SELA

Sela is one of the first places that the Nabataeans seemed to settle in what was to become Nabataea. The mountain of Sela suited them well, for Sela is a small mountain with sheer rock cliffs on all sides. The top of the mountain was relatively smooth, making it a perfect fortress for the nomadic Nabataeans who needed a place to store their goods, and raise their children.

Selah is located in the mountains of Jordan, south of the town of Tafila, along the King's Highway. It is a bit of a scramble to reach the mountaintop, but it is well worth the trip, especially if you can find the Assyrian inscriptions there. Selah was a major hub of Nabataean trading, and the scenery is breath taking. On the west and northwest corners of the top of Selah are two well preserved high places.

Sela was located on top of the small mountain in the center of this picture. (Taken several miles away) The mountain has very steep cliffs on all sides, and is separated from the rear mountain by a tremendous gorge with sheer rock sides. On the right, a road leads down to the bottom of Sela, where the adventurous tourist can park, and then start up the mountain.

The nearby Edomite capital city of Busheira (Bozrah)is built on the hills in the center of this picture, and was protected by cliffs on four sides, with only a small piece of land connecting the hill with the mainland. The modern town of Busheira is also built on this hill top, with the ruins of the old Edomite town being located behind the school building.

Josiah Gibson (12) standing at the bottom of the massive stairway that leads up to the top of Sela. While much of the stairs are in ruins, it is possible to climb to the top with little problem If you are very observant, you may even make out the various water defense systems along the way, where the Nabataeans stored water behind dams, that could be released to literally sweep an attacking army off their feet!

The famous Assyrian inscription is located on the top of this mountain. It is barely visible to the naked eye. Probably the sculptures hung over the edge of the cliff to make it! Some historians feel that Sela was the place where King Amaziah of Judah took 10,000 Edomites prisoner and threw them from the summit of Selah. (II Kings 14:7) Since the ancient Edomite capital is only a couple of kilometers away, more and more scholars are now thinking that modern Selah was the site of this event, not Um al Biyara in the center of Petra as was previously thought.

As the you ascend to the top of Sela, you pass through this narrow opening, which at one time was a massive doorway. On the left side, top, was a fortification guarding the last defense before stepping onto the top of Sela.

On the top of Sela are a variety of caves and carvings. Some must have been storerooms for caravan good, some houses, and perhaps some were tombs.

There are two very well preserved 'high places" on Sela. These are ancient platforms for alters where sacrifices were made to the 'gods.'

The second highplace (north west corner) commands a spectacular view of the nearby mountains, and Wadi Arab (to the right of this picture). These highplaces alone might make Sela well worth your visit.

The mountain fortress of Sela, seen from several miles away, just below the modern town of Selah.

Sela is first mentioned in Greek history when Antigonus the One-Eye attacked the Nabataeans at Selah. The Nabataeans had stored their belongings on the cliff top and were away at a local market, probably in nearby Busheira. The Nabataeans, who Diodorus claims probably only numbered 10,000 at this location, would have stashed their goods on the mountaintop, and have gone to the nearby Edomite capital, only a few kilometers away. They returned only one hour after the army had made off with their goods, and soon were on their pursuit. Diodorus places this event only thirty four miles from the Dead Sea, right about where Sela mountain is located.

Strabo (XVI.4.26) writes: "The metropolis of the Nabataeans is Selah, as it is called, for it lies on a site which is otherwise smooth and level, but it is fortified all around by rock, the outside part of the site being precipitous and sheer, and the inside parts having springs in abundance, both for domestic use and watering gardens." Traditionally some historians have thought that this was a description of Petra, but it easily describes the hills and cliffs around Selah. Petra on the other hand is located in the middle of an open valley, and water was piped in from miles away as there were no springs inside Petra itself.

   
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