avdat in the bible

Avdat in the Bible

The ruins of the Nabatean city of Avdat, once the most significant ancient city in the Negev, sit on a hill overlooking the desert. The remains of the ancient city continue to impress visitors. The Avdat archaeological site is now part of the Avdat National Park. The history of Avdat goes way back, beginning in the 4th century BC. BC, a trading base, gradually developed when Nabataean traders stopped here along the spice route.

In the period from 150 BC 105 AD to 105 AD. They joined together to form a kingdom that stretched from the Sinai Peninsula to northern Arabia. Around 85 BC, The Nabataeans were conquered under King Aretas III. Damascus. They became Roman vassals under Pompey. But Aretas was still able to maintain the unity of his empire. It was only under Trajan in 106 AD that the Nabataeans lost their relative independence. And were incorporated into the Roman Empire as the Roman province of Arabia Petraea.


There are five other Nabatean cities in the vicinity: Shivta, Mamshit (Kurnub), Nitzana, Halutza, and Rehoboth Banegev. Shivta and Mamshit were restored in the 1960s and can also be visited. In 1939 the well-known Colt papyruses were discovered near the ruins of the Nabataean city of Nitzana. Halutza and Rechovoth Banegev are located near Kibbutz Revivim, one of the first three agricultural settlements in the Negev (1939).

Kadesh Barnea

Not far from Nitzana on the Egyptian border is the oasis of Kadesh Barnea, once a crossing point for many caravan routes and perhaps also a camp for the Israelites during their 40-year wanderings through the desert. Miriam, the older sister of Aaron and Moses, is said to have been buried here.

“And they went and came to Moses and Aaron and the congregation of the children of Israel in the desert of Paran at Kadesh, and they reported to them and the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, saying: We have come into the land whither you sent us, and indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit” (Numbers 13:26-27).

Nabataean city of Avdat

Many archaeological finds at Avdat from this period suggest that Avdat was of great importance in the Indo-Arab trade. At that time, two ancient trade routes met here – Petra (Jordan) and Ezion-Geber ( Eilat ) towards the Mediterranean coast. At the beginning of the 1st century B.C. BC, the city was abandoned, probably due to the conquests of Alexander Jannaeus (also called Yannai), a Hasmonean king.

After the death of his brother Aristobulus, he ruled as king of Judea from 103 – 76 BC. And he expanded his empire over the entire stretch of coast from Carmel (near Haifa) to the Egyptian border. Alexander led many campaigns and expanded his kingdom until it reached the extent of King David.

avdat in the bible

Representation of Avdat in the Bible

Province of Arabia Petraea

The further Roman conquests up to the year 106 AD – the kingdom of the Nabataeans and the entire Negev were assigned to the Roman province of Arabia Petraea – also steadily decreased the formerly flourishing trade. Arabia Petraea was a province of the Roman Empire. It was established under Emperor Trajan in 106 after the conquest of the Nabataean Empire and its capital Petra.

 Their territory roughly encompassed the Sinai Peninsula and modern-day western Jordan. Their capital was Bosra (Bostra) in present-day Syria. Bosra, an ancient city in the Hauran countryside, belonged since the 2nd century B.C. to the kingdom of the Nabataeans and was incorporated into the Roman Empire by the Roman Emperor Trajan.

The following two centuries are marked by prosperity for the inhabitants of Avdat. Not least because the Romans included the province of Arabia on the empire’s southern border in their defense strategy. By the 3rd century AD, a chain of bulwarks was built to ward off raids from the Arab world. Avdat was also included in this line, and the residents were granted land for military service or readiness for defense. Some houses in the city of Avdat date from this period and can be assigned to this period because of their well-preserved overall condition.

The Temple of Avdat

In the temple of Avdat, there are indications that the Roman gods. (Including Zeus ) were also worshiped after the population had adopted the Roman religion or the religions of both peoples mixed. The emergence of Christianity led to the construction of two churches in the middle of the 4th century AD. And later to the establishment of a monastery. Farming continued, and viticulture was promoted. 

The weakening of the Byzantine Empire in Africa from the end of the 6th century. This also resulted in Avdat that the inhabitants living here could no longer defend themselves against the raids of the Arabs. And the city was partially destroyed in the year 638. In the 10th century AD, the settlement of this place was finally abandoned.


From about 30 B.C. – 9 BC, the city of Avdat was founded by the Nabatean king Oboda III. reigns. This forced trade and the expansion of agriculture in his area. In 9 B.C. BC Oboda III died. And was buried in Avdat. It is reported that his followers worshiped him as a god. The city of Avdat experienced its heyday during the reign of King Aretas IV, who reigned from 9 BC. – 40 AD reigned. During this period, Avdat was expanded, an acropolis was built on the hill, and a temple was built and dedicated. Excavations to the city’s east have uncovered the remains of pottery products identified by their manufacture from that period.

Other rulers were Oboda Aretas III. and IV. And under them, Avdat became an essential center for raising livestock such as sheep, goats, and camels. Around the middle of the 1st century AD, the Nabataeans’ trade with their neighbors declined noticeably, and the inhabitants of Avdat became more focused on growing agricultural products. They built a system of dams and terraces, which is still exemplary today, to dam and store the scarce rainfall for irrigating the fields. In the time that followed, there were repeated disruptions or a temporary standstill of trade, which was necessary for the Nabataeans.