Other than a green stripe down the middle of this image, the landscape appears bleak. That green stripe is suggestive of the watercourse of the Jordan River. It snakes along the floor of the Lower Jordan Valley and carries much needed moisture to vegetation that can tolerate the sweltering heat above and the salty soil beneath. This is, after all, the crusty seabed of a more ancient Dead Sea.
The buildings in the center are memory-markers associated with the site known today as Qasr al-Yehud or Al Maghtas (the "Baptism site"). Tradition suggest that it was here, in this otherwise barren place, that John the Baptist did his "forerunning" work. In the distance the Judean hills begin their climb to the Heartland's central ridge. At their base is the oasis of Jericho. At their crown, shrouded somewhere in the haze, rests Jerusalem.
Another tradition linked to this place suggests that it was here that Elijah and Elisha were parted by a chariot of fire (2 Kgs 2:11-12). From "Elijah's Hill," this John the Baptist prototype was carried into the sky. Will somebody please tell the boys: "Go home. There's no point in looking for him" (2 Kgs 2:15-18)?
Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.