Holy Land Study Trip - The Jezreel Valley
Today was day number 2 in Israel and day 1 of the guided tour with Dr. Bookman, and a wonderful day it was!
Our first stop of the day was at a place called Caesarea Maritime on the coast north of Tel Aviv. It is a site containing ruins from Harod the Great in the 1st century AD and includes a rebuilt theatre, hippodrome and the remains of the port and the palace. Not only were the ruins impressive but the history that occurred there was very meaningful and helpful in understanding the events in Acts. It was here that Cornelius comes to belief in Jesus as God in chapter 10. It was in this city that Harod Agrippa I kills James the brother of John in chapter 12. The story in 12:21-23 where Herod is given worms as a result of his receiving praise likely occurs in the hippodrome that we took a stroll through. It was a great opportunity to lay eyes on a place with such history, but our journey was just beginning!
The second stop of the day was perhaps the most breath taking. After entering the Jokneam pass route heading towards the Jezreel Valley (a windy road in a tour bus that would make anyone queasy!) we turned north and headed up to a monastery on top of Mt. Carmel. We were not sure what we were to see, but as we climbed to the roof of the monastery we were taken aback by a stunning view of the Jezreel Valley stretching out before us. Again we were in a location with much Biblical and historical significance. It was traditionally on this site where Elijah called down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18. It was from this site that Elijah ran down the mountain and slaughtered the prophets of Baal and then ran across the valley floor in front of Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel.
As we looked across the valley we could see a series of mountains. From west to east we could see the Nazareth Ridge where Jesus grew up, Mt. Tabor, the Hill of Moreh and Mt. Gilboah. It was a astonishing thing to ponder the fact that we were gazing as the country Jesus would have grown up and worked His 30 years before moving to Capernaum for His ministry!
The next stop was a tomb on the side of the road recovered as the highway through the Jokneam pass was being widened. It was a tomb that was dug after the OT time and was unique because the round stone to seal the tomb was still present! It was a great opportunity to lay eyes on something that occurs so often in the stories in the Bible!
Our journey then took us across the Jezreel Valley to the mouth of the spring where Gideon took his army in Judges 7. It was dramatic to turn away form the spring and gaze at the place where his troops lined up and were whittled down to just a handful of men.
Our final stop was near the site of the village of Jezreel. Here a covered sitting area offered us a comfortable place to consider the events that occurred here in 1 Samuel 28 and 31. It was on the Hill of Moreh to our north that the Philistines gathered to fight Saul and it was somewhere near where we sat that at the end of the battle that Saul decided to fall on his sword. We were also afforded the opportunity to look to the east (Present-day Jordan) towards Beth-shan where his body was put on display. It was quite a scene to contemplate and form a remarkable location!
It has been a great and somewhat surreal day. All my life I have read about these events in Sunday School but they always seem to have occurred in a mystical land like Narnia. But when faced with these vistas and being retold the stories that played out in them, a strange feeling overtook me. I cannot fully describe it yet, but it is something that I wish everyone could experience!