Smith's Bible DictionaryEsdraelon
This name is merely the Greek form of the Hebrew word Jezreel. "The great plain of Esdraelon" extends across central Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, separating the mountain ranges of Carmel and Samaria from those of Galilee. The western section of it is properly the plain of Accho or Akka . The main body of the plain is a triangle. Its base on the east extends from Jenin (the ancient Engannim) to the foot of the hills below Nazareth, and is about 15 miles long; the north side, formed by the hills of Galilee, is about 12 miles long; and the south side, formed by the Samaria range, is about 18 miles. The apex on the west is a narrow pass opening into the plain of Akka . From the base of this triangular plain three branches stretch out eastward, like fingers from a hand, divided by two bleak, gray ridges --one bearing the familiar name of Mount Gilboa, the other called by Franks Little Hermon, but by natives Jebel ed-Duhy . The central branch is the richest as well as the most celebrated. This is the "valley of Jezreel" proper --the battle-field on which Gideon triumphed, and Saul and Jonathan were overthrown. (Judges 7:1) seq. ; (1 Samuel 29:1) ... and 1Sam 31:1 ... Two things are worthy of special notice in the plain of Esdraelon:
- Its wonderful richness;
- Its present desolation. If we except the eastern branches, there is not a single inhabited village on its whole surface, and not more than one-sixth of its soil is cultivated. It is the home of the wild wandering Bedouin.
International Standard Bible EncyclopediaESDRAELON, PLAIN OF
es-dra-e'-lon, (yizre`e'l; in Apocrypha the name varies: Esdrelon, Esdraelon, Esdrelom, Esrelon, Esrechon):
1. The Name:
The Greek name of the great plain in Central Palestine (Judith 3:9; 7:3, etc.). It is known in Scripture by the Hebrew name "valley of Jezreel" (Joshua 17:16 Judges 6:33, etc.). It is called `emeq in Judges 5:15, which properly denotes "a depression," or "deepening," and is used more commonly of the vale running eastward between Gilboa and Little Hermon. Biq`ah is the term usually employed (2 Chronicles 35:22, etc.), which accurately describes it, "an opening," a level space surrounded by hills. The modern name is Merj ibn `Amr, "meadow of the son of Amr."
2. Position and Description:
It lies between Gilboa and Little Hermon on the East, and Mt. Carmel on the West. It is enclosed by irregular lines drawn from the latter along the base of the foothills of Nazareth to Tabor; from Tabor, skirting Little Hermon and Gilboa to Jenin, and from Jenin along the North edge of the Samaritan uplands to Carmel. These sides of the triangle are, respectively, about 15, 15 and 20 miles in length. North of Jenin a bay of the plain sweeps eastward, hugging the foot of Mt. Gilboa. An offshoot passes down to the Jordan valley between Gilboa and Little Hermon; and another cuts off the latter hill from Tabor. The average elevation of the plain is 200 ft. above the level of the Mediterranean. The Vale of Jezreel between Zer`in and Beisan, a distance of about 12 miles, descends nearly 600 ft., and then sinks suddenly to the level of the Jordan valley. The chief springs supplying water for the plain are those at Jenin and at Megiddo. The former are the most copious, and are used to create a "paradise" on the edge of the plain. Those at Megiddo drive mills and serve for irrigation, besides forming extensive marshes. The springs near Zer`in, three in number, `Ain Jalud, possibly identical with the well of Harod, being the most copious, send their waters down the vale to the Jordan. The streams from the surrounding heights are gathered in the bed of the Kishon, a great trench which zigzags through the plain, carrying the water through the gorge at Carmel to the sea. For the most of its course this sluggish stream is too low to be available for irrigation. The deep, rich soil, however, retains the moisture from the winter rains until far on in the year, the surface only, where uncovered by crops, being baked to brick in the sun. When winter sets in it quickly absorbs the rain, great breadths being turned to soft mud. This probably happened in the battle with Sisera: the northern cavalry, floundering in the morass, would be an easy prey to the active, lightly armed foot-soldiers. The fertility of the plain is extraordinary: hardly anywhere can the toil of the husbandman find a greater reward. The present writer has ridden through crops of grain there, when from his seat on the saddle he could no more than see over the tops of the stalks. Trees do not flourish in the plain itself, but on its borders, eg. at Jenin, the palm, the olive and other fruit trees prosper. The oak covers the slopes of the hills North of Carmel.
3. Part Played in History:
This wide opening among the mountains played a great part in the history of the land. This was due to the important avenues of communication between North and South that lay across its ample breadths. The narrow pass between the promontory of Carmel and the sea was not suitable for the transport of great armies: the safer roads over the plain were usually followed. So it happened that here opposing hosts often met in deadly strife. Hardly an equal area of earth can so often have been drenched with the blood of men. No doubt many conflicts were waged here in far-off times of which no record remains. The first battle fought in the plain known to history was that in which Sisera's host was overthrown (Judges 5:20). The children of the East were surprised and routed by Gideon's 300 chosen men in the stretches North of Zer`in (Judges 7). Near the same place the great battle with the Philistines was fought in which Saul and his sons, worsted in the plain, retired to perish on the heights of Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). In the bed of the Kishon at the foot of Carmel Elijah slaughtered the servants of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Dark memories of the destruction of Ahab's house by the furiously driving Jehu linger round Jezreel. Ahaziah, fleeing from the avenger across the plain, was overtaken and cut down at Megiddo (2 Kings 9). In the vale by Megiddo Josiah sought to stay the northward march of Pharaoh-necoh, and himself fell wounded to death (2 Kings 23:30 2 Chronicles 35:20). The army of Holofernes is represented as spreading out over all the southern reaches of the plain (Judith 7:18, 19). Much of the fighting during the wars of the Jews transpired within the circle of these hills. It is not unnatural that the inspired seer should place the scene of war in "the great day of God" in the region so often colored crimson in the history of his people-the place called in the Hebrew tongue "Har-Magedon" (Revelation 16:14, 16).
Esdraelon lay within the lot of Issachar (Joshua 19:17). The Canaanite inhabitants were formidable with their chariots of iron (Joshua 17:16, 18). The tribe does not appear to have prosecuted the conquest with vigor. Issachar seems to have resumed the tent life (Deuteronomy 33:18), and ignobly to have secured enjoyment of the good things in the land by stooping to "taskwork" (Genesis 49:14 f).
4. Arab Raids:
Through many centuries the plain was subject to raids by the Arabs from the East of the Jordan. The approach was open and easy, and the rich breadths of pasture irresistibly attracted these great flock masters. The Romans introduced some order and security; but with the passing of the eastern empire the old conditions resumed sway, and until comparatively recent times the alarm of an Arab invasion was by no means infrequent.
The railway connecting Haifa with Damascus and Mecca crosses the plain, and enters the Jordan valley near Beisan.
Easton's Bible Dictionary
The Greek form of the Hebrew "Jezreel," the name of the great plain (called by the natives Merj Ibn Amer; i.e., "the meadow of the son of Amer") which stretches across Central Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterraanean, separating the mountain ranges of Carmel and Samaria from those of Galilee, extending about 14 miles from north to south, and 9 miles from east to west. It is drained by "that ancient river" the Kishon, which flows westward to the Mediterranean. From the foot of Mount Tabor it branches out into three valleys, that on the north passing between Tabor and Little Hermon (Judges 4:14
); that on the south between Mount Gilboa and En-gannim (2 Kings 9:27
); while the central portion, the "valley of Jezreel" proper, runs into the Jordan valley (which is about 1, n000 feet lower than Esdraelon) by Bethshean. Here Gideon gained his great victory over the Midianites (Judges 7:1
-25). Here also Barak defeated Sisera, and Saul's army was defeated by the Philistines, and king Josiah, while fighting in disguise against Necho, king of Egypt, was slain (2 Chronicles 35:20
-27; 2 Kings 23
-29). This plain has been well called the "battle-field of Palestine." "It has been a chosen place for encampment in every contest carried on in this country, from the days of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, in the history of whose wars with Arphaxad it is mentioned as the Great Plain of Esdraelon, until the disastrous march of Napoleon Bonaparte from Egypt into Syria. Jews, Gentiles, Saracens, Crusaders, Frenchmen, Egyptians, Persians, Druses, Turks, and Arabs, warriors out of every nation which is under heaven, have pitched their tents in the plain, and have beheld the various banners of their nations wet with the dews of Tabor and Hermon" (Dr. Clark).