Does the Jezreel Valley (i.e. Bible Geography) Matter to Me? (pt. 3)

V. Roads & Entrances

a. The International Coastal Highway

The International Coastal Highway, also known as the Via Maris, was a major trunk route connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia.[1] A major stop along the International Costal Highway was at Aphek.[2] “Near Aphek, conditions forced the route further inland, skirting the Sharon Plain, to enter the Jezreel Valley through a vital pass (the Aruna Pass) controlled by Meggido.”[3] Because of the presence of the highway, all commerce and military movement had to go through the Valley of Jezreel.   This made the various entrances into the valley very important.

b. Southern Entrances

In the south there were four entrances into the Valley of Jezreel.  To the southeast was the Dothan pass, which was near Ibleam.  West of the Dothan Pass was the Taanach approach. West of the Taanach approach was the most important entrance into the valley, the Aruna Pass which went through the city of Megiddo.  This pass was a significant part of the International Coastal Highway.  In fact, “Of all the sections of the road, the one that has always attracted special attention is the ‘Aruna pass — modern day Wadi ‘Ara. This is largely due to the annals of Pharaoh Thutmose III, which describe the ‘Aruna Pass and the two alternative roads to the north, that enter the Jezreel Valley at Taanach and Yokneam.”[4] The westernmost entrance into the valley was the Jokneam approach.

c. Northern Entrances

From the north there were only two entrances into the valley.  The first was the Shimron Pass (Joshua 19:15) which linked the Valley of Jezreel with lower Galilee, and would become know in the New Testament as the city of Sepphoris.  The second northern entrance into the valley was the Plain of Tabor at the base of Mt. Tabor.  This is most likely the route that Jesus used on several occasions to travel south (i.e. Luke 7:11-17).

d. Western Entrance

In the west, the only major entrance into the Valley of Jezreel was along the banks of the Kishon River.  This route linked the Plain of Acco on the sea coast with the Valley of Jezreel.

e. Eastern Entrance

In the east, the only major entrance into the Valley of Jezreel was along the Harod River.  This route, which passed through Beth-shean, connected the Valley of Jezreel with the Harod Valley and consequently the Jordan Valley.

 

VI. Key Cities

a. Megiddo

The most important city in the Valley of Jezreel was Megiddo.  This city, which was about 30 acres in size,[5] was the front door to the valley.  As was mentioned above Megiddo was located in the strategic Aruna Pass.  Because of this strategic location “Megiddo has a history going back to 3500 B.C.”[6] In fact, as Kathleen Kenyon points out, “Excavation… has shown that the first occupation of the site dates back to well before the Egyptian Empire began to be interested in foreign contacts.”[7] Once Egypt did become interested in foreign contacts Megiddo became an important city to control.  In 1468 B.C. Pharaoh Thutmose III captured Megiddo.  This victory was celebrated by Egypt for as James Baikie records, “it is the capture of a thousand cities, this capture of Megiddo.”[8]

During the conquest of the land by the people of Israel the Canaanites retained control of this key city.  However, the destruction of Sisera’s army, recorded in Judges 4, gave Israel control of Megiddo and the Valley of Jezreel.  From this time on Megiddo became a key city for the Kings of Israel.  In fact, because Megiddo was such an important city Solomon built a chariot installation there.  As Alfred Hoerth points out, “When the site of Megiddo was excavated in the 1930s, archaeologists found structures that they identified as stables built to house some of Solomon’s chariot force.”[9] Later in Israel’s history King Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:28-31).

All throughout history Megiddo has been a place of battle.  Even Napoleon campaigned at Megiddo in 1799.  Therefore it is no surprise that in Revelation 16:16 the apostle John recorded that the “hill of Megiddo” would be the rallying point for the final revolt against Christ.  Here at Megiddo, or Armageddon, God will strike down this rebellion.

b. Jezreel

The city of Jezreel is where the Valley of Jezreel received its name.  The city sits on the eastern end of the valley, and guards an entrance into the valley.  It was in the territory of Issachar (Joshua 19:18) at the foot of Mt. Gilboa.  Jezreel became an important city in the Northern Kingdom of Israel when King Ahab built a place there. “It was finally destroyed by the Assyrians. In the Roman period a large village called Ezdraela flourished there, with a road-station nearby.”[10]

c. Jokneam

Jokneam guards one of the southern entrances into the Valley of Jezreel.  In Joshua 12:22 the king of Jokneam was defeated by Joshua.  Later the city, with its pasture lands, became one of the Levitical cities of the family of Merari (Joshua 21:34).  During the Roman period the city was known as Kammona.

d. Beth-shean

Beth-shean was an ancient fortress city located where the Valley of Jezreel and the Jordan Valley meet.  The city is most famous for being the place where King Saul died (1 Samuel 31).  It was there that “battle was fought between Israel and the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa.  Saul and 3 of his sons… were killed.  Saul’s body was fastened to the wall of the Canaanite fortress city of Beth-shan, overlooking the Jezreel Valley.”[11]

e. Taanach

Taanach was a fortified Canaanite city guarding one of the southern entrances into the Valley of Jezreel.  Joshua 17:11-12 reveals that Taanach was not conquered by the Israelites during the conquest.  In fact, Taanach was able to avoid total conquest until the time of Deborah (Judges 5:19).


[1] Keith N. Schoville, Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978.), 385.

[2] Howard F. Vos, Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Hendricksen, 2003.), 206.

[3] Brisco, Holman Bible Atlas, 16.

[4] Quoted from the Tel Aviv University Meggido Expedition Website:  http://megiddo.tau.ac.il/projects_wadi_ara.html, viewed on 5/2/09.

[5]  Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas, 146.

[6] Ibid., 25.

[7] Kathleen Mary Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (New York: Praeger, 1970.), 93.

[8] James Baikie, The Story of the Pharaohs (London: A. and C. Black, 1908.), 126.

 

[9] Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.), 285.

[10]Avraham Negev, The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 3rd ed. (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1996, c1990), 173.

[11] Pfeiffer, Baker’s Bible Atlas, 128.

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