Tag Archives: Elijah

The Jordan River

The distance from the principal source of the Jordan at the foot of Mt. Hermon to the northern end of the Dead Sea is about 135 miles, but the serpent-like Jordan flows over 200 miles. At the source, the elevation is about 1150 feet above sea level. By the time the river reaches the Sea of Galilee it is about 700 feet below sea level, and when it reaches the Dead Sea it is more than 1300 feet below sea level. These and other unusual physical characteristics make the Jordan a significant river. To the Bible student the importance of the river is found in the events which transpired in it.

Israel crosses the Jordan. The children of Israel crossed the Jordan when the water was out of all its banks during the time of harvest (Josh. 3:15). An American reader might think of this as the fall of the year, but actually it was in the spring, at the time of the latter rain (Joel 2:23). As spring approached in Bible times the Jordan would overflow its banks due to the heavy latter rains (about early April) and the melting snows of Mount Hermon. Conditions are different in modern times. Water that once flowed south from the Sea of Galilee and from tributaries such as the Yarmuk River is now used for irrigation. This makes the Jordan much smaller than in earlier times. The crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites provided the imagery for our hymn, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.”

Elijah and Elisha. Both of these oral prophets crossed the Jordan on dry ground prior to Elijah=s being taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha later used the mantle of Elijah which had fallen upon him to smite the Jordan so that he was able to return (2 Kings 2:8-14).

Naaman the leper. Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was told by the prophet Elisha to wash seven times in the Jordan to be cleansed of his leprosy. For a reason not explicitly given, Naaman complained that the Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, were better than all the waters of Israel. When he eventually obeyed the Lord, he was made clean (2 Kings 5:1-14). We understand that it was not in the properties of the water but by the power of the Lord that Naaman was made clean through his obedience.

John and Jesus. John immersed in the Jordan River (Mt. 3:1-6). The last important biblical event and the crowning glory of the Jordan was the baptism of Jesus (Mt. 3:13-17).

Photographs of the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee have been difficult to make since 1967 because the river has served, more or less, as the boundary between Israel (or the occupied West Bank) and Jordan. This photograph was made at the site across from Jericho that may be identified as “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (John 1:28), where John the Baptist baptized at first (John 10:40).

The Valley of Jezreel from Murakah

Every Bible class teacher has probably learned to sketch the coastline of Canaan (Palestine, Israel). Be sure to make that little jut out into the Mediterranean Sea to represent Mount Carmel. But Mount Carmel is much more; it is a range. Consisting largely of limestone, the mountain is almost 15 miles long by 5 miles wide. The elevation is about 1500 feet above sea level. From the western promontory one can overlook the city and port of Haifa. The Roman general Vespasian, who later became emperor, offered sacrifices on Mount Carmel before the war against the Jews (A.D. 66-70) (Hoade, Guide to the Holy Land, 665).

The location of Mount Carmel made it practical for travelers going north or south to travel around the mountain through the Jezreel Valley (or Valley of Megiddo). To the Greeks it was the Valley of Esdraelon.

Carmel is best known as the place of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah had king Ahab to call all Israel and the 450 prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17-40). The traditional site for this event is shown at Muhrakah on the eastern end of Mount Carmel. Below the Carmelite monastery of St. Elijah can be seen the valley of Megiddo and the tell of Jokneam (Josh. 12:22). The brook Kishon, where the prophets of Baal were slain, is nearby (1 Kings 18:40).

The photo below of the Jezreel Valley was made from the roof of the monastery. The view is a little to the north, but mostly to the east. The tell in the center of the photo immediately below the mountain is Jokneam. The Bible mentions its “pasture lands” in Joshua 21:34. In the distant left you can see the mountains of lower Galilee, where Nazareth is located. Mediddo, not visible, is to the extreme right. The River Kishon is just a little to the left of this view.

View of the Valley of Megiddo from Muraka. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Valley of Megiddo was the scene of many significant historical battles and provides the background for the setting of Armageddon (or Har-Magedon) in Revelation 16.

The photo below is intended to remind travelers to wear a hat and sunscreen when visiting Israel. It is much brighter than most Americans are accustomed to in the spring of the year.

Ferrell Jenkins and the Statue of Elijah at Murakah.