Am I Walking on the Palace of Melchizedek?
Location - Kibutz Tiara Zvi
Map Coordinates - 32.399366, 35.526545
Merged Gospels story - 28
From an early age, John must have known that the angel Gabriel told his father that John would preach in the spirit and power of Elijah (see Luke 1:17). When he began his ministry, John set out to retrace the footsteps of Elijah, baptizing in places that were significant to the former prophet. Thus, we have sightings of John in the following locations.
First - Wadi Kharrar, near the place where Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire. (see 2 Kings 2:6-11)
Second - The Jarmuk River, near the place where Elijah was fed by ravens (see 1 Kings 17:2, 3)
Third - Aenon near Salim, near the place where Elijah acquired his student, the prophet Elisha from Abel-Meholah. (see 1 Kings 19:16 and John 3:23)
The Meaning of Aenon near Salim.
Aenon means springs. Salim means peace. Thus, the Springs of Salim. Take note that Jerusalem is also called the city of peace. Hence there are two “Salims” in the Bible.
I am standing next to the Springs of Salim where John baptized.
Where is Aenon near Salim?
Three ancient authors help us pinpoint exactly where Aenon near Salim is located.
1. The first is Eusebius in his Onomasticon, written about 295 AD. He says that Salim was located eight miles south of Beit She'an. This would place the site near a region of numerous springs, which fits the description in John 3:23 as having "plenty of water."
2. Jerome (390 AD) also confirms that this was the actual spot where John baptized.
3. The author that pinpoints the place exactly is the Spanish lady pilgrim Egeria. In her itinerary, written between 381-384 AD, she says
When we had come down, the holy priest addressed us. He was an elderly man, well taught in the Scriptures, and he had presided over the place from the time he had been a monk, to whose life many bishops, as we learned afterward, bore great testimony, saying that he was worthy to preside over the place where holy Melchizedek, when Abraham was coming to meet him, was the first to offer pure sacrifices to God…Then, because I remembered that it was written that Saint John had baptized in Aenon (the springs) near Salim, I asked him how far off that place was. The holy priest answered, "It is near, two hundred paces off, and, if you wish, I will now lead you there on foot. This large and pure stream of water, which you see in this village, comes from that spring. Then I began to thank him and to ask him to lead us to the place, which was done. So, we began to go with him on foot through the very pleasant valley, until we reached a most pleasant orchard, in the midst of which he showed us a spring of excellent and pure water, which continuously sent out a good stream. The spring had in front of it a sort of pool, where it appears that Saint John the Baptist fulfilled his ministry. Then the holy priest said to us: "This garden is called…the garden of Saint John”.
Egeria (aka Etheria)
We call this mound Tel Salim. It is part of the Kibbutz Tiara Zvi, and the pond in which John baptized is now a fish hatchery. I have been there several times, and the “two hundred paces off” narrative given by Egeria is right on.
I find this site to be fascinating for two reasons. First, Egeria reports that local tradition recognizes this site to be the domain of the Old Testament King Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18-20). While the Jews, and virtually all Jewish scholars believe that Melchizedek was the King of Salem (that is Jerusalem), Egeria, and the ancient custodians of this site say that it is in this site (Salim) where Melchizedek was king.
The second reason I find this site interesting is that it is not only an unexcavated mound, but during the six-day war between Israel and Jordan in 1969, the Israeli soldiers had built a bunker just under the surface of this mound. I have been in this bunker several times (with hundreds of bats flying around me), and it stirs my sense of discovery to imagine that the palace of Melchizedek is just a few feet below this bunker.
What happened here?
It was at this spot that the disciples of John approached him and reported that more people are now following Jesus than following John. In his response, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.“ (John 3:30)
It is also from this place that John was arrested by Herod Antipas.