Does the Jezreel Valley (i.e. Bible Geography) Matter to Me? (pt. 1)

Most of us have bibles with a map or two in the back, or a study bible with quite a few maps.  But, is it really important to understand bible geography?  Let’s put it this way, it was important to the people who were living in the biblical geography. Most of us, when we set out to study a book of the bible, make sure that we know who wrote the book and to whom it was written.  This helps us understand the content.  In a similar way bible geography helps us, especially in the Old Testament.  Over the next few days I want to look at the geography of a specific location, the Jezreel Valley, to demonstrate how helpful bible geography can be.

 

I. Introduction

The Valley of Jezreel is one of the most famous valleys in the entire bible.  Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Valley of Jezreel serves as a dividing line for Galilee in the North and Samaria in the South.  It is only mentioned by its full name, “Valley of Jezreel,” three times in the Old Testament.  This may be due to the fact that this important valley was not always known as the Jezreel Valley.  As Richard Cleave explains,

The biblical ‘valley of Jezreel’ is thought by some to have been the eastern section of the valley only, which ran between the cities of Jezreel and Beth-shan.  West of the city of Jezreel was the great inland plain, or ‘valley of Megiddo,’ which separated Mt. Ephraim (Samaria) from Lower Galilee.  In time the name Jezreel was applied to the whole valley.  Esdraelon is the Geek form of the Hebrew Jezreel, and is another name for the valley.[1]

The name Jezreel, which means “God Sows,” actually originated from the city of Jezreel.  During the reign of Ahab this city became prominent when a residence was built there for the King.

The Valley of Jezreel is an area of Palestine that possesses an almost unrivaled historical, military, and economic significance.  Fertile soil and abundant water made the Jezreel Valley a productive agricultural region.  Additionally, because of its flat terrain it became a crucial passageway for travelers, occupants, and invaders.  The valley became an important junction in the trade routes between Damascus and Egypt.  Thus, control of the valley has always been important.  For these reasons, the Valley of Jezreel has always been a hotly contested region.  In fact, more battles are fought in this valley than any other region recorded in the Bible.

Given the important role that the Valley of Jezreel played in Ancient Near East, as well as the prominent place it occupies in the bible, it is important for any student of the bible to study the Valley of Jezreel.  If one does not understand some basic facts about this valley then they will be not be able to fully understand several important passages in the Bible.  For instance, in Hosea 2:21-22 the Lord makes this promise to Israel:

And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ [2]

How can someone understand this promise unless they first learn about the Valley of Jezreel?


[1] Richard Cleave, The Holy Land Satellite Atlas, vol. 2 (Nicosia, Cyprus: Rohr Productions, 2000), 63.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible: ESV, English Standard Version.  Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2002.

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