It doesn’t look like much today, but the Israeli archeological site Tel Sheva is kind of a big deal. It was at the center of much of the narrative in the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
Its name back then was Be’er Sheva. Most translations of the Bible render the name as “Beer-sheba.” It’s in the Negev desert in the south of Israel where Abraham and Sarah lived with Isaac, and where the great patriarch swore an oath of peace with his neighbor. As adults, both Isaac and his son Jacob found themselves at various times passing through or living in Beer-sheba.
Everyone knew Beer-sheba… until they didn’t. The city was likely destroyed when the Babylonians invaded Israel and took the Jews into captivity around 600 B.C. The city was all but erased from the map, but its name and impact lived on.
The place was so well known, in fact, its name was commonly used in describing borders and distances. An expansive area would often be described as spanning an area as if from “Dan to Beer-sheba.” Tel Dan, of course, is in the far north of Israel.
When I think of Beer-sheba, I think about the trappings of modern success. It is easy to be consumed by our reputation, to be thought of as relevant. In this age of social media influencers, the culture pushes us to rate our value by the number of likes and retweets we get from our most recent hot-take. We hope that by “going viral” we will be remembered. It’s all an illusion.
Most multi-generation native Texans cannot name any governor from a century ago. Most Americans have a hard time remembering who was the vice president of the United States a decade ago. Fame and notoriety are fleeting.
Beer-sheba didn’t strive to be remembered, it was simply useful. It was the practical usefulness of the place that established its reputation, and secured it long after the city itself had vanished.
However exalted or self-important we may be, we all eventually become a footnote in the great story of history. The monuments to our greatest achievements will become dusty artifacts for future archeologists.
But yet, like Beer-sheba, our legacy can go on.
The Greek statesman Pericles understood this when he wrote, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Let us not live for recognition, but for impact. Let us not seek fame, but lasting value. Let us not build up our names, but rather build into the lives of those around us.