Ein Gedi is an oasis in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the Qumran Caves. The name Ein Gedi is composed of two Hebrew words: ein means spring and gdi means goat-kid. Ein Gedi thus means “Kid spring.”
In the 2 Chronicles 20:2 it is identified with Hazazon-tamar, where the Moabites and Ammonites gathered in order to fight Josaphat. In Genesis 14:7 Hazazon-tamar is mentioned as being an Amorite city, smitten by Chedorlaomer in his war against the cities of the plain.
In Joshua 15:62, Ein Gedi is enumerated among the cities of the Tribe of Judah in the desert Betharaba, but Ezekiel 47:10 shows that it was also a fisherman’s town. Later, King David hides in the desert of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-2) and King Saul seeks him “even upon the most craggy rocks, which are accessible only to wild goats” (1 Samuel 24:2).
The Song of Songs (Songs 1:14) speaks of the “vineyards of En Gedi.” The words of Ecclesiasticus 24:18, “I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades” (’en aígialoîs), may perhaps be understood of the palm trees of Ein Gedi. The indigenous Jewish town of Ein Gedi was an important source of balsam for the Greco-Roman world until its destruction by Byzantine emperor Justinian as part of his persecution of the Jews in his realm. A synagogue mosaic remains from Ein Gedi’s heyday, including a Judeo-Aramaic inscription warning inhabitants against “revealing the town’s secret” – possibly the methods for extraction and preparation of the much-prized balsam resin, though not stated outright in the inscription – to the outside world. According to the Miholjanec legend, Stephen V of Hungary had in front of his tent a golden plate with the inscription: “Attila, the son of Bendeuci, grandson of the great Nimrod, born at Ein Gedi: By the Grace of God King of the Huns, Medes, Goths, Dacians, the horrors of the world and the scourge of God.”
According to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, the Sicarii, who fought the Romans until their defeat and mass suicide at the Siege of Masada, plundered local villages including En Gedi. At En Gedi, they drove out the defenders, and killed over seven hundred women and children who could not run away.