The Shephelah

Today was the last day of our tour of Israel. I am now at the airport waiting for my flight. Unfortunately, it is not until tomorrow morning. I had to fly home after the tour group. We got to the airport early enough for another flight I could have taken, but it was oversold. There are a couple other tour group members who have an early morning flight, so I am waiting at the airport with them. Plenty of time to work on a blog post.

We had a very busy day visiting as many places in the Shephelah as we possibly could. OK, so many of you are wondering where this place is. You may know this area as the lowland, Judean foothills or western foothills depending on which translation you are using. As you read through the post you will start to recognize some of the names and accounts from the Old Testament.

Our first stop of the day was at Beth-shemesh.

20120914-223102.jpgBeth-shemesh is probably best known for the following account.

The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home. And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron. These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.” (1 Samuel 6:10-21 ESV)

The account here shows the importance of the city as being on the border with the Philistines. There were also several important battles fought near the city.

From the top of the tel of Beth-shemesh we could look out over the valley of Sorek.

20120914-224002.jpg In this picture there is a tiny little tel in the bottom left corner. This is Timnah which was the home of Samson’s wife.

Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” (Judges 14:1-3 ESV)

I will post a second picture here that is just to the right of the first picture.

20120914-224429.jpgIn the middle of this ridge we find Zorah which is where Samson is from. It was enlightening to see how close they were together. We also see in the account that he went down to Timnah, which is geographically correct. Another woman in Samson’s life, Delilah, was also from the valley of Sorek.

We then travelled on to another valley. This time we just drove through and were unable to stop at the sites. Most of the pictures today were taken from the bus.

20120914-225336.jpgThis is the valley of Elah. On the hill to the left is Azeka which guards the entrance to the valley. Although most little kids could not tell you where it happened, they can all tell you about something that happened here. It is in this valley where David met Goliath. If you want details about this battle go ask some little kids :-).

Khirbet Qeiyafa - Elah Valley - Israel - David and Goliath - Elah FortressA little further down the valley is Khirbet Qeiyafa or the Elah Fortress.

20120914-230525.jpgOn the opposite side of the valley is the tel of Socoh. Both of these cities were important to the defense of Israel against the Philistines. There is still more to learn about these two cities and new digs are underway or planned at both sites. I am beginning to think about signing up for a new dig at Socoh that is scheduled for 2014.

The next site that we went by was Tell Goded or Marasheth Gath.

20120914-232243.jpgThis was the home of the prophet Micah.
Next we have Tel Mareshah.

Mareshah was destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. to fulfill a prophecy by Micah.

I will again bring a conqueror to you,

inhabitants of Mareshah;

the glory of Israel

shall come to Adullam.

Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair,

for the children of your delight;

make yourselves as bald as the eagle,

for they shall go from you into exile. (Micah 1:15, 16 ESV)

Mareshah was destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. to fulfill this prophecy.

Here is the next site that we drove by.

20120914-233159.jpgThis is Tel Burna that is one of two locations that are candidates for the location of Libnah.

The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he heard that the king had left Lachish. (2 Kings 19:8 ESV)

After lunch we visited Lachish.

20120914-233702.jpgLachish was a very important city in the Shephelah and we first run across the city in the following account.

As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” (Joshua 10:1-4 ESV)

You can see a picture of Gibeon in my blog post from yesterday.

Lachish was destroyed by the Assyrians who built a large siege ramp against the city wall. When you see the ramp, you wonder how they were able to build it in such a short amount of time.

The last tel that we visited was Tell es-Safi.

20120914-235144.jpgThe tel has been identified with the city of Gath. I mentioned the most famous resident of Gath earlier in the post.

We finally made it to Joppa where Jonah boarded a ship for Tarshish.

20120914-235525.jpgThe boat may not have left from right here, but it was from here.
We also saw a house that is said to be the house of Simon the Tanner.


We had a great dinner in Joppa and finished just in time to view a great sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.



For more information about the trip you can also read the following blogs by other tour members.

Ferrell’s Travel Blog

Exploring Bible Lands

Trent and Rebekah

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27 Responses to The Shephelah

  1. Steven, Your photos have been absolutely superb on this trip. I have followed each blog and enjoyed the whole sequence. A true service to anyone interested in rooting the Scriptures in History. My sincere congratulations to you. Stephen.

  2. Glenda McDougal says:

    Wonderful wanderings!!! Thank you so much and God bless!!

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