Daily Archives: August 22, 2008

The valley of Elah and the Shephelah

Today we went back to the Valley of Elah and went to the top of Tel Azekah. Azekah is one of the keys to understanding the geography of the battle between David and Goliath. The Philistines were gathered between Soccoh and Azekah. Israel was camped in the valley of Elah.

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines. The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. (1 Samuel 17:1-3)

The photo below was made from atop Tel Azekah. As you to look the east toward the Shephelah and the coastal plain, you see the mountain on the east of the valley. The mountain where the Israelites stood is on the left in the photo.

The Valley of Elah from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Valley of Elah from Azekah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After this we went on to Bet Guvrin and Maresha. Maresha was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:5-10). King Asa fought and defeated a large army of Zerah of Ethiopia (Cush) (2 Chronicles 14:9-12). There is some information to suggest that Herod the Great was born here.

While in the vicinity we stopped by Tel Godet, possibly Moresheth, the home of Micah the prophet. Micah worked in the hill country while Isaiah was working in Jerusalem (8th century BC). More than a century afterward Jeremiah spoke of Micah’s prophecy concerning Jerusalem.

“Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “‘Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’ (Jeremiah 26:18.)

Our next stop was Lachish where I participated in the excavation in 1980. Too much to tell and show in one blog. A couple of interesting personal notes. As we drove in we met a gentlemen who works for the antiquities department. He lives in Lackish and has followed the history of the dig. A little later he came by and invited us to his home for tea. We enjoyed a nice visit with Chanan and Edna (they are close to our age) and we enjoyed sharing family stories as well as info about Lachish. Thanks for the hospitality.

The other personally interesting things is that there was an American group visiting the site. I spoke to the leader of the group, a young lady named Danielle from California. When I told her my name she said, “I read your blog.” Well, that made my day. I said, “How did you learn of my blog?” She said, “Through Todd Bolen.” We both bragged on the quality of Todd’s resources. Here a photo of the two of us in the gate of Lachish. The room to the right is the Room of the Letters, where the Lachish letters relating to the Babylonian destruction of th city were found.

Danielle and Ferrell in the gate of Lachish.

Danielle and Ferrell in the gate of Lachish.

Danielle, send me an Email and I will sent you a hi-res photo.

Coincidentally, today Todd Bolen has a post about significant sites in the shephelah (lowlands in some English versions). Read the full post here.

Visiting the Judean Hills

We were able to visit several sites in the Judean Hills yesterday. Many of them were in the territory of the Israelite tribe of Dan.

Zorah was the birthplace of Samson. The biblical record says,

And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.  (Judges 13:25)

Both of these towns are within an area now designated a forested park land.

When the Ark of the Covenant was returned by the Philistines on a cart pulled by milk cows, it came into the Zorek Valley near Beth Shemesh (1 Samuel 6). The ark was later taken to Kiriath-jearim before being moved to Jerusalem by David (2 Chronicles 1:4). We visited all of these sites.

We also visited the sites around the Valley of Elah where young David met Goliath the Philistine from Gath in a decisive battle (1 Samuel 17). While we were in the process of picking up five smooth stones for our grandson, Drew, a shepherd drove a flock of sheep across the brook. You can see from the photo that Elizabeth and I were separated for a while.

Elizabeth and I were temporarily separated in the brook of Elah by a flock of sheep. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Elizabeth and I were temporarily separated in the brook of Elah by a flock of sheep. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Understand that the brook (nachal) of Elah has water in it only during the rainy season. We also visited Tell es-Safi, thought to be the site of Gath, one of the major Philistine cities and the home of Goliath. The excavator, Aren Maeir, has a marvelous aerial photo of the top of the tell posted at the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog. We did not have time to climb to the top, but maybe we can get back to it another day.