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Jezreel Valley

One Year Ago - Up To Jerusalem

bethshan NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went "up to Jerusalem". I have read that phrase a hundred times in the Scriptures. But until you actually go up those mountains and find Jerusalem on the ridge, you don't quite understand it.

We left our hotel in Tiberias and traveled south, stopping on Beit-shan. The excavations at this city are amazing and from the top of the tel, you can see the strategic importance of this city. Any traffic traveling east-to-west through the Harod Valley or north-to-south through the Jordan Rift Valley could be closely monitored by this city.

We followed this stop with visits to the Spring of Harod (where Gideon gathered his army of 300 men), Jezreel (where Ahab and Jezebel had a palace) and Samaria (which was one of the capitals of the Northern Kingdom of Israel).

Traveling through this area allows you to see multiple examples of terraced farming, which demonstrates how the early inhabitants of the land adopted this hilly countryside into useable farmland.

Our journey for today ended at one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: From the heights of Jerusalem, to the lowest place on earth.

2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year's tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.

Nazareth in Galilee

DSCN0183 Jesus grew up in a very small town in the hills of Galilee named Nazareth. From Nazareth, you could have looked south across the beautiful Jezreel Valley and watch groups of people travel along the Via Maris. Today, the city of Nazareth is much larger but still has a wonderful view and is great place to live.

Being Thankful

Being Thankful


Now it happened as Jesus went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” - Luke 17:11-19

Leprosy was a terrible disease. Outside of the disfiguring physical effects, the social effects were even more disheartening. Lepers were completely ostracized from society. No one cared for them and they were forced to stay away from everyone else. You can even see that in the passage above in the fact when Jesus first saw the lepers, they "stood afar off". So, when this man realizes that he has been given a great gift, he immediately stops what he is doing to turn around and say "thanks". What a wonderful and appropriate thing to do.

I'm thankful that I live in a country that pauses for a day to say "thanks". And, we have so much to be thankful for. Sometime today, in between the parades and the football games and the turkey and the naps take a few minutes to list the things that you are thankful for. It will be a humbling and satisfying experience.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(The picture at the top of this page is of the Jezreel Valley and the Hill of Moreh from the tel at Jezreel. In the passage, it is mentioned that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem in the midst of, or on the border of, Galilee and Samaria. While we do not know for sure exactly where Jesus was, it was probably in the general area of this picture. Just beyond the Hill of Moreh is the hills of Galilee and the mountains of Samaria rise behind the picture in the opposite direction. NOTE: If you are reading this post from an email, just click on the title and view this post from a webpage to see the picture.)

The Importance of Jezreel

The Importance of Jezreel


Even a casual reading of the period of the Divided Kingdom in the Old Testament reveals the importance of a particular city in the Northern Kingdom...Jezreel. The city of Jezreel is located on a small bluff on the western edge of Mount Gilboa. The city overlooks the beautiful Jezreel Valley to its north. The panoramic view stretches from Mount Carmel to the west, across the Nazareth ridge to the north, past Mount Tabor and the Hill of Moreh to the Harod Valley in the east. It is one of my favorite sites in Israel as you can visualize so many Biblical stories taking place within its view. This morning, I read an interesting article by Norma Franklin from the University of Haifa. She talks about the importance of the city of Jezreel throughout history, but in particular, the period of the Divided Kingdom. I invite you to read it.

Want to see Jezreel? I'll be going over there next June, and I'm leading a tour. I would be honored for you to join me on this exciting trip as we study the Bible while traveling through Israel.

The View from King Ahab's Front Porch

The View from King Ahab's Front Porch


The above picture was taken from the tel at Jezreel, looking north toward the Hill of Moreh across the Jezreel Valley. How many Biblical events can you name that took place within the area of this picture? Here is a partial list:

  • King Ahab, and his wife Jezebel, built a palace in Jezreel. This view is what they would have seen when they looked across the valley.
  • Gideon defeated the mighty Midianite army with only 300 men by surrounding their camp which was located at the base of the Hill of Moreh.
  • The prophet Elisha often stayed with a couple from Shunam. Shunam was a small city on the western edge of the Hill of Moreh.
  • King Saul once visited a medium who lived at En-Dor. That small town was located on the other side of the Hill of Moreh.
  • Jesus raised a widow's son at Nain, which was located on the other side of the Hill of Moreh.

And, here is one more item of interest...

  • In 1 Samuel 29:1, we are told that in preparation to battle the Philistines, the Israelites encamped at the spring of Jezreel. Do you see the group of trees to the right in the picture? That's the location of the spring.

There is so much history in such a small area. Isn't that interesting?


The Jezreel Valley from the top of Mount Carmel.In our Bible class at church, we have been studying the period of time that we commonly refer to as The Divided Kingdom. It is the time in which the people of Israel had divided itself into two, separate nations. Last week, our study focused on the prophet Elijah and the work that he did in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. One of the most memorable stories is of Elijah's contest against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is actually a range of mountains that run from the northwest to the southeast and compromise the southwestern edge of the Jezreel Valley. The traditional location of this event is at Muhraqa, which is located about 500 meters (about 1600 feet) above the valley floor.

I don't hike as much as I used to. But, when I do, I really enjoy it. However, if there is one thing that I have learned in hiking, it is to never underestimate the height of the mountain you are climbing. In this case, 500 meters may not sound like a lot of elevation to climb, but it can be. Especially if you have to do it twice!

In 1 Kings 18, it mentions that Elijah and all of the people gathered on top of Mount Carmel.

So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. - 1 Kings 18:20.

Then, after God showed his power to the people, Elijah gathered the 450 prophets of Baal and slew them at the Kishon Brook. The Kishon Brook is located in the floor of the Jezreel Valley.

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. - 1 Kings 18:40

A close up of the Kishon Brook from the top of Mount Carmel.(The picture at the top of the this post shows the view from Mount Carmel looking east. The Kishon Brook is in the foreground on the valley floor. The second picture shows you a closeup of the brook, located along the line of shrubs just above the modern road.)

Then, after Elijah warns Ahab about the rain and then reclimbs Mount Carmel.

Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” - 1 Kings 18:41-43a

After Elijah sees that his prediction of rain was about to come true, he heads towards the city of Jezreel, which is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) away.

Honestly, the exact timeframe of all of these events is uncertain. But regardless, this is a lot of ground for one man to cover in a short amount of time. Up a mountain, down a mountain, up a mountain and then 16 miles to Jezreel. I am tired just reading it.


Jezreel (center) and the surrounding area.  Picture from the Jezreel Expedition Facebook Page, taken by Todd Bolen Earlier today, the Jezreel Expedition Facebook page updated their cover photo. All I have to say is "wow". That is a fantastic aerial shot of Jezreel as it overlooks the southeastern corner of the Jezreel Valley and the Valley of Harod.

This picture is facing almost due east. Jezreel is the light brown area just below the exact center of the picture. The northern end of Mount Gilboa is off to the right and the Transjordan Plateau is in the distance. The Jordan River, which sits in the Jordan Rift Valley is not visible as it falls below the land line between Jezreel and the Transjordan Plateau.

How many Biblical events can you name that happened in this picture? Well, here is a list to get you started.

  • Gideon narrowed his army from many thousand to only 300 men at the Spring of Harod. That spring is located at the foot of Mount Gilboa in the closest shady area just beyond Jezreel. Later that night, Gideon attacked the Midianites near the Hill of Moreh, located just off of the picture to the left. (Judges 7:1-25)
  • Saul was killed on Mount Gilboa. When the Philistines found Saul's body, they took it and hung it over the walls at Beth-Shean. Beth-Shean sits about halfway between Mount Gilboa and the Jordan River (not visible from this angle). (1 Samuel 31:1-10)
  • Jehu rode "furiously" through this area. Jehu had been anointed by a prophet to be the next king of Israel at Ramoth Gilead. Ramoth Gilead was located on top of the Transjordan Plateau in the distance in this picture. A Jehu was riding back to Jezreel, the men in the tower saw him coming up the valley you see in the picture. (2 Kings 9:1-29)
  • This view is probably the last view that Jezebel saw just before she was pushed out a window to her death. (2 Kings 9:30-37)

Many other Biblical events happened within the view of this picture. In addition, anyone traveling from the Galilee area (to the upper left) to the Jerusalem area could have come through this area.

To the Jezreel Expedition: Thanks for supplying this picture! And to Todd Bolen, thanks for taking the picture! It was a great reminder of all of the things that happened here.

Different Views of the Jezreel Valley

The Jezreel Valley, looking southeast from the top of Mount Carmel.From time to time, people will ask me what my favorite spot is in Israel. Well, that is a very difficult question. In many ways, that is like comparing apples to oranges. How do you compare the history of Jerusalem to the beauty of Upper Galilee? Or, how do you compare either one of those to majesty of Masada? Well, you can't. But, that is what makes traveling to Israel so interesting...and fun. There are so many great things to see. With that being said, I do enjoy the Jezreel Valley. For millennia, the Jezreel Valley has been the site of literally hundreds of historical events. But, what makes it interesting is how small it is. The triangular-shaped valley is only about 20 miles long by 12-15 miles wide. Consequently, in a single day, you are able to easily drive around and see the valley from so many different angles. By doing so, you can mentally reenact many of the Biblical stories in your head.

You can visualize:

  • Deborah and Barak as they gathered the fighting men on Mount Tabor before attack on Sisera and the Caananites (Judges 4).
  • Gideon and his 300 men as they snuck across the valley to the Hill of Moreh to attack the Midianites (Judges 7).
  • Saul as he disguised himself to speak with the medium at Endor (1 Samuel 28).
  • The children of Israel as they watched Elijah go up against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. (1 Kings 18).
  • The Shunammite Woman riding across the valley to visit with Elisha on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 4).
  • Jehu furiously riding his chariot across the valley floor toward Jezreel (2 Kings 9).
  • Josiah losing his life near Megiddo as he battled the Egyptians (2 Kings 23).
  • Jesus as he raised from the dead, the son of a widow at Nain (Luke 7).

While there are hundreds of places to visit in the country, the Valley of Jezreel should definitely be at the top of anyone's list. Go, enjoy and learn.

Flash Flooding in the Valley of Harod

Weather in Israel is very interesting. (Author disclaimer: Both my wife and I have degrees in Meteorology, so we think that ALL weather is interesting. Please hold off on nerd-based comments until further notice.) Often, people have a misunderstanding of the land of Israel in that it is completely arid and warm. While there are locations in the land that can be described that way, overall, that is not the case. Generally speaking, the country of Israel has two seasons: summer and winter. During the transition times, you have periods of heavy rain. You can even read about these periods of rain in the Bible.

And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. - Deuteronomy 11:13-14

The early rains come in the fall and the latter rains come in the spring. During the summer, very little rain will fall in many areas of the country. Consequently, when the early rains come, flash flooding can easily occur.

Earlier today, I read posts from Luke Chandler (who gave a hat-tip to Ferrell Jenkins) and Todd Bolen who featured a link to an amazing piece of video from flash flooding in the Valley of Harod. The Valley of Harod stretches a few miles from the eastern edge of the Jezreel Valley to the city of Beit-She'an.

I am also reminded of Elijah's warning to King Ahab.

So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’” Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. - 1 Kings 18:44-45

Elijah knew that flash flooding would occur in the Jezreel Valley once the rains came and sent his servant to warn King Ahab about it.

Isn't the weather in Israel interesting?

(You may now proceed with your nerd-based comments.)

Elisha Could See the Shunammite Woman Coming

During the period of the Divided Kingdom, Elisha served as a prophet of God to the nation of Israel. As he passed through the Jezreel Valley, he would frequently stay in the town of Shunam with a woman and her husband. This friendly couple even built an extra room on to their house so that Elisha would have a place to stay (1 Kings 4:8-10). After a period of time, Elisha wanted to repay the woman for the kindness she had shown to him. Since the couple was childless, Elisha's servant, Gehazi recommended that the couple be provided with a son. Elisha promised them a child and about a year later, a son was born.

Years later, the young man was working out in the field and developed a headache. Soon after arriving back at home, he died in his mother's arms. Distraught, the Shunammite woman got on her donkey to go and find Elisha, who was now at Mount Carmel. Then, in 1 Kings 4:24-25, we read:

Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” And so she departed, and went to the man of God at Mount Carmel. So it was, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to his servant Gehazi, “Look, the Shunammite woman!"

As you know, Elisha soon raised the young man from the dead as a show of the power of God.

Recently, I was in a Bible class where we were discussing this story. I was struck by the phrase "when the man of God saw her afar off". I was reminded of a picture that I took last September when I was in Israel. I have featured that picture in this post. This picture is taken from Mount Carmel looking east in the direction of the Hill of Moreh. The town of Sulam is the modern city which sits on ancient Shunam, which was located in the Jezreel Valley just southwest of the Hill of Moreh. In the picture, Shunam would have sat just to the right of the hill.

As Elisha and Gehazi sat on Mount Carmel, this would have been the approximate view that they would have had. As you can see, it would have been easy to see a couple of people riding donkeys heading in their direction.

Isn't it interesting how accurate the Bible is?