In this very place
The Jezreel Valley! How can one region hold such a wealth of Biblical history events? And provide so much perspective for the interpretation of and personal engagement with the Scriptures?
Today we left the beauty of the Galilee region and drove south and west into the Jezreel Valley. This most fertile valley in Israel runs from the Great Rift in which the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River lie, to the Mediterranean Sea where modern day Haifa is located.
The agricultural beauty of the valley belies its history of international conflict recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. The journey began by circling around Mt. Tabor, site of a great battle initiated by the prophetess Deborah against the Canaanites in Judges 4. To the south is Beth Shean, used by the Romans to control access to the valley from the Jordan River. To the north, high on the hillside is the town of Nazareth, home of Jesus’ hillside childhood.
Our group hiked high to the top of Megiddo on the south side of the Jezreel Valley. This mountaintop city has evidence of 7000 years of civilization built layer on layer 25 times! Why so much interest in this location? It served as a much sought-after gateway city controlling access through the mountains on the road between Egypt and Mesopotamia and every dominant power wanting to control it for taxation. John’s apocalypse describes a battle of enormous proportions in this very place.
From the earliest times (EB) to the earliest historical records of the area (Thutmose III) to the future (Revelation 16), Megiddo assumes a prominent role. This is largely owing to its strategic location astride the Megiddo Pass (Wadi Ara) and inside the busy Jezreel Valley.
Next stop was Mount Carmel, site of Elijah’s confrontation with hundreds of priests of the gods of Sidon—Baal and Asherah. Jezebel sought to displace Israel’s singular worship of Yahweh with the gods of the Phoenicians. I Kings 18 and 19 describe the response of God to the challenge and the subsequent slaughter of 900 pagan priests.
Biblically, Mt. Carmel is referenced most often as a symbol of beauty and fertility. To be given the “splendor of Carmel” was to be blessed indeed (Isa 35:2). Solomon praised his beloved: “your head crowns you like Mount Carmel” (Song 7:5). But for Carmel to wither was a sign of devastating judgment (Nahum 1:4).
We sat in a walled circle under trees discussing the “gods” that now challenge our singular devotion to the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. How will we respond to challenges to God’s sovereign reign in our lives and communities?
The day’s journey ended with a stop in Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Coast. This was Herod the Great’s vision for an enormous Roman port city surpassing Athens. Palace, theatre, hippodrome (chariot races), port of trade, all supplied with fresh water by way of a 15-mile aqueduct from a distant spring. Biblical accounts of the city include the first Gentile convert to Christianity in Acts 10 and Paul’s appeal to Caesar in Acts 25 and 26. Herod completed his visionary city, but it became a constant victim of earthquakes and attacks by the Holy Roman Empire, Muslim armies and Crusaders. It lies in ruins at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
The city and harbor were built under Herod the Great during c. 22–10 BC near the site of a former Phoenician naval station known as Stratonos pyrgos (Στράτωνος πύργος). It later became the provincial capital of Roman Judea, Roman Syria Palaestina and Byzantine Palaestina Prima provinces. The city was populated throughout the 1st to 6th centuries CE and became an important early center of Christianity during the Byzantine period, but was mostly abandoned following the Muslim conquest of 640. It was re-fortified by the Crusaders, and finally slighted by the Mamluks in 1265.
Our tour group is becoming a small community. We see acts of service and care, hear words of encouragement and support, prayers quietly offered up for healing and brokenness. We seek to live out what it means to be children of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now we’re on our way up to Jerusalem!
Jim and Corliss Mock
Featured Upcoming Tour
GTI Signature Tour: Israel & Jordan
Septemer 5-17, 2020
Experience Israel & Jordan for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.
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