Glimpses of Israel - Timnah

by Joseph H Hunting

One only has to be in Israel a short time to realize the amazing variety of contrasts packed into such a small area. Within an afternoon's drive one can sample the sophistication of Tel Aviv, the thrill of peeling back the centuries in the Old City of Jerusalem, and of walking among the rocks and caves of En Gedi where David hid from Saul. An hour's drive takes one past the desolation where Sodom and Gomorrah once perished in the flames of Divine judgement.

One wonders what secrets the Negev will yet yield concerning the greatest mass migration the world has ever known. It was here Moses led the children of Israel for forty years. Just think of it! Over two million souls being fed daily! Water for their minimum daily health requirements to say nothing of the thousands of gallons needed for the vast herds of cattle that accompanied them would be a logistical nightmare!

We read that Moses made a serpent of copper (not brass or bronze as is generally translated) and placed it upon a pole. Was this incident enacted at Timna? Even before Moses passed this spot it was famous for its copper mines. The ancient slag heaps are still visible.

It was in this crucible of searing heat in the wilderness of the Negev that the Eternal God of Israel forged the nation that has given to the world its greatest treasures, the Bible and the One of whom its pages speak.

The dramatic rockscape of the area, located less than a half hour's drive from Israel's Red Sea port city of Eilat, has prompted the Israelis to turn it into a national park, called Timna valley. The road winding through the stark landscape of Israel's Arava Desert, leads the visitor to the 2,500 year old copper mines, remains of which can still be seen in the reddish cliffs, and to the site of the watch tower where guards watched over the slaves working in the copper smelting pits.

Editor's note: For Timna and Negev wilderness see also THE VINEYARD September 1990.