International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ELAH, VALE OF
(`emeq ha-'elah, "valley of the terebinth"; he koilas Ela; A, tes druos):
The scene of the events of 1 Samuel 17:2, referred to also in 1 Samuel 21:9. There can be no doubt that this is the Wady ec CunT ("valley of the tercbinth"), or part of it. This is the southernmost of the great valleys which cut through the Shephelah. Commencing near Hebron, close to Beit Sur, it descends under the name Wady es Sur in a more or less northerly direction until near Beit Nettif where it turns abruptly west and receives the name Wady ec CunT. Here it is joined by the Wady en Najil, coming from the North, and from the East by the Wady el-Jindy, down which descends an ancient road from Bethlehem. Where all these valleys coalesce the Wady ec CunT expands into a wide and level bottom, half a mile across. On a steep hill to the southern side and a little Southeast of the wide expanse is Kh. esh-Shuweikeh, the site of Socoh. That the great events of 1 Samuel 17:2 took place here there can be no doubt: the Philistines ranged themselves upon the southern hills; the Israelites to the North or Northeast. Upon the wide level valley the contest with Goliath occurred. The exact position of Saul's forces may be a matter of speculation, but the late Principal Miller of Madras, who made a special study of the locality (Least of All Lands, chapter v), considered that the little valley ascending Northeast from Wady ec CunT to Belt Nettif was probably the actual Vale of Elah and that here the Israelites had their fortifications. His elucidation of the whole story is most convincing.
E. W. G. Masterman
(`emeq ha-melekh; Septuagint in Genesis reads to pedion ("the plain") basileos, in 2 Sam, he koilas ("valley") tou basileos; the King James Version King's Dale): The place where the king of Sodom met Abram (Genesis 14:17), and the situation of Absalom's monument (2 Samuel 18:18). It was identical with the Vale of Shaveh, and was evidently near Salem, the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17). If SALEM (which see) is Jerusalem, then Absalom's pillar was also near that city, Josephus writes (Ant., VII, x, 3), "Absalom had erected for himself a marble pillar in the king's dale, two furlongs (stadia) from Jerusalem, which he named Absalom's Hand." In all probability this "pillar" was a rough upright stone-a matstsebhah-but its site is lost. The traditional Greek-Egyptian tomb of perhaps 100-200 years B.C. which has been hewn out of the rock on the eastern side of the Kidron valley is manifestly misnamed "Absalom's pillar," and the Kidron ravine (nachal) cannot be the King's Vale (`emeq).
E. W. G. Masterman
REPHAIM, VALE OF
(`emeq repha'-im; koilas Rhaphaeim, koilas ton Titanon): This was a fertile vale (Isaiah 17:5), to the Southwest of Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; the King James Version "Valley of the Giants"), on the border between Judah and Benjamin. Here David repeatedly defeated the invading Philistines (2 Samuel 5:18, 22; 2 Samuel 23:13 1 Chronicles 11:15; 1 Chronicles 14:9). It is located by Josephus between Jerusalem and Bethlehem (Ant., VII, iv, i; xii, 4). It corresponds to the modern el-Biqa`, which falls away to the Southwest from the lip of the valley of Hinnom. The name in ancient times may perhaps have covered a larger area, including practically all the land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where the head-waters of Nahr Ruben are collected.
SIDDIM, VALE OF
sid'-im, (`emeq ha-siddim; Septuagint he pharangx (or koilas) he haluke): The place mentioned in Genesis 14:3-8 as being the scene of encounter between Chedorlaomer and his allies with the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar. In 14:3 it is identified with the Salt Sea, and in 14:10 it is said to have been full of slime pits ("bitumen").
According to the traditional view, the Vale of Siddim was at the southern end of the Dead Sea. But in recent years a number of eminent authorities have maintained that it was at the northern end of the Dead Sea, in the vicinity of Jericho. Their argument has mainly been drawn from incidental references in the scene (Genesis 13:1-13) describing the parting of Lot and Abram, and again in the account of Moses' vision from Pisgah (Deuteronomy 34:3).
In the account of Abram and Lot, it is said that from Bethel they saw "all the Plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah." The word here translated "plain" means "circle," and well describes the view which one has of the plain about Jericho from Bethel as he looks down the valley past Ai. But it seems to go beyond the text to assume that the Vale of Siddim was within that circle of vision, for it is said in Genesis 13:12 simply that Lot dwelt "in the cities of the Plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom." In the vision of Moses, likewise, we have a very general and condensed description, in which it is said that he was shown "the Plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar," which, as we learn from Genesis 19:22, was not far from the Vale of Siddim. It is true that from the traditional site of Pisgah the south end of the Dead Sea could not be seen. But we are by no means sure that the traditional site of Pisgah is the true one, or that the import of this language should be restricted to the points which are actually within range of vision.
The tendency at the present time is to return to the traditional view that the Vale of Siddim was at the south end of the Dead Sea. This is supported by the fact that Jebel Usdum, the salt mountain at the southwest corner of the Dead Sea, still bears the name of Sodom, Usdum being simply another form of the word. A still stronger argument, however, is drawn from the general topographical and geological conditions. In the first place, Zoar, to which Lot is said to have fled, was not far away. The most natural site for it is near the mouth of the Wady Kerak, which comes down from Moab into the southern end of the Dead Sea (see ZOAR); and this city was ever afterward spoken of as a Moabite city, which would not have been the case if it had been at the north end of the sea. It is notable in Joshua 13:15-21, where the cities given to Reuben are enumerated, that, though the slopes of Pisgah are mentioned, Zoar is not mentioned.
In Genesis 14, where the battle between Amraphel and his allies with Sodom and the other cities of the plain is described, the south end of the Dead Sea comes in logical order in the progress of their campaign, and special mention is made of the slime or bitumen pits which occurred in the valley, and evidently played an important part in the outcome of the battle.
At the south end of the Dead Sea there is an extensive circle or plain which is better supplied with water for irrigation than is the region about Jericho, and which, on the supposition of slight geological changes, may have been extremely fertile in ancient times; while there are many indications of such fertility in the ruins that have been described by travelers about the mouth of the Kerak and other localities nearby. The description, therefore, of the fertility of the region in the Vale of Siddim may well have applied to this region at the time of Lot's entrance into it.
There are very persistent traditions that great topographical changes took place around the south end of the Dead Sea in connection with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, while the opinion has been universally prevalent among the earlier historical writers that the site of Sodom and Gomorrah is beneath the waters of the Dead Sea.
Geological investigations, so far from disproving these traditions, render them altogether possible and credible. There is a remarkable contrast between the depths of the north end of the Dead Sea and of the south end. Near the north end the depth descends to 1,300 ft., whereas for many miles out from the south end it is very shallow, so that at low water a ford exists, and is occasionally used, from the north end of the salt mountain across to el-Lisan.
The precipitous salt cliffs of Jebel Usdum which border the southwest corner of the Dead Sea would indicate that, in comparatively recent times, there had been abrupt subsidence of a good many feet in the bottom of the Dead Sea at that end.
Such subsidences of limited areas and in connection with earthquakes are by no means uncommon. In 1819 an area of 2,000 square miles about the delta of the Indus sank beneath the level of the sea, so that the tops of the houses were barely seen above the water. A smaller area in the delta of the Selenga River sank during the last century beneath the waters of Lake Baikal. Professor R.S. Tarr of Cornell University has recently described the effect of an earthquake on the shores of Alaska, in which there was a change of level of 47 ft.
More probably (see ARABAH; DEAD SEA) there has been a rise in the waters of the Dead Sea since Abraham's time, caused by the encroachment upon the original area of evaporation by the deltas which have been pushed into the main part of the depression by the Jordan, and various smaller streams descending from the highlands on either side. In consequence of these encroachments, the equilibrium between precipitation and evaporation could be maintained only by a rise in the water causing it to spread over the shallow shelf at the south end, thus covering a large part of the Vale of Siddim with the shoal water now found between el-Lisan and Jebel Usdum.
George Frederick Wright
(1) gay'; either absolute: "from Bamoth to the valley that is in the field of Moab" (Numbers 21:20); or with a proper name: "valley of Hinnom," also "valley of the son of Hinnom" (Joshua 15:8); "valley of Slaughter" (Jeremiah 7:32); "valley of Zeboim" (1 Samuel 13:18); "valley of Zephathah" (2 Chronicles 14:10); "valley of Hamon-gog" (Ezekiel 39:11); "valley of Iphtah-el" (Joshua 19:14); "valley of the mountains" (Zechariah 14:5); "Valley of Salt" (2 Samuel 8:13); "valley of vision" (Isaiah 22:1); once (in the Revised Version (British and American)) as a place-name: "until thou comest to Gai" (the King James Version "the valley") (1 Samuel 17:52); also (Revised Version) "Ge-harashim" (1 Chronicles 4:14); compare "valley of craftsmen" (margin "Ge-haharashim") (Nehemiah 11:35).
(2) `emeq, `amoq, "to be deep"; compare Arabic `amuq, "to be deep"; `umq, "depth"; 'Ammiq, a village in the valley of Coele-Syria; absolute: "He could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley" (Judges 1:19); often with place-names: "valley of Achor" (Joshua 7:24); "valley of Aijalon" (Joshua 10:12); "valley of Gibeon" (Isaiah 28:21); "vale of Hebron" (Genesis 37:14); "valley of Jehoshaphat" (Joel 3:2); "vale of Rephaim," the King James Version "valley of the giants" (Joshua 15:8); "vale of Shaveh" (Genesis 14:17); "vale of Siddim" (Genesis 14:3); "valley of Succoth" (Psalm 60:6); compare "valley of Weeping" (the King James Version "Baca") (Psalm 84:6); "valley of Beracah" (margin "Blessing") (2 Chronicles 20:26); "valley of decision" (Joel 3:14); "vale of Elah" (margin "terebinth") (1 Samuel 17:2); "the King's Vale" (Genesis 14:17); but "the king's dale" (2 Samuel 18:18); "Emekkeziz," the King James Version "valley of Keziz" (Joshua 18:21).
(3) biq`ah, baqa`, "to cleave," hence, "valley," especially "broad valley" or "plain"; compare Arabic baq`at, "wet meadow" Biqa`, Coele-Syria; absolute: "a land of hills and valleys" (Deuteronomy 11:11); with place-names: "valley of Jericho" (Deuteronomy 34:3); "valley of Lebanon" (Joshua 11:17); "valley of Megiddo" (2 Chronicles 35:22); "valley of Mizpah" (Joshua 11:8).
(4) nachal, also "river" or "stream"; absolute "Isaac's servants digged (dug) in the valley" (Genesis 26:19); with place-names: "valley (the King James Version "river") of the Arnon" (Deuteronomy 2:24); "valley of Eshcol" (Numbers 32:9); "valley of Gerar" (Genesis 26:17); "valley of Shittim" (Joel 3:18); "valley of Sorek" (Judges 16:4); "valley of Zered" (Numbers 21:12).
(5) shephelah, shaphel, "to be low"; compare Arabic safal, "to be low"; the King James Version "valley" or "vale," the Revised Version (British and American) "lowland," the coast and foothills of Western Palestine
(6) aulon, "valley" (Judith 4:4; 7:03; 10:10).
(7) pharagx: "Every valley shall be filled" (Luke 3:5).
The valley gate (Nehemiah 2:13, etc.) may have had about the location of the present Jaffa gate, if by "valley" is meant the valley of Hinnom. If the Tyropoeon is meant, it would have been near the southwestern corner of the charam area.
The valleys of the mountainous part of Palestine are mostly dry, rocky wadies with occasional torrents m the winter season. Those which descend to the W. widen out as they approach the plain and contain broad fields and meadows which in the winter and spring at least are fresh and green. The valley of the Jordan, the valley of Megiddo and the valley of Lebanon (i.e. Coele-Syria) contain much cultivable land: "the herds that were in the valleys" (1 Chronicles 27:29): "They of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley" (1 Samuel 6:13); "The valleys also are covered over with grain" (Psalm 65:13).
See BROOK; CHAMPAIGN; LOWLAND; RIVER; SHEPHELAH.
Alfred Ely Day
JEZREEL, VALE OF
See ESDRAELON, PLAIN OF.
SHAVEH, VALE OF
sha'-ve (`emeq shaweh).
See KING'S VALE.