of En Gedi.
The "En" in the place name En Gedi (alt. Engedi) is a word meaning "spring" or "fountain." The full name means "Spring of the kid" or "Fountain of the young goat." Truly En Gedi is all about its spring, as apart from it this area would be a barren ravine in the Judean dessert like so many others.
Looking up the En Gedi ravine toward the spring.
in enough to see the water fall at the spring.
in even further. Gives perspective of the size of the
Perhaps the oldest name for this location is Hazezon-Tamar (alt. Hazazon-tamar) as found in the account of Abraham and Lot prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah were located on the south eastern side of the Dead Sea, while En Gedi is about midway up the western side of the Dead Sea.
A later reference in the Bible ties the ancient name together with the current one.
The name Hazazon Tamar was also a name with meaning, as is typical of the Hebrew language. It is perhaps a direct translation of what the Amorites, who then inhabited the area, called this place. This title means "pruning of the palm" or "dividing the date-palm." While not unique to this area in historical times, En Gedi was certainly known for having date-palms. If the second possible meaning of the name was taken more generally, the waters flowing from the spring of En Gedi certainly divided the palms growing on each bank.
Historical references to the date palms of En Gedi include:
view of the Dead Sea and the new date-palm plantations in the plain
A view to the right of the photo above.
The plant life and water in the area also makes it a refuge for a number of animals and birds. To this day there are ibex (wild goats) and rock hyrax (conies or rock badger), both which were mentioned in the Bible.
These rock badgers blend in with the landscape often looking like a rock until they move. When cornered they can quickly climb a tree as well. Rock hyrax feed on plants some of which are poisonous. Although they are mammals their body temperature is not constant, changing according to the ambient temperature. Because of this it is possible to see them sunbathing on top of rocks in colder mornings.
rock badger high up on a ledge in the En Gedi ravine.
The hyrax hiding in a thicket of trees having been chased there.
A rock badger staying motionless to avoid detection.
The ibex, or wild desert goat, are graceful creatures that can nimbly climb the incredibly steep sides of the En Gedi ravine. Unless moving, or grazing down in the valley near underbrush and grasses they are incredibly hard to spot.
The spring at En Gedi is the only water source for miles around. An ibex coming to this spring would be a close image to that conveyed by the Psalmist in chapter 42. These graceful animals will come and drink even when there are people nearby when they are thirsty.
grazing near the stream bed.*
Ibex in the hills*
near the stream bed.*
The spring, itself, pours out of the limestone cliff high up towards
the top of the plateau which rises about 2000 feet above the Dead
Sea. The pool of the spring is about 1350 feet below. The water is
quite warm with published estimates being 80-83 F. The water used to
flow all the way from its pool down to the Dead Sea, but the water is
now diverted and full utilized before leaving the ravine. (You can
even purchase En Gedi bottled water in Israel!).
The waterfall at the spring and the roof of the large cave near it.
The pool at the base of the waterfall.
Another view of the pool at the base of the waterfall.
En Gedi is recorded as being within the original boundaries of the territory of Judah.
By the time of Solomon, in addition to the date-palms, vines were cultivated there. Production of wine would have greatly increased the value and fame of this region as it was relatively near to Jerusalem.
The hillsides and cliffs of the ravine are filled with natural caves. It was in these caves that (soon to be king) David took refuge from Saul. Caves would offer natural protection from enemies as well as refuge from the weather.
Looking up, from the stream bed, at some of the caves
down from the plateau at one of the caves closer to the entrance of
It is possible that the date-palm groves of En Gedi were destroyed partially or entirely by the Romans during the siege of Masada. Trees were brought from long distance away (with En Gedi being the nearest) for reinforcing the earthwork ramp. Some of these tree trunks are still visible in the ruins of the ramp, preserved by the dryness of the area. From the writings of the first century historian, Josephus, it is most certain that the Romans also used En Gedi as a source of water during the siege as it was the closest source of fresh water in the area.
Smaller falls heading down toward the Dead Sea
The abundant brush and trees surrounding the stream.
By the time of Jerome only the vines of En Gedi are any longer mentioned.
From the middle ages until the modern state of Israel the not much is recorded regarding this location. Only in modern times are the date palms again thriving using modern drip technologies to water large plantations on the lower plain by the Dead Sea.
A final thought on En Gedi: In the future vision of Ezekiel, where a new river of water flows out of Jerusalem making even the salt waters of the Dead Sea capable of supporting fish, En Gedi is listed as one of the places where the fisherman will spread their nets. This presupposes that the Dead Sea would return to its historically higher levels filled these new fresh waters. Currently the Dead Sea is at an all time low, with the shores far away from the entrance to the En Gedi ravine.
Another of the many pools below smaller falls.
Warm water and lots of shade at the largest of the pools.
The same fall and pool as the photo above
Just so peaceful I had to take another shot.
* All ibex images have unknown copyright. Originals have been modified/cropped/enhanced for use here. They are assumed to be public domain. If anyone knows otherwise please contact us.
This article and all other images in it are copyright 1999, 2003, 2005 by Brent MacDonald and Lion Tracks Ministries.