Sunday, June 21, 2009

Israel Trip 2b (April 30) - Views from Mt. Carmel

The Carmelites built the Mukhraka monastery at the site where they believe Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal (click here for a Google satellite image):

Elijah's extravagant command to fill 4 jars of water, and douse the altar with it 3 times (1 Kings 18:33-35) takes on new significance from this vantage point. During a drought the only water source would likely have been the Kishon River far below (aka. the creek beyond the highway in the foreground):
According to 1 Kings 18:40, the Kishon River was also the location where Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal slaughtered.

From the rooftop there is a magnificent view of the Jezreel valley, playing field of so much of ancient Israel's history, and crucial plank on the land bridge between empires from the north (Assyria, Babylon, Persia, the Seleucids) and Egypt in the south. This photo looks north (and a bit west) at the part of the valley that faces modern day Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea.The next photo looks northeast. Barely visible in the haze following the trajectory of the left runway is Nazareth with Mt. Tabor beside it; beyond the right runway is Mt. Moreh (cf. Judg 7:1):
The Mt. Carmel panorama was especially exciting after working through Biblical Backgrounds' Regional Study Guide, Regional Study Maps, and the book, Regions on the Run. The authors do an excellent job showing how geography shapes history. For example, while I knew the Carmel range posed a major natural obstacle for anyone traveling north or south . . .
I didn't realize there were only three natural passes that "carried almost all of the commerce and military might of the ancient world passing through the Land Between, the land bridge between the Nile and Mesopotamian river valleys" (Regional Study Guide, 29). It is for this reason that George Adam Smith refers to the Jezreel valley as "the classic battle-ground of Scripture" (The Historical Geography of Scripture [1901], 391).

Each pass was guarded at or near its entrance by a city, the northernmost of which was Jokneam (mentioned in Josh 12:22; 19:11; 21:34; 1 Chr 6:77). It so happens that the modern town of the same name and the ancient tell is clearly visible from the monastery rooftop:
To the south, in the blurry distance is Megiddo, another famous gateway city, and our next major stop on our first day of touring:
The pictures, unfortunately, don't do justice to the view. You had to be there.

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