The Vale of Jezreel

The Vale of Jezreel (the ‘Valley of Israel’ – also known as the Plain of Esdraelon) was an important lowland corridor running from south east to north west, linking the Jordan Valley near Beth Sheanto the coastal plain north of Mount Carmel (near the modern city of Haifa). At the coastal end, this lowland routeway joined up with the Via Maris – the ‘Way of the Sea’ which ran along the coastal plain linking the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Near its junction with the coastal plain, the Vale of Jezreel was guarded and controlled by the well-defended fortress at Megiddo – Biblical ‘Armageddon’.

Because of its strategic position, the Jezreel Valley was the site of many battles. The earliest recorded confrontation pre-dates the Israelite invasion of Canaan. During the 15th century BC, the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III defeated a Canaanite coalition under the kings of Kedesh and Megiddo at the Battle of Megiddo, fought in the Valley of Jezreel.

Over two hundred years later, in c.1208BC, Midianites and Amalekites crossed the River Jordan and headed north west along the Vale of Jezreel to plunder and ravage the lands along the fertile coastal plain. Calling together men from the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, Gideon defeated the Midianites on the valley floor just north of Mount Gilboa (see Judges 6:33-35 & 7:1-25). Gideon, himself, was born in the Vale of Jezreel at Ophrah – usually identified as the modern-day city of Afula (see Judges 6:11 & 24).

Later, in 1011 BC, Saul – the first king of Israel – was killed by the Philistines at the Battle of Gilboa, overlooking the Vale of Jezreel, and his corpse was displayed on the walls of Beth Shean (see 1 Samuel 28:4, 29:1 & 31:1-10). Four hundred years later, in 610BC, King Josiah of Judah was killed at Megiddo by Pharoah Neco of Egypt, when Josiah tried to prevent the Egyptian king from crossing the Jezreel Valley en route to Assyria (see 2 Kings 23:29).

Source: The Bible Journey

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