater lake of Galilee to the north. Their combined story might also amount to a parable of two different kind of lives: one that receives to give (Jordan River to Galilee to Jordan River) or one that only receives (Jordan River to Dead Sea).
But even more importantly, the future picture of what Ezekiel says God will do to the Dead Sea is a picture of the renewal that some of us may need in our lives today. While the Dead Sea passively receives the Spring surges and Summer slow-downs of the Jordan River, we have the opportunity, now, to call out with all of our heart to the Lord–not primarily for a change of circumstances– but for a renewal of our own inner dead sea… where the waters of despair need to be replaced by hope…Denial of the truth with admission…Impatience with patience…Bitterness with grace…Hatred with love…