Just say the word “Masada,” and you’ll conjure up emotions of one of the darkest hours in Israel’s history. The date: AD 73. The place: 1,400 feet atop a natural mesa in the wilderness beside the Dead Sea.

The story can be rehearsed by any Jewish patriot—almost a thousand Jews chose to die rather than become slaves to Rome. Masada profiles the passion and the courage of God’s people. In fact, new members of the Israeli Defense Force used to be sworn in at Masada. They would cry, “Masada shall not fall again!”

A millennium before AD 73, Masada protected David. On the run from a jealous Saul, David found refuge in Masada, which means “stronghold.” Stretching out before him was the panorama of the Judean desert, the mountains of Moab, the Dead Sea, and the nearby oasis of Engedi. There, he was safe.

But David knew it wasn’t this lofty perch that gave him safe harbor. “Because of his strength I will watch for You, For God is my stronghold. . . . God will let me look triumphantly upon my foes” (Psalm 59:9–10, emphasis added). David had learned the lesson as a shepherd: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

And he found safety in its truth as a man on the run. No wonder God called him a man after His own heart.

  • David hid here when Saul sought to take David’s life.
  • Herod built a supposedly impregnable winter palace-fortress here.
  • Jewish patriots used the safety here as a last stand against Rome, but after a prolonged siege, they finally committed mass suicide.
  1. Photo courtesy of