Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Jezreel Valley from the Carmel Ridge
Apart from in and around Jerusalem, it could be argued that the most important region when studying the Hebrew Bible is the Jezreel Valley.  The valley is, roughly, the territory between the Jordan River Valley and the Carmel Mountain Range, south of the Galilee.  

Not only is the valley a fertile place (Jezreel probably means something like, 'God sows'), it was also an important thoroughfare.  If one wanted to travel from the south (say, Egypt) to pretty much anywhere else, passing through the valley provided the simplest route.  The passages through the Carmel Ridge made certain places along the edge of the valley strategically important. Particularly the cities of Jezreel, Megiddo and Yokne'am were very successful by controlling these routes.  

Some important events in the Hebrew Bible which deal with this region:

  • Joshua conquers the kings of the valley. Among the cities listed are Hazor, Megiddo, and Yokne'am. (Joshua 12)
  • Solomon fortifies Megiddo and Hazor. (1 Kings 9:15)
  • Most accounts regarding Ahab and Jezebel take place in the Jezreel Valley (1 Kings 16-21)
  • Josiah is killed by Necho II at the Battle of Megiddo (2 Kings 23:28-30)

Despite the importance of the region, and despite some of these sites being the most well understood and thoroughly excavated, there is a lack of understanding of the whole region.  Case in point, there has only recently begun a new excavation at the base of the Tel Megiddo, where there has been found a large Early Bronze I settlement that is contemporaneous with an uncovered EB I temple on the tell. 

The Jezreel Valley Regional Project is trying to rectify this by, not only conducting its own excavations such as Tel Megiddo East  but by acting as a collator of data from all excavations in the Jezreel Valley.  Hopefully, by bringing this information together and making it available, they will help to facilitate a greater understanding of the whole history of the region, rather than isolated histories, as though these different cities didn't interact and share some of the same fortunes.  

I recommend checking out the JVRP website, where you can learn about their excavations, including the recently announced excavation of the camp of the Roman 6th Legion, which was posted at the Megiddo Pass during the Bar Khokba revolt.  

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