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 Beer-sheba.
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Beer-sheba is where Abraham and Sarah lived with Isaac, and where the great patriarch swore an oath of peace with his neighbor. As adults, Isaac and his son Jacob found themselves passing through or living in Beer-sheba at various times.
So 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 its name was commonly used in describing borders and distances, even when its existence had passed into antiquity. 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 can’t name the governor from a century ago. Most Americans have a hard time remembering the name of the current vice president of the United States. Fame and notoriety are fleeting.
Beer-sheba didn’t strive to be remembered, it was simply useful. The place’s practical usefulness established its reputation and secured its name in history long after the city had vanished.
However exalted or self-important we may be, we all eventually become a footnote in the great story of history.
But yet, like Beer-sheba, our legacy and impact 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 live not for recognition, but for impact. Let us not seek fame but rather to be of lasting value. Let us not build up our names, but let us instead build into the lives of those around us.